Alena Zaborska is a visiting scholar from Slovakia, hosted by Professor Grant Smith and the English Department with support from the Office of Global Initiatives. Zaborska is here for four months, leaving July 17. She is currently in her second year of study at Slovak University, pursuing her PhD in linguistics.
Can you talk about the research you’re doing?
I’m pursuing a PhD at Slovak University, and I’m here to do research. I focus on ethnic jokes from the linguistic point of view – my specialization is linguistics with a focus on ethnic jokes. I’ve analyzed mainly Slovak ethnic jokes, but decided to work with American ones, too. The United States is a huge country in terms of many cultures and ethnicities, so it’s a bit of a challenge because it’s hard to say who’s an American. It’s challenging, but exciting, too, so that’s why I decided to go for American jokes.
So far I have a lot of books to read [laughing]. I have three research plans. First, I want to gather ethnic jokes either from books, the Internet and from people in general. When I tell people that I’m studying ethnic jokes, people always ask, ‘OK, well, tell me a joke.’ Everyone thinks I know so many jokes. It’s different when you analyze them. I can analyze the processes in ethnic jokes, but I don’t remember them all and I’m not a good joke teller [laugh]. It’s not the same.
Next, I’m here to gather data. There are a lot of articles in books that are not accessible in Slovakia, so I spend a lot of time in the library. The third part is to learn about ethnic stereotypes – what stereotypes do Americans have about other ethnic groups or ethnicities?
How’d you get to Eastern?
Last September I went to Poland to a conference in Krakow and I met English professor Grant Smith from Eastern. He and his wife wanted to go to downtown Krakow and I could understand some Polish and they needed help, so I went with them. We started to talk about my research and he gave me his card. When I went back home, I found out I could get a scholarship from the Slovakian government to participate in a research exchange, but I needed a letter of invitation. So, I sent an email to Professor Smith, he said yes, that’s great. Thanks to him I got to Eastern.
I love it; it’s wonderful. I love the campus because it’s park like.
What are you most excited for?
I’m excited about meeting new people. That goes hand in hand with exploring cultures. I think that’s really interesting because even though they’re Americans, they don’t come from the same part of the country – if you’re from the East Coast or Alaska, it’s different. It’s so exciting for me. I’m also excited about exploring more of the United States. I don’t think I will go to East Coast, but I would love to explore as many places as possible since it’s my first time in the U.S.