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.”

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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.”

May Term in France

by Joe Webb ’03
Photos by Professor Bob Blackman 

From May 26 to June 13, fourteen HSC students, including myself, spent May Term in Paris with Professors Joan E. McRae, Ray Kleinlein of Davidson College (husband of Professor McRae), and Bob Blackman. The purpose of this May Term experience was to learn that the French really do not despise Americans, only the rude ones. With that in mind, everyone got the chance to learn about French culture, history, and art. 


The culture part, which was taught by our fearless leader, Dr. Joan E. McRae, was a means to experience the ways of the French. We were encouraged to use as much French as we possibly knew in our dealings with the locals in places like the train station, the cafes, and the post office. The French really appreciated our effort, and they provided us with the best possible hospitality, and we enjoyed our stay. We experienced some of the fine French wines and foods that cannot be purchased in the United States. We also got a good understanding of French labor unions and their willingness to go on strike to press their demands. While we were in Paris, the metro workers exercised that right to strike, which resulted in the trains not running as often.

From Professor Ray Kleinlein, we viewed and came to understand some of the best of the art in which the French take a great deal of pride. We saw some of the principal works of Monet, Inges, and David at Versailles, the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Pompedieu, and other great museums. It was clear that when major events changed the political, social, or cultural life of their hexagon-shaped nation, French artists had something to say about it in their art. 

 As for the history, Dr. Bob Blackman shared his knowledge of France from the Revolution of 1789 to the 1960s. To complement our readings, we visited many historical sites including Omaha Beach in Normandy. France has a number of fascinating and controversial historical figures such as the Bourbon Kings, Napolean Bonaparte, and Charles de Gaulle.

Overall, May Term in Paris was a huge success. On behalf of the students who participated, I would personally like to thank Professors McRae, Kleinlein, and Blackman for their patience and efforts to make the experience an outstanding one. From this experience, I personally learned that the French can and always will be friends of the United States as long as we speak and walk softly within the realms of their great nation. After all, let’s not forget that they helped us to become a nation free of British rule.

C. Thomas Hogge ’02 is studying this semester in Aix-en-Provence

Italy beckons like a beacon of wine and culture. Spain has the allure of siestas and festivals. And France spreads itself before eager travelers, a crepuscular carpet of Bordeaux and Camembert.

Students in the IAU (Institute of American Universities) program live predominantly with local French families. The arrangement is one that offers both a warm and welcoming environment to students, whether they are seasoned travelers or are in France for the first time. Indeed, for some students the prospect of living away from their families is entirely new, and the added distance of the Atlantic Ocean is certainly a cause for trepidation. But whether a student lives with a single parent or a family of five, he or she is immediately welcomed as a member of the host family and can begin focusing on enjoying his abroad experience rather than adjusting to a rather frightening situation.

But, of course, there are adjustments to be made as well. The French do things differently than people in the States, and every event, from eating dinner with one’s host family to buying bread at the local boulangerie, is an experience that leaves an indelible impression on the student.

The French eat late. For most students, nightly meals with host families rarely begin before 8:00 p.m. And the meal frequently lasts well into the night, as dinner is used as a time for communication and companionship that lingers over several courses and several glasses of wine. It is true: French cuisine is delicious in every sense of the word. Though taste-tests of various cheeses might leave your stomach thinking otherwise, consuming the best of Provençal cuisine is certainly a treat. An exhaustive list of meals would be far too lengthy to provide, and would interrupt completion of this article by intense cravings for food, but the gastronomical experience of France is one that is worth having.

The French also think, and drive, and walk, and talk, and gesture, and do pretty much everything involving interaction with people, differently than those Stateside. Smiling at passers-by is rare, and almost immediately highlights the one smiling as a tourist. Such greetings are, however, bestowed liberally on acquaintances passed in the streets, with the traditional kissing of cheeks – a custom that varies in number of kisses according to region, age, and relationship. And conversations among those accidental interlocutors in the streets are accompanied by a maximum of gesture and expression likely to make the topic of choice apparent to a number of onlookers. And passing people in the streets is an inevitability, but the starkly different concept of personal space makes dodging cyclists, dogs, and any number of motor-operated vehicles a necessity. But were it not for the masses of people, young and old, perched outside of any number of cafes chatting and observing life pass by hours at a time, surely the streets would be impassable. These details of daily life, while generalized from specific instances, can speak quite well for the culture at large and, for the purpose of revealing an underlying experience for those studying abroad, must do so.

Apart from cultural and culinary lessons there is much that Aix offers the budding artist. Once the stomping grounds of famed painter Paul Cézanne, who was born and raised just a short distance from the American Institute, Aix is filled with art. From the painters and performers who grace the crowded streets of the city center, to the more removed L’Ecole de Marchutz, an art studio in which many IAU students find themselves for more than six hours a week, the city displays an outpouring of visual art. Stepping off the streets, one might visit the Musée Granet, marveling at various works dating to the early beginnings of art in Europe, or the Musée de Vielle Aix, a historically retrospective treatment of the beginnings of this ancient city.

Even more inspiration for all things artistic might be garnered from a jaunt through the many markets that everyday fill sections of the city with flowers, fresh produce, and even wholesale, flea market goods at the marché au puces. There is certainly something spiritual in an early morning walk to class that begins with mountains of apples, veritable fields of flowers, and the shouted French colloquialisms of vendors. Even avoiding reminders of the abundance of canine companions that the French seem to love so dearly becomes something of a romantic promenade, leading one through the streets of a city whose inhabitants retain so much of their history and simple lifestyles, despite the obviously growing influx of a more modern life and younger students, French and foreign alike.

But even with lectures on Marc Chagall – given in French, of course – and visits by renowned author Toni Morrison and a panel of speakers placing an English professor at Washington and Lee next to Amy Tan, of Joy Luck Club fame, it is usually difficult to find a large number of American students walking the streets of Aix on any given weekend. Let loose in Europe, with its convenient transportation systems, most Americans, this budding journalist included, feel obligated to explore and engage with all that this part of the world has to offer. The obligation is especially reinforced by the advantages of a recently completed TGV line – train à grande vitesse, translation, a really fast train – that carries travelers from Aix to Paris in a mere three hours.

It is at such a time that one is compelled to reflect on the words of Kundera, a German philosopher, who said “life is elsewhere.” Regardless of where that elsewhere might have been found for him, the implications of his words should be obvious. There are lessons to be learned and lives to be lived, and the best way to learn and live is to go elsewhere.