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The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Recounting a Greek experience

An overview of Santorini, Greece.

Υποδοχή στην Αθήνα, Ελλάδα or Welcome to Athens, Greece. Those were the words that excited me the most on may 25th after traveling for more than 20 hours to one of the most fascinating and beautiful countries of the old continent. Along with other UTD students and faculty, I spent two weeks sailing across the waters of the Aegean Sea and visiting the Islands of Kea, Serifos, Sifnos, Folegandros, Santorini, Astipalia, Nisiros, Symi, Rodhos and finishing in Kos right next to the Turkish border.

Our home in the Aegean, the Arethousa yacht.

Visiting a country with so many similarities to mine (Mexico) made me felt like I was right at my homeland. We sailed during the day for about 4 or 5 hours, and around dinner time, we gathered together to discuss a topic that each of us selected, ranging from mythology to geology and politics. I researched the importance and influence of Greek in the romance languages. As well, sailing techniques were part of our daily routine so I got to learn a little bit more about this fascinating activity (after dropping one or two fenders and a couple of mistakes trying to tie a rope…)

A panoramic view of Αθήνα (Athens) from the top of the Parthenon.

Having such a unique opportunity going around the islands and getting to know remote places with an incomparable beauty has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The breathtaking views, the friendliness of the people and the richness of the ancient Greek culture (and did I mention the food?) are some of the factors that made of this summer an unforgettable journey. And by the way, if you get the chance to get a little bit closer to the Greek Pop Culture of nowadays, try to listen to the song “My Number One” by Elena Paparizou. I am sure you will enjoy it, as many of us did wherever we went.

Approaching to the Island of Symi, the Aegean Sea.

Recounting an Italian experience

Me in front of the Pisa Tower, Pisa.

Ciao tutti!

After my three week experience across beautiful Greece, I spent the following month in Florence, Italy as part of a study abroad program (API) at the Istituto Lorenzo dei’Medici. I took a class about Florentine Renaissance and an Italian language course as well. Soon I got to realize that I was living right in front of the place where Michelangelo used to paint for the Medici family. Florence has so many things to offer to art fans, that you will find in need of more time to explore and get lost in the numerous churches, palaces and even across the city wondering around. Botticelli, Michelangelo and Rafaello’s most renowned works are all in display at the different museums of the once called Republicca Fiorentina.

Regione Toscana (San Gimignano)

My experience began in Rome with an orientation weekend, visiting the highlights of this fascinating and ancient city. During the weekends, I got the opportunity to explore amazing places such as Venezia, Pisa, Cinque Terre, and Regione Toscana (Siena, San Gimignano, Montepulciano)

Ponte Vecchio, Florence

As I mentioned before, this past summer made me think of the lifestyles and differences existing between the two continents. I felt like I was right at home, but at the same time, many differences can be found between both the old and new worlds (as historians used to called our continents) Daily activities such as going to the mercato centrale (market) every morning to pick breakfast, or even the aperitivo time during the afternoons allowed me to feel much more like a local. There is neither need for cars nor any transportation system at all since everything is within walking distance. In so many ways, it is so similar to my hometown (Guanajuato, Mexico) but at the same time there were countless things to discover and enjoy. Every day there was something new to do or to see.

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Another thing that made this summer such a wonderful journey is related to the friendships I made and all the people I met. Everybody enjoyed this time in many different ways, but in the end all of us coincided that Italy is a magic place, where time has stopped but allowing modernity to come and cherish the magnificent works of art created. It has been one of the most remarkable experiences I have ever had; I learned so much about myself and a new host culture that opened its doors allowing me to explore all it has to offer. It was hard to say goodbye to Florence, but I keep so many good memories from it that it seems like yesterday when everything happened.

Firenze (Florence), a view from the top of the city.

Grazie mille per tutto e ciao!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Exploring China

As you can tell by these pictures, I fit in here in China about as well as infamous Survivor nude Richard Hatch at a clothing market. But that's been part of this experience that I've enjoyed the most -- stepping completely out of my comfort zone and being thrown into a completely different culture. After one year of studying Mandarin at UTD, I took the plunge so to speak and came to China for the summer. I spent the first month traveling all over the Eastern part of China, all the way from Guangzhou in the south, up the Yangtze River and past the Three Gorges Dam, through Shanghai and Xi'an (home of the Terracotta Warriors, the so-called Eighth Wonder of the World) and then to Beijing.

I spent the next two months studying at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, or BeiWai to the locals. Everyday Monday through Friday, I spent four hours a day in class, met with a Chinese tutor for an hour and spent about 3 hours studying or doing homework. Throughout the course of my stay, I've lived in a dorm, with a Chinese roommate and with a Chinese host family. I spent the weekends exploring the city and taking trips to the Great Wall and to ride horses on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia.

>> See more pictures at Richard's web site