From Thanksgiving to Christmas

It’s so weird to write this post from my home at Budapest, after eating all my mum’s and grandma’s amazing cooking for Christmas, but at least I finally found some time to tell you about my time spent in DC over the Thanksgiving break, and the busiest three weeks packed with final papers and exams that followed until I flew home for the winter break last week.
So, for the Thanksgiving break, I set off to visit Washington DC, and even with the holiday traffic and all, I had three full days to explore the capital, which basically meant checking out as many museums as I could. DC was clearly designed to be a capital city, which also means that for me, it lacked the vibe cities like Boston or New York have, but it was definetely an amazing experience to stand at the spot where Martin Luther King Jr told his famous ”I have a dream” speech, to see the box at Ford’s Theatre where Lincoln was assassinated, to check out the White House, the Washington Monument, and so on. I crossed out ”to see a real giant panda” from my bucket list after visiting the Smithonian Zoo, and I could even have a nice Thanksgiving meal with turkey and stuffing because a nice stranger in the hostel I stayed at offered me some. However, the very best thing in Washington is that it has some of the best museums I have ever visited: even though I couldn’t get into the African American History Museum that everyone recommended and I really wanted to see, I went to see spaceships, a replica of the Hubble Space Telescope, the Wright Brothers’ plane, and other unbelievably cool things to the National Air and Space Museum. I also saw the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in the National Archives, learned a great deal in the Museum of the American Indian, visited the modern arts wing of the National Gallery, and spent hours in the best gallery ever: the National Museum of Women in the Arts, a place where you can see works of artists who usally don’t get a place in mainstream art museums.


After the break, it was mostly studying, as final papers and exams were coming, but I didn’t mind, all the topics I worked on were really interesting: for example, for my educational studies course, we had to design a curriculum for elementary school students, and we worked on a unit to teach the value of different perspectives and stories through fairy tales, and I could even write about a feminist standpoint on last year’s burkini ban in France for my Feminist Political Theory class. Before the end of the semester, I even had a proper chance for goodbye with the wonderful kids I worked with at ELAMS, as they all prepared me gift cards, and we had a small party with cookies and lemonade.

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The best gift.

Just before leaving Trinity, we finally saw the first (and second) snow of the season, which turned the campus into a winter wonderland that, mixed with all the christmas trees on campus, got me into holiday mood instantly.


Since I was flying out from Newark, we spent another weekend in New York, to see it before Christmas, and even though it was cool to see the famous and gigantic Christmas tree in front of the Rockefeller Center, and to see Central Park in snow – and wonder about where the ducks go in the winter, like Holden in the Catcher in the Rye –, the city was definetely too packed in the holiday season. We also finally went to the Natural History Museum, a place that looks exactly how it probably looked in 1920, and I had the chance to go back to the MET for a few hours before my flight home.


As I think Trixi is going to write all about Christmas time in New York, I will just leave a few pictures here to close my post with the holiday lights of Dyker Heights, that is – not necessarily in a good way – unlike anything  I have seen before. With these, even if it’s belated, happy holidays, everyone!

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The Snow(flake)-themed post

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1. The first snow has arrived to New York City yesterday. As I was heading out in the early morning from the dorm I saw a few tiny white things falling down, though I was not sure whether it was snow. But as the hours passed the snowing became stronger and stronger, getting close to a snowstorm by the afternoon. As the snowfall became more gentle by the evening I went out for a walk to Central Park.

The city completely changed as it became covered by the snow. It felt so clean, quiet and peaceful. I hope that it will stay for a while and create more brightness in the city and in people’s hearts.

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2. As I am interning at UNICEF USA this semester, I had the possibility to participate at their annual gala, the Snowflake Ball. It was great to get an insight into how such a prominent social function is organized and coordinated. I was a volunteer and helped with the check-in (greeted the guests at the entrance, checked them in on an iPad and handed out escort cards with their table number on it) and with the live auction (helping the auctioneer to spot bidders, which would have been a funny task, had anyone bidden from the tables assigned to me, as I would have had to jump and wave).

Actor Jake Gyllenhaal and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo were among the speakers, and the event honored Lucy Meyer, an 18-year old Special Olympics gold medalist and UNICEF’s spokesperson for children with disabilities, and L’Oréal Luxe USA Group President Carol Hamiltonton, who is a board member and regular donor of UNICEF USA. The 13th UNICEF Snowflake Ball raised a staggering $3.7 million for children worldwide.

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Thankful to be in NYC

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Another month went by unbelievably fast – life does not seem to slow down even for one second here in New York. Now it’s less than four weeks until the end of this semester and BGIA, and until I fly home for Christmas, and it seems like things are speeding up, if that’s even still possible. Looking back at my pictures from this month, it’s all just a blur or a flash. Midterms have reached us and we’ve had plenty of papers and assignments to write and presentations to prepare.

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The view from my office

I’ve also been really busy at my internship – this has not been a good month for aviation security, and since my main task currently is threat monitoring for an airline, I had plenty of news and events from all around the world to analyse. One of them was, unfortunately, a terror attack that occurred just a few blocks away from our office – I guess most people have heard about the ramming incident on the Lower West Side of Manhattan on October 31. It’s a very strange feeling when such an event happens, and it was especially interesting how we first found out about it from our parents texting us from the other side of the globe. Of course, the initial response by both the Mayor and Governor of the City was to tell “New Yorkers [to] be New Yorkers”, and go on with our lives – and the Halloween parade scheduled for that night was not cancelled and we also did not let our initial plans be altered by fear and decided to go out anyways.

Despite experiencing for the first time what it feels like to be in a city when a terror attack happens there, November offered a few, decidedly more fun ‘firsts’, for example: I went to my first Broadway show (we saw Come From Away, a musical about planes diverted to a small town in Newfoundland following 9/11 – highly recommended); went on a class trip to the United States Military Academy at West Point with the Power, War and Terror class and learned about the history of the institution; picnicked in Central Park (sort of); took a boat to Ellis Island and ‘chin-selfied’ with the Statue of Liberty; cried looking at Australian Aboriginal contemporary art at the Met; went ice-skating and left the side of the rink (sort of) and lived to tell the tale; stayed way overtime at my internship to be rewarded by the breathtaking view of the nighttime skyline from the 54th floor of the Chrysler Building; and ventured out to other neighborhoods – and decided that I would definitely live in Park Slope, Brooklyn if I could afford a $2 million brownstone.

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A few of us from BGIA also went on a trip to Washington D.C. to attend the BardWorks networking conference, which was a very long but really interesting day as we got to hear from former Bard and BGIA alumni who now have exciting careers in and around the D.C. area. It was also great for me to finally see D.C. in the fall (every time I’ve been there before it was over 40°C, which is miserably humid there since the city was built on  a swamp), and go to some areas I’ve never been before, like Embassy Row and the Smithsonian Zoo (where the Giant Pandas were unfortunately inside because it was too cold for them, but they were still adorable in their sad little ‘cages’), and I also go to meet up with a friend from the area and explored some of the city’s ‘underground’ scene with him.

Also this past weekend was Thanksgiving break, which I mainly used to catch up on some much-needed sleep and a bit of exploration of the city. One thing that I knew I couldn’t miss, however, was the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade down 6th Avenue. We were pretty late to the party as we couldn’t bring ourselves to get in line at 6 am in the cold, but we still somehow managed to score pretty good viewing spots by the Rockefeller Center and made it just in time to the see the giant Grinch balloon – which is the most important part of the parade anyways. Right after Thanksgiving the city switched to Christmas mode instantly, giant trees are going up everywhere and Christmas music provided the soundtrack for people’s Black Friday shopping sprees at Best Buy. Knowing how busy December is going to be, I’m wary about so much holiday cheer so soon, but New York certainly seems like a city where it’s hard not to become excited about Christmas. I think I’ll let the Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s store windows and the Rockefeller tree silence the Grinch in me this year – I’ll keep you all updated.

 

 

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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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