Fall 2016, Issue VIII: Notes from the Field
In this issue of Global Impressions we turn to experiences you have had “in the field,” whether on study away, living in and adapting to another culture, working in a culturally different environment, or traveling through new lands. The reflections below vary widely, from confronting different ways of thinking and talking about race and racism, to discovering the stereotypes other cultures hold of Americans, recognizing the complexity of one’s multiple identities, and negotiating how to remain true to feminist values in a culture steeped in patriarchal traditions.
In the wake of the US elections this November, we are soliciting short essays from our students who are currently abroad and our alumnae who work or live abroad for a special issue of Global Impressions, “Reactions from Abroad to the US Election.” Rather than the personal reflections we normally publish, for this special issue we seek 300- to 700- word essays of your observations and descriptions of the reactions to the elections. How have the citizens and people in the country or the part of the world you live in reacted? What questions are they asking? What are the perceptions of the US and has the election modified them? Submit your essays to the Submission form, Special Issue of Global Impressions by January 23, 2017.
In our regular series, Issue IX will celebrate photography as a tool for storytelling. When traveling away from home to places that are new to us, the call to record our journey is compelling. Whether we travel as student, anthropologist, journalist, scientist, or tourist, we take our camera to record what we see, observe, and experience. Sometimes it’s a mundane scene; at other times, something startlingly strange, new or incomprehensible. Little by little, our photos begin to tell a story we may not have known or understood at the time we took the pictures. We invite you to submit a photo or two with an accompanying short essay that tells a story of a moment or a time away from your familiar surroundings and how that moment led you to make a discovery of some sort about yourself, the moment, the culture or the place you traveled in. Submit your essay to the Submission form, Issue IX , by January 30, 2017.
– The Editors
When I spend a long time in one environment, my ego starts inflating until it reaches an unsustainable level and suddenly bursts. It then inflates again and bursts again, each time taking longer to complete a cycle. I’ve come to believe that this is my comfort-challenge cycle.
We live in a time when the first thing that follows “I’m going to Turkey this summer!” is, “But is it even safe?” A time where news of traveling to the Middle East is followed by fading smiles and worry lines. Despite the common sentiment that the Middle East is unsafe and especially hostile to foreigners, my family and I traveled there anyway.
Studying abroad in Taiwan through a summer language intensive program for Mandarin was hands-down the best decision I made while at Smith. From the moment I stepped off the airplane onto Taiwan, I felt at home. The pleasant rays of sunlight, cotton-shaped clouds, and the perfect blue sky of Taiwan welcomed me like a warm embrace from a close friend you haven’t seen in years. Little did I know that Taiwan was soon to become the place in which I found myself.
“Are you incapable of complexity?” –Mountains beyond Mountains
When twenty-four American teenagers and I stepped off a bus and into our new homes in cities nestled in the heart of China’s Sichuan province to start a six-week study of Chinese, we had been told that we were the brightest crayons in that year’s box of applicants, ready to study the official national language of China, Mandarin Chinese, known within China as “the common language.”
Imagine Spanish and Portuguese were identical twins. You have been best friends with Spanish for many years, without ever having met their twin. You can anticipate Spanish’s every word; you recognize the rhythm of their voice, the lines of their palms, and the shape of their teeth. One day you are introduced to Portuguese.
Going to bed was not an option. The noise from the streets was too alluring, too exciting, and much too loud to even consider staying inside and sleeping. While that was oftentimes the case here in Córdoba, it was especially true on this particular weekend. Finally, Las Cruces De Mayo had begun.
As I prepared for my semester abroad in Madagascar, I heard many warnings and pieces of advice from my family and friends: “Don’t drink the water!” “Hide your money.” “Did you know every person eats 2lbs of rice per day?”
How do you explain race and the weight it carries in a language that lacks racial terminology? How do you communicate your racial experience when your level of fluency isn’t high enough?
Trash isn’t sexy. No one wants to hear about it, look at it, smell it, and certainly not touch it. Well, this summer I did all of those things, and it changed the way I look at the world.
I had dreamed of traveling abroad since I was in the sixth grade. That year, I began to learn Spanish. As I went to class every Tuesday and Thursday, it became much more than a new language.
When I arrived in Copenhagen for my spring semester abroad, I did not even notice that I walked right past Amman’s airport restaurant, an outlet of downtown’s most famous place for Denmark’s most famous food – smørrebrød.
I wanted coffee that day. Not the espresso finished in a matter of seconds that had become habit in the four months since arriving in Paris, and not the immense, watered-down interpretations of coffee reflective of what could be found back home. I wanted filter coffee, a mug of something strong, standing as coffee without pretense, without cream and sugar.
Laura Itzkowitz ’09
I’m a travel and lifestyle writer and editor, though sometimes people seem to see me as a unicorn or some other mystical creature. When I introduce myself, my interlocutors often express incredulity that I’m able to make this lifestyle work—sometimes I’m incredulous myself.