The global citizens of the international affairs dual major
As with other majors across campus, the undergraduate international affairs (IA) dual major benefits from the participation of students from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds. When the IA program began in the mid-80s, this was a rare occurrence, and it was usually an international student, here in the U.S. for four years, who brought a “foreign” perspective to the classroom.
But since the mid-90s, those few international students have been joined by an increasing number of students sometimes referred to as “global nomads” or “global citizens.” Though the United States is their home, these students have typically spent years living abroad, often have parents who come from two different countries, and frequently arrive on campus with fluency in one or two languages besides English. Since the early 90s the number of UNH students with multiple cultural identities tripled.
A few shared their stories recently with CIE coordinator of student programs Catherine D’Auteuil.
Though first year student Natallia Leuchanka now hails from New York, her family heritage is Belarussian. Student colleagues are inquisitive about how things were different in Belarus. Having just completed the IA 401 module in economics, Natallia observes how her family’s economic wealth was different in Belarus as compared to the US. “Bananas are plentiful in the US and inexpensive,” she says. “That was not the case when I was a child in Belarus. We could only afford one banana.” Natallia enjoys helping people understand that life isn’t the same everywhere and says they appreciate her global perspective.
An IA-physics dual major, Natallia notes, “You can connect international affairs with everything. It ties my undergraduate education together. The more you learn, the more you want to experience the world.”
When asked what it feels like to be a global citizen, Charley Faria states, “It is a blessing to be from another country.” Charley is proud to transcend the cultures of Brazil, the USA and Spain. Faria, whose native language is Portuguese, spent most of his youth in Brazil, is currently a US resident, and has studied abroad in Spain. Because of his strong desire to be multilingual, he is tackling Italian in his spare time!
Faria maintains that his knowledge of three cultures, together with his studies in international affairs and geography, enable him to think critically, to question newspaper articles and electronic media, and to be especially perceptive about world affairs. Charley hopes eventually that his accomplishments will lead to consular work.
Ruth Ogembo has experienced many challenges as a student here at UNH. Classes and everyday life have presented her with the constant process of adaptation and change. Having grown up in Kenya, Ruth is the product of a learning environment that is relatively closed when compared with that in the U.S. Since women are not encouraged to pursue the sciences in Kenya, Ruth is thrilled to be studying biology along with her internatonal affairs major.
Ogembo notes that initially her lack of background in U.S. history was a distinct disadvantage when it came to understanding U.S. current events and their historical connections. At the same time, she has gained valuable insight by learning how the western world views the African world. Now a senior, the comparative knowledge she has gained benefits her studies and interactions in the classroom. Lecturer Al Griffin, who taught the IA Senior Seminar this year states, “Ruth will explain tribal conflicts (in Africa) in a way that no American could really otherwise understand.”
American students also appreciate and value the presence of global citizens in the classroom. Catherine Reno, who studied abroad in both the United Kingdom and Spain states, “Global citizens enrich the classroom in ways no professor or textbook ever could. It’s such a wonderful experience and asset to everyone to have an international perspective in the classroom, providing insight and allowing us to reflect on our own experiences and what role we play in the international community.”