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Finding a “Sweet Home” Abroad

May 16, 2018 | From UA News

 

UA Social Work Graduate Student to Begin Fulbright in September

By David Miller

Turkey, a country with next-level Southern hospitality.

It reads like a tourism slogan, but UA graduate student Shelby Smithson can’t describe the country, its culture and its people any better.

“Turkish people are so willing to move mountains for a guest,” Smithson said. “The warmth of the culture is very endearing.”

Like most Southerners, the Mobile native  knows genuine kindness and hospitality. She experienced it firsthand when she visited Turkey for the first time last summer, spending two months learning the language, culture and social work infrastructure.

Smithson, who will earn a master’s degree in social work on Friday, received a Fulbright scholarship and will return to Turkey in September to teach English.

She recently took part in the long-running UA School of Social Work’s Washington, D.C. internship program, where she worked at the International Justice Mission, the world’s largest anti-slavery and anti-trafficking organization. She hopes one day to have a career as an international social worker and make her home in Turkey.

“I’m ecstatic and can’t wait to go back,” Smithson said. “I’ve joked with people that [the selection committee] must have thought I was just obsessed with Turkey and thought, ‘I guess we should just let her in.’ And I’m sure there was some academic consideration, but I’ve also been heavily involved in the Turkish community in Tuscaloosa – I was on the Turkish Student Association, and I studied the language for three semesters.”

International social work

Smithson’s travel passion stretches back to high school, when she first began international mission work.

Smithson spent two months in Turkey last summer, learning the language and studying the country’s social work infrastructure.

She completed a one-week medical assistance mission in Honduras prior to enrolling at UA, and a two-month mission teaching English to children in Central Asia the summer before her sophomore year.

The trip to Central Asia allowed her to develop relationships with community members and immerse herself in a culture, aspects she didn’t experience during her snapshot of the poverty she observed in Honduras.

Smithson was keen to embed herself in Turkish culture last summer, hoping for a similarly rich experience from her previous service trip in Kazakhstan. In Turkey, she stayed mostly with UA PhD student and close friend Burcu Ozturk.

“[Ozturk] was a social worker in Turkey, so we were able to meet with social workers and visit agencies in Turkey,” Smithson said. “It was eye-opening.”

Smithson said she began to learn more about trauma and international human rights violations while working on her MSW at UA. She completed a yearlong independent study with Dr. Debra Nelson-Gardell, associate professor of social work and coordinator of international programs, which focused on neurobiological effects of trauma, and another independent study on international social work.

“Through the independent studies and other classes, I figured out the impact I want to make with social work. And it fit perfectly with my passion to be overseas. Then IJM was the perfect placement for me because it combined both of those things.”

IJM

While at the International Justice Mission, Smithson worked with specialists to develop training modules for field offices across the globe and provide research to plan and manage their programs.

Smithson worked specifically with the IJM’s aftercare team, which focused on restoring survivors of human trafficking and slavery and reducing their vulnerability. Throughout the spring semester, she developed training for the aftercare team’s new assessment tool and the accompanying guidance manual.

“We definitely got exposure to what was going on in the field every day, whether it was a rescue mission or a court case,” Smithson said. “I got to hear all these stories about survivors being rescued and restored, and what that looks like. They were great about giving me meaningful work.”

On her final day at the IJM, she received a surprise opportunity to help train the British Red Cross.

“I didn’t think I had any place being there,” she said. “But having that opportunity really showed me that, no matter what I was doing, it’s having a global impact.”

Internship experience aside, Smithson is grateful for the opportunity to work in D.C., an epicenter for public policy and international relief agencies. Networking was a built-in component facilitated by UA program coordinators, but students were encouraged to seek mentorships and professional relationships on their own.

Smithson said she’ll likely have to build considerable work experience before returning to Turkey full-time, but her experiences in Washington D.C. have provided contacts and a blueprint for her return.

“I didn’t realize what a difference the D.C. program was going to make,” Smithson said. “You could be on the metro with someone who works for the state department, or someone who can really make a difference. D.C. is unique that so many people who want to change the world are in this small area. I’ve made incredible connections that will take me far.”

UA Students Win 15 Fulbright Awards for 2018-2019

May 2nd, 2018 | From UA News

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — For the 2018–2019 competition period, 15 University of Alabama students have been selected for Fulbright Awards. The University of Alabama is a nationally ranked Top Producer of Fulbright Student Award Winners.

“Congratulations to UA’s 2018–19 Fulbright winners,” said Dr. Teresa E. Wise, associate provost for international education and global outreach. “Globally focused on-campus curricular and co-curricular opportunities and study abroad experiences help our students develop into world citizens who foster international understanding through programs like Fulbright.”

The highly competitive Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed study and research projects or for English-teaching assistantships. More than 11,000 applicants compete for approximately 1,950 awards each year. Sponsored by the U.S. State Department, Fulbright is the largest U.S. international exchange program, offering opportunities for students, scholars and professionals.

Two University of Alabama students received Fulbright Awards for research and study during the 2018–2019 academic year.

  • Nicole Henderson of Wellford, South Carolina, a doctoral candidate in anthropology, will pursue research titled “Um Ciclo Vicioso: Cultural Beliefs, Stigma, and Substance Use in Brazil.”
  • Natalie Kidd of Birmingham, a graduate in biochemistry will conduct research titled “Modulation of Regulatory/Suppressive Actions of Gamma T-cells with a Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR)” at the University of Kiel’s Institute of Immunology in Germany.

Thirteen UA graduates received Fulbright Awards to serve as English teaching assistants overseas for the 2018–2019 academic year.

  • Rachel Combs of Florence, a graduate in political science and German, will teach in Germany.
  • Jeremy Connor of Huntsville, a graduate in music performance (woodwind and percussion) and a current master’s student in German linguistics, will teach in Germany.
  • Carrigan Fain of Gardendale, a graduate in international studies with a minor in Spanish and captain of the UA women’s softball team, will teach in Malaysia.
  • Dwyer Freeman of Haddonfield, New Jersey, a graduate in German language and literature with a minor in critical theory through social study, will teach in Germany.
  • Maggie Holmes of Madison, Mississippi, a graduate in biology with minors in Spanish and psychology, will teach in Spain.
  • Madeleine Lewis of Huntsville, a graduate in religious studies and applied mathematics, will teach in Montenegro.
  • Richard Lewis of Birmingham, a graduate in English with minors in social innovation and leadership, business, and creative writing, will teach in Malaysia.
  • Taebryanna Sims of Mobile, a graduate in international studies with language study in French and Korean, will teach in South Korea.
  • Shelby Smithson of Mobile, a graduate with a bachelor’s and a master’s in social work and studies in the Turkish language, will teach in Turkey.
  • Theresa Stoddard of Eads, Tennessee, a graduate in interdisciplinary studies, global inequities and human rights, and Spanish, will teach in Spain.
  • Kaylyn Williams of Hoover, a graduate with a bachelor’s and a master’s in accounting, will teach in the Czech Republic.
  • Amanda Wolosz of Midland Park, New Jersey, a graduate in economics and finance with a minor in history, will teach in Poland.
  • Annika Wulff of Army Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, a graduate in communicative disorders and German language and literature, will teach in Germany.

“These students are drawn from many majors and include representatives of leadership programs on our campus, including the Blackburn Institute, the Blount Scholars Program, the Honors College, New College and the University Scholars Program,” said Dr. Beverly Hawk, UA Fulbright program adviser and director of global and community engagement in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships. “Through their individual community engagement activities overseas, these Fulbright winners will develop lasting international ties for Alabama and the USA.”

Students with an interest in next year’s competition are invited to learn more about the Fulbright Program by contacting the Capstone International Center, 135 B.B. Comer Hall, cic@ua.edu or beverly.hawk@ua.edu.

International Exchange Student Send-Off

The Education Abroad office will hold the final event for the spring international exchange students.  We will be celebrating their time here with pizza and tie-dying t-shirts on Friday, April 27. In attendance will also be the Education Abroad Interns who are returned American study abroad students who have been involved with the exchange students and their activities throughout their stay at The University of Alabama. While the group this semester has been small, they have been incredibly active and engaging. The international exchange students are a group of students from all over the world who come to UA to study for either a semester or an academic year. The University of Alabama currently has partnerships with over thirty different foreign institutions where we swap students each semester. A great benefit for these students and ours is that each student will pay their normal tuition rate at their institution in order to study abroad. This semester we were fortunate to have students from France, Japan, England, and Taiwan experience all that Tuscaloosa has to offer.

 

Intercultural Experience Showcase

On Tuesday, April 24, UA students from the Capstone International Program’s 202: Introduction to Global Studies – Experiential Learning class presented videos highlighting their experiences with international students studying in UA’s English Language Institute (ELI).

As part of the CIP 202 course, UA students participated weekly in ELI courses, with course topics ranging from Current Events to Top 40 American Music. In the courses, UA students developed their intercultural competence, the ability to communicate effectively and appropriately with people of other cultures, while working with students from 17 countries spanning five continents.

The objective of Frannie James, who designed the course, was that “all students who have taken CIP 202 will be forever curious about difference – will forever celebrate their lifelong experiences of difference. They will have the cultural self-awareness, the culture-general knowledge, the curiosity, the motivation, the empathy, and the cognitive flexibility to build and sustain relationships across cultures – socially, academically, and professionally.”

The ELI students also benefit from the interaction with UA students. The ELI students share their cultural knowledge and expertise while learning more about U.S. culture and university life.

The CIP 202: Introduction to Global Studies – Experiential Learning is an introductory course for The University of Alabama’s Global Studies Certificate. It sets the stage so that a student can approach all endeavors with an international perspective.

 

Top 40 American Music Class

ELI Scholarship Winner

Congratulations to this session’s ELI Tuition Scholarship winner: Nimian from Nicaragua!

Every session the ELI awards tuition scholarships to current full-time students. The students must attend 80% of their ELI classes and have a minimum GPA of 3.0 in all ELI classes. Students must also write a short essay explaining why they want the scholarship.

If you are a current ELI student and want to apply for a scholarship for next session, you can find the application on the ELI Forms page.

AAIE Conference Held at UA

In mid April, the University of Alabama hosted the 2018 Alabama Association of International Educators (AAIE) annual conference. This organization is the Alabama chapter of Association of International Educators (NAFSA), and holds at its core a mission to promote international educational and cultural exchange through the support of students and scholars who choose to study in the state of Alabama and of Alabamians who seek education abroad.

Approximately 120 professional staff from international education offices across Alabama attended. Presentation topics covered a range of topics including using technology in the office and creating culturally inclusive programs for students from different countries. The University of Alabama’s staff presented on eight different topics . Participants also enjoyed a keynote speech by Mr. Mark Jackson, Honorary Consul General of Japan, who stressed the importance of diverse cultural knowledge and travel.

More information about AAIE, its mission, and events can be found at http://aaieorg.blogspot.com/.

 

 

Spring Study Abroad Fair

On Monday, February 19, the UA Education Abroad office hosted the Spring 2018 Study Abroad Fair at the Robert E. Witt Activity Center on the UA campus. The fair was an opportunity for students to talk with UA faculty, staff, and affiliated study abroad program providers about the options they have to study abroad as a UA student.

More than 250 students attended the event, twice as many as attended last year. Students were able to earn a Greek point and spin to win prizes for attending the event. Information about how to use financial aid and scholarships to study abroad was also presented.

Students can still apply to study abroad for the upcoming summer and fall terms, as well as Spring 2019. For more information, students can attend one of Education Abroad’s “Study Abroad 101” sessions held daily at 2 pm in 135 B.B. Comer Hall. Students can apply to study abroad on the Education Abroad website at www.studyabroad.ua.edu.

Colombian student experiences Crimson Tide culture through English Language Institute

Caroline Japal

By Shahriyar Emami | 01/24/2018 10:02pm | From The Crimson White

Santiago Mejia Villegas, a native Colombian, was first exposed to American football, a rare sport in Colombia, during his time on the Alabama campus.“It is impossible to live in the campus during the football season and not getting involved in the Crimson Tide! I had the chance to go to a couple of games in the stadium as well as to the welcoming parade and live that amazing moment like a new fan of Alabama,” he said. “I have made a few friends with whom have been in some cities nearby or in some bars and restaurants here in Tuscaloosa,” he said.

Villegas’ first language is Spanish, and he’s in Tuscaloosa to study English and business through the University of Alabama’s English Language Institute (ELI).

“English is one of the most widely spoken and written languages in the world,” Emily Brown, an English Language Institute instructor at The University of Alabama said. “One of our overall goals is to try and prepare our students for academic study in an American university setting by providing them with the cultural knowledge and awareness they will need to thrive both academically and socially.”

Villegas graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics and continued his postgraduate studies in marketing and finance in Colombia.

“Living here in Alabama but mostly in the UA campus has been an incredible opportunity …
There are so many differences between the way we live in [my] country and the way we live here because we are temporarily a student and we have to face some situations like get used to the food, to stay at the dorm because we don’t have a car or friends to go out with… but at the end everything has become in a new valuable experience,” Villegas said.

During his time at the University, Villegas has been active in the ELI, other international student groups and community church events. This past year, Villegas attended a Thanksgiving event hosted by a local church group where he said he learned cultural pieces he couldn’t have learned in a classroom.

“There it was wonderful people and delicious food and it became in a very good opportunity to know and understand the origin of the holiday and its meaning for the American culture. It was also a place where we found good and friendly people who afterwards has helped us in some casual questions like where to find a barber shop close the campus or stuff like that,” Villegas said.

While there are many people involved in the ELI program, Villegas said he believes not enough people know about it or are even aware of what they do in the program. He said he finds it easier to talk to people in the program because they speak multiple languages.

“We designed [the program] specifically for non-native speakers who live in the Tuscaloosa area and want to improve their language skills,” Brown said.

Brown said the program provides learners with the confidence they need in the English language to pursue opportunities they might not otherwise get the chance to pursue, whether that be personally, professionally, academically or socially.

“For native speakers who don’t quite understand, I tell them [ELI] is similar to when maybe they learned Spanish or French in high school or college. It’s different, however, because our classrooms often include students who speak a variety of different languages,” Brown said.

“Everything about the culture here is different and interesting in some ways, but definitely the friendly character of the people in Alabama is something I will never forget,” Villegas said.

ELI Scholarship Winners

Congratulations to this session’s ELI Tuition Scholarship winners: Cristina from Spain and Nimian from Nicaragua!

Every session the ELI awards tuition scholarships to current full-time students. The students must attend 80% of their ELI classes and have a minimum GPA of 3.0 in all ELI classes. Students must also write a short essay explaining why they want the scholarship.

If you are a current ELI student and want to apply for a scholarship for next session, you can find the application on the ELI Forms page.

ELI Students Watch the National Championship

ELI students watched and cheered The University of Alabama’s American football team on to victory January 8, 2018. The football team won their 17th National Championship by beating The University of Georgia 26-23 in overtime. The exciting game was televised on the movie screen in the Ferguson Student Center. Some of the students had watched Alabama football games before coming to Tuscaloosa so that they could participate in this important part of the university’s culture. Roll Tide!