Posts Tagged ‘Experience’

(Cultural) Spaces

Friday, July 22nd, 2022

One of the greatest takeaways from my time in college has been my understanding of cultural literacy. Knowledge and curiosity about other cultures has fundamentally altered the attitude and actions I take when interacting with the people around me. 

When I first moved to Abu Dhabi for my freshman year of college, I held a lot of preconceived notions about what living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) might be like. Prior to my departure, many of my friends and family worried about whether the country would be safe or accepting of foreigners like me. At that point, I had done a bit of research on the country, so I was relatively confident that I would adjust well, but it was only after my arrival that I understood the importance of cultural acceptance and open-mindedness. As someone who had never been in the region before, I found cultural expectations and religious considerations to be confusing at times, especially because unlike my home country, religion plays a major role in the UAE. During my orientation we learned about some general customs and norms within the country, including local religious holidays and practices, differences in the work week (Sundays to Thursdays!), and even ways to show respect for the culture in our public presence. In one of our first orientation seminars, we engaged in discussions about ideas of religion, secularity, and government. The orientation committee told us about religious and cultural taboos, and asked us, very politely, to refrain from wearing anything overtly revealing in public spaces. While most of these considerations were not strictly enforced or punishable, they reminded me to be mindful of the different customs of a foreign place, and this reminder became very important as I began to adjust to my new environment. 

On my first visit to a mosque, I wore skinny jeans and a t-shirt, but was told at the entrance that such clothing would not be appropriate. The staff directed me to a changing room where I put on an abaya, a full length robe often worn by Muslim women in the UAE, that came with an attached hood as a replacement for a sheila, which is a headscarf worn to cover a woman’s hair. Quite frankly, I thought I looked ridiculous, but my appearance was much less important than actually visiting the mosque in the grand scheme of things, so I put on the garment and went inside to admire the grand architecture and detail put into every space. I came to understand that abiding by dress codes or other policies wasn’t so much an issue of obeying rules, but a way to pay proper respect to a sacred space. 

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque located in Abu Dhabi

Over time, experiences like this have revealed the importance of being open and considerate about the needs of others, and highlighted that the major comfort and due respect of others far outweigh actions that may cause minimal inconvenience to myself. Our student body is composed of people from various cultures and backgrounds, and it rapidly became apparent that I couldn’t simply apply my previous experiences or “common sense” to others because they might interpret situations very differently. At one point, I asked a friend of mine what wearing a hijab meant to her, and I learned that she believed the practice to be a show of faith and religious empowerment rather than the restriction some forms of media often make it out to be. I learned to respect their identities beyond basic courtesy, and paying attention to these cultural differences became a priority from then on.  

When I began to travel more often, these experiences with cultural literacy helped me stay mindful and open to the traditions and practices in various countries, and ensured that I learned as much as I could during my temporary stays. It became essential that I visit at least one museum or gallery in each place that I explored, whether that be an art exhibition, or historical center. I’ve found that these institutions are a great avenue for learning about the local history, as well as the intersections between the locale and other sites, and I’ve often delighted in seeing signs and symbols of my own background represented abroad. Once I grew the confidence to navigate new environments with relative ease, I tried visiting these places and even exploring the cities on my own, and I’ve found these excursions to be periods of great reflection. 

Visiting these institutes or seeing popular historical sites and landmarks often makes me think about aspects of humanity that seem to remain unchanged despite temporal and geographic differences. There is an appreciation and respect for the same subjects in art through every country and period regardless of the style or medium used, just as there are shared documentations of conflict and warfare locked in the glass display cases of every historical museum. There are mementos of the greatest achievements, just as there are relics of the periods of deepest suffering. 

Being alone in a foreign place feels like zooming out of my own head and realizing how big the world is around me. It gives me time to take everything in quietly, without feeling the need to force conversation or constantly engage with others, and it has pushed me to renegotiate my comfort zone and my relationship with myself. Learning to be alone in a foreign place has taught me to take the time to appreciate differences in background and ways of living, while taking comfort in the moments or gestures that echo the familiarity of home. Being alone in a foreign place means immersing myself in a cultural space and allowing myself to take in the atmosphere, to learn about the backgrounds of others, and to grow into an individual more considerate and aware of the people around me. 

Use this student discount for a taste of another culture with some Egyptian Street food!

By: Fiona Lin

Fiona Lin is a rising senior at New York University’s Abu Dhabi Campus pursuing a double major in Literature and Creative Writing and Art and Art History. She enjoys traveling, drinking tea, and learning new languages. In her free time, you can find her reading web novels or playing video games.

For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourages them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing, and services.  At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during the Welcome Week of 2015.


Love Like Her: Empathy

Tuesday, July 5th, 2022

“Oh, it goes beyond sympathy. Sympathy is to understand what someone feels; empathy is to project your imagination so that you actually feel what the other person is feeling: you put yourself in the other person’s place. Do I make myself clear?”

Funny Face. Directed by Stanley Donen, Paramount Pictures, 1957.

If I could have any superpower I would sprout a field of flowers that would give people empathy once a flower is picked. Empathy is a selfless gift all people need to possess, yet most do not. It’s a social intelligence people should learn when they’re small: to treat people how you want to be treated

“I don’t want to have sex with someone, unless, they’re my boyfriend,” I’d tell him, “we don’t have to be in love. I just want to make sure it’s worth it, I guess.” It was a rule I made for myself when I decided I was ready, but it was a rule I let slip. Nearly a week later, he would write in the essay I was helping him with: “my girlfriend is annoying.” I decided to ignore it. People should vocalize the people they want? He kept it up though, he would suggest in little ways I was already his girlfriend without ever communicating it. Maybe he was afraid? Maybe, even though I vocalized that I wanted to be in a relationship with him, he was still insecure? I kept extending myself to him in that way, collecting more and more flowers. Perhaps, some part of him thought I would change my mind. I understood how scary that is and so I let him in. Once I did, he changed. I would always think of him in some capacity. I thought of how my every word, action, and mood would affect him. I wanted him to be happy and I wanted to make sure I was making him happy, that’s all. When that was not reciprocated, I could taste the way things would end before they did.

During the evening of my mother’s and father’s relationship, my dad was incarcerated, my brother was on his way, and my mom was tired. Before he went away, for what was the next five years of my life, there were no more blockbuster dates. My dad had his own apartment and my mom and I lived in the same house just a few floors higher. She went to work a lot and sometimes I’d even go with her. The clues of separation only come to me now. I saw my dad less and less, but after a long week, he was my weekend vacation. I was in sweet little kid bliss. Even when we all hung out separately everything was okay. When my dad was arrested I saw their closing come to a halt. Whatever happened between them was now in a back pocket. When my dad needed someone most he knew who was in his corner, despite everything.

I knew the boy stopped thinking of me when I was no longer something to have. It was as if we were no longer friends. He didn’t want to hang out and play video games, talk, or watch movies anymore. He would only come around for two things: sex and empathy. He would always make up excuses that were tailored in an effort to get what he wanted. I knew I would never let him feel the way he was making me feel, but I stayed. I couldn’t understand why the relationship was changing the way that it did. From there, we were on a rollercoaster that was just in for a loop when we decided to quarantine together those first covid months. He had nothing to prove when it was just us but he never stopped being apathetic. When he became so naturally codependent on me and I decided I would never allow myself to depend on someone like him. “I don’t need you,” I’d tell him in the kindest way possible. “I can take care of myself,” I’d remind him. “I just want you, not need” he had to remember. During our true finale, when I told him, “you always said such mean things to me, I didn’t deserve that.” He would respond with “and you did too.” When I asked him to name examples he’d bring up those old conversations of how I never needed him, how he did me, and how I told it to him.   

I learned that undoubtedly from all the women in my family, especially my mother. Caring comes naturally to a woman in a relationship otherwise she couldn’t call it her own. Regardless of herself, she is supposed to tend, water, feed, and love so fiercely. My mother, she showed enough care and love for both of them to exist as parents. She wrote letters and letters reminding him of how much love he had.  She couldn’t bear the thought of being taken away from her daughter’s first day of kindergarten and her son’s first day of life. She wrote all the things she wanted and would want to hear if her mistakes had pulled her away from the things she loved most. Her heart broke in all the ways she thought his heart was. She put so much time and energy into her empathy. Her only remedy for being taken for granted was to never need in return. To take care of herself second and to depend on no one because how awful would it feel to receive love the same amount of love you give for it to be taken away. 

When she was finally on the outside, having that free time she then thought of herself instead. Picking flowers and actually smelling them. He was so far away now taking up less space and there was finally room to breathe and become. To become someone who wasn’t a pile of everyone else’s feelings. That is when she learned to dance. 

I never believed that everything he did and said was what I did not deserve. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t good enough and that was the best excuse he wore. I was angry at myself all the time and when I wanted to be hurt I’d call him. I didn’t love him. I wouldn’t ever love him in that way even if we were happy. But, I knew then I thought that was the love I thought I deserved. I let him treat me the same way I treated myself and the way I have always been treated. 

If I could have any superpower I would sprout a field of flowers that would give people empathy once a flower is picked. Not only would they learn to treat others how they’d want to be treated, but they’d learn to have empathy for themselves. When I  take the time to understand my feelings and give myself room to feel those feelings without shame, that’s empathy. I am going to be stuck with myself for the rest of my life. And as I grow older I find I would never treat someone the way I do myself. I can be unkind, ruthless to my brain and body, and still push myself to do and be in situations that steal from my person. The first step toward receiving what I deserve from the world is by creating a blueprint. 

Edited by Jackson Bailey
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By Melodie Goncalves

Melodie Goncalves is a rising senior at Rhode Island College pursuing her degree in English/Creative Writing and Sociology. She has passions for reading, writing, caring for others, and music. Spending lots of her time with friends and family.

For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourages them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing, and services. At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during the Welcome Week of 2015.


Love Like Her: Movie Kisses

Friday, June 24th, 2022

As a little girl, every so often, my teenage parents and I would go to a Blockbuster, buy snacks, and escape the world to watch a movie together. We would return home to a room just below three apartments, occupied by my mother’s parents, their children, and their children’s children. As a three/four-year-old, I grew up constantly running upstairs, fighting with my cousins, hopping fences, singing Keyshia Cole with my mom’s baby sister, crying, running, and dancing. It was so loud all the time – except for our little room in the basement where I first met love. Just like many others, my first love manifested in the first home I can remember. In that home with the scraggly carpet and the coldest air, love was the personification of two people: my mom and dad. Every detail of the love they gave to each other and gave to me illustrated the way I would soon love. With that, I learned there were parts of loving that were meant for movies, and then there were parts that hid in basements. 

I did not become interested in boys until I felt I truly had to. I was a kid busy being an adult for most of my life. I was always told I was so mature—so socially intelligent for my age, and I was never worried for. During my second semester in college, I was all the way down in Florida, purposefully far from that first home and all the people that occupied it. I was able to try on different versions of myself and be a kid in that way. I had only myself to think about until I met someone familiar. We met in a weird way; his best friend and I were interested in each other, and because this familiar boy and I were both part of the low sum of brown kids at this Florida college we quickly became friends. We hung out all the time, we talked, and we played video games. Our personalities aligned well, and again, something about him was just so familiar. I was convinced that the familiarity was something meaningful, so I stuck around. I got into fights with my friends about him, even letting an important friendship slip away, but I counted on that feeling I had with him. I protected him in all the ways a person could and began to care deeply. One night alone with him, we watched movies, got snacks, and escaped the world for a little while.  He never offered me a conversation with my own spotlight—everything was always about him. I mustered up courage anyhow and told him how I needed a friend because everything I knew so far about college made me sad. It was too different, and I wasn’t connecting the way everyone else was. I explained that as a first-generation, I had always wanted to go to college, never really understanding what it was. And when vulnerability poured from me, a gate opened for him, and things started to play like a film. 

My dad always wanted to be the favorite and my mom always wanted to make sure I was okay. In our little home, they had horrendous fights. My mom would always be sure that he was cheating and they’d scream back and forth. If I knew anything about love then, it’s that it was all about loyalty. Since my mom was the one who I was with the most, I knew she was as loyal as they came. She completed little acts of service with such love and effort that even in her complete exhaustion, she would still prioritize the person she loved. She’d give and give so much to my dad and be returned with clues that he was with someone else. Because my mother made me brush my hair into tight ponytails so I wouldn’t get head lice, and because he bought me a new toy every week, I was loyal to him too. “Mommy, you crazy,” I’d say. “Stop yelling at daddy.” It was so natural of me to take his side because it was the side that was always taken by her, too, even when she was hurt. That kind of loyalty, I learned from my mother, and it is the kind of loyalty I carry into my relationships, today. 

Later on that movie-esque night, we turned on some music and tried out some goofy dance moves until the gate opened wider and our dancing slowed. I was never interested in any boy like I was interested in him. I wrote a plot in my head about how this night could end perfectly, and he followed it perfectly. I wanted to see where the night could go, and eventually, we kissed. It was a comfortable kiss. I didn’t want anything less and certainly not anything more, because that sort of thing didn’t happen in movies—not in moments like these. He looked at me and said, “I think I’m falling in love with you.” I couldn’t say anything back, of course. I just kind of looked at him, shocked. No one had ever said those words to me before. It was scary and special, and he was giving me everything I wanted. Oh, how familiar it was. 

It wasn’t very cool to live in a basement, according to everyone and their kid. They explained that it was more of a sad thing, but I never minded their judgment because my dad bought me the coolest of things. My dad prioritized wants over needs, and because I always had the things I wanted, life was euphoric. And since my mother would give and give, she would also never need. After all, it wasn’t good to need or depend on someone else. 

Soon enough on that night, the boy would ask for something that would lead me closer to his true intentions. Even though no one had ever wanted me like this and I had never had a night like this, it was disingenuous, and I couldn’t admit that. I was desperate for this story—desperate to be loved—and he reminded me so much of home. I found out later in our relationship that he was not the kindest person, but I didn’t need to be told I was beautiful. I learned that he was not the most truthful, but I didn’t need him to be genuine. I knew he wasn’t the most empathetic, but then again, I didn’t need to be cared for. 

Somehow and somewhere I found myself giving more to the boy than I did to myself because I just wanted him around. I counted on those movie nights because I was convinced that was really all I needed. I was trying to replicate a fragile love between my mother and father. That was all I knew love was. 

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By Melodie Goncalves

Melodie Goncalves is a rising senior at Rhode Island College pursuing her degree in English/Creative Writing and Sociology. She has passions for reading, writing, caring for others, and music. Spending lots of her time with friends and family.

For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourages them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing, and services. At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during the Welcome Week of 2015.


At the End of the Day

Monday, April 28th, 2014

In everything that I have thus far said about the experience of reading and my own experience of reading, there is only one notion that I want everyone to constantly bear in mind: this is only one possible potential of understanding reading. The analogy of understanding the world as a text may be understood in a plurality of contexts. All I offer is one possible method and whether or not this reader wishes to take it to heart depends on the heart of the reader.


“What is given form here is not the totality of life but the artist’s relationship with that totality, his approving or condemnatory attitude towards it; here, the artist enters the arena of artistic creation as the empirical subject in all its greatness but also with all its creaturely limitations.”

—György Lukács


The beauty of the analogy of a text is that it allows for the reader to choose between understanding the text as a thing created by a person, taking that person into consideration; or taking the text as its own entity, which only truly comes into becoming when engaged in participation with a reader. Regardless of which text appeals to one’s sensibilities more, both texts are created by language, which by itself calls for the most intricate plurality known. Language is the simplest whole that is simultaneously a multitude of disconnected parts. This idea can be traced back as far as Genesis. When God destroyed the Tower of Babel, he wasn’t destroying mankind’s creation of language and his achievements. He destroyed mankind’s attempt to unify all the languages, because language isn’t meant to be a perfect unification. It urges its own tension and to deny that is like denying one’s own self-awareness. What texts do is they take this language and utilize it in order to create a poetic rendering of the world. And despite the fact that by creating this rendering, this reflection, the image created is merely an appearance, a portrait of what is truly attempting to be represented, and we are able to get more from this image than from anything else.


“Why couldn’t the world that concerns us—be a fiction? And if somebody asked, “but to a fiction there surely belongs an author?” —couldn’t one answer simply: why? Doesn’t this “belongs” perhaps belong to the fiction to? Is it not permitted to be a bit ironical about the subject no less than the predicate and object?”

—Friedrich Nietzsche


A frequent topic of conversation these days is where the direction of literature is headed, especially printed literature, in this technological Internet age. But what is rarely considered is the fact that literature is merely one medium for language. Similar questions are also asked about poetry, which seems to be suffering a more brutal battle than prose. But at the end of the day, poetry and prose are merely forms for the content of language. If the Internet and technological age are as threatening to the mediums of poetry and prose as people are making them out to be, then what will merely happen is that language will find a new form, a new vehicle. The only reason it’s difficult to imagine the type of vehicle it would be is because we have lived in constant mediums of language since before the time of Homer.  Now we have the Internet, something maybe vaguely conceptualized before its time, and we have absolutely no idea what the potential form of language will be in relation to the world that the Internet has created for itself. We’ve already gone through the times of Leet speak and Internet shorthand (LOL, OMG); but that’s just the evolution of conversation. The evolution of the poetic rendering of the world in the world of the Internet is, for now, a difficult thing to conceive.


“A whole world will envelop you, the happiness, the abundance, the inconceivable vastness of a world. Live for a while in these books, learn from them what you feel is worth learning, but most of all love them.”

—Rainer Maria Rilke


Marina Manoukian, Sarah Lawrence College

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The First Time You Meet the Text

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Experience is like that river that can’t be stepped in the same way twice. Just as college discounts and college savings are perpetually in a state of motion, so is a text.

The experience of reading can be split into three sections based on time; the first reading of the text, the aftermath and residue, and the rereading of the text. Each reading is particular, while the general text stays the same. It’s like that line in the song from Pocahontas, “You can’t step in the same river twice”. But instead of just the water flowing and changing, the reader is constantly changing and becoming, and because the reader is constantly changing, their constructions of the same text change as well. After reading a text, the direct effects and impressions begin to fade, but when a text profoundly affects the reader, the relationship that the reader forms with the text will change the reader. It’s like meeting a new person, falling into a deep and complex relationship immediately, and then having to say goodbye to them, because they do not exist without you. There will always be the memory of the experience, and you are changed by that memory from that moment on.

The first reading is just like meeting someone for the first time. And different books inspire different first impressions. The first time I read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, I could not put it down and stop reading until I had finished—roughly fifteen hours later. The words on the page pulled my eyes and my mind in to a point where my eyes could not keep up with my mind wanting to ingest every last morsel on the page. When I had finished, it was as though I had donned glasses and every particle of light that hit my eye was refracted by War and Peace.

I read novels quickly, preferring to absorb the novel as rapidly and intensely as possible rather than dragging the experience out over months. This applies especially to nineteenth century novels, mainly Russians works. I’ve been able to read War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov, and Crime and Punishment in a single sitting because once I’ve stepped into the world I cannot bear to leave it until it had come to fruition.

On the other hand, when I read The Unnamable by Samuel Beckett for the first time, it was necessary for me to put it down and take a day or two before I picked it back up. It took me three separate sittings to finish it because of the physical toll it would take on me due to the overwhelming nature of the novel. His novels have always plainly spelled out the undercurrents of my own thoughts, and watching them be thrust to the surface and spelled out in language made me need to take a step back.

The beauty of these first readings is that when you look back at them, you realize that what struck you in the first reading is what you held as a priority when you first read it. When I spoke with Ilja Wachs, a teacher of nineteenth century literature at Sarah Lawrence College, he related his experiences reading Anna Karenina for the first time. He noted that in his early readings of Anna Karenina, “whenever Levin came in the scene, I’d say ‘Get out of here, I want my Anna!’ Anna was beautiful, Anna was hot, I was in love with Anna, really”.[1] As a young adult, the vibrant and lovely character of Anna was what drew him, and his reading was centralized around Anna. Now when he rereads, “every time Anna comes in the scene I feel depressed, ‘Get out of here, I want my Levin’. I want Levin mowing, I want Levin in the spring. You get there real changes”.[2] As a grown man, now in his 80s, he is no longer attracted to Anna’s tragic beauty; instead he wants the collectivity, universality, and “grounded substantiality”[3] of Levin. “I can no longer stand Anna, now I want Levin on the scene all the time”[…] the way he extracts meaning from work, I mean, I think that’s very fundamental for me, and wasn’t then”.[4]  As his priorities and way of looking at the world changed as he grew older, so did his readings and experience of reading. He compares it to a “wonderful mirror”,[5] reflecting back at you your values. As one changes, so does the readings of the text; the text initially offers a plurality of possible readings, and the reader ascribes to one and reconstructs it for oneself. The reader “relates the different views and patterns to one another [and he] sets the work in motion, and so sets himself in motion, too”.[6] This is why the definition of the text is not in the text itself, but in the experience of the reading and the actualization of the interaction between the text and the reader.


[1] Wachs, Ilja. Personal interview. 18 Apr. 2013.
[2] Wachs, Ilja. Personal interview. 18 Apr. 2013.
[3] Wachs, Ilja. Personal interview. 18 Apr. 2013.
[4] Wachs, Ilja. Personal interview. 18 Apr. 2013.
[5] Wachs, Ilja. Personal interview. 18 Apr. 2013.
[6] Iser, Wolfgang. The Act of Reading. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978. 21. Print.






Marina Manoukian, Sarah Lawrence College

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Reading From The Outside

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

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If one considers all speech to be poetic, and all worlds are framed by speech, a reader’s interaction with a text is an apt metaphor for one’s attempt to function and participate in the world.

When regarded from an outside perspective, the act of reading looks like an absolutely useless and monotonous activity. A person will sit for some duration of time, stare at an object, occasionally make a flipping motion with his/her hand, turn from one thin thing to another, and then resume staring at a different side. From the outside, it looks as though there is literally nothing happening; there is no activity other than the occasional hand motion, which does not seem to accomplish much at all. And when the act of reading is finished, there does not seem to be any discernible evidence that any semblance of an activity has occurred. Even Sartre admits that the writer’s activity is useless; “it is not at all useful; it is sometimes harmful for society to become self-conscious”.[1] The writer is useless because his activity is not, by all definitions, productive for a society, and the reader is useless because his activity is not even discernable as an activity.

In reality, the exact opposite is the case. Not only is the act of reading an incredibly active process, one of the most active processes coupled with thought, but it also cannot be objectively defined. The reading of a text can only be defined with regards to the reader, as well as every potential reader. Far from being a solitary event, the act of reading is an incredibly intersubjective experience that can never be the same construction twice. A text is not an object; for a text to be an object, it must exist prior to its construction. But a text does not exist before it is constructed by a reader; it only exists in its ongoing construction, in its becoming. This is why, at least for me, whenever someone asks me what a book is about, I have an incredibly difficult time answering. I can tell you what the book is making me think about, but what the book is about depends entirely on however you read it. The black marks on the page will always be there, but they do not mean anything without a reader who forms a relationship with them and assigns meaning. The only reason these black marks mean anything to us, the only reason we call them words, is because the idea of ‘words’ has been so naturalized in society that it never occurs to us to disassociate them from our own usage. To take a step back and understand something outside our own usage of it creates a perspective that allows us to realize that more than one perspective may be valid. This is how a text gets reconstructed differently by different readers. And not only can the same text be constructed differently by different readers, but the same reader will construct a text differently every time he/she reads it. The text is not defined by the black marks or the different readers, but rather the specific relationship between the two, which encompasses a plurality of definitions, especially those contingent upon time.

Breaking away from objective/subjective and turning towards a framing of the world that relies upon relationships can not only explain the phenomenon of reading, but is an incredibly useful way when attempting to understand the world. There is no ‘you’ and ‘other’ in the world. All that exists and all that you can participate in is the relational activity that occurs between these two things. If you remove the notion of an objective world from your frame of understanding and instead focus on the relations that are happening between you and others, and participate on the basis of your understanding of those relations, a multitude of freedoms are opened up for you.



[1] Sartre, Jean-Paul What is Literature? Trans. Bernard Frechtman. New York City: Philosophical Library, 1949. 71. Print.



Marina Manoukian, Sarah Lawrence College

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Pushing Boundaries: How Traveling and Studying Abroad Have Changed My Life and Shaped My Career Path, and Why You Should Do It Too

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

At only 21 years old, I am no Confucius. I cannot give you sound and scientific advice that, if followed, will give you guaranteed success and happiness and all the things you’ve ever dreamed possible. I do not know everything; I don’t have all the answers. What I DO have is my own experience. One of my favorite lines from a book came from Arthur Japin’s In Lucia’s Eyes that reads, “The world is full of people who spend their entire lives seeking the miracle of love without ever seeing it. It’s actually very simple and self-evident, except to those who seek it. One need only have a different way of seeing things. That is not something you can teach people. All you can do is tell your story.”

Whether or not you’re looking for love, let that last sentence resonate with you. All you can do is tell your story. This is my story.


My mother was born and raised in Brazil and moved to the U.S. when she found her future husband who worked in San Francisco at the time. This man, my father, lived in the U.S. for several years already, but actually grew up in San Jose, Costa Rica.  Call them star-crossed lovers or whatever you wish, these two foreigners set out to make a new future in a new country for their new daughter, me!


Growing up, it was just my parents and me. No siblings, no relatives nearby, no pets other than the occasional goldfish won at a carnival with a lifespan average of two days.  I spent most of my breaks from school traveling, either to Costa Rica or Brazil, to see family and connect with cousins and friends my age, keeping up with both Portuguese and Spanish.

The language was never a barrier to me when I was in another country, but became an issue when I returned to the U.S. and had already started school. I would meet with friends and sometimes be unable to realize that I wasn’t speaking English with them because I was so used to being understood in another language.

In addition to traveling to see relatives, I was fortunate enough to have such hard-working parents who always wanted me to see the world, as was their goal for themselves.  We travelled to many places in Europe before I finished the 8th grade, even at which point it was very clear to me that studying abroad would be in my future, no question.

Before starting high school I KNEW I would be gone for sophomore year – I researched study abroad programs and took advantage of them.  Initially I wanted to go to countries like Italy or Spain, but I wound up finding a full-ride scholarship opportunity (sponsored by U.S. Congress and German Parliament) to study in Germany, so I applied. As I moved further through the selection process, it became surreal how competitive this was: out of 2500 applicants, only 50 would receive scholarships.

In April 2006, I learned I had received the scholarship. I turned 15 the next month and three months later was off to live in Germany for a year: no family, no friends, and didn’t  know a word of German. I was the youngest of all the recipients, and after 11 months I was fluent in German.

Before beginning my time at a University, it was clear to me I would study abroad again. I would have applied for the program right away if it weren’t for the window allowed for it by the study abroad office. I was the first to submit an application for that as well, and in the fall of 2010, I had one of the BEST semesters of my life in Bern, Switzerland. If I hadn’t graduated early, I would have studied abroad again.

I’ve now relocated from Arizona to New York and am pursuing a career here while considering my options for a Master’s abroad – perhaps Switzerland again.  I’ve even recently been asked to work with a European magazine for some press releases. My passion is traveling and connecting with people who have experienced this and exchanging cultures.  All the traveling and studying abroad I’ve done have brought me here and told me where I’m going.  You CAN and SHOULD do it too, and even if traveling isn’t something you want for your career, experiencing it now while you’re young is priceless and will teach you so much about yourself and the world.


Where to look for study abroad programs:

  1. Consult with your school’s study abroad offices: I realize these offices are becoming smaller and smaller in the U.S., but these guys know what they’re talking about. Ask which kinds of programs are available to you – some may have year standing or GPA requirements. Maybe there’s a specific kind of program you’re searching for – my school offered programs in which you travel with a group of students from the University while learning abroad. My school also offered a program where you didn’t pay a study abroad fee, just the same tuition you were paying while attending the school, which is how I was able to study abroad. Many study abroad offices even have information on scholarships. There are plenty of options; inform yourself!
  2. Check other programs: This gets tricky and is where fees come into play, sky-rocketing the price of your study abroad experience. My scholarship study abroad program was limited to high school students, but there are other groups out there! Check out: or
  3. Maybe you’re interested in the experience of it but don’t want to be studying: Check out things like where you can be a live-in nanny, earn some money, have a host family that could help teach you more about the culture, and be immersed in your new surroundings. You could take a semester off to do it, do it in the summer, or make time for it after you graduate. Another post-graduate option could be The Peace Corps.
  4. Degrees and Internships Abroad: These are other ways you can be productive in a new place. You can research schools in the areas you’re most interested in and see their guidelines for international students. My advice for those looking to study in Europe would be to check out OR where you can define your search based on degree subject, country, or tuition and GET THIS: tuition prices elsewhere could be as little as 4% what you’re paying now. What about textbook fees? That’s all an American scam so you can say “bye-bye” to that! As for internships, try or ask at your school’s study abroad office.  HEADS UP: this internship opportunity in China was just tweeted via @InternQueen that may be worthwhile:

5. If all else fails and you just want to travel abroad but want to do it sooner rather than later (excellent choice), check out for good deals on flights and hotel information – those prices keep going up these days so it’s good to know of a place that’s dedicated to finding competitive rates. I’d also recommend, which is where I found an affordable flight to NYC.


Even if traveling doesn’t give you insatiable wanderlust as it has to me, at the very least you’ll         broaden your horizons, learn something new and take these experiences with you in your next job interview, which could make all the difference. I encourage you to try something new, to not be afraid, and to learn a new language – there’s no better way than immersion! At the risk of sounding cliché, the world is truly your oyster so go out and open it!






Posted by Lauren A Ramires. Follow her blog, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (username: laurenaramires) for more lifestyle and inspiration posts.

If you’re interested in learning more of the experiences of a Peace Corps Volunteer, check out this blog for stories on the daily happenings of a PCV and things you could expect.