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.

 

A Year in London 2016/17

Adrian Guerra

Hello, my name is Adrian Guerra and I am studying abroad in London. I am enrolled in the London School of Economics General course and will be taking several economics courses as well as a philosophy and government course. Being in London has already presented an abundance of opportunities like joining clubs, getting to know the very vast and diverse city, and of course studying at the best economics school in the world. I look forward to exploring this amazing city and going to one of the many theatrical performances that can be found here.

I am really nervous about the grading system in London. The way classes work over here is one test at the end of the year determines your final grade, which of course is very different from the grading system in place at H-SC. Additionally, for each class we have a lecture and a separate class. The lecture is composed of over 100 students, my Macro class is actually composed of 500+ students which is insane compared to what I’m used to at H-SC. The separate classes do tend to feel more like home, since each class will not exceed 20 students. My biggest worry for the moment is getting used to this and staying on top of my studies, with no weekly work having to be done.

I hope to be available to fully explore London as well as to travel to other amazing countries around me. I also hope to become more cultured during this trip, I’ve already met some wonderful people from all over the globe. Another thing that I have to get used to in Europe is the food, portions served here are minuscule compared to what I am used to in the United States. Adapting to the new sizes of meals has certainly been a tad bit difficult, but not impossible.

I would highly recommend this trip to anyone, the school is amazing and the city is breathtaking.

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London Bridge

 

A Year in London 2016/17

Guy Cheatham
A Gamble

I have doubts. We all have doubts. This tendency is what makes us humans truly human, and I understand that if I did not have doubts regarding my commitment to spend a year in a foreign country, I would not be properly assessing the risks of said commitment and would be going in with a blind eye. These doubts are different however because I am excited for the same things in which I am nervous for, and the main thing in which I express both excitement and doubt about is the uncertainty in this gamble.

View of the Thames from the Southbank

View of the Thames from the Southbank

 

The weather was rather gloomy when I landed in London, Friday morning, which is rather characteristic about the city. Despite the weather, I always had an admiration for the city. My mother spent part of her childhood in Surry, a town in which is twenty miles south of the city. I also knew that when it came to studying abroad that the full year experience was something that was a rarity. When walking down the streets of London towards 10 Downing St. and stopping in a pub, a friend I made who is in my program made an observation that resonated with me, saying that in this case we are not simply studying abroad, but we are living abroad. I realized that this is what the full year experience entails. These nine months in this city will demand for me to become apart of its vibrance, and with each day in the city I can honestly say it is starting to feel like a new home for me.

Stumbling upon St. Paul's Cathedral on the way to campus.

Stumbling upon St. Paul’s Cathedral on the way to campus.

In the past week I have met more individuals from across the globe than I have in the first twenty-one years of my life. For the first time, I as an American am the minority, and as others ask questions in regard to the American way of life, I make sure to stay conscious about the fact that I am here to learn about others from across the globe. With this notion I am constantly asking questions and through so am finding common ground, and developing that common ground is a stepping stone to forming strong relationships. Based off my experience here the strongest relationships can develop with others of whom are very different, yet share that one commonality in which ignites conversation, and then the conversation will proceed with learning about each other.

 

Forms of modern expressionism used to display the mood of British wartime society. At the Tate Modern

Forms of modern expressionism used to display the mood of British wartime society.
At the Tate Modern

I would be in denial if I did not acknowledge the fact that there is a culture shock, but in truth it could be worse because this is the most multicultural city on the planet. This widespread multiculturalism prevents one culture from dominating the city, and because of this balance I feel that many individuals are in the same position as me. London is a very welcoming place, yet staying aware and vigilant is key. I am excited to see how this experience will affect my development as an individual. I am beyond grateful to participate in this experience and am head over heels excited for what this experience will bring me.

G’Day Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk

Blog 8: Goodbye Perth

Five weeks comes and goes in the blink of an eye. Just thirty-six days ago, I boarded a plane in Charlotte, North Carolina and headed west for Perth. I have truly enjoyed my time here in Australia and the lifelong friends that I have made during my study abroad experience.

I’ll never forget the fourteen hour ride from Perth to Yardie, throwing quadrat after quadrat, begging to be in Paul’s car, the cold water of Rockingham to scuba dive, the rainy rugby match, or all the time spent in Freo shopping and exploring. I learned so much about the culture of Australia and tried a variety of Australian cuisine. Kangaroo was by far the best meat I have ever tasted, and the fish & chips here were stupendous. I also learned and retained heaps of knowledge about marine ecology and Western Australian in general.

Ningaloo was an amazing experience that I will never forget and will treasure for the rest of my life. Swimming with majestic marine creatures like the whale shark and manta rays are something I will tell my kids about one day.

Sadly, my time down under has come to an end and I must fly back home. Australia had a piece of my heart before this trip, but now Australia has even more. I cannot wait to come back and see more of the beautiful outback.

This is Kluk signing off for the final time. Get ready U.S., I’m coming home.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk

Blog 7: Sanctuary Zones in Ningaloo

A marine sanctuary zone is an area in the ocean that is specifically set aside for conservation. All marine life, corals and fish, and the habitat if completely protected from human impacts and pollution. There is a total of twenty-one sanctuary zones along the Ningaloo Reef. The sanctuary zones allow for humans to look, but not take. These zones are one of the most effective ways of protecting the species that live in the reef and conserving the true nature and beauty of the reef.

The Ningaloo Marine Park, which encompasses the entire reef and the sanctuary zones, protect Australia’s largest fringing reef. A fringing reef is a coral reef that lies close to the shore. Since the sanctuary zones are protected, they make great spots for snorkeling for tourists and help the ecotourism industry that relies on the Ningaloo Reef. Not only is the snorkeling great, but the sanctuary zones offer heaps of information and visuals about the biodiversity of Ningaloo. The sanctuary zones also allow scientists to run research just like we did with the Tridacna maxima. Scientists have the ability to understand species in their natural habitat with limit to no human disruptions.

Sanctuary zones help preserve nature as it was meant to be, while providing researchers and tourists the opportunity to see the beauty nature has to offer.

Striped convicts, swimming in the Nigaloo Reef.

Striped convicts, swimming in the Nigaloo Reef.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk

Blog 6: Coral Reef Protection

Ningaloo Reef has been a protected World Heritage Site (WHS) since 2011. A WHS is listed by the UNESCO as having important cultural or physical significance that is special just to one area of the world. Other World Heritage Sites include: the Great Barrier Reef, Amazon Rain Forest, and the Great Pyramids of Egypt. UNESCO listed Ningaloo as a WHS because of its abundant marine life, vast majority of megafauna, cave fauna, and the contrast in colors from the water to the Cape Range Mountains.

Being a WHS allows Ningaloo to be a protected coral reef. Ningaloo being protected is important because coral reefs all over the world are dying and fading away due to climate change. Ningaloo is well maintained by the locals and the government of Western Australia. The biggest threat to coral reefs are humans and climate change which causes the water temperature to increase. The Ningaloo Reef also has a good balance of cool and warm water rushing through thanks to the Leeuwin and Ningaloo currents.

With Ningaloo being protected, coral species can flourish and spawn which ultimately brings the megafauna that Ningaloo sees during the winter months. The megafauna of Ningaloo begins in a huge ecotourism industry that sustains small towns like Coral Bay and Exmouth.

Ningaloo is also home to many species that are only found in Ningaloo. If not protected, those species would become extinct and the diversity of earth would decrease. Australia knew the importance of Ningaloo many years ago and now the world knows, thanks to UNESCO.

A picture of myself, 30 feet under the surface, relaxing right about the corals.

A picture of myself, 30 feet under the surface, relaxing right about the corals.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk

Blog 5: Cows (Mother Humpbacks) vs. a Hungry Pack of Killer Whales

Killer whales (orcas) are apex predators that work as a pack to attack their prey. The same is true for the killer whales that predate on humpback calves in the Ningaloo Reef. Humpback cows (mother) and calves (child) migrate from Antarctica up the western coast of Australia, past Ningaloo Reef to their final destination-the Timor Sea in northern Australia. During their migration, killer whales will follow and hunt the humpback calves to feed the entire pack.

John Totterdell (the guest lecturer on orcas) did a study on the killer whale predation of humpback calves. His study found that killer whales attack and succeed at capturing the humpback calf with great success. The humpback whales have very little protection to provide the calves from being eaten by the killer whales. The two main options are as follows: the mother humpback whale can hug the reef to protect her calf and keep the calf in shallow water or the mother humpback whale can have male “escorts” helping protect the calf from predation.

During his study, Totterdell could not conclude why the escorts would help the calves and the mother. Totterdell thinks that humpback whales might be more social than previously perceived but he is not sure how the behavior of being an escort is adaptive.

Orcas attacking humpback calves is part of nature, and humans are not overly concerned because both populations, killer whales and humpback whales, are stable. More study is being done on whether or not the killer whales attack silently or not.

A Humpback whale and her calf seen while on a boat tour in Ningaloo.

A Humpback whale and her calf seen while on a boat tour in Ningaloo.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk

Blog 4: Clams! Clams! And more Clams!

While in Ningaloo Reef, we conducted research on clams, specifically the Tridacna maxima and the Tridacna Ningaloo. These two species are both part of the giant clam family and are very similar with the only difference being a genetic difference. These giant clams live all along the coast of Western Australia, not just Ningaloo Reef.

Giant clam from Nigaloo Reef

Giant clam from Ningaloo Reef

The giant clams obtain food through two separate processes: filter feeding and photosynthesis. To undergo photosynthesis, the clams have a mutualistic relationship with zooxanthellae, a microscopic algae that lives in the clams’ mantle giving the clam the colors and patterns on their “lips.” These colors can range from bright blue to docile brown. Each clam pattern is unique due to the zooxanthellae that inhabit the clam.

The biggest threat to clams are humans and habitat damage. In 2014, parts of the Ningaloo Reef were flooded. The increase in sediment made the clams ability to undergo photosynthesis impossible because there was not enough light piercing through the water. Without photosynthesis, the clams lost half of their food supply and eventually died. Humans are a threat to the clams because the clams are used for their meat and shells.

Much research is done on the clams because of their importance to coral reefs. The clams provide food, shelter, and act as reef builders and shapers once they have settled down permanently. The calcium carbonate that the clams release help frame the reefs that form around the clams. Clams are indicator species. Being indicator species allow scientists to observe the clams to determine the health of an ecosystem or habitat. Without the clams, many species would not be able to call the reef home because the clams provide sustainability to the reef.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk
Kluk Down Under Blog 3: A day in Freo

Fremantle (Freo for short) is a suburb of Perth just to the west. Freo is located at the mouth of the Swan River and is a port city off the Indian Ocean. This small suburb of Perth is a hustle and bustle town containing around 27,000 people. Freo is home to the Fremantle Dockers, and Australian Football League team. Freo is also home to two local breweries: Little Creatures and The Monk. I have eaten at both and I would have to say that Little Creatures has better food, but The Monk has better beer. I would definitely recommend the Monk Apple and Strawberry Farmhouse Cider. The cider is sweet, but has a great flavor that is not too fruity. However, there is more to Freo than just the two breweries such as the monuments and originals buildings.

Round House

Round House

The Fremantle Round House was built in 1831 and was the first permanent building in Freo and still stands to this day. In fact, the Round House is the oldest building still standing in Western Australia. The Round House was used as a prison for the city. The other historic building in Freo is the actual Fremantle Prison that was built in 1855 and is now a World Heritage Site. The prison used convict labor to help fix any issues with the buildings construction as well as the construction of Freo. The prison is almost original from when it was initially built. These two buildings are a must see, because they give the present day a look back to the early colonists days of Australia. After you look at the history of Freo, you have to walk Market St. and poke your head into all the little shops. And at the end of the road you will find the Fremantle Market, built in 1897.
The market only operates on the weekend and helps local farmers sell their products. Not only does the market have produce, but multiple stands that sell a variety of items from clothes to pottery to boomerangs. The market is always crowded, but is an experience all on its own. I could spend a whole day in the market if I was given the chance, but I have to study and get my assignments done.

High Street, a view from my camera.

High Street, a view from my camera.

Freo is a lovely town, but will keep you on your toes with a variety of architecture and vast array of people that inhabit the small but fast-moving city.
Come back to hear more adventures of Kluk Down Under.

This is Ryan Kluk signing off.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk
Kluk Down Under Blog 2: Diving in Ningaloo

Ningaloo Reef has been a World Heritage site since 2011 and is gorgeous, but not nearly as popular a reef when compared to the Great Barrier Reef. Ningaloo is on the northwestern side of the country near Exmouth. Ningaloo reef is a fringing reef. A fringing reef is a reef that lies close to the shore, no more than 3 kilometers from land whereas the Great Barrier Reef is anywhere from 15 km to 165 km. Ningaloo reef is a very healthy reef that has little human stress added because of the reef’s remoteness.
While in Ningaloo, I had the opportunity to snorkel and swim with manta rays and a whale shark. First, I swam with the manta rays in Coral Bay. The rays were no more than twenty feet from me while I snorkeled at the surface of the water. Colors of the rays varied from pitch black to light grey. I got to snorkel with them during their feeding time. Now, the rays (as well as the whale shark) were in the wild. The only human interaction with the animals is humans swimming with them. I got to observe the rays in their natural habitat swimming on the fringe of the reef. Seeing the manta rays do flips to catch food was unbelievable. The rays were about four feet long with a wingspan of about nine feet.

Me swimming with a 14-foot whale shark at Ningaloo reef.

Me swimming with a 14-foot whale shark at Ningaloo reef.

Now, swimming with the biggest fish in the sea might give you a heart attack, but swimming with the whale shark near Exmouth was incredible. The shark we swam with was about five meters in length or seventeen feet. The whale sharks can reach up to eighteen meters or sixty feet when fully mature. These gigantic beasts are so peaceful and gorgeous. Our whale shark was a greyish-blue with white spots and was a juvenile male. I got to swim with the whale shark six different times over the period of ninety minutes. I was ten feet from the largest fish in the ocean and I couldn’t have been happier.
Until next time, this is Ryan Kluk signing off.