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TBS Abroad Week 2: Airplanes

By Evie Lawson on February 3, 2016

 

Week 2 Prompt: Airplanes

For some people, flying on airplanes is a fun (albeit expensive) hobby; for others, it’s part of their job — as pilots, flight attendants, or business people traveling for work. But a small number of people rely on aviation as a lifeline: “bush pilots” bring food and supplies to remote areas of the globe, including parts of Alaska. This week, turn your eyes to the sky. Is aviation a novelty or a necessity? Do people travel for fun or only when necessary? Does air transportation have a good reputation, or are people skeptical of its safety, efficiency, and reliability? Take a picture of an airplane, airport, landing strip, or some other aviation-related aspect of the culture surrounding you.


Ryan Hildebrandt ’17, Psychology and Japanese

hildebrandt airplane

Aviation isn’t a huge part of everyday Japanese life. Unless you’re flying between two cities that are very, very far apart within Japan, most airports are used for international travel. The vast majority of domestic travel is done via ferry, car, and especially train. Because of this, most exposure to Japanese airlines comes in getting to and from the country, and isn’t a prominent means of travel once you’re in the country. There isn’t much of a domestic air-travel industry to speak of, or at least what is there isn’t frequented unless you’re traveling clear across the country and need to do it quicker than a train. Instead, the experience of going to an airport with your ticket in hand, checking luggage, finding your terminal, and jumping on a very fast and efficient means of transportation has been largely replaced with the train system and Shinkansen bullet train. As we used this much more than planes while in Japan (one flight in, one out), here’s a fuzzy picture of Mount Fuji from my plane on my way home at the last possible moment.


Mallory Keller ’17, Art History and Educational Studies

When studying abroad, you are encouraged to travel to other countries. Because of how south Italy is in Europe, while traveling by train may be cheaper, air transportation is much more time efficient. I am constantly surrounded by fellow students conversing about planning travel for weekends and which airline is better. I found that Europe is full of budget airlines that makes travel fairly cheap. Some Americans are skeptical of budget airlines, but I have found that if you read the fine print and follow their rules, you will not have any problems. From some very negative experiences with some prominent airlines in America that I will leave unnamed in this post, I would fly European budget airlines over them anyday. My experience in flying from Pisa to London on what is known as a budget airline was awesome. I had none of those terrible horror stories you hear off, it was so efficient, and my flight was only $60 round trip.

Picture courtesy of: http://andreas.scherbaum.la/blog/archives/470-A-sunday-in-Tuscany.html

The one thing I have noticed about many European airports is that they are much smaller than American airports, which I enjoy. While there are some duty free shops, I don’t have to walk through what sometimes seems like malls within American airports. Security was fast, efficient, and I never felt unsafe traveling through the airports. When my roommate and I were booking our taxi to the Florence airport when we were leaving for the semester, my host mom was confused as to why we were calling it two hours before our flight. She said we only needed thirty minutes and she ended up being correct! We sat in the pretty empty Florence airport for an hour and a half before our flight. The one thing I do miss about being abroad is the ease of travel.


Zachary Weaver ’17 

Airplanes are a fact of life in Europe. Since the introduction of the European Union and common currency, more and more businesses have offices and work in different countries. Countries in the European Union have made travel extremely easy for citizens of fellow members, and air travel is no different.

However, aside from international travel, planes aren’t used as much as trains are in the United Kingdom. It is often easier and cheaper to take a train from one end of the country to another rather than planes. This is in large part due to the extensiveness of the train network in the UK, but many areas do have their own airport or airfield.

Cardiff itself is a small city when compared to places such as London or Paris, yet there are quite a few businessmen who use air travel to get to Cardiff on a weekly basis. On my flight from Amsterdam to Cardiff on my way to the country, most of the plane was made of Dutch businessmen who had work in Cardiff that day or week.

Cardiff Airport Departure Gate, the closest airport to Cardiff University, is small and useful for traveling to a handful of locations in Europe. Going to London for longer flights is common. Photo from http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/11769628._Has_Cardiff_Airport_buy_out_been_worth_it___AMs_will_ask_today/

Cardiff Airport Departure Gate, the closest airport to Cardiff University, is small and useful for traveling to a handful of locations in Europe. Going to London for longer flights is common. Photo from http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/11769628._Has_Cardiff_Airport_buy_out_been_worth_it___AMs_will_ask_today/

Air travel itself is quite common amongst students at Cardiff, especially those of us from Colgate who are studying here! The Cardiff Airport is often used as a springboard to bigger airports, from which a flight to most of Europe can be reached. Several people already have plans to fly to mainland Europe at some point in the semester, with Amsterdam, Barcelona, and the Swiss Alps being popular destinations.

Getting to an airport is easy enough from Cardiff. One can either take a taxi to Cardiff Airport, or jump on one of several buses or trains to London and use Heathrow or Gatwick Airports for better service to more areas of Europe.

My time in Cardiff Airport was pretty easy. Being a small airport, the service was much more personable than customs and immigration in some larger airports. Plus, once I made it through all my bags were already on the luggage belt, so I didn’t have to wait at all!

 


TBS Abroad Week 1: Trains

By Evie Lawson on January 27, 2016

Week 1 Prompt: Trains

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 and Japanese

In Kyoto, like most major cities in Japan, trains form the basis of the public transportation system. Since Kyoto isn’t as much of a bustling metropolis as Tokyo or Osaka, there are two main subway lines, one running north-south and one running east-west. Off of these are several private rail lines, which run on a separate ticketing system from the city’s subways. These take you to the more distant regions of the city and into the sprawling suburbs, as well as into the mountains which also surround the city. The network of trains extends well beyond the limits of any individual city, also connecting major and minor cities with the world-famous Shinkansen bullet trains.

A train station in Kyoto, Japan.

Within the cities as well as in between them, trains provide a reliable and extremely affordable means of transport for everyday use. For me, the nearest station was Katsura-eki (Katsura station), about a 10-minute walk from my host family’s home. The station was a hub for taxi-cabs, bus routes, and both the Hankyu Kyoto and Arashiyama lines, one of which connects you to the city centers of both Osaka and Kyoto (about a 40 minute, $4 ride), and the other which takes you into the scenic mountains in the southwest of the city. Trains were integral to getting around during my time in Kyoto, and they are defintely one of my fondest memories of Japan.  


Danielle Norgren ’18, French and International Relations

There are a lot of things in France that take a lot of time. Meals, for example. Dinner is a ritual that starts at 8pm, and can stretch until midnight. Walking through Dijon, one notices the café dwellers, relaxing with magazines or friends. One must signal a waiter for the check, as placing it on the table without request could be interpreted as a gesture of impatience. There is something about french culture that seems  unrushed when compared to that of America. Americans strive for efficiency and productivity, every minute must be maximized. My high school host dad once summed this up in the following phrase: “The French work to live, the Americans live to work.”

Remarkably, however, this comparison does not hold when comparing systems of transportation. In America, particularly in cities, we struggle with congestion; commuting can consume a large majority of one’s time outside of work. In Dijon, however, the problem is virtually nonexistent. An extensive tram network connects the entirety of the city. If the tram does not get close enough to your destination, there are busses. Unlike in my hometown, Seattle, the predicted times of arrival are guaranteed down to the minute. To travel outside of Dijon, there is the TGV: “Le Train à Grande Vitesse.” The TGV is noted as “The world speed record holder, it zips from city to city at up to 322 kph (201 mph).” Thus, a trip to Paris takes only an hour and a half. While Dijon no longer has an airport, it can easily access the rest of the country, and world thanks to this system. France seems to have mastered efficient travel.

A train station in Dijon, France.

A train station in Dijon, France.

Friday, we had a group trip to the Hospices de Beaune. For under 10 euros, we were able to travel over 50 miles. By bus, we would have spent about 80 minutes simply traveling to our destination. By train, however, the trip was cut in half. Knowing french trains operate with ironclad precision, and knowing our group has a tendency to get lost, our professor asked us to arrive at the train station an hour early. In the station, a young man played piano as people rushed to their trains with briefcases. That morning, we were surrounded by businessmen and women, on their way to work in nearby towns. On our return trip, however, we found ourselves in a crowd of high school french students, on their way home for the weekend. They maneuvered the system with ease, reciting the bus schedule from memory. They laughed at our Americanness, noting how we tumbled with even the slightest jolt in the train. In high school, I flew over 70 times. I can make my way through airports at 4am, I know which airlines give the best inflight snacks, and I have the safety manual memorized. Yet, I have no idea where the local bus stop is. I envied these french students, and their ability to roam city to city with ease.


Mallory Keller ’17, Art History and Educational Studies

When preparing for my semester abroad, I thought that I would be traveling by train more than I have had before. I was surprised when I arrived in Florence and found out that Florence does not have a train system that resembles a subway. There is a regional train that few Italians take to Florence, like an hour ride from Pisa and Florence and back that runs several times a day, to commute to work, but I would not say that is common. From what I can determine, the train is used to travel to cities when you do not feel like driving or riding a bus. I have taken regional trains a few times to travel to cities around Italy that are too far to travel in one day on a bus, like Bologna, Venice, Naples and Rome. My trip to Bologna was quite pleasant as it was on a high speed train. The train took only 30 minutes while a bus would have taken close to 3 hours. My ears popped at times during the ride because of how fast the train was moving-300km/hr!

The regional train station near Mallory’s house in Florence, Italy.

Another high speed train company that I took to Naples and Venice was quite comfortable. The seats are larger than most seats I have experienced in the United States and they provided movies for the in car entertainment. The nearest station is 10 minutes from my home stay and it is primarily a regional train station for travel within Italy. If I want to ride a train outside of Italy, I would have to go to the large train station in the city, Santa Maria Nouvella Station, which I can get to by riding the regional train there or a 20 minute walk from my home. My overall opinion of the train system in Italy is that it makes travel fairly painless as long as the trains do not go on strike that day!


Zachary Weaver ’17 

Trains are everywhere in the United Kingdom. They are one of the cheapest and most efficient ways of getting around the country, and almost every town or city has at least one train station. Cardiff is no different.

The main station lies in the center of the city, providing access to the heart of Cardiff and allows many people to live in the suburbs and take the train in to work. In fact, one of the reasons why there is comparatively little traffic in the center of the city is due to the presence of the trains! It is about a 20-minute city walk from the main residences where I live, but it is easy to find because the main line runs along the Cardiff University Campus and into the station. So, just follow that and it’s easy to find the station!

One of the benefits of having the station in the center of town is the access it provides during the busiest days of the year in Cardiff: When the Welsh National Rugby Team is playing a match in Principality Stadium (formerly Millennium Stadium). The train station is right across the street from the stadium, so people who are traveling from every corner of the United Kingdom have easy access to the almost 75,000 person stadium, where the atmosphere is often better than even American Football stadiums!

Likely after a match, people queuing outside of Cardiff Central Train Station. Photo from http://www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk/SpecialEvents/.

Likely after a match, people queuing outside of Cardiff Central Train Station. Photo from http://www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk/SpecialEvents/.

One of the remarkable aspects of trains in Cardiff is how efficient the authorities have made train travel. On match days, when the game is over and everyone is going home, it could be a chaotic mess of people trying to find the right train to get home. However, a quick walk near the station reveals that there are plans in place for these events. Signs are pointing out where to stand for the exact train that is needed. Going home to London? Stand in the big area for Londoners. Heading west to the relatively close by Swansea? That area is marked, too. Almost every city is represented on match days.

The extent and efficiency of trains is not reserved for cities, though. My grandparents live in rural northeast Wales, near the border with England. Even though their community is small, the nearest train station is a 15-minute car ride. Also, because they live in a valley, my grandparents actually live underneath a train viaduct allowing the train to efficiently cross the valley!


Sid Wadhera ’17, Economics and Political Science

Trains are deeply embedded in the ethos of the United Kingdom, and even more so in London. That is not an exaggeration; the Underground system has a long history as the worlds oldest rapid transit system. Some of the most recognizable images of World War II are tube stations used as air-raid shelters during the Battle of Britain. Yet, having spent time exploring the metro-rail systems in Seoul and New York City, I find that the Underground is not very much different than others in its category. The difference and significance of trains in the United Kingdom comes from the fact that they connect every part of the country so well. From Central London one can take a train south for a day trip to the coast; one can take a train north for a weekend in Scotland; one can take a train west to see the famed Welsh hills; perhaps most significantly of all, one can take a train to Paris, and from there to anywhere in Europe.

Ask the average Londoner what they think about trains, and you’re likely to get a confused stare. For most people they are just another part of daily life, but when the Tube workers go on strike it becomes hassle. This speaks to the old adage that goes something like “you don’t appreciate what you have until you lose it.” For Londoners, the Tube and trains have become so ingrained in their daily lives that they do not even notice…that is until the they stop running. Next week, I might make a trip to the London Museum of Transport to see if the train lovers over there have something more interesting to discuss.

The beauty of being in Central London for me is that I’m surrounded by Tube Stations. The three that properly triangulate my position are Russel Square, Holborn, and Tottenham Court Road. The interesting thing about these stations is that they put me on the map for three different tube lines: the Northern, Central, and Piccadilly lines. In essence, these are three major lines that direct me to any location I want in London. That is one significant advantage London has over New York: the lines are not so direct that you cannot connect between them.

Needless to say, I have gotten properly lost quite a few times on the Tube, and it has been an absolute pleasure. From the zone system of fees to oyster cards for payment, the Tube really has expanded my appreciation for the planning used in the implementation of this system and systems like it across the world. Now if only London’s streets were organized as nicely, but that’s a conversation for another day.

 


The Benton Scholars: Abroad

By Evie Lawson on January 20, 2016

Infusing leadership and global themes into the Colgate University experience, the Benton Scholars program creates an educational environment that asks students to adopt an informed and critical view of emerging political, cultural, environmental, and economic issues. Just as importantly, scholars are expected to be outwardly focused: to share their insights with people on campus and throughout the global community.

Like many Colgate students, Benton Scholars often choose to study off-campus during their junior year. Unlike others, however, they are expected to stay connected to the program and each other while abroad–sharing their insights, collaborating from different points on the globe–with the goal of bringing different cultural and geo-political perspectives to bear on shared problems.

The Benton Scholars: Abroad blog functions as the locus for this collaboration. Each Monday during the spring semester, students will be sent a brief topic, idea, or problem, one that has resonance throughout the world. Students are then asked to submit a response–preferably a picture, video, or brief essay–which will then be published on this site. Responses need not be obvious: they can be creative, insightful, even clever interpretations of each week’s theme.

Entering its third year, we hope The Benton Scholars: Abroad blog will provide unique insight into topics of discussion and issues of concern that we all share in common.

This year’s contributors are immersed in different countries around the world, from Australia to England. Their profiles below:


Taylor Mooney ’17

Hi, friends!  I am a geology major from a lil’ ol’ town called Lowville in Upstate New York who consistently responds to the nickname “Princess,” and I am so incredibly excited to make memories in Wollongong, Australia this semester.  I’m tremendously grateful to Colgate and my parents for allowing me this mind-blowing opportunity, and I can’t wait to share my experiences with all of you!  An early thank you to all of those who follow this blog… let the shenanigans ensue!

 


Allison Zengilowski ’17

My name is Allison Zengilowski and I am a double major in Psychology and Peace and Conflict Studies from Hinesburg, Vermont.  I’ll be spending my semester in Wollongong, Australia as part of one of Colgate’s Natural Sciences programs.  While there I’ll have the opportunity to volunteer in a Psychology lab, study Australia’s biodiversity, and see a completely different set of stars (since I’ll be in the southern hemisphere!).

 

 


Ryan Hildebrandt ’17

I’m Ryan and I’m from Cape May, New Jersey.  I’m a Junior currently studying Japanese and Psychology, and I studied abroad first semester sophomore year in Kyoto, Japan.  It was a wonderful semester that helped me understand Japanese language and culture in a much deeper way than I was able to before, and I can’t wait to go back to the city I think of as my second home, Kyoto.

 

 


Danielle Norgren ’18

My name is Danielle Norgren.  I grew up in Seattle but attended high school in New Hampshire and France. At Colgate, I am a French and International Relations double major.  In my free time, I am on the rowing team and also tutor French at Hamilton Central School. I will be spending my sophomore spring abroad, in Dijon.

 

 

 


Erin Huiting ’17

I consider Evergreen, Colorado home, a small mountain town in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.  However, I love to travel and will be studying biomedical sciences at Oxford (England) this spring, and biomedicine at the National Institute of Health ( Washington, DC) this fall. I’m majoring in Molecular Biology, and I hope to pursue a career in immunogenetics.

 

 


Mallory Keller ’17

Hi everyone! My name is Mallory Keller and I am a junior at Colgate University. I’m originally from Kansas City, Missouri and I spent the fall semester of my junior year in Florence, Italy. As an art history and educational studies double major, I spent my entire semester geeking out at pictures on walls and dragging everyone I know to museums and churches. When I was not staring at artwork, I was eating my way through Italy.

 

 

 


Sidhant (Sid) Wadhera ’17

Sid Wadhera, or Sidward as he is affectionately called, will be spending the first 5 months of 2016 not on the North American continent.  The first 13 days will be spent in Chile, climbing up and studying volcanoes with the esteemed professor Karen Harpp.  The rest of his time will be spent in London (mostly) studying Economics with Professor Don Waldman.  Sid thoroughly enjoys blathering incessantly about topics and drawing erroneous conclusions from those topics; he also enjoys tangential ramblings.  Essentially, TBS Abroad project is a perfect match for him.  For more about his travel, visit his blog volcanicteatime.tumblr.com


Grace Western ’17

I am a junior at Colgate with a double major in Women’s Studies and Political Science.  I am very involved with the Student Government Association — my most recent position being Speaker of the Senate.  I am also a Community Leader, a member of FUSE Dance Company, an Illustrator at Admissions, and part of the Association of Critical Collegians.  Last year, I was Assistant Director of the Vagina Monologues and also participated in Spaces Between Us: a movement piece to challenge structural oppression at Colgate.  I am studying abroad in Cameroon with a focus on Social Pluralism and Development.  Specifically we will be critiquing the narratives of development and who is “developed.”  I look forward to interacting with the Benton Community, and the larger Colgate community, through my learning and reflection process abroad!  It’ll be a nice change to escape the winter tundra of Hamilton for warm, 70 degree weather!


Laine Barrand ’17

Laine Barrand, from Southern California, is an Undergraduate student in Junior standing at Colgate University. She is studying International Relations and French. Laine is involved with music on campus and in the community; she plays viola in Colgate University Orchestra and Chamber Players, works for the Music Department and interns at the Hamilton Center for the Arts and the Broad Street Gallery. Laine also works sound equipment during various events on campus and hosts a weekly radio show called Biannual Sunflower Festival, during which she plays a variety of genres including indie, alternative, and psychedelic rock. Laine loves to snowboard and travel.


Quanzhi (Q) Guo ’18

Currently wandering in Wales, originally from China, and shaped by Singapore.  Cold-bloodedly rational yet helplessly whimsical.  Trying to major in something but has never been able to make up my mind.  Interestingly self-contradictory and unexpectedly predictable to similar souls.

 

 


“XYZ with Q” 5: Theatre with Jungmin Kang ’16

By Quanzhi Guo on November 30, 2015

In the blog series XYZ with Q, Quanzhi “Q” Guo ’18 visits current and former Benton Scholars to learn about their interests, passions, and accomplishments. In the fifth installment of the series, Q visits Jungmin Kang ’16, a double major in Theatre and Educational Studies, for a scene rehearsal. Besides sharing his passion for theatre, Jungmin also talks about his views on education in Asia.


It was 1am by the time I left my first ever theatre practice. Even by the time I got to bed, I was still pumped-up by emotions evoked during the scene and thoughts on my own educational experience. And it was all thanks to Benton Scholar Jungmin Kang ’16.

Jungmin was rehearsing a scene for his directing class taught by Simona Giurgea. The protagonist, played by Solhee Dein Bae ’17, got off at the wrong train station, encountered rude treatments by other travelers, and was rebuffed when asking for direction—in a country whose language she could hardly speak.

Because the scene was pseudo-interactive, I was free to participate. Taking a more active role in the landscape of play was a novel and engaging experience for me. With only a few lines , the simplicity of the scene left plenty of room for my own interpretation and called up my memories of being a traveller, sojourner, and foreigner.

To take advantage of my nostalgia, I tried out part of the scene, where the girl curled up in a dark corner. Thanks to Jungmin, I managed to express that forlornness—at least in the photo.

Lost my way, my phone died and no one wanted to help me...

Lost my way, my phone died and no one wanted to help me…

Not many Benton Scholars major in Theatre, so I wondered what led Jungmin here. “I was in theatre club in high school and liked it a lot, but I didn’t come to Colgate thinking that I would do theatre,” he said. His first actual production was The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht during his freshman year. “I played Tiger Brown and the street singer who gets to sing the most famous song in the play: Mac the Knife!”

But the key moment to pursue the major came later.

The following spring, Jungmin took an off-campus study semester at the National Theatre Institute (NTI) in Connecticut, and he continued there as a summer intern. “As much as I enjoy the theatre I have done at Colgate, if it hadn’t been that semester, I won’t be so sure that theatre is something I want to do for my life.”

A conservatory program that includes directing, playwriting, design, acting, movement and voice, the NTI Semester develops students to be a complete artist. “It was the most intensive semester in my life … 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. We were basically putting up a show every week, so you really get a broad range of viewpoints and get trained in all disciplines,“ Jungmin said.

Prior to attending Colgate, Jungmin lived in California for 9 years. But he spent his childhood in South Korea. Looking between cultures, he sees differences and challenges among the educational models—particularly the South Korean model, which he believes values performance on tests rather than knowledge itself.

The suicide rate is through the roof. Students are killing themselves because of grades and not getting to colleges,” he said. “I think prioritizing something over human life is ridiculous.” So, while the world may look to Asia as a model for education—its students get spectacular scores on international education tests—the system is also criticized for spreading a culture of competition, one that encourages students to see academic performance as their only source of validation and self-worth.

Some may see Jungmin’s path as unconventional, but he isn’t bothered. “It is hard when people expect you to do something great. And it is very difficult not to think about it. But ultimately people you care about the most want to see you happy and do what you want,” he said. “In both theatre and education, you are looking at people. But in both fields, we sometimes lose track of that. In theatre, we start to think about all the lights and what is a well-written play … but the most important thing is that you are looking at human nature. That’s what makes theatre so powerful. And in education, we get so wrapped up in scores, what are the best policies, what are the jobs these students get and the statistics, but what you should be trying to do is the personal development of human beings and intellectual growth,” Jungmin said.

To set aside the narrow conviction of success and to humanize deep-set cultures are not easy, but I am glad that we are starting to confront these problems and reflect on what we truly want as human beings.


“XYZ with Q”1: Language exchange with DAAD Graduate Scholarship winner Joshua Smeltzer ’12

By Quanzhi Guo on September 22, 2015

In the blog series XYZ with Q, Quanzhi “Q” Guo ’18 visits current and former Benton Scholars to learn about their interests, passions, and accomplishments. In this post, Q did a language exchange and interviewed Benton alumnus Josh Smeltzer ’12, who currently resides in Hamburg, Germany.


 

Language exchange session with Josh via Skype

Language exchange session with Josh via Skype

Learning a foreign language is hard, and German can be particularly hard with its grammatical gender and winding words, like “Entschuldigung Sie bitte” for “excuse me.” However, my language exchange with Benton Scholar alumnus Joshua Smeltzer ’12 (Josh) over Skype was not as painful as I thought.

It was, to be frank, fun to do some muscle workouts for my mouth, and Josh’s experience as a teacher definitely helped. A former Fulbright fellow, he taught English for nine months at a German high school before he started a Master of Science in Politics, Economics and Philosophy at the University of Hamburg. Recently, he received a DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) Graduate Scholarship, which covered the cost of living and insurance for his master degree.

To me, Germany has always been on my list of “Top 10 Countries to Visit” for its romantic castles, spirit-lifting cultures, and…Rittersport! But Josh’s interest in Germany was not sparked until he was in Colgate’s Freiburg German study group. “It changed my direction. I felt that I wanted to come back to Germany again,” he said.

Now he lives in Hamburg, and he likes it a lot for its greenness and cleanliness, “unlike the odor that never leaves NYC,” we both laughed.

“The government is very welcoming. Even for non-citizens, the tuition is free,” he said. I asked him why Germany could be so open to foreigners. As in the recent refugee crisis, Germany has been a beacon of hope for many desperate refugees and migrants.

“In Germany, immigrants still pay more for the social service they receive than the benefits they gain. The government also needs young people to come and stay, because of the ageing population and the low birth rate,” he said.

Despite having lived in Germany for more than three years, Josh still experiences some culture shock. “The second time I went back, when I ate breakfast with my host family, I was piling up my bread like a sandwich. To them that was totally unbelievable, as they usually stack it with only a piece of cheese,” he chuckled, and I felt appreciative about the make-it-yourself sandwich bar at Frank.

In terms of academics, the class experience is also very different. “There is less sense of community. You go to class, then leave, and there is no extra-curricular activity. At the master level, we have about 35 students in a class, so there is definitely less attention from the professors. The professors are also more lecture-oriented,” he said.

When he looks back, he thinks the most valuable thing he picked up at Colgate is critical thinking. “I notice that people in my program who go to liberal arts colleges tend to be more critical to the texts than people who go through the German system.”

And a walk down the memory lane can never be complete with a piece of advice. Here is what Josh offers: “Try to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible to hear different ideas, from faculty dinners to guest lectures. For me, it is also about being open to new experience. It was not until I was in Moscow with Professor Nancy Ries on our Benton trip to Russia that I started to think about a PCON major. I was asking her about what I should major in, because I wanted to do English but did not quite like it, and she said ‘why don’t you give PCON a try.’ I was really glad I took her advice in my sophomore year and gave it a shot.”

Tschüß and Danke Josh for the fun German-learning and sharing! Good luck for your new adventures through DAAD!

About XYZ with Q, and a spoiler: in the next post, I will be doing DJ with Mark Maggiore’18, so stay tuned!

 

 

 


Mallory Keller ’17 reflects on her National Youth Leadership Council experience

By Quanzhi Guo on September 8, 2015

Mallory Keller ’17 is a junior at Colgate University studying educational studies and art history. She enjoys traveling, reading, knitting, and watching movies. Her future plans are to work one day in the educational field.  In this blog, she wrote about her experience with the National Youth Leadership Council in the spring semester.


I am standing in a suite on the 10th floor of the Washington Marriott Wardman Park. Participants are going around the circle saying why we came to the National Service-Learning Conference. It has been another year of great service learning, but as it gets closer to my turn, I start to get nervous. Why am I here? Is it because I enjoy going to conferences? Is it because I love to travel?

When my turn came, I just blurted out, “Because I love NYLC.” I realized that I had to elaborate more on my point, so I talked about my experiences with the organization: how service-learning made me care about my education for the first time in middle school, how I felt so inspired by the power of education when I attended my first service-learning conference in 9th grade, how I felt bad for our education system failing over a million students a year. Simply put, NYLC is more than an organization to me, they are a community, they are a family that I have grown up with, and I would not be who I am today without it.

The National Service-Learning Conference is one of its kind. It is a gathering of educators, students, non-profits, NGOs, and policy makers that celebrates the field of service-learning and projects done in diverse communities and discusses the future of our education system as a whole, through workshops, booths in the exhibit hall, the Day of Service, Capitol Hill Day, and plenary speakers. For those of you who do not know, service-learning is when you integrate service into the classroom curriculum to create a meaningful impact to the community. It makes education relevant to the world around the student. This is my fifth year attending the conference, and every year I am more inspired by what students are doing in their communities. During the plenary, I heard from those who are leaders in the field, members of the Department of Education, and most importantly, youth themselves, talking about what service-learning means to them. The overarching theme was that service-learning is a way to change our society and that it embraces as its cornerstone what other educational strategies do not–the youth in schools today.

This focus on youth in school today is the reason why so much work of NYLC’s is concerned with the achievement gap and educational inequity in schools. This issue is so important to the youth that NYLC NYLC launched a new campaign– Youth4Education. Youth4Education recognizes that our education system is failing youth because of systematic inequities, and it encourages students to solve this with service-learning. I could feel the excitement in the plenary as the campaign unveiled and I know I have said this so many times, but it was inspiring to see youth committed for a cause and to know that NYLC supports those of us who want to make that change. The excitement continued when we received a message from a surprise supporter–Kevin Bacon! It was so cool that the work that NYLC is doing is getting recognition from celebrities and that their impact is expanding. If you would like to get more involved and support the #Youth4Ed movement, sign the youth or adult pledge.

I was able to leave the conference this year full of ideas inspired by workshops conversations with other educators and students. The Benton Scholars Program has become a community that I involve myself deeply in because it gives us the support to be who we want to be at Colgate. To me, the Benton Scholars would be the place to implement service-learning. Service-learning is a way to serve your community and to think critically about what you are learning in the classroom, so I think it is exactly something Colgate needs on campus.

I would like to thank all of those who made my journey possible—the Benton Scholars Program at Colgate University, the National Youth Leadership Council, and finally, the support systems I have locally and nationally that continue to inspire me to serve.


Adam Basciano’s visit to “the timeless city”–Istanbul

By Quanzhi Guo on August 30, 2015

Adam Basciano ’16, an International Relations major, studied in Israel in the spring semester and shared with us his trip to Istanbul.

Adam with his family

Istanbul is truly a magnificent city, full of complexities and history that left us with countless ways to spend our six days. I arrived here alongside an American friend from Hebrew University last Sunday. We met up with some of his friends who are studying in Istanbul for the semester, and they helped show us around the city.

Istanbul, a city that straddles both Europe and Asia, offered experiences and sights generally unavailable to us in Jerusalem. For instance, our dinner the first night was at an authentic Persian restaurant. Amongst our dinner party sat young students who each identify as Lebanese, Moroccan,  Persian, Pakistani, Israeli, and well, me from New Jersey. Moments to get to know students from all over the world were abundant throughout the trip. It was both refreshing and informative.

The Turkish culture is alive and vivid in the country’s epicenter in Istanbul. The food was enjoyable and cheap, accessible through nicer restaurants as well as friendly street vendors. Each day brought with it at least two or three trips to a local cafe to relax with Turkish coffee or tea. A fusion of European and Middle Eastern culture could be seen throughout daily life here. At night, bars and dance-clubs light up the upper levels of the day’s shops and restaurants. Young Turks and tourists blend together to provide for a nightlife that reminds you of the secular nature of the Ataturk’s grand vision.

The insides of one of the many mosques in the city

The view from a ferry on the Bosphorus Strait

A visitor to Istanbul can choose to let these comfortable cultural surfaces define his or her trip to this city that is home to over 18 million people.

However, walk one block from the live music at the dance-bar you just spent the evening in, and you are greeted by the dozens upon dozens of Syrian refugees roaming the streets. They are amongst the city’s poorest, and have been continuously flowing into Istanbul and Turkey as a whole since the start of the Syrian Civil War roughly four years ago. Very different to the homeless people in cities like New York or Washington DC, their fate is unknown and the solution seems ungraspable. Ranging from young children to former professionals and academics, the Syrians sell items ranging from tissues to selfie-sticks.

To more fully understand present day Turkish society, one also must make himself aware of the increasingly authoritarian nature of the country’s leadership. Journalists are imprisoned regularly and the internet is carefully watched. It is uncommon to observe Turkish citizens speaking loudly on public transportation or for people to openly criticize President Erdogan in cafes. It only took one day after our arrival for the social media sites Twitter and YouTube to be shut-down by the government. The motives for doing so is believed to be related to the incidents that happened last week when there was a hostage situation in a courthouse that culminated in multiple people dead. While the websites returned to functionality eventually, we were reminded that Turkey is not as Western as it sometimes appears, despite how European the country strives to be.

The popular tourist spot, Taksim Square, at sunset

An appreciation and understanding of Istanbul requires the awareness of the many complexities prevalent, a small sample of which I just described.

Not that you can truly compare Jerusalem to any other place in the world, Istanbul does leave a lasting mark similar to that of the City of Gold. Built on rolling hills and instilled with the histories of powerful empires, both Jerusalem and Istanbul represent convergence points of the world’s great civilizations. Both are also fully immersed in the highly complicated scenario of being cities of religious importance to many while simultaneously catering to the requirements of a secular, modern city. Their identities lie in their complexities and contradictions.

I couldn’t imagine spending my two-week vacation break any better. The plane is now boarding, and the second half of my semester abroad is calling.

You can read more about Adam’s life in Israel on his Hebrew blog:http://adamoshe.tumblr.com/


Quanzhi Guo ’18 reflects on the Benton Scholars’ trip to Japan

By Peter Tschirhart on June 30, 2015

Quanzhi Guo ’18 recently returned from the Benton Scholars’ trip to Japan. In what follows, she reflects on the trip as well as important questions concerning power, warfare, tradition, and the remarkable resilience of the Japanese people.


Under the backdrop of lush green, the flame in the cenotaph flickered in the gentle summer wind. Flocks of school children in uniforms sang a melody of peace. I felt a powerful serenity in the air, weighed by solemnity.

70 years have gone past. As I stood at the epicenter of the dropping of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, there was no sight of the blinding flash, the suffocating smoke, or the scorched remnants. Behind the beautiful and welcoming city, I felt the pains, saw the scars, and heard the haunting wails that once overwhelmed this site on August 6th, 1945.

Hiroshima tops the list of historic Japanese cities that I had the chance to survey and study this summer through the Benton Scholars Program. Along with 16 other Colgate students, I took the Advent of the Atomic Bomb with Professor Karen Harpp in the spring semester, and visited Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Kyoto from the end of May to the beginning of June.

During class sessions back on campus, we explored the history, science, and ethics behind the decision of dropping the A-bomb, both online with alumni and offline in person. The scale and impact of the attack were confounding; so throughout the trip, I had been trying to see them from Japanese perspectives.

In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where the atomic bombs were dropped, I visited the atomic bomb museums and parks, and met with the survivors.

From melted lunch boxes to a watch that stopped at the moment of the explosion, the collection of artifacts was a somber and evocative reminder of the destruction and loss suffered. Fountains were built as a symbolic offering where victims died of thirst.

The Atomic Bomb Dome, which is one of the few structures left standing after the bombing, was a chilling symbol of the dark legacy of Hiroshima.

The atomic bomb dome left standing on the peaceful river bank.

The atomic bomb dome left standing on the peaceful river bank.

At Shiroyama Elementary School in Nagasaki, newly constructed buildings stood side by side to the empty damaged ones. Students who were having lunch in the freshly-painted classrooms greeted us enthusiastically as we passed by, shouting “How are you? What’s your name?” When I pictured the same innocent laughter from the damaged building 70 years ago in my head, it was such a depressing juxtaposition.

Both cities, because of their dark legacy, have devoted their human and capital resources to peace and anti-nuclear activism. Emerging from the horrific trauma seven decades ago, they also exude hope and life. Volunteers, many of whom have personal connections to the bombing, offer tours and presentation for visitors. On the riverbank alongside Hiroshima’s Peace Park, school bands performed an open-air concert, while school children in yellow hats hung strings of colorful paper cranes near the Children’s Peace Monument.

Cranes of hope – we folded 1000 and left them at the Monument.

Cranes of hope – we folded 1000 and left them at the Monument.

I think it is courageous that people found hope against all odds. I wondered how they overcame their personal loss, and came together as one again. When I asked a survivor from the Hiroshima bombing how he overcame the psychological trauma, he chuckled, and fell into silence for a while. “Life resumes. It was not good to look back. I had to look forward,” he said slowly and calmly.

It is also remarkable that the devastation of the past never overshadows the vitality of the present. While history has been remembered, people are not stuck in the past, but have moved on. Like the survivor from the Hiroshima bombing said, “history tends to be forgotten. It is important to learn from history and have facilities to tell the young about it. History is our mirror. We should forgive, but never forget.”

In Kyoto, the ancient capital, I saw a richer Japanese culture. In the Manhattan Project, Kyoto was identified as a potential target before the atomic bomb was dropped. However, with its sublime gardens, splendid shrines, and state-of-the-art cuisine, it was no wonder that Henry Stimson, U.S. Secretary of the War, who had been to Kyoto, removed it from the list.

Besides visiting the famous temples, we went to a tea ceremony. While sipping the freshly prepared matcha, I marvelled at the exquisite cup in my hand. The temperature was just right. The taste was fragrantly fresh with a tinge of bitterness. Every movement of the yukata-cladded tea master was full of concentration and composure. It was Zen in a cup!

When I wandered in the Gion district, looking for geisha scurrying to their liaisons, I found brand-name boutiques side-by-side with traditional pastries and Japanese craft. When I strolled in the central shopping district in Shijo, I saw traditional tofu-makers, ceramics masters, and umbrella makers who take so much pride in their original and unique wares. It dawned on me that, had Kyoto been bombed, not just the city’s psyche but the nation’s—rooted in a rich collection of cultural monuments, ascetic discipline, and traditional practices—would have been wiped out.

Wandering lanes in the dusk in Kyoto.

Wandering lanes in the dusk in Kyoto.

We often use science as a solution, but without fail, it generates a slew of new problems. The problems today are never easy, and there might not be an answer. My visit to Japan allowed me to better appreciate the dropping of the atomic bomb from the Japanese perspective and added nuance to my understanding of the power of nuclear weapons—and peace.

I have only scratched the surface of our trip, but this is a good start.


Benton Alumni Update: Viktor Mak ’15 Promotes Education in Cameroon

By Peter Tschirhart on June 12, 2015

The following post was contributed by Benton Scholar alumnus Viktor Mak ’15. Four years after his trip to Uganda with with Benton Scholars program, Viktor decided to spend his first summer as a Colgate graduate in Africa, where he works with an education startup in Cameroon called Open Dreams


Since my full time job after college would not involve any international travel, I knew I had to squeeze in at least one more trip before settling down into the quiet suburbs of Washington D.C.

Just before graduation, I managed to find an opportunity with Open Dreams, a startup NGO focused on extending educational opportunities in the United States to students in Cameroon. During my interview, I spoke about my experiences as a Benton Scholar in Sub-Saharan Africa and the academic work I’ve done related to economic development. So when they extended an offer, I accepted it almost immediately.

I headed out shortly after graduation, spending only enough time at home to convince my parents that neither Ebola nor Boko Haram were a threat. My journey to Open Dreams’ base of operations took almost a week. I left Florida and first traveled to New York City for a brief orientation on the history and mission of the NGO from two of its co-founders, Hans Kullberg and Blaise Buma.

Blaise was born and raised in Bamenda, Cameroon and was an exceptional student. After high school, he was determined to seek a world class education; but instead of continuing on to a university in Cameroon, he spent the next two years navigating the US college application process. Finally, he secured a full scholarship to Washington & Lee University in Virginia. A few years later, he helped his younger sister apply to McGill University in Canada. Blaise realized that he could help other students from his town by coaching them through the application and testing process. Cristina Bernardo and Hans later heard about Blaise’s story, which intersected with their own desire to promote access to education. Open Dreams was born in 2014 and just finished mentoring its first class of eight students!

From left to right: Hans, myself, and Blaise in New York City.

From left to right: Hans, myself, and Blaise in New York City.

After two jam-packed days in New York, I left for Cameroon. I missed my flight in Paris and had to spend 24 hours in the city of baguettes, crepes, cheese and wine—I couldn’t complain. The next day, I arrived in the humid coastal city of Douala, Cameroon, where I met my host James and a small welcome party. We spent the rest of the week traveling from Douala to Bamenda, stopping in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, both to meet with the Education Advisor at the US Embassy and to make an appearance on national television. It turned out to be the equivalent of the Today Show in the United States, and ever since, people have been coming up to James and me telling us they saw us on TV.

I am now in Bamenda, the third largest city in Cameroon, in the north eastern part of the country near the Nigerian border. For our arrival, James had organized a large welcome party to meet us at the Open Dreams offices. There were speeches made, drinks and toasts.

The view from the Open Dreams Office.

The view from the Open Dreams Office.

In the next five weeks, I will interview the next group of mentees and organize a learning center (where students can study for the SAT and work on college applications) while looking for ways to help Open Dreams generate revenue and become self-sustaining. I look forward to working with the amazing people I have met already, meeting many more amazing Cameroonians, and experiencing everything this country has to offer. I can already tell that I will be sad to go when the time comes!

Welcome party in Bamenda in front of the Open Dreams Office.

Welcome party in Bamenda in front of the Open Dreams Office.


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.

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