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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.


Hepburn Learning to Dispel Stereotypes

Reid Hepburn, with Eiffel Tower over his right shoulder, in Paris.

Reed Hepburn ’12 – Stereotypes are wonderful things. Yes, I realize that this sounds like exactly the kind of perspective that studying abroad is supposed to dismantle. But if you don’t believe me, try this: dismiss as myth every popular American notion about French culture and come spend a week in Paris acting on the assumptions of that model. Then get back to me. In my first few days here, I noticed evidence supporting every single stereotype I’d heard—the Parisian aversion to foreigners (especially Americans), general rudeness, widespread smoking, the bakery on every corner, and of course, the universal, hyper-keen fashion sense.

From my pre-departure research on Paris culture, I had learned a few tricks for blending in on the street—wear black, don’t make eye contact, avoid smiling, and never, EVER whistle. I followed this counsel, which was based on stereotypical assumptions, to great success. I was asked for directions by tourists almost every day in my first week here. A fellow US student in my program likes to wear orange and speak loud English. In his first week, he held eye contact for too long with a stranger, who graciously showed his disapproval by brandishing a knife. An anomalous example, yes, but you get the point… snare-snare, cymbal! If not for my preconceived notions, my adjustment to Parisian life would likely have been more difficult.

After some time, however, the apparent accuracy of my flagrantly American generalizations of this city’s people became somewhat troubling. After all, modern US media and academia alike incessantly preach against stereotypes, warning that these ideas necessarily foster prejudice and hatred. How could the stereotypes be right? Even more disturbingly to my post-C&T academic conscience, I soon came to develop my own generalizations. Parisians never hurry, raise their voices, draw attention to themselves, run, or laugh. Parisians never start conversations with strangers. Parisians never this, always that, etc.
Just when my list of “never”s and “always”s was primed to give Leviticus a run for its money, I witnessed what some would call divine intervention of the gods of social studies. All in the same day, I saw a group of girls laughing as they walked down the street, their conversation escalating until they were yelling over each other; I saw a throng of people rushing to catch their train; I saw a man running (and not to catch a baguette-thief, but for exercise); an unknown woman started a conversation with me; and- wonder of wonders -I passed a garbage man who was whistling as he collected the trash. This was about two weeks ago.

Since then, most of the sights of that day have proven to be rare, and in some cases, remain unique thus far. Nonetheless, the inner conflict between my observations and my assumed intellectual duty to disregard for stereotypes has been reconciled. I realized that stereotypes are called stereotypes, not facts or laws, for a reason. Anyone with a mustard seed of life experience can tell you that many stereotypes are based on generalizations that are, or were at one point, often true. There are always, however, exceptions, and that is what makes these ideas stereotypes. Nonetheless, as my experience here thus far has shown me, some of these can be extremely useful and should not be too hastily discarded from our mental libraries.

And, just for the record, Parisians are NOT, in fact as rude as their reputation suggests. As long as you gamely attempt to “parle français”, they will generally be more than happy to help out, whether you’re asking for directions, or they’re cooking you a scrumptious crepe. Additionally, Paris IS every bit as beautiful as they say. But that’s another post (or two) in itself. A bientot!


Great Start Exploring St. Petersburg

Aaron Bonar ’10 – St. Petersburg, Russia - Winston Churchill once said, “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Nowhere is this more apparent than St. Petersburg, which is simultaneously the “Capital of the Tsars,” the “Birthplace of the Revolution,” and modern Russia’s cultural capital. A city with hundreds of museums, it is the best place to study Russian history and culture, as well as one of the most beautiful cities on the planet.

After arriving in the city, our group’s first major excursion took us to several sites in St. Petersburg. We stopped at Smolny Cathedral and the bridge linking St. Peter and Paul Fortress to the mainland. Smolny Cathedral is one place that I personally had not heard of, but I’m glad we visited it. It is a beautiful, sky-blue monastery that now serves as a concert hall. Another impressive site, in terms of historical significance, was the battleship Aurora – its cannon fired the first shot of the Russian Revolution.

Two days later, we traveled to the Hermitage, which is partially housed in the Winter Palace of the Tsars. One of the largest museums in the world, it would take one person giving one minute to each piece over nine years to get through each exhibit. I decided I would sign up to volunteer at the museum, and I’m hoping to hear from the Director of the Hermitage soon.

We also started our Russian classes during our first week, which were very interesting. I tested into the highest group, which means that two out of three of my classes are virtually immersion courses – English is spoken as little as possible. Although I thought I would have a great amount of trouble in these classes (I’ve only had one and one half years of Russian), I feel I’m adjusting quite well. I’m understanding more by the day.

On Friday, September 5, our group took a jazz boat cruise on the Neva River. We stayed on until late in the evening, which gave us the great experience of viewing St. Petersburg by night. The entire city is lit up; the bridges put on light shows as the huge fountain dances to traditional Russian music. To top it all off, each night the city shoots off fireworks for the people to enjoy. No matter what each member of our group thought of St. Petersburg beforehand, everyone fell in love with the city that night.

Today, September 6, we took another group excursion to Peterhof, the summer residence of the Tsars. A humongous complex, it is known for its many fountains and cascades. The Grand Cascade is especially beautiful; it is a seven level cascade with a golden statue dedicated to Russia’s victory over Sweden in the 1700s. St. Samson, representing Russia, is defeating a lion, the royal symbol of Sweden, in a rather dramatic fashion. The small palace “Mon Pleasure,” taken from the French language, was the favorite palace of Peter the Great, and it still houses many of his possessions. Peterhof is a beautiful reminder of the proud imperial history of Russia, and would cause the typical vision of Russia as a poorly maintained, gray nation to crumble.

Although this is not my first time traveling to Russia, I must admit that I have found a new enchantment with St. Petersburg. The contrast of imperial grandeur against Soviet architecture provides a charm that one is unlikely to find anywhere else in the world. If St. Petersburg truly is an enigma, I hope I will come close to solving it during my time here.

In photos: Top right, Aaron on the Neva River with St. Petersburg in the background. Center left,  The Grand Cascade at Peterhof. Lower right, The Ambassador Stairs in the Winter Palace, used as a reception area during imperial times, now serves as a main entrance to the Hermitage.



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