Katherine Schmidt is an alumna of the 2018 CLS Azerbaijani program in Baku, Azerbaijan. She’s currently an independent researcher based in Baku, where she uses her language skills to communicate with friends, colleagues, and in day-to-day conversations on the street. She enjoys martial arts, rock climbing, and hiking.
I grew up in Montgomery, New Jersey and in college I studied Chinese and International Relations. I wanted to find some way to merge my interests in China and Azerbaijan—this connection between the East and West really excites me. I love research and I want to publish on geopolitics and the connection between Azerbaijan and China.
Learning from Kids
My host brother was 3 years old. I soon realized that I did not necessarily need Azerbaijani to communicate with him! One day after school, I used one of the very few words I knew to play a game with him where I pretended to be a cow. We then spent half an hour running around the home being cows. This was such an awesome way to connect with my host brother in a way that reminded me that people are people, and kids are kids. Differences don’t necessarily have to be scary. And cows are awesome.
Bringing the Culture Home
My kung fu class in Washington, D.C. now knows where Azerbaijan is! My friends can now hold a conversation about the country’s culture and history. My family loves to tell people about my travels because then they can teach people about this country. It’s amazing the connections that can be made between people just by experiencing something new and being open. For example, my best friend studied Turkish in school and when I Facetimed with her, my housemates here in Azerbaijan spoke to her in Turkish.
For people interested in expanding their studies from Chinese, the intersection of the Chinese-Muslim world and Turkic identity is really critical and interesting.
CLS Alumni Ambassadors are recent CLS participants who take leadership roles as active and positive representatives of the CLS Program by engaging with CLS alumni and representing the program to various audiences. If you would like to get in touch with a CLS Alumni Ambassador, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org