The 2012 SUSI scholars arrived safely in Athens, Ohio on July 5 and 6, and the program is now underway.
The SUSI summer institute — in which scholars from all over the world come to the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University to study journalism and media — is funded by an annual renewable grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Study of the U.S. Branch in the Office of Academic Exchange Programs.
Beginning on July 5 at noon until about 2 a.m. the following day, the scholars arrived at the Port Columbus International Airport, where SUSI program director Dr. Yusuf Kalyango and program assistant Sally Ann Cruikshank greeted them.
“It was a very, very long flight, and with three transits I was so exhausted. The moment I arrived (at the Columbus airport) and I saw Dr. Yusuf and Sally Ann there, it was like their faces made a message like feeling home,” Pakistani scholar Aazadi Burfat said. She added that the warm welcome they gave was “so good to have, and so memorable, and I will keep it with myself for all of my life.”
Transportation to Athens was provided by a rotation of program assistants Camilo Perez, Jim DeBrosse and Ashley Furrow. Five trips were made, typically with three to five scholars riding in each van.
Once they arrived in Athens, the scholars were taken to University Courtyard, an apartment complex where they would reside throughout their time in Athens.
At the complex, the scholars met a combination of program assistant Lindsay Boyle, and either academic director Mary Rogus or assistant academic director Aimee Edmondson.
“When I arrived at Columbus, I was really happy to see Sally Ann waiting and waving my name. That made me feel at home,” Jordanian scholar Dr. Aysha Abughazzi said. “I was also happy to see that, although we arrived late, we had Lindsay waiting for us and showing us our apartments and rooms. It kind of made me feel relaxed.”
Scholar Dr. Ibaa Awad, from Sudan, said that she also was, and continues to be happy with the SUSI staff. “The people are generous, so generous with us, and a number of people ask about how we’re doing in the apartments and they look after us,” she said.
Though most of the scholars had commutes that were 15 hours or longer, many of them also appeared relaxed and in good spirits upon their arrivals.
Dr. Huei Lan Wang, a scholar from Taiwan, said that she was able to overcome the tiredness and maintain a good mood because of the reception from the SUSI staff members. “I think that even though the body’s tired, you could feel this real warmth from the SUSI program, and the people from the SUSI program,” she said.
Scholar Hugo Zarate, representing The Bahamas, said that he felt safe when he arrived in Ohio, and continues to feel that way.
This is Cameroon scholar Divine Bisong's first time visiting the United States for an academic program of SUSI’s nature, and he said that he has had a great experience thus far. “I think getting to Ohio, I discovered some kind of a legendary hospitality of the people right from the airport,” Bisong said. “All in all, the accommodation is pretty commendable. Up till now, I think I’m in the right place and I feel very grateful for that.”
El Salvadoran scholar Silvia Callejas said that she also enjoys both the apartments and the members of the SUSI staff. “All of you have done a really good job to make us feel comfortable and we don’t miss our countries and even our homes,” she said.
After the scholars had a chance to catch some sleep, they began July 6 with a breakfast provided by the SUSI staff that featured dishes cooked by both Rogus and Edmondson.
The remainder of that day was spent on logistics such as signing leases and obtaining OU identification cards. In addition, the scholars were given a brief tour of the OU campus, and taken into town to go shopping.
Saturday, July 7 brought about the scholars’ first academic session, as well as their first official orientation. It was led by both Kalyango and assistant administrative director Jean Marie Cackowski-Campbell.
Scholar Alexandre Twizeyumukiza, from Rwanda, said that he liked the session and orientation. “I have so much appreciated how we’ve been oriented, how we’ve been received here at Ohio University. The people who have received us are very kind,” he said. “In short, when I am here, I feel as I’m home.”
Scholar Karlyga Myssayeva, from Kazakhstan, found the orientation to be useful. “I would like to say thank you for the SUSI program, especially director Yusuf and all the staff, because this orientation week was very helpful for us, and I think it was necessary for us because we found all the answers for our questions,” she said.
On Saturday night, a welcome dinner organized by SUSI staff members served as the official kick-off of the SUSI program. Several Scripps faculty members, as well as other special guests joined the SUSI scholars for the dinner.
OU President Dr. Roderick McDavis provided what multiple SUSI staff members described as a thorough and heartfelt keynote speech, which covered the prominence of internationalism at OU and the importance of it worldwide.
“(The dinner) was even better than I expected because I enjoyed the communication, I enjoyed the meal, I enjoyed the atmosphere, I enjoyed the speeches,” said Dr. Alexsandr Kazakov, a scholar from Russia. “It was great.”
At one point, Abughazzi addressed the attendees with a vote of thanks — a short speech that thanks individuals and often calls for the audience to thank them as well — to recognize those who made both the dinner and the SUSI program possible.
Scholar Bogdana Nosova, from Ukraine, said that she enjoyed every minute of the welcome dinner. “It was an excellent possibility to meet so many colleagues at one time, in one place and to discuss with them,” she explained. “I sincerely appreciate and am grateful to all the people who made that perfect evening possible.”