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TBS Abroad Week 10: Color

By Emily Weaver on April 18, 2018

Week 10: Color

As we end this year’s run of TBS Abroad, here is a simple task. Find some of the pictures that you feel have the best colors and tell us about them. What emotions do these colors evoke and how are the a reminder of the experience you have had while abroad?

Thank you for coming on this journey with us! We hope you enjoyed!

Oneida Shushe 

I’m genuinely so thankful for my semester in Geneva and for the opportunity to reflect on my experiences here. I’ve learned:

-to think more analytically

-to write more clearly and concisely

-how to travel independently

-how to speak some French

-quite a bit about the World Health Organization

-that despite all the kinds of cheese I’ve tried, feta is still my favorite

I’ve included colorful pictures of me in front of the flags of the world, in front of a colorful painting, of colorful cars, and a beautiful sunset in Geneva. I look forward to the spring bringing out Switzerland’s colors in nature. It will be difficult to leave the country in all its beauty in June.

Thank you for reading!

  • Oneida in the lobby area of the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Micah Dirkers

As we wrap up this series of TBS: Aboard posts, I will look from the 10,000ft view at my experience abroad through three photographs which encapsulate—in a very brief way that cannot show all the nuances of my experience—my time abroad. I will focus on the on the three seasons I encountered in Scotland: sun, rain, and snow (which really stand for summer, autumn, and winter), expressed through a group of three images showcasing the colors of green, taupe, and white, respectively.

Arriving in Scotland in early September, I was able to feel the warm sun (Yes, that is actually a thing in Scotland, albeit short-lived) during the month of September and the energy that light brought to the surrounding people and plants. Given the short growing season in Scotland and the abundant moisture, vegetation can become very lush, very dense, and very green. Green has traditionally been seen as the color of life, vitality, renewal, nature, the environment, and energy. Naturally, in the city of Edinburgh, I experienced what green represents through the foods of fresh green grapes and hearty green lettuce. Even outside of the city of Edinburgh (and other Scottish cities), Scotland is covered in a very dense blanket of emerald green vegetation which reminds its inhabitants the surrounding nature—a foundation which sustains life of many types. And during my experience there, exploring the dense forests and the green hills truly did immerse me in this vitality and elicited feelings of freshness and connection. This is epitomized in the picture below—sheep grazing on the lush, green grass while soaking up the late summer warmth on a sheep farm. So, too, did I soak up the sun for the short time it was regularly visible, exploring many of the green forests and fields in Scotland during my stay there.

Into the end of September and until the end of November, autumn dawned on Scotland, bringing with it colder temperatures and precipitation. Whereas the summer light was more golden in tone, the light which accompanied autumn which more muted and grey in tone, perhaps due to the frequent cloud cover. Traditionally, grey has been associated with being formal or sophisticated (positively), neutral, dingy or depressed (negatively). While the lack of light in Scotland during this season may influence depression in some people, my experience of it was one which drew out the architectural details and the historical features of the buildings. Interestingly, this light and color had the effect of complimenting rather than blurring much of the architecture in Edinburgh and other Scottish cities, as much of the stone used is a taupe, with some variations being more grey and other being more brown. I remember one evening when I looked out my window and saw a mix of grey clouds and rain falling gently against the taupe building adjacent to my apartment. While this was one scene of many, this color to me represented a flow of time that has been moving for hundreds of years, a snapshot of which I saw abroad; yet it also was a feeling of neutrality and acceptance of seeing things unfold on their time frame with natural beginnings and conclusion—just as my experience abroad did.

Transitioning into winter during late November and early December, the previously brown(ish) and green city of Edinburgh and land called Scotland became more white, shifting from darker greys to lighter greys to white towards the end of my stay as more snow fell. The color white has traditionally been associated with safety, surrender, purity, cleanliness, and rebirth. The further into winter we progressed, transitioning from November to December, the more rain became snow which dusted the city of Edinburgh and blanketed the hills of  Scotland—signifying that the green leaves which coated the trees in the fall have fallen to allow for the fresh leaves to be reborn in the spring. Indeed, this is what I witnessed during my travels to the Highlands in December, where an abundance of snow and ice were to be found. Thus, I would have to say that white could also represent the cold—or elicit a certain stillness, if you prefer—where dormant life waits until conditions are more ideal for its emergence. However, when the sun comes out from what seems to be perpetual cloud cover in the winter, the snow glistens and reflects all the colors, allowing one to appreciate the beautiful and stillness of the white winter season.

To conclude, none of this travel, not one of the plants, nor I would have been possible or alive without that orb of light in the sky, our own sun, which I wanted to feature here in all my photos—a constant throughout the seasons and the ages. For the different vibrations of this light from the sun contain in it all the colors of the physical spectrum which give diversity, depth, and richness to our visual construction of the world—a richness that you can understand more fully by traveling abroad to different places on this beautiful planet.

Jenny Lundt

I have loved writing this series because it is a weekly reminder being back at Colgate of all of the amazing memories I had in Nepal. All of the pictures I have included over these weeks have been some of my happiest moments in my life. I am so thankful of the opportunity I had those 4 months and I will keep the memories in my heart forever. Go abroad while you can and go see the world !!!

TBS Abroad Week 9: Flowers

By Emily Weaver on April 11, 2018

In the heart of the Texas Hill Country, Enchanted Rock State Park rises from the rolling hills of green. Late spring each year, the prickly pear cactus bloom, showing amazing shades of orange and yellow. This image from Texas captures their beauty at sunset looking across the rugged landscape.

Week 9: Flowers

Flowers are beautiful and many people find them captivating. We buy them for dates and mothers day and birthdays. They excite us when we see them in March and April as they show the first signs of spring. Many nations have a specific flower as their national flower. There is a downside to this that many people may not know. Most of the flowers that we see are not grown locally. They are transported from other, warmer climates across the globe. This results in the use of fertilizers to keep them fresh and, in some cases, these transported plants become invasive. They take over nutrients and space that were once home to plants native to the region. This week, tell us about the plants and flowers you see. Do they have special meaning within the culture? Are they native or invasive? Do some research and tell us about the history behind this flower. Please attach an image as well!

Jenny Lundt

Many people assume that the geography of Nepal is strictly snow capped Himalayas with little else. Though the Himalayas clearly play a large part in the topography of the country, there are many other geographic terrains as well. Though small, it is a very diverse country that can generally be thought of in three parts. The top of the rectangle are the Himalayas, the middle are the hill regions, and the lower part are the terai (plains/ low land filled with agricultural). I had the opportunity to visit all three of these regions for a variety of purposes. There were flowers everywhere I went, even in places I didn’t expect.

I am by no means a geology or biology major, so I cannot exactly tell you what the site is. But I went to two places on my journey that were completely bare of vegetation that looked comparable to a moonscape. Both Humla and Jomsom looked like they would be exactly how I imagine the planet of Mars to be. On the Tibetan side across the border though, you could see green little oases that makes you wonder the power that China has to bring in water to such a dry area. I got to Nepal in September, after the monsoon season had ended, so flowers were just coming into bloom. Especially in the town of Manakamana in the Gorkha district (known for the Gurkha soldiers), I really noticed the presence of flowers. Winding through the hilly town and small allies, the smell of flowers were everywhere. This specific town is also known throughout Nepal for its orange production, so the people I visited there made sure to pick the freshest ones for me. I never got a specific lesson on the wide varieties. However, some flowers have a religious connotation which is what I found with the lotus and Buddhism. The lotus is tied to purity and enlightenment, which came up in many of our conversations about religious change. Earlier in this series I talked about the Buddhist hum om mani padme hum and how that was a significant part of my experience. Padme actually means lotus. So walking around the stupa, I heard that word hundreds of times.

Additionally, marigold flowers have a large part in religious ceremony. They are strung together to form a beautiful, pungent orange garland that is draped over people or religious sites. One of my favorite days was the first day of Tihar, an important Nepali celebration that is dedicated to appreciating dogs. The dogs are bestowed with the marigold garland around their necks and their foreheads marked with color.


Oneida Shushe

In the French (“Romandy”) part of Switzerland, everything is cheesy—the fondue, the raclette, (one time I had a cheese cupcake), and poems!!


Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Flowers are actually super important because they’re the reproductive part of a plant, who knew?

How can flowers make people so happy? that’s something to look into,

Give someone a bouquet of them and I bet they’ll hug you,

Here in Geneva, it feels like you can find them on every avenue,

They make me enjoy spring more than winter, that’s certainly true,

Blossoming trees smell so good they make anyone smile when they walk through,

If I need a gift for my mom or grandma, flowers are my go-to,

They specifically love them more than anyone and so now I do too,

I miss helping my mom in our front lawn as the flowers grew,

Spring means this semester is almost over but I’m so thankful for these months and my new world view


  • Jardin Botanique on an April sunset. Geneva, Switzerland.


Micah Dirkers

In the same was that every country has its national anthem, Scotland has adopted “Flower of Scotland” as its “unofficial” national anthem. This song is regularly played at rugby and football games, as it evokes the country’s very significant victory against England at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. I did have the opportunity to hear this song played at the rugby game between the University of Edinburgh and the University of St. Andrews (Edinburgh won), but there is an interesting story behind why the song is named that way. Complimentary to the nation’s anthem is Scotland’s national emblem—the thistle. While it was originally seen as a symbol of defense in the 15th century (maybe because it served as a natural barrier), the thistle has grown in popularity as the national the symbol of Scotland.


Just as many of the flowers that we commonly see are not native species (flowers that grow in the surrounding area), especially given how many are imported and dyed artificially, many of the flowers in the city of Edinburgh were not native species—only those in the flower shops were dyed antically though. The majority of flowers could be found in baskets outside people’s windows or outside in little parks—with one major exception: the RoyalBotanical Gardens of Edinburgh. The Botanics, as its called, is a scientific center for the study of plants, their diversity, and conservation; furthermore, the area doubles as popular tourist attraction for flora lovers, a popular date location for couples, a walking area for families. Founded as a garden to grow medicinal plants, today it occupies 70 acres in the city Edinburgh, and there are additional Garden sites in Dawyck, Logan and Benmore. The collection in the Gardens contains more than 13,302 plant species, whilst the herbarium contains in excess of three million preserved specimens. When walking through the Gardens, I was astounded by the thousands of species from all around the globe—all the many colors, many fragrances, and many sizes, from small flowers, to large plants, to scruffy bushes, to towering trees.

Even during my travels around Scotland, I saw very few flowers. Granted, the blooming season of most flowers has concluded by the time September rolls around; thus, I suspect many of them were simply in seed during my time there. There were a few daisies and a few dandelions that did bloom throughout the fall, and I did see many of those when exploring Scotland’s forests and streams! I can only speculate what the lush countryside may have looked like during the spring or summer, when the sun actually does shine and when the flowers in Scotland actually do get a chance to bloom.


TBS Abroad Week 8: Water

By Emily Weaver on April 4, 2018

Week 8: Water

It is essential to life. Every organism needs it in some way, shape, or form. A water filled landscape can bring a moment of calm to a busy day or provide transport to some of the earliest trade routes in history. Cities are often placed along the coast on on the sides of river to take advantage of this resource. Water can also put a damper on your day in the form of rain and precipitation, but even then you can find children playing in it. Tell us about water and how it fits into your travels. Have you journeyed along any lakes or rivers? Does it rain everyday or only once in a while. Is the local consensus that water needs to be conserved as a limited resource or do people use it disposable. This dichotomy can be seen within the United States depending on which coast your on, so where does your study abroad location fit in? Simply, tell us about water.

Oneida Shushe

From an island off the coast of Rio to the Albanian Riviera, the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen have been around water.
The lake in Geneva—Lac Léman / Lake Geneva—and the one in Annecy, France—Lac d’Annecy—are breathtakingly clear. (Is this a product of environmental protection or that the lake floor is rocks as opposed to sand?) With friends, I’ve napped, picnicked, walked and shared meaningful conversations around Lake Geneva, and it’s still only early spring! I cannot wait for activities around the lake when the weather gets even nicer. There’s so much to do around lakes and rivers—I definitely see why human civilization has its roots near bodies of water.
This week’s post has been a short one because I have to wake up in a few hours to go see more lakes throughout beautiful Switzerland, au revoir!
  • Oneida on a paddle boat with Chelsea Santiago ’19. Lac d’Annecy.

Micah Dirkers

Just as every organism needs water to live, my experience abroad would have been dry (literally and figuratively) without this simple yet elegant substance. Scotland itself is known for its regular precipitation, yet despite its perception as a grey, wet, place (moreso during the winter), every other day in Scotland is rainy (meaning half of the days are sunny too!). Various locations in Scotland collect on average between 65–100 mm/month of rain (https://www.scotlandinfo.eu/scotland-weather-and-climate/), with a greater amount of rain falling in the winter months than the summer months. Given that I was in Scotland for the fall semester, a time which spanned the later summer months and the earlier winter months, I witnessed lighter rains in September and early October and heavier amounts of water into November and December. Given that I was studying in the coastal city of Edinburgh, I had the opportunity to have the fresh, maritime air present wherever I went in the city. The carryover from the Atlantic Ocean was refreshing, as there was always a hint of salt in the air. Sea gulls and other birds could be spotted often, surveying the area for food or shelter. While I was roughly thirty minutes from the beach, the water there at the beach was rather cold, and the beach itself was composed of rough sand—iconic for cold, rocky Scotland, but not the best place to sunbathe.

Concurrently, I also saw water everywhere during my travels. One instance where water played a prominent role was during my trip to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. Due to the very low elevation of the right-at-sea-level island, it was only accessible by road during the day, when the tides were low. Outside of that narrow range during the morning and early afternoon where the seaweed was exposed on the road, one would have to drive though the ocean to attempt to access the island. Fortunately, we were able to complete our visit to the island before the tides eclipsed our route home. Another key aquatic feature I saw in Scotland was the famous Loch Ness—purportedly the home of the Loch Ness monster which has supposedly claimed the lives of a select few throughout the epochs of history. Loch Ness is advertised as the loch with the most water in Scotland, since it contains more water than all the lakes of England and Wales combined; however, it is not Scotland’s biggest Loch (that title goes to Loch Lomond, which I also saw) or deepest Loch (which is Loch Morar, which I did not see). Among the various waterfalls, lakes, streams, and puddles I saw during my time in Scotland, all of them shared this common compound of water.

Given the above, water was very abundant in Edinburgh, and in Scotland in general. Despite the abundance of water in this area, people were rather conservative with their water usage, and this was evident in how university residents were encouraged to use their water via the design of the plumbing systems and restrictions on water usage. For example, the bathroom sinks were very small, and strangely, the hot and cold (as in almost boiling in one and frigid in the other) water came out of two different faucets. Hot water for showers was available only for a few hours in the morning and a few hours at night, and even during those times, the amount of hot water was regulated so that one could not take an excessively long shower. While some people complained about these guidelines, I never had any issue with them really. This conservatism of dihydrogen monoxide (the chemical name for water) was also evidenced in the prices for purchasing bottled water, with a few odd exceptions; namely, one could buy a liter—sorry, litre—of bottled water for roughly £0.37, yet there were other cases where I bought a two-litre bottle of water for £0.17 (so, go figure). Nevertheless, I did see more bring-your-own-bottle fill stations than I did drinking fountains. Indeed, while water was abundant, people for the most part were conscious of using it without extravagance. Just as water is integral to life, water also added depth and richness to my travels abroad.

TBS Abroad Week 7: Coffee

By Emily Weaver on March 28, 2018

Week 7: Coffee

Here in the US and all around the world coffee is an ever present commodity. It can be made using several different processes (French Press, American Drip, Keurigs) and for many different occasions. While being such a ubiquitous drink each country adds is own variation to it through preparation, flavor, or presentation. Tell us what the coffee scene is like where you’re studying. Is it reserved for special occasions or is it all over? How is it typically prepared? Are coffee shops a place of gathering or a quick stop on everyone’s morning route? Did you visit any local coffee shops? Are chains like Starbucks present in the place you’re staying? Tell us about your experience with this beverage.

Oneida Shushe

One of the stereotypical images I have of Europe is captured by Vincent van Gogh’s painting Café Terrace at Night. I think of warm summer days and mostly men sitting in the outdoor part of a cafe, smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee with a friend or colleague. I’ve built this image from my time spent in Albanian cities. Besides the smoking and it often being a pleasure mostly men can enjoy, I support it. In Geneva, I haven’t seen exactly the same culture, but coffee is still a part of the lifestyle here.

Many people drink coffee in a rush in the morning or alone at their desk throughout the day to power up on caffeine (coffee vending machines are a thing here). But my favorite thing about the drink is how social it can be! Bumped into someone on the street but can only speak to them briefly? Ask to catch up more over coffee. Need to meet with a colleague to go over that draft which needs to be a final copy soon? Talk it out over some café au lait. First date? Maybe you’re so used to asking people to coffee all the time that asking someone you like is familiar and comfortable enough in an otherwise uncertain situation.

At a certain point, coffee becomes an excuse for meeting up with people, and that’s what I love most about it. Sometimes, when the afternoon is going by slowly, a few interns at the World Health Organization headquarters meet up briefly for coffee. I actually don’t love the drink, but if I’m invited to coffee, I’ll respond oui, bien sûr, knowing that the drink will be okay, but the  conversation will be better.

Micah Dirkers

My experience with coffee abroad was rather limited, particularly in the city of Edinburgh itself. Over fifteen Starbucks Coffees dotted the city of Edinburgh, yet I can say that I never stepped foot in one of them, nor did I really have any desire to. Many other venues which served coffee and coffee shops themselves were very common in Edinburgh, however, during my semester abroad in Edinburgh, I drank coffee rather infrequently in the city. However, while walking around the city, particularly during the morning hours and around lunch, I would see the coffee shops busy and observe many people maneuvering the city streets with caffeine in hand. Another popular time for coffee was in the afternoon hours of 16:00-17:00, as people would often need an afternoon pick-me-up. While the variety of caffeinated beverage in Edinburgh was impressive, my experience with them was not.  

That said, nearly each weekend, I went to a different place in Scotland, and one of my goals during these trips was to sample a cappuccino from each place I visited (you know, each place which actually had a coffee shop, it’s hard to find those in the Highland wilderness, so I probably sampled six in total) to compare the variations in flavor, roast, milk, and composition. I remember one cappuccino I purchased on the Holy Island of Lindsfarne which was piping hot, even after letting the drink sit for a time, that it left my tastebuds overloaded with heat for the next week—a drink to remember. In comparison to coffee shops in the United States which often label the beverage excessively with “Caution,” “Hot,” or “Warning,” the cappuccinos I had in Scotland were not marked as such, or maybe it was just the small sample of places I had visited which didn’t mark the drinks. After that experience, however, I learned the “just right” temperature for a cappuccino, which has guided me when I order that drink at Colgate from the Hieber Café. While I cannot say that I had the most involved experience aboard with coffee, someone who might have a closer relationship to coffee than myself would find that Edinburgh offers many options for a caffeine consumer to devour many cups of this commodity.

Jenny Lundt

Tea is the choice of drink in Nepal, instead of coffee. People generally get their caffeine fix from multiple servings of tea daily. So, I rarely drank coffee during my semester abroad.There was one well known coffee place in the Boudha Stupa area that most students went to. It was hard to find constant, available WiFi (even in our program house), so things like class registration, grant applications, and messages home were centered in Himalayan Java. This is one of the only chain restaurants in Nepal with around 10 in the country in total. The prices of drinks were like $4, which most of us felt was an outrageous price because of how cheap everything else was.

However, the most common drink in all of Nepal is milk tea which we call “chai tea” here in the US. The name is repetitive because “chai” already means tea in Nepali. We had several tea breaks built into our school day. We were released from class with a gong sounding where we would head out into the dining area and fill our mini cups with hot milk tea from intricate thermoses. The best milk tea I drank was in Humla with fresh yak milk straight from the pasture.

Po Cha (butter tea) is an integral part of Tibetan and Himalayan life. Traditionally, the drink is made from tea leaves, yak butter, water, and salt.  Since butter is the main ingredient, it has many calories which is good for extremely cold weather, high altitudes, and energy. The fat of the butter also prevents against lip chapping. It is very important in the culture to serve to guests. The classic method of serving is to replenish the cup after every few sips, so the guest will never be empty handed. This was very kind of them, however I really hated the taste of butter tea, so it was not a good thing at all for me. I would describe the taste almost as drinking hot creamy, froth from the ocean. Not personally ideal. My host family was not very partial to butter tea, so I got lucky in this sense. Some of my classmates had Tibetan tea served to them at home for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. We also were served the drink a lot when we went to Humla and stayed with families. Butter tea for them was just a part of daily life. So, despite my deepest wishes, I drank a lot of Butter tea during that trip.

My favorite hot drink that I had during my time was honey, lemon ginger tea. I will cherish chilly fall mornings on rooftop cafes observing the pilgrims circumambulating the stupa while sipping on my tea. I have tried to recreate the delicacy here, but to very little avail. My roommates this semester hate when I stink up the kitchen with large amounts of boiled ginger.

TBS Abroad Week 6: Walking

By Emily Weaver on March 21, 2018

Week 6: Walking

Last week we talked about bikes, this week we’re going to talk about walking. You can tell a lot about an area based solely on taking a walk through it. Different cultures shine through noises, smells, and sights you see while out and about. This week tell us about what it is like walking through the area you’re staying. Are the people around you relaxed or rushing to get to their next location? Are you the only one around or is walking the preferred form of transportation? What is the infrastructure like for pedestrians in your area; is it suitable for use by everyone? Is it a paved pathway or is a gravely dirt road? Lead us on a journey through the place you are staying.

Oneida Shushe

Walking is no doubt my favorite way to see a city. This past weekend, I walked 13 miles through Lyon. Even through the unideal walking shoes and initially rainy weather, I would not have had it any other way.


Walking through a new city

-feels like you’re walking in the shoes of locals, even if many locals take public transportation or drive.

-allows you to see more details in the city than if you sped by on a bike or car.

-positions you to walk into shops and come up with plans and activities spontaneously (“This pâtisserie looks good!” “Someone we just ran into said there are cool ruins down that way, let’s go there!”)

-makes you feel alive (because walking is exercise).

-is an activity all by itself, so if all I did in a new city was walk through it, I would be satisfied.

-is a privilege. Traveling is a privilege for the well-off, and walking (hiking, really) up hundreds of stairs to see the view I’ve included below is a privilege for the able-bodied.

-means you’re walking in the footsteps of many before you (Lyon is 2000 years old!) and many who will come after you (inspired by “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” by Walt Whitman).

View from the top of the hill in Fourvière district in Lyon, France


Jenny Lundt

There were definitely two distinctive parts of my study abroad experience that revolved around walking. Walking long distances in Kathmandu is certainly not for the faint of heart. As I’ve written about in these blogs previously, it is a very overwhelming city with lots of traffic. There are almost no sidewalks anywhere in the city, so you have to walk on the edge of the road as you simultaneously avoid darting motorbikes, cars, street food carts, and even cows. It becomes a perfect day excursion in itself to navigate the streets. The city is best described as a labyrinth in my opinion, as you wind through miniscule alleyways lined with old buildings.

I had the opportunity of being in Kathmandu for election day. As part of my research, it was very important for me to be out in the city observing and recording all that I possibly could. To eliminate potential security concerns, all vehicles (except ones with special permits) were banned from the streets of Kathmandu from sunrise to sunset that day. That meant, in order to get anywhere in the city, I would have to do what I had never done in the city, walk. I set out just before the first poll opened that day, accompanied by my econ professor friend Tara at Tribhuvan University, the biggest one in the country. We visited several different polls in different areas of the city and had many conversations about what the right to vote meant to several people. It was such an eye opening day that i didn’t realize that my distance for the day totaled 15 miles. Because the dust and particles normally in the air from vehicles were absent, I was also treated to the most amazing view of the Himalayas that is normally hidden. The walk showed me so many parts of the city that I had always failed to notice before because of my need to keep my eyes on the road or risk getting hit. I wandered around, being able to fully grasp the beauty of where I was. A day that I will always remember.

The other important part of my trip was being able to trek through the Himalayas. I talked in an earlier post about Humla, the “most remote” district in the entire country that we had the pleasure of visiting. What I didn’t mention about being there, however, was how we got around. Our excursion there was a little under three weeks where we moved from village to village. With the exception of one day on truck, we were completely dependent on our feet to get from place to place. This lead to a few very long days and aching muscles as we battled the altitude and our physical limits. The last day in particular will be forever etched in our memory. We were trying to get back from the village, Yari, where we had spent the last few days back to the capital of Humla, Simikot. In my homestay, I only was able to eat plain buckwheat pancakes and nettle soup (look them up), so definitely was not energized to my full potential. We had to essentially complete a full 12 hours of excruciating pain almost exclusively uphill. It was a battle of blisters, asthma, altitude, overheating, and general exhaustion, In my life, I am occasionally guilty of taking the easy route. However in this moment, I had the realization that there was absolutely no easy route I could take. No taxi, no Uber, no calling a friend for a ride. No getting a hotel for the night and continuing the journey tomorrow. No dramatic helicopter evac. No nothing, except moving my two feet in front of each other and climbing up the mountain. The feeling of exuberance and pride I felt at the top was something that I have only experienced once. I burst into tears at the top of the mountain and embraced my two best friends from the semester, Mary Grace and Emma and we proceeded to take out a blessed prayer flag and write the names of everyone from home that we wanted to be a part of that moment. I know those flags are still hanging up, dangling over the Himalayas, and that gives me so much happiness, even in my toughest moments back at school.

  • Jenny's Journey


Micah Dirkers

Building on my cycling post from the previous week, while Edinburgh did have a distinct and broad culture surrounding cycling, the number of bicycles on the street was unequivocally dwarfed by the number of pedestrians throughout the city, particularly in the city center. With nearly 500,000 people the streets of Edinburgh were always bustling with people, particularly on the more central streets such as Prince’s Street and. Whereas bicycle use is efficient on paved roads and reasonably level paths, walking allows for much greater (although sometimes slower) access to much of the city of Edinburgh. There was always ample room on the sidewalks, and sometimes, pedestrians moved as if one side was going down the left of the sidewalk and one group was going down the right. And if you wanted to decrease your travel time, you would adhere to the portion of the sidewalk in the direction that you were moving. Furthermore, walking also functioned far better than a bicycle or car for maneuvering the Scottish highlands, rocky beaches, sand, mud, rivers, streams, and grasslands, which were common encounters when traveling around the UK. These descriptives illustrating how people in Edinburgh walked are as varied, if not more varied, than the observations regarding bicycle use.

Personally, for the vast majority of my local transportation in Edinburgh, I walked everywhere, unless I was going on a longer trip (probably greater than a 30-minute walk)! It was a way for me to go out and explore the city, get some exercise, and navigate the cobblestone streets without being jostled around on a bicycle or a car. The area in which I lived was surrounded by little shops, grocery stores, academic buildings, and a five-floor gymnasium. I was situated on a little hill, St. John’s Hill, on a street called “Colgate,” only a one-letter difference from Colgate. The aroma in the air reflected the flora from the nearby park, the barbecue from the restaurant beneath us, and the petrol from the cars hustling down the street. When I went out to walk, I always felt like I had ample time to prepare for crossings and stoplights. There was ample space on sidewalks, and there were even crossing points, where pedestrians could jaywalk into a designated area in the middle of the road and wait until traffic clears to get to the other side—definitely a very different experience from the US where jaywalking is not encouraged and is considered in some places to be at least a misdemeanor.

While exploring on foot, I had this sense that, because I was on my own two feet walking around, I was in control, and I could go wander around or explore wherever I wanted to, without having to schlep around a bicycle or vehicle. Even when I was traveling around Scotland, most of my destinations required walking (obviously I took a car, bus, train, or plane, when traveling to other destinations) in the form of walking around on a guided tour, taking a hike in the countryside, or simply explore the land freely. This sense of exploration, this sense of freedom, was really refreshing during my time abroad, and it is one, of many, reasons to study in a different place to begin with.

TBS Abroad Week 5: Bicycles

By Emily Weaver on March 7, 2018

Week 5: Bicycles

People use them for exercise, recreational activities, and transport. Bikes can be found all over the US – children ride them around cul-de-sacs and city-dwellers ride them to work. They range in size, color, and design, but they all serve the purpose of transporting someone from one place to another. What is the bike-culture like in the place you’re staying? Are bikes used more regularly than other types of transport? Are there designated bike lanes on the roads or are the bikers mixed in with other traffic? Are there certain places where you are more likely to see bicycles than others? Since you’ve been abroad have you been on any bike rides?


Micah Dirkers

The city of Edinburgh (and my guess is that this would generalize to other UK cities) had a present culture surrounding bikes. As one of the most travel-friendly and bicycle-friendly cities in the UK (though still not on the level of Denmark or the Netherlands), many of the city’s residents and tourists use these two wheels as their preferred mode of transportation—culminating in  Cyclefest, the ten-day Edinburgh Festival of Cycling. One can witness cyclers pretty much everywhere in the city at most times of the day: workers used bikes to travel to work, students cycled to classes, and even Deliveroo employees used bicycles to deliver hot meals from nearby restaurants. Cycling is typically preferred by many, simply because it is much easier and much faster to get around, particularly for shorter distances. Given how Edinburgh is built on many hills, it easy to gain downward momentum that will carry you far, regardless of what type of bike you use. As far as I saw, there was no distinction between mountain bike and city bike, since most of the bikes looked fairly normal. As such, many of the bicycles were standard, rigid, two-wheel devices, which were not allowed indoors or on trains, but a growing number of people also used foldable bikes, which were allowed indoors and on trains. It wouldn’t matter if you did not own a bike, because rentable and loanable bicycles were readily available for a number of companies. Coupled with the environmental awareness that is also present in the UK, the culture around cycling was one of sustainability, mobility, and accessibility.

While there is, indeed, a distinct culture of cycling in Edinburgh, not all people buy into and approve of this culture. While a fair amount of the city has designated cycling lanes, these spaces are not found everywhere; hence, cyclists sometimes compete with motorists for space on the road. This can frustrate motorists, especially if a cycler is traveling slowing or attempting to maneuver dangerously through moving (or paused) traffic. Not only did motorists compete with cyclists, but there were also trams, busses, and trains that would occupy road space, especially as one moved closer to the city center. This was especially true on the cobblestone streets, where cars had a marked advantage, as cycling on cobblestone can be dangerous and rattling. Some cyclers tried to avoid both the traffic and the cobblestone by cycling on the pavement and designated walkways, but such action is illegal, as bicycles were basically treated as cars, and such instances were few and far between. Indeed, cycling is popular, but it is not without its challenges.

During our orientation’s safety section, we learned from a representative from Police Scotland more about these challenges regarding cycling in Edinburgh. We covered how one is basically free to travel on any road by bicycle—even those which are closed to vehicular traffic—but that all roads may not be maintained equally with traffic controls or pavement quality. Thus, all cyclists are encouraged to motion with their hands where they will be turning to provide clear information to other drivers, to wear at least a helmet if not other protective gear, and to be equipped with sufficient reflectors for safety. When storing the bike, t-locks were recommended, as those were the type of locks least prone to being sawed or sliced open. Indeed, cycling, we learned, is not without hazards, as the bike wheels can get stuck in tram or train tracks, resulting in injured riders and crumpled bicycles. Bicycle theft was actually the largest type of crime occurring in the city, according to the Police Scotland officer who conducted the presentation. A bicycle storehouse was situated outside our dorm, and even our residence staff encouraged us to keep our bikes locked safely. Having covered safety, he encouraged us to ride our bikes for ease of travel and accessibility. So while I did not personally use any bicycles to navigate the city, as I relied mainly on walking or riding buses, it was refreshing to see a culture, laws, and funding in support of an active use of bicycles in a modern city—something that is not always visible in many cities in the United States.


Jenny Lundt

Bikes were a huge part of my study abroad experience… but not normal bikes… motorbikes. It is impossible to miss them even upon the first second of leaving the airport. Motorbikes swarm the city like little buzzing insects, darting through the heavily congested streets and clouds of dust. Kathmandu is a city that is dominated by motorbikes through every muddy road, pot hole, and endless construction roadblocks. It is estimated that ¾ motor vehicles on the road are motorbikes. A lot of roads in Nepal do not have lane lines on them, so it is anybody’s guess as to how to navigate them. Death defying feats of motorbikes zooming through lines to pass the traffic were things I witnessed every day.

The bikes were also was a symbol of masculinity for my host brother as he was always gossiping with me about which boy in our neighborhood had which bike with what engine power. There are a large variety of bikes from the small ones that were lovingly referred to as “scooties” to large motor powered Royal Enfields. Tenzin tried to get me to help him at every dinner to convince our Pala that they needed to buy a motorbike for the family. He was the one to take me on my first ride during my semester as he raced my friend Nick and I up and down our street, flying past all of our neighbors.

I even received the opportunity (don’t tell my program please, this was very against the rules) to go on a motorbike trip to the Himalayas. My friend and I started in Pokhara and then drove 7 hours through the mountains to the hot spring village of Tatopani in the Sindhupalchok district. I will never forget the exhilaration of driving through bumpy, dusty roads just barely carved out on the side of a mountain. We drove through the deepest gorge in the world, through forests, through a funeral procession, and through a river where my shoes got absolutely soaked. The roaring sound of the wind and the rev of the engine as we ascended up and up into the clouds was one of the most empowering and freeing moments of my life. For the next few weeks, I had the opportunity to travel to a number of villages on the back of a bike, making so many dreams come true.

I took one pedal bike trip while I was in Nepal and that was in the lake town of Pokhara with 3 of my friends. We biked out of the main city and into the fields and villages surrounding it to watch the sunset. It was truly a wonderful day.

  • Jenny's Homestay Brother, Tenzin


Oneida Shushe

I’m so impressed with Geneva. As I’m writing this, I’m looking out my window and I see cars, motorcycles, pedestrians, buses, and bikers passing by. The city also has trams and, of course, trains, but trains don’t really pass on the same paths as these other modes of transportation. Last weekend, my friends also saw someone skiing down the sidewalk because it snowed a few inches here. In a busy intersection toward the center of Geneva, these modes of transportation come together for nothing short of a miracle in Swiss civil engineering. With clear traffic signals and designated lanes, everything runs mostly smoothly.

While I haven’t done it yet, I look forward to biking along Lac Léman, also known as Lake Geneva, at some point this semester. Because using a bike isn’t built into the road planning or culture of my community back home, I haven’t ridden a bike in a long time. But here in Geneva, bikes are everywhere! There are bike racks in front of super markets, by the train station, and most places if you look for them.

Riding a bike is efficient in a city because most people’s commutes or errand runs are a fitting distance away, but it’s also good for health. The 8th priority in the Shanghai Consensus on Health Cities 2016 is “design our cities to promote sustainable urban mobility” through, for example, “active transport infrastructure” like bike lanes and related planning. In this way, people can exercise without even realizing it! Recognizing the importance of health factors in city planning, I hope that more cities in the US and across the world will promote a healthy bike culture.

Bike rack next to the University of Geneva


TBS Abroad Week 4: Memorials

By Emily Weaver on February 28, 2018

Week 4: Memorials

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a chilling reminder of the Holocaust . Located in the center of Berlin its towering stone slabs and narrow pathways work to make you feel isolated and disoriented. It’s a reminder of the horrors that have taken place in Germany. It is also a way to never forget.Memory has a way of acting on a community. It makes people feel connected with those in the past or pride in where they’ve come from. We are made to never forget our triumphs, downfalls, or losses. Whatever their purpose memorials and monuments are created to convey a certain collective feeling and memory. Have the monuments you’ve seen since you have been away been chilling and somber or have they conveyed a sense of triumph in your country. Maybe they’ve conveyed a calm sorrow as as the Belgian countryside does, dotted with cemeteries full of soldiers lost in World War I. Each country is unique in how they represent their past. Tell us about the memorials you have seen. How did they make you feel? How did those who came to visit act while they were there. Was remembrance of an event limited to monument or could you feel it reverberating throughout the community, even years after it occurred?

Oneida Shushe

I left my room on a cold, windy Sunday morning to take a picture of the Reformation Wall in the Parc des Bastions for this blog. The wall features four tall men carved into a wall. One of them is John Calvin, the leader of the Protestant Reformation movement in the 16th century. Calvin continued what Martin Luther started with the Reformation. He ruled over Geneva and punished people if their religious beliefs did not match his. I didn’t know that this historical event happened in the very city in which I’m studying, so I’m glad the monument taught me this.

Even though it was still icy-cold, I looked around the park a little bit more. I saw busts of men in suits raised off the ground in columns. Then I remembered that there are busts of men in the same style just inside the University of Geneva next door. There are so many important people Geneva wants to remember—these guys basically had their own mini monuments—and they are all men. There is a statue of a woman in its own section of the park a few steps away: she is sitting on a slab naked. These statues represent the historical and ever-present inequality between men and women. Thankfully, this problem is receiving more and more attention—including at my internship at the World Health Organization, where the Director-General is calling for more representation of women in the organization. Maybe over the years, monuments in Geneva and across the world won’t be just men in suits, religious clothing, and battle gear. Maybe in the future, a young female student will leave Parc des Bastions inspired by statues of other women who came before her, so that enduring the numbing cold on a Sunday morning would be worth it.

  • Reformation Wall, Parc de Bastions (Geneva, Switzerland)
  • Parc de Bastions (Geneva, Switzerland)


Micah Dirkers

When you think about the role that memorials play in honoring history, tradition, or the fallen, you often think of a formally dedicated space or structure that commemorates the aforementioned; yet does a memorial or monument always have to be formally dedicated as such in order to achieve its aim? My answer would be yes and no; here is what I mean:

Yes, in the sense that there does need to be some physical landmark, monument, or memorial that is built, designed, and advertised to be remembered in a historically significant way. This memorial functions as the embodiment of a story, of information, and of people—who was there, what happened, why did it happen. As far as I saw in Scotland, there were very few formal memorials that dedicated a particular space to recount a downfall or triumph; yet there were a few that I did see (and I speculate that there were many more that I did not see). Indeed, they were “memorialified” by surrounding information signs, placards, boundaries of reverence, and tour guides who had learned the history and who would pass it on to spectators. There was always a sense of reverence and mystery about these memorials, as one could not step on or touch certain areas of the memorial. One notable example was Alnwick Castle, famously known for its use as the castle featured in the first two Harry Potter movies. There were information signs and pamphlets detailing the history of the space, as chiefly a residence for a noble family, but the castle also functioned as a stronghold during the War of the Roses. Spectators were forbidden from gaining access to the family’s private spaces, and instead, they were allocated to publicly commemorated spaces. In such commemorated spaces, it seemed as if the spectator is meant to feel some connection to the past, facilitated by the posted information and tour guides, as if they were trying to convey the event that occurred in the past to have effect on the viewer today. Perhaps that experience is easier for citizens of Scotland to have, but as an exchange student, I can say that I did not feel deeply connected to the few formal memorials I witnessed abroad.

Complimenting what I wrote above, I would also respond no, in the sense that there are many nontraditional memorials other than specifically dedicated spaces that you would not think of as memorials. To elaborate, for example, around many locations in Scotland and in Edinburgh, there were “memorials” in the forms of regular churches, contemporary houses, Highland hills, Scottish fields, statues, parts of a city street, and more, but you would not have known that they were memorials just by looking at them. These were the majority of the memorials that I witness abroad, and interestingly, I felt more connected to these memorials than the formal ones, perhaps because I had to use to use my imagination to “memorialify” them for my own experience. I only knew of their historical significance through stories passed on by people (though in a colloquial way, not from a tour guide). For instance, during my homestay with a Scottish family, their small country house which appeared perfectly normal on the exterior was the location where the plan to defame and execute Sir Thomas More was hatched (although there were other locations too). For my experience, that information did not fundamentally change the way that I experienced the homestay; yet without the typical, external information telling me what to remember, I found myself imagining what the space must have been like at the time: what did the conspirators say, what did they have for dinner, was anyone else aware of the meeting, how did the plan hatch, and more. While it was interesting the imagine this, it did not creep me out or negatively impact my stay with the family, but it did remind me of the potential for a “normal” space to function as a memorial, even if not formally commemorated.

In this way, the city of Edinburgh, the nation of Scotland, and everything during my experience abroad were a type of “memorial” which represented a culmination of historical happenings into what we know call the present. While I can not say that the few formal memorials I witnessed impacted me abroad, it was engaging to imagine how many of the not-so-formal memorials conveyed a historical message, without being specifically designated as memorial. Thus, I can say, undoubtedly, that the experience of going abroad is a “memorial” which will reverberate throughout my life as a positive experience even years after it occurred.

Jenny Lundt

Monuments in Nepal are not as how you would think about them in Europe or the US with neat cemeteries lining the countryside or giant metal statues of past rulers. Throughout my journeys in Nepal, I found that the way people pay homage to the past are through temples, monasteries, shrines, tombs, and places of worship. One of our excursions with the program was to Namo Buddha monastery, about 2 hours outside Kathmandu. The monastery sits on top of an elevated hill which provides sweeping panoramic views of the hills in all directions. Though it has captivating views, it is much more than simply a beautiful place. This place is one of the holiest places of Buddhist worship in the world.

According to the creation story, thousands of years ago, a prince stumbled across a tigress and her 5 cubs on the verge of starvation on the fringes of the jungle. Noticing how her cubs were dependent on her for life in the form of the non existent milk, the prince decided to complete a true act of compassion and give his body to the tigress to save her life. As the tigress fed on the sacrifice, she left the prince’s bones which eventually were buried on the hill that later became the holy monument. The sacrifice and pure display of generosity is important because it explained how this trait of the Buddha was exemplified. In 1978, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche founded a monastery that has grown tremendously. An additional Temple was opened in December of 2008. We stayed in the monastery guest house for 4 days during my semester, which was an incredible experience. We ate every meal in the dining hall alongside hundreds of monks. We were served dhal bhat (rice and lentils) by young men with massive industrial size pots and pans while we sat amongst their peers, shoeless and silent. During the time we were there, we had lots of conversations about what monastic life was like for them, especially in such a holy site of worship. We went on guided tours where all of the symbolism of intricate wall paintings and statues throughout the massive complex of monasteries.

Additionally, I would be remiss in not mentioned Tibetan prayer flags and their role in society as we talk about representation and memory. Most people are probably familiar with the strings of multi color fabric squares, but it is such a ubiquitous part of Buddhist life in Nepal that it is important to talk about their significance. The Tibetan word for prayer flag is Dar Cho. “Dar” is to increase life,fortune, health and wealth and “Cho” translates to “all sentient beings”. Each color stands for a different element- White is air, red is fire, green is water, yellow is earth, and blue is wind. They each have a mantra on them that goes “Om Mani Padme Hum” that is a collection of values that have significance when repeated as a chain. The flags are supposed to be put up with unselfish intentions with general wishes to carry peace and compassion to all living beings. They were ubiquitous parts of my study abroad. In Humla, in Kathmandu, in Mustang, in Namo Buddha. They are an important part of Buddhist culture.

  • Namo Buddha Monastery, Nepal
  • Namo Buddha Monastery, Nepal
  • Namo Buddha Monastery, Nepal
  • Tibetan Prayer Flags
  • Tibetan Prayer Flags