Student International Initiatives Fund (SIIF) grants help the Center for Global Education (CGE) fulfill its mission of providing students with experiences that foster in-depth understanding of another culture. For the past several years, these grants had been funded by the late Hobart alum George Liston Seay ’62. The SEAY Grants, as they were called, allowed interested students to apply for funds to undertake projects of their choosing that enrich their studies in their host country and deepen their connection to the local community abroad. The following are just some examples of the ways current seniors have taken advantage of this incredible opportunity:
Ben D’Innocenzo ’10, a fine arts major who studied in South Africa during the spring of his junior year, was awarded a SEAY grant to take a class that focused on traditional Zulu ceramics. He was able to participate in a field trip to a mountain community to visit the Magwazas, an extended Zulu family, who produce black, smoke-fired pots traditionally used for brewing beer. D’Innocenzo learned about the process behind making the pots as well as their use and meaning. This experience also gave him insight into the Magwaza’s culture. D’Innocenzo’s SEAY grant project culminated in a published book of photos, available at blurb.com, documenting the life and livelihood of this Zulu family.
Maralie Deprinvil ’10, who studied in Aix-en Provence, France last spring, used her SEAY grant money to explore regional French cuisine. She visited two cities to see how their traditional foods and ingredients differed. The first was Bordeaux, one of the world’s major wine centers, in the Aquitaine region of Southwest France. The second was Biarritz, on the Atlantic coast. The city is part of the Basque region, and just 11 miles north of the Spanish border. In Biarritz, the Basque language is spoken, and Deprinvil learned some Basque words from a local restaurant owner and his family.
“I learned the history of the cities and regions I visited, and I was able to speak to people that live there,” says Deprinvil. “I think these kinds of experiences really make you connect with the country and its culture in a way a book could not.”
Music was the focus for James Secor’10’s SEAY grant project in St. Louis, Senegal, where he spent a semester abroad as a sophomore. Secor took lessons from Dialy Madi Kouyate, a local Senegalese griot and master of the kora. A griot is a figure in West African culture who is the holder of people’s history and often relates his knowledge accompanied by music. The kora is a musical instrument.
“The kora plays an important role in traditional African ceremonies. It breaks the silence, and with the help of the voices of all gathered who are moved to sing, evokes the stories of the people’s past,” explains Secor. He took kora lessons in Kouyate’s home, spending four or five hours at a time learning to play this instrument, and was able to share meals with him and his family. On his return to HWS, Secor produced a ‘zine, documenting his experiences, and also recorded a CD of 14 songs, some of which are traditional and others which he wrote himself.