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The Carletonian

Adam Karas wins Hawkinson Scholarship

<national Relations major Adam Karas ‘10, was recently announced as one of nine students nation wide to receive a Vincent L. Hawkinson Foundation scholarship.

Since 1988, the scholarship has been awarded to students who show a steadfast commitment to promoting peaceful resolutions to global disputes.

Karas has devoted himself wholeheartedly to this cause, through both extensive travel and the study of three foreign languages. His impressive background abroad includes studying in China, Yemen, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, India and Sri Lanka. He has also spent the last few years learning to speak Arabic, Chinese and Hebrew. Upon hearing of the Hawkinson scholarship, he applied believing that his global experience would set him apart from other applicants.

Karas plans to use the money to travel to the Ningxia Province in China, where there is a large concentration of Hui people. The Hui are ethnically similar to the Han Chinese, however the Hui are Muslim while the Han mostly practice Buddhism or Taoism. Consequently, the Chinese government often sends the Hui as diplomats to the predominantly Muslim Middle East for oil negotiations.

Their hybrid identity appeals to Karas’ interest in both the Chinese and Arabic languages and cultures. With this scholarship, he hopes to investigate how the religious beliefs of the Hui are useful in facilitating communication between China and various Middle Eastern countries. He says his main goal is to do research “in an area where two cultures come together, two languages and cultures I am very passionate about.”

As an experienced traveler, Karas is aware that he will face many challenges. He worries about “being perceived as more than just an outsider who has his own vested interest” and realizes the difficulty of earning the trust of the Hui. He has struggled with these issues in the past, especially as an American citizen.

“While traveling in Yemen, many of the people I met were unapologetically anti-Semitic. Some of the people who hated Americans and Jews the most were the same people I needed for help,” he said.

Despite these obstacles, he claims that his time in Yemen was the most rewarding traveling he has done to date. While studying at the Yemen Institute for the Arabic Language through a scholarship from the U.S. Department of State, Karas was able to travel entirely on his own for the first time. He appreciates that it put him out of his comfort zone and forced him to rely on what he had learned during just ten weeks of Arabic classes.

Though it was hard for him to overcome the prejudice he encountered, the process was an important step for him as a global traveler and will certainly prove helpful when he is traveling in China.

Karas attributes much of his interest in international peace studies not only to his experiences abroad, but also to courses and professors he has had here at Carleton. He said that while taking several classes in the International Relations department, specifically with Roy Grow and Burt Levin, he was “encouraged to pursue peaceful aims to resolve disputes” and to look at “every method of negotiation and alternative to war.”

He looks forward to continuing to explore these challenges both in China and after graduation, hopefully through more travel and language study. As quoted on the Carleton website, Karas believes that “the juncture between the Muslim and Chinese worlds will shape the 21st Century.”

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