What on Earth is a Dialogue of Civilizations?

Raj Mocherla, Economics and Mathematics, Spanish Minor, CSSH ’21

At Northeastern, our education model is based on four pillars: co-op, research, service learning, and global experience. During your time here you must complete at least one in order to graduate—however, you are free to satisfy more, if not all of them! The specific pillar I’ll be focusing on is global experience.

There are three main ways to go about studying abroad. First off is the traditional study abroad experience that many universities offer, which generally entails taking classes at an institution in a different part of the world for a whole semester, and then having those credits transfer back to your Northeastern coursework requirements. A second way to have a study abroad experience is to do an international co-op. We offer co-ops on all seven continents (yes, that includes Antarctica, believe it or not) and as a result if you choose to take up a six month full-time position in a foreign country, you can check off both the co-op and study abroad pillars in one experience. Pretty sweet! Finally, Northeastern offers a unique program for going abroad known as a Dialogue of Civilizations, and I was actually able to go on one the summer of 2019. Dialogues are unique in the sense that they are not a full semester long, and you will actually be traveling with a group of Northeastern students and faculty. These trips generally fall within the range of four to six weeks, and over that period of time you will complete eight credits worth of coursework, or two classes. At least one of those classes will be taught directly by, or overseen by, a Northeastern professor. Additionally, the four to six-week time frame is specifically built in order to fit snugly between students’ co-op cycles and in-class semesters. For example, if you are on a Spring co-op cycle, you will be working from January through June and classes will start up again in September. A Dialogue can then be taken during the July to August time frame, allowing you to build an amazing study abroad experience directly into your current plan without having to make any alterations. There are hundreds of Dialogue opportunities that we offer that span across a vast number of majors and minors. Whether you want to study sustainable business practices in Denmark, architectural history in Spain, literature and film in Ireland, or so much more, there is a Dialogue program waiting for you.

Personally, I was able to travel to Argentina and Uruguay to take classes that went towards my Spanish minor. I stayed with a host mom, which was a great way to get to experience the lifestyle of Buenos Aires and practice my Spanish with a local. Not to mention, her cooking was outstanding as well! In the mornings I would take the subway to class, where we continued to develop our skills with the language. Afterwards we would be free to find lunch at a nearby restaurant and make our way back for our second class, which focused mainly on the culture of Argentina. Through guest speakers and interactive events, we were able to learn about things such as the history of the country, famous authors and writers, traditional foods and dances, and the current economic situation of the country. It wasn’t just all sitting at a desk though. When I say we learned about the tango, I mean we got all dressed up, went to a dance class, and DID the tango. We didn’t just learn about empanadas; we went straight into a kitchen, threw on an apron, and made those bad boys from scratch. Perhaps the biggest benefit of studying abroad is being able to actually live and breathe the parts of the world you are studying rather than just read about them, and a Dialogue of Civilizations allows you to do just that.

We didn’t just stay in Buenos Aires, either. Halfway into the trip we traveled to Uruguay. The two cities we visited provided a beautiful juxtaposition of lifestyles in the country, between the bustling capital city of Montevideo and the quaint smaller town of Colonia del Sacramento. Our studies of culture did not stop, as we continued to go on educational bus tours, visit museums and historical sites, and interact with locals just as we had in Argentina. Lastly, and what may be the highlight of the trip, we flew down to the Patagonia region of Argentina, to one of the most southern points in the entire world. Remember what I said about being able to go to Antarctica? Well, we got pretty darn close. There, we learned about the glaciers that carved out the breathtaking landscape of the area and got a beautiful boat tour in order to see them on the Lago Argentino. And as the cherry on top, we actually got to trek to the top of Perito Moreno, one of the largest glaciers in Patagonia, and drink some ice-cold glacial water to boot. I’ll never forget the view from the top of the glacier, and I likely would have never gotten that experience had it not been for this trip.

As you can probably tell, a lot happens during those four to six weeks when you are off exploring a different part of the world. As cliché as it sounds, every single day is truly a new adventure. By the end of my time in South America, I really did feel like an adopted citizen of Argentina and Uruguay. I made unforgettable memories, learned more than I could have imagined, and made lifelong friends. So, what the heck is a Dialogue of Civilizations? Well, it’s an opportunity to expand your worldview in the most educational and efficient way possible, and if it wasn’t already clear, I couldn’t recommend them more.

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