SU Strasbourg Director Says Farewell to Fall 2015 Students

Each semester, SU Strasbourg Center director Dr. Raymond Bach gives a farewell speech to his students. The speeches are always heartfelt and memorable. But this semester’s speech, shared just weeks after the terrorist attacks in Paris, is a tribute to the ties that bind nations and people, and to the true value of study abroad. We are sharing it in full, with his permission:

“Last week, at our Thanksgiving Celebration with the host families, I said a few words about the events that have recently shaken France. But as I spoke in French, there are no doubt a number of you who couldn’t quite follow. So let me summarize: I started by recalling 9/11 (when some of you were only four years old!) and how very moved I was by the sight of the hundreds of flowers that suddenly appeared in front of the American Consulate in the days following the attacks. I and other Americans were deeply appreciative of the many other expressions of support and solidarity that we received at that time, most notably during a special memorial concert given at the Strasbourg Cathedral, which was filled way beyond capacity. I then went on to say to our host families that, after the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, it has been America’s turn to express its profound solidarity with the French people, and that this solidarity has taken many forms: the illuminating of buildings in bleu, blanc, rouge (including on The Hall of Languages on the SU campus); the singing of the Marseillaise at everything from sports events to symphony concerts; the pronouncing by our president of the three most important words in the French language: liberté, égalité, et fraternité.

Solidarity between our two nations goes far back, of course, to Lafayette and the American War of Independence; and although there have been disputes and disagreements between us – and what friendships do not have their share of disagreements?—the ties that bind the two countries together remain strong and profound.

But if these ties have indeed endured over the decades and centuries this is not only due to our common history – one that you can read about in books, or see commemorated in stone monuments, or watch in films such as The Longest Day (which tells the story of the D-Day Landings of 1944). Books and monuments and films are important, of course; but the ties between our two nations have survived above all because they are built upon thousands and thousands of personal links that have been made between individuals just like you on both sides of the Atlantic.

So in the last analysis, solidarity and feelings of deep affection between nations depend above all on us, the people; they depend on the willingness of individuals like you to form friendships across boundaries and borders; they depend on your desire to learn about other people’s cultures, to discover their cities, landscapes, art, and cuisine; and, of course, they depend on your commitment to learning to speak their language! (N’est-ce pas?)

If this sounds suspiciously like a description of the goals of study abroad, well, that’s because it is. For study abroad is ultimately about making connections that create bonds of understanding, affection, and mutual support. Now that you have spent a semester in Strasbourg you are part of this giant chain that connects France and the United States. Some of you may never travel to France again; others may come here on a regular basis; and still others may spend extended periods of time here – perhaps even the majority of your lives – on ne sait jamais. But whatever the future holds for you, and whether you realize it or not, you have already become part of something that is larger than you, part of a transnational bond of solidarity.

And believe me, if there’s something that the world needs now more than ever, it’s solidarity that crosses borders and boundaries. We need it in order to deal successfully with nearly every major problems that we face today: climate change, migration, poverty, disease, terrorism…you name it! As “study abroaders” – a title that I now officially bestow on all of you— you are better equipped than most of your peers to understand these problems and to work toward their solution.

During our Thanksgiving celebration of the other day, several host families came up to me to tell me that after the Paris attacks they had received emails and phone calls from many of their former students, and that they had been profoundly touched by these expressions of support. I was, of course, very pleased to hear this. I hope, however, that it won’t only be in moments of national crisis that you will let others know how much you care about them, but that joyous events, both personal and communal, will also be occasions for sharing and for expressing solidarity across the ocean. I can’t imagine a more positive result of study abroad than that! Bon courage et bonne continuation”

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SU Santiago – Lifting Layers

DSC_0131It is common for visitors and study abroad students in Chile to base their interpretations of Chilean society and culture on a very limited area of Santiago. In the past, the Syracuse University Abroad staff frequently heard students describe Chile as “modern” and “similar to the U.S.” — an assessment representative of only a small fraction of the country and its population. At the same time, students sometimes struggled to contextualize their coursework and connect their topics of study to local reality. In response, the SU Santiago center staff designed a set of activities that seek to strengthen the critical and analytical skills with which students interpret their daily surroundings abroad. These are extracurricular activities that enhance and complement students’ academic experiences in a “multifunctional” way that can be adapted to courses from different areas of study, while at the same time helping students “lift the layers” of their host culture in order to develop a deeper and more critical understanding of their surroundings.

Each semester, the SU Santiago staff select at least six points in the city that have the potential to demonstrate—and at the same time, to hide—indicators or clues about Chile’s society, economy, history, politics, and arts. The goal is to train each student’s eye to discover details that are hard to see, and in doing so, help them unveil realities that have been re-signified over the course of time, through the modernization of the city; sometimes even intentionally, in an attempt to hide or alter their meaning. To fully understand this set of activities it is necessary to simultaneously teach students about the tensions that are still ongoing and very much present in Chilean society, including: the real scope and meaning of the transition to democracy, the implications of an unfinished reconciliation process after the dictatorship that affected the country during the late 20th century, the unspoken racial tensions that mark Chilean society, and the effects of the urban transformation that has rapidly changed the city, among many others that function as cultural keys to be deciphered.​

For example, for one activity students visit a public square that contains several monuments of presidents from the second half of the 20th century, the country’s most sensitive and controversial historical period. The group observes the apparent–and desired–process of peace and reconciliation represented in the commemoration of this time period. However, subsequently, students are encouraged to observe how the monuments are displayed and located within the context of the square’s overall design, to touch the materials that support the monuments, to listen to what Chilean passersby often comment while the group is conducting its analysis and, especially, to relate what they are seeing with topics they have studied in their classes. They discover, for example, that some of the monuments are solidly and properly constructed, that some are intrinsically related to the buildings and symbols of power that surround the square, and that one of them–perhaps the best known figure in Chilean history–is not a real monument at all: it is, in fact, a ventilation duct, and is built with light, flimsy materials. Through this activity, students come to understand how the recent past remains unresolved and that the supposed peace and reconciliation that the square attempts to demonstrate is only a thin layer of apparent calm.

Student Spotlight: Zachary Kahn

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As students are wrapping up their abroad semester they are rushing to drink in the last few  experiences they can before returning home. They are also starting to reflect on the experiences they have already had and writing their final posts in their online journals and blogs.

To reflect on his experience studying intercultural communication in London, Zachary Kahn has come up with 10 tips for studying abroad as a way to impart the knowledge and experience he has gained this semester to others still abroad or going abroad soon.

Excerpts from his tips, which he has posted on his blog via youtube videos are as follows:

1. Be Open-Minded

2. Try New Things

3. Download City Mapper and Foursquare Apps (for expert    exploring)

4. Keep Your Phone in Your Pocket (so it doesn’t get stolen)

5. Book Your Travel Plans and Accommodations in Advance

To see the rest of Zachary’s study abroad tips or to read his weekly blog posts from the past semester please visit his blog here.

SU Abroad Student Terry Jones Wins Prestigious Udall Scholarship

SU Abroad is proud to announce that World Partner student Terry Jones has been awarded the Udall Scholarship. Jones, who is currently studying abroad on SU Abroad’s World Partner program at FAMU (Prague), was one of 50 of a total of 464 applicants nationwide to be named a Udall Scholar. In addition, Jones previously studied film on an SU Abroad summer program in Bologna.

The Udall Scholarship is awarded to sophomore and junior students who demonstrate commitment to issues related to environmental studies or the American Indian Nations. A member of the Seneca Nation, Jones was chosen to win this coveted scholarship for his work in sharing his culture through film.

His films “Savage/Future,” “Gripped,” “Empire State,” and “Ancient Knowledge to the Future” are part of his ongoing work to expose and create conversation nationwide about critical issues that affect the American Indian nations. His study at FAMU in Prague and previous study of film in Bologna are helping Jones to pursue more work in this subject area.

The Udall Scholarship will now be a part of Jones’ many accolades including his membership to the Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Beta Delta honor societies, the Gilman Scholarship he won in 2014 to study in Bologna, and his many projects which tackle the issues of the American Indian nations.

Jones plans to pursue his M.F.A. and continue working to create an open dialogue about issues affecting the Native American population.