No goal is loftier nor more prominent on Amanda Hulse’s bucket list than traveling the globe and with her summer in London, she began the process of accomplishing that largest of dreams. From visiting some of the world’s best museums and touring centuries-old castles to witnessing iconic landmarks and strolling the streets of a legendary city, Amanda tried to seize every moment of her four-week journey. In addition to exploring the famed Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, and St. Paul’s Cathedral, she loved the opportunity to see London beyond the Westminster that adorns postcards, discovering the lesser-known sites of this city. For a self-professed “history nerd” there is arguably no better place she could have visited, as London has been the site of countless historic events over the past several centuries and the month she spent there was no exception. Within the first week of her stay, Amanda found herself in a city at the center of international headlines when the UK voted to leave the European Union and David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister; beyond her hope of merely experiencing another culture, she found herself in the midst of a monumental time in British history. Much as the results of the Brexit vote demonstrated, the culture of the English countryside is very different from that of city center of London and Amanda wanted to explore this distinction for herself. The Roman-built city of Bath, royal Windsor Castle, and storied port of Dover are only a few examples of the trips she took outside of London to gain a more multidimensional perspective on life in the United Kingdom. However those adventures alone were not enough to sustain her wanderlust and she took advantage of London’s central location to travel to Prague and Edinburgh as well. While London and Edinburgh gave her a taste of international travel within the confines of a familiar, Western culture, it was her trip to Prague that both pushed her most outside her comfort zone and confirmed her aspiration to explore more of the large and unfamiliar world. The most difficult part of this trip for Amanda was saying goodbye to London, but she knows it marks a beginning rather than an end, the beginning of her achieving that goal of seeing the world and experiencing all that it has to offer.
CEE Title: Politics Around the World
Politics Around the World, designed by Amanda Hulse, Allyson Naiken, and Kimberly Casimir, was a combination of an information session and a roundtable discussion that strove to both provide knowledge on international politics as well as start a dialogue on the complex topics inherent in this field. We began by placing this complicated and multifaceted topic in the familiar context of the United States, explaining the basic structure and functions of the three branches of our national government. From there, we dove into our primary focus, the issue of voting by exploring the American electoral system and the advantages and disadvantages it affords citizens of this country. A discussion of the United States’ “freedom score,” as provided by the non-profit research institution Freedom House, followed and served as the transition into out analyses of our host countries’ federal government systems. Beginning with Amanda presenting on the United Kingdom, transitioning to Allyson on the Netherlands, and concluding with Kimberly on China, our presentations provided an overview of the national government structure of each of our host countries had were deliberately arranged in an increasing level of perceived difference from the US. Before and after each presentation we had our audience perform a continuum, asking them how “free” or “not free” country X was; particularly after exploring the freedom scores, we wanted to discuss with our audience how their perception of each nation’s liberty evolved and compared and contrasted with America. As a fun and engaging activity we next played Political Jeopardy with topics ranging from world leaders to international trivia, hoping to incorporate some of the information we had just shared with them as well as provide them with a few short new facts on comparative politics. Our final jeopardy served as our transition to our roundtable discussions and guest speaker presentation, prompting our audience to discern what percentage of eligible voters did not vote in the recent presidential election. From there, we once again emphasized the importance of voting and then broke up into three groups, each assigned one of our host countries, to discuss our three roundtable questions. Question One focused on the issue of whistleblowing (the patriot v. traitor debate, the consequences of national surveillance, and how our country would respond to this kind of act), while Question Two prompted a discussion on collectivism v. individualism and how this debate manifests itself in societies around the world, shaping values and perspectives along the way. After discussing Question Three’s issue of human rights within each nation, we came back together as a large group to share out about our responses of these topics and about how these conversations need to continue long after this event is over. Lastly, Dr. Maryam Deloffre from the Historical and Political Studies Department, held a presentation on electoral processes around the world, addressing not only what these systems look like but the consequences they have for a country’s citizens. This drew us back once again to the purpose of Politics Around the World, to get people thinking, talking, and above all engaging in the political processes of this country, most especially through voting. Our attendees left with Freedom Maps of the world and hopefully a new perspective, grappling with the complex issues of comparative politics and committing themselves to taking an active role in their democracy.