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Extending My Abroad Experiences

My study abroad experience was absolutely life-changing, so it only makes sense that it’s having lasting effects now on my senior year. Last year, I studied abroad in Russia in the fall and India in the spring, and though unique to each other, both gave me independence, self-confidence, and a greater understanding of other cultures.

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This semester I am sharing that understanding of other cultures with local schools through our Language in Motion program. This program links any student who has first hand language or cultural knowledge (so anyone who studied abroad but also international students too) with K-12 teachers. I haven’t visited any classes yet, as I’m still trying to find a time that fits both my schedule and the teachers’, but I’m excited to share my experiences with the students! Throughout the semester I have been planning lessons, ranging from teaching basic words in Russian to smelling and tasting different Indian spices. Language in Motion not only enriches students’ knowledge and encourages them to study a language/go abroad but also allows me to share my experiences and practice my public speaking and teaching skills.

In addition, I am writing an honors thesis this semester, which was heavily inspired by my time abroad. One similarity that both Russia and India has is its endemic nature of political corruption. This fascinates me (especially the overarching acceptance of corruption), and resulted in questions such as, “How are corrupt acts seen by those living in the society?” “How does external information and dialogue influence the behavior of those receiving the information?” “How is corruption talked about in media outlets?” The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this topic could easily get out of hand and become a PhD dissertation. That last question, however, was manageable and grew into my thesis project.

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Working at a non-profit in India exposed me to the functioning of everyday bureaucratic life, including the questionable, not so great aspects (but these kids were awesome)

For several months now, I have been looking at a single political corruption case and through qualitative methodology, I have been analyzing the language that is used in news outlets. It has been a daunting task, and I still have a ways to go.  It’s been keeping me busy, maybe a little busier than a second semester senior would like! This process has and will continue to be very rewarding, though, as I’m learning so much about qualitative research and at the end of April I will present at the Liberal Arts Symposium (eek!). Ultimately, studying abroad has opened up many different avenues and opportunities for me, and I will always be incredibly grateful for that.

New Students Are Always Welcome!

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Sirimon Kijjanukij and Warisara ChangKaew, students from Thailand (photo credit: Primrata Siripong)

 

After almost a month of winter break, spent mostly sleeping, I was back on campus in a flash, a week earlier than anticipated, in order to serve as an orientation leader for new international students! Meeting new students, international students in particular, is always an experience that I look forward to with enthusiasm, for I was in their shoes not too long ago.

On January 12, the new international students started to arrive and so did the snow storm. To assure their safe arrival on campus, Juniata provided them with various transportations, including Maidens Taxi, Juniata shuttle buses, and my supervisor’s own personal car. Once on campus, I, along with four other orientation leaders, were responsible for guiding them to their designated dorms. The students came from all over the world, including Mexico, Pakistan, China, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Czech Republic, England, and France. The next day was composed of helping them fill out required documents, showing them around campus, locating major academic buildings, and later, showing them around town, especially the Weis store, Standing Stone Café, and Sheetz! That was only the beginning of an amazing welcoming week.

In the days that followed, the new students were treated with some American food, which to some, was a mix of American cuisine and other countries’ cuisine. For example, María, a girl from Mexico noticed that the tacos in the States were hard and crunchy, but she believed it should have been soft like in her country. She concluded that this was an example of Mexican-American food. The Chinese students also came to a similar conclusion during our dinner at China Buffet after they noticed that Chinese-American food tended to be sweeter.

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The most exciting moment of the orientation week was when we went to see the 7th Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. To many of the students, including myself, this was their first time seeing Star Wars! Now, I plan on watching the 6 previous movies during my spare time.

To this day, the International Office and Juniata College as a whole continue to make new students feel welcome. Going glow-bowling this upcoming weekend, taking a trip to State College, painting, and discovering Central-Pennsylvanian dishes are future events planned for the new students! I believe that this is the essence of Juniata: always striving to create meaningful experiences for all of its students, and I am proud to be a part of it.

My Senior Year Bucket List

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It is officially week 2 of my final year at Juniata College, and let me tell you, I’m already feeling pretty nostalgic.  I spent the entirety of last year studying abroad, first in Russia and then in India, and though it was an incredible year full of adventures and new experiences, I am so happy to be back at Juniata.  Everyone tells you about being homesick, but no one really warns you about being campus-sick.  You really do start to miss your college once you’re gone for a while, but thankfully I still have one year left!  Here, I have created a bucket list of things I will endeavor to complete during my final year here.

  • Attend every single tradition. At which other college are classes canceled on a random day and everyone picnics at a lake in the mountains?  And only at Juniata is there an event where freshmen risk bodily harm by charging at the rest of the student body, trying to fight their way past them. Juniata College has many unique and fun traditions, and I was insanely jealous every time I saw pictures of my friends participating in fun activities, such as eating lobsters at Lobsterfest and pitching tents on the lawn for Madrigal.  This year, I am not going to miss out on any of the events and activities at JC.
  • Find the secret spots. Because Juniata is located in the mountains, there are many different places to explore around campus.  One of my favorite spots is the Cliffs, only a 10-minute walk away.  The views are incredible, but another little known fact is that there is a rope swing at the bottom (how cool is that?!).  No one really knows where exactly it is, but it can’t be too hard to find.  In addition, there are great hiking trails not too far from campus, including 7 Geocaches within a mile (a Geocache is a container filled with an unknown object that you find using GPS coordinates).  I have never been Geocaching but who doesn’t love a huge treasure hunt?!  Before I graduate, I will leave no stone unturned.
  • Make lasting relationships. This may sound cheesy, but one of my goals is to make sure I leave Juniata having made enduring friendships. Juniata is a small community, and I know everyone here has my back and wants the best for my future.  I know I can rely on my professors and advisors to guide me both in my final year and after I graduate.  In addition to becoming closer to my mentors, I am also looking forward to meeting new people and getting re-involved in my favorite clubs, like Circle K and PAX-O (a Peace Studies club).  It’s my last year to really make an impact, so I hope to be as involved as I can!  Finally, I know I’m going to miss all of the friendly faces on campus, from Laura who works in Baker to President Troha.  These sorts of people make Juniata a happier, brighter place, and ultimately a college that is unique and irreplaceable.

As much as I don’t want it to, senior year is going to fly by.  No matter what I’m doing, whether I’m canoeing on Raystown Lake during Mountain Day or debating the meaning of life with a professor, I’m happy to be back home at Juniata.  I can’t wait to start checking things off my bucket list!

Juniata College and the Gambia

Being a participant of Juniata’s Gambian study abroad trip, one of the things you hear when you tell people I am going to Africa is:  “Why”?

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Art in the Gambia

 

In my opinion, Africa is often very difficult for people to understand, because it is not white and it is not a utopia. The media provides the average individual with only the worst possible news about Africa to shape these very negative misconceptions. Misconceptions that lead to the construction of the enemy. Having gone to The Gambia, one of the things that strike people is all of the smiles. Being able to form a relationship with someone half way around the world helps deteriorate these negative misconceptions, because the whole of Africa is not a terrorist or diseased. However, culturally some things like FGM are practiced but the amazing and motivating thing is that there are Africans (Not Americans or British) working to stop the practice. They are working to change a hurtful cultural practice by changing the mindset of the people.

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Traveling to The Gambia was a unique Juniata experience, because it pushed you out of your comfort zone and shows that things such as WIFI are truly a first world problem. The Gambia is a very poor country whose main commodity is peanuts. Being there helps me better understand Carl Wilkens who visited Juniata and gave a talk entitled I’m Not Leaving-One Family’s Decision against Genocide, about the Rwanda genocide. This talk encompassed not only the tragedy of this small Africa country, but one of the biggest recoveries stories in history. My trip to the Gambia helped to explain his energy when he bounced around the room talking about his friends that he risked his life for during the Rwanda

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A big take away from Wilken’s talk was that no matter what the circumstances are you have a choice. For him the choice was staying in Rwanda during the genocide in order to protect the two Africans that worked for him, and he had called friends. These relationships and the Rwanda genocide helped Wilken understand the important of a building a relationship VS building a school. Wilkens states that he “wanted to build something that lasted”. One of the things that really sold me on Juniata was the international experience they promised I’d have. So much of learning happens outside the classroom, and it was great to have my international experience linked with a guest speaker on campus.

International Film Festival

The international movie festival hosted at Juniata College helps prepare students for their study abroad experience. From May to December, I will be studying abroad in China. Watching the movie Farewell My Concubine, about the traditional Beijing Opera, helped me visualize China and begin thinking about all the aspects of Chinese culture that I was going to experience.

This movie left me with more questions than it did answers. In all honesty I do not know too much about Chinese history. The movie left me fascinated by the Chinese revolution, and how jade tea cups could change the course of a nation. Once in China, I will be able explore topics like this a lot more in depth, but since the movie was able to inspire my interest on the subject I will be able to add that to my “Before I Go to China Research” list.

I would compare the beginning of the movie to Charles Dickson’s Oliver Twist, about a boy’s life in the orphanage in London. It was very similar, but very drab and painful to watch. When we think of actors we think of someone with a glamorous life, that is not what was portrayed. Instead this movie gave us the honest truth behind what it takes to make an opera star. The movie explored the Beijing opera, and gave a glimpse into what art and culture is like in China.

I liked the movie overall, and the festival helped enhance my international experience. I look forward to seeing the Beijing opera in China as well as all the other cultural and historical marvels China has to offer