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Aguilar ’10 Enjoying the Great Art

Miguel Aguilar ’10 – Wow it has been almost two months now since I have been here in Valencia,Spain. The first two weeks here I just tried to adapt to their culture as well as what I should expect for the coming months.

I was going to take five courses here but thanks to Liz(coordinator at University of Virginia) I ended up with four courses. A lot of guys from Wabash have asked me if classes were easier while abroad. Well in my case I would have to go with a no, because I took up on the challenge of taking the Valencia program over the Salamanca. I am in a Art history class that is really helping me understand modern art.

The first time I came to Spain in March of 2008, I was really lost at the museums and pretty much just skipped through a lot of important art pieces at Museo del Prado as well as Reina Sophia. I am currently taking two literature courses which go by smooth if you do all the homework and participate in all the classes.

I find it kind of funny how one of my literature professors just looks over to me, expecting me to pretty much lead the class discussions so I have days where I won´t say a thing just so that other people volunteer. The program I am in is for native speakers and people who have been taking Spanish for years, and I have to admit that I was really impressed with some of the people in the program. Their Spanish is as good as a native speakers, with American accent of course.

Since I have been here in Spain I have been able to travel a lot. The first trip we made was to a beach in Peñíscola that was very breathtaking. In case you are wondering where that is, it is in between Valencia and Barcelona. The 2nd trip I made was to Barcelona. We did the usual tourist trip with the exception of going to see the sunrise in the beach of Barcelona.

That trip was a very life changing experience in which we met some amazing Australians that we have kept in touch with. The next trip I made was to Sevilla, España. Its such a beautiful city that has to be seen if you get a chance to come to Spain. The flamenco shows we went to were just amazing, which met my expectations because Flamenco was born in Sevilla. I have also been to Calpe,Alicante (Spain) which had some nice views of the city. We were able to climb this boulder-mountain that took us a few hours but the view were just amazing.

Then we got a 10-day fall break in which I split up between France and Italy. I got to see,face to face, artwork that I have studied in high school as well as college. And two weeks from now we will have a student talent show, in which I will be acting, singing, dancing and maybe reciting poetry. A typical week in spain consists of my four courses,watching a Spanish movie every Monday, play rehearsal on Tuesdays, dance rehearsal on Wednesdays and somewhere in between I managed to squeeze in a translations internship.

Traveling Europe, Seeing Wabash Men

Nathan Schrader ’10 – Needless to say quite a bit has happened since I wrote about five or six weeks ago. However, I hadn’t traveled outside Rome until I met up with Danny King and Brad Jones in Barcelona on fall break. When I finally arrived at the hostel, the manager could not find Danny or Brad’s name in the computer. Figuring they would sleep in, I woke up around 9am and found after a few phone calls they were no where else but a McDonald’s on their way to the Aquarium! So much for immersing yourself in Spanish cuisine!

The main event of Barcelona was that my debit card was stolen out of my backpack. I guess you just never think it will happen to you. Apparently Greenhouse Barcelona hostel does not live by the Gentlemen’s Rule like everyone I’m surrounded by at Wabash. To make a long story short, the thief left a bottle of wine out of the three he bought with my card, which us Wabash men reluctantly shared before Danny and Brad flew off to Paris.

Next, I visited my cousin Yves and his family in Basel, Switzerland. It was wonderful to be in the arms of family. They had things planned out for me, like a Basel vs. Barcelona (we lost 5-0), hit golf balls on the driving range the wife owns, and eat cheese fondue at a family dinner. I even went to a high school English class where they were discussing creationism vs. evolution. When they watched a movie about it, Lafayette Jefferson High School, of my hometown, was part of the main story! What are the odds?!? All in all, Switzerland is a beautiful place, and like my cousin said about his visit to the US this summer, I felt loved, really part of a family that I can come back to any time.

Also while visiting these two places, I saw some phenomenal architecture by Gaudi, and many famous painters’ works in Basel, including Picasso, Hans Holbein, Mondrian, Chagall, and Paul Klee (a local Swiss as my cousin pointed out multiple times). Both were very inspiring and useful if I plan to pursue a career in architecture.

After a week of school, I relaxed in Rome. Halloween was interesting; the poor college student’s costume creativity has to go up another level when your country doesn’t really celebrate. I ended up being Bachus, the god of wine, and taped grapes all over myself. It was fun seeing some Italians try though – a lot of ghosts, skeletons, and witches. The next day, we went to Ostia-Antica, an ancient city near Rome to see some ruins, but we were ten minutes too late; the place was closed. Being so close to the beach, we watched the sun set over the sea.

Today, a classmate asked a few of us to play softball with some Italians. Being my first shot at anything close to baseball in over two months, I was at home plate in a heartbeat. For awhile, we took infield. The coach took the game pretty serious, but it was still a casual game in the park. No score was kept, we just had fun playing for the love of the game. And some of the Italians were actually alright. For not being born and raised on any sports requiring hitting a ball with an object, a few of them threw and hit pretty well. Using what little Italian I knew like “Gioco Uno” (“play one” or play is at one) and “a casa” or “throw home,” the game went pretty well. I can’t say the Americans had a difficult time standing out though. But when I heard the pop of the ball in my fake Ken Griffey Jr. signed glove like the one I used to have as a little kid, Rome couldn’t feel any more like home.

Oh, and keep up the great work Wabash Football. Win the Bell!!!

Vienna Feels Just Like Home

Patrick Griffith ’10 – Being in Vienna, I can certainly see why people explain it as a “Big, small city” or a “Small, big city.”  It really does have that feel to it!  The whole city is easily accessible with the public transportation, but at the same time, from my apartment it takes just as long to hike up to the highest point in Vienna as it does to get to class—about 40 minutes.  Its just the inverse of being on campus, a 5 minute walk to class and a 5 minute drive or bicycle ride to the lowest point in Crawfordsville; Sugar Creek.

Through my program, I have been able to attend some various day trips.  They have several longer trips available, but I’ve found myself to have great independence when it comes to travel, and more than 2 days with the same people on a bus or train just isn’t my cup of tea.  The most recent trip that I went on, however, was a venture into the Wachau region of Austria.  The Wachau runs along the Danube, or Donau River and is known for its grapes and apricots that are used to create various liquors and wines.  Historically, it is also the location that King Richard the Lion-heart of England was held captive by Duke Leopold V.  I was able to hike along the same paths up to the prison cell to get a bird’s eye view of the landscape.  It was incredible!  I could only compare it to a drive up US 31 in Michigan, which has, in my opinion, the most beautiful stretch of road to drive on.

The other locations in the Wachau region we visited included the Abbey in Melk, the city of Krems, and a local winery in the country outside of Krems.  The visit to the Abbey made me glad that I recently added Religion to my list of majors because I was able to see the artifacts and other historical documents and have a general idea of what was going on during that time.  The city of Krems wasn’t anything spectacular, although it did provide a great example of what a traditional Austrian city of the past looked like.  It was definitely a quaint, enjoyable town.  The local winery was an educational experience.  Those of us that went on the trip learned the proper ways to go through a wine tasting where we got to sample the 3 types of wine that they make, and we also got to see the process of how wine is made both in the new and old, pre-electric ways. 

I’ve been attending an international church while abroad called “International Chapel of Vienna.”  Without question, attending that church has provided a great deal of cultural experience in my Faith.  I’m not sure why, but I wasn’t expecting to be singing hymns and worship songs in German or to be listening to sermons from a Pastor from the United Kingdom.  The youth leader, who is of African descent (his last name is Mwangi), found out that I had helped out with a youth group in Crawfordsville, and convinced me to help him at a youth retreat.  It was a grand time and filled in that hole in my life!  Although there weren’t any Austrian students, I got to hang out with other students from other countries around the globe including Italy, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Sweden, and Norway.  There were American students there, too.  The middle school and high school age group is an inquisitive group, but I didn’t mind it—they made me feel right at home.

In top right photo: Griffith has been worked with an International Retreat. He’s in top row, near center, in red t-shirt.

Jones Trying to See as Much as Possible

Brad Jones ’10 – For me, everywhere in the world is the same! Now hold up just one minute — before you rush to contradict that statement as blatantly untrue and obviously misguided, take a second and hear me out.

I’m an Indiana boy, born and bred. I can’t say all my life I’ve longed to escape the corn fields, and basketball goals, and banal day to day existence of my Midwestern town, but I will admit, for these reasons, the opportunity to study abroad struck me as more attractive than Pizza Hut and Pepsi to a fat kid. This was my chance to get out of Indiana, to get out of the Midwest, to get out of America. 

It was my chance to “see the world” so to speak, and to travel on my own, and to experience the boundless beauty of Europe. Aware of this, I was certain that I would suck the very marrow from the experience. I would travel to all the great cities, each unique its own right, and I would gain a better understanding of the world and, no doubt, in the process, I would gain a better understanding of myself. I felt the world had so much to offer, and I finally had my chance to see exactly what was on the menu.

It has now been two months since I first arrived in this obscure small town in Italy, and all in all, I’ve taken advantage of my opportunities and done many of the things that I longed to do upon departure. I’ve seen Rome, once the very center of the universe, in all its antiquated splendor — the decayed forum, the still awe-inspiring coliseum, the frighteningly realistic galloping horses of the Trevi Fountain, and the majestic beauty and ornate extravagance of St. Peters Basilica.

I’ve been to Paris, the city of lights, the romance capital of the world. I kept my eyes peeled for Quasimodo as I neared the Notre Dame Cathedral, which didn’t fail to take my breath away. I stood under and above the inverted pyramids of the Louvre and caught a glimpse of the somewhat anti-climactic Mona Lisa. I walked down the world renowned Champs-Elysees, fully intending to spend some of my spare pocket change on a Guici wardrobe, or an Aston Martin, or I’d have even settle for Rolex, but the ill-tempered doormen were quick to inform me, in my ripped up jeans, baseball cap, and worn out tennis shoes, that wouldn’t be happening on their watch. 

I’ve eaten a crepe in front of the Eiffel tower as it sparkled, and devoured “French” onion soup and fries at a roadside café, and washed down twenty five euro Rabbit with an equally expensive bottle of Bordeaux.

And I’ve visited Barcelona. I’ve walked down Las Ramblas and dodged the ever-present costumed characters, whom only awake from the dead when they hear the clink of ten cents at the bottom of their change cup. I’ve resisted the urge to buy a caged bird, which in Spain is apparently an impulse buy, at one the sidewalk pet stores that litter the street, and I’ve even managed to keep myself from purchasing a still wiggling and writhing fish, or Porky’s recently deceased and still very lifelike cousin, or even what appeared to be a rubber chicken though it was no doubt intended for consumption; all of which lined the stalls of the morning market. 

I’ve seen Gaudi’s masterpieces, the Parc Guell which left me questioning whether or not I had somehow become a character in a Dr. Seuss book, the hospital where I couldn’t help but wonder if there should really be camera wielding tourists, the mortally ill, and grief stricken relatives all in one place, the apartment’s that seemed to rise out of the earth like Aladdin’s forbidden cave. I’ve eaten Paella. I’ve drank Sangria.

And I’ve been to Amsterdam — the real sin city. I’ve drank Heineken and Amstel at century old taverns. I’ve ordered “coffee” at the same café as apparently every American rapper since Revered Run. I’ve walked down the crimson, lusty, alleyways of Der Wallen and nervously peered in the large glass doors that were all that physically separated me from the barely clothed prostitutes and behind them, their tiny room and bed. I’ve cowered in fear at the tallest and fasted spinning thrill ride in world, so it claims and I without hesitation I believe, and even attended the quote on quote “world renowned” Amsterdam sex museum, which afterwards left my head shaking, my face still furrowed in disgust, and my pocket wishing it had its three euros back.

But I digress…everywhere in the world is the same. True, I’ve spent the last two pages describing at length the characteristics that set these cities I’ve visited apart from one another. They all have their own unique monuments, and distinct foods and beverages; their own culture and their own character. But much like my ambition to leave the cornfields of Indiana, everywhere I’ve been has left me unsatisfied and always wanting more while at the same time, paradoxically, inspiring longings to return to my home, and family, and friends. In other words, time after time, city after city, no matter how much I anticipate my arrival somewhere, or enjoy my time spent there, within hours I’m restlessly waiting for my chance to hit the road again and conflicted by the internal battle that sets the urge to experience something new, at odds with the wish to return to the familiar.

For example, a couple of months ago, I would have given everything for the opportunity to experience what I am right now, the grand adventure. But all I wish to do currently is see my friends and family again. However, I also know without a doubt, that two months from now when I return home and the hugs and the kisses are given and the stories shared, I’ll be vainly wishing for the opportunity to once again return to my Italian home and undoubtedly will be missing the friends I made and the places I visited while abroad.

Such is the paradox of memory. Why is it that often the problems and idiosyncrasies of a journey, when things don’t go quite as planned, when trains are missed, or wallets lost, or hotels full, are looked back upon with such great reverence and high-esteem. It seems that times and places in reflection are always seen through shades of a rosy hue. In the minds eye, pictures and memories are cropped and “photo-shopped” in such a way that the faults and peculiarities are removed and only the positive remains. Thus, while each weekend I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to experience London, or Dublin, or the Swiss Alps, by the time of my return on Sunday, there’s just no place like my Perugian home and by Tuesday, no place like the cornfields of Indiana.

In photos: Top right, Jones with Daniel King ’10 in Paris. Center left, literally overlooking Barcelona. Bottom right, a beautiful shot of Cinque Terre – an area of rugged coast in Italy.

Rabin Paudel Doing Research in Tennessee

Rabin Paudel ’10 – I have been doing research at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee since August. It is an off-campus study program designed as a science semester which gives the opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in on-going research at ORNL.

ORNL is the US Department of Energy’s largest lab. The main areas of research work that go on here include neutron science, nuclear fusion, “green” chemistry, genetics, alternative energy and national security. About 3000 scientists work here every year as guest scientists or permanent employees.

I first learned about Oak Ridge when I read “Surely, You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” by Richard Feynman. Feynman describes his frequent visits to Oak Ridge while he was working on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. The city of Oak Ridge has a rich history associated with it. The lab played an important role in ending World War II. It is one of the three labs built to make nuclear weapons for the Manhattan Project (the other two are in Los Alamos, New Mexico and Hanford, Washington). That’s where Oak Ridge got its nicknames The Secret City and The Atomic City. I heard that Oak Ridge was not included on the official map until the 1960s.

During my stay here, I am working on Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) experiments. NMR is the same technology that is used in MRI, an imaging technology used in medicine. As part of my research, I am making micro-coils and LC circuits to do NMR spectroscopy in solid-state molecules. My second project is in the field of “green” chemistry. One of the groups at ORNL is working on developing more efficient batteries. I am assigned to measure the diffusion properties of the ionic-liquids used in such batteries.

Other than the research work, as a part of the science semester, I am required to attend weekly seminars and tours which overview different research-work going on at ORNL. The seminars are very helpful in getting the latest updates in science. Last month, we visited a supercomputing center, home to the second fastest supercomputer in the world. It was amazing. And last week, I got an opportunity to visit the remote system department and learn about robotics. Their work in making robots to work on the high radiation zones sounds groundbreaking.

Other than that, I have found East Tennessee very different from the Midwest. We are having nice fall weather, warmer than that in Indiana. The leaves in the Smokey Mountains look gorgeous. East Tennessee is full of outdoor activities ranging from rafting to rock climbing. It feels great to go outside and enjoy the fall weather.

This has been a great opportunity for me to come to a national lab to get research experience. I would like to thank the physics department and the off-campus studies office at Wabash for providing me this opportunity.

I will be writing more about my off-campus study experience. Until next time, so long!