Longing for Lyon

Third-year English major Anne Whitney spent last summer on the UVA in Lyon program in Lyon, France. Read how a trip to Paris made her realize how familiar she had become with her host city.

 

This past weekend I met one of my high-school friends in Paris for a day trip, and on that trip, I discovered many differences between Paris and Lyon. It was my first time in Paris, and there was a definite shock of being there among so many tourists after living my authentic French experience in Lyon! Of course, Grace and I tried to fit in as many touristy excursions as possible since it was the first time in Paris for both of us, but even so I was surprised at how different the two cities are.

First of all, I truly realized how comfortable I was in French cities and especially with my routine in Lyon. I knew where most things were, where to go and where not to go, and didn’t brush up against many other Americans. However, in Paris, it was to be expected that I wouldn’t know exactly where to go to lunch to not be subjected to a tourist trap, but I did not expect to hear as much English as I did. I guess that was just naiveté on my part, but I heard more English than French! It was then that I realized that Paris is much more of an international city than a French city – though I’m not sure a French person, especially a native Parisian, would want to hear me say that.

I also realized the clout that Sciences-Po has among the French. Grace and I went into three museums, and in all of them she got in for free because of her six-month student visa for her studies at the London School of Economics; I didn’t have a similar visa for France, but every time I told the worker that I studied at Sciences-Po Lyon, I received a hearty congratulations. I then felt kind of like a poseur since I didn’t put in the same amount of work to get there that French university students did – I didn’t take the exams, the extra preparatory classes in the last two years of high school, and I wasn’t French. I still appreciated the name-recognition though!

The sensory input in Paris is also much different than in Lyon. In Lyon, I was used to getting whiffs of the sewer, of cigarette smoke, of body odor, but also of the boulangeries and restaurants. In Paris, there aren’t as many smells! Not as many people smoked, since there were so many tourists, particularly American, and I guess the bustle of city life covered up the other smells that became interwoven in my daily life in Lyon. It seemed a little more sterile – and I missed Lyon! Paris was beautiful, of course, and the museums and culture were amazing, but that night I was glad to be back in Lyon with my friends and the myriad of smells.

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Italian Summer Memories: Contrada Festival

As we head into winter break let’s take a look back to summer! Christopher Fitzpatrick is a third-year mechanical engineering major who spent his 2018 summer on the UVA in Italy: Siena program. Read below how his experience of a contrada festival took him back to childhood memories of home.

 

 

When I was growing up, I lived on a cul-de-sac in a suburban neighborhood. Families with children lived in every house on my street, so Razor-scooter races and wiffleball matches occupied most afternoons and weekends throughout the summer. Every August, the neighborhood would host a block party. Fathers would wheel their grills to one family’s driveway while us children would squeal around in another family’s backyard and spray each other with water guns. The late afternoons would always consist of a main event—one year it was homemade mini golf course, another year it was a family-versus-family obstacle course—and evenings would always begin with a barbecue under a rented tent. Over time, people would age, families would move away, and the block parties would end for good, but I am still nostalgic of those memories.

Those memories unexpectedly surfaced last night. After three of my friends and I cooked pasta in their apartment, we were invited to join some other study-abroad students for our friend’s birthday celebration at the overwatch—a park we named for its incredible view of the Siena skyline. On our walk over, we were greeted by something that looked like a block party; fathers drank beer as they grilled various meats, small children ran around and screamed (quite loudly), adolescents hung out in cliques, and an entire neighborhood ate a massive dinner together under a graduation-party-style tent. We found a contrada festival.

My Italian roommates have explained contrada festivals to me before. Siena contrade—or neighborhoods—host massive block parties every summer around the time of the Palio di Siena—a famous horse race that takes place in the center of the city. Temporary performance stages, hired gelato vendors, games that in one way or another relate to the Palio, and excited chattering facilitate an atmosphere of tradition and community. These events further indicate the Siena population’s pride toward their contrade. I have woken up in the middle of the night several times to contrade rallies and their sounds of melodic hollering and drum-beating, and flags of each of the 17 contrade now fly along most of the city streets. In the Piazza del Campo—the city center—fences are already put in place for the race, and everyone sounds just a little more excited. Siena may be a “small” city, but it is overflowing in tradition, pride, and culture. The Palio is approaching, and it is palpable in the air.

 

Impressions of Edinburgh

Sabrina Stenberg is a third-year chemical engineering major currently studying in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh for the 2018-19 school year. Take a look at some of her pictures so far, taken in September and October! Stay tuned for more pictures from Sabrina later on as she continues her education abroad experience.

JK Rowling started and finished writing Harry Potter in Edinburgh, so there are Harry Potter shops on almost every main street. This one represents multiple fandoms!

Edinburgh Castle is situated on an easily defensible hilltop. This view is from Grassmarket.

The docks of Leith at sunset, next to the mall Ocean Terminal. One can look at boats and shop!

The National Museum of Scotland is Dolly the Sheep’s final resting place. The University of Edinburgh was heavily involved in the cloning of Dolly!

George Square Gardens is a beautiful getaway in the heart of central campus.

One of the old golf courses in St Andrews, which claims to be the “Home of Golf.” This is one of the courses where the British Open can be held!

Cross Kirk in the Scottish village Peebles is one of many church ruins in Scotland. Castle and church ruins hunting is a fun hobby!

Although I visited Loch Ness on a rainy day, I preferred it because it had a moody, mysterious atmosphere due to fog and mist. Is that you, Nessie?

Rose Street is a pedestrian-only street in the New Town of Edinburgh. It is the location of many fine restaurants and shops like L’Occitane en Provence.

Although I live about four miles away from my engineering classes, I enjoy living in close proximity to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (they don’t say “botanical gardens” here). It is a huge complex that is great for strolls and photography.

Japan: Commuting and Conversing

Marguerite Franklin is currently a 3rd year Japanese and biology major who studied at KCP International Japanese Language School in Tokyo this past summer. Though her time in Japan was short, she learned a lot and had a great experience, which you can read snippets of below!

Commuting in Tokyo

One thing I of course knew before going to Tokyo was the intensity of commutes on the trains. I have quite a few factors going against me: first, being a city, people rarely idle and are always on the move to their destinations. Secondly, Tokyo is an absolutely massive city. And finally, the station that I have to pass through is the busiest station in said city, seeing over a million people a day on average. With all of this in mind, it is not difficult to imagine that the cars of the trains get packed rather quickly. Even knowing all this, I was still unprepared for the complete absence of personal space that was shared with fellow commuters.

It was easy to become self-conscious on the train. No matter how much I may have tried, sometimes I would end up knocking into someone’s side or stepping on their shoes. I felt like I was sticking out like a sore thumb due to my own clumsiness and wondered whether it was possible to ever become acclimated to such an embarrassing predicament. Yet here I am, a week in and I already view my time on the train as a rather fascinating event that I no longer worry about. But what changed in my short time here?

I think I became a lot less nervous when I stepped back and reminded myself that all of the people around me are indeed strangers. I know nothing about them and they know nothing about me, whatever ideas about me that they may hold in their heads are unlikely to be conveyed to me. Observing others, I noticed people nearly falling from paying more attention to their phones than the train coming to a halt, people dropping their phones, and several other incidents where no one batted an eye. I realized how much I overestimated my own importance, it was a small reality check of sorts. Moving forward, I will remind myself that I will always be my greatest critic.

An Unexpected Conversation

As the weeks have passed, I have become so used to my commute to and from school that I unfortunately developed the tendency to somewhat zone out. I pass certain landmarks, such as the McDonald’s by the station entrance, or the Shinto shrine to keep myself on the proper course. However, I am otherwise more focused on the music playing on my phone. I guess you could say I have fallen into a state that has taken my surroundings for granite. Today, however, was different.

I pass the small lot that usually has stray cats, but this time there is no one around and I feel a bit more bold than usual. So I approach a black cat sheepishly, hoping that I would not end up with some scratches. I am pleasantly surprised not only when it meows and rubs against me, but another tabby cat joins us. As I enjoy my impromptu therapy session petting the cats, an older woman comes out commenting how cute they are. The introvert in me instinctively wants to excuse myself and prevent an extended conversation, but the more responsible side of my psyche reminds me that I have little time and want to make the most out of what I have left.

For the vast majority of our talk, I could properly understand what was being said. I will admit that there were times when I had to kind of nod along or just outright say “I don’t understand”, but the woman was very patient and kind. Before I knew it, we talked about common topics like where I am from, to more personal topics such as politics. Before I knew it, a whole hour had passed. Even though it put my whole schedule for doing homework off, I was grateful to be able to get an extended one-on-one practice with my conversational skills. I only have a little over a week left and I am still able to find new things to enjoy even during my regular routine; I’m definitely going to miss Japan, but I know I’ll be back soon.

A Summer in South Korea

Minsi Sun, a linguistics major, finished out her 2nd year this past summer at Yonsei International Summer School in South Korea. During her experience she took many photos to share what she saw and learned there, so keep scrolling to learn more about it!

Taken in a Buddhist temple in Gangwon province. In the picture I am making a wish by writing on the tile, following one of the Buddhist traditions.

Taken outside of an intestine store in Sinchon. Like many other Asian countries, Korean people enjoy eating the inside of animals, and the intestines are popular choices. I personally think they are too oily.

Taken at the entrance to an old train station. The sign reads “To Pyeongyang”, which is the capital of North Korea. People were able to take a train to North Korea before but not anymore.

Taken in a fusional Korean restaurant in Seoul. The traditional lamp has both Korean and Chinese characters on them, a common way of writing before modern time. Before the 15th century, Korea used Chinese characters for their writing system before the invention of Hangul.

Taken at a famous restaurant for soybean paste noodles. The dish actually came from China, but now the Korean version is far more famous. They taste quite different, though.

Taken at the palace from Silla Period in Gyeongju. I was amazed by how the side was well preserved and how pretty it is at night.

Taken at the MBC (Culture Broadcasting Company) theme park in Seoul. Interesting pictures can be taken with famous dramas and entertainment shows. What a good way for people to experience K-pop!

Taken at the Incheon International Airport. Staff members would dress up like the royal family and parade around the airport. It is such a good way of exporting their culture.

Taking pictures in the traditional Korean clothing—Hanbok in the royal palace Gyeongbokgong in Seoul. If you go into the palace wearing Hanbok, the entrance fee is waived. All kinds of tourists wear colorful Hanbok on the street, and it is such a good way to promote the traditional costume.

Sweden: An Ode to Fika and The Final Presentation

Camryn Burley is a systems engineering major who studied on the UVA in Sweden: Global Sustainability Consulting program this past summer. During her time there, she worked on a consulting project at Garaget, which she describes as “a unique public library in Malmö that responds to the needs of its users and offers spaces for reading, studying, coffee, creating, and much more.” Keep reading to see some of what she learned from her experience abroad.

Ode to Fika

Fika is a Swedish tradition of a coffee break with pastries or cookies. It is a very social practice and most workplaces have at least one fika, sometimes two fika or more, per day. We were introduced to fika on the first full day in Sweden, and I loved the concept and how I felt during and after the fika.

fika is the rich
brown of coffee that matches
the wooden table
marked by rings of both
tree growth and
drips from the many mugs
set upon it each day

fika is the feel of
smooth ceramic
under my palms
and soft pastry crumbling
under my fingers
as I pull off the next bite

fika is the smell of the fresh brew
entering my lungs, sweet
and sharp,
rising with the steam from cups
that comes in tendrils
not unlike the ivy crawling
the bricked buildings
and brushing cobblestone paths
outside

fika is my spirits feeling as light as the vapor
as I smile at my neighbor
with cinnamon-smeared lips,
icing still melting on my tongue

fika is warming our hands with mugs,
stomachs with tea,
and hearts with conversation

The Final Presentation

I had not thought that the final presentation part of this program would be very different than any other presentation I’ve given before, but I had not considered how a foreign audience would change things. We had a briefing about how best to deliver our final presentation to explain the work we had done for the past three weeks to our client. We were told to avoid idioms and speak slowly, in addition to keeping our presentations short by including only relevant content and elaborating where necessary in the report we delivered to them. It struck me, while planning the presentation and then delivering it, how important clear communication between parties that speak different languages is. Though all of the clients for this program spoke English, it was not their first language, and there were also varying degrees of comfort with speaking English. The presentation is something that I will definitely take away from this program and think about long after. I am more confident that, in the future, I could communicate with a foreign client through presentation, conversation, email, etc., because I have now actually been able to interact with a group of people from a different country than myself in a professional setting. I also think that giving a presentation to an international audience will help me with any future presentation I might give, as I know better how to use clear and concise language that a wide range of people will understand.

I feel like I’ve come a long way in my knowledge of international cultures and especially business relationships. I hadn’t thought of all of the complexities that would come up, such as giving presentations, but I now have experience with many of those situations. Another learning point for me in regard to international relationships is that I learned that Swedish people tend to be more direct in giving feedback; if they do not think something will work, they will say so without beating around the bush. This took some getting used to, but eventually I was happy that they would say what was on their minds instead of us trying to decipher their feelings about our designs. I am also glad to have had the chance to learn about Swedish culture through working with our client, Garaget, where all of the staff were very welcoming and answered many questions we had about Sweden. By the end, we had a strong professional and personal relationship with two of employees in higher management positions. It was really great to talk to them about their travels in the US and other places at the fika after our presentation. I am continually grateful to have had the opportunity to learn more about Sweden and its culture in ways that I could not have just by visiting as a tourist.