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International House

Flag of the Week - Lithuania

Lithuania, officially the Republic of Lithuania, is a country in Northern Europe, one of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It borders Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Kaliningrad Oblast to the southwest. Lithuania has an estimated population of 3 million as of 2013, and its capital and largest city is Vilnius. Lithuanians are a Baltic people. The official language, Lithuanian, and Latvian are the only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family.

Lithuania is a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe, a full member of the Schengen Agreement and NATO. It is also a member of the Nordic Investment Bank, and part of Nordic-Baltic cooperation of Northern European countries. The United Nations Human Development Index lists Lithuania as a "very high human development" country. Lithuania has been among the fastest growing economies in the European Union and is ranked 17th in the world in the Ease of Doing Business Index.

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To all new international students - From an alum

Welcome to a new and exciting life of being a blue devil. My name is Leonard Ng’eno and I am a software developer at Duke. Just like you, I once was a first year international student at Duke from Kenya. I too felt some of the feelings that you are currently going through: the excitement of starting college abroad, the fear of being in a new country and school, the prospect of meeting people from other cultures, the homesickness and the longing to be in the comfort of family members, among others. However, you should be happy in the knowledge that you have arrived at a place that will not only serve as a fountain of knowledge for the next four years of your life, but will also become your home away from home. The friendships and connections that you will make here will be a big part of your life from now onwards.

One of the hardest things you will have to deal with as a first year international student is not knowing what to do in certain circumstances. Each and everyone of you was good at something in your previous schools. Now you are in a different country with its own norms and an environment where everyone is as good as you. When faced with such as a situation, don’t think your world is coming to an end. You just have to work a little bit more to find your place in this new environment. This is where your residential assistant, academic advisor, people from the International House and other students from your country/region become very important. So talk to them and they’ll guide you on what to do. They too had to deal with the same situations as you.

As you begin your academic journey at Duke, you should always keep in mind that you are in one of the best universities in the US. You therefore have to take the most advantage of the opportunities that Duke avails to you. Duke has great professors and you should learn from them both in the classroom and outside. I know from experience that some of them might be very intimidating inside of the lecture hall, but once you actually get to know them outside of class, you’ll know that all that is for show. So don’t let the theatrics stop you from getting to know them if you have an interest in their areas of research. I come from a culture where the words of the teacher in the classroom is the law and the incontestable truth. If you also come from the same background as me, be assured that you are now in a school that encourages open discussions in the classroom and should therefore come out of your comfort zone and voice your thoughts.  

Duke has a lot of research programs, and getting involved in them will go a long way in shaping your future. Duke also has a wonderful liberal education system that you should take full advantage of. Like I once was, I am sure some of you have misgivings about taking courses in fields that are not related to your areas of study. You come from different education systems, but the fact that you chose to come to Duke means that you are willing to give a chance to the education system that exists here. So take those T-req courses with gusto, you might just find your calling in one of them. You are now studying abroad, but Duke also offers undergraduate students a chance to study in other countries for a semester. I know that this might not sound like a good idea, especially after going through the culture shock that some of you will experience during your first year here, but it is a chance worth exploring. At this stage in your life, you should be open to new opportunities and cultures.

Being a Duke student also means engaging with the community in which you live and the society at large. So join student groups that have interests in community engagement and go out into Durham. You will get a chance to learn about and experience the lives of common Americans, something that you might never get if you just stay within the Duke confines. Before I came here, I had my own thoughts of what America might be like. When I came to Duke, I saw a part of it. When I participated in Project Change, a service-oriented pre-orientation program, I got a chance to experience the side of America that is not defined by Duke. The families of your friends from Duke will also show you their version of America. So if you happen to be invited to their homes for thanksgiving or winter break, accept their invitation and tag along.  

Above all, I urge you to have fun and enjoy your experience here to the fullest. If you are a sports fan, then you have come to the right school. Duke has a phenomenal school spirit. I remember going for my F-1 visa interview at the American Consulate in Nairobi and the interviewer asked me about the basketball rivalry between Duke and UNC and I had no clue what he was talking about, let alone why he was so excited about it. As a freshman, I remember wondering why any sane person would camp out in K-ville in the middle of the winter just so they can get to go to one basketball game. But I eventually became a die-hard blue devil, and all that seemed crazy before now makes a lot of sense. However, if you are not a big sports fan, don’t feel left out, there are many other campus communities that you can join. They are all out there waiting for you to discover and be a part of them.

Part of what makes Duke unique is that the students are very passionate about the things that they care about. You are now part of that culture by virtue of having chosen to pursue your studies here. If you have a cause that you are really passionate about, now is your time to press for that cause. All the good things that currently exist at Duke did not just happen to come by, it is because previous students set the course for what they are now. Now is your chance to do the same. At some point, you will have to stop being a visitor and start feeling at home.

I wish you all the best as you begin your journey at Duke. Thank you.  


 

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Flag of the Week - Andorra

Andorra, officially the Principality of Andorra, also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra, is a landlockedmicrostate in Southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe, having an area of 468 km2 (181 sq mi) and an estimated population of 85,000 in 2012. Its capital, Andorra la Vella, is the highest capital city in Europe, at an elevation of 1,023 metres (3,356 ft) above sea level. The official language is Catalan, although Spanish, Portuguese, and French are also commonly spoken.

Created under a charter in A.D. 988, the present Principality was formed in A.D. 1278. It is known as a principality as it is a monarchy headed by two Co-Princes – the Spanish/Roman Catholic Bishop of Urgell and the President of France/President of the French Republic.
Andorra is a prosperous country mainly because of its tourism industry, which services an estimated 10.2 million visitors annually, and because of its status as a tax haven, although it is in the process of reforming its tax regime. It is not a member of the European Union, but the euro is the de facto currency. It has been a member of the United Nations since 1993. The people of Andorra have the 3rd highest human life expectancy at birth in the world – 84 years.

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Guatemala

Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, Honduras to the east and El Salvador to the southeast. It spans an area of 108,890 km2 (42,043 sqmi) and has an estimated population of 15,438,384, making it the most populous state in Central America. A representative democracy, its capital is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City. Guatemala's abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems contributes to Mesoamerica's designation as a biodiversity hotspot.

The former Mayan civilization was a Mesoamerican civilization, which continued throughout the Post-Classic period until the arrival of the Spanish. They had lived in Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, the southern part of Mexico and eastern parts of El Salvador. After independence from Spain in 1821, Guatemala was a part of the Federal Republic of Central America and after its dissolution the country suffered much of the political instability that characterized the region during mid to late 19th century. Early in the 20th century, Guatemala had a mixture of democratic governments as well as a series of dictators, the last of which were frequently assisted by the United Fruit Company and the United States government. From 1960 to 1996, Guatemala underwent acivil war fought between the government and leftist rebels. Following the war, Guatemala has witnessed both economic growth and successful democratic elections. In the most recent election, held in 2011, Otto Pérez Molina of the Patriotic Party won the presidency.

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Flag of the Week - Uruguay

Uruguay, officially the Oriental Republic of Uruguay or the Eastern Republic of Uruguay, is a country in the southeastern region of South America. It is bordered by Argentina to its west and Brazil to its north and east, with the Atlantic Ocean to the south and southeast. Uruguay is home to 3.3 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the metropolitan area of its capital and largest city, Montevideo. With an area of approximately 68,000 square miles, Uruguay is geographically the second-smallest nation in South America after Suriname.

Uruguay remained largely uninhabited until the establishment of Colonia del Sacramento, one of the oldest European settlements in the country, by the Portuguese in 1680. Montevideo was founded as a military stronghold by the Spanish in the early 18th century, signifying the competing claims over the region. Uruguay won its independence between 1811 and 1828, following a four-way struggle between Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil. It remained subjected to foreign influence and intervention throughout the 19th century, with the military playing a recurring role in domestic politics until the late 20th century.

Modern Uruguay is a democratic constitutional republic, with a president who serves as both head of state and head of government. The government is considered to be one of the world's most democratic and the country is one of the freest in the world. There is complete separation of church and state in Uruguay, making it the most secular state in Latin America. Uruguay maintains progressive social policies, having recently legalized same-sex marriage and cannabis. Uruguay is also the first country in the world to provide a laptop for every primary school student. It frequently ranks as one of the most developed and prosperous countries in Latin America.

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Meet International Scholar Maria Christina Müller

March 2014

International Scholar Profile:
Maria Christina Müller
Country: Germany

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I am 27 years old and was born in the South of Bavaria, near Chiemsee. It is a very nice area, and the castle of Ludwig II is located there as well. I moved to Augsburg, where I studied to become a high school teacher. I was very interested in history, as well as German language and literature studies. After gaining my masters degree in history and education, I have since been working on my PhD in history. Currently, I am located at Duke’s Center for European Studies as a visiting scholar.

Can you tell us a bit about your PhD thesis?
My PhD thesis investigates delusions and hallucinations of patients during the mid 19th century until 1945. These records are all from one hospital, the Psychiatry of Kaufbeuren. I am not looking at the themes of delusions and hallucinations from a medical perspective, but rather a historical one. Through these records, I am able to see the beliefs and fears of the people from that time, and how they shifted with each year. For example, during the time of technological changes, many people heard voices of hallucinations in the telephone and radio or feared x-rays and magnetisms. During the 1920s and 1930s, many hallucinations about Hitler and other political rulers became more common.

Why did you decide to come to Duke?
Duke is very high ranked, even on the international rankings, and it is known as a place with many possibilities for me to do research. It is a pleasure for me to be able to come.

What is your impression on Durham?
Augsburg is perhaps a little bigger than Durham, but German cities are usually not so dispersed. Durham is a small but nice city, and seems to have everything you need like places to eat and go. I think that if I were planning to stay for a longer period, it would be important to have a car.

How did your expectations of the United States match up with reality?
This is my first time in the US, and some of my impressions of the United States were accurate. For instance, in Germany, we assume that Americans are always eating meat and burgers, and that seems to be the case. However, some things are very different. For example, Americans are very proud of their universities, and I got to see this when I went to Chapel Hill last weekend and watched a lacrosse game between UNC and Maryland. It was nice to see how lively it was. In Germany, students don’t usually stay on campus during the weekends because there is not much to do.

Did you have any culture shock?
I had culture shock in a positive way - the people here are very friendly and helpful. They are always smiling, open-minded, and pleasing. When I first arrived here, my associate director spent two hours showing me around the campus and drove me to the city. I felt very welcome.
However, I was very disturbed to see that the campus has its own police, signs that say you are not allowed to carry weapons on the bus or on campus, and services that bring students back home. Even if you are a little scared at night on a German campus, you don’t have the chance to call someone. On one hand, it’s disturbing, but on the other hand, it’s a good service.

What do you think of the people you have met at Duke so far?
Everyone has been very friendly. I’ve received tips for future funding and research. I’ve noticed that when you talk to someone, like a professor, their advice is much more positive and constructive. I think this is because they are more open-minded. I have met twice with a professor who does not study the time period I do, but has given me great advice. The experience was very positive and stimulating for my educational research. In Germany, it is not so easy to get in contact with somebody, and people are usually not so open to talk about a research topic that isn’t related to their own. The professor who invited me to come to Duke is more invested in Jewish studies and theology, but thought my research topic was interesting and told me she would like me to come.
It was a great experience to see how free the sciences can be. You get more help here, which is a great thing. German universities are usually more structured and people have less time. If there is an opportunity, I want to apply for a grant to last half a year, and compare my results with those of the United States to see differences or similarities in delusional and hallucinatory themes.

What do you miss about Germany?
I miss public transportation services because they are much easier and more convenient. The US has nice museums; in fact, I’m planning to go to the Nasher this weekend. I went to the Planetarium in Chapel Hill last weekend, and it was very nice.
I also miss the cultural life that comes with churches and older houses. From a historical perspective, Duke’s Gothic style architecture is not authentic, but its a beautiful environment to study at.

What do you do on a typical day?
On a typical day, I go to the office and work on my PhD. Right now I am at the stage where I am evaluating my sources. I often go to the library and work there, or I borrow some books and take them to my office. Sometimes I go to a lecture or have meetings with professors. I’ve been to the International House for their CLG talk on St. Patrick’s Day. It was very nice to learn about American traditions.

What are your future plans?
I am highly motivated to finish my PhD in one or two years. My huge desire is to publish it in English as well. If this isn’t possible, I would like to publish an article of it in English. I am attending a conference in Romania this July, and I will present my first paper about how hallucinations changed with technology.

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Flag of the Week - Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan, officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a contiguous transcontinental country in Central Asia. Kazakhstan is the world's largest landlocked country by land area and the ninth largest country in the world; its territory is larger than Western Europe. It has borders with Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, and also adjoins a large part of the Caspian Sea. The terrain of Kazakhstan includes flatlands, steppe, taiga, rock canyons, hills, deltas, snow-capped mountains, and deserts. With 17 million people (2013 estimate) Kazakhstan has the 62nd largest population in the world, though its population density is less than 6 people per square kilometre. The capital is Astana, where it was moved from Almaty in 1997.

    The territory of Kazakhstan has historically been inhabited by nomadic tribes. This changed in the 13th century, when Genghis Khan occupied the country. By the 16th century, the Kazakhs emerged as a distinct group, divided into three jüz (ancestor branches occupying specific territories). The Russians began advancing into the Kazakh steppe in the 18th century, and by the mid-19th century all of Kazakhstan was part of the Russian Empire. Following the 1917 Russian Revolution, and subsequent civil war, the territory of Kazakhstan was reorganized several times before becoming the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic in 1936, a part of the Soviet Union.

The current President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has been leader of the country since 1990. Since independence, Kazakhstan has pursued a balanced foreign policy and worked to develop its economy, especially its hydrocarbon industry.

   Kazakhstan is ethnically and culturally diverse, in part due to mass deportations of many ethnic groups to the country during Joseph Stalin's rule. Kazakhstan has 131 ethnicities, including Kazakh, Russian, Ukrainian, German, Uzbek, Tatar, and Uyghur. Around 63% of the population are Kazakhs. Islam is the religion of about 70% and Christianity is practiced by 26% of the population. The Kazakh language is the state language, while Russian has equal official status for all levels of administrative and institutional purposes.

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CLG workshop-History of Durham

Japan, Australia, Germany, New Zealand, China, England, Korea or Spain…we may come from all over, but we are coming to call Durham home. But with many of us never venturing beyond the ‘Duke Bubble’ what really do we know about our new home? Well, after CLG’s last workshop…lots!

We were lucky enough to have Michael Verville, weekend manager at the Museum of Durham History and marketing coordinator at the Visitors Center in Hillsborough, share his knowledge with us about Durham. We learnt all about the history of Durham from colonists, Washington Duke and tobacco and slavery and Civil Rights. It turns out that Durham has a really rich history with all sorts of interesting people and events.

Some of the questions from the audience brought out fun facts about Durham. For example: Is Durham related to the city of Durham in the UK? The answer is no, Durham is named after the Durham family who lived on the land where Durham railway station was built. Another: Why is Durham called “Bull City”? Durham was very famous for its world-class tobacco industry, and one of the tobacco companies used a bull for its trademark, launching the famous brand “Bull Durham Tobacco”.

If you want to know more about the history of Durham’s tobacco industry, visit the Tobacco Museum inside Duke Homestead where the Washington Duke family lived and farmed. Other interesting places to visit: Stagville, North Carolina’s largest pre-Civil War plantation and Bennett Place, where the Southern armies surrendered to the Union, ending the American Civil War.

And that is only the tip of the iceberg! Go for a walk around Durham, check out its amazing restaurants (dinner at ‘Toast” and then ice-cream at “The Parlour” is my personal favorite!) and embrace its quirky atmosphere.

Durham is our home. Start making an effort to get to know it!


Tierney Marey
Class of 2017 at Trinity School of Arts and Social Sciences
Sydney, Australia
 

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Flag of the Week - South Africa

South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa, is a country located at the southern tip of Africa. It has 2,798 km of coastline that stretches along the South Atlantic and Indian oceans. To the north lie the neighboring countries of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe; to the east are Mozambique and Swaziland; and within it lies Lesotho, an enclave surrounded by South African territory. South Africa is the 25th-largest country in the world by land area, and with close to 53 million people, is the world's 24th-most populous nation.

South Africa is a multiethnic society encompassing a wide variety of cultures, languages, and religions. Its pluralistic makeup is reflected in the constitution's recognition of 11 official languages, which is among the highest number of any country in the world. Two of these languages are of European origin: English and Afrikaans, the latter originating from Dutch and serving as the first language of most white and colored South Africans. Though English is commonly used in public and commercial life, it is only the fourth most-spoken first language.

About 80 percent of South Africans are of black African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different Bantu languages, nine of which have official status. The remaining population consists of Africa's largest communities of European, Asian, and multiracial ancestry. All ethnic and linguistic groups have political representation in the country's constitutional democracy, which comprises a parliamentary republic and nine provinces. Since the end of apartheid, South Africa's unique multicultural character has become integral to its national identity, as signified by the Rainbow Nation concept.

South Africa is ranked as an upper-middle income economy by the World Bank, and is considered to be a newly industrialized country. Its economy is the largest and most developed in Africa, and the 28th-largest in the world. In terms of purchasing power parity, South Africa has the seventh-highest per capita income in Africa, although poverty and inequality remain widespread, with about a quarter of the population unemployed and living on less than US$1.25 a day. Nevertheless, South Africa has been identified as a middle power in international affairs, and maintains significant regional influence.

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