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Louvre a Perfect Fit for Tian Tian ’11

Tian Tian ’11 – Being able to have classes regularly at the Louvre Museum in Paris is already a big treat for me as an art major student. Having an externship in the Louvre during December just literally put me into heaven.

At the beginning of my study-abroad semester, my art professor at the university I am attending in Paris, Prof. Mandel introduced me to this great opportunity to do an externship at the Louvre Museum for a series event called “Nocturne Louvre” during several weekends in December. After three months’ rigorous preparation and numerous training sessions by the Louvre staff, I finally become an eligible extern. This series event “Nocturne Louvre” is a very genial and smart idea which offers free entrance and extended hours to visitors on Friday nights.
My responsibility during this externship is to present the paintings in one of Louvre’s exhibition areas as a trilingual interpreter using French, Chinese and English. The specialty of this exhibition area I present is the French classicism master, Nicolas Poussin’s paintings.
Paris is a city famous for the frequent strikes by the workers. There happened to be a huge strike on the first day of my externship, Dec. 4. More coincidently, this strike is started by several major museums in Paris, including the Louvre. The reason of the strike is because the administration refuses to replace the retired staff of the museum with new staff and the current staff are very disappointed. Half of the Louvre Museum was closed during that day, but fortunately the strike ended right before the start of my work at 6:00 pm. At first I was a little bit concerned that there will not be many visitors because of the strike, but in fact there was a huge crowd that night because they had waited a whole day for the museum to reopen. Without getting a chance to reflect a little bit of what had just happened, I turned on the “working mode” in my brain immediately.
Quite different from a typical tour guide of the Louvre Museum, my role as an extern during “Nocturne Louvre” is to take initiative to approach the visitors and try to present the paintings by engaging the visitors into my conversations. To put it another way, my job is to act like an advertising agent, who tries to use the most effective way to promote the product. Even though as a trilingual interpreter, I am required to always start the conversation with the visitors in French. This is a challenge but also a great way to show my progress on French oral expression. I also find it easier now to approach visitors and engage them into an “informative” conversation, because that is one of the major skills I learned and achieved during my internship at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis during the past summer.
The most constructive part that made me learn a lot is the skill to communicate effectively with the people of different backgrounds and expectations. That night at Louvre, the visitors who listen to my presentation are highly diversified. I learned to adopt a more casual approach to present the paintings for the visitors who are less familiar with the art. Comparatively, I also learned to use very professional interpretations towards those demanding visitors who are obviously scholars of fine arts. The most interesting visitor that night was a gentleman from London who made my “one-way-presentation” into an open discussion with him about the paintings because he is obviously an expert on Nicolas Poussin’s paintings.
At the end, during my three and a half hours’ work during 6:00 – 9:30 pm, I presented the paintings for 15 individuals and 6 group visitors. I feel like I have learned a lot from this experience and meanwhile I am so excited about another Friday night’s work. I regard this externship experience at Louvre a very constructive and memorable way to finalize my study abroad semester in Paris.

Weber ’11: Traveling China a Diverse Experience

Will Weber ’11 – When I stepped off the plane at the Pu Dong airport in Shanghai the first thing that popped into my head was “what have I gotten myself into?” I had just stepped onto foreign soil, controlled by a totalitarian government that wasn’t too friendly to my American ideals like freedom of speech. I found a surprise waiting for me at the arrival gate. Yangnan “Paul” Liu ’12 was waiting to welcome me to China before he flew back to Wabash. After that I felt alright.

I talked to my language professor in the cab from the airport and asked her about Shanghai. She told me that it had 16 million inhabitants. I assumed that I had heard 6 million, about the size of Chicago. It took me a while to grasp what she was saying. I have since learned that estimates range from 16 to over 20 million. Shanghai is the economic capital of China. As the largest sea port, with a developing financial center, and the headquarters of many international corporations it is the wealthiest region per capita in China. Shanghai is its own administrative region, equal to a province in political terms. The city has a very large international community and many virtues for hapless foreigners. For instance, Shanghai has what we call “the magic number;” a call center where you can ask them anything in English and then give the phone to the Chinese person you’re with and the call center will explain to them in Mandarin. This is useful for everything from telling the restaurant what you want to finding your nightlife destination to telling the barber how to cut your hair.
China is different. It takes an experience like study abroad to really understand what foreign exchange students experience coming to Wabash. You walk into McDonald’s, everything looks just like America, and once you bite into your longed-for burger you discover that one of the standard toppings is corn. Seat belts aren’t available in the taxis, though foreigners wish they were. In China the rules of the road are a little different; cars have right-of-way then mopeds and bicycles (who don’t have to obey traffic lights), and then pedestrians. If you get hit, you’re at fault. When a group of tourists from my home town came to Shanghai for a week in November, I couldn’t help laughing at how they covered their eyes and clutched their seats in the taxi in fear. Cultural adjustment is inevitable, it just takes time. Initially we whispered criticisms of the Chinese government, fearfully paranoid that microphones were everywhere just like the cameras were. Now we are more outspoken because the Chinese don’t care or don’t understand what foreigners say in any other language than Mandarin.
In China they work 7 days a week. Students at Fudan University ask us why we are so frivolous with our time in Shanghai, instead of studying every waking moment. I told him that this was one of our last opportunities to do anything like study abroad for many years. Soon we would have to get jobs and settle down. The students typically respond “Oh, I never thought about it like that. We always work hard and try to get a good job so that by 35 or 40 we can take care of our parents and take vacations and have fun.” To my American ears this sounds depressing, but it’s the view point of everyone in China. It’s also something that I welcome on occasion. Construction projects that in America take months are completed in days in China.
I make a point of going to the underground market at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum at least once a week. While initially incompetent, I have developed into a foreigner who can point and count to 10 in Mandarin. This, combined with a rough idea of how much something should cost, essentially means that I am an accomplished bargainer. One of my personal rule of thumb is that my opening counter-offer should be 5%-10% of their opening offer. At $12 for a tailor-made shirt, my wardrobe has also expanded significantly. But the best part of the market is watching the other foreigners, the ones in Shanghai on business or vacation for a week, get taken advantage of by the shop-keepers. Without the experience of doing it time and again, visitors overpay for everything and think they’re getting a good deal. Another one of my rules of thumb is that if the shop-keeper gives you their business card at the end of the transaction, you were probably robbed on the price. On the other hand, if they yell at you in fury after handing over the goods, you did a good job.
During the National Holiday (60 years of Communist totalitarian rule woo-hoo!) a group of us traveled down to the city of Guilin and then through the Yunnan province. We bought cheap knock-off backpacks and regretted it hours on the trail. My own broke both shoulder straps before lunch. The mountains near Tibet were majestic and beautiful, the roadblocks and checkpoints less so. I was so used to Shanghai that being in the countryside and the absolute poverty there was a surprise. For a socialist society, China is not very egalitarian.
Shortly before Thanksgiving my program sent us to Taiwan for a week. It was like being back in a Western country, in spring. The temperature in Taiwan seems to be perpetually in the high 70’s. There were copies of The Economist available and Dunkin Donuts were everywhere. Facebook was not blocked by government censors. And the prices were very close to American values. I was so used to measuring everything in Chinese Yuan that I experienced decided sticker shock.
In both cases of travel, when I got off the plane in Shanghai I genuinely felt like I was coming home. Shanghai, with its 10s of millions of inhabitants, its parks, its incredible cleanliness, and its exciting nightlife, has become my home. I will be as sad to leave Shanghai as I will be excited to go back to America and Wabash.

In photos: Top right, Weber with Charlie Kelly ’11, who is also studying in China. Center left, Weber’s class visiting Taiwan. Bottom right, Will and class visited a Chinese Meditative Garden.

Scheller ’11 Values Friendships He’s Made in Italy

Matthew Scheller ’11 – When I first came to Rome, I was incredibly intimidated by the city lifestyle and size of the city itself. Being from a small town in Southern Indiana doesn’t exactly make it easy to cope with such an environment. However, after having spent some time walking around the city by myself with only a map I could hardly read because the images and text were so small, I became more and more confident about my journey. I found my school and place of residence, and I was the FIRST to report to both locations for the Temple Study Abroad program.

When it came time to move into my apartment and head to orientation, I immediately made 5 new friends, one of whom was my roommate. Over the course of a mere 6 days, I felt as if I had gained 100 new friends and had been welcomed into a new community in a foreign environment. It felt as if I had crash landed on some strange planet shaped like a boot and was thrown into a new life.

After a couple of weeks I had already traveled through three quarters of the entire country and had established some very comfortable and what I think will be everlasting friendships with people living all over the United States, people from Pennsylvania, Washington State, Oregan, California, Texas, and even a young woman from Depauw University. Now, before you break down my door carrying torches and pitchforks for befriending the enemy, I must inform you all that her father and uncle are Wabash Men, and she STILL TAILGATES ON OUR SIDE AT THE MONON!

By the end of the second month, I had been from Italy, to Spain, to France, To Greece, and back to the West to Ireland. I had seen the Ancient Sector of Rome and all its riches, I had been to the top of the Eiffel Tower at night, visited countless churches and museums all of extravagant beauty, and I had ran in the Olympic Stadium in Athens.

Having said this, I must admit, that though I have seen so many things and experienced so much in only a matter of months, the thing I cherish most about my trip are the friends I have made. I am part of an enormous family of 180 students that are placed in a situation that can be exciting and dangerous, but we have grown together, learned many life lessions, and leaned on each other when in times of need. It really means a lot and strengthens your bond with people when you lose two family members so far from home, and those people are with you every step caring for you and supporting you. I thank God for this experience that no one can ever take from me, but I thank him even more for the people he has introduced into my life.
 

Drake ’11 Embraced Challenges of Studying Abroad

Austin Drake ’11 – Spain has, in a word, been asombroso. It has been both a challenge and a great blessing.

Studying abroad has thus far challenged me and driven me towards greater independence and maturity as both an individual and student. I believe that I entered Spain with a very limited worldview, but I will be leaving in just a few weeks with a much greater grasp of what it means to be a citizen of the USA, a European country and the world.

Studying over here, I have found many things that I love about Spain. For example, after a long day of work and a good meal, the Spaniards don’t work around the house; instead they take the famous siesta, prepping themselves for a long evening with friends and/or family. In bars and restaurants, it’s common to chill there after having some tapas and talk with your friends. Life here is centered around being social—not a bad strategy.

I’ve also realized how great we have it in the US. The starkest contrast came from my visit to Morocco. We went to a village in rural Morocco, a night and day difference from anything I have ever seen in the US. Electricity is used sparingly, houses are open to the elements, and clean, running water is a luxury. Even compared to an industrialized country like Spain, we enjoy many more privileges. Here an unemployment rate around 10% is the norm, and salaries are comparatively lower. I love Spain, but I’ve also learned to love the Red, White and Blue even more, too. 
 
Spain has so much to offer students wanting to experience a different culture. It has an amazing history (especially the 20th century), and a much different way of approaching healthcare. It also is a great place to travel from, offering tons of sights within its borders such as the Guggenheim in Bilbao, La Concha de San Sebastian, the mastery of Picasso, el Greco or Goya, or La Alhambra of Granada. It also is a great hub to France, Portugal, the UK, Ireland, or Africa. Travelling has been amazing, taking me to 5 new countries and offering tons of experiences and stories along the way
 
Learning in a different culture and environment is the perfect complement to my Liberal Arts education. Not only have I taken various courses covering arts, history and economics, but I have learned them from a completely different perspective. I sincerely believe that anyone with the possibility of studying abroad should jump on the opportunity. It is a great experience that has permanently changed my worldview, enhanced my education, forced me to mature as an individual and been an all-around good time!