From May 23 to May 31, 2007, professors Cynthia Giddle and John Joyce traveled with three students—Jean Jermain, Affi Inyang and Ana Ramirez—to Istanbul for an intensive short-term, study abroad experience that also served as a site visit for future workshops. The project grew out of a faculty development project the previous year, when approximately 20 faculty members participated in an Istanbul workshop initiated by the Turkish-American Friendship Society–U.S. (TAFSUS) and organized through a U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant.
This year, the Turkish Cultural Foundation and the Community College of Philadelphia Foundation Mini-Grant program also gave support. When it proved hard to select only two students with a third one similarly qualified and enthusiastic, faculty members contributed to a special Humanities Fund to enable all three students to go.
Building upon interest and success in a new course, Humanities 170: Introduction to the Cultures and Civilizations of the Middle East, the three students were able to continue their study of the Middle East firsthand. During the week in Istanbul, Humanities professors Giddle and Joyce introduced the students to different important periods in Turkish/world history and a variety of religious practices and beliefs, as well as the beautiful and strategic geography of Istanbul. The group attended performances of traditional Turkish music, a “whirling dervish” performance and a concert of Ottoman military music, as well as visited museums, mosques, churches and classical Roman and Greek sites.
The students represented different academic interests—International Relations (Affi Inyang), Social Work (Ana Ramirez) and Psychology/Creative Writing (Jean Jermain)—as well as different ethnic backgrounds. Ana grew up in Venezuela. Jean’s parents immigrated from Haiti and Cuba. Affi’s parents are from Nigeria. All three students were thrilled to participate and said repeatedly that the trip changed their lives and dreams, as well as their views of Turkey and the world. Professor Giddle reported, “In fact, it was hard for them to leave Istanbul after a week!”
One student’s evaluation said: “Istanbul is a place that I will never forget. It changed me intellectually and spiritually with its amazing culture. It brought happiness to my life. Istanbul opened my eyes to the magnificence of the world. Now I feel that I have a greater respect for other cultures, traditions and religions. I would love to go back.”
Students taking Humanities 170 in spring 2008 will have the same opportunity to have their lives changed. A third Turkish-American organization, The Institute for Turkish Studies, based in Washington, D. C., has announced a $10,000 grant to fund a larger Community College of Philadelphia student group. Professors Giddle and Joyce are committed to returning and have developed teaching materials from their travels in Egypt and Syria, as well as throughout Turkey.
— By Fay Beauchamp, professor of English