Beyond Borders

SU students attend the Education Without Borders conference and explore a modern Middle Eastern city-state

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Petrie enjoyed the utterly foreign feel of the souks, with their tiny aisles and noisy shopkeepers trying to engage customers by calling out guesses as to their nationalities. While they were in the souk, the students also heard the traditional call to prayer from the surrounding mosques and minarets. “We were leaving the market after sunset,” Petrie says, “and suddenly we could hear all these calls, all these different tones” from the mosques and minarets in the area.

 

His Highness Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, the United Arab Emirates minister of higher education and scientific research and chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology, addresses the audience at the Education Without Borders conference.EACH OF THE STUDENTS had a “We’re not in Kansas anymore” moment like this, and those memories still resonate at home in Pennsylvania.

“Sometimes we have these exaggerated stereotypes [about the Middle East] here in the U.S.,” says Seth Marshall ’09, an accounting major from Barto, Pa. “For instance, I used to think that the very conservative dress in Muslim countries, especially for women, was mandated. I learned that many people dress that way because it’s an individual or family choice.”

For Marshall, some of the most memorable exchanges took place among the student delegates in between the larger meetings. “The students were all pretty much in the same position,” he says. “We went there to meet people and have new experiences. That made it easy to just walk up to someone from another country and strike up a conversation.”

Like many of the students, Marshall also brought back some things that will, he believes, have a larger impact on his life. “The former president of India asked a seemingly straightforward question that’s actually pretty powerful,” Marshall says. “He asked us what we want to be remembered for.”

The experience will also have a long-lasting effect on Laura Gausmann ’09, of York, Pa. Gausmann was encouraged to see that students all over the world are wrestling with and applying their talents to the same issues—education, sustainability, the environment—that she has studied as a political science major.

“I was encouraged because, after being there, I know that SU students are absolutely capable of presenting and making a difference,” Gausmann says. “We just got involved too late this year to submit papers, but it’s definitely something the university should pursue in the future.”

Gausmann says that the sheer scale of everything at the conference left a big impression. “I expected, I guess, something very conservative,” she says of Dubai. “But until you see it you can’t imagine how big it is, and how modern. Somebody called it the Las Vegas of the Middle East.”

The trip did more than impress Gausmann; it helped her make a decision about the future. “Eventually I want to get an M.B.A.,” she says, “and I had been thinking about working in corporate and social responsibility, helping companies fulfill their responsibilities to society. The conference helped me decide that’s what I want to do.”

Lemons came back from the long trip jet-lagged but excited about the prospects for future students, not just at the next Education Without Borders Conference, but in the university’s growing cross-cultural program.

“The travel, the experience of a different culture, the chance to shatter stereotypes and challenge assumptions—these are all pieces of the undergraduate education we want to provide students at Susquehanna.”

Ed Ruggero is a contributing writer from Wallingford, Pa.

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