Lipaz Avigal is a Junior at Tulane studying Political Economy and Spanish.
Lipaz Avigal, a Junior at Tulane studying Political Economy and Spanish, says that her “intentional” experiences at Tulane have been those with the most value. Whether that means the semester she just spent in Buenos Aires, or the summer she spent researching the refugee crisis in Europe, she has always tried to seek out new and different ways of learning. Moving forward, both experiences are now guiding her thinking on her Honors Thesis, which she will begin come next semester.
Lipaz describes her fall semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina as “academic in untraditional ways.” Not only were her classes in Spanish, but almost all of her interactions outside the classroom were as well. It’s not an experience Lipaz is unused to—she likens the transition to the one she faced earlier in her life, when she moved from Israel to the US. It takes constant exertion to communicate and learn in a new language, but Lipaz feels the challenge was fully worthwhile.
Her semester in Argentina is not the only untraditional academic experience Lipaz has sought out. Two summers ago, she and another Tulane student, now graduated—Giulia Duch Clerici—spent three months studying the refugee crisis in Europe. They travelled from refugee camps in Italy to Berlin, the city in Europe with the most refugees, to the Netherlands, and finally to Brussels, the capital of the European Union. They talked to refugees and activists, NGOs and Government Officials, exploring the policies helping and hindering integration.
The project was funded by the Jean Danielson Scholarship Fund, an Honors summer research grant named for the former Director of the Honors Program. Lipaz says her and Giulia faced a lot of skepticism before they came to the “Dean Jean” fund, as it is known. Nevertheless, the pair persisted, and the Honors fund gave them the freedom and trust they needed to pursue their goals.
Back in the United States and back at Tulane once more, Lipaz thinks she is mostly through the gauntlet that study abroad experts label “reverse culture shock.” Though she found herself, in the first few weeks, greeting her unsuspecting US-American friends in Spanish, she says this period has mostly ended now. Readjusting to the US news cycle has not been easy either. Reflecting on her time away, she says that it was a “fantastic experience, and everyone should study abroad.”
Lipaz’ time in Argentina and in Europe is strongly influencing her thinking for her Honors Thesis next year. The refugee crisis in Europe has added fuel to the fire of another big story on the continent—the rise of right-wing populists, a topic Lipaz has found herself drawn to. However, during her time in Argentina, she realized that populism has also been a powerful force in Latin American history. After taking a class on Peronism with a professor specializing in the topic, Lipaz is considering taking a cross-continental comparative approach to her project.
The concept binding her most valuable experiences at Tulane, Lipaz says, is intentionality. She decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires only after extensive research and consideration of her options. Likewise, her time in Europe required careful planning and perseverance. She says thinking intentionally and outside the box hasn’t only helped her to get the most from her experiences, it has also helped her to have the experiences in the first place: those reviewing applications for study abroad programs, research grants, or anything else will always lean towards students who have clearly thought through their goals. Thus, this is the advice Lipaz offers to younger students at Tulane—think intentionally about what you want to do, and then do it.