Alex Pittsford ’20 – Goethe, Color Theory, and the Binding Power of Art

Alex Pittsford ’20

Alex Pittsford ’20 – Looking back at my semester abroad, I’m surprised at just how much I was able to learn and experience in just four short months. From celebrating Oktoberfest on opening day in Munich to perusing the Christmas Markets in Heidelberg, I was able to experience an incredible amount of German culture, while also greatly improving my language skills. One major factor in helping cultivate this experience abroad were the funds provided by the Givens scholarship. My theme of study was based on a conversation with Dr. Greg Redding, where we discovered that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, perhaps the most famous German author, had developed his own color theory. In order to pursue this topic, I decided to study artists influenced by this theory, which brought me to Hamburg, to see the works of Phillip Otto Runge in the Hamburger Kunsthalle, Munich, to see the works of Wassily Kandinsky in both the Neue Pinakothek and the Lenbachhaus, and London, to see J.M.W. Turner’s works in the Tate Classic. While this topic began with the color theory shared between these artists, the moment that stuck with me the most during my travels came during my visit to the Tate.

Art by J.M.W. Turner

Of the artists influenced by Goethe’s color theory, Turner is the only non-German. Despite this, I still found parallels, not only to Germany, but perhaps most surprisingly to the city in which I completed my study abroad. As I was working my way through the multiple rooms of his works housed at the Tate, I stumbled upon a landscape work that, despite my never having seen it, seemed eerily familiar. I had read during my visit that Turner had spent a significant portion of his life travelling Europe, Germany specifically, which is how he was introduced to Goethe’s color theory from the man himself. During his travels, Turner had spent some time in Heidelberg, the city in which I completed my studies and the subject of this eerily familiar painting. While the work was not complete, once I knew the subject was indeed Heidelberg, I started to recognize some of the characteristic landmarks in Heidelberg, from the castle towering over the city to the shore of Neckar splitting the city in half. This work gave me not only a feeling of nostalgia for what had become my second home, but it also allowed me to reflect on the interconnectedness of culture in Europe. This artwork, housed in one of the largest and most famous art museums in the U.K. and painted by one of the most famous British artists (in fact, the prestigious Turner prize is named for J.M.W Turner) managed to capture the ethos and aesthetic of a small town in Germany. This piece, while not the most well-known I saw during my travels, left the largest impact on me, and without the funds provided by the Givens family, I would not have been able to have this experience.

Ben Kiesel ’20 – Picasso in Spain, Switzerland

Kiesel at the Prado Museum

Ben Kiesel ’20 – As I spent an unforgettable semester in Valencia, Spain, I had the opportunity to visit a number of beautiful European cities to study art thanks to the Givens family. I was enrolled in a special topics Pablo Picasso class and though we studied major art movements throughout the 20thcentury, the course focused on arguably the most prolific and creative Spanish artist ever, Pablo Picasso. Picasso had an unmatched influence on movements such as surrealism, neoclassicism, impressionism and cubism.

My first trip was to Spain’s capital, Madrid, where I visited two museums, the Prado and the Reina Sofia. I first visited the Prado where I found some of the premier works of art by artists from all of Europe. These works include Las Meninas, The Third of May 1808, Garden of Earthly Delightsand Saturn. It was incredible to be studying these paintings in class one day and seeing them in person the next. While the Prado had many beautiful works, I was most excited to visit the Reina Sofia. The Reina Sofia is home to Guernica, my favorite painting by Picasso. It was incredible to see this masterpiece, and so many others in person. I had heard beforehand that Guernica is much bigger in person than you will think and this proved to be true. I marveled at the way Picasso was able to pack so many complex themes and imagery into one painting. For me, given how much I have studied this particular painting it was surreal to be able to study it in person.

I stayed in Spain for my next trip as well, and made my first visit to Barcelona and the northern region of Spain. Along with many amazing sites, such as the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell and La Rambla, I visited the Picasso museum which was a remarkable experience. This particular museum was great to visit in conjunction with my class because we could see progression of different styles throughout his life. Picasso’s ability to create works that bridged the gaps between different styles was evident when you could see many of his works together side by side. For this reason, I think my trip to the Picasso museum and Barcelona in general was the most informative.

My next trip was probably my favorite and would not have been possible without the support of the Givens family. I made the trip to central Europe to visit Switzerland. There, I spent about two and a half days in Geneva visiting a variety of sites including the United Nations building, St. Pierre Cathedral and Flower Clock. Additionally, although this is not directly applicable to Picasso and art, I visited the International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. This museum may have been my favorite just because going into it I really had no idea what the Red Cross and Red Crescent organization actually does. It was extremely informative and had a number of fascinating interactive activities. Once again, though it was not connected with my class, the ability to explore this museum and learn was only possible because I was given funds to visit Lucerne Switzerland to visit the Rosengart Collection. The Rosengart Collection is a collection of many works by Picasso and other 20thcentury artists. I particularly enjoyed one painting by Picasso that is not among his most famous, but one that we studied in class, Still Life.

Max Atkins ’20 – Experiencing Art in Spain, France, and the Netherlands

Atkins ’20 at Van Gogh Museum

Max Atkins ’20 – While I spent four months studying philosophy in Amsterdam, my travels were not limited to the Netherlands thanks to the Givens family. While my intention when going abroad was to focus on the work of Picasso, I was able to experience much more than that through the semester. Upon arrival in Amsterdam, I purchased a museum card that got me into all the museums throughout the Netherlands. With this I got to experience all different forms of art. I got to experience the work of Van Gogh through his life at the Van Gogh Museum, I got to see the work of Dutch classics through the golden age by artist such as Rembrandt, and even modern works of photography.

Thanks to the Givens Scholarship, I got to travel to Spain and France and further my experience of art. I went to Paris and had an overwhelming experience of art from all ages. I got to visit Musée d’Orsay, where the picture I’ve attached is taken, where I not only got to experience art different than what I was seeing in Amsterdam, but also in a completely different style. In Amsterdam many museums do not allow photography of any kind and are eerily quiet. D’Orsay was completely different in that as soon as you walk in you can here the chatter of everyone experiencing the art in their own way, taking photos of the art, with the art, and marveling at its beauty. The museum captured art through all of history from ancient rome all the way through the 20thcentury.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to travel and experience art many different ways. To experience architecture, paintings, sculptures, and many other art forms spanning across centuries. Thanks to the Givens, I got to have experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Matthew Hopkins ’19: Exploring Connections Between Impressionism and Expressionism

Matthew Hopkins ’19 — As I reflect back on my four months abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France, I realize how formative a time it was for me. I realize how much I’ve grown, I see the things I’ve learned – whether academically or culturally, and of course I was able to improve my French a bit too! It wasn’t always the easiest at times, but my journey abroad was a positive growing experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

In addition to my academics and cultural assimilation in France, a big reason I was even able to go abroad in the first place was thanks to the Givens Scholarship, which I was awarded the semester before I left.  The Givens Scholarship paid for my travel and admittance fees to several museums and historical sites around Europe. Thanks to the Givens, I was able to travel to Berlin to study German expressionism, Paris to study the French impressionists, and many things in between. Before I went abroad, I laid out a plan for what I was going to do with my award money. Though I had to cut a few things out once a got there, on account of the ongoing strikes in France which cancelled many trains and planes I had scheduled, my main goal for the Givens Scholarship was to explore the connections between Impressionism and Expressionism – a goal I feel I was able to reach (or, at least, I beganto reach).

I would like to talk about one specific trip I was able to take thanks to the Givens Scholarship.  About mid-way through the semester, I travelled to Paris, and one of the museums I went to was le Musée de l’Orangerie, to see Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies.”  “Water Lilies” is regarded by some as the masterpiece of Monet, the French Impressionist. When you see it, it’s understandable why some would make that claim. First, the way they were presented – something Monet was very specific about. The painting, in its entirety, spans 8 massive landscape canvases, and these canvases are arranged, in order, around the perimeter of two ovular rooms, which are connected by a small walkway. Picture an infinity symbol shape as a room, and the walls in that room are covered in Monet’s art. The experience of entering that room is one that words could never do justice. Ethereal is the only descriptor that comes close.  The rooms are full of people, but strangely it doesn’t feel cramped – perhaps because the paintings themselves open up an entirely new world that you cannot enter physically, but are still somehow pulled into. Each room has benches in the center, and I sat here for what seems like hours (could have been), just following the stories on the walls.

The reason Monet’s “Water Lilies” was impactful to me is pretty clear, as it is for most everyone, but the reason I chose to talk about this in relation to my Givens Scholarship is perhaps just as intriguing. As I said above, I set out to see the connections between two different art movements – Impressionism and Expressionism, and I found the perfect marriage of those two in Monet’s “Water Lilies.” Monet completed this painting (I refer to it in the singular, because it really is just one painting) towards the end of his life – it wasn’t even put on exhibit until after his death — and you can begin to see the movement to a more abstract, expressionist style of painting in the work. Of course Monet was an Impressionist (maybe the Impressionist), so the characteristics of Impressionism are still very much alive in this work. I saw in Monet’s “Water Lilies,” vibrant Impressionism and budding Expressionism. The way the colors worked to tell stories was emblematic of Monet’s Impressionist style, but the slight tinkering with reality and play on proportions and perspective also showed the seeds of an Expressionist painter. Monet’s “Water Lilies” was truly a masterpiece.

We were not able to take pictures inside the “Water Lilies” room, and to be honest I think I preferred that. I decided to include a picture of me, standing in front of Mont Saint Victoire, which was the subject of hundreds of paintings by another French Impressionist master, Paul Cézanne.

I would like to thank the Givens family once again for the chance to expand my learning outside the classroom, to be able to see pieces of history in the flesh, and draw from them lessons no textbook could teach me.

Adam Zink ’19 – Granada, Spain

Granada Cathedral. Gold and mahogany Wood that came from the Americas during colonial times.

Adam Zink ’19 — This summer I have been able to expand on my studies as I focus on my Hispanic Studies major in Granada, Spain. During my time at Wabash, I have taken courses over Latin America and several different aspects; historical, food, economics, and religion. All of these topics fascinating in their own way, but I felt like something was missing. I didn’t have much knowledge about Spain in the precolonial and colonial times, thus sparking my desire to learn more about the history of colonial Spain. Fortunately, with help from the Rudolph family, I was able to make it happen.

On top of the fortress in Alhambra with the Sierra Nevada mountains behind me

For the months of June and part of July I have been in Granada, Spain.  My time here in Granada has been the best.  In the midst of learning about the present day culture and tradition it is hard to overlook the past as my study abroad program provided my classmates and myself the opportunity to visit several major cities in our region. Granada is in southern Spain but we made trips to Sevilla and Cordoba then eventually made our way down to the coast in Nerja and Tarifa which led across the Mediterranean to Morocco. All of these cities had their own specific features that made them beautiful, but you could see the difference in the cities based on their historical significance. Sevilla for example, was closer to central Spain and during the colonial times served as the trade center of the goods from the New World. The traces today are in plain sight as there are old embassies from every Latin American country.  Also in Sevilla, the Real Alcazar de Sevilla Cathedral contains remains of Christopher Columbus.  Then my temporary home of Granada served as a vital pre-Columbian city as it was the last city to be recaptured by the Catholic Monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. The historical significance of the city was abundant. The people and culture screamed the history this beautiful city had.

La Alhambra

La Alhambra, an old fortress turned fortified Muslim city was one of my favorite places to visit. From on top of a small mountain, the old city of La Alhambra had a great view of the city of Granada and its neighboring mountains La Sierra Nevada. In both of the city markets and the style of the old building you could see the influence of the Spaniards, Africans, Muslims and Catholics. The markets flowed with African and Muslim themed artistry while the restaurants showed the Spanish Catholic influence of pork through Iberico Jam. Through the history I could look at modern day Spain and observe the mixing of the religions and people and how Spain still retains a lot of its historical marks and truly how fascinating those pieces of history are.

Charles Frey ’19 – Lessons on Nationalism, Identity, and Cuisine

Toulouse, France

Charles Frey ’19, Toulouse, FranceMark Twain wrote in The Innocents Abroad, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” After spending four weeks in Toulouse, France for my summer study abroad, I would agree with Mr. Twain. The amount I grew, both in the French language and in my world view, continues to surprise me. Through my coursework, excursions, and evenings spent talking with my host family or mes comarades des classe around a glass of wine (rosé, usually), I’m always learning something new.

CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange) offers two courses in Toulouse for the summer months – Business & Culture (BC) and Language & Culture (LC). I was in the LC class with nine other students learning about French national identity, history, education, and many other facets of French culture. Through these classes we connected what we know (i.e. American culture, identity, politics, history, etc.) with the content taught in class and I realized every day that humans are more alike than different. This goes for the positive and the negative, and currently both nations – France and the US – are tackling similar wicked problems, from immigration to women’s equality to LGBT+ acceptance in society. Like I said, more similar than it seems, even from across the sea.

Aside from the class, our program offered an overnight excursion and several cultural activities in Toulouse and elsewhere. Our whole group, BC + LC, went to Ariège for an overnight trip, where we dined at a small, family run foie gras farm, walked llamas in a mountain village, spent the night right outside the Pyrenees, toured a pre-historic cave (with caveman drawings not unlike those seen in the Bachelor), and visited a castle. It was a jam packed schedule but completely worthwhile, filled with experiences and memories I know I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. In Toulouse, we cooked a French meal as a group with a professional chef, went to Le Capitole for Fête de la Musique, and listened to an opera recital. This was all within the first two weeks!

Freeland Burton ’19-Amsterdam, Netherlands

Grand Place in front of the town hall.

Freeland Burton ’19 — During my time in Europe this summer I was able to visit many once-dreamed-of places that I never thought I would see in my lifetime.  I studied Business and Sustainability in Amsterdam, Netherlands, which was a wonderfully unique city that provided an opportunity to explore something new every time I turned the corner.  Some of these opportunities came not from just Amsterdam, but other cities too.  It was a Saturday, July 21st, when I happened to overhear some of my study abroad colleagues mention that they were planning a day trip to Brussels, Belgium, for the following day.  I thought that it was good to expose myself to as much as possible while in Europe, so I of course decided to travel with them.

The day trip consisted of a very early morning bus ride, a city tour, and a lot of walking.  We started in the Grand Place, or the central square of Brussels where we got to walk around the town hall.  I have always been a fan of gothic style architecture, but this building was undoubtedly a masterpiece.  Actually, our tour guide told us a very funny story about the town hall.  The east-wing (to the left when facing the front) was built and originally completed long before the second half.  Once a need for craft guilds arose, an expansion of the building was planned.  When construction started, they realized there wouldn’t be enough room to make the town hall symmetrical.  For this reason, one side is shorter than the other.  Even more unbelievable, our tour guide told us that a building not 200 feet away was where Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto!  These were connections I would have never made without our wonderful tour guide.

Royal Palace of Brussels


We also visited the Royal Palace, which had some of the most intricately designed rooms I have ever seen in my life.  There were multiple times I had to take a moment simply to bask in the glory of the place.  Extravagant chandeliers and bizarre art pieces were everywhere, but the room that stuck out to me the most was filled with millions of bugs.  This room was given a makeover in the early 2000s, covering the room with 1.6million iridescent green beetles.  The chandelier was covered by these beetles as well which formed one of the most curiously beautiful objects.  Light reflected off of these bugs created a warming green color in the room, and proved to show the creativity and expertise required to create such magnificent works of art.

Later that day we took the bus back to Amsterdam and got ready for the week ahead of us.  Spontaneous trips like this one were only made possible thanks to the generosity of the Rudolph Family.  I am so very grateful I was provided this opportunity because it taught me so much about myself and the rest of the world.  Everything on my trip from the class to sightseeing was an unimaginably terrific learning experience.  I gained a greater appreciation for the simpler things in life… like a ceiling covered with a million beetles.

Neil Dittman ‘19 —German Expressionism

Neil Ditman at Lehnbach Haus and Pinakothek der Moderne

Neil Dittman ’19 — I would like to extended a deep gratitude for the opportunities afforded by the Givens family. With their generosity, I was able to engage with art from all around the German-speaking world. My primary focus of study was the Blaue Reiter and the BrückeGerman expressionist movements.  My first excursion was to Munich, the birthplace of theBlaue Reiter Expressionist movement. There, I went to the Lehnbach Haus and Pinakothek der Moderne because of their impressive collections featuring works from Franz Marc, August Macke, Paul Klee, Gabrielle Münter, and Wassily Kandinsky. From Munich, I was able to swing down to Kochel am See so see the Franz Marc Museum.

Franz Marc was a particularly interesting artist to study because of his color theory. He assigned colors various symbolic affects, imbuing his works with an extra layer of subtext. He liked to paint animals and a lot of his work focuses on the nature of animals. One work that I was able to see in Basel, Switzerland was his movement-defining masterpiece  “Tierschicksale”. This was the absolute highlight of my experience studying art abroad. “Tierschicksale” (The Fate of the Animals) depicts the apocalypse from the perspective of the animals. The massive piece was partially destroyed in a fire and later restored by Paul Klee. It was absolutely stunning to see in person, and I cannot thank the Givens family enough for allowing me the opportunity.

My next stop was the Brücke Museum, Nationalmuseum, and Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. These museums house the best collections of Brücke art. The Brücke was a German Expressionist movement that thought of themselves as a bridge between the present and future of art. There, I was able to see works from the movement’s founders, including Ernst Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rotluff, Fritz Bleyl, and Erich Heckel. What I found particularly interesting was the movement’s fascination with art from Africa, which at the time was considered “primitive”. Cultural exoticism, however racist or reductivist it may be,  can still fascinating to observe because it reveals a lot about the social climate from which it was conceived.

One of the most interesting aspects of this particular study was seeing art that marked the shift from representational art to abstract art. For me, this shift serves as a reminder that many ideas that are taken as a given in our world were once ideas on the cutting edge. This was an idea that was reinforced in my history of installation art course I completed in Germany. The members of of the Blaue Reiter and Brücke movements pushed the boundaries of art and what could be considered art, much like Minimalism, Prefab, and Earth Art movements that would emerge in the late 20th century. My experiences I have amassed with the help of the Givens family has helped me construct a more cohesive narrative in art history. I no longer view pieces of art as individual, isolated incidents, but rather points on a line, or chapters in a book that will never be finished.

Evan Hansen ’19: Madrid Spain

Evan Hansen ’19 —

Evan Hansen

Where?: El Badii Palace, Marrakech Morocco

When?: 03/11/2018

What?: My travels were not limited to Spain as Joel Janak ‘19 and myself tackled Morocco. El Badii Palace was completed towards the end of the 16th century and was a lavish display of the best craftsmanship of the Saadian period. This was one of the most important stops on our trip because it encapsulates the Arabic architecture found in many northeastern Spanish cities.

I am currently taking the Spanish course

SPA-47407 “Introduction to Spanish Art,” which investigates the rich 19th and 20th-century Spanish art. Additionally, Dr. Enrique Peláez has provided us with an analysis of Roman, Medieval, and Gothic influences. Our class has visited several museums and cathedrals in Spain to explore topics from the ‘Golden Age’ of painting (Velázquez, El Greco, Murillo, Ribera), to the famous names of the 20th century (Gaudí, Picasso, Dalí,Miró).

Museo Nacional Del Prado y Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

With the gracious contributions of Mr. and Mrs. Givens, I was able to visit several exhibitions of Spain’s two greatest 20th-century masters: Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. In the classroom we learned the evolution their style, its context in history, and its legacy. However, when I observed the massive canvas I immediately felt a connection. The anti-war message is especially relevant to the increasing tensions of the 21st century. I could not leave the museum without purchasing replica bookmark 🙂

Max Lawson ’19: Spain, Netherlands, France

Max Lawson ’19 — Thanks to the generosity of the Givens family, I was able to travel extensively within Spain, and even take excursions to the Netherlands and France in order to gain a richer and more profound understanding of the art, culture, history, and people of Europe.  With my first trip, I was able to go to Amsterdam with a group of friends I had only made a week beforehand.  It seemed crazy… getting on a plane with people who were basically strangers to go to another country that was even farther away from home than we already were. After landing on the tarmac and taking a bus from Eindhoven to Amsterdam, it was obvious that we had made the right decision.  Amsterdam, known for its tulips and otheramenities, was unlike any city I have ever visited before.  The bustling crowds (although friendly), buildings, and cobbled streets reminded me of the fast-paced streets of New York, but with Baroque architecture, all of which seemed to have been frozen in time.  It was as if an entire society had taken a time machine, but kept the amenities of the 21stcentury.  As we explored the city, we knew that museums would be necessary if we were to truly enjoy what the city had to offer.  The Anne Frank Museum, whose tickets were notorious for being sold out, was first on our list.  To our surprise and fortune, we were able to get tickets two days in advance, and were shuffling through the historic hideout in no time. While maneuvering around the house, the laughter and conversation that usually followed our group was subdued to a quiet lull, as our minds and ears were engrossed with the stories and accounts provided by the audio tour.  As we continued through the house, the tour only got more and more serial.  I was standing in the same rooms, touching the same walls, and walking across the same floors that the Franks had so many years ago.  The chills were unstoppable.  Following the Anne Frank Museum, we made our way to the Van Gogh museum, where we received an in-depth look into the mind and personal life of Vincent Van Gogh. While I was familiar with his more famous paintings such as, Starry Night, Van Gogh self-portrait, andCafé Terrace at Night, my appreciation for his lesser-known works grew as my knowledge of them did.  One of the most celebrated painters in history was an anomaly in his day, and, as a result, his feelings were translated into his paintings through the changes in his artistic style and the colors that represented them.

Following our trip to Amsterdam, the same group of friends took a trip to Madrid for the weekend, eager to see what Spain’s capital city had to offer. Immediately, we were astounded by the change in scenery when compared to Valencia.  Valencia has an older style of architecture, with certain streets and neighborhoods evolving into more modern utopias.  However, Madrid had the same hustle and bustle of many of the cities in the United States.  Hand-laid brick streets were replaced with concrete or asphalt, as cars whirred around corners.  While Madrid seemed to have evolved, the Prado Museum maintained many of the historic relics on which society was built.  Paintings of royal figures such as Philip II, Isabella Clara Eugenia, and Charles IV (whose girlfriends seemed to change as regularly as the days, and, as a result, forced Goya to paint the women alongside him with their heads turned) lined the seemingly endless corridors through which we meandered.  Of course, we got lost, but we were okay with that.  While the Prado Museum maintained a respectful and appreciate relationship to the Spain of old, the Reina Sofia seemed to have paralleled Madrid’s advanced architecture and lifestyle.  As we did in the Prado, our group perused through the different art galleries presented within the Reina Sofia.  When I heard that the Reina Sofia was the more modern of the two storied museums in Madrid, I anticipated strange, abstract pieces that didn’t make sense. Part of me was right.  Some of the pieces were…out there, to say the least. However, it was still interesting to hear the different guides give us the backgrounds on some of the pieces, even if you did have to “squint” your mind in order to see the connections. Once we were free of the dark rooms, flashing lights, and ominous noises of the modern art exhibits, we made our way to arguably the most famous painting ever, La Guernica.  Pablo Picasso’s representation of the Spanish Civil War is both immense and disturbing, both of which I’m sure he aimed to show.  The immensity, partly due to its size (nearly 11 feet tall and 25 feet wide), was complemented with the graphic depictions of the atrocities that occurred in one of Spain’s darkest periods.

Following my trip to Madrid, my mom and I worked our way up into Catalonia’s crown jewel, Barcelona.  Being a FC Barcelona fan ever since I could remember, I couldn’t wait to see what my favorite team’s city had to offer.  Similar to Madrid, parts of Barcelona were very modern; however, we stayed in a part of Barcelona known for its rich history of art and architecture, the Gothic Quarter.  Walking up and down the winding roads in the Gothic Quarter, vendors attended to their stores, selling handmade leather goods and jewelry, a friendly reminder of the days of old.  While browsing the wares at a local shoe store, I was politely informed by the owner that everything I saw were only samples; I would have to get my foot measured in order to have myshoe made.  This attention to authenticity and quality was apparent throughout the rest of the city.  Once we had finished roving through the not-so-commercial commercial sector, we made our way to the Sagrada Familia.  Perhaps Gaudí’s most famous project, it first opened in 1882, and has yet to be finished. While its astonishing visual presence, both in stature (standing at 566 feet) and content were obvious sights to be had, its history was even more intriguing.  When first learning about the Sagrada Família, I had always heard Gaudí’s named attached to it.  However, upon arriving, I learned that Gaudí had actually inherited the project from another architect, Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano, whose name is often overshadowed by Gaudí’s.  What was even more surprising to me was that Gaudí had only received his first offical commission five years prior to taking over the Sagrada Família.  On top of that, Gaudí was said to be “inconsistent” when studying architecure! After oogleing at the Sagrada Família, we made our way to the Picasso Museum, which houses a myriad of the artist’s works throughout his life.  What was most intersting to me was watching Picasso’s styles change throughout his life, varying from abstract figures composed of a few lines and limited colors, to incredibely detailed portraits of himself, his friends, and family members.

The last trip of my semester abroad was spent in Paris, a city whose name alone inspires hopelessly romantic dreams and visions in the heads of travelers worldwide. Like most of Europe, I found myself wandering the streets aimlessly, but enjoying every second of it.  In the day and a half that I spent in Paris, I was able to see some of the city’s most famous sites, such as the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, and the Notre Dame cathedral.  In the same aimless fashion that I roamed the streets of Europe, I immersed myself in the various exhibits of the Louvre, losing track of time and reality in the process.  Of course, I had to see Mona Lisa.  I had heard from others that it was smaller than expected, but it really wastiny.  As a result, the people-watching around it was almost as great seeing the painting with my own eyes.  Traveling further into the labyrinth that is the Louvre, I began to lose track of time.  The museum seemed endless, and I knew that I had to soak in every moment, every piece, and every feeling that I experienced.  In doing so, I hadn’t realized time had passed so quickly, and it was only after my friend Emily told me that we had to leave or else we wouldn’t be able to see the rest of what Paris has to offer!

After breaking free from the Louvre’s illustrious grasp, I was able to see the Arc de Triomphe, a breathtaking monument that Napoleon dedicated to The Grande Armee after conquering most of Europe.  The structure served as a celebration for those who gave their lives for their country, and serves as a constant reminder of the price some individuals paid in order to give the French their current state.  After perusing along the Seine River, we arrived at the Notre Dame cathedral.  Once inside, we were amazed by the stained-glass sunlight that bathed the walls and floors in a multi-technicolor pallet of reds, blues, and greens.

This may sound nuanced, and even elementary, but studying abroad truly opened my eyes as to how bigthe world really is.  Or, maybe I realized how small I was.  While Earth may be 24, 901 miles in circumference, which, granted, is really big, I realized while traveling how there are billions of people all around the world, just like me, whom I’ve never met.  These people, young and old, have lived experiences completely unknown to me, and I was lucky enough to share brief moments in time and space with them.  I think of James, the young Irishman I met outside of our hostel in Amsterdam, who was kind enough to let us know that we might want to move out of the doorway, as his friends were all trying to wrestle another friend of theirs into the hostel (it was his birthday, and he may have over celebrated).  I think of Mahmoud, a Moroccan immigrant living in Granada, and our conversation regarding the history of the Alhambra, and the intersection of Moroccan and Spanish culture.  He worked as a lawyer, and I was thankful for the advice he gave me as someone pursuing a career in law.  Of course, I appreciated the big things, too, like somberly walking through the Anne Frank museum, being reminded that the atrocities in the Holocaust were very real, and not just something we read in history books or autobiographies. An event that, for all of my life, has been out of sight and out of mind, had truly come to fruition in my mind.

Above all, the most valuable things I took away from study abroad are the little things, the intangible idiosyncrasies that we often take for granted: memories, laughter amongst friends, the smell of the burning Fallas, the taste of a perfectly-cooked croquet, and the hugs from a host mother.