Allison in London-land: A Study Abroad Experience

By Sarah Bangley, Chatham Undergraduate Student, ELP Intern

In the spring of 2016, Allison Albitz (‘17) studied abroad at Goldsmiths University, located in London. I sat down with her to talk about some of her experiences while in the UK.

SB: What did you enjoy the most?

AA: Being in the city was the thing I enjoyed the most. The whole geography of London is mapped into zones. One is the center of the city; we were in zone two, in Lewisham. I loved exploring and being able to go from quiet to bustling and back again.

SB: Did you travel anywhere while in Europe?

AA: I actually got to take a few trips. I took a tour to Stonehenge and stopped in Bath along the way— they had incredible Roman baths. I took a tour group trip to Ireland and visited Dublin and Galway. It was good and bad— I didn’t enjoy being in a group. I wish I could have just done it with friends, but I did get to see more of Ireland than I would have on my own. Our trip to Scotland was my favorite! We got to explore castles. That was one of the benefits of being in London: being able to travel to all of these places fairly inexpensively.

SB: What kind of classes did you take at Goldsmiths?

AA: I only took 4 classes while I was there. The Art of the Novel was a great lecture course in which we studied various novels, and it felt a lot like a class at Chatham. Modern American Lit was another English course, and I had a very interesting perspective to bring. It was more discussion-based, and I had a great time hearing about the impact American literature from an international perspective.

I took a course called London Theatre, which was made for study abroad students. Each week we saw a production at a different theatre in London, and it was a great opportunity to not only see various productions, but also experience different areas of the city. Finally, I took a class called Urban London in which we travelled to different parts of the city and learned about the histories of various areas. That too gave me the opportunity to go to places I wouldn’t have sought out on my own.

SB: What do you miss?

AA: The candy— that was one thing, especially with brands you can’t get here. I wanted to try as many authentically British things that I could. Anything Cadbury was always my favorite. I loved Wagonwheels— candy made with marshmallow and chocolate and cookie with jam in the middle— they blew my mind! Less specifically, I miss the free access to museums— my friends and I went to museums every weekend. I feel like that educated me a lot.

SB: What large-scale challenges did you face?

AA: I think I dealt with a lot of homesickness that I wasn’t expecting. I live in Dallas, so I already went to school far from home. I remember missing familiar amenities like grocery stores. Especially in the middle of it, two months in, it really hit.

SB: What small-scale challenges did you not expect?

AA: I think navigation was something that was definitely a learning curve as getting lost is not my favorite thing! I had to get more comfortable with getting lost since I was traveling so much. Also money— trying to figure out pounds (and pence!)

SB: What was the take-away from your experience?

AA: I generally learned a lot more just by being there than I did in the classroom— just a sense of self-sufficiency. I found myself very confident that I could go to an unfamiliar city, make friends, and navigate, just in the few months that I was there.

SB: What words of advice would you give to a student considering the study abroad program?

AA: Do it! I was terrified before I went. I was very anxious about the prospect of not knowing anyone in my program, but I ended up having experiences I never expected and made great friends. Don’t let fear stop you!

Use the resources that the University gives over there, because they’ll provide you with opportunities like trips and mixers that you wouldn’t get otherwise. Do the touristy things you want to do, but branch out and explore as well! We went to the big restaurants and museums, but we also went to the tiny restaurants nearby. And make sure you take a good camera!

Diverse Voices: An Interview with ELP Students

By Sarah Bangley, Chatham Undergraduate Student, ELP Intern

ELP Students, Summer 2016

Every year, students from around the world come to study at Chatham through the English Language Program. I recently sat down with students from Vietnam, Mali, Saudi Arabia, and India to discuss their experiences at Chatham.

We began our discussion with some of the differences between Chatham and their home school. The buildings on Chatham’s campus were a particular focus of comparison. A student who wished to remain anonymous said, “In Vietnam, we have to study in a small school. We don’t even have a student lounge. There are not as many buildings as here.” Hassana, from Mali, added, “Here, it is more developed than my school— for example, the computer and projector. In my home, it is just starting to be developed.” Bholika shared a larger-scale comparison of school systems: “In India, we have four year undergraduate programs and two year Master’s programs. Admission is based on 12-standard score— if we have a good score, we can go to a good university. But here, you can go to any school you want.”

I asked each of them about the issues they faced when speaking English. They expressed their own personal difficulties. The student from Vietnam told me, “When I want to talk with someone, but I will think in Vietnamese first.” Hassana encountered a similar issue: “[English] is kind of like French, but not really. I still pronounce some words like French.” For Bholika, English slang proved to be a hurdle, especially when she couldn’t find the meaning through Google. Abdullah, from Saudi Arabia, mentioned a class he took to help with that issue: “I went to Point Park and took an idiom class, and actually it’s helpful when people speak, like “piece of cake.” I didn’t understand idioms before.”

On the topic of idioms, two students provided me with sayings from their home countries. In Vietnam, they say: “Mot hon da trung hai con nhan,” which is similar to the English idiom “hit two birds with one stone.” Bholika told me, “One of the best idioms about mom is: ‘Ma te ma bija badha vagda na va.’ It means something like without mom you cannot do anything. Mom is the best character in your life.”

Although ELP students came here to study, they also find time to have fun. We talked about their favorite activities both on and off campus. All of them happily mentioned the field trips they took to visit some of Pittsburgh’s landmarks. Bholika in particular enjoyed museums. She said, “I like to visit museums, because I really want to know about your culture, and from museums, I can know something about your culture.” She recently visited the Andy Warhol museum. The student from Vietnam said she liked to go to the cinema for fun. “I watch cartoon movies— especially cartoon movies, like Meet the Robinsons, Finding Nemo, and Finding Dory.”

But for all the work ELP students put in, they still feel disconnected from Chatham’s community. Some only had friends within the English Language Program; others had brief encounters with other Chatham students. Hassana mentioned, “I haven’t had any trouble with the students. They are all friendly. Because I am from Africa, they are interested in my customs.” But Abdullah told me, “The other students don’t talk with me. I guess they don’t want to lose their time.” Part of this disconnect stems from the amount of time the ELP students spend here— the student from Vietnam had only spent three or four months at Chatham.

So what can we do as fellow Chatham students to include these lively, diverse voices in our community? Start small: take time to say hello to international students! Attend events hosted by International Affairs. Even better, become a conversation partner through ELP! In the brief time I spent chatting with these students, I brushed the surface of a vast pool of fascinating experiences just waiting to be shared. I hope future ELP students will have a chance to share their perspectives with the greater Chatham community.

A Stranger in India

By Alina Volper, ELP Lecturer

As an American, I forget what it is like to be a complete foreigner and stranger in another country. The experience of feeling like a complete outsider occurred for the first time when I visited India in 2012 and 2015.

I went to India because my husband is from there and I wanted to visit his family and his country. While his family was extremely welcoming and embracing, I felt like an alien specimen in the country itself. People were constantly staring, pointing, and asking to take pictures with me and of me. I sensed that I was under a microscope and being examined and studied everywhere I went. This was a very difficult feeling that I had not experienced in any other nation. In addition, India is a country that overwhelms you with the sounds, smells, crowds, and colors that permeate every activity and interaction. While this was eye-opening and incredible, it was also a very exhausting experience. I had to learn to embrace being a stranger and subject of curiosity for people. Traveling to India has made me less self-conscious because I stopped wondering why people were gazing at me and began to ignore the looks as much as I could.  I started to enjoy the nonstop sensory overload that one can experience in this perplexing, bright, overpowering, and wondrous land.

If you are an international student at Chatham or an American thinking of studying abroad, I would advise you to embrace the experiences that you have, both positive and negative. It is normal to have a variety of occurrences when you are in a new place and the important aspect is not to let any undesirable experiences cast a shadow on the wonderful memories that you’ll surely have in the country. Don’t let any strange, bad, or unexpected situations ruin the amazing privilege and gift of studying abroad.

Congratulations 2017 study abroad scholarship recipients!

We are pleased to recognize the following Chatham students who are recipients of the following study abroad scholarships:

Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership – Kelly O’Donnell (Ireland), Carina Stopenksi (South Africa), and Maria Taylor (Morocco)

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship – Sivan Nizan (Costa Rica)

Glenda Rich DeBroff ’60 Memorial Scholarship  – Eden Bloom (Spain)

Theo Colborn-Rachel Carson Endowed Scholarship Award for Environmental Studies – Sivan Nizan (Costa Rica)

Sally Mercke Heym ’63 Memorial Award for Cross Cultural Understanding – Jacqueline Litz (Russia)

Lorin Maazel-Rachel Carson Scholarship Award for Environmental Studies – Sivan Nizan (Costa Rica)

When will you study abroad?  For more information about study abroad options, scholarships and the study abroad process, please contact or visit us at the Office of International Affairs in Falk Hall, lower level.


A Semester of International Activities

By Kate Emory, International Student Services Coordinator, and Sylvia Shipp, ELP Lecturer

Global Mixer Spring 2017

It has been a lively semester with lots of fun events for our international students. Office of International Affairs (OIA) kicked off the spring semester by hosting a Global Mixer, a standing-room-only social event rich with games and food, in the Carriage House. Following this event was our fun-filled International Karaoke Night, where you can expect to hear students sing songs in many different languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, German, French, and Spanish.

Salsa and Bachata Night, Spring 2017

In March, students from the Spanish language classes, offered a night of Salsa and Bachata dance lessons. Attendees learned basic Salsa steps, individually and with partners, and later learned Bachata moves. “Salsa” and “Bachata” are genres of music that incorporate many different influences from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. Dance is a popular way to interact with the music.

International Trivia Night, Spring 2017

At the beginning of April, OIA also hosted the first International Trivia Night. Students tested their global knowledge in a Jeopardy!-like quiz. Teams registered in advance, and there were prizes for first, second, and third places. Trivia included questions about international food, world history, and “Where’s Carson?”.

End-of-Term Celebration, Spring 2017

The English Language Program (ELP) chose the Carnegie Science Center for the OIA/ELP field trip this semester. Many of our Japanese students and ELP students joined us on the hands-on fun. We watched “Dream Big,” an inspiring documentary about the wonder of design at the Omnimax Theater. As usual, we held our bittersweet end-of-term party in mid-February for our Japanese exchange students, who would soon return to their home schools: Kobe College and Kyoto Women’s University, after a 6-month program in English and American culture. The spread was fantastic—Asian & American fare specially prepared for our students. We also held an end-of-term party after final exams, treating the students to pizza and cake. Several students received certificates and prizes in recognition of their efforts.

ELP students had other special days, too. Aside from the usual social activities such as our Conversation Partner Program that many students enjoy participating in, students also went on class field trips to places such as the Chatham Eden Hall and Eastside campuses, the Carnegie Art Museum, University of Pittsburgh Nationality Rooms, and Millie’s Ice Cream in Shadyside. A special group called the International Student Ambassadors helped to create a clever video to showcase the beauty of Chatham University, welcoming other international students who are considering studying abroad.

Aside from the formally hosted activities, many ELP students also took part in the indoor intramural sports such as soccer, which is held in our state-of-the-art gym.

Viewing International Students as an Asset: Implications for Intercultural Communication, Effective Pedagogy, and Intergroup Dialogue

By Linh Phung, ELP and Pittsburgh Pathways Director

International Student Ambassadors, Spring 2017

One core mission of Chatham University is to promote “global understanding” of “world-ready” students. Fulfilling the mission requires the work of all departments, offices, and stakeholders from the University. The Office of International Affairs (OIA) has made various contributions to the mission. Over the fall 2016 and spring 2017 semesters, the Office served over 130 international students from nearly 30 countries through English language instruction, intercultural programming, ongoing orientation, immigration advising, academic advising, and other services. While conversations around international students sometimes heavily focus on the students’ ability to adjust to the new environment and culture, let us flip the coin and view the presence of international students as an asset to those who come into contact with them.

Interacting with international students helps to develop intercultural communication skills. The fact that international students speak English as an additional language provides their interlocutors the opportunity to use communications strategies, such as attentive listening, confirmation checks, comprehension checks, paraphrasing, circumlocution, and so on. These strategies will be useful for other intercultural interactions where cultural differences extend beyond differences in nationalities and languages to include differences in lived experiences, identities, social memberships, and so on. Teaching international students challenges instructors to implement culturally relevant pedagogies to maximize learning opportunities for all. Usually, instructional strategies that work for international students work for all. For example, errors that international students make may be obvious and even annoying, but making discursive practices in a particular field explicit can be empowering to both international and domestic students who are still learning to “talk the talk.”

Dialogue with international students has a tremendous potential to deepen understanding of different lived experiences and the consequences of those differences. I recently participated in the Intergroup Dialogue training workshop delivered by colleagues from the University of Michigan. I was fascinated by how much I learned from other participants by asking curious questions and listening to others to understand their experiences (i.e., listening to understand, not listening to respond). I realized how different my experiences growing up and studying in Vietnam were while listening to my interlocutors talk about their favorite holiday, their mom’s home remedy to treat cold, or artifacts in their cultural box that told their life stories. I felt as if my journey to learn about the U.S. culture and people around me just started then. It made me think about how to engage in and facilitate more dialogue, especially dialogue about critical issues, among international and domestic students to surface differences and foster better understanding, a first step in contributing to a more equitable world.

In short, international students are not merely “legal aliens,” nonnative English speakers, or the “other,” who need support and accommodation for success (which is, of course, also important). They also bring differences and resources that can be viewed as assets to the University community.


The 2016-2017 academic year has been marked with exciting international events at Chatham. Here are a few highlights of events and programs that the Office of International Affairs (co)-organized.

International activities and programming

Global Mixer Spring 2017

Students and staff played the Fruit Basket game in Spring 2017 Global Mixer. There was so much fun and laughter. The event also kicked off the newly-created International Student Ambassador Program.

Fall 2016 Global Mixer featured students’ poster presentations about their countries, some of which included India, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Britain.

International Student Ambassadors, Arief, Bandar, Xinran (Echo), Issareeyaporn (Eve), Laura, Bholika, and Jing (Katherine) posed for a picture in front of the Chatham Pond. The #YouAreWelcomeHere video created by students reached thousands of people on Facebook. It was a timely message during the time of heightened anxiety among international students and parents after the election.

The Conversation Partner Program paired or grouped close to 100 students of different backgrounds in fall 2016 and spring 2017 for conversations and cultural exchanges. Many friendships were formed. In this picture are students participating in one of the Conversation Hours, organized by the English Language Program.

In this picture were students from the English Language Program and Chatham Semester during the Spring 2017 International End-of-Term Celebration. In the coming year, the OIA will capitalize on the English Language Program and Pittsburgh Pathways to attract more international students to Chatham and Pittsburgh. Also, congratulations to our 15 international students from 8 countries who graduate this term! Good luck to you all and please stay in touch with us!

Global Focus

The Global Focus Year of Canada culminated on Tuesday April 18 with the International Higher Education Summit, co-organized by the President’s Office and Global Focus. The Summit brought together university presidents, scientists, and leaders from Canada, Europe, and the U.S. In this picture, Chatham President David Finegold introduced the first panel discussion on the future of research and innovation with Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President of the European Research Council; Subra Suresh, CMU President; Patrick Gallagher, Pitt Chancellor; and Chris Howard, Robert Morris University President.

Following the first panel, Professor Justine Cassell from CMU delivered an intriguing keynote speech, discussing some of the challenges and opportunities presented by the rapid development of artificial intelligence.

Another highlight of the summit was when Chatham students Indigo Baloch, Diarra Clarke, Maria Duarte, and Maria Taylor spoke about their passionate involvements in civil society.

Emerging from the summit, a “Declaration of Cooperation” signed by all institutions promised to build partnerships likely to augment the education offered to students at Chatham. The upcoming Global Focus Year of Indonesia (2017-2018) will continue to offer a robust program to enhance students’ global understanding and deepen relations with Indonesian nationals in our region and Indonesian universities. Professor Greg Galford will be the new Global Focus Coordinator. Many thanks to Professor Jean-Jacques Sène for his wonderful contributions to Global Focus in the past years!

Study abroad

Chatham students in Brazil, Maymester, 2015

76 students will have studied abroad by the end of Maymester. Especially, 6 students will have studied abroad for a semester and 34 students will study abroad this summer. With the current momentum, Chatham is on the right track to achieve its goal of having 42% of undergraduate students study abroad by the time of they graduate in 2020.

On April 5, Chatham welcomed Jennifer Connor from the Institute for International Education (IIE) and Shayak Sengupta, a Fulbright grant alumnus, to present information on the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.  Students interested in applying for a 2017-18 Fulbright Research/Study grant or English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) should contact the Office of International Affairs, for support.

International partnerships

Visitors from Kansai University, which plans to send 15 students to the English Language Program, starting in Spring 2018. These students will study at Chatham for 2.5 semesters as part of their degree requirements.

The University is also focusing on building strategic partnerships with universities overseas to allow students to study abroad for a longer term (one or several semesters) and create opportunities for joint research and joint degree offerings. Strategic partners will be identified among existing ones as well as new potential partners. These opportunities will provide students with rich international experiences and a comparative edge in the job market upon graduation.

Scholarships for Study Abroad: Gilman Scholarship

Veritas University, Costa Rica

There are many scholarship and fellowship opportunities for students and recent graduates to study, intern and/or do research overseas, including the Gilman scholarship.

The Gilman scholarship is a program of the US Department of State. Named after retired congressman Benjamin A. Gilman from New York,  this scholarship program is open to U.S. citizen undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding at a  college or university to use toward study and intern abroad programs worldwide.  Applications for spring 2018 and summer 2018 (early application) study abroad will open in mid-August and will be due in early October.

The program encourages students to study and intern in a diverse array of countries and world regions and to study languages, especially critical need languages (those deemed important to national security and diplomacy).

Applications are reviewed holistically, with consideration of the academic preparedness and impact on the student’s academic and career trajectory; diversity of the student’s background and experience; the student’s choice of program and destination; and the impact to the student’s community.

Sivan Nizan, a junior at Chatham studying Policy Studies  and Sustainability  has been awarded a Gilman scholarship for summer 2017.  She will study Spanish, sustainability and political science at Veritas University in San Jose, Costa Rica this summer.  Congratulations Sivan!

Costa Rica – pura vida

If you are interested in applying for the Gilman scholarship or other study abroad scholarships or overseas fellowships, please contact the Office of International Affairs so that we may be of assistance.

When will you study abroad?  For more information about study abroad options, scholarships and the study abroad process, please contact or visit us at the Office of International Affairs in Falk Hall, lower level.

My experience studying in Grenoble, France

by Jess Turner

Grenoble France

Traveling alone to Grenoble, France changed my sense of self. Through this experience, I learned to become independent and strong. Everyday, I had to communicate in a new language.

At first, I didn’t have any friends, so I had a lot of alone time. In that alone time, I found a clear identity, and I began to admire myself. After a few weeks in the program, I was able to make friends. I established special connections with people from France, Saudi Arabia, England, South Africa, Mexico, and Spain. These are connections that I will maintain throughout my life.

By the end of the program, I was able to speak and understand the language with confidence. It is such an intimate experience, to be surrounded by a new and beautiful language. I miss hearing it, so, I am excited to go back this summer. I had such a life changing experience that I am currently looking into programs to teach and live in Grenoble. I fell in love with the city—the mountains, the people, the rivers, the food, the wine.

My host mom was a perfect match for me. Each night she made me a home cooked meal. She was very patient with my French, considering that I only speak at an intermediate level. She gave me the perfect amount of space, and she always invited me out with her friends and family.

One of my favorite parts about Grenoble was taking the tram every morning to my university. The ride took about 10 minutes and along the way, I watched the mountains pass by and listened to the people around me chat quietly in French. Altogether, studying abroad changed my life. I wish that I could have stayed longer than 6 weeks, but I am sure that one day, I will call Grenoble home.

Jess Turner studied in France in spring 2017.  When will you study abroad?  For more information about study abroad options, scholarships and the study abroad process, please contact or visit us at the Office of International Affairs in Falk Hall, lower level.

TEDxCMU Brought Smiles, New Ideas, and Inspiration

TEDxCMU 2017: Abdullah Almalki, Xinran (Echo) Chen, Arief Zulkifli, Marina Razgarina, Katherine Ren, Oksana Moroz, and Linh Phung

On April 1, Linh Phung, Director of the English Language Program and Pittsburgh Pathways at Chatham University, and a group of international students and language instructors attended the TEDxCMU 2017 Conference at Carnegie Mellon University. The event was entirely organized by CMU students and featured inspiring talks about artificial intelligence, data science, photography, design, and even water bottle flipping. The audience also enjoyed music and dance performances.

Michael Senatore, whose video of him flipping a water bottle, went viral. He told the story of his viral fame and his decision afterwards.

The students and faculty from Chatham walked away from the conference with broad smiles, new ideas, and inspiration. Abdullah Almalki, ELP Student, said, “I’m so inspired by them as the speeches opened many ideas and stimulated my thinking.” Abdullah was fascinated by the liveliness of the talks and found them similar to the recorded TED talks he studied in the High Intermediate Listening/Speaking class in the English Language Program.

Group selfie before the event

Marina Razgarina, ELP Lecturer, especially enjoyed talks where people spoke about their personal experiences and emotions. She thought these talks, when used in the classroom, were “more likely to “grab” students’ attention” and increase their engagement in classroom activities.

Oksana Moroz, ELP Lecturer, enjoyed the humor in many of the talks. She also thought about how to use technologies purposefully to maintain happiness amidst myriad distractions in this digital era and how to embrace both arts and sciences in her daily life. With positive experiences, everyone said they would like to go to more TED events in the future.