The best part about being abroad in Europe is the ability to travel cheaply. Of all the major cities I visited, Berlin was one of Europe’s real gems. From shortcomings of the German sense of humor to the popularity of bubble tea to evocative instances of Jewish remembrance, Berlin provided the best combination of both outrageously entertaining and more thought provoking experiences.
On my second night in Berlin, I accompanied my friend Aaron to an East Berlin party in Mitte. The entrance to the building was located at the end of a dark alley that led to a series of soviet era giant courtyards. As I entered, I encountered a room full of Berliners speaking German very loudly and making references to antiquated pop culture such as Two and Half Men, King of Queens, and Murder She Wrote. While extremely friendly and fun, one asset that Berliners lack (though they definitely do not realize it) is a sense of humor! The funniest thing at the time was a video of an epic break-dance battle between two boys wearing gold chains and flopping around on the ground like fish in a boat. I just pretended to laugh awkwardly realizing that Germans are always watching, and they find that hilarious.
Berliners are also ardent fans of Hertha, their very mediocre football team wishing it was a European juggernaut. I was told that no trip to Berlin is complete without visiting the Olympic Stadium and seeing Hertha battle it out against a league rival (this was same stadium that Jesse Owens ran his historic race!). While our obstructed last row seats were less than ideal, we were surrounded by drunken Berliners singing and chanting about Hertha BSC, and we soon joined in. Despite a tiny 5 year old child flipping off the other team when they scored, Heartha sadly lost 2 to 1. Continue reading ““Ich bin ein Berliner””
Amidst the bucket “showers”, episodes of South African soap operas, and discussing politics with my mama, the culture shock of the lightning storm that transpired on February 16th was the most memorable. I was walking with my sister and my friend Ariana when we first noticed the sky getting darker. My sister, Sanele, told us that she was scared and thought that we ought to go back to our house before it started raining. Sanele is probably the most fearless and outgoing 14 year old I have ever met so hearing her mutter any sounds of vulnerability was something highly unusual. When we finally reached our house, it had already started raining.
There was an odd quiet and calmness to the house. When all of my siblings and mother were home, the television was kept on, house music blasted out of the stereo and my brother, Simphiwe was always laughing and text messaging his friends. Sanele was usually outside singing and dancing with her friends or neighbors. Now, however, everyone was seated in the couches and lounge chairs in the living room area. My mama started preparing the house for the thunderstorm. She covered the mirror with a blanket, turned off the radio and television and covered the windows with the shades. As the rain started to pour, the house became increasingly quieter. Whenever I attempted to peer outside of the windows by pulling back a curtain, my mama shot me a subtle glance of disapproval. My mother sat on couch and covered her head with her hands and slowly rocked back and forth. My brothers also became eerily silent and looked at the floor. Kuhlekan, my 20-year old brother, had a newspaper over his face. Continue reading “Rain in South Africa”
This past spring I traveled outside of the United States for the first time in my life. I was on my way to Freiburg, Germany to spend four months in the IES European Union Program. I chose this program because of my interest in international politics and travel, and this opportunity afforded me a lot of both. I learned more about the EU than many European citizens know and I traveled to 13 different countries. It was an amazing experience in every aspect. I made great friends and had lots of fun traveling and visiting cities like Rome, London, Copenhagen, and Tallinn. I went sledding down an entire mountain in the Swiss Alps and I went hiking on the cliffs of the Mediterranean Ocean in Cinque Terre. I visited the UN in Geneva, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, the Reichstag in Berlin, and even interned at the European Parliament in Brussels for a month.
My internship was probably the most exciting and interesting aspect of my study abroad experience. I lived in Brussels for a month and went to work at the European Parliament in the office of Zita Gurmai. Mrs. Gurmai is a socialist member of the European Parliament (MEP) from Hungary whose main interests are women’s rights and gender equality. While compiling information for Mrs. Gurmai’s visit to the U.S., I realized that gender issues are basically nonexistent in American politics right now. I also learned that socialism is a legitimate political ideology in Europe, and although it is a dirty word in American politics, many democratic positions are closer to socialism than democrats would care to admit. Europe as a whole is further left on the political spectrum than the U.S., although many social programs that Europeans take for granted are in danger of being cut by austerity measures. The Socialist & Democrat Party (S&D) that Mrs. Gurmai belongs to is strongly opposed to these cuts.
Continue reading “A European Summer”
I spent the semester of Spring 2010 working for Taylor Hampton Solicitors, a small law firm in London, England. We received a lot of phone calls and emails from concerned people at our office. Most of them were pulling at strings – people looking for attention, crazies with conspiracy theories, tipsters with no backing – but we followed up on every claim we could in case there was a bite on the other end of the line. During my four months, I got to experience some of the big bites but it was just after I left did the whole world realize that my last bite would end up snapping the line.
Taylor Hampton Solicitors specializes in media law and is located in the heart of London’s legal center. The lawyer I worked for at the firm was named Mark Lewis. Since mid-June he has been quoted in hundreds of publications all over the world. Why? He is one of the first, and one of the largest solicitors (a type of lawyer in the UK) working on the News of the World Phone Hacking case. His paramount case is that of the family of Milly Dowler – the 13-year-old girl whose phone was hacked while she was kidnapped and eventually found murdered. It was the case that brought down Rupert Murdoch’s historical tabloid ‘The News of the World’ and set into motion a chain of events that experts allege may eventually bring down Murdoch himself. Continue reading “London Calling, Yes I was There Too”
Ben Rifkin, Madagascar
A Malagasy man naps on top of a Taxi-Brousse in the capital, Antananarivo, before he embarks on a long journey across the country. I was about to embark on my own 24 hour non-stop cross-country journey in a similar Taxi-Brousse.
Jesse Appell, China
Da Shu Hua: A traditional festival I went to in Hebei Province, where a man hurls molten iron against a wall and it explodes as it falls back towards the ground. The festival is called “Da Shu Hua,” or, “To beat down the flowers from the trees.”
Madeline Stix, Bolivia
This photograph is taken during my village stay in the town of Tocoli (population 200), on the edge of Lake Titicaca, the lake with the second highest altitude in the world (at 14,000 feet). Two women from the village scuttling down the hill to prepare for our welcome “almuerzo” (lunch), which took place by the sacred waters of the lake.
Melissa Donze, India
“Smiles”: Sharing smiles at the community meeting on the Right to Food Campaign in Ullaluapanagar, Bangalore, India.
The director, Ms. Hill Marsh’s words echoed time and again for me. “I believe in divine intervention,” she would say. According to her, we had a calling – to develop these young men and women to become college graduates and to live as productive citizens.
This summer, I worked for Upward Bound at Le Moyne College, a small Jesuit school located in Syracuse, NY. The program gives low-income high school students (potential first generation college students) better opportunities to attend college. The program strikes a personal chord for me. Thirty years ago, my mother and her siblings were enrolled in the same program; they all graduated from college. They had immigrated to the US from Taiwan only a few years prior, and their parents had not even graduated from high school. Because my grandparents did not speak English, the program gave their children an academic foundation they might not have otherwise had.
I had many responsibilities. Not only was I tasked as a teaching assistant, but I also resided with the students in the Le Moyne dormitories and served as a resident adviser (RA) and personal adviser. I worked alongside six other college students, who were also responsible for the students’ academic and personal growth. We collaborated on the students’ curriculum and harnessed our skills to make the summer a fulfilling experience.
Continue reading “Leadership at Upward Bound”
If you are interested in traveling to Latin America to gain hands-on experience in global health, international development work and the fight against global poverty, consider this opportunity from non-profit organization MEDLIFE. Please find below, the announcement posted by MEDLIFE.
By Tess Raser
Every year millions of people come to Italy to see the Vatican, Renaissance art, and UNESCO sites, and to eat fine cuisine. I studied abroad, in the southern Italian island of Sicily (the largest in the Mediterranean). People come here for the beautiful beaches, Mt. Etna—Europe’s largest, most active volcano – and again, of course, the food. These people are tourists.
However, there is also another new group coming to Italy these days, especially to Sicily. Most of the people in this group are not Catholic or even Christian and have little interest in making a pilgrimage to the Vatican. Many of them did not study Botticelli and Michelangelo in school and are not flocking to the Uffizi in Florence. These people are immigrants and refugees. Before I came to Sicily, I had an interest in immigration in Italy because I took a course on modern Italian culture at Brandeis before going abroad. Immigration is a new phenomenon in Italy as Italians, specifically Sicilians, emigrated to other countries. The Italian government does not know how to deal with immigration and because of this does not have as many restrictions against immigration as other European Union countries do (e.g. France and Switzerland).
With all of this information in mind, and curious to learn more, I decided to volunteer at a center for immigrants and refugees in Catania, during my free time. At the center I taught Italian to the newest arrivals. At first, in February, most of my students were from western Africa, countries like Mali and Senegal. But then the war started in Libya. Due to my close proximity to an American military base I would often hear and see helicopters headed toward Libya that was relatively nearby. The second experience I had of the war was one rainy day when I had two new students. The two new students were 17 year old girls of Eritrean descent. They spoke a bit of English and were relieved to have finally found someone else at Centro Astalli that could speak a common language. They also felt comfortable around me because of my age and my familiar East African appearance. Continue reading “Another Side to the War in Libya”