Austin Crosley ’18

Austin Crosley ’18

My study abroad experience has left me incredibly thankful and humbled. As the French novelist Gustave Flaubert put it, “travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” I felt as though I have seen so much of the world, but as I look at a globe I see I still have only seen but very tiny piece of it. I am grateful for my family, Wabash College, and the Givens family for allowing me such a grand expedition of the self and of the world.

My study abroad program began in Florence for a two weeks intensive class in survival Italian. This proved useful in keeping from starving, because I then had the tools to order food and ask directions. It was a great plan to begin a program in Florence before entering the enormous city of Rome. Here I was able to get comfortable in a foreign place without the added stress of the big city. In Florence I got to experience amazing art and architecture like the statue of David and Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower (often referred to as The Duomo as it is the largest masonry dome in the world).

Austin Crosley standing in line to enter the Château de Versailles

This is me standing in a long line to enter the Château de Versailles, which housed King Louis XIV. This is one of the most iconic representations of French baroque styled architecture. My visit to Paris and the Château de Versailles was made possible by the generous scholarship of the Givens family.

After getting my bearings In Florence and travelling to some important cities in northern Italy like Pisa, Siena, and Venice I finally made it to Rome. In the first weeks I visited all the major sites and got to know my classmates. I only started to truly engross myself in the new culture after the excitement of a new place started to cool although walking past the Vatican every day to school doesn’t get that old. It wasn’t just a goal to see Italy, but to feel like I was a part of Italy. I soon learned that Rome is not a representation of Italy, but in reality Italy is very diverse place. From region to region one can find different dialects, local dishes, ideologies, and influences. I could compare Rome to New York more easily than comparing Rome to Sorrento or Perugia. However, one thing that most Italian cities have in common are amazing churches. I think I may have visited about fifty, each as beautiful as the last. Sharpening my previous statement, I only started getting engrossed in the Roman culture after I settled into my new home.

One of the most enriching moments of my study abroad experience was getting teach English to elementary students in Rome every Tuesday and Thursday. It was quite the challenge as it was my first time teaching, I don’t know Italian, and the teachers knew very little English. Working through the language barrier and experiencing very human moments of understanding, curiosity, and happiness with the young students made me hopeful in spite of so much change and confusion in the world. One of these moments came after the presidential election and a couple months away from home that left me in a slump. In one of the classrooms I was helping two students with constructing a sentence and a classmate who had a mental condition interrupted and pulled my attention towards him for help, then I would go back to the other students and I would be called back to the boy. In each of these moments the students remained patient and understanding of the situation. It was their consideration for the boy with special needs that reminded me that people are all at their root good. This moment along with many others like it gave me hope for people amidst what I have been reading in the news of hate crimes and mindless violence.

I surprised myself by studying abroad and getting into the classroom in different way, and I am truly grateful for every new friendship and idea that was a product of my trip. I wouldn’t have been able to get outside of my comfort zone, or outside the bubble that is Wabash College, or the bigger bubble that is the United States without a push from friends and family, but I am grateful and overjoyed that I did, because it allowed me to experience friendships and perspectives I would have never been acquainted with otherwise. This trip has inspired further travel in the future!

Crosley with school children in Rome

Kids all over the world know the meaning of the term “selfie,” so when I uttered the word I had an avalanche of volunteers. These were some of the kids I had the honor of helping with English in an elementary school in Rome!

Benjamin Elliott ’18

Benjamin Elliott ’18

Musée d’Orsay

Before this semester, the last art class I took was in junior high, if I remember correctly. I’d never seen myself as particularly artsy, anyway – I’ve never graduated beyond the stick figure school of drawing, I was 15 the last time I seriously played an instrument, and I’ve always taken more solace in the works of Cormac McCarthy than those of Pablo Picasso.

While I wouldn’t say that I’m a budding art buff by any means, I’ve been shown in these last few months how wrong I was to have dismissed an entire discipline of art for so long. I’ve found a joy and a rich history in painting that I hadn’t previously known. There is a certain facet of human expression that is captured best by paintings, I realize now.

Below are three of the paintings that most impressed me throughout my travels in Paris, two from the Musée d’Orsay and one from the Louvre. All thanks to the Givens family for the scholarship that made the trip possible.

A Burial at Ornans (1849-50) Gustave Courbet, 315 cm x 660 cm, Musée d’Orsay

A Field of Tulips in Holland (1886) Claude Monet, 65.5 cm x 81.5, Musée d’Orsay

I think my favorite aspect of this particular work is the fact that it necessitates an explanation. I came to this particular tableau after wandering through many other galleries of the wonderful Musée d’Orsay in Paris, including some of the seminal works of the Impressionist movement. Indeed, it felt almost tucked away, but then I came into the room with it. A picture doesn’t quite do it justice – this thing is big.

But why bother? It’s a decidedly banal scene, for all intents and purposes. In Courbet’s era, paintings of this size were intended for scenes of import – Biblical scenes, old Greek legends, historical touchstones, and the like. And then we have this somber, grey scene with markedly normal people. Artists, quite simply, did not paint scenes like this at such a scale, if at all, if they wanted to make a name for themselves.

It is for precisely that decision that I was struck by this painting. It took courage to take the time to paint a scene such as this in Courbet’s day. In doing so, he helped to shape the Realist movement of his time, as well as later movements like Impressionism that took the time to capture the quotidian.


Quite honestly, I could have chosen any of Monet’s paintings I saw while on my trip in Paris. While learning about French art history this semester, I fell in love with the Impressionists, and Claude Monet above all other’s. There is a certain elegance to the Impressionist style and a realness that supersedes any other movements I’ve studied.

This is truer for Monet’s works than any other’s. The range of colors with which he paints here is breathtaking. He, above any other painter I saw in the Musée d’Orsay’s Impressionist gallery, was able to capture the exact colors I imagine one would see if they were to travel to this same field. Monet once said he wanted to paint the way a bird sings, and in viewing this, I’d have to say he got darn close.


I was impressed by this piece for several reasons. It’s extremely well done, and the way the light illuminates the scene throws everything into sharp contrast. The man shown in this painting is Jean-Paul Marat, a casualty of the French Revolution and the resultant Terror in which he took part. He was murdered for his role in the short-lived regime.

To begin, the figure of Marat himself is idealized. The man had a rather bad skin condition, which necessitated daily baths in the tub in which he has been painted in this scene. For what appears to be a pretty serious stab wound, also, there is not too much blood. Finally, the way his arm drapes out of the tub is reminiscent of Caravaggio’s Entombment of Christ — an artist who inspired David. The parallels between Christ in that painting and Marat here clearly suggest martyrdom of this revolutionary.

It is in that declaration I find myself fascinated by this painting. It became quite quickly after its unveiling a piece of propaganda for the Montagnards who presided over the terror – Maximilien Robespierre included. It speaks volumes about who these people thought they were, and how they comported themselves. For such a short-lived, tumultuous reign, the Montagnards were resolute to the point of death for their cause, which is impressed on me when I view this painting.


Cody Cochran ’18

Cody Cochran ’18

Cody Cochran ’18

Before I ultimately decided to study abroad in Valencia, Spain, I looked over the course catalogue; the one class that stood out to me particularly was one titled, simply, ‘Picasso’. Based on the course description given on the program website, I was expecting to be taking a class solely about the life and works of Picasso, which on its own would have been very interesting. After being here, enrolled in this class for almost three months, the class and the content have exceeded my expectations and then some. In addition to learning about the life and works of Picasso, we have been learning about the different styles of art used by Picasso separately, ranging from Neoclassicism to Impressionism to Cubism, which has helped to give me a greater knowledge about art in general. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve learned more about art this semester than I had throughout my entire life before arriving in Valencia. In addition to all that I’ve learned in the classroom here, my studies have been complimented by traveling to multiple locations across Europe and visiting many famous art museums, all of which allowed me to apply what I had learned in my Picasso class to works of art which I had the opportunity to view. These opportunities to visit these places came as a direct result of the Givens Scholarship: a generous gift granted to me from the Givens family.

One of the countries in which I was able to see a good deal of western art was Italy. When I was in Italy, I visited Rome, Florence, and Venice. When I was in Rome, I had the opportunity to get a tour of the Vatican, which included the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. It was amazing to be able to see iconic works of art that I had seen many times in pictures but never thought I’d have the opportunity to see in person. When I went to Florence, I was able to see all four parts of the Piazza del Duomo, including one of the most iconic structures in the entire world, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Since I’ve been in Spain, I’ve been able to see a good amount of art in both Valencia and in Madrid. In Valencia, I’ve been to the Museo de las Bellas Artes multiple times: twice with my professor and classmates for my Picasso class. I originally went to this museum with just myself and a couple of friends one weekend, but after that I went twice with my Picasso class. My professor was able to point out many things that I hadn’t taken note of on my first visit, from artistic symbols to the gradual change of styles from certain areas over time. Though my time in Madrid was very limited, I felt like I was able to accomplish a lot. I was able to visit the Royal Palace of Madrid, which was extremely interesting due to the widespread collection of the palace, varying from intricate tapestries to the world’s only collection of the instruments of a full Stradivarius quartet. Although the Royal Palace was incredible, in my opinion, the Prado art museum blew the Palace out of the water. It was almost overwhelming to be able to see so much of the world’s best art in the same location. I would constantly have to remind myself where exactly I was and what exactly I was looking at because there were hundreds of world-famous works of art all around me. Throughout all of the museum, I’d have to say that my favorite works were the Black Paintings by Francisco Goya.

Cody CochranWhen I was in Amsterdam, I went to my favorite museum that I’ve ever been to: the Vincent Van Gogh Museum. Without my Picasso class in Valencia, I feel that I would not be able to appreciate this museum nearly as much as I did because we learned a good deal about many of the styles used by Van Gogh in his works. While learning about the styles in the classroom was essential to my enjoyment of the museum, being able to see some of the works in this museum and apply what I had learned when observing some of these works gave me whole new appreciation for art that I saw and for works that I will see in the future. Without the knowledge I gained in my class, a painting that I may have merely skimmed over during my pass through the museum before became a painting in which I’d observe and recognize the multiple artistic elements and truly appreciate. This trip to Amsterdam was one that very likely would not have been possible without the generous donation of the Givens family, and I am deeply grateful for this opportunity I received.