I’m writing this post on my way home from nine months of living and learning in the fascinating paradox of an island that is Cyprus. A landscape that gave birth to the goddess of love and beauty has been torn in half and polarized by division. In addition, the architectural fabric that I often refer to as “Cypriot” is more appropriately explained as a mélange of eastern and western influence as well as Christian and Islamic elements and buildings that has slowly developed into a unique landscape made up of rich, and admittedly confusing, layers of history. Each new monument, time period, and historical event that I learned about was accompanied by a series of new topics that had not been apparent previously. To put it simply, I leave Cyprus more excited and passionate about this paradoxical history and landscape than when I arrived.
Over the last week, I helped lead and participate in the University of Minnesota study abroad program led by Rachel and Nikos. I went on a variation of this program four years ago, and I consider it the base upon which my interest in the historical, cultural, and social implications of design was founded. I led a number of tours for the group of University of Minnesota students in Nicosia to highlight my research and showcase the places I know best in the capital. Many of the Cypriot students at the Cyprus Institute also joined us. Although most of them had lived in the area for their entire lives they had never been to the areas I showed the group during the tour because of their stance on the Cyprus problem. By the end of the weekend, the students expressed to me how appreciative they were of the level political approach I took toward my research as well as my attention to detail in my historical research. They went on to say that they plan to return to the area along the Buffer Zone to understand more about it in the future. This was a breakthrough moment for my work here in Cyprus. I now realize that I was accepted and trusted by the people I formed relationships with, and that I accumulated an incredible wealth of knowledge about Nicosia which solidified that my time in Cyprus was worthwhile.
The unforgettable experience I had over the past nine months provided me with priceless personal and academic growth as well as fascinating new friends and colleagues. I can't thank the US Department of State, the Cyprus Fulbright Commission, the Cyprus Institute, and my dearest advisors/mentors/resident aunt and uncle (Rachel and Nikos) enough for making this opportunity possible, and for supporting me to make it a success.
Posts will come less frequently over the summer as I work for Kohler Company's photo studio, catch up with friends and family, and take on a number of other small projects. I will begin posting more regularly again in mid-September when I begin my next adventure to Belfast, Northern Ireland where I will be pursuing a masters in urban design at Queen's University on a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship. In the meantime, check out my Flickr page as I continue to upload photos from my travels and the places I see over the summer.