Calvin Pawlowski stands on a balcony overlooking a city and cathedral

I was in Marseilles France during my study trip, and coming from Denmark, the city felt like a new world. The city was mixed with buildings that were built hundreds of years ago, with industrial shipping ports that are constantly being used today. But what stands out to me is the people you meet when you are in a different part of the world.

But for me what makes exploring outside the country is the people: I was walking down the ports of Marseilles, and noticed one old man with multiple chess boards, talking to what looked like one of his close friends as he waits for someone to play against. I don’t know that much French, but I ask him while pointing at the board: “Tu Joue?” he knows a little bit of English, and says he plays all day, but he in return wanted some sort of money. He was homeless and he would make money by playing street chess all day. I asked how much, and he did not give me an exact sum.

The problem was I had everything but Euros. I had US dollars, Danish Krone, and even one of my friends had 10 Won on him for some reason; but we had no Euros. There was no ATM nearby, but I wanted to play against him. I saw him asking someone for a cigarette, so I got an idea of buying a pack of cigarettes for him in exchange to play a game with him. I came back with the cigarettes, and he gladly accepted them to play a game.

I was watching him play multiple people at once before I got my chance and he was winning most of his games handily. I was trying to play carefully as possible, when I was playing him, until midway through the game he made a huge mistake. “Ah Putain!” (Ah Shit!) he says and shakes my hand after he conceded the game.

I played with him the following day, and after we finished that game, I just talked to him about chess; when did you start? How long have you played? What styles do you like to play in chess? He was not that good in speaking English, but luckily enough, there was somebody who spoke English and French, so we communicated much easier. His name was Lucien and was honestly one of the friendliest people I have ever met on my trip and said I could play him again anytime if I ever come back.

Meeting people like Lucien is what makes studying abroad special. Something such as the love of chess can bring people from completely diverse backgrounds and parts of the world together and see that there are a lot of good people in the world, and everybody has a unique story about themselves.

The help of the Rudolph Scholarship gave me an opportunity I will never forget. I was able to interact with people with distinct backgrounds from me and learn the similarities and differences between our perspectives. I am forever grateful for what the Rudolph family has done for me!

Two men playing chess in an open-air plaza