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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Unwinding in Hawaii

As I am sitting in my childhood room in the village where I grew up, the feeling is slowly sinking in; this year did come to an end. The tasks that await the returning Kellner scholar are bearable, which makes the re-acclimatization easier: visiting family, easting as much greasy Hungarian food as humanly possible, staying up with friends till the small hours over a bottle of wine, and roaming the streets of Budapest taking in all the familiar views that Hartford lacks. My year at Trinity is over.

When I look back on this past year, I like to think that I made the most out of it. I explored far beyond my field and excelled in academics, made amazing friends from all over the world, and travelled quite a bit, which was probably my favorite part. This last post is intended to give a taste of my end-of-year travels (poor substitute, I must say).

As soon as the finals and the farewell gatherings ended, I hopped on a plane to visit my friend, Emma, on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. I spent an amazing week on the island that gave place to the shooting of Jurassic Park, King Kong, Lost, and several other movies and shows. Swimming with turtles and getting a tan with a couple seals are probably my favorite memories, although building a bonfire and watching shooting stars on the beach, and swimming under a waterfall are not the worst either. Meeting Trinity alumni during one of our hikes was a surreal part, especially that I met the same couple 2 days prior on my flight; Trinity sweaters are extremely cozy to fly in.

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I always knew that an enriching year will await me in the US, but I never thought that I will learn how to swim as a Kellner scholar. Yes, at the ripe age of 22, I learned to swim in the waters of Hawaii. Going kayaking and jumping off ropes into the ice-cold water of the lakes of the island was nothing after that. Not a single day passed without promising myself that I will come back one day to munch on freshly picked mangoes again; the fruit is heavenly there.

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I spent a little time in Cali too. From Lihue, I took a flight to San Francisco, where I spent an unintentionally long time watching the seals at Pier 39, explored the bars of Castro with my Couchsurfing host, and even met up with Zsuzsi and Tamas, with whom we drove through the fog-covered Golden Gate bridge.

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I only spent a day in LA (well, mostly Hollywood), because most of my friends were eager to steer me away from the city. Hating on Los Angeles is a thing, and I am not going to come to its defense anytime soon. I did check out the Griffith Observatory, the Chinese Theatre and the stars, the pier in Santa Monica, and was patient enough to wait in the line of In-N-Out as well. A major surprise was my conversation with my Uber driver, who told me that he was planning to go to Hévíz for years to cure his back pain. Not something you hear every day in the US.

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The last stop of my West Coast trip was Las Vegas. I made friends with three couchsurfers from Sacramento, and we had great fun in the old downtown (which I strongly preferred to the Strip). Playing corn hole and bar hopping is definitely better with others, so is zip lining over the streets of Vegas (my favorite memory from the city). Considering that I only lost $1 in the casino of the Mirage, and that I witnessed a UCLA darty in the Bellagio fountain (surreal sight), the last stop of my trip was a great success.

My year as a Kellner scholar might be over, but I am quite confident that the future holds great things for me. I am so much more than I was a year ago, thanks to all the experiences I was lucky enough to live through. Self-expansion is just one of the many factors that made this year valuable. If only a third of the friendships I made at Trinity will be intact in five years, I will be the most fortunate man in the world. Others might fade. My memories and my gratitude towards the Kellner family will not.

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A week in California and a weekend in Philadelphia

California – San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Pacific Coast Highway

My last class at Bard was on a Friday afternoon and the next morning I was off to New York. I didn’t have much time to enjoy being in the city again. I had to unpack and repack my suitcases because on Sunday morning I was at JFK again. This time the destination was San Francisco. I had been planning this trip since I arrived to the US in August. I was incredibly excited to finally see with my own eyes one of the most beautiful man-made wonders in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge.  I wasn’t the only Kellner scholar in the city though. I met Tamás there who was travelling around California at that time, and one afternoon we also met Isti.

San Francisco has many faces. Its luxurious neighborhoods on the hills, the Haight-Ashbury hippie district and even its less attractive and less tourist-friendly downtown guarantees that wherever you are in the city, you never get bored. The famous Lombard street, the Powell-Hyde Street cable car line(especially in the evening), the Coit Tower which offers a 360° view of San Francisco, the Musée Mécanique with dozens of old (and sometimes creepy) penny arcade games are just a few of the city’s highlights.

The Yosemite National Park is located just a few hours drive from Frisco so one day we rented a car and drove up there. Unfortunately I was sick so we only could spend half a day there but it was still worth it. The Park is full of waterfalls, huge old trees and, at least around the visitor center area, people. Anyway, I was glad that I had the chance to visit a national park in California. On our way back to San Francisco we stopped in Santa Cruz for a little bit then we headed back to Frisco on the Pacific Coast Highway which has many breathtakingly scenic spots along the shore.

Philadelphia

There are many reasons I love New York City but one of them is its central location on the Eastern shore. Even if you don’t have a car you can easily can get to the big cities of the surrounding states by bus or train. That is why, after Washington DC and Boston, I decided to go to Philadelphia as well. I was travelling with Taylor (again). We stayed at one of her friends’ home (again) whose family is from Puerto Rico so I also got to know a little bit better the Puerto Rican culture and cuisine.

Probably I’ve already mentioned in previous blog posts how much I love history so I was obviously super excited about visiting Philadelphia where the US was actually born when the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence there. The historic Philadelphia is a lovely place with beautiful old houses from the colonial era and tons of interesting museums. South Street is the home of great dining places and galleries, while Northwest Philly’s Germantown is also a nice, less crowded area with cute shops and boutiques. I couldn’t have wished for a better last weekend in the States.

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Spring semester in Annandale-on-Hudson

It sounds unbelievable but it’s been already three weeks since I came back to Hungary. After living in the US for 10 months the adjustment to moving back is not easy. But still, to make these first few weeks a little bit easier, I’m going to write a few more posts about my spring semester at Bard and the adventures I had after the semester ended.

My Bard-experience in the spring was obviously very different from the one in the fall in New York doing BGIA. It was less busy but still full of great events, friends and classes.

I liked all of the classes I took, but two of my favorites were the Child Survival class with Prof. Helen Epstein and the Problems in Human Rights class with Prof. John Ryle. In both classes I could do research on topics related to children’s rights and child protection. Moreover, I wrote one of my term papers about child soldiers so I even had the chance to use the knowledge I gained during my internship at Watchlist. These classes are meant a lot professionally for me for many reasons. First of all, I finally had time to focus on topics I’m really interested in. Also, the Bard Library is pretty big with tons of great books relevant to my field and it has access to many online databases and publications. Furthermore, my professors are practitioners as well so they didn’t just talk about theories but shared their personal experiences which obviously helped to better understand and imagine different situations.

Liberal arts education has a lot to offer to students and I’m glad that I could experience it at Bard. Independence and freedom are fundamental aspects of every class. The freedom of choosing the topic of papers or the form of presentations (for example one of the students did a dance presentation on female genital mutilation) makes you want to be more creative and think outside the box. Most of the professors are actually interested in what you are working on and have time to discuss your ideas. I had great conversations for example with a professor I didn’t agree with on a specific topic, but he didn’t mind it at all, he tried to understand my side and I tried to do the same. I also got some very inspiring advice from them at the end of the semester. One of the best things of liberal arts education is that you can take basically whatever class you are interested in. So I highly recommend to future Kellner scholars to grab this opportunity and take classes which are not necessarily from their main professional field and try new things. If I want to be honest, I’m actually a bad example for this, because I was so amazed by the wide variety of human rights courses at the beginning of the semester that I chose only from among these courses. However, I didn’t regret this at all, because it turned out that one of them was more like a political philosophy class, and another one was unique in a way that we talked not just about refugee camps but also about Bard’s campus and what were our impressions and experiences living there.

 

Besides the academics there were a bunch of great, surprising, funny and unforgettable events on the campus. It’d be impossible to list all of them, so here are some of the highlights of my spring semester in Annandale.

  • The Center for Moving Image Arts at Bard hold a public discussion with the amazing French actress Isabelle Hupper. Being in the same room with the Oscar-nominated actress and listening to her talking about her films and telling behind-the-scene stories was definitely unforgettable.

  • Isabelle Huppert wasn’t the only filmmaker who came to Bard this semester. Thanks to Neil Gaiman, the author of American Gods, who teaches at Bard (Anna can tell more about his class), there was a special screening of the pilot episode of the new TV series American Gods, three weeks before its official TV premiere. Moreover, after the screening Gaiman and Bryan Fuller, the showrunner of American Gods (and other great shows like Hannibal and Pushing Daisies from previous years) discussed about creating the show.
  • At Bard most of the students are politically active and are not afraid to express their opinion when they don’t agree with something. This has been true especially since last year’s election. However, there was one specific event where even Anna and I were directly involved. It was the #IstandwithCEU campaign. With other students and faculty members we decorated the area around Kline and distributed pins and flyers. In the afternoon there was a discussion with professors about academic freedom in general and its current situation in Hungary in the wake of ‘lex CEU’.

 

  • If you read thoroughly Bard Daily Mails, you can find almost every day a movie screening, a panel discussion or an afternoon meeting with llamas and alpacas. Because who doesn’t want to pet a llama, right?

  • Seniors who are graduating from Bard’s arts programs present their senior projects in April and May. Every week the Fischer Center, the Studio Arts Building and other hidden spots on campus host plays, dance performances, exhibitions and poetry readings. I went to see a (in my opinion a very experimental) play, a dance performance and other play about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict written, directed and played by a student from one my class. She performed it at night on the field behind our dorm. It was a very special performance.
  • The spring semester’s biggest event was the Spring Fling, a 4-day non-stop party with concerts, performances, fun events (stuff-a-bear, lasertag, etc), great food and lot of free stuff. Unfortunately, it was very-very cold and raining all weekend, so we didn’t enjoy the Spring Fling as much as we could have, but we still had a good time.

  • And of course Katarina didn’t stop organizing great trips around the county in the second half of the semester so we spent a nice Saturday afternoon in Hudson, went to a Sheep and Wool Showcase in Clermont, walked up to the Ferncliff Forest Tower and Olana and had a great view of the Hudson Valley from both places.
  • In the last two weeks Anna and I spent a day in Poughkeepsie and walked around the campus a few times and said goodbye to our favorite places.

In the following weeks I’m going to write posts about my trip to California, Philadelphia and the last two weeks I spent in New York City, so stay tuned! :)

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New York and Easter peeps

Over the last couple of weeks, I could take two weekend trips to New York, and both times were really fun. First, toward the end of March, I went to look at the UN Headquarters and the Archives of Sound at the New York Public Library for Performance Arts. It turned out a little different from what I’ve expected, but it was very interesting. The NYPL for the Performance Arts houses an incredible collection of records, and I can only recommend checking it out to anyone who might have the chance. Once I was in the area, I looked at the Met Opera, the Juilliard School, and the New York City Ballet building.

I also visited the American Folk Art Museum, which was really close to the Opera. I was somewhat surprised to find pictures by a Soviet-American geneticist there, but the genuine weirdness of some of the paintings quickly won me over. As much as I could learn from the exhibit, Eugen Gabritschevsky  picked up painting towards the end of his life, while struggling with mental health issues. I found some of his work to be quite intriguing. I apologize for the horrible quality of the following pictures, there was a slideshow of Gabritschevsky’s life rolling on the other wall of this room, and some slides show in the glass over the pictures. I wanted to include them, here, regardless, for their exceptional oddness.

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The other time I could go to New York, I was very happy to meet Barta Doró and spend some time walking around in Brooklyn with her, Zsuzsi, and Zsuzsi’s friend Taylor. We went to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, just as the first of the cherry trees were coming into bloom, and had a wonderful time looking around. After that, we went to Prospect Park and explored a little. It was a great opportunity to swap Bard tales and experiences with Doró, and also to just generally enjoy a sunny day in the City.

 

 

Zsuzsi and I even had some time to celebrate Easter, back on campus, our own way, which meant buying scary colored peeps and putting them to some artistic use. After we were done scene setting, we tasted them too. I found that they were slightly more useful as set items than as food.

And although I don’t have the pictures to prove it, right now Halmos Máté is with us at Bard, and we are both very glad to see him and to be able to catch up with him. Hopefully Zsuzsi will have some pictures of us to post next time!

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