June 14, 2012 | Queens College
Studying abroad—where 370 Queens College students headed in 2011—expands the comfort zone to around the world. “Our goal is to teach students to be more independent and to become global citizens,” observes Mohamed Tabrani, acting director of QC’s Education Abroad office. Mindful that “a lot of our students want to go abroad, but can’t afford it,” the staff strives to keep costs low and to expand aid.
One third of QC’s 15 upcoming summer study abroad programs are new, including Bosnia/Herzegovina and Russia. A six-week, three-country offering focuses on conflict resolution in the Middle East and Northern Ireland. Two music options debut in Perugia and Florence, Italy. QC’s study abroad programs are open to CUNY undergraduates, and about 85 percent are available to graduate students. More internships and volunteer opportunities are being added into the mix.
During Winter Session, 130 QC students chose an international program. The six interviewed here were pioneers in three new offerings, enriched with field trips and cultural excursions.
Havana, Cuba: A year ago, the United States eliminated the requirement for a college or university to have a license for undergraduates to study in this Communist country 90 miles from Florida. This winter, when QC inaugurated “Cuba: A Literary Adventure,” Arielle Shimko, a senior majoring in Hebrew, signed up right away to fulfill a childhood dream. The only QC student among the inaugural six, she especially enjoyed Cuba’s small but vibrant Jewish community.
Muscat, Oman: Umussahar “Sahar” Khatri, a Macaulay Honors College senior whose family emigrated from Pakistan, was one of three QC students (plus a fourth from Baruch) who studied in this low-rise, modern capital. She was surprised by the beautiful beaches, lush greenery, and almost-10,000-foot peaks. The secondary school mathematics major was glad that the group’s language immersion classes at the World Learning Oman Center offered “a really great experience being forced to speak Arabic.”
“Oman opened up my mind,” sums up Daniel Kong, a junior psychology major who grew up in Argentina and is of Korean heritage. “The trip itself was a huge epiphany. I thought I already understood how the world worked, but it was like, wow, there’s so much more to learn, to explore! It was almost magical—that’s the best description.”
Cape Town, South Africa: The 12 CUNY students (eight from QC) could choose between two tracks. Racheli Wercberger, a junior neuroscience major in the Macaulay Honors College, learned about Cape Town’s baboon problem during the “Human Primate Interface” course taught by Larissa Swedell (Anthropology). Wercberger considered the program so well-organized “that it seemed like it had been going for a long time.”
Mike Strianese, a sophomore English major, and Stephanie Jean-Baptiste, a senior sociology major, delved into “Memoirs of Life in South Africa,” taught by Jason Tougaw (English). With only six students, “It demanded more of you,” she observes. The course included opportunities to talk with South Africans who had experienced apartheid. A Haitian native, Jean-Baptiste in her final project wrote about how the perception of racial identity “can shift significantly, depending on where you are geographically.”
Strianese finds it hard to believe that “People make such crazy judgments on something as uncontrollable as skin color.” Post-apartheid, South Africans “are doing a great job in regards to moving on,” he noticed. “If you look for it, you’ll find the leftover marks, but if you just go down there and open yourself up, you’ll find the people have already transcended it.”
Each of the six shares Jean-Baptiste’s new goal: “Now I have to see the world.”
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Contact: Phyllis Cohen Stevens
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