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Craig ’16 Has Unique View of Immersion Learning

Daniel Craig ‘16 – Day 6 in Germany: I want to go home. Yes, I said it. I’m not even halfway through the program, and thoughts of home keep creeping into my mind. Mom’s cooking, my own bed, Netflix (that’s right, NO Netflix here!), friends and family: all of these keep flashing through my mind as I sit here listening to people speak in a language I can seemingly just barely understand.

“So what is it that keeps you here?” I hear you asking. Is it the Döner (a tasty Turkish sandwich); the crazy, awesome, Goodwill-esque clothes everyone wears; or is it fear from knowing that if I actually try to leave, Dr. Redding will chase me all the way back…RUNNING…? Well, a little bit of each. But the biggest reason is this: My German is getting better.

It’s true. Full sentences, short phrases, colloquial nonsense — I can say them all. Sure, I may butcher them every now and then, but for the most part I say it just right. If I had met the current me 6 days ago, I would have been blown away. Heck, I’m having full conversations with people. It’s slow and hard, but it’s happening! Just recently when I ordered a scoop of ice cream, I was charming enough that they gave me an extra scoop!

Last evening I was relaxing on a bench in the Oberstadt, Marburg’s historic center, when Dr. Redding walked by. When he asked me how I was doing, I confessed that my brain is a bit full: 4 hours of language practice each morning, then lunch, then on alternating days another 3 hours in German with our language partners or Dr. Redding. It is mentally exhausting.

So in summary, why will I stay? Because it is fantastic here. Because I am actually being challenged, and I am learning. And on top of all that, it’s free (sort of). It’s just too good to pass up. -

Combs ’15 Embraces Classroom, City

Bailey Combs ’15 -  I would like to begin by thanking the generous Wabash alumni and the College for funding this trip into the often misperceived Chicago area and its educational system. Today was my first full day observing at Kenwood Academy. Far from being a failing school, Kenwood strives to get students to graduate and get into college but also take with them up to 12 college credits as well.

The first class I observed started promptly at 8 a.m. and was a senior psychology class working on a psychological disorder unit. It required every memory of Dr. Horton’s PSY 101 class as well as a cast of friends who exemplify some of the disorders. After that, it was several periods of 8th grade human geography class where I engaged students to fully develop their PowerPoint presentations and  classroom activities for their group projects. Students were very interesting in talking to me and I had several fun conversations throughout the day about class, assignments, and of course Wabash College. Additionally, I was able to observe how to handle a stressful situation amongst co-workers as a white teacher and a African-American teacher soon discovered that the seemingly innocent nursery rhythm, “10 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed,” had a more sinister rendition many years ago. There were apologizes all around and an acknowledgement that ignorance and not malice was truly at the middle of the situation.

After classes were over for the day, I met up with Patrick Rezek, who is also observing at Kenwood Academy, and we started our journey back across town to the hostel we are staying at in downtown Chicago. We had the opportunity to talk with one of the chefs at the school while we were waiting on the city bus. He was very happy to hear that we were enjoying our time at the school and that we recognized urban schools weren’t all gangs, drugs, and violence. Unfortunately, the crowded environment of the Chicago Transport Authority Bus No. 6 prevented us from discussing urban education, as well as sports, with this kind gentleman.

Following dinner, everyone on the trip signed up for an architectural tour of the city by boat. My favorite part was when the tour guide asked if we knew anything about the Art Deco style. It didn’t take long for the memories of soft, warm breezes, crying seagulls, and beautiful buildings of Miami and Havana that  I saw on Dr. Hollander’s Cuba Immersion trip last fall to be recalled and my interest level to be peaked. The only downside to seeing all of the old super concrete building of the 1920s and 30s Chicago was hearing about how expensive it was to live downtown. $1.2 million dollars for a townhouse? Suddenly, room and board at Wabash doesn’t sound so bad.

As the week goes on, I plan to not only be more active in the classroom but I also want to see more of the historical sites and museums that Chicago has to offer in the evenings once classes are done for the day. I would like to thank the College and the wonderful Alumni for granting me this opportunity to extend my Wabash College experience beyond the campus but beyond the school calendar too.

Bailey Combs Lands in Havana

Bailey Combs – I would like to start this blog by thanking Wabash College, Dr. Hollander, Dr. Rogers, Mr. Amidon, and Common Ground for organizing this astounding trip. I haven’t even been in Havana one night yet and I can already tell this is going to be an once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I started to get this once-in-a-lifetime feeling the second we got into line to check our bags at the Miami airport. We seemed out of place with our backpacks and carry-on luggage as the Cuban-Americans in line with us pushed hand-carts piled high with the large luggage and gifts they were taking back to their relatives in Cuba. The biggest difference between our luggage and theirs aside from the size and quantity of luggage was that their luggage was encased in cellophane. I was told by the Miami travel agent working that this was done to prevent theft by the Havana airport workers. Since the cellophane was such an essential part of Cuban-Americans traveling back to Cuba, it came as no surprise that the Miami airport offered a bag wrapping service at a whopping $50 a bag.

Getting off the plane in Havana: It’s a journey just getting there!

The adventure continued as we boarded an all-white airplane with a small American Flag and ID numbers as its only distinguishing marks. In a row of three seats, Adam Alexander, a Fiji at Wabash, and I occupied the two seats closest to the aisle. As we sat there speculating whether or not someone was going to occupy the window-side seat next to us, a woman appeared holding her baby boy. Adam and I tried to get up to let her reach her seat but she cut us off and offered her seat to one of us. We both scooted over but right after we did this she said, “Now you must do something for me.” Adam and I stared at each other wondering what we had just gotten ourselves into when suddenly the little boy was plopped into Adam’s lap. After the woman had situated herself in her seat, we entered into a conversation from her and found out her name was Sandy and her son’s name was Luis. Sandy gave us plenty advice on what to avoid in Cuba, namely drinking the local water, and in exchange we helped her get her baggage off of the plane.

From the airplane, we had to walk across the tarmac to the José Martí International Airport. The terminal was silent despite the large crowd of passengers crowding around the baggage claim. We quietly collected our luggage and headed for a set of automatic, sliding doors which were the exit for the terminal. We were stunned when the doors flashed open and a noisy multitude of Cubans eagerly awaiting their relatives were barely restrained by a rail fence. From the back of the crowd, we could see an elderly man holding up a “Wabash University” sign. This older man was William, our tour guide for the Havana portion of our trip. He used to teach history, French, and several other subjects at all levels of the Cuban education system.

He and his driver took us from the airport to the hotel to drop off our bags before heading out to dinner a restaurant named El Templo. It was here that I benefited the most from Dr. Wilson’s Spanish classes because Patrick Bryant and I spoke with our driver in Spanish the entire time. After topping off dinner with éclairs and chocolate ice cream, William rushed us off to La Cabana fortress, a Spanish installation from the 18th century AD, for a reenacting of the closing of the gate ceremony which involved a cannon being fired.

William Burrowes discussed cigars and Cuban culture

We retreated from the fort back to the Hotel Plaza, where we were staying, so that William could give us an introductory lesson in Cuban culture, namely the proper way to smoke a Cuban cigar. I learned that the thicker the cigar the better it is, that one should take their time lighting the cigar, and most importantly to never ash your cigar if you can help it.

As the smoke died down from our first day in Havana, I would like to thank and encourage those reading this blog to read my teammate Isaac Taylor’s blog and the forthcoming blogs of the other students on this trip as well. Viva la Bash!

Yang ’15 Enjoyed Learning Barristers’ Role

Hongli Yang ’15 – The British legal system truly is an interesting one. After visiting the Inns of Court, we went to visit the Littleton Chambers and the British Library. In the UK, Barristers and solicitors, two important parts of the legal profession, practice in very different ways. I believe my peers have demonstrated enough on the differences between a solicitor and a barrister in previous blogs. But it was really invaluable experience to go to a real chamber and talk to a great barrister.

Littleton is a leading set of barrister’s chamber, which practices on very broad legal areas, such as commercial, employment, injunctions, disciplinary and regulatory, sports, mediation and arbitration. In fact, Littleton is so great at those areas that members of the chamber appear against each other. Chris, a successful junior employment barrister, and Jason, one of the clerks in Littleton, shared with us their own experiences. Pupillage, a process to become a barrister in the UK, is a training contract. It includes a six-month shadowing, and another six-month practical legal services. Chris took his pupillage with some other barrister’s chamber before joining Littleton, and has enjoyed a great legal career so far. He told us that barristers, in addition to the privilege of appearing on court, are also experts in specific areas, and can help drafting the litigation. Therefore, instead of only doing arguments in courtrooms, barristers do participate a lot in the client’s cases. Due to the independent nature of barristers (barristers in the UK must work as independent , it is hard for women to pursue a career as barristers, and Oxbridge graduates dominate the barrister occupation.

On the other hand, Jason, a clerk working in Littleton, showed us the interesting relationships between clerks and barristers in a chamber. Clerks advise clients (mostly solicitors) to get an experienced and affordable barrister. Barristers specialize in different areas and some may not be available to take a new case by the time a client requests services. Therefore, clerks can decide a barrister’s “business”. But also, clerks are paid through a fund that draws a percentage of the barristers’ salaries, and some clerks are even some barristers’ personal assistants. Thus, the relationship between a clerk and a barrister is a bit complicated. The interaction between clerks and barristers resembles a financial “symbiosis”, I guess.

Leaving from Littleton, we then moved on to the British Library. The British Library is the national research library in the UK. It is also a legal deposit library, meaning that this library automatically receives of a copy of publications in the UK and Ireland (through some government agreement). The British library houses 14 million books, and some manuscripts that date back to 2000 B.C. Originally part of the British Museum, the library was separated in 1973, and moved to a new building in 1997. The current British Library is the largest public building in the UK constructed in the last century. Among the notable collections are the Diamond Sutra, the earliest dated printed book, in 868 A.D. in Tang Dynasty; several early manuscripts of the Bible in kione Greek; The Lindifarne Gospels; and Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook.

But in regard to the purpose of this trip to London, the British Library is a must-go because it houses the Magna Carta. Actually the Library devoted a single purple room for Magna Carta to demonstrate its significance in the history of the UK. Magna Carta is “The Grand Charter” in Latin, and was first created in 1215. Magna Carta was later revised due to the constant changing political background. Although Magna Carta failed to work as a “constitution” then, the concept that the King is also under the supervision of the law is historically crucial. Laws could limit the King’s power. Magna Carta established the mindset of the supremacy of law that later give rise to important legal documents, such as Habeas Corpus, and the Bill of Rights. No wonder, Magna Carta was the first important legal documents we encountered in our class.

From what I have observed and learned in the past few days, the common law system in the UK is constantly improving and very interesting. The UK legal system might be a lot different from the U.S. system. But the underlying principles are similar. History is not an endpoint. It can also be a roadmap to the future. I am extremely thankful for such opportunity to come to London and experience the history and development of the common law myself.

Hammering Out the Meaning of Katrina’s Destruction

Chet Turnbeaugh ’14 — Two years ago, I decided to tag along on the yearly spring break trip to New Orleans.  I was ready to enjoy the summer-like weather and to hopefully rebuild, what was in my mind, a broken city.  As a freshman, this trip was eye opening in many ways.  The irony of a city, which had been built and maintained by the resourcefulness of its ports, nearly destroyed overnight by water, seemed surreal to me.  How tragic it was to think of the loss that had occurred in a city as majestic as the Big Easy, how even more tragic it was to witness first-hand six years after the first winds of Katrina.

Nearly eight years since disaster struck, I approach the topic of New Orleans much differently now.  Having been here once already, I knew some of what to expect going into it—boarded up windows, caved-in roofs, magenta and olive colored shutters, red and black x’s on the doors, and beads of all colors imaginable.  Yet, what I wasn’t expecting to find was the depth of meaning that I found in my physical labor.

This time around we have partnered up with lowernine.org, a nonprofit organization that pairs local homeowners in the Lower Ninth Ward—the poorest and worst affected portion of the city—with volunteers to help return original community members to their homes.  My team was placed on a house a few miles outside of the Lower Ninth, that belongs to a gentleman who has done a lot to help in the rebuilding efforts, but has received little in return.  His home, which his family has owned for over thirty years, is in need of a new roof.  During the storm, his garage and most of the interior of the house were rendered uninhabitable.  My time has been divided equally between replacing rafters on the roof and destroying he remnants of the garage. In these seemingly opposite natured tasks, I have encountered the duality of the universe: creation and destruction.

On the morning of the third day, we were standing on a wobbly roof and by three o’clock the entire structure was dismantled.  The astonishing fact about this was that every board remained in tact, because these would all be salvaged to reuse on other portions of the house in order to diminish costs.  As I was hammering, sawing, and pulling boards apart I was reminded of the strong winds that originally broke windows, doors, and roofing tiles.  Consequently, I realized that until the boards were all taken down, which meant the death of a once functional garage, they could not be reestablished to their new position on the roof. Sometimes, destruction is necessary to learn to appreciate and accept all that is, before allowing it the grace and flexibility to naturally take shape in a new form.

In the case of one homeowner on Franklin Street, the destruction of a garage means the rebirth of a roof over his family’s heads.  Similarly, perhaps the destruction of New Orleans was to illuminate the real Road Home—a world where humans recognize their connectedness to other humans’ needs and are more than willing to help restore the wounds beauty suffers at the hand of fate.  If this is the nature of the story in New Orleans, than maybe I am not as distraught as I was a few years back.  This week, I have enjoyed breaking down the useless to reform the useful and I walk away with a better appreciation for the benefits that can come only from dealing with loss.

Geary ’14, Students Wrap Up Frankfurt Visit

Connor Geary ’14 – Even though we have only been here for two days, today was one of the most educational days yet. The purpose of this trip was to have a hands on learning experience about the EU. Today our agenda consisted of visiting the European Central bank (ECB). After going through security we soon realized that we had stumbled upon a special chance to have our informational session in the same conference room as the Governor’s council.

The Governor’s Council consists of all of the presidents of the EU member states central banks, as well as the board and the president of the ECB. Victor, the senior press secretary of the ECB was the one leading the presentation about the ECB. This was a real treat, since Victor was very knowledgeable about what goes on in the ECB. One of the many things that we learned today was why the ECB keeps the inflation rate around 2%, which is due to the inability to have a negative interest rate; which is the tool used to combat inflation. Being able to sit in the same chair that one of the member states of the EU has sat in and made a decision that has affected that European Union in some manner, was really one of the highlights of the trip so far.

After our experience at the ECB, we all had roughly 4 hours before we have to leave to catch the train to Brussels (which is where I am currently writing this from at 270 kmh). Frankfurt has a multitude of cultural experiences to discover, and that is exactly what my friend Devan Taylor and I did. We left the ECB and headed east across the city with no real plan as to what we were going to do for lunch and the rest of the afternoon. One of the things that we discovered in a square was a protest of a new law that was being passed to subsidize parents who homeschool their children. The police officer that we talked to was very informative about what was going on and knowledgeable about the situation as well.

After observing the protest, we headed farther east in search of food. We stumbled across a hole in the wall place that specialized in Donner sandwiches, which consist of shaved of meat in a pita bread. If you ever get the chance to try one, do it, you will not regret it. After lunch we headed back to the hostel, but took a detour and strolled down the riverside, observing the locals.

We are currently headed to Brussels where we will see the European Commission, Parliament, and possibly take a trip to Waterloo. I think I speak for everyone in our group when I say that we are really gaining invaluable experience from immersing ourselves within the culture and with the institutions that run the EU.

I would like to thank the Rogge Fund for being so generous as to fund this trip. We really are gaining invaluable knowledge and experience. I would also like to say thank you to my professors Dr. Mikek and Dr. Hollander, who have done a fantastic job educating us about the economics and politics of the EU.