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Classes and Piazzas

May 14, 2012 by Anne Gabrielle Boucher in Europe



My time in Bologna is coming to an end and I am now feeling at home in Bologna!

Last Monday I took the “dreaded” oral exam for my university course on "Archeology and Art History of Ravenna and Byzantine".  Thankfully it went very well and was practically painless since I had studied and attended every lecture. These next couple weeks I'm finishing my other class on "Italian Political History (1943-2000)". This is perhaps my favorite course of the whole semester. It’s complicated, challenging and makes me think critically about our own American political system. The political history course is particularly fascinating because it gives the context and history of the economic and social-political problems happening today in Italy—problems that are rooted since WWII and very closely linked with the United States.

Political discussions are a very important part of everyday life in Italy and the piazza is often the place where people congregate to discuss their ideas, stories and political views. It is very common to walk across the piazza one evening and see a circle of people listening as people take turns talking about where they think the government should go next, particularly in this time of crisis where Italians are unsure as to what will happen next, if anything. The piazza is something I'm going to miss when I come back to the States. A place to be seen, see others and enjoy the center of the city. 

About me.

Apr 10, 2012 by Jane Chapin in Europe

Bonjour à tous!

I am from Marblehead, Massachusetts, the quintessential oceanfront town where summers are spent at the helm of a sailboat or on a rocky beach soaking up the sun. As a Frances Perkins student, I welcomed this opportunity to spend a semester abroad. Though I have traveled extensively, the chance to live abroad is quite different and I value the opportunity to experience French culture, not through the eyes of a traveler but as a resident. This spring I will be completing my junior year as double math and French major, but currently my study is focused on everything French. In Montpellier I am studying at the Université de Paul Valérie taking classes in Geography, 19th century French history and naturally, French grammar and phonetics. I am grateful to have had this opportunity to study in France and immerse myself in the culture and language. I am certain this experience will benefit me immensely in achieving my ultimate goal of becoming an educator.

Go Ahead, Be Brave!

Mar 05, 2012 by Angela Avoryie in Asia

안녕하세요 (Hello) everyone!

 I have been living in Seoul, South Korea for about two weeks now, and I have learned some very helpful lessons so far. Sookmyung Women's University is located in Yongsan-gu, a very popular part of Seoul and life here is completely different than South Hadley. One of the best ways that I have learned to cope with the change was by simply trying to be fearless. Today I went to a popular nearby restaurant to try some Kimchi Chigae (Kimchi Stew) with some friends, and while most restaurants in Yongsan are English friendly, this one was not. Unfortunately I was elected to order for the table in Korean, but my roommate encouraged me by saying: "Go ahead, be brave!" Who knew the the answer to all of my fears at that moment was a healthy dose of bravery?! The past two weeks have taught me that my fear and nervousness shouldn't hold me back from wonderful new experiences. If I hadn't ordered, then I would not have gotten to try such a delicious dish!


I have also learned that being fearless is a great remedy for homesickness. Whenever I am missing MHC or my friends, I try to meet someone new or explore a new part of the campus. I still miss everyone back in the States, but I have been able to make wonderful new memories. 

Thinking back, I remember how scary it was to apply to study abroad, and it was even scarier to board the plane to Seoul. I have tried to rationalize my fear by thinking of how wonderful both scary decisions have turned out be be. If I can do it, then anyone can! Go ahead, be brave!

Mamma Mia! A Month in Italy!

Feb 21, 2012 by Anne Gabrielle Boucher in Europe

Mamma mia, I’ve been in Bologna for a month! It’s amazing to wake up in the morning and be greeted by the Italian language wherever I go. It’s been a hectic month full of apartment hunting, getting to know the city and finally after an unusual amount of snow starting my classes!

Let me situate you, dear readers, to life in Italy. I live with three Italian roommates in an apartment off a lively street called via Pratello with many bars and restaurants frequented by students.  The street also has its set of characters such as the “Contessa Melania” who wears bright red lipstick, the same black dress and screams like a dog. The “Contessa” also dances in the streets, kicks/hits men and sends kisses to the ladies!

A striking difference between the States and Italy is that Italians mainly study during the day. There are no late nights at the library. Libraries usually close by 8 pm or earlier. Instead, the Bolognese go out in the evening with friends, have dinner with their families. Because Bologna is a University town there is something to do every night and the music scene is very vibrant with people performing in restaurants all the time. From what I’ve gathered from my conversations with Italians is that Italians don’t wake up in the morning thinking about all the work they have to do. Instead they go about their day making sure they take the time to eat well and enjoy their time with friends and family. For some reason I always find it hard after spending time in Europe to bring back to the United States this attitude of enjoying life at a slower pace. I think it’s because society in the US is geared towards this idea of efficiency and productivity when in reality we probably end up being more stressed. 

On another note, last weekend I went to Venice for Carnevale! I had been to Venice before, but this was my first time in the atmosphere of Carnevale where people come from all over come to show off their costumes. It is the place to be seen and a photographer's paradise. I had a wonderful time because I met up with two other Mount Holyoke Students studying abroad in Florence and Montpellier. It was fun to catch up and share stories about our experiences. I'm off to study for an art history midterm on Giotto but will be back to talk in more detail about the Italian university system and how 7 out of 10 italian males from the age of 25 to 29 still live at home (From an article we read in class called "Nella famigila-tana è troppo dolce la vita dei giovani adulti").  


X-treme Studying (Sort of...)

Feb 21, 2012 by Sylvan Creekmore in Europe

This weekend, I jumped out of a plane. What did you do?

No, really. One of my housemates, who is a member of the Skydiving Society, mentioned that there was a spot on the bus last Wednesday, and so I signed up and two days later I was at Hibaldstow Skydiving, the largest skydiving center in the UK, and two days after that (we were there the whole weekend, because you have to wait for the perfect weather conditions) I was falling through the air at roughly 150 miles a second from 15,000 ft with another person strapped on my back. If you ever have the opportunity to skydive, grab it and don’t let go until you’ve landed. It was terrifying and humbling and spectacular.

I have also joined the University Women’s Cricket Club, at the urging of Ellen Whitehead, who some of you will remember from her exchange year at MHC last year. (Also, that's a cricket ball up there.) I will not try to explain the rules to you, because she has done a far better job than I could here: https://sites.google.com/a/yusu.org/york-womens-cricket/lets-learn-cricket, on the club’s website. We are just practicing for now; since cricket is a summer sport, our first match will be in April. Await my updates on how badly (yet respectfully) we crush our opponents.

I have my first pieces of writing due this week: two short essays of 1000 words, which don’t factor into my grade as a visiting student. This means that my entire grade for each course is entirely based on the final paper. This is very new to me, and so it is nice that I will have a practice go at each essay and receive feedback, since it is likely that the writing expectations here in the UK will differ from those in the US.

It is Pancake Day here (the beginning of Lent), and my housemates say that there might be pancakes at dinner tonight. However, English pancakes are actually crepes, not at all like our thick American pancakes. While they will still be delicious, I think I will always have a soft spot for huge, banana-chocolate-chip dinner pancakes.

English slang: Fairy liquid. Any guesses?

It’s dishwashing liquid. The Brits more commonly call it washing-up liquid.

Here's looking at you, Rabat: Kalyani Monteiro Jayasankar

Jan 25, 2012 by Kalyani Jayasankar in Africa

As-Salamu Alaykum! My name is Kalyani. In exactly two days, I will board an airplane bound for Rabat, Morocco, where I will be studying for almost four months as part of the School of International Training's (SIT ) Migration and Transnational Identity program.

I am a Sociology major with a interest in Urban Sociology, particularly in migration and public space. Though Rabat is smaller than Casablanca and certainly smaller than the city I come from, Mumbai, it still shares the characteristics of many cities in the global south. The SIT program focuses on migration, a very relevant theme in Morocco, which has a high emigration rate and a large transit migrant population. I am especially interested in the ways in which migrants negotiate and occupy urban public space.

While I know that learning and living in Rabat will be an exciting experience, I'm a little nervous since I speak very rudimentary French and virtually no Arabic (or Darija the Moroccan dialect). Fingers crossed that it all goes well and that I will be able to rap in Darija when I get back.

Here's looking at you, Rabat (with due apologies to Casablanca and Humphrey Bogart!).

Angela Avoryie

Jan 24, 2012 by Angela Avoryie in Asia


My name is Angela Avoryie, and I am a junior majoring in history. I truly believe that becoming a history major was one of the best decisions that I have made at MHC (mainly because I love to read about past events, cool battles, charismatic leaders, etc.). My geographical concentration has shifted from South Asia towards Central and Eastern Asia soooo---

This spring semester I will be studying abroad at Sookmyung Women's University in Seoul, South Korea!

Some of my goals while abroad are to study Korean history, learn a respectable amount of the language, and further explore Asian history and culture. At MHC I was able to learn a little about Korean food, music, and movies through friends, and I am excited for the opportunity to experience Korean culture first hand.

My spring semester will begin in late February and end in mid-June.  Wish me luck!


Sylvan Creekmore - Call me Sylvie.

Jan 24, 2012 by Sylvan Creekmore in Europe

Hey! My name is Sylvie, and I’m studying at the University of York in York, England from two weeks ago until the end of June. I’m already here, since York’s spring term stared the second week of January. I’m studying in both the English Literature and Philosophy departments on campus, so I’m taking The Romantic Period and Women & Word in Early Modern Europe from English, and Creativity and Bioethics from Philosophy this term, and Love and Desire in the Middle Ages and Joyce’s Ulysses summer term.

One never knows if, upon entering a new country or culture, it will be immediately apparent that something is different or foreign. Strangely, I did have that experience while still in the airplane, though it took me a moment to figure out why. Approaching Manchester International Airport, in the dark, at 6:55 am local time (1:55 am EST) something on the ground looked a bit…odd, like a building you pass everyday and then suddenly you look at it and you know something’s changed but you can’t for the life of you pinpoint what — until I realized that the small yellow headlights of cars on the dimly-lit streets were visible, driving on the right (wrong) side of the road.

Passing through customs, I had another moment like that. Many of the signs at the gates had two lines of text on them, and I fully expected — every time I read one — that the second line would be the message repeated in Spanish. Nope, Dorothy. It’s all English. You’re not in really-we’re-not-bilingual-we-promise-Kansas anymore. (Sorry. I had to use the Dorothy/Kansas line. Don’t pretend you wouldn’t have missed it if I hadn’t.)

Also, the men’s restroom is the Gents’ Toilet, and it only took about thirty seconds out on the train from the airport for me to pass a football field (European, not American). And trains don’t simply stop; they “call” at stations, as “This train will be calling at Dewsbury, Leeds and York.”

I’ll leave you with a bit of English English: Copperplate. What could that be?

It’s cursive handwriting. Did you get it right?

Anne Gabrielle Boucher

Jan 24, 2012 by Anne Gabrielle Boucher in Europe

Ciao a tutti! My name is Anne-Gabrielle Boucher and I am a junior majoring in European Studies with a focus in Italian and art history. This semester I will be in Bologna, Italy learning the art of eating food and,  of course,  how to speak Italian. I plan on taking literature, art history, and film classes taught in Italian at the University of Bologna as well as my program center,  Indiana University’s Bologna Consortial Studies Program (BCSP).  Bologna, just 30 minutes north of Florence by train, is the oldest university in Europe and is known for its porticos and food.  By the end of the sixth months I hope to have hugely improved my Italian and integrated myself into the culture.

Mariana Vasquez-Credé

Jan 18, 2012 by Mariana Vasquez-Crede in Latin America

At school people call me "Yana"; my full name is Mariana Vasquez-Credé.  My mom is Puerto-Rican, and my dad, Californian. This semester I am studying with the MHC program in Monteverde, Costa Rica.  I cannot wait to become part of the community in Monteverde and learn to speak like "una tica."

 I am a sophomore at Mount Holyoke and an Environmental Studies major with a concentration on ecosystem science. My favorite part of science is lab because it is applicable; I am quite the hands-on learner.  In addition to my love of Spanish, I love being outside, farming, hiking, "yogging" (the equivalent to very slow jogging), dancing, and just exploring.

I selected the Monteverde program because I am looking for a fantastic hands-on learning experience in environmental science and Spanish immersion. I can already tell how hard all of the coordinators are working to provide us the best experience possible.

CLS in Retrospect

Aug 26, 2011 by Linnea Johnson in Asia

My summer with CLS is over. I’m done with 5 am cramming for dictation, with late-night preparations for presentations, and with the endless memorization of Chinese essay after Chinese essay. I’m done being an “American student living the life of a Chinese student,” as my Chinese friend so triumphantly and slightly vindictively put it—something he’d been waiting years to see.

Don’t get me wrong—I am not bitter. In fact, quite the contrary: I am thoroughly grateful, and regret nothing about the summer and from it I could not ask for anything more. My Chinese is better, much better, than before I arrived, and I have already had numerous opportunities to appreciate the fruits of my efforts during the grueling previous two months. I’ve gained insight I didn’t know was attainable into peoples’ lives, values, and traditions, and I've further honed in on my interests and life goals. The photos below are a tiny window into some of the experiences this summer has made possible for me.

Looking back, what I’ve gained from the experience in a broader sense is more difficult for me to articulate. The CLS program officially ended on August 7. The conclusion of the program, while admittedly at times long anticipated, came more quickly than I had imagined and felt unnaturally abrupt. In just weeks, our group of CLS students in Shanghai had gone from being classmates to close friends, and watching them leave on the rainy, post-typhoon early morning of August 7 didn’t seem right. Through our common interest in China and uniting bold aspirations, I had “found my people” in the CLSers. It troubled me to watch my newfound community dissipate.

After a few weeks of continued communication with my CLS classmates, however, I came to realize that “going our own ways” didn’t mean we’d disappear from each others’ lives. Yes, we’ve scattered geographically, but the community I became a part of with CLS is based on more than geographic proximity. The CLS program placed me in a community of China enthusiasts, who undoubtedly will be successful scholars, diplomats, and professionals in their varied China-related fields. It brought me into a circle of inspiring people whose paths, like my own, are already continually crossing, whose futures, like my own, are unmistakably intertwined. It is being in a community of strong, passionate, intelligent people that is the most beneficial gift I have gotten this summer from CLS and from Mount Holyoke. What a summer, and what a gift!

Murales y despedida

Aug 24, 2011 by Cory Ventres-Pake in Latin America

I've wanted to be a mural painter for a while. To get into painting class at MHC, I basically got down on my knees (figuratively speaking) and explained this long-time aspiration to the professor.

Understandably then, when somebody mentioned the desire to carry out a mural project in the community here, I jumped on the opportunity. Thus, a good portion of my time this summer was dedicated to figuring out how to write a project proposal and budget, coordinating and re-coordinating with community members and school directors, talking about methods, and designing the mural. The outcome? Sixty schoolchildren, 12 youth health promoters, four days, and two big, inviting walls.

I have learned that often times people are wise. What they say about being able to do anything that you set your mind to is relatively true...it just isn't always easy! We had four days. Four days filled with confusion. (Despite my claims of competency to get the project off the ground, I had never run a mural project before. Additionally, we had to change our designs last minute!) Four days of stressed preparation. (Would all the kids fit at the wall? How could we control their use of the paint?) Four days of 21 questions and autograph requests from curious schoolchildren. Four days of cold showers and wearing the same clothes. (It's a big process—I decided to stay the night in the community a few days in a row. Good thing I got to change my plastic bag/artist's apron every day!) Four days of pure bliss!


It was too difficult to say goodbye—too hard to whine out my thousand thanks in my practiced Carabayllo accent. The surprise despedida (going away party) the community held for me was amazing, adorable, and such a blast I almost forgot how much I was already missing them. The children I worked with and their mothers came, and I experienced a true Peruvian party. This summer was good to me, words cannot express my gratitude. The Lois y Tomas community center will occupy a special place in my heart forever!

My favorite clowns rule "La hora loca" at the despedida!

Breakfast of Champions

Aug 22, 2011 by Cory Ventres-Pake in Latin America

Those lines on the street? Just a suggestion. And the one-way arrows? They must have been painted in the wrong direction!

I spend an hour every morning mesmerized by the traffic. Cars, buses, taxis, and mototaxis weave in and out of the lines, speed up and slow down as they please, and miraculously stop just at the right time. Every day, we travel about two-thirds of the sprawling city of Lima, watching the neighborhoods change while dancing the traffic waltz. Sometimes I plan out my day during the commute; other times I just stare out the window, hoping to take it all in before I'm gone.

Sometimes I’m combing my hair in the mirror when the bell rings. Other times I’m in the kitchen, snapping the lid on the Tupperware I bring for lunch when the call comes: 6:50 am, my ride has arrived.

I arrive at the office at 8 am and prepare the lesson plan for the day with my supervisor. We run programs at the community center from 9 to 11 am and again from 3 to 5 pm, working with 12 to 35 kids. The youth health promoters provide support in daily activities, in addition to designing trainings for children and their parents about health-related themes.

Every day at snack time, we sing the champion song for the kids who finish all their food. I extended the meaning of "championhood" to all small victories in life. For example:

  • I was picked every single time in "heads-up seven-up."
  • I managed to eat fried liver twice for a snack, and convince my school-age companions that not only is it my favorite food, but they also love it!
  • Small children jump up and down and scream my name whenever I walk through the community, “Cory MORY cory MORY cory MORY!!!”

I am tired at the end of the day when I get in the car to start my commute home. I watch the houses change as the city moves by slowly in the night traffic. When I step out at my apartment, only the dust on my shoes is left to convince me that this is not just the dream of a champion.

A Summer at Chateau de Chantilly: Making Connections

Aug 19, 2011 by Lucy Abbott in Europe

What an experience this has been. It is one thing to experience France strictly as a Parisian adventure, but to get to know another town and delve into its rich cultural history is definitely something else! I spent seven weeks in Chantilly, working as an English tour guide through the chateau’s grand apartments. This was my first experience giving presentations to groups, and I can say now at the end of my internship that I was successful in my position and can’t wait to continue. During my stay here, I was fortunate to experience a little bit of everything that goes on in the domain—from the International Chantilly Jumping competition to the famous Chantilly whipped creme at the Chateau park’s Hameau Restaurant.

(Tarte des Fraises with Chantilly Cream at the Hameau Restaurant)

Getting to know the town as well as its people and visitors has been the best and most rewarding element of my time here. Thinking back over the entirety of my time here, I see a common theme: making connections. I made connections not only by meeting people (other guides and chateau staff members as well as visitors), but also by making constant connections back to my studies at MHC. As an art history and English literature double-concentration, the information I’d brought with me from my Nineteenth-Century European Paintings class on Ingres, Delacroix, and Poussin (to name a few) gave the incredible painting collection collected by the Duc d’Aumale all that much more meaning to me. Seeing the pieces I’d studied was a connection I’ll carry with me always.

As an English tour guide, I was giving tours to not only Americans and visitors from the United Kingdom, but also to Taiwanese, Japanese, Belgian, Indian, and Russian visitors. I served a worldwide crowd in my time here and even met a couple from two towns over from my home back in the states. Being able to spread the knowledge about Chantilly and its rich history to such an expanse of visitors with different perspectives and interests has been priceless. It is my hope that these visitors will go on to make connections through their memories of Chantilly back in their own countries and homelands and spread some of the knowledge they gained here.

(Leading a tour group in the Chambre de M. Le Prince, the bedchamber of the Louis II de Bourbon Conde)

As I prepare for my senior year at school in Massachusetts, I bring with me the connections I’ve made in Chantilly. I will no doubt make more links in my classes this year to things I learned here in Chantilly. I am additionally in the process of developing an independent study for the spring on the development from nineteenth-century museums (inspired by the Duc’s hanging style in the painting galleries) into twentieth-century museums we visit today. Connections are definitively apparent in my studies, and through them I wish to spread my own interest and love for Chantilly to classmates and professors in the United States.

A Driven Youth

Aug 19, 2011 by Marisa Lum in Asia

Are college students too idealistic? In a recent debate, a sociology professor at NYU categorized the current generation of college grads as "drifting dreamers," individuals who have high ambitions, but no clear life plan for reaching them. They are a group of jaded young individuals who consider themselves to have the "rite of passage" in a dwindling job market—assuming that little efforts will lead to success.

In a 40-minute car ride from Beijing's university hub to my homestay in the center of Beijing, I found myself engrossed in a deep discussion about China's youth in the wee hours of the morning. Conflicted about my own personal woes for plans post-graduation, I asked my driver about his hopes for his son as he enters his third year of high school, the year of the dreaded college examination, the gaokao. His answer was simple. He had one hope for his son: that he would approach things in life with a practical attitude. He went on to explain that China's young generation was too idealistic. My taxi driver was convinced that because of this many college graduates were left with low-paying jobs and unrealized dreams. We winded through the morning traffic as he tried to explain why he had adopted a philosophy of indifference toward his son's future. We reached the silver archway that led to my apartment complex and he uttered, "I only hope that my son will be grounded in his decision making and live a happy life."

Looking for more answers, I asked a fellow Chinese-native Smith intern, Zhai, about this question of idealism versus pragmatism in the eyes of her parents. She was quick to agree that her parents, like my taxi driver, also did not weigh her down with the pressure of expectations, but just wanted her to be happy. After conversing with a few of the other Chinese interns in the office, I found that they had similar answers. One intern explained to me how her parents had always reminded her of the benefits of diligence echoed in one of Mao Zedong’s famous quotes: haohao xuexi, tiantian xiangshang—often funnily translated as "good good study, day day up up," meaning "if one studies hard, they will make progress every day." What happened to all of the tiger mothers? Where were they all hiding? All of this talk about happiness and indifference made me wonder whether young adults' idealism was a result of excessive coddling and the lack of pressure that parents were giving their kids—a phenomena that seems to be present in both the states and China.

At the same time, it made me respect my peers even more. If their parents were pandering to their every need and babbling on about happiness 24/7, and they were still this self-motivated and persistent in achieving their goals, then boy, was American youth behind in the game. All 12 of the Chinese interns had impeccable English and at least one year of experience abroad. Their hunger and drive was something I found to be missing amongst my friends back in the states. Not to say that they completely lack ambition, but there was something about my peers’ energy—it was pervasive. I always felt the buzz in the office.

It also helped that our office was undergoing renovation and all of us were crammed into a conference room. Doesn’t it resemble a wang ba or an internet café?

I am thankful for this opportunity to have been able to intern at Edelman. The people I met and the things I learned this summer have created memories I will take back with me to Mount Holyoke. When walking in the Beijing airport to board my plane to New York, I passed a billboard that caught my eye. I took a double take and realized that it was one of Edelman’s clients I had been writing monthly media summaries and press releases for all summer!