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Park Scholars Go Global

Park Scholars Go Global

Discover what some of our Park Scholars abroad are doing.

Posted by Kyla Pigoni at 10:34PM   |  Add a comment

 

¡Hola! Estoy en Sevilla y a mi me gusta mucho.

This is my second time studying abroad—I was at the IC London Center last spring—and when I decided to leave Ithaca for a second semester, I knew I wanted a different experience. That's why I came to Seville, where i live in a homestay with a Señora, study with students from all different schools, and most importantly, speak as much Spanish as possible! That's still taking some getting used to; there are definitely moments where I find myself frantically flipping through a dictionary trying to find the right word, and even after five years of Spanish in high school and the three-week intensive period that started our semester (a regular class schedule begins on Monday) I still can't roll my rs (like in "perro" or "guerra"), but I'm learning. Having professors who speak in rapid, fluent Spanish definitely helps a lot, although the Andaluz accent is an adjustment as well! The other big change I've experienced here in Seville is mi clase de bailar: a dance class! Since we're in Andalucia, the "regional folk dance" we're learning is, of course, Flamenco. Now, I went to the gym at IC, and everyone knows you get plenty of exercise walking up and down South Hill, but I haven't taken a proper P.E. class since high school, and now here I am trying to perfect mis pasas de cinco y mis golpes de la derecha (five-step motions and stomps with the right foot). Hopefully I will be good enough for the Feria, a spring fair in a few months where there are spectaculars of flamenco dancing. While I've been busy with classes, there's also been plenty of time to explore Seville. I've visited the Catedral de Santa María de la Sede, the largest Gothic style cathedral and third-largest church in the world (after St. Peter's at the Vatican and the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil). Nearby, I also visited los Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, the set of palaces and patios that mix Christian and Muslim elements in a really amazing way. I love architecture, so I'm a huge fan of this city. I've also seen a little bit outside of Sevilla, notably the famous Carnaval celebrations in Cádiz, where thousands of people dress up in disfraces (costumes) and party all night in this beautiful city by the sea. I'm loving my time in Sevilla so far, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more of it and more of Spain—although I'll wait to travel north hasta que no es tan frío (until it isn't so cold)!

 

 

 


Posted by Kyla Pigoni at 4:55PM   |  Add a comment

By: Erin Irby, junior IMC major

Since jeudi soir (thursday night), I have eaten crêpes for not one,
not two, but three consecutive meals. One might ask, what on earth did
you do to deserve such an unusual and delicious treatment while
studying abroad?

I promise it’s not my gastronomial yearnings, but, in fact, the French
“fête” entitled La Chandeleur. Traditionally a Latin ritual where it
was custom to light candles at midnight and feast in hopes of a good
harvest, La Chandeleur was a celebration of light that represented the
departure of winter and the warmth of the coming “printemps” aka
spring (similar to Groundhog Day, but with less groundhogs and more
crêpes). In the Middle Ages, this traditionally nonreligious holiday
was eradicated by the Roman Catholic church and replaced with an
observance of the purification of Mary, the virgin mother. The lights
that originally represented the coming harvest and warmth of spring
were tranformed to symbolize Christ and the light that he gave the
world. In France and other countries in Europe, the circular treats
are said to resemble le soleil (the sun) and give everyone a good
excuse to enjoy crêpes with their nearest and dearest.

I celebrated La Chandeleur with ma mere d’acceuil (host mother),
Renee, and her close friends. An aspect of the soiree is that everyone
in the house has to flip at least one crêpe with a coin in their hand
to symbolize the potential prosperity of the coming season. I was a
little nervous that the crêpe might slip out of my pan and land face
down on the floor, but I was able to land it perfectly on the first
try! If only I could have the same luck with pancakes in the Estats
Units!

Part of this traditional fête is to make more crêpes than you’d ever
possibly be able to eat and make the youngest person in the family
(me) eat all the leftovers. The next morning, I had crêpes with creme
de marrons (a chestnut spread that is way too delicious for its own
good) for le petit dejeuner (breakfast) and took the still remaining
crêpes to partage (share) with my friends. As soon as I thought that
my consumption of crêpes was over, my French teacher, Catherine,
brought in a huge stack of homemade crêpes to share with the class! I
just had to celebrate the occasion. The French garnish their crêpes
with a large variety of sweet and savory toppings including (but not
limited to): creme de marrons, sucre, miel (honey), pate de noisette,
confiture (jam), beurre (butter), and fromage (cheese). On vendredi
(friday), the mid-morning crêpes were definitely an added bonus and
kept me going through my three hour intensive French course.

Every day, I attend class at L’Institut de Catholique where I am very
proud to be in Level 2 French (out of 5) after only having one
semester of French in lycee (high school). It’s been years since I’ve
practiced my French, but I’m absorbing the language like I’ve been
dehydrated and the French language is water- filling pages upon pages
in my notebook with new words and speaking franglais avec mes amis as
much as I possibly can. At cafés and salon du thes (coffee shops and
tea houses), my friends and I try to make conversation with the
baristas, who are usually appreciative of our efforts and sympathetic
to the way we completely confuse future and past tenses. After class,
my friends and I usually find a spot for lunch or search for a warm
coffee shop (my favorite are the ones where you can sit outside under
heat lamps!), eat a déjeuner (lunch) and then do our homework or
practice our french. After lunch, we-depending on the day-have a
themed promenade (walking tour) around Toulouse, a lecture on social
issues in France (anything from immigration to politics to urban dance
classes), or our CSP (community service project).

I’m incredibly excited to begin my bénévolat (volunteer project)
because I’m working with La Ferme Pédagogique de Cinquante, a farm in
Ramonville près de Toulouse! The farm has an incredible array of farm
animals and gardens to take care of and uses interactive learning to
enhance the relationship that children have with the environment.

Toulouse is a perfect mixture of douceur de vivre (sweetness of life)
and urban vivaciousness, filled with art museums and theatre
companies, political activism and street markets, cinema houses and
closet-sized art supply stores. One of my favorite aspects of living
here is that I am able to walk to school with my friend through the
Jardin des Plantes which strongly resembles the botanical fantasies my
mind would conjure up when I would read or listened to Italo Calvino
stories as a child.

Today, I’m going with my friends to the Fête de la Violette which
celebrates everything violet- Toulouse’s emblem. The violet has been
grown in this area since the 19th century and can be seen all around
the city in soaps, lotions, tea shops, and in window boxes.  I’m super
excited about trying violet tea in this vague de froid (cold snap)
that is plaguing Toulouse!

À bientôt!


Posted by Kyla Pigoni at 3:59PM   |  Add a comment

By: Megan Devlin, sophomore journalism major

After a long week of orientation, I finally moved in with my homestay family.

While students waited on one side of the CCCL with luggage in hand and the families on the other, our homestay coordinator began playing matchmaker wit her list of names. As my eyes danced around the room, I caught those a little one, Safae (who is 6 years old), who spotted me in the crowed. No sooner was a greeted with a hug and two darling pecks on the cheek.

Mama, Zayneb [Zee-neb] and Safae [Sa-fa] all embraced me with open arms and two pecks on the cheek — the Moroccan greeting.  Instantly, my nerves washed away and I felt an immediate sense of belonging to this family.

Safae was so excited to see me and have a new “big sister” in the house. She only speaks Darija (the Moroccan Arabic dialect), so we communicate and connect in some of the most basic human ways. At first, facial expressions and body movements guided us. Zayneb, who is the most mature 14-year-old I have ever met, later assumed the role of translator: telling me what Safae says — in French, of course, because the family doesn’t speak English.

As a result, my French — which I eagerly put on the backburner after finishing the AP exam in high school — is improving with each sentence I (attempt to) formulate. As a communications major, it’s ironic how one of my biggest challenges this semester will be learning how to communicate in my daily life while living in Rabat.

When I arrived, Baba (father) greeted me at the door with a Salaam and showed me around the petite maison, as Mama calls it. Upon entering the house and ascending the stairs, a sink greets you at the top and the door to the bathroom is just ahead. Across the way is a little kitchen. In Morocco, this is considered the “woman’s place” because, normally, she alone does all the cooking for the family. Traditionally, it is also where women talk to their female neighbors or family members without having men listen in on their conversations. This is but one of the many gender dynamics and norms here.

The apartment-like home also has a living room equipped with couches lining the walls entirely, stopping only at the entrance. At meal times, the room transforms into the dining room; simply add a table and tablecloth. When it’s time for bed, the room yet again transforms into beds for Zayneb and me. Multi-purposing seems to be at the core of everything here — which is a highly sustainable and less wasteful, in my view.

Since the family lives in the old medina, I get to experience everything in the utmost traditional sense — almost. Aside from a Western toilet, our house has a gas tank just outside the bathroom, which is used to generate hot water for the faucet. This is especially useful when it comes time to shower: hot water, large bucket, small bucket — Ca y’est.

This is another Moroccan way of living; it’s not just those in the medina. Once a week, everyone goes to the hammam, which is a large public shower (one entrance for boys, one entrance for girls). The hour-long ritual consists of lots of intense scrubbing (like exfoliation), rinsing in incredibly hot and soothing water, then sitting in a steam room. The experience is like going to a spa-like YMCA — or so I’ve heard. I haven’t gone yet, but I’m looking forward to embracing this new experience. Once again, I will have to renegotiate my sense of “privacy” — which is almost an inconceivable concept to many Moroccans unfamiliar with Western norms —because everyone showers naked in this open public space, even in font of strangers…

Each second I spend with this family, I grow more comfortable with these foreign cultural concepts, customs and norms. The moment I entered the house I was treated like a family member, not a visitor — aside from meal times. The constant repetition of “Megan, kuli kuli” or “mangez mangez”(“eat, eat”) won’t let up until I take another bite — and then maybe one more. I have a feeling that my pants may not like me for this at the end of my 4-month stay here.

Despite our cross-cultural differences, there are far more intercultural similarities that span across the human race. The first evening consisted of picture-showing, home video watching and dancing — even to some Shakira. After a week of being here, I’ve discovered that if I look for these similarities — rather than the differences — I become more flexible, open-minded and comforted by the notion I’m surrounded by kind and loving people. They just happen to come from a different place.


Posted by Kyla Pigoni at 4:54PM   |  1 comment
Tanzania map

The Time Has Come

By: Abby Sophir, sophomore

I’ve spent years yearning to live in Africa and months researching study abroad programs. In fact, waiting for this experience has become so habitual that I’ve almost forgotten that something will come of all the anticipation. Even as my friends post updates from Ecuador, London, and Italy, my own departure feels like an asymptote which will never be reached. And because I can’t fathom that the day is here, I spent most of winter break gathering stuff for our apartment next fall instead of getting ready for Tanzania... oops. 

As I’ve talked to family and friends about my upcoming semester, the responses I’ve gotten have been pretty standard. In order of least to most frequent— genuine excitement, a suggestion of my ludicrousness, sorrow for my parents, or sheer confusion as to where Tanzania is and whether it’s the same as place as Tasmania (it’s not). This initial reaction is usually followed by a few questions— What will you be doing there? Why’d you choose Tanzania?— with the answers now rolling off my tongue as effortlessly as my college list did senior year of high school. Aside from the customary warning to be safe and avoid getting sick, the conversation typically ends at that. 

However, a couple weeks ago at a burger joint with my great-aunt Cookie, I was caught off guard. “But WHY are you going to Tanzania?” she insisted, clearly unsatisfied by my rehearsed answers.

While there are a multitude of reasons why I chose this program which include the 30 nights of camping, hearsay of Tanzanian friendliness, and the fact that English is one of the country’s official languages, I want to be sure to dispel the notion that I’m going to Tanzania “to help the poor Africans” or "save the world" as my doctor put it yesterday. That is far from the truth. I am going to Tanzania to better understand and deepen my respect for their culture, history, and lifestyle; to observe their interactions with the natural environment and participate in a society different from the one I’ve grown up in; to relieve my curiosity, meet awesome people, and see first hand the possibility for another way of living. It’s probably more accurate to say I’m going to Tanzania to be helped. 

Despite my negligible Swahilian vocabulary— consisting primarily of phrases from The Lion King—  and the intimidating life supply of medication stashed in my backpack, I could not be more excited. It will certainly be a long, phoneless day of travel from St. Louis to Detroit to the Netherlands to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, but if my patience has lasted this long, what’s another few hours? The wait is finally over! It’s Tanzania Time. 

 

 


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