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2011 photo contest winner isiXeko imibala (“City of Many Colors,” Cape Town, South Africa) by Ben Scott


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

✤Lauren Rouse

✤Maryli Cheng

✤Alexandra Seeman

✤Trevor Hoffberger

✤Erica Sutherland

✤Erica Meyers

✤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



4 6 by Ali LeBlanc 2011 photo contest winner isiXeko imibala (“City of Many Colors,” Cape Town, South Africa) by Ben Scott by Catherine Cock...