Jasper Goldberg '12
Mill Valley, Calif.
history major, religion and peace and conflict studies minor
University of Haifa, Israel
Swarthmore has given me a solid background in peace and conflict studies, but I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of my minor and see the actual places that I read so much about. My semester away challenged many of the notions I had of the world and helped me to understand how incredibly nuanced this world is. I say "helped me to understand" because I know that I still have a long way to go in coming close to grasping the intricacies of Eastern Europe and the Middle East. However, Swarthmore and my semester off have given me far more insights into them than I could have ever hoped for.
"Sunset at the Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedral, a beautiful cathedral in Georgia and the last place I visited on my trip through Eastern Europe."
Traveling through the former Soviet Union, the Balkans, and the Middle East exposed me to many views of the U.S. that I had not previously been aware of. I celebrated the end of Ramadan (Eid al-Fitr) with Bosnian Muslims who saw America as a great liberator for our role in stopping the 1990s genocides. I partied with a group of American Peace Corps volunteers and marines, Armenian locals, and Iranian students who valued well-priced beer more than geopolitical tensions. I saw Bill Clinton Boulevard in Prishtina, Kosovo, and George W. Bush Boulevard in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Most importantly, though, I had the joy of proving the joke that, for Swatties, it's a small, small world. While out with friends one night in Estonia, I saw a familiar-looking t-shirt on another guy about my age. As it turned out, Brice Jordan '12, who I had no idea was in Estonia, had also chosen to go out on that very same street. Swatties seem to pop up in the craziest of places. In fact, I spent Christmas with Brice and Brendan Work '10 in Bethlehem, Palestine, and then traveled with Brice up to Ramallah to see Marina Tucktuck '13. In Cairo, I also met a Tri-Co student.
"Optimistic graffiti written during the siege of Sarajevo on the ruins of the luge track from Sarajevo's 1984 Winter Olympics." For the actual "study" component of my semester, I studied peace and conflict studies at the University of Haifa, Israel. Studying amidst Arabs, Druze, and Jews, I felt at times as though I was learning as much outside of class as in class. I came to understand that everyone has a perspective and that everyone has experiences, beliefs, and reasons to support their perspective. The Israeli and Palestinian soldiers, the Palestinian refugees from Haifa, the Jewish refugees from Cairo, the Israeli settlers in Ariel, and the Palestinian refugees in Aida have viewpoints that must be understood before they are challenged or agreed with. These are things I knew before coming to Swarthmore and before going abroad, but now they are things that I understand.
Brice Jordan '12
Russian and sociology/anthropology major
First, Swatties are everywhere. Everywhere. They could even be staying at a nearby hostel in the capital of Estonia. I was walking one August night around the cobbled streets of Old Tallinn and suddenly notice a guy in a Willits t-shirt who, I think, was squinting at me. My first thought was, "that's creepy," but the second was, "that's Jasper!" We reminisced and met up for a few days, but it was soon time for Jasper to continue on through Eastern Europe and Israel, while I sallied forth to St. Petersburg. I think we both kept that theme of abroad happenstance and momentum going in our own ways, culminating in another (this time planned) meeting on a different continent.
"My host mother, Svetlana, told me that I should remember Ufa with a special intensity, since it was the first place I lived abroad. She was right about everything."
As for my actual programs, I studied in Russia for the better part of seven months, mainly in Ufa and St. Petersburg. Now back at Swat, I keep reminding myself and others that the whole abroad thing - that was real. A couple of times, I had to look at pictures as a reminder. Turns out I was there, in real life. I was indeed in an ice cave under the Urals. I did go to folk festivals in southern Estonia. I went to two museums dedicated to Lenin and another one dedicated to the cats of St. Petersburg (the toughest in the world, they say). I saw a river as wide as the Missouri freeze in November and the sun hide for a month or more. I took classes where I was the only non-Russian and interned at a human rights NGO in St. Petersburg.
More than all of this, I met some of the most amazing people in my whole life. Just yesterday, I felt a strong pang of home-away-from-home sickness. I wanted to be back in that red apartment on the corner of Kommunisticheskaya street where my host mother, Svetlana, would tell me to stop eating like a buzzard, how best to get married ("not in those clothes"), and how you can find good people everywhere. She also told me that I should remember Ufa with a special intensity, since it was the first place I lived abroad. She was right about everything.
"I talk to other people coming back from abroad and recognize we're feeling something similar. Where does all that fit in? Here? Now? We gained a momentum abroad and desperately don't want to lose it."
Studying abroad was one of the most important things I've ever done, for the sake of academics and my own self. I talk to other people coming back from abroad and recognize we're feeling something similar. Where does all that fit in? Here? Now? We saw the world - at least a bit of it - and that's such an important, precious, invaluable, eye-opening thing. We gained a momentum abroad and desperately don't want to lose it, even if we're not sure exactly where it's going. Despite feeling Russia-sick every once in a while, I'm glad to be back - I really am. I feel encouraged here to keep that fire going and even embrace the craziness of happenstance.
Sara Lipshutz '11
New City, N.Y.
biology major, environmental studies minor
University of Cape Town, South Africa
I chose Globalization and the Environment because the program offered a completely new atmosphere of students, academics, and culture. I was getting pretty antsy (read: bored and burnt out), and ready for a change. As a biology major interested in doing research, I wanted to travel to an English-speaking place I had never been which offered biological habitats with ecosystems and animals I'd never seen or heard of before.
Sara with photographer, journalist, and duck enthusiast Joel Avni.
At the University of Cape Town, I took classes with students from all over Africa, most of whom thought my American accent was hilarious. In class, I learned about South Africa's colonial history of environmental degradation, dissected a skate, and spent week-long field camps in the Cederberg mountains. To meet new people, I took South African dance and contact improvisation, and volunteered with SHAWCO, a tutor program that matches UCT students with kids in townships like Khayelitsha. I joined Zoobotz, an extracurricular club dedicated to zoology and botany, where I met a lot of brilliant and interesting students at hikes and braais (South African barbeques).
"What started out as a small project using a statistical model to estimate the population of a common bird species turned into two field trips to the middle of nowhere, expansion of the model to a three-year data set including data I helped collect, and submission of a publication for which I am first author."
The most rewarding part of the program was the independent study - students choose a faculty advisor and conduct a research project that suits their academic interests. Since the University of Cape Town was close to so many fantastic nature reserves and diverse species, I decided to find an advisor that would take me on as a field assistant. After emailing many different professors, I met a fantastic post-doc on exchange from Poland named Dr. Magda Remisiewicz. What started out as a small project using a statistical model to estimate the population of a common bird species turned into two field trips to the middle of nowhere (Barberspan Bird Sanctuary, three hours west of Johannesburg), expansion of the model to a three-year data set including data I helped collect, and submission of a publication for which I am first author (still waiting to hear back from the journal, Ostrich). The mentors and researchers I met through this project taught me more about birds than I ever could have learned in a classroom.
I stayed in Cape Town for the World Cup, where my family joined me, and we traveled around Southern Africa together. I left for home with an unintentional minor in environmental studies, a love of ornithology, and many more freckles. Go to page 2