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.