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Hogai Aryoubi

College: CUNY Baccalaureate Degree
Awards: Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, 2015

Putting Aesthetics in Context

If you're shopping in Afghanistan, don't make the western-ethnocentric mistake of calling that lovely rug for sale in the market a work of art. Rugs, in the Afghan conception of aesthetics, are purely functional. Oil paintings are art.

Hogai Sarbeland Aryoubi (CUNY B.A., Anthropology of Cross-Cultural Aesthetics '13) explored such differences as an undergraduate. Now, as she prepares to plunge into a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Turkey, she looks forward to teasing out similar differences in cultural perception in a new country.

"I've always been interested in teaching abroad," she says. "I went to Istanbul last summer on a tour through Europe and the Middle East. I loved Turkey and wanted to fully immerse myself in the culture, so I applied."

When she was 10, Aryoubi and her family arrived in Washington, D.C., on refugee visas from Afghanistan, and she stayed in the area through high school. When it was time for college, she headed to New York, first to Pace University and then to the CUNY Baccalaureate program. "What I wanted to study was available nowhere else. At Pace, I had over $50,000 in loans for two years and I'm still paying them off, but at CUNY I had to borrow only $2,000 to pay for materials."

Aryoubi adds, "I loved CUNY, because I wanted a quality education at a diverse public university that is accessible and affordable, and when I graduated I posted it on my profile. It's like I graduated from New York City. I loved my mentor, Dr. Regine Latortue, a former professor and chair of the Africana Studies Department at Brooklyn College, and am still in touch with her by email.

"Because she taught anthropology-based classes, she understood my interest in how the perception of aesthetics varies according to culture and helped me create my unique CUNY B.A. program."

After graduating from CUNY, Aryoubi joined Teach for America. She now teaches 10th- grade English and handles a caseload of special education students at Cesar Chavez High School for Public Policy in Washington, D.C. This spring she is to receive an M.S. in educational studies from Johns Hopkins University.

After completing her Fulbright, she expects to pursue a doctorate in education. Unless, that is, "Cuba opens up. I'd like to teach there for a year, too."