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Triangle Talks with Andrew Petersen

Andrew Petersen is an adjunct professor of linguistics at Drexel and an English lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated from Duke University with a BA in Economics in 1984. He has since traveled to over 20 different countries and is experienced with many different cultures.

Triangle Talks: How many different countries have you travelled to?

Andrew Petersen: I lived in San Francisco, California until I was seven and then moved to Sydney, Australia for eight years. I moved back to the United States when I was 15 and lived abroad for 12 years. I spent two years in Spain, two years in Turkey, and eight years in Mexico. Besides the countries I’ve lived in I have travelled to over 20 countries, including most European countries.

TT: How many languages can you speak?

AP: I can fluently speak English, French and Spanish. I can also speak Turkish but not fluently.

TT: What did you do when you lived outside of the United States?

AP: I taught English, mostly in private universities. In Turkey I taught at the University of Istanbul, in Mexico I taught at the University of Monterrey and in Spain I taught at the royal palaces — the Palace of Moncloa and the Royal Palace of Madrid. I didn’t get to meet the king but I gave English lessons to the Palace Royal Guard. I even got to see the king’s collection of antique cars and the Chief of Protocol for the King gave me a private party when I left Spain.

TT: Have you ever backpacked across Europe?

AP: Numerous times, my first being junior year of college. My advice is to just grab a bag and go with no plans. You meet people who tell you where to go, you can stay in youth hostels, they’re very inexpensive. Backpacking is a real experience where you learn so much about cultures and people and countries and languages and you’re forced to cope with unexpected events.

TT: What is your favorite food that you have tried on your travels?

AP: I love Turkish food, especially on the banks of Bosphorus; they have restaurants, grilled fish, and endless appetizers. The meal becomes the real event; you’re not eating to eat but you’re eating to experience the culture.

TT: Do you have any funny stories from while you were abroad?

AP: When I was in Turkey I took a vacation to Cyprus, which is divided between the Turkish and Greek side. It was a day hike above a town up the hills and we got lost – it got dark very fast and we couldn’t find the way down so we were forced to camp in the cold on top of the mountain. We made our way down the next day and at the bottom we were met by barking German Shepherds and soldiers. Apparently we were in a militarized zone. They took us into custody and we didn’t even know where we were. Luckily my friend spoke Turkish. They even searched where we were staying and everything. Apparently the place we spent the night in was used as a bombing range. Another time when I was backpacking in France with college friends, we got off a train in a small French town late at night and had to walk to a youth hostel on the outskirts of town. By the time we got there it had closed. We were wandering out in the woods which I guess looked suspicious and the French police picked us up and took us to the police station. They grilled us and it turned out that they spoke English but pretended they didn’t speak it just so they could have a good laugh. I think they were just bored and once they got their entertainment they let us leave. We ended up sleeping in the train station for the remainder of the night.   

TT: What was your favorite experience teaching abroad?

AP: When I taught at the University of Istanbul, I seemed to be the only American around and so was in demand.  I had three different positions–  in the Economics on English Faculty, the Banking Program and in the European Community Program. I loved all of the students.  It was a cultural experience just to walk to school everyday through the alleyways in old Istanbul and through the maze of the Grand Bazaar.

TT: What’s next for you?

AP: In the future I would like to continue teaching and travelling. I would be especially interested in a cross-cultural dimension of education like getting American students involved in meeting students from other countries. Hopefully I continue teaching at Drexel and maybe develop more opportunities in both Philadelphia and overseas for students and faculty to travel and get involved.

TT: Where do you expect yourself to finally settle down in?

AP: I play it year by year. These days it’s so easy to travel. We can be flexible and not even make that decision to settle down in one place. We can live in one country for part of a year and go to another place for another part of the year. This is an opportunity people in the old days did not have, it’s so easy and we should take advantage of it.