academics

October 8th. Can you believe it? I can't. It's been more than a month abroad, and somehow I'm still surviving. Actually, I know how I'm surviving. With lots of pastries and tea.

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“Góðan daginn! Do you need any help sorting your sheep?” I asked in butchered Icelandic, tapping an older woman in waders on the shoulder. She stopped directing sheep traffic and shook her head. Although she probably spoke English fluently, she apparently didn’t have the time to spare when tourists such as myself were eager to help. Instead of answering my question, she pulled an older man over for me to talk to and walked away.

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There are many things a regular person would be worried about when attending a new school in another country. Will the classes be hard? Will the teachers speak English? Will I be able to keep up?

However, the one topic of my concern was… will there be air conditioning?

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Two days prior to our trip, I had an unexpected adventure in Freiburg. One evening, I managed to slice my knee open on a sharp metal railing at a friend’s apartment. All of you who know my tendency to accidentally get injured are probably rolling your eyes right now. Long story short, it was a bloody mess, and I got to take a ride in an ambulance to a German hospital. After figuring out the insurance and filling out some forms, I got six stitches, a bonus tetanus shot, and I was back home within two hours of the original injury.

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I am at the point where everything is starting to feel somewhat normal and at home here. Things are feeling familiar to me, and it’s been more than 24 hours since I’ve gotten lost–although I wouldn’t put too much confidence in my inner-GPS skills just yet. I am also very consciously wondering, “Am I integrating myself into the culture enough? Do I look the part? I haven’t had paella yet, should I be worried?”, while also comparing what it’s like to be an American, a University of Iowa student, even just an Iowan, to the culture here.

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As I exited the airport, I couldn’t help but feel the butterflies in my stomach increase tenfold. Here I was for the first time outside of the country, alone and nervous about meeting my host family. I quickly saw my host mom holding up a sign with my name along with her brother. This was it. I was here in Costa Rica and as we piled into the car I tried to keep calm and take everything in. As we sped down the winding roads and steep hills, I saw an array of small business buildings, tin roofed homes, and narrow sidewalks. Finally pulling up to my host family’s home, I was eager to see where I would be living for the next couple of months.

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Right now, I’m sitting on an 8x8m slab of hardwood flooring. I just did some yoga, I’m listening to music and browsing Facebook-- essentially nothing different than I would be doing back home. Yet there are little things that remind me that I’m actually nowhere near home: I have to bring my own roll of toilet paper to the bathroom, and the water in the shower is scalding and reeking of sulfur so I know it’s authentic Icelandic geothermal water. The combination of my regular routine and the elemental stank confirmed the surreal: I’m officially moved into Reykjavik, Iceland.

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A group of 14 Russian educators from various U.S. states traveled abroad to Moscow for an intensive four-week teaching workshop this June. The program, titled ‘Russian Teachers for the 21st Century: Maximizing Teaching Effectiveness by Immersing into Language, Culture and Standard-Based Teaching,’ was directed by two University of Iowa faculty members – Irina Kostina, Ph.D., lecturer in Russian and Anna Kolesnikova, Ph.D., adjunct assistant professor of Russian language.

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At 5 p.m. on Tuesday, October 14, WorldCanvass will explore contemporary Brazil. Our immense neighbor to the south—comprising roughly the same land mass as the U.S.—is the world’s fifth largest country and seventh largest economy. Bursting with biodiversity and undergoing rapid development, Brazil faces a host of tough choices for both its people and the natural environment. Our discussion will reach beyond the brilliant beaches and soccer arenas to reflect on the multi-cultural legacy of Brazil’s complex past as seen in everything from its language to uniquely Brazilian artistic expressions to the political and social dynamics that are actively shaping the Brazil of the 21st century.

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With Labor Day just past, and classes well underway, I want to welcome everyone to the 2014-15 academic year! I always enjoy the expansive feeling at the beginning of the school year, with so many new faces, undergraduates eager to visit the office to explore options abroad; graduate and professional students working with Karen Wachsmuth to apply for grants and fellowships; and faculty across the disciplines contacting me with ideas about how they can enhance their global teaching, research, and engagement activities.

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