The International Liaison


June – a rare moment where Quinnipiac University is quiet. Students, faculty, and staff enjoy a break after a long spring semester. But for Nicole Kurker-Stewart, the assistant director for international students and programs, it’s time to meet Quinnipiac’s next class of international students.

Sitting behind her desk in a small office on the second level of Quinnipiac’s Athletic Center, the 28-year-old described her job.


“A lot of it is doing the immigration paperwork for international students,” she said, sitting arrow-straight in her office chair. She continued, “so issuing the initial I-20s, maintaining the I-20s while they are here, and doing work authorization.”

An I-20 is one of the key documents for international students in the U.S. This three-pager is both the first step toward a student visa and – besides the actual visa – a must-have at the port of entrance.

“Aside from the immigration aspect,” she continued after a brief pause, “it’s also programing for the students, we do two to three events each semester for the students and in addition to that, we have what’s called international education week.”

This week takes place every fall. Campuses across the nation become the stage to celebrate the global aspects of studying in the U.S.

Kurker-Stewart continued and explained the part of her job that finally puts faces to the names.

There’s an international student orientation period each semester, “which runs for a week in the fall and a couple of days in the spring to get the students acclimated.”

Getting to know the students is “very fun, it’s very rewarding. Because a lot of times there have been multiple emails and I’ve seen their passport picture, but that’s (it). They don’t know who I am, so it’s nice to finally have them here.”

“Introducing them to the campus,” she added, “making sure they’re going to be set up OK. It’s fun; it’s one of the better parts of my job.”

Orientation comes with a special element Quinnipiac offers its incoming internationals.

“We do what’s called global partners,” Kurker-Stewart said. “Current students – they could be international, they could be domestic – and they volunteer to help incoming students transition into Quinnipiac.”

Kurker-Stewart works in a team that is dedicated to international education. The Office of Multicultural and Global Education (OMGE) takes all international students under its wings. But it’s also the place to go for American students who want to study abroad.

Andrea Hogen is the director for global education. As Kurker-Stewart’s boss, the 40-year-old oversees the academic international activity on campus.

While Hogan directs Quinnipiac’s efforts to grow and maintain a global student body, Kurker-Stewart acts.

“As far as maintaining our relationship with the Department of Homeland Security (is concerned),” Hogan explained, “I’m in charge of that, but Nicole is doing the day-to-day operations – immigration advising, cultural adjustments for students, and resolving issues of helping the students to live here.”

Documents and folders seized Hogan’s desk. Describing Kurker-Stewart as “organized, diligent, and dedicated to her work and the students”, she admired how her employee could handle multiple tasks at once.

Talking about organizing life at the OMGE, Hogan remembered the events of one night shortly before the start of a semester. The airport pick-up of an incoming student didn’t follow standard procedures.

“I’ll never forget,” she said. “I got a call, maybe at midnight, from our bus company, saying, ‘We don’t have the student, where is the student?’ “

She paused, and then continued interrupted by laughter, “I didn’t have their reservation. So I texted Nicole – at midnight – and she texted back, saying, ‘I have it, I can forward it to you.’ ”

“She forwarded it to me,” Hogan said, “and we could resolve the situation, and got the student to campus.”

Kurker-Stewart outlined the reasons why the OMGE has decided to offer their global partners program.

“It’s not new that we’ve had international students, but it’s new that we’ve had these growing numbers. There are certain needs that the international student population has that become more visible.”

The international student population at Quinnipiac as of the beginning of the fall semester 2013
The international student population at Quinnipiac as of the beginning of the fall semester 2013

Since Hogan and Kurker-Stewart are on their own when it comes to working directly with international students, orientation-week has evolved into a hectic time.

“We would end up taking students to get bedding and that kinda thing,” Kurker-Stewart said, “and we figured (we would need support).”

And the Quinnipiac community was the pool the OMGE went fishing. On Wednesday, April 30, 2014, training took place to better prepare global partners for their jobs.

Standing comfortably in front of the small group of next semester’s global partners, Kurker-Stewart pointed to cultural differences they might encounter when interacting with people from other backgrounds.

What global partners should be aware of is “about social competency,” she said in her calming voice. “And these (examples) all come from stories that actually happened here.”

She turned slightly and pointed toward the projection of a presentation, then continued. “Physical contact, for example. We had a student from Brazil, who said that everybody was extremely cold and mean here. They don’t smile. They don’t hug. But then again, you have somebody coming from Asia, for example, and it’s different, it’s just a different concept.”

Pointing the Quinnipiac community in the right direction when it comes to dealing with people from foreign cultures is one of the tasks on Nicole Kurker-Stewart’s agenda. But the global partners program needs some maintenance behind the scenes as well.

Besides developing an application form, raising awareness on campus for the program, and collecting incoming applications, there is also the process of reviewing the candidates, and notifying the new global partners.

Beyond getting global partners up to speed with their new role in the student community, Kurker-Stewart needs to keep an eye on everything. “I’m checking in with people throughout the semester, and then at the end, which is really important, I’m getting the evaluations, the feedback from students who were global partners.”

The OMGE wants to know what worked and what didn’t. And they are open to incorporate suggestions for the next year.

With a surprised smile, she stopped explaining her involvement with global partners and said, “I left out matching people, that happens as soon as we know the numbers, which is usually by June.”

The group should be balanced. While the duos should have a common thread to make the connection easier, it remains a goal to create a diverse group.

“We’ve got global partners who’ve studied in Spain for this semester,” Kurker-Stewart said, “so we’re gonna try to match them with incoming people from South America.”

One student will spend the summer in China, “so we’re gonna try to match her with a Chinese student. They have things in common. That’s what we are trying to do.”

But success is not always guaranteed. “Sometimes it works out,” she said, “sometimes it doesn’t.”

Creating a place for the community to foster cultural competency is the driving force behind another initiative powered by the OMGE – the Hola Café.

Aileen Dever, associate professor of modern languages, explained. “Hola stands for Hispanic and International Organization of Leaders in Action, and what we wanna do is to spark interest here in the United States, in this particular university.”

The casual gatherings in the campus cafeteria are supposed to get people “talking about intellectual topics,” Dever said. “And really going beyond the surface, finding out about other cultures.”

“We want to have themes,” she added. “For example, we talked about what does the topic of love mean in different cultures. How was it represented, in terms of colors, in terms of literature, in terms of how people regard each other. So we had the Chinese perspective, we had someone from Norway; we had lots of different perspectives.”

Dever has known Nicole from her time as an undergrad. Having her as a student in Spanish 301 and 302, the professor said, “she had a deep interest in languages, which ties in to the work she is doing here.”

“She is a liaison between the international students and the university community,” Dever added. “She helps students understand what a U.S. institution is like, and the opportunities that are available to them. She is a resource for them in terms of information. And I think also someone whom they can trust, and feel very comfortable with.”

Dever sat comfortably in a tan leather armchair on the upper level of the cafeteria. With a quick glance out the window, she began to reminisce.

“Any dealing that I’ve ever had with Nicole is always been positive. Because she truly is looking at it, ‘OK, this is what we wanna do, how are we going about doing it’.”

“She is one of those can-do people,” the professor added. “Not, ‘OK, here are all the obstacles’, no, ‘OK, this is what we wanna accomplish, how can we do it’. That I find wonderful about Nicole.”

When the path an international student shares with Quinnipiac comes to its end, some arrive at a crossroads. Thousands of miles away from home, but with freshly developed roots in the new world, students need to find their bearings.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is one resource students can use to guide them. Available to all international students, OPT provides the opportunity to add up to one year of work experience – without a need for a new visa – to the international student experience.

Incomplete paperwork is the only reason why OPT could be denied. While universities with a larger student body tend to leave the work to the students, “Quinnipiac tends to be more involved in the process,” Kurker-Stewart said.

“We do one-on-ones,” she explained. “We ask the student to be prepared with all these documents. We issue the I-20, and we put everything together, take a copy, and then the student mails it out.”

One of the students currently going through this process is a Malayan law student, who is approaching graduation and wants to add work experience in the U.S.[*]

With dozens of documents next to her on the table, she sat in Kurker-Stewart’s office for her one-on-one meeting on Monday, April 28.

One of the first topics during those OPT meetings is the start date for the OPT. But besides finalizing some details in the paperwork and collecting all documents, Kurker-Stewart guides students through the legal jungle.

Traveling is one of those areas where students need to know their responsibilities. Turning away from the computer screen in front of her, she faced the student and asked, “Well, do you have travel plans?”

“The safest bet is to say,” she continued immediately, “if you’re going to be traveling on OPT, it’s best to do so once you have a job, once you have the EAD card (Employment Authorization Document). The most diligent time to travel is between when you finish and when you get approved (for OPT). It doesn’t mean that you can’t. Some people do and have no problems. But you could.”

“And what do they do? the student chimed in. “They kick you out of the country after you’ve actually arrived?”

“When you come back in?” Nicole returned.

She nodded. “Yeah, what would they do if they rejected me?”

Kurker-Stewart explained that there’s room for errors if an immigration officer has not received training in OPT. “They would look (on page one of your) I-20,” she said, “which will still say May 20. They’re supposed to be looking at page three, which will say ‘on OPT’.”

The young Malayan looked concerned. “That would happen in the foreign country or in the U.S.?”

“That would be when you’re trying to enter,” Kurker-Stewart responded, “so when you’re going through customs in the U.S., in JFK or wherever.”

She added that “it’s only happened to two of our students in the four or five years I’ve been here. So, if you do travel while you’re on OPT, in addition to all the usual stuff – the I-20 and the visa – you would wanna take the OPT card and a job offer letter, and usually people don’t have a problem. It’s just something to keep in mind. Cause the system is not perfect.”

OPT marks the end of a student’s journey at Quinnipiac. The part that closes the circle for some international students elicits mixed emotions in Kurker-Stewart.

“Especially with the students I know better,” she said, “it’s a little sad, but it’s exciting. It’s just neat to see where they are going. If I know the student well, I usually say a few words.”

“A lot of them go on to get doctorates or become big shots in their countries. So it’s fun to say I know them,” she concluded with a smile.


* Name taken out as per request of the student


Quinnipiac Celebrates Earth Day

FS_2014_00172_Earth Day Fair
Quinnipiac students interacting with natural elements during Earth Day Fair

Quinnipiac University invited members of the community to celebrate Earth Day on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. The Earth Day Fair took place on the university’s Mt. Carmel campus. Students, professors, and people from the community roamed the campus lawns. Among the attractions were pottery demonstrations, the Animal Embassy, an exhibition of a biology class, and a beekeeper.

Earth Day is a global event that tries to raise awareness of environmental issues. Peace activist John McConnell founded it in 1969. While the event was limited to the U.S. during the first years, it has become an international phenomenon over time. The Earth Day Network, founded in 1990, has brought Earth Day to communities all over the world.

Based in Guilford, Conn., pottery maker David Frank welcomed the opportunity to celebrate Mother Earth by “offering an opportunity to see pottery be thrown and seeing the finished product.”

Frank said that this year was his first Earth Day participation at Quinnipiac. But, the veteran ceramist went on, “I have done things (events) at Quinnipiac in the past and I have done shows in the past. I’ve made pots for my living since 1969, so I’ve done a lot of shows.”

The Animal Embassy tent was almost constantly surrounded by a large number of people. The organization is a safe haven for adopted and rescued animals across the spectrum. In addition, the Animal Embassy is all about educating people about animals and “the diversity of life on Earth.”

Holding a small corn snake in her hands, Jenn Torres, animal care and education specialist with the Animal Embassy, explained further. “We rescue them and any chances we get to re-release them, we do.”

“This is an un-releasable snake,” she said, speaking in a rapid voice, “because this one was born and bred in captivity. It was given to us because (the owners) were bored with it, they didn’t want ‘em anymore – just ridiculous.”

Surrounded by people, she pointed toward her intern, who was holding a massive rabbit in his arms that caused astonished looks from everyone. “That rabbit,” she said, “they didn’t think it was gonna get this big. Maybe researching the animal you get would be a good idea.”

Talking about one of the gray tree frogs they had brought to the fair, Torres said, “It is a naturally occurring frog. Some lady was really nice, (she) saw it crossing the street, got out of her car, put it in her pocket, and brought it to the Animal Embassy and was like, ‘I don’t want it to die’.”

Torres and her team took care of the frog, implemented it into their educational programs over the winter, and plan to release it back into its natural environment next week.

Another popular element of the Earth Day Fair was an exhibition put together by Professor Dennis Richardson and his biology class. The course about Invertebrate Zoology is intended, according to Richardson, “to get people interested in invertebrates. And, you know, people are afraid of ‘em, but if you think about it, most animals on this planet are invertebrates. And they’re really kinda cute.”

“Did you guys all hear the cockroach hiss?” He asked the crowd.

“No,” responded a woman in the audience.

“Come on over,” Richardson said. “I’ll show you why we call them hissing cockroaches.” The woman stepped back with a horrified look on her face. “Oh come on,” he responded playfully. “Come on guys,” said one of Richardson’s students, trying to draw the people closer to the table.

“They don’t fly,” the professor took over again, “ (and) they don’t run. And you have the cockroach banana bread, no, I’m just kiddin’.” The people around him laughed in relief.

He found the creature he was looking for and called everyone to come closer. He gently touched the back of a cockroach and thus elicited a hissing sound.

“I don’t like that.” Said a woman from the audience. Another woman asked where these creatures could be found. “These are native to Madagascar,” Richardson said, which caused sighs of relief from the crowd.

“What we have here,” said Richardson while walking over to the next table, “is two of the most common house spiders that you see around your house. And there is absolutely no reason to kill these guys.”

He explained the common cellar spider (aka daddy long-legs), a usual guest in most American basements. “Have you ever heard anything of the daddy long-legs, of their biology?” He asked around, and continued without waiting for answers. “They say that it’s the most deadly venom on earth, but that’s just absolutely not true.”

While Professor Richardson finished his presentation by talking about scorpions, the adjacent beekeeper’s stand sparked interest from visitors.

“There’s been a lot of issues for the last eight years with bees,” said Mark Creighton, Connecticut’s State Beekeeper and Bee-Inspector. “Bees are on decline, many bees are dying, and we wonder why, right? Well, our agricultural practices have changed.”

Creighton continued, talking about the introduction of new chemicals into the environment. “We don’t know the synergies between all of those chemicals. And see, in a hive, the wax is like a sponge, so it absorbs all the chemicals from the environment.”

Besides these more educational elements, the fair offered organically grown food, a henna tattoo stand, information about the State Park, and a raffle.

Quinnipiac’s Chief of Public Safety, David Barger, roamed the campus as well. Being there “to check on the event and enjoy a cupcake,” the Chief summed up the Earth Day Fair as “a great event, something that the entire Quinnipiac community could get involved in.”

Home is Home

Dennis Ampadu in a rare moment of leisure at the Carl Hansen Student Center, Quinnipiac University

Nsawam Road is a major traffic vein in Accra, Ghana. The burning winter sun made the waiting period onboard the rusty but trusty Tro-Tro difficult. With temperatures around 90 degrees and a humidity level of 80 percent, the traffic jam just a mile from Kwame Nkrumah Circle, a major traffic hub for the downtown area, was a frustrating experience. Exhaust smoke sneaked through the wide holes where one would usually find windows. The air inside the van was increasingly difficult to breath, but for Dennis Ampadu, this is home.

The Quinnipiac senior sat comfortably at a small table in the Mount Carmel cafeteria. His hair was short and pitch-black. The stark-blue Chelsea soccer jersey made him stand out.

“Just being able to walk dusty roads,” he said while putting his cup of iced coffee down, “have exhaust smoke in the air, that kinda exposure gives you a certain type of feeling that brings you home.”

Studying in the U.S. has been the goal for Dennis Ampadu ever since high school.

“I wanted the exposure,” he explained. “I wanted to get out and go somewhere different. All over the world, we know that America is a great country. America is known for a lot of advanced technology and producing a lot of well-educated people. So it wasn’t out of the norm to say you wanted to study in America. I knew I would be getting a good education.”

Applying to universities abroad was a stressful experience. Besides taking the SAT and picking the right schools to apply to, the search for good scholarships defined his search for the right university.

While advisors during that time usually recommended to find locations where the climate wasn’t too drastically different from what Ghanaians are used to, Dennis had set himself deviating priorities. He wanted to see a realistic chance of being accepted by the school. The support through a good scholarship was a decisive element as well.

He chose Quinnipiac without having set foot on the campus, a risk he was willing to take.

“One of the reasons why I came here – to Quinnipiac in particular – was because of the scholarship,” he said.

“It was nonchalant,” he said about his reasons for giving Quinnipiac the advantage. “I didn’t care too much. I was more interested in the exposure of getting outside of Ghana than anything.”

Nearly five years later, Dennis is closing in on the completion of his Bachelor’s degree. Majoring in biochemistry, the young Ghanaian embraced the additional year to minor in mathematics and take some extra biology classes.

He decided to go this extra mile to get the most out of the experience, and receive the best possible preparation for his future.

Quinnipiac is “a great school,” he said. “Teachers devote time to you. And so you are able to get the best out of them. The educational system here is rigorous. It saps everything out of you. It’s very intense. It’s instilling a habit of work ethic. You have to constantly be working at what you wanna be good at.”

“That’s one thing that I’ve learned being here in the U.S.,” he continued, “that you can achieve anything as long as you keep working.”

Studying at Quinnipiac has elicited a development. “You have to study. I’ve realized that you have to study. I’ve had to consistently put in effort to achieve good grades, which I wasn’t used to doing. But I’ve learned that, I’ve developed a sense of work ethic. Quinnipiac has helped me to develop my confidence as a person.”

When talking about his future, Dennis straightened up as if searching for a thought to begin with. He hesitated and said that it was a “huge question.”

“My plan is to go home and do med school,” he added. “Depending on how well I excel, I’m going to apply for a residency outside. I wanna switch up and go to Europe.”

The exact destination for his residency is still in the works, but if he finds the time to improve his French skills, he would prefer to work there because his family background is partially French.

Afterward, the immediate goal is to help the family.

“I wanna be a doctor,” he explained. “My dad is setting up a clinic and I wanna be able to – at some point – support him.”

Family is important for him. “Home is home,” he said. “I miss a lot of things about home.”

His pitch-black eyes lit up while he continued to talk about his family and spending time with his high school friends. After taking a sip from his iced coffee, he continued.

“I miss speaking my mother tongue. While I was in high school, we just came up with words that are not even like the local language. It’s not even recognized by our parents, you come up with a dialect amongst your friends, you all understand it. It’s just weird things like this that I miss.”

It took three and a half years before Dennis was able to head back home for Christmas 2012. But the benefits from studying at Quinnipiac make it worth the effort.

“When you really get to know someone here,” he explained, “it’s a genuine relationship. I feel that the friends I have made here,” he paused for a few second and knocked on the table before continuing, “will be lifelong friends because it is a very important time of your life, you’re realizing a lot of things about yourself, what you’re capable of (and) what you’re not capable of.”

The confidence he developed through Quinnipiac lets him think about long-term goals as well.

“I have bigger goals in terms of what I wanna do for the medical establishment,” Dennis said with a smile.

While the details are still in the works, the dream he has is already clear.

“I want to see that somehow our medical system worldwide has been impacted in terms of there is healthcare available everywhere in the world, and available at an affordable price.”

Quinnipiac was the right choice for him. They are “producing a lot of good students,” he said. “Most of my colleagues got into very good PhD. schools. They are doing very well right now.”

“I didn’t regret it, you know,” he said about his decision to choose Quinnipiac. “It worked out really well for me.”

The Day That Changed The World

Vanity Fair – by Guy Denning (Own workGuy Denning) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
Vanity Fair – by Guy Denning (Own workGuy Denning) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons
I still remember the small black tube TV that I had running in my room on Sept. 11, 2001. I had just returned home from school. With lunch behind and homework in front of me, I was about to turn the TV off. But the smoke-filled screen sparked my interest.

“World Trade Center hit by plane,” was the announcement the news channel kept repeating. They were speculating about what had happened. Was it an accident? But how could a plane get even anywhere near a skyscraper? No one knew. But I was hooked. I pulled a chair and watched.

I still remember the shock racing through my body when I saw the live footage of the second plane crashing into tower number two. I couldn’t believe what I saw. It didn’t take long now – as far as I can remember – before the word terrorism appeared for the first time.

I was eighteen when terrorism did not just change everything about life in America, but also worldwide.

I remember that I had trouble getting to sleep that night. Everyday school life was disrupted. The principal spoke to all students in the schoolyard the day after the attacks. Regular class topics were dropped. Instead, we talked about what happened, trying to make sense of the events.

Over 3,000 miles, the wideness of the Atlantic, six hours of time difference, and a language barrier couldn’t change the fact that this Tuesday would become a day I will remember for the rest of my life.

A day to remember it must have been for one man especially – Rudolph Giuliani, the then mayor of New York City. Germany’s Spiegel Online – the web-daughter of the magazine Der Spiegel – titled on Sept. 20, 2001: “Rudolph Giuliani. The President of New York.”

They referred to him as Rudy the Rock, and said he could have become President of the United States with ease. How could a man who was known for his zero tolerance policy and his relentless way of pushing for his political agenda without appearing to be caring for the ordinary people turn into what they defined as comforter of the nation?

The article seemed to be on the hunt for nicknames for Giuliani. From “the President of New York”, to “Rudy the Rock”, to “comforter of the nation”, to “Chief of Debris” (original wording: “oberster Trümmermann” – which, quite frankly, made me stop reading and think about this odd word choice), and “the hidden President of the United States.”

It’s a warm article that puts a personal story to the horrors of 9/11, a success story in the midst of all the sorrows.

They explained convincingly how Mr. Giuliani was able to change how the public looked at him.

“While President George W. Bush spent the day up in the air for safety reasons,” the article read, “Giuliani stood with both feet in the debris field and gave his first press conference.”

They take readers along Giuliani’s dangerous tour through Manhattan, from having to flee a collapsing building to running for his life on the streets as the cloud of debris and smoke closed in on him.

In contrast to the “scared mouse” (the way the article cited a New Yorker bus driver referring to President Bush), New Yorkers couldn’t imagine to get through this crisis without their “Rudy”. “Four more years” was thus the slogan to be heard wherever the mayor appeared.

Even Ed Koch, former mayor of the city and strong critic of Giuliani, turned, as the article put it, into a cheerleader for the man who could have made a run for every political office in the world after 9/11.

A more immediate coverage of the events can be found in The New York Times. “Thousands Feared Dead as World Trade Center is Toppled” appeared on the day of the attacks.

It’s an emotionally challenging read that succeeds in covering the attacks objectively. The confusion of the immediate aftermath comes through.

“In what appeared to be parallel attacks on quintessential symbols of American financial and military power, hijackers flew jetliners into both towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan and, less than an hour later, into the Pentagon, outside Washington.”

After starting the piece with this clean fact-oriented paragraph, they moved on to a descriptive passage that reactivated the pictures in my head I saw over 12 years ago.

“The 110-story towers at the World Trade Center soon collapsed in a horrific storm of flying glass and rubble. The largest of several smaller buildings in the World Trade Center complex, a 47-story structure that had been set ablaze by debris in the morning, gave way in late afternoon.”

Uncertainty was the key word for those early hours after the planes had crashed, and the article covered this uncertainty. Mayor Giuliani is quoted to have said that he could confirm six deaths, but would know that much more would follow.

After going through statements from President Bush, which already turned the focus to the future by talking about bringing those responsible to justice, the name Osama bin Laden appeared for the first time.

There was no evidence at that point, and no one seemed to have had a chance to realize what had just happened. But American officials interpreted a denial by “Afghan’s hard-line Taliban rulers” as a “defensive measure”.

Woven into the following parts of the article are personal stories. We hear from Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who lost his wife Barbara that day. He recited what must been the final minutes of her life, which she was able to spend on the phone with him.

By braking off stories of personal loss and trauma with factual paragraphs about the disruptions of life in the area (e.g., subway disruptions, free train rides, primary elections being put on hold), it is easier for the reader to deal with the hardship.

Another one of those personal stories comes from Barbara Geanne Mensch who knew she was “watching people die.”

In-between all the confusion and emotional stories, this article also recreated the events of the day. They broke it down to the simplest steps and analyzed which plane was used for which attack.

The ending of the article is a clear sign to the world and the people responsible for the attacks: We are stronger than you. They outlined the pride people associate with both New York and the country as a whole and lauded that the day had brought the best of New York to light – noble and decent people.

Die Zeit, a highbrow weekly based in Hamburg, Germany, came out on Sept. 13, 2001. In a series of briefer articles, they give us another angle on the events.

We grieve with (you)” is the headline of an article that opened with an outlook into the future. Will 9/11 be the tipping point in history toward World War III or Huntington’s clash of civilizations?

Not necessarily, they concluded, but nevertheless a possibility after this tragic Tuesday.

“In the midst of the debris of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,” they wrote, “died the illusion that we could have safe firewalls, behind which any state or people could find absolute safety. We experience the end of all safety. Globalization has reached terror – and the dangers on earth are strong, if not stronger than all the calamity that could descend upon us from space.”

But the tragedy renewed the ties between different cultures. “In these hard times, we can call out to the Americans: We grieve with you. And we share your resolve to hunt down the perpetrators of this crime.”

They closed, however, with a warning that we should not jump to conclusions. Tolerance and democracy need to survive such attacks. We must not trigger the feared clash of civilizations.

Jane Kramer, European correspondent for The New Yorker, contributed to Die Zeit as well. “Nicht bei uns”, which means as much as “Not with us”, “Not near us”, or “Not here (at home, in the U.S.)” was the headline of the piece where she told us that she was on the phone with her daughter while it happened. She was watching the news coverage on TV; her daughter was in New York City.

Yet, Kramer said, it felt like they were both in the same location, a place she called “not here in the U.S.”, and a place characterized by disbelief that America had been targeted.

The first issue of The New Yorker, which came out on Sept. 24, 2001, paid special tribute to the events that had shaken the world. Most visibly, the cover was all black – or so it appeared to be on first glance. But a closer look revealed the dark silhouettes of the Twin Towers.

Contents-wise, the section “The Talk of the Town” was dedicated to the attacks in full. Contributions from John Updike, Jonathan Franzen, Aharon Appelfeld, and Amitav Ghosh were among the stories that give us a view on how 9/11 was covered a week afterward.

“It seemed, at that first glance,” wrote John Updike, “more curious than horrendous: smoke speckled with bits of paper curled into the cloudless sky, and strange inky rivulets ran down the giant structure’s vertically corrugated surface.”

His experience was marked by disbelief. “This was not quite real; it could be fixed,” he went on to say. But it became reality when the towers fell, and Updike instantly realized he had witnessed “thousands of deaths.”

He opened the question of how the city should continue from that point on. The passengers onboard those planes had been “turned into missiles.” Survivors were left “to pick up the pieces, to bury the dead, to take more precautions, to go on living.”

Similar to the closing argument in the New York Times, Updike closed with emphasizing the city’s strength. When the sun rose again on Wednesday, “ New York looked glorious.”

Jonathan Franzen shifted the focus to a fascinating point; he tried to see the other side of the story. He began with his own feelings and thoughts while watching the attacks on the screen.

“Besides the horror and sadness of what you were watching, you might also have felt a childish disappointment over the disruption of your day, or a selfish worry about the impact on your finances, or admiration for an attack so brilliantly conceived and so flawlessly executed, or, worst of all, an awed appreciation of the visual spectacle it produced.”

By trying to get readers to be honest with them, he prepared for what might seem hard to accept at first. But every story has at least two sides – so does this.

“Somewhere—you can be absolutely sure of this—the death artists who planned the attack were rejoicing over the terrible beauty of the towers’ collapse. After years of dreaming and working and hoping, they were now experiencing a fulfillment as overwhelming as any they could have allowed themselves to pray for. Perhaps some of these glad artists were hiding in ruined Afghanistan, where the average life expectancy is barely forty. In that world you can’t walk through a bazaar without seeing men and children who are missing limbs.”

He contrasts the reality of New York with the reality in Afghanistan, and makes us realize the scope of this tragedy.

Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld gave The New Yorker an international perspective. His powerful description of the daily fears in Jerusalem shows that there are parts of the world where tragedies happen every day and where the fear that had reached the Western world with 9/11 has been a constant part of people’s lives for years.

“For almost a year now, Jerusalem has been under siege. Not a day goes by without something terrible happening: a man stabbed in a quiet street, a bomb exploding from a watermelon, a booby-trapped car. Just weeks ago, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the center of town, injuring dozens of innocent people. Shrewd enemies, hidden from sight, are fighting in this city of stone.”

But even for people like Appelfeld, 9/11 had hit home. He stayed up all night, thinking about the country that had always had a special meaning for the people of Israel. “Now the loving father is united with his sons in a Jerusalem coffee shop, in grief over the evil that refuses to disappear from the world.”

The Business Geek


The lobby of Quinnipiac’s Arnold Bernhard Library can be a buzzing place. People come and go, but the young woman standing adjacent to the small lounge is one of the few people occupying the entrance area when I walk out of the library. I walk past her, position myself next to the round stone pillar on the other side of the hall. I check my phone; hear a Chinese conversation coming from the lounge ahead. Two young students in sports clothes enter the building and walk past me. The woman checks her phone, head down, and a bag next to her on the floor. With her blonde hair and business casual dress code, she fits into the environment. When our eyes meet, something begins to click in her mind.

At first sight, there’s nothing that sets Katalin Németh apart from a typical American student. Her name might be a first hint to her international background. Németh translates into the word German, and that, she says with a remarkable clear voice “has some sort of meaning because my family migrated from Austria. So my parents were the first generation becoming entirely Hungarian.”

With a delightful “ha”, she picks up the apple-green fountain pen and writes down the name of her hometown Győr.

Talking about the over two thousand year old city she calls home, her face lights up with a perfect smile. “If there are two remarkable things about Győr,” she explains, “water and baroque buildings for one and an extreme density of Audi cars on the roads for the other.”

The German carmaker produces several models and engines in the city. “Yes,” Katalin says, “the police officers have Audi TT roadster coupes. So you have to be really careful to no being intercepted by them. That was the company’s pro bono donation.” With a mild laughter, she adds, “bizarre idea.”

Having already completed master programs in Hungary that came attached with work experiences for industrial firms, the motivation for the two-year Master of Business Administration program at Quinnipiac developed during such experiences.

“Probably because of working for interesting clients,” Katalin explains, “sitting in one of their meetings, I was just amazed by some strategic presentations on the client side, and decided ‘okay, I would like to pursue an MBA program because I would like to know that much about business and sit in that seat!’ ”

With a clear goal in mind, the process of applying to a university abroad still elicits high emotions. “I was anxious and excited,” Katalin recalls, “I mean we submitted a program-plan for the next three to five years that also outlined which courses or what type of coursework you really would like to attend or pursue.”

In addition, it required her to think about her future. “That was,” Katalin says, “a really interesting thought process because I had to revisit what I wanted to do, what realistically I could do, why I was ready to risk that position and basically my life in Hungary.”

At the end of this journey through her own life, she felt ready to take risks to achieve her goals. “I understood that there is a special interest of mine,” she says with a clear focus in her voice, “which I really would like to achieve, and really would need this type of education, coursework, and professors here to be able to do that.”

Going through the application to an American university is one part of the story, getting ready for this new chapter in one’s life after being accepted is another.

“That was when the anxiety part began,” Katalin says with a gradually fastening voice, “I’ve never been to the US before; I have never seen an American university before.”

Millions of questions begin forming, questions that give you doubt about your plans, your decisions, and the path you’ve chosen for your future.

Thankfully, Katalin adds, Quinnipiac has stepped up their game in international student affairs. The supportive staff of the Central European Institute, the School of Business, and the Office of Multicultural and Global Education helped her through all the hurdles that needed to be leaped before a foreign student can finally set foot on campus.

But there are other, more personal obstacles for foreigners. Katalin wouldn’t want to bother school officials with everyday problems and feels gratitude for the global partner program the OMGE has initiated to help students adjust to life in the U.S.

“Quinnipiac officers really care about you,” she explains her intentions for becoming a global partner herself, “however, when you’re integrating foreigners into an American system, there are a lot of practical tests that are so to speak formal and the OMGE is doing a terrific job handling those, but you have a lot of such small uncertainties, often so banal.”

“That is,” she continues, “why they have this opportunity in place. Fellow international students have a shared experience, you just ask them.”

Giving arriving international students a helping hand, she adds while her smile lights up as if reliving good memories, gives her the opportunity to meet new people from across the globe and exchange views on life in the U.S.

Night view on Buda Castle over Danube river, Budapest Hungary
Night view on Buda Castle over Danube river, Budapest Hungary
Photo: Karelj (Wikimedia Commons)

Home, however, is far away for European students in America. “I believe,” she says about missing the ability to roam the streets of Budapest, “many who have been to Budapest will understand that. They are beautiful. The city is so much alive. I mean Condé Nast Traveler voted it the second best choice for international travelers to come to Europe. There is a reason for that! It’s an interesting city.”

With a year and a half filled with experiences, Katalin has mastered the hard beginnings and enjoys the atmosphere on campus.

“It’s just so cool seeing people lying around on the grass,” she says, interrupted by laughter, “especially when the weather is much more nicer. They chat and play Frisbee, it’s so nice. In Europe most of our universities are located in urban areas and the buildings are sometimes quite far away from each other. So when you exit the university library you’re on the street of a city and not on a laid-back campus.”

Describing herself as a business geek, Katalin feels that Quinnipiac has broadened her perspective and will prove helpful to her future plans. “I would like to pursue some sort of technological business, analytical support, or consultancy. For that,” she reasons, “it provided a thorough approach and fundamental education, like basic business disciplines.”

Hands-on experience is one of the key elements she’s received from the program. Receiving an education from a country that’s widely seen as the world’s tech and business leader, she concludes that Quinnipiac  “has helped a lot!”

Severe Winter in Connecticut proves the blood donor community

The sparkle in Vicki Plagesse’s dark eyes enveloped her in an aura of joy de vivre. Greeting donors at the entrance of the hall of Saint Clare’s Church in East Haven, Conn., Vicki set the atmosphere for the Red Cross Blood Drive on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014.

While nurses from the Red Cross prepared for a busy five hour event in the back of the hall, Vicki talked about the connection between the demanding winter and blood donations. Incoming donors interrupted her flow of sentences for a couple of minutes. She ensured to welcome everyone with a smile that provoked a smile in return.

“Yesterday’s blood drive,” explained Adele Sicignano from the Ladies Guilt at Saint Clare, “was cancelled because of the weather.” Talking about the reasons for them to work hand-in-hand with the Red Cross, she said, “today we are hosting this blood drive because of the mass shortage of blood that is around.”

The ladies from Saint Clare have never organized a blood drive before. “It’s not necessary,” Adele Sicignano explained their reasons for offering sandwiches and backed goods, “but we thought it would be an added treat for those who came out today in this in climate weather again – rain, rain, rain.”

The donation process is simple and does not require much effort. As long as one is over 18 years of age, does not show any cold symptoms, did not receive any vaccinations recently, or, among a few other restrictions, has not been out of American or Canadian territory within the past 12 months, one can give blood every 56 days.

After the blood has been drawn, a procedure that takes approximately eight to 10 minutes, every donated sample goes through several testing and quality control steps to ensure that hospitals receive high quality blood supplies.

“I make a difference,” is the slogan presented on the donor sticker the Red Cross offers in two editions. The red version, indicating a repeated donor, was the one that decorated most people’s clothes at Saint Clare. That does not mean, however, that the green sticker, indicating a first-time donor, would mean less. On the contrary, winning people who are willing to give blood is the key to an improved blood supply level.

Nicholas Givens is one of those regular faces at blood drives. “It’s a great cause,” he said. “There’s always people who need blood, everybody from the world, especially here in the U.S. You know, everybody needs a helping hand sometime. So it’s the least I can do.”

“Every chance I can, I donate,” explains Givens. “The least I can do is donate blood, I mean there is not much I can do, so a little bit helps everybody.”

Helping people who are in need is a motif shared among veteran blood donors. “I think,” Barbara Natarajan said, “it’s a great help to needy. You never know when someone is gonna need blood. Fortunately, I never had to have it, but I’ve been given it for 25 years. When I first started working in New York City, they used to come to the blood drive in work and I give as regularly as I can, like at least four times a year.”

“I feel,” she said about her passion to give blood, “that I’m helping someone. You loose a half a pound,” she interrupted herself mid-sentence with a high-pitched lustily laughter before she continued, “of weight from giving. And I think it’s healthy that your body makes new blood cells. Some people say, oh we want all that blood we need. But I think it’s good to get new blood. Your body makes it, kind of replenishes it within I think they said six weeks.”

With an expected number of 50 donations at the event, the hopes of the Ladies Guilt that the blood drive at Saint Clare would become a success had become true. Donating blood makes a difference, and people need to work together to fight off difficulties like the wintry conditions on the streets of Connecticut. The ladies demonstrated the determination of the donor community to stand together and leap those hurdles. And more is yet to come. “Well, if they need us still,” Adele Sicignano said about plans to let additional blood drives follow, “we will.”