A year ago, thesis student Elizabeth Sockol was living in Carthage, Tunisia, passing past ancient Phoenician temples and Roman baths as she walked from her host family’s house to her classes.
Sockol spent spring 2014 in the North African nation, the first time she had traveled outside the United States. She took seminars on emerging identities in the Middle East and youth media in the Arab spring, and studying Arabic.
She left with the groundwork for her thesis project, a comparative analysis of the implementation of women’s rights in Tunisia and Morocco, and the ability to write and converse in a language she had never studied before.
She also made valuable contacts: Her project advisor helped write Tunisia’s new constitution and serves in the national assembly. “It becomes so much easier to network when you have a great program like the one I got to experience,” she said.
Sockol called it a transformative experience, and one that could not have happened without support from New College alumni. Tunisia was under a travel warning from the U.S. State Department, which rules out funding from programs like the Gilman Scholarships.
Grants from New College and the international program covered half the cost of the $20,000 program, allowing her to cover the remainder with loans.
After she graduates, she plans to pursue a joint JD/MBA degree, but first wants to get some business and economics experience before applying. She has an internship with Sarasota’s Economic Development Corporation, and hopes to work in international economics in New York or Washington, D.C.
In that, too, she’s seen help from New College alumni. Sockol has worked as a phonathon caller for the New College Foundation, and is amazed at how many have offered to help. One alumnus, a professor at Loyola, recalled her interest in Tunisia and connected her with a colleague who works in the country.
“I’m really, really lucky,” she said. “I have so many people who are just so willing to help me. It’s astounding that I have so many resources available, whether it be the alumni network or people I’m connected with through the college.”