This week, we continue our spotlight on SBCC’s Madrid program. The program’s official student blogger, Rachel Sevy, discusses her Internship with Central Joven de Anticoncepcion y Sexualidad, a nonprofit which provides Spanish youth with sexual education services, contraception, STD and pregnancy tests, counseling, and more. Continue reading
The SBCC Spanish Language and Culture students have been in Madrid now for nearly a month. On September 14th, student blogger Rachel Sevy shared with us her first week abroad, and all the amazing new experiences that came with it.
This Fall, an adventurous group of Santa Barbara City College students will be living and studying in Madrid, Spain. They will be delving into a wide array of topics, from cultural studies, to communications, to film. ACCENT is proud to be sharing the experiences of the program’s Official Student Blogger, Rachel Sevy, as she and her classmates embark on this life-changing adventure!
The Insights newsletter highlights innovative programs with ACCENT. Today’s excerpt comes from our November 2016 edition. For more Insights, visit our newsletter at: http://accentintl.com/insightsnovember2016/
Nargis Aslami studies Economics at the University of California, Merced and intentionally chose the Spring Quarter in London and Paris to add international internship experience to her résumé and explore course topics unrelated to her major. “I wanted to dip my toes in a different field and see what that was like,” she recalls. While she may have charted unknown waters, Nargis is right on course. Continue reading
When Zach Styx, journalism major from the University of Minnesota, secured an internship with Rome Reports news agency, he hardly imagined that he would soon be reporting on-camera from St. Peter’s Square, conducting interviews with passing bishops and cardinals.
Zack chose Rome for his semester abroad because he wanted to go somewhere that would take him out of his comfort zone and challenge him linguistically. “I had decent Spanish but zero Italian when I arrived,” Zack recalls. He admits to disliking Italy for his first two weeks, but now back in Minneapolis, has only positive memories of his time in Rome and his internship was the highlight.
“My internship was the most important part of my study abroad experience,” says Zack. Rome Reports is a Vatican-based news agency, which produces video reports to sell to other large news agencies.
Zack recalls his first day: “My mentor Adam said that he was going to throw me into the water and see if I could swim. He said that I could get as much out of this internship as I put in. This meant that from the first day I had to be entrepreneurial. I began by researching, translating and editing copy, and then moved onto more hands-on work with the broadcast crew. I always showed up early and I enjoyed it so much it didn’t feel like work to me.”
Soon Zack was given his own camera and sound crew and sent out to do reports and interviews in St. Peter’s Square and beyond. One of his favorite memories is covering an event between the Japanese Embassy and the Vatican Pontifical Council for Culture. It was a Japanese flute concert in the seventh century church of San Giorgio al Velabro and he was given sole responsibility for reporting on the event.
“I was also lucky,” recalls Zack, “that the Pope was very active during the time I was reporting on the Vatican, with his trips away including the one to Africa, and the Vatileaks scandal came out too.”
Zack graduates this month and plans to join the Air Force. For now, his journalistic ambitions are on hold, but he hopes to be able to connect his two passions in the future.
This week’s post comes to us from our London intern Plamen Momchilov, who describes how visiting a city and learning from a professional guide can be a more engaging learning experience than simply sitting in a classroom.
It has been said that, without a doubt, London is a historically rich city, filled with centuries-old buildings and curious stories to hear. From Roman walls, through Medieval palaces, to Victorian splendor, there is a 2,000-year history to explore within the center of the capital.
Typically, the way that we study a subject (such as the history of London) at a university would be through a series of lectures and seminars. But being physically in London provides a plethora of opportunities to explore endless amounts of interesting sites. It is even easier if you have a knowledgeable guide to teach you about a topic you are interested in while being surrounded by the living history of this city.
In the last month while I attended guided walks, I soon realized that there was more to explore than I had thought. Though I study and live in the area, I felt as excited as the visiting students, who were only beginning to experience London.
I joined a walk with Arizona State University students in Greenwich, where hemispheres meet and naval heritage is the main attraction, an area that has lured various interesting characters throughout its history. Once an isolated village past the outskirts of London, its significance in regards to the development of British naval power is undisputed. However, it is not only scientific research or overseas quests that have attracted so many to the area. Since the Tudor era, Greenwich has enticed royal pleasure-seekers, secret spies, and creative novelists. Richard Barnett, our guide who offered insight into the history of Greenwich, managed to captivate all of us by weaving together narratives of grand architecture, ghost stories, odd scientists, and undercover royals.
Students with an interest in law and the impact of documents such as the Magna Carta would find the area known as Temple fascinating. Hidden between Embankment and Fleet Street, Temple is known to most people through the novel and film ‘The Da Vinci Code.” People well acquainted with Temple’s history can easily debunk the myths put forward by Dan Brown! David Mildon detailed the roots of English law and politics as he guided us around Temple. Middle Temple, the hall in the heart of the area, is like a historic time capsule. It was founded by the Knights Templar and has developed into a secluded legal base, in which many famous people, including several authors of the American Declaration of Independence, received their legal training.
The focus of guided academic walks need not be exclusively historic. As one of the largest cities in Europe, London’s diverse inhabitants face numerous challenges. Natalie Savona, an experienced dietician, has researched the health issues that concern Londoners, particularly those from low-income backgrounds. Her guided walk around the borough of Tower Hamlets exposed the pressures urbanization and globalization put on the provision of healthcare in London, as well as how social and economic inequalities have had an effect on local attitudes towards public health. She touched on how gentrification across London’s poorest boroughs has had an impact on diet and choice.
Through experiencing these sites first-hand, I have been truly inspired to learn more about this vast city and its people. These guided walks have taken me beyond the traditional learning platforms of lectures, readings, and seminar discussions into a space where I have had a sensory connection to the subject matter, and, as a direct result, will remember the stories I have been told more vividly.
~Plamen Momchilov, Intern at ACCENT London
As part of the ACCENT UCEAP European Transformations Semester with Internship in Madrid Program, University of California students had the opportunity to meet 1992 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Rigoberta Menchú at a seminar focused on combatting impunity in Guatemala. Aside from obtaining the Nobel Peace Prize for her leadership in national and international social struggles, Menchú received the UNESCO Education for Peace Prize in 1990, the Legion of Honor from France in 1996, and the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation from Spain in 1998. This experience was integral for student Jennifer Solares’ internship at the Asociación de Mujeres de Guatemala (http://mujeresdeguatemala.org/), which hosted Rigoberta Menchú’s seminar at Casa Encendida, a cultural center in Madrid.
The Asociación de Mujeres de Guatemala is a non-profit feminist Spanish NGO created by Guatemalan female refugees, displaced people, and immigrants living in Spain. Currently, it is formed by women of different nationalities with a common objective: the search for procedures which ensure that serious human rights violations of women, especially in Latin America, are internationally known and assumed as a global responsibility.
The seminar, titled “Crimes Against Humanity: Historical Cases,” was part of the conference series “Women Against Impunity.” Rigoberta highlighted two historical cases between 2013 and 2016. The first case was an assault and fire by police that occurred at the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala in 1980, which left 37 people dead, including Menchú’s father, Vicente. The trial took place 34 years later and culminated in a 90-year prison sentence for former head of police Pedro García Arredondo. Another historical sentence was accomplished in 2016 for serious human rights violations committed in the Sepur Zarco village against women of Q’eqchi origin, who were used as labor and sex slaves for years by the Guatemalan military.
For Jennifer Solares, the visit by Rigoberta Menchú was the highlight of her internship experience: “If it weren’t for this internship experience, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to see a Nobel Prize Winner.” As a Political Science major with a passion for politics, Jennifer has been able to fulfill her internship goal of working in activism, promoting equality, and assisting women in a non-profit organization. Likewise, UC student Ciclady Rodriguez found the lecture to be very insightful and valuable for her internship at Asociación CONI (http://www.asociacionconi.org), a non-profit Spanish NGO whose objective is international cooperation for development in Guatemala via initiatives aimed at promoting the most disadvantaged, such as women, children, and at-risk indigenous groups.
The historical visit by Rigoberta Menchú deepened students’ knowledge about influential feminist human rights leaders in Latin America, helped them understand significant trials, and enhanced their internship experience in Spain.
~ Lourdes Ceja, ACCENT Madrid
Marc-Antoine Vives is an intern at the ACCENT Paris Study Center and organizes a weekly “Coffee Talk” for the students. Coffee Talk is an informal meeting where students can practice their French, learn about French culture, play games, and enjoy coffee and biscuits, all in a relaxing atmosphere. During one of these sessions, Marc-Antoine interviewed a group of students from the University of Southern California and San Diego State University to understand what it’s like to study abroad in Paris and how ACCENT helped to shape their experience there.
This interview was conducted in French and was then translated into English.
Evelyne: First of all, I didn’t expect it to be so cold! That was certainly difficult to get used to. I also thought that I would hear more English on the streets and in the metro; I imagined Paris to be a bit more touristy. However, when you’re actually living here, you see that there are French people living normal lives, and foreigners and tourists visiting the city as well.
Autumn: I essentially imagined it to be like many movies filmed in Paris, where one strolls down the street with a big bag of fresh produce in one arm, admiring all of the windows brimming with flowers, like in the Impressionist paintings. I also naively thought that it would be easier to converse with French students—that was a bit of a challenge!
Marc-Antoine: After living in Paris for a semester, how has your perception of the city changed?
Evelyne: It’s not just a touristy city to me now; it’s a place where I’ve actually lived and made my home for the semester. The ability to speak French and to find my way around the city without getting lost is a very cool feeling!
Autumn: My perception has basically stayed the same as it was a few weeks into my arrival. I’ve come across a lot of incredibly nice people. The “frostiness” of the French is not as common of a characteristic as many people believe it to be.
Evelyne: It’s been a slight culture shock having to follow a different rhythm of life. Taking the metro every day is completely new to me and I must say that having dinner at a late hour is also a big change.
Autumn: Things are certainly different! For example, my day-to-day life in Paris has absolutely changed from my day-to-day life in America, transportation and weather being the most drastic changes. I’m very happy with how relaxed this semester has been in comparison to past semesters.
Marc-Antoine: What advice would you give to a student who has just arrived in Paris?
Jeremy: In my opinion, everyone should visit Versailles. There’s too much to see in a single day, so I’d recommend taking multiple trips.
Evelyne: I’d suggest making a list of things to do and having a physical calendar of your time here to keep track of the days and months passing, as much as you’re able to. Keeping a journal is also a great way to remember everything you did and it’s nice to show it to everyone back home!
Autumn: Walk a lot and make sure that you don’t rely on public transportation too much or else you’ll miss out on some incredible views! Try to get involved in local events, especially those involving language, so you can participate in “international meetups” and practice your French as much as possible. I definitely suggest watching news and TV shows in French. Even though I don’t have access to a TV, I watch shows online, such as “Le Petit Journal” on Canal+.
Evelyne: I enjoyed spending special moments with friends, like the picnic I had with a group of friends in front of the Eiffel Tower! The fondue dinner organized by ACCENT was another fun memory and I also enjoyed having conversations and dinners with my host family.
Autumn: I really liked the first couple of days of staying at the hotel, when the city was fresh and everyone was getting to know each other. It was just a haze of good times.
Jeremy: I’d have to say the highlight was, again, Versailles and traveling with like-minded people.
Marc-Antoine: In your opinion, what are some benefits of studying abroad?
Jeremy: It provides the chance to experience a new culture and to gain a better perspective of the world.
Evelyne: For me, being able to improve my French has been one of the biggest benefits. My host family has helped me a lot—I recommend living with a host family, if you have the choice.
Autumn: Studying abroad allows us to see the world from a different point of view. I personally benefited from the exposure to centuries of history petrified in the buildings that are still standing. I’ve also loved trying new food and having to change my daily habits. And I’m so happy that my listening comprehension in French has skyrocketed!
Evelyne: I will definitely come back to Paris and travel around many different parts of France.
Jeremy: I’ll be back very soon as I’ve been fortunate to have acquired a teaching post in France!
Autumn: I would love to return to Paris! I hope that it will be in a professional context at some point in the future. I was able to enjoy Aix-en-Provence during my stay, and Lille was a wonderful city as well. I’d love to give other countries in Europe a try and maybe Canada, as I could speak French there. The world is my huître.
~Marc-Antoine Vives, ACCENT Paris
If you’re a faculty or study abroad office looking to make your students’ world their huître (“oyster”), check out ACCENT’s program design process and contact our program development team for more information.
Last December, ACCENT Madrid arranged two study visits as part of the Santa Barbara City College study abroad program’s extracurricular internship program. Especially tailored to the interests of the two student interns (marketing in the fitness/health industry, and sociology & child development), the ACCENT Madrid team took the SBCC students to visit Club Metropolitan Abascal, a leading exercise firm, and UNICEF, an international non-governmental organization. Both experiences proved to be illuminating and educational for all.
With an interest in sports marketing and future hopes of managing a fitness enterprise, student intern Jessica Castronovo was particularly excited by the visit to Club Metropolitan Abascal and found that it provided an excellent compliment to her time interning in Madrid. Club Metropolitan Abascal is one of the most comprehensive health centers in Madrid, featuring a large fitness room with the latest technology, a studio for personal training, a pilates studio, a cycling room, a beauty center, a restaurant, and a spectacular spa. Honored as first place winner by the Madrid City Council for the Architecture and Design Award for Best Commercial Space, the state-of-the-art facilities were very impressive to the students.
While students were touring the venue, Exercise Coordinator Javier López García explained the club’s target audience, business model, marketing tactics, and how it differentiates itself from its competitors. These insights proved to be very valuable for Jessica as she saw firsthand how prioritizing customer service, utilizing the latest cutting-edge technologies and equipment, including a health-focused restaurant, and providing special activities that cater to clientele (such as master dance classes, running clubs, and social activities like wine tasting events) can be beneficial to a health-oriented company like Club Metropolitan Abascal.
Coinciding with Universal Children’s Day, the SBCC student visit to UNICEF, the United Nations program that provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children in developing countries and advocates for the protection of children’s rights, was also quite edifying. Jose Palazuelos, Madrid Volunteer Guide, discussed the 1946 origins of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, and how it was founded initially to provide emergency food and healthcare to children in countries devastated by World War II, and has since grown to serve more than 200 countries, carrying out its mission through programs developed with host governments.
SBCC students learned how UNICEF is guided by the Convention of the Rights of the Child, and focuses on health-related issues pertinent to children, like safeguarding against infectious diseases like HIV/Aids, the importance of having clean water, and of personal hygiene and sanitation of facilities, of nutrition and education, and child protection and social inclusion. Toward the end of the visit, Jose Palazuelos showed students supplies that UNICEF workers use in emergency situations, ranging from bed nets to protect against mosquito bites (which can cause malaria) to therapeutic food for malnourished children.
For student intern Chelsea Cooper, who is considering focusing on child development, the UNICEF visit was very engaging. She was surprised to find out that the U.S. had not ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child, and also that, in the U.S., animals tend to have more legal protection than children. After the presentation, various students showed interest in considering a career with UNICEF.
Through both stimulating visits, students gained valuable knowledge about operating a fitness enterprise and protecting children’s rights worldwide.
~ Lourdes Ceja, ACCENT Madrid
The Insights newsletter highlights innovative programing with ACCENT. Our November 2014 issue focused on recent programs and student experiences in London and Rome. The excerpts from Insights below are a part of the newsletter’s focus on student internships abroad. The next Insights newsletter will be available in May 2015 and will highlight custom programming across all six ACCENT cities. For more Insights, visit our newsletter archives at: www.accentintl.com/program-development
Andrea Gonzalez is no stranger to hard work, having held various jobs to support herself and her family throughout high school and college. However, before her internship in London she had never worked directly in her academic field. She was particularly aware of that gap in her resume before studying abroad, since the quarter in London would be her last at UC Riverside before graduation.
Andrea interned fulltime for six weeks at the Cherie Blair Foundation. The internship under the mentorship of communication director Jillian Convey was an ideal marriage of Andrea’s English major and Women’s Studies minor, her true passion. “It was amazing to see it all come together in such a neat package,” reflects Andrea, noting that her peers had the same feeling: “We were all over London doing very different things, but everyone felt so rightly placed and came home each day with a story.”
The Foundation operates mentorship programs for female entrepreneurs in developing and emerging countries across the globe. Andrea worked in communication, writing copy for web and print, and speechwriting in preparation for Cherie Blair’s speech at the Cambridge Wireless Conference in late June, where she highlighted the importance of wireless technology in empowering women around the world.
“Jillian was a great teacher and mentor, giving valuable feedback on my writing to ensure that we were heard and that the message was clear and concise,” said Andrea. “Everyone was very supportive of each other. The different program leaders were always willing to answer questions or have a tea.”
Andrea is still in touch with her mentor and others from the Cherie Blair Foundation. She recently accepted a position as an Autism Behavioral Therapist in California, but hopes to prepare for the GRE and apply for a graduate degree in Gender Studies in the UK.
Movimento Cinque Stelle
Miranda Slaght was surprised to find her hand raised to correct her political science professor after only a few weeks in Rome. He had made, in her opinion, a generalization about Movimento Cinque Stelle (M5), Italy’s radically new political movement. Taken aback, the professor asked Miranda where she got her information. “I work for them,” she said.
Today, Miranda is a senior at the University of Minnesota, finishing a degree in History and Political Science and preparing for the LSAT. Last spring, she was M5’s first non- Italian student intern, writing English language copy for the party’s website and social media channels.
On her first day, after observing a live debate at the Italian Senate, Miranda’s internship mentor Alessandro Canali walked her to the M5 headquarters and asked her to write an article introducing the movement to an English-speaking audience. “I thought to myself, ‘I have no idea.’ I’m a History major, so I write a lot of papers, but my first article at M5 made me realize exactly how little I knew about the movement.
Though overwhelming, that article was the perfect first assignment, serving as a crash course on M5 and introducing Miranda to the entire team. “I went from office to office asking people questions about the movement and their roles.” She remembers Canali’s comment after reading the first draft: “You left out a lot.”
And while she admits that Italy seems like less of a “perfect paradise” after working inside the political system, she is glad for the experience: “It was eye-opening to learn about Italy’s problems and political issues. The internship helped me understand Italy and Italians much more than my peers.”
Miranda plans to write about the experience in her law school essay: “With so many people studying abroad, if you don’t have skills to show from it, it is not worthwhile.”
This week, we have a Student Feature from UC Berkeley student Vanessa Famighetti. Read on to find out how Vanessa came to study abroad in London this past Fall.
With only a month left of my study abroad experience in London, I’m beginning to realize just how much this metropolis has come to feel like home. Although I have put in a distinct effort to make this city my new home, there is something innate in London that reaches back to you, inviting you to stay. I am all the more surprised at myself writing this now because of the circumstances under which I first decided to study in the UK.
Late last Spring semester, my best friend and roommate at UC Berkeley, Tamara, told me about her plan to study abroad in London the following Fall. Although I was thrilled for her, I couldn’t entirely hide the twinge of sadness I felt imaging I’d be left in Berkeley, alone. Tamara also wanted to continue living and traveling with her best friend, so she asked me why I couldn’t join her abroad. The idea initially struck me as ridiculous for several reasons. First, I had already studied abroad twice before in Europe and had just transferred to Berkeley for my final two years. I was certain I didn’t have time to go abroad and still graduate on time. Second, as a working student, I support myself and I thought that there was no way I’d be able to afford going abroad as doing so would mean I’d need to quit my job. Third, it was the end of April and the application period had closed almost four months prior. I felt fairly certain that there was no way I’d be joining her on this trip. And even if the previous three factors had not come into play at all, I still felt it rather foolish to move to a new continent with no defined motivation, just to follow a friend who suggested it.
Tamara understood the reservations I harboured and respected them; she acknowledged that many of my reservations were quite legitimate. But on her way out of my room she went on to say that if within 24 hours I couldn’t think of a good enough reason NOT to go, we should revisit the topic. Her words rung in my head for several minutes. What was my good reason not to go? I highly doubted it was possible for me to apply so late and make everything work out, but my only real reason for resisting was that I feared it would simply be crazy, to go just because it was suggested to me?! It suddenly dawned upon me that maybe having no clear reason to go is not a good reason not to go. As confusing as that idea may sound written out, it was twice as confusing to juggle in my mind.
Confusion aside, the next morning I found myself in the study abroad office at Berkeley asking the people who worked there questions I had asked myself the night before. After a brief and informative visit with a Study Abroad Liaison, I came to learn that albeit very late in the process, it was still absolutely possible to go. Not only could all the right strings be pulled, but financial aid could make it so that I didn’t need to work to survive in London and would instead be able to land my dream internship at AMC International. I left the office slightly awed.
After a bit more internal back and forth, I decided I would go. If an amazing opportunity to travel the world with your best friend and gain your ideal internship work experience abroad presents itself, you ought to have a pretty darn solid reason not to take it. I didn’t have one, and now I find myself writing this post from my new home in London.
This experience has been an absolutely fantastic adventure. I have been living and sharing unforgettable experiences with a best friend whom I now feel closer to than ever for bringing me along on this insane experience. I have learned the real meaning of seizing life by the horns. When opportunity came knocking, I answered and it has only been a blessing. I will graduate this coming May in Berkeley and am currently looking for ways to get back to Britain after that. An off-hand suggestion resulted in a life-altering adventure and I intend to say,“Yes!” to every amazing opportunity in the future that I don’t have a good enough reason to turn down.
~Vanessa Famighetti, University of California Fall 2014 program in London
This week’s Student Feature contribution comes from Emilie Martin, a student who studied in Florence in Spring 2012. She originally wrote this piece for the UCEAP website but decided to share it with us as well! While in Florence, Emilie completed a prestigious internship, and used this experience to further her academic career back in the states at the University of California, Irvine.
Last Spring I finally fulfilled my dream of studying abroad when I spent six months living in Florence, Italy. I got to spend every day exploring streets lined with Renaissance history eating gelato and pizza and speaking one of the most beautiful languages in the world. I finished an entire year’s worth of Italian in one semester and got to take an art history class on Michelangelo in the very same buildings he worked in centuries ago. As an art history major, this was such a unique and life changing experience. This class was the best I have ever taken and I was the most engaged I have ever been as a student. I became close with my professor, Dr. Sheila Barker and in February, I became one of four students that was helping her do research for an exhibition Women Artists of Early Modern Italy: Documents from the Archivio di Stato di Firenze held on March 2, 2012 in conjunction with the Jane Fortune Conference, “Women Artists of Early Modern Italy / Artiste nell’Italia dell’età moderna.”
Our primary objective was to find biographical information on the five women featured in the exhibition to accompany copies of records of their activity as artists. This was an era when art, business, and education were dominated by men so surviving evidence of successful females in the field was rare and significant. After the exhibition and the school semester were over, I approached Dr. Barker and asked her if there was any possibility that I could extend my stay in Florence and continue an internship with her. She was impressed by my initiative and was flattered that I was interested in working with her.
During the month that I worked at the Archivio di Stato, I learned more than I ever expected I would about myself, archival research, and the Italian bureaucracy. I moved to an apartment outside the city center, lived with an Italian, and was commuting by bus to the archive where I was one of three Americans in the whole building; until then I hadn’t experienced the real Florence.
Aspects of my archival work included locating and transcribing early seventeenth-century Latin and Italian documents such as bank account records for Artemisia Gentileschi and private correspondence between a Roman art dealer and Leopoldo de’ Medici. I also developed outreach programs, co-wrote the text for the Jane Fortune Program webpage, and co-edited the catalog of manuscript documents exhibited at the conference “Women Artists of Early Modern Italy / Artiste nell’Italia dell’età moderna” which can be viewed online here.
In addition, my accomplishments included strategizing research plans and laying the groundwork for an article that I am writing on an unpublished seventeenth-century document regarding a self-portrait by Sofonisba Anguissola. I hope to return to Florence someday soon to further develop and again one day to publish this article.
I never expected that a research internship would become not only my favorite part of studying abroad, but also prove to be so crucial to the development of my career. Upon my return to UCI, I secured an internship in the Department of Art History as a research assistant. After working with in the archives abroad, I thought I knew all there was to know about scholarly research. In working closely with professors on campus, I soon learned that modern research resources in Irvine differ greatly from those at the Archivio di Stato in Florence. I was pleased to discover however, that the knowledge I gained abroad of working a card catalog system and microfilm, and hours of scanning nearly illegible handwritten manuscripts was put to good use at UCI while navigating the university’s online and library resources, utilizing Google, and perusing shelf after shelf of periodicals.
My experience abroad not only prepared me for a future career as an art historian but also opened doors and led me to opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to had I not asked if it was possible. I am so grateful that I had this experience and I welcome any opportunity to mentor students who will one day have as much enthusiasm for Italy and art history as I do.
~Emilie Martin, University of California, Irvine – ACCENT Florence, Spring 2012
There’s no hiding it: I am a theatre fan. I love reading about theatre, going to theatre, participating in and making theatre. I’m all about it. So when an article came up in the New Yorker that gave insight into one woman’s experience of theatre in rural Turkey, my interests were certainly piqued.
My experiences of theatre were different in both of the countries studied abroad in. I spent my first week in Florence backstage at the Pergola Theatre, the oldest theatre in Florence, gluing felt pieces together for the set of The Velveteen Rabbit staged by FESTA (Florence English Speaking Theatrical Artists), the theatre where I interned for a while in Italy. I got to speak spotty Italian to all the Florentines working on the production team; they called me “pappagallo” (Italian for parrot), but little did they know I knew what they were saying (for the most part…) the whole time! During my time at Oxford, my theatre experience was quintessentially English: I worked on Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus with a predominately British cast.
Both of the plays I worked on while abroad differed in language and production styles. Cultural differences that are apparent outside of theatre impacted each theatre-making endeavor and both groups I worked with exhibited a very different work ethic, but both still insisted on the old axiom, “The show must go on.”
In both places too, the communal aspect of theatre shined through as the same. The community experience that theatre creates is one that transcends nationality and language and it is this experience that draws me to the art form and thus led me to read Elif Batuman’s article on women’s theatre in Turkey, a subject and a community that I am inherently interested in.
In the article, Batuman tells her readers of Ümmiye Koçak, a woman in Turkey who creates theatre by women and for women. Batuman’s article centers around Ümmiye’s life experiences that led her to create theatre and speaks to the importance of sharing the female experience in a culture that is not always as pro-woman as it could be, or as it is in other nations.
Never having traveled to Turkey before, the article gave me an introduction to women’s lives in rural Turkey that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. In it, Batuman points out that although constitutionally, women are equal under the law in Turkey, and although many women have been very successful in navigating through these shifts in gender paradigm in cities like Istanbul, in rural Turkey, women still face many challenges to their safety and equality. Outside of the city, Turkish cultural definitions of women’s roles align with age-old stereotypes that limit the roles women play to “wife” and “mother.” And in these roles, their bodies are at the mercy of what bad men might do to them when the law turns a blind eye and shelters offer no refuge. And it is in rural Turkey where women face these challenges that Ümmiye established the “Arslanköy Women’s Theatre Group.”
Ümmiye’s theatre, from what I can tell, doesn’t try to subvert the culture it stems from, but it does empower women by allowing them to have a way in which to express their thoughts and share their experiences with others. In this way, the theatrical experience allows the women participating in Ümmiye’s theatre to combat the isolation they might otherwise feel as they labor in their homes for their families. It allows women to play different roles, to reflect on their lives, and to create an identity for themselves outside of the home.
But enough of my thoughts on the article – you really must read it for yourself to get the whole picture Batuman paints. Although only a portion of the article is available to read online, if you pick up a copy of the December 24th/31st New Yorker, you won’t regret it!
And if/when you travel to Istanbul, if you happen to go see a play or do anything theatre-related, tell us about it and let me live vicariously through you! Email your experiences of theatre abroad to Chelsey at email@example.com and you just might be featured on the ACCENT Blog!
~Chelsey Little, ACCENT San Francisco
This week’s ACCENT Student Feature comes from Sara Rose Comis, an MIT student who studied abroad in Madrid in Spring 2012. The piece, titled “A Comparison between Spain and the United States,” touches on Sara’s experience as an American student interning in Madrid and speaks to the differences in the “intern experience” in the United States versus Spain. During Sara’s time abroad, she submitted this essay to the Planet-BMP contest, “I am Europe” and won fourth place! Congrats, Sara, and thanks for sharing with ACCENT!
Wedging my way out of the packed subway car, I kept my eyes peeled for any sign of the bus terminal that I knew was supposed to be here somewhere. I headed toward the exit of the metro just like everyone else, walking rapidly as if I had somewhere important to be in a few minutes. Once I passed through the exit turnstile, I made a beeline straight for the metro attendant I had happily discovered to be situated at every metro station in Madrid.
“Excuse me, where can I find the 573 bus?” I asked the attendant in Spanish. “Right across the street,” she replied. “Out of which exit? Across what street?” I inquired as I looked around wildly at the three different exits nearby. However, the attendant had already disappeared into the backroom.
I chose the closest exit and walked out of subway station into the busy morning traffic. Looking around, I saw my bus turn into the park across the street. With two minutes to spare, I joined the crowd rushing toward the park ready to catch the bus that would take me to the outskirts of Madrid, where my spring semester internship was located.
The first major difference that I noticed between my hometown in the United States and Madrid was the cleanliness, speed, and type of people that traveled around the city on public transit. Having taken the public bus for five years in an urbanized city to get to my middle school and then high school, I can easily confirm that in Los Angeles only the people who do not have a car or do not have a lot of money take the bus. I often found myself sitting next to drug addicts, Mexican laborers, and crazy people who had gone through the medical system, been declared sane, and then returned to the streets. In contrast, the people who ride the buses or take the subway in Madrid are well dressed, mind their manners, and seem comfortable with their public transportation system. Essentially, the stigma against public transportation that I found to be so prevalent in Los Angeles does not seem to exist in Madrid.
When I arrived at the designated location in the outskirts of Madrid to begin my internship on my first day of work, a secretary met me at the door and welcomed me into the kitchen where the other employees were drinking coffee with cookies and fruit before beginning the day’s work. Everyone went out of their way to stop what they were doing to welcome me, and then I was escorted around the building. Every person I encountered planted a kiss on each of my cheeks before allowing me to move on and introduce myself to the next person. Being a person who does not kiss very many people, this custom took some time before it became second nature.
The cheek kissing also made me wonder about the hand shaking that is customary in the United States when introductions are made. My aunt, a business woman, taught me at a young age about the importance of giving a firm, but soft hand shake upon introductions. She said that if one’s handshake is too firm, the person is implying that he plans on dominating the interaction and could possibly become hostile. If on the other hand a person’s handshake is weak, the person is suggesting that the interaction is unimportant to him and a waste of time. With this in mind, I began to wonder about the significance of the cheek kissing. Did a kiss on the cheek versus in the air next to the cheek make a difference? What about a kiss close to the other person’s mouth versus further away from the mouth? When I asked my coworkers about the importance of the type of kiss given to another person, they thought that my speculations were unfounded and that I was reading into the situation too much.
So, back to my first day: within 30 minutes of being at my Spanish internship, I felt as though I had known everyone for several years and was simply returning to work after a long vacation. While I had felt welcomed by the U.S. employees of the major oil company where I interned last summer in Virginia, my coworkers in Spain were far more enthusiastic about my arrival than my prior co-workers in the United States. In stark contrast to the tiny cubicle that I had last summer, I now had a desk that was open to the entire room as well as the other people in the engineering department. Also, the coffee at my internship in Spain was free!
My boss gave me a quick run through on how the company functioned, how it fit in the energy sector in Spain, and what the company’s plans were moving forward. I was eager to review the thermodynamics of cogeneration (the simultaneous generation of electricity and heat) so that I could get started on my project for the semester; the only problem was that I had no project. Every day I would come into work and have to wait an hour until my boss arrived. If I hadn’t finished my work from the day before, I would continue to work on that project. Otherwise, since my coworkers tended to gather in the kitchen for breakfast before starting on work for the day, I would take my time in the kitchen drinking coffee and eating fruit until everyone started going back to their desks. Once my boss arrived, I would ask him what I could do for the day. I started out doing busy work such as digitizing the layout of a cogeneration plant and translating a document from Spanish to English. When I had finished those tasks and my boss was not around, I started asking other people in the engineering department and maintenance departments for work. Of every five people I asked, only one had a task for me to do. I guess very few employees have excess work.
While I knew that Spanish legislation had halted the development of renewable energy, which included cogeneration, I had not realized that this meant that I would be without meaningful work. In the United States, when companies agree to take on an intern, they make sure to assign them to groups that have a specific project in mind. Throughout the internship, it is the intern’s job to go through the steps that any other employee would perform in order to complete the project. If challenges arise, the intern’s supervisor is available to answer questions or point the intern in the direction of the necessary resources.
With the American internship experience freshly imprinted on my mind, I had incorrectly assumed that my internship in Madrid would be similar. I had thought that like the United States, people in Europe were goal driven and highly valued each other’s performance. Instead, Spaniards seem to view internships as opportunities to observe how work is performed in a company. The internee is encouraged to ask whatever questions come to mind, but there is no delegation of work, need to produce, or application of the concepts involved. In other words, internships are seen more as a form of “show and tell” by the employer rather than the intense performance driven “learning on the job” that is expected of American internships.
When talking to my Spanish co-workers, I began to gain a better understanding of the work mentality as well. Apparently, while a company is supportive of a productive work environment, weekend trips and activities outside the office seem to play a role in how employees judge each other rather than the completion of projects. Additionally, all business deals require human-to-human interaction and lunch. Unlike the American organizations that are working toward increasing the use of digital tools to minimize physical interactions and save time in business transactions, one of my coworkers was positive that a digital meeting could never replace the human contact needed to finalize a deal. In the words of one of my coworkers, “Lunch is the most important part because that is when we have a chance to learn about our partner as a person and learn if he is the type of person with whom we want our company to be associated.”
Since proving to my boss that I am capable of performing analyses such as the distribution of costs at cogeneration plants, I have earned the privilege of taking on more complicated analyses. In addition to working my way up to meaningful work, I was able to take advantage of several cogeneration plant tours to see how the plants are designed and the work environment of the employees. In terms of safety, my internship in the United States would never have let me tour the plant without a helmet or goggles. I did, however, have earplugs, which were a huge help when walking past the turbines.
Overall, while this internship is nowhere close to what I had expected in terms of work ethic or productivity, I have learned much about the core cultural beliefs that Spaniards regard so highly. Aside from the work that needs to be completed, my experience has taught me that there is a much higher regard for the well-roundedness of an employee and his personal experiences than there is in the United States. When I return home either to intern or work, I will look at all interactions with my coworkers and business partners from a new perspective: the point of view of one’s willingness to know me for who I am as opposed to what financial gains they can achieve through their relationship with me.
~ Sara Rose Comis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Spring 2012 – ACCENT Madrid