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Virtual Killam Fellow Casey Wong reflects on her exchange

September 3, 2021

Although my exchange at the University of Washington was short and online, I have learned a lot about American culture and history. I took interesting courses offered at the University of Washington that aren’t offered at my university, such as the Ancient Near East (NEAR E 101) and American Popular Song (MUSIC 162). Both courses have changed my perspective immensely. At NEAR E 101, I’ve learned about the various cultures and civilizations in the Ancient Near East that I have never heard much of in Western history classes. It amazes me how rich many cultures are and how many of them influence our cultures today. For example, did you know marching bands are descendants of Mehter Bands, Ottoman military bands used to frighten their enemies? I also enjoyed the philosophical nature of parts of the course. We discussed what nationalism is, how colonialism has shaped our world through a nationalistic lens and how people’s desire to return to their culture inadvertently feeds into the nationalism narrative.

On the other hand, I have learned to appreciate different genres of music after taking MUSIC 162. The history of minstrel shows and how African American culture was exploited to benefit white Americans was genuinely astonishing. The fact that much of American pop culture and media stemmed from the history of slavery and is still pervasive in popular culture today is a big wake-up call. Through this course, I was able to understand what music meant to people. For example, learning about punk Islam and the Taqwacore taught me about people’s desire to use music to find a place in their religion. Overall, although my exchange was online, I am grateful that the University of Washington offered me the opportunity to learn and change my perspective of the world.

The Killam Fellowship Program allows undergraduate students from Canada and the United States to participate in a program of binational residential exchange. This program, administered by Fulbright Canada, is supported by an endowment from the American Killam Trusts, Global Affairs Canada, and the Foundation for Educational Exchange between Canada and the United States of America (Fulbright Canada). It is an integral part of the Foundation’s multidimensional strategy to foster mutual understanding between Canada and the United States of America. The Canadian Studies Center is a partner institution with the Killam Foundation enabling up to two full academic year fellowships annually for UW students.