NUCHR sponsors spring break trip to Istanbul

Joseph Diebold

For the second consecutive year, the Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights is sponsoring a spring break trip to Istanbul for 11 students to learn more about the conference’s theme of famine and food deserts.

NUCHR partnered with Istanbul’s Koc University and the Buffett Center to make the trip a reality. NUCHR member Amy Glazier-Torgerson, who helped coordinate trip logistics, said during their stay the students will be meeting with different organizations and professors who are engaged with global food issues.

The Weinberg freshman said choosing the location of the trip was not easy.

“It was kind of a tough decision to decide to go to Istanbul because generally Turkey is one of the more food-secure countries,” she said. “But we were sure there were many ways we could incorporate Turkey into the topic of the global food crisis.”

In the end, NUCHR decided to return to Istanbul because of existing ties from the previous trip, Glazier-Torgerson said.

Weinberg senior Fiona Teo is leading the trip after participating in it last year, when the trip focused on forced migration. Teo said she valued the lessons she learned from traveling to a country with very different goals from those of the U.S.

“A lot of times what we focus on is the domestic aspects of (issues),” Teo said. “Going to Istanbul for a week really gave me a chance to look at what other countries are doing.”

All students going on the trip had to enroll in NUCHR’s student-led seminar this quarter to supplement their knowledge of the conference’s topics. McCormick freshman Sunjay Kumar said the topics have extended beyond what the students will be learning on the trip.

“We talked about food deserts and lots of other issues,” he said. “We talked about U.S. agricultural subsidies and how that affects food crises and the political aspects of the Somalia famine. Basically a different topic every week.”

The course has no professor and is instead primarily taught by two members of NUCHR’s education committee, who facilitate student discussion. Glazier-Torgerson said though lacking an expert can sometimes be difficult, the class has been similar to other discussion sections.

“We’re constantly being given new material,” she said. “Since we have so many resources available to us about the global food crisis, we’re always doing research in the class.”

Kumar is studying Turkish this year and said the opportunity to interact with native speakers had a significant impact on his decision to apply.

“Food crises are interesting to me, but mainly it’s just the fact that it’s in Istanbul that made me want to go right now,” he said.

Last year’s trip was initially slated to travel to Cairo, but U.S. State Department travel warnings during the Arab Spring forced the relocation.

[email protected]