A Taste of Tennessee

A Taste of Tennessee

Hey y'all! I can't tell you how many times I heard that in the past few days. My trip to Tennessee was a wonderful experience! The people we met and stayed with were all so welcoming and happy to have us visit. We got to learn about the civil rights movement and legislative process, but I also got to learn a lot more about our organization (the International Student Management Office at NDU) and the International Fellows in the program.


Our days were jam packed from the very start.  We flew down to Memphis on Wednesday and had our first real southern meal at Gus' Famous Fried Chicken. They're very generous with their portions! It was delicious, though, and fueled us all for the rest of the day. We then drove to Ripley, TN to meet our host families that we would be staying with for the two days we spent there. Ash, the Fellow from Japan, and I stayed with Susan and she was extremely welcoming and made us feel right at home. That was one thing that really impacted me on our trip: everyone was happy to see us and wanted to make our stay as comfortable as they could. It's just the culture in that area and it was a wonderful thing to experience.


Now that's what I call a southern meal!


Thursday we were lucky enough to visit Ripley Elementary School. The students welcomed us in the auditorium by lining the aisles with homemade flags of the countries the Fellows were from. The Fellows then got the opportunity to visit the classrooms and speak to student about their home country. I'm not really sure who enjoyed it more, the Fellows or the elementary students! The kids were all so interested in the foreign countries and bursting with questions.


After our visit to the elementary school, we went to the Ripley Courthouse where we held a mock trial. The Fellows filled in all of the necessary positions and went through the process of holding a trial. Everyone got really into it and it turned out to be quite comical. It was a really fun way to see our system in action. Directly following that, we got to tour the West Tennessee Correctional Facility. It was home to prisoners of all security levels, including maximum security. It was really interesting to see what types of programs they have in place to try to help the prisoners and reduce the rate of recidivism. I think I learned almost as much as the Fellows about our prison system.


This picture is of only a small portion of the prison we visited.

The security measures there were obviously very extensive.


That evening, Susan made an amazing four course dinner! We had green fried tomatoes, tomato pepper soup, cheese fondue and chocolate fondue for dessert. One of her friends stopped by for dinner and we all spent the evening enjoying good food, good conversation and good company. I was pleasantly surprised with how living with a host instead of staying at a hotel for two days worked out. It really gave everyone a chance to experience what southern life is really like.


Ash, Susan and I at the farewell breakfast before leaving Ripley. Her hospitality was much appreciated!


All that activity and it was only the second day of our trip! Friday was still full steam ahead, though! We visited the Marvin Windows factory and got to see how it operated and then headed back down to Memphis where we were lucky enough to tour St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. For those of you who aren't familiar, St. Jude's is a hospital for children founded by Danny Thomas who was from Memphis. Danny Thomas believed that no child should die due to an inability to pay for treatment or to gain access to it. So, he created a hospital where no child is turned away or charged for treatment. They conduct research on a number of different children's diseases, but are most known for their work in cancer research. It was a truly moving experience to see the amazing work being done there.


The Fellows posed for a quick picture in front of the St. Jude statue before going on a tour of the hospital.


Late that evening, we got an inside look at the operations at the main world FedEx hub located in Memphis. It was crazy how busy it was! Planes were landing one after another and millions of packages were being moved on thousands of different conveyor belts. You don't really ever think about what it takes to ship a simple package, but it was quite the operation we saw that was making it all happen.


On Saturday we shifted gears a little and got a lesson in American music culture and history. We started the day by visiting the home of music legend, Elvis Presley. Visiting Graceland is something that every good American must do in their life, and it seemed as if the International Fellows enjoyed it, too! It was a nice, lighthearted stop on our trip. Graceland was followed up with a panel discussion on the civil rights movement and some speakers that actually took part in the 1968 Sanitation Workers Strike. We then toured the National Civil Rights Museum and heard a lot about the work that Dr. King and other influential civil rights leaders did. We had a free evening on Saturday and many of us decided to take a stroll down the famous Beale Street. It was two blocks lined with classic country bars, street vendors, and lots of country music!


We just had to get an ISMO staff picture at Graceland!


This photo is on display at the National Civil Rights Museum and depicts the peaceful protests that took place. The slogan "I am a man" was used to show that we are all people and ultimately all equal.


Taking a stroll down the famous Beale Street in Memphis.


Sunday closed out our trip with an academic session on some of the topics that had been discussed throughout the week. It was interesting to get to hear the Fellows take on things we learned about and on southern American culture in general. For me, getting to know the Fellows and really talk with some of them on the trip was one of the biggest takeaways. I see many of them every day at my internship, but haven't got the chance to actually get to know them. They all come from such diverse backgrounds and it's awesome to hear how they view certain things in a different way than we do. The trip allowed me to get to know some members of our staff better, too. It was nice getting to be around everyone in a more relaxed mode. Our staff is made up of some really great people and I'm definitely going to miss them when the semester is over.


So, now I'm back in D.C. and it's back to work for me!  No time to rest because we're off to Philadelphia next weekend! Never a dull moment here!

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