Honors Student Profile: Eli Williams
Ad-Hoc Study Abroad: Spain
Turkey's Bid for the European Union
While in Spain, I took up two separate ad-hoc honors projects. Coming up with them was probably the most stressful part since I didn't have a whole bunch of knowledge about what the program I was going into would be like. I did some research on my program, finding the names of the courses I would be talking. To come up with ideas, I looked to my interests. As an International Studies major, I love studying other countries, their differences, etc. Taking in mind some previous knowledge, I started looking at news stories from Spain and came up with a bunch of ideas. I then took those ideas to our wonderful advisers to consider. They reviewed my study abroad program, the classes, and my ideas all at once. They asked some questions about possible holes in my proposal, and from that they gave me approval of the fact that I could get credit and that my ideas were on the right track. What I had to do to get my final approval was to expand on my ideas and relate them specifically to the courses I would be taking. With preliminary approval, the next step was to talk to my study abroad program director. In retrospect it probably would have been better to have done that beforehand as well so that I could ensure the professors would be willing to sponsor the projects. She luckily said yes, and helped us compile a list of resources that we should tap upon starting them. Using that and a little more research, I took a few weeks to think/procrastinate and really expand my ideas into thesis questions with direction. Taking those back to our advisers, they gave me a final go ahead.
After classes had started in Spain and I had got a little settled in, I went to my teachers with my proposals. The first was for my class Spain and the European Union. My idea was to look at Turkey and Spain in relation to pre-European Union membership. Our teacher told us about a project each of us would have to do on a country within the EU. I took my idea to her, and she agreed to let me do my project on Turkey (even though they are not an EU member) and extend it to include my research. I started researching, but came to realize that my university had less physical sources and that I needed to use UW online journals and many internet articles. Also, I found that just Turkey's bid alone was enough of a project and I like that changed it again to drop the comparison with Spain. Moral of the story, keep the ad-hoc projects flexible since you don't know what to expect and you don't want too much work since you're there to experience as well! My other project was a comparison of Spanish and American culture for my Spanish Civilization class. My professor was actually enthusiastic about it since he was also interested in the topic and was impressed by a self-motivated students. The project was completely independent but much easier to research for. My research was done by being inquisitive, observant, and talkative. Some hard sources were found too, but the hard part was really figuring out the content since I had to get to know Spanish culture first.
The whole experience has been great and I've gotten a lot more from those classes that I would have otherwise. In retrospect I see that my initial goals were lofty and that there is a ton to do on a foreign study program without extra projects. Give yourself time to develop your thoughts before coming, make your proposals manageable, and leave some room for flexibility. Also, our advisers are more than wiling to talk to you about your thoughts and are super helpful. Get their help as much as is needed!