Travel Abroad Opens New Perspective For PoliSci Major

Hannah Barnes is learning as a Knight thousands of miles from Millican Hall and the Bounce House — and that suits her just fine.

Barnes’ political science studies take place in Yerevan, Armenia, where she is studying a Kurdish dialect called Kurmanji. She’ll also be immersed in the culture through her host family. 

“It’s hard to be in a conflict with someone that you can relate to, so when you get to meet people, and build friendships with people, it’s no longer like, ‘oh, those people that are way over there on the other side of the world,’ it brings it home and you have that connection, a personal connection, that’s invaluable,” Barnes said.

International travel and experiences have always been important to Barnes. When the pandemic interrupted her job in the travel business, she switched tracks and pursued a career in diplomacy and intelligence. She plans to write a thesis grounded in Kurdish studies, while expanding her political science training with a position in the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office when she returns.

Barnes’ main goal for this trip is to acquire a level of proficiency in Kurdish that allows her to speak un-restricted by vocabulary: “I love languages, but I’ve never felt like I had enough proficiency to really be able to carry on much conversation, I could write or text, but not just listen and respond.”

With previous experience in travel, Barnes can attest to its’ true value. She explains the way in which travel offers connection and perspective, allowing one to see how others live, and relate through differences.

Another benefit of her upcoming travels is the opportunity to learn a language that is considered critical. Barnes explains a language deemed “critical”, by the U.S. Department of State, is one that plays a major role in international relationships, and likewise has a major need for speakers.

Traveling to a new region of the world brings both excitement and nervousness. As an experienced traveler Barnes nerves are not concerning the travel itself, “the nerves [are] more related to things being taken care of at home. I’m a mom, so I worry about stepping away and responsibilities being taken care of.”

“I have no familiarity with Armenian. The Kurdish that I’ll be learning is a totally different dialect than what I’ve studied so far, so it’s basically like starting at zero. But I am ready for the new experiences and enrichment of my education.”


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