[Eric D]Hometown: Hailey, Idaho
Major: Political Science
What he did at Beloit: Learned how to swim (on the varsity team!); studied in Turkey; presented at Beloit’s International Symposium; chronicled campus culture for the student newspaper, the Round Table
What he’s doing next: Teaching English in Costa Rica with WorldTeach, which operates out of Harvard University’s Center for International Development
Why he got hooked on Turkey:
I liked the idea of Turkey as a bridge. It doesn’t really have an identity in and of itself. It has a mentality that’s a little bit European, a little Asian. It’s a mix of secular and Muslim. It’s an in-between, non-defined region that hasn’t quite figured out where it’s at. That was the initial attraction. After I took a class called Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict, I got interested in the ethnic struggle there. It’s a place that’s completely in transition.
On being a stranger in a strange land:
I got excited because, after a while, I was kind of understanding Turkish. As long as I stayed with their thread, I could follow along. When you’re abroad, you just go with things, and you try not to be too static and solid in your nature. You realize you can adapt.
How he got others hooked, too:
When I got back, I gave a presentation at Beloit’s International Symposium Day titled “Turkey’s Little Identity Crisis.”
How he learned to ask hard questions:
I wrote my senior thesis about the post-1991 Gulf War situation in Iraq. When I started in political science, I kept judging things as “good” or “bad.” I’d say, “This country should do this; that would be good.” But it doesn’t always work that way. You realize you can maybe answer this question, or maybe you can’t. What you end up looking at is more like, “What’s an interesting question to ask here? What caused this situation? Did this factor play a role?” That narrowing, that ability to ask those questions is where you want to get.
How he dove in—literally:
I joined the varsity swim team. It was my Beloit College experiment, and something that I could only do at Beloit. I never knew how to swim prior to joining the team! I got in the pool and learned, and I got exceptionally better. When I joined swimming, I could swim a 50 meter stretch in 38 seconds. By the time I finished, I could do it in 26 seconds. I realized I wasn’t just in the lane; I was leading the lane. I would never have had the guts to do it anywhere else.
How Beloit gives you breathing room:
Beloit doesn’t seal us in, and it doesn’t limit us to any particular field. You read one book in one class and realize it relates to another book in another class. The concepts overlap. Whether that’s meant to occur or not, it does. I think that says a lot about Beloit College classes. There’s not any choppiness to this education; it’s very fluid. You realize that there’s this whole aspect of the education that you can’t find in a course booklet. It’s your ability to engage something you don’t fully understand, and maneuver yourself around it.