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International Education Symposium 2015: A Participant’s Perspective

By Faith Cotter, MA Student in Professional Writing, English Language Prom Tutor

I am a tutor in the English Language Program, and I’ve been working in this position for over a year. A lot of my work, even outside of the tutoring center, focuses on clients who are multilingual. Aside from a few courses in Spanish, though, English is the only language I speak. The International Education Symposium inspired me to learn a new language and highlighted the importance of learning multiple languages in the United States and how we can implement the teaching of multiple languages into U.S. schools. It gave me a lot to think about!

Of course, it was easy to feel inspired by the talented speakers who talked to the audience about their experiences with language and culture. Mohammed Almalky’s presentation was hilarious! I still laugh at the jokes that he told. The other presenters were very informative as well. From a woman who learned English while growing up in Mexico, to three American students who either lived abroad in the military or for school, or who formed close friendships stateside with people from other countries, the Symposium gave the audience a wide range of experiences to learn from.

I am glad to attend a university that encourages friendships between people of different backgrounds. I know that I’ve learned so much from the students I have worked with at Chatham. The International Education Symposium was a wonderful celebration of the friendships that a Chatham education—or just taking the time to get to know one another—can create.

My Italian Study Abroad Experience

By Emily Schmidt, BA Visual Arts, 2015

The opportunity to study abroad twice during your college career is definitely not typical, and I knew I needed to carefully think about my decisions of where to go. It seemed counterproductive to go to the same city for the same experience, and I even considered choosing a different country, in some weird effort to soak up as much worldly knowledge and culture as possible. However, upon further thought I decided to go “an inch wide and a mile deep” rather than “a mile wide and an inch deep”. In other words, I’ve chosen to focus on Italian culture and language with the hope of becoming an expert and effectively making Italy my home away from home. To do this, I needed to stay away from the ultra-touristic cities such as Rome and Florence the second time around to round out my understanding of Italy.

My time living in Florence was the typical study abroad experience. For one summer month, I lived with a host family, took a couple classes each week, and saw almost every site and city of historical or cultural importance that Italy had to offer, including Rome, Venice, Milan, Verona, and Pisa. We hit 6 cities (2 per day) every weekend, and the month went by in a flash. Coming to Italy the second time, I felt that I had the cliché “must do” experience out of the way, allowing me to focus my energy on the people rather than the places. While in Viterbo, I’ve realized that the reason I love Italy so much is due less to the art and history (as incredible as it is) and more because of the people and culture. I’ve become accustomed to the easy-going lifestyle here, and no doubt I will begin to miss it as soon as I step on the plane home.

I’ve only recently realized just how much I love the people of Italy and I attribute that to my unique perspective of having studied here before and getting the “important” things out of the way. I am less worried about having to see all the famous sites and am now able to sit back, observe, and find my place among the people living in Viterbo. Studying abroad twice has also given me a unique perspective in watching my American friends discover Italy for the first time. I had a bit of an outsider’s perspective for the first two weeks as everybody around me oohed and awed at things that a short month in Florence had already hardened me for. I also realized I had once been in those shoes, and it was fun noting the things that made them gasp and laugh that I had forgotten about. I feel that in this way I’ve gained an interesting perspective on the experience of studying abroad, not just on the country itself.

I’ve learned a lot while abroad. Any tourist or student will find that learning Italian in a city like Rome, where everybody speaks English, is not much different than learning Italian in Pittsburgh where you speak the language for a couple hours per week and quit as soon as you leave the classroom. Living in a small town like Viterbo forces you to use what you know. I’ve also learned so much about Italian culture in general. I’ve seen the faster pace of the big city where everyone is doing something and going somewhere, and I’ve now seen the slower pace of a small town where tractors cruise down the main streets and people seem to have nothing to do but live la dolce vita. I’ve rounded out my understanding of culture and people in a way that would not have been possible in a singular experience.

Studying abroad has made me appreciate home in many ways. For one, I’ve realized how stable our economy is compared to Italy’s. Every Viterbo native I’ve talked with has spoken of the impossibility of finding work in Italy, allowing me to appreciate my silly summer job at McDonalds. Also, after my first trip abroad, I found myself in awe of the beauty of my own home. Italy is unquestionably a beautiful country and upon seeing it for the first time, it can leave you in shock. However, upon returning home, I realized the beauty of my own country, which I had previously taken for granted having lived there my entire life. I could compare the rolling hills of Italy to home, and even the Pittsburgh skyline had a new sheen I’d not previously realized.

The biggest advantage to studying in two different cities is being able to compare and contrast your experiences which allows you to constructively evaluate your time abroad. It is important to break it down and define your experiences to yourself, as this allows you to get more out of your time abroad. Living in two different cities in the same country will allow you to round out your understanding of a people and a culture, something I value greatly.

My Experience as a Swedish Exchange Student at Chatham University

By Delphine Mubiligi, Exchange Student at Chatham University

Before coming to Chatham University, I had no idea what to expect. I had no previous knowledge about the University, nor Pittsburgh. The few assumptions I had built throughout the years about college life in America, were all shaped by the way students were portrayed in Hollywood movies. Chatham have proved to be very different from the crazy-party-student-life-image presented by the movie industry. The campus might be a bit small and quiet, but it is cozy and filled with warm and friendly people. There are many fun and interesting activities that make getting to know other students easy.

Before coming to Chatham University, I had no idea what to expect. I had no previous knowledge about the University, nor Pittsburgh. The few assumptions I had built throughout the years about college life in America, were all shaped by the way students were portrayed in Hollywood movies. Chatham have proved to be very different from the crazy-party-student-life-image presented by the movie industry. The campus might be a bit small and quiet, but it is cozy and filled with warm and friendly people. There are many fun and interesting activities that make getting to know other students easy.

The students here at Chatham are very friendly, open-minded and willing to help other fellow students, when needed. The environment is very relaxed. Students can dress however they please and be themselves, without being judged. People respect each other and also the quiet hours. The fact that there are no big parties organised in the dorms makes it a good place to concentrate on the workload and making academic progress.

After spending nearly four months in USA, I have gained a lot of theoretical and practical knowledge. Studying abroad has enabled me to improve, not only my English skills, but also my problem-solving skills and cross-cultural communication skills. I have had the opportunity to interact and connect with American students and staff, as well as students from different parts of the world, which have enabled me to make this progress.

When talking to other exchanges students at Chatham University, I have come to realise that many of us share a common fear. This is not an all too serious fear, yet it raises concern amongst many international students. Many are concerned of returning to their countries of origin, not being the same people as they left. Many go through changes, often times positive changes, yet, they fear that it might take a while for some friends back home to get used these changes.

My experiences so far have been very positive. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to experience Chatham while it is still regarded as a female college. I have meet many inspiring young ladies here. I have also learned much about notable female academics and writers that have inspired and will continue to inspire women for generations to come. Although Chatham University will cease to be an all-female college, I strongly believe that it will remain a great place to advance academically and as an individual.

Why Study a Foreign Language?

By Martina Wells, Coordinator of Modern Languages Program, Chatham University

Without a doubt, learning a foreign language comes with many benefits for students. While some of them may seem quite obvious, others may strike you as a surprise. Perhaps of greatest and most immediate importance are those related to your prospect of finding that perfect job after graduating from college.

In an increasingly interdependent world, proficiency in a foreign language will give you a competitive edge on the job market. Not only will it allow you to communicate effectively with people from around the world in your business interactions, but it will empower you to better understand other perspectives and adopt a broader view about all kinds of issues. An important factor for employers operating in the global marketplace, global awareness and cross-cultural competence often translates into a higher paycheck even at the entry level of a career.

All of these benefits are actually the result of changes in your cognitive processing abilities. When you study a foreign language, you learn to think creatively, as functioning in another language teaches you to be flexible and mentally agile in the meaning-making process of communication. Sharpening your analytical thinking capabilities also means becoming a better communicator in your native language – and that’s not all: research shows that polyglots are less prone to develop Alzheimer’s. But, before you worry about Alzheimer’s, enjoy the benefits of learning a foreign language and practice your skills on your Study Abroad trip, your next vacation overseas, or with inter national students on campus.

Cathedral and Church Tours with International Students

By Chris Musick, Assistant Vice President for International Affairs, Chatham University

A group of Chatham international students participated in the first of the “Cathedral Tour Series” by going to St. Paul’s Cathedral and the First Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Pittsburgh. It was interesting for the Muslim and Buddhist students to witness a mass and have a discussion on religious differences over pizza. A smaller group returned to St. Paul’s to hear an organ concert on the splendid pipe organ by German organist, Thiemo Janssen.

The next tours will be to the East Liberty Presbyterian Church and the Rodef Shalom Congregation. The purpose of the tours are to introduce students from diverse religious traditions to the diversity of religious practices in the U.S. in a supportive environment.

International Students Explore Washington DC

By Brigette Bernagozzi, ELP Instructor, Chatham University

Chatham recently hosted a field trip to the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C. Thirty international students and one American student attended. A fun time was enjoyed by all! The group, which included students from Saudi Arabia, Japan, China, and Germany, spent two nights in the city. The hostel was close to the Metro and bus lines, so students were able to travel around DC with ease.

On Friday, students were led to the White House by Chatham faculty and staff. Everyone hoped to catch a glimpse of President Obama while taking photos of his beautiful home. After that, some enjoyed dinner in Chinatown. Others toured three memorial sites on foot with a guide. They snapped photos of the impressive Lincoln Memorial, which features an enormous statue of Abraham Lincoln and an excellent view of the Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument. Other tour stops included the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the World War II Memorial, whose fountains were lit at night.

On Sunday and Monday, students had free time. They explored local sites such as the Air and Space Museum, Arlington National Cemetery, and the U.S. Capitol Building.

Saudi Students at Chatham University

By Samaher Shikh, ELP Graduate Assistant, Graduate Student in Biology

There is a decent number of Saudi students at Chatham University. The number of Saudi students has increased in the United States since the government scholarship opened in 2010. As Saudi students come from different cultures, they face many challenges. However, Saudi students at Chatham University are always together to help each other out. We share everything together and celebrate many Muslims celebrations together. Just recently, we celebrated Eid al-Adha. Eid al-Adha is the second biggest religious holiday celebrated by Muslims each year. We fast the previous day hoping for God to forgive us for all their last year’s sins. We sacrifice an animal such as a goat or sheep to honor the sacrifice of prophet Ibrahim of his son to follow God’s command. All families and relatives celebrate the Eid day by wearing new clothes, visiting each other, and giving money and candies as gifts to children. We end the day by having a big dinner together and staying up late up late to chat or watching TV. All in all, Saudi students at Chatham University are one family which we all proud to be part of.