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Moros y Cristianos went late into the night and was preceeded by a gorgeous sunset.

Back in Spain, Doing and Seeing Everything

This past week has been one of contrasts, surprises and hard work. It started with the group trip to Calp. After the most challenging fall break of my life, I was more than ready to avoid travelling for awhile- but, as the trip was completely guided and paid for, I felt obligated to attend.

We were going to see ¨Moros y Cristianos,¨ a traditional parade commemorating the wars between, ironically enough, the Moors and the Christians during the Reconquista. The email sent out to UVA students vaguely mentioned something about trekking until the parade began.

Peñón de Ifach

Turns out we were climbing a gorgeous mountain in the middle of a small harbor. Though I was hardly dressed or rested for the occasion, the steep drop-offs and perfect vistas were magical.

The parade too differed from my expectations. I saw a few recognizably Spanish looking soldiers, but a lot more dancing trees, pirates, or floats with rotating skulls. Very bizarre, and great music- and so many participants.

Moros y Cristianos went late into the night and was preceeded by a gorgeous sunset.

After I came back from Calp, it was time to hit the books. Linguistics, vocab literary analysis… all of these challenges kept me fairly studious after my long afternoon walks and/or siestas.

The weather in Valencia is actually comperable to early fall in Indiana- the perfect walking weather. So hopefully I’m burning off some of the those complex carbs obligatory in every Spanish meal.

As my health is back to normal, I’ve been able to meet Dario, Diana’s four week old son. While incessant crying gets old (he’s been living in the apartment since he came home from the hospital), he’s completely adorable.

Dario

In other news, I’ve finally started my internship with Spanish lawyer Ángela Coquillat. It’s a two-woman firm based out of Valencia, and with strong client bases in Madrid and Alicante. Our first day was spent getting to know the firm and looking over a case file. I had the opportunity this past summer to intern with the U.S. District Court Clerk’s Office, so I felt oddly familiar with the style of the conspiracy to distribute narcotics case- phone taps, transcripts, warrant requests- but this time it was all in Spanish! I’m definitely going to have a good time at this internship, and will continue to report.

With that, I’m back out to continue exploring Málaga and find a Halloween costume.

Just Another Vegetable in Bowl of Thin Soup

Reed Hepburn ’12 – I don’t mind, I’ve realized, being a vegetable in a gumbo, as opposed to another spoonful of the broth in a thin soup. I may be a potato in Paris’s demographic stew, but if my analogy is applicable on any sous-facie level, at least that means I represent a distinct entity to be recognized individually.

Hepburn has been contemplating life as a Parisian

As a fair-skinned, fair-haired WASP, I’m somewhat of a rare find in non-tourist areas here, and so far I’ve appreciated that. As I write this I realize that I really have no concrete evidence for the applicability of my analogy. Aside from the objective and undeniable contrast between Paris’s ethno-cultural heterogeneity and Crawfordsville’s lack thereof, I may be, quite frankly, full of it.

It is true, after all, that Paris seems to be an exceptionally tolerant city, exhibiting a laudable degree of color blindness and universal acceptance. Today, however, I met in my French class a student from Stratford-upon-Avon, and during our 15-minute break we had a thoroughly refreshing and comforting English conversation.

As I said good-bye to her after class, I marveled at how profoundly affected I’d been by such a seemingly mundane interaction, and at how quickly someone could metamorphosis from a complete stranger into a comrade, with whom I immediately felt an almost familial bond. The primary impetus for this connection was our shared mother tongue.

As fellow Anglophones (that is, potatoes), we quickly felt a kinship that in a homogenous society would never have developed, a solidarity that in many ways can only germinate in a demographically diverse environment. Of course, this observation on its own was unsatisfying — I don’t want to surround myself this semester with a bubble of American or even Anglo-Saxon culture, as I now began to realize would be extremely easy.

Digging a little deeper, I found an interpretation of this phenomenon that was, while less certainly proven, much more encouraging. If my British friend and I could reach such a level of solidarity so quickly over a relatively superficial connection, what’s to say this is unique? It only makes sense that every other stranger whom I silently, fumingly resent as they push their way onto MY already-crowded metro car, possesses some characteristic over which I could bond with him or her, if only we took the (sometimes immense) effort to peel back linguistic and cultural veils.

Maybe this is wishful thinking, but I’m going to stick to it and search out some okra or peppers or maybe frog legs. We’ll see.

Wabash Sunset in Rappersville, Switzerland

Fall Break Odyssey

Well, the past several weeks have been fairly epic (hence my prolonged absence from this blog). Here’s what it takes for Steve to loose touch with America.

1st—Homework! Classes to this point have been informative, but not particularly time-consuming. I’d spend an average of an hour a day on homework, half of which was time spent on studying the Habsburgs. This past week was comparable to a week at Wabash—papers, reading, and more than a few great conversations. Not much sleep. Though a little taxing, I’ve enjoyed the work, and my scholastic proficiency at Spanish has no doubt improved.

2nd—Sickness! on the evening of Thursday, September 30th, I noticed a slight sniffle, but chalked it up to a mild irritation and proceeded regardless. My conditioned worsened to a congestion-based paralysis of the face. In my bull-headed nature, I waited until the following Wednesday to go to the doctor. After taking the ½ pound/day of medications prescribed, I did notice significantly decreased congestion, though symptoms in some form continue to persist. Needless to say, the added health component has meant I’ve fallen asleep quickly.

Going to the beach late in the season may have added to my sickness, but it was worth it.

3rd—Friends! Shane Evans and Evan Bayless both visited Valencia the week before spring break… Wabash friendships are special, and it was definitely great to see them in Spain. Shane in particular has traveled extensively through Europe, so getting his advice was great before setting off for fall break.

Photo courtesy of Esther Solano Bonet

Which brings us to the major event of the past month:

4th—Fall Break!!

A strong benefit of the UVA Valencia program is the built-in week long break—10 days to travel Europe. I traveled with Adam Andrews ’12 and Dan Chabala (a fellow Americano from Michigan State University) around Italy, Switzerland, and Austria.

Our journey started, appropriately enough, in complete chaos. Despite paying for expedited shipping well in advance, my Eurorail pass had not arrived on the day of departure. Thanks to a phone call from José, the rest of the problem was discovered: FedEx had received the wrong address from Eurorail. Thankfully, the package was delivered 2 hours before my train left.

Once in Barcelona, airport personal directed us to the correct terminal, security cleared us, and Ryanair staff validated our tickets. We had a leisurely dinner and strolled through some duty-free shops. We stood in the queue line for a flight to Rome, and noticed the flight numbers were incorrect (not to mention we were running early—a rarity for Ryanair).

Chatting with a flight attendant revealed we were an hour south of Barcelona Girona, and we had an hour until the gates closed at 9:20. But after an adrenaline-fueled sprint through Barcelona Prat, we caught our first break. Our taxi driver, Sergio, speeds like a racecar driver, enjoys throbbing techno music, and made €196 ($273) off of our mistake that night. But we arrive with about 20 minutes to spare (we tipped well). Chris, another friend traveling with us from the program, used this extra time to look for his plane ticket, which he had losted (he printed out another one and was the last person to board the plane).

The start of an epic fight to get home

The first two days were chaotically spent in Rome. Naturally, we had planned our trip during the last U-2 concert in Europe for their 360° tour, so finding a hostel was next to impossible. But with a bit of maneuvering, we found one place in the city and on the outskirts—complete with a full kitchen.

In Rome, Chris discovered yet another problem: he’d lost his Eurorail pass. He spent his time in Rome talking with police to get the situation resolved and eventually return to Valencia.

We, however, explored Rome with insatiable ferocity—the Coliseum, the Vatican, the restaurants—we of course failed to see about half of the Eternal City, but we certainly took advantage of our time. For two nights, we stayed in a small bungalow in the suburbs of Rome cooking pasta for dinner and sleeping late into the morning.

On Sunday, we left for Switzerland via train. After a long train ride (this came to be a motif of our journey), we were greeted in Rappersville, Switzerland by none other than Michael Opieczonek ’09. A phenomenal home-cooked dinner awaited us—meatloaf, salad, mashed potatoes, and, of course, Swiss chocolate for dessert. To compensate for over-eating, we went on a extensive walking tour of Rappersville.

Wabash Sunset in Rappersville, Switzerland

Incidentally for Opieczonek, Rappersville is dominated by a castle restored by a Polish benefactor. Michael’s Renaissance apartment overlooks the castle square, a first-rate coffee shop, and a music store. In fact, we were so impressed by Rappersville that we spent the next day planning and exploring the small Swiss towns. After an enjoyable Wednesday in Zurich, we left via night train to Vienna, Austria still enamored of Switzerland.

Vienna was primarily selected for its phenomenal fine arts museum. Soon after checking into our hostel, we trekked across the city to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which included quite a few portraits of the Habsburg family. While in Vienna, we also visited the Albeterina, which contained some Picasso works inspired by Habsburg portraits…a true liberal arts experience that made me miss C&T.

In Vienna too, another European Wabash friend saved the day. Maria Fraczek, a former language intern at Wabash, gave us a first-rate tour of Viennese cathedrals, and later an authentic Austrian dinner. As a pastry aficionado, I highly recommend Fraczek apple strudel.

After a night full of cultural conversations and food, we set off for Innsbruck, home of Ferdinand II’s Schloss Ambras.

There are certain downsides to being completely ignorant of the German language, not the least of which is traveling difficulties. Thanks to a miscommunication with a train conductor, we ended up in Salzburg, Austria (translated from German, “the Salt Fortress”) and needed to wait 90 minutes for a train back down to Innsbruck. We arrived in Innsbruck thoroughly confused, tired, and too late to go to the museum.

Things headed even further south at midnight. In addition to a remarkably slow Saturday night in Innsbruck, it began to rain. We went back into the train station to wait for our 3:40 AM departure for Valencia.

Our plan was to ride from Vienna to Zurich, to Montpellier, France, to Barcelona, Spain to Valencia. An arduous (25 hr) train ride, but not a bad way to see the countryside, read some books, and save some money.

Unfortunately, our train ride to Zurich was delayed, so we missed our connection at Zurich. We took this in stride, and found another connection through Geneve. Not a big deal.

French workers had other plans for us. A strike in France essentially shut down travel through the majority of the country. Our best option was a boat from Lorenzo, Italy to Barcelona.

After a regrettably short night’s sleep in Milan, we took the four hour train to Lorenzo. On the train, I commiserated with an Italian couple, and it seems we weren’t the only ones to face such problems travelling by train. It was comforting to know our inability to get back to Spain wasn’t actually our fault somehow. And we certainly saw our share of Americans dealing with the situation in a less-than-gentlemanly manner.

Upon arriving in Livorno, we quickly made our way to the dock… or at least tried. Despite the good intentions of two Italians, we were thoroughly lost. After many unfruitful, multi-lingual exchanges, we found a woman that confirmed the existence of our boat and sent us off in a taxi.

Our “Mediterranean cruise” was survivable at best. Ferocious waves, unappreciated live music, and, of course, a noisy baby inhibited both sleep and work. But we surived, and arrived to take the 1 A.M. bus to Valencia.

So, at long last, I fell into my Valencian bed at 6:00 in the morning on the 20th of October. And made it to class the next morning.

Now, it’s makeup work time.

The long road to the boat in Livorno, Italy, punctuated by a beautiful Tuscan sunset.

South Bend to Rome Quite a Journey

Cassady with friends in Rome

Robert Cassady ’12  – It is amazing how quickly a foreign city can become your home. I have been in Rome now for over a month, and I feel quite at home. This is rather surprising because Rome is so drastically different than my hometown (South Bend, IN) and of course Wabash College. As I do not speak Italian, the extent of my communication with Romans is usually limited to simple greetings and gestures to purchase things like food and as of last weekend contact solution. 

One of the biggest changes for me was living in a big city. Rome is not full of huge skyscrapers thankfully, but it is still a massive city that can take more than an hour to travel across by bus or a few hours walking. And of course the food is different but (with as much respect as I can give to Sparks, whose food I enjoy) admittedly much better. So it did not take long to get used to the new cuisine.

So I am in a foreign place, but at the same time the true beauty of the city almost forces you to fall in love with being here. All of the well known sites (St. Peter’s, Pantheon, Colosseum, the Roman Forum,  etc.) are as wonderful as everyone says and usually much more fantastic., but some of my favorite experiences have come from getting lost in all of the little side streets of the city. Rome has the worst city planning of any city I know. Yet there are so many beautiful sites hidden in alleyways and off the beaten trail that you can never be angry with the city when you inevitably get lost. I feel comfortable walking out into the city for the day without a map and only a few euro in my pocket, because I am getting to know the city more and more everyday. I know that by the end of the trip it will be tough to say goodbye to what is now a Rome away from home.

My classes have been great here. They are rather intense but well worth the effort. I am taking Latin, Greek, and a course called the Ancient City that is essentially an historical and archaeological study of Rome. For the Ancient City class, we have taken some amazing field trips. Most notably we were able to walk in two Roman aqueducts. It was an incredible experience, and really allowed me to intimately learn about Roman engineering. I also spent a week in Sicily on field trips, which I will write about later.

I will end this entry by saying that the longer I am away from Wabash the more I miss it. Some would call me crazy for longing to be back in Crawfordsville, and I would agree. I think all Wabash men are a little bit crazy to have chosen to seclude themselves in the corn fields of central Indiana, but we are all the better for it in the end. I am excited to bring back my experiences from Rome and share them with my colleagues.

British Family Helps Stankovich Feel Welcomed

 

Visiting the Lourve in Paris

Stevan Stankovich ’12 - England is incredible!

I can hardly believe it; I have been studying abroad for almost 2 months and yet it feels like I got here yesterday.  I live in a castle and study in it with roughly 130 other Americans including Terri Sullivan ’12.  Can you believe that literally a CASTLE! Remind you of Harry Potter anyone? The castle is called Harlaxton Manor and it is situated an hour train ride north of London in the rolling hills of the midlands in England.  The weather has been pretty spectacular so far and has not rained that much contrary to popular belief, however the tempatures rarely leave the 50s both as highs and lows.  However, after Indiana that is a nice change of pace. 

Anyways everyone here takes a class called British Studies.  It is very similar to C&T except strictly on British history.  The class is taught by British faculty and is very informative and enjoyable.  Besides that I am enjoying my classes, which the teaching style is very similar to Wabash.  Besides that though it is great to meet new friends and experience different cultures by traveling.  For example every Wednesday night we go into the local town Grantham to a pub called The Goose to grab a pint for steak night it is quite enjoyable.  Also with being in close proximity to London I can travel there whenever I like for only 20 bucks round trip.  Got to love public transportation. 

Our residence, the Harlaxton Manor

So far I have been to London, several other cities in England, Paris, and Scotland.   I loved these trips and I believe it is safe to say if I didn’t have to go back to Wabash I could stay here for another year.  Just getting to see things that were built over 500 years ago on a regular basis, or seeing famous paintings or landmarks that you have always seen on the TV or books is amazing.  To have all of this at your fingertips is completely awesome.  

Finally I have a met a family here at Harlaxton, which is set up through the school.  There names are Michael and Margret Laws.  They are amazing people and I have had the great opportunity to meet their family. They will usually take me on a road trip every Saturday or Sunday to somewhere I would not have travelled to in England, and then they will cook dinner for me at their home.  It has been great to really get to see how English families differ from our own and understand culture and difference subtilities in language a bit more. 

Overall there is too much to write about and not enough room or time.  I could go on for ages about my experiences so far including; the not so great food, how there is a pub on every corner, how friendly Scottish and some Parisians are, getting to go on field trips to ancient castles and cathedrals, or the fact I will get to travel to Spain, Greece, Netherlands, Wales and Belgium but I will save that for another day because I have to pack for Ireland where I am traveling with some friends with tomorrow.  Well ill update again soon and as they say in England. 

Cheers! 

Markey Experiencing the Differences in York

Markey in front of the Archaeology Department

Tim Markey ’12 – Orientation for students at the University of York has finally ended, and on Monday the academic adventure begins. Of course, I’ve already had quite an adventure getting here in the first place. It all started with the terror alert for Western Europe which came out the night before my flight to Heathrow. (Ironically, it was much bigger news in the US than over here, which didn’t exactly help to calm my family’s fears). Then once I arrived I discovered that just for that day, Oct. 4, the London Underground workers were striking. Or, as the cheerful announcers put it, “Underground service has been suspended due to ‘industrial action’.” Laden with both jetlag and all my baggage, I at last found the hotel I was staying at for my London orientation. Obviously, things weren’t off to the best start.

Thankfully, orientation went very well. I got to meet the other American students going to York, and the group of us had a great time in London. We took a tour of the city, seeing all the big sights like Westminster, Trafalgar Square, and Buckingham Palace, and we also enjoyed our first British pub experience. Soon we were off to York by train. I’d been to London before, so nothing there really surprised me, but York was completely different. In London, it’s not uncommon to see ancient castles right next to modern train tracks and telephone poles.  But in York, this juxtaposition is taken to the extreme. There are literally Subways and McDonald’s, new supermarkets and banks, in the bottom floors of shops which have been open continuously since as early as the 14th century.

The city is filled with medieval churches, fortifications, and of course the York Minster. Even the university’s Archaeology department is located in a building known as King’s Manor, which was built in the 15th century and later used by Henry VIII for his King’s Council. The most amazing thing is that this is where I’ll be taking some of my classes!

The Central Hall on York's campus

Of course, not all of the University was such a rich history. It’s only 50 years old and thus most of its buildings only date back to the sixties or seventies. Central Hall, which sits on the beautiful sight of a man-made lake, almost looks as if some sort of UFO landed on the sight and got stuck there. The students, too, are very modern. York is a much more liberal place than what I’m used to, and the diversity here is simply amazing. Forty percent of York students are of international origin. I spent my first day wandering around the city with one guy from Germany and one from China. We talked about how different York was to our hometowns and how we were going to have to adjust our study methods to fit this new system. (Also how British and American beers pale next to Germany’s and which of the 366 pubs in York were worth going to. Gotta love those Germans). I think this is going to be a very interesting semester.

Cheers!

Sullivan ’12 Living in British Castle

Terence Sullivan ’12 – I live in a castle …

My study abroad experience is, guaranteed, completely different than any other student’s. I am studying at Harlaxton College in Grantham, about ninety miles north of London. Harlaxton Manor is, essentially, a castle. Watch “The Haunting”. That’s where I’m staying. And, unlike any other student studying abroad this semester, save Steven Stankovich, I am not around British, Scotch, or Spanish people constantly; I am amongst a group of fellow Americans. The basis of the Harlaxton education is a course called “British Studies”. We are slowly working our way through the entirety of British History in just one semester.

Being around other Americans is familiar and safe, but at Harlaxton we are encouraged, more than anything, to travel. Every weekend is a three-day weekend just for this purpose. To date I have been to Newcastle, London (twice), Ireland, and Wales, and in the next five weeks I will be in Scotland, Amsterdam, and Paris.

Sullivan is enjoying British Studies and the countryside

Despite being a wonderful country, England and Wales just weren’t as impressive as Ireland was. I, and a small band of students from Harlaxton went from Eastern England to Western Ireland in the matter of a day. That was a very long excursion. Tens of hours on a bus and ferry made me appreciate being short thanks to the little legroom. However, when we reached our destination, a small town called Doolin just north of the Cliffs of Moher, I was not too excited. The hostel was small; there were two pubs, and no ATM. My first thoughts were ones of regret. The town was a small coastal town known in Ireland for two things, the Cliffs of Moher and the traditional music.

Naturally, I decided, accompanied by a few friends, to visit the cliffs upon arrival. Not being much else to do, the decision was really made for us. The Cliffs of Moher are six hundred feet off the crashing Atlantic Ocean. They are the tallest Cliffs in Europe, but a simple description does not do them justice. A sign that denotes “Private Property” marks the end of walkways and tourism, but a worn footpath stretches nearly the entire length of the eight-kilometer Cliffs. Walking this footpath, at what feels like the end of the world, is truly awesome. The footpath, at any point, is no further than five to six feet away from the edge of the cliff, and like any day in Ireland, the day I saw the cliffs there were patches of rain. Proximity and slippery, muddy hills made for the most amount of fear I have ever experienced. The Cliffs, however, are not the only thing to see at the Cliffs. If you simply turn around you gaze across the Emerald Isle. I now understand why it is called the Emerald Isle. The array of green that you see looking across the land makes you wonder if it is even real. It looks like the Emerald City from “The Wizard of Oz”.

That night we decided to experience the second reason to visit Doolin. We went into one of the pubs and sat down. The Irish were openly accepting to us ignorant tourists. We made friends, listened to music (which was indeed reason alone to visit Doolin), and had a pint or two of Guinness.  The Irish are easier to understand than the British. They seem more open to tourists and sharing culture because the food, music, language, and spirit are their own. I’ve never met more genuinely happy people than I did in Ireland. The corned beef and cabbage melted my heart, and so we stayed one more night in the small town.

I find it much easier to cast off reputation of peoples much easier as I meet new nationalities. As I’ve seen so far, the Germans can laugh, the French are not rude, the Irish don’t fight, but the British do drink way too much tea.

Parroquin ’12 Feels Welcomed in Argentina

Marc Parroquin ’12 – The most difficult thing about coming here is knowing that I will soon have to leave it behind. Buenos Aires has made me appreciate many things that I used to have while giving me an appreciation for what my life in Indiana previously lacked. While I really had absolutely no idea what Argentina held in store for me, I know I will never forget the great things I have experienced since arriving.

Marc Parroquin '12 gets into the Argentian spirit at a soccer game.

Almost immediately upon arrival, I felt a strong appreciation for my ties to Wabash. The first week I arrived, I met a Wabash grad (a former Delt named Chris Woodside) who, before leaving literally less than a week after I arrived, ensured a job for me with the Buenos Aires Pub Crawl, a tour of the local nightlife. This immediately plugged me into the social pipeline in Argentina and I have made a lot of great contacts from all over the world who come out for the crawl.

The nightlife in BsAs is absolutely amazing, with a bar and a club to suit anyone´s tastes. I have to admit going from the social life at Wabash to this one was more of a culture shock than the language barrier, and I am not in any hurry to leave it behind.

Another appreciation I now have for Wabash is the proximity and the conveniences that our campus provides for us. The education systems here are ridiculously disorganized. The UBA, the most prestigious of BsAs´s universities, where I am currently enrolled in a Marxist theory class and a social history of Argentina class, has over 300,000 students in all of its faculties. As such, the buildings are scattered over a huge city, with a public transport system that is shoddy at best, with strikes shutting down subte lines on a regular basis. The political involvement of the common citizen is taken very seriously here as well. The UBA itself has been subject to a strike for the past month, with professors taking to cafés to teach class because the administration has locked all the buildings.

On top of all these difficulties, the idea of a central bookstore here is absurd. In order to get your materials, you have to go from photocopier to photocopier to see if the professors for your classes have a list with this particular photocopier. Despite these difficulties, however, I´ve been loving every minute of class.

Some highlights so far of this trip have been the Argentina vs. España futbol game, and this previous weekend, where I traveled to Córdoba, Argentina for an Oktoberfest and mountain climbing/hiking, and last night, where Incubus came to Buenos Aires. Going to an Argentine futbol game will probably be the most intense sporting event I will ever go to; The Sphinx Club needs to take note of whatever the hell it is Argentine´s do to get everyone so pumped up, because it is absolutely insane being inside the stadium, surrounded by such a passionate multitude of people. Though watching the World Cup champions get soundly defeated by Messi and company was a great experience, being outside the city this past weekend has been the highlight of my trip thus far.

An overnight bus ride away is Córdoba, where I visited Santa Rosa de Calamuchita, Villa General Belgrano, and La Cumbrecita. The beer variety in the city is severely lacking, and the Oktoberfest followed through on its promise of great brews, but the mountain trip to La Cumbrecita was easily the best part of the weekend. After climbing/hiking up a mountain, it takes you to an absolutely beautiful gorgeous waterfall, and nothing I have yet experienced even comes close to the tranquility of being enveloped by the waterfall and its surroundings. Finally, I had the opportunity to see Incubus for the first time ever, here in Buenos Aires, and as they are one of my favorite bands, it was an amazing addition to what would have already been a great weekend.

All in all, this country has been treating me very well, and while I definitely miss home, I am beginning to feel that I may miss this place more upon returning. Everything you could possibly ever want as a 20-something year old, single guy, or in other words, every student at Wabash, is here, and I only wish I could do more to share it than just write a blog.

I have taken quite a few pictures of my travels here thus far, and if you would like to see them, just add me on facebook.

Peacock Exploring All Details of Scottish Life

Jake Peacock ’12 – Black pudding is definitely NOT pudding, at least in the conventional American sense of pre-packaged little cups which are sack-lunch diet staple. I learned that the hard way this morning as I got breakfast in the city centre of Aberdeen, Scotland. For those who don’t know, black pudding is a traditional Scottish food served at breakfast and is actually a type of sausage. Blood sausage. It’s generally served alongside things like cold baked beans, grilled tomato, fried eggs, toast, and Lorne sausage. Lorne sausage is square. And delicious. However my reaction to black pudding was … well … visceral. To be honest, it wasn’t that surprising either. The British Isles aren’t really known for their food. But at least I’ve crossed black pudding off of my “traditional Scottish foods to try” list.

Jake Peacock '12 and a new friend in Aberdeen

In addition to black pudding and Lorne I have tried fish cakes, Scotch, a Scotland-only soda called “Irn Bru” (pronounced “iron brew”), an assortment of meat pies, and a few locally brewed beers. I have yet to try haggis.

So why, you might ask, would I start talking about this morning’s less-than-enjoyable breakfast experience with blood sausage instead of my overall fantastic time in Aberdeen? Partially because its a typical travel experience that most others who have studied abroad will understand. Also, because it wasn’t really unenjoyable so much as it was kind of an exciting adventure. Mostly, though, it is because it shows just how different this English-speaking country can really be, down to the smallest details. The most interesting thing about being here actually is that I have these constant, small reminders that this is not Crawfordsville, Indiana. I’m one townie who is very, very far away from home. The plant life is different, hamburgers taste different, credit cards don’t work quite the same, many people roll their own cigarettes, beer only comes in bottles or pints, and countless other things. That’s ignoring the big stuff, too. Those include driving on the other side of the road, the accents and slang (actually a “Jake” in Scotland is slang for an alcoholic), the fashion, the ever-present ocean and thus gulls, and the age of everything – many of my classes are in building older than the USA! This is all without the experience of a language either.

Thankfully, Aberdeen is very accommodating for international students. The Aberdeen Uni is at least 20 percent international students. In my own flat there are only two guys from Scotland. Excluding me, the others are from Bulgaria, Spain, and China. Many of the friends I’ve made are Polish or Swedish or Lithuanian. And, of course, there is my fellow Wabash man that is here this semester, Will Liu. In fact, the Scots are very friendly anyway, so perhaps this open social atmosphere is just a Scottish thing and not just Aberdeen. It’s my favorite thing about the culture here. Everything is about “being merry” and having a good time with good company and good drink (maybe why they don’t mind the black pudding so much) and ending the night with at least one or two good friends you didn’t know when you woke up this morning, regardless of nationality or political views or religion or whatever. It makes sense that people in Scotland so often say “cheers” instead of thank you and goodbye.

Unfortunately, the black pudding stopped me from making new friends today. I’ve felt too sick to go out at all. There’s always tomorrow.

Wabash Always Fights. Cheers.