By Bess Pearson
The language lab is buzzing with conversation. Students chatter amongst themselves: “How was your day?” “I’m so excited to hear about X experience.” “Hopefully this will help me to narrow down my study abroad.” Taylor Yost (C’16), who organized this event, fiddles with the computer at the front of the room, queuing the eight presentations on the projector screen. The room falls silent as Yost introduces the event, thanking the Russian department, eight speakers, and wide-eyed attendees. She relays the concept of the event: “to celebrate and share the diverse experiences of Sewanee students in Eastern Europe over the summer of in the Advent Semester of 2015.” Listening carefully, the audience munches on delicious cookies and green tea made and brought by Yost. The experience was both authentic and well-organized.
Linda Kleinfeld (C’16), Ruth Guerra (C’16), Kathryn Willgus (C’16), Bret Windhauser (C’18), Rebecca Hanigan (C’16), Terry Cronin (C’16), and Karl Afrikan (C’16) come up one by one, accompanied by their respective slideshows, to share with the audience tales of their time abroad. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the event was how diverse the interests of the travelers were, yet how much each interest connected with the place to which they went. For example, Guerra traveled to Prague, Czech Republic to study film while Hannigan went to conduct her own independent study that incorporated both trees and photography. Windhauser shared an experience unique from many of the other participants. He had an internship as a social worker with The Smiles Foundation in Romania over the summer. There, he primarily worked with prostitutes, the Roma people, and drug addicts. He told a series of wild encounters and mishaps, including playing cards in an abandoned Transylvanian castle after his train broke down. All in all the presentations proved to be equal parts entertaining and informative. It was the perfect opportunity for someone to go in knowing virtually nothing about Eastern Europe, to leave feeling as if they had gained new knowledge as well as a desire to go and experience places such as Prague, Rizan, and Chernobyl.