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TBS Abroad Week 5: Technology

By Evie Lawson on February 24, 2016

18 - Technology

Week 5 Prompt: Technology

Depending on whom you ask, technology is likely to save society or else hasten its demise. But such black-and-white thinking rarely captures the subtleties of technological decision-making or the philosophical problems inherent to hard determinism. Indeed, while it is clear how technology drives culture — by opening up new ways of being in the world — historians of technology have also argued the reverse: that culture and nature, including non-human actors and scientific forces, necessarily give shape to technology. These ideas have been articulated variously by Trevor Pinch and Wiebe Bijker (Social Construction of Technology), and Bruno Latour, Michel Callon, and John Law (Actor Network Theory). This week, pay attention to technology both in its obvious (digital electronics) and non-obvious (screw drivers, walking canes) forms. Is technology something people openly discuss? Is it something society values? Do students feel pressure to pursue STEM careers? Are people deterministic in their attitudes? (E.g “There’s nothing we can do about it.” “Technology is unstoppable.”) Do people long for an earlier, “simpler” time? Take a picture of a common piece of technology, and explain how and why people use it.

Ryan Hildebrandt


One of the more noticeable uses of technology that stands out for most Americans visiting Japan is the use of automated ordering in Japanese restaurants. For many restaurant chains that specialize in serving the masses of businesspeople and students on their lunch breaks, machines like the ones pictured help to streamline the ordering process for both the kitchen and the customer. Instead of waiting to be seated, then waiting for a menu, then waiting to order, then waiting for your food, then waiting for the check, you simply walk in, place your order on the machine, and then you’ll be seated promptly and your food is already paid for and on the way out in minutes. Each machine allows you to fully customize your order with the full menu, including appetizers, drinks, sides, entrees, and desserts. Most restaurants that use this model offer lunch sets (an entree with rice, soup, and a couple sides) for $7-10 to cater to the lunch rush customers. They change seasonally and with different holidays, featuring different dishes and special sides depending on the time of year. It’s interesting to note that these machines don’t replace the kind of fast food service we’re familiar with, because Japan has plenty of that already. Go into any McDonald’s, KFC, or MossBurger and you’ll feel right at home with people taking your order and getting your food just like they would in the States. This automated ordering system fills a sort of middle-ground niche between fast food and a full sit-down restaurant. You still can sit down and enjoy your mea (which is a thousand times better than any fast food chain) without having to go through the ordering process and delays that come with a usual restaurant. It’s one way out of many that technology finds its way into every day life in Japan.

Danielle Norgren

Last week I spent my vacation in the South of France, in Nice. After a long day of exploring a modern art museum and the local market, my friend and I were desperately craving ice cream. Unfortunately, it was past 9, which meant all the supermarkets were closed. As a last resort, we decided to stop at McDonalds. When we first entered, I was surprised to see that cashiers had been replaced by touchscreens. With these touchscreens, one could customize their meal with ease, merely swiping a credit card when the order was complete. With this technology, all human contact was avoided. In a country that seems to place emphasis on interactions between the customer and the business (it is considered rude to enter a store without greeting the store owner), this seemed bizarre to me.technology 2

This experience immediately reminded me of the summer before my freshman year at Colgate, during which the Bentons were asked to read “The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies” by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson. As a brief synopsis, this book discusses the ability of machines to transform our economy. Technology can effectively be used to replace tasks which were once given to humans. With these new touch screen machines, the role of the cashier has been rendered inessential.

As I rarely go to McDonalds in America, I cannot be sure that this new technology is unique to France. For the most part, American and French societies seem to benefit from similar implications of technology. However, it is interesting to consider the implications a “technological revolution” would have on the french economy. France currently faces an unemployment rate of 10.31 percent. I wonder how the country could adapt to losing more jobs as a result of enhanced technology

Allison Zengilowski

One piece of technology that initially surprised me upon arriving in Australia exists at McDonald’s. So far, at every one I have been to, they have these machines were you can place your order instead of doing so at the counter. There is a sense of control in this interaction, as you are able to explore the menu in a much more physical away. However, it does take out the human part of the restaurant. If you have a credit or debit card, you can pay at the machine and then you simply wait for your order number to be called. If paying cash, you can still place your order, and then you approach the register to exchange currency for your meal. At these McDonald’s, it is entirely possible to have no human interaction. It does increase efficiency, but it also highlights how technology is removing human contact from our everyday experiences.

TBS Abroad Week 4: Public Transit

By Evie Lawson on February 17, 2016

14 - Public Transit

Week 4 Prompt: Public Transit

Outside dense, urban cores — New York, Chicago, San Francisco — most American cities require cars to get around. The reason is rooted in ideology as much as history. Especially during the post-WWII period, automobiles emerged both as a convenient mode of transportation and as an expression of individuality: you could travel on your own schedule, at your own pace, in a car of your choice, with your belongings concealed safely in the trunk. Indeed, while the American love affair with cars has spread, many small- and medium-sized cities outside North America offer cheap, reliable, and safe public transit. Though British trains are famously (though perhaps not actually) late, in places like Japan and Germany, train operators are penalized for running even a few seconds behind. Public transit — whether train, bus, or street trolly — has clear advantages over the car: not only is the carbon footprint lower, they allow riders to make better use of their time in-transit, perhaps by reading, knitting, or visiting with friends. But it also has drawbacks: you must carry everything yourself, and transit schedules aren’t always the most convenient. This week, pay attention to public transit. Is there a reliable system where you live? Is it utilized by the people who live nearby? What modes of transit are offered? Street-level trolleys? Subways? Busses? Gondolas? Ferries? Take a picture of the public transit system: a bus, a trolly, or the like. If there isn’t one, take a picture that best illustrates how people get around.

Ryan Hildebrandt

Public transportation is the easiest, cheapest, most efficient, and greenest way to get around in Japan. Trains and busses connect every part of every major and minor city, and even connect the cities to one another. The trains run frequently and on time, and take you farther than anything else for less money. They’ll take you clear across the city in a matter of minutes and even up to the mountains to get away from it all.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Hildebrandt.

Zachary Weaver

We are on a tour of the transportation systems of the world: first trains, then planes, and now public transport! While perhaps trains are first thought of when one thinks of public transport in the United Kingdom, it is really the bus that is the workhorse of the average worker. Trains are great for getting from the outskirts of a big city to the center, or from city to city. However, one of the most efficient ways to get around within a city is by bus.

Busses in the UK are famous, if only for the iconic red double-decker busses found in London. Sure enough, those are no fantasy image: I was in London just the other weekend, and there seemed to be almost as many busses as there were cars! With purposes ranging from designated bus tours of the city to actually transporting people around the various parts of London, the bus system seemed more prevalent than the London Underground.

It is no different in Cardiff, other than the shape of the bus. Not a day goes by when I don’t see at least 3 busses, either going from the outskirts to city center or ferrying students around campus (which is much bigger than Colgate it must be said!). These aren’t Colgate Cruiser style people movers – these are full busses, more reminiscent of Centro busses for those from Central New York.  On my walk to classes I pass between 2 and 5 bus stops every day – they are almost on every street corner or intersection. Designated bus lanes are prevalent even in cities such as Cardiff.

One of the many busses I pass on my way to classes everyday. This particular bus runs from the suburbs to the city center pretty consistently!

One of the many busses I pass on my way to classes everyday. This particular bus runs from the suburbs to the city center pretty consistently!

Busses can also fill the role of trains and planes. Often, it is cheaper to buy a bus ticket to a major hub than a train or plane ticket if one is traveling around the UK. I took a bus to London the other week, and it was a fairly short three and a half hour bus ride through the countryside. Busses also run as far north as Scotland – several people have already planned a bus trip from Cardiff to London, then an overnight bus up to Glasgow or Edinburgh!

Busses are also a fairly cheap method to get around, even over short distances. A bus ride from the Cardiff City Center out to the suburb of Tongwynlais (where another castle – Castle Coch – can be found), and back cast about $6 USD, for a ride lasting about half an hour one-way. We saw numerous people who had come into the city center for shopping leave the bus at their various stops with shopping bags, and use a special prepaid bus pass to get on and off. Should we have to do any more bus travel, getting a bus pass may not be the worst idea!

Mallory Keller

Florence is a small city, with the population just under 400,000 people. While that may seem like a lot of people, the population is much more condensed than American cities. Bus is the only form of public transit in Florence. One of the reasons why Florence does not have a more common system like a subway is that the city is still laid out in medieval fashion so it would be difficult to build a system that follows the layout of the city without destroying historical monuments which are literally on every block. Buses are not even allowed on many streets because they do not fit down them or to preserve the streets. I only rode public transit a handful of times during the semester and I walked everywhere else. Most days I ended up walking around 10 miles. First, everyplace I wanted to go was within a thirty minute walk of where I was at a current moment and walking everywhere is common for Florentine people. To take the public transit in Florence, it would end up taking as much or more time than walking. So I decided to walk almost everywhere. I was getting great exercise and saw so much of the city. It was also known in the city that the transit system is not that reliable. The buses could be on strike, buses will not show up when they are supposed to, they will pass you if you do not flag/wave/jump up and down like a crazy person, and schedules would change on random days. Many Italians rode bikes or scooters around the city. They can swerve around city traffic, are better for the environment, and are much easier to park than a car. Overall, Florence prides themselves as a walking city, and I am glad that walking is the main mode of transportation because I was able to see more of the city than if I was riding a bus all day.

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Mallory attempting to take a selfie while on a bike.

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​The row of scooters that are on every street.


Allison Zengilowski

Growing up in a rural town in Vermont, public transportation was effectively non-existent. Transitioning to Hamilton, New York, the Cruiser was a big step up, yet diminutive in comparison to the public transit that exists in larger cities. Wollongong has several series of busses that run throughout the city, into some of the more suburban areas, and to the University. What is incredibly convenient is that there are free shuttles that run on a loop between the university and town, making getting around both easy and inexpensive.

There are also trains that run along the coast. Sydney is a rather painless 1.5-2 hour train ride from Wollongong, typically only costing about five dollars each way. Both the trains and busses are utilized by a great deal of students, patrons, and professionals. There are a decent amount of students who bring their cars to university, for if they are from the more rural areas and are interested in going home, public transport may not be a feasible option. However, for getting around within Wollongong and for traveling relatively far outside of it, busses and trains are a convenient option.

TBS Abroad Week 3: Color

By Evie Lawson on February 9, 2016

Week 3 Prompt: Color

This week’s prompt is simple: Find and photograph something colorful!

Ryan Hildebrandt

Origami cranes at the Hiroshima Peace Park symbolizing wishes for peace, a common tradition following the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima during World War II. There are multiple installations of cranes folded and arranged in a similar way, and people send them from all over the world to the Peace Parks in Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Origami cranes at the Hiroshima Peace Park symbolizing wishes for peace, a common tradition following the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima during World War II. There are multiple installations of cranes folded and arranged in a similar way, and people send them from all over the world to the Peace Parks in Nagasaki and Hiroshima


Grace Western

Cameroon, after only being here a little over a week, is one of the most colorful places I have ever been. Cameroonians are known to wear brightly colored clothes and how beautiful these clothes are. Often, whether at family reunions or a family gathering, a tribe, or tribu, will wear the same print to identify themselves and their pride as an ethnic group. The family I am staying with wears a royal blue print with yellow, black and orange interweaved. Yesterday while buying pineapples on the side of the road with my host sisters, a large group of people, who were coming from a reunion- my grandmother told me- were wearing a brown, white, yellow, and beige pattern.

However, the color that has been most evident to me is red. That is the color my cheeks are turning due to so much sunlight! We’ll see if that remains to be the case throughout the semester but I sure hope not!

Zachary Weaver

This photo, taken at Tintern Abbey in Chepstow, Southeast Wales, best shows the colors common in a British winter: grey skies, stone buildings, and green grass from all the rain!

This photo, taken at Tintern Abbey in Chepstow, Southeast Wales, best shows the colors common in a British winter: grey skies, stone buildings, and green grass from all the rain!


Mallory Keller

Street art is pretty prevalent in Florence, so here are a few photos of some of my favorites that I would walk by.

Street art is pretty prevalent in Florence, so here are a few photos of some of my favorites that I would walk by.

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Allison Zengilowski

Over a long weekend, a few friends and I decided to head over to New Zealand to explore the area before it became too cold (it is currently fall over here!). One of the first escapades we had was completing the Tongariro Mountain Crossing on the north island. The hike took us about 7 hours and was about 19 km long (about 15 miles). This crossing does extend over a volcano, and it is a geologist’s dream. One of the most striking parts of the hike is after you reach the summit, you can look down on two incredible sulfur lakes. Their striking green color is rather beautiful, although the smell is a bit unpleasant (for those who don’t know, sulfur has a rather pungent smell that resembles rotten eggs). After climbing for a few hours, primarily surrounded by monochromatic colors, seeing these lakes below was an extremely pleasant change. There were some incredible views along the way, if you are ever in New Zealand, I highly recommend taking the time to do this hike!

Allison 2

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!

Grace Western

Upon arrival in Cameroon, I looked at the small airport of Yaoundé: the 1970’s style resonating from the structure of the building to the colors, and I knew I was in for a very different (due to my western perception), but just as wonderful, experience. The airport was packed with people with signs and men trying to carry belongings for you to your car. Within the first 10 minutes of stepping into Cameroon, I noticed that many people were friendly and willing to help, despite me standing out as one of the 3 white people in the airport. What was also very interesting is that many people who were waiting past the baggage claim were trying to sell things: it was like another market! After I found the man who represented my organization, we went outside. There was so much dancing, laughing and music happening in the street and it seemed to be a joyous occasion. I thought, “what an incredible way to arrive in a new country!” I asked the man I was with what the occasion was, and he said there was none and it was normal. Clearly within my first moments in Cameroon I had already exerted my bias and failed to check my white, American perception of culture. No doubt, even when I think I am checking my privilege, and myself, I’m sure I am not completely and so I need to continue to be aware of that, especially while writing these blog posts.

Allison Zengilowski

Air transportation appears to have a rather good reputation, and traveling, especially within Australia, is extremely efficient. Traveling domestically comes with much more relaxed security procedures and timely boarding and deplaning. When returning from Melbourne, it took my friends and I 15 minutes to land, deplane, and get to the train to take us back to the university. As a student on exchange here, I would say we travel for fun much more frequently than the typical citizen. Although there is a great deal to see and do regionally that can be accessed via car or public transport, Australia is still roughly the size of the United States. Therefore, in order to get to the other coast, it takes about the same amount of time as flying from New York to Los Angeles. So flying can be a necessity, but at least from the tourist perspective, flying is a leisurely adventure.

Allison 1