Barnes ’14: Host Family Very Welcoming

Adam Barnes ’14 – Lost luggage.  A new family.  Orientation.  New Friends (mostly from the University of Virginia).  Spanish Linguistics.  Spanish Culture and Civilization.  Festivals.  Beaches.  Castles.  Soccer Game.

To say the least this past week of immersion in Spanish culture has been a shock.  When I decided to study in Spain, I never anticipated loving the culture so much.  I never anticipated enjoying the company of my new family or of my new friends as much as I do.  As of now, I don’t think I could have made a better choice.

Just to touch on a few events from the past week, I am living with a Spanish mother and brother.  Both have been very welcoming and useful in correcting my lingual mistakes.  They both embraced me as part of the family and I’m extremely thankful for that.  My brother, Lucas, and I have enjoyed each other’s company: discussing the Spanish health care system, the different dialects present in Spain, and a passion of his, sailing.  Today, I even went to a sail factory to help stitch together some sails and learn a little about the sailing culture in Europe.  Next to this communication, so far I have most enjoyed the soccer game.

The atmosphere at the Valencia-Granada match was surreal.  All of the fans were energetic to cheer and die-hard faithful toward the Valencia players.  I went with a large group from my program and some of us even joined in as best we could with the Spanish cheers.  Valencia won, 1-0, which made the event all the sweeter.  This is just a brief glimpse into what has been a world-wind of an experience and one that I hope continues to be fruitful.  Already, I’ve noticed my speaking abilities improving, my confidence rising, and my interest in the culture growing.  So I’d like to thank Wabash College, the Rudolph family, and my parents for this opportunity…it’s once-in-a-lifetime!

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Kocian ’11 Enjoying French Way of Life

Clifford Kocian ’11 – There is a certain serenity or peacefulness that comes from living in small-town America. It is comforting to know your neighbors, the composition of the town; to have the stability that arises from the static nature of the place. No movement in or out, but rather just simply being. It is this type of atmosphere that is viewed as truly American, and has been idealized on television and in movies for decades. However, one might be surprised at how well the small town of Arles, in Southern France, meshes with the notion of small-town America. True, there are no SUVs, no similar houses with similarly manicured yards, and no perfect family structure (mom, dad, two children- one girl and one boy, two dogs, one cat, and a goldfish), but then again a small-town feel is just that: a feel. While Arles may not have the physical manifestations of small-town America, it still has that small-town feel to it. It is a place where everyone knows everyone, where buildings and streets haven’t been changed for hundreds of years, and where security is nestled in the static way of life. 

On the first day of being here we were told that life in Southern France was slow, and to get used to it. Throughout two days of orientation (all in French, of course), this may have been the best piece of advice that we were given. All similarities to America aside, this slow pace of life is perhaps the most striking difference to living in the States. People really do take their time and enjoy it. It, quite frankly, is a comforting way to live. There is no such thing as getting something to go here. In fact, it’s completely normal to get a coffee and sit at the café for an hour or two after finishing. In a way it’s odd for people to dine and dash. If you get a meal, expect to follow it up with a round of dessert, followed by a round of coffee- each one happening in its own time. This is the type of place where going to work at 9 might be considered early, and working late considered overkill. Here, time is treasured because people are treasured. It’s simply not as important to consume the day running around on a tight schedule if it can be put off until tomorrow and good company can be had instead. 
 
The other day I was running, and as I was ruminating on my time here, the way of life, the people, I looked around to see that on one side of me was the Rhone river, and on the other side a sunflower field (in full bloom), and saw across the river the city, with its small streets and ancient ways, I couldn’t help but think to myself that Arles is an atypically typical French city. It is French in the purest sense of the word. People really do eat baguettes and cheese (all the time), and drink wine (all the time). Life is slow and simple. 
 
But this typical French city is atypical in how it meets American stereotypes. The city is vibrant. The culture is vibrant. The people are wonderfully nice and accommodating, even to us students who apparently have ‘American accents’. However, instead of being looked down upon, the people of the city want to talk to us more. Why? They really enjoy the sound of our American accents. Us, who are strangers to this world, to this way of life, are being embraced even though we upset the static balance- the security blanket. These people are open, honest, and engaging. And they are interested. They are interested in us and in America. A lot of people my age will speak English to me so that they can practice (I speak French back to them). They want to know if university really is like American Pie. 
 
Southern France is serene, almost out of a fairy tale. I’ve been here just over a week and it feels like a month. I have a month left and I am already sad to leave. But rather than think, I will do like the French have taught me and live. Time to go have some bread, cheese, and wine by the river. 

In photo: Kocian, at far left, with a group of fellow students.

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Johnson ’11 Fitting In with Greek Culture

Joe Johnson ’11 – Well, I am on my fourth week in Athens and I find it pretty astounding how the time in a foreign country has adapted me to its everyday lifestyle. For example, I went downtown to a store in Syntagma Square. Syntagma Square to Athens is like a miniature version of Times Square to New York City. I went into a store called “Public” which is very similar to our Best Buy, however, Public didn’t only sell electronics; they also sold name brand clothes (in the same store), which blew my mind. Anyways, I was in conquest for an Ethernet cord for my computer and when the attendant asked me what I was looking for I replied, “A two meter Ethernet cord.” It wasn’t until my roommate pointed it out to me that I used the term “meter” instead of feet. Not only was I using meters to describe lengths but liters to describe volume. The funny thing is, I don’t recall asking for the cord in meters and I can’t remember ordering beverages in liters, my brain just automatically switched over. 

Another proud moment in my adaptation to Greek life was when a group of tourists approached me and asked me for directions to Monastiraki (the main shopping plaza of Athens). I assume they thought I was a Greek citizen, or at least they were hoping I was due to my Mediterranean complexion. I was happy to give them proper directions how to get there and I even remembered which road to use. The group of about 15 was very appreciative and thanked me for the directions. I could tell they were from America because of their English and one of the younger kids in the group was wearing a Denver Broncos jersey. As they walked away, I paused, looked back at the group, looked forward, and then nodded to myself for a job well done. I felt like a true citizen! I promise the story was much funnier at the moment but I did indeed feel a sense of belonging to the city, and in only three shorts weeks!
Like I stated in my last blog, time has been going by extremely fast. Last week, my class visited the sites of Piraeus (Port City), Eleusis, Eleutherai, the Agora in Athens, and the infamous Corinth. My favorite of the five sites was Corinth because of the archeological history and the surrounding area was breathtaking. I have never seen so many hills, valleys, and beautiful bodies of water all tied together in one fascinating landscape. This past weekend I went to Nafplion and Epidaurus with a group of my friends from class. In Nafplion, I visited with Adam Miller ’12. Adam and I work together at Career Services and became good friends over the past two semesters. Adam is working in a wine shop in Nafplion for seven weeks out of the summer and from what he has been telling me, his experience of Greece is pretty comparable to mine. It was great seeing another Wabash Man in such a distant, and distinct place. 
After Nafplion, my group went to Epidaurus which holds the world’s largest and most preserved ancient theater! The theater was built in the 4th century BC and holds just under 15,000 people. What makes this theater so unique is its acoustics. Rather by accident or perfectly applied acoustic properties, you could hear someone light a match at the middle of the stage from the very last row! No other theater is this precise and perfect. My group had half of the people on stage and the other half scattered all along the last row (roughly 150 feet away). The people on the stage whispered messages to each of us and with no problem, we could understand them. When it was my time to go on stage, I decided I would sing “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. I sounded pretty pathetic, but still got a great applause. 
This trip has been extremely special to me. I would like to take some time and thank all the people at Wabash and at home who made this possible. First, I’d like to thank the Rudolph Family. Without the Rudolph Family’s generous donation to Wabash giving students the opportunity to study abroad, I would never be studying here in Greece. It is because of them that I am experiencing the trip of a lifetime! Also I would like to thank Wabash College and the people that helped me out with the process. I’d like to thank Betsy Knott for recommending and informing me about the Ken Rudolph Fund. Also, I’d like to thank Mr. Clapp for helping me with the organization and making sure I got accepted to the program. Next, I’d like to thank Dr. Mikek for helping me with travel arrangements and writing me a letter of recommendation. Finally, I’d like to thank Dean Phillips for advising me as well as his letter of recommendation. On top of my Wabash family, I’d like to thank my personal family for their support and encouragement in making this trip possible. I cannot thank both of my families enough. 
               
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Concannon ’11 Absorbing Turkey’s History

Patrick Concannon ’11 – Well since my last blog I have been to Turkey and back. While I was in Turkey our class went to see Ephesus which is one of the many places Paul preached and is considered his base of operations. It was great to see what people lived like during the first century. We were able to see Roman baths and sewer system. As well as Roman housing where the wealthy would have lived. These houses over looked the sea and just like in today’s world it was all about location.

 Some of you may be thinking that modern day Ephesus does not have an ocean front and you are correct. The ocean has receded about a half mile in the last 1500 years. That was the main reason why Ephesus was abandoned and why we can see it for what it looked like over 2000 years ago. After we left Turkey we went straight to Kalampaka which is where the famous monasteries of Meteora are located. It was astounding to see how monks in the 11th century built monasteries on top of mountains so they would not be bothered. The sights were beautiful and breathe taking. Not to mention a tough climb on a hot day, but as I said it was worth it to see these amazing buildings that seem to float on the mountain tops.

After a rough day of climbing around the mountains of Meteora we left to Thessaloniki where Paul wrote his letter to the Thessalonians. We are planning on spending about three days here and then heading back to Athens. So far this has been an eye opening experience. Our professor knows both Greek and Hebrew so we are learning what the ancient bible said and not what scholars interpreted. The difference is not huge but with so many different bibles out there today its nice to see what was really said.

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Johnson ’11 Skepticism Gone, Greece is Living History

Joe Johnson ‘ 11 – As a first time international traveler, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little skeptical, nervous, or at times afraid of what to expect about living in another country (especially if that country’s economy is struggling and its citizens are protesting). However, in only two short weeks in Greece, I have familiarized myself with the city and expanded my explorations from Greece’s northern border, all the way to the beautiful island of Santorini (roughly 600 miles). I have always heard it, but now found out firsthand that traveling is indeed addictive. 

I am currently enrolled in a program called A College Year in Athens and the class that I am taking is called Ancient Athens: Discovering a Greek Polis. Every day of class is “field trip” but a field trip unlike any other I have ever been on. The very first day of school, my 21 classmates from all over the United States and I climbed the 1,000 foot Lykabettos Mountain. It was surreal! You could see all of Athens and then some. From here we could point out the Acropolis, other important temples and their respected ruins, and the Mediterranean Sea. 

Besides climbing Mount Lykabettos, we visited the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion (voted one of the most beautiful places in the world). My class also visited the Temple of Hephaisteion which is Greece’s most preserved temple dating back from 420 B.C. Alongside the Temple of Hephaisteion, we visited the Ancient City of Delphi, Eastern Attica, Kerameikos, the National Museum, Eleusis, and of course, the Acropolis. The Acropolis holds four famous temples to the Greek Gods Nike and Athena (Where Athens derives its name from). The Acropolis’s most famous temple is the Parthenon. 

My study abroad experience is unique to me for a couple of reasons.  First, I am learning about the ancient city in which I am living in. For example, my apartment is right next to the Old Olympic Marble stadium. Being that close to history allows me to visualize the Olympic Games that once filled the city with cheers and excitement so many years ago.  Where my apartment is today, once stood a gate where athletes from all over Europe passed through before competition.  Also, I can walk outside and look up in sky to find the Acropolis towering a couple hundred feet above me. This very same view rivals the view of an Athenian over 2,000 years ago! We talk about American history being old (dating to 1776) but I am analyzing some artifacts that are dated 1776 B.C.! Besides learning about the city I am living in, I am also of Greek heritage so this class fills my interest of Greek culture and history. 

Overall, I have struggled to put into words what this experience has done for me. I wake up every day excited for the next journey to begin. I also know that every other student here feels the same way as I do. We have done more as a class in two weeks than many citizens of Greece have done in their lifetime. 

My class started May 24 and is currently already half way over. I feel like I am a veteran citizen of Athens (except for speaking Greek) but at the same time I feel like I arrived here yesterday. This trip has changed my outlook on life and has given me the motivation to come back in the near future. My hope is that one day I can extend my recent month residency in Greece to something a bit more permanent.   

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Concannon ’11 Begins Summer Experience in Greece

Patrick Concannon ’11 – Greece is amazing. I have only been here a week and I am loving it. The people are nice and kind to all of the students. The news made it seem like an unsafe place but it is probably safer than most American cities, well as long as you don’t get in the way of traffic. The food is amazing and I think I was Greek in another life because I eat just like them. They like to dip their food in all sorts of delicious dishes, they love to mix and match for the perfect combination of flavor. They also like to eat with their hands and take food very seriously just as I do. 

Besides the food I am having a great time seeing the local sites of Athens. Just the other day I got to see the place where democracy was born which, needless to say, was amazing. The Agora or market place is where it happened and is still there for us to see today. It is not used however, because it is a archeological site but we were able to walk through it and experience and stand on the area where democracy was born. To be able to experience history in the place where it happened is a priceless experience I will not soon forget and I cannot wait to see more and experience everything this class has to offer.  After one week I already know my way around modern day Athens and I cannot wait to learn my way around ancient Athens.

This week we are going to Turkey to start our journey through the steps of the apostle Paul. This is what I have been waiting for and I am very excited to see the places where Paul went and learn more about him. Again I would like to say this is a priceless experience and I cannot thank the Wabash, my parents, and Rudolph family enough for making this possible.
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Dresden Leaves Impression on Vick ’10

Michael Vick ’10For my final trip during my time here, I decided to pay a visit to Dresden, a city that most Americans know from Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. From that novel, most people know that it underwent heavy firebombing in 1945; 1500 tons of bombs were dropped in the city over the course of two days. Adding the fact that Dresden was an East German city, I was expecting something comparable to the eastern parts of Berlin.

Needless to say, my expectations were far off. Berlin is unique in that much attention was given to it after reunification. Even though some tenements and remnants of East Germany remain there, the “Wessies”—and their ideals—concentrated in West Berlin quickly diffused into the eastern parts. Dresden, by comparison, lies deep in eastern Germany, far from any border with the former West.

Following WWII and Soviet occupation, the East German government decided against rebuilding every historical building. Even today, almost 20 years after reunification, there are still areas in the city center that are little more than fenced-off holes in the ground.

While this was an interesting break from what I’d seen in other cities, I found the plaques describing the rebuilt buildings even more intriguing. For example, the description at the entrance of the Baroque Fairground and Zwinger detailing the history of the area describes the Anglo-American destruction of the city, followed immediately by the Soviet liberation of the city from the Nazi tyrants.

After reading about and discussing the ways in which people from either side of the Wall had their respective Cold-War-ideologies ingrained into their thought processes, it’s fascinating to see how even historically “neutral” buildings could be decorated with state propaganda. I especially wonder if I only noticed the wording in that description because I’m a Westerner, or if Germans from the former East Germany still notice such propaganda while in the West.

Another difference that I noticed in Dresden is that the most lively part of the city was not the Altstadt, as in other places I’ve visited, but in the so-called Neustadt. While the baroque architecture and museums are in the older part of town, the newer area is the place to go shopping, meet friends, get a bite to eat,  or go to clubs. While walking through the Neustadt to my hostel, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was walking through an American city, even though far more English-speakers could be found in Berlin.

It now seems serendipitous that the last city I visited before I’ll return home was so vastly different from the others I’ve seen during my time here: I feel that I was starting to think I had seen enough of Germany to “sum it up.” Dresden reminded me, however, that it really is impossible to generalize a culture very distinctly, and that I could spend the rest of my life studying this country and never stop learning new things about the German people.

In photos: Upper right, View from the Zwinger looking towards the entrance to the fairgrounds; at left, the Zwinger now houses a sculpture museum; lower right, The Hofkirche and Schloss on the Elbe.

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