William Imeson (April)

Somehow, this semester is finally coming to a close. I have only ten days left in Spain and I will soon be taking my final exams and packing up all of my things. I must say, back in January it certainly seemed like this day would never come. Although the end of a semester always comes abruptly, this study abroad experience has certainly amplified the feeling. It was seemingly just yesterday that I was stumbling around this Spanish apartment and trying to figure my way around a foreign city.

As far as expectations go, I tried to limit mine so I could come into this study abroad with an open mind. I didn’t want to set all kinds of goals that I would then either have to struggle to meet or just not meet altogether. I know some people who came here already knowing what they would be doing every weekend and where they would be travelling and where everything in the city was. I preferred to let all of that happen around me and see where I ended up. Lazy? Perhaps. But I would say it worked out pretty well for me.

Of course I expected to learn Spanish and meet new people, but that is pretty basic. I ended up travelling to Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, and Florence, and those trips happened basically because I knew some people that were going and decided to hop on board. If anything, I probably set my Spanish expectations too high. I came to Spain hoping to achieve some sort of mastery over the language, and I would say that hasn’t quite happened. I would definitely say I am fluent, but it is still pretty obvious to most people that I am not from Spain when I talk to them. I understand them and they understand me, but just like English there are countless phrases and witticisms that would take more than four months to conquer.

I will miss a number of things from this trip when I return home. Just being able to walk up to a stranger and converse with them in a different language is such a thrill. It really feels like a door to a whole different world has been opened. I was so honored the few times that Spaniards told me my Spanish or my accent was good. It’s not something you can ever really get in a classroom. After my trip to Italy, I was relieved to come back to Spain and a language that I spoke. It turns out that while Italian and Spanish are both romance languages, they aren’t that similar at all. Sure some words sound the same, but if you try to talk to an Italian in Spanish you will probably just receive a blank stare.

The other thing that I will miss is just living in Valencia. I grew up in Harrisonburg, Virginia and then moved to the outskirts of Farmville, Virginia. Valencia is the first big city I have lived in and I really enjoyed the life here. Valencia isn’t so big like Madrid or Barcelona where it takes forever to get around, but it’s not too small either. I don’t feel as though I have run out of things to do or places to go, and I thoroughly enjoy walking and biking around the city. It is a beautiful place that has an old European feel to it and emits a pleasant yellow glow at night. I’m not entirely sure how; I suppose it has something to do with the street lights and architecture. Valencia will always hold a special place in my heart and I highly recommend studying here to anyone who might be interested. Or even if you’re not interested, you should do it anyway.

 

Atop the Duomo in Florence

WI atop Florentine Duomo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Park Guell

WI Park Guell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pope in Vatican Square

WI Vatican and the Pope

 

Taylor Anctil (March)

I have yet to encounter a dish that I have not enjoyed during my stay in France. As cliché as this may sound… I have to say that my favorite dish is ratatouille. My host mother makes it quite frequently and it is my favorite because of the taste and because of its versatility. One can use it as a sauce for pasta or as a side for the plate.

It is really easy to prepare and I have made sure to learn it so I can bring it back home with me. All you need is equal parts diced: eggplant, zucchini, red bell pepper, then an onion or two, some garlic and spices: basil, parsley salt and pepper. Then add water to just cover the vegetables and you simmer until all the vegetable are tender.

Well, if I am being frankly honest with myself, the thing which I have accomplished which makes me proud is I have managed to overcome my fear of girls. It is not a fear really but rather an apprehension of going on dates and nervousness when it comes to anything romantic. I am proud to say that I have summoned up the courage to ask a few girls out for drinks and seeing as it was rather enjoyable I have decided that I had been most foolish to not start sooner!

Now, not every date was for romantic intentions, often it was just to get to know another person better. I have really enjoyed the afternoons I have spent with the French students at the local university. They were all really friendly and great people to talk to. They offer insights into the culture and new perspectives on how to view the world.

That really is one of the things I am most happy about, that I had the courage to ask these girls for some of their time and they said yes.

I in fact have not changed how I spend my free time. First of all I define free time as the time when I am not engaged in academic pursuits or spending time with friends in a social setting. Free time for me is when I am entirely at my own disposal. Therefore in that regards little has changed in the manner I pass the time.

I have picked up writing though. Before I left Mr. Burns gave me a journal as a Christmas present ads since then I have filled it with thoughts, experiences, wishful thinking, and escape plans. I grew so loquacious that I have since started a new one and I think I will keep on journaling. It focuses the day and it is nice to put down concretely that stuff that just kind of floats around in my head.

Another of my favorite pursuits is to just sit in a café with a coffee or beer and spend the time reading. It is something that I really cannot do in the United States and I relish the opportunity to sit out in the sun and just be in the world, but perfectly at my ease. There is hustle and bustle all around me on the Cours Mirabeau, but I am at my leisure with my book.

I am making progress with the language. It is for that reason that I am most irritated at having to leave soon. I have finally reached a point where I am comfortable enough in Aix and in my language abilities to be able to participate in the city more. So the trouble is, now I that I have reached that point… I go. Oh well, C’est la vie!

My school is an American school… and my host mother is English… so I have had to really push myself to get away from English speakers. To that end I sing in the choir at church, go out with French girls, joined the bridge group and a youth group. I have surrounded myself with activities that involve no English and force me to speak only French.

Such antics and activities have not come without their slip-ups and gaffs. I think the most embarrassing which did not get pointed out to me until much later was the misuse of the verb jouir. The verb jouir means to ejaculate, and I had thought it meant to enjoy. So there I was… with a bunch of church choir members and I was trying to explain how much I enjoyed singing with them the last couple weeks.

Well once I learned the meaning of this word. The sentence ran along these lines: “I have ejaculated these past weeks while we have sung together. Pretty ridiculous, however I do think it is a good verb to know.

While studying in Aix, I am taking five classes. So within the classroom I am learning about International Relations, The European Union, Wine, French Grammar and Culture. The latter two are taught in French.

I enjoy immensely all of my classes. My professors are engaging and because I am on another continent it is interesting to hear a European’s view on foreign relations and how one has democratic participation in supranational organizations.

I have learned about the different characteristics of wine varietals. So what grapes give what flavors and how the soil composition of the vineyards affects the flavors of the grapes. I think that as a gentleman a proper cultivation of a knowledge pertaining to wine and spirits is necessary, so to that end I have been pursuing my education in the bars and cafés of Aix-en-Provence.

This is the education that one cannot receive in a classroom. The lesson in drinking culture and the flavors of different cocktails and drinks has to be experienced first-hand. Naturally, social skills and cultural exchanges occur at these places of revelry and fun. It is my personal opinion that I have made the most growth in this arena: the area of social interaction and confidence in meeting new people and getting along with them.

I go out in the evening. That has to be the biggest difference between my studying in Aix and at Hampden-Sydney. Part of it is that I have much fewer responsibilities over here. Back home I have several jobs, I am a resident advisor, and the course load is much more rigorous and time consuming, (and also there is nowhere to go out to in Farmville). Here is Aix there are several night clubs, lots of bars and cafes, less schoolwork and no work, therefore I can afford to go out and stay up a bit late each night. Over here I average going out twice a week, back at home it would be there rare event if I went out twice a week.

I need to mention that my mindset has changed too. I no longer think it is a bad thing to stay out late. It is no longer a bad thing to cut loose and dance a little every once in a while. Everybody thinks that the French are uptight, but it was the French who helped me realize that I was the uptight one, and it was time for me to change.

I will be coming back home with a new appreciation of what I have at school and with my adoptive family on campus, but also a little bit changed. I was one of the worst skeptics of the life changing experience that studying abroad purportedly caused. And now I think I have to be one of the largest proponents. I have not fundamentally changed I think, but important life values and views have shifted, and broadened to be more encompassing and welcoming. I do not know, it is still too early, I need to write back after a year or two to be able to tell for sure.

We use two buildings. The first is the main hall and it is a converted chapel. It was a penitent chapel and it was the place that prisoners and political mal-doers were taken to confess their sins, pray and reflect after being tortured at the Hotel de Ville around the corner. It is entirely stone and, (all of old Aix is stone) and I have the opinion that one can still smell the incense used for all of those centuries. I think that the stone must have soaked in the smell and now it quietly seeps out to lend an air of tranquility and somberness to the place. I do not care for the building as a place of instruction because I think the feel of the building stifles class participation and talking because the building still holds a sort of reverence.

The other building is called Manning hall and it is a converted personal residence. Sometimes, if I am not paying particular attention to the lecture, I like to imagine what the different rooms once were. Manning Hall has a grand front door and a big spiral staircase that goes up three floors and the building is tiles in these hexagonal tiles which are very popular in southern France for paving floors. I love the building because there is a secret staircase which goes up the back and I like using it and getting around that way. It brings a smile to my face every time I use it. The whole building is a puzzle because some of the rooms are only accessible through others. It is great fun to have class in this building.

William Duncan (April 28)

I’m extremely glad to be back home in the States. I’m ready to go visit H-SC and see my friends, I’m ready to see my family and be in my own bed. I am going to miss Barcelona like crazy, though. There are many special qualities of that place that are giving me excuses to go back in the future.

What I found that I loved from Barcelona and Europe was the quality of the things there. The food was fresh – you can buy a fresh baguette for 35 cents and have a great, cheap sandwich for 2 days. It’s really easy to keep a very healthy and well-balanced lifestyle there. Breakfasts usually consist of granola or fruit and lunch and dinners are usually light and healthy. Although I am looking forward to digging into some Fishin’ Pig BBQ when I visit H-SC.

Probably my all-time favorite part of the city is that it’s close to both the beautiful Mediterranean Sea and a quaint mountain range. I could go hike up to the top of Parc Güell and then go bring a cooler of beer to the beach all in the same day. Theres usually 2-3 F.C. Barcelona soccer games on every week, so it’s always fun to go to a bar to watch the game or go see it in person.

Duncan Soccer Match

If you’re looking for a more relaxed day, there are plenty of cafes and parks to grab a coffee or sit out and people watch. If you’re lucky, you might just meet someone famous, like the President of F.C. Barcelona, Josep Maria Bartomeu, who frequents the corner café on my street.

Duncan Local Cafe

I’m really going to miss the feeling of always having something to do. One of the major differences of being home and abroad is the feeling to make the most of every day. In Barcelona, I was almost pressured to go see something or do something fun or different since I knew I only had a limited time there. I hope I am able to keep that sense as I am back home. I really feel that I have taken a lot for granted back home and at school. This summer and next year I hope to take advantage of everything in the States.

Thomas Bourne (April 2)

Thomas Bourne, April (Dublin)

I believe spring has arrived in Ireland, but possibly not. Last week, the weather was perfect. The temperatures were comfortable, the sky was clear, and there were lots of students with ice cream playing on the various greens around campus. I really wanted to imitate them, but I had to get to class and I had way too much sugar last week. This week, however, the weather has changed for the worse—it’s cold windy, raining, and sometimes hailing. The drastic change in weather reminded me a lot of the weather back at HSC. Fortunately, the weather forecast predicts improvement. I’ve been looking in to visiting some nice Dublin beaches, so I’d love to do that when I have a day off.

 Bourne soccer

               I played my last competitive rugby game last Thursday with UCD Dublin, and I’m sad that the season is over. It was an honor and an amazing experience to play rugby in Ireland and learn more about the game from them. We lost our game Thursday by one try, after a hard fought game. We were determined the underdogs, but we didn’t let that get us down: the other team really had to fight for their result. It was a dream come true to play rugby in Ireland!

William Imeson (Valencia, Feb. 23)

I have been in Valencia for a little over a month now and it’s finally beginning to feel almost normal. The initial shock of waking up in the mornings and realizing that I’m halfway around the world has worn off, and now I’ve settled into a fairly standard weekly routine. I have classes from Monday through Thursday, and these three day weekends are fantastic. The UVA center here offers 90-minute Spanish classes twice a week that feel pretty similar to the classes at HSC.

Each morning, I have three options for travel to get to class. I can walk, take the bus, or ride a bike. Valencia has a system called Valenbisi, which allows people with a pass to rent a bike for half an hour. There are over one hundred in the city, so after I bought my pass, I can ride these around Valencia freely as long as I return it before the time expires. This is my main method of transportation. I live about forty walking minutes from the school, but the bike cuts that time in half. I bike to school through Turia River, which is a huge park system that goes through the middle of the city and is one of my favorite places in Valencia. It used to be an actual river, but it kept overflowing and damaging the surrounding area. The city diverted the water and turned the riverbed into a long park, filled with palm trees, grass, and flowers. I live pretty close to Turia and it’s a good short cut to get to school. Turia River has several skate parks, soccer and rugby fields, and is always full of people biking, jogging, and walking.

blog

I live in an apartment in the middle of the city with my host mother and one of her sons, who happens to be my age. It’s actually a pretty large apartment and we have plenty of space. The apartment is long and narrow, and has a nice living room that overlooks the street. Unfortunately, carpeting isn’t big in this country and the floor is easily the coldest tile my bare feet have ever rested on. Luckily, my host mother gifted me a pair of Homer Simpson slippers. The Simpsons are pretty popular here, but it’s a huge shock to the ears to watch it on television and hear the iconic voices dubbed over in Spanish.

I wake up every morning and eat a light breakfast while my host mother packs me a sandwich to take to school. I come back around two o’clock in the afternoon for a larger meal and finish off the day with a big dinner around nine at night. It’s a bit of a strange schedule to me, but it’s not too hard to transition into. Not a single meal passes where I don’t eat an absurd amount of bread. I’d say that my diet here consists mostly of bread and meats, which I don’t have a problem with.

Overall, I’ve had a great first month in Valencia! I look forward to what my next three months will bring!

William Duncan (February, Barcelona)

It already feels like I’ve been in Barcelona much longer than one month. As I’m notoriously bad with directions, I shocked myself with how quickly I learned my way around the city. I didn’t get much practice with using the metro in my home town of Pinehurst, North Carolina. My first time ever on a metro was a week after Christmas in order to pick up my Spanish visa for this trip. Now that I live in a city where my primary source of transportation is the metro, I purchased the T-Jove pass, which is a three-month long pass. At 105 Euros (I never thought that I would think more in Euros than Dollars), it’s much cheaper than getting individual one-month passes, and now I don’t need to worry about running out of uses.

blog

It turns out that I’m in the minority in regards to traveling to Barcelona to study without coming with friends. From what I’ve seen so far, many people will stick mostly to the friend groups that they came with, but just as many people are happy to let you in. I’ve met people from all over the United States here, and they all have very different styles of living. It’s been fun to talk to everybody about their lifestyles at different, and larger, universities (most people enjoy listening to me talk about Hampden-Sydney just as much as I enjoy hearing about their experiences). It has been a great experience for me. I have really gotten to know myself better—I’m learning what types of people I enjoy being around, how I handle new experiences, and how I fit into a huge city. I’ve made some friends who I hope that I can stay in contact with for a long time.

What aids in building friendships quickly is travel. I recently visited Rome, Italy and fell in love with the city. The food there cannot be described justifiably. We all devoured traditional pasta dishes with fresh cheese, we had seafood that was caught that same morning, and of course, we had pizza. We visited Vatican City, which left me speechless. The amount of history and artwork in the Sistine Chapel and in the Vatican Museum could easily take days to get through and to fully appreciate. I’m sure that none of us will forget that trip. Traveling and being in a country even more foreign than Barcelona was such a humbling and bonding experience for our group. In the end, I practically had to be forced on to the plane back to Barcelona and away from all the amazing food.

Taylor Anctil (Provence, March 4)

My walk from home to school takes about twenty minutes if I walk leisurely, but I can get to or from campus in twelve minutes if I’m walking at a quick pace. No matter the day, I thoroughly enjoy the walk from home to school and back again.

I have probably taken fifteen different routes to school, but there are three main routes that I take regularly. The first is very much “as the crow flies,” and I use this route when I’m running late or need to get to town in a hurry. My second route is my favorite because it takes me through les marches (the markets).

Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, the markets set up outside the Palais du Justice and L’glise de St. Madeleine. Fruit and vegetable booths stand outside the church, the antiques and collectibles market is outside the Palais du Justice, and clothing stands are around the corner. The markets make for a really nice walk, because there are a lot of people in the area and plenty to look at.

The market has every scent imaginable: the crispness of roasting garlic, the scents of lavender, perfumes and spices, and the earthy aroma of vegetables in the morning sun. I believe that there is no better way to start the morning than a stroll through the town, where one can hear the hustle and bustle of people.

There aren’t many open air markets in the United States—everybody goes everywhere by car, and we lose a lot when we travel in this fashion. I think that a lot more people would walk in the States if there were places like Aix-en-Provence to walk through. There is always something to look at here; there is always a shop window, a stand, or a building worth looking at ahead of you that you may even forget that you were walking. I like the feeling that I am engaged with the world and the people around me as I walk to school through the markets.

The third way is a route I take with my friend Alexis when we get coffee in the mornings on Mondays and Wednesdays. I meet up with her at a bus stop, and then we walk to our favorite café. After an hour or two of talking, we head off to attend to our daily businesses.

The apartment I live in is about a six-minute walk from the center of the city. I live with a married couple, Christine and Philippe, and one other student, Joshua. I really enjoy living with them. Philippe speaks only French and thus, I always have somebody to speak French with. Chris is English and we get along well. I typically get up early (despite my late start classes), so I see her in the mornings while she gets ready for work.

I couldn’t be happier with my personal room! I have a double bed, which is a real treat. Words could not express my excitement when I first learned that I would have such a big bed. As a big guy who has always slept in a narrow bed, this is quite the luxury.

Living here isn’t too different from back in the US. I come home from school, settle myself in the kitchen with a drink, and talk about whatever comes up with whomever is in the kitchen with me. This isn’t much of a change from how I normally live.

Luckily for me, I didn’t forget to pack anything significant, nor did I over-pack. My biggest regret was my last-minute decision to pack my dress slacks instead of my corduroy pants. This has proved to be my biggest blunder, and the cause of much anguish and sorrow on my part (to be entirely melodramatic about it)! I have yet to wear the slacks, while I have repeatedly found myself wanting to wear my corduroys. Quelle catastrophe!

When I realized the gravity of my mistake, I checked the local thrift shops to see if they had any similar pants. They actually didn’t have any pants long enough to fit me, so now I’m stuck with a pair of pants that I don’t have reason to wear that will be a constant reminder of my mistake.

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.

blog

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.

blog2

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.

blog

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.

blog

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!