Andrew Youssef ‘09: Exploring his third culture Part 3

The summer before my senior year I sent my advisor, Bill Burpitt, an email explaining how hard my internship was and how tired I was when I got home each day. I asked him if this was the way my life would be if I continued working there, bluntly he replied, “Yep. It’s downhill from here. Next thing you know you’re working 60 or more hours a week, making more and more money, going deeper and deeper in debt, treadmill, you gain weight that you can’t seem to get off, can’t sleep well, listless, miss the zest in life, long for vanished youth and freedom and them, bam, a myocardial infarction and you drop dead in the kitchen. Maybe you should buy a nice motorcycle and tour the country for a year or so. I recommend Cherry County, Nebraska. Stop at the White Spot Cafe and have a slice of pie. Tell ’em I sent you.”

Needless to say it was a joke. The more I thought about it though, I realized that lifestyle isn’t for me quite yet. So when I got back from Europe I decided, along with Andréa, that we would do a year of “productive adventures.” Especially with the job market the way it was, it might be the only time in our lives that we could up and leave without substantial commitments.

Being at a school like Elon with such a strong focus towards study abroad and international awareness, it didn’t surprise anyone that we loved to travel. Since I didn’t really have a home to begin with, we could go anywhere, as long as we could support ourselves – according to our parents.

Andrew Youssef '09, picture 6After much deliberation and research we have decided to go to China and teach English at the National University of Defense Technology in Changsha, Hunan Province. This is a key university in China having strong support from the government with two national plans to fund and facilitate higher Chinese education. We aren’t going at it alone though, Elon alumni Neil Smith (’05) and Kelli Fegers (’08) have provided excellent advice for our endeavors since they have also done this same type of thing.

While in China I hope to fully immerse myself in the culture and language. The idea of moving to a new place is not unusual for me; it almost feels as if all of my life experiences have guided me to this point. With help from my father, an immigrant to the United States himself, he has assisted in solidifying a contract that will allow us to work, learn, as well as travel for the next year.

Elon University has prepared me for the real world, but at the same time encouraged me to be unique in everything I do. This next year will take me out of my comfort zone and throw me into the real world, but with my experiences, education, and love for learning I know I will succeed.

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Erica Preusse ‘99: Reaching out to Africa Part 3

Erica Preusse '99, photo 8One requirement for this trip was for us to take time for fun. We spent two amazing days on safari at Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater. We saw every type of wildlife imaginable: Baboons, buffalo, wildebeest, impala, zebra, warthogs, jackals, black rhino, giraffe, elephants, a cheetah and even a lion kill! I felt like we had been blessed with those two days as a reward for the work we were doing at St. Lucia.

Erica Preusse '99, photo 11We also spent a long weekend on Zanzibar Island, right off the coast of Tanzania. The highlights of this part of the trip were the incredible sunsets and the Full Moon Party we attended at Kendwa Rocks resort. Hanging out with the Masaai tribesmen who sell art on the beaches was certainly an experience!

Back in Arusha, we spent our last few days at the daycare and orphanage. I had the most unique, heart wrenching experience of the trip in our final days in Tanzania.

While walking the two miles from the daycare to the orphanage, a little girl – 9 or 10 years old – started following us. She was talking in Swahili, but we didn’t understand. Most people there, especially children, think it’s exciting to say hello to a Mzungu (Swahili for ‘white person’). But after she followed us for a while, I realized this was different. This girl was keeping pace right beside me. Then she was holding my hand. I asked her name. “Queen”, she replied shyly. I tried to ask her more questions, but she didn’t speak English.
Erica Preusse '99, photo 9
We took Queen to the orphanage, where after lots of questions from the teacher and a 40 minute van ride up the side of the mountain to her home, we discovered this was one determined little girl. Queen had walked into town to go to St. Jude and other boarding schools in the area. She wants the opportunity to leave her home environment (a 2 room shack in the mountains) and go to boarding school. When Queen saw us walking she’d already been turned down at all the schools and we were her last hope. I was choked up.

The Teacher told Queen and her older sister they could come to St. Lucia and talk to the director, Winfrida. It’s a difficult situation because she lives so far out of town finding a proper school is difficult. Queen doesn’t appear to be sick with HIV, so St. Lucia can’t take her in either. Besides, they’re already over capacity.

The next day, Queen and her sister walked to St. Lucia to meet with Winfrida. She found Queen a school uniform and gave her some writing books. I gave her my $7 Wal-Mart shoes that are much too big, but along with the used uniform, will get her back into school. Winfrida also provided a bag of rice and some grain and vitamins. It’s not the perfect solution, but it’s something for now.

The problem is just so huge – there are lots of children like Queen in Tanzania – there are just not enough resources to help every one of them. For more information, photos and videos from my adventures in Tanzania, visit: http://allscriptsadventure.blogspot.com
Erica Preusse '99, photo 10

Andrew Youssef ‘09: Exploring his third culture Part 2

Like most TCKs, traveling back home is a lot harder than just packing up the car and getting on I-95 North. My summer travel plans were extensive, but not unusual.

Andrew Youssef '09, picture 5After graduating in May, I flew back to Houston, where I still have family, to stay there for a couple days. On June 1st I caught a flight to Dubai. My girlfriend and fellow Elon graduate, Andréa Melone (’09), came to visit which would make this trip back home more entertaining than my usual trips. I showed her around my current home town sites such as the Burj al-Arab, Palm Jumeriah, and Burj Dubai. The highlight of the trip would have to be when we took a day excursion to the bordering country of Oman to the South. The geography of Musandam, Oman is unlike most places in the Middle East, the rugged coastline is a result of the collision between the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates some million years ago. They call this area the Norway of the Middle East because of its fjord like scenery.

Andrew Youssef '09, picture 3On June 16th, we left Elon to return to the states. Andréa went back to her home in New Jersey while I went back to Houston. I did not stay there long though. On June 29th I look a flight from JFK to Brussels, Belgium to visit some friends at my old high school, St. John’s International School. While there I indulged in my favorite local cuisine, Greek Pitas! If you go to Brussels, go to the Grand Place and ask for directions to Pita Street, you won’t regret it.

On July 1st, I took the Eurostar train from Brussels-Midi to St. Pancras Station in London, England. One of my best friends from St. John’s was getting married to his high school sweetheart at the Elvetham Manor in the town of Fleet, 37 miles North of London. This was my first wedding and an unforgettable one at that. The Bride and Groom dressed in old English style with top hats and coat tails. The historic site and picturesque landscape will make this wedding hard to compete with.
Andrew Youssef '09, picture 4
So on July 7th I returned to the states to confront, what some may say, the disheartening question, “what am I going to do with the rest of my life?”

Erica Preusse ‘99: Reaching out to Africa Part 2

Erica Preusse '99, photo 4In Tanzania, we spent most our time working in the daycare center/preschool run by St. Lucia Orphanage. The children who attend are all HIV positive; many have lost their parents as well. But St. Lucia only has room for so many children at the orphanage, so the daycare is the next best thing. The children are learning the alphabet and basic math and they get at least one hot meal a day. Some will go on to government schools if they do well (and can find the funding).

The kids are amazingly smart and sweet. I noticed that kids in Africa aren’t much different than kids back home:  They want your attention at all times. They love to learn, climb trees and sing songs.  One day I was helping Maria write her numbers while singing, “You are my Sunshine” with Tausi & Gertruda and playing matchbox cars with Godlove all at the same time.

Erica Preusse '99, photo 5A little girl lost her first tooth one day while rough housing in the play yard. It is just as much a rite of passage in Tanzania; though I don’t think a toothfairy visited her that night. She proudly showed off her tooth and the hole it left in her mouth to all the “Teachers” (after 2 days of working with the kids, I was in the “teacher” category too!)

Over the next couple weeks, we worked on more preschool education with the kids at the daycare and projects at the orphanage. We stayed in volunteer rooms above the daycare center and most mornings, I awoke to the sound of the children singing the Tanzanian National Anthem. Such a sweet way to start the day.
Erica Preusse '99, photo 7
My task at the daycare was to introduce the concept of subtraction. They call it ‘Take Away”, which makes perfect sense to me, but try explaining that in English to 6 kids under the age of 8 who know mostly Swahili. I’m thankful for the minimal school supplies they do have – tiny pieces of chalk and some Lego-like blocks we used for counting. I helped teach a little boy, Godlove to learn to write his name.  He knew no English at all when we first arrived. When we left, he was counting to 10, writing 1-5 and his name – if I wrote it for him first.

One afternoon at the orphanage, the Teacher had some interesting chores in mind for me. We headed straight up to the chicken coop. There it was decided the new hatchery built by other volunteers needed to be relocated. The rains had started, and unfortunately, too much water was getting in through the cracks in the floor. So, based on my wide array of chicken coop construction experience, I made some suggestions on where to relocate the big concrete blocks they’re using as “walls” for the baby chicks. After about an hour, Teacher and Immanuel (one of the men who works on the land & with the animals) had a newly located chicken coop with clean water (I helped with the water!).
Erica Preusse '99, photo 6
For more information, photos and videos from my adventures in Tanzania, visit: http://allscriptsadventure.blogspot.com/

Andrew Youssef ’09: Exploring his third culture

“So what are your plans after graduation?”

In today’s environment that is more of a joke than an actual question. For the Class of 2009 it has been a tough job hunting season as many companies are trying to be lean and conservative. So the idea of adding new talent to their already fragile payrolls was the last thing on their mind.

Up until about 3 weeks ago, I had a great plan. I had interned with a large international investment bank the previous summer and this past fall they extended me an offer, amidst the economic turmoil that was happening in the financial markets. I was cruising through senior year, while others were stressing about their future. Even with my job security, I still wanted to interview with other companies, just to be safe. I did not want to graduate without having a plan or a place to go.

Andrew Youssef '09, picture 2May 23, 2009 marked the end of my college career. Four years at Elon also marked the longest place I had ever lived in my life. Until Elon, my lifestyle could have been characterized as nomadic. Before enrolling into the “Bubble” in the fall of 2005, I lived 9 different places and never lived in a place longer than 4 years.

Mission Viejo, California (2 years); Houston, Texas (1 year); Anaheim, California (2 years); The Woodlands, Texas (K-2nd Grade); Memphis, Tennessee (3rd -5th grade); Greensboro, North Carolina (1st semester 6th grade); Florence, Italy (Middle School); Waterloo, Belgium (High School); Dubai, United Arab Emirates (My family currently lives there); and Elon, North Carolina (College).

Unlike most International Students that enter Elon University with a thick accent and possessing a foreign passport, I was, what is now popularly known as, a “Third Culture Kid.” The phrase actually has its own Wikipedia page and has been studied by numerous sociologists. I didn’t even realize that this was a real thing until freshmen year and had a free writing session in my College Writing class with English Professor Anne Cassebaum. This idea was first introduced by sociologist Ruth Hill Useem in the 1960s. She described TCKs as someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture.” She goes on to say that, TCKs tend to have more in common with one another, regardless of nationality, than they do with non-TCKs from their own country. She made one conclusion that TCKs are unlikely to work for big business, government, or follow their parents’ career choices.  I was curious to see if I would end up like the typical TCK, if there was such a thing.

Andrew Youssef '09, picture 1So thus begs the question… “What will I do now that I have graduated from college?”

Erica Preusse ’99: Reaching out to Africa

In January 2009 I won a grant from the CEO of my company, Glen Tullman, to travel anywhere in the world and do anything I wanted.  The only requirements:  the trip must be innovative, foster growth and be FUN!

I work for Allscripts, an electronic health record software company.  Because we are in the healthcare industry, I wanted my entry to focus on helping people.  I decided my contest submission would be to travel to Tanzania, Africa and work with HIV orphans.  I couldn’t believe it when I got the call that Glen had selected me.  My first thoughts were, “I won, now what!?!”

Erica Preusse '99, photo 2Shortly after winning, I was contacted by a coworker who had just returned from a two week volunteer trip to Tanzania at an HIV orphanage. He put me in touch with Connie Naber, who founded Karama Connection to help raise funds for St. Lucia Hospice and Orphanage near Arusha, Tanzania.

St. Lucia was originally founded to provide hospice care to those dying of AIDS. Patients came to St. Lucia for care during their final days. Many of them brought their children – also infected with HIV. Once the parents were gone, the children were left with no one to care for them. The director of St. Lucia, Winfrida, soon realized the need for an orphanage. With the help of funding from Karama Connection and others, the orphanage has expanded now to include a daycare center.  Winfrida tries to help as many afflicted with HIV as she can.  The orphanage houses about 26 children; the daycare takes in another 30 for part time care during the day. This was exactly the type volunteering I was interested in.

After the planning was done, vaccinations obtained, flights booked and bags packed, I departed, along with a coworker and client selected to join me for this adventure.  I landed in Tanzania on a hot and humid night in April. Upon arrival in Tanzania, it was sensory overload! The sights and sounds are just what you would imagine – the people are poor. The homes and shops are what we would call shacks in the US. Goats, dogs and cows roam around free.

Erica Preusse '99, photo 1Despite the poverty, Tanzania is incredibly beautiful. We stayed near Mt. Meru, a very popular hiking/climbing mountain – 2nd to Mt. Kilimanjaro. We were told tourism is how people make money in Tanzania. In order to get a job in tourism, Tanzanians must speak English. That’s why education is so important there.

We saw an example of this during our first days in Tanzania when we visited, School of St. Jude, a premier boarding school in the area. In Tanzania, government (public) schools cost money…St. Jude is free, but it only takes the top students. They teach in English only. It’s very important to them to teach the children English, so they can get jobs after school.

Erica Preusse '99, photo 3For more information on School of St. Jude or my adventures in Tanzania, visit: http://www.schoolofstjude.co.tz or http://allscriptsadventure.blogspot.com/

Adam Rozan ‘01: Redefining culture Part 3

Adam Rozan '01, photo for Entry 3I recently chaired a session at the American Association of Museums Annual Conference, which is the national organization for museum professionals. My session, “Beyond the Party: Continuing Engagement with Young Cosmopolitans,” dealt with some very cool programs that museums are doing to attract younger audiences. Museums are making a huge effort, and in doing so are becoming more attractive to us, the “Young Cosmopolitans.”

The session was great, mostly because of the panelists, each of whom was amazing. Julie Crites, Director of Program Planning from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum shared details about Gardner After Hours, arguably the coolest party in all of Boston. Where else would you find the most popular DJ’s spinning in a former mansion, with world-class art to heighten the atmosphere? Crites shared how participants can create their own masterpieces with skilled art teachers, and how participants blog, tweet, and tag themselves online when the party’s over, which gives the party even more exposure.

Sarah Stifler, Acting Director of Communications from UCLA’s Hammer Museum redefined the very idea of a museum. The Hammer sees itself as a part of the greater conversation and social scene in L.A., and it is! The Hammer is known for hosting greats like Kara Walker, Ani DiFranco, Matt Groening, Michael Gondry, Henry Rollins, Danger Mouse, and many others. When the movie “The Wrestler” was released, Daron Aronofsky and Mickey Rourke held a screening and Q & A with the museum’s audience. The Hammer uses programs as the primary way to fulfill its mission (a museum’s DNA). For the museum literature, movies, activities, conversations about current events are as important as paintings and sculptors.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Hammer Museum are two very different museums, but both are doing their own thing at attracting younger audiences and doing it very well. It’s interesting to look at these two museums and compare and contrast them. What matters the most is that both museums are attempting to evolve with the times and make a stronger connection between you, their visitor, and their museum.

You can visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum at http://www.gardnermuseum.org/ and the Hammer Museum at http://hammer.ucla.edu/.

Thanks – and if you make it to Oakland, please visit the Oakland Museum of California! Thank you to Stephanie Downey, Managing Director of Randi Korn & Associates, Inc., for her participation in Beyond the Party: Continuing Engagement with Young Cosmopolitans.