Quentin Smith (Reflection on New Zealand)

My twenty-first birthday is easily the most memorable birthday that I will probably ever have, but not for the reason that many other people would say. On that day, I landed in New Zealand for my study abroad adventure and my first time outside the United States. The first few days at orientation were incredible—we were all exposed to some of the New Zealand landscape, the wildlife, and the food relatively quickly. After a short period at orientation, my group elected another gentleman and me to represent them all as chiefs at a traditional Maori marae, or meeting house. I was blown away by the opportunity, and I’ll never forget the experience of speaking in Maori to Maori elders.

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Once I arrived in Dunedin, the city that I called home for the next four months, I really started to enjoy the country. I was living in a flat with three other students, purchased groceries and cooked for myself, paid for electricity, and had more than one fight with one of my flatmates about whether or not to use the dryer (the clothesline was perfectly functional, but Dunedin cold and rainy for most of my stay). Throughout the semester, IFSA-Butler treated the whole group to different excursions: a murder-mystery dinner party, volunteering at an eco-sanctuary, a rafting trip, and an overnight cruise in the beautiful Doubtful Sound in the Fiordlands.

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During my time in New Zealand, my Norwegian friends taught me how to say one particular curse word, my Swedish friends went jogging with me, my Kiwi friends got me to more fully appreciate the simpler things, my many German hostel-mates  made me laugh, and my American friends became closer than I could have imagined. I’ve never felt more connected to other parts of the world, and transversely, I’ve never felt more at home. Ever since I left New Zealand, I’ve felt an immitigable desire to return. I feel out of place back at Hampden-Sydney. Hopefully my girlfriend, who I met on my twenty-first birthday, and I will return there someday soon.

Thomas Bourne (Dublin, Feb. 22)

Hello again, Hampden-Sydney! I just got back from a long weekend trip in Slovakia and Austria. I skipped by Friday class to fly to Slovakia, where I immediately was faced with a challenge—the language difference. I wasn’t sure how to react, so I figured that the safest thing for me to do was find my hotel first. I had no idea how to navigate through the city because all of the road signs were in Slovak. I eventually found it and checked in, then spent the evening walking around the old city. The old buildings looked amazing and there were a lot of little cute shops around. I didn’t explore for very long because I had to get up early to get to Vienna.

In the morning I left for Austria, and the trip was lovely. I decided to ride the train to Vienna, and I was rewarded by views of the beautiful countryside. It looked like something straight out of a movie! When I arrived, I didn’t get as much of a culture shock as I did when I got to Slovakia, but it was still present. The biggest change between Bratislava, where I stayed in Slovakia, and Vienna was how much more advanced and modern the city was. The train station was massive in comparison.

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I finally set out to explore the city, and it was stunning. The imperial palace at the center of the city took my breath away. Unfortunately, the museums in the area were rather expensive, so I didn’t get to tour any. My stomach started rumbling, so my next objective was to find dinner. It hadn’t occurred to me that it was Valentine’s Day, so many of the restaurants I tried to get into were booked, but I eventually found an Italian place for the evening.

The next day, I spent the day hiking through the hills surrounding Vienna. On one of the peaks, I found a quaint little alpine village with an incredible view. I made my way back into the city, and that night I went to a Mozart concert in one of the royal palaces. Overall, the trip was fantastic. That being said, when I got back home to Dublin, I was glad to be somewhere familiar.

 

Thomas Bourne (Dublin, Feb. 10)

Hello, my friends! I hope all is well back on the Hill. I can’t believe that the semester is already flying by; it feels like just yesterday that I arrived in Dublin. UCD Dublin so far is great, but nothing can compare to good ‘ol HSC. Since arriving in Dublin, I have missed a couple of things. The first are my friends back at Hampden-Sydney. When Hampden-Sydney says that the friendships you make there last forever, they’re right! I wish my friends were here to experience everything. Besides missing my friends, the one other part of HSC that I miss very much is, surprisingly, The Moans. I never thought that those words would come out of my mouth, but they have! Cooking for myself has been a struggle. I know how to cook, and the food comes out great when I do, but I can’t get myself to cook very often. What The Moans does for us is amazing, and my respect for them has grown since being away from campus. Since we are on the topic of food, I really wish I brought pretzels. The only pretzels that I have found in the store have been rather expensive for how much food I actually get. I asked my dad if he would be able to send me some—he said that they should be here in six to eight days, but that’s just way too long for me.

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The Sunderland EPL game

In my last entry, I said that I was going to attend an English Premier League game soon. I went to the Sunderland game and it was amazing! Sunderland won the game by two goals and the atmosphere of the crowd after the game was unbelievable. That day, my group and I went to explore Newcastle, England. We met a nice couple who we talked with for several hours. That experience is something that I will never forget, since this was the first time that my friends and I were able to sit down and really talk to some locals. The couple introduced us to some of their friends, one of whom was a former Oxford Professor. I told the professor that I was hoping to participate in the Virginia Program at Oxford (VPO), and he looked so excited. He started listing off things so many things for me to remember about Oxford, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to remember all of it!

William Duncan (Barcelona, Jan. 23)

While choosing to attend Hampden-Sydney College was a difficult decision to make, the decision to determine my study abroad location to be Barcelona, Spain proved to be oven more challenging. As I don’t know what I want to do after college, I have been set on studying abroad for some time now. I’m biased towards warmer weather, so I knew I wanted to be somewhere close to water and in a warm climate. I had never been out of the country before and I knew I wanted to see Europe, but I was unsure where I wanted to spend the majority of my time. However, my selection process might have been a little different from others who chose to study abroad. I had to complete one more level of Spanish for my core curriculum requirements, so I began to narrow down places where I could take Spanish classes. Then, I looked at climate, culture, history, and environment, rather than at specific programs. I wanted the best cultural experience, rather than the best study abroad program. After comparing Madrid, Valencia, and Barcelona, I decided that Barcelona met my requirements for what I was looking for in a host city. This masterfully designed metropolis, full of historic artwork and architecture by the famous Gaudi, inhabits the shore of the beautiful Costa Brava and is the capital of the passionate Catalonians. While Madrid and Valencia both are fantastic options, I felt Barcelona was the place I needed to call home on this eye opening experience.

When I was planning for my trip abroad, I saw that Barcelona had a heavily athletic aspect of the city. Being an avid sports fan, this called to me: I am dying to attend a game in the historic Camp Nou stadium to watch one of the richest fútbol clubs in the world, F. C. Barcelona. I can’t wait to see the best player in the world without requiring a television—Lionel Messi. I want to be engrossed with the fans and experience the same passion that they feel, I want to bear the bitter cold temperatures in the signature Barcelona scarves to watch their famous blue and red jerseys fight for victory, I want to be at a small, local bar, cheering Neymar Jr. on to net another flashy goal. As a foreigner, how else am I supposed to truly absorb what it’s like to live in Barcelona?

Barcelona’s stunning coast called to me as well. I work as a sailing instructor for Camp Sea Gull in Arapahoe, North Carolina, but I’m sacrificing that summer work in order to experience sailing off the coast of Spain. I wanted to be somewhere where I could share my passion for this sport with. Barcelona has such a rich sailing culture. Its ports are lined with an excess of sailboats: day sailors, schooners, and massive yachts bob gently in the harbor. I feel like this is a reasonable substitute for my summer job.

Regardless of the endless experiences that Barcelona has to offer, I will admit that I was extremely nervous upon arrival. I am the only Hampden-Sydney student in Barcelona. I knew nobody in my abroad program. My biggest fear was that I might not meet enough people to be comfortable in this new environment. Not only am I not a great speaker of Spanish, but I have never lived in a city as large as Barcelona. One can imagine the culture shock of going abroad for the first time, but an unexpected culture shock was added when I realized how large Barcelona actually is… then again, that’s not saying much when compared to Farmville.

I made my biggest fear my main goal for my time in Barcelona: I want to meet new people from different places. I have lived in the Southeast United States for all of my life, and while I love it more than anything, I think that I should expand my horizons and meet people from many places around the world. I feel that being able to open myself up to new people is a trait that I will be able to use for the rest of my life. Two weeks into the program, I have found that there are many other students who are looking to do the same. I have found a fun group of friends who are from all around the country and are looking to experience Barcelona culture in the same ways that I am. They bring different outlooks on life and their different passions make this experience more exciting. I would not think to try some of the things we’ve experienced if not for these new friends and I could not be more excited to see what else Barcelona and the rest of Europe have to offer with my new friends at my side.

William Imeson (Valencia, January 16)

William Imeson (Valencia, January 16)

I have now been in Valencia for almost a week and it is already far more than I could have ever anticipated. As I prepared for the trip, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, other than the basic cultural differences that come with visiting another country. I knew that I would be taking some classes with my program and that I would be with other students my age. I knew that Valencia has two official languages: Spanish and Valencian. I knew that people in Spain eat different kinds of food at different times of the day. But aside from these basic understandings, I really don’t have any preset notions of what my semester here would be like. I will just let my experience in Spain and with my study abroad program play out and see where it takes me.

I always knew that if I studied abroad, I would want to go to a Spanish speaking country. I have studied Spanish for about eight years, and I wanted to be able to put that practice to good use. For the record, I don’t speak Valencian at all, but it isn’t too terribly different from Spanish if you can make a few educated guesses at words that are similar to Spanish. I chose to travel to Spain because there are a lot of good study abroad programs for this country and because I wanted to return to Europe. I went to Europe as a child and I felt compelled to go back. I eventually decided on the University of Virginia Hispanic Studies Program at Valencia because it is a language-intensive program and I heard positive reviews about it from previous students in this program.

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The two things I look forward to most are travelling around Spain and improving my Spanish. I sometimes forget that the United States is still an infant compared to these ancient European countries. Spain has been around for so long and history can be seen all around the country. There’s something intriguing about walking around an old city and feeling its age beneath your shoes (side note: I also don’t mind that Valencia averages about 65° Fahrenheit during the day in winter). Although I would certainly enjoy learning some Valencian, I don’t know if I will be here long enough to pack two languages into my brain. The first couple of days have been a jet-lag induced whirlwind, but now that I have been here for a while, I have started to acclimate and will start my classes soon. While I wouldn’t say that I’m dying for them to start, I’m sure it will be nice to finally get out of Morton and Bagby.

Thomas Bourne (Dublin, January 16)

Hello from the Emerald Isle! I’m really thankful to Hampden-Sydney College for giving me the chance to fulfill my dream of traveling to Ireland. One might ask: why would I pick Ireland instead of somewhere like Germany, Spain, or Australia. The answer is fairly simple—history. The history engrained in Ireland is both mystifying and rich. The preservation of the Catholic Church at the fall of the Roman Empire and the multitude of bloody battles over centuries for Irish independence are two fine examples of the history of this fine country. However, history was not the only factor in my decision to study in Ireland. The vast and beautiful natural world that Ireland offers, with rolling green hills and spectacular cliffs, appeals to my love for nature and to my Environmental Studies minor.

Now that I’m in Ireland, the long wait for classes to start has begun. My biggest fear is how different these classes will be from Hampden-Sydney College. When I got to University College Dublin (UCD Dublin) on Tuesday, I walked around campus to soak in the atmosphere. The campus is huge and really spread out; I have to walk way further to get to my classes here than I did at HSC. Another big difference is the environment for classes: instead of small classrooms,  UCD Dublin uses theaters that seat nearly three hundred students. Hopefully my anxiety for these changes subsides, but we’ll have to wait and see.

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I’m trying to plan a trip to Sunderland, England to watch the Sunderland A.F.C. (Go, Black Cats!) face Burnley F.C.. Hopefully, this won’t be the only time I travel; I hope to travel to Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and Germany and see more of our incredible natural world.

Taylor Anctil (Provence, Jan 25.)

Hello everybody, it’s Taylor S. Anctil reporting from Provence, France. I chose to come to France because I thought it was high time I took my study of the French culture and language seriously. I chose the IAU College program because it offered several courses that would contribute to my major and because I would be residing with a French family.

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During my time in France, I am most especially looking forward to exploring all of the nearby villages. I already have my bus pass and my travel companion, therefore I shall be reporting back soon with inside knowledge of all the neat spots to visit and out-of-the-way places.

There is really not all that much that I am nervous about. My rather gung ho personality and way of facing the world leave little time to think and get nervous about the experience itself. If I had to choose something, I would say that I am most nervous about my inability to speak with French women—my inability to speak French fluently, that is. I can communicate well enough with my host family and my teachers, but as soon as I go into a store or café, I get so flustered and mixed up that you can hardly get two coherent sentences out of me! The girls are just so pretty and speak so quickly that I hardly know on which to place my concentration: the girls or the language.

I mentioned earlier, my goals are to study the French culture, learn the language, eat, drink, and be as merry as possible (and squeeze a few classes in as well). I want to be so comfortable by the end of my stay here that I am mistaken for a local—that would be the best goal to achieve.

Taking Part in a Foreign Culture

By Justin Smith ’11

As Americans, we often find ourselves visiting other countries, whether it be for business or vacation. We spend a week or two shopping, eating out, and visiting famous museums and beaches. We then return home, making the claim that we visited “this place, that place, and everywhere else”. But do we truly understand the countries we visit? Do we take part in their culture, discovering what makes them so unique? I thought about these questions as I partook in the study abroad program to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I wanted to experience what it meant to be Argentine, that I could then share my experiences and observations.

One of the first things I had to get accustomed to was the family life in Argentina. My host family consisted of my host mom, Marta, whom I love dearly; my host brother, Nicolas, who was crazy about guitars, jazz, and blues; and the cat, Martina, who somewhat despised my existence, except at mealtimes. One thing I found interesting was that the children usually stayed at home until they got married. This is because it is so expensive to get an apartment, which is what most people live in, that they have to wait until they can live with a spouse. Thus, oftentimes, there would be thirty-year-olds living with their parents. This does not seem to be a problem, as most families in Argentina are extremely close; this is true for the extended family as well. At least once per week, Marta invited her sister, her brother, nieces, nephews, an the occasional friend over to the apartment. There was always something going on with the family. Another interesting fact is that the members of the family are often very open with each other. For example, one day Marta asked me how my life was going with my lady friends. I told her it was fine. I didn’t realize that any other Argentine would have gone into some detail, variations of such depending on the person. As I didn’t offer more information, she began to pry. That was when I learned that almost anything was up for discussion when dealing with families. To be honest, I got a kick out of it!

One other thing I find important when traveling are the friendships. If you don’t have the luxury of being with a family when you travel, you should definitely try to make some good friends! Making friends is another way to experience the culture of the place you’re visiting. I found my friends to b every interesting. From what I saw, most people in Buenos Aires are extremely outgoing. When I was invited to go hang out with my friends, it was often in groups of three to ten. We would go to parks, museums, coffee shops, movies, etc. One thing what intrigued me was that not once did we go out to movies, or watch TV, and call it a night.l Always, without fail, we talked, and talked, and talked. Talking, for Argentines, is the method by which one gets to know one’s friends. And they talk for hours on end, whether it be joking, politicking, or just a friendly conversation. What’s even more interesting is what I call the “ceremony of talking”. Usually, when we got together, someone would have a strong tea called “mate.” They would pour hot water from a jug into a mate gourd, and then pass it to someone. The person drinking could not way “thank you” until they were done drinking (I learned this after my friends looked at me weirdly when I did so beforehand.) The gourd would then go back to the server, who would pass it to another person. When the water ran out, the server would run and get more. This went on the entire time they were conversing. It was truly an interesting experience, one that I repeated many a time.

What I depicted was but a small part of the things I took part in. If you are fortunate enough to travel somewhere, make it worth your while. It’s fun to go clubbing almost every night of the week, but it’s also beneficial to get in on the culture. There are many way s to go about it: talk to shop owners, go to performances, take a walk to national museums, etc. We may say that the world is a small place, but it gets bigger with every new culture we take part in. So: don’t pass up a great opportunity the next time it comes around. You never know what you might learn!

International Club Celebrates Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

By Nay Min Oo ‘12

The International Club celebrated on October 7th the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the biggest festivals in China.  More than 80 students, faculty, and staff attended the event at Crawley Forum. Among them were Eric Dinmore, Assistant Professor of History, and Dr. J. Z. Zhao, Assistant Professor of Economics.

The celebration started with a video to introduce the Mid-Autumn Festival.  The Chinese have a special affection for the moon, and there are many stories about the Mid-Autumn Festival.  The most popular is the myth of Chang’e, the lady who lives on the moon with her rabbit.  On Mid-Autumn Day, millions of Chinese worship the Moon Lady.  In addition they hold family reunions.  Since a full moon represents the family, all the members will try to reach home on this day no matter how far apart they are.

Together, the family will enjoy the moon on a cloudless night and eat moon cakes—an essential and special feature of this festival.  The tradition of moon cakes started as the sacrificial offering to the moon and later became symbolic food.  The first slice of the moon cake is always offered to the oldest one in the family to show respect to the elders.  Although the general features of the Mid-Autumn Festival are the same, different regions have their own unique traditions.  The video also showed the process of making moon cakes.

After the video, Professor Anthony Zhang, Chinese Fulbright Scholar and professor of Chinese, led nine students from his class in reciting a traditional Chinese poem, “Shui Diao Ge Tou” (Thinking of You).  After the recitation, the students sang the poem as Professor Zhang played the piano.

Next, the Tai Yin Chinese Lion Dance team from Maryland performed the famous lion dance for the audience.  This performance was made possible by the generous help of Mladen Cvijanovic, Assistant Dean of Students for Intercultural Affairs.  The lion dance team consisted of five members who were passionate about this traditional Chinese art.  They first explained the history of the lion dance.  According to the myth, thousands of years ago, the Lion from the mountain would frequently go down to the villages and harm the livestock.  However, after confrontation with the villagers, the Lion became their friend and protector.  Therefore, to honor the Lion, people developed this highly acrobatic lion dance.

The lively music of drums and gongs and the energetic performance of the lion dance pumped up the atmosphere in Crawley Forum.  The audience gave a round of applause whenever the team performed a breathtakingly difficult move.  For example, very often the young man in front would jump in the air and land on his partner’s shoulders.

After the dance, the team also demonstrated Chinese Kung Fu such as Small Five Animal Fist, Big Five Animal Fist, Chinese Broad Sword, and Big Buddha Stick.  The audience was amazed at these moves, which had been seen only in the Kung Fu movies.

After a question-and-answer session, the performers taught the children present how to lion dance.

As the final part of the event, the organizers served moon cakes and refreshments.  All the guests left with a new understanding of another culture, the taste of delicious moon cakes in their mouths, and smiles on their faces.

International House Hold Open House

By Nay Min Oo ’12

On September 16, the International House continued its annual tradition of an Open House.  The event was a huge success with a turnout of more than a hundred enthusiastic guests including faculty, students, and staff who were eager for a taste of exotic Asian food.  The foods served at the event did not disappoint the guests as each was gone shortly after it was served. The specialties were Shan rice noodle, Kung Pao chicken, Chinese meat pies, spring rolls, stir-fried bean sprouts, fried rice, and Navajo fry bread.

The celebration started at 5:30 PM, and, as the first dish, my Shan noodle was presented to the guests. It is noodle soup with pork curry.  Shan noodle is very popular in Myanmar (Burma). Since my parents run a noodle shop back home, I had no difficulty making the family food. “We are noodle folk. Broth runs through our veins,” if I may quote from the movie, Kung Fu Panda.  The guests enjoyed the Shan noodle but commented that the serving was too big as they wanted to try other food as well. Luckily for Shihao Tian ’12 from China, I had reduced the serving size, so that the guests were able to enjoy his Kung Pao chicken, the glorious outcome of his decision to learn to cook during summer. Kung Pao chicken is fried with garlic, onion, cashews, and dry chili peppers.  Tian’s authentic specialty proved to be especially popular among the guests as two large bowls of chicken were gone in a very short time.

After Tian’s Kung Pao chicken, Professor Anthony Zhang (foreground), Chinese Fulbright Scholar and professor of Chinese, and Ke Shang ’13 from China served the highly-anticipated Chinese meat pies.  These meat pies were fried dumplings stuffed with a mix of grounded beef and vegetables.  The demand for the meat pies was very high among the guests.  Even after the event was over, there were still many people waiting about in the hope that there might be more these delicious pies.

Originally, we planned to serve only the above three dishes for the event as we anticipated no more than 50 people to show up.  In fact, more than a hundred guests showed up, and this unexpectedly large number pleasantly surprised the organizers.  To accommodate the greater number of the guests, we decided to cook more dishes—stir-fried bean sprouts, spring rolls, fried rice, and Navajo fry breads.  For the stir-fried bean sprouts, the duty fell into the hands of Tian, our main chef of the evening, who also impressed the people in the kitchen with his masterful pan-flipping skill.

Tan Le ’10 from Vietnam, President of International Club, cooked spring rolls and Vietnamese fried rice. Moreover, two American students, Alex Burner ’10 and Will Thomas ’11 contributed to the variety of food by making Navajo fry breads.  The Open House event finally closed at 8, an hour later than originally planned. Although the organizers, especially the chefs, were tired and hungry after the cookout, they were delighted with the success of the event.

This event showed the rising level of diversity and cultural awareness at Hampden-Sydney.  The Hampden-Sydney International House has contributed significantly to this higher level of awareness on campus. It is located in the Fraternity Circle between the Minority Student Union (MSU) and Women’s Guest House, and the house has an open door policy to everyone.