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Dakota Rhodes ’18

Dakota Rhodes ‘18

Dakota Rhodes​

Architecture as Art

I was walking through Berlin, on my way to Checkpoint Charlie when what I had been learning at Wabash had kicked in. It was a utopic moment of clarity when I could clearly see the difference in the eastern and western Berlin architecture. It sounds so simple, but this was a defining moment for myself. I had been learning about art and architecture through my many classics classes at Wabash, and then I saw its practicality in real life. Architecture is more than a way of building; it is a way to express a cultures view of the world around them. No architect has ever built something because it looks beautiful; they built it for a reason beyond what a wondering eye can see. The difference in architecture was astounding and showed the separation of a capitalistic view of the world and a communistic past. This was so astounding to me because it is something that everyone else looked past. The public was looking for touristy shops and landmarks, but to stop for a moment and wonder, wonder how great men and women depicted their timeline through these buildings, incredible. I wouldn’t have been able to experience this profound moment without the help of the Givens Family. It is because of them that I was able to experience art as it was supposed to be experienced, in person and with insurmountable appreciation.


Michael Lumpkin ’18

Michael Lumpkin ’18

Arch of Titus

Michael Lumpkin at the Arch of Titus

Coming into my Junior year at Wabash College, I had not given the study of Western European Art nearly the time or attention it deserves. Over the past 9 months, through my studies at Wabash College and my study abroad experience so generously supported by the Given’s Family, I have had the opportunity to learn and capture the essence of what art means to our world. At Wabash in the Fall of 2016, I took Dr. Hartnett’s “Roman Art & Archaeology” class, an experience that opened my eyes to the splendors of the art world. This newfound interest inspired me to take the “Introduction to Spanish Art” class spring semester here in Valencia, Spain at the University of Virginia in Valencia. This class has allowed me to look at the different periods in the history of Western European Art, with a special focus on the artists and influences present in Spain.

Combined with my classroom experience, I have been lucky enough to travel and see some of Europe’s finest art first-hand. In April, I visited the Rome, Italy, where I spent time at the Roman Forum. Much of the art and architecture that had previously consisted of the Roman Forum has now been destroyed over the centuries, but one sacred piece of art that remains is the Arch of Titus. On the Arch, one can see the vivid imagery of battle during the Roman period, religious depictions, and how Emperors of the time portrayed themselves to their people. These were images the Roman people saw daily, as they traveled on Rome’s main road under the arch, the Via Sacra. Having just had seen pictures of Victory Arches like these before through my “Roman Art & Archaeology” class, the opportunity to see the Arch of Titus in person was an experience I will never forget. A second experience I found captivating was my visit to the “Sagrada Família” in Barcelona, Spain. A Basilica still yet to be completed after over 100 years of construction, and a creation based on the vision of artist Antoni Gaudí, this building is covered with incredible artwork both inside and out. Lastly, my experience visiting the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain is something I will never forget. Especially the works Francisco Goya, which portrayed historical scenes in incredibly vivid fashion, left me captivated at the images and with a further understanding of history.


Marcus Hoekstra ’18

Marcus Hoekstra in Alhambra’s garden.

Marcus Hoekstra ‘18

Spain’s beautiful symbiosis of religion

“Wow…that’s great…so what made you study religion?” It’s a common response to a frequent question. What made me study religion? You see, what most people don’t understand, is that the study of spirituality extends far beyond future priests and pastors. First and foremost, as any education is, it is an understanding. It is an introspection into human thought, history, and questions concerning matters greater than oneself, be it spirit or culture. It is the close analyzation of themes, tradition, and the interchange of ideas. No, I never thought I would study it. But yes, I quite enjoy it.

You see, what Wabash has provided me over the past three years is the opportunity to engage with these concepts on a day to day basis. It has sat myself down in a classroom, for hours every week, and pushed me to speak thoughtfully of books taken hundreds, if not thousands of years to writes. No small challenge indeed. It has provided me a foundational understanding on the function of religiosity, its role in this world, and more importantly its place within the human story. So why study religion? Because with these tools, one may begin to better understand current issues such as the ongoing Middle Eastern unrest, disparities in country secularization levels, and their impacts reaching into political, cultural, even economic spheres.

Nasrid palace

Magical, indeed. However, as Herbert Spencer once said, “the ultimate aim of education is not knowledge but action.” Personally, I could not agree anymore with this statement. Recently this phrase has embodied itself in my life in two very powerful ways. The first, was my immersion trip to Israel this past Fall where we studied ongoing inter religious conflict, commonalities, and influence. The second, and more importantly, has been my semester abroad in Valencia, Spain. During my time here, I have been given the chance to engage with Spanish lifestyle, live with a host family, while loving every moment of it. However, much of Spain’s past and present has not always been as “Spanish” as we know it today. Thanks to the Givens Endowment, I have grown to understand this.

I’ve always had a respect for art. Although not an area that I am the most knowledgeable in, it has always fascinated me in its diversity of styles and periods. Being so, the Givens Scholarship has provided me a chance to deepen my artistic understanding of Western culture. With my grant statement, I chose to focus on the Islamic influence of Western art. What better of a place to begin than Spain? For some 400 years, Muslims controlled much of the Iberian Peninsula, infusing its ideas and styles into a Western-Christian Spain. No better can this be seen than in the architecture and of the Alhambra.

Situated in Granada, Spain, this UNESCO World Heritage is one of the largest palaces in Europe. Bearing the mark of Islamic calligraphy, paintings, and wall decorations, much of the original Muslim foundations stand next to gothic and renaissance era churches. I best observed this in the Nasrid palace, in which beautiful courtyards built by Muslim architects have been renovated by Christian builders.

Below the castle, much of the Granada’s architecture and artistic works possess inter religious influences seen in the Alhambra above. Ornate vaulted arches among the Granada’s cathedrals reminisce of their Islamic origins.

Ultimately, it is to say, that the Givens Scholarship has provided me with the opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to real world experience, deepening my appreciation of Spain’s beautiful symbiosis of religion. The Givens has offered me a chance to delve deeper into one of my final Fall course papers and elaborate on my classes here in Spain. It has been a truly wonderful opportunity. Thanks to the Givens family, this has all been possible.

 

 


Jacob Covert ’18

Jacob Covert ’18

Islamic Art and Architecture in the Spanish Context

Jacob Covert on his study abroad in Spain

Art is often one of the most omnipresent constants in our lives; however, it often goes unnoticed to the unknowing or untrained eye. I can say that before this semester in Spain, I was one of the millions of people that passed art in any form without a second thought. However, there was one class that I had been encouraged to take by previous Wabash men from this program called Islamic Art and Architecture in the Spanish Context. This amazing class shows the progression of how Islam and Christianity have impacted each other to create art that has never been seen before within Andalucía. Furthermore, this class has shown the lasting impact that art can have on a community and in my case even a society.

I remember starting this class feeling overwhelmed because I was taking a class about a subject I had never studied before, in a different language, with no previous context to help. Yet, as the weeks passed by my knowledge of the basic understanding of Islamic art and architecture grew and little by little my eyes began to open to the world of art. It was truly thanks to the Givens Family that I was finally able to place all that I had learned into the proper perspective when I had the opportunity to visit the Mosque turned Cathedral of Córdoba. From the second that I entered the building, my breath was taken away, as all that I had been studying for months was realized in a single moment. When I walked in I instantly saw the thousands of arches called De entibo in Spanish due to their layered design and striped color. Moreover, as I continued to explore I could see the Islamic influence on the art and architecture. For example, there are no statues of paintings of people or faces within the old area of the mosque because the religion of Islam does not allow for these images, therefore, the exquisite artists of the past compensated for this by creating intricately designed epigraphy on the walls within the whole complex that were laced with secondary meanings, such as political agendas, Islamic verses, or poetry. Furthermore, all the epigraphy was meant to represent water, as water is an important concept within their religious art and is a representation of purity within Islam.

Jacob Covert ’18

In addition to the amazingly intricate art and architecture of the religion of Islam, there were also masterpieces created by the Christians when they conquered southern Spain. An interesting contrast between the two religions was that Christian artists could create statues and paintings with real figures of people, which did not exist before in the artwork of this region. However, the most important contrast that exists between the two religions is the use of light in artwork and, more importantly, the architecture of the Cathedral. I remember that when touring the building I was astounded by how dark it was within the older Muslim portions of the structure, yet as the tour continued there was a distinct change that took place when I enter the area that was redesigned and constructed by the Christians. Within a matter of two steps I was flooded with light and brilliant pieces of artwork depicting the story of Christ. The contrast was as blatant as day is to night because the Mosque turned Cathedral of Córdoba allows for the mixture of two completely different cultures to intersect and be seen as a whole.

While I have had the opportunity to see and visit museums and masterpieces from famous artists like Van Gogh and Picasso, the reason I have focused on the Cathedral of Córdoba was because it was the creation of master artists and architects of two different cultures. The incredible designs, paintings, and architecture give a little glimpse of the two different culture’s view on how art within the Spanish context should be viewed and depicted. Yet, both the art and architecture of both the Christians and Muslims work harmoniously with each other to create the breathtaking structure that is the Cathedral of Córdoba. It was truly the generosity of the Givens Family that brought this dream to fruition during my semester in Granada, Spain and I truly would like to thank them for all that they have allowed me to do.


Zackery Carl ’18

Painting from the Sistine Chapel

Zackery Carl ’18

Sistine Chapel

During my time abroad, I have had the opportunity to see absurdly beautiful architecture and art, such as Gaudi’s Casa Batlló, the Seville Cathedral, and The School of Athens by Raphael. Among all the works I have seen this semester, the most profound work I have seen are the paintings within the Sistine Chapel, especially The Last Judgement.

The sheer scale of the Michelangelo’s paintings within the Sistine Chapel was outstanding. Although you can always find pictures of the Internet of “The Fall of Man” or The Last Judgment, it is almost impossible to appreciate the intricate details that are present within all the works within the Sistine Chapel. My personal favorite hidden gem within the Sistine Chapel is in The Last Judgment. During the tour, our guide pointed out the bottom right corner of this fresco, where the damned are depicted descending into hell. As Michelangelo was working on The Last Judgment”, the pope’s Master of Ceremonies stated that it was “most disgraceful that in so sacred a place there should have been depicted all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully,” and that it was “no work for a papal chapel but rather for the public baths and taverns.” Because of this, Michelangelo painted the Master of Ceremonies face on Minos, the judge of the dead in the underworld in Greek Mythology, with donkey ears, emphasizing the foolishness of the Master of Ceremonies. Of course, the Master of Ceremonies objected to the pope at the time, Pope III, but the Pope told him “God has given me a certain degree of authority in Heaven and on earth, but it does not extend to hell.” As we continued our tour into St. Peter’s Basilica, I could not get this story out of my mind. Although you hear all the time how much larger than life the artists such as Michelangelo were during this time period, the fact that Michelangelo was able to paint in the Vatican a high level religious leader at the time as a devil-like figure without any repercussions gave me a perspective as to how prominent of a figure he was during this time.

Before I left for Spain I did not have a true appreciation for art; the Sistine Chapel, along with the other works I have seen this semester, has given me a true appreciation for art. The small details, the ridiculous scale, and the true beauty that I have noticed while looking at these works have developed my appreciation for art and the artists that produce such works. I would like to thank the Givens Family for helping me fund my studies. Without their help, I would not have been able to travel and experience all the architecture and art I have this semester.


Andrew Brake ’18

Andrew Brake ’18

“How art reflects society and class relations”

Brake in front of Monumento a Los Abagados de Atocha – a statue that honors CCOO lawyers and PCE members who were murdered during Spain’s democratic transition after the death of Franco.

My experience discovering western art in Europe has been incredible thanks to the Givens Scholarship. The scholarship gave me the power to venture and discover the many underlying purposes of art. Initially, when I earned the scholarship I planned to study how artists portrayed the Habsburg family’s extensive power in Europe. This goal led me to incredible places like Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and Madrid’s Prado. However, as my artistic studies continued with the Habsburg family, I started to become aware of specific underlying patterns in art that I had not seen before. I saw the many fluctuations of how artists portrayed different classes and aspects of society and how in some time periods we get very little idea of the common man’s artistic expression and view of class and society. I found this to be very fascinating and enriching for my historical outlook of art. Rather than simply admiring artists for their skill and craft I enjoyed asking, “why was this made?” and “how does this reflect society?”

The photo is of a statue that had a profound impact on me regardless of whether or not it being labeled a profound masterpiece known throughout the world. The statue honors four CCOO lawyers and PCE members who were murdered by neofascist supporters during Spain’s democratic transition after the death of Francisco Franco. I found this profound because I had an internship with the CCOO (Workers’ Commissions; Spanish: Comisiones Obreras, CCOO) and that not too long ago people were killed for their affiliation with the syndicate. It was a strange feeling. It also left me appreciating what the Givens Scholarship helped me achieve when looking at art, which was asking the question why more often and looking deeper into the reasons why art is made and how art reflects society and class relations. I would like to thank the Givens Family again for their contributions to many men at Wabash, including me.


Austin Crosley ’18

Austin Crosley ’18

My study abroad experience has left me incredibly thankful and humbled. As the French novelist Gustave Flaubert put it, “travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” I felt as though I have seen so much of the world, but as I look at a globe I see I still have only seen but very tiny piece of it. I am grateful for my family, Wabash College, and the Givens family for allowing me such a grand expedition of the self and of the world.

My study abroad program began in Florence for a two weeks intensive class in survival Italian. This proved useful in keeping from starving, because I then had the tools to order food and ask directions. It was a great plan to begin a program in Florence before entering the enormous city of Rome. Here I was able to get comfortable in a foreign place without the added stress of the big city. In Florence I got to experience amazing art and architecture like the statue of David and Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower (often referred to as The Duomo as it is the largest masonry dome in the world).

Austin Crosley standing in line to enter the Château de Versailles

This is me standing in a long line to enter the Château de Versailles, which housed King Louis XIV. This is one of the most iconic representations of French baroque styled architecture. My visit to Paris and the Château de Versailles was made possible by the generous scholarship of the Givens family.

After getting my bearings In Florence and travelling to some important cities in northern Italy like Pisa, Siena, and Venice I finally made it to Rome. In the first weeks I visited all the major sites and got to know my classmates. I only started to truly engross myself in the new culture after the excitement of a new place started to cool although walking past the Vatican every day to school doesn’t get that old. It wasn’t just a goal to see Italy, but to feel like I was a part of Italy. I soon learned that Rome is not a representation of Italy, but in reality Italy is very diverse place. From region to region one can find different dialects, local dishes, ideologies, and influences. I could compare Rome to New York more easily than comparing Rome to Sorrento or Perugia. However, one thing that most Italian cities have in common are amazing churches. I think I may have visited about fifty, each as beautiful as the last. Sharpening my previous statement, I only started getting engrossed in the Roman culture after I settled into my new home.

One of the most enriching moments of my study abroad experience was getting teach English to elementary students in Rome every Tuesday and Thursday. It was quite the challenge as it was my first time teaching, I don’t know Italian, and the teachers knew very little English. Working through the language barrier and experiencing very human moments of understanding, curiosity, and happiness with the young students made me hopeful in spite of so much change and confusion in the world. One of these moments came after the presidential election and a couple months away from home that left me in a slump. In one of the classrooms I was helping two students with constructing a sentence and a classmate who had a mental condition interrupted and pulled my attention towards him for help, then I would go back to the other students and I would be called back to the boy. In each of these moments the students remained patient and understanding of the situation. It was their consideration for the boy with special needs that reminded me that people are all at their root good. This moment along with many others like it gave me hope for people amidst what I have been reading in the news of hate crimes and mindless violence.

I surprised myself by studying abroad and getting into the classroom in different way, and I am truly grateful for every new friendship and idea that was a product of my trip. I wouldn’t have been able to get outside of my comfort zone, or outside the bubble that is Wabash College, or the bigger bubble that is the United States without a push from friends and family, but I am grateful and overjoyed that I did, because it allowed me to experience friendships and perspectives I would have never been acquainted with otherwise. This trip has inspired further travel in the future!

Crosley with school children in Rome

Kids all over the world know the meaning of the term “selfie,” so when I uttered the word I had an avalanche of volunteers. These were some of the kids I had the honor of helping with English in an elementary school in Rome!


Benjamin Elliott ’18

Benjamin Elliott ’18

Musée d’Orsay

Before this semester, the last art class I took was in junior high, if I remember correctly. I’d never seen myself as particularly artsy, anyway – I’ve never graduated beyond the stick figure school of drawing, I was 15 the last time I seriously played an instrument, and I’ve always taken more solace in the works of Cormac McCarthy than those of Pablo Picasso.

While I wouldn’t say that I’m a budding art buff by any means, I’ve been shown in these last few months how wrong I was to have dismissed an entire discipline of art for so long. I’ve found a joy and a rich history in painting that I hadn’t previously known. There is a certain facet of human expression that is captured best by paintings, I realize now.

Below are three of the paintings that most impressed me throughout my travels in Paris, two from the Musée d’Orsay and one from the Louvre. All thanks to the Givens family for the scholarship that made the trip possible.

A Burial at Ornans (1849-50) Gustave Courbet, 315 cm x 660 cm, Musée d’Orsay

A Field of Tulips in Holland (1886) Claude Monet, 65.5 cm x 81.5, Musée d’Orsay

I think my favorite aspect of this particular work is the fact that it necessitates an explanation. I came to this particular tableau after wandering through many other galleries of the wonderful Musée d’Orsay in Paris, including some of the seminal works of the Impressionist movement. Indeed, it felt almost tucked away, but then I came into the room with it. A picture doesn’t quite do it justice – this thing is big.

But why bother? It’s a decidedly banal scene, for all intents and purposes. In Courbet’s era, paintings of this size were intended for scenes of import – Biblical scenes, old Greek legends, historical touchstones, and the like. And then we have this somber, grey scene with markedly normal people. Artists, quite simply, did not paint scenes like this at such a scale, if at all, if they wanted to make a name for themselves.

It is for precisely that decision that I was struck by this painting. It took courage to take the time to paint a scene such as this in Courbet’s day. In doing so, he helped to shape the Realist movement of his time, as well as later movements like Impressionism that took the time to capture the quotidian.

 

Quite honestly, I could have chosen any of Monet’s paintings I saw while on my trip in Paris. While learning about French art history this semester, I fell in love with the Impressionists, and Claude Monet above all other’s. There is a certain elegance to the Impressionist style and a realness that supersedes any other movements I’ve studied.

This is truer for Monet’s works than any other’s. The range of colors with which he paints here is breathtaking. He, above any other painter I saw in the Musée d’Orsay’s Impressionist gallery, was able to capture the exact colors I imagine one would see if they were to travel to this same field. Monet once said he wanted to paint the way a bird sings, and in viewing this, I’d have to say he got darn close.

 

I was impressed by this piece for several reasons. It’s extremely well done, and the way the light illuminates the scene throws everything into sharp contrast. The man shown in this painting is Jean-Paul Marat, a casualty of the French Revolution and the resultant Terror in which he took part. He was murdered for his role in the short-lived regime.

To begin, the figure of Marat himself is idealized. The man had a rather bad skin condition, which necessitated daily baths in the tub in which he has been painted in this scene. For what appears to be a pretty serious stab wound, also, there is not too much blood. Finally, the way his arm drapes out of the tub is reminiscent of Caravaggio’s Entombment of Christ — an artist who inspired David. The parallels between Christ in that painting and Marat here clearly suggest martyrdom of this revolutionary.

It is in that declaration I find myself fascinated by this painting. It became quite quickly after its unveiling a piece of propaganda for the Montagnards who presided over the terror – Maximilien Robespierre included. It speaks volumes about who these people thought they were, and how they comported themselves. For such a short-lived, tumultuous reign, the Montagnards were resolute to the point of death for their cause, which is impressed on me when I view this painting.

 


Cody Cochran ’18

Cody Cochran ’18

Cody Cochran ’18

Before I ultimately decided to study abroad in Valencia, Spain, I looked over the course catalogue; the one class that stood out to me particularly was one titled, simply, ‘Picasso’. Based on the course description given on the program website, I was expecting to be taking a class solely about the life and works of Picasso, which on its own would have been very interesting. After being here, enrolled in this class for almost three months, the class and the content have exceeded my expectations and then some. In addition to learning about the life and works of Picasso, we have been learning about the different styles of art used by Picasso separately, ranging from Neoclassicism to Impressionism to Cubism, which has helped to give me a greater knowledge about art in general. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve learned more about art this semester than I had throughout my entire life before arriving in Valencia. In addition to all that I’ve learned in the classroom here, my studies have been complimented by traveling to multiple locations across Europe and visiting many famous art museums, all of which allowed me to apply what I had learned in my Picasso class to works of art which I had the opportunity to view. These opportunities to visit these places came as a direct result of the Givens Scholarship: a generous gift granted to me from the Givens family.

One of the countries in which I was able to see a good deal of western art was Italy. When I was in Italy, I visited Rome, Florence, and Venice. When I was in Rome, I had the opportunity to get a tour of the Vatican, which included the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. It was amazing to be able to see iconic works of art that I had seen many times in pictures but never thought I’d have the opportunity to see in person. When I went to Florence, I was able to see all four parts of the Piazza del Duomo, including one of the most iconic structures in the entire world, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Since I’ve been in Spain, I’ve been able to see a good amount of art in both Valencia and in Madrid. In Valencia, I’ve been to the Museo de las Bellas Artes multiple times: twice with my professor and classmates for my Picasso class. I originally went to this museum with just myself and a couple of friends one weekend, but after that I went twice with my Picasso class. My professor was able to point out many things that I hadn’t taken note of on my first visit, from artistic symbols to the gradual change of styles from certain areas over time. Though my time in Madrid was very limited, I felt like I was able to accomplish a lot. I was able to visit the Royal Palace of Madrid, which was extremely interesting due to the widespread collection of the palace, varying from intricate tapestries to the world’s only collection of the instruments of a full Stradivarius quartet. Although the Royal Palace was incredible, in my opinion, the Prado art museum blew the Palace out of the water. It was almost overwhelming to be able to see so much of the world’s best art in the same location. I would constantly have to remind myself where exactly I was and what exactly I was looking at because there were hundreds of world-famous works of art all around me. Throughout all of the museum, I’d have to say that my favorite works were the Black Paintings by Francisco Goya.

Cody CochranWhen I was in Amsterdam, I went to my favorite museum that I’ve ever been to: the Vincent Van Gogh Museum. Without my Picasso class in Valencia, I feel that I would not be able to appreciate this museum nearly as much as I did because we learned a good deal about many of the styles used by Van Gogh in his works. While learning about the styles in the classroom was essential to my enjoyment of the museum, being able to see some of the works in this museum and apply what I had learned when observing some of these works gave me whole new appreciation for art that I saw and for works that I will see in the future. Without the knowledge I gained in my class, a painting that I may have merely skimmed over during my pass through the museum before became a painting in which I’d observe and recognize the multiple artistic elements and truly appreciate. This trip to Amsterdam was one that very likely would not have been possible without the generous donation of the Givens family, and I am deeply grateful for this opportunity I received.


Experience in Education

Chase Francoeur ’17 – During my first month in the French capital I spent much of my time visiting the typical tourist areas with the other students in my class, places such as Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Versailles, Tour d’Eiffel, and Arc de Triomphe. On the weekends my program would take us outside of the city to visit other sites such as the home and gardens of French painter Claude Monet in Giverny, the wine cellars of Tours and the southern city of Toulouse where the Cassoulet (a meat stew) could rival any American chili.

After settling in and getting the rush of exploring a new city and new country out of our system, our classes began to delve into the problems that existed in not only Paris but also France as a whole as they battled against many of the very same things that headline our own newspapers and media. Place de la République, a plaza in central Paris, was a shining example of the turmoil surrounding the country in relation to immigration, racism, police brutality and more. The plaza only two years ago was a bustling place for youth to hang out and spend their summer afternoons, but is now the focal point for violent protests, even forcing the metro station in the middle of the square to be indefinitely closed as it has become so dangerous after sunset. As we shifted to seeing past the façade that is a beautiful, bustling city we began to identify the daily hardships that many faced, many of them first-hand through our weekly class excursions.

The recent terror attacks, one of which occurred on Bastille Day (July 14th), were almost commonplace, as were the protests as France struggled to maintain control over a mass of immigrants entering the country through Marseille from countries bordering the Mediterranean. The task was made even more difficult when considering many citizens were also unhappy with the government as it pushed labor agendas that inch closer towards capitalism in a strongly socialist country.

In Calais, the closest city to the United Kingdom, a refugee camp nicknamed ‘The Jungle’ because of its harsh conditions, is home to over 7,500 refugees. Crowding many of the disbanded railroads of Paris, Roma communities, known to us more commonly as gypsies, have been present for well over a decade despite walls of plywood and tarpaulin roofs that are held down with anything they can get there hands on.

Although many of the children in these communities were born in France they are not considered French citizens as if you are born to parents of a foreign nationality you are considered a foreigner until you are 18, at which point you can declare as a French national. Even upon declaring as a French national, many still experience unofficial discrimination from the government as decades of intolerance have led to inequality, which directly contradicts the country’s motto, “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité”, or “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.”

Although France utilizes laïcité, religious neutrality in public spaces, and separation of church and state, the system faces constant harsh criticisms. In 2011 the government banned women from wearing the burqa or niqab in public, a measure that many believe interferes with the ability to practice Islam. Religious symbols were also banned from public schools in 2004, and as a result many religious families moved their children to private education, which has caused a slight divide in the culture as these children do not grow up with exposure to other religions and their corresponding cultures and have a higher prevalence of intolerance towards them.

When one thinks of France we often picture a short man dressed in a black and white horizontally striped shirt, a red beret and sporting a well-maintained moustache while holding a bottle of red wine in one hand and the legendary ‘baguette’ in the other. Or, if you don’t picture that, maybe it is of a group having a picnic in the countryside with a platter of various cheeses, breads, and a few bottles of wine. After 10 weeks exploring and studying in various parts of France (Bordeaux, Caen, Chantilles, Paris, Toulouse, Tours) thanks to the Rudolph’s generous donations, I have discovered for myself how the culture and daily life of the French is so drastically different from what I personally once thought. My experiences have taught me that while you can be in an area for even a few months, you will still be blind to much of the society and culture and if you seek to be able to truly immerse yourself you must be ready to break down barriers, leave behind preconceived notions and experience difficulties and defeat.



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