IHP Cities in the 21st Century: People, Planning, and Politics (Spring)

Letters Home

Archived letters:

The Letters Home are written by students on this program, with help from the Trustees Fellow, at the end of each country program. Letters from the current academic year can be found at the Letters Home blog. You can read past letters through the links below and on the right. We hope you enjoy reading about our students’ experiences!

Spring 2013 Letter

Buenos Aires
It was truly surreal as our plane finally touched land in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After months navigating the winding alleyways of Old Delhi and clapping our shoes together because of the constant sand from the beaches of Dakar, we finally made it to our last country. The concrete city and high-rise buildings were an overwhelming shock to us at first, but Buenos Aires also presented endless opportunities for academic growth, entertainment, and experiencing an entirely different culture.
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Fresh off our group’s first international flight together, we arrived in Delhi full of energy and excited to explore the city’s layered history, develop relationships with our homestay families, and study the complex challenges facing cities in the world’s second largest country. For the majority of our time in Delhi, we stayed at the International Youth Hostel in a part of Delhi near many embassies.
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In Wolof (a major Senegalese ethnic group but also the name for one of the most commonly spoken languages in the country), there is no exact equivalent for the phrase "you're welcome." Instead, you say "Noko bok," which literally means "we share it." The idea denotes a breaking down of the individual in favor of the non-exclusive whole – and our second country visit to Senegal gave us a strong taste of what it truly means to put the community before the self.
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New York City, USA
On January 21, students arrived at the Vanderbilt YMCA in midtown east in Manhattan for the start of the Spring 2013 Cities in the 21st Century program. Our welcome reception on the 2nd floor of the UN Church Center at 1st Ave and 44th St had a spectacular, IHP-relevant view: We faced the United Nations plaza and signature building across the street. For a program studying, among many things, the problems and solutions of international urban development, the United Nations building held special significance and inspiration as the physical backdrop for the start of our semester together. After saying goodbyes to family, the 32 students jumped right in to getting to know each other and building the community they would be a part of for the next four months.
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Spring 2012 Letters

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Einstein said, “If you can’t say it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Well, folks, this is going to be a long letter.
How does one come to “read a city?” We’ve just finished our last stop, last case study, last act of Cities Spring 2012, with the culminating role of the urban form played enigmatically by Buenos Aires. How does one finish a program of such immense activity and content? How does one “wrap-up” IHP?
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New York City, USA
It’s hard to imagine that less than three weeks ago we were packing our bags to begin IHP, trying to decide between the shirts that now lay quietly in drawers at home and the ones we wore today to romp the streets of Delhi. More amazing still is that between then and now was New York City – THE New York City, with its number 1 train running like a central nerve through the Upper West Side, shuttling us around town; its uncharacteristically beautiful January weather; its buzzing energy; and five dynamic boroughs. With the quiet dedication of country coordinator Jocelyne Chait grounding us, we spent two foundational weeks in NYC, splitting our time between our classroom in International House and our classroom of the city.
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Spring 2011 Letters

New York City, USA 
Thirty five students buzzed around the reception room of The International House, their nervous energy bouncing off the walls as they shared names and interests, starting to laugh and make connections. Over the next two weeks in New York City, students and faculty dived into challenging and complex dynamics of a bustling city and building the academic and interpersonal foundations of this learning and traveling international experience.
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Delhi, India 
No one needs to be told that Delhi has a long and rich history and is a booming, bustling and rapidly expanding city; the name itself conjures caste systems and call centers, ancient trade routes and global market economies, early religions and contemporary capitalism. It did not take us long to understand that Delhi is a complicated and dynamic city.  Considering that each “phase” of Delhi’s history is comparable in centuries to the entire political existence of the United States, we knew we had our work cut out for us.  With each day, each site visit, guest lecture or transportation adventure, Delhi showed us that there is always another layer of information or understanding to be uncovered.
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Dakar, Senegal 
Shaking off our transport haze we stepped out of the airport and into a vibrantly blue sky and sunny day in Dakar.  Our welcome from the Senegal Coordinators Ousmane Sene and Waly Faye, and the many other staff of our home base at the West African Research Center (WARC) was as warm as the salty breeze coming off the ocean.  We plunged into a country orientation, a laundry lesson (apparently there is a very specific squish/slosh sound when clothing is being properly washed by hand), a walk by the ocean and lots of dancing.  We refreshed ourselves with local juices made from Bissap (Hibiscus) and the fruit of a Baobab tree and then it was time to meet our host families.
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Buenos Aires
“¡Hola chicos! ¿Cómo están? Buenísimo. It is so wooooonderful to meet you all!!” Immediately upon arrival our energy is jumpstarted by Carolina Rovetta’s infectious enthusiasm for life, learning, IHP and, especially, for her home city of Buenos Aires. We tumble into a large coach bus and, as our bleary eyes adjust to the sky scrapers whizzing by, Carolina – a Porteña (native to Buenos Aires) through and through – animatedly tells us some basics about her city, and the Bauen - a “worker-owned” hotel where we will be staying tonight.  Not more then 10 minutes in country and we are learning about responses to the 2001 economic crisis that has drastically altered Buenos Aires, and Argentina, in the last decade.
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Credits: 16

Duration: Spring, 16 weeks

Program Sites:
USA, Brazil, India, South Africa

Prerequisites: Previous college-level coursework and/or other preparation in urban studies, anthropology, political science, or other related fields is strongly recommended but not required. Learn More...

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About the Evaluations (PDF)

Spring 2013 Evaluations


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