Glitter: Travel Travel Travel

budapestby Josie Verchomin

High: I went to Budapest!!!

After having a rough week of work and writers block for days I met up with my friend Brady at the Dublin airport to fly to Budapest where we met up with Julia. We booked this trip through Weekend Study Abroad (WSA). They booked our hostel, bike tours, caving, and bath passes. After coming to the realization that I would need to write an essay while on this trip I figured my weekend would not be that great. Boy was I wrong. Exploring the city with two very understanding friends made this weekend productive and fun. I was only able to do this because my Mom gave me some great advise about doing work while traveling. She told me to put everything else aside and only allow myself to write this paper and be in Budapest. My favorite part about this trip was the Bike Tour. Our guide, Barbara, had grown up just outside the city and moved to Budapest to study the history and architecture. During her tour she was insanely passionate about everything having to do with those two subjects. IT WAS GREAT. I learned a lot about the city just from listening and biking with her. Biking through this city gave us a chance to see it all. I was won over by its ruins, cobbled streets, and intricate details. I fell in love with Budapest!

Low: HOMEWORK!!!!! ESSAYS!!!!!

My first real assignment was due this month. I knew traveling would impede my schoolwork, but I was optimistic until I wasn’t. An Essay was due between two of my trips. I wanted to finish it before traveling to Budapest but hours before I was supposed to take a bus to start that journey I had maybe written 100 words. I was sitting in my kitchen staring at my non-existent paper in utter and complete writers block. I was so distraught I ended up calling my mom – who whipped me back in to shape. I have to say traveling while in school is hard, but completely worth it.

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Glitter: TRAVEL!!! TRAVEL!!! TRAVEL!!!

I went to Bristol, Salisbury, STONEHENGE, Exeter, Dartmoor, Budapest, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. It was a month of incredible adventures in incredible cities, with incredible people. This is my glitter because the experience was dazzling and it isn’t over yet.

Hiking through Dartmoor

Hiking through Dartmoor

I am a junior at Smith College studying at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) this spring. At Smith I am working towards a theatre major, psych minor and Native American and indigenous studies certificate. While in Ireland I hope to explore the culture, and history, as well as the local theatre life.

Glitter: My Dad & Pepe the Goose

Volcán Santa Ana

Volcán Santa Ana

by Anne Ruelle

March 2015

High: My mom, dad, and little sister came to visit!  We climbed the tallest volcano in El Salvador, Volcán Santa Ana, went to the beach, and they came to my site to feel the true heat of Salvadoran summer in the East.

Low:  On the work front, projects are moving slowly and things that worked in the past are falling through.  April will have to turn things around!

Glitter:  My dad befriended a goose named Pepe when we stopped on the side of the road to rescue some ducklings who had fallen into a gutter.  He held him and even cuddled with him!

AnneAnne Ruelle graduated from Providence College in 2013.  By working to promote social change and forming strong relationships, she hopes to be a part of creating a more just, equal world.  She is currently a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Community Organization and Economic Development project in El Salvador and lives in a hot, rural community in the East.  She loves eating pupusas, salsa dancing, and learning Salvadoran “caliche” (slang).

The contents of these posts are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or Peace Corps.

Glitter: London Treasures

First-ever selfie on horseback

First-ever selfie on horseback after mock hunt

by Julia Greider

High: I was able to go on a lot of great horseback rides this month.

I’ve been taking lessons in Exeter since the beginning of February, but more recently I had the opportunity to go on quite a few hacks (riding out of the ring, in the countryside). First I went on a beach ride with the university riding club. Riding on the beach is something I had always wanted to do, and I was so happy to get the opportunity to do it! I believe it was also my first time actually riding at a full-out gallop, which was quite thrilling. The next week I went on a mock hunt with the riding club. Rather than having hounds following a fox scent, we followed a trail of crepe paper tied on the bushes at junctions and took on ourselves the role of the howling hounds. Probably the best ride, though, happened when my friend Anna, from the Smith equestrian team, came to visit. Along with an American friend whom I met here and take riding lessons with, we took a train and a bus to northern Devon and went on a long ride in Exmoor National Park. It was quite chilly, wet, and windy, but we were all up for the adventure of it. I loved the pony I got to ride – besides his confident and enthusiastic temperament, his name was Squire, which seems to me like the perfect horse name. We got to see some incredible moorland and multiple groups of adorable wild Exmoor ponies!

Ride with friends on Exmoor National Park

Ride with friends at Exmoor National Park

Low: Although joining the riding club has given me many more opportunities to go riding than I would have had otherwise, the people haven’t been terribly welcoming.

In fact, the majority of them have ignored me to an almost ridiculous extent at all the events I’ve attended. However, at some point I decided to just enjoy the horses and not let the people get to me, which has more or less worked. And it was great to get to go riding on Exmoor with my actual friends!

Glitter: I went to London twice this month without planning much beforehand, and both times turned out to be lots of fun.

The first was on the way back from Budapest (which was quite an excellent adventure in itself, but unfortunately I can’t include everything in this post). My flight came into London, so it made sense to spend the afternoon with my friend who’s studying there. We went to the British Library on a bit of a whim and were completely overwhelmed by what we found in the exhibition – da Vinci’s notebooks, the Gutenberg Bible, and original manuscripts of Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen novels, to give just a few examples. We then wandered to the impressive St. Pancras Station and a few bookshops, to complete our literary afternoon. When my friend Anna came to visit, we stayed overnight in London. We ended up seeing the musical Book of Mormon as well as exploring the National Gallery, Kensington Gardens, and Covent Garden and touring Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, which was something I really wanted to do before I left. To make it even better, we unexpectedly got to see actors rehearsing Merchant of Venice for the summer season, and our tour guide was an extremely theatrical woman doing a literature Ph.D. on werewolves! These experiences only reinforced my earlier sense that London can offer up treasures no matter how much or little planning goes into the experience.

Julia Greider is a junior at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, double majoring in English and the Study of Women and Gender. She is studying abroad at the University of Exeter in England for five months. She loves reading and being outside, but there are few things she would rather do in her free time than go horseback riding!

Beautiful Soaking Wet Rainbows of Color

by Elizabeth Shaw

Bangalore

Bangalore

High: There have been so many amazing things that have happened since my last post. I have to say one of the best though was a weekend trip a few of my friends on the program, my host brother and I took to Bangalore for a music festival called Emerge. The main acts were Alt-J and Rudimental. It was so much fun to be able to go see other parts of India and the music festival was amazing!! To get there I got to experience a sleeper bus which even though it is uncomfortable, freezing cold and you get tossed and turned with the motion of the bus so much fun. It sounds absolutely awful but the experience is one that I am so glad I have. At the music festival it was great watching as everyone got so into the artists and the songs being played. It started to rain while we were there which was completely unexpected and it took only about 1 minute to get completely soaked. But for me it just made the experience so much better. It was so much fun to get away for the weekend and experience other things in India. There is so much to do here and so much to see and I do not want to waste a single minute.

Dharavi Slums

Dharavi Slums

Low: While I have been here I have been trying so hard to take everything positively. Even if it was not something I particularly liked I have tried to find something I can learn or some way that I can grow so that I can focus on the positive. Because of this I am happy to say it took a bit of thought to think of a low to post. My program took everyone on a trip to Mumbai and while we were there we visited Dharavi which is the biggest slum in Asia. I really enjoyed the experience of going there and being able to learn about how other people live and how they make their livelihood, it is a low for me because it was challenging to decide how I felt about taking the trip there all together. I understand we were going there for an academic purpose and I think it did really help to give a better understanding of how the slum (and other slums) work but I still feel uncomfortable with simply taking a day to simply watch how poorer populations live. It is hard to decide whether it was okay that I was going there only really for my own benefit and not really to give anything back. This experience was not a low because I did not enjoy or appreciate the fact that I got to experience this but simply because it has been a challenge to decide how I feel about the experience.

Holi

Festival of Holi

Glitter: On to happier things, just last week here in India was the festival of Holi which is known as the festival of colors or the festival of love. During the festival you take colored powered and smear it all over who ever you want to. The festival is supposed to symbolize the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, and for many more days to come of laughter and forgiveness. For the festival my roommate and another person on the program decided to stay back in Mumbai and go to a holi festival called Holi Reloaded. It was the first holi I had ever experienced and it was so much fun. There was music playing, color, rain dancing and so many people just having a great time. By the end of the night we were all beautiful soaking wet rainbows of color.

ElizabethElizabeth is a Junior at Smith college. She is studying abroad in Pune, India during the Spring 2015 semester. She looks forward to learning the language and being able to learn and see as much of India as possible. While abroad she will be interning for an organization focused on public health and learning traditional painting. At Smith she is a Psychology major, an Exercise and Sports Studies minor and a Community Engagement and Social Change concentrator.

Czech It Out 2

Lidice

Lidice

by Tziona Breitbart

High: Celebrating Purim with an elderly woman. The local Jewish Youth Organization delivers Mishloach Manot (Jewish gift-bags filled with delicious foods) to the elderly throughout Prague every Purim. When I heard about this opportunity, I could not help but hold back my excitement to interact with the elderly in this community and celebrate Purim with them. I was lucky enough to be able to visit Hana Hnatova, the sister of renowned Czech author Arnost Lustig, in her home. Entering into her apartment, I immediately felt honored to be able to visit this beautiful woman who has experienced so much in her life and continues to smile constantly. When she opened the door she immediately smiled and expressed great gratitude for bringing her Mishloach Manot and visiting her. She reminded me of my grandma back at home and I instantly felt like I was home for a short period. My visit lasted for over two hours in which we talked about her family, life in Prague, and her life. I did not want to leave her. Being in the presence of this woman who survived the Holocaust and continues to be happy that she is Jewish and alive touched me deeply. She shows no pain, but rather thankfulness and love for those around her. At one point, she gave me the biggest hug and kiss simply because she was happy to have a young individual visiting her. While my visit may have only been for a limited amount of time, the interaction will forever stay with me. I am hoping to go visit her again and learn even more about her and make her smile again.

Terezin

Terezin

Low: Emotional low. This past month has been filled with intense experiences that I am grateful for being able to have. My first visit to a physical location of the Holocaust scared me tremendously. I did not know what to expect or how I would react to being in a place of such atrocity and destruction. As the journey approached, I began to become very anxious about it, but knew that it was something I needed to do. I traveled with my program to Lidice and Terezin. Before visiting Lidice, I knew very little about what occurred there and how the Nazis annihilated the village. In retaliation of Heydrich’s assassination, the Nazis murdered all the men and children, and sent the women to a concentration camp. A village that was once filled with laughter and enjoyment, stands today with a new village built in its name nearby, but the village itself is now a place where nature grows and memories remain.

My program then visited the Theresienstadt concentration camp in which a survivor of the camp showed us around. Visiting Theresienstadt was extremely difficult for me as my great Uncle and great-great grandparents were taken from there home in Vienna and forcefully brought here. Only my great Uncle survived. While at the camp, I could not stop questioning how this could happen to individuals. How can humanity be this cruel? While seeing a place where my family may have perished was extremely difficult it also brought me closer to them. I will never know how they suffered, but I now have visited the site of their suffering and made their identities known.

Glitter: Connecting to my family’s past and present. This past month has been filled of experiences I never thought I would have traveling to Prague. During the past month, I have met family members for the first time and visited where my family originated from in Vienna.   I met my cousins from Israel in Berlin by chance. I found out right before my travels that I had a relative living there and that his dad would be visiting there this weekend. Meeting them was incredible as it gave us the opportunity to put our family map together and meet where our family lived after WWII. It made me realize that family is everywhere and whether close or nearby you will always be connected.

To continue this journey of learning about my family, I travelled to Vienna where my dad’s side of my family lived before the Holocaust. While in Vienna I visited the apartment building of where my grandpa, great uncle, and great-great grandparents once lived and owned a store. Visiting this place made me feel connected to a past I never thought I would be able to connect with. Being in the exact location where my family used to live happily, until they were forced out due to their religion, felt sad and beautiful simultaneously. Knowing the pain my family must have endured, especially my grandpa who I knew personally, crushed me. I am so thankful and honored that I was able to walk on the same streets as he once did and to see a side of my family I never thought possible. Seeing where my grandpa grew up showed me a part of his life that remained unknown to me. As I leave Vienna, I followed my family’s past and now I will go forward with them forever in my heart.

Tziona BreitbartTziona Breitbart is a junior at Smith College. She is studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic during the 2015 spring semester. She looks forward to exploring the culture and learning about the enriched history of the area. While abroad she will be interning with the Aspen Institute Prague. At Smith she is a history major, concentrating in Russian history, and a community engagement and social change concentrator.

Glitter: Joining the Choral Society

Julia, Eilis, Big Ben and Me – London, England

Julia, Eilis, Big Ben and Me – London, England

by Josie Verchomin

High: I met up with two of my very best friends

I met up with two of my very best friends Eilis and Julia in London City. We have known each other since first year at Smith. Eilis has been studying in Germany on the Hamburg Yearlong Smith Program. Julia is studying at Exeter for the semester. I was so happy to explore London with them as well as friends I have made here in Galway, and Julia’s friend from home Trudy. A Highlight of this trip would be the first night we were all together. We went out for dinner and as we were eating I realized how comfortable I was sitting with all of them. When exploring a huge, vast city like London comfort is something rare. With Eilis and Julia I felt at home.

Mosaic ceiling at a Church Julia and I stumbled upon - London, England

Mosaic ceiling at a Church Julia and I stumbled upon – London, England

 

Low: I barely got any sleep in London

This month my low was hard to pin down considering I didn’t have many low points at all. That said though the night I barely got any sleep in London would be my low. It was the first night we were staying in our hostel, the women sleeping in the bunk below me snored all throughout the night. I barely got three hours of sleep. This low has taught me to value sleep when traveling. During a time when you just want to see everything in a city you don’t know, sleep is a necessity for me.

josie3

Glitter: I joined the student choral society

Last month I joined the student choral society and I am so happy I did. Not only am I singing again but I am singing with a group of amazing people. At Smith I am a member of Glee Club but last semester I had to take a break from it due to my commitments in the theatre. I have been singing in musicals and choral groups since the age of seven, which made that time away from Glee extremely hard. Choral Soc is a stress free environment and everyone involved just wants to sing. Last weekend we went to the Kiltimagh Choral Festival. We didn’t win in any of the categories we competed in but our scores were high. However, while there I won something far more important than a place title; I won a new group of friends. Choral Soc is my glitter for the month because I know that through the next two months those friendships I gained will grow.

I am a junior at Smith College studying at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) this spring. At Smith I am working towards a theatre major, psych minor and Native American and indigenous studies certificate. While in Ireland I hope to explore the culture, and history, as well as the local theatre life.

High: El Salvador’s Diverse Landscape

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by Anne Ruelle

February 2015

High: This month, there were a lot of volunteer events, which meant I had to travel quite a bit.  From the cool mountains of Chalatenango to the surfer beaches to urban San Salvador, I experienced the full extent of El Salvador’s diverse landscape.

Low:  With elections on March 1st, it was difficult to organize community activities because many community members were preoccupied with the political campaigns.

Glitter:  We got to reunite with a volunteer who had to end his service early for medical reasons.  It was great to see him again, if only for a little while, and after seeing him another friend came to stay with me for election weekend to bake and make travel plans to Nicaragua.  With six months left, we have to take advantage of every day!

AnneAnne Ruelle graduated from Providence College in 2013.  By working to promote social change and forming strong relationships, she hopes to be a part of creating a more just, equal world.  She is currently a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Community Organization and Economic Development project in El Salvador and lives in a hot, rural community in the East.  She loves eating pupusas, salsa dancing, and learning Salvadoran “caliche” (slang).

The contents of these posts are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or Peace Corps.

No Real Low in New Zealand

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by Brittany Holt

High: I have been in New Zealand for just over two months now. The first 6 weeks I spent on a geology field camp with 25 other students from America learning about how field research is done and putting that to practice, and I must say that the entire field camp was pretty remarkable. We got to travel all over the South and North Islands doing field work, spending a week each in Kaikoura (a small peninsula on the northeast coast of New Zealand, bustling with tourists and grazing cattle); Cass (one of the filming locations used in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe! Also a town with a population of 1 tucked into the foothills of the Southern Alps); Westport (an old mining town on the northwest coast of New Zealand, rich in both history and seal colonies); the Tongariro/Taupo Volcanic Zone (one of the most active volcanic zones in the world, and home to Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings); and Banks Peninsula (an ancient volcanic complex just south of Christchurch that forms a peninsula dotted with quaint, cozy bays and roaming sheep). All of the program leaders and guest lecturers were enthusiastic no matter how long of a field day we’d had, and we always returned to our field stations to delicious meals prepared by the two amazing cooks we had traveling with us. And let’s not forget the many lasting memories and friendships that were forged over the duration of field camp.

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Low: I’ve tried picking my brain for any particularly low points over the last two months and not many come to mind: maybe the rainy and cold weather we had on the North Island – but the other five weeks of field camp the weather was beautiful! Perhaps a lingering feeling of homesickness – but our field camp instructors kept us way too busy to think about that, and anyways I was having so much fun! Or should I have felt more stressed from constantly traveling and living in close quarters with 25 other college students for six weeks? – but honestly our accommodations were pretty nice and the lack of Wi-Fi some weeks was more relaxing for me than I would have envisioned. So I guess I’ll just say that the end of field camp two weeks ago was the low; but even then, now I have the rest of the semester in Christchurch to look forward to!

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Glitter: Most of field camp went like this (apart from a one day “vacation” in Punakaiki):

  1. travel to new destination
  2. do intensive field work all day and then work on assignments in the evenings
  3. repeat for four to five days
  4. complete major assignment for the field module
  5. travel to new destination the following day.

As exhausting as that was, our instructors made sure to set aside time for fun, and there were plenty of unexpectedly silly moments on their behalf. At the end of each field module our instructors would take us to a local pub to relax, chat, and have a beer. On a particularly rainy day on the North Island, we got to watch the Super Bowl in town instead of trying to do field work. One of our guest lecturers adored ice cream and scenery stops, so we got plenty of each that week. A different instructor did donuts on the beach in our 12 passenger van one day in Banks Peninsula. The same man also turned our entire field area into a game of Hot Lava, where the sand was lava, the rocks were safe, and the rules were strictly enforced as he leapt around the beach shouting “you’re dead!” whenever one of us touched the sand. The most literal glittery moment of field camp, though, was probably the night one of our fellow classmates built a bonfire for us all on the beach at our campsite in Punakaiki. Sitting in the sand listening to guitar and the crackling of the fire with the swell of the ocean in the background seemed good enough – and then while star-gazing, a group of three of us witnessed the same (and our first) shooting star in New Zealand.

bholtBrittany Holt is a senior at Smith College majoring in geoscience. She is spending her last undergraduate spring abroad in New Zealand, where she first attended a 6-week geology field camp through Frontiers Abroad before starting a semester at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. Brittany loves being outdoors hiking, climbing, and exploring, and can’t wait to see what other adventures New Zealand has in store for her!

Low: Le Grippe

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IMG_6555by Emily Upin

High:  Prague!

The French have a weird break at the end of February. In the schools it’s called “Semaine du lecture” (reading week in the states… though there aren’t any midterms.) Anyways, I was able to travel for a week. I went to Prague! It was fantastic. The city was so beautiful. I lucked out and had gorgeous weather every day I was there. The trip was especially great because I got to spend time with one of my friends from Smith. It was so nice seeing her and it helped with some of my homesickness (see Low.)

IMG_6523Low:  Le Grippe

I got sick. And not just any sick, I got Le Grippe or the French equivalent of the flu. I was in bed for an entire week with an achy body, sore throat, and a super congested head (luckily the fever went away after the second day.) It was not fun to say the least and it made me homesick for my family and friends from home. Unfortunately, I’m still feeling the homesickness a bit.

Glitter: The Situation Room

I saw a really cool piece of theater with my French theater class. I probably wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t for this class, so I’m very grateful that I’m in the class! The show was called Situation Rooms. It was less of a play and more of an interactive “game.” There was an “audience” of 20 people. Each person was given an iPad and told to follow it. Then, we were let go into the scene which was a construction of multiple rooms all connected and intertwined. We followed our iPads which followed the stories of 20 different people all connected by something having to do with the arms trade or weapons in general. I don’t know if my description is doing it justice, but it was fantastic.

emily
Emily Upin is a junior at Smith College. She is studying abroad in Paris, France this academic year and couldn’t be more excited to eat lots and lots of cheese. At Smith she is a psychology and French double major. Her interests also include theater, journaling and fashion.

High: All the Traveling

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by Julia Greider

High: The best part of this month has definitely been all of the traveling and exploring that I’ve done.

The first weekend, I went to Exmouth with a German friend that I’ve met here. Although the town of Exmouth was somewhat underwhelming, the coastline was fantastic – we walked along the beach, then on top of the huge red sandstone cliffs that form the geologically significant Jurassic Coast. Besides the beautiful ocean, the rocks along the beach and the cliffs themselves made it a truly stunning hike. The next weekend, I met up in Oxford with one of my high school friends, Trudy, who’s studying in London this semester. We had a great time admiring the architecture and taking pictures of each other imitating animal specimens and anthropological artifacts in the museums we visited. A week later I went to London for the first time and met up with Trudy again, as well as with two friends from Smith, Josie and Eilis, who are also studying in Europe this semester, and two of Josie’s new friends from Ireland. This trip was really the highlight of the month – not only was there fantastic company, but I fell a little bit in love with London! I’m not usually a big fan of cities, but London felt calmer and somehow more regal and composed than the other cities I’ve visited, and I managed to feel quite comfortable navigating the Tube system despite having limited experience with public transportation. I really didn’t want to leave at the end of the weekend! Finally, this past weekend Trudy came to visit me, and we took the train to Plymouth. Although we had practically no idea beforehand what Plymouth offered, we had a great day of adventures in the city, by the seaside, and on a more isolated peninsula called Cremyll. (More about this in my glitter!)

Low: I haven’t been enjoying my classes here nearly as much as I enjoy my classes back at Smith.

The discussions feel more or less aimless, the professors aren’t so focused and enthusiastic, and some of the material itself just doesn’t catch my interest. Luckily, I only have two classes, so that leaves me a lot of time to travel and experience Europe, which is what I feel I’m really learning from. And when I return to Smith next fall, I know I’ll appreciate the academics more than ever!

Glitter: I’ve decided that the unexpected things that happen or turn up on my travels are almost always the best parts.

There’s something that makes them special simply because they were unexpected – and if I had planned for them to happen, they wouldn’t have been so exciting. A few example of fun surprises I’ve had while adventuring this month: a troupe of elaborately costumed people dancing along the Thames to jazzy music at night (seemingly for Mardi Gras, although they were four days late), a bunch of middle-aged men intently racing model sailboats around a fountain in Plymouth, a group of folk dancers performing very enthusiastically and colorfully in front of the Exeter train station, and a ruin (which actually ended up to be built in the 18thcentury just to look like a ruin) on the side of a hill in Cremyll which we climbed up into to get a brilliant view of the ocean. Many wonderful happenings occurred because other things went wrong along the way – there was no transportation to get where we wanted to go, we missed a ferry, or the house we were going to tour was closed. It really made me appreciate the saying that when one door closes, another opens – and it made me think maybe I should just never plan anything, so that everything can take on that luster of the unexpected!

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Julia Greider is a junior at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, double majoring in English and the Study of Women and Gender. She is studying abroad at the University of Exeter in England for five months. She loves reading and being outside, but there are few things she would rather do in her free time than go horseback riding!