polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

Reflections from a Traveling Course on Cities

by Julia Waterhous and Dylan Crary

Last semester we had the opportunity to observe and absorb urban challenges and realities in New York, Delhi, Dakar, and Buenos Aires as part of the International Honors Program's course on Cities in the 21st Century. Polis writer Melissa García Lamarca accompanied us as a traveling faculty member and has written about the program in a number of posts.

Dylan, Melissa and Hayntatu prepare a salad in Keur Ali Guèye, Senegal.

We would like to share some of our experiences, the stories of the people we encountered, and the thoughts we had along our journey, as well as those that continue running through our minds. We wish to explore how those experiences have affected our interactions with and perspectives on the city.

Julia (center) and Alyssa present on the universal power of smiles at the Sociedad Central de Arquitectos in Buenos Aires.

Over the next few weeks, we will compare our experiences abroad with what we have encountered since returning to the U.S., in order to continue learning from the cities we visited. Our posts will cover seven broad topics: individual vs. collective societies, politics of waste, infrastructure, transportation, markets, housing, and contentment. We recognize that these are extensive subjects, but we'll explore them through specific experiences from the program.

Julia and her host family in Delhi.

Critical Mass in Buenos Aires.

The strip mall reaches Dakar, Senegal.

IHP students visit a waste-picker colony in Delhi.

We believe that recognizing differences is important to finding localized solutions, while emphasizing underlying similarities reminds us that we are intimately interconnected in a globalized world. Views on the "correct" urban condition need not be dictated from the West, but should be more of a conversation on strategies to handle challenges that all cities face.

Julia Waterhous and Dylan Crary are Polis interns.

Credits: Photos from Catherine Flint, Melissa García Lamarca, Ali Sheppard, Dylan Crary, David Tomporowski and Liz Zimiles.