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Students, faculty praise global experience at Dialogue of Civilizations Fair

10/27/16 - BOSTON, MA. - Students, faculty and staff attend the GEO Dialogue of Civilizations Fair on Oct. 27, 2016. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Zach Mega, SSH’21, wants to explore the world.

It’s the primary reason he chose Northeastern. It’s also why he attended the Global Experience Office’s annual Dialogue of Civilizations Fair on Thursday afternoon in the Curry Student Center Indoor Quad.

“I want to travel and make new connections,” said Mega, a first-year politics, philosophy, and economics major. “I want to see new things and experience new things and meet new people.”

His choices are virtually endless: Next summer, more than 60 faculty members will be running dialogue programs in more than 30 countries worldwide, from France and Italy to Poland and Russia. Virtually all of them attended Thursday’s fair, where they extolled the virtues of living, working, and studying in an unfamiliar country.


“Having these kinds of experiences help to foster relationships that might not have otherwise been possible.”
— Christa Blomquist, S’17

Mega was particularly interested in public policy professor Chris Bosso’s dialogue in Japan, which gives students the opportunity to develop their knowledge of the country’s politics, culture, and history through lectures and site visits. “I found this program to be really interesting,” he said. “It fits in well with my major and gives me the chance to take classes in another country.”

And it might change his life. Just ask Christa Blomquist, S’17, who called her summer 2015 dialogue in Iceland “the most amazing thing I have ever done.”

Blomquist, a fifth-year biochemistry major, spent a month camping in a tent and hiking from one study site to the next as she deepened her understanding of volcanoes, glaciers, and plate tectonics through geology-based field work.

The experience, which aligned with her environmental science minor, also helped her secure her co-op as a research scientist at the pharmaceutical company Sanofi. During the interview process, she said, she and her soon-to-be manager discovered their mutual interest in the Nordic island and quickly formed a strong bond. “Having these kinds of experiences help to foster relationships that might not have otherwise been possible,” she explained.

10/27/16 - BOSTON, MA. - Professor Sandra Shefelbine talks to a student about dialogue at the GEO Dialogue of Civilizations Fair on Oct. 27, 2016.  Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Sandra Shefelbine, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, talks to a student about the Dialogue of Civilizations program she will be running this summer.

Fifth-year chemical engineering major Gabrielle Hunt left her comfort zone to participate in a summer 2015 dialogue in Germany. Under the direction of Michael Hoppman, assistant teaching professor in the Department of Communication Studies, Hunt honed her understanding of the power of language, tracing the journey from Nazi rhetoric to modern reasoning. In addition to taking two courses, she visited the Dachau concentration camp and the site of the Nuremberg trials, which inspired the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Back on campus, she is applying the lessons she learned on the dialogue to her work in her engineering capstone course, where she has been tasked with finding a satisfactory solution for an open-ended problem of her choosing. “I have to make sure that I’m being holistic and ethical when I look at what I’m going to design,” says Hunt, E’17. “I need to know how my project will impact society and the kinds of social and cultural implications it might have.”

Malcolm Hill, associate professor of marine and environmental sciences, has been running the Iceland dialogue for the past eight years. In his experienced opinion, dialogue programs give students the chance to expand their understanding of who they are as people, as learners, as global citizens. “Much of what they bring back,” he said, “is knowledge about themselves.”

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