My OUS Story: Ritesh Karsalia

Senior Ritesh Karsalia from New Jersey has always known that he has wanted to become a doctor, but it was not until coming to Villanova that he found his other passions. He came to Villanova as a Biology major because he is an aspiring physician and because of his interest in the life sciences from high school.

Though, he did not expect that he would declare minors in Spanish and Latin American Studies. “What pushed me there was our core curriculum and some really great professors. After I took both semesters of intermediate Spanish my freshman year, that was technically all I was required to do, but one of my professors approached me and told me about a study abroad program. I considered doing it, but I was hesitant at first until another professor told me about the same program.”

After the recommendations from those two professors, Ritesh ended up attending an information session that inspired him to apply to the study abroad program. So, the summer after his freshman year, he studied abroad in Chile, where he took a course with a Chilean professor that focused on the differences in Chile in comparison to other Spanish speaking countries. In the course, they explored the everyday life of a Chilean, including their slang, sayings, and the distinguishing factors of the country.

He recalls that “Spending the summer in Chile influenced my interest because I realized that Spanish was not just a language I took for a requirement, but I really enjoyed learning the language and communicating with others with that language. I remember the first day I met my host family, I could not speak much Spanish at all, and it was the most intimidating thing I have experienced because I didn’t know how I could communicate with them. It was really awkward communicating with them the first few weeks with hand gestures, broken Spanish, and going in circles with phrases. After a while though, I became a lot more fluent in terms of communication because I became immersed in the culture. That whole experience made me realize how interesting it was to communicate with these people from different parts of the world, and I didn’t have access to learn and speak with them before. It helped me learn better Spanish and influenced me to pursue that minor along with Latin American studies after learning about the culture and taking more classes at Villanova. I did not anticipate these minors, but they’ve been influential in shaping my future goals and time at Villanova.”

On campus, Ritesh’s major commitment has been with Campus Ministry in their COV program, which stands for Community Outreach of Villanova. Every week for the past two and a half years, he has been going with a cohort of students to a parish in Upper Darby where he tutors immigrants in that area in ESL in small groups or one on one tutoring.

“We get many Spanish speaking and Vietnamese speaking immigrants who attend the facility and are at different levels of English. They need help in order to figure out how they can work around their everyday jobs and lives. It has been one of the most influential things I have done on campus, and I think it ties in with the time I spent studying abroad, because that’s what really got me interested in other cultures and languages. It has come full circle to this experience, and this is something I have been super grateful to participate in.”

He also volunteers with Learning Support Services in Falvey, for which he leads weekly General Biology study group sessions. Each week, around twenty to thirty students come for extra help and content review.

He has also left his mark on campus with his work with the Health Professions Advising Office. As a freshman, he bonded with his advisor, Dr. Russo while she was assisting him with his classes and his career goals. At the time, there was an office assistant who ended up leaving for dental school, and they needed someone to help them take on a lot of their responsibilities, a major one being the newsletter they publish each semester. Dr. Russo asked him to step into the position, which is something that he has now been managing for four semesters. For the newsletter, they decide upon a theme that will help pre-health students in all of the pre-health fields and solicit articles and different experiences from students and professors on campus.

In regard to his work experience, last summer, Ritesh worked in the immunology lab in Mendel as part of a research fellowship. He has also worked as a clinical assistant intern at a reproductive endocrinology clinic between my sophomore and junior year and also during some of his winter break during my sophomore and junior year back home in New Jersey. For that position, he helped the team at the clinic with procedures, patients, and data collection.

Currently, he works as an intern at Villanova’s Law School as the community interpreter. For that position, he works with student lawyers who are assigned different cases ranging from asylum, refugee, and health law. As the interpreter, his role, through the Spanish department, is to serve as intermediary in order to help the student lawyers communicate with their clients when they have to make phone calls to them or when their client comes in.

Before he goes to medical school, for which he is open to many different medical fields, Ritesh plans on taking a gap year. “I am anticipating spending the next year doing a year of service through AmeriCorps. I had an interview recently for a program I am excited about, and I should hear from them soon. It is with a community health center in New Jersey, and they work with farmers, marginalized communities, people from a lower socio-economic status, and immigrant populations. They help provide them with primary care medical services, get them enrolled in the Affordable Care Act, and help them with basic health education and health literacy while running after school physical activity programs like diabetes management. I have a couple of other potential job offers, but I want to do this because it’s going to broaden my horizons and allow me to experience health care in populations and areas I might not typically be exposed to during medical school. I think from my background up until this point, I have not been able to see a lot of the challenges and struggles that there are in the disparities in the health care field. Being able to spend that year with a completely different population group will help me view my future career through a different lens and help me be better prepared to handle issues that people face within the field.”

He left the interview with a message for his fellow Villanovans, “I think an important piece of advice for any student, no matter what field they’re pursuing, is to find an area or region of interest that really captures your mind, something that you’re really interested in, and something that you can see yourself expanding upon. What I mean by that is you should find an interest, and then really hone in on that interest by putting all of your efforts into it. For me, I came into Villanova as a pre-health student, but after my time here, I became interested in immigrant and marginalized populations and service through that lens through my study abroad, my service, and my minors. So, for any student here at Villanova, I think it’s important to find an area you’re interested in and dive deep into it in order to find out how you can make an impact there from a deeper perspective.”

My OUS Story: Alexander Pereira

Current Senior Alexander Pereira, from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, has melded his curriculum into his future career path all the while ensuring that future students can do the same. On campus, you can find him studying in the library, playing intramurals like soccer, basketball, volleyball and flag football, at the gym, and being a leader in the Villanova Consulting Group.

During the first semester of his sophomore year, he declared a major in Communications. Specializing in Organizational Communication, and a minor in Business. He had known before coming to Villanova that he wanted to work in a business environment, but it took him until coming to Villanova to explore his passion for the people and relationship skills side of business. As a freshman, since he knew he wanted to pursue something in the business field, he tried Economics. Soon, he realized that the Economic courses were not for him while realizing that he was enjoying his communication classes, like Public Speaking, the most.  

He said, “Certain majors and certain courses comes easier to other people, it depends on the person. Like for me I love public speaking, I love presentations, I love getting up in the morning, and I love having conversations with people, so for me I realized that my loves and my skills fit communications after I read about the different specializations. Before when I thought of communications I thought of television, the media, and journalism, but I didn’t realize there was a whole side of with specializations in interpersonal communication and organizational communication. I was able to make links between that program and business.”

So, he realized that Organizational Communication suited his career goals. He explains his academic program as “almost like the liberal arts version of business management where you not only look at how people operate and organize themselves in a business but in everyday life within society.”

By adapting Communications to suit his career path towards business, Alex was able to experience different sides of Villanova. “Having the opportunity to take classes in both Garey and Bartley positioned myself well because I wasn’t sucked fully into one mindset. At the end of the day, I had a good breadth of experience within my classes as a whole. I would say the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences does a good job of exposing students to different types of courses through pre-requisites and general education courses. They can be overwhelming, but as a senior, I now see why we have them because you are able to take these different courses in different areas and see what you like and don’t like.”

The varied courses that he took allowed him to realize his passion for business consulting that led him to take the course Consulting and Organization taught by adjunct professor, Dr. Suzanne Seidl, whom he has taken the last three semesters. Dr. Seidl’s teaching style has Alex’s preferred mix of communication and business, for she teaches communication through a business mindset and has many guest speakers come to her classes.  

Dr. Seidl’s class required students to become actual consultants. “Our professor gave us the freedom to pinpoint a problem that we saw on Villanova’s campus, find a client, and work with them to come up with a strategy report, implementation plan, and needs assessment on how to fix it in the best way possible. My client was Kate Szumanski, the Director of Leadership and Professional Development in OUS. I had noticed that consulting opportunities are growing fast in Villanova, but many of those opportunities are housed within Bartley even though consulting is open to all majors. In consulting they want a diversity of thought, backgrounds, and communication skills. That diversity of thought is needed to solve a client’s problem as efficiently as possible. So, I met with Kate to implement a plan on how to spread awareness in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences about all of these consulting opportunities. For that, we created a new ASPD Consulting Course, which will hopefully be running by next year.”

For the course, which would run once a week and be pass/fail, Alex and Kate plan on having Nova Alumni that we are current consultants to come to the class and talk about their own experiences in order to educate students about that career path and network with them. Alex believes that this course could save students time. “From the class, if you can figure out, hey I’m a sophomore, and I love consulting, now I’m going to put my best foot forward and start preparing for interviews and internships for my junior year. Or you say, I took this course, put my best foot forward, met some interesting people, but I don’t think consulting is for me, and now I can focus on different careers.”

Alex has also had multiple internship experiences that have built the foundation for the career he is pursuing. Growing up, he worked alongside his father and his uncle in their family construction business. This work provided him with sales and technical work experience.

Then, during the fall semester of his junior year, he participated in a study abroad program in Sydney, Australia. There, he took courses and worked as a marketing and communications intern for Discovery Communications, which is the umbrella network for channels like Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, and TLC. Throughout the internship, he was given exposure to how television networks work, he helped out with Shark Week, and he was even an extra in some of the network’s commercials.

Last summer, he interned at Burlington Stores in New Jersey as a planning and allocations analyst, a position he received after attending one of Villanova’s Career Fairs and meeting an employer from Burlington. Even though it was a more financial and business type of role, he was also able to engage in elements of communication and presentation that he loves. He recalls that, “It was exciting to be working within that business because the nature of standard brick and mortar retail is starting to go down whereas off-price discount retailers like Burlington are on the rise.”

Currently, Alex is interning in Philadelphia at a Public Relations Advertising firm called the Brownstein Group in their strategy department. He was able to get that position when he learned about the company and reached out on LinkedIn to a Villanova Alumni who works there. She referred him to others in the business and helped him get an interview.

Starting in the summer, Alex will be working as a consultant at a global consulting firm called Accenture in their Philadelphia office, fulfilling his goals of becoming a consultant. “I am really excited to have the opportunity to be in a firm like this, be able to travel, be expected to think on my feet, adapt to different industries and clients, and be able to have consulting training and development invested in me.”

Alex left the interview with one piece of advice. “Balance is important. This is something I still struggle with. I often spend too much time in my academics and not as much compared to other opportunities. What I have been able to realize looking back at my time here, is that obviously you want to come here for a good education and pursue something that you are passionate about, but what is unique about college, something that you may not realize at first, is that there are so many areas where you can learn and develop outside of the classroom like living with someone you don’t know or independently, learning to manage conflict, making friends, and maybe going abroad. All of it is part of the learning experience that makes college so valuable over the degree. It is important to understand that and realize that you should be consciously trying to allocate your time to developing yourself as a person in addition to your studies.”

New ATLAS Program Launched!

An open letter to all College of Liberal Arts and Sciences students from Matthew Kerbel, Ph.D., Chair of the Political Science Department.

Dear CLAS Students,

We are excited to announce a new Certificate in European Politics that we have launched in partnership with the European School of Social and Political Sciences at the Université Catholique de Lille, in Lille, France. This is an ATLAS spring semester program that is unique and exclusive to Villanova students. If you are thinking of majoring in Political Science, have an interest in European Politics, or are taking French as your language requirement, this is a great opportunity to integrate a Study Abroad activity into your curriculum.

More details are available at http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/vpaa/abroad/findprogram/sem_lille.html, but let me give you a few highlights.

  • The Certificate may be earned by taking the equivalent of 12 units of Political Science courses at ESPOL in addition to PSC 1200 (which is already a required course in the major).
  • You will also be taking a 6-unit combined culture and French language course called Intercultural Communication, which includes excursions in the region
  • If you are already taking French, this is a terrific way of accruing credits towards a double major in French and Political Science.
  • You will be housed in single rooms in dormitories within walking distance to ESPOL. These dorms are equipped with common kitchen, gym and social areas.
  • You will be assigned a sponsor family who will contribute to giving you a more thorough experience of French culture.
  • Political Science courses taken at ESPOL can only be applied to a certificate, minor or major. In other words you cannot, for example, use the same course to fulfill both a certificate and a major.
  • All Political Science courses taken at ESPOL will be approved automatically for PSC credit.

Note that the application deadline for this spring semester (2015) is October 15. This is because study visas will need to be processed.

I encourage everyone to consider this unique study abroad activity. It is part of our efforts to more closely link the courses taken abroad with our home curriculum in the department, and ease the process of vetting and approving courses on the basis of our confidence in their quality of instruction and experiences.

If you are looking for summer travel-study experiences in PSC, consider the Prague Program or the Washington Minimester. We will send out information on these programs over the course of the semester.

To get started, make an advising appointment with the program coordinator, Prof. Francois Massonnat, Department of Romance Languages and Literature. Email him at francois.massonnat@villanova.edu. Afterwards, he will direct you to the (newly renamed) Office of Education Abroad to fill out an application and get the process started.

Sincerely,
Matthew Kerbel
Chair, Political Science Department

Study Abroad in Prague this Summer!

The Department of Political Science offers a six-week summer study program in Prague, which is the capital of the Czech Republic and one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.

The program runs from June 22 – August 3, and involves two political science courses, for which students earn 6 Villanova credits. The courses are taught by full-time Villanova faculty, which means that they are taken for a letter grade (not a ‘T’ transfer grade), and they are directly applicable to the PSC major as an Area 1 distribution or elective. The two courses offered this summer are:

PSC 4875-001 Genocide and Mass Killing (Dixon, 3 credits)
PSC 6150-001/ENG 2790 Politics and Literature (Simmons, 3 credits)

Classes are held in an Augustinian monastery located in the center of Prague, and students live nearby in shared apartments with full kitchen facilities to prepare meals and close access to a range of local cafes and restaurants. Central Prague is a pedestrian-friendly city with excellent local transit, so it is easy to get around. Moreover, no Czech language skills are required. The cosmopolitan environment of Prague makes it possible to get by in English, which makes the Prague program a wonderful opportunity to study, travel, and learn in a foreign environment.

From Prague’s location in the heart of Europe, you can easily visit many of the great cities of Western and Eastern Europe in weekend trips or before or after the program. This year, there will be a scheduled weekend trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp memorial and to the nearby Polish city of Krakow. In addition, we will plan a couple of excursions within the verdant Czech Republic. Aside from these scheduled trips, in past years students have visited Warsaw, Linz, Dresden, Budapest, and Munich on their own during open weekends.

The cost of the 6-week-long program is $5,500, which includes tuition, housing, and excursions. On a per-credit basis, this is less expensive than credits taken on campus at Villanova. Moreover, through the generosity of Villanova alumnus and PSC major Michael C. Linn, full and partial scholarships are available on the basis of financial need (as determined by the Office of Financial Assistance).

If you would like to learn more about the program, please contact Dr. Dixon (Jennifer.m.dixon@villanova.edu) or Prof. Simmons (mary.beth.simmons@villanova.edu). The application deadline is March 31st, and the application form is available here: http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/vpaa/intlstudies/forms.html.

PSC 6150-001/ENG 2790: Politics and Literature (3 credits), Professor Mary Beth Simmons “From Kafka to Kundera: How the Politics of Prague Shaped Czech Writers”

Is literature born from political rebellion or oppression considered art? This is simply one of the many questions we will discuss in a course that covers the challenges and limitations of something we most likely take for granted: freedom of speech and expression. We will read poets, politicians, playwrights, novelists, and essayists who have all been transformed by the politics of the Czech Republic. How does the legacy of communism inspire a writer? How did the student-fueled rebellion of the Prague Spring in 1968 or the Velvet Revolution in 1989 change the course of history for the country—and the world? Visits to important sites in Prague (the Kafka museum, the locations of the student protests) will energize and enhance our in-class discussions and understandings of the texts. Students will write a number of short, one-page reaction papers to our readings; two longer, critical papers responding to the texts and class discussions; and one cumulative paper reflecting on the overall coursework and life in Prague.

Books:

Chatwin: Utz
Hampl: A Romantic Education
Hrabal: Too Loud a Solitude
Kafka: Metamorphosis, The Trial, and selected short stories
Kundera: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Neruda: Prague Tales
Rilke: Letters to a Young Poet
Stoppard: Rock ‘n’ Roll

PSC 4875-001: Genocide and Mass Killing (3 credits), Dr. Jennifer M. Dixon

What are the causes of genocide and mass killing? Do certain contexts make genocide or mass killing more likely to occur? Why do leaders decide to commit genocide or mass killing? Why do individuals participate in genocidal violence? What happens in the aftermath of genocide and mass killing? This seminar is designed to introduce students to the central debates and questions in the study of genocide and mass killing, focusing on the questions posed above. In our discussions, we will consider the domestic and international contexts within which genocide and mass killing occur, the motivations and rationales of leaders and individual perpetrators, and the ways in which the international community responds to such violence. Throughout the course, we will consider the identities of victim groups, and the processes through which perpetrators construct victims as ‘enemies’ and ‘threats’ to the nation, to the state, or to the achievement of a highly-valued goal. Given our location in central Europe, the course will focus on three European cases: the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, and the ethnic cleansing and genocidal violence during the collapse of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. In addition to our readings and in-depth discussions, the course will include an afternoon trip to the Theresienstadt concentration camp memorial outside of Prague, and a weekend trip to visit the Auschwitz- Birkenau concentration camp memorial and the nearby city of Krakow, Poland.

Study Abroad in Athens [Guest Post: Ryan Kosyla]

Below is a guest post by Ryan Kosyla LAS ’13, Philosophy Major, Business and Political Science Minor.

I didn’t plan on studying abroad. In fact, I thought it was something I had to give up   since transferring to Villanova in the spring of 2011. The end of junior year was coming and I knew it would be next to impossible to fit into my schedule. But at the recommendation of Dr. Smith, head of Villanova’s Honors Program, I decided to look into it. When I did, I found something interesting: the excitement and adoration of those who had previously studied abroad and how they looked back on their experience. Most had a hard time finding the words to describe why, exactly, I should study in another country for a semester. “Just do it” was a phrase I heard on more than one occasion. After a semester in Greece, I can definitely say that this is the best advice I can give to students looking to study abroad.

There are many different aspects to studying abroad. It is not just a chance to try different food or go somewhere you haven’t been before. It is a very personal experience that forces you to reconsider the things you take for granted, things you have grown used to without even realizing it. I think two short stories will best illustrate my point

There was a small store next to my apartment in Greece where I used to get coffee. It was run by a woman and her husband, neither of whom spoke any amount of English. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know a word of Greek. And somehow, I still managed to get coffee the very first time I walked in the store – complete with the exact amount of sugar and cream I wanted. As my Greek improved, I began to have lengthier, more detailed conversations with this couple.

Communication is far more than words. When you have two people who are trying to talk to one another, but speak completely different languages, there is still some part of what you’re trying to say that gets across. Pointing, the inflexion of your voice and facial features all play a huge part, even more so than the actual words you’re trying to speak. I had known the importance of body language, but never thought seriously about it before; I guess I had grown used to talking to people without really thinking at all. Without being forced to think about how we talk, we sort of just… talk. Everything from how close we stand to someone, to body language and eye contact, are all influenced by our culture. It’s just the way we get used to things, the way we grow used to and connect with one another on a common level.

246525_155545147920172_716805501_nOne of my best experiences while abroad was taking part in an internship at the Institute for International Economic Relations. I was able to conduct graduate-level research, write opinion papers on contentious economic issues, and listen to presentations from professors and other invited guests. But I learned the most from my fellow interns

I was one of many students there, but I was the only American. Everyone else was Greek. They all spoke English, which was great. But what was really great was some of the conversations we had. We discussed philosophy and politics, culture and society, relationships and family. Greek students – no matter their major – are much more politically aware, informed, and active than American students. Each has an opinion on pretty much anything you can think of and their opinions are interesting and well thought out.

Greek youths are also much more focused on interpersonal relationships and learning about one another than in doing activities when with friends. In the United States, we typically need an excuse to hang out with someone: going to see a movie, playing sports, and the like. Greeks are different; they simply want to spend time with one another. This usually takes the form of sitting down over coffee, long stretches of window shopping, or simply standing around and talking – even if it’s in the middle of the sidewalk (and no passerby’s seem to mind!).

During one of those times when we went out for coffee, we had a particularly memorable conversation about ideas of nationalism. “You’re not a country,” a girl told me. “I mean, you are… I don’t mean that in an offensive way. But we Greeks don’t really see you like that. You’re young. You’ve been around a little over 200 years. We have thousands of years of history.”

532237_3925807220622_2029845948_nShe’s right. The U.S. is young. And yet, in the international arena, many U.S. citizens get so used to the idea that the United States is supposedly #1 that we tend to forget that we haven’t even existed as a country for very long. It isn’t until we, as individuals, take a step back and are challenged by different ideas that we begin to get a fuller understanding of ourselves and the world. When we see how other people live, and begin to understand how other people think, we are forced to consider what it must be like to live that way. Without exploring different cultures, you take your own for granted, and believe that everyone, everywhere, must live that way. I was guilty of that to a large extent

But it is important to mention that there are more commonalities than differences between different countries and different cultures. The importance of family and friends, stresses and worries of being young adults and a focus on your “significant other” are as paramount in Greece as they are in the United States. Being abroad reinforced my belief that there are some things that cross cultural, geographical, and communicative barriers and connect us as human beings.

These stories may not seem spectacular or ground-breaking, but the small, personal interactions I had with the people I met are what made my experience. They forced me to think differently, reconsider the things I had taken for granted, and imagine new possibilities.

Don’t get me wrong – the Greek islands are gorgeous, the other American students I met were awesome, and I loved learning about Greek culture. The food was fantastic, the city has some amazing historical monuments, and I learned a ton from my classes. But the most important part of my study abroad experience, and what I believe most people will find to be the most significant part of studying abroad, is the people. It is they who underlie all aspects of your experience; if it wasn’t for them, it wouldn’t even be possible to study abroad there in the first place. They challenge you, inspire you, and connect with you in a way that goes  far beyond words.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine how other people think, feel, or live. Our conceptions are distorted by our own beliefs, and everyone, no matter their experience, is always ignorant in some sense. But when we study abroad, we begin to recognize that which co183402_4833153471552_413660713_nuld not be known otherwise. It is not found in a textbook or taught in a classroom. It is given to you, each and every day, by the people you meet and the interactions you have.

You carry it with you, every day, for the rest of your life. And you will always be a better person because of it.