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What is the Benton Scholar Program?

By bentonscholars on April 16, 2013

The Benton Scholars Program was developed as a model for how a liberal arts education can be shaped to fully prepare students to think, act, and create in a world that is increasingly diverse and global.

Colgate University has a long and proud history of graduating students who lead in all aspects of their lives.  In the spirit of that great tradition, this program has been designed to infuse leadership and global themes into the Colgate experience by providing its members with activities and selected courses that will enrich and bring new perspectives to their experiences on campus and throughout their lives.

Each year, as part of it admissions process, Colgate identifies a number of applicants who, through past experience and/or expressed interest, have demonstrated the potential to focus with particular emphasis on the complex global issues that will challenge them not only academically as undergraduates but also professionally and personally once they have graduated from Colgate.

A carefully selected group of 15-18 First Year students are then invited to join a vibrant community of upperclass students who have already chosen to target their individual commitments and to expend their collective energies on raising the profile of global issues among their fellow students.

Throughout their four years at Colgate, Benton Scholars support and motivate each other as they develop into thoughtful, creative, and well-informed leaders both at Colgate itself and beyond the gates of the university’s campus.

Read more about the Benton Scholars Trips

Trip to South Korea
Trip to Argentina
Trip to India
Trip to China
Trip to Uganda

TBS Abroad Week 10: Trains

By Jessica Li on May 19, 2015

11 - Trains-2

Prior to the advent of jet travel during the 1960s, and the subsequent deregulation of airline pricing schemes in the 1980s, trains were a common mode of transportation in the United States. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (part of the U.S. Department of Transportation), air travel accounted for 576 million passenger miles in 2012, with intercity trains, including Amtrak, accounting for only about 7 million. By comparison, in 1960, the numbers were much closer: air travel saw 31 million passenger miles, with intercity trains at 17 million — a difference that conceals the greater distances typically traveled by aircraft. But America’s clear preference for aviation is by no means shared globally. In other parts of the world — India, China, and the EU especially — train travel is extremely common, even prevalent. This week, pay attention to trains. Does your current city connect to a rail system? Do people travel by train, subway, streetcar, or commuter service? Where is the nearest station? Take a picture of the station, then comment on the role of train travel in your local community.

Ryan Hildebrandt ’17, Psychology & Japanese

Ladies and Gentlemen, here, for your viewing pleasure, is the world-famous Shinkansen (bullet train). This particular train runs between most of Japan’s major cities, and we used it to get from Tokyo to Kyoto, primarily. The Shinkansen is different from most other trains because it feels more like a flight than public transportation. You arrive at your terminal and gate with your luggage, board and depart on a strict schedule, and the ride is just as smooth as a cruising aircraft. But on a more daily scale, trains are everywhere in Japan, they’ll take you in between cities and towns and get you around once you’re in the city. From single car trams up mountainsides, to underground behemoths like the above, to your average subway systems, trains form a vital part of Japanese daily life, and they keep cities and indeed the whole country running smoothly with their legendary punctuality.


The famous Japanese bullet train, the Shinkansen

Adam Basciano ’16, International Relations

Jerusalem is a very, very hilly city. That is why it has taken the city more than three-thousand years to get its first light rail system. Freshly inaugurated just a few years ago, the Jerusalem light rail runs from the north eastern tip of the city to its south western hill on Mt. Herzl. It connects Arab neighborhoods and Jewish settlements from East Jerusalem with tourist areas and historical sites in the city center. The light rail, like most things in Jerusalem, is intertwined in the complexity of the city’s politics. Where the picture below is taken, the Ammunition Hill light rail stop, is the site of a terrorist attack from December of 2014 that garnered much international attention. A Palestinian driver rammed his car into people waiting for a bus, injuring many and killing a baby girl. The city put in both concrete and metal barriers to all light rail stops as a result of the terror attack. Despite the terror attack from December, many citizens of Jerusalem, both Jewish and Muslim alike, continue to take the light rail each day. The sophisticated bus system, however, is frequented more often as it reaches many more neighborhoods hidden throughout the hills of the city.


A light rail stop in Jerusalem

TBS Abroad Week 9: Food and Groceries

By Jessica Li on May 19, 2015

09 - Food and Groceries

The supermarket is in many ways an anomaly in human history. Except for the last 100 years, people living in Western cultures have either grown their own food or purchased it at a local grocer’s or merchant’s shop. During the early 20th century, self-service grocery stores emerged as a way for store owners to save on labor costs while reducing prices — with the hope of attracting cost-conscious consumers from miles around. Kroger, Safeway, and other supermarket chains soon proliferated throughout the urban and suburban landscape. However, the recent farm-to-table movement — inspired partly by writers like Wendell Berry and Michael Pollan — has started to reverse this trend. In many cities, both large and small, walkable farmer’s markets now occupy public parks and parking lots each weekend, making it possible for people to buy food, supplies, and craft goods directly from the source, often at premium prices. This week, pay attention to how people shop for food. Are supermarkets common? Do people shop at local markets? Do they have large backyard gardens? Take a picture of a grocery store or supermarket where you shop, then tell us about local food culture.

Ryan Hildebrandt ’17, Psychology & Japanese


A covered street market in Japan

Supermarkets are definitely a staple in Japan. From a Walmart-sized market like Seiyu to a smaller greengrocer on the corners of Karasumadori, the full range of grocery stores can be found almost anywhere in Japan, especially the cities. But what I found to be a much more involved and bountiful shopping experience were covered, street-long markets selling everything from flavored honeys at premium prices to produce and seafood. I found them in almost every city we visited, and they were almost always shoulder to shoulder packed with shoppers and tourists. The food was fresh, especially street-food like yaki-tori and konnyaku, the vendors were loud and the smells were… interesting. There were plenty of foods which I’d never had before, and after having been to a few of these market streets, there are many foods I can say I’ve had and would have again. Pretty cheap, too.

Adam Basciano ’16, International Relations

If you’re living in Jerusalem, you’d be foolish to not purchase your groceries at the famous local shuk (market) known as Mahane Yehuda. The shuk has the best and cheapest groceries, from fruits and veggies to nuts and candy. It is on almost every tourist’s itinerary because of how cool and fun the vibes are. It is open all week except for during Shabbat, so if you go anytime on Friday early afternoon, you will for sure get caught up in the pre-weekend crowds. Supermarkets do exist throughout the Jerusalem and are frequented often by people, but Mahane Yehuda is the way to go when grocery shopping in Jerusalem.


A local shuk named Mahane Yehuda

Mallory Keller ’17: Reflections on Silicon Valley

By Peter Tschirhart on March 30, 2015
The Benton Scholars at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The Benton Scholars at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The following post was written by Mallory Keller ’17, who just returned from the Benton Scholars’ spring break trip to Silicon Valley. An aspiring educator, Mallory reflects on the future of higher education and the importance of building community.

I started this trip doubtful about the future of online education. For almost a year, the Benton Scholars program has focused on online education in a university setting; we took online courses ourselves, then hosted speakers who are leaders in the field of online education. We are even designing and participating an online class for Colgate University–working together to see if it is possible for a small, liberal arts university to exist online, and in what capacity. There was a wide range of opinions and experiences with online education across the group of us who went on the trip and, at least for myself, I was hoping this trip would change my opinion.

Our first visit was to Minerva, an online institution that opened this year, that aspires to change the concept of an university. Minerva felt very much like a start-up, which at least for myself, is not something I want to feel from my university. Maybe it is the social construct that has been engraved in my brain since I was young, but I still view a university as a campus with huge, beautiful buildings with students lounging on the quad, throwing a frisbee around. To enroll in a school like Minerva, you have to be able to take risks, and I am not willing to do that with my education. The next day we visited Khan Academy and were able to sit down and talk with Sal Khan, the founder. We all had read his book, The One World Schoolhouse, and we were full of questions to ask him. We discussed the future of online education, and I feel like the conclusion of the discussion was that online education is a supplement to what a student learns in the classroom, but it cannot replace the physical classroom.

The Benton Scholars visit Big Bend Redwood State Park.

The Benton Scholars visit Big Bend Redwood State Park.

While some online spaces may foster this, the one thing that I value most in my education, and the thing that I find missing in online education, is the sense of community that is created on a campus. There is a bond that is formed from being in a physical space with the same people day after day, which I do not think exists online. While you can be logged-on and participating in discussions at the same time as others, you are in different physical spaces, like your home, a coffee shop, or the library. The importance of community was shown through this trip as well. At the end of their freshman year, the Benton Scholars’ freshman class takes a trip together abroad, so I was already pretty close with the other sophomores on this trip. However, there were freshmen and seniors on the trip that I was not as close with, and I enjoyed that we were able to get to know each other more during the four days. While the purpose of this trip was to learn about online education, I think it also helped create a greater sense of community in the Benton Scholar program.

Quanzhi Guo ’18: Reflections on Silicon Valley

By Peter Tschirhart on March 27, 2015
The Benton Scholars meet for a discussion during their trip to San Francisco in March, 2015.

The Benton Scholars meet for a discussion during their trip to San Francisco in March, 2015. (Photo by Karen Harpp.)

Quanzhi Guo ’18 traveled with the Benton Scholars to San Francisco during March, 2015. Their trip explored innovation in the education and technology sectors and included visits to Khan Academy, the Minerva Project, and Tesla–as well as a hike through Big Basin Redwood State Park. In what follows, Quanzhi reflects on this experience, and on the importance of a dynamic and engaging liberal arts education. (A longer version of this blog post is featured at China Personified.)

On the ninth floor overlooking the busy San Francisco downtown, everyone is working on Macs in open-plan stations—the atmosphere feels like any startup in California.

But I am in a school, with no students in sight — Minerva Schools at KGI, a new institution that hopes to shake the whole education sector.

Over spring break, I traveled with an online education-themed Benton trip to San Francisco, where we visited both Minerva and Khan Academy.

The Benton seminar I am taking this semester is called the Advent of Atomic Bomb, which examines the history, science, and ethics behind atomic bomb. My experience had been, so far, bittersweet. While it is interesting and intellectually stimulating to engage with alumni from all age groups and various walks of life online, the workload is heavier. Besides the normal assigned readings and project-based homework offline, we need to watch the lectures online beforehand because class-time is reserved for advanced discussion. So we are expected to master the basics on our own time. This targeted and technology-enhanced blend is challenging and rigorous–it is the way I want to be pushed.

Benton Scholars listen to a presentation at Minerva in downtown San Francisco.

Benton Scholars listen to a presentation at Minerva in downtown San Francisco.

To me, Minerva is exciting. However, while living in six countries (students at Minerva live in a new city each semester) and being one of a select few has allure (last year, the acceptance rate was only 2.8%), I question the real meaning behind it. Does being physically present in a country, spending most of your time taking online classes in dorms, while going shopping and sightseeing on weekends, equate to immersion in a foreign culture? Aren’t existing study-abroad programs, which allow students to take classes in local universities and live in host families, more authentic? For affordability, at least Colgate subsidizes all expenses for students receiving financial aid. Similarly with diversity: Does having a higher number of international students necessarily mean more different perspectives? At Minerva, one can definitely take advantage of urban resources; but how can you truly make use of it in Berlin if you can’t speak German, or Barcelona if you can’t speak Spanish?

Then there was Sal Khan, who sat on an organic-style stool at Khan Academy, talking about how he started making tutorials to improve the accessibility of new information. Thanks to people like Sal Khan, information is becoming more freely accessible, so class time can be reserved for engaged and deeper-level discussions, for skill development and real-life interaction. And I really appreciate how Colgate, too, can offer that–all with classes of size no more than 20.

Benton Scholars meet with Sal Khan to discuss the future of online education.

Benton Scholars meet with Sal Khan to discuss the future of online education.

When we discussed and shared views over a cup of coffee in the afternoon sun, I realized that what I value after nearly a year at Colgate is the sense of connection. Personally, I hate the panic when my computer breaks down and an online submission is due soon. Also, I don’t want to just “like” my classmate’s answer by clicking a button. I want to give him a pat or high-five with a wide grin. Most importantly, I treasure how my professors interact with me, not just in class or office hours, but how they share with me their life stories over home-cooked dinner, after guests’ lectures, and during trips like this one.

I don’t think that brick-and-mortar universities will be obsolete soon, but it can definitely become better. Technology is never a substitute, but a complement to make things better.

TBS Abroad Week 8: Gaming Spaces

By Jessica Li on March 19, 2015

08 - Gaming Spaces

From the baseball diamond to the chess board, from the cricket pitch to a Go grid: local communities often provide a place for people to play games and sports together. This week, notice which games and activities are most popular. Where are they played? Are these locations easily accessible? Is there a fee to play? What times of day are games played? If you are already familiar with these games, do you notice any local modifications that give the game a different look or feel? Take a picture of a public gaming space.


Ryan Hildebrandt ’17, Psychology & Japanese


An arcade near a school campus in Kyoto

Gaming spaces in Japan’s cities are quite varied. There are usually baseball and soccer fields flanking minor rivers, and several games like Go and Shogi are common in homes across Japan. But one of the more conspicuous gaming spaces belongs to the pachinko houses and arcade/casinos. These can be found nearly anywhere (there was one about 30 seconds walk from our campus in Kyoto), and usually are brightly lit with signs covered in anime-characters and flashing lights. The street pictured (in Akihabara in Tokyo) is an example of the kind of lights and buildings in which the larger pachinko houses and arcades are housed.

Adam Basciano ’16, International Relations

There are not too many open and public gaming spaces in Israel. A main reason for that is simply because there is just not enough land, let alone flat land. The housing market and the rapidly rising prices of buying a home is a testament to this, and it has been a major point of emphasis during the election season. Nonetheless, it is not uncommon to pass by a basketball court here in Jerusalem. Most courts are also used for soccer games as well with goals at each end. For the fun-seekers who are no longer part of the soccer or basketball circles, plenty of Israelis play backgammon (or sheshpesh in the local dialect) outside markets or coffee shops. 


A basketball court in Jerusalem

TBS Abroad Week 7: Accents

By Jessica Li on March 16, 2015


07 - Accents

People who use a local accent or dialect occasionally confront discrimination. According to a recent survey conducted in the United Kingdom, 28% of people reported being treated differently, just because of the way they speak. At the same time, 80% of employers admitted to discriminating against people based on their accent. Of course, neither accents nor dialects are legally-protected categories, so pressure to conform is very real. And while YouTube provides virtual coaching on “The Queen’s English” (called Received Pronunciation), online databases document the remarkable richness of the English language as it can be, and actually is, spoken. This week, listen closely to how both you and the people around you speak. Are you living in a country where English is the dominant language? Whether you are or aren’t, can people tell you are American? Does this make you self-conscious, or are you proud to “sound different?” Alternatively, can you tell where people are from when they speak to you? Among your friends and acquaintances, is there pressure to conform, to use language in a certain way? Are people treated differently based on their willingness (or ability) to conform to a normalized accent?

Ryan Hildebrandt ’17, Psychology & Japanese

The two main, or at least famous, regions in Japan are Kanto and Kansai, the former being home to the current capital, Tokyo, and the latter the old capital, Kyoto, as well as several other major cities. Between these two regions, there’s sort of a rivalry akin to something you would see between New York City and Philadelphia, or Texas and anywhere in the world claiming to be better than Texas. Besides some sports-team loyalties and a few signature foods here and there, the main difference between the two regions is the dialect of Japanese spoken. Kansai, although largely metropolitan, is considered by people within and without to be countryside, made up stereotypically of farmers and people who would be scared by the sight of a skyscraper (I can tell you, this is very, very false). Within Kansai, the dialect spoken, known as Kansai-ben, has become famous in Japan and abroad as being like an entirely different language. It might be the case that if you put a person who lived their entire life in Kanto and only spoke Kanto-ben into conversation with someone speaking the thickest, most heavily laid on version of Kansai-ben ever heard on this earth, there might be some difficulty communicating. The reality is, the differences lie mostly in a few key words and conjugations that, while they do stand out from Kanto-ben, aren’t terribly difficult or troublesome to understand, even to non-native speakers. Even so, the rivalry and dialectic schism continues between the two regions (although as far as I’m concerned, Kansai-ben is more fun).

TBS Abroad Week 6: City Hall

By Jessica Li on March 6, 2015

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City Hall: City Hall: it’s not just an institution, a faceless bureaucracy, it’s also a physical place — a symbol of a community, its values, and collective interests. In the United States, the architecture of the building itself is likely to vary in accordance with local tastes and history: fromGeorgian andArt Deco, toBeaux Arts orBrutalist. But no matter how they look, all typically share a few things in common: they house administrative activities that articulate the human experience. Births, deaths, and marriages are all commonly registered here. This week, find your local city, town, or county hall. Take a picture of it and tell us how civic life is structured. Why do people visit city hall? Is there a mayor? Is there a civic council of some kind? If there is no city hall, photograph some other place where people gather to make community decisions (a school, a pub, a church).

Adam Basciano ’16, International Relations

There certainly is a distinct City Hall here in Jerusalem. It sits right in the center of “downtown” Jerusalem and is conveniently located on the city’s light rail. The City Hall square contains a large courtyard surrounded by administrative buildings. The courtyard contains multiple types and styles of art, including this old depiction of a world map (below) that has Jerusalem at the center of the world [of Europe, Asia, and Africa]:


A map in Jerusalem’s City Hall of Jerusalem as the center of the world

It is unfortunate to note that Jerusalem’s City Hall was the precise site of Israel’s latest terror attack. On February 22nd, an 18-year-old Palestinian stabbed an orthodox Israeli man. It turns out that Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, and his security team were on the scene as it happened. The Mayor can be seen on video subduing and apprehending the terrorist, prompting him to become somewhat of a national hero in a country that is used to hearing these stories.

TBS Abroad Week 5: Drinking Fountains

By Jessica Li on February 26, 2015

05 - drinking fountain 2

Drinking Fountains: The drinking fountain can be a powerful signifier. Though simple in purpose and function, it stands as a physical manifestation of common biological needs while staking claim to public spaces we all share: parks, streets, airports, libraries. A drinking fountain might well be “read” as an invitation to linger; but as the civil rights struggle in the United States showed, it can also be used to divide society along racial or ethnic lines: to mark social spaces where insidious ideologies oppress, demean, and segregate minorities.

05 - drinking fountain 1

This week, find and photograph a drinking fountain. Where do you encounter them? Is there any logic to their placement? What message(s) do they communicate? Do drinking fountains bring people together or keep them apart? Take a picture of a drinking fountain you have used. If there are none, speculate as to why.

Ryan Hildebrandt ’17, Psychology & Japanese

Drinking fountains? There aren’t any. Anywhere (or at least it feels like they’re never where you need them when you need them). Not in train stations, not on University campuses, and rarely in parks or other public spaces. This posed a special challenge when walking was my main form of transportation throughout Kyoto, and I had to plan accordingly in order to make sure I didn’t run out mid excursion. Usually my best bet was to leave the house with a full bottle and refill at lunch, making sure to have an extra glass of water at each meal to keep ahead of dehydration throughout the day. Instead, there are beverage vending machines and convenience stores on even the most remote outskirts of the city, so a couple hundred yen water allowance was always a good idea.


Katrina Bennett ’16 Neuroscience

Drinking fountains are found fairly commonly in Cape Town, although not nearly as commonly as in many places in the United States. I have seen drinking fountains on the campus of University of Cape Town, on hiking trails up mountains and at the organization where I work. More interesting than the occurrence of water fountains in Cape Town though, is the occurrence of what the water is put into, water bottles. On the first day of one of my lectures my professor remarked, “You know how we can always tell who is American and who isn’t? The Americans always have water bottles out in front of them. Americans are obsessed with hydration!” After my professor said this, I started consciously thinking about this and analyzing this and she was so right! The majority of individuals carrying water bottles around with them were Americans rather than South Africans. The more sparse occurrence of water fountains in Cape Town therefore, must be because hydrating doesn’t seem to be as much of a top priority here as it is in the United States.

TBS Abroad Week 4: Public Parks

By Jessica Li on February 20, 2015

04 - Public Park - Barnes Common

Public Parks: Access to nature is often recognized as a key quality-of-life indicator, and for many people, public parks are the easiest place to find a bit of fresh air. But nature is not always as natural as it might seem. Indeed, the very term “landscaping” implies that something has been altered or reconfigured to fit an ideal — suggesting that, despite appearances, the “wildness” of New York’s Central Park is not so terribly different from the placid beauty of the Gardens at Versailles. This week, pay attention to parks. Is there an arboretum or other “natural” public place where you live? What is it called? Is it actively manicured or left wild? Who maintains it? What do people do there: Sports? Picnics? Protests? Theatre and music? Take a picture of the park and tell us how it’s commonly used.

Ryan Hildebrant ’17, Psychology & Japanese

The main Park in Kyoto serves all the functions one would expect: picnics, public events, sports, and general relaxation in nature. This park, which lies at a central location in the city of Kyoto, also happens to be the former Imperial palace and palace complex. One of my first experiences with the palace/park was a visit to the Palace, which is usually restricted. Having seen the inside, and this isn’t to belittle the beauty of the palace, it’s quite a nice residence, I have to say the outside of the palace and the palace grounds are much more spectacular.


The main Park in Kyoto

The main palace is surrounded by walls and then an open expanse of gravel on all sides. Beyond that are various paths and miniature parks, with pine, maple, and many other trees overlooking the entirety of the grounds. During fall, the maple and other trees are famous for turning brilliant shades of crimson and bright yellow, and the result is a park cloaked in color for a few weeks or a month of the year. 

Adam Basciano ’16, International Relations

Parks seem to be everywhere here in Jerusalem and Israel. On my daily walk to campus, I pass a large public garden/park that many students take advantage of for studying. On days that I am not running behind on schedule, I can walk through Hebrew University’s own Botanical Gardens which leads right to my day’s classes.

2015-02-07 14.35.14-2

Gan Sacher Park

Since the weather has been magnificent ever since I have gotten year, each day you can see students relaxing from the stresses of their exam seasons by enjoying a smoke or a bite to eat. Jerusalem as a whole is also home to many large and beautiful public parks that get hundreds of visitors daily. Shabbat is the nation-wide day of rest, and as a result no businesses are open from sundown Friday until Saturday night. This means that on the weekends, Israeli families and visitors flock to public parks to enjoy picnics and time with family and friend. The two pictures shown are from last weekend when I enjoyed a pleasant day at the Gan Sacher park in the Nahalot village of Jerusalem with some Israeli and American friends.

2015-02-07 14.00.02

Jerod Gibson-Faber ’16, History

The first thing I think I noticed about London is probably how the roads are all wrong here. After that though, I couldn’t help but be very impressed at all of the parks and open spaces throughout the city.  I live in housing on 20 Bedford Place, very close to the British Museum.  If you exited my flat, took a left, and kept walking straight, you would end up at Bloomsbury Square Gardens.  I often times cut through here when I’m trying to get to Kingsway and go places.


It’s not the biggest park, but there is a small playground area that I would love to play in if I were about 17 years younger.  People also walk their dogs around and on the green, which the dogs seem to love – they are all so friendly. Go back to my flat, take a right instead, keep walking straight, and you’d end up at Russell Square.  This space is a bit larger and in addition to dogs and readers on park benches, runners frequent the park on their daily routes.  I’m pretty spoiled with a park on each end of the street I live on, but it seems like little green open spaces like these are not hard to find – especially in central London.  There are a number of larger parks, too, like Regents, Hyde, and St. James’s to name but a few.  As far as the authenticity of the natural environment, it’s tough to say. These places – especially Greenwich – were heavily attacked in WWII.  Some parks were even dug into for shelters from bombing.  It’s a pretty safe bet that however the land recovered after the war, it’d still in that condition – with maintenance of course.


Katrina Bennett ’16 Neuroscience

Cape Town is an amazingly beautiful place. One of the best places to take advantage of the natural beauty that this city has to offer is Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. This absolutely beautiful area of land is full of amazing flowers, green grass and the start of many treacherous and steep hiking trails up gorgeous mountains. These gardens are a wonderful place to have a picnic or just enjoy a beautiful day, but also are home to many amazing events. My favorite to attend have been the Kirstenbosch Summer Concert series where modern and popular South African bands perform on a beautiful outdoor venue backed by the picturesque mountains and the sky line of the city of Cape Town. Besides these concerts, Kirstenbosch holds outdoor movie screenings on a large screen every week, monthly food and craft fairs, and has a wonderful tea room and art gallery. Kirstenbosch Gardens are without a doubt one of my favorite places in Cape Town and I have spent some of my favorite evenings and afternoons there.

Katrina Bennett ’16 Neuroscience

Cape Town is an amazingly beautiful place. One of the best places to take advantage of the natural beauty that this city has to offer is Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. This absolutely beautiful area of land is full of amazing flowers, green grass and the start of many treacherous and steep hiking trails up gorgeous mountains. These gardens are a wonderful place to have a picnic or just enjoy a beautiful day, but also are home to many amazing events. My favorite to attend have been the Kirstenbosch Summer Concert series where modern and popular South African bands perform on a beautiful outdoor venue backed by the picturesque mountains and the sky line of the city of Cape Town. Besides these concerts, Kirstenbosch holds outdoor movie screenings on a large screen every week, monthly food and craft fairs, and has a wonderful tea room and art gallery. Kirstenbosch Gardens are without a doubt one of my favorite places in Cape Town and I have spent some of my favorite evenings and afternoons there.


Peter Tschirhart, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Scholars Programs

One of my favorite local spots is Thayer Park on the banks of Lake Skaneateles. Visit sometime on a beautiful, sunny day and you’ll find it filled with picnickers with plaid blankets, kids with frisbees, and grownups with books. It’s unquestionably one of the most picturesque places I know, and it reminds me very strongly of the more pretty spots in the Lake District (Cumbria).

A warm October’s day in Thayer Park, with (from left to right) me, my partner Brian, and my brother Steve

I don’t know much about the history of Thayer Park, though: who designed it or who maintains it. I spent some time researching these questions, but as it turns out, much more information is available about other parks in the area — Shotwell Park, for instance, memorializes local residents killed in foreign conflicts since the First World War. Thayer Park seems to lack a comparable high-minded purpose. From what I can tell, the land for it was set aside in 1874 by a local businessman named Joel Thayer, who made his mark on industries as varied as distilling and carriage works. Today, the park is actively manicured and maintained — I suppose by the Village of Skaneateles — and is used primarily for quiet leisure. Music, arts, entertainment, and, of course, boat tours are kept at Clift Park further down Genessee Street. From the ladder descending into the lake, built directly into the concrete retaining wall, one might assume swimming, too, was once common here.

TBS Abroad Week 3: Libraries

By Jessica Li on February 12, 2015

03 - Libraries

Week 3 Prompt: Libraries

Libraries aren’t just places to store books or sit and think. They link a community to important resources, serving as a hub for information about taxes, voting, and other issues of local concern. Libraries can be big or small, publicly-funded or privately-endowed, grand or humble, focused on research or designed to attract a wide audience. There may be a children’s section, but there may also be other special collections: maps, large-print, computer terminals, or rare and valuable books, to name just a few. This week, take a photograph of your local libraryand tell us about it: Why do people go there? Are there books and computers? Is it usually busy? How is it used — for research, reading, or as a common gathering place? Do people take pride in their local library, or is it largely hidden from view?

Kevin Costello ’16, Philosophy & Political Science

I suppose it would be wrong to do a “libraries” post in DC on something other than the famous Library of Congress. To provide a quick history lesson, the original library, at least in DC location, was established in 1800, tucked away inside the Capitol building. After the British burned the Capitol down during the War of 1812, however, all was lost, and the library needed to start anew. Thomas Jefferson, an avid book collector whose expensive tastes were plunging him into crushing debt, offered to sell his personal library of nearly 6,500 books to the government for the purposes of establishing a new Library of Congress.


The Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress

Today, the LoC houses over 150,000,000 books, periodicals, and other items and serves the unique role of being both a tourist attraction and a fully functioning public library. The aesthetic of the library’s primary building, the Thomas Jefferson building, combines classical republican architecture, renaissance flair, and other recognizable aspects of Western culture. The building was designed as such in order to make European scholars and intellectuals notice a young America’s cultural and artistic depth. The Main Reading Room, which is perhaps the library’s most recognizable space, is a great example of such design, as the circular room is lined with heroic statues of some of the West’s most valuable contributors, such as Michelangelo, Newton, and Plato. A fun, albeit strange, fact about the Main Reading Room is that all photography is expressly prohibited. Fortunately, though, my dedication to TBS-Abroad knows of no such limitations, and as such, I’m happy to contribute my own illicit photograph of the Library of Congress’s Main Reading Room. If I mysteriously disappear at some point in the coming weeks, at least Colgate will know what’s happened.

Katrina Bennett ’16 Neuroscience

The main library here that I go to is Chancellor Oppenheimer Library at the University of Cape Town. The library is located at the center of the campus and is very similar to the library at Colgate. Interestingly, to get into the library there are gates where students must swipe their student cards to enter and where monitors sit to ensure that absolutely no food or drinks are brought in. Inside, the library is extremely clean and bright, with many windows! There are areas with many computers, big open tables, and many closed cubicles. In addition to sitting spaces, there are many, many books at this library and also many knowledgeable librarians. Everyone in the library is extremely respectful of everyone else and is always very quiet and working very hard. In addition, monitors walk around the library ensuring that no one has food or drink, which probably largely contributes to the fact that everyone follows the rules so closely. The library is so beautiful, modern and bright and definitely one of my favorite places to do work here in Cape Town.