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SU London launches new ‘Learning London Communities’
SU London launches new ‘Learning London Communities’December 14, 2006Daeya Malboeufdmking04@syr.edu
Syracuse University Abroad’s London Program has introduced a new initiative to encourage deeper cultural engagement for its students. Learning London Communities is a guided extracurricular opportunity for students who wish to engage more with one another, the SU London staff and faculty, and various aspects of British culture and institutions.
The Learning London Communities project premiered in Fall 2006 with two learning groups that examined “The Anglo-American `Special Relationship'” and “Turkey: Europe Meets the East.” Twenty students took part in the learning communities, and each group met four to five times throughout the semester for sessions ranging from one to two hours in length.
Because of the early success of this initiative, the London Program will offer three groups next semester — “Turkey: Europe Meets the East,” “Politics, Media & Public Discourse in the UK” and “Dance Theatre in London.”
This fall, “The Anglo-American `Special Relationship,'” led by Michael Williams, lecturer at the SU London Centre, and Christine Heckman, external relations and events coordinator, explored the historical, political and cultural components of the unique alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom. Discussion sessions focused on topics such as defining moments in history, including the Suez Crisis and the War in Iraq, the Extradition Treaty and how contemporary perceptions of the relationship may be changing. In one session, “Being an American in a Post-9/11 World,” students discussed the theme of anti-Americanism with American professors, professionals and the chief of consular services for the U.S. Embassy London.
“This group provided me with pertinent political information that I would have been too lazy to read in a newspaper or watch on TV,” says student Mark LaFrance. “Use of videos, articles and discussion ensured that the meetings would never get repetitive or boring. It definitely made me think more from a global perspective.”
The second group, “Turkey: Europe Meets the East,” explored Turkey as a geographical and cultural bridge between Europe and the Middle East. Over the course of the semester, Forbes Morlock, adjunct professor, and Charine John, student services coordinator, organized discussions with experts on Turkey; took the group to dinner at a Turkish restaurant; and compiled a wealth of Turkish literature, movies and other resources for student use.
The clear highlight of the group’s activities was its trip to Istanbul in early October. The group visited important sites and met with Turkish university students to discuss their interpretations of Turkish society and culture. The trip dates intentionally coincided with Ramadan so that students were able to witness firsthand the centrality and relevance of Islam. Student reaction was positive, with several noting specifically that the visits to mosques from the Byzantine and Ottoman eras gave them “far more of an understanding and empathy about Muslim cultures than any lecture could ever have done.”