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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 11:33AM   |  Add a comment
Samantha Mason and John Vogan are abroad in New Zealand this semester

 By John Vogan and Samantha Mason, '14

Kia ora! John Vogan (JV) and Sam Mason (SM) here. Since we’re studying abroad together, we decided to write a joint blog to share our experience. We are currently in New Zealand’s east coast city of Christchurch.

SM: Paradoxically, the Spring semester of our Junior year began in what is Fall in New Zealand. John and I are students of the University of Canterbury, which is located in the suburbs of Christchurch. Unlike the U.S., many Kiwi students walk to class barefoot. In fact, they walk most places barefoot, including the supermarket and shopping mall. Nevertheless, the culture here is quite similar to the U.S. minus the excessive number of fish & chip shacks!

What came as a complete surprise to John and I, however, was the extensive damage Christchurch had suffered from the earthquakes that shook the city in September 2010 and February 2011. According to our IES study abroad advisor, the Christchurch program is continuing to see a huge decrease in international participants because of the quakes. This lack of knowledge led to John and I to register for a class at the university that was created after the quakes called Rebuilding Christchurch. This class has allowed us volunteer with local grassroots organizations that are partnering with community members in an attempt to help the city recover. This class has not only taught us so much about the post-earthquake recovery in Christchurch, but has also made John and I feel more apart of the local community.

In addition to my work with Rebuilding Christchurch, I have also been fulfilling my passion for permaculture through volunteering at the campus community garden. It has been peculiar however, harvesting fruits, veggies, and herbs during what would be winter months back in Ithaca.

JV: For me, advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community has been a defining part of my abroad experience. The University of Canterbury has a student organization called UniQ, which has allowed me to make many new friendships and share my interest in securing equal rights for all citizens. This has been an especially exciting time to be in New Zealand; last week we witnessed history as Parliament legalized same-sex marriage, bringing back memories of the volunteer work we did last semester to make this a reality in my home state of Washington with passing Referendum 74.

As a journalism major, I decided to take the opportunity to learn more about the industry’s development in New Zealand. My favorite “paper” (a Kiwi term for lecture) has been a 300-level Communication course titled Journalists at Work, in which we take an introspective look at our profession, analyzing everything from how we interact with other professions (PR is a prime example), to pressures we feel from organizational structure and demands of the market, to the ever-changing dynamic of norms and ethics. Despite New Zealand’s relative isolation geographically from the rest of the world, I was surprised to find that news outlets are very much in tune with what is happening globally. I am the only American in my class, which feels a little strange, but many of the journalistic examples cited in the lectures stem from journalistic enterprises in the U.S. and U.K. (where I studied abroad last year).

SM: As a Documentary Studies and Production student, I also have had the privilege of taking a class called Maori and Indigenous Film. This class has consisted of examining the political, historical, social, cultural, and ideological influences that have shaped the portrayal of New Zealand’s indigenous population in mainstream media. Some of the films we have watched include: Once Were Warriors, Whale Rider, Boy, Utu, Rewi’s Last Stand, and Ngati. We have also been exploring the term Fourth Cinema or Indigenous Cinema and the ways in which Maori filmmakers challenging how they are represented in film.

JV: Speaking of film, we’re not exaggerating when we say that film has inspired much of our travel here. One of our first stops during the mid-term break, Milford Sound, appeared in James Cameron’s movie Avatar. Much like the characters, we felt as if we were transported to another world entirely. The Sound is notorious for being cloaked in dense cloud and fog about 90 percent of the time, but we were lucky enough to visit on two pristinely clear days. We took full advantage, tramping (hiking) to the top of a waterfall with an absolutely stunning vista overlooking the water and treating ourselves to a few lush nature walks.

Further south is the usually sleepy town of Invercargill, which got put on the map by local Kiwi Burt Munro, who set a world land speed record on his Indian motorcycle. Anthony Hopkins portrayed his journey in the film The World’s Fastest Indian. I had a personal connection to this: my grandfather still owns a 1945 Indian motorcycle, and this film was what first sparked my interest in coming to New Zealand.

Matamata, perhaps now more notoriously known as Hobbiton and the origin of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, was a must-see on our tour of the north island. Unlike most movie sets, the one constructed for The Hobbit was done using permanent materials – something we greatly appreciated, as it now stands as a destination that fans and fanatics alike can visit. The spot itself is incredibly picturesque. When you stand there, you can rotate your view a full 360 degrees without seeing a single telephone pole, radio tower, or other sign of modern technology, making it perfect for shooting.

It would not suffice to say that these films do New Zealand full justice, but what they show is nearly spot on. As vividly captivating as the motion pictures are, it is even more breathtaking to experience these sights in person.

SM & JV: Perhaps these images will inspire several of you readers to visit Middle Earth. It is well worth the long flight and missing a day as you fly across the International Dateline. Meanwhile, we’re both looking forward to once again returning to another beautiful part of the world: Ithaca, New York. Cheers!


Posted by Kyla Pigoni at 11:25AM   |  Add a comment

 By Peter Quandt, '15

Youssef yanks my arm and pulls me through the tight alleys of Rabat’s Old Medina section. A quick left and we’re in the middle of Mohammed V Avenue just in time for the 6 p.m. rush. We can barely move amongst the swarm of street salesmen, beggars, and shop keepers all shouting and vying for the attention of potential patrons. The street market is vibrant and diverse, filled with everything from iPads to sheep heads, and suit coats to boiled snails. We take another left and I’ve completely lost my bearings. The twists and turn continue until we reach a small brown door towards the back of a dimly lit alley. Youssef turns to me and says, “Welcome home.”

It’s my fourth day in Rabat, Morocco and the small levels of comfort and familiarity, which I’d developed, just went straight out the window. My group’s first four nights were spent in the semi-luxurious, Western-style, Hotel Darna, where we grew familiar with the sounds and sights of the city but were insulated from the full cross-cultural learning experience.

But here, somewhere between Mohammed V Ave. and Hassan II Blvd., I’ve found myself fully immersed. The city that I’ve Google Mapped dozens of times is below my feet, the host family that I read about months ago is standing in front of me, and the language gap which I’d shrugged off in December is suddenly very wide and very real.


Posted by Kyla Pigoni at 12:38PM   |  Add a comment
The devils dancing during the Carnival

By Maya Cueva, '15

Throughout my time in Bolivia, Carnaval has been one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had. To witness this grand celebration I traveled to Oruro, a small city in Bolivia known for its exemplary display of costumes and dances during Carnaval, and for being the birthplace of President Evo Morales, who was born in the outskirts of the city. Carnaval is an annual celebration in Bolivia, which honors the many cultures and traditional dances of the different regions of Bolivia. The weekend was filled with vibrant colors of costumes, music, and dances—not so much a performance, but a retelling of history of oppression, colonization, and spirituality that once was and is Bolivia. From the dance of Las Morenadas, which represents the struggle of the Africans who were enslaved by the Spanish and forced to work in the mines to extract silver in Bolivia, to the China Supay, considered La Diabla or “the devil’s wife” and the essence of the Carnaval—each mask and movement tells a story and represents a different region of Bolivia.

Even before the birds were chirping and the sun made its appearance, we heard the trumpets, symbols, and drums of La Banda, “the band”, as they marched through the streets. We drew open the curtains of our hotel room window to a sea of bright yellows, blues, greens, and oranges, grinning women with short skirts and hats shaking their hips and waving their arms by their sides, dancing the famous “caporales”. We anxiously ran outside to the stands to watch what felt like a million different groups of dancers passing by; their dances from a mix of different cities and areas in Bolivia: Potosí, Santa Cruz, La Paz, Las Yungas, amongst others.

While we were entranced by the marches of dancers, we simultaneously had to avoid being sprayed by the wet foam of espuma from the crowd next to us. During Carnaval season, it´s a tradition for Bolivians to carry cans of espuma, which is soapy foam, and water balloons to hit any open target. Being gringos or Americans meant that we were easy and obvious targets, and the day turned into a game of duck, roll, and cover to prevent from being hit. It got so bad we had to buy espuma to arm ourselves. It was war.

Although I will probably be scarred by espuma forever because how much got in my eyes and mouth that day, the night was amazing. After hours of standing behind a metal barricade watching the dancers, we finally got the opportunity to jump over and dance with them as they marched! It was an exhilarating feeling standing next to caporales dancers, who are highly idolized in Bolivia. One of them smiled and took my hand as I mirrored the movement of her feet (which was, might I add, far from easy). We danced and marched with the dancers late into the night, when the masks of the diablas started to light up and other dancers juggled fire.

When I returned from Oruro to Cochabamba and my home stay family, the celebration of Carnaval wasn’t over. During Carnaval, it is a tradition in Bolivia to make and celebrate La Q’OA, which is an offering of coca leaves, color paper, sweets, herbs, and other tokens of appreciation to La Pacha Mama to bring good fortune. La Pacha Mama is a word in Quechua that means La Mama Tierra, or “Mother Earth”, and is one of the most commonly honored aspects of Bolivian ritual and tradition. After Ecuador, Bolivia was one of the first countries to ever grant ¨mother earth¨ rights.

Written in the constitution in December 2010 as ¨La Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra¨, the law vowed to take legal action to protect and defend the environment for all living creatures. For example, a person can sue in the name of “La Madre Tierra”, if a person or a corporation is some how infringing on the “La Madre Tierra’s” rights. Of course, there are inconsistencies and contradictories with Bolivia´s ¨environmental policies¨, but just stop and think for a moment about what it means to actually have something stated in the constitution that you recognize, as a country, the rights of mother earth and the ability of any person to take legal actions to defend the rights of a healthy environment. How come this idea seems so simple, so ¨matter of fact¨ for Bolivians, but in the U.S. the majority don´t even believe in climate change?? I don´t get it.

I think I can definitely say I am in love with Bolivia, and my experience in Oruro and celebrating carnaval with my family was incredible. The history of social movements, cultures, and languages that I am learning about every day never cease to amaze me. My host family is bi lingual in both Quechua and Spanish, a common trait for most Bolivian families (either Quechua or Ayamara is the older generations’ first language). I can even say some words in Quechua thanks to my host family—but I guess I should wait until I am truly fluent in Spanish before I really start to practice. One language at a time.

So as they say in Spanish: “ Nos Vemos”

Until Next Time.  


Posted by Kyla Pigoni at 11:41AM   |  Add a comment
Mia is having a great trip to Paris.

By Mia O’Brien ‘15

Prior to jetting across the pond to Europe for the spring semester, I had had plenty a conversation with older Park Scholars who had partaken in the Ithaca College London Center program. Among the various tid-bits of advice I was given, the one phrase, or, rather, term, that stuck out in my mind was “eurostomping,” coined (and passed onto me) by PS alum Willie Sleight ’12. Long story short, when Willie came to London, he set a budget, spent his money wisely, and saw over a dozen different countries, “stomping” his way across Europe.

Because of my chosen career path as a sports broadcaster, I have accepted that travelling across Europe may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me (sadly, being a broadcaster in Bangor, Maine probably won’t give me much leeway to take a month off and backpack through Europe). But that is why I really took Willie’s advice to heart and made my own budget upon arrival and have since been able to see (and do) everything I had hoped and dreamt for when I set out on this four month adventure.

During the first half of the semester, I really focused much of my time in London and the United Kingdom, visiting Bath and the West Country, Stratford-on-Avon (home of William Shakespeare), and Oxford while really getting to know the city I am living in. I also had an impromptu, 48-hour excursion to Paris thrown in there, but who’s counting. As much as the London weather certainly was dreary during those first two months and I dreamt of the sunny spots I could be travelling to, I really appreciate my decision to stay in the U.K. most of Block Three. It gave me time to grow accustomed to “flat life,” learn where the best restaurants and pubs were, and to see all that London has to offer.

...but then I caught that “eurostomping” bug and went non-stop for three weeks straight. Beginning in Portugal for Spring Break, I visited five very different cities each with something special and unique of their own. I took a wine, or “port,” tour in Porto, Portugal, walked the shoreline of Lisbon, toured the museums and history of Madrid, and tried to get as much Vitamin D as I possibly could in sunny Barcelona—all on Spring Break alone. The following weekend, I took a hop, skip, and a jump to Dublin, Ireland for some St. Patrick’s Day festivities (magically, my bank account remains reasonable given how much I still have to do... did I mention how important it is to keep a budget?).

After two weeks of “rest” back in London, I’ll be back on the road soon enough, when I travel to Frankfurt, Germany to catch a couple of “football” matches, including the U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Germany and Bayern Munich vs. Frankfurt. The following weekend will bring a trip to Edinburgh and Scotland, where I am really hoping to do the “literary pub crawl” that traces the stomping grounds of such greats as J.K. Rowling. Even on my final weekend in London, I’ll be doing a bit of travel, as I am taking a day-trip to Wales with my Contemporary British Politics Class to see the Welsh National Assembly among a slew of other sights. And as if I couldn’t get enough of Europe, I extended my trip (which I do recommend—gives you more time to explore London this way!) and will be travelling with some fellow Park Scholars to Geneva, Switzerland, and several cities in Italy before I finally head back to the U.S... and somehow make it back in time for Senior Week.

(note: if you’re wondering how I’m swinging all this while still having money to live, travelling by cheap airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet, overnight buses, and InterCity trains are the way to go. Like we’re talking two of us are flying to Geneva for less than $90).

For those of you counting at home, that brings the grand total of countries visited by this world traveller to eleven (if you count Vatican City). But, for me, “eurostomping” really hasn’t been about the quantity but, rather, the quality of each trip. I’ve chosen to go to certain places as opposed to others because I really wanted to go there. I’ve woken up ahead of everyone else in my travel group to go to museums or churches because I wanted to experience them. Sure, the dreary weather we have been experiencing is a nice excuse to sit inside... but why do that when there is a whole city—and continent—to explore? That’s been my motto throughout this whole trip, and, like that budget, I have really stuck to it. Certainly, this new lifestyle I’ve adopted will mean I won’t be eating quite as much in the U.S. as I did prior to my travels (remember: budget!), but, at the same time, I have spent my money wisely and have seen too many wonders to count on my hands and feet.

And so “Eurostomping: MOBrien Edition” continues if only for another six weeks. But fortunately, I haven’t checked off every city on my list during my time here... giving me all the more excuse to one day return to Europe.

Be sure to follow all my journeys on my own personal blog, too! I’ll be here until May 4.

Until then, cheers!


Posted by Kyla Pigoni at 4:07PM   |  Add a comment
Crystal Kayiza in Switz

By Crystal Kayiza, '15

Having spent the past two-months residing in the capital of the international community, I have witnessed an unwavering passion global peace. Geneva, Switzerland is a small bustling community within arms reach of the French border. As part of my program I spend much of my time attending presentations and lectures at the United Nations and other international organizations in areas ranging from migration, access to health, environmental protection, and women’s rights. And recently I had the privilege of hearing Ban Ki-moon—current Secretary-General of the UN—give a public talk. Although I was honored to attend such an important event, what I witnessed was a serious turn in my study abroad experience.

While delivering his brief lecture Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was met with conflict when he began to speak about the current conflict in the Congo. As he elaborated on the United Nations efforts in Africa, a Congolese representative stood and began yelling about the international community’s apathy towards Africa. As she pointed out his mistruth, other African representatives began to do the same. The public display of outrage ended in a brief disruption of the programming and an exodus’s of the protestors. Most of the room sat in silence, anxiously waiting the words of the Secretary-General. But the fire had been put out, and the moment was met with passive acknowledgement of their legitimate inquiry. The show went on, and the room soon forgot the questions of their Congolese colleges.

The more I attend lectures and conferences I find that the complacency with muting the voice of others through funds or political power hinders the international community. And that overwhelmingly the “others” are developing communities. Geneva exposes me to new narratives, and I value the brilliant minds I encounter everyday. But there must be a change in how we approach the narratives of others. As I continue to search for ways to connect my passion for media and policy, I use this event as a reminder of one consistent truth in all my pursuits. For me to be an honest storyteller and humanitarian good intentions should never cripple a community’s voice. To understand the complexity of the outrage found that day, there is a long history that must be taken into consideration.

I may spend more time lounging in conferences chairs than on beaches, but thus far my study abroad experience has pushed and tested me in every way. As I continue exploring Geneva, I am reminded that although the acquisition of this knowledge is an incredible challenge, I will be a better filmmaker and human being because of it. And I am privileged to call the haven of the global community home.  


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