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世博会: The Expo

Last Friday I attended the World Expo in Shanghai for the first time. I was very excited to see the event that is being discussed by so many people around the world right now.  I had a chance to visit the Expo thanks to my study abroad organization: IES Abroad purchased tickets for all the students participating in its Shanghai program.

We left early in the morning and returned after 11pm. I was able to see the pavilions of seven countries: China, USA, Poland, Germany, Belgium, Israel, and Singapore. Each country prepared something different to leave the visitors with an unforgettable impression.  From the places that I saw, the German and Chinese pavilions were definitely the best ones. They were very informative and offered a lot of interactive exhibitions/events. When I visited the American pavilion, I really liked the fact that the message of both the President and the Secretary of State was featured in the presentation showed to the guests.

As I expected, the World Expo in Shanghai was really crowded. In order to see the most popular pavilions, one has to line up for about two hours. The average of about 250,000 visitors per day makes it very difficult to see a lot in just one day. Therefore, I will have to go back to the Expo soon, especially to see the pavilions of countries that I haven’t yet had a chance to travel to, but would like to visit in the near future.

Surface ’11 Exploring Chile Post Earthquake

Jacob Surface ’11 – I have been in Chile for about a month and half now, since just after the earthquake or ‘terremoto’. While it sounds like a long time, I can still vividly remember boarding the plane in Miami with my new study abroad compatriots. We arrived for our brief orientation of three days that was supposed to prepare us for the shock of Chilean culture, complete with salsa lessons! But nothing could have prepared me for Chilean Spanish. With filler words that mean absolutely nothing, elongated syllables, dropped consonants, and a variety of colloquial expressions that confuse and stun the new ‘gringos’, Chilean Spanish is a murmured dialect with a musical flow that leaves you lost in the tones, wondering, “What just happened?” I am still picking up language skills everyday.

The geography of this rugged area is definitely one of the highlights. In fact, I spent my Easter Sunday closer to God hiking around Mt. Aconcagua National Park, the highest mountain in the Americas, where I couldn’t resist trying my legs for a two mile run at altitude. Talk about a workout! After a brief respite on a hill with a perfect view of the snow covered mountain, I turned to see if my hiking group had caught up to me. Unfortunately, we missed each other and I ended up running a mile back in the opposite direction just to find out that they were down by a mountain stream off the beaten path. 
The experience of being all alone and slightly lost at the top of the world was well worth it however and I will not soon forget the pure blue sky and crisp air of that place. I have also seen much of the 5th region, where I live in Vina del Mar/ Valparaiso. Valpo is a busy sea port with a history peppered with international immigration, commerce, art, and of course earthquakes. Vina is the more residential, middle class part of the urban area, with quiet streets perfect for running.
Speaking of running, I recently competed in a 5-mile race over the toughest terrain I have ever seen. Apparently ‘Cross’ isn’t the same as U.S. Cross Country where rolling hills and grassy straight-aways optimize competition. Rather, it signifies a tough race over impossible hills on a dirt road with no flat ground in between to catch your breath, with a few stray dogs for extra motivation on the return trip. I came in seventh and got a fancy medal for my efforts, but was left panting after my first race since early March. I got a chance to meet the oldest Chilean ever to complete a marathon, 80+ with 14 international marathons under his belt. We will see if Coach Busch can last that long. In the meantime, I plan to try my luck again on an easier course! 
The fruits and veggies here have a freshness unlike that of produce from home, although bread and avocado, or ‘pan y palta’, tend to rule the table. I also had the opportunity to attend a wine tasting while in Argentina where the Malbec is most popular, and have also sampled the Chilean Carmenere, which is smoother than its peppery Argentine cousin. I also went parasailing off of the Andean foothills in Argentina, although I assure you that was well before the wine tasting.
I miss the blooms of our little campus in summer as the cool sea breezes bring winter here to Chile. But I have learned an extraordinary amount of language, culture, history and even some patience in just the last weeks.   I am glad I made the decision to study abroad, one that, without Wabash’s unparalleled assistance, would have never been possible.
Back in a few… In Wabash, Jacob
In photo, Jacob with his host brother.

Beedie ’11 Reflects on Semester in Spain

Chris Beedie ’11 - My semester in Spain was definitely a memorable one. Studying abroad gave me an amazing opportunity to fully immerse myself in the Spanish language, which has proven invaluable to me in my study of the language and my desire to teach Spanish in the future. The program I studied with is a part of the Hispanic Studies program of the University of Virginia. The program has been located in Valencia for over 25 years and prides itself on its content and mission. My classes were taught by extremely knowledgeable and passionate professors willing to help us advance out study of the Spanish language, literature, and culture in any way possible. 

My semester was one filled with the “locura” of Don Quijote, a study of modern Spanish literature which included a whole segment focused on the historical memory of the harsh reality of the repression and hunger that existed during and after the Spanish civil war, a study of short stories and their adaptations in Spanish cinema, as well as a study of the Spanish economy, its historical evolution, and characteristics today.

My home life in Valencia provided me with just as many learning opportunities as the classroom. I spent the semester living with a retired university professor who has now hosted American students in her home for ten years. Charo, as we called her, made sure that my roommate and I never left the dinner table anything less than absolutely stuffed with food, and will probably be retelling the story of the infamous “día de los espagutis” to her students for some time – I think I saw my life flash before my eyes trying to finish the mountain of spaghetti on the table, but like good sons Derrick and I conquered the giant pile of food…but not before roughly an hour had passed. 

Charo’s sense of hearing can also be compared to that of, well, whatever animal has the most acute sense of hearing…and if she even had the faintest suspicion that we were speaking English somewhere in the apartment, she would run in and begin scolding us. The experiences I had with Charo are definitely unforgettable and it is hard to recall a time when the three of us didn’t spend the majority of dinner laughing together. I also think that it is safe to say someone could write a book or TV series centered on the relationship between Charo and the woman who helped her clean the apartment, Mari Carmen. Although Mari Carmen was prone to breaking things and Charo quick to critique her cleaning methods, Mari Carmen was always ready to rescue Charo when she would somehow get trapped inside various rooms of the apartment.

I don’t think anyone who has visited Valencia during March can write about their experience without mentioning Las Fallas. A 19-day celebration that ends in the burning of hundreds of giant and intricately designed sculptures, Las Fallas is unlike anything I have experienced before. Every day at 2 pm rang out the unforgettable words “Senyor pirotécnic, pot començar la mascletà,” which in English basically translates to “get ready for ten minutes of insanely loud explosions.” In Valencia these firework shows that occurred at 2 pm are nothing like what we think of in America. For starters, it is 2 pm! Therefore it goes without saying that the people of Valencia are not really interested in the pretty lights of the fireworks, but rather seeing how much explosive they can pack into each firework to make them as loud as possible. Luckily, before I left to see my first mascletà my host mom reminded me to keep my mouth open and to not cover my ears while the fireworks were set off…so that I wouldn’t rupture my ear drums! It truly is hard to describe a mascletà in words, and it really is something you have to experience, or better yet feel, as the explosions are that powerful.
 
In short, my experience in Spain was an unforgettable one. From my classes and amazing professors to the laughter that probably drove our neighbors crazy every night from 9:30 to 10:30, I can’t think of anything more I could have wished for in a study abroad experience. The semester truly was a blessing and a phenomenal opportunity to study Spanish in an environment so committed to academics as that of the University of Virginia Hispanic Studies program.

旅行: Shenzhen

 

The past weekend was without doubt one of the best weekends I’ve had since I came to China in January. I was able to see the beautiful Shenzhen metropolis and hang out with two great Wabash guys from the class of 2014.

As you might recall from my previous notes, during my trip to Hong Kong in April I met up with Jack Yuan’14. During our meeting, Jack invited me to visit Shenzhen, his hometown. We further discussed this idea when I returned to Shanghai and with Jack’s invaluable help I quickly finalized all the travel arrangements. I left on Thursday evening and spent three days in Shenzhen. I found this city to be extremely interesting. Just thirty years ago, Shenzhen was a small fishing village. However, in the 1980s Deng Xiaoping designated it to be the first Special Economic Zone in China. This establishment proved to be very successful and Shenzhen started developing at a very fast pace. Today it is one of the most prosperous cities in China and an important player in shaping future relations with Hong Kong. Shenzhen, however, has a lot more to offer than its interesting history. I fell in love with its energizing tropical weather and a great amount of green space. The ability to travel to Hong Kong in less than two hours also makes Shenzhen a great city to live in.

More important than the places I visited though were the people I spent time with last weekend. I had a chance to get to know Jack a lot better. Now I’m really sure that he is a person with whom I will be spending a lot of time during my senior year at Wabash. Apart from Jack, I also had the chance to hang out with Songying Fan’14. I corresponded with Songying since January, but on Friday I was finally able to meet him in person. He is a really great guy who will bring a very unique perspective to our campus. Songying has a lot more life and work experience than an average college freshman. As a consequence, he really appreciates the opportunity of gaining education again and is ready to work very hard at Wabash.

I will tell you everything when we meet at Wabash in August, but I cannot find the words to describe how hospitable Jack and Fan were to me during my weekend in Shenzhen. Never before in my life have I experienced so much hospitality from people who are not members of my family.

When you have a minute, please welcome Songying and Jack to our college. Both of them are really excited to become part of our community. You can contact Jack at jackyuan1017@gmail.com and Songying at fsy2014@163.com.

 

我想一下: Reflections

As another class of Wabash men is getting ready for the graduation ceremony, I’m a bit more than halfway through my semester at Shanghai’s Fudan University. Although I am very happy here and consider coming to China as one of the best decisions in my life, throughout my semester abroad I realized how lucky I am to study at Wabash College; being a student at a large public university in China and interacting with students who attend different universities in the U.S. I became conscious of great things about our college that we often take for granted:

·         * Our professors really care about us; next time you stop by a professor’s office think about how much time she/he devotes to developing personal relationships with students.

·          * We have an incredible alumni network. I often mention to other American students specific example reflecting how passionate our alumni are about shaping the college’s future and making sure we that we do great things after graduation. Most of these students are very surprised and admit that alumni relations look very differently at their colleges.

·           * There’s a lot of trust in the Wabash community. I realized this when recently I was not feeling well and could not attend class. Although the staff of my program could clearly see that I was sick, instead of resting I had to worry about visiting the Fudan hospital to get a doctor’s note and write a short petition to my study abroad organization just to get an excused absence.

As I already mentioned, even though I think my study abroad in Shanghai is a great experience, I often miss Wabash and will be happy to return to our college in August.

To all my friends from the class of 2010: Good luck and I will truly miss you. Hope you fulfill your post-Wabash ambitions and give back to our college to make it an even better place.

你们看一下: More about Hong Kong

As I wrote in the last note, the Hong Kong trip was a lot of fun. However, it was also a great learning experience and an important academic component of my education at Fudan University. Monday through Thursday of last week, our group attended very interesting lectures given by HKU faculty and guest speakers. After the lectures we would go on fieldtrips related to the Hong Kong themes of the lectures (introduction to the city, educational system, business, and sustainable urban development.) We visited a number of museums, a Hong Kong school, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, and a beautiful beach area. During our short period of education at Hong Kong University, we were also able to meet a few HKU students who turned out to be great ambassadors of their college.

I really enjoyed the trip and had very mixed feeling when returning to Shanghai. However, in two weeks I will have a chance to see this interesting metropolis again as I’ll be visiting Jack Yuan, a Chinese Wabash men from the class of 2014, in Shenzen. As can be seen on the video below, during my trip I had a chance to spend an afternoon hanging out with Jack who paid me a visit in HK (Shenzen is located relatively close to HK). We had a really good time and Jack invited me to visit his hometown during a three-day weekend in two weeks. I am really excited to get to know Shenzen (home of one of our most talented students, Stanley Xu’10) and return to Hong Kong for a day. I will make sure to share this experience with you:-)

Wabash friends, I also wanted to thank you. Yesterday was one of the greatest days of my undergraduate education. I feel honored and extremely excited to be the recipient of the F. Michael Cassel award. I can’t wait to start my senior seminar paper research here in China during the summer…