On January 28th Professor Sahar Amer of the University of Sydney visited UConn to deliver a talk titled “Muslim Women, Veiling, and Human Rights.” Professor Amer, whose work tackles diverse topics such as cross-cultural relations and postcolonial identities, spoke on themes related to her well-received book, What is Veiling? (UNC Press, 2014). The talk took aim at recent trends toward Islamophobia in the West, which primarily victimizes veiled Muslim women as the most visible contingent of their community. Specifically, Amer sought to problematize the concept of veiling itself in order to combat facile associations of the practice with the oppression of women in Muslim culture. Examples such as the explosion of Islamic haute couture were used to demonstrate a very different vision of the veil’s contemporary cultural value, while commentary on Islamic (moral) beauty pageants, integrated and all-women mosques, and both female and homosexual imams served to illuminate other progressive currents in modern Islam. Amer’s inclusion of these elements offered a nuanced vision of Muslim women’s rights that is often lacking in Western discourse, emphasizing that a woman’s right to choice in wearing the veil ought to be respected, even in cultural contexts in which the practice has become highly stigmatized. Professor Amer closed her presentation with this firm assertion: “Human rights must become compatible with cultural pluralism.”
During my first few weeks in Granada, I came across a piece of art that said “Los ojos que no han visto Granada no han visto nada”. I knew at that very moment that I had chosen to study abroad in one of the most unique and historical cities in the world. Upon arriving in Granada, the anxiety that I had felt entirely disappeared as I was greeted by my señora. Her and twenty-two others opened their doors to my classmates and me, fed us more than we asked for, and taught us more about the culture and language than we ever could have learned in a traditional classroom setting. I got the opportunity to explore villages outside of Granada with my host family, eat delicious home cooked meals everyday, and learn my señora’s secret recipes.
Taking five classes in Granada was an entirely new experience because I learned about the culture, art history, and political aspects of Spain, which I was then able to experience first-hand. In my political science class, I learned about Spain’s financial crisis and their high unemployment rates. While living in this beautiful country for four months, I witnessed homelessness and poverty daily. In my art history class, I learned about every artistic detail and symbolic meaning that Antonio Gaudí invested in La Sagrada Familia. Visiting Barcelona on an excursion trip was one of my most memorable days in Spain because I was able to stare in awe at Gaudí’s incredible artwork that I had learned about all semester. It is the most incredible feeling to have had invested myself in this language since my preschool years and then experience the beauty of this incredible country first-hand. Living in Granada and visiting thirteen other cities throughout Spain opened my eyes to a valuable experience that I would have never had without the opportunity to study abroad.
Kara Casale (pictured here in the Sacromonte neighborhood of Granada) is a junior from West Long Branch, NJ, double-majoring in Spanish and Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences. Following graduation in May 2017, Kara plans to attend graduate school in order to pursue a career as a Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist.
As a testament to the rising popularity of Chinese Studies at UConn, LCL was proud to see its first batch of Chinese majors graduate in May of 2015. One of these pioneering graduates was Marc Schuman, a Chinese and Accounting dual-degree recipient who is now proving his mettle in the international finance industry. We asked Marc to share a few words on his experience in the Chinese Section of LCL, and this is what he had to say:
During my four years at UConn, a lot changed. When I originally arrived on campus in 2011, there was a small Chinese department that offered only a couple of courses a semester. Four years later, three of us graduated as Chinese majors, in a department that was growing very rapidly. Going through the Chinese program at UConn allowed me to build a strong set of skills, including speaking Mandarin and understanding the Chinese culture. I was really lucky to study under Meng Laoshi, Yang Laoshi, Cheng Laoshi (Johnny), Cheng Laoshi (Anna), and others. Not only did we spend time in the classroom, but we celebrated Chinese holidays and engaged in other cultural activities. In addition, I had the opportunity to spend a half a year in China, where I studied and traveled. The combination of studying Chinese and accounting (in the business school) also gave me the opportunity to intern for an international financial services firm in Hong Kong. Currently, I am working in New York City at a large financial services firm with exposure to companies that conduct transactions all over the world. The experiences I have had with Chinese have certainly helped in terms of my professional career. However, the greatest benefit to learning Chinese has been the friends I have made from all over China. Even while living in New York, I am constantly meeting up with Chinese friends and co-workers for dim sum, hotpot, and more. Learning a language is a long journey, but the rewards are so gratifying. It will lead you on the road of wonderful surprises and life-changing events. I would highly recommend pursuing any language at UConn—the rewards are endless!