- McDermott Scholars
- 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.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
We were also able to experience walking the streets of the Once neighborhood, which was lined with clothing stores and busy people. I also got to spend some time with my host father, talking about all sorts of topics. He has helped me very much in settling in the country and in learning the language. It has also been very fun to joke with him, as he has a lot of good humor. I will certainly miss living with the Carroll family; living with them has made this trip a wonderful experience.
Tomorrow will be the last day of classes, and will be a day full of goodbyes. Looking back, we've learned several things about Argentina's history, culture, and language that has enriched our knowledge. I'm glad to have completed this course and experience, and hope that future students in this program have a great experience as well.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
During my freshman year as a physics major at UTD, I had taken an honors mechanics course with a fantastic professor named Dr. Joe Izen. Two weeks after spring semester ended, he left for Geneva, Switzerland on a year-long sabbatical. He worked on a project at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research and world-famous location of the Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator and a theoretical physicist’s dream laboratory. However, we kept in contact through e-mail, talking about bicycle lane projects on the UT Dallas campus he would eventually come back to and my progress as a physics major. He even wrote the main professor’s recommendation for my successful Udall Scholarship application, all the way from Europe. However, perhaps the most exciting message came approximately a week after I arrived for my ten-week internship in the Netherlands:
“Well, you’re not too far away now and staying the entire summer! Would you be interested in coming to visit us at Geneva for a weekend?”
Opportunity’s knock drummed in my ears as I immediately logged onto easyjet.com and searched for a flight between Amsterdam and Geneva. Ninety dollars. It was almost too good to believe, only $90 between me, and CERN, and Switzerland.
My trip? Absolutely fantastic. A lot of school tours visit CERN, and students can walk through halls of old particle accelerators and see the progress of modern computing before their eyes. Did you know that the CERN campus was the birthplace of the World Wide Web? Nowadays, they have a direct working relationship with Intel and often beta-test their newest computer technology before it hits the market. And the second day, the tiny environmentalist inside me was completely captivated by the sight of Mer de Glace, a glacier in the French Alps. I was even more excited when I got to climb down to the icy wonderland and walk and jump all over it, taking photos as evidence that will be mere memories in 30 years’ time.
There was a small issue with locating the glacier at first, since it’s been receding for the past few decades and the original “view point” when you first cross the mountain ridge doesn’t provide much of a view anymore:
[donde esta glacier? Photo]
But ultimately, we were successful and another “Whoosh” site was found, right next to a deep crevasse.
[Whoosh! Glacier photo]
But I really don’t want this article to focus too much on the small, sight-seeing details of this trip. Although it was entirely unrelated to my internship, it fit perfectly according to my interests as a physics student and climate change researcher. I could spend my whole summer—and beyond—exploring every last nook and cranny and hydroengineering feature in the Netherlands, but then I would have missed out on this incredible opportunity to visit CERN and Mer de Glace. What I’m trying to recommend is, don’t get bogged down in the big picture of planning your whole semester and summer down to the wire, so that your eyes are shut to small, but significant opportunities like these. Take a leap and see what you make of it! At the very least, I hope this encourages you to strike up a conversation with (or e-mail) your honors mechanics (or equivalent) professor, and see how they’re doing.
Monday, June 27, 2011
Meals have been one of my favorite parts of Argentina, and not just because my host mom is a great cook! Meals are always an interesting mix of Spanish and English (and sometimes even French, since I took it in high school) in order for me to accomplish basic communication. The first week, dinner took about 3 hours every night. We started around 9pm and finished close to 12am, when our host mom, Mama Catalina as she has us call her, finally shoos us out of the kitchen when we try to do the dishes yet again.
Mama Catalina, Jess, Prisha, and I have had some really fun nights. One of my favorite memories is the time I mixed up wedding and deer, and no one could stop laughing long enough to explain what had happened! I have learned so much about Argentine culture around our dinner table and I think that our family dinners will be memories I cherish the most when I leave here
Husain M --
The Buenos Aires experience so far has had a myriad of meaningful sights, sounds, and smells. A walk in the Plaza de Mayo has shown us the Casa Rosada, the Cathedral, and buildings of varying architecture. We saw the Madres de Mayo (mother's of victims of the Dirty War) in their weekly demonstrations as well. Visits to the Parque de la Memoria and the ESMA (a former detention center) have also helped us understand the dark details of the war.
A day trip to an estancia (a ranch for Argentine gauchos) has given us another view on the culture here. The environment was serene, with a vast blue sky and a wide expanse of flat, green land. Riding horses, eating asado (barbequed) beef, and talking with the gauchos made this a memorable day.
Other great places include the Buenos Aires Zoo, the Botanical Garden, and the Teatro Colon. Daily life on the streets has been fun with perusing through markets, eating pastries at confiterias/panaderias, and appreciating the ubiquitous street art.
A full weekend at Puerto Iguazu was incredible with viewing the waterfalls at the National Park. A raft ride through the falls got us all soaked, but we were able to dry off on the sun-exposed beach of Isla de San Martin. The next day we went to the Iguazu Forest to do rappelling and canopying. We were also able to visit Tres Frenteras, the point from which we could see Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina all at once!
Although the thought of living with a complete stranger was initially daunting, I am very fortunate to have “Mama Catalina” as my host mother. With her kindness and generosity, she has made it possible for my roommates and I to feel right at home in her 10th floor apartment in the middle of Buenos Aires. Though we were strangers to her just three short weeks ago, Mama Catalina has embraced us with kindness and dotes on us all of the time.
While we are busy during the day and spend most of our time far from the house, all of us look forward to returning just in time for the nightly dinner and the hilarious conversations that ensue. Spending time with her and other families has enabled me to realize that this is the way of life in Argentina. Families are of the foremost importance, and the people here cherish spending hours at the dinner table sharing stories of misadventures and even day-to-day occurrences.
Through Spanish, English, and a little bit of gesturing, I have learned about the importance of family to the people of this country, and it’s a lesson I want to take back home with me.
So it took me a long time to write this post. I spent the holidays back in the states, worked for a semester in D.C., and now have finally returned to campus in Dallas, and my experience in Brazil has clearly shaped the way I look at the world and my place in it. I suppose this blog has taken such a long time to complete because in many ways, I am still not done processing how my experience abroad has affected my life. I think I brought back a piece of Brazil with me, imbedded deep within my character and thoughts, and it continues to play a role in my development as a nearly-graduated college student/soon-to-be professional adult.
As a country, Brazil has been truly blessed with great natural beauty, both in terms of landscape and people. The geography varies greatly from region to region, but almost all the country is permeated with a sense of wonder and respect for the wealth of nature it possesses—be it beaches or forests or anything in between. The people in general are large-hearted, excited to be exposed to new people and ideas, and eager to share their culture and opinions and views on life.
The economy and the country as a whole are experiencing a period of newfound stability and prosperity that results in an almost tangible energy in the attitudes and outlooks of the people. They seem genuinely excited for what the future holds in store; I have certainly never been faced with such widespread optimism here in the U.S. during my life thus far—a time which has largely been characterized by terrorism, unending military conflicts, and economic troubles. There are lessons to be learned from that optimism, and I can only hope that my still-developing understanding of it will continue to guide me as I figure out how to contribute to a brighter future for the U.S. in an increasingly interconnected world.
All in all, my experiences in Brazil were extremely valuable on both a personal and professional level. I am much more aware of the forces of globalization and economic improvement, but also much more aware of how I fit into the equation and what I may be capable of achieving in the coming years. Thank you, Brazil and all those I met there, for reinvigorating and refining my earlier dreams of helping enact up-to-date and meaningful economic change in the U.S. and in the world.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
This past week we traveled 18 hours by bus to visit Iguazu Falls. Besides teaching me a lesson in patience on the bus, I cannot put into words the beauty of the waterfalls. The grandeur of such a massive natural wonder puts into perspective how big the world really is. And yet, I don’t feel small at all! I have become way more aware of the power I have to change the world and more aware of who I want am. These past two weeks we have been studying Argentinean history especially with respect to human rights and the abuses that occurred during the Dirty War from 1976—1983. I am now keenly aware of the role I play in preventing a crime against humanity by asking questions, seeking the truth, and never relying solely on others for my information. Truly that is what this trip has been about for me; though there is much to be learned through books and listening to others, being here and seeing the place and knowing the people teaches me in an entirely different way that is personal and thoroughly true because I have seen it for myself. I am also glad to share this trip with others who can share their perspectives with me! As a pre-health student, I can’t help but think about human rights and the standards of health in a developing country. Though this is a thought still evolving, I believe that though certain advances in medicine may be a luxury, health is a human right. That includes physical, psychological, and social health and furthermore indicates that a health student could be studying anything from the practices of a shaman in an indigenous settlement hundreds of years old to the economic and political stability that promote social ties and culture.
On a personal note, I have become much more independent because of navigating the subte and buses on my own and just by virtue of being across the world! Sometimes I’ll look out the window and think, wow! I´m really here in the middle of another continent. All of the fantastical dreams that seem unrealistic or ideological must be in reach if these places that I could only imagine stretch before my eyes for as far as I can see.
It´s a make or break decision because if I don´t use the map to find a bus or take a chance on playing field hockey with Argentineans practicing in the park or trying ziplining in the forest, no one else will do it for me! I am completely in charge of my life and now is the time to be aware of where I am, what I want to do, and who I want to be. Exploring the city and taking advantage of being in Buenos Aires is part of defining myself.
So here's a rundown on what's happened here in Argentina so far:
After arrival and orientation, when I first got to look around the city, I was confronted by the sheer familiarity of it. McDonalds billboards, gas stations, name brand shopping and other reminders of home were everywhere. Buenos Aires is just the same as any major American city, like Dallas, except that it is mostly in Spanish.
We jumped right into classes, and lots of them. I spend most of the day at school Monday through Thursday, which can make it difficult to visit the city's attractions as it is winter here and gets dark a bit after 18:00. This country has had a lot of history in a very short amount of time, as Dra. Demello has made clear.
My host family is great. The mother is a biologist, and the son a stereotypical 13 year old boy. They are very welcoming and the food is delicious, although the lack of spice is killing me. The upstairs neighbor is a chemistry professor who spent many years in the United States and Australia, and his English skills help make overcoming the language barrier easier.
The language is something worth mentioning. Español Rioplatense is what it is called, and it consists of a terrible accent, re-purposing a few letters, and using a different word (and conjugation) for "you" than the rest of the Spanish speaking world.
Overall, it's a lot of fun, and there's so much to learn that the month I am here is nowhere near long enough. According to some other exchange students I have met, 6 months doesn't quite cut it either.
Photos are: host family, the way to do burger king right, and an artistic photo of an Argentine flag waving in the breeze.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
|Anna Skydiving on one of her weekends!|
Monday, June 13, 2011
Ten McDermott Scholars are studying with Dr. Redman.
We all arrived safely to the castle on Sunday, June 5, 2011. Schloss Brunnenburg, the castle that belonged to the late Ezra Pound, has a beauty that cannot be described by words. Mountains surround the castle on all sides, and it overlooks the city of Merano.
We have called Dorf Tirol our home for over a week now, so we have officially settled into life in the castle. Each week day morning we have class with Dr. Redman from 10:00am to 12:00pm. So far we have analyzed a lot of Venice’s art and architecture, with a focus on its cultural significance. After class, we enjoy a meal together cooked by Brigitte, Ezra Pound’s granddaughter, who takes cooking to a new level. Every meal presents us with a new array of delicious dishes to try. In the afternoons, we travel up to the town, work on our reading, and hang out together. At 4:00pm, we take turns having tea with Mary, the daughter of Ezra Pound. For dinner, we usually cook together or go out to eat as a group.
Last weekend, Jon and Sachin went to Florence, Anna traveled to Switzerland, and the rest of us explored the castle and the neighboring cities of Merano and Bolzano. This coming week, Jon, Matthew, Lauren, Sachin, Josh, Ben, and I will be exploring Rome, and Anna is traveling to Vienna. The weekend after that, we are all traveling to Venice together.
That’s all from Italy! We are having a blast!
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
I arrived in Buenos Aires on Saturday morning after a long 10-hour flight. I was pretty groggy when we arrived because, as you can imagine, spending the night in an airplane seat is not the most fun or comfortable experience. I had been under the impression that the seats on an overnight international flight would be bigger, have more room, or be at least a little more comfortable. I was very wrong. They are exactly the same.
Aside from the grogginess leftover from spending the night on airplane, our first day was pretty fun. We successfully exchanged money and made it through customs and baggage claim with no problems and were picked up by our program leader. We piled into a bus and headed to the Fundacion Ortega y Gassett, the school we are studying at for the next month, for a brief orientation. When we arrived at the school, we realized very quickly that, unlike any school I have ever seen in the United States, it was located inside a shopping center. The school was only one part of a building that housed a food court, various shops, several art galleries, and a tango studio.
After our orientation at the school, our host families began arrivng to pick us up and take us to our new homes. My roommate Whitney and I were really anxious to meet our host family and were extremely nervous about speaking Spanish to them. Once our host mom Graciela arrived, however, we were excited to get to know her and her dog Isis. She has two grown children and three grandchildren, none of which live at her house, and a sister who eats dinner with us every night. Another student from Minnesota is also temporarily living with her. Graciela's home is a quaint apartment with a combined living and dining room, a kitchen and small laundry room, one bathroom, and three bedrooms. Whitney and I share a room and Jana, the student from Minnesota, has her own room in the back of the apartment. Jana has been in Buenos Aires for about 3 weeks before our group arrived and she will be staying a week longer than us. She speaks Spanish very well and will be going to Peru for the remainder of the summer after leaving Argentina.
Our first night in Argentina was very exciting and we were happy to try empanadas, a common Argentine meal, for dinner. I also tried fernet at dinner, which is a liquor that you mix with Coke. When Graciela was explaining what it was, however, I thought she was saying that it was similar to Coke, which made me think it was some Argentine soda equivalent to Coke. So since I thought it was just soda, I started filling my glass and got it about 1/3 full before I realized everyone was telling me to stop. As Graciela began mixing Coke with my excessive amount of liquor, I realized my mistake and just began laughing. Needless to say, I slowly sipped my way through a very strong drink. And no, parents, I didn't get drunk.
On Sunday, we had a walking tour of the city with our UTD group and learned how to use the subte (subway) and explored a couple of the pedestrian streets located in Buenos Aires. We also visited La Casa Rosada (The Pink House) that is the Argentina equivalent to the White House. The only difference is that the Argentine president doesn't live there. Sunday night Whitney and I went to an heladeria (ice cream shop) near our house and are now afraid we might be tempted to go there every night until we have tried all of the flavors.
Our first day of classes on Monday began at 8:45 AM with our spanish course and ended at 5 after our Argentine culture course with an hour break in between. We heard a lecture on Argentine political history and went on a bus tour of the city for our first day of culture class. The lecture was really interesting and focused on the military dictatorship Argentina suffered from 1976-1983 called The Dirty War. An estimated 30,000 people were kidnapped, tortured, and killed by the government during this time for being suspected of liberal ideas. Intellectuals, university students, professors, and anyone suspected of being a threat to the government were at risk of becoming a desaparecido. I had no idea that Argentina had such a terrible regime only a few decades ago. Our lecturer said that a lot of Argentines still don't respect authority figures, such as the army and police officers, due to their past.
On a brighter note, the bus tour was beautiful and brought us to several interesting locations in Buenos Aires such as the Recoleta Cemetery and La Boca. Recoleta Cemetery is an extravagant cemetery where members of old elite families are buried in family graves. It's unlike any cemetery I have ever seen and rather than marking tombs with gravestones, each family has a large house-like structure that holds all the coffins. The tombs are extremely ornate; some are decorated with marble statues, detailed carvings, and intricate metal work. La Boca is a neighborhood in Buenos Aires where predominantly immigrants lived in the late 1900s after migrating from Europe. Most of the houses were very colorful because supposedly when they arrived from Europe they didn't have enough money to buy houses and instead built them out of tin sheaths that they paint to cover up rust. Our tour guide told us the colors were so random because rather than buy paint, the immigrants would just go down to the nearby port and take leftover paint used to paint boats. There were several cute small shops in La Boca and dogs everywhere! No backyards = dogs in the streets. We also ran across a guy who called Whitney Barbie - she is a short blonde so it made sense and it made us laugh. We also saw the Boca Juniors stadium where soccer games are extremely popular. Our tour guide told us that soccer is so popular in Buenos Aires that it's practically the only thing that Argentines celebrate.
Yesterday we watched a movie in our culture class called La Historia Oficial, which I highly recommend. It takes place at the end of the Dirty War and is the story of a mother who finds out that her adopted daughter is probably a child of a desaparecido who died in prison. After class, a big group of us went to a pizza restaurant near our school and it was really different than American pizza but was pretty tasty. Mine tasted like a giant slice of garlic bread. Some of my friends also got wine with their pizza and when we were paying at the end I realized that my water was more expensive than their wine. Not cool. After we ate, we walked down one of the pedestrian streets looking at all the street vendors and watched a couple that was http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifperforming tango at one of the street corners.
Wow that was a very long summary of my first few days and I still probably forgot something! I included a guestbook on this website so if any of you have comments or questions just open up the guestbook and write me a note! Thanks for reading!
For more of her posts, visit her blog at: tab-argentina.webs.com
Monday, June 06, 2011
The lovely thing about Paris is that it is everything you expect it to be. The buildings are a study in weathered beauty. Their cafes have excellent food, and dogs prowl the aisles for scraps and affection. Sacre Ceour, Notre Dame, the Eiffel tower and countless other monuments surpass the description of magnificent. The language has a multifaceted lyrical quality. And the entire town teems with a complex history that is never far from sight. Suffice to say that I have loved Paris and believe I will never stop.
The lovely thing about my trip in Paris is that it was nothing I expected it to be. My host mom was not only sweet and helpful but also the proud owner of a parrot named Roberto. Paris served not only as a lesson in French but as a refresher course in Spanish as well. And Parisians are warmer than I expected, at least when an attempt at French is made. I learned more quickly at the school than I expected. And music is omnipresent in Paris. There are street musicians near most all of the major attractions that border on professional. There are free concerts in the churches that border on breathtaking. And the greenery of Paris gives it a gentler feeling than I have ever seen matched in a city of its size.
And then there is the Louvre. The Louvre was more resplendent than I could ever have guessed. The fact that I am only contributing one paragraph to the Louvre shows great personal restraint on my part. Admittedly I am aided by the fact that finding the appropriate words for my experience at the Louvre is difficult. I'll start by saying I went seven times and saw all of it. I went through every single room. And the amount of art in any one room is simply staggering. They have sculpture after sculpture, artifact after artifact, painting after painting. Twenty, thirty, forty paintings squeezed into one room. And they have dozens of paintings that I grew up knowing and loving my entire life. Seeing them in person bordered on a religious experience. And they have rooms, rooms as in plural, of Rubens, van Dyck, and Botticelli. And it's not just about classical paintings and statues at the Louvre. Sometimes you'll turn the corner and find a twenty five foot, astoundingly well preserved pillar from an eighth century temple. Not to mention the fact that they have an entire medieval moat on their basement floor. A moat! I cannot stress to you what a strange revelation that was. I can honestly say that if their security was lax, I would have taken up permanent residence and never come home.
Unfortunately not all surprises are good. In addition to being sweet and helpful my host mom was a smoker, and seemed to have difficulties with my house mate's request for vegetarian faire. It seems despite taking dietary and health requests, the information is not passed along to the host families. Also the neighborhood that my host mom lived in didn't feel particularly safe after sunset. And the school was touch and go as far as their teachers. The teacher I had for the first two weeks was très magnifique. But then for my last week I had a different teacher. He was by no means bad, just a little frustrating. He refused to use any English at all, because he thought it would help us. The problem was that included asking him how to say something. This resulted in some quite interesting pantomime. In general I just felt there were some communication issues with Accord. And as a side note, there are no books, but lots of worksheets. Which was fine with me, but it frustrated some of the other students. However, as I said, I do feel like I learned a lot of French very quickly.
Overall, every day in Paris felt like a dream from which I never wanted to wake up. For every wonderful thing I wrote about, there were ten more that didn't make it into my blog. There was the Musée d'Orsay, Rodin, and Moreau. There was the cafe that, if cafes were people, I would have married in a heartbeat. There was the excitement of using the IPA I had learned at UTD, for my own pronunciation guides. There was the joy of my weekly phonetics class. There were countless evenings spent wandering along the Seine and down picturesque Parisian streets. There were a million twinkling memories I made in the city of light that I will doubtful ever forget.
Thursday, June 02, 2011
The last two and a half weeks have been quite an adventure. From stepping out of the metro into the middle of an unfamiliar city with only a sheet of directions about where to go and only the most basic grasp of their language to a nanotechnology conference, they have been full of excitement.
My apartment is in an excellent location-almost all of the famous tourist attractions are nearby. The Eiffel Tower is about 10 minutes away by foot. Between my apartment and the lab, I can walk by: Invalides (a military hospital), the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, and the National Assembly (plus countless other awesome buildings that look important, but I haven’t quite figured out what they are yet). Add to this that no matter what, I have to walk by Notre Dame to get to work, as it is between the metro stop and the university. Also, the Bastille is somewhere nearby, but I haven’t taken a walk to go find it yet.
Having been able to spend time in both Paris and Budapest, one of the most amazing things about European cities is the amount of history and culture that can be found just by wandering the city. I can walk for hours and not tire of seeing the incredible buildings. Almost all of them look regal and of great historical important, but upon getting close to I often realize that they did not actually play such a significant part in history.
And of course, I must add a note about science, since that is what most of my waking hours are devoted to. As a continuation of my work in Dallas, this has really helped keep me grounded. With stepping into a drastically different culture and environment, it has been reassuring to have my work as something understandable (at least in some sense) and as a place where I can make real contributions even though I am still working to grasp and adjust to the cultural differences.
I have just returned to Paris today after being in Budapest since Saturday for a nanotechnology conference. While some of the details of the projects went over my head, I was happy that I could grasp everything at a basic level and follow the majority of the presentations that I saw. Besides being in a great city to explore and allowing me the opportunity to travel outside of France, the conference was good for expanding my awareness of what is being done in nanotechnology, as well as understanding the ties that a lot of these projects have to industry.
The wonder and excitement of these past few weeks leave no doubt in my mind that the remainder of my summer here will be awesome. As my French improves, I hope to be able to further delve into the French culture and make this a worthwhile experience culturally as well as scientifically.
Check out Sachin's Blog here: http://wanderingwithwaldo.tumblr.com/
Everywhere I go, I will be bringing a Waldo plush toy and using him as my means of cataloguing my trip. I plan to take at least one picture with Waldo every day of my trip. I will try to update the blog daily, but may not have continuous internet access, so I may have to post some weekends together. Hopefully I don't lose Waldo along the way!