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amsterdam

"I feel so blessed to have had the support of the SCSU community and the U.S. Department of State, who believed in me and my research from day one." -- Fulbright recipient and Southern graduate Alanna Wagher

A young Dutch girl adorns Alanna Wagher with the colors of the U.S. and the Netherlands, her Fulbright host country. Orange is the color of the Dutch royal family and a symbol of national pride in the Netherlands.

Alanna Wagher, ’16, M.S. ’18, is a gifted scholar. She graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in communications disorders — then excelled in Southern’s highly regarded graduate program in the same discipline. Still, she admits to being nervous about applying to the U.S. Fulbright Student Program. “There were people who had tons of opinions about the feasibility of me getting this grant, especially considering the notorious cut-throat competition,” says Wagher.

To be sure, “Fulbrighters” are a uniquely accomplished group. Thirty-seven have served as heads of state or government, 86 received Pulitzer Prizes, and 60 were Nobel Prize winners.

Wagher is now a member of the prestigious Fulbright alumni club, having spent the 2018-19 academic year in the Netherlands as a Fulbright scholar through the English Teaching Assistant Program. In addition to teaching, she collaborated with Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences on her research, which was inspired by her experience as a Southern student. Wagher minored in Spanish at Southern and used techniques from the world of speech-language therapy (her major) to correct her pronunciation. She wondered: would others studying a foreign language benefit from similar techniques?

Alanna Wagher, who holds two Southern degrees, presented her clinical findings at a United Nations educational conference in Amsterdam.

In the Netherlands, Wagher tested her theory, working with Dutch students who were studying English as a second language. The goals included evaluating the effectiveness of speech-language therapy techniques at 1) reducing foreign-accented speech and 2) improving students’ comfort and confidence as English speakers. The Dutch students perceived that speech-language techniques were beneficial in both areas. “The study [also] aimed to establish evidence-based standards for the evaluation and treatment of bilingual children with speech sound disorders,” notes Wagher, who presented her findings at a United Nations-sponsored educational conference in Amsterdam.

“I feel really blessed to have been able to research a topic that I hope will benefit bilingual children and adults,” she says. Of course, the benefits of the experience were highly personal as well. “Overall, I think one of the biggest takeaways of this experience has been the importance of believing in yourself, especially as a young woman,” says Wagher. Her advice to other would-be “Fulbrighters”: “I would definitely encourage more students to apply.”

Museum of Amsterdam

By Rebecca Weinberger

You may or may not already know, but Amsterdam is one of the most fascinating places to visit. Why? Amsterdam is rich in culture, historical monuments, and politics.

Today in class we focused a lot on religion and politics in the Netherlands. Our guest speaker, David J. Bos, Ph.D., took us on a journey through the history of Amsterdam. Some interesting aspects I learned were the differences between religions, and how religion plays a major part in today’s votes for office, such as parliament. Pillarization (a separation of society) still takes place even today. In comparison, one might look at the requests catholic, orthodox protestant, socialists, and liberal protestants made when demanding that their religion deserve the most privileges – good education, health care, and media were the aspects each religion had most in common. Throughout the ages, segregation and religious battles continued. Today anyone can vote for parliament, providences, and the European parliament.

Amsterdam has come a long way from hundreds of years ago. After class we winded down and ate a short lunch in the University of Amsterdam’s cafeteria. Later, we visited the Museum of Amsterdam. There were audio recordings, which talked about the history of Amsterdam, as well as rooms that depicted modernized culture and artwork. Spoiler alert! Inside the museum are many artifacts and knowledge about gay heritage, and the effects of Amsterdam’s drug and brothel culture. As the night ended, we came together as a group and chatted in the courtyard of our dormitory, then took a walk to get a “late night” snack near the infamous Red Light district.

First Day in Amsterdam

By Erica DeBlois

We’ve been here since Friday and the weekend gave us all a great opportunity to get the lay of the land and explore different parts of the city.  Settling in and getting comfortable for the month-long classes, we all have been talking about what we’ve seen and how interesting the Dutch people and their culture are.

The most interesting thing to me so far is how many bikes there are and the many different and creative ways I’ve seen people riding them. There have been some bikes with single riders while on other occasions, there have been one bike with three people on it: the person peddling, a small child on the back wheel, and another on the handle bars.

Since getting here, we’ve explored many different restaurants and tried many new foods.

Today marked our first day of actual class and we got to meet Mirjam, the program director here at the University of Amsterdam. She gave us an introduction to Dutch life, told us what to expect from the program, and gave us our welcome packets of information. She talked a little about how that the Dutch built Amsterdam on the sea and we are actually below sea level.

We reconvened after lunch to discuss our overall experience so far here in the Netherlands and specifically what we are going to learn about. We got our first reading assignment and are all set to kick off tomorrow with our first guest speaker!