Discover what some of our Park Scholars abroad are doing.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
By Cady Lang, sophomore journalism major
Ciao from Milano, Italy! It's hard to believe that I've been living in Milan for over four months now. Sometimes, when I look outside my window and remember that I'm 6000 miles from home, my life seems surreal. My study abroad experience so far has been magical. Although Milan is a far cry from the picturesque villages and small towns usually associated with Italy, I've grown to love this busy and bustling metropolis. Instead of quaint villas, the streets are filled with skyscrapers that are next to historic buildings, modern art sculptures that are next to Renaissance era castles. Milan is a mix of the old and new, a city thriving with creation.
As the second largest city in Italy and the center of fashion, finance, communications, and design, Milan has given me numerous opportunities to indulge my various passions. As an art history minor, being in Milan has given me a chance to absorb so much art within one city; from Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper at the refractory of the Santa Maria Della Grazia to the amazing Lucio Fontana room at my favorite art museum, Novecento, I've been devouring art in one of Italy's art destinations. I love fashion and hope to one day write for a fashion publication, so living in the fashion capital of the world has been a daily treat. From seeing models at my local grocery store during Milan Fashion Week to randomly striking up a conversation with a textile designer for Italian label Roberto Cavalli, I've loved that the city lives and breathes moda (fashion.) I've even had the chance to meet and work with one of my inspirations in both the communications and fashion worlds. Renata Molho, who is one of Italy leading fashion journalists (her work has appeared in publications like Vogue Italia and GQ) and the author of the only authorized biography of Giorgio Armani, is teaching a class at my study abroad program this semester. This opportunity, however, is only one of many that have come my way since I moved to Milan.
Since Milan is the center for communications, it is home to the major televison studios, the most respected newspaper in Italy and the best publishing companies and advertising firms. I'm currently taking a class about communications and media in Milan, which has taught me so much about not only Italian programs and publications, but the social and political forces behind it, a relevant theme in the United States as well. The independent media education that I've received at Ithaca has helped me to discuss the differences between Italian and American media. I've had the opportunity to visit the offices of Corriere Della Sera, Italy's best newspaper and was even a member of the television audience for a daytime talk show, Mattino Cinque.
However, what I've truly enjoyed is the chance to meet new people and develop meaningful relationships. The friends that I've gained during this trip are truly a godsend and as diverse as they come. From the kind woman I met at my local café, while stopping for my daily cappuccino to my fellow university students, the people that I have met are lovely and genuine - I know that if I ever come back to Milan, I'll have friends in the city. One of the brightest spots in my week is my volunteering session at Porto Franco, a free educational assistance center for high school students in Milan. Once a week, I help students with their English homework and conversation skills; however, in my case, they're also helping me to improve my Italian. In one short month, I'll be back in the states, first home to California, then off to intern in New York City. However, the time that I've spent here will stay in my heart forever. Baci!
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
By: Moriah Petty, sophomore
Spanish is beautiful language. I love that musical Spanish words fill my ears all day as I live, study, and travel in Ecuador this semester. English just can’t compare. It is certainly a struggle to complete all my assignments in Spanish and keep up with Ecuadorian classmates but it is certainly worth it because my speaking skills have improved immensely over my short time here. I find some phrases or words come easier to mind in Spanish instead of English and I speak a Spanglish mix with my American friends.
One of the biggest shocks when first arriving in Ecuador was the altitude. You would think that the climb from the Park School up to the Terrace dorms would have prepared me but Ithaca hills have nothing on Ecuador hills. Quito is squeezed into a valley between two huge mountains and rests at 2600 meters (9200 ft) above sea level. During the first few weeks my body had to make a serious adjustment to the thin air and I still get winded climbing the hill to my house. I live with a kind older couple who patiently answer all my questions about Ecuadorian history, politics and social norms. Almost every week my host dad brings home a new fruit for me to try usually in exotic colors and odd textures but all delicious. My favorite snack here is the fresh sliced mango you can buy from carts on the street.
I have the bad habit of second guessing all my important decisions but I am completely confident that Quito was the right choice for me as the destination for my long anticipated study abroad semester. The city itself is full of life, art, and history. One day you can tour the bustling downtown, which retains the original Spanish colonial architecture, and the next hike the (still active) volcano that towers over the Western side of the city. The traffic is insane but public transportation can get you just about anywhere. The weather should be unbearably hot since Ecuador is obviously on the equator but the altitude of the Andes Mountains keeps the city cool and breezy. Not that everything is perfect. I encounter various incidents of culture shock and the crime rate is on the rise. You have to be very careful going out at night and over half the kids in my program have been robbed, including me. But still, the pros far outweigh the cons.
Ecuador is a small country but incredibly diverse both ecologically and ethnically. Short weekend trips outside the city have allowed me to experience the incredibly varied culture and landscape of the country. So far I have relaxed in hot springs, zip-lined through the rain forest, learned how to make bitter cacao beans into rich dark chocolate, battled cockroaches and giant spiders in the Amazon, and baked at the beach. In a few weeks I will be exploring the Galapagos Islands!
Some of these trips have provided unique experiences that I never could have imagined. For example, I never would have believed that I would fish for piranhas or eat ants off a stick in the Amazon. (For those who are curious, they tasted like lemon). One weekend I traveled with my anthropology class to a tiny town to participate in an indigenous festival. Community and sharing are central to indigenous life so even though we were clearly outsiders, the locals welcomed us into their homes and circles of joyful dancing. During a different weekend I got in way over my head by joining the outdoors club at my university on a hike up a volcano. The hike was beautiful but it may be one of the hardest things I have ever done. I considered turning back many times as I became convinced the mountain had no ending, just continued endlessly into the clouds. But the feeling of elation of standing on the snowy peak high is unforgettable.
Just like in Ithaca, I fill my free time with volunteering. Two days a week I work at a daycare at the edge of a landfill. The workers’ youngest children come there for care, food, and early education during the workday. Two other days I work in the communications department of Ciclópolis, an organization dedicated to promoting urban biking. As a bonus, I get to explore Quito by bike!
I am constantly fascinated by the political and social dynamics of Ecuadorian life. The indigenous community has a strong advocacy organization and just last week classes were cancelled as 11 thousand people marched into the capital to protest mining. Racism and sexism are a serious problem resulting in discrimination against women, citizens of African descent, and the mestizos of mixed indigenous and European descent that make up the majority of the population. The influence of the Spanish conquest is incredibly present today. The president, Rafael Correa, is both extremely popular and extremely hated. He has made many positive changes for the lower class but also shows some dictatorial tendencies. The communications students in me got very excited during a heated court case last month as Correa sued a journalist for writing a critical editorial on his regime. He is currently attempting to censor the press for the upcoming elections.
So much to learn and experience and so little time.