Learning A Country’s Culture from Young People

The canals of Amsterdam

Terrence Sullivan ’12 – In recent weeks I have been busy. Between the rush of term papers and tests I have found my way around a portion of the continent. As my days here in merry ol’ England draw to a close I cannot help but reflect on the three best weekends I have spent here Europe. Traveling in the last days of my stint in England has been exceedingly rewarding. The cosmopolitan bustle of Paris, the laid back attitude of Amsterdam, and the natural beauty of Scotland, have been the scene for my most recent experiences.

First came Scotland, where a three-day bus tour of the highlands, boring as it might sound, was, to say the least, exceedingly pleasant. I, accompanied by four lovely ladies, ventured into the highlands with a group of 30 or so people to learn a bit of history, and see the country in all of its glory. My hopes, as you may guess, were not particularly high when I heard of what we were doing. Boredom came to mind because I expected to be sitting on a bus listening to a graying old man talk about castles, cathedrals, and Culloden. Boy, oh boy, was I worried when I stepped up on the bus to see a bus driver/tour guide whom appeared younger than I. The bright young man named Dan, age of only 23, took me by surprise with his patchy muttonchops, messy hair, sweat stained shirt, and sarcasm. He was wearing a raggedy kilt and a genuine smile as I walked past, and I couldn’t help but underestimate the poor fellow’s intellectual competency.

Sullivan and friends in Scotland

Within minutes of being on the bus, however, we, a group of Aussies, Kiwis, and Americans, were assaulted with jokes about the English, dates of battles, and historical facts you couldn’t learn in a basic “History 101” style textbook. Music was played when Dan’s Scottish brogue wasn’t, and stories were shared when we grew tired of the music. His taste in music was awful. It consisted of Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys. Dan was forced to share lots of stories. The first day was a hoot. I knew this tour would be rather different from traditional bus tours when our first stop was a Scotch Distillery. “When in Rome,” right?

The next days were spent climbing mountains, exploring woods, learning about the highland way, and experiencing the highland hospitality. Scotland’s natural beauty sent a shiver down my spine. As I stare back over the pictures I am dragged back to the sublime experience standing at the top of a mountain, trekking through the forest, or losing a pub quiz with some new friends.

Amsterdam was not as I expected either. Such an amalgamation of peoples in tourist form was bound to be confusing and stressful. Such an amalgamation of tourists, whom are all in an altered state of mind, was not confusing or stressful. Everyone seemed to be very helpful and friendly. The city, although massive, was easy to navigate. Set up on a system of canals, the grid like city offered an odd beauty. The canals shimmered in the sunlight, and the bikes, all painted different colors, lining the bridges looked natural in their positions. Three days we spent wandering around the city, and in those three days we never saw the same thing twice. I do regret not going to the Van Gogh museum, but for nearly 20 Euro I decided to wait for Paris to see the great post-impressionists.

Planning Paris was the biggest obstacle to the trip. There is so much to do in the massive city that in four days you lose your mind simply trying to cut the list down to a manageable size. Trying to keep on a budget, I spent my Paris trip eating baguettes and drinking wine that was cheaper than water. However, the summation of my eating experiences isn’t the reason you are reading this blog entry.

Notre Dame, Paris

Where I visited in Paris: Arc de Triumph, Eiffel Tower, Museum D’Orsay, the Louvre, Montmartre, Notre Dame, Champs Elysees, and the Pere Lachaise Cemetary. Short list, yes, but I only had four days. The city is titanic, and for reference, it took 45 minutes by underground to reach the Eiffel Tower from my hotel. Since I had been waiting from Amsterdam to see post-impressionist art, I was the most excited about the Museum D’Orsay. But, I suppose the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo were fairly magnificent as well. Notre Dame’s Gothic style achieved its goal of making me feel small and terrified. But, above all other tourist attractions, the one leaving me with a lasting tingle in my spine was the obscene patriotism that accompanied the Arc de Triumph and its massive French colors waving underneath.

The Arc looks over Champs Elysees, and instills inordinate amounts of national pride on anyone who gazes upon it. Despite obviously not being French, the Parisian culture envelops you the moment you enter the city. The language, art, and people all have pride in where they live, and their way of life. Rarely, when venturing outside the tourist attractions, is a word of English spoken. Montmartre’s art market is marvelous, and the nightlife was incredibly entertaining. Meeting people while simply wandering the streets, having conversations in a sick linguistic merger, and laughing at the results contrasted the touristy day experiences quite nicely. Somehow, someway I will be going back to Paris for these reasons.

Now, however, these last weeks involve more papers, tests, and, of course, finals. So, for the next 15 days, I wait patiently for my Italian excursion with hopes it has as much to offer as these previous month. Until then I’m simply biding my academia filled time with prospects of returning to Indiana and Wabash.

Visiting Amdersdam, Scotland Expands Cultural Experience

Jake Peacock ’12 – A lot has happened since my last blog entry. I got into an immersion course to Peru, I went to Amsterdam and Ireland, and I found out my good friend Matt Kraft ’10 (who is teaching in Spain for a few years) is coming to visit me in Aberdeen during December. Also, Wabash won the Bell Game. Will Liu and I frantically tried to find a way to watch or listen to the game online. We got the radio to work just as soon as Whitehead went on the field to give Wabash its first few points. Missing such a great game made me realize just how much I actually miss Wabash. However, I’m holding off sentimental remarks and whatnot for later blog entries. So, let me tell you about Amsterdam.

Dam Square in Amderstam, Netherlands

Early in November I decided to take a bit of time off from Scotland, and ventured to the European continent for a little while. The most enlightening thing about the trip has been how different the UK has been from, at the very least, the Netherlands. Things have been considerably more expensive here than anywhere I’ve been in the UK, even at Heathrow airport in London. Everyone knows more than one language. That might have to do more with the Netherlands than anything else, though. English and Dutch are both considered national languages, although Dutch is the default. That being said, even people who were clearly speaking French or Spanish amongst their friends ahead of me in a queue would switch to English when dealing with whoever was working at the bar, cafe, or where ever. It seemed that fashion matters here more than in the UK or the US as well. Every clothing store I have seen has been a famous designer outlet with extravagantly over-priced items.

Amsterdam, sometimes called the Venice of the north, is quite an interesting place. Marijuana is decriminalized, prostitution is allowed within registered brothels, there is a separate lane in roads for bicycles, there are more bicycles than people, and most of the city is below sea-level. The below sea-level business makes it so that all of the construction in the older parts of Amsterdam are very, very cramped. Additionally, it means that the port city requires a lot of canals to divert water. And canals there are. Everywhere.

Peacock, with friends, at Stonehaven, Scotland

Dublin, Ireland was pretty interesting as well. I’m definitely going back, even though the trip itself was somewhat of a fiasco (everything was delayed, I ran into some unexpected money issues, etc., etc.). People there take a lot of pride in being Irish—many pubs had live Irish music every night, which was really cool. Everything was written in Celtic and English as well. I ended up going around the city sight-seeing. St. Patrick’s Cathedral was especially impressive. It was a bit sad being there, though. Because of all the financial troubles there, many people my age and younger are on the street. Nonetheless, Ireland is one of the best trips I made.

Xátiva and Spanish friends

I spent last Saturday in Xátiva, a small town about an hour away from Valencia. A long castle dominates the surrounding mountains, so we of course climbed the hill and explored the castle. While a great place to hike and relax, the town has relatively little historical significance apart from being the birthplace of two popes (Callixtus III and Alexander VI).

Xátiva Castle

While classwork has certainly slowed down from the post-fall break frenzy, it’s enough to keep my busy. Most time consuming was a six minute video adaption of Gabrial García Márquez´s “Crónica de una muerte anunciada” or “Chronicle of a Death Foretold.” Needless to say, we added rap music and fight scenes to give it a Hollywood flair (for the sake of all of our dignities, this movie is staying continental).

But the most enjoyable part of the past week has definitely been Spanish friends.

First, I finally met up with my language-partner, María Minuesa. María is an aspiring doctor at the University of Valencia, but also has a wide array of linguistic and political interests, so conversations are enjoyable and always a little longer than intended. She’s studied abroad in Vancouver and visited New York, so her first experience with a Midwesterner is yours truly. In fact, María demonstrates what I’ve found to be fairly constant with Spaniards: my Spanish is easy to understand, but my English is impossible.

Another group of Spanish friends has really taken off through a local Baptist church. While at a service there, I met Gerson Hernández and had several opportunities to eat lunch with him and his friends at the University of Valencia. There, I am exposed to an entirely new type of Spanish dynamic- a large, familiar group of idiom-spewing college students. While I’m more than capable of one-on-one communication, and have a great time in small groups of Spanish people, this dynamic puts comprehension and communication to the ultimate test. Hopefully in the next several weeks, I can master the art of Spanish group discussions.

Regarding large groups of Spanish people… I went to a soccer game Wednesday!! The energy in the stadium was palpitable. From loud cheers to everyone wearing “Murciélagos” jerseys, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the downfall of Bursaspor (their Turkish competitors).

Thanksgiving in Spain was slightly bizarre. Turkey, green beans, and roasted pumpkin were served (cold and with strange spices). In other news, my host mother and I are a little under the weather. With that, I’m off to an early bedtime. More next week on winter break plans, the program theater production, and my last day at the law firm.

Seville, Law occupy Wally Abroad

This past weekend, a group of nine students from the UVA Valencia program decided to go to Seville for the weekend. We arrived late and were locked out of the hostel, so we crammed into a more expensive hotel for the night.

The next day, we were met by Andy Goodwin ‘97, my high school Spanish teacher. Andy is on sabbatical in Seville, writing and interacting with Spaniards while his wife, Jamie, teaches English at the university.

Don Andrés just after the 47-0 Monon Bell Victory. It was a good night for Wallies everywhere.

Our first stop was la Catedral de Santa María de la Sede, dominant feature of Seville and the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. When planning the church, the builders resolved to make the building so large that those who saw it would think they were crazy. And it was crazy large… and climbing the Giralda emphasized the cathedral’s size. In true Spanish fashion, a ramp leads to the top of the Giralda to allow the bell-ringer to ride a horse to the top of the tower.

La Catedral from la Giralda

After some delicious tapas, we went to la Plaza de España, the gorgeous group of Sevillean government buildings. Apparently the location was featured in one of the Star Wars movies, though they chose to admit the murals of Spanish provinces (below). The excessive amount of walking prompted a prolonged siesta until heading out to the flamenco bars for the evening.

UVA Valencia Compañeros. Photo courtesy of Shannon McNeilly.

The next day was spent lazily wandering the Alcázar, a Moorish fort converted into a palace for a variety of monarchs and filled with their paraphernalia—from the Padrón Real to a collection of fans used by the queens. The gardens were beautiful (at this point, my words fail, so I’ll let my less than adequate pictures take over).

That evening, we headed to the European Film Festival and watched Nieves Arrazola: lucha clandestina, cine y lentejas, a less-than-gripping documentary on life of 91-year-old Spaniard Nieves Arrazola. She spoke on her disillusion with communism, encounters with great artistic figures of the Spanish-speaking world (including Buñuel, a personal favorite), and her cooking methods. Click for the trailer, the shorter and more exciting version of the movie.

After a night of laughter, story-telling, and tapas, I began my long trek to the train station at 7:20 in the morning (that’s exceedingly early in Spain). On the train home, I caught up on sleep, did some homework, and saved about $50 in travel costs.

Later that week, myself and two other UVA Valencia students returned to the Spanish law firm of Ángela Coquillat Vicente. There, we began watching a video of a hearing in Valencia.

The case revolved around an employee injury. Working at a British glassmaking company, an electrician unplugged the wrong cord on a critical piece of equipment and accordingly received second and third degree electrical burns to the face, neck, and arms. The judge began with an arduous recitation of the facts—the employee sued the company for 100,000 English pounds. Angela represented the insurance company which covered the glass makers for damages over a certain amount.

We were watching a hearing from the past Tuesday (incidentally while we were in class). The incident had actually occurred in October 2002—every time that any party has a conflict, the trial was rescheduled.

One of the major differences between Spanish court and the States is that Spanish lawyers don’t generally sit near their clients. This particular Valencian judge was a fan of the American judicial system and offered the clients the opportunity to speak with their lawyers whenever they wished to do so.

By this point in the proceedings, the plaintiff’s condition had improved significantly, so the doctor’s original diagnosis was no longer valid. When the insurance investigator discovered this dramatic improvement, the company requested to have a new doctor examine the plaintiff. The judge denied Angela’s claim on the grounds that bothering a doctor before discovering the actual amount of compensatory damages. With this news, our slot for the day expired, and we went home.

Another week has me immersed in literature, random conversations, and delicious food. Coming up: my intercambio (language partner), more in the Spanish law firm, and preparations for my first Thanksgiving away from Indiana!

Markey ’12 Delves into History, Politics

Tim Markey ’11 – Man, do I have a lot to write about! It’s been a very busy few weeks since my last post. I’ve been from York to Keswick, and Newcastle to Edinburgh. I’ve finished and gotten feedback on my first major writing assignment here at York, and I’ve had the chance to learn more about English culture and politics in relation to what I’m familiar with in America.

First, I have to try to describe my trip to the Lake District a couple weeks ago. It is one of the only mountainous areas in all of England (in fact, before this trip I had no idea England even had mountains). It has also perhaps the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. The scattered mountains and hills, all covered with trees showing the various shades of autumn, form numerous deep valleys in which streams gather to form picturesque rivers and lakes. It was immediately apparent to me what made this place so inspirational to writers and poets like Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth. The trip lasted the whole weekend and was completely organized by the IFSA-Butler staff, who did a wonderful job. My fellow “Yorkies” and I as well as other visiting out-of-London students had the opportunity to explore Keswick, nestled at the heart of the Lake District, as well as visit Hilltop Farm and Dove Cottage, the homes of Potter and Wordsworth. We also celebrated Halloween with a horror-themed “pub quiz.”

Last weekend I again left York, this time to see Edinburgh. While Edinburgh also has some beautiful scenery, my primary focus of this trip was its rich history. The Scottish Crown Jewels I saw at Edinburgh Castle are older than the English, having escaped the reach of Cromwell and survived nearly 500 years. I was also able to see the Stone of Scone, something I remember having missed at Westminster Abbey during my first trip to London (I had been unaware of the fact that it had been returned to Scotland a few years earlier). Edinburgh Castle and many other buildings in the city were first built around the time of William the Conqueror, almost 1000 years ago. Even older than this, though, was much of what I saw at the Museum of Scotland. This had the most impressive collection of ancient artifacts I’ve seen outside the British Museum, though I don’t remember seeing even there quite so many Roman artifacts. I must have taken a hundred pictures in there. Before I left the city I had the chance to see the tomb of David Hume, who in addition to being my favorite philosopher was the subject of the very first paper I wrote at Wabash.

Besides all of this historical stuff, I’ve also been trying to keep up with the modern political situation here in Britain, which I find fascinating in comparison to what’s going on in America. While both countries are experiencing a dramatic resurgence of conservatism, the British political system lends itself to much swifter and dramatic change, and thus vulnerable to more extreme opposition. Groups all over England are protesting the new 25% budget cut, from socialists I’ve seen on campus to sermons I’ve heard delivered in the York Minster. Compare this to the American situation, which, due to our separation of powers, is far more mundane. The best the Republicans can hope to accomplish is a government stalemate for another two years. As a political science minor I knew the distinctions between these systems in theory, but it’s a much more enriching experience to see them in action.

Finally, as I’m writing this on a Friday I won’t know outcome of the big game —but in any case, let’s go Little Giants! When I get back to campus I can’t wait to see that Bell where I left it!

Wabash Connections Everywhere

Will at Loch Ness

Will Liu ‘ 12

– I am currently studying abroad at University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Aberdeen is the third largest city in Scotland, with a population of approximately 210,400. It lies on the northern coast of UK which means it can be pretty cold and windy. The University is great. It teaches almost every subject one can think of, from CELTIC to MARINE AND COASTAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT. One of my primary goals for studying abroad is to take the advantage of learning something I couldn’t at Wabash and the University of Aberdeen serves the goal perfectly. This semester I chose all upper-level Maths, Computer Science and even Engineering courses that sound interesting to me. This means that I will learn a lot. This also means that I will be constantly busy with my coursework and won’t be able to travel around that much.

However, I still managed to travel to some places in UK. My first destination was Loch Ness. The weather in Scotland can be annoying at times, but when the sky clears up everybody will be amazed at how beautiful Scotland really is. Luckily, my trip to Loch Ness was on such a day. After four hours of tiring bus trip, we finally arrived at the famous dwelling place of Nessie. Though the search for Nessie turned out to be unsuccessful, I enjoyed a day of tranquility at Loch Ness.

Liu in London with Big Ben in the background

My next trip was to England where I visited London, Oxford, Bristol, Stonehenge and Bath. London is a mixture of everything you can ever think of, culture, history, modernity, you name it. While at London, I visited Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, London Eye, Draw Bridge, Tate Modern Museum, British Museum and many other places. It reminds me of Beijing where the ancient and modern intertwine as well. Talking about Beijing, what I am happiest about this trip is that I got a great taste of London for four days. When I mention ‘taste’, I mean ‘taste’, literally. Probably because there is a good number of Chinese in London, there are many Chinese restaurants. By Chinese restaurants, I mean real authentic Chinese restaurants, not those which cook everything sweet and sauer. What makes it even more convenient is that London’s China Town is right in the city centre. It is always interesting to look at how one’s own culture is represented in another country, how it integrates with the local culture while retaining its own identity, and how it develops its own sub-culture.

Liu with Khondoker Haider

Coming back to the title of this blog, probably the most treasurable moments of this trip was my visit to alumnus Khondo Haider at Oxford. It is really surprising to see alumni everywhere in the world given that we are a small college. So far I have met alumni at Chicago, Los Angeles, Beijing and Oxford! Khondo greeted me like a Wabash Man and generously offered his bed to me. I spent two days with him strolling in Oxford and talking about the good old Wabash. It greatly encourages me to see Khondo making his way to Oxford along with student from big names like Harvard and Columbia. I’m so proud to be a Wabash Man.


Wabash Student discovers Holy Grail, Valencia

This past week has somewhat trying. Malaga was rainy and surrounded by excessive train delays, schoolwork was difficult and abundant, and a bizarre run-in with a door has left my right middle finger virtually useless for the next several weeks.

So when the weekend finally came, I was more than ready to explore. I’ve certainly gotten to know the city of Valencia, and figured I’d take the time to share some of my knowledge with you now.

A futuristic world where art and science collide.

The postcard perfect Cuidad de Artes y Ciencias is just as amazing as it looks in the above picture. The surrounding parks make for a great jogging area, or just one of many places to watch the sun set. Reviews for the aquarium inside have been mixed, but the architecture is definitely work a quick walk past.

The Cuidad is at the end of the “Gardens of Turia.” Until a catastrophic flood in the 50s, Valencia had a large river flowing through its center. This river was redirected around the city, and the riverbed was filled with gardens, soccer fields, and fountains. For someone who enjoys a good walk through a bustling city, there could literally not be a better scenario.

La Plaza

But the jewel of Valencia is la Plaza de Ayuntamiento—or the City Hall Square. A central fountain makes the perfect meeting place; the best restaurants, stores, and nightclubs are all a short walk away from the Plaza.

Perhaps my personal favorite daytime attraction of the city is the Santa Iglesia Catedral. It’s here that I spent the majority of Saturday—exploring the various chapels and Catholic relics and climbing the 207 steps to the top of the Micalet Tower for an unsurpassed view of the city. But most impressive, of course, was the Holy Grail.

The Holy Grail

Yep, this weekend, I found the Holy Grail. No big deal. It’s a small alabaster cup with several (slightly gaudy) additions since the Last Supper. Turns out that the Holy Grail has been in Valencia since about 1,400 years after Christ’s death. The only other contender for the title is housed in Antioch, and is much more likely a lamp or “communal wine tank.” Regardless, it’s a fairly awe-inspiring, especially considering my affinity for Indiana Jones.

While my tour Saturday ended with the cathedral, Valencia’s tourist sights keep going through the Barrio Carmen, the older district of the city that’s home to all Valencian subcultures come nightfall.

There’s also the Plaza de la Virgen, which is home to the Tribunal de las Aguas, a Valencian court that’s been meeting for the past 1,000 years to resolve irrigation disputes. I’ve heard its a fascinating experience, but I have yet to attend due to classes. Speaking of classes, homework is waiting…

The upcoming week, while hardly Monon Bell week, looks to be an interesting one for me. Tonight, I’m meeting with a local Spanish student for some language practice, tomorrow with my lawyer internship and then a local Baptist to see about a Bible study. Thursday evening I take off for Seville where I’ll spend the weekend exploring yet another lovely Spanish city. Any gaps will be filled with a pleasant mixture of food, siestas, and homework.

Loving la vida española on top El Micalet, despite windy conditions

Have a glorious week and keep the bell safe!

Traveling to Understand Diverse Cultures In/Out of Spain

Evan Bayless ’12 – A goal of my study abroad experience was to explore as much of Spain and the surrounding countries as time and finances would allow. My study abroad program recognizes that there is as much to be gained by the personal experiences and interactions as there are benefits from the formal classes. Understanding the people requires personal interactions and developing an appreciation for their culture, history, and way of life.

Bayless at the Roman Aqueduct

I am currently studying at the AHA International school in Segovia, Spain. Segovia is city of about 60,000 people and is located about one hour north of Madrid, in central Spain. Segovia is home to a Roman Aquaduct, Castle Alcazar, Segovia’s Cathedral (La Dama), and a vibrant old town that includes many restaurants, shops, and clubs. My classes focus on Spanish language, politics, history and the arts. I am also doing an internship with an artisan who works with metal, wood, and mixed media art. Through my interactions with the artisan and his business, I am beginning to understand the hardships and the benefits of running a local business in small-town Spain.

I left for Spain about one week before my classes commenced, the maximum time allowed by a student visa to Spain. When I arrived in Spain I stayed with my friend Rocío, one of the Spanish Wabash interns from last year. Roció’s family lives in Torrejón de Ardoz, a small town situated in thr outskirts of Madrid. While there, I was immersed in the language and began to understand parts of their culture. I witnessed the importance of family and friends, and siestas.

After a few short days in Torrejón de Ardoz I began traveling in early September with a weekend trip to the southern Spanish city of Granada. While in Grenada I walked the city streets and visited ancient Muslim palace, Alhambra. I spent several hours touring Alhambra’s gardens and palaces, viewing the architecture and antiquities.

I targeted Fall Break, a 12-day period in early October, to do the bulk of my traveling. To kick off Fall Break, I went to Valencia, Spain and visited my fellow Wabash classmates Haoyuan Su and Steve Henke. Valencia is a beautiful, modern city on the Mediterranean coast. Haoyuan gave me a tour of the city where we visited the Cathedral, the Science and Arts City, and the beach. There were subtle differences in the Valenciano Spanish as opposed to the Castellano Spanish, which is predominantly spoken in central Spain. The restaurants served more seafood and paella as opposed to pig; but the Valencian night life was similar to that in Segovia… fiesta!

From Valencia, I navigated my way to London, England. My time in London was minimal and hectic. I visited the Tate Modern Art Museum to view some of the most famous works by Miró, Rothko, Warhol, and Hirst. The following day, I took a walking tour of London sites that included the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, the London Eye, the Parliament Building, Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace. 

Bayless with pledge brother Liu

My next destination was Scotland. I landed in Prestwick, on the west coast, and took a train across the countryside to Aberdeen, on the northeast coast. My pledge brother, Bihui Liu, met me at the train station and took me to his residence at the University of Aberdeen. While at the university we met up with yet another Wabash student, Jake Peacock. Bihui and I visited Stonehaven, a small town near Aberdeen. We hiked a trail alongside the North Sea to Dunnottar Castle, believed to have been used as a fortress during the Dark Ages. I left Scotland and headed southward to France.

My French experiences began in Paris. While there, I visited the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Pomidou, the Museum of Orsay, and the Eiffel Tower. Although I am not particularly fond of heights, I went to the summit of both the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower where I was rewarded with amazing vistas of Paris and its unmatched architecture. In the Louvre I only saw a few of the 35,000 works that are exhibited. I later toured the Museum of Orsay which houses a myriad of Impressionist works by Van Gough, Cezanne, and Monet. Before I left Paris, I visited the Pompidou and saw more modern and contemporary art (Picasso, Duchamp, Rothko, and Pollock) as well as the modern architecture of the building itself.

Bayless holds a photo of a Nazi soldier in a bunker like the one he's standing in.

During the last days of my Fall Break, I explored the French countryside and several sites dedicated to World War II. Initially, I ventured just outside of Paris to Versailles where I toured both the palace and the gardens. My journey then took me Caen, on the northwest coast of France. I went to the Caen War Memorial and then visited the beaches/ bunkers of Omaha, Utah, and Point du Hoc. I visited the American cemetery and saw the thousands of white crosses in honor of the veterans of World War II. I also went to the Sainte Mere Eglise and saw the paratrooper hanging from the church steeple in honor of the allied forces. I concluded my Fall Break travels by visiting Mont Saint Michel and returning to Segovia.

During the time since my Fall Break, I have taken several trips to Madrid. I attended the Real Madrid/ AC Milan soccer game, and I also went to a bullfight in the Plaza de Torros. I have spent many hours touring the Reina Sofia and the Prado viewing the compositions of Picasso, Dali, Velázquez, and Goya.

Recently, I made a weekend trip to Barcelona on the northeastern coast of Spain. While there, I visited Barcelonetta beach on the Mediterranean and viewed several buildings designed by Antonio Gaudi. I was astonished by the architectural genius in his creations of the Sangrada Familia and the Casa Milá. The Catalan culture of Barcelona is different from anywhere else in Spain and was punctuated by unique foods and a vibrant nightlife, shopping, and street performers.

My school also provides guided travel as part of the classroom experience. We have explored many castles and the mountain ranges near Segovia. Next week, the class is traveling to Andalucia, in southern Spain, to visit the cities of Cordoba and Sevilla.  I also have plans to travel with my classmates to Italy and Morocco during November.

Travel abroad is challenging but is facilitated by inexpensive regional airlines and an well-developed transportation system that includes trains, buses, metro (subway), and taxis. Hostels provide a reasonably inexpensive lodging option to hotels. None-the-less, the cost of my travels has not been insignificant.

Clearly, I am trying to take advantage of my study-abroad experience to explore Spain and the surrounding countries. My language skills and exposure to the arts have grown immeasurably during my stay in Spain and travels abroad, but more importantly, my perspectives on the world and the people with which we share it are forever changed. If you have this opportunity, seize it!