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74 posts categorized "Study Abroad Alumni"

Study Abroad Alum Tells Us, "It's Okay to Come Home"

Alexandria Polanosky photo

Studying abroad is an exciting, educational, and transformational experience that changes lives forever. But after falling in love with a new city and country, it can be difficult to return home. Your thoughts and feelings about your life abroad may be frustrating to communicate to friends and family as you experience reverse homesickness (missing people and places from abroad), uncertainty, or maybe even withdrawal. The re-entry period isn’t easy, but there are ways to overcome reverse culture shock.

CIEE Study Abroad alum Alexandria Polanosky experienced this transition period herself and tells us “It’s Okay to Come Home” in her recent article for The Huffington Post blog. The Ohio University student spent a semester in Stellenbosch, South Africa, exploring the area and blogging like a true budding visual journalist. A year later, study abroad is still on her mind as she writes for College Tourist as a Summer Travel Blogger Team Member. We interviewed Alexandria to learn more about her experience abroad and her thoughts on re-entry:

What motivated you to write this article about re-entry, a year after returning from study abroad?

After working in my university's study abroad office upon returning from my time abroad with CIEE, I wanted to continue sharing my travel experiences as well as trying my best to inspire other students to take advantage of the many study abroad opportunities we have available to us. So, this past summer, I was part of College Tourist's summer travel bloggers.

Returning home after traveling has always been something I struggle with, and I spent a long time reflecting on why I should embrace coming home while also appreciating the experience I had. This article was both my way of accepting coming home and sharing these feelings with other student travelers that likely experience the same difficulties.

In the article, you encourage other study abroad returnees to take their spontaneity and curiosity that they had abroad and use it to explore their hometowns. Is this something you did yourself? How do you think this helps with the re-entry process?

If my time abroad taught me anything, it was to embrace the spontaneous side of myself that I previously pushed away. I learned to enjoy every single moment no matter where I was. I definitely adopted this idea at home as I continue to find new places to visit and explore. No matter how cold and cloudy it may get here, I have learned to enjoy it just as much as the sunny, beautiful town of Stellenbosch, South Africa I spent so much time in a few years ago.

Embracing spontaneity and never ceasing to search for new adventures at home can definitely help with the re-entry process. I think a lot of the fear of returning home comes from the thought of facing familiarity after experiencing so many new things and believing that your days won't be nearly as exciting as they were abroad. Overcoming this fear by making an effort to rediscover your hometown can be a great way to deal with re-entry.

What other advice would you give to recently returned study abroad participants?

For any recently returned study abroad students, I would definitely encourage you to share your experiences with others, good and bad! Traveling and studying abroad is a big unknown for many people and can seem scary or unattainable. Sharing experiences and advice, like how to pay for studying abroad, can help encourage other students to pursue such wonderful opportunities. You might also find that many other students struggled with the same aspects of re-entry as you. Also, try to keep in touch with any friends you made abroad; it’s fun to see where everyone's lives take them after the end of the semester or year. For those who have not yet returned home, don't let the return date on your plane ticket scare you. Enjoy every bit of today!


Have something to share about YOUR international exchange or re-entry experience? Email us to find out how you can share your story on the CIEE Alumni blog.

Stories from Senegal – CIEE Study Abroad Alum Shares Peace Corps Experience

Did you know that the former vice president of the CIEE Alumni New York City Chapter has been in the Peace Corps for nine months now? After a successful time as a volunteer leader for the chapter, CIEE Study Abroad alum Anna Poruks traveled to Senegal to begin a two-year assignment as a Peace Corps Volunteer. With a bachelor’s degree in counseling and clinical psychology, Anna is now a Health Extension Volunteer in a small Senegalese village in the Louga region. Her work includes projects aimed at improving child and maternal health, increasing knowledge and access to proper water and sanitation techniques, and eradicating malaria. And, of course, cultural exchange.

We checked in with Anna for an update on her time in Senegal:

“My Peace Corps experience thus far has been an incredible roller coaster, but overall so worth it and one of the greater experiences of my life. In these past nine months I have been completely submerged in Senegalese culture, learned how to speak a traditional West African language, and adjusted to an entirely different pace of life. At the same time, I have been working to decrease malaria, improve maternal and child health, and educate about the importance of water sanitation and hygiene in my village. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer is an amazing opportunity to help others at a grassroots level and learn about a different culture, while teaching others about American culture in the process. I am looking forward to what the future has in store!”

Follow Anna’s Peace Corps journey by visiting her blog.

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Anna pictured with Malick, a coworker in the Linde health hut.

CIEE Study Abroad Alum Will Speak at 2016 IIE Summit on Generation Study Abroad

We are pleased to announce that CIEE Study Abroad alum Hannah Smalley has been chosen to be a Generation Study Abroad Voice at the 2016 IIE Summit on Generation Study Abroad taking place this weekend in Washington, D.C. Hannah studied abroad in Legon, Ghana through CIEE in 2011 and graduated from Tulane University in 2012 with a double major in international development and sociology and a minor in psychology. She currently lives in Washington, D.C. and works as the Coordinator for Women, Girls, and Population for the United Nations Foundation.

The Summit brings education leaders, government and business leaders, and journalists together to discuss how to make study abroad opportunities available for all, over the course of more than 30 sessions, 12 summit talks, 4 think tanks, and 5 learning labs. This interactive conference is designed to help attendees explore ideas for expanding study abroad participation, exchange best practices with a diverse group, and experiment with new actions to work towards the goal of doubling study abroad participation by 2020.

Hannah will be a panelist on the session “Mavericks with a Cause: Generation Z and Millennial Incentives for Study Abroad,” talking about her first-hand experience studying abroad and the academic and professional experiences these generations find valuable. As someone whose study abroad semester made a profound impact on her career trajectory, Hannah is excited to speak about the value of these types of experiences for future generations. And, she will be taking over our social media channels to tell us all about it!

First, though, we interviewed Hannah to learn more about her study experience:

If you could describe your study abroad experience in one word, what would it be?

Catalystic.

What made you interested in studying in Ghana?

It was really more the program that initially sparked my interest in Ghana rather than the country itself. The CIEE program had a development track that you could apply to, which provided an internship and international development classes; since I was an international development major, that was right up my alley. It really was the opportunity that I had been longing for, a program that I knew would guarantee the hands-on learning experience that I felt was the point of study abroad.

What did studying abroad offer for your education that was different compared to another semester at university?

My study abroad experience truly offered me more than I had ever anticipated; both in and out of the classroom, and the experience ultimately helped lead me to my career, which is working in the field of girls and women’s rights.

My most poignant and impactful moment studying abroad was while I was working on my internship, which was co-founding an eco-tourism non-profit. My two partners were one Ghanaian man and one American man. Initially, at least two of us would go to meetings together, which was fine. Then the American man had to go back to the U.S., and I started working more independently, as my other co-founder didn’t live full-time in Accra. One day I had a meeting with a man who worked at a television station, who we had met with before, to go over an upcoming project. I sat at his office for two hours before he finally came out to talk to me. However, as soon as he stepped out he asked where my partners were. I said I was on my own and he let me know that he would not be working with an American woman. He told me to come back with my co-workers then turned on his heel and left.

Needless to say, though I had seen gender inequity in the US, I had never experienced anything close to that before. The point of study abroad, at least for me, was to experience a culture completely different from my own, and in that I was very successful. That moment has stayed with me and will continue to drive me to work in the international gender space. I have always had the passion to work in this field, but my experiences abroad gave me a very real push to make it my career.

  • Follow Hannah’s Summit experience on social media – she’s taking over the CIEE Alumni Twitter & Instagram until Oct. 26!

Meeting the Host Family

While applying for the program, I had my doubts about living with a host family, as I had never had any experience like it. What if I didn’t get along with them? What would happen if I couldn’t speak with them because of the language barrier? So many of these thoughts were running through my head and I considered staying in the dorm, but then I had a realization. I wasn’t moving halfway across the world to be in a familiar environment, I was going to put myself out there and try something new. Living with a host family was the answer.

All the students in my program gathered in a room, separated only by a wall from the room full of host parents. I could feel the anticipation, nervousness, and excitement buzzing through both rooms as we were called out, one by one, to meet our new parents. I met the other student who was going to be living with me and we both went to see our host mom who had come to pick us up. I remember seeing her for the first time and already having a good feeling. I introduced myself with what I had rehearsed multiple times and then we headed out to take our family picture and go to the train station. The first moments were only what could be described as an awkward happiness of sorts. There wasn’t much talking as we made our way through the hustle and bustle of all the new families to take the Chuo line (one of the most central train lines in the city) towards Yokohama, the city that I would grow deeply fond of. We hopped on the next line to go all the way to my home station and made the short walking trip to the house itself. The house was deceptively small but had so many rooms, leaving my new host sister and me with a floor to ourselves. The first dinner late that night was admittedly rough as I wanted to say so much, but could only manage a “arigato gozaimasu” (“thank you”). We had delicious homemade tempura, (an assortment of panko-coated, fried vegetables), and then got a house tour to show us where everything was before retiring to bed. I remember feeling so at home that night and excited to see what the future days would bring.

The first nights at dinner were filled with delicious food and fun conversations over geography books that my host dad had collected over the years. I got to show them where my hometown of Nashville was and explain to them, as best as I could, what it was famous for – namely country music. I also showed them where in India my family was from and was surprised to learn from my host dad that Mumbai, where my parents grew up, was sister cities with Yokohama! That connection remains with me today and I still think it was fate that mine and my host family’s paths intertwined. Over the course of my stay there, I saw my language skills improve tremendously and I began to enjoy my life in Japan so much more. Whether it be walking to and from my home station, dinner with my host mom while watching the most hilarious Japanese television programs, or wandering around Yokohama, I realized that leaving would be so much harder than I had expected.

I learned so much from my time in Yokohama with my family, not only through improving my language skills, but through learning how to appreciate people from other cultures, especially those that are willing to learn about yours. My host family had so many students pass through their house over the years but they were still so curious to learn about my hometown and the culture I grew up in. I received a much greater sense of appreciation for Japanese culture and Japanese people by living with a host family; my experience in Tokyo would not have been as fulfilling without the homestay experience. When other students in my program would go back to the dorm, I got to go back to a family and continue to learn about Japanese culture, exploring why it meant so much to me. I wish there were more kind and generous people like them and I wish, more than anything, that I could go back ‘home’ to Japan.

Yokohama tower view
Tower view of Yokohama.

by Ria Jagasia (CIEE Study Abroad, Tokyo, Japan, 2016)

Checking in with CIEE Study Abroad Alum Chris Grava and his Nonprofit, Intsikelelo

You might remember the article we posted back in December 2014 about CIEE Study Abroad alum Chris Grava, whose semester in Cape Town, South Africa in 2012 led him to co-found a nonprofit, Intsikelelo, to help orphaned and vulnerable children in the country. As mentioned in our previous blog post, Intsikelelo was conceived when Chris’s brother, Nick Grava, visited Cape Town while Chris was studying abroad there. After seeing a struggling orphanage in the nearby township of Khayelitsha, Nick skipped his flight home to dedicate all his time and energy to working at the orphanage, where he served as Managing Director for two years and was given the name Intsikelelo, or “blessing” in Xhosa.

In 2013, a year after his study abroad experience, Chris returned to South Africa to assist the orphanage with his brother:

“We made a lot of progress, but the improvements at the Home were often overshadowed by the scale of the challenges facing these children and their communities, such as HIV, crime, and poverty. We came to realize that there were many local, community-driven efforts working to tackle these social issues, but they often struggled for the same reasons as the Home of Safety and would benefit from additional support. Meanwhile, we also found that many other families and communities back home in the U.S. and around the world wanted to help.”

This realization is what propelled the brothers to found Intsikelelo in 2013 – an organization whose mission is “to improve the lives of orphans and vulnerable children in South Africa by developing and supporting community-driven initiatives and connecting them to the world.”

When we last spoke with Chris, he and Nick were working on launching an after-school program, Siluncedo, with a local team in Khayelitsha. We’re happy to announce that Intsikelelo was able to help Siluncedo by providing the initial seed capital to launch their after-school program and by helping them establish connections to children’s homes and schools in the area. The program is unique in that it employs an all-local team of tutors from similar backgrounds to the children. These tutors serve as academic tutors, mentors, and role models, all while providing a wholesome approach to personal development for the children. In the future, Siluncedo hopes to grow its team and expand its program to more children’s homes.

The brotherly duo has also worked to support the Langbos Creche & Care Centre, a kindergarten and community center in the rural Eastern Cape of South Africa. Intsikelelo began working closely with the community this past year to assess needs and opportunities within the community, including many meetings and a census that collected data from every home in the community. Since then, Intsikelelo has launched a monthly grant that supports security and nutritious meals for the community center. Intsikelelo also distributed solar powered lights and phone charging stations to every home in the Langbos community, an informal settlement with no access to electricity.

Their newest project is to build a home for orphans and vulnerable children in Langbos. The project is sponsored by GoPro as part of the company’s new GoPro for a Cause platform. To date, they have raised $80,000 to construct and fund the home. The building includes a design that incorporates local culture and style, as well as sustainable design elements such as earthbag building and solar power.

Intsikelelo has also begun an academic sponsorship program, helping vulnerable youth enroll in high school and university, as well as apply for various grants and scholarships.

If you are interested in donating or learning more about Intsikelelo, please visit their website: http://www.intsikelelo.org/

Thanks for checking in with us, Chris. We look forward to more updates from Intsikelelo!

Meet Ria Jagasia: Blog Contributor, Study Alum, and September's Alum of the Month

Our Alum of the Month for September is Ria Jagasia, who studied abroad with CIEE in Tokyo, Japan this past spring. Now in her junior year at Vanderbilt University, Ria studies human and organizational development with an international leadership and development track and an Asian studies double major. At Vanderbilt, Ria works with the International Student and Scholars Services office in a program called International Learning, Empowering, Advising, and Developing (iLEAD), where current students lead a group of eight new international students through orientation and their first semester on campus. iLEAD involves seminars on college-relevant topics such as mental health, safety, and academics in the U.S. classroom, as well as fun social events organized by mentors like Ria. Another activity that this Alum of the Month is involved in is the Diwali showcase, which celebrates the Hindu holiday on campus. Since she was little, Ria has learned a traditional Indian dance form called Kathak and gets to share her talents at the Diwali cultural performance, which has been on of her biggest highlights of life on campus.

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Ria (middle) wearing a yukata with friends in Japan.

When we asked Ria why she decided to study abroad in Japan, she replied, "As an Asian studies major, I decided to study Japanese during my freshman year and loved the language and what we learned about Japanese culture. I have always loved traveling, especially in Asia, and the new experiences it brings, so I thought study abroad would be a perfect fit for me. I really hope I get to go back to Tokyo soon!"

While abroad, Ria blogged about her journey through a Wordpress site she created called Jochi Journeys. Blogging was a great way for Ria to reflect on her experience and share insights with prospective students who are considering study abroad in Japan. We're excited to have Ria join CIEE Alumni as a guest blogger and to learn more about life as a CIEE Study Abroad student in Tokyo, Japan. Be sure to visit the CIEE Alumni blog weekly and read her stories. Her first post is about Japanese food - something you won't want to miss!

To see more photos from Ria's study abroad semester, check out her Instagram account: @jochijourneys

 

Are you interested in guest blogging for the CIEE Alumni blog? Send us an email with information on when/where you went abroad with CIEE to get started. Alumni from any and all of CIEE's programs are welcome! 

Top 3 Foods for a Summer in Tokyo

Tokyo is a wonderful city for a foodie, and even more so during the summer when the best way to escape the heat is through food. There are a multitude of foods that I enjoyed during my stay, but my top three during the summer were cold soba, kakigori, and ume juice.

1. Soba

Soba

While ramen tends to come to people’s minds first when thinking of Japanese cuisine, soba is equally as popular. Soba, or buckwheat noodles, can be served cold or hot, cold being preferred in the summer. My favorite soba experience was in Ginza, the high-end shopping district in Tokyo. Since my friend from out-of-town was visiting, I wanted to take her for a traditional Japanese meal and found a restaurant in the Edo-Tokyo museum that we were exploring. I ordered zaru soba which came in a platter with a mentsuyu (dipping sauce) and some sliced green onions. Atop the zaru soba is some shredded nori, which is a popular seaweed. The combination of the crispy nori, smooth noodles dipped in mentsuyu, and the crunch of the green onions makes for an amazing lunch. While food in Ginza tends to be priced higher, there are many noodle shops around Tokyo that provide a filling meal for a couple of dollars.

2. Kakigori

Kakigori

Kakigori is another popular summer go-to. While the Japanese name may seem unfamiliar, it is known to many as ‘shaved ice’. Those living in the United States may think of shaved ice as a carnival food served in a cup or cone drizzled with a sweet flavored syrup. People living in East Asia may think of the larger Korean patbinsgu, meaning ‘red beans with ice’, usually decorated with a variety of fresh fruits, sweet rice cakes, and condensed milk. Kakigori finds a middle ground between these two by adopting the shape of the classic American round shaved ice while incorporating flavors and toppings found in patbingsu, those familiar to the Asian palate. My favorite kakigori was actually in an okonomiyaki (savory pancakes filled with cabbage and meat) shop in Asakusa, Tokyo called Sometaro. Okonomiyaki are these delicious savory pancakes filled with cabbage and meat. I visited Sometaro a handful of times and could not leave without having one of their kakigori. While these may not be the most elaborate kakigori you could find in Tokyo, it was just as delicious. They had two popular varieties, one topped with anko (sweetened red beans) and another topped with green tea syrup. Both include a sweet condensed milk and are served in small bowls.

3. Ume Juice

Ume juice

Lastly, ume (plum) juice had to be one of the most memorable drinks I tried while staying in Japan. During the rainy season in the summer, ume-flavored foods are found everywhere as this is the time of the year when they are ripe. Ume juice is made by placing unripe ume and sugar together in a jar, allowing for the extraction of the plum juice. My host mom made her own plum juice and I had no idea what to expect when I tried it, but a little bit of the juice packs a punch! It is highly concentrated but very smooth and sweet. Mixing in a few cubes of ice makes it the perfect drink for the summer and something I wish I could make here in the U.S., but I am sure no plum I could find back home would match the flavor of the Japanese variety. Another widespread use of ume is in alcohol. Umeshu, or a plum liqueur, can be found in the city’s izakayas (bars) and is readily consumed during the peak of the rainy season. Like the juice, it is heavily concentrated and full of flavor.

These are only a few of the many amazing delicacies found in Tokyo. With a plethora of restaurants serving both traditional Japanese food and food from around the world, it was impossible to see, let alone eat, everything in four months! I hope that my next trip back will allow for new dining experiences and tasting more of the food that defines Japan.

By: Ria Jagasia (CIEE Study Abroad, Tokyo, Japan, 2016)

Congratulations to our Alumni Summer Interns

CIEE's July Alum of the Month Pursues a Career in Foreign Policy

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The Alum of the Month for July is Leyth Swidan. As a Jordanian-American, Leyth spent his childhood summers traveling between Philadelphia and Jordan, familiarizing himself with Arab culture and learning Arabic, which has contributed to his interest in global affairs and the Middle East. He is a recent graduate of Pomona College where he studied International Relations and Middle Eastern Studies. During his time at Pomona, Leyth studied abroad with CIEE twice; first in Amman, Jordan on the CIEE Diplomacy and Policy Studies program, and then at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London as a Gilman Scholar. This summer, he is interning in the Near Eastern Affairs bureau at the State Department before starting his Master of International Affairs program at Columbia University as a Pickering Fellow. Leyth tells us about his experiences studying abroad and his pursuit of a career in foreign policy:

“Ahlan wa sahlan! Jordan welcomes you.”

As a first-generation Jordanian-American, I spent my childhood summers traveling between the U.S. and Jordan, familiarizing myself with Arab culture and eating the national dish, mansaf. Coming from a Middle Eastern background has given me a global perspective, which has cultivated my understanding of the importance of increased dialogue and cultural awareness. I have always been caught between two different cultures as I have attempted to find the intersection between my identities as an Arab Muslim and LGBT American. While I have grown tremendously from traversing between these different cultures, it has not always been easy. Growing up in a post-9/11 America, experiencing Islamophobia, and witnessing U.S. media misrepresent reality in the Middle East has shown me the importance of countering bigoted narratives of Muslims and Arabs. As an Arab-American, I believed I was able to dispel these misconceptions, both as a student studying abroad and as a future U.S. diplomat.

As an international relations major, I hoped to gain insight into the regional politics of the Middle East from different cultural perspectives by studying abroad. I wanted to understand the local context of the Middle East issues to build off the knowledge I gained in classes at Pomona College. Being abroad, especially in Jordan, allowed me to interact with locals and learn about their attitudes and opinions on hot-topic issues, which is another perspective that I would not have gained in Claremont, a small suburban town in southern California.

I somehow avoided culture shock during my time in Jordan. As a Jordanian-American, studying in Amman was a breeze for me in terms of immersing myself and assimilating. I have family in Jordan that I was able to visit on weekends while still making friends with people on my study abroad program and experiencing the unending hospitality of my parents’ homeland. In fact, I even took two of my CIEE friends to my cousins’ weddings on separate occasions. I would often take the bus to Zarqa, a city 30 minutes north of Amman where most of my extended family lives. Not only did studying in a familiar country provide me with a sense of comfort, especially with family being only a taxi or bus ride away, but it also gave me an excuse not to cook in my apartment since I would often be invited to lunches and dinners with relatives! Yet, it was my first time being almost completely alone in a foreign country in the sense that I was not living with my parents, which afforded me some sense of freedom. I found time to explore sites in Amman that I had never been to before, like the Roman Amphitheatre and Rainbow Street, and revisit other parts of Jordan that I had seen before with friends, including the Dead Sea and Aqaba. While this gave me a chance to brag about how much of a local I was, I felt the complete opposite at times, especially when chatting with taxi drivers. I did not even have to say one word for locals to recognize that I was Arab, despite being with non-Arabs and speaking English. I often felt the need to explain that I was “a real Jordanian”, that I knew the country, culture, and people, understood how bad traffic was, and that I was not one of those people who just forgot about their cultural roots. I would get asked if I liked the U.S. or Jordan more and, more often than not, if I could help them get a visa to the U.S. “Enta wa hazak,” I would respond. “Try your luck.” But as soon as I began haggling taxi drivers in Arabic to use their meters instead of overcharging me, I felt more like a local than ever.

At the Jordan Institute of Diplomacy, I learned a lot about the regional dynamics of the Middle East and about Jordan's role as one of the few stable countries in the region. My favorite class was titled “Arab Diplomacy,” which focused on the politics, history, and diplomacy of the Middle East from the Great Arab Revolt of the early 20th century to the Arab Spring in the 21st century. Perhaps one of the reasons why I found it interesting was because my professor was the former Jordanian ambassador to Israel and was able to speak candidly about the Jordan-Israel peace talks.

In Jordan, one of the most eye-opening experiences for me was meeting with and talking to Syrian refugees in northern Jordan about the challenges they faced when crossing into Jordan and not having the money needed to buy the medicine necessary for a life-threatening condition. It was also eye-opening to see innocent children run around the house, unaware of the situation their parents were in during that time as the victims of a political conflict. I was there experiencing firsthand the consequences of the Syrian conflict that I had read about endlessly for at least two years, and I felt useless. I was there but couldn’t offer them anything. I couldn’t help them in any way. It was such a humbling experience to be able to match faces with words that I have read in articles. That visit to northern Jordan allowed me to learn more about the ongoing conflict and its impact on the lives of millions of Syrians more than any article could have. That experience abroad, along with the interpersonal diplomacy I practiced while living in Jordan, reinforced my desire to contribute to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East as a diplomat in the United States Foreign Service.

London (1)

London was completely different from Amman weather-wise, food-wise, and money-wise. When people ask me about my experience in London, I always respond with “cold and expensive.” As a Gilman Scholar, my budget was not completely limited during my time there, which allowed me to take advantage of being in Europe and not eat frozen meals for dinner every night. But beyond that, London was very much a vibrant, cosmopolitan city that Amman cannot be compared to. Of course, one wouldn’t want to miss out on the many tourist sites throughout the city – watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, looking at contemporary art at the Tate Modern Museum, laughing at the Merchant of Venice performance in Shakespeare’s Globe, and of course, posing for pictures with Big Ben. There was always something to do whether alone or with friends. I also enjoyed my time on campus, particularly the student-organized events that took place at SOAS’ student union, like international music bands, guest speakers, and poetry readings.

Academically speaking, I could not have chosen a better institution to study at than SOAS. There, I had the opportunity to study issues that I care about, like global migration and international conflict and development in small, in-depth tutorials, and was overwhelmed with the options of classes available. Being at a university instead of an institute like in Amman offered me access to books from SOAS’ library, one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of the Middle East, diverse student clubs, and greater interactions with non-American students who were also at SOAS. By designing an academic curriculum that fit my intellectual interests, I was able to develop an understanding of global issues in relation to the Middle East through specialized course offerings and regional focus. The discussions, conversations, and debates I had with professors and fellow students in my classes throughout the semester ultimately furthered my interest in democratic governance of states while allowing me to gain insight into Middle Eastern politics from a range of diverse perspectives, given the large number of international students at SOAS.

My time abroad in both Amman and London was wonderful. I was challenged academically at school and personally as I stepped outside of my comfort zone to make new friends at SOAS. I learned how to be comfortable exploring new places without the company of others, and I took full advantage of everything both cities had to offer, including the free coffee at Waitrose in London! The interpersonal diplomacy I practiced while studying abroad reinforced my desire to contribute to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Presenting American values abroad in Jordan and Britain allowed me to not only connect with others through cultural values, but also through shared narratives and experiences. I was fortunate enough to be awarded the Pickering Fellowship during my semester at SOAS, which will allow me to turn this passion into action, continue strengthening democratic governance with the U.S. Department of State, and represent a diverse America abroad as a future Foreign Service Officer.

I am currently interning in the Office of Levant Affairs in the Near Eastern Affairs bureau at the State Department. While my internship, study abroad experiences, and academic background at Pomona College have prepared me for a long-term career in the Foreign Service, I will pursue a Master of International Affairs degree at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University this fall to gain the skills needed to formulate and implement U.S. foreign policy and to strengthen mutual understanding between the U.S. and the Arab world.

Kerry

Meet the 2016 Alumni Summer Interns