E d i t o r ’s
No t e
Editor in Chief
As a child, I valued my family’s National Parks passport book even more than Amelia Bedelia. With each summer road trip came new parks. Upon arrival, I would race out of our minivan and into the visitor’s center for another glorious stamp, my most cherished of souvenirs. This mentality—the urge to explore—never left, even after I outgrew the passport book. The big ole booming world outside my window keeps inviting me on adventures. I want to move, to be anything but stagnant.
The world has also beackoned the group of true explorers who have contributed to this magazine. We hope this collection gives you that push you need and fills you with momentum. Now, go on. Get moving.
Social Media Coordinator
Photos by Alexis Rivera - 2 Paradise Valley, Morocco by Hannah Patzer - 4 Experiencing Low Tide by Shannon Murphy - 5 Tanzania by Alexis Rivera - 6 Morocco: More Than Meets The Eye by Mary Larson - 7
Santorini, Greece by Becky Li - 10 Photo by Sara Warden - 10 You Enchant Me, NW3 by Katelyn Van Ort - 11 Perpetually Foreign by Caroline Stevens - 12 Freiburg, Germany by Maggie Beheler-Amass - 12 France by Maggie Beheler-Amass - 14 Photos by Melanie Kohls - 16 The Hamburger Diaries by Matthew Buchholz - 16 A Swiss Adventure by Winter Dresden - 18 Cassis, France by Sara Warden - 19
New Zealand by Meredith Johnson - 20, 22, 24 A Sense of Self Amidst Differences by Julia Oâ€™Brien - 23 Inside Inner Mongolia by John Leinonen - 26 Hong Kong by Xiaoying (Sharon) Lin - 27
San Fransisco, California by Kate Feldt - 28 The Tunnel by Taylor Truttman - 30 Photos by Kate Feldt - 31 12 States. 10 Days. 6,000 Miles by Christian Zimonick - 32
Cuenca by Helen Lewis - 34 Caja by Helen Lewis - 36 Celina and the Orange by Ruth Brandt - 36 Horse Antisana by Helen Lewis - 38 An Impromptu Adventure by Laura McGlynn - 40 Photos by Helen Lewis - 40
Cover photo by Meredith Johnson
Photos by Alexis Rivera
Experiencing Low Tide by Shannon Murphy - 5
Morocco: More Than Meets The Eye by Mary Larson - 7
â€œThis moment, this point of my life, was the first time I felt connected to the earth in a profound way. I was a creature of the world, and I could finally see the splendor and miracles that Mother Nature was so famous for.â€? 4
Paradise Valley, Morocco by Hannah Patzer
By Shannon Murphy White sand beaches. Transparent blue water. Paradise. All of these phrases describe Zanzibar perfectly. A small island off the coast of mainland Tanganyika, it is a well-kept secret among Tanzanians. Wizened fishermen hung precariously off their tiny boats, looking like specks in the expansive ocean. The water crashed in torrents, yet the sound was calming, almost peaceful. My friends jumped and yelped in the water, letting the high tide take them wherever it wanted while I laughed from the safety of the beach. In this moment, I couldn’t help but feel like this was other-worldly, that what I was experiencing was almost unreal. That is, until I experienced low tide for the first time. At one in the morning, my newfound friends and I emerged from our rooms and tiptoed through the lobby, reaching the sand in a matter of minutes. No lights could be found on the beach, save the flashlight I was holding and the glimmer of the stars. As someone who usually prefers the indoors, I was not too keen to be outside at this hour for nature. Let me stay in the comfort of my bed with the latest “Game of Thrones” novel; that is enough adventure for me. When I looked out to the ocean, however, I realized what the visitors on the beach were going on about: the water was gone. On this June night, the water had disappeared. Gone were the crashing waves that carried my friends hours ago. In its place was only sand, miles and miles of wet sand where the water had flowed; the only evidence was ripple marks looking live frozen waves. Carefully, I stepped and squished through white sand, leaving footprints behind. Sand crabs scuttled and burrowed into holes by my feet, scared of the predator with the moon in her hands. With each step, I became more awestruck, amazed that I was walking on land that had been so inaccessible to me hours before. I could still hear the waves crashing on a farther shore, yet my legs couldn’t take me there. The ocean had retreated more than two miles off the shore, and I was standing where water was supposed to be. Looking up from this point of view, I could see planets for the first time. I muted my light, wanting to take in the stars as much as I could. I could see the inverted Big Dipper above me, reminding me that my world had turned upside-down. For the first time, no one made a sound, and if you knew the girls I traveled with, that would come as a shock to you. This, this moment, this point of my life, was the first time I felt connected to the earth in a profound way. I was a creature of the world, and I could finally see the splendor and miracles that Mother Nature was so famous for. The minutes turned into hours, and I stood with my feet melting into the sand, feeling at one with the planet, and I was at peace. The low tide gave me a sense of wonder, a feeling of connectedness I had never had. I was home.
By Mary Larson
Chefchaouen, Morocco by Hannah Patzer
Tanzania by Alexis Rivera
Beautifully mosaicked walls, vendors’ stalls bursting with leather goods and pottery of all colors, riding a camel into the desert and sleeping under more stars than you can comprehend… these images surface in the minds of many upon hearing that I studied abroad in Morocco. I was certainly not immune to these fantasies as I boarded my plane last spring. Are these images an accurate depiction of Morocco? Absolutely. You can buy just about any artisan craft or modern good imaginable in al-medina al-qadima (the old city) of Fes, and trekking over sand dunes in the Sahara is a surreal experience. However, after exposing myself to as many aspects of Morocco as possible for three months, I have found the portrayal of this country as an exotic, idealized location over simplifies an extremely complex society and the cultures that lie within. While this romanticized portrayal of Morocco certainly does no harm to the tourist industry, it has made it possible for American or European tourists to spend a week or two frolicking around the country without learning about its many sides and complexities. Almost daily while I made my way to class, I saw hordes of tourists emerge from the maze of the medina accompanied by a few Moroccan luggage porters, headed straight for the very out-of-place coach bus that would transport them to the next stop on their journey through the enchanting land of Morocco. Maybe they were headed to a ski resort in Ifrane, an ornately restored riad in Meknes or a Bedouin camp in the Sahara. All I knew as I proceeded to flag down one of the petit red taxis that crowd the streets of the Ville Nouvelle was that their experience certainly did not reflect that of their luggage porter, bus driver or the shop owner down the street. Living with a Moroccan family in the medina, my experience was very different from that of the tourists who glanced at me curiously as I passed them on narrow streets: a lone, visibly foreign girl who knew her way around the unmapped alleys. My host mother and two sisters shared a single bedroom, and my host brother slept in a little hall that connected the bedroom to the kitchen. I had a small but comfortable room off the living room, yet through the cold nights of winter and hot days of summer, my Moroccan family lives without the heaters, fans and swimming pools that tourists commonly enjoy in their accommodations. The
creatures that well-sealed doors and windows prevent from coming inside saw no limits when it came to my host family’s house, most notably (and hauntingly) for me was when I awoke at four in the morning to the outline of a lizard inside my window. As someone with an irrational, yet paralyzing, aversion to such creatures, I hastily ran from the room and waited anxiously for my host family to arise for dawn prayer, impatient yet thankful that they would soon be awake. Yet the difference between my experience in Morocco and that of a tourist on a quick vacation, extends beyond the comforts of temperature controls and creature-free accommodations. Through endless conversations in Arabic, English and French with my host sisters, I learned about their passion for English, their joys and frustrations with life in Morocco and their interests and goals. Hearing their “insider” perspective immensely deepened my understanding of the society. As someone who has travelled to five continents, I was constantly surprised by the depth of their knowledge of America and the world as a whole despite their only having been as far as Rabat – about two hours from Fes. I know from experience that conversing and connecting with locals can be extremely challenging. Yet, considering how much I learned from host family, I would encourage any traveler to step outside of their comfort zone. Use language skills, however minimal they may be and try to make connections with locals. After all, they can teach you much more about their country in a matter of hours than you can learn in three months. Look beyond the exotic, romanticized image of Morocco that Americans sometimes succumb to regarding developing countries. Learn as much as you can about a country before visiting it. Read about its history, culture and the challenges its people face so that you can gain more than a surface-level view. While those colorfully mosaicked walls are just as beautiful as you imagine, deeper meaning hides behind them.
NW3 by Katelyn Van Ort - 11
Perpetually Foreign by Caroline Stevens - 12
The Hamburger Diaries by Matthew Buchholz - 16
A Swiss Adventure by Winter Dresden - 18
Santorini, Greece by Becky Lin
by Katelyn Van Ort
There is a place in London where you can find ethereal tranquility. I do not mean the quiet inside your head or even your small dingy flat. No, the type of peace that one can only find in nature. The zen-like state you enter when you are outside and the wind is whipping at your cheeks, painting them bright red and you are free falling, giddy from the green foliage. I know this place, this place is my home, or it has been my home for six months. It has become the liquid coursing through my veins. The forest awakened parts of my soul that I did not know existed, until I visited, and then I knew I would never be the same. Just a short 18 minute tube ride from Kings Cross Station, and I had arrived in NW 3, also known as Hampstead Heath. There is something just so charming about Hampstead Heath. I cannot quite put my finger on it. Maybe it is because the air feels fresher, cleaner and lighter. Maybe it is the lack of traffic or the slight feel of my summers spent in the countryside. Maybe it is the sponge-like moss that covers the buildings, creating nostalgic and picturesque reminders of what once was. I cannot quite place the feeling, but it is home. For years, the Heath has existed amongst the weary souls, treading their daily routines. London is home to many droning workaholics, but it is also home to the creatives, the poets and the different. For some, Hampstead is simply a place for solace, a rest for the mind. For others, it is a place deeply ingrained into the depths of their mind, just waiting to spark a new tangent. The intrigue, the history and the wonder confound many souls, but it allows the mind to expand to different places and to just imagine. To just be. There are many theories about the Heath. Who lives there, who inhabits the magical place. Like who drove a car into the bottom one of the bathing ponds? Did a scorned lover destroy the car? Did someone drunkenly drive onto the Heath and into the pond instead of their driveway after a night out? Is the Heath safe? How big is the Heath? Does anyone swim in the bathing ponds? Why do people feed the birds? Did a witch and a wizard create this natural wonder?
take the mudslinging path or to take the long and arduous hill to the top, each day decides the next path for me. I love going to the Heath and sitting down next to the ponds, just writing until my words turn into stories. One day, I will be able to adequately formulate the words that turn my heart inside out and have my eyes weep with the stimulation and memories of a blustery morning atop Parliament Hill. I can picture the sun just basking on my pasty skin on a June afternoon while I sit on the grassy hill and drink green tea. I can feel it all within my bones. There is just something about the mystery of the Heath. The luscious, overgrown green trees and massive branches are full of immense mystery. I feel as though nymphs play amongst the magical trees and stare out into the fog on an early morning. I stand tall waiting for people to penetrate the wilderness underneath the overlaid branchesâ€”just observing the natural mystic. Locals walk among the many veins of the Heath to find solace and tranquility. A lady talks into her cell phone and dogs run wild along the paths, dodging the zealous runners amongst the hilly terrain. Both adding intrigue and a hint of the normal, yet eccentric, magnetism of the Heath that sucks you in and holds your heart hostage. I am a slave to this beating heart, to the Heath. Itâ€™s veins and arteries run deep into the hearts of many. It is where one can go to find themselves and end up lost and found at the same time. It is a paradox of tranquility and mystery. If one should find themselves with nowhere to go in London on a nice day, avoid the crowds at Hyde Park or Green Park in Central London. I beg you, take the train out to Hampstead. You will not regret it. The allure of the Heath will entice you, let its powers reinvigorate your body and soul. Let it become a part of you. Every fiber of my being belongs to the Heath, to Hampstead Heath, magic, to the heartbeat and to the enchantment that attracts so many wandering souls.
So much mystery, intrigue and wonder, but I love the Heath. It is where I find the calm pooling inside my limbs, as I sit down to observe the world around me. Even with my eyes closed, I can navigate the veins of the Heath. I can see the overgrown trees and the fallen wood, the hill that leads to the Kenwood House. Every day is a new route with limitless possibilities on where to travel to next. To
Photo by Sara Warden
by Caroline Stevens It’s a dry, warm Tuesday, and I’m about to board the bus I take to class every day when I’m stopped by a woman so old her jowls are shaking off dust as she speaks. “Hay una cola,” she spits at me, gesturing to the line of people waiting to get on the F bus. The stop is close to my apartment in Madrid, hardly a five-minute walk across a roundabout and I’m there. I’ve joined what is apparently a carefully planned line to get on the bus, but to me, it seemed like a haphazard assortment of people waiting. The crowd is mostly students. I live in a neighborhood not far from the university I’m attending for the year, and I had been taking the bus for weeks without running into this kind of hostility. At this point in the year, I’m getting more comfortable in Madrid, but culture shock and homesickness still hit me in waves. This was one of those days. After the shock of the woman’s admonishment subsides and I’ve boarded the bus, I put on my sunglasses, so I can cry unnoticed, feeling sorry for myself. I am humiliated and angry at the woman. Who the hell does she think she is, yelling at me for something so trivial? There are more than enough seats on the bus for everyone to sit down. I’m still in the process of trying to figure out what my doorman is saying when I run into him. Sometimes, when I get home I pray that he’s still on his lunch break (which goes until 4 p.m., because it’s Spain) so that I can avoid pleasantries. Why I can’t understand a word out of his mouth but
understand my roommates just fine is beyond me. My roommates, four olive-skinned Spanish girls, are from San Sebastián and two other pueblos north of Madrid. Our doorman is from Córdoba, which is part of the reason I don’t understand him. “The Córdoba accent is impossible to understand,” they tell me in Spanish, wide-eyed. I quickly learn that with my roommates, I can’t glide through conversation by pretending to understand. I’ll be quiet as they discuss some topic, something that happened in class that day or a movie that came out recently. I let their voices blend into the background and loosen my grip on the meanings of their words, but then I’m pulled back into the conversation, “Carol, ¿qué piensas tú?” What are they talking about again? In one conversation, it takes me five whole minutes to understand that SIDA means AIDS. In another, my roommate is astounded I’ve never heard of “El Señor de los Anillos,” until I realize that she’s talking about “Lord of the Rings,” a series I know very well. I grow used to being humiliated in public situations for not understanding. It’s no character flaw, just a part of language development. In English, I dwell for days on misspeaking or misunderstanding something. I think it’s the oldest-child perfectionist in me that is obsessed with always being right, especially if I’m around a lot of other people. One time, when I was taking an acting class in the fifth grade, I mispronounced the word “hieroglyphics”
and was called out for it in front of the class. The embarrassment seeped into my bones, lingering there for years. But in Spain, I am trying to accept that being foreign means I won’t understand everything I encounter. On one of the first nights I go out to the bars with two of my roommates and their friends, I am caught in a whirlwind of conversation that changes direction so fast, I can’t keep track of what the subject is until everyone has moved on. I am pretty quiet until one of my roommates asks me a question directly. They are talking about the price of kebabs; whether or not three euros for a kebab is a good price. I think, “Not a bad price if the kebab is good quality,” but what ends up coming out of my mouth is, “Si no es bueno, es malo.” If it’s not good, it’s bad. My roommates laugh at my obvious, second-grade level sentence, and my cheeks are burning, but I can forgive myself. This is an acceptable mistake.
“I speak Spanish almost fluently at this point and the reality that I will never completely fit in here is crushing.”
As the months drift on, as I study for exams and go shopping at the thrift store across the street and have tea with my roommates more and more often in our tiny apartment, I am introduced to a new understanding of this language. The intonation starts to make sense. Slang words that I can’t define in English are contextualized, and I use idiomatic phrases like they’re second nature. More importantly, if I travel to a country that doesn’t speak English or Spanish as a first language, I feel a sense of relief when I fly back into the Madrid Barajas Airport: ah yes, now I’m back in the place I know. I know how to communicate, how to translate
my sense of humor to Spanish. It is one of my last nights in Madrid and my roommate Maria’s mother is visiting. I like her, but sometimes she rubs me the wrong way. We are in the kitchen together and the television is on, showing a news program that’s addressing the endless government shutdown happening in Spain after the election yielded disagreeable results. Maria’s mom makes a comment directed towards me about Trump, some sort of joke about how if he’s elected, the same shit will be happening in America. Because I don’t completely hear her, I stare at her blankly for a moment, not sure if the comment was addressed to me. “Es un chiste,” she says, and then, in accented English, slowly so that I’ll understand, “Eet’s a joke.” Not long after, I am curled up on my bed and miserable. How have I been here for so long, yet still find myself in the position of not comprehending? I feel like a failure for not hearing her fully, her English comment still stinging like a slap in the face. I speak Spanish almost fluently at this point, and the reality that I will never completely fit in here is crushing. A few days after I return, I find myself going to a concert with my parents. It’s the New Standards accompanied by the Minnesota Orchestra. Being back in the states still feels odd; the streets are too wide and straight, and everyone has a personal space bubble of five feet around. As we’re leaving the concert, an old man says something to me, but I can’t figure out what it is. It is a garbled sentence in English, but it sounds like a foreign language, and I am in shock. Who is this stranger and why is he talking to me? After a few more tries, I understand he says, “Did ya like what ya saw?” in a true Minnesota-nice, reach-out-to-strangers sort of way. The miscommunication is jarring, and I hurry out of the slow-moving crowd to drive home with my parents, the wide streets suffocating, wishing I was back in Madrid. Freiburg, Germany by Maggie Beheler-Amass
by Maggie Beheler-Amass
by Matthew Buchholz
This past spring I studied in Hamburg, Germany, and after five months I have only two things to show for it: 1. The ability to honestly write “former Hamburger” as a bullet point on a resume. 2. Some thoughts on the whole ordeal, found below in no particular order. If you’re looking for a travel guide to Hamburg, this isn’t it.
I suppose people experience many different emotions when exiting a plane, like wonder, relief or the desire to shout, “Welcome to earth!” (If you have delusions about being trapped in a Will Smith movie, which I’ve never experienced, mind you). When I stepped off the plane in Hamburg for the first time, I could only think, “Wow, my German textbook was right.” Most language textbooks are often criticized for oversimplifications and impracticality. My German friend Darius, for example, told me that “What’s cookin?” was listed in his English textbook as a casual greeting. He asked me if Americans really said that. (Naturally, I corrected him; “What’s cookin’?” is used in American English only if appended with “good lookin’.”) However, my German textbook had at least one thing right: People in Hamburg really do say “moin.” It’s a greeting characteristic of
northern Germany and supposedly a corruption of the German “morgen” (“morning”). You can use it any time of day. I was hesitant to use it at first. I thought of a German exchange student in Texas using “howdy,” but my buddy Moritz assured me that moin was fashionable to say, even for me. I mastered the one syllable greeting quickly. Soon I was moin-ing people left and right—friends, professors, cashiers—and moin ingrained itself deep in my brain. After only a month, I found myself moin-ing people in all the wrong places, like Dresden, Munich and Cologne, and while it was always understood, my reckless moin’ing marked me immediately as a Hamburger. But then, the next four seconds of conversation, with my barely passable German, marked me as definitely-not-a-Hamburger.
Photos by Melanie Kohls
One of the appeals of studying in Germany for the first time is the pull of the legendary Oktoberfest. However, upon my arrival in Hamburg, I was extremely disappointed to learn that Oktoberfest does not take place at any point between the months of March and July. Some things textbooks don’t teach you, I guess. Luckily, I did find a celebration that suited me even better: Spargelzeit. Literally “asparagus time.” Spargelzeit marks the time between the first good asparagus harvest (in March or April) until the end of the harvest in late June. It’s more popular than I would’ve imagined. While seasons in America are signaled by the return of Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Shamrock Shakes and dubious beer flavors, Spargelzeit infects the whole German culture it seems. Restaurants enthusiastically advertise their seasonal asparagus dishes. Wine is recommended based on what pairs well with asparagus. Magazines are filled with recipes for asparagus and articles about making the most of your Spargelzeit. As an asparagus lover, this was great. I made sure to start conversations with my German friends with questions like, “Is it Spargelzeit yet?” and “Is it still Spargelzeit?” I enjoyed a lot of asparagus—especially white asparagus, which was quite novel to me. Perhaps, most importantly, I penned an asparagus-themed adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” featuring the “Ghost of Spargelzeit Future.” It depicts a global warming-stricken dystopia where Spargelzeit spans only three days instead three months. Some say that plays unfairly to German stereotypes of asparagus-loving and environmental awareness, but they can tell that to my Oscarwinning screenplay.
The semester, or at least the school part of it, seemed to breeze by without much issue. My computer science classes were not fundamentally different from what I was used to. The only issue came during finals week when I managed to register for an exam that I didn’t intend to take and also not sign up for the exam I needed to take. The exam, of course, was worth 100 percent of my grade. Luckily, the international exchange staff at the university helped me work through the situation. Thanks, Helen and Ingrid! After exams, I did what most international students did: I traveled. I had about three weeks to see all the places I hadn’t yet. I even had some money leftover despite a weekend of poor financial decisions in London. My last few days in Hamburg were more relaxed than expected. I spent these days schedule-free, making the rounds to my favorite haunts, like grabbing some beers at the Schanze, swimming in Stadtpark and taking a last trip around the harbor. For the last days in Hamburg, a city whose 1.8 million inhabitants belies its coziness, I unexpectedly bumped into many people I had met throughout the semester. Goodbyes are always hard, especially hard when you mess up every time and say, “See you later!” That is not a guarantee. My buddy Moritz couldn’t drop me off at the airport on the day I left Germany. We were both disappointed. He brought me into this Hamburg, after all, and he should’ve taken me out of it, too. I learned more than enough ways to say goodbye in Germany—the most common one I heard being of course the Italian “ciao”—but I could only think of one as I sat in the airport: Wir sehen uns, Hamburg: See you, Hamburg.
by Winter Dresden One of the greatest, wildest experiences I had while abroad took place on a weekend trip in Switzerland. Earlier in the semester, my friend Deryn and I had the idea to book our flights to Geneva, but we forgot about it for a few weeks while school and other trips distracted us. I started to panic as the weeks went on, knowing in the back of my mind that we had no plan nor a place to stay.
So we went home, went to bed and made our way back in the morning. Deryn was very excited, and I was very apprehensive. This time, security was easy and fast, and we made our way to the gate quickly. After boarding the plane, a sense of calm came over me. This trip would be fine! We would be fine. The people would be really nice, and Switzerland would be beautiful. I felt fine.
All of a sudden we had two weeks until our trip. We still had no concrete plans or an idea of what we would do. Deryn, being the daredevil that she is, came up with a “bright idea.” Earlier in the semester, she befriended this group of Swiss natives while in Portugal, and she decided to reach out to them.
This feeling was not to last. Within 10 minutes, the plane hit extreme turbulence. I had never experienced more unsteadiness in a flight in my life. I prayed almost the entire time, just asking to make it in one piece without going down in Lake Geneva. How ironic would that have been? Wisconsin girl dies in Lake Geneva, Switzerland without having ever been to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I prayed that wouldn’t make the headline in the next WiscAlert. People were crying and throwing up on the flight, and strangers around me were holding hands. I took it as a sign that I truly, truly was not meant to get on that plane.
I asked, “How old are these people?” I was expecting some college students around our age. “Oh, I think in their late 30s or 40s,” she replied calmly, as if this were the most normal response in the world. I was floored! Her plan was to see if a group of 40 year olds had a place for us to stay in a foreign country? Having no other option, I reluctantly went along with it. She had reached out to her new friend David who said he would pick us up at the airport and drive us to his friend’s place in Lucerne, Switzerland—three hours from the Geneva airport. Seems normal enough, right? Wrong. Honestly, a 40-year-old stranger picking up two 20 year olds from an airport in Europe seemed sketchy to me. I kept quiet, though, and let Deryn plan the trip. The next two weeks went by quickly, and all of a sudden, it was the day of our flight. We made our way to the airport and went to check in. CANCELLED. “This is a sign. We aren’t meant to go on this trip,” I told Deryn. “No, we’re fine, we’re getting on this flight. Hang on.” She went to the front of the line to argue with the lady in charge of the flight, who assured us it would be rescheduled for the morning.
Somehow, by the grace of God, we landed in one piece. Survivors. Everyone on the plane cheered when we landed and unsteadily made their way onto solid ground. I found Deryn, we hugged and made our way to baggage claim. We stood there, waiting for a stranger to approach us. Secretly, I was hoping he just wouldn’t. Eventually, a cute little man came up to us, and hesitantly asked Deryn if she was Deryn. He greeted us with the French bisou bisou, a kiss on both cheeks, and led us out to his car. In that moment, I got into a stranger’s car in a foreign country, to go to a place I had never been. We drove through the Swiss countryside, one of the most beautiful drives I had ever taken in my life. David stopped to buy us Swiss chocolate on the trip. Eventually, we arrived at his friend’s apartment in Lucerne, a small town of modern and old buildings surrounded by mountains and a beautiful lake. “Hello!” David called out to his friends, Boris and Delphine. They came to the door and greeted us, hugging and kissing
us and taking our bags. They asked us all about ourselves and gave us wine, appetizers and snacks, creating an aperitif, or European pre-dinner drinks and snacks. We ate the food and chatted with the three of them, truly in awe of our situation. We sat in what was probably a million dollar apartment, drinking fancy wine and chatting with three complete strangers about what college was like in the United States and what we wanted to do with our lives. Eventually, they led us outside to the car. Even though we were pretty much full, we still went out for dinner at 10 p.m. Boris began to drive us up a mountain, to a completely
dark area. We got out of the car, my heart pounding, thinking to myself, this is where Iâ€™ll die, as they led us over to this sketchy-looking shack. I held my breath as Boris opened the door, but inside was a gondola! The gondola took us to the very top of Mount Pilatus, where an adorable Swiss restaurant stood. We ate fondue and chocolates and drank Aperol Spritzes (they were all very impressed I knew what that was). After one of the greatest meals of my life, we headed home and went to bed, thankful we had survived.
Cassis, France by Sara Warden
New Zealand by Meredith Johnson
A Sense of Self Amidst Differences by Julia Oâ€™Brien - 23
Inside Inner Mongolia by John Leinonen - 26
by Julia Oâ€™Brien
New Zealand by Meredith Johnson
I was living 6,739 miles away from home in Wellington, New Zealand. It was here that I realized expectations don’t always meet reality. My perception of the typical study abroad experience transformed. Social media, which is heavily used by those abroad, paints an illusion of the experience as a utopia, filled with endless and flawless traveling. But what social media fails to convey is the actual studying part. Personally, I struggled in the classes in Wellington. Almost every discussion was over my head as it related to New Zealand brands, politicians and celebrities, of which I barely knew. However, through these trials and errors, I learned to adapt. I found solace in cafes and beautiful hikes where I could clear my mind. In these places, I was able to reflect on the larger takeaways of my entire experience living abroad for a semester and focus on the bigger picture, not just a letter grade. Immersed in the beauty of New Zealand while reflecting on the insights I gained, I realized I have so much more to offer the world that cannot be graded. My most valuable lessons were not taught in the classroom. They came from long hikes, talking to locals and exploring the city. Influenced by the art and artists who surrounded me, I became less obsessed with becoming a “perfect” person and more focused on becoming the best me.
“I realized I have so much more to offer the world that cannot be graded.”
New Zealand by Meredith Johnson
by John Leinonen Our bus driver yelled something in a Chinese dialect that neither my roommate nor I completely understood, but the scenery told us we were there. Nothing but grass and rolling hills stretched for miles. The only breaks in the landscape were a few yurts and a collection of buildings one could call a town—if one was feeling generous. A Chinese family was behind us, determined to get off the bus as fast as possible. We had just ridden for more than two hours into the grasslands of Inner Mongolia with no plans about where we’d be staying or what we’d be doing. We were so excited.
That night, her husband loaded us in his truck and took us to their weekly get-together. For the Mongolians, this meant horseriding, wrestling and snapping pictures with an ornery camel. Before the events got started, we were swarmed with mothers requesting pictures with their children and older men asking us about life in America. We heard them speaking in their dialect to each other, but they spoke Mandarin to us because that was all we knew. I found a group of men only a bit older than us and figured out they’d be the ones wrestling later. There was simply no way I was going to pass up this opportunity, and I told them I wanted to wrestle as well. In a blunt fashion, they laughed at me and said I had no chance. I laughed with them and said I knew, but I wanted to try. They shrugged and agreed.
The bus was revving up to leave before I even took a step off. Within seconds, we were choking on a cloud of dust that it left behind. A Chinese woman wearing a visor and a pouch ran up to us. She spoke like a drum roll: first in A short time later, some men opened a gate and we walked broken English, then in rapid fire Chinese. Prices were through to see the horses and their riders. The course rattled off, going lower and lower as we slowly backed they set up wasn’t very large, but it had sharp turns. The away. Even after we left their camp, a man on a dirt bike horses lined up haphazardly. A man to the side gave a flew past us and spun around only to sharp yell, and they took off. Their riders offer an even lower price. We politely spurred them on and guided them “In the midst of all the said no and hoped he wasn’t going to around the corners. Some of the riders sounds and sights and the were in danger of scraping their knees take us by force. taste of dirt in my mouth, I as the horses leaned violently and their The small town proved even less hooves thundered closer to us. After felt alive.” promising than it looked from the bus. everyone had crossed the finish line, it As we walked down the main street became clear that there was no winner, that was only two blocks long, we realized every building only a bunch of friends who were having a great time. The was a husk. Their empty windows were draped in plastic, mocked each other and congratulated the frontrunners, and the insides contained nothing but dust and chunks smiling the whole way through. of brick. A few construction workers stopped to look at us curiously. We rounded a corner and walked down a As soon as the riders could get off their horses to watch, the valley toward a much smaller collection of yurts. wrestling began. Mongolian wrestling, from what I could pick up, is all about balance. As soon as one competitor goes A kind-looking woman came out to greet us, the two to his knees or loses his footing in any way, he’s lost. The pale college kids standing awkwardly in her yard. Her competitors all wear a special kind of leather vest, a bit like husband stared from the doorway. There was a pause as the stereotypical old-west cowboy vest, that is used to grab we waited for her to try to sell us on the place, and she onto. I stood with the onlookers in a ring while the wrestlers likely wondered what we were doing and how she was carried out a ceremonial dance and began the matches. going to communicate with us. When we realized she It seemed casual, like the horse racing, but everyone was wasn’t going to make a pitch, we broke the silence and certainly trying to win. The men would stare each other asked if we could stay. She smiled and motioned toward down with hard eyes, but as soon as one fell it would turn a yurt, clearly still not sure how much Chinese we really back to smiles. As more matches went on, it was clear who understood. The yurt was certainly big enough for the the handful of best wrestlers were. Watching them was both of us, but only because there was nothing inside like watching snakes: Every match had a tense moment of except for a small table at the center. My roommate and I quiet and then a lightning fast series of yanks and pushes thought it was perfect. until one went down. The competition was winding down,
and I assumed they forgot about me, but I was just happy to have seen their games. All of the sudden, an older man stood up and announced that the foreigner, me, would try their wrestling. I was surprised at the sudden grand gesture. They gave me one of the jackets and pointed me towards my opponent. Thankfully, he wasn’t one of the winners of the day, so I could hold on to some hope. He looked at me and made sure I understood this was Mongolian wrestling, not American wrestling. I laughed and told him I understood, and we began. The actual match was surreal. We looked into each other’s eyes and closed our grips on the vests. There was a strange intimacy in our moment of quiet. I felt very much out of my league, like I was the prey wrapped up by the predator, but at the same time I felt primal. I had wrestled and done judo before, but it was always in gyms with mats. In Inner Mongolia, I was thousands of miles away from home and dozens of miles away from any major civilization. The beautiful grass on all sides drove home how different and remote that place was. Just over a hill to my right, the blazing sun’s orange light was fading, and in front of me, I saw this man’s hazel eyes looking into mine, and then he struck. Suddenly I was being pulled. I shot my leg out to keep my base, but this man had seen the same thing too many times. Immediately, he stepped to where I had just given up balance, and pulled me over. My knees plummeted into the dirt and kicked up dust into my mouth. The thought crossed my mind that I was lucky the grit tasted only of earth, not blood. My opponent hauled me back up
and smiled. The shame of losing was almost immediately replaced by gratitude. I was just so happy to be there in that moment. The wrestlers were unimpressed by my quick loss, but the crowd cheered and chattered excitedly. In the midst of all the sounds and sights and the taste of dirt in my mouth, I felt alive. That night, the locals made a massive bonfire and waved sparklers around. A band played for a huge crowd to dance and sing and laugh. We were surrounded by rolling hills, a small collection of huts and children. My roommate and I were one of the main attractions for them. I lost count of how many pictures we took, but I only hope there is at least one house in China that has a picture of us on its mantle. As the night wound down, the band asked everyone to welcome their new English friends. Although my roommate and I were not from England, we appreciated the new round of clapping and cheering all the same. After riding home on the back of a couple grumpy horses, we wearily climbed inside our yurt. As I lay in the pitch blackness, underneath huge blankets given to us by the family we were staying with, slowly drifting off to sleep, I finally breathed out. It was a deep breath I had been holding for a very long time. I think I was holding it even before I went to China or Inner Mongolia. Looking back, there wasn’t any one thing that was making me hold that breath in, but after that day I could let it go. “That was amazing,” I thought and fell asleep next to a beam of moonlight coming through our ramshackle door.
Hong Kong by Xiaoying (Sharon) Lin
San Fransisco, California by Kate Feldt
The Tunnel by Taylor Truttman - 30
By Taylor Truttman My decision to bike the Badger State Trail was more or less impulsive. I was in a phase of my life where I had to prove to myself that I could accomplish certain things—one of them being solo-biking 120 miles in two days. I had gone on a multi-day bike trip before, but the mileage on that trip was slightly less, and I had dragged a friend along with me too. Now, I (and my poor, poor ’95 road bike) were ready to level up. Or so I thought. So far, the ride hadn’t been very enjoyable. The view hadn’t changed at all. I passed miles of the same rolling, agricultural hills, the same sun beating down on me and the same birds in my ears. The only break in scenery had been the town I was currently in, where I briefly stopped at a gas station for a bathroom break and a Little Debbie fruit pie. I used this to supplement my snack of Lembas bread: a blend of peanut butter, honey, powdered milk, pretzels and shredded coconut. Unfortunately, unlike the “real” Lembas bread from “The Lord of the Rings,” it didn’t satisfy my hunger in one bite. Hence, the fruit pie. It was time to get back on the road. I stashed my Lembas bread, strapped on my biking gloves and blew a kiss to Belleville as I pedaled away. From looking at Google Maps beforehand, I knew this next stretch was going to be a gradual uphill. However, I felt as if I were biking on a pretty flat surface . . . downhill if anything. Maybe it was because the gravel was so pressed down that it was practically dirt. But as I crossed Tunnel Road, my suspicions began to rise. The sides of the trail rose up around me, and I was soon biking between two moss-covered rock walls. There was a cool breeze, replacing the insufferable humidity. Finally, I thought, a new view and shade to go with it. I was energized by the change and sped around a curve. On the other side, I saw it: massive blackness where the trail ought to be. My way forward was blocked by a sheer wall of brick, interrupted in the center by the passage to the Mines of Moria. I got off my bike. Slowly, I walked to the entrance. God, that’s big enough for a train to pass . . . of course. The Badger State Trail
was made from an abandoned train track. I searched through the blackness, squinting for some light, but the tunnel’s only response was a breeze that gave me goosebumps. I could either go back and find some way over the tunnel (most likely involving a brutal struggle through some dense cornfield) or go through it. I had no idea how long it was. I hadn’t seen any other bikers on the trail, so it was illogical to wait for someone to go with me, and I only had a small bike light that was bound to get absorbed in the pure blackness of the tunnel. I made a deal with myself. The sun reached into the tunnel for about 10 yards. I was going to walk in as far as I dared, and if I couldn’t see any light from the other side at that point, I was going to turn around. I unclipped the light from my handlebars and crept into the abyss. I heard each drop of water, each tentative crunch of my Nike shoes on the packed gravel, each scuttle of hidden birds or bats or God knew what. My decision line was within a few steps. I didn’t know what I wanted more—to see light or not to see it. Just as I was about to step past the last bit of sun, there it was: a pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel. I could do this. I had an endpoint. I ran back. With my bike in one hand and light in the other, I began my real journey. I had been right—the black of the tunnel reduced my bike light to a flickering flame. It darted from side to side, making sure I didn’t run into any surprises. There were tons of graffiti marks throughout, but I had zero patience to stop and admire them. This is when my gender became prevelent to me. I was a young woman, alone and without any weapons. If there was someone in the dark with ill intent, my odds would not be good. But just as my fear increased, so did the light at the end of the tunnel. I was able to make out the tunnel outline and eventually see the greenery on the other side. As soon as I emerged, I let out a whoop and looked behind me. I made it. Now, I had more biking to do.
Photos by Kate Feldt
By Christian Zimonick Captured with a Pentax ME Super camera, a f2/50mm lens and some very expired film.
Cuenca by Helen Lewis
Celina and the Orange by Ruth Brandt - 36
An Impromptu Adventure by Laura McGlynn - 40
by Ruth Brandt
“Welcome home, Ruth,” the customs officer said with a warm smile. The signs read “Newark Liberty International Airport.” I took my time walking through the terminal, alone, my bag filled with dulce de leche alfajores and an Argentinian flag, bought at an independence day celebration in Mendoza. I smiled at the designer stores, the bustling American families on their way to one place or another, the duty-free shops filled with overpriced perfume and tacky souvenirs. After two long months living in Córdoba, Argentina, and working at a community center in one of the city’s most impoverished barrios, I was finally home.
Caja by Helen Lewis
I stepped in line at Starbucks alongside men and women in suits, chattering away on iPhones; I glanced at my shoes, now permanently brown from the dirt roads of the barrio. I longed for a black coffee, something hard to come by in Córdoba. Upon taking a seat at one of the small tables, sticky from quick coffee breaks and spilled Frappuccinos, I pulled out my book and began to read, relishing in the aroma of coffee that filled the tiny café and the sound of English being spoken all around me. This is what I was used to. However, something had changed.
I looked at the few children around me, dressed in nice, clean clothing and playing on their parents’ smart phones. They drank mini “coffee” drinks and laughed and played and whined, anxious to get on the plane and to wherever they were going, oblivious to everything. I thought of Celina and her orange. Sweet Celina lived in Guiñazu, the barrio in which I worked. She lived in a one-story, one-room shack made of bricks and scrap metal with her mother, father, brother and sister. She bounced into the community center each and every morning, never crying, never complaining and always with the biggest, brightest smile. It was winter in Argentina, so she wore a big winter jacket, a hat and multiple pairs of leggings. Her jacket, although puffy and a bright shade of red, was tattered with a broken zipper. It had obviously gotten many years of use and was probably a hand-me-down from her older sister. Her leggings were mismatched and riddled with holes; her shoes dirty from the barrio’s mud. I never met her dad, but her mother, a kind woman in her early thirties at most, sold socks on the street to make a living. In addition to the Argentinian flag and alfajores in my bag, I carried a pair of socks: black with orange and pink butterflies, bought for 20 pesos from Celina’s mother. One cold day during my two months abroad, Celina flew through the gates of the community center as she always did, her red winter jacket fluttering with the wind and her pink hat lopsided on her head. However, in her hand she carried an orange: a small, bruised and browning orange, mushy from the force of her grip. I quickly realized that the orange was her toy.
home was home, and home was beautiful. To her, an orange was just as good of a toy as any. Celina held onto that orange with an iron grip the entire day, running and playing with the other children who barely noticed the fruit she held in her tiny hands. When they did notice, Celina guarded that orange with her life, not allowing anyone to come near her beloved toy. Even when it was arts and crafts time, she set the orange right next to the paper on which she scribbled, keeping careful watch over the fruit that rested on the table beside her. Celina was immensely content to be outside in the fresh air with that orange, drawing with broken crayons and driedout markers, sipping hot tea out of a plastic cup and munching on a piece of bread. The hum of the other children’s conversations was interrupted by shrieks of laughter – outbursts of joy from a very happy little girl with an orange. I saw the children around me in the airport through different eyes. Of course, nobody chooses what life they are born into, and they were not at fault for simply being privileged. However, I looked at those children in the airport with a broken heart, seeing all of the things they had that Celina would only ever dream of. I stared at the expensive coffee in my hand, the green mermaid on the bright white cup staring right back at me. I suddenly craved the foamy, more-milk-thancoffee cappuccinos everybody drank in Córdoba and the sweet medialunas the coffee was often served with. I longed for the crisp, cold air of an Argentinian winter. I missed the children of the community center who greeted me with a barrage of hugs and shouts of excitement when I walked through the rusty front gate each morning.
I grew up with Barbie dolls in sparkly dresses, Monopoly, video games and stuffed animals. Celina will grow up with whatever she is able to make into a toy with her imagination. In this case, an orange that her mother probably bought at the supermercado for two pesos. In American dollars, that’s about 13 cents.
I closed my book and began scrolling through the pictures and videos I had of the children on my phone, blurry selfies taken by three and four year olds, short clips of them singing in screechy, high-pitched, incomprehensible Spanish. I come across a video of Celina, spinning in circles on the merry-go-round, the orange in her hand.
Little Celina with her orange in tow, full of the pure innocence of a three-year-old, was completely unaware of her poverty, of her disadvantage. To her,
She left the community center that day popping slices of a her peeled orange into her mouth, happy as can be.
Horse Antisana by Helen Lewis
by Laura McGlynn
I’ve always been a little adventurous which, combined with my “I’m just gonna wing it” attitude, is how I found myself stepping off a small plane onto a shabby runway outside an even shabbier airport in Belize. I had decided less than two weeks earlier that I was going to travel somewhere. I pulled out Google Maps and checked cities for cheap flights. After doing extensive research on Belize (such as using Pinterest to search “Belize beaches”), I bought a flight into Belize City and out of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, for a month later. I didn’t really believe I would actually go until there I was, standing under the Central American sky with no plan and no one with me. I took a cab from the airport to the port where I hopped on a tiny water taxi to Caye Caulker, a small island about 20 miles off the Belizean coast. Caye Caulker has no pavement, no vehicles and is surrounded by miles and miles of shallow, crystalline turquoise water. I stayed there for a week, swimming with stingrays in the shallow water near the shore, learning to fish (and spearfish) off a local’s small boat and snorkeling Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the most beautiful part of the Belize Barrier Reef. I even went swimming with sharks and sea turtles, a truly serene experience.
‘‘And if I had the chance to do it again, would I wing it? Absolutely.”
Hurricane Earl hit the island while I was there. The storm was small enough to cause only minor damage but large enough to send most of the tourists scurrying off the island in droves. I hunkered down and stayed through it, and I’m glad I did because I was able to watch the island come back to life again. Within a couple days, the debris was cleared away, sand was swept out of stores and the water had settled from its posthurricane cold, murky brown back to its beautiful, warm blue. I finally felt restless on the island, so I packed my bags, said heartfelt goodbyes to the people I’d become friends with and caught a bus headed for Guatemala. Since I hadn’t planned out my trip beyond where to stay the first night, I had been asking everyone
Photos by Helen Lewis
I met what they had done, where they had stayed and what I couldn’t miss. I compiled their answers in the notebook I carried with me, and I used that as my roadmap for the next two weeks. First up: the Guatemalan town of Flores and the ancient Mayan city of Tikal. The bus to Guatemala rolled across Belize’s wetlands and into some low mountains until we finally reached the border. The border control officer stamped my passport with a friendly, “Bienvenidos a Guatemala!” and I replied with an eloquent, “Uhhhhh… sí?” Clearly my two years of high school Spanish weren’t going to help me out as much as I was hoping they would. So, I armed myself with sign language and rode into my second Central American country. The road twisted and curved through towering Guatemalan mountains covered in lush rainforest until we reached Flores, a colorful little city on an island in the middle of Lake Petén Itzá. There, I hiked through the ruins of Tikal, climbing to the top of one of the temples to watch the sun set over the rainforest. From Flores, I traveled on busses and vans through the rest of Guatemala: from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlán, then to San Pedro, San Marcos, Antigua, Lanquin, Semuc Champey and Cobán. I hiked up mountains in the dark, rappelled waterfalls, swam through caves lit by candles, saw volcanoes spitting ash miles into the sky and floated in aquamarine pools hidden high in the mountains miles away from the nearest town. Yet for all this beauty, traveling through Guatemala was tough. I spent hours in vans on roads that were in such poor condition that the handles on the backs of seats were absolutely necessary. I got dropped off, more than once, on the side of a road in a village where no one spoke a word of English, and I had no idea where to go. I spent the occasional night in nearly empty hotels instead of the bustling hostels I was used to. These were the only times I felt lonely. Not quite scared, just very small and very alone. However, meeting new people everyday overshadowed these moments. I made connections and formed friendships with people I never would have encountered on a more organized trip, and that made every difficult experience worthwhile.
After I’d checked off everything on my list for Guatemala, I crossed the border into Honduras. I ended my trip on the tiny Honduran island of Útila, soaking up as much Caribbean sunshine as I possibly could. All too soon, I had to leave the island and make my way towards the airport. I felt like just moments earlier I’d stepped off the plane in Belize, definitely not like I’d been on the road for an entire month. Sure, not everything was easy. Yes, some parts of my trip may have gone more smoothly had I spent more time planning it, but it wouldn’t have been the same trip. Instead of worrying about following an itinerary, I was able to just live day-by-day and only think about where I was going tomorrow. And if I had the chance to do it again, would I wing it? Absolutely.