Arika Dean, a master's student in linguistics, teaches eighth-graders at the Ocracoke School during her spring break.

The New Spring Break

April 10, 2012

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The words “spring break” conjure some familiar images: sunshine, beaches, parties.

But many NC State students do more than catch rays over spring break. This year, students from the College of Textiles traded partying for professional development, while graduate students in linguistics spent a week teaching eighth-graders language lessons from their own past.

A Business Trip To Peru

Four College of Textiles students and associate professor Bill Harazin traveled to Peru over the break to study the textiles industry there. Their trip was part of an 18-year-old program that aims to grow the state’s economy by introducing small- and mid-size-business owners in North Carolina to overseas markets. Business owners travel overseas with officials from the state and federal departments of commerce, and others.

Bill Harazin (center), associate professor of textiles, and students (left to right) Ashley Hardesty, Caitlyn Holt, Katina Gad and Meghan Coats spent spring break learning about the textiles industry in Peru.

NC State students have been traveling with the group for the last six years. They participate in cultural events, meet with international trade specialists and tour foreign businesses.

“Not only do the students get on-the-ground training as to how to do business in a destination country, but they also have interaction with the other delegates, who are more than willing to mentor the students,” Harazin said.

Spending time with government and business representatives from the United States and Peru gave the students a panoramic view of the world of international business, said Meghan Coats, a master’s student in textile technology management.

“They talked about consumers and what they are purchasing, and they talked about the political side of things,” Coats said. “They were very informative, across all levels.”

Senior fabric and textile management major Caitlyn Holt said she was surprised to learn about resources available to American businesses looking to enter the Peruvian market.

“I didn’t realize how much help is out there for American companies who want to export,” she said. “It was really interesting to see how committed people are in Peru to help you out.”

The textiles students chronicled their trip in a blog, Doing Business Internationally.

Keeping A Dialect Alive on Ocracoke

Graduate students in the linguistics program spent their spring break on the coast, but it was no beach trip. Walt Wolfram, William C. Friday Distinguished University Professor of English, took a class to Ocracoke to teach middle-school students on the island about dialects.

Ocracoke, home of the Outer Banks brogue dialect, has long been a research subject for Wolfram and NC State’s North Carolina Language and Life Project. During their week on the island, the students taught Ocracokers about their own historic dialect and others, including Southern American, Appalachian, African-American and Spanish-American.

The trip was an eye-opener for Liang Zhang. It was her first opportunity to teach English to native English speakers. Prior to enrolling the master’s linguistics program at NC State, she taught English in her native China.

“They are so interactive and so cooperative,” she said of the Ocracoke students. “They’re so clever.”

“They were very enthusiastic, and they were really, really sharp,” added John Forrest.

The graduate students also met some of the native Ocracokers who’ve appeared in films about Wolfram’s work. The students recalled studying some of the people they dined and socialized with during the trip.

“Knowing that I was going to actually see those people in real life was really cool,” said Carolina Myrick.

“Yeah, they’re like stars to us,” Arika Dean added.

The purpose of Wolfram’s annual expedition has shifted in the 20 years since his first. Initially, he and his students did research on the Outer Banks brogue. Today, however, the trip aims to teach young Ocracokers about a tongue rarely spoken by anyone but the elderly. Coming back to teach each year brings linguistic insights gleaned from Ocracoke back home, Wolfram said.

“When you do research with a group, you’re also obligated to work with that community and get that information back to them in a usable format,” Wolfram said.

“It gave a face to what we do,” Dean said. “Community interaction and community involvement are big tenets of this program.”