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Santa Monica College Staff Visits Turkey

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By Lookout Staff

September 18, 2015 -- After visiting a mosque during Ramadan, exploring the underground cities of Cappadocia or learning the traditional way to hammer a cymbal, Santa Monica College (SMC) staff members returned from Turkey this summer with a different perspective. 

The two-week visit was part of SMC’s “Global Citizenship” initiative launched in 2008 “to enrich (the college’s) diverse culture through curriculum, extracurricular activities, study abroad programs – and overseas professional development for staff,” college officials said.

The 18 SMC academic and support staff traveled to the Republic of Turkey – which is one of SMC’s top 10 sources of international students who come from 110 nations– for an intensive two-week study tour at Bahçeşehir University (BAU) in Istanbul.

The tour “featured lectures on topics such as Turkey’s multilayered history, mix of cultures and religions, and issues and trends facing it today,” city officials said. It also included an excursion to the historical region of Cappadocia.

“The group explored Istanbul and its surroundings, and took part in activities that would enhance individual expertise,” colle officials said.

Among those participating was SMC music professor Shanon Zusman, who attended Istanbul’s annual jazz festival, as well as a classical music festival in a 6th-century Christian church.

Zusman visited an oud maker’s shop, learned to hammer a cymbal and, he said, came home with “an invigorated sense of being curious again and wanting to really learn about a non-European country’s history.”

Peggy Kravitz, international education counselor at SMC, found “a country with mostly Muslim residents – we heard the call to prayer five times a day – but saw women in very modern clothing, as well as fully-covered.” There are more than 3,000 mosques in Istanbul.

SMC business professor Aileen Huang was struck by the visit to Cappadocia and its UNESCO-designated World Heritage Center that features an erosion-sculpted landscape.

“You just don’t get to see those kinds of mountain formations and underground cities and caves,” Huang said.

Huang now wants her accounting students to focus on the impact of international companies. “What are they doing overseas?” she said “How are they acting like global citizens?”

Dan Nannini, SMC’s Transfer Center faculty leader, said the Istanbul Archeology Museum gave him “a true appreciation for the 5,000-year history of this part of the world, and the complexity of the people who have ruled, rebelled, been subjugated, conquered, and all the things one can attribute to ‘civilization.’”

Administrative assistant Consuelo Cardenas said that “sharing my experience with others can change their perspective, but it’s nothing like actually being there.”

To find out about the experiences of others on the study tour, visit for their stories. For information about SMC’s study abroad programs for students, see or call the International Education Center at (310) 434-4217.

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