International students explore volunteer work at UW-Madison

American students today are exposed to the idea of doing public service by the time they reach high school, if not earlier.  By the time they enter college, volunteering has become second nature.

That’s not necessarily the case for students who come to U.S. universities from other countries. International students often get their first taste of volunteer work while in college.

At the University of Wisconsin–Madison, many international students discover volunteer opportunities through the Morgridge Center For Public Service and International Student Services (ISS), home to the Millennium Development Goals Awareness Project (MDGAP) and the ISS Reach Program. Both the Morgridge Center and ISS are located in the Red Gym.

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At symposium, some undergraduates take on international topics

The annual Undergraduate Symposium showcases the “research, creative endeavor and service-learning” of hundreds of students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, encompassing all areas of study, including the humanities, fine arts, biological sciences, physical sciences, and social sciences

Presentations and posters featured at the 2014 symposium, held April 10 at Union South, covered a variety of subjects, from “Political Humor and Networks on Twitter” and “Improvements in the Delivery of Radionuclide Therapy” to “Grassland Bird Nesting Chronology in Wisconsin” and “Religion and Lawn Care Practices.”

Several participants tackled topics with an international focus.

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DiPrete Brown revisits personal journey through novel

Lori DiPrete Brown has traveled professional pathways that have taken her to countries around the world, as a global public health educator, researcher, and author of policies and guidebooks, working with international agencies and educational institutions.

Her journey is deeply rooted in an intensely personal odyssey that DiPrete Brown took three decades ago – an experience that continues to serve as the underpinning for her work. Recently, she found a powerful means to share that formative chapter of her life.

DiPrete Brown, who leads global health education programs for the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, served in 1983-85 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras, working in a home for orphaned and abandoned teenage girls. The experiences of accompanying some of the girls to obtain documentation from their places of birth and to search for their birth mothers inspired her to write a novel, Caminata: A Journey (Global Reflections Press, 2013).

DiPrete Brown will read from Caminata: A Journey and sign copies of the book on Sunday, April 27, at 2 p.m., at A Room of One’s Own, 315 W. Gorham St., Madison. The event is sponsored by the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Wisconsin–Madison, UW–Madison Global Health Institute and Division of International Studies.

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Alumni talk about leveraging language skills into careers

“What can I do with this language?”

It’s a question that Michael Kruse often hears from undergraduates at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, which offers instruction in dozens of languages – from those most widely used to many that are less commonly taught.

“Everything is being done in different languages. Anything you can do in English can also be done with a foreign language,” says Kruse, an advisor in UW–Madison’s Language Institute. “It is important to think about your interests and the impact you want to have on the world.”

To offer some perspectives on “what to do with this language,” two UW–Madison alumni who found their own answers – Lora Klenke  and Brett Schilke – spoke to students about their careers and how language skills can be a crucial tool not only abroad but also in Wisconsin’s job market.

The program, “Languages for Life,” was sponsored by the Language Institute, International Internship Program, and Russian Flagship Center, with funding from the College of Letters and Science Anonymous Fund.

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IAP Scholars promote study abroad with ‘Share Your Experience’ projects

Being able to share her study abroad experience with other students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison “made it that much more meaningful for me, because I began to feel like what I had to say and what I experienced abroad had value,” says Kiana Murphy.

Murphy, a junior majoring in English and creative writing, studied last summer at the University of Westminster in London. “I am now able to share parts of the world with other people, and encourage them to experience that world for themselves too,” she says.

Murphy was among the first 12 students to go abroad with support from the International Academic Programs (IAP) Scholars Program. All students who receive this award must agree to do a “Share Your Experience” project when they return to campus.

But Murphy and others make it clear that talking about their experiences and promoting international academic programs means much more than simply fulfilling a scholarship requirement.

Launched in February 2013, the IAP Scholars Program aims to help all students – especially first-generation college students, students who are going abroad for the first time, students with a cumulative GPA above 3.8, and students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields – to “Discover the world…and bring the world back to Wisconsin!” with individual scholarships starting at $1,500.

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Joe Elder looks back at 60-year journey

As noon approached, the seats in Ingraham Hall, Room 206 – a frequent venue for scholarly lectures on international topics – filled quickly.  This audience had come to hear a speaker who easily could deliver a extensive series of academic talks, but, on this day, they had come to celebrate the individual, his distinguished career and legacy.

Joe Elder

Joe Elder

Joe Elder circulated around the room, greeting old friends and colleagues, members of the university community, and others as they arrived for his program, titled “Sixty Years of Asking Questions.” Meanwhile, staff from the Center for South Asia, which sponsored the March 13 event, began distributing pieces of cake – yet another sign that this was no ordinary scholarly lecture.

In his talk, Elder led the audience on a journey through his career, particularly the earlier days. In typical fashion, he spiced his narrative with humor and humility.

Elder, a professor of sociology, languages and cultures of Asia, and integrated liberal studies, has taught at the University of Wisconsin–Madison since 1961. Hundreds of students have enrolled in his classes each semester to learn about life in world cultures. This semester is Elder’s last.

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Morris’ passion for Brazil leads to travel scholarship

Katie Morris speaks with such enthusiasm about the culture and people of Brazil that it’s easy to overlook the fact that the University of Wisconsin-Madison senior has yet to set foot in South America’s largest country.

After studying Spanish in high school and learning Portuguese at UW–Madison, Morris says classroom discussions sparked her curiosity about a country she previously had not thought much about.

katie morris pic 1“I found myself looking to it during other international policy-oriented classes as well, especially with all the exciting things happening economically and socially in the region,” she says.

Morris, of Rosemount, Minnesota, is majoring in Portuguese and international studies with certificates in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and educational policy studies.

“People would ask me what I wanted to do after I graduate, and my response was usually a variation of ‘study in Brazil,’ but all the details were completely unknown,” she explains.

Now, she knows how she’s getting to Brazil: Morris has won a Brazilian Initiation Scholarship (BIS) Award through the Brazilian Studies Association (BRASA)—the first UW–Madison student to do so, according to the Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies (LACIS) Program—which will give her the opportunity to spend several months traveling throughout the country.

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UW-Madison hosts Day in East and Central Europe

Approximately 300 Wisconsin high school students, accompanied by teachers and other adults, came to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus on March 5, 2014 for a “Day in East and Central Europe,” an outreach event sponsored by UW-Madison’s Center for European Studies, Center for Russia, East Europe, & Central Asia (CREECA), and the European Union Center of Excellence.

Kathryn Ciancia, assistant professor of history, opened the event, held at Union South, with a keynote address on “Imaginative Rebels: Snapshots of Poland in the 1980s.”

After the opening, the participants, divided into groups named after cities in the region, attended a series of half-hour breakout sessions. These sessions included glimpses into the history, culture, and contemporary issues in countries across the region, including Russia, Poland, the former Yugoslavia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Estonia, and Lithuania, as well as an introduction to village dance.

The half-day event concluded with a dance party, featuring Intemperance Collective, a local acoustic Balkan band.

Photos: Kerry G. Hill/UW-Madison Division of International Studies

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Through Model UN, UW-Madison students build skills, connections

Much like the organization they emulate, Model United Nations clubs at colleges and high schools across the United States and around the world provide forums for students to explore and express diverse views and ideas about global issues and politics.

The Model UN club at the University of Wisconsin–Madison brings together students who are passionate about global issues and politics and helps them develop and sharpen skills that they can use in the classroom and in their careers.

In recent years, UW–Madison’s Model UN club has grown in popularity, reaching 80 members last year. The student organization began the current academic year with around 50 members, including a growing number from other countries – such as Canada, Netherlands, India and Egypt.

“The organization has certainly evolved through our inclusion of international students, as they each bring unique perspectives on international issues that many American students are unaware of,” says Adrianna Viswanatha, president of MUN at UW–Madison.  “Their insight has been invaluable to the knowledge base of the club and especially members’ lasting friendships with these students.”

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International students learn to cope with harsh winter

Even for people accustomed to Wisconsin winters, this year – already stacking up to be among the coldest on record for Madison – has been more challenging than usual.

Imagine then how the experience must be for newly arrived international students – especially those coming from tropical climates and have never even seen snow.

For starters, international students need to deal with the conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit temperatures. A reading of zero in the former – which is used in all but a few countries – feels quite different than zero in the latter – which is used in the United States.

Indeed, the recent stretch of sub-zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures and bitter wind chills has been particularly jarring for the international community at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

International Student Services (ISS) has stepped up efforts to help these students adjust to the harsh weather.

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