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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Comics, alligators and butterflies

Conferences and their attendants represent a distinct subculture. Awkward small talk before the events, cold coffee, cheap snacks, white socks peeking out of the too short legs of trousers, elbow patches, hopeless battles with projectors and people developing scholarly crushes on each other. Now imagine a conference on a subculture (comics): elbow patches combined with geeky t-shirts, obscure fan-references in the presentations, fangirling over the latest issues of superhero comics and tv shows in the breaks and a lot of cool visual additions on the slides.20170408_074015

Last week the University of Florida held a conference on comics and adaptations. UF has one of the biggest comics studies programs in the US, so a small group of enthusiastic PhD students organize a conference about comics every year in Gainesville. A few months ago I submitted a paper for this conference and it got selected so I flew to Florida.

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Every campus would be better with palm trees

April in Florida is nothing like April in New England. While I left Hartford in a coat, I was walking around in Gainesville in a t-shirt and shorts. The city itself is relatively small and most of it is taken up by the enormous campus of UF. Although the university has a beautiful botanical garden and a butterfly conservatory (where the little beasts fly around freely and even land on if you wear attractive colors) the ‘regular’ campus also looks like a botanical garden with its wild vegetation. Palm trees and exotic (for someone who is used to New England) flowers grow in every corner and I would swear that I have seen some hummingbirds and wild parrots. While at Trinity wearing shorts in the winter seems like a masculine feat for boys, in Gainesville there is no need for such boasting, shorts are the uniform for everyone. When you arrive in Florida the first thing you notice is the almost irrational obsession with alligators: Florida Gators football team, Alligator Nails beauty salon or the several restaurants named Swamp. Thankfully, I did not have to leave without seeing a live specimen in the artificial lake of the university(!). I couldn’t decide if he/she was the resident of the lake or walked there from somewhere else but the basin had an open slope which left open the rather unnerving possibility of a medium-sized alligator strutting around on the campus.

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At Trinity we have a statue of a tiny mechanical bantam chicken (our mascot), at UF they have this awesomeness

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At Trinity we don’t have real bantams but at UF they have real alligators

By simply looking at the schedule of the conference it seems like a gleeful gathering of people that media scholar Henry Jenkins would define as ‘aca-fans’: professional fans who are so deeply in love with a certain segment of popular culture that they write, teach and lecture about it. Other scholars do not really take them seriously, especially those who tend to think of research as noble suffering. What is great about comics scholars is their non-competitive, inclusive attitude: Q&As lack the passive-aggressive tones of older, more established disciplines, most scholars are genuinely curious and helpful and the subjects of research and the methods are flexible, fresh and inventive. Critique of capitalism, black feminism, queer studies, Jewish studies, classical art history and literary criticism merge with each other and offer diverse perspectives on the medium of comics – and vice versa comics offer new perspectives on art history, capitalism, Quranic and Biblical texts or history. A Korean presenter explained how Korean graphic novels grapple with traumatic history or how the form and language of graphic narratives is a suitable medium to express the liminality of migration. A presenter from the University of Virginia talked about the ways a rather conventional superhero tv show (Luke Cage) manages to mix Biblical and Quranic narratives and the contemporary discourse of terrorism and counter-terrorism. A graduate student from the University of Florida revealed the connections between the Cubist works of Picasso and the seemingly simple but deeply existential Krazy Kat comic strips. In her keynote lecture historian Nina Caputo showed the practical and pedagogical challenges of adapting a medieval religious debate between a Rabbi and a Christian monk to comics. Comics studies conferences are great because they are places where three different groups of a subculture meet and have a dialogue: fans, scholars (the two often overlap) and artists.

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A student chilling on campus

While I was in Gainesville listening to these young people in this young discipline that did not have the time to ossify and grow narrow-minded at home something else is brewing. While we are discussing how comics can address political and social issues, at home the government makes education into a political and ideological question marking some universities acceptable and others unwanted. To be honest, I feel powerless, useless even. I want to be in the crowd that floods the streets for the CEU but at the same time I am a bit relieved that I am away from all this. It is hard to love my home when people here keep asking about this curious Hungarian practice of closing universities.

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Spring break in New Orleans

One week before the spring break the weather was terrible at Bard (as you could see in our previous snow storm post), so I couldn’t wait to get out of the campus and travel to a warmer place. Fortunately, I had a ticket to New Orleans where the temperature was between 25 and 30° Celsius and I finally could wear shorts and t-shirts.

New Orleans has always been on my ‘must-see cities in the US’ list, so I was very happy when a few weeks before spring break I finally found relatively cheap tickets to the Big Easy. I was lucky also because Taylor, my great friend from BGIA, joined me in literally the last minute (she bought her ticket less than 24 hours before our departure).

We arrived to New Orleans Tuesday afternoon and left the city Friday afternoon, so we had approx. 2 and a half days there. I wanted to see/taste/hear as many sights/food/kinds of music as possible. New Orleans is not a big a city at all. We used street car only when we got extremely tired, otherwise we walked our feet off. But we didn’t mind this because the best way to get to know New Orleans (and actually every city) is walking around.

The most famous neighborhood of the city is the historic French quarter. It’s full of boutiques, bars, art galleries and beautiful colorful buildings with iron balconies. The palm tree lined Canal Street, which is basically the main street of the city, is just like Miami. The Bywater neighborhood is also a place worth to visit where there is lot of smaller but evenly colorful houses. One day we crossed the Mississippi River by the ferry and discovered another historic, but less visited neighborhood, the Algiers.  Wherever you are (even at the airport), but especially in the French quarter, you can hear music in the background all the time. New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, but it’s not the only kind of music you can hear when you walk through the (in)famous Bourbon Street.

 

New Orleans also offers a wide variety of great food. Fortunately, Taylor was familiar with the cuisine of the Southern US, so she recommended me the best and most delicious meals like jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish, bread pudding and alligator. We also tried some of New Orleans’ most famous specialties, the beignet (fried dough covered with tons of powdered sugar) at Café Du Monde and the Muffuletta sandwich at the Central Grocery Store.

Besides the amazing weather, the beautiful neighborhoods, the great music and the delicious food, what made New Orleans my second most favorite US city is the people who live there. Honestly, I was surprised how welcoming and friendly people were there. They were always ready to help, to have a conversation or to offer a glass of wine while you were looking around in their gallery.

This was my first visit to the South and hopefully it wasn’t the last one. I couldn’t have spent my spring break in a better place.

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Here and there

I have not written here for a while, so here are my adventures since November, with a lot of pictures.

In November with Kata, Zsófi and István we spent a long weekend in Toronto which was quite awesome. Our main programs were doing tourist stuff in Toronto and Niagara, about that the others have written. It was really funny to have metric system for a couple of days. For me this was the first time that I drove longer distance in the US, I was quite surprised about the driving culture in a good way. Additionally I was previously invited and managed to visit a geophysical instrument manufacturer near Toronto, which was a huge thing for me hence I had spent a lot of time measuring with their equipment and I had a very fruitful chat with the leading engineer.

 

More pictures from our Toronto trip: https://flic.kr/s/aHskPUXjkP

As part of Outdoor Leadership course, we spent a rather short two days on the Appalachian Trail, hiking up and down from Mt Greylock.

More pictures from about this trip: https://flic.kr/s/aHskQ9Xckd

By the end of the first semester I really got used to Trinity and adopted to the feeling being in the US. To be honest, it took way more time than I had expected from myself. Though the courses were very good, I think I learned more from the structure of the education, especially the workflow of the courses. I really believe that once when I will be (hopefully) teaching I will be able to fuse this way of learning and teaching with the methods I used to at home. Even more, I am taking now some  courses from different departments with even more awesome hints for the future.

More pictures from Hartford: https://flic.kr/s/aHskJJYwVV

On my birthday in December I went to visit New York again (I did an other tour in November). Though those days were only enough to have a brief insight how big The City is, it was a very nice experience to be in a big city again. This day was even more special hence my old mathematician friend from Hungary, Kristóf (with whom we organized camps for secondary school students) had a conference near Boston so he travelled down to NYC and we spent the day together and in the evening Zsuzsi joined us as well and friends of Kristóf and we visited a real small Chinese restaurant in the border of Little Italy and Chinatown, called Spicy Village, which I would recommend for everybody who likes really spicy original Henan-Chinese food.

New York is huge, I cannot really put it in another way. I had planned a couple of things to visit, but only a few I managed. Obviously I started with the „must see” tourist stuff like Times Square, Empire State Building but what was really outstanding moment for me to visit the USS Intrepid (an aircraft carrier ship used as a museum on the Hudson River). Since I was a little boy I had an interest in planes and machines so truly a boy’s dream came true when I entered the ship. Though the historical exhibitions on the lower decks are very interesting, the really interesting things were the planes exhibited on the main deck for sure. Amongst many others, there are exhibited a Grumman F-14 „Tomcat”, a really iconic aircraft of the Cold War, mostly known from the movie Top Gun, a SR-71 Blackbird, a very famous reconnaissance airplane, which is one of the fastest manned planes with numerous brilliant technical solutions for high-speed high altitude flying. Also the NASA’s SS Enterprise is present, which is the only space shuttle that has not been in the space, hence it was only built for atmospheric tests. Besides the planes, it was quite a feeling to walk around on an aircraft carrier, considering her size and dignity, the beauty and elegance of such fine pieces of human work.

More pictures from New York: https://flic.kr/s/aHskSG2fQf

I spent the Holidays at home with my family, I just managed to leave before the airport was closed, though it was quite an adventure to get to the airport in NYC, hence during six hours it snowed like 8 inches but I got lucky. Moreover I saw the Northern Light for the first time in my life, so I was compensated by the nature for the weather.

Before the second semester I attended to the Outdoor Club’s adventure in Texas. As a nature-lover guy who has never been to a desert, it was an awesome experience.

We started from El Paso. Hence I arrived one day earlier I had to chance to hike with Jamie in the Franklin Mts NP and sleep under the stars. In the first evening together we gazed the first of some awesome sunsets we experienced. That night the wind blew so strong that I had to pull back into the tent because I was almost blown away. After we headed to the Big Bend National Park (the ride was fine, with some spectacular geological moments), and we stayed in the various points of Chisos basin for a few days. We hiked there, had a wonderful time in an isolated ring of mountains, reaching the highest point of the region, Emory Peak (2387 m). Hence Big Bend is in the Chihuahuan Desert, we had a spectacular view on the desert from our position (the Chisos Basin is in an elevated position, feels like an island in the sea of desert). For the second half of our trip we descended to the Rio Grande River, which is the border between the US and Mexico, and we canoed down a few tens of miles from Rio Grande Village. The water level was almost 3-4 times higher (and faster) than the usual, therefore we had a nice job to manoeuvre our ship along the river. Also we landed in Mexico for a short amount time (it is legal in the flood-basin) and it reminded me of the Lord of the Rings when we entered the canyon, with its huge white limestone walls. On the last day of this part we slept on an island between the US and Mexico, which is quite an odd thing to do, but it was amazing and we had time to enjoy it. (Due to the rapidness of the river besides the first day when we had enormous wind, we advanced way faster than planned.)

Spending time in the desert is an amazing thing. The feeling, the silence, the stars in the sky during night, the wind, the cacti, the bonding,  the colours, the hikes are the rewards for getting your stuff really dusty. When we had the Emory Peak hike, in the morning it was freezing, halfway around it was almost 20°C, before the top we were hit by a hailstorm (we had a beautiful double rainbow), and an hour later it was almost 25°C.

All in all it was an amazing trip, with an outstanding group of people, it had almost as big impact on me as my first hike in Retyezát (Transylvania). The feeling of the trip might come through on the pictures. Moreover a short article was written about us to the College’s webpage featuring my pics:
http://www.trincoll.edu/NewsEvents/NewsArticles/pages/BigBendJanuaryTripSpring2017.aspx

More pictures from the Big Bend NP Trip: https://flic.kr/s/aHskTosvHK

Since then, the second semester started, I am having amazing lectures and this time I tried to select my courses from broader range, so I am taking Darkroom Photography, Earth Systems, Sci-fi and Society, Fluid Mechanics, NMR Spectroscopy.

Sci-fi and Society is kind of strange for me because I thought I had read a lot of sci-fi but I was totally unaware of the US Sci-fi (not counting Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert books) novels and its variety. The “eastern-european” and “US” sci-fi are totally different in the way of storytelling and for me the level of scientific fiction descriptions. On the other hand the sci-fis here are way more openly system-critical. However, I found very interesting that the students here are not familiar with the sci-fi at home, only the most famous, like the Solaris (Stanisław Lem), or the Stalker (though that is the Tarkovsky movie based on A & B Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic which is different than their short novel named Stalker). Obviously I have not known a lot sci-fi from here, but I am not a literature major so I have a huge disadvantage. It is also interesting, that as a European I have found a lot references about Europe, which was obvious for me and I had to share some thoughts about them (like the feudalism, or the structure of society in the beginning of the XIX. century). There are some lectures left, I hope I will have a more solid and clearer opinion about this.

The other courses are not that much has special aspects for me, the Fluid Mechanics is terrific how it includes individual and group work and also I got really pushed into the deepwater about the US/metric system which is nice. The NMR has been pretty awesome, this professor was the first lecturer who introduced NMR from this certain viewpoint which I really like. (It really does not make a big difference, but still.) Earth Systems is just fine, I missed this kind of course from my Hungarian curriculum, with this very puritan approach and with some programming. Darkroom photography has been a dream of mine, since when I was small boy my father took a lot of photos with an old Praktika, and here I had the opportunity to learn the process of the developing.

For spring break I had planned a little trip to Cuba, but unfortunately here was a state-wide travel ban for just the exact same day when my plane was, so I could not get out of Hartford. I got stranded here for the break, so I successfully reduced my pile of “to do” stuff, but I hope I will be able to go to Cuba before I leave. This is the other face of Storm Stella that brought a cold winter wonderland to here as well.

And a short comment as a sport fan, there was the Super Bowl LI, in the beginning of February, which was quite a thing here since large portion of the students come from MA and New England. However I was rather with the Falcons, the New England Patriots won in an incredible game against the Atlanta Falcons. The campus was quite loud from the shouts.

Also we had a gig from a little band formed by Trinity College teachers, the Gear Mama in the local pub, the Tap. They played adaptations of mainly ’70s and ’80s rock music.

More pictures from the gig: https://flic.kr/s/aHskWd3cpf

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Breaking snow post

Zsuzsi and me decided to venture outside in the blizzard to take photos of the winter wonderland that Stella brought to Bard. This is without doubt the most snow that we’ve seen here so far! All classes got canceled and everyone’s holed up in the dorms. Enjoy our arctic pictures!

 

   

Zsuzsi’s room without a view

 

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