Continuing their field studies around the United States, the International Fellows visited Tennessee in November 2012. Fellows from NDU have been visiting Tennessee for almost twenty years, and it is one of the longest-running field studies in the program. The objectives of this field study are to explore aspects of American culture in the South, continue the discussion on Civil Rights in U.S. society, learn about local government institutions and the judicial process, and gain exposure to the U.S. free market system and charitable organizations.
The Fellows were hosted for the first two days by the small town of Ripley near the Mississippi River. Fellows stayed in the homes of host families and were able to experience southern culture, hospitality, and homemade cuisine. While in Ripley, the Fellows visited the Mayor’s office, Marvin Windows Corporation and the Bank of Ripley to get a feel for local government and industry. There were two new visits on the itinerary this year, including a stop at the local Ripley Elementary school where the students greeted the Fellows with flags from their country. Students prepared briefings on the Fellows’ countries and peppered them with questions. The visit to Ripley also included a stop at the West Tennessee Maximum Security Prison where the Fellows had a chance to talk with some of the inmates.
A longstanding tradition of the Tennessee trip is the mock-trial hosted by the local courthouse. Local law enforcement pulled over the bus and arrested an unlucky Fellow. Luckily, however, some of his classmates with true legal experience stepped up to help with the case, including the Croatian officer who is an attorney by background. This year, the legal defense made such a strong case that, for possibly the first time in the program, the accused fellow was acquitted by a jury of his peers.
Following Ripley, the Fellows visited Memphis to get a completely different feel for that part of the country. They visited St Jude Children’s Hospital and had an opportunity to interact with some of the children undergoing cancer treatment there. For the past several years, the International Fellows have purchased a brick on the pathway of hope to support the hospital. It was a memorable and touching visit for all involved.
The time in Memphis included a midnight stop at FedEx Corporation’s “Super-Hub”, its largest package processing facility in the United States, where Fellows toured the facility and heard from employees there. The final day of the visit included a focus on civil rights. The group visited the National Civil Rights Museum, built around the motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in downtown Memphis, and heard from a local judge. Of course, no visit to Memphis was complete without a stop at Graceland and an introduction to the musical soul of the city.
The International Fellows program would like to thank all who were involved in this year’s visit to Tennessee. It is wonderful to be supported by many residents, business owners, hosts, and professional staff on these visits.