Busy weeks, a field trip, and some time off in Manhattan again

As my dad reminded me yesterday, I am going to be home for Christmas in just five weeks, which is crazy: how is this semester going by this fast? Even though so many things happened in the last couple of weeks as well, I feel like the time is flying by just too fast.
As you can read it in Juli’s last post, life at Trinity never gets boring: we attended the Chapel Formal, the Indian festival Diwali, and celebrated our first American Halloween, which for me meant crossing even more things off my bucket list. I could see the Rocky Horror Picture Show with live reenactment (to see how cool it was, check out Juli’s post), I tried to carve a pumpkin for the first time in my life, and failed, and I could accompany some neighborhood kids trick-or-treating on campus – this annual event is called Halloween on Vernon, and it gives a chance for families of Hartford to take their children trick-or-treating in a safe environment. Even if the rain almost washed it away, it was still a success.
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Other than these, I finally met with Girl Scouts in real life, not just on the movie screen, and of course, I couldn’t resist to buy Girl Scout Cookies from them. We also attended our very fist football game ever, meaning of course the game that Americans call football, during the Homecoming Weekend. Even with a friend trying to explain us what’s going on, I’m still not sure if I’ll ever get this game, but it was definitely a fun experience, especially surrounded by all the alumni, with everyone wearing Trinity gear and yelling “go chickens”.
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By now, I finished my classroom placement, so I sadly had to say goodbye to the amazing kids from ELAMS, but just before Halloween, I still had the opportunity to go with them on their field trip to the Community Farm of Simsbury. It was a lovely day, the children could learn about plants and animals, and I could finally get to know them more, and know more about the program they participate in during these field trips: on the farm, they meet a class from a more well-off school district, Granby, and they have a chance to make friends with kids from different backgrounds.

When there are no fun events on campus, it is usually time spent studying in the library or my room – the latter was pretty hard last week, given that we didn’t have heating yet, with temperatures sometimes dropping as low as -7 Celsius. Even when I have to write four papers in one week, the professors here are so cool and helpful, it’s really motivating: they answer your e-mails in the middle of the weekend, saying that they like your proposed thesis statement, and you can always meet them during office hours to talk through how to improve, and you might end up talking for 20 minutes about the Trump presidency and Hungarian politics.
Lately, I also had two off-campus adventures again. In October, I went to hike Mt Monadnock in New Hampshire, one of the most frequently hiked mountains of the US, with the Outdoors Club. As by then fall already had arrived in New England, it was a great hike with amazing views on top of the mountain:


Also, as Kármen’s last post tells you, we went to New York on the previous weekend. My second time in the Big Apple was an entirely different experience than my first one, but it of course, also included eating amazing food: trying out Indian, Chinese, Mexican and Middle-Eastern cuisines. We explored Chinatown, Nolita and Soho, and we went to the most amazing bookstore ever: it’s called Bluestockings, and it sells feminist and radical books, while also working as an activist center. I think we spent like two hours there because it was a really tough decision to choose only one book to buy and take home. A long-time dream of mine came true when we took a boat to visit Ellis Island – we checked out the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline on the way as well, which was also pretty cool. All the history in Ellis Island is something I will never forget, especially because in every room, you could come across a story of a Hungarian immigrant family. At last, I could also go to the MET with Trixi, but of course I’ll have to go back because that museum is just so big, we couldn’t explore everything in one day. Still, we saw the Egyptian section and tried to see as much from the European paintings as possible – too many Van Gogh, Degas and Gaugin, I’m telling you –, and of course we couldn’t miss the contemporary art area of the museum, because I can never get enough of the random paintings of Jackson Pollock.


Next week, for Thanksgiving break, I’m going to Washington DC to explore and relax a bit before final papers and exams are coming up.

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Nothing New Under the Sun

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Last weekend Zsófi and Juli came over to New York from Trinity and on Saturday we went to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which is hosting the National Museum of Immigration. For decades, this was the entry point for millions of people arriving to the United States. With a few personal items and all the money they have saved, they came to start a new life in this far away land. Today their descendants make up a large portion of this country.
After arrival the newcomers went through a basic health check and were asked some questions, mainly to determine whether they will be able to sustain themselves. Only 2% of the arrivals were turned back.
Some of those who made it to the continent were welcomed as a source of cheap labor, but some Americans considered them to be a cultural and economic threat (e.g. in the case of Chinese immigrants in the 19th century).
After settling down in the U.S., some of the immigrant men were longing for wives who shared the same language and customs, therefore so-called “picture-brides” from the old country were courted through the mail. The young women who accepted such marriage proposals first met their future husbands on Ellis Island. Occasionally, men and women changed their minds when they saw their intended spouses, but most of them eventually married, some right on Ellis Island.

My impression after visiting the museum was that people and their mindsets do not change (much), only the world and the technology around them. Nowadays immigrants arrive to the U.S. by plane and not ships, but the focus is still on fear, rather than possibilities.

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Adventures within a half a mile radius

I’ll have to admit, I was a little bit worried about this week’s blog post. My last one was about how I’ve just got here and how I’m still getting used to everything, newness and excitement everywhere. A month has passed since then, and I’m all settled in. The small everyday routines of Trinity have swallowed me whole and now the place feels almost like home. And although I barely left the campus these weeks (the midterms are tough, I’m telling you), Trinity provides more than enough opportunities to have fun and explore without even having to change from my sweatpants.

Last night for example, I went to one of the acapella groups’ concert (yes, Trinity has at least three of them, yes, it’s like in the movie Pitch Perfect) who sang totally random songs in SpongeBob SquarePants costumes in one of Trinity’s oldest rooms with antique wooden decorations everywhere. And this is what makes the whole campus experience so unique: everything is in your reach; you eat, sleep, study and go out in the same half a mile radius which sounds boring, I know, but trust me it’s anything but that. Being able to get everywhere in five minutes has the huge benefit of being able to make totally spontaneous decisions and shake up a boring, rainy evening with a concert or a random dinner in one of the students associations’ houses.

So without further ado, here is a most possibly incomplete list of things I’ve done in the last couple of weeks without having to leave the campus:

Chapel Formal: a rare occasion for students who otherwise can show up in their classes still wearing their PJs to dress up and have a fancy dinner in Trinity’s amazing chapel. This year it was a fundraiser for a student organization which puts together lunchboxes for local kids. If you wanted to donate money, fine, if you applied to help them out, fine, if you only showed up for the free dinner and the fake champagne that’s also perfectly acceptable. What’s important is that you had a good night.

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Diwali: one of the International House’s biggest events of the year, the Hindu festival of lights with amazing Indian food, the best variety of soundtracks known mostly from Bollywood movies and even henna paintings if you had the patience to wait in line (which I did not).

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Rocky Horror Picture Show: my first American Halloween could not have been the same without this classic and the campus cinema knew this exactly. They not just showed the Rocky Horror Picture Show but they showed it with a live shadow cast. And trust me having a crew acting out the scenes playing on a big screen behind them is something everyone should see once in their lives.

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Made Violent: the “alternative” folks of The Mill student club were nice enough to invite the band Made Violent to play in their house, and although I’ve never even heard about them before, and they were a perfect example of an entertaining but easily forgettable hipster indie bands, the whole event just reminded me of Budapest’s underground concert scene which I happened to miss a lot. Jumping around a little bit and shouting random songs makes you forget about your upcoming exams like nothing else.

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Many thanks for Zsófi for the photos, I always forget to take any.

 

 

 

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‘The land of opportunities’

One of the great advantages of studying (and working in) international relations in New York is that all of the major international organisations are concentrated here and there’s also a myriad of NGOs, think tanks and institutions, some of them very unique to the city, “very New York” – deserving of this label both because of their special focus and their history as cultural hubs of the city. If we want to kind of put this in perspective, this basically means that international relations are happening right around us, every day, and it doesn’t just start and end at the United Nations.

An added advantage to this is the BGIA program itself – it is so established and well-connected that us, students, often get invitations through the program to participate in various panels, conferences and forums at these iconic institutions with some of the greatest experts in the field. I try to seize all of these opportunities, and in the past couple of weeks we’ve had quite a lot of these.

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The Foreign Policy Association invited us to its 17th Annual World Leadership Forum. This year, the Foreign Policy Association decided to shift the Forum’s focus towards China and its relations with the United States, which I found particularly interesting as during my undergraduate studies in International Relations in Hungary we talked very little about China –  but we have to admit that in the 21st century, China is an actor that simply cannot be ignored anymore.The Forum was a comprehensive, all-day event that consisted of 5 panels and a luncheon. Just focusing on a luncheon for a bit – I generally still get intimidated attending events where I get my own name tag, but this luncheon was definitely the most intimidating part of the Forum. Taking place at the Harvard Club of New York, on this sunny afternoon we were joined for lunch by a very impressive interior design that included close-to-life-size elephant statue (?), several leading professionals from academia, business, and government, and also the Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in New York, sitting right next to the table that me and the other BGIA students shared with cadets from the West Point and Norwich military academies – because, hey, we’re all students after all, let’s stick together in these difficult times when we try to figure out which fork to use first to make it seem like we’re civilized people who belong to places like this!

The whole BGIA group attended a presentation by Michael W. Doyle, Director of Columbia University’s Global Policy Initiative (whose seminal theories on democratic peace I studied even at Corvinus in Budapest) at the State University of New York Global Center. He talked about a new model treaty on international migration and mobility that he and his colleagues have been working on as an updated, more comprehensive version of the current regimes. The model treaty apparently includes incentives for skeptical, anti-immigration countries to participate, which was interesting for me to consider in light of the current politics back in Hungary.

The Council on Foreign Relations (also a “very New York” institution) also held its annual Back-to-School event recently – kind of awkwardly, already way into the semester, closer to midterms than first-day-of-school. Eve, who I intern with at Oxford Analytica, and I represented BGIA at this event where we were joined by students of Yale, NYU and multiple other colleges and high schools in the area. The activities included a panel, the theme of which was the future of globalization, where the panelists heavily focused on the effects that the United States’ abandonment of many international regimes such as the Paris Climate Agreement, TTIP and UNESCO and thus (sort of) its international leadership position, could have on the global balance of power.

 

Finally, just this last weekend, I was fortunate enough to spend 2 days at Bard College’s main campus upstate in Annandale-on-Hudson, as they invited the PIE students and us Kellner scholars to participate in a symposium they organised to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. I thought this could be an interesting topic to talk about, as there is actually strangely very little focus on this important anniversary, both and U.S. and also in Russia even. Not the least, this was a great chance for me to take a quick look at the campus where I’m going to live in the spring semester! I don’t want to lie – arriving there was pretty shocking after almost 2 months of living in New York. It’s pretty crazy that in two hours I went from Times Square to basically the middle of a forest where there were deer and squirrel and no people and I could see the stars in the sky. Luckily, campus life seemed pretty easy to get used to, and it definitely helped that the area surrounding Bard is all dressed in beautiful colors as fall has definitely arrived to New York state.

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Adventures in the Big Apple and in Massachusetts

In my last post, I wrote how busy my first weeks were here at Trinity. Well, life only got busier since then but I can’t complain. The workload for my classes is enormous, I only study this much at home when I have exams: hundreds of pages to read and at least three papers to write every week. But, since my classes are all so interesting, I even enjoy writing critical discussion papers on 80-pages long Simone de Beauvoir texts. I also got a job on campus, so now I’m working in the Watkinson Library which is the special collections section of Trinity’s library. Working there doesn’t sound interesting if you are not like me and you don’t get excited by the fact that you are holding a book in your hands that was published in 1609 or in 1815 in your favorite place in the whole world, Lisbon.

I’ve also started my classroom placement for my Analyzing Schools course, so every Monday I walk down to ELAMS, the nearby public school and spend three hours with my adorable 4th-graders. They are such a lively group of students and they very much remind me of the children I volunteer with back in Hungary. They are incredibly honest, they are eager to talk about their lives and they are always so excited when I arrive. It’s also so interesting for me to be inside a US public school, trying to understand how the education system works here and trying to compare it to Hungarian system which is so different but also so similar if I think about the huge inequalities.

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The classroom I have my placement in

Recently, in the course of just two weeks I spent one weekend in New York City and another in Boston. It’s really hard to compare the two cities, especially because New York has been on my bucket list for ages and I had such high expectations for it (that the city hasn’t failed to fulfill) but I didn’t even really know anything about Boston before.

It might sound dumb, but my very first impression about New York was just how gigantic that city is. I got off the bus and for a few hours I was in a shock: there were so many people everywhere, everyone was in a hurry and I couldn’t see the top of the buildings. Slowly, I got used to it but two and a half days were only enough to get a glimpse of life in the Big Apple. I spent my time with Kármen and Trixi, the Kellner Scholars studying at BGIA. We had amazing food, we enjoyed the amazing panorama from the Top of the Rockefeller Center, we went to a random festival in Little Italy (it felt so charmingly Southern European, I was so happy), checked out the famous architecture of the Guggenheim Museum and walked from Manhattan to Brooklyn on the Brooklyn Bridge. I’ve also paid my tributes to John Lennon at the Imagine Memorial in Central Park and annoyed my fellow Friends fans back home with posting pictures of the famous building from the TV Show Friends. As I mentioned in my previous post, I wanted to check out the world’s most famous soup cans by Andy Warhol in MoMA but I wasn’t lucky: they are currently in Paris in another museum. Anyways, Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Matisse’s Dance certainly made up for the lack of them.

All in all, my weekend in New York City was amazing but I’ll definitely have to return to see everything else that I planned because obviously, I couldn’t see half the things I wanted to in such a little time. While New York felt huge and incredibly chaotic, Boston felt so strangely European I could immediately imagine living there. I loved the old downtown area of the city, with all the early US History that is on those streets, the Irish pubs with their amazing IPA, the lobster roll that I finally could try and all the locals enjoying their Friday afternoon near the harbor. To Boston, we went with Juli and stayed at a friend’s place near Boston, in Swampscott, so we got to see some amazing sights near the ocean and colonial houses at Marblehead. We also visited Salem, which was so packed with tourists given that Halloween is approaching, that it was really hard to do anything. Two things are for sure true about our trip to Salem: the strangest thing is when you find Hungarian goulash in a restaurant in a New England town and that the most wasted money of my whole life was the amount I spent on the entrance ticket to the Witch Dungeon Museum.

As great as these two weekends were, coming back to campus felt like coming home, so I guess I finally got used to Trinity. Also, life on campus is never boring either: in the last couple of weeks, I attended my first Shabbat dinner, realized that there is a marmot living near the McCook building, checked out Trinity Restaurant where lovely old ladies serve you food, gave out mason jars to people in the smoothie line with Green Campus Club, officially got addicted to Peter B’s iced latte and we even had our own Octoberfest on the Main Quad with beer, pretzels and bratwurst.

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Trinity Restaurant

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“Trintoberfest”

I’ve also decided to go home for Christmas, so anyone reading this at home: be prepared to meet me for a fröccs before I come back for the second semester.

 

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THE SEPTEMBER 11 ATTACKS AND HUMAN NATURE: How to Make Sense of All What Has Happened

Dear Readers,

My name is Karmen Kollar and I am a graduate of ELTE University, where I studied International Relations with a specialization in Human Rights. I am one of the Kellner Scholars in Bard College’s BGIA program in New York City.

When I arrived here in September, one of my first school assignments for a writing class was to travel to the site of the September 11 attacks in lower Manhattan and interview people who were visiting. As I went around the time of the anniversary, it was a pretty emotional place to be. I would like to share with you the feature story I wrote after my visit:

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NEW YORK, Sept. 10 – Sitting calmly on one of the benches around the 9/11 memorial, John Share, a retired British schoolteacher, was observing the people around him. He has already seen this place twice; he visited both before and after the attacks. Now he is here one day before the anniversary as part of a cruise trip, waiting for his tourist group to gather. He still has vivid memories about his previous visits.

“We discovered the remains of a human body.” – he heard a police officer saying on his radio a few months after the event, when he was visiting the site. Recovery works were only finished on June 10, 2012 and later a sculpture was erected from the remains of the crashed planes near to where the World Trade Center stood. Even though New Yorkers have organized many talks, exhibitions, concerts and plays these days to commemorate the event, John likes to remember in his own way: going back in his memories and comparing his experiences from before and after the towers fell.

During a visit approximately a year after the events, he and his wife came by the subway and as he explained, it was extremely difficult to relate the situation as they were finding it to what this place has previously been. Just as they were leaving the subway, they came by all that was remaining of an entrance, flawed. It had a legend on it: “Welcome to the World Trade Center”. That really brought it home for them. Assuming that once it was the floor of the entrance, now there was nothing else, just this legend, “Welcome”. It was quite saddening.

“Even though we are not Americans, we are British, but we still feel for you as we have particular feelings towards America”, John said. “I think that we have been very important in each other’s history.”

“I wish they were all still here.” As he pronounced these words he stopped for a while and his voice sounded weak. With all those names on the memorial it felt intensely personal to him. After all, the people who died here were fellow human beings and their progress was halted very abruptly. According to him, nobody deserves that.This is man’s inhumanity to man, isn’t it?”

He still tries to make sense of how it is possible for someone to commit an act like that. But he came up with an explanation for himself.

“If there are two people, one will be jealous, won’t they? And in some cases those jealousies become so engraved and so setting concrete that they can’t go away.”

In John’s opinion 9/11 is a terrible example of the excess that people are prepared to go to if they think they are right. Whether they possess sufficient mentality to understand whether their cause is right or wrong seemingly doesn’t matter, does it? It’s just hit and hurt.”

His group has already gathered and as he was preparing to leave, he added: “Activity, physical or mental is life. I think that your nation has done well to overcome this situation which is progress.”

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Culture shock is a thing

Imagine all the movies you’ve seen about American college life, try to collect all the clichés from the frat parties, the jocks sitting at separate tables, sports you hardly even heard about (let alone knowing how to play them), to the cool professors and talkative students and so on. Got it? Multiply it by ten, and that’s what I’m living in now. When during the international orientation they warned us about the culture shock I was sceptical. I’ve been to the US before, I know about their politics, I listen to their music and watch their movies, what could I possibly be culture-shocked about? I was so wrong. And I’m glad I was.

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I’m Júlia Bakó, by the way, one of the Kellner students spending a year studying at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. I’ve been here for more than a month now, but it feels like I’m still getting used to everything. The other day, I locked myself out of my room leaving my student ID inside, without which you’re a lost person here, so I had to wait for fifty minutes early in the morning for a rather grumpy campus security employee to come and let me in to my own room. I was late for work that day. Oh, yeah, because I’m working here on campus, in the Student Activities office. Getting a job here is not hard, and highly recommended if you’re planning to travel around as much as I do.

Last Saturday I went on a kayaking/canoeing trip with the Outdoors Club for example, and since the weather is still fairly nice here (sorry about the cold fall, fellow Hungarians at home) we could even swim and flip the canoes for fun, just because why not. I would attach some photos, but I only took my analog camera with me to take photos for my photography class. Because you can actually take a photography class here (you could also take metalsmithing for that matter). So now I know how to develop black and white film, how to enlarge it and I have 24/7 access to the darkroom here on campus.

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Since this year counts more like a gap year, I had the chance to take whatever classes I was interested in. Photography helps me to use my creative skills and relax a little, because otherwise – be prepared – the studying part is pretty tough. I’m reading at least 200 pages for every week, I’m constantly writing papers and I also have to join the discussions on class, because participation counts in your final grade. And by participation I don’t mean holding your hand up once, saying a sentence and be satisfied with yourself, but presenting your own arguments, defending them if needed and debating with the professor and the other students. All of this in English, possibly in a fairly sophisticated way. It’s tough, but I honestly think, that I’ve learned more here during this one month that I have at home during a whole year.

When I mentioned culture shock it wasn’t just about the actual studying part but also the social interactions. Getting lunch, do yoga or go out with people you fairly know is totally normal. Just get over your social insecurities and you can make friends easily. Especially if you join a club. Right now, although I’m not a club member anywhere, I’m volunteering at Cinestudio – a super cool cinema on campus – so I get to watch movies for free once a week. I usually also go the Women & Gender Resource Action Center’s Friday discussions. Also, showing up at random club’s events is fun and a good way to make friends; once Zsófi and I went to three different dinners on the same night just to try South American, Chinese and kosher food.

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Anyway, I think this is it for today. We are going to Boston the next weekend, so be prepared for a lot of photos.

 

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Empire state of mind

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Hello everyone! My name’s Beatrix Vas (or Trixi), I graduated this summer from Corvinus University of Budapest with a BA in International Relations, and I’m one of the Kellner Scholars who are spending the first semester of this year participating in Bard’s Globalization and International Affairs program in New York City. It’s crazy to even think about this, but I’ve already been here for a month, so it is definitely time to tell you a bit about my life in the Big Apple as a Kellner Scholar and BGIA student.

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Visiting the United Nations Security Council

Our fantastic coordinators made it crystal clear at the start that BGIA is an intensive program, and accordingly we have been super busy since Day 1. I consider it one of my greatest accomplishments that I managed to battle through Orientation Week with the worst jetlag of my life. Orientation was definitely a tiring but rewarding experience as we got to meet some of our future professors, got useful tips on our internships and NYC life, and got the chance to start exploring the city through visiting some of its most important spots – like the United Nations Headquarters. I got to admit, being able to walk into the Security Council was a pretty good start to the semester.

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For a lot of us, our internships started on the second week, right after Labor Day. I’m an Advisory Intern at Oxford Analytica, an international political risk consultancy firm. I wanted to do my internship here as I was interested in getting a closer look into what an international relations career in the private sector looks like, and I’m definitely getting that. We work in a small office environment, so the interns are instantly treated as full members of the team, and we’ve been able to join important projects on basically our first day on the job – but I’ve signed a confidentiality agreement, so I’ll have to spare you the details. Oh, and OA’s office is in the Chrysler Building – probably the most impressive art deco building in the city, or at least it’s definitely my favorite and was admittedly an important factor in my decision to work at OA. The view from our 54th floor office is also pretty incredible, and totally worth my ear popping like crazy in the elevator.

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The view from Oxford Analytica’s office

I work about 6 hours every weekday, but my classes also help keep me busy. I decided to take 3 classes at BGIA, but it was a pretty difficult choice as we have a very impressive lineup of teachers and courses. I ended up going with Ethics for a Connected World, taught by Professor Joel Rosenthal, who’s also President of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. This means that not only are we studying the influence of ethical norms on international issues from one of the greatest experts of the topic, but we’re doing so in the gorgeous building of the Carnegie Council in the heart of the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I’m also taking Power, War and Terror in International Affairs with Dr. Scott A. Silverstone, who teaches at the West Point Military Academy and is admittedly excited to trade in his all-American students for the diverse BGIA group every Tuesday night to discuss the power shifts taking place in the 21st century. We also have the Core Seminar, which as the name suggests is obligatory for everyone because it puts the whole BGIA experience into perspective as we examine the role of cities and non-state actors in international affairs. Even though the workload is pretty heavy, all of the classes have been great so far, and able to provide new perspectives even on topics that I thought I knew back and forth as an international relations graduate.

Still, it wasn’t impossible to take time to explore the city a bit, which honestly just made me realize that probably not even a whole lifetime is enough to discover everything New York City has to offer, but I’m determined to do as much as I can. I’m slowly ticking off all the ‘must-see’/touristy things that one just HAS to do, but I feel like my bucket list is only growing with each day, and then there are always sweet surprises. For example, I never thought I would get a sunburn in late September while walking across Brooklyn Bridge, but I’m so glad I did. After one month it’s already very hard to highlight specific things that I’ve seen as pretty much everything on these streets can be truly fascinating – but maybe I’m just still overwhelmed. I promise to make my next post all about cool spots in the city!!

 

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Spring semester at Trinity and trip to West Coast

This belated post tries to wrap up my adventures during spring semester. As I came back I dived back into my life here and managed to finish my masters and had a pretty busy summer but I had the chance to think about my year in the US (and select&process from that 3000+ pictures I took in that period).

I wrote about the very different courses I had chosen and it took a tremendous workload but it totally worth it. Overall I profited the most from the very differing teaching styles and I learnt pretty much from little tricks how to teach certain stuff that I learnt the hard way I think.

The n.m.r. course was very pleasing since the teacher thought the way I like it, and I had the chance to get deeper knowledge on methods I had never used (since my profile is not exactly chemistry nmr, but always good to know what the others are doing).

The darkroom photography was a huge experience for me hence I only had the chance to use DSLR machines, analogue film cameras are harder to maintain. My project was on photographing the jiu-jitsu club’s practices (I practiced with them and they were kind enough to let me take photos of them – I am grateful for that) and captures moments during trainings. These pictures will be uploaded in the near future when I will have them digitalized in proper format.

The Sci-Fi and Society was a total surprise for me because there the sci-fi literature differs a lot from what we used to among the former eastern-european sci-fi fans. Those novels, books, short stories are mostly way closer to the fantasy and phrase barely social critics about society and culture. As a young one who has been raised in a former country of the soviet block two thoughts cleared out in me: i, we are far beyond in expressing social problems and ii, some of these books were real for the former eastern block. A good example that has publicity now is the Handmaid’s Tale from Margaret Atwood who was influenced and inspired by the late 1960s’ Czechoslovakia and this new series by Hulu shows a great amount of elements of that. My chosen book was The Left Hand of Darkness (by Ursula K. LeGuin) which a terrific novel about a neutral society whose member got no designated gender (well, there are only male-female) and can choose periodically which role they wish to be for a short period (and the rest of them are biologically neutral-like). For me its beauty lies in the English it is written. It has a very clear-out, simple and nearly too simple scientific report language written in an objective viewpoint. ( To understand that: The story is about guy who has the profession which I would define as space-sociologist and basically this book sums up his study about this society which has to be evaluated by the person (in this case I was really grateful that Hungarian has only one pronoun for he/she/it)). Other novels and short stories were very enjoyable and enlightening for me since this style was very new to me – and just before I had been surprised that contemporary Hungarian sci-fi has such good short stories as well (!).

The Fluid Mechanics with lab was professionally engaging since I never had engineering class before, and we got the chance to work with wind turbine, plane and wing models calculating a bunch of thing about that both in metric and imperial systems. A cultural thought: About half of the class liked more metric than imperial so I was not alone. (In that sense I was outlier hence I feel comfortable thinking in metric and that was funny for them sometimes, but I always had partners in metric system.) Even so, I learned about the Rankine temperature scale (which is surprisingly unknown) that is used for mostly in the US for jet propulsion stuff. / It has a 0 degree at absolute zero and the scale is the same as in Fahrenheit so it is the similar relationship that between Kelvin and Celsius. We also had lab sessions which were more fun – we had to create buoyancy measuring tool, wrote a lot of lab reports and we also visited the New England Air Museum which is just outside of Hartford. (We managed to sit in machines like UH-1 Bell which was the iconic helicopter of the war in Vietnam or second world war fighters.) Alltogether this was I think the course I liked most in the viewpoint of education because there were a lot of different teaching styles involved – and we had to complete tasks in groups and alone as well, so I observed a lot of useful tricks how the professor instructed us and how the other students thought about certain problems.

Lastly I had the Earth Systems which introduced us into the complicated systems that are happening around the globe. It was fun with some modelling and interesting process-based approach of convections and transports occurring inside and outside of the Earth.

During the semester I had the chance to join one of the nests (small groups for freshmen helping the transition to college life) for their spring hike in the White Mountains. It was middle of the spring but this area is located relatively close to the Canadian border so there was a lot of snow so I had the chance to try snowshoeing. This short 2 days were a little hideout before the end of semester and it was lovely to hike in freezing cold with the others.

In the very last weekend I was able to visit Boston which immediately won my heart with its vibe. I also took black and white photographs with a film camera. Obviously I visited the MIT where I have a friend who showed me around the interior and shared some design styles with me about the buildings.

After finishing my exams and last homeworks I headed west to wander around in Cali. Through my long 2 weeks there I was able to visit Grand Canyon, Death Valley, San Diego, San Fransisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and my biggest adventure was to attempt to climb Mt Whitney. Unluckily the weather was bad and I only made to the basecamp which is located at some 12,000 ft (~3650m) where I stayed for the night and in the morning I chose to head down. I ran into a young group that had a Hungarian member (!) which was ultimately funny considering the odds at that place. The highway that leads down is called Route 395 which turned into my favourite highway in the US: one side is the Sierra Nevada and the other side is flat areas and mountains, truly gorgeous. I stayed for a couple of days at my friends (we used to hike together) between LA and San Diego in a small town where I could charge my batteries for the rest of the time. With Zsuzsi we visited Yosemite and did some sightseeing in San Fransisco with a little detour to try the famous PCH (Pacific Coastal Highway or Route 1). Just after that I visited LA and that area with an old friend of mine (we did our BSc together) and a Trinity College student (thanks Elliot!) showed us around in Beverly Hills, UCLA and Santa Monica. We spent a morning in Malibu (which is a main motive in the Hungarian movie Argo) and spent a lovely sunset in the Death Valley. Right after we visited Grand Canyon and the Crater nearby and spending a day in Vegas I headed back to NYC. Somehow I did not exceed the threshold for my bags and I was en route to Hungary.

I could not really write down what this year meant to me and I cannot be grateful enough for this.

My pictures might tell you even more about the places and my viewpoint where I have been:

White Mountains: https://flic.kr/s/aHskXtU7hJ

Boston: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm8xvara

Boston, BW pictures: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm7ER6ih

Mt Whitney attempt: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm7ELiMW

Grand Canyon: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm3SkWVi

San Diego: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm8xssrD

Death Valley: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm4Tzj7Q

Los Angeles and area: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm7EKFxw

San Fransisco: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm3Ssvnv

Yosemite and PCH: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm4TNGeQ

Las Vegas and Hoover dam: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm4MDCp8

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First weeks as a Bantam

Hi everyone, my name is Zsófi Veér and I’m going to update you from Trinity for the next two semesters. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Sociology at ELTE this summer right after I was offered the opportunity of becoming a Kellner Scholar. The day I found out I received the scholarship seems like only days ago and now I find myself sitting in my dorm room at Trinity and I can’t believe I’ve been in the US for almost four weeks now.

These first weeks were so busy, I don’t even know where to start. I guess I didn’t know what culture shock is until I got off the plane at JFK. Life in the States and at Trinity’s campus definitely requires some time to get used to, and I’m not entirely over this period. I still can’t say “how are you?” as a greeting, I still can’t believe we can have fresh-made smoothies at the dining hall and I’m still getting used to the fact that everyone is always so eager to talk and engage in classes and I think I’ll never get used to the chaos that Walmart is on a busy Labor Day. Having lived in Budapest my entire life, it’s really weird that I can get to my classes and the library in five minutes from my door. Although the campus feels quite small sometimes, it can still surprise me every day with its beauty and with just the whole fact how amazing everything is here, from the squirrels and the hawks and Trinity sweaters to the sandwiches in the Cave and the Friday discussions at WGRAC (Trinity’s Women & Gender Resource Action Center).

As I’m constantly taking pictures of the campus, here are some of my favorite spots and things on the Trinity grounds:

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Trinity’s Library

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The Long Walk – one of the most beautiful places on campus

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Looks a bit like Hogwarts

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Outside the Admissions building

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The Bantam is everywhere

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I took this on our very first day

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Outside the WGRAC Lounge

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Cinestudio

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Movie screening by the Chapel

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The iconic Trinity Chapel

 

As for classes, I decided to enroll in four and I’m so excited about all of them. Because I still haven’t made up my mind about what Master’s to apply to, I seized the opportunity of Trinity being an amazing liberal arts college and I’m taking courses from different fields that I’d like to immerse in. In Feminist Political Theory, we are reading texts from bell hooks, Simone de Beauvoir, Sojourner Truth and Mary Wollstonecraft – I’m already trying to figure out how to take home the incredibly heavy course reader without going over the weight limits with Delta. In Mapping American Masculinities, we discuss how the American ideal of man was influenced by the economy, politics and others, but especially popular media: we are watching movies of the cowboy, the gangster and the hard-boiled detective. In Introduction to Political Ecology, we analyze how ecology and the environment is shaped by larger political, economic and social factors. This is something I’ve never studied about and it’s really fascinating, although sometimes it’s hard to concentrate in the lecture given that our room in Seabury Hall looks like this:

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Although I love all my classes, the one I’m most excited about is Analyzing Schools – during this course, I’m going to spend three hours every week in a nearby elementary school to be a participant observer in a classroom. We just had our orientation this Friday and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to engaging with these kids and to get to know the American public school system.

Obviously, Trinity has much more to offer than just fantastic seminars and lectures: there are clubs, Greek Life and so many programs that it’s sometimes hard to choose among them. I’ve joined the Green Campus Club and I’m planning to get more involved in WGRAC that I mentioned above. I also want to go on hikes with the Outdoors Club and to help in some way with next year’s Trinity Film Festival. For now, I’m trying to explore everything that is going on at Trinity, and somehow we always end up going to the Cinestudio, the college’s very own, beautiful movie theatre (picture above).

I can’t close this post without writing about the best experience I had in the US so far: QUEST. After the international orientation programs, we could choose from different orientation programs to go to, and I decided to sign up for Quest. This meant hiking for four days on the Appalachian Trail with four other participants and two leaders I haven’t met before. For me, this was the first time hiking for a longer period with a heavy, full-loaded backpack on my back and sleeping literally under the stars. I’ve heard so much about the United States’ famous trails before so I was really excited about the signs that said “Appalachian Trail, Connecticut, Maine to Georgia” but it was also so much fun to spend time with my Quest-mates without showers and smartphones, although I probably won’t miss those oatmeals in the morning. I’d recommend it for any future Kellner Scholar to go on Quest and try the amazing peanut butter tortillas and play as many games of President as you can. Here are some of my pictures of these few good days:

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Next weekend, I’m going to New York City to cross a few things off my bucket list and to catch up with the Kellner Scholars spending their semester at BGIA, so keep an eye on my next post where I’ll probably won’t shut up about Andy Warhol’s famous Campbell’s Soup Cans at MoMA.

 

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