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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.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Reflections: A summer in Europe

First impressions of London? London is quite different from Amsterdam and Paris. I don’t mean just the language either. While both Amsterdam and Paris were laid back, London moves at a pace faster than almost any city in the world (the only possible exception being New York City). The program seems fun so far. I have a pretty amazing Shakespeare teacher. He is an American expat, who enjoys teaching his subject as any teacher I have ever met. The people that are in the program also promise to make the next 5 weeks quite fun. I am eagerly looking forward to doing all the things that I might have missed the last time I was here, but more important that that I cannot wait to experience the London theater scene. While I am here the two plays I want to see most are Hamlet with Jude Law and Waiting for Godot featuring Patrick Stewart and Ian McClellan. Waiting for Godot probably ranks a bit higher because I have always loved both of those actors.
My schedule will also allow me to explore the city of London. There is so much to see that I don’t even know where to start. The Natural History Museum is right down the street so probably there. I am staying in Kensington, one of the highest-class boroughs in all of London. My dorm is a converted flat that is next door to the French ambassador and down the street from one of Dustin Hoffman’s houses.
So far, we have had our first week of classes, and signed up for program-sponsored cultural events. These are events that are subsidized by AIFS and are designed to give us a better idea of what London is like. Through AIFS, I will go see Wicked (for the first time), to a cricket match, to the dog races, and, finally, on a boat cruise through the Thames.
Overall this promises to be an incredibly rewarding trip. I cannot wait to get started, and already have I realized that it will go by too quickly.

This weekend I headed out to Vienna to meet up with a friend of mine from UTD named Heather. However, I was planning on continuing on to Salzburg, so all of the hostels that I researched and everything I had planned to do was a three-hour train ride away. It was when I was riding up the escalator in Vien Mitte. I was in a foreign city, where I knew nobody, did not know where to stay, and did not speak a single word of the language. First order of business was to find a place to stay for the next two nights. So what did I do? I picked a direction and walked with my bag in tow. Eventually, I came to a line of cabs that took me to the nearest hotel that (luckily) had vacancies.
I got settled and then immediately struck out to try to find something to do for my first night in the foreign country. So I found my way to a local establishment and started to make friends with the locals (who thankfully spoke a lot of English).
The next morning I headed out to the palace grounds, after looking at things to do decided to go take a gander at the Austrian crown jewels. I had seen the British crown jewels and was expecting much of the same. The Austrian jewels however are much different. Instead of being a series of crowns ornamented with jewels taken from across a worldwide empire, they consisted swords made of narwhal horn, and stylistically were very different. One piece of clothing that takes center stage is a series of elaborate mantels. These varied by size and extravagance based on who commissioned them. It was interesting to see the difference in wealth between Austria and England. While the British Empire reigned supreme, the Austrian empire could not even hope to match the wealth, and this fact is reflected in the crown jewels.
On Sunday, I went and visited the Austrian zoo. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and so I spent the entire day wandering around the zoo gazing at all the magnificent animals. There were cheetahs, polar bears, bats, and penguins…along with everything in between. The vastness of the zoo cannot be overstated. On all sides this area is surrounded by city, yet here was an oasis of natural space about 50 acres in area. It was huge!
My favorite part of Austria was the food. Meat prepared in 100 different ways, and of course the schnitzel was awesome. To say that I enjoyed Austria would be considered an understatement.

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