Two HSS students have been granted the prestigious Mary A. Roebling International Travel Award, named for influential TCNJ mentor and local philanthropist. Donor Gale Wayman, who was mentored here by Ms. Roebling, gave a generous donation to being the Fund that created this award. The award provides funding for academic study outside of the U.S. Now, there are two more HSS students who will get the unique chance to carry out in-depth research in new parts of the world.
Dr. Elizabeth Borland (Sociology), chair of the Roebling Award selection committee who has worked and studied abroad, believes that these experiences are invaluable.
“By immersing yourself in a different society, you learn about yourself, your home society, and that other community–the world is simultaneously bigger and smaller!” explained Dr. Borland. “I always wish for each of my own students that they embrace being a ‘cosmopolitan’ person–what social theorist Anthony Giddens says is someone who ‘draws strength from being at home in a variety of contexts.’”
Steven Rodriguez, junior History and Philosophy double major, and Alina Ahsan, Sophomore Philosophy major, share their expectations and plans for their own upcoming extra-special study abroad experiences.
HSS: Why did you apply for the Roebling award? What drew you to it?
Steven: My chief motivation in applying for the Roebling scholarship was to ensure that I would be able to conduct archival research for my senior history honors capstone. In essence, my motivation for applying for Roebling was to ensure that I would be able to conduct an ambitious research project that would not be limited by immediate financial concerns.
Alina: I applied for the award because I read about it in one of Dean Rifkin’s emails, and when I read the qualifications, I thought that I would be eligible and that it would be a great opportunity.
HSS: What will be your study project abroad and where will you be?
Steven: I will primarily be conducting archival research in Madrid at the Biblioteca Nacional as well as regional archives. My research will approach the War of 1898 from a transnational perspective, tying in the role of gender and race, with a specific focus on Cuba…I’d like to combine my knowledge of U.S. history with my interest in Latin American and Iberian history.
Alina: I will be doing an internship at University Hospital Principe de Asturia in Madrid as part of a course ‘Spanish for Health Professionals’ during my semester in Alcala de Henares, Spain.
HSS: How do you hope this experience will contribute to your professional and personal growth?
Steven: The opportunity to conduct original archival research abroad will contribute tremendously to my skills as a student of history and will allow my to get a sense of what it is like to do the work of a professional historian [...] My work in the archives in Spain will allow be to increase my overall project management skills, second language proficiency (especially translation abilities), and will be a key stepping stone to my senior history capstone.
Alina: Studying in Spain will help me develop a new perspective outside of the American one that I have known my whole life. I am hoping that this alternate approach to thinking will help me analyze the works of prominent philosophers and develop my own arguments from a more intercultural perspective. [...] Improving my Spanish will help me tenfold in urban hospitals in the US where knowledge of the language is becoming a necessity. The ability to see and work in the Spanish healthcare system in comparison to the one in US will also be very interesting.
HSS: What advice do you have for other Humanities students who want to go abroad and find a project like you have?
Steven: The most important piece of advice I would give [...] is to explore an area that you find interesting and would like to investigate through original research. At times, it may seem like everything has been said about many subjects in the humanities, but a closer investigation will often shown that new perspectives and insights can further advance the field.
Alina: For other Humanities students, I would say to decide early on whether or not you want to study abroad and then plan ahead to make sure it happens! Have an idea of where you want to go, but be flexible (I was dead-set on Barcelona before I recognized the amazing advantages of the Alcala program). And the best way to find a project is to ask! If there is something you are interested in, oftentimes if you just ask, people in charge are very willing to help you make it happen!
Interview and story by Jack Meyers