January 28, 2012
Article by Laura Pochodylo ‘14; photography by Supriya Kasaju '12 and Laura Pochodylo '14
Knox College hosted two special discussions in late January, during a week of internationally focused events that culminated with the 2012 International Fair.
In the first of the two talks, Visiting Associate Professor of Spanish Julio Noriega presented a lecture, "Becoming Writers Away from Home," that profiled four successful, well-known writers who worked away from their native countries.
The second event, a student-faculty panel discussion called "Growing Up International," featured professors Emre Sencer, Gail Ferguson, and Ryohei "Mat" Matsuda, who moved to the United States from other countries.
Julio Noriega: "Becoming Writers Away from Home"
"Learning how (the four writers) deal as a foreigner can show us how we can take advantage of our trips, especially study-abroad experiences, and grow personally and professionally in an environment that is not our own," Noriega said.
Noriega, a native of Peru, (pictured above and at left) discussed the experiences of Ernest Hemingway, an American who lived in both Spain and Cuba; Gerald Brenan, a British writer who lived in a small town in Spain; Mario Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian who wrote in Spain; and Vladimir Nabokov, a Russian who worked in the United States.
He focused the most on Hemingway, whose "life is like a National Geographic magazine," he said, and told students that "how he traveled is something you might keep in mind."
Hemingway, he said, was readily accepted in Spain. The first work he wrote there was Death In the Afternoon, a journalistic exploration of bullfighting.
"If you love bullfighting, if you hate bullfighting, if you don't know anything about bullfighting, if you know everything about bullfighting, read it," Noriega said. "I don't think someone who was a Spaniard could have written that book, because it needed the perspective of an outsider."
Noriega used the writers' experiences and successes abroad to urge students to continue traveling, and to always be open to new places.
He also pointed out there is an international experience right in front of students here at Knox.
"I used to think universities were for learning universal things, and colleges were small and parochial, but Knox has changed my mind," Noriega said. "It is an exceptional place. It is small and parochial in some ways, but is a truly international experience."
"Growing Up International" Discussion Forum
With Knox student and faculty representatives from the Philippines, Jamaica, Turkey, Japan, The Netherlands, Israel, Guam, Germany, Syria, Pakistan, Indonesia, India, the diverse group at the "Growing Up International" discussion forum had a surprising amount of common experiences.
Associate Professor of Asian Studies Ryohei "Mat" Matsuda, who is now a United States citizen but "culturally, 100% Japanese," introduced an idea that was familiar to most in the room.
"Last year, I commuted about 45 times to Japan," Matsuda said. "And what I noticed was changing something while in the airplane, like switching the cards in my wallet, to feel ‘I'm ready.'"
Assistant Professor of Psychology Gail Ferguson, a native of Jamaica, agreed.
"When you're in the plane, starting to switch, switching cards is the physical manifestation of an internal switch," she said. "When I'm going home, I change my language, how I act, how I feel, so that's very symbolic to me."
Ferguson (pictured at left), who noted that several members of the group have lived in multiple places, also discussed her work as a cross-cultural psychologist who studies Jamaican youth who are taking on a second, additional culture.
"One (self) isn't more core than the other," Ferguson said. "One is just more prominent in specific settings."
Jillian Somera, a sophomore from Guam, commented on her native identity, referring to herself as a "third-culture kid," because her parents are from the Philippines.
Emre Sencer, assistant professor of history, said it is easier to live in the United States and still stay in touch with his native Turkey, thanks to online news.
"In Turkey, if you don't watch the news for three days , there could have been a coup," Sencer said. "Before, we used to get a weekly newspaper, but now I'm hooked on Internet news."
Sencer (pictured below, between Ferguson and Matsuda) then discussed the "weird half-and-half life" that professors from other countries live as academics, writing only in English and trying not to lose command of their native language.
Discussion between the students and faculty members shifted to food, and the importance of eating native food whenever possible
"Once in a while, I have to have that kind of food to feel good," Matsuda said, referring to Japanese food.
Liann Marco, a junior who grew up in the Philippines but now lives in Washington, D.C., agreed with Matsuda.
"Eating native food definitely brings you back," she said.
The forum participants then shared their perspectives on food in the United States. Most shared an affinity for apple pie a la mode, something Sencer called "uniquely American" that cannot be found anywhere else.
They also agreed on another aspect of American culture.
"Americans don't think this about themselves, but especially in the small towns, there are the politest people in the world," Sencer said.