Winter break, transition and my great classes here

As Trixi and Julcsi have already expressed in previous posts, these last 2 months have been like a weird dream. One day you are discussing the crazy traffic of the Upper East side in Manhattan with a taxi driver and the next day you are doing grocery shopping with your parents in a small town in Hungary. Many times I felt that our minds have just not yet evolved to cope with these very abrupt changes in our environment, even though modern transportation has enabled us to do these huge and fast shifts in space.

Just like Trixi and Zsófi, I also traveled home for 3 weeks in the winter break, but before that I visited Buffalo and the Niagara Falls for Christmas. It was one of the most dream-like places I have seen so far: like a winter wonderland, no other color than white.

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Being at home after New York City felt very peaceful and warm, as compared to the hustle-bustle and sometimes even inhumanity of big city life. In some sense it was a good preparation for what awaited me at the campus of Bard, which is in the middle of nature, just next to the Hudson River.

 

Photo by Jacques Luiggi

Photo by Jacques Luiggi

Having finished the third week of classes I can conclude that I love being here so far. You have time to get to know people while you are eating your meals in the dining hall, you have time to hear your own thoughts and no day is passing by without an uplifting experience, either about the beauty of the place, or the countless opportunities which are available here (and as opposed to NYC, you actually have time to make use of them).

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I am taking 5 classes here: a French language course, Hinduism in the Epics, Buddhism, Alexander Technique and Modern Dance. Even though I was an international relations and human rights major at my home institution, I decided to explore things which always interested me, but I never had the opportunity to study academically. My favorite classes so far are the Hindu epics and the modern dance classes.

At the previous one we are reading two Indian epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Even though they are set in a far-away land, thousands of years ago, while reading you slowly realize that human beings have not changed much, regardless of time and space. We possess the same desires, strengths and weaknesses, we just phrase them in different ways. I wish there would be more exposure in Western education to ideas from other parts of the world, with teachers who are good enough to present the subjects in ways that do not scare or deter students but show that people from all parts of the world have valuable things to say.

At the modern dance class we have a lot of creative tasks. Rather than focusing on movement combinations, we are supposed to get to know better the functioning of our bodies and the space around us. One task, for example, is to choose a body part and experiment with how you can move it (in what directions, angles, rhythms, etc.). Sometimes we need to do movements which look a bit crazy from the outside (and also feel crazy from the inside), in order to relax ourselves and let go of our fears regarding movement/dance. So the classes are creative and fun.

And there is another strange, but good thing about Bard: even though you have a lot of coursework to do, which sometimes seems impossible (e.g. reading 300 pages from Monday to Wednesday, while you are having classes both days from the morning till the evening), you can still manage a balance, as simply walking from one class to another is a relaxing experience.

By the way, talking about coursework: I could talk much more about life here, but I have to finish an essay, so see you in my next post! :)

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The One after the Super Bowl – on my trip to Death Valley

No, this post is not going to be about how the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots last weekend in the very first Super Bowl I’ve ever watched (although it was a pretty cool experience – when you finally understand what’s going on in the field, and you even have some chicken wings, American football can be quite an exciting sport), but I couldn’t miss the Friends reference when choosing a title. Instead, I’m going to tell you about the best experience I’ve had in the U.S. so far: after I came back from Hungary, I spent the last week of the winter break hiking and exploring in Death Valley National Park with nine fellow Trinity students, and the amazing people from the Recreation Office who organized it for us.

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Leaving behind the snow and cold of New England, we arrived to the – I assume – always sunny Las Vegas, a place where you can even gamble on the airport, waiting for your flight. We spent our first two days in Red Rocks Canyon, near Vegas, getting to know each other while hiking Mount Wilson. Red Rocks Canyon has amazing colors and plants, and we had the best view here when waking up in our tents, overlooking red mountains – that view made even the worst oatmeal amazing in the morning. Before leaving to Death Valley, we even drove through the Las Vegas Strip, which was honestly enough Las Vegas for a lifetime: too much unnecessary light (yes, I’m talking about that pyramid at Luxor; yes, its light could be seen even from our campground), and too much fake Paris and New York.


The next morning, we got into our beloved van, and drove to Death Valley through landscapes and towns I’ve only before seen in Westerns, but it was how I imagined it to be: here, you can drive for hours without encountering places where people live, nothing is in front of you, but the road, and you can get a sense of why people are so nostalgic about the idea of the West, why it is so important in American popular culture. Then, we entered Death Valley, which meant no phone service or internet for six days, but it also meant amazing views, campfires, a bunch of Boy Scouts, tasty chilis cooked in the evenings, countless group pictures, and so much more. We started with checking out the most famous sites of the park (after taking photos with the Death Valley sign of course): we saw Zabriskie Point, which inspired a – not too good, in my opinion – 70s movie; Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, 86m below sea level; Devil’s Golf Course; the amazing colors of Artist’s Palette; and a Natural Bridge. We hiked on sand dunes, which was, thinking back, one of the most memorable hikes and places in Death Valley, and we hiked in the beautiful Golden Canyon.


The part of the trip I was most excited and a tiny bit afraid about was the three days we spent backpacking, hiking the Cottonwood-Marble Canyon Loop. I would lie if I said it was an easy hike, and that I enjoyed every second of it, but even with aching muscles and some blood blisters, it was totally worth it. Everyone on the trip was supportive, we pushed each other through our lowest points, and eventually we summited, even though we were running out of cheese. During these three days, we encountered no people, but saw some totally different landscapes, as well as a tiny rattlesnake, the skull of a wild horse, and the corpse of a dead ram (we were in a desert called Death Valley for a reason, after all). By the end, we became masters in quickly putting up and taking down a tent, cooking on camping stoves, going on after only eating a tortilla for lunch, and going to bed at 8 pm, as we really had nothing else to do, besides looking at the stars.

After getting back to the “civilization” of our campsite at Furnace Creek, we even had the chance to finally shower after a week, and get into a pool, which was totally unnecessary in the middle of the desert. On our last day, we said goodbye to Death Valley with looking down on it from Dante’s View, the most amazing lookout point from where you can basically see the whole national park – when you don’t get blown off by the wind of course.
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As we still had a whole afternoon left, the group decided that we want to check out Hoover Dam, a wonder made by humans, and not by nature, as a way to close our trip. Because of this, I can officially say that I had lunch in Arizona, as we ate out of our white buckets in the parking lot of the Dam’s Arizona side – we got some weird looks, I have to admit. The Hoover Dam was amazing, but of course, it couldn’t beat the sand dunes or Zabriskie Point in my heart.


As this sole week in Death Valley and Red Rocks felt like at least a month, it was a shock to come back to campus, and start classes a day later. I especially miss the weather (shorts and a t-shirt in January?), the disconnectedness, those meals we cooked, the conversations on and off the trail, and the unbelievable nature that surrounded us. Now, it’s back to classes, assignments, work, and lazy weekends – but I’m going to tell you all about that in my next post.

(Some of the pictures in this post are not mine, so some photo credits go to the coolest people I went on this trip with: Kyle, Devin, Emily, Giles, Sarah, Leigh, Elizabeth, Kevin, Jami, Milosz, Rachael. Also, thank you for the memories, guys.)

 

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An end, a beginning, and something in between

The past two months have been so surreal – I’ve had to say goodbye to my life in New York, then I spent a bit of time at home in Hungary, and now I’ve been at Bard’s Annandale campus for two weeks already. I’ll do my best to recap…

December was the busiest month of our semester by far, which is really saying something considering how hectic the entire BGIA experience has been. While much of this fall was about experiencing things for the first time, this month it quickly turned into a more sentimental phase of realizing that there are some things we’re doing for the last time – last classes, last days at our internships, last time walking through the dreaded Times Square and the last days spent at the (often dreaded) 92Y residence. But while I was busy with all of my final assignments for my classes and finishing up my projects at my internship, I couldn’t help but realize that even though I tried really hard to explore as much as I could of New York City, I still haven’t seen so much – so I made it my priority to explore a bit more in December.

As always, it helped that Zsofi and Juli came to visit for a few days again before the end of the semester – since they had so little time when they came NY, they pushed me to do all the ‘touristy’ stuff that I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to do while living in the city. So, we ticked the American Museum of Natural History off our bucket list, and also explored the Dyker Heights neighbourhood in Brooklyn, which is famous for having crazy over-the-top Christmas lights displays for the holiday season.

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Some other December highlights: saw Angelina Jolie after she gave a talk at the 92Y (she’s shorter in person than I thought); got lost for 4 hours in Central Park in the middle of a snowstorm while correcting other people’s wacky snowmen; saw Mozart’s The Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera (Lincoln Center is gorgeous!!); got to see the Chrysler Building’s gorgeous Christmas tree every day when I went to work; and went out to Coney Island once more, which is a bit of a trek from the Upper East Side, but definitely one of my favorite places, and so special in the winter when it’s quiet, empty and cold.

Of course, we also had to formally end our BGIA experience. The 20th was my last day at work, so we had a Christmas dinner party with everybody from the office – which was so great as we finally got to know each other a little better after working together for 4 months. The next day was our big BGIA graduation – and I still had to finish a paper in the morning. Nonetheless, just like with all of BGIA, that was totally worth the effort, and it felt great to come together and celebrate all our hard work this semester with our peers, program coordinators, professors, and internship supervisors. Who doesn’t love getting diplomas and then going out to eat to celebrate?

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I decided to go home for the winter intersession, but I knew I wanted to spend a couple of days in New York before moving up to Bard College’s campus in Annandale-on-Hudson – I thought this would ease the transition a little bit, plus, I simply missed the city already. I was staying in the Financial District, which was great as during the semester I didn’t spend much time downtown, but now it was perfect for a few days of self-care consisting of long morning walks along the pier, checking out some exhibitions I didn’t previously have the time to, and finally going to see the Flatiron Building in person which has always been one of my favorites in NYC. Also, since the Women’s March was happening that weekend, I decided to go and participate. It was incredible to walk up 25 blocks from Columbus Circle and still not see the end of the crowd – at around 200,000 participants, this was definitely the biggest protest I’ve ever been a part of. The atmosphere was also really amazing, uniquely welcoming, inclusive and empowering, while also fun.

On January 22nd, I met up with the other exchange students at JFK, and we took a bus up to Annandale. It was weird, again, to get from Manhattan to my sweet little exposed-brick-walled dorm room on Stone Row in just a little over two hours – campus feels like a completely different world. We were definitely kept busy the first week with orientation activities (Tuesday to Sunday, now that’s something), even though the campus was quiet as not many other students had returned yet. Classes started this week, and while I was completely blown away by some of them, I’ll probably talk more about them in detail in a later post, when my schedule is fixed.

The PIE office has already organized a trip for us – the first of many to help us explore the Hudson Valley despite the limited public transport that’s available here. Yesterday we went to the Hyde Park area, and visited the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site – the Springwood estate that was President FDR’s home that he gifted to the National Park Service after his death. The Rose Garden of the estate is also the President’s final resting place. The place was breathtaking, especially the surroundings covered with snow. No wonder FDR loved spending time here so much.

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Fifty shades of date

My plan that I am going to spend my whole winter break working at a date farm in the middle of the Mojave Desert could have ended up being disastrous. I did not have any knowledge about growing dates whatsoever, I don’t think I’d ever eaten a date before going there for that matter. Everyone who knew about my plan was pretty much convinced that I was borderline crazy for doing it, and I – I’m not going to lie – had doubts myself. But I’m pretty much convinced that one should put herself into unusual situations from time to time, so I went through with it, and I loved all of it.

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The China Ranch Date Farm is near to Death Valley but far from everything else. The Mojave Desert is the land of small towns with less than a hundred inhabitants, people living in trailers in the middle of nothing and huge trucks cruising on the endless roads. The farm is basically an oasis with hundreds of date palms, a reservoir and a bakery, but once you leave it on one of the hiking trails, you find yourself in a setting only familiar from Western movies and Karl May novels (if you love Winnetou as much as I do).

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There are about four or five people who live and work at the farm, all the others are travelers, volunteers and all sorts of drifters who spend more or less time there and in exchange for food and a roof over their heads work at the farm five hours a day, five days a week.  We harvested dates, sorted dates, boxed dates, put dates in cookies and shakes, dreamed about dates, we were basically breathing dates. After doing the work from seven to twelve, we were free to do whatever we wanted.

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Lacking of internet and cell phone reception and surrounded by Nature, we were both, children running around at night with flashlights, hunting coyotes, and old, retired couples, who were sitting next to the fireplace for hours, reading books, not saying a word. Our biggest worries were not being able to decide what to cook for dinner, which awful move to watch (and whether the DVDs were scratched or not) and which hiking trail to do after work. We were living in this exciting, but at the same time extremely tranquil environment, our little bubble with its own dynamics and rules.

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Getting back to school was like a shock therapy after this. Overwhelmed by things like heating and Internet, I had only one day to get myself together, to wash the desert dust out of my clothes, and to get ready to go to classes. It’s not been easy. Spending a month at China Ranch was like a smaller, surreal dream within the bigger, American dream I’m living right now (yes, just like Inception, yes, I know it’s cheesy). After everything, my real life in Hungary awaits, but until then I’ll still have to do some exciting things, so that these blogposts don’t bore everyone to death.

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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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