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Global Scholar, Global Perspectives: Alora Martin ’18 Alora Martin, who is participating in an intensive language program for Arabic in Amman, Jordan, sees studying abroad as a necessary part of a modern education.

“There is only so much you can learn while sitting in the classroom. Not even considering the gains you make with foreign language skills, the life skills and expanded perspective you develop are enormously important.”

Alora Martin ‘18 sees studying abroad as a necessary part of a modern education.

Q. Where are you right now and what are you doing there?

I am participating in an Intensive Language program for Arabic in Amman, Jordan.

Q. How many students are you with?

About 40, from various schools and programs.

Q. Where are you living?

We all live in the same apartment building and, in each apartment, there are two to three American students paired with a native, Jordanian roommate.

Q. How did you discover this program?

Assistant Director of Career Development Kip Brooks suggested it to me after she visited last fall. She was thoroughly impressed by their dedication to language development. Knowing I was looking to expand my Arabic skills, she recommended that I check it out.

“This is Jerash amphitheater. A Bedouin man comes to Jerash every day to play traditional and modern songs on his bagpipe. He even knew the Star-Spangled Banner!”

Q. Does your study abroad tie into your studies or major?

Absolutely! I have focused my classes on Middle Eastern studies and international politics since my freshman year. This has been a great opportunity to see many of the concepts I’ve studied play out in real life.

Q. Have you had any other study abroad or international experiences at W&L?

Yes, I had the pleasure of studying the Chemistry of Cooking with Dean Marcia France in Italy during spring term my freshman year.

Q. What has been your favorite thing you ate abroad?

There’s is a family-style, Yemeni restaurant down the street with the most amazing food! You order a couple of different dishes for everyone in the group to share and then you eat it all with pieces torn from this massive flat bread they bring to your table.

“This is me pouring out some pancakes with a gentlemen who has worked in this same stall for over 40 years! These pancakes are a little bit different from American pancakes though in that they are a lot less sweet and mostly eaten only during the month of Ramadan.”

Q. What is your favorite memory from the trip so far?

My favorite memory would be the first weekend I spent with the family of my language partner, Aareen. I was so absolutely overwhelmed by the love and generosity they showed me! It felt as if the second I stepped into the door I become one of the family. At this point in the program I had been feeling terribly homesick, so being in a family environment again really helped me to get through the rest of my time abroad.  

Q. What will you miss most?

Undoubtedly, my language partner and her family.

Q. What advice would you give to students who might want to study abroad but are unsure?

Do your research and talk to other students who have studied abroad in the region you are looking into. Also, it’s important to be very realistic about your expectations. When I went into this I had very idealistic expectations based on students’ experiences in other regions. The experience you are going to have in a European country is so, so different from the experience you are going to have in a Middle Eastern country or really anywhere else. There are certain luxuries that you need to prepare yourself to live without. Studying abroad can be a wonderful, fun adventure, but it can also be one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your life. So, in summary, have an honest conversation with yourself about whether you are open to growing in ways you didn’t know you needed.

Q. Why is study abroad important to the W&L experience?

First off, W&L is an amazing learning environment with an incredibly skilled and accomplished faculty. However, there is only so much you can learn while sitting in the classroom. Not even considering the gains you make with foreign language skills, the life skills and expanded perspective you develop are enormously important to being a competitive candidate in today’s increasingly globalized job market.

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A little more about Alora

Hometown:
Alamogordo, New Mexico

Major:
International Politics

Extracurricular involvement:
– Association of Middle East Interests
– QuestScholars
– Cheerleading

Off-campus activities/involvement:
During university breaks, I work as a sales associate at Victoria’s Secret in Roanoke, and during the summers you can find me in the District of Columbia! Last summer I interned on the Hill for Senator Martin Heinrich, and I hope to be working in the district again soon. In my free time during the school year, I like to attend Outing Club paddle-boarding trips (my all-time favorite water activity), go for hikes in the Rockbridge County area, and spend time with my sorority sisters.

Why did you choose your major?
When I first started to design my class schedule for Fall Term freshman year, I had my heart set on being a biomedical engineer. But as soon as I found out I would need to take a calculus class, I had a quick change of heart. As I sat there contemplating my near-approaching future, I thought back to how much I enjoyed my AP Government class, as well as my roles in student council throughout high school. I have always been interested in cultures with their varied perspectives, so this combined with my natural inclination towards politics led me straight to the International Politics major.

What professor has inspired you?
That would have to be a tie between Professor Seth Cantey and Professor Anthony Edwards. Together, they have inspired me to pursue my interests in Middle Eastern studies even when the going gets rough. If it were not for their constant encouragement and support, I would have thrown in the towel a long time ago!

What’s your personal motto?
Everything happens for a reason.

What’s your favorite song right now?
My favorite song always has and always will be “Hotel California” by the Eagles.

Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
Bistro on Main, where I order the duck breast dinner entree. It is cooked and seasoned to perfection every time! If you haven’t tried it yet, you definitely have to try it the next time you’re downtown.

What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
That I would need a coat. And gloves. And thick socks. And warm boots. And maybe just a full body parka.

Post-graduation plans:
Perhaps working on the Hill? Perhaps working with a policy consulting firm? Who knows!

Favorite W&L memory:
So, freshman year I bought these giant body pillows from Walmart, and during midterms a couple of us “skied” up and down the hallway on them! It was hilariously ridiculous but a great way to relieve stress.

Favorite class:
Washington and the Art of Leadership

Favorite W&L event:
Fancy Dress! I am never one to turn down the opportunity to wear an evening gown!

Favorite campus landmark:
Woods Creek Trail

What’s your passion?
This may sound simple, but people are my passion. I love ’em! I love getting to know people, hearing their stories, coming to understand them, developing interpersonal connections, etc. A lot of times people get so wrapped up in social infrastructure that they forget that people are just people at the end of the day. Regardless if you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a fruit seller in a rural village, we are all human and we all share many of the same basic hopes, fears and insecurities.

What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
You know when it rains really hard and all the earthworms get stranded on the sidewalks after escaping the flooded grass? Well, I always feel bad for the little guys, so if they are still alive I put them back in the grass (once it has dried up a bit, of course).

Why did you choose W&L?
I was immediately attracted to the Honor System. It is so important for me to feel like part of a community and especially one in which I don’t feel the need to doubt the intentions of my peers.