Fulbright to Oman
Amy Broome will study how tourism shapes a nation’s identity
Foreign travel can teach us as much about our own country as it does about the places we visit. The cultural contrasts encountered in another land serve to put our own culture and society into high relief.
Often, these experiences change us in subtle or pronounced ways. But is the obverse true? Do travelers change the countries they visit? How? And to what extent?
Amy Broome ’11, an international relations major from St. Johnsbury, Vermont, is curious about such questions. Now she has won a Fulbright Scholarship to Oman, where she will research the ways in which foreign tourism there shapes and changes modern Omani identity.
Broome, who has studied Arabic at Wheaton, notes that the increasing numbers of foreign visitors to the once-isolated Sultanate of Oman have brought “new cultures, ideas, and languages with them—novelties that undoubtedly affect Omanis and Omani society at large.”
Tourism “is a process of both ‘give’ and ‘take,’ in which travelers and Omanis take part in cross-cultural interactions,” Broome says. By studying the effects of these interactions, she hopes to paint “a comprehensive picture of how the influx of foreign travelers affects a society’s perceptions of self and of the outside world.” She also hopes to analyze her findings “in a way that fosters wider intercultural understanding.”
The oldest of four children, Broome is a first-generation college student. She grew up in northeastern Vermont in a family that harvested its own firewood, cultivated an extensive garden and constructed its own buildings. Her parents, she says, put a high value on education and on a strong work ethic.
At Wheaton, Broome has pursued a passion for languages that began with her study of Latin at age 11. She started with Arabic and Italian in her freshman year and later added Mandarin Chinese. In her junior year, she spent one semester in Beijing and one in Cairo, where she sharpened her Arabic skills and also learned some “Egyptian colloquial.”
Oman, an Islamic monarchy located on the southeast coast of the Arabian peninsula, has close political ties to the United States. In recent years the country has developed its tourism sector in an attempt to reduce dependency on its oil industry. Most foreign visitors to Oman hale from other Middle Eastern nations, says Broome, and the country is becoming modernized without necessarily becoming “westernized.”
Broome will carry out her study in the city of Muscat, Oman’s cultural hub and largest city, where she will affiliate with Sultan Qaboos University. Throughout the year she will conduct interviews with Omanis from many walks of life, seeking to learn how aspects of other cultures, including food, dress, media and language, are making their way into modern Omani society, and how such changes are viewed.
After her Fulbright year, the Phi Beta Kappa graduate plans to pursue a master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies.