Japan 2017

Quinn Sipes
Japan Blog 5
7/15/17
I just finished my class here in Tokyo and I couldn’t be more upset. Before I get into the performance I had yesterday I want to look back at the days leading up to the performance. Every day we chanted Gekkyuden and danced our respective shimais for hours. We practiced the shoulder drum until our hands went numb and sat seiza until our legs couldn’t support our body weight anymore.

Performing the Takasago the day before the performance during dress rehearsal.

Performing the Takasago the day before the performance during dress rehearsal.

Oshima sensei told me the day before the performance that I have good energy for Takasago and that I was timing my dance perfectly with the chant. He said that it was the best dance I had done the whole class and I thought that this was good news for the performance…turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong.
On the day of the performance I was feeling powerful and intimidating in my dragon yukata with a golden dance fan in my obi. The men’s team had performed the drums pretty well and we had just chanted Gekkyuden and Hagoromo and executed it pretty well. I walked off stage and got ready to perform Takasago. I walked out on stage, opened my fan, took a second to breathe and started my chant. I pushed my diaphragm hard and my voice was strong, powerful, and filled the entire theatre. I began to dance while singing and then the unthinkable happened; The chant Gekkyuden came to my mind and I started to sing part of it as if it was Takasago. I realized two words in that I was singing Gekkyuden and not Takasago. I tried to rush back into the Takasago chant and I froze. My dance stopped, my chanting stopped, I was so lost and Oshima sensei who was in the choir had to give me the rest of line. I had never been so humiliated. I finished my line and continued to dance with the chorus singing behind me. It then came for my next line and I pushed through it without messing up. My final line came and I pushed that one out too, flawlessly and then finished my dance.
I finished the dance, closed my fan, turned and exited the stage. I heard applause as I exited, but I was too focused on not crying on stage for how badly I messed up. When I got backstage I couldn’t help myself but start to beat myself up over how I didn’t do a good job and how my senseis would be very upset and would not be proud that they had taught me how to chant and dance. Awaya sensei tried to comfort me (he had taught me how to do Takasago from the beginning), except this made me feel even more ashamed because I had let him down most of all. I went out into the audience to watch the senseis dances and when I entered the theatre I hid my face because I couldn’t stand to be seen after what I had done. Honestly, I wanted to go on stage and commit ritual suicide that warriors in ancient Japan would have done, because at least that way I would have done a better job at that than my dance.

Oshima sensei and I

Oshima sensei and I

After the performance, we all “graduated” and received our certificates from our senseis and I was ashamed to look Oshima sensei in the eye as I accepted my certificate. I quickly left the theatre, changed out of yukata and stayed with a few classmates until it was time to go to an izakaya (a traditional Japanese pub) for our party. When we got there all the seats were taken other than the ones right next to the senseis. (Perfect luck, am I right?) None of the senseis brought up the performance until after an hour in. Oshima sensei asked everyone at the table what they thought of their dance and after we gave our impressions of it, he told us what he thought. When it got to me I told him that I was very upset with how I performed and that I was not proud of it. Oshima sensei told me that the Fuji people (sidenote: we were being filmed and photographed for two separate documentaries. One by NHK, Japan’s equivalent to BBC, and Fuji) asked him if there was anyone that stood out to him in the whole class. (extra side note: the interview that the Fuji people gave Oshima sensei was after the performance) Oshima sensei told them that I was the only person who stood out to him and the only one that he will remember because of my energy. He said that throughout our rehearsals he could see and feel the energy in my chest and was expecting to see the same amount at the performance, however, he said that he was taken aback by how much energy came out in the performance. He said that the audience would not have noticed the mistake I made during the performance because the audience would have been too moved by the energy that I was giving. He also said that Noh is about making an impression, and he said that I definitely made an impression that the senseis and the audience would not soon forget.

Oshima sensei opening a sake barrel.

Oshima sensei opening a sake barrel.

I was very moved by what he said and it made me feel a whole lot better. I enjoyed the rest of the evening and Oshima sensei opened a sake barrel and led a toast. When we left, the izakaya, Oshima sensei took us out to a karaoke bar and continued the night. We laughed, had fun and enjoyed everyone’s company and by the time it was all said and done, I had to say goodbye to the amazing people I met. It was hard, and I was teary eyed the entire time as we all went our separate ways home. I won’t forget anyone that I met here, and I am sure I will keep in touch with them. I will be here in Tokyo for another week living it up. My plan is to do typical tourist things, including trying to hike up Mt. Fuji, but that is still up in the air. When I leave Tokyo, I will be travelling to Kyoto for three days, then to Hiroshima for four days before returning to Tokyo to fly home. I hope to have a great time here, but it will definitely be a lot, more lonely.

Japan 2017

Quinn
Japan Blog 4
7/10/17
I apologize for waiting a week to write one of these blogs but to be perfectly honest; I have been extremely tired after class to do anything, much less be witty on the web and write about the bad decisions I make while abroad. So, the past week has been a tough one. The pair of hakama that I bought turned out to be too small for me and I was out 40 dollars until someone in the class who did fit into them bought them off of me. My sensei also thinks that I am the best kotsozumi player in the men’s group, so guess what I get to do this coming Friday…that’s right; I get to lead the male group in playing the shoulder drum in front of an audience. Even better news is that I graduated from the Seiobo dance to the Takasago dance!
Here is a quick break down of the story for Takasago; Takasago is about a god who is a pine tree who disguises himself along with his lover as an elderly couple sweeping the pine needles around the pine tree that is his wife. The other main character; a Buddhist priest asks the old couple about the lover pine trees (two pine trees separated by a river who lean toward each other showing that they are in love with one another). The old man tells him the story of the two pine trees being gods and alludes to him and his wife being the two gods of the pine trees before disappearing. Takasago reappears in his true form as a young god and sings about the pine trees, his lover and everlasting love. I dance as Takasago in his true form, as a god. It is a quick dance, but there is a lot of singing which makes it kind of hard to perform, but I have picked it up relatively quickly and love this dance a whole lot more because there are quite a few stamps and it is a huge ego boost to be dancing as a young and powerful god.
I also have started memorizing a chant known as Gekkyuden, which I will perform on the main stage this coming Friday. It is a strong piece about long life and wishing the best for the emperor. Gekkyuden can be sung at weddings and it is considered very good luck if sung for the happy couple. If anybody would like this to be sung at their wedding, I am available for weddings and birthday parties…just email me, I charge 500 dollars for entertainment to be paid in cash up front…just kidding…but seriously, I am available.

In my dragon yukata on the main stage of the Keita School.

In my dragon yukata on the main stage of the Keita School.

I have been rehearsing really, hard and trying to memorize everything in a totally, different language. It has been really, really, rough and I have been able to do it, but it has come at the cost of me passing out at 8pm sharp every night. Later on in the week, I went yukata shopping and hakama shopping for my personal use. I found a yukata with a really, cool dragon pattern along with hakama that fit and complemented the color of the yukata, and a white obi which brings together the whole outfit. This yukata makes me look really intimidating and powerful when paired with the mask that Takasago wears for his dance in his true form.

Sunrise over Tokyo after our adventures in the gay district.

Sunrise over Tokyo after our adventures in the gay district.

The week flew by and before I knew it, it was Friday! As soon as class was over I went home took a nap and got ready to go to the gay district of Tokyo. Quick disclaimer; Legal drinking age in Japan is 20…I am/was 20 at the time I went out to the gay district. Needless to say I had a good time and I remember everything that happened, but I have to save some stories for my friends…let’s just say it was a night I won’t forget anytime soon, along with my classmates. We made it until 5 am when the trains started running again. As soon as i got home, I fell asleep and wasted my Saturday. On Sunday, I went to the Tanabata Festival.

Me putting on a mask before my Takasago dance (note this is not the mask to be used for the dance, this was just for practice. This mask would be used for the Seiobo dance)

Me putting on a mask before my Takasago dance (note this is not the mask to be used for the dance, this was just for practice. This mask would be used for the Seiobo dance).

The Tanabata Festival is known as the Chinese Star Festival.The Japanese adopted the myth and the festival into their own culture and it has become a big deal here. The Tanabata Festival celebrates the day that two stars are allowed to see each other. The story goes that there are two stars who are in love,  but can never see each other because they live on opposite sides of a river known as the Milky Way. The gods decided that the two should be reunited on one day. So, on the seventh day of the seventh month the stars are allowed to cross the Milky Way to be with each other. The festival goes on to celebrate love and it is believed that during the festival you should write a wish and it will come true. Well, guess what I did at Tanabata…yup, I was selfish and wrote a wish down for myself…look, I have prayed for the world at a bunch of Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples, I thought it was time to look after myself now.

I am entering the last week of my class and I couldn’t  be more excited. I am going through an emotional rollercoaster, because in this week I will say goodbye to some really, good friends that I have made here as they travel back to their respective countries, while I explore Tokyo and the rest of Japan for the following two weeks.  But, I am also excited, because I can’t wait to perform on the Kita School’s main stage and make Professor Dubroff as well as Oshima Sensei, Nagashima Sensei, and the two Awaya Senseis proud with how much I was able to accomplish in only three weeks. To put this into perspective; most professional Noh actors have their debut on stage at the age of three with beginning their training around age two. I would also like to point out that I am twenty years old and I have been doing this for less than three weeks. Actually,  pre-professionals training in Noh, train with the senseis for months on one aspect of Noh, focusing on one piece and it takes them about six months or so to make the same progress I made in three weeks. I have studied two dances, three chants, and one instrument…I just can’t believe how much progress I have made

Making a wish at the Tanabata Festival.

Making a wish at the Tanabata Festival.

I can’t wait to learn even more this week, but I don’t want it to end because I won’t know what I am going to do with all my new free time when the class is over.
Another side note; sitting seiza is still killing me and I don’t understand how people can do this for over an hour when a full length Noh play is being performed.

Japan 2017

Quinn Sipes

Japan Blog #3

7/2/17

Chanting Gekkyuden in seize position.

Chanting Gekkyuden in seize position.

Sorry for not blogging about my Japan adventure but I have been very busy with my Noh Training. For those of you who don’t know why I am here in Tokyo, I am studying the traditional Japanese theatre form known as Noh theatre. The theatre form was created by Zeami in the 1300’s and became big when the first Shogun was created. Most of the noh plays revolve around the Tales of Genji and many of the plays focus around a main character that is otherworldly like ghosts, demons, and gods.

This theatre form focuses on the combination of singing, chanting, dancing, poetry, and instruments. All noh plays take about an hour and a half to perform even though the overall script usually is no more than 5 to 10 pages. Needless to say, noh plays move extremely slowly and the storylines are extremely tragic.

I am in Tokyo studying this ancient theatre form at the youngest of the five schools of noh; Kita. By school I am referring to the style of how the Noh is performed. There are five schools Kita being the youngest and I believe Kanze being the oldest school. I am actually studying at the same school as my professor, Professor Dubroff with the same teachers that he had! I just mention his first name and everyone at the school is like, “ah yes! Matthew!” It’s kind of like he is a Rockstar or something and I am elevated by sheer association.

I started my first day on Monday with 5 hours of noh. I thought I was ready for a couple of noh plays but I was sorely mistaken. The plays were sooooo sllloooowwww and I didn’t understand the Japanese being spoken but I was able to follow along with an English synopsis that was provided. The first two plays were kind of boring. The first one was about a dead poet who urged a priest to sleep under a cherry blossom, and the second one was about a woman spirit asking a priest to pray for Genji and when the priest prayed for Genji the woman turned into a dragon and disappeared. The last play was by far the most interesting. It was about a demon that lived in a rock. A priest exorcised the demon from the rock and on stage the rock exploded and out came a demon and the dance that the demon did was so intense you could feel the tension in the room as the demon repented and was exorcised from the rock.

shimai for Seiobo

That was my first day along with a group meal at a restaurant near the theatre in Meguro. On the second day we wasted no time getting into the meat of noh performance. We started the day off with a greeting and sat seiza for 20 mins chanting a very celebratory song called Gekkyuden. We were then broken up into two groups to learn shimai (dance) from two different plays. I am currently learning the shimai for Seiobo. The character that does the dance is a beautiful princess…yeah imagine me as a beautiful princess if you are capable of doing that. Over the first week I learned the shimai for Seiobo pretty well and I think I am ready to learn a harder shimai but I am not the master at this and they haven’t asked me to move on and they know better than I do…I just hope they ask me to learn another one because I would like to challenge myself in my shimai. We also learned some hiyashi (instruments). We started off learning how to play the    kotsozumi also known as a shoulder drum. The drum can make five different sounds depending on how you hold the drum. We have learned three so far known as Po, Chi, and Ta.

Learning kotsuzumi

Learning kotsuzumi

Out of Utai (chanting) Shimai (dancing) and Hiyashi (instruments) I enjoy shimai the most and hiyashi the least. For the most part, that happened everyday through Friday. On Friday I went into Harajuku proper and found a cheap pair of hakama (samurai pants) because I am putting together a traditional Japanese Yukata for the Atsumori play that Professor Dubroff will be putting on this coming spring semester. I also went down the busiest street in Harajuku and found the store and designer where Lady Gaga bought her outfits for her Fame Monster album. I really want to buy something from there, but I can’t completely justify purchasing anything from there.

The busy street in Harajuku.

The busy street in Harajuku.

On Saturday I went to the Ueno Zoo and saw my favorite animal ever; the Giant Panda. I  bought a small panda magnet for the fridge that I don’t own…I guess I know my next purchase before I head back to Hampden-Sydney… I went back to Harajuku and ate gyoza (pot stickers) for less than 3 dollars! I also went into Shinjuku’s gay district and got to look around at all the crazy nightlife that I will probably be partaking in next weekend with some friends. I also went to the extremely sketchy area of Shinjuku known as Kabukicho it is not as sketchy as Roppongi, which I will not be going to anytime soon. I was kind of concerned about getting pick pocketed but I made it out okay.

Giant panda at Ueno Zoo.

Giant panda at Ueno Zoo.

I am really enjoying my time here and I love the class even though sitting seiza is killing me. I hope I have some more adventures to talk about in the next week!

Japan 2017

Quinn Sipes
Japan Blog
6/24/17
It has been two days since my last blog post and already so much has happened! First off, I would like to say that the crazy and overwhelming city of Tokyo is now easier to navigate after I wised up. Now, before I leave, I look up the address of the places I want to go while I have Wi-Fi and then screenshot the map and the directions to get to that place. I also have decided to just let the whirlwind that is Tokyo, take me to where I need to go rather than try to control it and live by the idea that “it happens.”
Other good news is that some of my money has been deposited and I can’t convey to you just how happy I am! I was so worried that I would have to make about 100 dollars stretch for 3 weeks, which would more than likely be impossible in a city where one dish usually averages 10 USD. But, I have money now and I am eating more than one meal every two days, and my goodness the food here is so delicious!
One of the things that I was looking forward to the most, when I was preparing to go to Japan, was to visit Shinto and Buddhist Shrines and Temples. I had the privilege to visit a shrine relatively close to where I live. The shrine known as Meiji-Jingu is a Shinto shrine located in Yoyogi Park right in the center of Tokyo’s famous Harajuku. The shrine, encased by a huge park that drowns out the sounds of modern day Tokyo, makes anyone who visits feel like they are in a rural Japanese town. The towering skyscrapers around the area are replaced by huge trees, and the sound of Tokyo traffic is replaced with the sounds of the birds and crickets.

Meijijingu Shrine- purifying my hands before entering.

Meiji-Jingu Shrine, purifying my hands before entering.

Enshrined in Meiji-Jingu is Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, Japan’s most revered royal family. When the Emperor died, the Japanese people built the shrine to honor him. The shrine burned down during World War II but was rebuilt by the Japanese people and the original shrine will turn 100 in 2020. When I visited, the copper plates on the roof were being refurbished and replaced for the centennial celebration and the Olympic games in 2020. I was also extremely privileged to witness a Shinto wedding procession into Meiji-Jingu. I sadly did not take any pictures, because I didn’t want to be irreverent to the couple getting married, and I wasn’t too sure about the policy on photographing Shinto wedding ceremonies.
The bride and groom were in beautiful traditional clothing and were being led in on a carriage. In the front of the procession seemed to be the head Shinto priest, followed by a drum, and then a few more priests (I think they were priests) who were chanting, and then the bride and groom came in on the carriage. It was very beautiful to witness and I wish I had been able to take a few stealthy photos.
Once I was in the shrine, I went and prayed for world peace and universal harmony. Through my prayer at the alter, and through my ema (a wooden plaque where you write your wish and prayers on) I prayed for myself and I received an omikuji, a small poem written by Emperor Meiji, which tells you about what to expect for the year and words of wisdom to be followed. The whole shrine was very beautiful, and the people there were extremely kind and welcoming to all foreigners and their religions. One Japanese woman was asking every person that finished praying at the alter what their current religion is; a few of the answers were Islamic, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, B’hai, and Buddhist. It is very beautiful and wonderful to see religions that have had bad blood with one another, come together and be peaceful toward one another, and wish and pray for the same thing. It just shows how we are all human and want the same thing; to be loved by one another and be peaceful toward each other.
I returned to my share house at about the middle of the day and relaxed a little bit before heading out to Shinjuku to register for a class the following day (today). Out in Shinjuku, there are a lot of very tall skyscrapers and shopping areas, which reminded me of Midtown Manhattan in the way that it is sensory overload almost the whole time. I found this one place called the robot restaurant, which costs about 8,000 (80.00USD) yen for one dinner. It seems that the robot restaurant is one big show, along with a dinner, and the people that I saw leaving the restaurant said it was worth the 8,000 yen for the show alone. So, I think when my class is over and if I have enough money saved up, before I leave, I will go and see what the robot restaurant is all about.
Today I went to Asakusa, about an hour away from where I live, to take part in traditional Japanese arts and crafts. The share house company that I am staying with while in Tokyo is known as Sakura House, and they put on events for their residents every month. This month one of the last events was making traditional crafts in the form of Zabuton and Hanko.

My Zabuton

My Zabuton

A zabuton is a traditional Japanese cushion, which has a trademark of being balanced in all four corners. You are able to tell the quality of the cushion by holding it by the thread in the center of the cushion, and seeing it hold steady and flat while being suspended in the air. Needless to say, mine was less than perfect. One of my corners was too heavy, and if you tried to pick it up by the center thread, it leans to one side. Building this zabuton was a lot of work too! I had to rip the cotton apart, lay each layer out, open each layer, rip some more, then feel for depressions, and add left over cotton to my cushion before I could even shape it into a cushion! Then came getting it into the cover, which is another long and drawn out process. In total, making one zabuton took me over 3 hours!

 

Senso-Ji in front of the temple and incense burner

Senso-Ji in front of the temple and incense burner

I had a little break between the two crafts so I went to Senso-Ji, a Buddhist temple in Asakusa, which is famous for how massive it is as well as the shopping street in front of it. I got lost there for a few hours and had some really, good fried chicken. It wasn’t like Granny B’s where it was fried with a breading, but rather just straight chicken fried in sesame oil. Some of the best fried chicken I have had in a while, actually. I explored the surrounding area of Senso-Ji until it was time to make a hanko.
A Japanese hanko is a traditional name stamp used by the Japanese to sign their name on contracts and loans from the bank. Every person in Japan has a hanko and uses it for official documents. The process started with us writing our names and then having someone write out a few modern Japanese characters, which mimic the sounds of our name. My name, being hard for them to wrap their minds around, because Quinn doesn’t exist in their language, ended up being a square. As I waited for them to explain how to make the hanko, I stared at my character, extremely upset that my stamp will just be a square. I felt terrible and like it was a waste of time at this point. Then something amazing happened! One of the professionals came around with a book of ancient Japanese characters, saw our modern day characters and then translated them to the ancient characters that they came from.

My Hanko

My Hanko

My little square “gu” turned into this face with two outstretched opened hands. I asked the professional why we were using the ancient characters, she said the ancient characters are more symmetrical and can be given meaning to them more so than some of the modern day characters. I then asked what my character meant now, and she said that it means giver or offering to the gods. I was thrilled and to be perfectly honest, the character looks really cool! After she wrote the character onto our stamp, we took an engraving tool and etched our character into the stone. It was rough work to do it by hand, but it was extremely relaxing for some reason. My stamp turned out to look pretty good, and the professional didn’t have to do too much in order to fix it. After I finished making my hanko, I stopped for dinner at this little place known as McDonalds. I know, I know, hate on me as much as you want for eating McDonald’s in a foreign country. However, I had only 500 yen that I was willing to spend and I didn’t want to go looking for a place that was selling traditional Japanese food at 500 yen…so I ate at McDonalds. I will say that it is a lot better than American McDonalds. Here in Japan, when you order something off the menu, the item actually looks like the picture on the menu compared to when you order something and it looks like it was run over by a truck.
That pretty much concludes my past two days here, and tomorrow I start my class in Noh theatre. I can’t wait to meet everyone in my class! I know this class is about to be super intensive, but I am ready for it. The only thing I may have a problem with is sitting sezah for long periods of time.

Traveling Abroad with Biosecurity Internship

Patrick Woolwine ’17

September 09, 2016

For the second consecutive summer, Patrick Woolwine ’17, a foreign affairs major from Fairfax, Virginia, has worked as a global security researcher for the defense contracting firm Cubic Global Defense. The firm directly supports the Cooperative Biological Engagement Program of the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) under the Department of Defense.

Patrick’s team travels all over the world to protect national security and to engage and assist foreign governments with achieving their international obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention. This summer, Patrick traveled to Manila, Philippines, to attend a national biological materials-of-concern write-shop for that country’s government. The two-day event was hosted by the Biological Risk Association Philippines in partnership with the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency Cooperative Biological Engagement Program. This program made recommendations for beginning to establish a regulatory mechanism for biosecurity and created a preliminary list of biological materials that pose a security threat to humans, animals, or plants.

He says his liberal arts education is entirely relevant to this kind of work, “I have to consider written foreign and national security policy, as well as the science behind what drives the establishment of that policy and the regulatory mechanisms those policies create.”

His work with DTRA inspired his senior thesis in foreign affairs. “I argue that the U.S. government, through DTRA, should establish bioethics programs in the rising biotech countries in South America in order to establish biosafety and biosecurity in laboratories as a means of protecting National Security.”

Patrick will complete his requirements for graduation in December and begin working fulltime with Cubic Global Defense as a global security analyst working in the Cooperative Biological Engagement Program.

Patrick Woolwine '17 at national biological materials-of-concern write-shop

Building Communities in Uganda

September 01, 2016

Hunter Williams ’20

Hunter Williams '20 with a child in Uganda

Some callings are so strong that you end up going back to them. For Hunter Williams ’20, that calling was Sozo Children in Kampala, Uganda. This summer, Hunter made his second humanitarian trip to help children in the capital of the small East-African nation.

Sozo Children is a Christian non-profit organization building a permanent community for Ugandan orphans and impoverished children. This community, called The Village, is currently under construction on 28 acres near Kampala. Sozo Children has already dug two wells and will soon build homes in The Village to replace the facilities they now rent. The community will implement a sustainability program that feeds and regenerates the homes while teaching the children life skills.

Hunter reflected on his time in Uganda, where he assisted with daily schooling and extracurricular activities. “They like you to think you’re doing more for the kids, but it’s not true. You get way more from [the experience] than the kids.”

There’s more to Hunter than his mission work, however. Born in Washington and raised in Alabama, he played baseball in high school. He is serious about his academics and at Hampden-Sydney is a member of the Freshman Leadership Program and the Honors Program. The decision on where to go was very important to Hunter.

“Originally, I was like ‘no way am I going to an all-male college’ but after doing a lot of research and talking to [Assistant Dean of Admissions] Michael Lee ’14, I gave it some consideration.” The real deciding factor for Hunter came when he asked Lee to find an alumnus in New York who went to an elite MBA program, preferably Ivy League, who now works in financial services. Lee served his request in just an hour and a half. Hunter noted “you can’t get that kind of experience or a similar alumni network anywhere else.”

Hunter is excited about his time on the Hill – in and out of the classroom – and looking forward to pursuing an MBA next. As for his participation with the Sozo Children – he promised them he would return for a third visit one day.

Finding Confidence in Prague

September 05, 2016

Tyler Langhorn ’17

Many students who travel abroad for study or work use that opportunity to explore far beyond their base. Others though, like government major Tyler Langhorn ’17, immerse themselves in their new community and try to live like the locals.

Tyler is from Roanoke, Virginia, but spent his summer working as an intern at the Fulbright Commission in Prague, Czech Republic. He spent his days conducting English-language evaluations of Czech students wanting to study in the United States. However, he spent his nights in a kolej kajetenka, a building that houses both a hotel and college dorm, sharing a suite with a 28-year old Nigerian.

Tyler and Damir

Tyler and Damir

He ate in cafes along the river and took long walks through the city, usually searching for a unique hamburger. During a desperate attempt to find a place where he could get a haircut late one afternoon, he met Damir, a world-class hair stylist who would become one of his best friends in Prague.

Tyler says, “Spending time with local residents led to many amazing conversations and friendships.”

During his last night in Prague, his supervisor at the Fulbright Commission invited him to dine at his home with his family. They made traditional goulash and dumplings, which Tyler says he proudly made for his own family back in Virginia.

Living on his own for the first time also led to maturity and confidence. “I’ve always shown confidence but not always really had confidence. I became more confident in my confidence.”

 

Tyler Langhorn '17 speaks with the US ambassador in Prague

Tyler Langhorn ’17 speaks with the US ambassador in Prague

Government and Foreign Affairs Professor James Pontuso was the person who approached Tyler about working at the Fulbright Commission. He was a Fulbright Scholar in the early 1990s and has been responsible for sending a Hampden-Sydney College student to intern in Prague every summer since 1994.

“I try to send the children who I think will benefit most from the experience,” says Pontuso. “Tyler is a great guy, really tries hard but has no world experience. I wanted him to benefit from that. The Czech students get a lot out of it, too. They really like meeting American students.”

Tyler, who also helped Czech students with U.S. graduate school admissions essays, agrees: “In their mind, coming to America is a lynch pin in their success. So many people wanted to come to the U.S. because they all saw it as opportunity.”

The experience was a tremendous opportunity for Tyler as well. “I learned how blessed I am to be an American. I realized I want to travel more in the United States.” And that is just what he intends to do. After graduation in the spring, Tyler is moving to Southern California to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.

Until then, he will enjoy his last year at Hampden-Sydney going to Pontuso’s class, debating at Union-Philanthropic Society, socializing at the Minority Student Union, and broadcasting on Tiger Radio.

 

Summer School Abroad at LSE

by Scott T. Jefferson ’10

During the months of June and August of the summer of 2009, Christian A. Caiazzo ’10, Scott T. Jefferson ’10, and Scott R. Ouzts ’11 attended the London School of Economics for an intensive summer school program commonly recognized as one of the most rigorous and culturally diverse in the world.  The program is known for attracting students, professors, and even accomplished businessmen from every part of the globe.  Somewhere in the mix were the three Hampden-Sydney students, each one of them in for a unique experience beyond The Hill.

The program consists of approximately 3,500 students.  An extensive range of courses is offered, covering the breadth of the social science expertise that LSE has to offer. Courses range from traditional core economics, accounting, and finance subjects to politics and management theory and practice.  The program has been operating for 20 years, each year more competitive and more culturally diverse than the last.

Scott Jefferson ’10 commented on the diversity of the university, “Being from the Northern Virginia area, I have experienced a great deal of diversity in my lifetime, but not nearly as much as I experienced in my short time at the London School of Economics.  For example, I made friends with students and businessmen from Columbia, Denmark, France, Brazil, Madagascar, Russia, Norway, and many more. These people made for a fun, international experience both in and out of the classroom.”

Christian Caiazzo ’10 took a course on financial markets, which covered everything from the organization of financial markets to risk evaluation and investment strategy.  Christian said, “After sitting through hours of class everyday with numerous students from Ivy League and countless other top-tier institutions from around the world, I have never been more confident in the quality of a Hampden-Sydney education.  When I found I could not understand a concept or work out a problem, I would look around and notice that I was not alone; we were all on the same level despite our different educational backgrounds.”

On the weekends, the H-SC students were able to escape the crowded city of London to experience everything from the southern beaches to the western countryside. One weekend they were even able to meet fellow Hampden-Sydney students studying at St. Anne’s College in the Virginia Program at Oxford.  During breaks between lecture and class, the students also found the time to explore the many great destinations of London such as Parliament, Buckingham Palace, the National Gallery, the Tower of London, and more.

The three students offered the following advice: one of the most quintessential aspects of liberal arts education is a strong international exposure.  If you are even considering studying abroad, we strongly recommend talking with Mary Cooper, Director of International Studies.  You may also find it helpful to talk with people you know who have studied abroad.  Students who have studied abroad are generally more than willing to share their stories.  Also consider looking into summer programs, these allow you to gain the experience without feeling as if you have missed out on an ever-eventful semester at Sydney.

Reflections on Cultural Exchanges

Publications Office Note: Matthew Hubbard and Ben Shega, both Class of 2009, are teaching in Shanghai through the Marshall University (West Virginia) Teach in China Program.In the summer of 2009, Matt was one of 30 American students selected to participate in the U.S. – China 30/30 Program commemorating 30 years of student exchange between the two countries.  This was a fully funded program through the Institute for International Education Fulbright Program sponsored by the Department of State.

by Matthew R. Hubbard ’09

(In April 2009 Matthew Ryan Hubbard (center) received the prestigious Wilson Center Public Service Certificate from Dr. Walter M. Bortz III, Former President of Hampden-Sydney College (right), and Dr. David E. Marion, Director of the Wilson Center for Leadership in the Public Interest (left).  The Public Service Certificates are presented to seniors who have successfully completed a two-year concentration of classes, internship, and research and who are seriously considering careers in public service. )

It might be safe to say that a sizeable number of undergraduates who consider studying abroad see their experience as an opportunity for anything from achieving a higher language proficiency to self-actualization.  Programs of this nature are rarely seen through the lens of geopolitics, perhaps because some students are unwilling or unable, due to lack of awareness to view in this way the process of cultural immersion and linguistic acquisition in a foreign country.

If you are considering working in Teach for America, the Peace Corps, the military, or international business studying abroad is a means of dipping your feet in the water of a seemingly-vast pool that encompasses many careers that might appeal to your more altruistic instincts.

Studying abroad is an opportunity to make as big or as little an impact on the world around you as you wish.  If you actively seek opportunities to discuss culture, politics, and economics with the citizens of another country, it has an impact on the way they see the world.

It is probable that such interactions educate individuals and help to create the kind of understanding among the world’s citizens that is necessary if there is to be a lessening of cultural myopia and the pressure on policymakers to take actions that make cooperation in the world more difficult.  Your conversations might influence your interlocutor, who then might talk to her previously-xenophobic uncle—you know, the one who may have the ear of a national politician.

Cultural exchanges make an impact on the way peoples see each another. The professors from various foreign backgrounds who teach at Hampden-Sydney — whether temporarily or for the long term — sometimes fundamentally impact the way students at the College see themselves in the world.  Former Fulbright scholars who taught Chinese at Hampden-Sydney, Professors Guo and Li, were individuals who introduced previously unknown facets of China to H-SC students.  Those professors were in a way cultural ambassadors, and the United States government’s sponsorship of these two gentlemen is a testament to the weight the U.S. government gives to cultural exchanges on campuses with new Chinese language programs.

Professor Li, knowing of my interest in China and my desire eventually to make the country and its people the focus of my career, was kind enough to submit my name to the U.S. State Department for a summer peer-to-peer exchange program.

While in China for the three weeks of the 30/30 Program and during the many months ahead that I will spend in Shanghai teaching English and world history courses designed for native and non-native speakers,  I hope I have facilitated and will continue to facilitate greater sensitivity on both sides of the Pacific.

Cultural exchanges must occur with greater frequency if the lack of knowledge of different cultures and their motivations are to be lessened.  There is much work to be done and an immersion experience abroad as an H-SC man is a step in the right direction.

Study Abroad 2003-2004

During the 2003-2004 academic year, 72 Hampden-Sydney students studied abroad in 11 different countries. The length of study ran from a full academic year to May Term courses and ranged from Europe to Central America to Australia and New Zealand.

On September 2, many of the participants gathered in the Parents & Friends Lounge and several shared stories of their adventures.

G. W. Zuban ’06 of Chesterfield, VA, studied at University of St. Andrews, Scotland, for the Spring Semester 2004.
G.W. chose St. Andrews because of its solid academic reputation and it because is substantially larger than Hampden-Sydney College but not in an urban environment. Early on, he could not find a building where one of his classes was held and stopped another student and asked directions; it turned out to be Prince William, who gave him directions.

Full Story…

Forrest Smith ’06 of Farmville, VA, spent the academic year at University of Glasgow.
He arrived the end of August. Forrest called it a “surreal experience.” “I always wanted to go to Scotland, and I threw myself into the culture. First, I tried haggis. It is a brilliant dish; I loved it. With haggis and a pint of Guinness you can’t go wrong. The people of Scotland are warm and friendly; if you ask directions, they don’t just give you directions they take you there.”
“The university experience was like independent study. Professors are very approachable but you are largely on your own. There is much reading. The routine is paper, project, exam, and go home.”
The rugged terrain is just as it would have been 400 or 500 years ago. This was the Scotland I went to see, and I was not disappointed. I traveled to Loch Ness and Loch Lomond and took 3- or 4-hour hikes on trails up the mountains. Scotland is so very green.

Jordan Gaul ’05, of West Chester, PA, spent the academic year at St. Catherines College, Oxford University, England.
“At Oxford there were no tests, study was entirely independent, lectures were optional, but evaluations were intense and individualized. It was the most thorough and rewarding system I have ever had the opportunity to study under.”

Full Story…

 

Mathew Anderson ’06 of Staunton, VA, spent his junior year in Paris on the Sweet Briar College Program.
“It was the best decision I have made thus far; of the 95 in the program, 10 were men.”
“We began with a month in Tours and then moved to Paris, where I lived with a host family and attended the Sorbonne. The Sorbonne is extremely different form Hampden-Sydney – huge classes, little support – a different experience.”
“Sweet Briar was great about side trips. We went to Monet’s Garden a Giverny and the American Cemetery at Normandy. I spent Christmas in Brussels. All the guys in the program decided to go to Sweden, and we found a 19 Euro plane fare to Stockholm. Several of us took a 16-day spring-break trip to Morocco including riding camels across the Sahara for two days. It was a phenomenal trip, so very different from anything I had ever seen. The skies and colors of Morocco are beyond belief.”
“Paris is a gift. It is all the sparkle and all the life you could hope for. Last year was the best year ever.”

Joseph Yarborough ’06, of Golf Shores, AL, spent the spring semester at James Cook University in Cairnes, Australia. He took courses in management, psychology, and aboriginal culture.
“I went with Mike Vassar (’06 of Midlothian, VA). Our study abroad conditions were that it was warm and everybody spoke English, and we found the right place.”
“In Australia what you learn above the surface is nothing to what you can learn under the water; diving with a whale is like being with a dinosaur.
We took a 3,000-mile 16-day road trip from Cairnes to Sidney. Up in the rain forests, there are trees that take a hundred years to grow. On the beaches the views are breathtaking. There are gorges with waterfalls that shake the earth. At Barron Bay are the prettiest sunsets you will ever see.”
“It was great experience. Anyone who gets a chance to study abound, just go for it.”

Monti Mercer ’06 of Fairfax, VA, took the May Term course in tropical biology in Costa Rica.

Full Story…

Daniel Gordon ’05 of Burke, VA, studied abroad in Grenoble, France, for two months last summer as part of the requirements for his French major.
“Grenoble is not a tourist town and most foreigners there are students. It is well located and I visited Paris, Verdun, Normandy, Dijon, and Monaco.”
“It was an experience everyone should have. I hope to return to spend a year.”