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International and French Clubs Taste Europe

International and French Clubs Taste Europe
Monday, September 22, 2008
by Nay Min Oo ’12

On Friday, 19th September, a group of nineteen Hampden-Sydney students along with two professors went on a half-day trip to Washington D.C. for European Night held at the Embassy of France.  The trip was organized and sponsored by the International Club and the French Club.  The purpose of the trip was to experience European food and culture.  We enjoyed a great evening in D.C. and came back familiar with various European cultures.
The group left from the International House at 2:30 in the afternoon and included Bikash Acharya, President of the International Club; Renee Severin, Associate Professor of Modern Languages: and Ciaran Buckley, International Visiting Scholar of Government and Foreign Affairs, and members of the two clubs.  After three hours of driving, we finally arrived in Washington D.C.  It is a really beautiful city with the Potomac River flowing by it. Along the road, we saw many historical sites such as the Pentagon and the Washington Monument. Especially for international freshman students, it was very exciting because none of them had been to Washington before. 
It was 6 PM when we arrived at the Embassy of France. With our empty stomachs growling at us, we went straight into the food stands located in the main hall of the Embassy.  The hall was packed with guests and visitors.  Many of them seemed to be diplomats.  Out in the garden, a group of young boys and girls were dancing traditional Irish dances. Inside the hall, a band of musicians was playing lively music.  Many people, including our two professors, were really inspired and began to dance with the music.  The atmosphere was very energetic and happy.
The very first stand we ran into as we entered the hall was the European Union stand.  On the table, many gifts and souvenirs were available such as notepads, notebooks, and bags, all with the flag of European Union printed on them.  The presenter explained to us about the history and formation of Europe and thoroughly answered our questions.  There were French, Italian, German, Spanish, Swedish,and Romanian stands, just to name a few.  The French stand was packed with people who wanted to get a taste of the famous French wines.  The German stand served delicious German sausages.  The Belgian stand with its well-known beer, attracted many beer lovers.  From a variety of food served in different stands, we came to know the specialties of European countries. The combination of great music and great food, what more could we ask for? The stands not only offered food and refreshment but many materials such as informational booklets, DVDs, and travel guides. We learned about many small countries such as Malta and Cyprus, two beautiful countries in the Mediterranean Sea.

The most important knowledge we gained from the trip was about the diversity of the various European countries.  Many people might have the idea that most of the European cultures are the same. We were surprised, however, to find out that each country had its own culture and traditions.  If Europe is anything at all, it is diverse.  This made us wonder that if we could see such a huge diversity on this trip alone, how much more there would be for us to explore.  From this trip, we also realized that only through cultural exchange and communication, people from one side of the world can understand the cultures of the other side.
After the event, we walked around the Georgetown area and came back to the campus around three in the morning. Even though we all were very tired after the trip, everyone was delighted because the trip was very meaningful. We hope that there will be more trips like this in the future.

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