Month: September 2015 (page 1 of 5)

Finding Fantasies in London

Like many of the students on the Fantasy on the Fringe program, I grew up with 3Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley. They were my friends and they were my heroes. J.K. Rowling’s novels were some of the first fantasy books I read on my own and were one of the main series that made me fall in love with literature, and fantasy in particular. Imagine then my delight when I discovered an entire program based on fantasy and in the United Kingdom to boot. Eleven months later, I was touching down for the first time in London, England!

Arriving in London was like something out of dream. I had been imagining the city since I first read about Harry going with Hagrid to get his school things. In my travel-induced, sleep-deprived state, everything—the trains, the streets, the cars, the buildings—seemed wildly different from the United States. However, after wandering around the neighborhood to find dinner and a good night’s sleep, I found a world which seemed much less foreign. It was bustling with cars, noisy with construction, and brimming with people going to work or the grocery store or to a meeting. Yet somehow there was still an unfamiliar, unexplored feel to the world around me. There were large parks, building with ancient architecture, and historic 1places on what seemed like every corner. This harmony between familiar and unfamiliar was one of my favorite parts about the program, finding the things that I recognized but which had a different role in the United Kingdom.

Interestingly, these differences, to a smaller extent, could be found within the program participants as well. Having lived on both coasts of the USA, many of the differences didn’t surprise me. However, I loved getting to know all of the other participants and hearing about their various universities and towns and lives.

In the movie adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Professor Trelawney talks about broadening your horizons. This program has not only helped me broaden my view of the world but it also taught me to broaden my own experiences, both academically and personally. The program helped me to be more confident and showed me that the world is simultaneously a lot larger and a lot smaller than I thought.

Senna Steward, Harry Potter in the UK, London

So Much To See, So Little Time!

As part of our curriculum, our class participated in many excursions around the UK. We got to visit some of the most beautiful and popular museums in London, as well as many less well-known attractions. One highlight for me was seeing A Mid Summer Night’s Dream in the Globe Theater. I will never forget this abroad as a whole, but that experience in particular will always be close to my heart.

Each day we had class and an excursion, beginning at 10am. We saw wonderful sites in our excursions, but there is so much to see in London and Edinburgh, and there was certainly not enough class time to see everything. This meant that my friends and I in the program would take any free time we had to explore the city. We found wonderful sites and neighborhoods on the weekends or after classes. There is so much natural beauty in Edinburgh especially, and we made special trips to hike the beautiful terrain.

With so much to see, free time became engulfed in exploration. However, I was there for academia, and there was still homework to be done. One major challenge I faced while abroad was finding time to accomplish the homework we had been assigned for classes in the midst of exploring a new country.

Every college student procrastinates at least slightly, and while I admit I have done the same in the past, I usually like to get things done as soon as I can so I don’t have to worry about it. But while abroad, I found myself often putting off work because I wanted to see the city.

At one point during the abroad trip, we had an essay due that was a major part of our grade. I had put it off until the night before because it was a weekend and I wanted to go see Hyde Park before we left for Scotland. I was panicked and extremely nervous that I would not finish in time. My best friend that I made on the trip, Alyssa, stayed up with me and worked on her own assignments so I wouldn’t feel so alone in my endeavor. We took “rain breaks,” where we would go outside and dance in the rain as to get our heartbeats up and help us focus when we returned. Once I finished my assignment, I was so grateful to her for helping me through an otherwise stressful night.

From this experience, I learned that even though I was in a new and exciting place, getting my work done first would allow me to enjoy my studies abroad more fully. I plan to go abroad again in my college career for a longer period of time, and so learning this lesson when I did will help me greatly in my future studies.

Austin Skelton, Harry Potter in the UK, London

Learning Spanish as a Life Skill

During my study abroad experience in Mexico I made an effort to travel to various cities outside of my homestay in order to get a feel for life in a variety of locales. One of these trips was a weekend in which my father and I (he had flown down to visit me and see the sights) traveled to the small city of Jalpan in the Sierra Gorda outside of Querétaro. We had to check out of our hotel incredibly early in the morning and made the somewhat foolish decision of paying as we checked out rather than when we made the reservation. As our luck would have it the machine in which the hotel was using to keep track of reservations and payments decided to stop working and various problems arose regarding our payments. Seeing as my dad doesn’t really speak any Spanish the task of sorting out the reservation fell on me as I struggled to force myself out of my sleep-deprived stupor. I spent about an hour speaking with the hotel employee working everything out, stretching my limited Spanish skills to their limits before we were able to leave and catch our next bus.

Although I had already been in Mexico for a few weeks at that point, looking back I realize that dealing with the reservation problem was probably my first big challenge which I faced while studying abroad. Especially when considering my level of Spanish upon arriving in Mexico (I had studied the language for a little under a year), being thrust into a position in which I had to problem solve in a foreign language whilst sleep-deprived was rather intimidating. I am fairly confident that had I been thrust into that position before studying abroad I would not have been able to have much, if any success solving our payment dilemma. I was able to overcome this linguistic hurdle primarily due to the confidence speaking Spanish which I had obtained from my then limited time abroad. Looking back I am able to appreciate truly how fast one’s language skills and comfort speaking improve whilst studying abroad. Moreover, speaking with the hotel employee was one of the first times in which I had practically spoken Spanish for an extended period of time. In many ways it was like a door had been opened for me. Suddenly the idea of speaking to strangers in Spanish didn’t scare me; I had proven to myself that it was possible for me to speak and not make a fool out of myself. After that weekend I found myself much more willing to speak Spanish with strangers, a change which greatly enhanced both my language skills and my experience abroad.

 

Ryan Sherrard, Spanish Language and Culture in Queretaro

Improving public health practices in India

This past summer I had the amazing opportunity to study public health and traditional medicine throughout northern India. Each day was a unique adventure, filled with people and places worth sharing and many valuable learning experiences. However one of the most significant learning experiences came from interacting with street children at an organization called Jamgaht.

The first five weeks of my program were spent in the buzzing capital of Delhi. Throughout the weeks we visited a variety of different non-profit organizations, public and private clinics, and a few large hospitals. One of these visits was to Jamghat, an organization dedicated to providing support for street children and awareness to the community about issues concerning these children. One of the programs that Jamghat offers is a day care center where street children can come to receive food, education, and basic healthcare.

Jamghat’s day care center is located in Jama Masjid, Old Delhi. The streets of Old Delhi are filled with winding and narrow alleyways crowded with life (people, cows, dogs, monkeys, and all types of vehicles). I recall walking through an alley filled with tables of scarves and other goods for sale. The smell of food wafted in the air and seemed to blend with the intense heat and humidity as the sound of chanting blared over the city from a nearby mosque. We soon reached an open lot with blankets and temporary shelters, and our program leader explained that this was where many of the street children lived. In the second story of a building adjacent to the lot was the Jamgat day care center. We spent the day playing with the children, talking with the organization directors and volunteers, and even helping with a teaching lesson. The children incredibly were vibrant and playful.

This was one of the most profound learning experiences for me because I was able to understand the lives of these children in a more dynamic context, as a new perspective was illuminated. Previous to my visit to Jamgaht I had only interacted with street children as they begged for food and money. This was a very overwhelming and haunting experience, and I found myself wanting to ignore and avoid these children. Thus, my visit to Jamghat instilled in me a deeper understanding of the lives of street children as individuals, in addition to greater insight into the social challenges surrounding children living on the street.

I am thankful for this particular experience and I believe it epitomizes many different instances in which my perspective changed. This experience, along with other similar experiences, afforded me the tools to understand novel and often challenging realities while studying health and healing in India. My time spent in India will forever hold a special place in my memory, and I am certain that it will continue to influence and impact all of my future pursuits.

– Katelyn Occhipinti, Delhi, India

Living large in Geneva

I chose to do this program in Geneva with the sincere intent of figuring out some future career plan and really exploring work possibilities. I have spent most of my time at college enjoying the learning process but not having any serious direction. Last year I became slightly terrified by the fact that I had no idea what I was doing with my professional life. The program fit me perfectly because it sent me to Europe (my favorite continent), exposed me to all kinds of political organizations (my academic focus), and had me studying French – a language I’ve wanted to learn since the age of 13.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 12.41.40 PM Throughout the program we had lectures by experts in different international fields, from economics to nuclear issues to humanitarian work. We had briefings at the WTO and Red Cross, and United Nations Environmental Programme headquarters. Every presenter had a different story of how they achieved their current position, but all of their ways were long and undoubtedly arduous. One of the most exciting field days was our first day at the UN. We received badges that gave us access to the library and let us attend lectures on the grounds and eat at the cafeteria, where you find yourself surrounded by important people from all over the world.

French class took place in a room that would have been suitable for a crime show law enforcement office. Two of its walls were made entirely of glass. I had to sit facing away from these or else I would have spent the whole class staring out the window. It was a long class – three hours nearly every day – but there were only five of us in that level so the lessons were engaging and it was my only true French immersion, so I wasScreen Shot 2015-09-17 at 12.42.18 PM grateful for it. My host family tried to speak French to me, but our temptation to switch to English was often too great since they spoke perfect English and my French skills did not extend to any especially exciting conversation topics. They were an international family – the mother being from Iran – so they all spoke Persian on top of French and English, and I was their ninth exchange student. Thus they had plenty of hosting experience and were very laid back about my schedule and needs. Plus they prepared amazing Swiss, Iranian, and Italian food.

Weekends were free, luckily, because there were so many things to be done in and around Geneva. There were conferences, music festivals, museums, and just the city itself to be explored. One weekend I went with a small group of people from the program to the German-Swiss city of Bern for some sightseeing. Another time I organized a group to take a tour of the CERN facilities near Geneva, and see the Large Hadron Collider – the world’s largest and most powerful particle smasher – something most of us never thought we would see.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 12.41.48 PM In the end, I did not wind up meeting a potential future employer or scoring the perfect internship in Geneva, but I met a lot of experts and was reassured by the sheer amount of time and effort they had spent building their careers. I am just beginning mine and don’t need to feel so inferior for not yet achieving all my goals. What I know now is that I have already started my path and so far it has been a truly fun and privileged one. And also I’ll be looking into the University of Geneva for grad school.

– Alana McKenzie, Geneva, Switzerland

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