Many honors students choose to spend a semester off of IC's campus, immersing themselves in a foreign culture to live and take classes in another country. The academic requirements of the honors program are formatted to encourage students to take advantage of such opportunities.
Córdoba, Argentina: Tenemos de Todo
by Heike Domine
I'm pretty sure everyone in Córdoba, Argentina knows I'm not from there before I even open my mouth, because I may or may not be the only person in the whole of Córdoba (population: approximately 2 million) with a sunburn. Argentina, known for its high population of ―white Spanish speakers (most of Italian and Spanish descent) nonetheless has a sunniness that their white skin seems to resist and mine (Ithaca weather-conditioned as it is) does not. I walk around the beautiful city, like a red beacon of foreignness and long for the company of my equally pale Ithaca friends.
Despite my newly inherited skin problems, I have found in these 2+ months that Córdoba is a beautiful, exciting city. This intellectual center of Argentina is home to both the oldest church and the oldest university in South America, and the colonial architecture sits side-by-side with modern buildings. Living in a foreign culture is, well, foreign—but rewarding and deeply worth any moments of discomfort. There have been moments of confusion, such as not understanding that different buses cost different amounts of tokens (never call it a bus, here, by the way: it's a colectivo, obviously (?)), but mixed with moments where I realize the extreme beauty of a culture where everyone is comfortable enough with themselves and others to greet one another with a sincere kiss and/or hug. Handshakes even seem cold and distant to me now.
The "spirit of inquiry" that we, as honorites, share, has served me well in my new habitat. Without it, how could I have possibly tried all those cuts of beef that have been presented to me? Or wandered around, lost and alone, and discovered an entire mall that I didn't know about (across the street, what's more, from what looks like an abandoned castle)? A sincere and open desire to learn and to know has lead me to teach English informally in exchange for Portuguese lessons—a language, incidentally, that I never thought in a million years I would know! I have read more, learned more, and seen more here than I thought I could, and I'm only about a third of the way through my experience here.
I miss Ithaca, but I love Córdoba. They say here that Córdoba ―tiene de todo, that it ―has of everything,‖ and it's very true. Step outside and strains of rock music mix with classic guitar, and I drink mate (a kind of tea) from an old-fashioned carved gourd with new friends that, incidentally, think it's pretty funny that I burn the moment I step outside. I sincerely believe that my experience in the Honors program at Ithaca College has made my study abroad experience as fulfilling and exciting as it has been so far, and I'll be sad to leave this lovely place in a few months' time.
Austria: Schnitzel and Things
by Kaitlin Kohberger
It‘s a typical Monday morning as I force myself out of bed at 6:45am, enjoy a breakfast of Joghurt und Musli, dress, and walk to my high school. By my third class I´m forcing back the strong urge to yawn as I work with a classroom of seventeen year olds. I leave the classroom into a sea of young students and walk home to the steady buzzing of German. Truth be told, I don´t notice this much anymore, and sometimes wonder whether I´m hearing Deutsch or English, as I've become quite used to functioning on autotranslate.
This autotranslate mechanism is just one of the many results of my stay here in Vienna, Austria. For almost five months I have been living, working, and studying amongst the Viennese. What a wonderful semester it has been. I've adapted to a life much different than what Ithaca has provided. For instance, I my morning drowsiness was a result of standing for over two hours in the gallery of the Staatsoper, Vienna´s famous opera house, enjoying the ballet A Midsummer Night´s Dream. The performance was so beautiful and moving that this was my second time as an audience member. My eyes were filled with tears during the finale of both performances. Attending the Opera has become routine, and in one week I attended La Boheme and The Barber of Seville, and had a go with A Midsummer Night´s Dream. Is this real life?
My friends and I often laugh about how ridiculous this all seems. In a few months time I‘ve been transformed into a Viennese citizen, walking the streets of the city like I‘ve grown up here. At IES I take courses in psychology, music, German, and education, all which have proven challenging and enlightening. Only in Vienna can one discuss the life of Freud, debate his theories, drink Kaffee at his favorite Café, and visit his infamous office in the same class period. And why not only study Mozart when you can see his Opera in true Viennese fashion?
My teaching internship has opened the door into the Viennese school system, as I teach three classes of seventeen year olds, and one adorable class of ten year olds. Under the official title of Native English Speaking Assistant, I create my own lesson plans and assist teachers in the classroom. Once a week I work as a private tutor for a five year old boy named Fabian. I merely ramble on in Deutschlish (Deutsch+English= Deutschlish. He‘s five, I need to get the point across somehow, his English ist nicht so gut.) As we play cars, ride bikes, read, color, play Fussball (soccer), and frolic. This week I taught him the ins and outs of baseball. This child has my heart.
So does Vienna. The city amazes me everyday, and I am overwhelmed by the rich history and culture that surrounds me. I now go to school in a palace – seriously – in a city where countless musicians, intellectuals, and prominent historical figures have lived. Situated in the heart of Europe, Vienna boasts a unique culture unlike anything I have ever encountered. Vienna remains true to its Austrian roots, though there is a heavy Turkish and Mediterranean influence in this modern time. Here one can find some of the greatest culinary delights on the planet, and absolutely cannot leave the city without dining on traditional bratwurst, sauerkraut, and potato salad coupled with a giant beer or some sweet wine at a Heuriger, or tavern. The schnitzel is pretty good too. While Wien is a bustling sophisticated city, a half an hour‘s train ride will lead one to a land of rolling hills and lederhosen. This is incredibly stereotypical, but trust me, its real!
So what am I getting from my study abroad experience? Well, it‘s truly beyond the scope of my current language abilities. I have sought to experience a new culture, to relish in the differences between one way of life and that which I have always known. These months have been full of adventure, as I‘ve appeased my inner Classical studies nerd in Rome and Pompeii, gotten lost in Bratislava, Slovakia, eaten waffles and set foot upon EU headquarters in Belgium, danced along the Irish coast in Galway Bay and the Aran Islands, attended balls in the Hapsburg family‘s palace, and frolicked beneath the alps across my new home: Austria. Needless to say I‘ve had countless existential moments, and am overwhelmed by the brilliance of my experiences. I‘ve had wonderful, life affirming conversations with people from across the globe. These are the encounters one only enjoys while traveling with an open mind, a willingness to experience some discomfort, and a strong desire to ―squeeze the juice. I take a piece of every new land with me, and it seems I‘ve left a piece of my soul to soar above the Cliffs of Moher, and sing among the rolling hills of the Austrian Alps.
Jordan: A New Perspective
by Ariel Royer
The day started out like any other: my host father, Mohammad, bumbled around the kitchen heating up tea and bread, placing olive oil and zaatar, the mixture of herbs and spices requisite at any Jordanian breakfast. I greeted him with the traditional phrase: Salaam wa aleikum, peace to all of you and your family. Per usual, I was not clear on what our plans for the day were: my host mother, Khtam, told me we were going to a mukhaim, a word which literally translates as camp. She explained that it was a Palestinian mukhaim. Was it possible that my host parents were taking me to a Palestinian refugee camp? My whole time spent in Jordan, I was told that it was almost impossible to gain access to the camps, and now my parents were talking about it as if it was an afternoon trip. When we actually arrived at what did, in fact, turn out to be the refugee camp, I understood all of the confusing bits and pieces I had tried to fit together. Mukhaim al-Hussein, the name of the camp, had been inhabited for over sixty years, since the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. This war has been a defining point of Jordan‘s history. In Hebrew, it is known as the War of Independence, but to the Arab world, it is called al-Nakba, "The Catastrophe."
Jordan and Palestine consider themselves twin nations; after al-Nakba, Jordan extended an offer of citizenship and "temporary" housing in its capital, Amman, and other areas near the West Bank-Jordan border. Over the last sixty years, these camps turned from tent cities to collections of shoddy houses. Mukhaim al-Hussein is one of these camps. Located near the heart of Amman, the camp is densely inhabited by Palestinians whose parents and grandparents came to Jordan generations ago as a temporary fix to a territory problem which drags on without end. Jordan has since stopped offering citizenship to ensure that the right of return is not diminished: if all Palestinian descendants are given citizenship and homes in Jordan, then they will have no need to reclaim their still-standing properties in Israel-Palestine.
Studying in an Arab country has exposed me to more information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than I ever imagined I would encounter. The view is undoubtedly biased toward the Palestinian cause. The overwhelming amount of support is both a way to represent Arab brotherhood and a mode of expressing anger toward Israeli politics and American support. Lucky for those of us studying here, Jordan also receives considerate amounts of American aid, a fact which works in our favor regardless of the anti-Bush and anti-Israeli sentiment.
The Israeli-Palestinian situation is the foremost issue on the mind of Jordanians and the news features a related story every evening. Civilians are concerned for the fate of their Arab brothers and support Palestinians whenever possible. Even though their energy is concentrated on Palestine, they desperately want peace for all parties involved. The conflict between Israel and Palestine is messy and getting messier, but my host mother Khtam remains hopeful; she often underscores the heart of her religion, telling me "Islam means peace. That‘s it. Simply loving peace toward all. And who could disagree with peace? It‘s a shame we don‘t even share that."
Seville, Spain: Study Abroad!
by Emily Griffin
Greetings from Seville, Spain! I am currently studying abroad at the University of Seville in the rich community of Andalusia in the most southern part of Spain, just a quick trip away from Africa (yes, I did take a weekend trip to Morocco and it was quite an amazing experience!). Rich Spanish culture still pulses through the streets of Seville – old Moorish architecture is still intact, traditional flamenco guitar and dance can be heard in a multitude of bars, or even while just hanging out down by the river Guadalquivir, and bullfighting is a time-honored tradition here. I live with another girl studying abroad from the University of Michigan and my Spanish host mom, Lolina, who is a jolly
sixty-something year old woman in a quaint little apartment right in the heart of Seville, or centro as Sevillanos (the people of Seville) call it. The food she makes us is absolutely delicious and I have learned an incredible amount of Spanish from her through our small conversations and from watching the numerous telenovelas (Spanish soap operas) she loves with her. I decided to study abroad in Spain because I have always wanted to be fluent in Spanish, although I am not sure what I want to do in life.
Since being in Spain, I really feel like I‘ve grown up and am able to experience the world from a perspective I would not have been able to without studying abroad. Coming to live and study in a culture that I did not know much about, a culture that is very different from ours, and where I did not speak the language was a very humbling experience. I learned to respect and appreciate the little things in a culture – like what time people eat their meals at, their courtesies, greetings, and personal space. In Spain, I eat lunch at 2 or 3 p.m. and dinner around 10 p.m., it is not common place to use formalities like saying "thank you" or "you‘re welcome;" very often, Spaniards greet each other with a kiss on each cheek (I have come to love this practice!), and quite frankly, personal space just does not exist in Spain (ask a Spaniard, they would say the same thing). All these little cultural differences are something I never thought about before coming to Spain, but are now things I am very aware and respectful of as I continue to travel and absorb as much of the world as I can.
Studying abroad is a great experience not only if you want to live and experience another culture, but if you want to travel as well. So far I have been lucky enough to be able to travel to Morocco, Africa; Cork and Dublin, Ireland; Edinburgh, Scotland; Lagos, Portugal; Munich, Germany; Barcelona, Madrid, and Cadiz, Spain; and I hope to finish my study abroad experience with a trip to Italy! Each place was beautiful and an enriching experience in its own way – there are too many stories to even begin! Traveling and studying abroad has really helped me learn a lot about myself, what I like and dislike, and how I fit into the world as a global citizen. It has also made me realize how much I don‘t know and has inspired me to learn and explore more! Studying abroad is something that no one can fully explain to you. I was terrified before coming to Spain and my friends who had studied abroad just kept reassuring me that I would love it after a short-while. They were right. All the feelings, emotions, and moments experienced while studying abroad are things you truly have to go through yourself in order to understand how it can enrich and change your life in ways unimaginable.