Greetings from Barcelona, Spain!

 

La Vida España — Trent Singleton — September 16, 2015

My short stay in Barcelona so far has been nothing short of amazing. The culture, the architecture, and activities have all been both rewarding and didactic.   Initially, I chose Spain because I was already interested in the Spanish culture. I have taken Spanish since I was a freshmen and high school and after my first class I fell in love with the language. Trying new foods is also something I really enjoy, and I knew that I would love the variety that tapas—essentially Spanish appetizers—would provide. However, the main reason I chose Spain was to achieve fluency in the Spanish language. Immersion within the culture that speaks a different language is, in my opinion, the best way to grasp another language that is native to you.

Trent Singleton

I had a difficult time choosing between Madrid and Barcelona, and despite the urging of some of my professors, I went with two other Hampden-Sydney students’ recommendation to go to Barcelona over Madrid. I now am incredibly glad that I made the decision I did. The architecture here is mostly of gothic influence, and it is without a doubt the most beautiful and complex I have ever seen. Whether it is the impressive cathedral Sagrada Familia designed by Gaudi or the Arc de Triomphe that looms over Passeign Lluís Companys, the structures here are impressive and a sight to behold.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

 

I am most nervous about communication and actually living in a foreign country for four months. I trust my ability to speak Spanish, but it definitely pales in comparison to the native speakers here. However, I know that my Spanish will get better every day and that is the main purpose for which I am here. My literature class will also be challenging; I have taken one at HSC, but this class seems extremely intense and will require a lot of reading. It will be interesting to see how far outside my comfort zone I am willing to go—four months is a long time. I have been here for only two weeks, but it feels like a lot longer. The time will definitely pass quickly, as I have been told this is the fastest semester one can have in college—time flies, as they say.

Cathedral Sagrada

Cathedral Sagrada

By the time I leave Barcelona, I hope to become fluent in the language and to have a greater understanding and appreciation of the Spanish culture. It would be nice to find my future Spanish wife here, but I am not sure how possible that actually is. I cannot wait to travel throughout Spain and other parts of Europe. Barcelona is a beautiful city and I still have much to see.

Cathedral Sagrada

Cathedral Sagrada

Germany — Matt Carter

July 11, 2015

Hello for one last time, the summer Münster program has ended and all of the students have returned home. The experience was definitely one to remember and one I hope that other students will take in the future. Although, it is quite different once you get across the pond; Germany drives on the right side of the road, but much of the similarities stop there. The architecture is a beautiful mixture of old buildings hundreds of years old and modern architecture with glass as the main element. These two very different styles of architecture are extremely beautiful to look at when meshed together. The vehicles were much nicer considering Porsche, BMW, VW, & Jaguar were made over there making them much cheaper to own. The public transport system was amazing and heavily used by the people due to it being efficient and effective. Lastly, the way they eat is different from the way we do, they eat bread and jam for breakfast and dinner, but have a large lunch where the family will leave their work and come home to eat with the family. I believe I will miss the opportunity to travel to other places so easily, meaning that I was able to just hop on a train and travel to another country in a short amount of time considering if I wanted to hop on a train over here and travel the same amount of time, I would still be in the same state. I think I will also miss the wonderful food while traveling abroad including the currywurst and bratwurst.

The advice I would give to students planning on going on this abroad trip is to realize that Europe is cooler than America. The weather typically hovers around the lower 60s and high 50s, so pack warm! I mistakenly packed for warm weather and was cold for most of my time there. Also, realize that Euros are stronger than the US Dollar and you will end up spending much more money than you will have originally wanted to, but realize that it is an experience of a lifetime and will be worth it.  I would definitely recommend traveling to other countries. Yes, you have gone on that specific program to experience Germany, but you will have a great opportunity to visit multiple other countries in a short amount of time and experience multiple different cultures.

The best thing about being home is that everyone speaks English. I no longer have to translate everything that is being said in my head. I also missed my bed and my shower. Also, it is great being home and being able to catch up with friends and telling stories about my time abroad and listening to what they have done for the last month. However, the hardest things is as soon as I got back I went right back to work.

Argentina — Josh Miller

image11June 30th

I’ve been home for a few days now. I was surprised how large the shock would be returning to an English speaking community. Many of my classmates and I were still saying “por favor” and “gracias” without thinking. I am somewhat relieved though to be back in the states.

I really became close with my second host family. I enjoyed getting to know the kids and grandparents during the weekly asado’s on Sundays. I’ll also miss the family’shyper border collie, Símon. I know that I’ll keep in touch with them and hope to visit them again in the future. They made me feel like a member of their family and for that I am very thankful. My host family really made my time abroad memorable and enjoyable.

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My main piece of advice for students going abroad is to speak up if there is an issue with your host family. At first I was worried about speaking up about my problems with the host family. I did not want to make the family upset, or for them to lose money(since they are paid to host students). However, I was lucky enough to have the support of Dr. Palmer and Dr. Thornton who helped guide me through the process of switching host families. After switching host families, my whole experience changed for the better. I realized how important the host family’s role is in the experience of studying abroad.

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I’ll never forget my time abroad and I will look back on it as one of the best experiences of my life. I encourage all students to study abroad and to be immersed in a foreign culture.

 

 

Argentina — Josh Miller

June 30th

Now that I’ve been in Mendoza for a little more than three weeks, I feel that I am finally getting into the routine the people follow here. Typically, after classes are over at 1:30, I head home for lunch with the host family. In my new host family, the host parents are often busy at work during lunchtime. I usually eat with the three kids and the housekeeper. It is an interesting family dynamic to get used to but I really enjoy the change from the typical American routine.

This week, we toured a meat-processing factory. At first, I was less than excited to tour the facility. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The tour was very interesting and informative. In Dr. Thornton’s Latin American Economic Development class, we discussed how difficult it is for businesses to purchase machinery and heavy equipment necessary for production. Knowing this was a problem, a classmate asked the tour guide (who was actually the granddaughter of the founder of the company) this question. She explained that the machinery was mainly from Germany and Italy. She explained that the way her grandfather runs the business does not allow for debt to accrue. So, the company paid in full for all of the machinery in the factory. She also explained that the machinery had to be paid for in euros due to the weak exchange rate of the Argentine peso. We later discussed in class how difficult it is to acquire foreign currency in Argentina due to the government’s attempts at strengthening the value of their own currency.

Later in the week we toured Bodega Alta Vista. This Bodega is more of a ‘boutique’ operation compared to Familia Zuccardi’s bodega. We sampled three different complex wines with interesting origins from the Mendoza wine regions. Alta Vista differentiates their products from others by focusing on the terroir of the vineyards. The result is a premium product with a more specialized consumer market. I really enjoyed learning about their process and customer base.

Caskets of Wine

 

In the last full week of the study abroad experience I hope to continue to learn as much about the culture in Mendoza as possible.

 

At the Vineyard

Germany — Matt Carter

June 28

Today marks a month since we have been in the beautiful country of Germany. We are now wrapping up the semester with final projects, oral exams, and our final written exams in the coming week. Since my last blog the students have done quite a bit here in Münster. As I mentioned in the last post, some of the students were invited to an Opera at the Münster Theater where we were able to watch a French Opera adapted to the German language. It was a very interesting tale told by singers with extremely beautiful voices. We also visited the LWL- Arts and Culture Museum of Münster where were able to see contemporary art all the way up to modern art, some of which were very strange and curiously considered art.

Arts & Culture Museum

At the Arts & Culture Museum

 

 

 

 

A few of the students also made their way to the Picasso Museum where we also able to see some of Picasso’s work on display as well as the current visiting exhibit called “Paris im Blick” where black & white photos taken of Paris throughout the last hundred years were on display, some of which were very beautiful in their simplicity. The entire student group made their way to the StadtMuseum (City Museum) where we were able to see how Münster had grown throughout the years as well as what had happened to the city during World War I, the Weimar Republic, and World War II.

StadtMuseum

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the StadtMuseum

 

Some students also took the opportunity to go to the Münster Zoo. In my opinion, a very beautiful zoo with an amazing number of animals of which I took over 200 pictures1 of! The layout of the zoo had interactive exhibits to where you could walk into where Lemurs, monkeys, birds, & camel enclosures and be up close to the animals themselves. Afterwards we took a boat ride across Lake Aasee to the west of Münster and enjoyed a nice beer on one of the only boats on the lake. This past weekend the students also had the opportunity to experience the Carnival in town complete with fireworks on Friday evening and many fun rides and interesting carny foods to try. After all this activity in the last week, the students are now hunkering down preparing for finals and the eventual end of classes and thus the end of our time in Munster.

At the Zoo

At the Zoo

Wednesday is our last day of classes and our last day of finals after which many of the students will be going out and celebrating a successful study abroad month in Münster. Thursday marks our final day in the city we have grown to call home after living in it for a month hosted by our wonderful host families. Thursday evening we will be having dinner with all the students and their host families at the beautiful Schlossplatz Garden Restaurant. Although we have all thoroughly enjoyed our time here in Münster most of us are ready to head home and reunite with loved ones and friends. Before we are able to do that though we will be enjoying a few days in Berlin complete with multiple museum visits and the celebration of July 4th at an “American” Bar where we will be able to meet other Americans and celebrate Independence Day in our Patriotic clothing.

Germany — Matt Carter

Hello again! Es tut mir leid (I am sorry) about the wait! It has officially been two weeks in Münster and classes are in full swing! So far the students have been enjoying their classes and the city of Münster. A while ago, some of the students embarked on a day trip to Bremerhaven, Germany where we explored the Auswanderer (Emigration) Museum and the Climate Museum. In the Emigration museum we followed the tales of a German man leaving everything he had behind him in Germany as he embarked on the ship sailing to Ellis Island in New York. We were shown what the inside of the ships looked like and how packed the men were into bunk bed-style beds (3-4 men a bed!). Next we were shown the way that the immigrants made their way through Ellis Island and ultimately to Central Station in New York if they wished to travel further. The next story we were shown was that of a man immigrating to Germany and the struggles he faced to find a place to call home as well as finding a job in struggling times. We were shown an area that had stories of individuals dating back to the late 1800’s of both emigrating and immigrating men, women, and children. The next museum we visited was the Climate Museum where the museum path followed a line of latitude around the Earth beginning with Bremerhaven. The museum tour stopped in a few more places in Europe, then onto the deserts of Africa as well as the icecaps of Antarctica. Next, we went “up” to the heavens and saw Earth as it would appear at night before coming back “down” to earth to experience Samoa and its culture. All of these climates were not only shown to us, but also imitated through creation of hot/cold air, humidity, actual rain, and/or wind.

Water Bridge

Matt Carter ’18 Walks Across a Bridge over Water in the Climate Museum

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Zach Credle ’16 at the Climate Museum

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, we had to leave the museum and return to Münster before we were able to see the entire museum. More recently we were given a long weekend by our professors and the students split into two groups, one headed for Florence, Italy and the other headed to Amsterdam, Netherlands. 12 of us made our way to Amsterdam by train and we arrived there around 6p on Thursday; we checked into our place for the weekend, Hostel Croydon, and immediately got started on exploring the city. Some of us made our way to the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, and took a trip of the city on a canal cruise. While others began their own unofficial walking tour of the city. Due to the fact that our Hostel was in the middle of the Red Light District (yes, that one) where pictures are not allowed to be taken, there are very few pictures of Amsterdam. The students enjoyed the many fruits of Amsterdam, not including the well-known occupants in certain windows with a certain colored light. Unfortunately that is all I can say about Amsterdam, but rest assured, the group that went there had an interesting weekend and many stories to tell.

Train to Amsterdam

On the Train to Amsterdam

Amsterdam Canals

Amsterdam Canals and Boat Traffic

Amsterdam Plaza

Plaza in Amsterdam

The other group that went to Florence, Italy had, to my knowledge, a wonderful time exploring the city, visiting the different museums, and tasting the many different Italian wines. Thankfully both groups returned safe and sound, bringing back many souvenirs, to Münster late Sunday night ready for the second half of our summer semester. Fortunately, all of the students have, thus far, enjoyed the city and are extremely happy with their host families. The students in the intermediate levels are slowly gaining more and more German vocabulary while the advanced level students are committing the language to memory and reinforcing what they have already learned. Coming up: we have been invited to an Opera on Wednesday, which is optional to the students, but I will be attending so I will be able to let you know how German Opera is! We will also be visiting the LWL-Museum on Wednesday which, after a quick google search, appears to be the Art and Culture Museum in Münster. Other places we will be visiting include the Stadtmuseum (City Museum on 6/25) and the Münster Zoo (6/27).

 

Argentina Excursion

Professor Thornton shares some pictures from the May Term Abroad in Argentina program’s tour to of the Zucardi vineyard.  The students in the Wine Economics class impressed the tour guide with their knowledge!

Separating the leaves from the grape clusters:

Separating the leaves from the grapes clusters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating and Storing the Wine:

Wine creation The Finished Product

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Zucardi restaurant:

At the Zucardi Restaurant

Josh Miller — Mendoza, Argentina

June 8, 2015

Now having been in Mendoza for a little over two weeks, I have settled into a routine. In the mornings, I eat a traditional Argentine light breakfast of toast, dulce de leche, and coffee. I’m not really a breakfast person so this works well for me. After breakfast, I catch the bus which drops me off near Plaza Independencia, which is only a short walk from the classroom. Class is two hours with a 30 minute break, and then the second two hour class. There is a small convenience store right across the street from the class building, which many of us frequent during the 30 minute break. The clerk has come to know most of us and enjoys practicing his English.

After class is over, I head back to the bus stop where I catch a ride back to the host family’s home. Once home, lunch is served with the whole family present. This is very different from the US in that the parents leave work for lunch at home along with the children leaving school. After lunch, it’s time for Siesta. This is the South American version of naptime. It can last anywhere from 3:00 to 5:00 or as late as 8:00pm. Dinner is usually served around 9:00 or 10:00pm. Dinner is usually much lighter than lunch due to lunch being the main meal of the day.

The four hours spent in class are very interesting. I am taking Dr. Thornton’s Economics of the Wine Industry and Latin American Economic Development. In the economics of wine class we discuss not only the production of wine but also the many market factors that are a part of the overall wine industry. Recently, Dr. Thornton set up a wine tasting at a wine club in Mendoza. We tasted wines which have generally been the main focus of our class from the Argentinian wine industry. We enjoyed a sauvignon blanc, a torrantes, and a flight of three malbecs which came from three different elevations in the Mendoza region. It was definitely an experience which greatly benefited our in class discussions.

Vineyard Scene:

Vineyard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The whole group recently went to a soccer match in Mendoza. It was a fun experience I will always remember for various reasons. We saw the match between Gordy Cruz and Arsenal. The visiting team (Arsenal) is from Buenos Aries so there was not much of a rivalry between the two teams. The overall turnout for the game was low, however we all still managed to have a great time. The stadium that the game was played in was built for the 1978  world cup which Argentina hosted. While the game was fun (even with the final score of 0-0) my favorite part was the extremely dedicated fans. The end section of the stadium was packed full of die hard Gordy Cruz fans who sang and waved flags during the entirety of the match.

Soccer Match

 

 

 

 

 

Recently, I went through the process of switching host families. My original host family was extremely nice to me, however, their lifestyle and location of their home was not a good fit for me. I learned a lot during the switching process. I hope other students who study abroad will not have to switch host families for any reason. However, at the end of the day, remember that this is a once in a lifetime experience. Students are in no way ‘locked’ into staying with their host family if it is not a good fit. This experience shouldn’t be one where you are not having the best time possible while learning in a new culture. This experience is about you, the student. Do what makes you happy.

 

Matt Carter — Muenster, Germany

June 2, 2015

Hallo! Wie gehts es? You might not know what these “foreign” words are/mean, but I am simply asking “How are you?” in German, a common phrase said multiple times throughout the day.

So far we have been in Deutschland (Germany) for 5 days and what an eventful 5 days it was! After the grueling 8-8 ½ hour flight from the Dulles Airport to the Frankfurt Airport we hopped aboard a small puddle jumper plane to Düsseldorf where we made our way to the bus and head out for Köln (Cologne). The trip was long, but broken up by much needed naps in order to counteract the severe jet lag we all felt.

When we arrived in Cologne, one of the first buildings you see is the Cologne Cathedral, a massive Cathedral built before the 1900s that survived the bombings of not one, but two World Wars! In Cologne, I believe the most interesting thing we saw was the Cathedral itself, the level of detail and sheer size of the building was enough to make any student stare in awe at its magnificence. During the World Wars Cologne was demolished by the Allied bombings, all except the Cathedral, which, I believe, adds to its surreal appearance. The fine detail carved into the statue as well as the meticulous care that the Priests took with all the items in the church including the Three Wise Mens’ tombs, multiple depictions of Jesus Christ on the cross, and the beautiful furnishings placed behind ropes that visitors could only look at.

Tigers in front of the Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Cologne we then rode another bus to our home for the next month: Münster. As we entered the city we got more and more nervous hoping upon hope that we would have good host families and a nice place to stay over the next place. My host family was the first ones there and thus I was the first to leave to head off on my own adventure on my side of Münster. The family I am staying with is the Schülings (Dr. & Mrs.) and they have 3 sons. One is studying abroad in our country, the other has moved out of this home, and the third, Neils, still lives here and is in the German equivalent of 12th grade.

Originally meeting my host family was an awkward experience personally. I have never left the country and certainly never moved to another home for a month. However, that awkwardness quickly faded to familiarity; the family is not strict with rules and lets me come and go from the house as I please (they have given me a key) as long as I let them know when I leave and if I might be out late. The brother and I have bonded pretty quickly and the entire family helps me practice my German while they use me to (sometimes) practice their English! The parents are both very nice and (thankfully) fluent in English in case I cannot communicate in my “Germ-ish” language I have been speaking here.

They have kindly let me stay on the second floor of their home, which used to be a duplex, but has since been combined, next to their son. I have my own bathroom and they kindly wash any laundry that I make. My bed is slightly small, but that is okay because I curl up into a neat little ball when I sleep which keeps my feet from hanging off. I do not have a dresser, but instead have folded my clothes onto the ground next to my bed.

Matt's Room

 

 

 

 

My first impressions of Münster was that it felt like an intimidating large city that I would never be able to get around let alone figure out where the different buses stop! Slowly, but surely I have begun to recognize and be able to walk around certain parts of the city without a map out and have actually learned which buses I need to take in order to get where I am going thanks to the “Fahrplan MS” and “CityMaps2Go” phone apps. Yet, as the program moves on I hope to, obviously, be able to speak better German (only taken 102 before) and make the most of my first trip in Europe.

 

Train Station ViewI hope to explore the city more and be able to visit the museums and maybe a few pubs as well as explore other countries. Many in our group have planned a trip to Amsterdam for our long weekend, not this weekend, but next, and I have also planned a personal trip to Paris one weekend so that I may be able to explore that city for a weekend. I also look forward to many more pictures and great stories to tell you all as we Hampden-Sydney Men wander our way through Deutschland far, far from The Hill.

Auf Wiedersehen (Goodbye)!