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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.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Exploring China

'04 McDermott Scholars James Fickenscher (left) and Liam Skoyles are studying language and culture in China this fall. Here's a posting from Beijing:


Before I came to Beijing, I didn't really know all that much about Chinese culture or the Chinese way of life; all I had heard about pretty much was censorship and cheap food. Little did I know the great and wonderful culture into which I was about to be totally immersed. Since coming I have been completely taken away by the Chinese people and culture. The Chinese way of thinking is so completely different than that of Americans, and I feel that my time here will educate me both as a student and a worldly cultured person. The fact that the Eugene McDermott Scholars Program encourages this kind of experience shows its dedication to the well-rounded development of its scholars and demonstrates its desire to help motivated, great students like you become people who can truly change the world.


As I stepped off the plane in Hong Kong, it was like stepping into a fairytale vision in my dreams. I zipped across the harbor on the lightning-fast airport express train and reflected on the previous six weeks: I had just planed, trained, taxied, and rickshawed my way across the Indian subcontinent—convenience stores, air conditioning and sit-down toilets were a distant memory. I shelled out 100 Hong Kong Dollars at the end of the line, the same price as a full week's worth of lodging in Delhi. Hong Kong was everything I missed about the West and at the same time everything I was loath to remember. Well-groomed businessmen brushed past, teens bounced along with shopping bags and the streets were sterilized. However as the memory of thousands of colourful kites flying over Delhi against a fiery sunset waned, a new appreciation of the world's newest superpower dawned. Over ten days I wound my way to Beijing. As I finally walked into the Beijing Foreign Studies University dorm, my home for the next semester, I had fallen in love with this amazing new society. Not to mention the fact that a year of Chinese language study made the taxi ride infinitely more convenient.


Everything in Beijing is awesome still, and tomorrow we leave for a two week trip around Xinjiang and even get to go hiking up to the Russian/Chinese/Mongolian/Kazakhstani border!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wacky Amsterdam adventures

[Chris Affolter ('03) and Hannah Frank ('04) are both spending their fall 2006 semester abroad. While Chris has been studying microbiology and arms control in the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland, Hannah has been ... slightly more adventurous -- taking on Siberia in the winter. Instead of waiting for fate to make their paths cross, Chris and Hannah decided to both take the weekend off from their respective adventures and meet up in Amsterdam for a long weekend of great art, good food, and fun.]

Chris: Where is our hostel?

Hannah: You mean you don't have the directions? I don't either!

(An hour or two of searching later, we were in our dorm room at the Witte Tulp – in the Red Light District)

Chris: Holy ****, when they advertised a view, I didn't know that was what they meant. (Really deep in the Red Light District, the views can be...interesting).

(A little later, and still hungry)

Chris: I'm hungry -- let’s get lunch -- the evil Swiss people in the airport were taunting me with fresh croissants, but wouldn't sell them because it was too early in the morning.

Hannah: How about this cute little bakery ("De Bakkerswinkle")?

Chris: If only they had broodje harring!!!

Hannah: You can get some later. These are pretty good! (Little did we know that we would end up eating breakfast here every morning – it was really that good)

(After lunch and a run to the French fry stand...)

Chris: Where should we go now?

Hannah: How about the Rembrandt museum.

Chris: Grumble. I'm not such a fan of Rembrandt. And it’s not a museum, it's his house. It's a tourist trap.

Hannah: Neat, we get a discount. And this Rembrandt print exhibit is…extensive.

Chris: Yeah, that was really nice. I really like Rembrandt.

Hannah: Snap. Snap. Picture. Picture

Chris: Let’s go shopping at the flea market.

Hannah: These wallets look nice.

Chris: These wallets look used.

Hannah: These wallets look stolen.

Hannah and Chris: ***checking pockets***

Chris: I can’t believe how cheap everything is here compared to Switzerland.

Hannah: I can’t believe how expensive everything is here compared to Russia.

Chris: Of course, the French fries are definitely worth their weight in gold. Let's get some more.

(A few thousand calories later...)

Chris: How about some coffee?

Hannah: The coffee is wonderful here.

Chris: So are the baked goods! This is an amazing brownie.

Hannah: Now it's time for some van Gogh.

Chris: This coll…

Hannah: This collection is fantastic.

Chris: Go-Van-Gogh (DMA reference)

Hannah: I think van Gogh went.

Chris: Did he go get a bike?

Hannah: No, but we should.

Chris: I haven't been on a bike in a long time.

Hannah: That's OK – they'll rent them to anybody. (speeding off through the pedestrian crowd)

Chris: This is fun!

(Once we'd worked off all the French fry fat by riding all over Amsterdam...)

Hannah: Aafke (Hannah's Dutch friend) said to hang out in Vondelpark.

(pedal, pedal, pedal)

Chris: I'm tired, how about a nap in Vondelpark?

Hannah: ***snore***

Chris: ***watches crazy old woman drink a whole bottle of wine and have a conversation (in Dutch) with herself***

Hannah: (Suddenly awake and ravenous) Lunch?

Chris: I want a broodjie harring!

Hannah: You're obsessed with that stupid herring.

(Post-broodjie harring...)

Chris: That broodjie harring wasn't so tasty. I don't feel so well.

Hannah: Your fault. You should have just had more vlaames frites (French fries with mayonnaise).

Chris: I think we need some more coffee.

Hannah: Indeed. Coffee rocks!

Chris: And more vlaames frites.

Hannah: This is the best. Postcard. Ever.

Chris: We have got to send it to the McDermott Office.

Chris: And these fries are fantastic.


Chris: Reijksmuseum?

Hannah: Of course!

Chris: Our Lord in the Attic?

Hannah: What?

Chris: The 17th century Dutch Protestant government wasn't so keen on public Catholicism…so they built a fabulous Roman Catholic church in the attic.

Hannah: Fabulous. Snap Snap. Picture Picture.

Chris: I wonder how often people fall into the canals?

Hannah: I don't know, but they smell like the Trinity "River."

(later that night)

Chris: This place reminds me of New Orleans.

Hannah: Only it’s more chill -- not so many drunk frat boys.

Chris: And there's no Lelia. (Gowland, '04)

(on the last day)

Hannah: One last cone of Vlammese Frites?

Chris: Of course! They're FANTASTIC!

Hannah: Did you remember to mail the postcard?

Chris: Crap, I left it on the train...maybe that's for the best.

Hannah: It was so good to see you! Have fun in Switzerland.

Chris: It was so good to see you too! Don't freeze in Siberia! If you die, I'll never forgive you -- wear that long underwear.

Hannah: (Only a good friend would bring Swiss chocolates and REI underwear when you're truly in need of both).