2011 photo contest winner isiXeko imibala (“City of Many Colors,” Cape Town, South Africa) by Ben Scott
VANDERBILT GEO ISSUE 2
Welcome to the Vanderbilt GEO Newsletter! An Amazing Race by Ali LeBlanc
Set the scene: You are standing in the middle of a packed historic town square, surrounded by thousands of people, and a whistle blows. Once the shrill sound reaches the crowd, all fall silent—so quiet that you could hear a singular announcer, without help of a speaker system, proclaim that it is time to start the race. This is not just any race, but rather the historic Palio horse race that occurs in Siena twice each year. It is filled with emotion, rivalry, history, and thrill. I was lucky enough to experience this race first hand when I was studying abroad with CET Siena in Summer 2010. It was an incredible event that cannot be
compared to any other. The anticipation and festivities surrounding it made my summer one that will never be forgotten.
An Amazing Race by Ali LeBlanc
The Palio stems from a neighborhood system in Siena that inspires intense competition. There are seventeen “contrade” (districts) within the small medieval walled town and each of them has their own traditions, leadership, and mascots. During my time abroad, I lived in one of the smallest contradas of Siena, Civetta, which translates to Owl. The inhabitants of these contrade take their membership very seriously, and century long rivalries still exist. Ten contradas get to race a horse in each Palio race. This selection process is based on a random drawing, but it is ensured that every contrada will at least get to race every other year.
Language Spotlight by Catherine Cocke
Cultural Spotlight by Brian Alosco Fulbright article by Erol Koymen
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bareback horse race sports its Medieval roots, with the outcome being determined as much by the bribes given to jockeys in the weeks leading up to the race as by the actual race performance. The rivalries run deep, and it is not abnormal for fights to break out between young supporters of the contradas. While it has become quite a tourist attraction in more recent years, the locals continue to take the event very seriously and the winners will gloat for years to come.
The competition is unlike anything you’ve seen. This 1
The race itself consists of three unbelievably intense laps around the town square, finishing in just a few minutes, but the events of the Palio stretch far beyond the race day. Each contrada is full of pride and hosts weeklong festivities throughout the summer in order to show their support. These include incredible banquets, incredible outdoor parties, and parades through the street. At one such party that I attended, you could even place bets on a horse (actually a pool ball in a slanted race track) in a fake Palio race. The prizes were truly Italian in form, ranging from a nice bottle of Tuscan wine to a wheel of cheese 8 inches in diameter. These parties are very elaborate, featuring several different stages for bands, DJs, and sometimes even karaoke. While interesting on paper, it is all the more intoxicating in person. The Palio can not be fully understood until experienced first hand, and there is no better way to do that than by spending a summer studying in the beautiful Tuscan town of Siena. -‐AL
GEO is proud to announce that 8 students studying at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Copenhagen have been presented with the DIS Intercultural Leadership Award for Fall 2011: ✤Alayna Boland
✤Hayley Sylvester 2
How To: How to choose the right program for you! 1. Location! Location! Location! List a few places you’re dying to experience and look at those places first. Keep in mind the dates and fees of each location, especially if you are planing to have an internship or take classes in the summer.
2. Study Abroad worksheet!
Hippy architecture and design at its finest.
GEO Cultural Spotlight Christiania: A Country Within a City By Brian Alosco Among the medieval churches and upscale restaurants of Copenhagen lies an area unlike any other in Denmark. Christiania, more formally known as Freetown Christiania, is a self-‐declared autonomous area of Copenhagen complete with its own laws (and even its own flag). It consists of approximately 850 residents who inhabit what used to be an abandoned military base. Christiania has a culture of its own, and I was able to experience this culture first-‐hand. A friend and I originally went to Christiania for some cheap Thai food, but little did we know we’d receive the full Christiania experience. As soon as we arrived, a nice older gentleman, noticing how American we looked, offered to show us around. This was atypical of Danes, who usually keep to themselves unless approached. While we had no idea who this old man was, we adopted the abroad mentality and decided to just go with the flow. First, he took us to the antique oven museum. Yes, as in kitchen ovens. It was a small building full of different kinds of ovens that spanned hundreds of years of history. I’m not sure why Christiania glorified ovens, but it was actually pretty
neat. Then, we went to the town apothecary. As opposed to the average pharmacy, this one carried predominantly alternative medicine. We were shocked that they relied on rare herbs and massages to cure almost every illness. Our tour guide assured us that these medicines were better than any traditional medicine and encouraged us to come back and receive some for free if we got sick. Finally, we returned to the main square of Christiania, where dozens of people were congregated. The smell of marijuana pervaded my nostrils, as smoking is a common and openly acceptable practice in Christiania. People were playing chess, having drinks at the bar, and having a great time. Everyone was very friendly and I engaged in some interesting conversations -‐ one man even tried to sell me a bike that I’m almost positive he was not the owner of. All in all, Christiania is an incredible place. What was once a military base has turned into an incredible neighborhood bustling with rich culture and interesting people. It really did feel as if we had entered a different world when we stepped through the gates of Christiania, giving visitors a temporary vacation from the cobblestone streets of Copenhagen.
Fill out the Study Abroad worksheet found at GEO and go to a Study Abroad 101 meeting. Remember to ask your professor(s) about a letter of recommendation well in advance. They’re exceptionally busy people and often need an ample heads up.
3. E-mail a Peer Alumni! Ask questions and find a program that fits your interests by emailing a Peer Alumni who went to that program or talk with the GEO office. Schedule an appointment with GEO representatives who are in charge of the areas you are interested in.
4. Meet with an Advisor! Meet with your Study Abroad Advisor and your Academic Advisor to work out the details of your trip and course selection. Really think about what classes you want to take and whether or not you can receive credit for a major or minor. Remember that you cannot earn AXLE credit abroad!
Check out Study Abroad Student Blogs! Curious about the study abroad experience? Click on the “Blog Roll” tab on the left of the Vanderbilt GEO homepage and and start exploring blogs and online journals by students who are currently abroad!
Events! March 28, 2012 General Pre-departure Meetings For those leaving in the Summer, the time is 5-6pm. For Fall: 6:15-7:15pm Both @ Stevenson 4309
April 3, 2012 Screening of the Australian TV series: Summer Heights High Are you interested in studying abroad in Australia? Come watch the famous Australian TV series Summer Heights High for a good laugh and some popcorn, candy, and other refreshments. Study abroad representatives will be present, so come learn about this incredibly beautiful and far away country. 7pm at Towers East Lounge
Fulbright Program: Life in Wieselburg
by Erol Koymen
Welcome to my first week in Austria as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. After arriving in Vienna and touring a bit, I took the train an hour or so west of my town – Wieselburg. Wieselburg is small – about 6,000 residents – and as I arrived on a Wednesday afternoon, I was wary of what my new, small-‐town Austrian life would be like. That first evening, though, I was warmly welcomed with an invitation to the local Film Club, followed by drinks in a pub. The next day, Thursday, I joined the rehearsal of the Wieselburg Gesangsverein (the town choir) which took place, accompanied by more drinks, in another local pub. I began Friday by attending a chamber music recital in a local Wieselburg, Austria.
April 4, 2012 IFSA Butler Pre-departure Meetings For UK-Ireland: 5-6pm; For Australia and New Zealand: 6:15-7:15pm Both @ SLC basement rooms 1&2
April 9, 2012 Meet and Greet with the Associate Director of DIS Malene Torp from the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) will be at SLC Room 109 from 10-10:45am to meet with interested students.
April 11, 2012 World on Wednesday (WOW) Learn from GEO’s peer advisors about how the study abroad experience prepares one for graduate school and/or future employment. 12-1pm in the basement of the SLC.
April 11, 2012 DIS pre-departure meeting For those leaving in the Summer, the time is 4-5:15pm. For Fall: 5:30-6:45pm. Both @ SLC basement rooms 1&2
April 17, 2012 International Dessert Night Come and enjoy desserts from all over the world while learning about study abroad! Student representatives from GEO and IFSA-Butler will be present to answer questions. There will also be a slideshow of all the amazing places you could go! 7pm in the Common’s Center Atrium.
Schloss (palace), and then headed off with two teacher colleagues for a Wandertag in the forest just over the Danube. On Saturday, I accompanied a class from my school to a Gilbert and George exhibit in the sleek new Lentos modern art museum in Linz. On Sunday, I took the train to Graz for a week of training along with my fellow future Teaching Assistants. We stayed in a castle overlooking the city, and in the evenings, over beer and wine (reliable stand-‐bys in Austria, I was beginning to learn) we all became fast friends. The funny thing is that it has been like this ever since. Now that I look back on it, these first few weeks as a Fulbright Teaching Assistant in Austria were not unusual; they foreshadowed the whole wonderful experience that I was beginning. Now, a step back. How did I happen upon this action-‐action packed opportunity? Like some of you readers, perhaps, I found myself last year faced with a horrifying challenge: what to do after Vanderbilt? Having majored in Music and Philosophy, I imagined that I had interesting options, but the path was not crystal clear: Grad School? Sure, in the long term. But in which field exactly? And where? A job in Nashville or back home? Teach for America? Backpacking across Central Asia? Living off the land? Such were the questions swirling through my head last year as I navigated the treacherous pass between the Vanderbubble and the post-‐college landscape. As late as graduation, I did not know if this pass would open into a verdant green valley, or something more like Death Valley. Fortunately, it eventually led to a small Austrian town called Wieselburg not far from the Danube.
Fortunately, I have had the pleasure of serving this year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Wieselburg. In this position, together with my English Teacher colleagues from Austria, I teach English in an Austrian Gymnasium (like a “grammar
(continued) school”), and I serve as a representative of American Culture. Such positions coordinated by Fulbright are available all over the world and are relatively easy to apply for, though eligibility requirements (education level, language ability, planned career path, etc.) vary from country to country. Why should you consider applying to be an English TA? First, I have learned first-‐hand that there is no better way to learn a language than to live with it. I came to Austria with a good foundation in German but still a beginner’s ability to use the language. After my time here, I have made huge strides in reading, writing, and of The Musikverein.
course speaking – far more than I ever would have otherwise made. Second, being a TA provides a real “cultural-‐ immersion” experience that you wouldn’t otherwise have, even if you have studied abroad. I studied abroad in Berlin as an undergraduate, and while I had a great time and did learn some German, I stuck mainly with the other students in the program and remained something of a cultural outsider. As one of only two Americans in little Wieselburg, (the other is also a TA), I have had no choice but to get to know Austrians and immerse myself in the local culture. I remember a friend telling me that people who have lived
abroad think more creatively afterward; the more that I adapt to the local culture in Austria and the more German I learn, the more understand this idea. Finally, serving as a TA is a great “first job” after college. You have an excellent working environment, and you develop good working skills, but you also have enough time to travel and to work on your own projects: I, for example, have studied German, practiced music, and worked on some writing projects (like this one) in my extra time. I am now into my fifth month as a TA, and I am still as busy as I was during the first week. Just over the last few days, I directed the Gesangsverein in preparation for a performance that I will conduct in April, went Langlaufen (cross country skiing) followed by a traditional Austrian Heuriger (no direct translation; involves food and wine), attended a Vienna Philharmonic concert at the Musikverein, and paraded through the streets of town dressed as Ollie of “Laurel and Hardy” fame as part of Wieselburg’s Fasching (Mardi Gras) parade. Of course, in between these activities, I found time for the occasional glass of wine or beer.
experience. I know now that if I had simply gone to grad school or worked back in the US, I would have missed out on so much.
Mozart’s home in Salzburg, Austria.
The bottom line: if you have the opportunity to do a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship or anything like it, take it; you will not regret it.
I have made huge strides in German. I have made great friendships with my Austrian colleagues and students and with other TAs – Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. friendships made stronger by cultural differences and new, shared experiences. I have been to Mozart’s house in Salzburg, La Scala in Milan, and the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Perhaps most importantly, I have grown and matured in ways that I never would have were it not for this
Language Spotlight: South Africa Mastering the Radical
By Catherine Cocke
I’ll never forget the first day of my isiXhosa class (a language spoken by most black Capetonians). My professor began speaking in the language, which of course sounded different, but all of a sudden something strange happened. It was loud, prominent, and slightly awkward. I had heard this noise in Discovery Channel documentaries and had laughed about it with my friends, but I had never really thought it was real. But it was. I had heard it for myself. My professor had made a giant click noise with her tongue. As she continued speaking, I noticed more clicks-‐ different clicks. Who knew so many sounds were possible? It was soon our turn to try it, and needless to say, we all failed on that first day. Spit went flying and our jaws grew tired, but our professor had applauded our efforts. I felt slightly defeated but was excited to try to master this language that was so radically different from my own.
Xhosa people during our lesson on family member names. We were given an entire packet with dozens of terms for familial relations we do not acknowledge in English. While it was overwhelming trying to memorize all the terms, I grew a great appreciation for the Xhosa people and their love and care for their community. There’s a lot to be learned about a culture from the words they have and do not have as a part of their language. It can be overwhelming, and even embarrassing, trying to speak in a language so drastically different from your own, but the locals will surely appreciate your efforts. After a day where I forced myself to only speak in isiXhosa, the kids with whom I worked at my service site slipped me this note: “Ndifuna ukuba yitshomi ngoba ndiyakuthanda” (I want to be your friend because I love you). Although I was initially embarrassed at my lack of vocabulary knowledge and poor click pronunciation, after I put myself out there, I finally felt included in the group instead of the awkward American. It was totally worth it!
I had never thought that a language could challenge my worldview until I began studying isiXhosa. During a lesson on colors, I was shocked to learn that the word for blue translated to “green like the sky.” This color that was so common in Western society had not been assigned its own unique name. Rather, to the Xhosa people, blue is a type of green. I also learned just how important family is to the
Useful Phrases for Studying Abroad in South Africa Molo/ molweni! - Hello (singular/ plural) Enkosi- thank you Howzit? - Hey! What’s up? Izzit? - Really? Just now- whenever/ eventually Yebo- Yeah