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Apr 27

Student Blogger Feature: Will Kaplan

Yet I’ve noticed a certain a casualness in the Spaniards. The way Antonio tosses the napkins and utensils onto the dinner table, as opposed to setting them down. Many commuters lean against the metro door with a single bent knee. Sunglasses are acceptable indoor accessories. A waiter will show me to my table with a flick of the hand. A bartender says “dime,” (dee-may; “tell me”).  It’s hard to exactly articulate this cool casual air, but many of my American peers recognize it.

–Will Kaplan

"Impresiones Primeros," copper plate engraving by Will

“Impresiones Primeros,” copper plate engraving by Will

As an artist and a writer, Will invites us to see the world from his perspective–it is not an opportunity to be missed. His blog, Marking Madrid, sketches (ha) a dynamic and vivid picture of daily life in Madrid, incorporating his artwork as well as his observations of everyday particulars and pleasures. He is studying on our Skidmore in Spain program and cataloguing his cultural immersion, notably in terms of his language progress: through a series of short posts entitled “Palabras Unicas” (“Unique Words”), he offers insight into the challenges and thrills of delving deeper into a language and, in effect, a culture. Here’s what Will had to say about his experience thus far:

What class year are you? What is your major/minor?

I’m a member of the class of 2017 majoring in English and minoring in studio art.

Is your program related to your focus of study? If so, in what ways? How is it shaping the way you interact with your studies? If it is unrelated, what inspired you to go on this program?

An English major studying in Madrid confuses people, myself included. All the same living in another language has taught me so much; learning Spanish has informed my thinking as much as my speaking. This second language opens my perspective beyond the patterns of my native English.

I chose Spain because it seemed like a culture distinct from my own. Indeed it has been. From my listenings to Miles Davis’ “Sketches of Spain,” Spanish culture seemed old and traditional. Yet Spain has proven dynamic, flexible, open, which is maybe how it’s survived so long.

Have you encountered language barriers? If so, how have you maneuvered through those situations? (Any funny lost-in-translation moments?) If you live in a city where English is not the first language, have you attempted to learn the native language?

I haven’t (yet)  made a huge fool of myself trying to speak Spanish. Still, the circumlocution used to find the right word can be amusing. My host family chuckled when I used “piscinita” (modifying piscina: pool to create “little pool”) instead of puddle (“charco,” they corrected).

One must be inventive with a limited vocabulary. Taking the long way to articulate my thoughts in Spanish translates to a more creative mastery of English.

What is the living situation on your program? (Homestay, apartment, dorm-style, etc.) How has that impacted your semester and your interactions with the host culture?

Living in a homestay has helped me immerse in the culture. Nightly dinners with host parents Antonio and Luisa give me such a rich taste of daily life. The conversations, the rituals, and the simple details of living in a home are so omnipresent and subtle that they’re difficult to describe.

How is blogging for the Skidmore OCSE office going so far? Does it play a role in how you interact with the city at all?

Those small but illustrative details I can articulate, have been flushed out in full through blog-posting. The obligation to present and reflect on my experience has been a positive force, pushing my observation and participation. When I can think of a few words to describe, sitting down to write it opens the thought wider. Writing is a process of discovery. The responsibility to write has made me explore my experience on a deep level.

How is studying abroad supplementing your education here at Skidmore? In what ways do you think your experiences abroad will enhance and fuel what you learn on campus?

Amidst all my ruminating on the my present experience in Madrid, it’s hard to imagine the future at Skidmore. Undoubtedly the initial on-the-ledge feeling of exploring a second-language city has made me more confident. When I returned from my spring break in Holland, I felt a new ease and appreciation for  Madrid as my home. I expect a similar feeling returning to my real stomping ground on campus.

I of course feel an intense need to soak in my time in Spain. Accordingly, I’m trying to stay present in all moments. The ability to open my senses to my surroundings, and to put aside clocks, phones, and tight schedules will carry over at home, I’m sure.

While challenging, often times draining, studying abroad has been invaluable. The privilege to participate in another culture has been an ineffably incredible experience, one that will continue growing the more I reflect on it.

Thank you!

Read more about Will’s experiences and explorations here!

"Madrid Moderno," by Will

“Madrid Moderno,” by Will

Apr 08

Annual Show & Tell Contest

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Mondays: the older we get, the more we resent them. But this wasn’t always the case–think back to elementary school mornings, to the restless excitement of seeing your friends again after a weekend apart. The Monday highlight was always, always Show & Tell. You would stuff whatever toy or trinket (Tamagotchis, anyone?) had kept you company over the weekend into your L.L. Bean or Hello Kitty backpack, and for a few glorious minutes, everyone was forced to at least feign interest in your story.

In the spirit of reviving tradition, the Off-Campus Study & Exchanges Office instituted the annual Show & Tell contest in 2014. We recognized that same restless excitement in study abroad returnees, who come back to campus eager to share their stories and experiences with friends after months and months apart. And while Mondays have gotten worse, Show & Tell has gotten better–instead of feigned interest, the best story now earns a $500 travel voucher to help go abroad again!

This year, our four contestants represented a variety of cities and programs–from Copenhagen to Jaipur, homestays to internships. Their projects and presentations reflected how formative their abroad experiences were: on their global perspectives, their career goals, their stomachs, their Skidmore experiences, and their identities. Listening to them sparked a fierce and immediate desire to travel about.

The criteria for the competition was as follows:

  • Highlighting the following topics: academics, living abroad, coming home
  • Visual appeal/use of table space
  • Creativity (CTM, right?)

The competitors used photos, journal entries, videos, food, and music to showcase their study abroad experience (one even brought in a 3D printer!). It was truly a joy to listen them, and deciding on the top two presenters was a difficult task.

1st place was awarded to Eliza Dumais, ‘16, who studied abroad her junior spring with SIT in Jaipur, India.

2nd place was awarded to Benjamin Wetherbee, ‘16, who studied abroad his junior year at University College Cork, in Cork, Ireland.

 

Benjamin's presentation

Benjamin’s presentation

Bennett Beutel, '16, with his presentation on interning in the Netherlands!

Bennett Beutel, ’16, with his presentation on interning in the Netherlands!

Eliza's presentation

Eliza’s presentation

Benjamin poised to fiddle away for the audience!

Benjamin poised to fiddle away for the audience!

Eliza presenting to the judges

Eliza presenting to the judges

Bennett presenting to his peers

Bennett presenting to his peers

Anna Lowenstein presenting on her semester abroad with DIS in Copenhagen!

Anna Lowenstein presenting on her semester abroad with DIS in Copenhagen!

 

Thank you to all the contestants for their hard work and inspiring presentations, and thank you to the judges and everyone who else came by for Show & Tell! See you next year!

Apr 01

Shaping an Identity: A Cuban in Cuba

I am truly afraid of what Cuba will become with Americanization. Despite its flaws, the country is absolutely beautiful and rich in its culture. There is something about walking down the streets of Havana that feels different than anywhere else I have ever been. I am certain that, unless Cuba puts protocol in place to stop it, the US will completely eradicate the Cuba we saw. Cuba will go from paladares and small shop owners, to fast food chains and big name businesses.

 

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(Juliana’s photo)

Over Winter break, Senior Juliana Boucher traveled to Cuba with Skidmore’s travel seminar, Cuba: History Through Travel. As a second generation Cuban American, her experience was particularly unique and posed a complex set of challenges to her. For her culminating project at the end of the seminar, she created a blog that vividly catalogues her experiences in Havana and in the western valley of Viñales through photos and reflections. Her explorations into a dynamic culture and a heritage that she has long felt connected to are well-articulated and craft a moving, informative story of one young woman’s relationship to a country that is presently re-shaping its modern identity, and how she began to do the same amid the chaos.

(Juliana's photo)

(Juliana’s photo)

 

I have definitely changed as a result of this trip. I think more about inequalities, about racial and ethnic differences primarily when it comes to mental health, and about what it means to be Cuban. I am more comfortable speaking Spanish in front of my peers. I listen to Spanish music more. I am happier being me, and I want to thank the island for all it gave me.

 

Check it out here!

Mar 10

Student Blogger Feature

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“Going, Going, (but not quite) Gone” is the title of student Manuela Tauscher’s recent blog post on her pre-departure experience, which was featured on IES Abroad’s Editor’s Choice Student Blogs. Tauscher is studying abroad with the Environmental Studies & Sustainability program in Freiburg, Germany, and her post offers candid insight into the emotional limbo that most students float through preceding departure. Studying abroad is, at its core, unsettling–beyond literally packing up our lives, it shakes us out of the comforts and habits we have come to rely on and asks us to learn who we are independent of them. To succeed in this, self-awareness is indispensable. Tauscher’s post is fueled by her awareness of what she does and does not know, and navigates the excitement and anxiety that come along with that:

I’m thinking about things such as who’s going to be on my program, how and if I’ll find friends, and not only learning German but also transcending my self-consciousness and actually using it. I know these are the kinds of things that eventually work themselves out, but it’s hard not to worry about what you can’t quite control (at least for right now).

 

OCSE congratulates you on being featured, Manuela! Read more about her experience here.

Feb 29

High Tea: A Love Letter to London

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A hot cup of tea, to some, is no different than “flavored water,” as one eloquent tea-hater once phrased it. But to those of us who have studied abroad in London, a cup of tea is a warm welcome–into someone’s home, heart, and the city itself. English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Darjeeling and Chai were some of our first friends. They were there for us on those dull grey mornings when we could not pull ourselves out of bed; they sat patiently with us as we crammed for exams; they held our hands on cold walks along the Thames. So to those who write tea off as “flavored water,” I say: pish posh. (And may I fix you a proper cup?)

Tea brings people together and is a reminder of how London and its citizens welcomed us with a crooked smile and porcelain saucer. To celebrate our collective appreciation for tea and British culture, all students who studied in London at some point during their Skidmore career (London First Year Experience, The Shakespeare Programme, or Skidmore in London) were invited to our annual High Tea reunion last Monday. From the recently-returned London FYE students to those students who are mere months away from graduation, the turnout was smashing.

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Finger sandwiches, McVitie’s digestives, scones with clotted cream, petit fours and a variety of other goodies from local Putnam Market (which stocks an array of authentic and hard-to-find English sweets!) made for a lovely evening. While high tea certainly looks a bit grander from the sweeping vista of the sky-lit National Portrait Gallery Portrait Restaurant, it still tasted sweet (though perhaps our sugar is a tad more artificial) to catch up with our old friends–the Earl, and that girl we sat next to in art history class.

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Feb 24

Info Meeting Tonight: Paris Fall Seminar

Considering studying abroad in Paris next fall? Be sure to attend tonight’s information meeting on the Paris Fall Seminar! OCSE Director Cori Filson and fall 2016 Seminar Director Professor Ennis-McMillan will provide a general overview of the program and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

 

Info Meeting:
2016 Paris Fall Seminar
TONIGHT, February 24, 2016
5:30-6:30pm
Bolton 282

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Hope to see you there! (But if you can’t make it–we have daily walk-in advising: Mon-Fri, 1-4pm, Starbuck 202).

Feb 22

Additional Walk-In Advising Hours!

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As deadlines for fall semester abroad are fast approaching, students are finding themselves with more questions and less time. To help you Keep Calm & Study Abroad, Off-Campus Study & Exchanges is extending our walk-in advising hours. For the next two weeks, we will have trained student advisors holding evening walk-in advising at the Library. The schedule is below:

Monday (February 22nd and February 29th)

5pm – 10pm

Library 319

Tuesday (February 23rd and March 1st)

4:30pm-6:30pm

Library 319

Wednesday (February 24th and March 2nd )

8pm-10pm

Library 319

Thursday (February 25th and March 3rd)

4:30pm-6:30pm

Library 319

These students can answer basic questions about our policies, how to pick a program, and how to apply. They’ve also gone through the process before and can speak to their own study abroad experience. No appointments necessary!

In addition to this, we will have our regular office hour walk-in advising from 1-4pm, Monday through Friday. We will NOT have walk-in advising the week before spring break (Feb 29th-March 5th), so be sure to take advantage of our extended hours at the Library or Starbuck 202 before then for basic advising.

Remember: don’t wait until the last minute!!

Feb 15

5 Steps to Help You Decide Where to Study Abroad

So you want to study abroad—great! Now what??

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Here’s a handy guide on how to navigate the questions of when and where to go, and how to do it:

  1. Point of departure: be sure to check out the OCSE website’s Advanced Program Finder here. This is your one-stop-shop for exploring various program options, categorized by location, language of instruction, housing options, credit type, and departmental approval. This latter parameter is perhaps the most useful—it provides a list of programs that have already been approved and vetted by each academic department, which is a great place to start. While you are not limited to those programs that have been pre-approved by your major, it is helpful to check them out in order to get a sense of what each department has approved in the past.
  2. If you’re hoping to make your way across the globe, you’ll have to map your course first. Planning ahead is the key to unlocking the most opportunities for yourself abroad; strategically scheduling your courses on and off-campus gives you more wiggle room in terms of the courses you can enroll in, and the amount of time you can spend off-campus. Pay careful attention to what courses you are required to take on campus, and be sure to consider what courses you could get approved for credit while abroad.
  3. Once you have an idea of your opportunities regarding time and courses off-campus, you should begin (if you haven’t already) thinking about what type of experience you are looking for. While it’s tempting to latch onto the idea of a place, it is crucial to first consider whether or not the programs offered there are well-suited to you. Think about the type of learner you are—visual, oral, kinesthetic—and then ask yourself (and friends who have studied abroad!) what you think about:
    1. Direct Skidmore Programs
    2. Direct enrollment at a university
    3. Center-based program
    4. Taking courses in another language
    5. Field work or an internship component
    6. Independent research focus
  4. Next, look into the styles of education that are practiced in each of these program models. Are professors easily accessible, or will there be an emphasis on independent study? Will you be expected to complete smaller assignments frequently, or larger projects spaced throughout the semester? Consider these aspects before you decide on a location; no matter how enamored you may be with a country or a city, your off-campus experience will be frustrated if you are not sufficiently challenged by or prepared for your academics.
  5. Feel free to drop by our office (OCSE—Starbuck 202) for walk-in advising (Mon-Fri, 1-4pm) regarding any questions you may have about the application process, the programs themselves, and the off-campus experience. We would be happy to connect you with alumni of the programs that you are interested in, and hope to see you soon.

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Fall deadlines are fast approaching—now, all that’s left to do is apply!

Feb 04

Recap: Lively Lucy & Study Abroad Fair!

As we enter the sweet spot of a new semester–that first week or two of getting into the swing of new classes and clubs, just before the workload starts to pile up–it’s a prime time to start planning and applying for your off-campus study experience. If you haven’t gotten the chance to speak with us or any study abroad returnees yet, drop by for walk-in advising (every Mon-Fri, 1-4pm, Starbuck 202).

Hopefully you were able to stop by our Lively Lucy Goes Global event last week, and our Study Abroad Fair yesterday!

Here are some highlights of both:

Student bands, photo booths, doughboys–oh my! Our welcome back event (in collaboration with the weekly Lively Lucy performances at Falstaff’s) was a blast thanks to the students who performed and participated. London freshmen, international students, and other study abroad returnees came out to meet new friends and share stories about their time off-campus. We loved listening to their travel tales over Esperanto’s pizza and the musical talents of The Accents, Izzy Howard, and other student performers.

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Our Study Abroad Fair was also a success! Twenty program providers set up shop in Case Center to discuss programs and opportunities for Skidmore students abroad. Students who came to grab a coffee between classes left dreaming of studying in South America or in Europe, and those who already had a program in mind had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with representatives and returnees of those programs. Thanks to all the students who volunteered to come and talk about their program and how it has shaped their global perspective!

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Don’t forget–deadlines for Fall 2016 are fast approaching!

Jan 25

Welcome Back!

Welcome back everyone!

Whether you’ve just returned from a semester abroad or this is your first semester on campus (hi, London freshmen!!), we are eager to hear all about your recent studies and travels. Come share your stories and catch up with other study abroad returnees this week at our Welcome Back event, Lively Lucy Goes Global!

When: January 28, 2016, 7-9pm

Where: Falstaff’s

What: Esperanto’s pizza & doughboys, live music, a student photo gallery, & a raffle!

 

For those of you who are starting to plan your time abroad, be sure to mark our upcoming Off-Campus Study Fair on your calendars–it’s a great opportunity to learn about the various types and locations of programs that Skidmore offers and approves, and to speak directly with their representatives.

When: Wednesday, February 3, 2016, 11:30-2:30pm

Where: Case Center, Second Floor

 

Finally, we’ve hired four new student bloggers for the spring semester! Follow along as they explore a range of cultures and approach their studies through hands-on field work or home stays, studying graphic design illustration, sustainable development, Spanish, and geologic formations.

Madeleine Welsch, England

Zia O’Neill, Costa Rica

Will Kaplan, Spain

Belle Bennett, New Zealand

 

Good luck with getting settled and the first week of classes!

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