Hometown: Merion, Pennsylvania
High School: Lower Merion High School
Target Language: French
Study Abroad: Rabat, Morocco
Unquestionably, Huntsman is more than just an academic track. It is a vibrant and one-of-a-kind community. All incoming students live on the same floor their first year, and everyone forges incredibly tight-knit international friendships that are unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.
A Balanced Education
Steve has described the range of experiences offered by the Huntsman curriculum as a spectrum, with a heavy business focus at one end and a broader liberal arts course of study at the other. Personally, he feels that he's struck a good balance between the two. He chose a Wharton concentration in Finance, and says that those have been some of the most rewarding courses he has taken at Penn. However, he has also declared an additional major in Political Science and minors in both French and Mathematics. A course on France and the European Union (taught in French) piqued his interest in the developing relationships within the European sphere. The course double-counted towards his Poli-Sci degree, prompted further coursework and encouraged his decision to study abroad in Morocco, where he would learn more about the interaction of North Africa with the EU.
His all-time favorite course was Kathleen Hall Jamison's "Introduction to Political Communication," which convinced him that perhaps a career in political communication might be in the works. But he also enjoyed his summer in New York doing investment banking, in financial restructuring. When he graduates, he is not sure which of these interests he'll pursue as a career, but feels that the Huntsman curriculum will have prepared him well for anything the future holds.
In the long-term, he could see himself going back to school to pursue a PhD in Economics or Political Economy - he loves to teach. Immediately after graduation, though, he will probably go into the financial services sector because he says, "the learning opportunities there are enormous."
Study Abroad in Morocco
As a child, Steve had the opportunity to attend public school in Switzerland, and during high school, he spent a semester abroad in Paris. So, for his study abroad in college, he wanted to try something completely different. He said as much to the Huntsman Program Advisor, who suggested he consider the Université de Mohammed V in Rabat, which has a French faculty. Steve had grown up in a conservative Jewish community, so living in a predominantly Islamic country in the home of a Muslim family for several months promised to be a novel experience. Steve was the first Huntsman student ever to go to Rabat, and Penn's first exchange student in Morocco in almost ten years.
Two Muslim holidays fell during Steve's time in Rabat, and throughout that time, he ate in accordance with his host family's traditions. During Ramadan, this meant one meal at 4am and one other at 10o'clock at night. During Aid el Kebir, the Slaughter of the Lamb, Steve experienced a completely different tradition. A lamb lived in his family's kitchen balcony for three days before the event, which was followed by many meals of lamb meat. While he gained a great appreciation for Moroccan food during his time in Rabat, Steve says he was pretty tired of eating lamb by the end of his stay.
Though his classes were in French, Steve also took Arabic classes while abroad. He began with absolutely no knowledge of Arabic but left with intermediate-high proficiency according to the State Department's assessment criteria. By the end of his stay, his long conversations with his host brother were mostly in Arabic. Such conversations, along with his courses at the university, afforded him a totally different perspective on what defines the conflict between Islam and the West.
"I absolutely loved Morocco," says Steve. "I had this wonderful host family, I had an amazing culture to explore that was unlike anything I had ever seen… Academically speaking, I think it was the most interesting experience of my life."
His semester abroad also provided amazing travel opportunities. He made it to fourteen countries during his four months abroad, but some of the most memorable sights were in Morocco itself: Steve fondly remembers an evening in the Sahara desert where, after a two-hour camel trek to get there, he heard Berbers playing their drums as the sun went down over their camp.