The Dean Rusk International Studies program continues to grow and thrive. Including dual citizens and American citizens who came to Davidson from abroad, our international student population totaled 111 students from 46 countries in the 2011–12 academic year. Dean Rusk travel grants continue to provide one of Davidson’s most effective internationalization tools. Last year, the program made grants to 98 students totaling nearly $225,000. Most of these grants went to students who designed their own projects abroad. They posed the questions. They developed the research plans and the budgets. These projects give students the opportunity to develop the kind of independence and creativity that are hallmarks of a liberal arts education. Very few schools make this amount of financial support so generously available for independent undergraduate research abroad.
[slideshow_deploy id=’3518′] The writing and photography that you enjoy comes from our students. Much of what you see and read here is the product of the independent projects I just described. Think of yourself standing behind the camera that took William Myers’ photo in Vietnam. Picture yourself sitting with a notebook and pen, trying to capture what Catherine Schricker learned in just one day about healthcare in Ecuador—and about herself.
Chris Alexander, Ph.D.
John and Ruth McGee Director
Dean Rusk International Studies Program
Geoff Peitz ’12, Kenya
I have heard many statistics about the prevalence of AIDS in Africa, but today the situation became very real to me. I interacted with more HIV-positive people today than I probably have in my life. Part of the problem with the spread of HIV is the patients’ fear of admitting that they have the virus. One man lied to the medical officer today about the results of his HIV test. Another woman severely affected by AIDS had been hiding the fact from her family, putting her husband and children at great risk.
In situations like these, Dr. Jimmy provided not only physical treatment but also moral guidance for the scared patients. He encouraged the woman to tell her family so that they could create a support network to help her through the disease. A counselor, Vintor, was also present during the rounds. Dr. Jimmy instructed Vintor to come back later to help the patients be brave and to encourage them to tell their families. The need for counseling patients was not something that had occurred to me previously. Now I realize that a counselor can be nearly as important as a doctor or nurse in the treatment of serious diseases.
Caitlin Allen ’12, Jordan
At the end of the day, I realized that I hadn’t spoken (or understood) a word of Arabic and the Iraqi women and Mr. Abraham hadn’t spoken (or understood) a word of my English. But, as sport continues to demonstrate, you need no words to communicate. After the clinic, I explained to Jade that while I love working internationally, it will always be tough for me because I just don’t have the language skills. I seem to have some sort of language learning mental block. She said, “Well, you’re working internationally for a non-profit now.” Sometimes it takes a simple statement and pointing out the obvious for me to get it.
First off, in this situation, I don’t need language. Jade went on to tell me that after I had demonstrated a dribbling drill that involved running quickly and then slowing down and backing up and then speeding up, that she saw the women got it. I spoke completely in English and she said that they repeated exactly what I had said and demonstrated in Arabic—including the reason why you would ever use this skill. Pretty cool? In reality, however, language would be essential for a job like program director in Jordan, because there is a lot of organizing that goes on prior to the coaching. I also realize now that maybe I haven’t had the greatest experience with learning language, but if I found the perfect job in the perfect place and needed to learn a language, I could do it.
Ali Farr ’12, Chile
Despite the occasional stumble in Spanish or failure to use the formal “usted” tense when talking to my interviewees, the interviews have gone very well! Lasting anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours, each interview has been unique, and every interviewee has been extremely helpful. In fact, almost all of them said at one point, “Funny you should ask—I just wrote a report about this for a project I’m working on. I’ll send it to you!’
It is moments like that when I know that the research I am doing here could not have been conducted via e-mail. In-person interviews create a conversation flow that is just not possible over the Internet. Moreover, all of these interviews have provided me with a broad contact base that will certainly be useful as I get further into my thesis research. It’s comforting to know that I have an e-mail address for each of my interviewees and I can simply e-mail them in the future if I have any doubts or new questions.
Claire Ittner ’13, India
I circled the cathedral a few times, poking and sketching and trying doors. It is true, as almost every person I’ve encountered has told me—that I’ve come to Delhi in “the worst possible time of the year.” The heat is unbelievable, stupefying—almost absurd. But there is an advantage to being here in the summer—no one is around. The tourist spots are empty, the picture vantage points normally filled with grinning Japanese tourists are clear, and best of all—no one guards the doors. I took my fill of pictures at the National Museum, and today I scrambled to the top of the cathedral on a set of stairs that no one but myself and a family of birds had made use of in some time.
Catherine Schricker ’14, Ecuador 2011
While I was working at the clinics in each barrio of Quito, I saw the community men and women itching for help. They were searching for any possible way to get aid for themselves and their children. With every vitamin, toothpaste, or squirt of lotion that was distributed, it could be seen how grateful the people were for what we could offer them. Being pre-dental, I was given the job of fluoride for two of our eight days of service.
Many of the children I was helping had no dental care knowledge whatsoever. Many mouths I saw were filled with cavities, holes, and degrading teeth. My small swipe of fluoride paste barely provided any strength to the already damaged teeth, yet the parents insisted that their children get the treatment. They didn’t know that brushing your teeth once or even twice a day would save them their teeth and be so much more beneficial than the fluoride treatment I was distributing. I was only supposed to give fluoride to the children, but I couldn’t hold back my small form of aid from the parents who continually repeated “Yo tambien! Yo tambien!” They appreciated any outreach from us students or the doctors.
What shocked me the most was all of this was so preventable. Yet there are not enough resources and education available to the people of Quito for them to be able to effectively help themselves. Thankfully, though, through these service brigades that provide help every two months, the community is slowly learning more and more about personal health and prevention methods.
I feel so privileged to have provided some sort of care to the people of Quito, in my small, non-medical professional way. The fluoride swab may have been water under the bridge, but in some aspect it gave people hope that they had a say in their health.
Mary Kemp Thornberry ’13, England
A brief walk through the streets of Cambridge will set your sense of orientation and time sorely out of sorts. As you lift your gaze from the busy shop fronts that occupy the lower halves of the city’s buildings to the original Tudor architecture painstakingly preserved above, the twenty-first century retreats into more remote corners of your consciousness. In the historical heart of Cambridge, where a three-minute walk might lead you around a church from the 11th century, down a street resting on the foundations of an original Roman road, and past a magnificent chapel commissioned by Henry VIII and later used by his daughter Elizabeth I to host parties and dance the Volta, history surges to the forefront of your attention with a vigor and immediacy further reinforced by the fresh scholarship constantly taking place within and around the university. To live and study for an extended duration in this enclave of centuries past bears with it the temptation to levitate above the mundane and often unsightly facts of the present day into the beautiful glass world of ideas.
William Myers ’14, Vietnam
Chopsticks: a simple word. I didn’t think that it would be too difficult for a Vietnamese student to pronounce. They use them every day to eat. On Friday, I literally spent 45 minutes going around to each little boy in my classroom at the Tan Binh Shelter. They tried so hard, but the sounds involved in saying “chopsticks” were just too difficult. Yet it filled my heart with great pride and immense joy to see them smile, to see them try so hard to say one word. Seeing that desire in a child’s eyes is an experience unlike any other.