The Experience, International
May 2, 2014
Kurt Reinmund, a videographer for the ConnCollegeLive Experience, is currently spending this semester abroad. He is studying at the CET Film Production program and producing a movie through the FAMU film school in Prague. Kurt took a moment to write about his experiences away from campus.
“Dobrý den. Jsem Kurt. Promi?te, nemluvím ?esky.” In case you do not speak Czech, I just said, “Hello. I am Kurt. Sorry, I do not speak Czech.” After living in Prague, Czech Republic for the past three months and taking Czech language classes twice a week since my arrival here, I’m embarrassed to admit that those three sentences are the extent of my Czech speaking abilities. I did not come to Prague to learn a language that only 10 million people speak; I came here to make a film.
As a film studies major with a concentration in production, I knew I wanted an abroad program that allowed me to make film. It turns out, making a film in a foreign country whose language I don’t speak is extremely difficult and often times awkward. My film is titled Jirí, and the actors and crew in my film spoke about as much English as I speak Czech. Luckily, I’m a master of the “point-and-grunt” technique when trying to tell Czech people what I want, so I found a way around the severe language disparity. For example, if I point and grunt at the couch while making eye contact with an actor, that means I want him or her to walk to that couch. The “point-and-grunt” technique is universal; Francis Ford Coppola used it when filming Apocalypse Now.
I have not spent all of my time relentlessly working on my film; between my numerous meetings with very important film people, I have found some time to explore the city in which I live. Upon first arriving in Prague, I noticed that no building, church, park bench, traffic sign, nor playground was safe from the copious amounts of graffiti that plagued this once-Communist city. But as the weeks flew by, I realized that the graffiti is what makes this city so delightfully unique. While some people may see the graffiti as vandalism, I choose to believe that the graffiti serves as a rebellious reminder to the Czechs that they are no longer under Communist rule. While this belief may just be one of my pretentious theories, there must be some reason why the city does not clean up the graffiti, and I do not think it is out of laziness.
I only have a few weeks left here in Prague before I return to the States, and I must say that I am going to miss this city. Prague may be a permanently overcast city with people who never smile, but there is an irrefutable energy here unlike any I have ever seen. Founded in 1993, Czech Republic is still a new country. I know I’ve only lived here a few months, but I can tell that the Czech Republic has a very bright future ahead of it. I’m just glad I was able to capture its culture on film.
Kurt poses with his star actor, Miroslav Hrabé
April 30, 2014
Last week, the East Asian studies students hosted a poster session -- where students share their research and answer questions about their work. I went to support a friend, to cover the event for The College Voice and, in large part, because of my own personal interest in studying abroad.
Two East Asian studies classes presented posters about their spring break trips to Okinawa and Taiwan, respectively. While in Asia, each student conducted an individual research project.
As I wandered around the room, notebook in one hand and sushi in the other, I asked students about their experiences. I was struck with how much these students were impacted by their trips abroad. When I asked a friend what her favorite part of the trip was, she responded with, “Can I say the most profound part?” She went on to describe the moment she met a survivor of the Battle of Okinawan who worked as nurse in caves that were constantly being bombarded by bombs and gunfire.
These stories make me even more excited about my own study abroad plans for next fall. The stories also remind me that opportunities like spring break trips allow students who might not spend a whole semester abroad to experience life-changing opportunities around the world.
April 18, 2014
Last Wednesday, I woke up at 5:20 a.m., destined for the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Giddy with fatigue and excitement, a group of us from Knowlton House met in the foyer and jaunted over to our bus, complementing one another on our business-casual attire on the way.
I sat with my friend Leela. Both French fanatics, we chatted in French as we ate a breakfast of bagels, muffins and croissants. A snooze and a few traffic jams later, we arrived at the United Nations.
We first entered the building for the United States mission to the U.N. There, we met with Alexis Wichowski, a Connecticut College alumna from the Class of 1993. She transitioned from a Chinese major in college to a graduate program in information technology to a job at the U.N. related to IT diplomacy. She also works as a professor at Columbia University. In addition to describing her career path, she quizzed us on the U.N. How many member states compose the U.N.? 193! When was the U.N. founded? 1945! She insisted we understand the U.N. as a collection of entities that include its six deliberative councils and non-governmental organizations among others.
Isaac, an intern at the U.S. mission to the U.N., left us with a final note: “Don’t start at the bottom, start at the top.”
Some people took Isaac’s advice when attacking the buffet at the Delegates Dining Hall, starting with dessert and ending with lunch. No matter our dining approach, we ate more like kings and queens than like delegates.
Fortunately, a grand tour of the U.N. helped us work off the decadence. A Swedish tour guide led our group, which pleased Julia, a Swedish Conn student studying human rights and the media. Our guide showed us the rooms where the General Assembly and other branches of the U.N. convene. In fact, we witnessed the Economic and Social Council in action!
We also had time to engage in conversation with delegates while visiting the Iranian Mission to the U.N. After an informational video and some Iranian snacks, we showered the Iranian delegates with questions: How does Iran portray women in the media? What is Iran’s stance regarding the war in Syria? What would Iran prioritize in a security council meeting? Do women participate as actively in society as men? In response to our questions, one of the delegates urged us again and again to visit Iran and to discover the answers to our questions first-hand and individually.
After collecting food-for-thought at the Iranian mission, we headed out for a delicious French meal and met up with some NYC-based Conn alums.
After a day like Wednesday, Conn’s commitment to an international education certainly takes on a magic meaning for me.
April 4, 2014
I met Jana in the south of France. We were both working as Au Pairs for a summer. Over spring break, she flew from her home in Germany to visit me in the States. We spent two weeks museum-, art gallery-, concert hall-, and theater-hopping in Boston and New York City and then relaxed in Maine. Instead of returning to Germany at the end of spring break, Jana accompanied me to Conn for a week. Given the excitement of our first two weeks, I was initially concerned that Jana would find the week at Conn boring, especially in the moments when I was doing homework or at track practice.
To my relief, Conn entertained Jana fabulously. She attended classes and practiced piano and sang in the music practice rooms. She attended a lecture on East Germany, studied Mozart pieces from Greer Music Library and watched French films in the Language Lab. Jana even took the Camel Van—our shuttle van—into New London and went grocery shopping, then cooked ratatouille in the Unity House kitchen. She took photographs in the arboretum, attended a concert in Cro, befriended a German student, helped another student studying German, and more. Here is her take on the week:
It’s been almost a week since I arrived to Connecticut College and I enjoy being here a lot. After some sightseeing in New York City and Boston, I was quite excited to get to know the “real life” of American students. On the first day, I sat in on international relations and French classes. The classes were interesting, the professors enthusiastic and competent, and the students very ambitious and attentive. Soon enough, I observed differences between studying at Conn and what I know about studying at German university. At Conn, students and professors establish close relationships and meet for lunch whereas, in Germany, students attend lectures with over a hundred students and the professors often don’t even know their students’ names. Another difference between German university and Conn is that students stay on campus almost exclusively. They go to classes, work in the library, have dinner at the dining hall and sleep in the dorms. In my hometown, students live in apartments in the city, take the subway or bike to attend class. Lastly, I was impressed by the huge variety of clubs one can join and the extra activities offered here! All in all I am glad to get to know this campus. Maybe I’ll come back one day for a semester abroad! ;)
I sure hope she comes back to Conn, since hosting her spurred me to enjoy Conn in new ways. In the meantime, I look forward to next spring when I study abroad in France and can visit her in Germany!
March 5, 2014
When I was visiting colleges a tour guide asked, “Who plans on studying abroad?” my hand always flew into the air. This goal has stayed with me through college, and, after a nail biting two-week wait, I recently found out that I’ve been approved to study abroad at the University of Edinburgh.
Next step? Actually going about the process of applying to the program. This involves getting a visa, making travel arrangements and submitting additional personal statements and letters of recommendation.
It was only when my mother said, “Great, now I can plan my trip to Scotland to visit you,” did the realization that I am about to live in another country by myself actually hit me.
Even though I am slightly nervous, my head is full of plans to travel around the Scottish countryside, visit other European countries, and have an international academic experience, all while having A LOT of fun. I can’t wait.
November 27, 2013
A few days ago, professors Tristan Borer and Afshan Jafar hosted a discussion about Saudi Arabian human rights issues. Both professors are experts on the topic and, at the invitation of the Women’s Center, Think SAFE Project and Yalla Bina Arabic Club, led a conversation that was sparked by a viral video about female drivers in Saudi Arabia. I was one of 40 students who joined the chat while enjoying some free coffee and pastries from Coffee Grounds.
November 22, 2013
I have always wanted to study abroad in Australia. I imagined studying marine biology in the Great Barrier Reef while exploring the coasts. I'm a planner: I like things to be scheduled far in advance with few variations in the plan. Let's just say things are always subject to change.
I intend to be an environmental studies major and an Italian minor. I recently went to an event where several students presented about their study abroad experiences in Italy. Everything from the food to the scenery made me want to be there. As the students discussed what they enjoyed from the country's rich culture, I began to rethink my plans. What if I did a summer abroad in Italy? There is so much to learn about the country’s history and culture.
These presentations piqued my interests so much that I may change when and where I would like to study abroad. While this sudden desire for change surprised me, I can't say that it is unexpected: College is all about exploring. Why not change your mind a few times? Who knows where you might end up.