“Bon Voyage” 2019

Will Driskill
SAS 2019

I started my Semester at Sea adventure about a month ago in Amsterdam, Netherlands and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Most of my travels before Semester at Sea have consisted of family vacations up and down the East coast. But, my travel bug really started several years back when I traveled to Pamplona, Spain to Run with the Bulls. For many, running with the bulls would be well outside their comfort zone, but I considered that to still be well within my comfort zone because, I traveled to Spain with family and close friends. Now, when I first heard about Semester at Sea, I was in disbelief. How was it possible to travel to eleven different countries and three continents all while getting an education for only half a semester? It was too good to be true and I believe that is what made me jump at this opportunity and not turn back. I was all in from the beginning and so far, it has been one of the best choices I have made.

So, about a month ago, I packed my bags, said bye to family and friends and headed off to start my journey in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Honestly, I was a little nervous at first because I have never done solo travel before and I knew absolutely nobody going on Semester at Sea. But, I think that is what made me want to go on this journey the most. Being able to meet people not only from the United States, but all over the world has been an eye-opening experience and something that challenges me to get outside my comfort zone.

I know that there will be many challenges that I will come across while traveling the world, but that is what I am looking forward to the most. It’s not just Europe that I am traveling to, but also Africa and South America. In both Africa and South America, I will be way outside of my comfort zone and that will be the biggest challenge for me. I have to be willing to not change, but become more open minded about the cultures and the areas that I will be visiting along the way.

Learning in London

Thomas Salamon
LSE 2019/20
London, England

I only applied to one abroad program because I wanted it to improve upon the studies I was doing at Hampden-Sydney. I had already taken a May Term Abroad in order to study German with some fellow students of mine but when I chose to apply to the LSE, I knew it would be a different experience- for one, I was applying alone and wasn’t going to be abroad with a fellow Hampden-Sydney student. What I knew about the London School of Economics (and indeed, London at all) was relatively limited. I had spoken to some students who went in previous years, and they told me it was a full year at one of the most prestigious social science universities in the world. The courses were hard, and mostly quantitative. I was sold! I applied because I’m a math-econ/applied math major, and I was trying to get a career in Finance. A good half of the students here have similar goals, but I’m getting ahead of myself here. Small aside- my professor would be proud of me using statistics, let’s calculate the probability a student you randomly speak to on the street is a member of the general course & and has the aforementioned goals… go!
The other difference from my previous time abroad; and in my opinion, advantage, is that we speak English over here. That comes with a few notable exceptions, like how lifts are elevators, asking for pants at the store directs you to the underwear aisle, or when you say the name of basically anywhere out loud and find people staring at you with the full knowledge you aren’t from here. Fun exercise- try saying Thames, Southwark, Leicester, Greenwich, Gloucester or Marylebone, and I guarantee you aren’t saying them right. The flip side of this is that you’re always in a sea of people who are from farther off destinations than you. I’ve met people from all across Europe, Russia China, the Middle East and South America who all had unique experiences and all came to the LSE to improve their education. That brings me to the meaning of the full name of the LSE- The London School of Economics and Political Science. Many people here come to study (and by virtue of that, are incredibly knowledgeable about) international relations and political science. The dialogues I’ve had with people about any subject is invariably incredibly interesting, and it seems to mirror Hampden-Sydney in that there is at least respect regardless of opinion, and that nobody will attack you for who you are or what you believe. They WILL attack your arguments however, which has the result that everyone is good at defending themselves.
The discourse is so incredibly varied here that you can find any political or social ideology you wish to. The Marxist society had a booth next to the Hayek society during the fresher’s fair, and you’ll not be surprised to hear which of the two groups were wearing suits.

こんにちは “Kon’nichiwa”

Laken Williams
Akita International University
Japan

Saying Sayonara to Japan and All of My Friends

As much as I enjoyed every minute I was in Japan, I knew it had to come to end at some point. For most, the end of their adventure in Japan was the last week of July and the first few days of August. But, for me, I had an archaeological excavation that was part of one of my classes and ended August 7th. So, as one of the last to go, I had to say goodbye to everyone. Some left quietly on the first bus to the airport or to the train station; some left with a crowd of waves, and most of my friend group left to the ever dwindling remnants of our diverse crew of Europeans, Americans, and Taiwanese alike, with the token AIU student, looking sad but used to saying goodbye. Although I had planned on doing it for all my friends, I never remembered to take a final selfie with everyone before they left, so I can’t put in everybody’s pictures.

One of the first friends to leave was Eri (Japan): all of us played ping-pong together at the beginning of the year. It was a real full-circle moment for us, because we started off Orientation Week playing ping-pong, and the last thing we did together was play ping-pong. Eri was a really, quiet girl, but, apparently, she had one of the best English scores of her class: she just didn’t like talking. We had “developed” a game called “Circle Ping-Pong,” in which we would all run around the table while keeping the ball on the table, and whoever missed the table was out. The last two standing would play a best of two to determine the king of the table. All of us would play this game back to back for hours: playing circle ping-pong is one of my fondest memories of Japan.

This picture is one of the first pictures of my stay in Japan. This was the first week that we had all met each other. Eri (Japan) is the one taking the selfie with the glasses on. Next to her is Shinu (China/Japan), who was one of my other really, good friends while I was in Japan: she was one of my few AIU friends throughout my stay. Behind them are some familiar faces: Savannah (Penn.) and Martijn (Netherlands), and next to me is Danika from Alaska.

 

This is from that last week before my excavation. Once again, Eri is taking the selfie, and behind her is one of her and Martijn’s mutual friends, whom I met that day and whose name escapes me. And behind them is the familiar Trio of Martijn, Theo, and I.

 

This is effectively the same picture, but I like it, so I added it. It was an interesting circumstance because all of the guys, excluding me who wore chinos and a t-shirt every day, wore pretty “relaxed clothes.” Martijn usually wore a fancy button-down collared shirt and jeans, so this casual black shirt was rare. Theo had a wide range of apparel: he sometimes had a button-down shirt, khakis, and Sperry-like shoes, but he could also pull off this “bumming” outfit with the tank-top, swim-trunks, and shower shoes. On the opposite spectrum, Eri and her friend had the typical dressed up, loose fitting clothes that all the Japanese girls wore: she seemed almost over-dressed compared to us.

 

The weekend before I started the excavation, two of my best friends would leave the same Monday I left for the farm stay. It was mainly Jordan’s idea, as were most things we did (his charisma and drive in life were hard to turn down), that we watch all three of the John Wick films each night before they left. During those weekend nights, as we had many nights before, Theo and I sprawled out on the House Lounge sofa, but this time we were joined by a group of other friends to watch the films. My long-standing friend throughout my stay in Japan, Martijn, his good friend from Mexico, Jose, as well as Theo’s friend, a fellow Scandinavian from Denmark, Mikel. It was one of my favorite weekends of all time, mainly because it was so simple: we all just hung out and watched cool movies while eating an array of Japanese instant noodles and snacks. The final night was when a lot of our nostalgia kicked in, and we spent a good bit of time talking about when and how we all met, and, for most of us, it was on the first day, which made our imminent parting that much more depressing.

Both of these pictures were taken at around 2 a.m., but none of us felt very tired: we mostly wished we could stay longer. Jordan is taking the selfie, with his friend, someone I met a few days earlier, Satoshi, behind him: he was the tallest Japanese person I had met; we were the same height. Martijn and Theo are split by Jose, whom I spent a lot of time with that last week but not at all really before. He was pretty candid about America’s “strained” relations with Mexico under Trump: he was fairly charitable, since most other people were more angry about it than he was.

 

This picture was taken the night before Mikel left. It was confusing for me to talk to him, because he had the same name as my twin brother (spelled differently), but it was, in Danish, pronounced completely different, although he used my brother’s pronunciation for the “Americans.” He also had a girlfriend that came with him to study at AIU: her name was Nini, which was apparently a pretty common practice among the Scandanavians/Nordics. I had two other friends that were named Nana and Sisi. Mikel was probably the tallest person at AIU: I think he was around 6’6”, but they use a different system, so I never asked. He was also in the Danish military and had some pretty crazy stories about their basic training.

 

My best friend Theo saw me off to the farm stay before making his solo walk to the airport, because he said he wasn’t going to pay for a taxi. Our parting wasn’t as emotional as I expected it to be, but neither of us are particularly emotional people: we gave each other a bro-hug, mentioned hanging out or face-timing sometime down the road, and I ended by telling him to say hi to his girlfriend for me. With that, my class and I made our way to the farm where we would spend the next week excavating a local Junior High School that had been shutdown in the 80’s: the Junior High School was a known location of a Final Jomon site, which is Japan’s earliest pre-historic society.  Although we did a lot of fun and interesting things during the excavation, I’ll just keep it short: it was really hot and humid; there was a lot of digging; and, there was a lot of really good food.

 

Here is a picture of me in full Archaeologist attire. Since Japanese people are generally much smaller than Americans and Europeans, both my shirt and pants were 3XL, which did nothing for my insecurities. The hat, which was a hit with the other students and supervisors, was actually a women’s farm hat, but I just took the black-satin ribbon off of it and it looked pretty cool and archaeology-ish. The sign behind me is for the farm owners, saying it was their family’s house and it was also a boarding house.

This poster was really cool for our class. The school actually had it made for us as a promo for our work and our end of seminar project on our research/finding. This is a picture of our class trying to use a measuring device: it was probably the most tedious thing I had ever used in my life. There were so many things we had to do before using it, and it did such a simple thing: found angles to create squares. Alex (Russia) is the only other guy, and his partner, Honoka, is the one looking through the lens. My partner, Nanaho, is supervising us: in actuality, she was much better than me at levelling the device and finding accurate measurements.

 

This is a group photo of all the excavators. From the right is: Nishimura-san (a Tokyo Univ PhD. Student), Honoka, Nanaho, Saki (our Manager), me, Aleks (Russia), Sekine (Wasada Univ. Undergrad), and Kuma-san (Wasada Univ. Grad student).

 

 

This was the day before I left and my last day of excavation. Most of the labor had been done by then, so it was all detail work, measurements, recording, and scale-drawing. Negishi-sensei (the lead archaeologist and our professor) let me take a solo pic inside the dig site. It gives you some idea of how small the site was, but we still managed to spend 8 hrs. every day for a week digging and making measurements. It was a lot of tedious work, but it was all very interesting.

 

The night before my last day, I went to Akita City to watch the massively popular Kanto Festival. The Kanto Festival is an annual Prefecture wide holiday that is celebrated in the heart of Akita City. All along a huge, 4-lane highway called, Kanto street, thousands of spectators and vendors lined the entire length of the street. The main attractions were community teams of drum and flute floats, which were following behind the Kanto performers. Each paper-lantern mast would have logos that represented local communities or businesses. Our own AIU Kanto team performed as well. The sounds of the flute were quite shrill, and the shouts that were used to keep the drums in rhythm echoed down the street and off the buildings. After the performers had spread out to their respective spots, the Kanto team would form a circle and start their performance. Each Kanto mast weighed anywhere from 50-150 lbs., and many of the performers would support this with one hand, their waist-belt, or, for the truly talented, their forehead.

 

This gives you an idea of how many people were lining up to watch, and this was the furthest point of the festival. In the picture you can see the drum platform, on which the flutist and the singers would stand, as well as the drummers. This was taken as all the teams were lining up to start as dusk appeared.

 

 

This is a close-up of one of the teams of Kanto performers, with their mast lying on the ground in front of them.

 

 

 

 

Here is a picture, courtesy of one of the AIU Kanto member’s Facebook, of one of AIU’s Kanto performers transferring the mast, all while fighting the wind.

 

 

 

This is a great picture, again courtesy of the aforementioned Facebook profile, of AIU’s personal Kanto mast, with real flame-candles in each paper lantern. You can also see the vast line of Kanto teams performing. When I was walking back to the beginning of the Festival street, I saw one of the heavy masts fall into the crowd: luckily no one was hurt, but it is always a spectacle that elicits large cries and shouts from the onlookers. It is some what like a tree falling: very drawn-out and dramatic.

 

That night, I finished stuffing all of my clothes and souvenirs into my suitcases and said goodbye to my AIU friends and the full year international students. The next morning, I woke up early to eat my last meal in Japan: a bowl of cafeteria ramen. I met with “the few, the proud, the August 7th crowd.” With the exception of Atsuki, three of us went to Tokyo together on the same plane. I was in a different mood that day, whereas, the night before, I was very sentimental and nostalgic; that day, I was basically ready to go home. I was not looking forward to the long, twenty-hour total flight back to North Carolina. At Akita Airport, I bought some final souvenirs for my family and hung out with Ben and Mary, who were the other two flyers to Haneda, Tokyo.

This was taken the morning of our flight: I had shaved that morning, so I looked particularly pale. Atsuki was probably my best Japanese friend while I was in Japan. He loves Formula-1 racing and dune-buggy racing. He is also on the Kendo club, which is Japanese fencing with wooden swords. He is planning on becoming an English teacher for High School students and spent most of his first semester looking into ways to reform the Japanese primary education system, which he believes does not allow enough flexibility for students to explore academic interest and doesn’t put enough attention on English acquisition programs.

I apologize for the creepy face: it must’ve been a bad angle. In between Ben and I is Mary, really Hsu Ching-Hua, from Taiwan. I actually met her mom and dad in Tokyo at Haneda airport. Their English was pretty good, and her dad helped me get a limo-bus to Narita, from where my flight to O’Hare would be. Funny story: I saw her right before my taxi showed up and she asked if we could share, and I said yes, so she ran to Komachi Lobby (on the other side of campus) to cancel her cab. However, before she got back, my taxi showed up, and I didn’t know enough Japanese to ask him to wait for my friend. I later met her at Akita Airport’s terminal for Haneda, and I profusely apologized and she forgave me.

 

This is a pic of Akita Airport, as you can see from the hill outside, which says AKITA. It was the smallest airport of all the ones I had been to throughout my trip to Japan.

 

 

This is a picture of Haneda airport (one of their two terminals, each of which was about the size of O’Hare). I had just hugged Mary goodbye and was waiting for my limo-bus to come. It was my second time to Haneda, and it was just so huge. The ride to Narita took 45 minutes, and I finally got to see the vast urban sprawl of Tokyo City proper. As someone who has never spent any time in a proper “metropolis”, Tokyo was impossibly huge: the highway bridges were like 20 feet off the ground and hovered between vast expanses of tall buildings and apartment complexes.

 

 

 

This is a rather picturesque view of the skies above the U.S. before we arrived over Greensboro. This was a tiny jet, especially in comparison to ANA’s new Star Wars themed BB-8A that I landed in O’Hare in. In contrast to my flight to Japan, where I couldn’t sleep at all throughout the entire 40 hour process, on the flight back to NC, I slept most of the way.

 

 

This is a grainy pic of Greensboro before landing. I felt a tinge of comfort being back in NC, and I was ready to see my family and my dog.

 

 

 

 

Although it was sad to have to say goodbye to all of the wonderful people that I had met during my stay at AIU, it was by far, the greatest experience of my life, so far. I look forward to going back sometime in the future, but, for now, I have to make sure I graduate on time! Anyway,  I would like to sincerely thank all of the people who helped me get to Japan, not just my family, but also Dr. Widdows and Ms. Wright in the Global Education Department, who were so patient and helpful during my long process of applications and bureaucracy, Stephanie Joynes and the Career Services Department, who helped through the application process and gave me encouragement, Dr. Dinmore, who has helped me in so many ways during my time at H-SC, Dr. Irons, who took me to get my passport finished, and Dr. Eastby, who got me started on the whole process back in my Sophomore year. Without them, and many others, I would not have been able to realize this dream to go to Japan, and, for that, I am eternally grateful.

日本はとても面白かったです。日本に来年もどります。それまで、さよなら。

Sorry for my feeble attempt at Japanese, but I plan on going back to Japan after graduation, so, until then, goodbye!

 

 

こんにちは “Kon’nichiwa”

Laken Williams
Akita International University
Japan

Working with AUWA

Since being at AIU, I have done my best to stay busy, whether that be with studies, clubs, events, or friends. That plan has been a resounding success, but, on the down side, I have not had much time for retrospection or blogging. Nevertheless, I wanted to take the time to talk about my wonderful adventures with a club on campus named, AUWA.

The whole club at their annual Okonomiyaki, event.

 

 

The premise of the club is to connect AIU students, especially International students, with the local community.

Our club getting ready to plant at a local farmer’s, Tooyama-san’s, rice field. I’m all the way at the end with the big hat.

During my time with the club, I have planted rice and vegetables and have helped tend to them; also, the club hosts monthly events to help teach local elementary school students English. To keep it fun and interactive, the members usually participate in singing songs, in Japanese and English (usually songs like “Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star,” and in making arts and crafts, like origami.

Here, we are singing. “Nada Sou Sou” for some local elderly people. Our club president, Sayaka, is on guitar.

 

Some of the really, sweet Oiii-sans and Obaa-sans from the local area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although I have tried many different clubs and activities since coming here, the AUWA events have, by far, been the most interesting and eye-opening.

With members of the club, planting vegetables for next year’s crop.

 

 

Much of the work we have done has been very tiring, but I think that people bond more over hard word and accomplishing a task than just hanging out.

Here, I’m with a few of the other AUWA members and a couple Oiii-sans, enjoying the delicious food they helped prepare.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, farmers make the best food! So, after working, we all get to enjoy home grown food, which allows us to get a taste of the local cuisine from the people that make it best. It isn’t only about having fun and enjoying the food; through the work, we can gain a better understanding of the lifestyle and culture of the local people.

This is the last picture of the club before leaving: we were all sad to see each other off.

Fall’n for Oxford

Ethan Gaines
Virginia Program at Oxford
England 2019

Overall, I am very happy that I decided to study abroad in Oxford for six weeks. While the program was certainly very challenging, it was a very rewarding experience and I am grateful to Hampden-Sydney for providing me with this opportunity. The stereotype of Oxford being an unexciting city where the only things to do are study and attend lectures is very wrong. University Park and the Thames and Cherwell Rivers provide excellent places to relax and hang out with friends, and there are numerous bars and pubs throughout the city to occupy your nights. Through six weeks, Oxford was an amazing place to live, and I could definitely see myself living there in the future.
Studying abroad will most certainly broaden your perspective of the world, as you will meet new people and experience new and different cultures. For the Virginia Program at Oxford, one of the most common talking points between the students and the visiting lecturers or professors were the subtle and major differences between education in England and in the United States. You also learn a ton about yourself while abroad, such as how you would quickly adapt to a brand-new environment, and whether or not traveling interests you in the future.
What I will miss most from my time abroad in Oxford are the relationships I made with not only my peers, but with the professors and tutors as well. I will also miss the amazing food that the cultural hub of Oxford provided to us, and also the amazing pubs. What I will not miss is the four-flight staircase climb to my room every night, the complex laundry system, and the supremely English food in the St. Anne’s dining hall.
As for general advice to future students studying abroad, I would suggest researching any type of restaurant, store, or park you would like to visit in advance, and to visit it as soon as possible because time moves very quickly while abroad. Looking back on it, the six weeks I spent in England feels like a weekend, and I sometimes do wish I was able to do more with my time there.

Fall’n for Oxford

Ethan Gaines
Virginia Program at Oxford
England 2019

During my time in England on the Virginia Program at Oxford, I was blown away at the how good the food was and how culturally diverse the cities of Oxford and London were. St. Anne’s College was surrounded by amazing Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Spanish, and French restaurants that offered delicious meals and reasonable prices. As for my favorite meal on the trip, nearly every place I went to offered an amazing burger, which I would say is my favorite food of all time. Every week, a large group of us would take a short walk to the Rickety Press, a busy pub with great atmosphere, for their five dollar burgers every Monday for lunch, which were definitely the tastiest burgers I have ever eaten.
In my opinion, how you spend your free time on the Virginia Program at Oxford is very different than how you would spend it at Hampden-Sydney. At Sydney, in my free time I would either go to the gym, play videogames, or hang out with my friends after classes. Oxford did not offer a lot of those things, and with the workload being so intensive, any free time I had went towards midday naps and relaxing in my room. Of course, with the drinking age being lower in England, we spent our fair share of free time at bars and pubs, all while being responsible though.
The classroom experience and how you go about studying was also different at Oxford than it is at Hampden-Sydney. Class at Oxford was an hour long every morning, and sometimes in the afternoon, structured so that the lecturer had around forty minutes to present and go in depth into their topic, with the remaining twenty minutes designated for questions. Abroad, it is disrespectful to interrupt the lecture with questions, and the use of cell phones and laptops was prohibited.
How you studied was also very different, in that you could not wait until the late evening to head over to the library and begin your research. You really had to commit each and every week by beginning your research early and writing at all times throughout the day in order to finish a well-written paper on time. There were also more options available as to where to study. Rather than spending all your time at the desk in your room, it was very popular to walk to either the prestigious Bodleian Library or University Park to research your topics. University Park was a favorite of mine to study at because we were blessed with great weather during our time at Oxford.

Fall’n for Oxford

Ethan Gaines
Virginia Program at Oxford
England 2019

On our first weekend at Oxford, the program director, Dr. Ken Fincham, led the group on a tour all around the city of Oxford. We were able to see the majority of the colleges that make up Oxford University, and learned a little history about each. We ended our tour at the world-renowned Bodleian Library, seeing the famous Radcliffe Camera, Sheldonian Theatre, and Divinity School, which were all absolutely fascinating. Over the duration of the program we were able to use the Bodleian Library and its vast resources to help with our intense studies.

Radcliffe Camera at the Bodleian

 

Dr. Fincham teaching us the history of the Bodleian Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the next few weeks the program went on multiple excursions to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Here, we watched live performances of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and Taming of the Shrew at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Also, while we were there mainly for those plays, we were able to enjoy the Stratford River Festival, which is a free festival located along the canals of Stratford that offers live music and great food.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Our view at the Royal Shakespeare Company to see Taming of the Shrew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At about halfway through our time in Oxford, the program provides a long weekend of about four days, encouraging to students to travel all over Europe and experience new and exciting cultures. Taking advantage of this opportunity, three other Hampden-Sydney students and I traveled to the wonderful city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Amsterdam was absolutely gorgeous and on our canal tour we were able see much of the city and learn about its rich history. One of the more exciting things we did while there was visit the Rijks Museum, which is undoubtedly the largest and most intriguing museum I had ever been to. Overall, the long weekend vacation was a good change of pace from our strenuous studies at Oxford.

Canal Tour in Amsterdam

The Rijks Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now on our fifth week of the program, we traveled to Hampton Court Palace and the Globe Theatre in London to see our last Shakespeare play, Henry IV Part 1. Hampton Court Palace was equally gorgeous as it was enormous, consisting of absolutely stunning gardens that surrounded the grounds, and magnificent art galleries which resided within its walls. On our way to the Globe Theatre, we were able to briefly travel around London, allowing me to see St Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge on the Thames River. The play itself was wonderful and the ambience of the Globe theatre was like no other.

The Globe Theatre

London at night

Fall’n for Oxford

Ethan Gaines
Virginia Program at Oxford
England 2019

I chose to participate in the Virginia Program at Oxford because I wanted to experience the academic atmosphere, historical reputation, and cultural prominence that the University and City provides. I am very interested in residing in England for six weeks as the cultural diversity present in the country is astonishing and the scenery is absolutely beautiful. Also, while I have visited Europe on a number of occasions in the past, I had never visited the United Kingdom, so I am really excited to experience something completely new. Overall, the Virginia Program at Oxford provided me with an amazing opportunity to challenge myself academically, and adventure into a unique and incredible culture, so I knew I had to go and experience it!

One of the things I am most looking forward to during my time in Oxford is the diverse selection of food. I have heard from friends and family, who have traveled there in the past, that England has amazing Chinese, Thai, African, Indian, and Italian restaurants. Another thing I am looking forward to is the history involved with the many colleges that make up Oxford University and their unique distinctions.

Since I studied abroad last summer in the beautiful cities of Vienna and Budapest, I wouldn’t say that I am feeling nervous about the trip as I have a good understanding of the daily aspects involved in an abroad program. However, due to the academic prestige and reputation of Oxford University, I am somewhat nervous about what coursework I will be challenged with every week. This style of group tutotial learning is completely different than that of the classes at Hampden-Sydney, and will challenge me to articulate my arguments and challenge my classmates on a myriad of unfamiliar topics. While I am certainly anxious, I am excited to see how I will perform in such settings.

Overall, my goals for this program include learning as much as I can about the history and culture of England, meeting amazing professors and lecturers, exploring the sites and scenery of Oxford, and making great new friends from other schools on the trip.

May Term in Germany

Nick Zurasky
May Term Abroad
Münster, Germany

This is my last week in Germany! I will not lie I am excited to go home soon, but I will miss Germany so much. Just this past night I was out until 3:00 am talking at a bar with people from all over the world. Most were from Germany, but other nationalities include British, Russian, and even Czech. If there’s one thing that I will miss the most, it has to be these conversations. I think that it is the coolest thing that I can walk anywhere here and strike up a conversation about anything with someone not even from my country. And these people love to talk to Americans, too! I had an Australian man bluntly tell me that Americans in a group can be obnoxious, but alone Americans are the nicest people you can find. There is a general sense of respect for everyone here, and sometimes I wonder what it will feel like once I am out of the country. Will it feel different talking to people in the US now?
All in all, my time here has been the adventure of a lifetime. I have done so much I thought I would never do in 6 weeks here. There is so much I could say about my time here, but most of it would be redundant, and all boil down to the same thing: go to Germany if you can. I will admit that Germany does a lot of things much better than America (except for no free water, that’s a big kick in the shins). Anyone could do with a cultured experience like this one, and I implore anyone who wants to visit Europe to go to Germany.
It is my last week here and I plan to make it a fun one. I do have a lot of classwork to do, but there are only three days of classes left until we go to Berlin, so it will be a great time here. I cannot wait to get home, but I also don’t want to leave!

こんにちは “Kon’nichiwa”

Laken Williams
Akita International University
Japan

A Competitive Cultural Exchange
As I promised in my last blog, I plan on catching back up with the present, which means I will have to go back in time a few weeks. A few weeks ago, I stumbled into an amazing opportunity, but I had no idea what was actually involved at the time: all I knew was that there was an opportunity to stay over a weekend and meet people from other colleges in the area, as well as a group of Taiwanese students.

Hard at work at the workshop. From the left: Lai, Sasaki, me and Ko.

The program was called, “Yokote City Design Workshop,” but I just assumed that some company wanted feedback from international and Japanese students about their products. However, when I arrived, a large panel of Japanese officials and Taiwanese product design professors informed us that we had three days to design a product that represented the traditional values of Yokote City’s culture and people. I was assigned to a group with two students from Tatung University in Taiwan, Ko and Lai, and one Japanese student from Akita University of Arts, Sasaki. Early on, there were issues with communication as Ko spoke some English, and Sasaki spoke little English and no Chinese. Fortunately for us, Lai was a Linguistics student, so she formed the link that connected all of our ideas and passed them on to everyone in the group. When I realized that we were all expected to design a product from scratch, create samples and create a PowerPoint presentation, which would be presented in English and Japanese in front of a panel of local officials, I thought for sure that I would be dead weight: what business does a History major, who can’t draw to save his life, belong in a room full of graphics design majors from Art Schools. I did my best to contribute ideas and some “rough” sketches, and my teammates assured me that I was helpful, whether they were being nice or not, I don’t know.

The same scene from another angle. And, if you look in the background, you can see my friend, Jo, in the white hoodie: he is a grad student at Akita University of Arts.
Fortunately, the workshop wasn’t all work and no play. On Saturday, we were all given a guided tour of Yokote City, and it was amazing.

 

Yokote-jo (castle).

 

Nature area behind the castle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view from atop the castle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some cool examples of Samurai armor from inside the castle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps one of my favorite places in Yokote is the Kamakura-house museum, which maintains a real example, all year round, of the “igloo-type” houses that the locals build in the winter.

From the left: Zack (D.C.), Me, Jo and Hiroomi (Akita Univ. of Arts). By the way, it was extremely cold in there: the room is a kind of refrigerator that keeps the snow from melting.

 

 

Afterwards, we headed back to the old High School where we were working on our projects. After the presentations, the winners were announced, and, unfortunately, we did not win.

Here was our banner, which Ko designed himself.

 

Here was one of the covers of our notebook, which had all four seasons, designed by Sasaki (she drew these from scratch using software!).

 

 

This was the Spring themed cover, with Yokote-jo surrounded by cherry blossoms.

 

 

 

 

 

Here was the Summer themed cover, featuring the fireworks festival.

 

 

 

 

 

Here was the Autumn themed cover, representing the local produce, which would be harvested in the Fall.

 

 

 

 

Finally, my personal favorite, the Winter themed cover, featuring an Akita-inu in traditional festival clothes, sheltering in a Kamakura-house.

 

 

 

 

Here, you can see my modest contribution to the drawing: many of the professors complimented me on my efforts, but I think they just thought it was a cute attempt.

 

 

At the end, all of the participants were given hand-towels as gifts, and the winners received nice, gift-wrapped packages. And, since I was a late addition to the program, I was not presented with a certificate, so Ko drew me up a new one.

After the awards ceremony, we all got on busses and visited the new manga museum, which hadn’t even opened to the public yet. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures of the inside, but I have some pictures with all of us before we had to say our sad goodbyes.

Ko and I.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lai and I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last photo of us all together.

 

Afterwards, we all got on separate buses and headed back to our respective colleges. The Taiwanese students stayed another night before getting on a plane back to Taiwan. Ko informed me afterwards that it was significantly hotter in Taiwan than in the mountains of northern Honshu.

 

After all was said and done, I was so happy that I was able to attend the workshop and meet these wonderful people. Initially, I was skeptical because we had to sleep on the floor of an old classroom, for one thing, which I was not excited about, but, by the end, I find everything memorable and are unique experiences, which come straight out of an anime.