Studying Abroad in Paris

by Joseph P. Andriano ’10

When I exit my apartment building every morning, it is quite clear I am no longer in Farmville, VA.  I make a quick left off my street, and I am on the hustling and bustling Avenue de la Grande Armee.  This road runs under the Arc de Triomphe, and on the other side of the Arc is the very famous Champs Elysees.  I quickly enter the Paris Metro, a world with countless people each doing his own thing.  The Parisians keep very much to themselves, and they do not make eye contact with each other.  It is amazing to turn on your I-pod, pronounced “e-pod” here, and to have a great sound track by which to watch all the different people on the Metro.  I love having unlimited access to the Metro; it is truly amazing.  I ride it to and from school and then wherever else my day takes me.

The French have very interesting cultural differences, and contrary to the typical stereotype, they are some of the nicest people.  When I first met my host family, it was quite comical.  I was exhausted from my trip and struggling for the right words.  I definitely doubted my French skills, and I realized I had a ton to learn but that was why I came here.  I sat down for dinner a few times with my host family when I noticed that they always placed their bread on the table, not on their plates. They also were very particular about always using forks and knives while eating, and this goes for anything.  One night my host mom made pizza.  I watched for a minute as they carefully dissected it with fork and knife.  However, this was where I drew the line; I mean, hey, I have culture too.  I picked it up, folded it, and ate it like it was made to be eaten.  They thought it was funny.  Also trust me, they love their baguettes; they always have a fresh one for dinner.  They also eat one for breakfast; beaucoup de bread.  In the Metro, I have been hit by a baguette or two by people on their way home.

The French care very much about the environment, and it makes me think about our habits in the United States.  My host family only uses lights at night, air dries their clothes, recycles almost everything, and keeps their heat very low.

One of the first nights I was there, I walked in a little store near my apartment and, when I entered, I said “Bonjour” to the owner, who replied “Bonsoir.”  I was confused at first, but they change their greeting at some point in the afternoon.  However, I think it confuses them sometimes, too.  It really has been such a great experience living with a host family.  Each night I have dinner with them, and we talk about all kinds of things in French, and it has really helped improve my language skills.  The French love to talk about politics, especially American politics.  They always want to know who I think will win the American election, Barrack Obama or Hillary Clinton.  I tell them John McCain.  Learning another language can be such a brain tease, and there are definitely times when I catch myself saying ridiculous things.  I definitely understand why people trying to learn English sound the way they do.

There are literally too many things to see in Paris, but I started with the obvious ones.  The first time I laid eyes on la tour Eiffel overlooking the Seine, I would have to say I was a bit disappointed.  It looks like a hunk of metal, but it grew on me, especially when it is lit up at night.  I pass it everyday on the way to school from the Metro, and I later found out the French did not like it at first either.  When it was first built, it was called the “Wire Asparagus.”  An amazing monument is l’Arc de Triomphe, conceived by Napoleon I.  The workmanship on the monument is incredible.  In my opinion, the most amazing building architecturally in Paris, is the Opera.  The stone and marble work inside is like nothing I have ever seen before.

Paris is amazing, and it is incredible that from my doorstep I could easily throw a baseball and hit anything you would ever need, a place to get your haircut, a grocery store, bank, multiple car and motorcycle dealerships, countless restaurants and cafes, a couple discotheques, etc.  After living most of my life in pretty small towns, from time to time, all of the people can be overwhelming; however, I have absolutely loved the experience, and I am sure that when I leave here, I will miss so many things about Paris.

July 2008

Reflections on Japan – May Term 2007

by Benjamin M. Brown ‘10

(At Kegon Fall – left to right, first row, sitting – Ben Brown ’10, David Bowen ’09 Second row, crouching - Andrew Wolfe ’08, Wes Julian ’08, Richard Shelby ’08, Cory Cutler ’08, Warren Beth ’09 Third row, standing - Clay Behl ’08, John Rothgeb ’08, Anson Bird ’08, Christian L’Heureux ’08, Alex Modny ’08, Matthew Dubroff, Eric Dinmore)

On a particularly dark night in May, twelve students embarked on a journey from Hampden-Sydney to the Land of the Rising Sun.  With Professors Eric Dinmore and Matthew Dubroff leading this procession through Japan, a land of dragons, samurai heritage, and timeless tradition, the group departed from America and landed a day later at Kansai Airport. We arrived with high expectations and anticipation of the sites to be seen.

From the airport in Osaka our journey began in Kyoto, a city where old ways meet the innovation of the present. The beauty and spiritual depth of Japan was revealed through encounters with the Golden and Silver Pavilions, ornate shrines, inspiring temples, and the many art forms that a person can spend a lifetime mastering.  One almost felt as if he were dreaming when wandering through the culture that defines traditional Japan.  Yet, everyone was reawakened periodically by the harsh reality that this trip was also an academic program, and reading, studying, and presentations broke the rhythm of an otherwise ebon flow.  This responsibility to maintain academic awareness amidst so many awe-inspiring wonders and unbelievable opportunities in fact exemplifies the concept of giri-ninjo, or duty versus desire, a theme expressed in traditional Japanese arts.

Not forgetting that the traditional side of Japan coexists with a contemporary hustle and bustle that stops only when halted by a red crosswalk signal, the group conversed with locals and explored the restaurants and nightlife with wide eyes and a true Hampden-Sydney curiosity. This was especially true in Tokyo, where the present actually moves toward a wondrous and ever-evolving future.  If ever there were a place that could be called a futuristic metropolis, Tokyo is that place.  Few have ever witnessed such awareness of fashion, technology, and activity as the group came upon while in the city.  In fact, by the time of the yakatabune harbor cruise and dinner that marked the end of the group’s visit to Japan, each member, including the professors, could call claim to a very personal superlative accompanied by a memorable trinket and story to tell.

From start to finish, there were many firsts on this journey.  For some, this trip meant their first ride on an airplane, train, or subway.  For others, it was an indulgence in new cuisines and countless new drinks from the many vending machines that lined the streets.  For yet others, it was their first time simply reflecting internally and documenting their evolution as they reevaluated themselves throughout the journey.  And further still, some took the true cultural plunge, from accidentally buying traditional undergarments, to singing uninhibited karaoke, to sumo wrestling in the subway, to getting lost on purpose simply to find themselves.  But whatever the memory, the consensus in our culturally enlightened group is undoubtedly that this journey through Japan was unforgettable.

Mt. Fuji from the air: photgraph takem by Richard Shelby

Gruß Gott aus Karl Eberhard Universiät Tübingen, Deutschland!

by Peter Crowe ’08

(Wurmlinger Kapelle about a two hour hike from Tübingen)

Greetings from the University of Tübingen, Germany!

I am very confident in stating that my study abroad experience has been one of the most unique and independent opportunities that students from Hampden-Sydney College can experience.

The program which laid much of the groundwork for my experience is called Antioch Education Abroad, organized by Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Antioch’s philosophy is very liberal in that it only organizes very little, allowing us students partaking in the program much leeway. The program is broken into essentially three sections: Goethe Institute, German Compact, and actual study at the University of Tübingen here in southern Germany. Antioch makes us participants take German classes at a Goethe Institute (language and cultural school) anywhere in Germany. I wanted to study in Münich because I had heard how beautiful a city it was. Not only that, but I knew it would be nearby the beautiful Bavarian Alps.

(Tom Badger and myself at the Olympia Stadium in Münich. Tom was visiting from his study abroad program in Scotland at the time.)

So it was that I began my trip in Germany by touching down at Münich International airport on February 5, a few weeks after Hampden-Sydney College has returned to session. Münich is known as “Stadt mit Herz” or “city with heart”. Münich is very much the city with heart. During weekdays I attended language class for about four hours every morning. In the afternoons I would wander around the city exploring the many beautiful churches or historic sites in Münich. And before you ask, no I have not seen the movie, “ Munich”, but I have seen the place where that movie took place: Olympia Park located on the edge of the city. Then in the evenings I would return to the dormitory and spend the evening with a few friends I made. Two of the other people in my dorm and also at Goethe were also Antioch students. We became friends and spent lots of time exploring the cultural phenomenon that helps define Germany: Bierhalls. And of course we have gotten to eat many delicious Bratwursts and items of Chocolate. During February, I got to spend some time in some very neat places: a day trip to Salzburg, a weekend in the Alps, and a day trip to Neuschwanstein (new swan rock) which is the castle Walt Disney based his dreamland castle at Disney World off of. But of course like all things, Münich had to end. The day after our last class in Münich, I boarded a train with Lincoln and Emily, the two other program participants who were also in Münich.

(Neuschwanstein)

Our trip to Tübingen was not uneventful. To save money we decided to purchase a Bavaria and a Badden Würrtemburg ticket. These tickets cost about 27 euros each, but up to five people can travel on one. The only thing is these tickets are only good on the slow regional trains, not inter city express trains. Our itinerary called for us to take the regional from Münich to Ulm, then change at Ulm to Plochlingen, then change again to take a train to Tübingen. We arrived in Ulm a few moments before we expected our next train to leave. We got to the platform, and around our expected departure time we saw a train pull up. We figured it was ours since the time was pretty close, so we boarded. The ticket collector came around and had news for us. Our tickets were no good because we had boarded the wrong train! The train we had boarded was an ICE or an Inter city express headed to Stuttgart. Whoops! So we each had to pay 25 Euros for a ticket to Stuttgart. From then on we are all very cautious to make sure trains we board are in fact the correct trains!

(Peter Crowe with other Goethe participants in Salzburg)

We arrived in Tübingen ready to be away from the trains for a while. We were all eager to get to our Wohnheims (dorms). In Tübingen in March we took part in the German compact Program which was more language school. During that time I got to know a lot of other Americans and a few foreigners. Since the cost of the course is so high, most of the students from Europe do not take it. Only us Americans supposedly take it. German Compact highlights included randomly organized potlucks with friends, a week in Blauburen where the most exciting thing was the blue water and a hike up the tallest church tower in the world ( Ulm-Münster Church), and a wine tasting in Esslingen, outside of Stuttgart.

(Me with my newest purchase—the world of Hits Der DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik). The DRR was the soviet part of Germany. Therefore their music is superb(haha). And I was very proud of my newest CD.)

I did not finish the German Compact Program because I instead went to Rome for Holy Week. After my return from Rome and the Vatican, I had about a week and a half until classes at the University began. During that time I recovered from Rome and enjoyed the quiet and relaxed atmosphere of Tübingen. German Universities are quite different than anything we have, especially at Hampden-Sydney College. German Universities consist of basically two sorts of classes: seminars and Vorlesungs. Seminars require registration and are more like what we have including interaction with other students and the professor. The Vorlesungs are big lectures and the only graded thing is a test at the end of the semester. The only registration required is for the test. And German Professors are essentially semi-deities. They are addressed as “Herr Doktor…” or “Frau Doktor…”. Before the revolts in Europe in 1968 the title “Professor” was included in this already lengthy title.

Germany is very much like America, especially since there was so much American influence in the rebuilding of Germany after the War. There are, however, differences. Germans have not discovered ventilation. Rooms can get incredibly stuffy, so the solution is to open the window, even if it is freezing outside. In that case it is the window open and the heater on. Germans are also very punctual. The best way for me to illustrate this is by stating in German airports or train stations, there are no announcements that planes or trains are on time. It is assumed they will be on time. Being delayed by 5 minutes will illicit apologies from the conductor of the train, and if the ICE is late by 8 minutes, the train staff hand out free stuff. Shops are closed on Sundays and most weekdays by 8pm or so. Sundays are days of Church and hiking in the forests, hills, and mountains.

And there are some similarities. The German government is also not too much fun to work with. Did you know there used to be a state run lost and found in Germany? We can only imagine what would be required to get something found: a biometric passport photo or two, stacks of paperwork, and weeks and months of waiting.

Even though three months of my program have already elapsed, I have three more glorious months in the land of punctuality, Beer, Chocolate, Paperwork, and world class Automobiles. I suggest to anyone who is desiring to study abroad but afraid to leave H-SC to go ahead and study abroad! There is so much to be learned by living in another culture for some time! Also, bis dann und auf wiedersehen!

Herzlichen Grüßen!

April 2007

A Semester in Florence

by Phil Miskovic ’08

Ciao from Firenze, the city of fine wine, gourmet food, and artistic masterpieces. My semester abroad began in mid August with a three day trip to Rome touring some of the famous sights, the Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, and the Vatican to name just a few.  Next came orientation in Lido di Camaiore, a small town on the coast of northern Tuscany.  Our time was spent in a three-hour, daily intensive language course, followed by relaxing on the private beaches, sipping cappuccini in small trattorie, and visiting nearby Pisa with its leaning tower; Lucca, the birthplace of Puccini; and the Alpuan Alps, where Michelangelo got his marble. Nights were full of pubs, discotecas, and mixing with the local residents.

A week into September, we arrived at our apartments in Florence. I live with four other guys in a four-bedroom apartment equipped with 1½ bathrooms, a kitchen, and an amazing view of the city.  Situated only blocks away from the Ponte Vecchio, my current home is within a 20-minute walk of anywhere in the city.

Classes are held both in a 17th century building and on site. We spend the rest of the day touring museums and churches, watching street artists and performers, exploring outdoor markets, attending wine tastings, cooking classes, concerts and soccer games, and planning for weekend travel. Wednesdays I volunteer through Ars et Fides giving tours of Florence’s Duomo, the Catedral de Santa Maria del Fiore, the 4th largest church in Europe.

On weekends I travel both inside and outside of Italy. Most recently I’ve been to Assisi, birthplace of St. Francis; Asti, home of spumanti (Italian champagne); San Damiano, a small town where my great-grandfather lived; Torino, host of the 2006 Winter Olympics and home to one of Christianity’s most famous relics, the Shroud of Turin, and Cinque Terra, an area of five towns on the Tuscan coast with crystal clear water and rocky beaches, all connected by mountainous vineyards. In the coming weeks, I plan to go to Pompeii, Amsterdam, Venice, the UK for a week long break, and various wineries in the Tuscan region. Following the program, I’ll be spending the few weeks before Christmas in Paris, Germany, Vienna, Krakow, Athens, and Sicily.

While coming to Italy has always been a dream of mine, I never thought I would get this opportunity until I went to H-SC’s Study Abroad Office. There I discovered multiple options, all of which are less than the cost of a semester at H-SC. Add in the fact that with endorsed programs financial aid transfers, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I could not pass up. While I do miss things like football games, Homecoming, and trips to VT and JMU, the experiences I have had in Italy and the people I have met make up for it. I would recommend that everyone look into a study abroad experience and take advantage of what the College and the world have to offer.

Arreviderci.

A Hampden-Sydney Man in Tiajuana

by Bryan Hicks ’06

You can do anything with a degree from Hampden-Sydney College.  That is only partially true; a Hampden-Sydney Man can do anything.  Along with eleven high school students and five other adults, I spent a week in Tijuana, Mexico, at the end of last July. During this week, we built a house and a retaining wall, and we also spent two of the days working at a local orphanage.  Working in the orphanage gave us the opportunity not only to work with the kids in the orphanage but also in the surrounding community.  The orphanage system in Mexico greatly differs from that in the United States.  The Mexican system runs under the one strike policy which means that if the government takes children from unfit parents, the children stay in the orphanage until they are 18.  As a result, many parents voluntarily turn their children over to the orphanage in the hope of retrieving them when the parents’ lives become more stable.  Although these children live in less than desirable situations, they have a tremendous spirit of hope as their lives in the orphanage are better than their lives would be in the community.

My experiences on “the Hill” enriched my time in Mexico.  I took with me the Hampden-Sydney tradition of saying “Hello” to everyone you pass.  A smile and the simple word “Hola” go a long way in attempting to cross the language barrier.  The other Hampden-Sydney experience that paid off in Tijuana was the numerous hours spent in Bagby Hall learning Spanish from Professor Iglesias.

On our second night, we visited a local area church to participate in worship. On the way home, our van got separated from the rest of the group and we found ourselves lost in downtown Tijuana.  I resorted to my Mesa de Español days in trying to pick out key terms in order to understand what was being said.  Although the only directions that I could make out from the man at the gas station were, “You need to ask the taxi driver at the Chinese restaurant,” we were still able to find our way back to the church where the rest of the group was waiting.

It is the liberal arts education that I have received at the College which makes life outside of these gates so promising.  An example of this promise is my brother Justin, a 2003 graduate and the youth minister of the church whose members went to Mexico.  It is the experiences in and out of the classroom and the knowledge of broad and diverse topics that allows one to thrive in the world.  The ability to understand the struggles people are facing because of NAFTA, the ability to communicate with those of a foreign country, and the ability to be an example of a “good man and good citizen” are all things that come with studying on “the Hill.”  It is not the degree he receives that makes a Hampden-Sydney Man, it is the experiences he receives while earning that degree that prepares him for the future.

July 2006

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.”

Some Sacred and Profane Memories – A Year at Oxford

Text of a Speech Delivered on Sept. 2, 2004, Parents & Friends Lounge
by Jordan H. Gaul, IV ’05

In the words of the old Sammy Cahn song, “It’s nice to go travelin’, but it’s oh, so nice to come home.”  It’s great to be back at Hampden-Sydney, and I’d like to tell you some of my general impressions about the value of a foreign study program.

I grew up on the banks of the Brandywine River, in Downingtown, Pennsylvania – about an hour’s drive outside of Philadelphia.  Downingtown is located someplace in that indefinite swath of farmland where the suburbs end and the great sprawling countryside that stretches through Lancaster County and across the Appalachians begins.  When I was very young, a trip to Pittsburgh to visit my aunt and uncle seemed to me to be an expedition of unfathomable scope, and strangely enough it still retains something of the mystique of my early youth.  I grant that, in the history of letters, no one has ever tried to argue that Pittsburgh – of all places – is somehow an exotic destination.  But this feeling of mine has nothing to do with time or space: the trip which I make several times each year from my home in Chester County, PA, to Hampden-Sydney is longer by both measures.  It has to do, I think, with a kind of imagined boundary, running between the places I know and those I do not.  I have never been further west than 80 degrees longitude, although I did once make a trip to Lexington, Virginia, just scraping against the meridian. Someday, I am resolved to see the American West: but for now, for me, it exists only as an abstraction, as does, indeed, anything beyond the Ohio River. Neither is a great distance, or unreachable, but both are still foreign to me in the sense that they are unknown.

There is a word in German, Wanderlust, which is as close to a perfect cognate as any I can think of.  It refers to a “moving-desire,” which is to say, a hunger for travel.  It’s something primal, irrational, something intensely human.  And, I suspect that precisely this fundamental human impulse, the urge to move, is related to the great migratory patterns that shaped the hazy era of human prehistory.  For the past few years, leading up until last summer, I had known it well.  Indeed, it had come to a spiritual boil: I simply had to go and see what else was out there.  My life had been remarkably settled up until this year, in which I have seen the great ruins of classical antiquity in Rome (and eaten superlatively well on the staples of their modern cuisine); watched hazy, golden sunsets in southern France; discussed subtleties of reformation theology late at night, while overlooking the waves of the North Sea in St. Andrews; and even surveyed the Valley of the Kings amid the brutal majesty of the Egyptian heat.  To say nothing of the many evenings I spent in London (cf.: “Varsity Students’ Rag,” John Betjeman), or the money I burned on little indulgences, of which I regret not so much as a single penny.

This year, of course, was the year I went to Oxford.  There is some dispute over whether I, or others, have enjoyed this most, depending upon whom one asks, and on which campus. I flatter myself to think I’ve had most of the fun, though.

Enough has been said elsewhere, and with H-SC sending a trickle of young men to St. Anne’s every summer, presumably more will be said in the future, about the virtues of the Oxford system.  But the institution’s reputation hardly requires my exposition. To praise it would be in bad taste, and I will refrain from that particular narrative sin.  There is only so much that can be accomplished through the purely anecdotal anyway.  No stories, no matter how engaging, could really portray my experience accurately.  There is a unique thrill to traveling, a thrill which is only multiplied by living in close quarters with a foreign people for an extended time.

In the end, much of what we learn makes interesting telling, but the most important details can’t properly be put into words.  They are purely experiential; they consist in the moment, in the doing, in the gradual acclamation to the intangible rhythms of daily life.  The most important things we learn in life we cannot read or hear.  No good advice, no matter how compellingly stated, can ever convince us to alter ourselves – in a genuine or meaningful way – unless we have lived out its consequences; no principles of human nature, even if believed when illuminated second-hand, are ever fully grasped until they have been seen with our own eyes; no descriptions of people or places can approximate the visceral sensation of speaking to, or touching, them.  And nothing in books or pictures or what we are told can tell us too much about the things we think we love.  And yet we live second-hand lives, relying for our conception of reality on external information.

Living overseas and traveling around the world, in even just the gasp of a year’s time, has opened my mind to so much, and allowed me, if even for a little while, to live first-hand.  I had a diversity of experiences this year.  I played poker with Phil Hellmuth; had dinner with Peter Hitchens; heard Noam Chomsky lecture; saw Michael Heseltine lambaste the Blair government; met more members of Parliament than I can recall; and stood at the Graves of Nelson, Wellington, and Blake.  I spoke at the same dispatch box as Gladstone and Disraeli and defended free trade before the Oxford Union.  I walked daily down the cobbled streets where Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer were martyred for the faith of the English people.  I saw the Pieta of Michelangelo, and knelt in the Chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament, in St. Peter’s Basilica.  And I stood as close to the spear point that pierced the flesh of Christ on the Cross as I am to you now.  So much of this is not a visual experience.  It is spatial.  To share in the same physical relationships of enclosed areas and forms as great men throughout history; to see the light at precisely the midday angle they would have hundreds – or, in the case of my travels in North Africa, thousands – of years ago; to smell the same local foliage and to have the same flesh and drink marinating in your guts, is a transcendent feeling.  I felt it once before, when I stood in the old Senate chamber in Washington, DC, before I recited part of Webster’s 1830 speech on the Foot resolution.  But, in England, and traveling through Europe and Africa, history is everywhere, and accessible in the most intimate and immediate way to anyone who is interested in it.  The chance only needs to be seized.

Last year was the greatest year of my life, and I encourage you all to go ahead and to take advantage of the opportunities that I did.

Virginia Program at Oxford 2005

by Corey Van Vlymen ’08
photographs by: Morgan Roach, Sweet Briar College, class of ’07

This summer, three other students from Hampden-Sydney and I participated in the Virginia Program at Oxford University in England.  Stephen English, Peter Gilman, Jonathan Miyashiro, and I traveled to England in June for the six-week study abroad program. There, we were joined by students from five other Virginia colleges: Mary Baldwin, Roanoke, Sweet Briar, Virginia Military Institute, and Washington & Lee.  The program is organized by a team of advisers (one from each of the participating colleges) and is one of the longest established American programs held at St. Anne’s College of Oxford University each year.  It was a chance to get to know students from other Virginia colleges as well as a chance to become familiar with another way of learning.

The curriculum is made up of a class on 16th and 17th Century literature and a history class which covers the Tudor and Stuart periods in Britain, both taught by Oxford University professors or professors from other institutions within the United Kingdom.  The classes are taught using the Oxford tutor system.  Four days each week students were lectured by world-renowned scholars of British history and literature.  Topics included Shakespeare, the Parliaments of the 16th and 17th Century, the Tudor and Stuart monarchs, and others.  We focused on a different work of literature and a different moment in history each week, with the lectures revolving around that topic. At the end of each week, we wrote a short essay for our tutorial lessons.  Though the lectures provided some basis for our essays, each week we were required to read a list of books and excerpts provided to us by our two tutors.  Some weeks, the list would be as heavy as six books or more.  Through our reading and the lectures, we were expected to prepare the essay and our arguments for the tutorial session.  Each session was either two-to-one or three-to-one student to faculty ratio.  The tutorials proved to be the most intense arenas for academic conversation of which I have been a part.  All in all, the academic environment proved to be an experience to remember.

Academics aside, though, the recreational part of the trip was no bore either.  The directors of the program had set up activities that would please even the hardest to please Anglophile.  Kicking off the program in our first week was a party featuring Pimm?s, possibly the most famous Brit-beverage. Although Pimm?s quickly became several students? new best friend, I enjoyed the cricket and punting gatherings, myself.  The illustrious Dr. Ken Fincham, our British director, set up croquet parties, cricket games, and punting outings as well as private tours of the colleges of Oxford. 

In the middle of the six-week program, we were granted temporary asylum from the stress of class for four days.  Most of us took the opportunity to gallivant across Europe to places like Amsterdam, Sweden, Italy, or Wales.  Some of us, however, couldn’t resist the opportunity to stay behind in Oxford and to spend the weekend buried under a stack of books at the famous Bodleian Library on campus.  At the end of the program, the directors closed the six weeks with a bang at the finest final party ever to grace the Virginia Program at Oxford.  Complete with haggis, fine wines, and ascots, the party was the last goodbye, with most of us flying out the next morning. 

I, however, was fortunate enough to have almost a whole week to stay in Oxford after the end of the program. During that week, I was introduced to the world of hostels, but that’s another story.

Virginia Program at Oxford 2004

by Wesley Sholtes ’05

(left to right - Brandon Chiesa ’05. J.B. Billings ’05, Wesley Sholtes ’05 at Kings Collge)

This year’s Virginia Program at Oxford, which brought together 32 students from six small schools in Virginia, including Hampden-Sydney, Sweetbriar, Mary Baldwin, VMI, Washington & Lee, and Roanoke, proved an extremely formative experience for seven Hampden-Sydney students this summer. Through the rigorous tutorial-style system employed by the professors involved in this six- week program at St. Anne’s College, students had the opportunity to master many of the skills that Hampden-Sydney’s own liberal arts education emphasizes, including those of critical thinking, oral argumentation, writing skills, and independent research.

The Hampden-Sydney men participating in the program, which took a focused approach to studying English Literature and History in the Tudor-Stuart Era through the heavy reading and synthesis of ideas in essay form, stood out from among other the participants from other schools in their ability to ask insightful questions following lectures and to take the lead during tutorials. The Oxford environment, which involved nearly daily exposure to renowned historians and intellectuals in the Oxford community, was the perfect place for students to find personal fulfillment both on an academic and social level.

Moreover, with so much free time on the schedule, students were able to carry on a social lifestyle perhaps atypical from that found at home. In addition to the occasional game of croquet accompanied by pitchers of Pimms to be consumed as rapidly as possible, students on the program notoriously visited pubs and clubs in order to immerse themselves in English culture. A party night might involve staying at the pubs until they closed at 11 PM, then going out to the clubs until about 2 AM, followed by a visit to the Doner Kebab truck stand located right outside the college. Students bemoaned the later absence of Ali, who operated the closest kebab stand, when he reportedly took a trip to Morocco.

Since most weekends were entirely free, many students went on day trips to nearby cities, including London, Bath, and Cambridge, among others. Some Hampden-Sydney students even went on a few outings with the director of the program, Ken Fincham, and his family, who went punting (a sport involving a boat called a punt and a long pole), played cricket, and even drove a few of us out to see the Great Hampden and other famous sites connected to the revolutionary parliamentarian for which our college was named, John Hampden. And all of the students got to see Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in the one-of-a-kind Globe Theater and his Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet in Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was born.

Most of the students on the program noticed that their study skills and work ethic were switched on more than usual, especially when they went to the Bodleian Library, the famous research library with its amazing architectural design, that is available to all of Oxford’s colleges. Oxford’s work-hard, play-hard atmosphere brings out the best of what students already have—their talents.

For students considering a summer abroad, this program cannot be beaten. As a veteran of three summer study abroad programs (and I also highly recommend the program to Alcala-de-Henares, Spain), I honestly believe that I have grown more as a person this summer than I ever have grown in my whole life. In the paraphrased words of Dr. Glyn Redworth, a historian who was one of my tutors on the program, it’s highly probable that you will take away from the program a sense of who you are, what you are, why you believe what you believe, and why your personal identity is so complex, also realizing that the world is not so black and white as it might have seemed.

May Term 2004 in Costa Rica

By Monti Mercer ’06Dr. M. Carolina Y?er, Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology, parted from her family for two and half weeks to take eleven Hampden-Sydney men to Costa Rica for tropical biology research.  We were able to perform studies on plants and animals found at three biological stations located around the country, each with its own tropical forest genre.  The stations are run by the Organizations for Tropical Studies (OTS), a non-profit consortium that focuses on undergraduate and graduate level education in tropical biology.

 

Six days were spent on campus preparing for all the research that would be performed in Costa Rica.  It was decided that we would break up into five research groups to conduct the experiments at each station.  We got up early Sunday morning to catch our flight out of Richmond at 7:30 AM, only to have a seven hour layover in Miami.  After we explored either the beach or the airport to pass the time, we finally turned back our watches two hours and walked off the plane into the Costa Rican capital, San Jose.  We all made it through customs with no problems and were greeted outside the airport by a mass of the native people taking pictures and shouting, “Need Taxi?”  A bus soon carried us away into the heart of San Jose where we would spend one night at hotel la Amistad (Friendship) before going to the first biological station, Palo Verde.
During the four hour bus ride to the first station, the change in vegetation became evident.  Palo Verde is a dry forest located in the northern section of Costa Rica on the pacific coast.  Driving up to the main gates, a collection of dragon flies and iguanas were present to greet us.  Settling at this station for four nights, we were provided with three rooms containing two sets of bunk beds per room, a fan, and our own bathrooms with no hot water.  We were also given mosquito nets that fortunately weren’t of much need.  Besides having to check the beds for scorpions every night, the annoying insects that seemed to be immune to DEET, and the long hot afternoons, we were able to make Palo Verde home for the given time.  The five research groups spent the days hiking the different trials in order to obtain information on our topics.  On the second day we took a boat ride down a river that dumps into the Pacific.  A large variety of wild life can be spotted if you have a good eye.  The river is crocodile infested; one of the guys was able to touch one from the boat.  Three guys and Professor Yaber were able to sample raw shrimp sprinkled with fresh lime juice, caught by the boatman in the middle of the ride.  The last day was spent writing papers and we gave presentations of the research that night.  To take a break from research before going to the next research station, we found ourselves on another four hour trip to the beaches of Manuel Antonio, still on the Pacific side.  It began to rain a few hours after our arrival.  We had already agreed to spend this night together as a group, and the rain didn?t spoil that adventure.  The next morning the guys met with Dr. Y?er to go to the beach inside the National Park.  To our entertainment, as if the beach itself wasn’t enough, the guys watched a Squirrel Monkey climb down out of a tree, steal a package of Oreo cookies off a young lady’s towel, climb back up the tree, and enjoy the creme center.  Guess he never heard of the Honor Code.  After basking in the sun all morning, the group returned to the bus for yet another four hour drive.
The Wilson Botanical Garden at Las Cruces is located in the south, about twenty miles north of the border with Panama. Four nights were spent here with spectacular accommodations for researchers.  We had rooms for two with wooden floors and blinds, a balcony overseeing part of the forest, a bathroom with hot water, and a phone.  Although, Las Cruces has the best accommodations out of the three stations, it was the most difficult to gather research topics.  Since it is a botanical garden, most of its wild life is comprised of various plants and birds.  There is division in the group over which station had better food, La Cruces or Palo Verde.  La Cruces has more international style food compared to the typical Costa Rican food served in Palo Verde but it can be hard to please some international travelers especially when every Costa Rican meal contains beans and rice.  We all enjoyed La Cruces and would not have been in a hurry to leave except the next stop was at a volcano.

The nine hour bus ride north to the active Arenal Volcano turned out to be a great experience for those who could stay up.  As the group got closer and closer to the volcano, we became surrounded by overcast and there was no change once we arrived at our destination.  The school had already arranged for an elaborate candle light dinner, so we became indulged with that believing we wouldn’t see the volcano erupt.  After dinner, a little before midnight, seven of us were relaxing in the Jacuzzi and celebrating one of the guy?s twentieth birthday, when we glimpsed a break in the clouds revealing fireworks shooting out of the mouth of Arenal into the empty black sky for a teasing five minutes.

We all watched Arenal in the morning light with hopes of seeing something red as we headed towards the last station in La Selva.  Being in a tropical rainforest, La Selva is full of more species of plants and animals than Las Cruces and Palo Verde combined.  The lab equipment available at this station was the best of the three stations; each group made efforts to use and learn about the different types of equipment.  The best research projects were performed here and were comprised of the following subjects: Leaf-cutter Ants, Bullet Ants, Fig Wasp, and Helliconiae plants.  The food and living accommodations were least liked here out of the three stations and it rained a lot, but the students still enjoyed their stay.  To celebrate the end of all of our research, the group played ultimate Frisbee and took their last hike through the tropical jungle together.

The Last day in Costa Rica was spent in San Jose.  It was comforting to return back to our starting place, la Amistad.  Most of the guys made use of time trying to see everything in the city before it was time to head towards the airport.  We learned a lot from this trip, from increasing our own biological knowledge, to experiencing Costa Rican culture and customs.  The guys began to discuss and really to respect true family values witnessed here.  We were all ready to go home and share our experiences with friends and family.  Thanks to Dr. Y?er and Hampden-Sydney we did it together in the brotherhood, and some of our experiences will never be forgotten.