Breaking a Cultural Barrier, Building a University

by Luke Decker

29 Jan 2012

 

COUR TESY OF TRAVIS CRAMER

 

In 2004, the Amer i can Uni ver sity of Kuwait ac cepted a sil ver plate from Dart mouth Col lege. Rem i nis cent of Dart mouth’s own Went worth Bowl — which the Royal Gov er nor of New Hamp shire pre sented to the Col lege in 1771 — the sym bolic plate not only served as an ex­pres sion of con fi dence in the Amer i can Uni ver sity of Kuwait’s con ti nu ity but also marked the be gin ning of a part ner ship be tween col leges.

Sheikha Dana Nasser Al-Sabah, founder of the AUK — which is the first pri vate lib eral arts uni ver sity on the Ara bian Penin sula — mod eled the AUK after its role model and sis ter school. In an ef fort to as sist the AUK’s ini tial growth and de vel op ment, the Col lege de cided to cre ate the AUK Funded In tern ship Pro ject.

The re la tion ship began in the spring of 2004 when Dart mouth se lected its first pair of stu­dents to travel Kuwait City. As paid in terns, the stu dents helped AUK with ad min is tra tive du­ties. In the sum mer of 2007, the Col lege began to host Kuwaiti stu dents. By 2011, the AUK had wel comed 23 Dart mouth stu dents, while Dart mouth re ceived 19 AUK stu dents in Hanover.

 

COUR TESY OF WIK I TRAVEL

 

The AUK Funded In tern ship Pro ject has since af forded a se lect group of Dart mouth stu dents with a unique op por tu nity to study in Kuwait.

“An in tern ship at the Uni ver sity of Kuwait is any thing you want to make of it,” Lau rel Stavis, the pro ject’s ex ec u tive di rec tor, said.

In the early years of the pro ject, Dart mouth stu dents were sent to Kuwait to ed u cate the uni ver sity’s ad min is tra tion about West ern-style pri vate lib eral arts ed u ca tion. Since then, the pro ject in terns have done every thing from con duct re search in gen der stud ies and com­puter sci ence to teach lan guage classes and per form clas si cal music for the Kuwaiti au di­ences.

“I’ve met peo ple from the four cor ners of the Earth,” Stavis said of her mul ti ple trips to the re gion. Dart mouth stu dents en gaged in the pro ject said they have felt “at home” in Kuwait, es pe cially at the Uni ver sity, she said.

The most re cent in tern, Shloka Kini ’13, re mem bers de cid ing to apply for the AUK Funded In tern ship after par tic i pat ing in a fall 2010 cross-cul tural con fer ence or ga nized by an AUK com puter sci ence pro fes sor. Kini spent an af ter noon con vers ing with sev eral AUK fe male stu dents also in ter ested in com puter sci ence via video chat.

“I was very in ter ested in the re search being done by one of the com puter sci ence pro fes sors there,” Kini said.

Travis Cramer ’12, who in terned there last spring, said he was in ter ested in “work ing at a new uni ver sity, be cause it al lowed me an op por tu nity to ex plore my var i ous in ter ests in ed u ca­tion, es pe cially ad min is tra tion.”

After being se lected for the pro gram, both stu dents de cided not to have too many ex pec ta­tions going into the in tern ship.

“I had a gen eral sense of what I hoped to get out of the pro gram, but the op por tu nity was so out of the or di nary and had so much po ten tial that I didn’t want to limit my self by defin ing my ex pe ri ence from the start,” Cramer said.

By con trast, Kini’s plans “were not set in stone,” leav ing her avail able to pur sue other op­tions.

Both Kini and Cramer de scribed their ex pe ri ence in Kuwait as “price less.”

 

COUR TESY OF TRAVIS CRAMER

 

“I learned so much about the Mid dle East and my self,” Kini said.

Cramer de scribed “ca sual in ter ac tions as op por tu ni ties to learn about peo ples’ vary ing per­spec tives on a wide range of top ics.”

Kuwaiti cul ture, ac cord ing to Kini, is “very wel com ing and not so dif fer ent from our own,” re­fer ring to her ex pe ri ence as a “pe riod of self-dis cov ery.” She said she re mem bered em brac­ing her own her itage as she tried to in ter twine it into a very un fa mil iar so ci ety.

When asked what they will re mem ber most from the pro gram, both Kini and Cramer smiled and agreed: “the peo ple.”




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