By Greta Petry
From Albany, the road leads to
Moscow, Beijing, and countless other cities and towns abroad. Over the
years, thousands of students have taken that road.
But now, the University is stepping up efforts
to encourage even greater numbers of students to travel that road—both
to and from Albany for the benefits are even more important in today’s
Alumnus Michael Harvey, M.A.’84, C.A.S.’86, exemplifies
the benefits. Today Harvey lives in Moscow and is employed by the International
Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank, where he
has spent three years working at privatizing land and reorganizing farms.
He credits his study-abroad experience with opening the door to his international
Beyond broadening career choices, study abroad
clearly offers participants a greater awareness of other cultures.
Yvonne Henze, a graduate English student at
Albany from the Technical University at Braunschweig, Germany, dealt with
culture shock on her first trip to an American grocery store.
She was amazed to find stripes of peanut butter and jelly being sold
in glass jars, and had never seen blue Jell-O before. When a man started
putting her food in a bag, she did a double-take: she thought he was stealing
her groceries. In Germany she bags her own groceries.
Anike Roche of Brooklyn, who graduated in May, spent the previous fall
in the Dominican Republic. She learned to greet everyone in the room with
a kiss on the cheek. “It’s not like the U.S., where you would walk into
a room and only say hello to those whom you already know,” she said. “That
would be considered rude.”
“We want to broaden our students’ educational
experience by introducing them to new cultures and people from around the
world. It’s part of the University’s strategic plan to make Albany an international
university,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Judy
Genshaft, who earlier this year headed a delegation from Albany to Moscow
to celebrate a partnership with Moscow State University that is 21 years
With help from Assemblyman Edward Sullivan,
(D-New York City), chair of the state Assembly Committee on Higher Education,
the University received $100,000 in state funding last year to increase
the number of students who study abroad and to integrate international
education and research into the curriculum. Another $100,000 has been appropriated
Under the Sullivan Initiative, the goal is
for 10 percent of the graduating class—an estimated 300 students—to study
abroad for a semester by the
year 2002. Last year, by contrast, approximately 135 Albany students
studied abroad. Travel grants are being developed for round trip airfare
to countries whose official language is Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish
or Arabic, according to Alex Shane, director of International Programs.
At one time study abroad was the exclusive
domain of juniors and seniors who were often advanced foreign language
students. Newer programs are being geared for sophomores and possibly even
freshmen, and for students beginning language study.
Study abroad builds a global awareness in
students and gives them a different perspective on life and the world,
noted Shane. “Students are going through a maturation process and study
abroad accelerates that. The students discover that they are representatives
of American culture and that their own assumptions about our culture are
not shared by the rest of the world,” he added.
Yvonne Henze voiced a common sentiment expressed
by students who opt for the adventure of life outside of their native country.
“The best thing for me was and still is to
see that I can handle my life on my own even in another country without
my friends and the environment I am used to,” she said. “Every little thing
you can handle is a feeling of success.”
Last year there were 742 international students
at the University from more than 70 countries. Albany has approximately
70 agreements with institutions in other countries, and students have access
to 300 SUNY study abroad programs.
The University has long had international ties. It was the first institution
in the nation to establish a partnership with Russia.
Alumnus Harvey, who now lives in Moscow, joined
the Russian master’s program at Albany in 1982, living in a residence hall
with eight students from Moscow.
“I remember watching with them, on TV, the
touchdown of the first U.S. shuttle, as well as news of Leonid Brezhnev’s
death in the fall of 1982,” he noted.
“After my first year of Russian study at Albany,
I found a summer job on Russian trawlers in the north Pacific for a Soviet-American
joint venture,” wrote Harvey in an
e-mail from Russia. “I lived and worked on these trawlers for 69 days
interpreting radio traffic between Soviet captains and U.S. fishermen who
delivered fish directly to the trawlers in U.S. waters.” He learned to
recognize various species of fish and reported this information to the
U.S. fishermen so they were sure of being paid fairly.
“After the U.S.S.R. invaded Afghanistan, former
President Jimmy Carter placed a wheat embargo on exports to Russia and
forbade its trawlers from catching fish in U.S. waters. An enterprising
fellow realized that underemployed U.S. fishermen could catch the fish
for the Soviets and deliver it at sea to them. It was a fantastic adventure,”
said Harvey. An article and photos about the joint American-Soviet enterprise
appeared in Life magazine in August 1983.
In September 1983, Harvey left the ship and flew to Moscow, where he
studied at Moscow State University.
“The semester abroad was incredible,” wrote
Harvey. “To summarize the experience though, I’d say that I left the U.S.S.R.
hating the Soviet system, but loving the Russian people and their culture.
I was addicted to learning more about them and wanting to work more with
On a visit to the Albany campus in 1987 to see his former professors,
Harvey saw a notice on the bulletin board that asked, “How would you like
to travel around the Soviet Union, meet a lot of Russians and get paid
This led to a job with the U.S. Information
Agency to work on cultural exchange exhibits that opened every two months
in cities across the U.S.S.R.
“My study of Russian at the University at
Albany opened doors to amazing adventures and experiences,” wrote Harvey.
“I am very grateful to the professors at Albany who opened my eyes to Russian
Over the past two decades 149 graduate students
and 66 undergraduates from the University have studied in Moscow. During
that same time, 61 graduate students and 68 undergraduates from Moscow
State University have studied in Albany.
Albany has also long had ties to other parts
of the world. Last November, several alumni who studied Chinese at Albany
in the 1970s were reunited in Beijing at the bar mitzvah of Ari Lee, the
son of Mike (Pui-Chick) Lee, B.S.’81, and Elyse Beth Silverberg, B.A.’79.
In a recent e-mail from China, Silverberg
wrote, “I left for China in 1979 on our study abroad program and have been
here ever since. My husband, Michael, and I have made China our home.”
Family, friends, and the entire Jewish community of Beijing attended. Albany
alumni included Mark Cohen, B.A.’76, Lawrence Pemble, B.A.’79, Erica Marcus,
B.A.’78, and Walter Stryker Jr., B.A.’81.
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