Access educator Corina Ceban shares her impressions about participating in the SUSI Program at the University of Montana

October, 26 2015

Life would be much easier if as human beings we learned to give ourselves to others instead of expecting to be on the receiving end. On July 5, 2015 SUSI scholars closed a huge chapter of SUSI program. Our stay in the USA has been rewarding and a journey of learning and re-learning, if there is such a word. We have been presented with a variety of situations, which we have been fortunate to learn from, and challenges, which we have readily overcome.


The University of Montana welcomed us to the Study of the U.S. Institutes on Secondary Education: American Studies through the Lens of Democracy and Citizenship. They looked forward to working with us on that exciting opportunity to learn about issues in secondary education and American studies through a wide range of speakers, workshops, and field trips. Throughout the program, Academic Director Dr. Robert Saldin met regularly with us to provide context for speakers, workshops, and readings. We met with University faculty and community leaders, and you participated in workshops on curriculum development.
This program offered a range of learning opportunities, aiming to outline America's philosophical foundations and examine the ways history has shaped American politics, economics, and society. The curriculum developed by Dr. Robert Saldin offered a non-partisan, interdisciplinary approach to discussing some of the major themes of American culture and society. Some of the topics that were discussed included: The Ideas that Shape America-The United States is a nation grounded in specific social and political ideas. This program aimed to highlight these ideas-including liberty, equality, self-government, individualism, and the American dream-and to describe how they help Americans understand themselves and articulate their national ideals and aspirations. Attention was paid to the ways in which such fundamental ideals could conflict, and the different ways in which Americans interpret the effects that they should have.


Debating American Democracy-the meaning of American democracy has always been contested. Through this program, you examined the theoretical ideas that informed the creation and development of America's political system and considered some of the contemporary challenges facing American democracy.
American Culture: Past, Present, and Future-what holds a large, diverse country together? We explored the differences and similarities that define the American experience from the perspectives of its citizens.
The program triggered important reflections, in depth comparisons of realities of the United States with our contexts, and brought a feeling of achievement every time we took a step and completed it. It provided us with self-recognition of strengths, weaknesses and areas of opportunity. We learned to manage ourselves respectfully in a group as diverse as a set of fingerprints. We established strong connections that, hopefully, will last for a lifetime. We learnt to "deal with it" by providing opinions and support, learning how our actions influence and influence those around us. We learnt to see through the lens of a country that has worked hard to promote their values, their culture and their traditions; many of which they feel proud of and others which they are working on to modify. We saw their contradictions and diverse opinions on important topics, their own analysis, their own opposition, we learned the raw truth and it helped shape our thinking. Oh, how important it is, to see the humbleness of those who work hard to maintain an identity, that work hard to make changes in their own lives, while being of service to the world.


Finally, in 35 days we understood that the United States is a country where people open up to offer to others and share their learning and beliefs. It is a country where people are interested in giving, more than in receiving. It is a country that truly promotes understanding by providing experiential tools like this program. It is a country where citizens constantly reflect about their success and failures, without letting the latter stop them but instead using them as a means of learning. It is a country where specifically Missoulians opened their hearts and home to let us learn about their habits, customs and traditions. What did we discover through this understanding? That we are not so different! That just like the United States we also work hard, learn a lot and reflect about our mistakes and take action. We also open our hearts and welcome everybody willing to be part of our lives. We are also in constant analysis of who we are, what we do and how we affect our surroundings.

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