A bit of respite at the fifteen hundred year old Mar Saba monastery nestled in the Judean desert.
The Fordham University International Political Economy and Development (IPED) program has graciously provided me with funding to further my studies in Arabic language via the Language Immersion Studies Awards (LISA). Having already been acquainted with the fundamentals of the Arabic language between my studies at Fordham as an undergraduate and my study abroad experience in Jordan, I was thrilled to take this opportunity to enhance my linguistic ability in pursuit of professional proficiency. I firmly believe that there is no better way to truly master a language than immersion, forcing yourself to converse in your non-native tongue on a daily basis. In a few weeks, here I have made enormous leaps and bounds in my language ability.
A scenic view of the plains of Northern Israel from the El-Muhraqa Monastery in the heights of Mount Carmel.
I have chosen to do my immersion in two different locations, the West Bank city of Bethlehem and the Druze village of Daliyat El Karmel. For my first month of intensive language learning, I studied at Bethlehem University, spending most of the day in the classroom during week and utilizing my lessons extensively on weekend excursions to nearby cities in the Palestinian Territories. Bethlehem University is a renowned institution with a strong Arabic language department under the auspices of Dr. Moin Halloun, a specialist in Palestinian Arabic. For my second month of language immersion, I embedded myself within a Druze village on Mount Carmel. Living here for a month has provided me with a unique insight into Druze society and familiarized me with the dialectal idiosyncrasies of the Syrian Arabic which is spoken here. Living in a host family setting here where Arabic is exclusively spoken ensures that my learning continues outside the classroom. In-country language learning is particularly important for Arabic as it is a language with regional dialects that differ substantially from the formal Modern Standard Arabic used in professional settings and the media. Consequently, students outside the Arab world can spend years studying a language in their home countries only to find their Arabic nearly useless for conversational purposes on the ground. There are major differences in letter pronunciation, vocabulary, verbs, sentence structure, and grammar that one cannot adjust to without immersion. Immersion has allowed me to hone my speaking and listening skills in practical settings and for realistic purposes.
The campus of Bethlehem University, a former De La Salle Christian Brother’s school turned first West Bank university at the behest of John Paul II’s recognition of the need for higher education in the Palestinian Territories.
Focusing on practical skills such as language learning has become increasingly more important in a world where the global migration level, and consequently cross-cultural contact, is at its highest in decades. The IPED program’s holistic approach to educating development professionals empowers them to handle complex challenges with pragmatic solutions. A key component of these solutions involves communication and linguistic competency. I strongly encourage future IPED students to take on the task, albeit tremendously challenging, of learning another language for professional purposes. Doing so will undoubtedly compliment the other practical skills that the IPED program stands to offer.
On March 23rd, many members of the IPED family got together to meet, catch up, and chat for the IPED Alumni night. IPED alumni were asked to speak about their experiences working in the non-profit, government, and private sectors and gave advice for current and recent IPEDers starting their careers. Following the alumnae panel, current students were presented with their study and internship awards. Congratulations to all of you!
IPED career panel comprised of IPED alumae.
The 2017 Language and Immersion Study Award (LISA) recipients with Dr. Crystal. They will be studying French, Spanish, and Arabic around the world this summer.
This year’s Public Service Fellows awardees. Luther Flagstad (right) will be going to Kazakhstan to work at the US Embassy and Robyn Emory (left) will be going to Xi’an, China to pursue language study in Mandarin Chinese.
This year’s Arrupe Fellows with Dr. Crystal. Owen Fitzgerald (left) will be going to France for language immersion and pursuing work with the UNDP. Tess Hart (right) will also be pursuing French immersion and going to Micronesia to perform research.
The audience listening to the panel.
Current IPEDers, (left to right) Carlos Baeta, Liya Khalikova, Samantha Kinney, and Maggie Hutchison
IPED class of 2017 (the most recent group of alumni)
Dr. Schwalbenberg with some of his former students
IPEDers, current and past
The IPED family laughing with Dr. Crystal as he gives the closing comments.
The 2016 Fordham IPED Alumni Networking Night was an unmitigated success. It took place on Thursday, March 10 in the Fordham Lincoln Center campus.
Dr. Schwalbenberg welcomed current IPED students, professors, alumni, and guests to the event.
IPED alumni Ramon Fuentebella (L), Jane Wilkins, Thomas Moviel, and Claudia Pessagno discussed their impressive careers in the public and private sectors, and indicated the role Fordham IPED played in advancing their careers.
This year’s Language Immersion Study Awardees (LISA). Ryan Barthel (L) will study Mandarin in Taiwan. David Masagbor will study Arabic in Egypt. Jaclyn Yap plans to study French in France. Andy Munn will study Quechua in Bolivia. Lastly, Armand Acquino plans to study French in France.
This year’s Arrupe Overseas Field Placements include Katie McCann (C), who will be taking a French immersion course in France, and Daina Ruback, who will be pursuing entrepreneurship research with TechnoServe, Emory University, Oxfam, and Value for Women in Mexico and Guatemala.
This year’s Public Service Field Placements include Grace Avila (L), who will be working with the U.S. Department of State at the U.S. Mission in Myanmar, and Tyler Falish, who will be pursing policy centered research focused on sub-Saharan Africa in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations, among others.
Dr. Jonathan Crystal provided the closing remarks, and once again questioned his decision not to pursue the grueling career path of a stand-up comic.
Alumni night is a great opportunity for current IPED students to mingle with alumni from past years.