Jan 3 2017
Delana Sobhani January 3, 2017
When President Obama visited Senegal in June 2013, it’s rumored that he stepped off Air Force One and said, "Ñoo far," which means “we are together” in Wolof. Whether or not this account is actually true, the pride and warmth with which my host family spoke of it is indicative of language’s significance in Senegalese society. In a country with over ten ethnic groups and 38 languages, differences and diversity thrive thanks to Wolof—a lingua franca that transcends ethnic and linguistic boundaries to reinforce an overarching Senegalese identity. It wasn’t until I was two months into my stay that I felt confident enough to start using Wolof in lieu of French, but when I made that switch I immediately encountered more intimate and sincere interactions with Senegalese people and culture.
Dec 22 2016
Cassidy Gasteiger December 22, 2016
Finding a place or a group of people that feels like home is so important, both at Georgetown and during study abroad. For me, the women’s rugby team filled that role when I first arrived on campus two years ago. When I arrived at the University of Botswana (UB), I felt a little lost again, especially since with 20,000 undergraduates, UB is several times larger than Georgetown. Luckily, UB also has a women’s rugby team, and I was infinitely thankful to find my home here amongst a group of amazing, strong Motswana ruggers.
Dec 21 2016
Ingrid Glitz December 21, 2016
It was not my first time in St. Petersburg’s Ploschad Vosstanya metro station. I had stood under its garnished ceiling and stood on its huge escalators at least 50 times before. Russian metro stations are to D.C. metro stations as a Picasso masterpiece is to a child’s drawing. Paintings hang on the walls, the ceiling is filled with golden ornaments, and stunning mosaics portray an idealized image of the Soviet Union. (Don’t believe me? Just see this!) Russian metro stations are so unbelievably pretty I actually spent half a day in Moscow on a “metro tour.” Very different from the constant burning smell on D.C.’s metro that makes me think I should be ready to run from a fire at any second… So yes, it was not the first time I stepped foot into a Russian metro station, but nevertheless I was still impressed, even after seeing it so many times before. However, this trip marked the first time I was in the Ploschad Vosstanya metro station after discovering that the station used to be an old Orthodox church.
Dec 21 2016
Emily Ressler December 21, 2016
I nervously check my phone for the thousandth time, sigh, and try not to lose my temper: I’m stuck behind that classic Spanish couple. They come in all ages and all shapes and sizes, but they all share one thing: an inability to share the sidewalk. It’s a special skill to walk at treadmill speed 1.0 while staying perfectly spaced out so that no one can pass you on the left, nor on the right, nor squeeze through the middle. It’s like a human urban puzzle with no solution but to give up on ever making your destination on time, crossing the street, or aggressively budging your way through.
Dec 21 2016
Samuel Boyne December 21, 2016
Japanese society consists of a wide and diverse range of values and spiritual beliefs. Yet in a nation that so often presents a homogenous culture and history to the outer world, the phenomenal clash of beliefs between Zen Buddhism and Japanese pop-culture materialism, two elements of present-day Japanese culture, raise questions about these two value systems and their relationship. While both serve up how outsiders stereotypically perceive Japan, one cannot help but wonder how do peaceful rock gardens and the practice of meditation coexist with massive shopping centers and an excessive influence of anime culture?
Dec 20 2016
Casey Doyle December 20, 2016
There seems to always be that brief pause at the dinner table. My family isn’t religious; we don’t normally say grace before our meals, save for a few large family gatherings. So when I’m eating with a friend’s family for the first time, I always pause briefly to see if they will clasp their hands together before digging into their food. And often, I notice their family members wait a few seconds to glance in my direction and see what my customs are. I find it funny, too, that sometimes my family will say grace around new guests—whether it is to indicate the shared meal as a special occasion or display knowledge of traditional religious customs, I’m not sure. It’s almost an embedded part of American table manners—even if you don’t say grace yourself, you give everyone that moment of pause to start the mealtime prayer, and if no one seizes it, the host can announce to their guests that it’s time to dig in.
Dec 20 2016
Nick Zeffiro December 20, 2016
“Am I crazy, or are they staring at me?” This is a common question posed during one’s first few days in Spain. It can be a bit jarring at first, feeling like someone is watching you, analyzing your every detail for far more than an appropriate amount of time by American standards. They say that Spaniards are more appreciative of beauty in the world, and it’s certainly made evident by their shamelessness to stare in public. If they see something they like, they are going to make it known. This “Spanish gaze” hints at a far larger cultural norm that encompasses all of daily life in this country: directness.
Dec 20 2016
December 20, 2016
In the summer of 2016, the Religious Freedom Project awarded its second annual summer dissertation fellowship to students exploring the sources, development, and consequences of religious freedom. Five fellows from diverse academic disciplines explored the relationship between religious liberty and other fundamental freedoms; its importance for democracy; and/or its role in social and economic development, international diplomacy, and countering violent religious extremism. This week, the Berkley Forum asks them to synthesize and share their most pressing findings.
Dec 19 2016
Mikey Bannon December 19, 2016
As I write this post, I am sitting in a small, overpriced coffee shop a few blocks away from school. The back wall of the coffee shop is unfinished, revealing several other paint jobs and the original concrete, instead of the white paint found on the other walls. A flannel-wearing waitress and a bearded barista sporting a denim apron make their way between the unfinished wooden tables and stools. The menu is written in chalk on two black walls, and the speakers are playing an eclectic mix that covers artists across genres, from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Katy Perry. Obligatory characteristics of any hip café, mason jars containing sugar don every table—and one table even supports an old typewriter.
Dec 16 2016
Bianca Uribe December 16, 2016
It all began with an opened email and its first few lines: "Three days of silence and self-knowledge! Have you ever tried spending a day in silence? Have you entered into the deepest source of your being? Have you heard the voices of silence and felt the wisdom in your deepest feelings?" I received the email from Father Paul Schweitzer, S.J., an American priest who has been living in Brazil for over 40 years and teaches at my host institution. I was excited to know that the spiritual retreat would be following the format of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. I easily recalled all of the frequent allusions to St. Ignatius that I have encountered at Georgetown.