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Tian Embracing French Culture Daily

Tian Tian ’11 – With the combination of an art major with French and economics minors, as well as a life-long passion for classical music, I simply cannot think of a better place than Paris to spend my study-abroad semester. This is a city that helps me digest what I have learned in the past, inspires me to learn a lot of new things at present, and shows me a lot of possibilities to better develop myself in my future.

After a whole months’ advanced French language immersion at a beautiful medieval town named “Tours” located in southwestern France, I returned to Paris and started my five classes at the Catholic Institute of Paris – an art history class ranging from the period Renaissance to Impressionism, a French history class and three advanced-level French language classes.
My favorite class is the art history class, partially because the location of our classroom is in the Louvre Museum! One out of every three class periods, the professor takes us to the Louvre Museum to observe and analyze in front of the real paintings or sculptures that we had studied and analyzed during classes. Moreover, I also get a great opportunity to do an externship call “Louvre Nocturne” during December. My responsibility during this externship is to present and interpret the paintings in French, English or Chinese language to the visitors of the Louvre Museum. I regard this as a great opportunity to sharpen my French language skill and my oral-presentation skill.
Another class called “The grand period of French history” is the most challenging history class I could ever expect. Other than the all-in-French nature of this class, the contents range from the 5th century to the 19th century of French history. During this class, I follow very carefully the three-hour-long lectures stuffed with key words and details given by the professor. Meanwhile, I am expected to burn some serious time myself in the library to fill in the details relevant to the topic mentioned during the classes because those will be in the exam! The most productive part is that I get to do comparative study on how differently the French history is interpreted in its own nation, in the US and in China. This really helps me to realize critical thinking and develop objectivity.
During my leisure times, I take full advantage of the richness of the top-notch museums in Paris. Since I hold an “art history student museum pass”, I get to visit all the art museums in Paris free. After appreciating the French impressionism for over ten years, I finally get to visit the “Musée de l’Orangerie”, in which there are Claude Monet’s famous “Waterlilies” oil paintings on eight huge canvases with a total length of ninety-one meters. Meanwhile, I have already developed my favorite activity in Paris which is to walk along the left bank of Seine River, watching the amazing views and culture relics the left bank bears. Walking along the bank that has influenced countless painters, musicians and writers, I understand better the core value and history of Paris.
During “All-Saint’s Day” on November 1st, the local Parisians’ custom is to visit Cemetery “Père-Lachaise” to respect the tombs of their favorite celebrities, including Balzac, Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde, Maria Callas etc. That day I visited my long-worshiped composer and pianist Frédéric Chopin’s tomb. It was definitely a spiritual experience, blessing me with considerable inspiration and confidence to my own upcoming Chopin solo concert in April 2010.
I am truly grateful to Wabash for offering me such an amazing study-abroad semester. It allows me to experience in person the culture and arts I have been studying and practicing. It goes without saying that this experience enhances my previous studies at Wabash as well as offers me a lot of new inspiration for my future development.

Marzotto ’11 Studying in Rosario, Argentina

Nick Marzotto ’11 – As the leaves turn red, brown, and yellow at Wabash College, I have been experiencing a different atmosphere in the southern hemisphere. I have spent almost a month and half in beautiful Argentina, where the season is Spring rather than Autumn.

I´m studying in the city of Rosario, which to most Rosarinos, is considered the second largest city in Argentina. Rosario lies on the Paraná River, which is the fourteenth longest river in the world. I like to equivalate Rosario to Chicago because of its industry, sports teams, and layout. Rosario has two major soccer teams, Newels Old Boys and Rosario Central, which both compete in the top league in Argentina. Rosario is crucial to Argentina because of its connection to the interior of the continent so many different cultures influence the atmosphere in Rosario.

The culture in Argentina is very interesting because it seems to be a mixture of European, American, and a little flavor of South America. The food in Argentina is incredibly European, which means no spice. Steak and wine is what Argentina is known for and I would definitely have to agree. Another difference that makes Argentina unique is the accent that use while speaking Spanish, it´s Spanish with a major Italian influence.

The school I have been studying at is called the Universidad Nacional de Rosario. The courses that I am enrolled in are Gramatica 4, Conversación 4, Historia, and Topics in Latin American and Argentine Culture. Each class is challenging but gives me an interesting outlook on the history of Argentina and the struggles the nation has endured in its short history.

In the month and half of living in Argentina, I have explored different cities/areas. I have made trips to Salta (which is in the Andes), Buenos Aires (the tenth largest city in the world), as well as Cordóba (third largest city in Argentina). Each area had its on story and atmosphere which was incredible to see and experience.

In a couple weeks, my program is taking a trip to Iguazu Falls which to many is considered one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world. It´s the fifth largest waterfall and should be a breathtaking sight. The opportunity to view and experience this diverse and fascinating culture has been a real treat to my liberal arts experience and a true once in a lifetime experience. Wabash Always Fights!

In Photos: Top left, Nick at A waterfall in La Cumbrecita, Rosario from the Parana River. Bottom right, the Barrio La Boca in Buenos Aires.
 


German ’11: Granada Offers Cultural Mix

Jake German ’11 – This semester I am studying in Granada, located in the southern region of Spain. This territory is known as Andalucía. My program has visited the three main cities of Andalucía: Sevilla, Cordoba, and of course Granada.

Each city demonstrates the influence of eight hundred years of Arabic culture intertwined with the natural beauty of mountainous southern Spain as well as contemporary Christian culture. The Cathedral of Sevilla is the third largest cathedral in the entire world after St. Peter’s in the Vatican and St. Paul’s in London. It can also claim (with some argument) the remains of Christopher Columbus. Seville also has an amazing minaret, which was subsequently converted to a Christian bell tower to stand beside the cathedral.

Cordoba is home to one of the most famous mosques in the entire world. It reflects the dichotomy of Moorish architecture and Christian iconography. After the fall of the Muslim empire in Spain, the mosque was converted to a cathedral; this was a common practice in the fifteenth century during the Reconquista. Red and white stones were used to make the horseshoe arches that still stand today in rows throughout the church.

Granada, my city, is the location of one of the last great Moorish palaces in all of Spain. The Alhambra (the Red in Arabic) is a palace with beautiful gardens inside a great fortress. It contains centuries of different Arabic and Islamic art and architecture, all containing influences from the twenty successive Caliphs who called this magnificent palace home. The palace is located on top of a hill overlooking the city. Granada also boasts the last place in Spain where you receive free tapas with a drink. Tapas are Spanish hors d’oeuvres. Some examples include tuna in a tomato sauce on bread, tortilla Española (potato omelet), quiche sandwich with red peppers, and my personal favorite calamari with a vegetable tomato sauce. Olive oil is used on EVERYTHING here which makes the cuisine healthier.

Being in a town the size of Granada (230,000 inhabitants) gives you the big city experience without the big city hassle. I could walk anywhere in the city; I don’t because they have an efficient public transportation system, but I could do so. Moreover, the monuments to Isabel Católica, the plaza de toros, and the museums around the city are never crowded. Spaniards enjoy the art of conversation, and the cafes and tapas bars provide opportunities for people to talk and enjoy a glass of sherry. All in all, I am having a great time. In two weeks, I will travel across the Mediterranean Sea to Morocco on the coast of the African continent for five days. I can’t wait!
 


A Month in Perugia Has Gone Fast

Andrew Sparks ’11 – I am still dumbfounded that I have already studied in Perugia for a full month, and it has been a month that I will never forget.

The city of Perugia is nestled in the hills of the region Umbra in the center of Italy. The relatively small population of 100,000 allows for a student to become fully immersed into the life of the historic city. Perugia is well known for its historic architecture, as well as the many cultural events. The city hosts a world renowned Jazz Festival in the month of July, and the Euro Chocolate festival in October. It is commonly known as the “University City” because it is home to three universities that host 40,000 Italian and foreign students.

The nightlife is another unique aspect of the city of Perugia. The heart of the city’s nightlife is the famous Piazza IV Novembre al Tramento. The steps of the city’s Duomo that look over the piazza come alive at 8 o’clock with people socialize and preparing for the nights events. This is a particular favorite spot for the students to meet up before going out to one of the many restaurants or bars in the city. The nights out usually do not start until after 11 because dinner in Italy usually starts around 8:30, and usually lasts for about and hour and a half. This allows for great conversation and a chance to enjoy the delicious Italian cuisine.

Perugia is also home to a class C soccer team, and a class B Rugby team. I had the privilege to practice with the city’s professional rugby team a few weeks ago. This was the first time I ever played rugby, and it didn’t help that the majority of the team spoke only Italian. I eventually got the hang of it, and finished the day with a few tackles as well as some new friends. Playing with the team was an amazing experience, and I will be practicing with them in the future when I have the time.

Umbra University provides a diverse list of courses that have some sort of Italian aspect. My courses include Italian 101, Survey of the Italian Renaissance Art, The Art of Leonardo da Vinci, and the History of the Roman Empire. Each course provides a weekend trip that will allow us to personally observe the material covered in class. This is certain to enhance my understanding of each subject, and will allow me to see artwork and building that I have dreamed about seeing. I am very excited to learn about Italy’s rich history and culture!

I am truly blessed to have the ability to study abroad this semester. I would highly recommend to all Wabash students to take the opportunity to study abroad.

 

In Photos: Top right, Sparks with other Umbra students visiting Florence. Bottom left, a view of Perugia from Sparks apartment.


A Month on the Iberian Peninsula

Graham Youngs ’11 – At the end of September I will have lived in Salamanca, Spain for one month, certainly a month that I wouldn’t soon forget.

The city of Salamanca, with a population around 150,000, is good sized and caters particularly well to a Spanish and International student demographic. During the day Salamanca is alive with tourists and inquisitive students who come from all over the world to see the incredible Renaissance architecture of the Cathedrals, Fachada, and the world renowned Plaza Mayor.

Despite the breathtaking architecture, the city of Salamanca truly comes alive around midnight, when the streets and bars fill with students and partygoers. From Sept. 8-14 Salamanca undergoes a series of parties that even outdo the city’s normal fiestas. I think it was during this week that my Spanish mom actually apologized to me for the excessive night and day parties; apparently she felt slightly embarrassed by the duration of the fiestas. I quickly settled her fears, by telling her that celebrating this week with the Spanish people stands as one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Each night during the week of fiestas a different free concert could be seen on a huge stage in the Plaza Mayor. Everything from traditional Spanish Flamenco to what sounded to me like Flogging Molly could be seen and heard all while sipping on a fine Spanish wine or beer.

On Thursday during the week of fiestas I bought a ticket for 20 euros ($30.00) to see a bull fight in the Corrida de Toros, just north of the Plaza Mayor. I sat in the nosebleeds, but that did not preclude me from fully experiencing one of the greatest, yet most obscure sporting events of my life. I was left in amazement from the beginning ceremony and it took me nearly 3 rounds to pick up on the subtleties of the sport culminating in the tercio de muerte, or the final kill. I was fortunate enough to see the best matador of the week quickly dispatch no less than six toros to the wild applause of a packed stadium.
In between concerts, bullfighting, and other fiesta activities, I have still found time for studies at the University of Salamanca. During the month of September I am in class from 9:00am-1:00pm taking an assortment of intensive Spanish language and grammar classes as well as a class in practical conversational skills.

From October to December I will begin the bulk of my coursework in Spanish grammar, conversation, culture, and art history. Thus far I have enjoyed taking the skills I have learned in the classroom and putting them to use in conversation with my family and with people on the street.

I feel blessed to be given this fantastic opportunity to study a language at its source while simultaneously immersing myself in a truly unique culture.

In Photos, from Graham: The photo of me was taken in a small pueblo near Salamanca called el Ciudad Rodrigo. The wall is called the fechada and it is basically the entrance to the University.  Finally the picture of the people was taken in the Plaza Mayor and it is basically the celebration of a Spanish parade in progress.


Beautiful Weather Helps Define These Spanish People

Chris Beard ’10 – Apart from the lively festivities and fascinating tourist spots, the most enjoyable part of my stay in Sevilla has been seeing how the history and geography of the region have affected the people and culture here so much. Though of course we in America are shaped by these things, it didn’t really hit me until I became immersed in the Andalusian atmosphere of the city, and started to learn about it from the Sevillanos themselves.

As my art history professor explained it, many of the people here still identify the city with its golden age, though it declined about half way through the 17th century (more than a 100 years before our country’s founding!). The city became really wealthy during those times and was considered a world capital—this brought them to start a ‘holier than thou’ competition with Toledo, building what is still to this day the world’s largest Gothic cathedral and really going over the top with their Holy Week. Even the city’s symbol is a source of pride, which refers to an event long ago when Sevilla was the only city to remain loyal to King Alfonso X after a coup.

But even though the city’s former stature was destroyed in a plague more than 350 years ago, you can still see the pride that the people have of the golden years. My host brother for example, though not very religious, walked around barefoot in a procession for 14 hours straight this year at Holy Week, carrying about 80 pounds worth of a Jesus statue on his shoulders. While many people in Spain are Catholic, and many cities also carry out celebrations during Holy Week, my family has explained that Sevilla is famous for its Holy Week because of how the city fills the streets in procession for the whole week and shut down schools and business in honor of the traditions that go back the years of Sevilla’s world prestige.

The city’s pride comes out again a few weeks after Holy Week, during the Feria de abril. This is like a week long fair where the whole city dresses up in traditional clothing and heads to the fair grounds, dancing the ‘Sevillanas’ while eating and drinking all day until about 7 in the morning—every single day. During this week, the city puts on its best in an event that brings widespread attention to the pride of the Sevillanos.

But the history only explains half of what makes the people here so unique. The weather and location also contribute an awful lot to the way they interact. Sevilla is in the south of Spain, and is the first part of Europe to get the warm air of the Pacific. Today was a cloudless 93 degrees, and I haven’t felt it get below 50 since I arrived in January; this great weather seems to be the other explanation for why people here are so uniquely outgoing, according to friends who compare the atmosphere to that of other places in Spain and Europe.

But I had a hint that I was about to be immersed in this warm sea of charisma even before I got off the bus to Sevilla and experienced the weather. On the way here, I struck up a conversation with a really friendly college graduate from the city that ended up giving me directions on where to go, and left me with her contact information in case I ever needed any help or advice getting around the city.

A few days later, on my way to meet a friend at a place I’d never been to, I got directions from a woman who was heading in the same directions. After explaining where to go, she immediately said, "Hey, you’re not from around here! Where’d you come from?" I’ve been ambushed plenty of other times by the friendliness of the people here, and have been invited to gatherings and birthday parties, simply for being the friend of a friend of a friend. I think my host mom summed it up best when she was telling me not to worry about getting off on the wrong stop on the bus for my first day of classes. "Someone will tell you where to get off," she said. "In Sevilla, everyone takes care of everyone."

I’ve enjoyed the small details of living abroad in Sevilla too. Jamón curado and sopa de lenteja are definitely two of my favorite foods I’ve ever tried. I’m going to miss watching Barcelona crush whichever unfortunate team it has to play every weekend, and the annoyingly dubbed American movies, and doing pescadito until the actual party starts sometime after 1 am. But the great part of this experience has been seeing how the beautiful year-round weather and the rich history have defined the people of Sevilla to this day. The city may not be what it was a few hundred years ago. But the memory of its history still resides in the people, who continue to remember it with their daily customs and traditions.


Studying Abroad: It’s About the Stories

Jacob Castilow ’10 – Most people I meet ask, at some point or another, if I like Scotland — a pretty generic question, right? I do enjoy the lovely scenery and the history — it’s all very rich and wonderful, but I enjoy the people in a much more impressionable way, and this is where I usually stumble with words.

I can speak of my trip to the Shetlands and maybe that can illuminate what I mean. The most striking example of the people-based, live-and-live attitude would be the Shetlands, these tiny remote islands off the coast of Scotland. The island is quite small and exhibits a remarkable community based attitude. After a rough fourteen hour ferry ride through the North Sea, I step on land feeling a little "Shet-lagged" — that’s suppose to be a joke — but having to be flexible with travel arrangements I needed to make accommodations to stay overnight in the port, Lerwick.
 
I found the youth hostel with the help of a stranger; and when I thought I found it, I went into the community center – it turns out the lady runs the hostel, but most remarkably, she said to me (from memory so the quotes aren’t exact, but they’re not in the least bit exaggerated), "Did you just come in off the Sunday morning ferry? You must be tired, the hostel doesn’t take bookings until 9:00am (it’s 7:30am), but if go….(I’ll explain this in a minute) you can set your rucksuck down, head upstairs, there’s a kitchen and make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, and wait in the sitting room until we take bookings." Wow! It may just be me, but that about knocked me off my feet- I felt so welcomed- but the ellipses- I fixated on the idea of a nice cup of tea in the morning after a very nauseating night (not really sea sickness, but the whole ride just turns your stomach) and this woman’s immense hospitality and when I nodded and went outside I couldn’t find the hostel nor could I remember her directions, so I went back in. The lady actually just walked me over to the hostel and showed me everything she had said — pretty cool!
 
The Shetlands was almost too good of a trip, really. It’s one where you hesitate to get on the ferry. Here’s a picture or two of it –  the road one is particularly memorable because once you get past Brae (you can Google Earth these if interested) there’s no public transport, but even the tourism office suggests hitch hiking, and I must admit it is an adventure in itself.
 
On our third day there, we hitch hiked a total of 56 miles in a day which means meeting some amazing people, did some amazing hiking along these goregeous sea cliffs, and as we grew tired we stopped for a rest in a bay only to be treated by a gathering of seals in the bay — I fell into the North Sea, about mid thigh, trying to get a good photo but that meant camping was out – the North Sea is quite cold.
 
To end this narrative, we figured that we were out this way and had at least go look at Dore Holm turns out we were a little farther away, and we just sat on the coast staring at another big rock in the sea, though we weren’t a certain at the time whether were were looking at Dore Holm or not. As the sun got low in the sky, we decided we had better start trying to get rides back into town – it was a great way to end the day, walking along those empty, yet beautiful roads back towards the only "big" town with the sun at our backs. There are loads of other little stories that really show the character of the place, but for brevity’s sake, I spoke of one of the good days; I wasn’t snubbing the landscape in the slighest at the beginning – it’s all very breathtaking, and I often find myself reciting this marvelous antipoem called "Grandeur" I memorized for a poetry class before I came, but the scenery can’t give you that warm fuzzy feeling when people are just unbelievable friendly nor could it give you the really humbling experience of having to rely on a stranger’s kindness to get you to a warm place to shower and sleep at night as opposed to having to camp in a sleeping bag on the side of the road cold and wet. These short, very human, very rewarding experiences are what gives Scotland so much charm.
 
The photos: First, an apology, these were taking with a disposable camera, would you believe it I forgot my digital camera that was specifically a present for this exchange program. Anyways, the road one looks pretty bare, and it was. There were only three houses visible, but if you strain your eyes you can see the numerous red-rock sea cliffs that were stunning at sunset, the open ocean, and the openness of the whole scene in general, not to mention the spectacular road (no joke). The next was part of the scenery of where we were hiking; it’s me in the photo. Of the places I’ve been, I can say that I’ve never seen a guard rail to date, and that makes me quite happy.

The Dream Comes True in Granada

John Dewart – Granada, Spain – When I was a freshman at Wabash, the prospects of immersion learning and a semester abroad were always fixated dreams of mine. I look back at my days as a tour guide and reflect on the statistic “One in three Wabash men study abroad, and even half of a class will take part in immersion class,” and can’t hardly believe that I spent time in Ecuador, experiencing Quito, the rain forest, and the Galapagos Islands and now here I am sitting a top of my apartment’s roof in Granada, Spain listening to the songs of the birds against the clash of the cathedral bells and writing this entry. With such a rich culture, the beautiful Alhambra, towering cathedral, and vast Sierra Nevada Mountains before me, I can’t help but marvel in the splendors and wonders this semester will offer.

Granada is a wonderful city in the heart of southern Spain situated in the Andalusia. What makes it incredibly interesting is that Islamic and Christian influence is present around every corner. Ancient mosques, churches, and stone arches adorn the streets making every turn around a corner a new experience in Islamic and Christian architecture.  
 
To date, I have had my fair share of Spanish exposure from walks around the city with my program, to two weekend trips including one to Alpujarra in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the other to Ronda and Seville. My program orientation exposed me to the richness of the city from great explanations of the mountains down to the simple cobble stone streets. Nonetheless, my first experience in Alpujarra was incredible. My program took me to the Sierra Nevada Mountains for a three-hour excursion tracing old water and irrigation paths. Last weekend, my program took me to Ronda where I visited bathhouses dating back to the 13th century, which are no longer in use as well as the oldest bullfighting ring in Spain, which is still used today. 
 
In Seville, I explored a royal palace amassed with hanging gardens and beautiful fountains, watched a Flamenco demonstration, and visited the second largest cathedral in the world. 
 
Living in Spain has given me the key to unlocking the complexities of the world and a greater understanding about myself. It is a constant challenge here living in an unfamiliar country, adjusting to the ceceo in the Spanish language, and being considered the ‘American’ to some. It is a constant grapple not having even basic necessities like a dryer, access to most stores during siesta (12 to 6 pm depending on the store), and standard meal hours in the United States. However, I am happy to say I enjoy adapting to my surroundings and taking these challenges head on with the strong academic helmet a Wabash College education has given me.
 
I hope this gives the Wabash audience a taste of what my few weeks abroad have been like. And to any prospective and current Wabash men, take advantage of every opportunity to experience the differences in other cultures.

Rosborough Gets Situated in Italy

David Rosborough – Before I left for Italy earlier this month, so many thoughts were rushing through my head. Did I forget anything? What is the lifestyle like? In my mind, traveling is an important part of our maturing process. The amount of organization and planning is very time consuming, but also proves that we have what it takes to survive in a totally different culture thousands of miles from home. I knew that the rigorous study abroad process had finally paid off as we sat at JFK airport in New York awaiting an experience that would impact our lives from here on out…

Situated atop one of the many hills in the Italian countryside lies the town of Perugia, where the Etruscans had once resided. Almost everywhere you look, the influence of this ancient culture is evident. Aside from the beautiful panoramas and plethora of historical landmarks, one of my favorite aspects of the trip has been interacting with the people. Never would I have thought that a trip to the grocery store could be so interesting. Our landlady, Signora Assunta, is also a really nice person (or at least we think she is, considering the only English she knows is “very good, very good”).
 
One of the many perks that comes with studying abroad in Italy is soccer, or “calcio” as they call it here. Whenever there is a match, Italians flock to nearby restaurants, bars and caffes to root for their favorite team. I think my Frommer’s travel guide explained it best: imagine the Super Bowl in the US, throw in some drama and multiply that by a factor of ten and you get a sense of how Italians feel about the national sport. As a member of the Varsity Soccer program at Wabash, this environment is perfect. It only took about 3 days after arriving in Perugia before meeting some guys who invited me to play. Twice a week, Sunday and Tuesday, we meet in the center of town and arrange transportation to nearby soccer complexes and play for a few hours. I can’t help but smile when I consider the fact that im actually playing in Italy. However, you have to bring your “gameface” to every match or else there will be 6 or 7 Italian players arguing and screaming at you. Fortunately, I seem to hold my own but its so interesting to compare our culture to theirs in this aspect. In the US, we get a pat on the back followed by a “good job, you’ll get it next time” or “its okay, you did your best”. In Italy, they will yell, scream, and argue until your mistakes are perfected because they have such great passion for the sport.
 
On a different note, I’ve also had the opportunity to travel a bit and see some places outside of Perugia. The first weekend we took a train to Assisi and saw Saint Francis’ Basilica. The following weekend, I took a bus with a few of my roommates to Siena which was another amazing experience. Although the weather was a bit sloppy, we still explored much of the medieval town, including one of the finest Gothic Cathedrals and one of the most impressive Palazzos remaining in Italy today. Not a bad way to spend the first two weekends!
 
I plan to continue traveling around so I can see more of the art and architecture, but that’s all I’ve got for now. Studying abroad in Perugia, Italy has been an amazing experience thus far and would definitely recommend it to any Wabash man. Ciao!

Second Semester Study Abroad Underway

EDITOR’s NOTE: The second semester of Wabash students studying abroad is underway!

We discovered in the fall semester this blog was popular and got lots of hits. We have written all 25-plus Wabash men studying abroad this semester in hopes they will contribute a time or two during the spring learning period.

There are Wabash men studying in Spain, Scotland, France, Austria, England, Italy, Australia, and Germany.

Check back frequently for updates!