A Fascination With Immigration

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Wed Oct 18 13:04:17 UTC 2006

>>From the issue dated October 20, 2006

A Fascination With Immigration

Growing up in Houston, Joanna Schenke developed an interest in how the
state's large Mexican population influenced the culture of the region. She
learned to speak Spanish in high school and studied immigration and
immigration policy in the United States. Her fascination with immigrant
cultures grew as Ms. Schenke moved on to Pomona College, where she majored
in international relations and German.  She studied abroad in Berlin,
where she learned about immigrants from Turkey, the largest ethnic
minority group in Germany, through course work and her own observation. "I
think I'm predisposed to this subject," she says, days after moving into
an apartment in Berlin, where she has returned as a Fulbright scholar.

During her previous stint in Berlin, Ms. Schenke says, she was
"astonished" that the university where she studied did not offer
Turkish-language classes. While there, she picked up some of the language
informally. But as part of her Fulbright grant, she received a Critical
Language Enhancement Award, which she used to learn to speak fluent
Turkish. The award, which is given to a selection of Fulbright recipients,
was created by the State Department in an effort to encourage greater
proficiency in languages such as Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Korean,
Turkish, and Uzbek. Ms. Schenke plans to put her new language skills,
acquired during a three-month program she just completed in Ankara,
Turkey, to use while in Germany. Her Fulbright focus will be the study of
Turkish immigration and integration in the country, an extension of her
senior-year thesis at Pomona.

She plans to visit areas of the city where there are high concentrations
of Turks, frequenting their cafes and shopping at their markets. She wants
to understand the economic and cultural impact that immigration policies
have had on the group since World War II. "Knowing the language will
really help me broaden the scope of the research I can do," she says. "It
helps to be able to connect with people, and it helps my credibility and
understanding of their cultural background." Her newfound Turkish-language
skills have already come in handy. Just a few days after arriving in
Germany, Ms. Schenke went to a cybercafe and heard the cashier conversing
in Turkish. She took the opportunity to try it herself. "I asked him which
computer was free," she says, "and he actually understood me."

Section: International
Volume 53, Issue 9, Page A42


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