International Accents

E.g., Thursday, June 30, 2016
E.g., Thursday, June 30, 2016

As America’s representative do their best to curtail our freedom of speech with the Protect IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act, I couldn’t help but think of a place where Lamar Smith and his cosponsors could learn a lot about censorship. It’s a place that seems to be stuck in time, where I and 12 other University of Iowa students studied over winter break: Cuba.

Being there provided a fascinating look at the results of America’s Cuban foreign policy and a unique perspective on the embargo.

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Jake Krzeczowski watched as a small group of Cubans clothed in white chanted to the beat of drums. The University of Iowa journalism student observed the Santeria religious ceremony in El Bosque Del Rio, Cuba, a forest near Havana.

“I can’t say the word culture enough,” said Krzeczowski, a former Daily Iowan employee. “It’s an interesting place. There’s an absence of materialism, more community, rich culture and people from all walks of life.”

The trip was the first opportunity available for students since President Obama eased travel restrictions to the country for certain study-abroad programs from accredited universities and religious organizations.

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Evolutionary biologist John Logsdon and psychiatrist Scott Stuart will join professors Bluford Adams and Teresa Mangum (English), Katherine Eberle (Music), Elizabeth Heineman (History and Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies), Marra and Page-White for this intriguing topic: women, hysteria and medicine. Please join us as a member of the audience at 5:00 on Friday, January 27, in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol Museum.

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"What am I doing here?" That question plagued me on that hot September day in 1982 when I first set foot in the house where I would be living with other participants on a Central College study abroad program in Mérida, Mexico. Blind from birth, I was accustomed to quickly taking in and adapting to new environments. But the open spaces, high ceilings, and large rooms so typical of Mérida's colonial architecture made this place feel like anything BUT home.

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As a Fulbrighter to India, I knew that I was expected to leave an indelible impact on the villages in which I conducted my research. After collecting considerable data from post-tsunami villages in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, I was finally presented with an opportunity to reciprocate the kindness that the villages had bestowed upon me.

While visiting a home in Paravaipettai, I noticed a shy, yet inquisitive girl peeking at me from a distant room. After calling for her to join the interview, I was confronted with the reason for her reluctance to join the group: the young girl, Sangeeta, was suffering from a severe cleft lip and palate.

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The University of Iowa International Writing Program (IWP) was viewed with suspicion by Iron Curtain countries during the depths of the Cold War. The Eastern European writers who were allowed to participate could expect to be taken into custody immediately upon their return home, for debriefing to determine if their thinking had been polluted by contact with the decadent West.

Other writers were simply denied permission to depart for Iowa City. Among the writers from the Communist bloc who were prevented from attending, one stood out, although not immediately. The world is now mourning the Dec. 18 passing of Vaclav Havel, the widely honored first president of a democratic Czech Republic whose plans to attend the IWP were derailed 43 years ago.

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At the beginning I was very frustrated, I wish I would have been more prepared to answer questions. It was not easy explaining my impairments in another language. Also, I was not prepared for the doubt I would have to face from other people. I could see the worry in their eyes when I brought my bike home for the first time. The teachers would ask me everyday if the print in the book was too small. Looking back at it now, it was a tough first few weeks. I really had to give it my all in order to make people believe that I was fully capable of doing everything that a sighted person can do.

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Going to the different peace museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was one of the most interesting things I have ever been able to do. To see and hear the stories about what took place at Pearl Harbor and the atomic bomb was a great experience. Most people, especially minorities don’t think that trips like this are in their reach. Money is always an issue so they just give up on the idea. They just need to be told and motivated that there are ways to make things happen.

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Being a first-generation student, my family was pretty new to the whole college experience and the great opportunities of studying abroad. My father had always said, “Well can’t you learn French here?” while my mother tried to hide the emotions of not seeing her son for three whole months. After explaining to my parents the great opportunities and experiences that I would gather during my time in Europe, they were fully supportive. (Oh yeah, and some basic training on how to use Skype).

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Studying abroad during my undergrad years just was not feasible. As a graduate student, I found out about the India Winterim program and immediately grasped the opportunity to travel and do fieldwork in global health and epidemiology. I initially assumed that this would be something that I would participate in for leisure and did not think that this course would be applicable for graduate credit. I was really glad to hear that the program would count as one of my MS electives and am tremendously grateful for having had the opportunity to partake in the program.

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I did not see another Asian child at school until junior high, thus making diversity a very difficult and painful concept for me to grasp; however, I came to realize that everyone is different in their own special way, and although other kids made fun of me for my physical differences up until high school, I took these experiences, and they helped shape my much broader view of humanity and our role in the international arena.

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Not only can an opportunity such as this help students learn more in their relative field(s) of study, but at the same time this experience can help students to understand other cultures and lfiestyles around the world, which in my opinion is something you cannot be taught. Being the first generation in my family to attend a University, and now to have studied outside the U.S., I feel like I have set an example for my family and friends to hopefully follow in the future.

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I am a “toubab.” This is a term used in West Africa to describe a foreigner. However, when directly translated it means white person. It is accurate in the sense that I am an American. However, my appearance does not properly reflect “toubab.”

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Weeks into my first excursion to China, I distinctly remember standing on a nondescript street corner in a major city, looking around at the press of humanity crowding around me and thinking, “I’m still a minority. Only the majority has changed.” A small realization, yes, but it really did change my current world view in a heartbeat. It really was one of those eureka moments where a chaotic situation suddenly crystallized in my mind. My entire identity had shifted, and I’d barely noticed until it hit me like a sledgehammer.

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I learned a lot about interactions between one person and another, regardless of their background. I had drifted into a stagnant mindset that other people would think of me in a set way, and I was unsure of how to approach them. I let my own biases influence my character. I realized that individuals react and interact with other individuals. Sexual orientation, nationality, or gender don't play a role in that interaction. I was pleasantly surprised to find this out on an international study abroad program.

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My name is Guadalupe Trinidad, but everyone calls me Lupe. I don’t know how much one can tell from a name, but mine yells out ethnicity. I come from a place in Texas called Laredo, a border town to Mexico. My family is Mexican and those were the traditions I was raised with. We are a very close-knit family. To be more precise, all my relatives are in Laredo or within a 150 mile radius. So, when I broke the news that I wanted to attend the University of Iowa, well, the reactions weren’t all that enthusiastic.

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With two parents who emigrated to the U.S. in the late '70s, they have been unsure and hesitant about certain aspects of the college experience. When I brought up the idea of spending two weeks in London with a bunch of people I didn't know, they bombarded me with questions. Luckily for me, the entire process has been extremely easy. There are dozens of people within the Study Abroad office who helped out with general questions as well as anything we wanted to know about financial aid. Before I knew it, I was on the plane across the Atlantic Ocean..

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I had expected the Spaniards to act a certain way towards me because of the stereotypes I had about them. Things worked both ways: I found out that my preconceived notions about another culture weren't necessarily accurate while they found out their stereotypes of Americans weren't necessarily true, either. To me, that's the beauty of study abroad–being able to learn so much about another culture that you end up proving yourself wrong.

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I have learned a great deal about myself from these two experiences. Not only am I from Nepal but I am also from America. Being in Japan has made me embrace my Nepalese culture more but I also appreciate being from America. My identity as an Asian American remains and I have learned not to be scared of who I am. I have values and ideas that are rooted in both cultures. I am not going to lie and say that sometimes I didn’t get confused, I did and I still do but these things are bound to happen. I just know that I am proud to be me, no matter what color I am, no matter my sexuality or gender, I am lucky enough to have lived in two places and I am not ashamed of my identity.

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As an African American woman, meeting members of the African Diaspora in Greece was eye-opening. Many of the West African immigrants I met were first-generation transplants or seasonal workers, and as such their position within the larger Greek cultural fabric was a tenuous one. In a society where large-scale immigration is a newer phenomenon than it is in the United States, it was interesting to hear these immigrants' various opinions about life as a person of color in a European country.

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I have heard time and time again that studying abroad will help you grow as a person, but I had no idea how true that statement would be. While abroad I was challenged to adapt my behavior to different cultures. I learned simple language things such as "rubbish" being "garbage" in London to more challenging things as to how to order food in Dutch or how to navigate the Metra in Rome.

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My name is Kolie Eko, and I am a third year Microbiology major and undergraduate research assistant in the Bradley Jones Laboratory at The University of Iowa. I was born in Nairobi, Kenya. My family is a multicultural family; my father is from Cameroon, Africa, and my mother is from Calcutta, India. My extended family communicates in English, French, and several Asian and African languages. As far back as I can remember, there were signs of poverty, disease, hunger, and poor healthcare facilities in Cameroon where my father is from, in Kenya, where we lived, and in India, where my mother is from. That reality did not personally affect my brother and I. My parents were able to provide a comfortable life for our family. However, I could not understand the huge gap between the very rich and the very poor in India and Africa. I wished I could do something to help the many school age boys and girls who never went to school but lived and sometimes died on the streets in Nairobi.

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Though Roberto Ampuero will return to Iowa City today, he won’t return to his faculty position at the University of Iowa this spring semester. Instead, he’ll begin serving as the Chilean ambassador to Mexico in January.

“In the future, my students will not only enjoy having a professor who is at the same time an internationally published author but one who served as ambassador to such an important country as Mexico,” Ampuero wrote in an email.

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In today’s globalized world, more young people are looking for jobs, internships and volunteering opportunities abroad. Student interest has increased in this area at the University of Iowa over the past few years as well.

As one of the University’s strategic initiatives is to increase study abroad and internationalization, International Programs’ Study Abroad office has added a Work, Intern, Volunteer Abroad (WIVA) advisor to assist students who are interested in this sort of experience.

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Chinese students have flocked to American universities in record numbers in recent years, and officials at Iowa’s regent universities say to keep up they have added advisers and counselors, formed committees to monitor the students’ needs and pay special attention to orientation and language programs.

“China has happened to the United States, period,” University of Iowa Director of Admissions Mike Barron said. “They just simply have a lot of well-qualified students that their own universities can’t handle.”

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