Tahmina Tursonzadah

International Experience Country:
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

Chatham University

Heinz Programming Area:
Arts and Culture
International Experience Summary:

Tahmina Tursonzadah spent the summer in Berlin, Germany speaking German, observing the treatment of Muslims in Berlin and studied European Union politics. Tahmina became almost fluent in German by speaking to her host family as well as interacting with people in restaurant settings in German. Not only did Tahmina speak to her American acquaintances in German, but they also did activities in German (e.g. playing German monopoly). This challenged Tahmina to become familiar with the German accent and produce fluent sentences. One of Tahmina’s goals was to observe the treatment of Muslims in a fairly anti-Muslim country like Germany. She noticed many non-verbal cues that people gave towards Muslims such as switching seats far away from a Muslim woman on the train. Tahmina’s host mother did not appreciate that she had to fast for the month of Ramadan. Her host mother tried to discourage her from fasting and told Tahmina that it was “not the German way," but this did not stop Tahmina from following her beliefs. In order to learn more about EU politics, Tahmina took a German and European Unification course through her program. She learned that Germany is perhaps the strongest player in the EU. Tahmina’s professor arranged mock European Council in which Tahmina and her classmates were the heads of a countryin the EU. The Council made decisions about Greece's financial crisis as well as Turkey’s role as a member state in the EU. In addition to this class, Tahmina attended several political science lectures at Frei University where she spoke with local professors from the university and obtained perspectives on the role of Germany in the EU. In Tahmina’s free time, she traveled to other neighborhoods outside of Berlin to observe the Muslim population. Tahmina noticed that the further she went from Berlin, the less Muslims there were. She also noticed that Muslims in Berlin lived in poor neighborhoods compared to where her host mother resided. During her time in Germany, Tahmina succeeded in speaking German, observed the Muslim population in Berlin, and studied the role of Germany in the European Union.

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEE Title: Gender Issues from Around the World

The Chatham University 2015 Vira I Heinz recipients based their CEE on a panel discussion about gender issues in international cultures. Their goal was to address the Chatham community about gender equality in different countries around the world. Tahmina and Meg hosted three international students from Saudi Arabia, India and Iran to speak about gender roles in their cultures. Topics that were discussed included women and men in the work force; the way gender affects family life, and the struggle for gender equality in their countries. Over sixty participants attended the panel, which is considered quite an accomplishment for the Chatham community. The event was advertised through social media, flyers, presentations in class and word of mouth. Tahmina and Meg created an interactive portion for the audience in which simple images, like a rocking chair and a car, were displayed on the screen. The audience marked the object with either a feminine association or a masculine association. For example, 45 participants checked “male” to a picture of a lawnmower while only 15 participants checked “female.” The results were announced towards the end of the evening in order to generate discussion on what masculinity and femininity mean in US American culture, compared to the views of our international panelists.