Oxford: Home of lost causes or progressive ideas?

By Rebekah Kennel, B.A. program student.

Insight from Oxford, England.

I’ve been in the UK nearly three months now. I’ve settled in the city of Oxford where the dreaming spires exude the city’s haunting beauty, ancient intellectualism, and sacred atmosphere. It’s easy to think in these nostalgic narratives, Oxford is so beautiful. Though, reviews in the past have been mixed. Here are a couple opinions I find rather concerning:
“Home of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs, and unpopular names, and impossible loyalties!” – Matthew Arnold
“The real Oxford is a close corporation of jolly, untidy, lazy, good-for-nothing humorous old men, who have been electing their own successors ever since the world began and who intend to go on with it.” – C.S. Lewis

Trust in the Islamic Republic, Tehran

By Shahed Ghoreishi, B.A. student.

Insight from Tehran, Iran.

This summer I traveled to Iran for the purpose of visiting family. It was a particularly amazing experience because it was my first time visiting since I was 15, allowing me to gain a mature perspective and perceive my surroundings with the context of my International Studies classes. I would like to focus on a misunderstood people rather than the commonly described political situation.

Culturally, Iranians are very hospitable. They invite you into their homes, offer endless amounts of food, and attempt to impress their guests. When I visited Iran this past summer, it was no different. Countless offers to visit family and stranger’s homes, constant practicing of Iranian taarof (the act of politely denying offers, which is followed by subsequent reoffering, which over an unnecessary period of time is eventually accepted), and acts of immense trust. No matter where we were in Iran or where we were shopping, the simple act of asking for a price was replied with ghabel nadareh, essentially meaning “for you, it’s free.” After a back and forth of taarof, the shopkeeper, waiter, and taxi driver, or whoever we were talking to, would eventually tell us the price.


Desarrollo a La Chilena, Quilpué

By Julian Fellerman, B.A. program alumnus.

Insight from Quilpué, Chile.

As the product of the Jackson School, which encourages its students to be “global citizens” and “critical thinkers” regarding issues on the world agenda, I have not been able to help but analyze my surroundings here in Chile with a corresponding mindset. Past academic courses touching on the familiar themes of economic growth, development, industrialization, protecting indigenous rights, among others, have all subtlety influenced the way I view my surroundings here in Chile. The main impetus to writing this piece was the desire to understand “development” from a variety of angles and viewpoints. Along these lines, by way of my current position teaching English in Chile, living with a host-family, casually conversing with people in my town regarding the quotidian matters impacting the lives of ordinary, every-day people, I have been afforded the unique opportunity to gain an on-the-ground perspective of development to contrast with my previous assumptions, the majority of which have been fostered through reading numerous articles and books on the subject.


From Inside the Palace of the Parliament, Bucharest

By Rachel Brown, B.A. student.

Insight from Bucharest, Romania.

It’s hot. It’s so hot I can’t breathe and I wish this taxi had air-conditioning. I never wish for air-conditioning but all four windows are wide open and I still feel like I am suffocating. It is so bright outside that the industrial buildings stretching from the airport to Bucharest city are white-washed, bleached as if my eyes are a camera, set on over-expose. The driver is smoking and talking on his phone and looking over his shoulder at me at the same time. He has the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. Walking through the airport I was struck over and over again by blue, blue eyes and dark, dark skin. Later at my hotel I will Google “blue eyes Romania.” I end up in a rabbit hole of stories about blue-eyed Arabs, and dating sites for men to meet hot young Romanian women, conspiracy theorists talking about blue-eyes sometimes being a dominant gene instead of a recessive one, and a Wikipedia article about how Estonia’s population is 99% blue eyed.  I scour the television stations to catch sight of these blue eyes again. But the airport is the only place I see them.

I am in Bucharest, Romania for two weeks to work for the secretariat of an international environmental treaty on wetlands, biodiversity and climate change–the Ramsar Convention. It is their triennial COP, or Conference of the Parties, where delegates from about 153 different countries come together to negotiate environmental policy, which they will then take home with them and implement.


The City of Lights No More, Karachi

By Nabeeha Chaudhary, M.A. student.

Insight from Karachi, Pakistan.

I have been back home in Karachi for more than a month now–Ramazan passed, Pakistan’s Independence Day passed, Eid-ul-Fitr came and went, the weather got hotter and wedding season began. The only thing that remains constant every time I step out of the house is the amount of people shopping. High end malls keep opening up, people are packed into the shopping centers and buying as if they will never get the chance to do so again. Prices have soared but shops seem to have gotten fuller. A new mall is under construction in the very spot that Mid East Hospital stood a few years ago. I knew it was coming (the hospital was sold back in 2005) but it is still an unpleasant shock to see the building converted and plastered with images of shops and restaurants “coming soon.” How can you tear down a fully functioning hospital, especially in a city where there are already not enough, to build a mall? This a question I keep repeating to myself but have no answer for.


The Cool Mountain Educational Fund, Yangjuan

By Stevan Harrell, Professor.

Insight from Yangjuan, China.

Previously on the Cool  Mountain Educational Fund blog as: We’re making a difference; Three future teachers; and 113,000 RMB in scholarships find grateful recipients.

Thus far in 2012, I have taken several trips to China as part of my work as head of the Cool Mountain Education Fund, a non-profit organization working to support education in Nuosu Yi communities in China.  The Cool Mountain Educational Fund works to increase enrollment of graduates from Yangjuan Primary School, way up in the Cool Mountains of southern Sichuan, in middle school, high school, college, and trade schools.  To do this, we provide scholarships to all qualifying students.

In April of this year, I was joined by Sichuan University Students and UW exchange members Zhang Yin and Huang Wenlan for a 3-1/2 hour bus ride through lush and drizzly Sichuan countryside, on a freeway so smooth I could write in my field notebooks on the ride, to Deng Xiaoping’s hometown of Guang’an, where we arrived around noon to find Yangjuan graduates Qubi Lisan, Ma Xiaoyang, and Li Musa waiting for us at the bus station; we hopped a city bus to the College, not far out of town, where we had lunch at a little restaurant outside the campus gate, and caught up with the students’ doings.


Navigation, Amman

By Lisa Lester, B.A. student.

Insight from Amman, Jordan.

I smiled hesitantly at the petite girl, her arm extended expectantly, offering me a piece of cherry gum. Only her eyes were visible behind voluminous folds of thin black cloth that shielded her entire form, from her toes to the top of her head. She even wore fitted black gloves. The girl had plopped down next to me at a coffee shop I sometimes worked at, despite the copious empty cushions surrounding me. It was hard to tell if she was smiling, but her sweet, musical voice seemed the epitome of cheerfulness.

In this moment I appreciated the special privilege afforded to Western women in the Middle East, basking in the glow Jordanian hospitality in public, unexpectedly, from a woman who would almost certainly never have addressed my male friends.  She barely spoke to me after, busily typing on her laptop, frequently interrupted by her constantly ringing cellphone, blasting Rihanna’s latest single.


Water connects everything, Álora

By Sarah Boone, B.A. student.

Insight from Álora, Spain.

Looking at a map of the Guadalhorce watershed, I traced the blue line of the river through the towns dotted along the valley. The water in this valley provides life and livelihood to this region of Southern Spain, serving as a source of irrigation for agriculture and drinking water for many small communities and the large, coastal city of Málaga. The river has served these purposes since the time of the Romans, when the region of Andalucía was developed as a breadbasket for the growing empire. The Moorish civilization continued to develop the water infrastructure by building elaborate canals, some of which are still in use today. These systems have lasted for centuries, but today as aridity increases in Southern Spain, the traditional allocations of water and the rural culture it supports are under pressure to change.


JSIS Correspondence highlights Jackson School community members’ stories while traveling, studying, and working and represent the wide array of experiences and expertise in the JSIS community.

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