Category: Europe (page 1 of 8)

Stockholm, Sweden; Reutlingen, Germany; Paris, France

Author: Shannon Ilg

Location: Stockholm, Sweden; Reutlingen, Germany; Paris, France

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

October 20, 2018

Stockholm, Sweden. A beautiful city! Although, it was rather chilly to walk around all day (40,000+ steps, if anyone is counting…) so I ended up purchasing a coat from a second hand shop and a touristy winter hat. Both of them have since then been wonderful additions to my travel wardrobe. Side note… my silly self decided that I wouldn’t need a winter coat so I had originally just brought a jean jacket and a slightly insulated raincoat. I think I would have been okay just in Reutlingen, but with all of the traveling I am certainly glad to have bought the coat and the hat.

October 21, 2018

To save time on traveling by train I secured a cheap flight back from Sweden. It was certainly a great choice, as I got to see the beautiful sunrise over the wing of the airplane (and also saved myself from a 24 hour journey…). Upon flying back into Hamburg, we significantly lowered travel time, and also were able to stop briefly in Berlin again, where we attempted to buy currywurst where we had previously (a delicious sausage street food). Unfortunately, the vendor was not open yet as it was 9 am, so we settled for a chain restaurant.

October 22, 2018

The next morning, Reutlingen greeted us with the first frost. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

October 23, 2018

Another day, spent completely in the walls of the study room, working endlessly on homework. I mean, this is *study* abroad… we can’t just travel all the time! (Although I have done a fair job of traveling every spare moment)

October 24, 2018

I just have to say kudos to the chef of this wonderfully magical mac and cheese that breathed the life back into me at 2 am. It was delicious. Thank you, Lauren.

October 25, 2018


Here you see the contents of approximately 73% of the meals I eat when I’m traveling. A) it’s cheap. B) it’s quite delicious. C) it’s easy to pack upwards of 5 meals for two people at the same time. D) It’s relatively light and packable. E) You can easily carry peanut butter and jam, Nutella and honey, or a number of other combinations so it doesn’t get boring. F) I mean, I could go on, but I think you get the gist…

Oh, by the way, this is the start of Fall Break for classes in Reutlingen (although I still had to keep up with my 3 classes from Valpo), and this countertop is in Paris.

October 26, 2018

Oh, look at that! The Eiffel tower! In all honesty, I was not expecting a whole lot from it at all. My thoughts were approximately ‘it is an overrated hunk of metal that everyone likes taking pictures of’. But it was actually really cool to see in person! It was a lot taller than I was expecting, and you could see it from very far away. Although I don’t think I need to go back any time soon, it was certainly worth the time to go see.

October 27, 2018

So as you can see, I had a pigeon on my arm. This was in front of Notre Dame, and there were a bajillion of these birds out there. There were some men selling bird food that you could attract them with, some people having ten or twenty birds on them at the same time. I happened to have a bunch of stale granola with me, so we used that and had the time of our lives waiting for our tour to begin.

Fall Break

Author: Liam Bodlak

Location: Paris, London, Dublin, Rome

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Fall Break at Valpo is usually pretty short. It’s a time to go home for a bit, recharge, see people, and come back to school to finish out the time until Thanksgiving break. Thanksgiving isn’t as widely celebrated in Europe, so Reutlingen University doesn’t give us a break for it. That makes our weeklong fall break the longest one of the year, and my friends and I took advantage of it. Over the course of the break I traveled to Paris, London, Dublin, and then Rome.

First off was Paris. We left Thursday afternoon, and arrived that night. Paris was slightly different than I’d expected. I’d heard about Paris syndrome, which is an extreme reaction from tourists when Paris doesn’t live up to their expectations, and so my expectations wavered between excited and nervous. Paris was not what I expected, but I liked it. It was somewhat crowded and dirty, but in an endearing way. I appreciated the grittiness of the downtown area. It just felt so alive and exciting. Granted, it was a little annoying to be crammed in with everyone on the metro, but I really appreciated the vibe of the city. The nightlife was great, the tourist attractions (we saw the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Notre Dame Cathedral) were everything they’re cracked up to be, and we somehow found a Steak and Shake in the middle of the city. No complaints about Paris.

Next up was London. It was really nice to have a city without any language barriers, and be able to communicate without difficulty with everyone I met in the city. The weather was nice, and we got to explore a lot. It was interesting to see the different immigrant cultures that are bigger in the UK than other places. There was a Jamaican restaurant next to our hostel, and being able to have authentic Jamaican food and drink was a cultural experience I don’t often get to experience. It didn’t hurt that it was open 24 hours (speaking from experience, jerk chicken is better at 4 AM). London was similar to Paris in the sense of all the tourist attractions, but the people were a lot more interesting than any sort of tourist landmark. The energy of the city makes it what it is, and it’s something that wasn’t lost on me.

We stopped in Dublin for two days after that, and even though we weren’t there for long it was probably my favorite place we went on Fall Break. It was a beautiful city, the people were conversational and friendly, and the Guinness Factory lived up to the hype (the highlight was the sky bar on the top floor, which overlooked the whole city of Dublin). We went out on Halloween night, and the atmosphere was incredible. The people we met were excited to talk about all sorts of things with us, and we met a variety of interesting people as we made our way through the nightlife of College Green. Dublin was an incredible city, and I hope to be back someday.

Our final destination on break was Rome. As with the other cities, it was everything it’s hyped up to be. The food was amazing, the Roman ruins were fascinating, and I got to meet up with a friend from home who showed us around the city our second night there. The highlight was probably the Vatican. I’d seen so many pictures of it before, and it more than lived up to my expectations. It was an incredible, deeply moving experience.

All in all, Fall Break was a great time spent with great people. I got to see some of the most important cities in all of Western Civilization and some of the most beautiful sights in all of Europe, all within the span of a week. I could not be happier with how my Fall Break went.

Twenty-Four Hours in Edinburgh

Author: Emma Hecht

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

I don’t have class after noon on Tuesday or at all on Wednesday. So, for fun, I got on Kayak a couple weeks ago and just looked at flights that would get me somewhere and back in about 24-36 hours (Kayak’s explore tab is my best friend). What I found was a round trip flight to Edinburgh, Scotland for 19 pounds… that’s less than 25 dollars.

I got into Scotland around 7 pm on Tuesday evening, went to a pub for an amazing dinner of steak & ale pie and chocolate cake, and then headed to my hostel. I went to bed relatively early so that I could get up at 5:45 am in the morning and climb a hill/mountain/cliff, “Arthur’s Seat” and be at the top for the sunrise. I tumbled out of bed around 5:52 and began the forty minute walk to Arthur’s Seat. It was raining very slightly. It was also pitch black. Five minutes away from my destination, I reached a forest. Apple Maps thought it was a good idea for me to go through it, but I wasn’t convinced. So I stood and looked at it for a good two minutes, deciding if climbing a mountain was worth risking getting kidnapped. Then I saw cars passing on the other side of the forest and their headlights shed enough light for me to see that the forest was about ten trees on either side of a paved sidewalk. I crossed through without any threats to my safety and worked on figuring out where the paths were to climb up, using three feet of light from my iPhone’s flashlight to guide me. At one point I saw a distant light through the dark and I thought, “Oh wow they marked the path with lights, this is great!” But then the light started moving and I realized it was a person. (I concluded it wasn’t a murderer because murderers wouldn’t wear a light that drew attention to them.)

I remembered that I had a map on my phone of the different paths that there are to Arthur’s Seat, so I whipped that out and saw I was closest to the red path, which was described as a “very steep climb” and I thought, “a) it’s extremely dark out, b) it’s been raining, so there will be a good amount of mud, c) I’m wearing boots with very little traction, and d) I have very little experience climbing.” So, I’m on what I can only hope is the red path and I’m making all sorts of wrong turns on paths that aren’t really paths, until it starts to get light and I make a beeline through some grass that leads up to some peaks. I’m not actually convinced that I made it to Arthur’s Seat, but I made it to somewhere tall and it was beautiful.

After the climb, I went to The Elephant House, the café where JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series, or at least The Sorcerer’s Stone. I’ve loved Harry Potter since middle school (who hasn’t?) so that was pretty amazing. I had a cup of tea (as you do in the UK) and a piece of carrot cake.

I went to a few other museums throughout the day, including the National Museum of Scotland, where I saw Dolly, the genetically engineered sheep! My high school biology teacher would be so proud that I remember things from her class.

I was sitting in the Edinburgh airport, waiting for the screen to announce my gate and I got on Kayak and asked where they could take me for December 4th and 5th. So now I’m going to Oslo for 14 pounds. The train ride from Cambridge to the airport and back is going to cost me more than that.

Paris Weekend Adventure

Author: Ulises E. Hernandez

Location: Paris, France

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Europe is famous for its food, culture, parks, monuments, and buildings. Located in Paris, France, The Eiffel Tower is one of the most iconic monuments in Europe. With less than two months remaining in our study abroad program, my best friend and I decided to designate a weekend to visit the wonderful city of Paris. From the Cambridge study center, we took the train to London where we took a bus to France. You might be thinking, England is part of the United Kingdom island?!? Yes, that is correct, England is part of an Island, but thanks to the outstanding European engineers, a tunnel was constructed that allowed the connection between the British island and the European mainland. The bus ride was 7 hours long and it dropped us off outside of Paris.

The very first major building that we visited within about an hour from arrival to Paris was the Cathedral of Notre Dame. We had the opportunity to go inside to look at the most amazing artwork and religious artifacts. Hundreds of tourists from all over the world visit the Cathedral and many of them go up the towers to get a better view of the city and also to look at its amazing bells. Due to our narrow time frame and tight schedule, we were unable to go up the tower, but we did take time to take a few pictures outside the cathedral.

During our visit, the weather in Paris was very cold and windy, but that didn’t stop us from visiting the Eiffel Tower. After taking the metro located about a mile away from Notre Dame Cathedral, we ate dinner at a French restaurant a few blocks from the tower. After eating an amazing lunch and having experienced very strange service, we walked to the tower and we got in line to enter the enclosed area around the tower. From the ground level and to the first and second floor, Ben and I took the stairs. The view from the top of the tower was amazing and we had the opportunity to see the entire city. By the time we made our way down the tower, it was already dark so the lights came on while still inside the tower which to me was a very unique experience.

On our second day in Paris, we visited the Louvre Museum. This museum has a lot of artwork and also has very historically important artifacts from all around the world. One of the most famous artworks in the museum is the Mona Lisa, which attracts a lot of tourists. After walking through the museum for a few hours, we took the metro to visit the very famous Arc de Triomphe. The Arc is actually much bigger than what it seems in the pictures. Ben and I took a few pictures from across the street of the Arc and we walked around the city. Before we left Paris, we took a cruise that takes you to see the major tourist destinations since most of them are located near the river. Overall, we had a very interesting and amazing experience in Paris, France.

Oktoberfest!

Author: Liam Bodlak

Location: Munich/Stuttgart, Germany

Pronouns: He/Him/His

“What’s the history of Oktoberfest? Like, what’s the significance?”

A friend asked me this question, and I honestly didn’t know how to respond. I’d been to the festival three separate times-twice in Stuttgart, once in Munich-and I was unaware of any sort of major historical significance of it. So I did my research, thought about it, and finally figured out what Oktoberfest was all about. The answer is that, in 1810, King Ludwig I put on a festival to celebrate his marriage to Princess Therese, and the event sort of caught on and was celebrated every year.

My first Oktoberfest experience was in Munich. Me and three friends took a late train from Leipzig to Munich, and after arriving, met up with our Airbnb hosts. After a survey of our Airbnb (complete with a box shower that kept the water warm for about thirty seconds), we were all ready to start our day at Oktoberfest. And what a day it was. We found ourselves in the Hofbrau House, where we found ourselves seated next to two Scotsmen, who we spent most of the day with. We talked about various topics, including the Midwest (“Indiana’s the one with a lot of NASCAR, right?”) and Unicorns (the national animal of Scotland, because Scotland is amazing). I also received travel advice from a very friendly Dutchman, who talked my ear off about how Rotterdam was better than Amsterdam. A few hours later, I was feeling pretty hungry. I went to a McDonalds right outside the venue, and was reminded again that Europeans don’t have sweet tea. (I tried explaining it for a solid 10 minutes to someone in Copenhagen and he couldn’t wrap his head around the concept. If nothing else, Americans are outdoing the rest of the world in the field of sugary drinks). We eventually got back to the Airbnb, and we left the next morning. Munich Oktoberfest was a success.

Two weeks later, I spent two nights attending Wasen (Stuttgart’s version of Oktoberfest). Stuttgart was slightly smaller than Munich (Munich is around the size of San Diego, and Stuttgart is closer to Louisville), but it was still a great time. Highlights included multiple singalongs of Country Roads (John Denver is evidently huge in Germany) and having one of the people at my table scream, unprompted “I AM THE POLISH ANGUS YOUNG!”, a quote made exponentially better by the fact that there wasn’t even an AC/DC song playing at the time.

Everything was so overwhelmingly beautiful. From the rides, to the food, to the way the whole festival lights up at night. I was awestruck the entire time I was there. I felt a sort of togetherness with the people there. All of us were strangers that became friends for a few hours. We had fun together, but in a few months we’ll all be back in Scotland, or Ireland, or Poland, or wherever we’re from, and we’re all going to be a distant memory and a funny story to someone else. But that word-togetherness-is something I definitely felt at Oktoberfest. Just from little interactions, I felt a closeness with the world that I don’t normally experience. We’re all very different-culturally, spiritually, economically-but for a few hours, we were all together.

 

 

My First Month Abroad: Reutlingen, Berlin, and Ireland

Author: Mark Young

Location: Germany/Ireland

One of our first days in Reutlingen we climbed Georgenberg, a nearby mountain with a beautiful panoramic view of Reutlingen and the surrounding towns. Nearly all of the houses here have red roof.

 

Walking through the city provides many gorgeous views of the natural and man-made landscape. Houses often have neatly paired stone and vines which give off a rustic and aged feeling.

 

The dogs are extremely well trained here — many are walked without leashes. This good boy was waiting outside a cafe for its owner.

 

We visited Tubingen in our first week here. Tubingen is home to the University of Tubingen which causes the city’s population to be one-third student. It is a very pretty and historic city.

 

Just a short walk from the dorm you can find many gorgeous views of the Swabian Jura.

 

Our first trip was to Berlin. This is the Altes Museum at night. Hitler once addressed mass rallies up to a million people on the steps of the museum. It now holds antique paintings, drawings, and other classical pieces of art or history.

 

This is the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. It contains 2,711 slabs of concrete arranged in a grid. It was designed to replicate the Mt. Olive Cemetery.

 

We also visited Sanssouci, the summer palace of Frederick the Great. It is often considered the German Versailles.

 

After our trip to Berlin, I went to Ireland, with a two day delay in Mallorca, Spain. The rocky coastline of the Celtic Sea was gorgeous and sublime.

 

As if the rest of the coast wasn’t magnificent enough, the Cliffs of Moher commanded respect and admiration. Standing next to such a sheer drop-off was both terrifying and exciting.

 

Back in Reutlingen, a couple friends and I climbed another mountain and watched as the sun set over the city from a ruined castle’s tower.

 

The one month I’ve been in Reutlingen has been wonderful. While language barriers can sometimes cause minor issues, the people are accomodating and friendly; the city is historic and pretty; and the landscape is a nice change from the plains of Indiana.

The First Month

Author: Liam Bodlak

Location: Germany/Denmark

I’ve been in Germany for about a month now, and it already sort of feels like home. My classes started today, and while being the only American in my Business Stats class is kind of weird, it’s not too bad. I’ve been traveling a lot, meeting people from all sorts of different backgrounds, and learning a lot about Europe in general. I had a lot of time to do what I want given that I’ve only had two classes up until now, but even with a full course load my schedule isn’t too terrible. Not speaking German has definitely been an issue, but I’m learning a little bit every day, and most people here speak a little bit of English anyways.

So far I’ve been to a number of places in Europe, both within and out of Germany. First, I was in Berlin for about a week, then I spent the weekend in Copenhagen. Both places were amazing, filled with culture, nightlife, and great people. Berlin especially has great historical significance. We went to a number of WW2 monuments, and the tone of it intrigued me greatly. As Americans, we have such a positive view of World War 2 because we won in just about every regard possible. The US benefited from that war more than anyone, and we’re proud of that to this day. However, the Germans suffered the greatest defeat of the war, and the tone of their monuments reflect that. They’re somber, reflective, and show a country that wants to move strongly forward without forgetting its dark past.

The Berlin Wall was also incredible. So much has been said about the wall, its significance, and its eventual tearing down. But one thing stood out to me when I was looking at the wall. There was a lot of graffiti on the wall, some of it political, some of it apolitical. One piece of graffiti stuck with me, however, and I still think about it now two weeks after leaving Berlin. The message reads “ TO ASTRID, MAYBE SOMEDAY WE’LL BE TOGETHER ”. It’s not clear who wrote this, or when it was written. It’s heartbreaking to imagine someone who misses someone else badly enough to get near the top of the wall and write a note that might not even reach its recipient. I figured that, with the amount of people who saw this message every day, and the far reach that social media has, that someone would have found the story behind it. However, doing research on the message just leads to tourists taking pictures of it. It sounds sentimental, and I doubt that any sort of conclusion will come on what happened to these people, but I can’t help but wonder if the writer of this message ever found Astrid, and if that someday ever came.

Then we went to Copenhagen, which was a fun experience even if it was only for two days. We marched with the Danish army through the streets for the changing of the guard, got lunch on the Nyhavn waterfront, and wound up bar hopping in the city for a little bit. We weren’t there too long, but even so, I can honestly say that Copenhagen is one of the most aesthetically beautiful cities I’ve been to.

After a few days back in Reutlingen, we were back traveling again, this time to Leipzig. I honestly didn’t expect Leipzig to be as much fun as Berlin given its size (Leipzig is slightly less populous than Milwaukee) but it’s an amazing city. The nightlife was surprisingly great, every club we went to had great music and fun people, and the cities small size worked to our advantage, as everywhere we went was within walking distance. After Leipzig me and three friends went to Munich to partake in Oktoberfest for a day. It absolutely lived up to my expectations, the vibe there was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The Scottish guys I hung out with there had been there for three days, and if I have the opportunity I definitely want to spend a week or so there. I had an amazing experience, but I feel like I barely scratched the surface of Munich Oktoberfest.

So, all in all, it’s been a fun month. I’m looking forward to the rest of this semester, and all the traveling, experiences, and growth that comes with it. I’ll be keeping this blog updated regularly, so hopefully you’ll all be hearing from me again soon. Tschuss!

 

Reflecting on the Netherlands

Author:  Rachel Silcox

Location: Utrecht, Netherlands

While abroad, one university professor told me that while I may come to this place as 100% American, I would leave only 95% American. Over those months spent in another country, we start to act, think, and feel at home there, even if just a little bit. This has certainly been my experience in the Netherlands. A once far off dreamy, tulip and bike clad land, Nederland has in a way, become a second home. While I may not speak the language, or look Dutch at all, the sounds and sights of the country do not seem strange or foreign anymore, in fact they feel quite comforting.

When I came back from my fall break trip to Italy, as soon as I got on the plane back to Amsterdam, I started to hear Dutch. Italian was foreign to me and having spent a week in that environment, I was excited to get back to what I knew! When I heard the throaty g’s and unique accent of the Dutch language, I immediately felt at home. This was the strangest feeling though, because I did not even recognize what these people were saying, yet somehow it still felt like home to me.

I wanted to come to Utrecht to become a global citizen and I have grown in that venture. I love how I was able to adapt to another culture and start to feel a part of it. It was a challenge in learning to be frustrated, confused, and hopelessly lost, and being able to conquer those feelings. At some moments, I felt like a complete outsider, unable to communicate or effectively function in this system. Other times I felt like I completely fit in. When I had to tell the cashier or store clerk, “sorry, I just speak English,” I felt like I was an intruder. But on the other hand, when I had a “conversation” with an old lady speaking Dutch by smiling, nodding, and laughing at the right moments, I felt completely Dutch. I felt like this sweet old woman could have even been my grandmother. There were hundreds of other moments on both sides of the spectrum, but through these moments I grew the most. I learned to try my best to adapt to a different way of living, to not feel defeated if I couldn’t the first time, and to realize I could try again.

 

I think this best summarizes my stay abroad: feeling like an outsider, but growing in my understanding and action to start to feel like I belonged. While my experience at University College Utrecht was heavily shaped by my transition to Dutch culture, it has broader implications. At first, I struggled to adapt to a new lifestyle, but eventually I was able, and it even started to become like home. Regardless of the specific culture I adapted to, I now know I can adapt, fit in, and be at home in another place. Through study abroad, I have not only learned that I can adapt to new environments, but I have also learned how. I think this is the most important lesson I have taken away from this experience, learning how to be, not just an American, but a global citizen.

Why Everyone Should Travel Solo

Author: Janelle Bouman

Location: Utrecht, Netherlands

One of the main reasons why I chose to study abroad was because I love to travel and experience new places.  Some of my best adventures have come from traveling alone.  I never would have thought I’d be brave enough to take a trip by myself until I actually did just that for the first time.  I’ve been on a few solo trips by now: a year and a half ago, when I was 19, I traveled through France by myself for a week.  This semester abroad, I’ve added solo adventures to Copenhagen during my fall break, and a long weekend in Berlin.  I sometimes get moderately shocked reactions when people learn that I’ve traveled by myself, but I think everyone should do this!  The more experienced I get, the more comfortable and enjoyable it becomes. I cannot recommend the experience highly enough to my fellow travelers.  Here are a few of the reasons why:

 

You have to get out of your comfort zone

This is the obvious reason, but also probably the most important one.  Traveling by yourself is certainly intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before.  But I’m a strong advocate for going out there and trying the things that might scare you.  Before I left on my first solo trip, I was questioning why I had decided to do this and wondering if I would actually be up for it.  It turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life.  I guarantee that traveling by yourself will be a little scary, but also inevitably a rewarding challenge and learning experience.

Your itinerary (and your wallet) are completely under your own control

I love museums, castles, and cathedrals.  I enjoy simply wandering to take in the sights of a city, stopping to listen to street music, and taking way too many pictures of scenic views.  I don’t mind being out in the rain or walking long distances.  I also prefer spending as little money as I possibly can.  When I am by myself, I don’t have to worry about balancing any of these things against anyone else’s interests or wishes, because my day and my pace are entirely up to me.  And the best part is, I am completely free to change my plans on a whim, sometimes resulting in the very best of experiences.

You learn how to figure out things for yourself

Traveling plans never go perfectly, and figuring out how to handle these situations on your own is just part of it.  I’ve run into cancelled trains that left me scrambling to not become stranded somewhere, language barriers with no one to translate, and bad weather that ruined an all-outdoor itinerary.  You don’t know what sorts of situations you will run into while traveling, but you do know you will learn to adapt to them.  By yourself, there is a lot less pressure when things don’t work out like you wanted.  Solo travel gives you the experience to handle anything that goes wrong with confidence rather than panic.

You become comfortable spending time by yourself

I’ve definitely heard people express concerns about getting lonely while traveling by themselves.  As an extremely introverted person, I probably benefit from (and need!) the alone time of solo traveling more than most people would.  But whether you are the same way or not, being comfortable in only your own company is a valuable skill to learn.  Traveling by yourself gives you plenty of time to think, reflect, read, or do whatever makes you happy when you are on your own.  What better way to do this than by visiting somewhere fantastic?

You get to meet new people

Alone time is important, but so is making friends, and you can balance that when you are traveling by yourself.  When you are with others, it’s tempting to stick with the familiarity of only the people you know.  By yourself, it’s much easier to break out of that shell and meet new people.  Youth hostels are designed for connecting with people: you room with complete strangers, and the buildings usually have hang-out areas, game rooms, and a restaurant or bar.  In Copenhagen, my hostel roommates were other university-age women from all over the world.  Many travelers who stay in hostels are specifically looking to meet other travelers!

It’s a great self-confidence builder

After returning from my first trip by myself, I felt that if I could do that, I could do anything!  Successfully navigating planes and trains in another country is exhilarating, and a huge self-confidence boost.  I certainly felt more confident moving to the Netherlands for a semester because I already had experience traveling in other countries by myself.  If you like traveling, I highly recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and giving a solo trip a try.  It will be a valuable learning experience that you won’t forget!

Meet Nadège!

Author: Rachel Silcox

Location: Utrecht, Netherlands 

Hello again! Welcome back to the Netherlands and specifically, my flat, as today I will be introducing you to one of my unitmates! I am so excited to introduce you to Nadège, because she is one of the most welcoming people and the nicest friend! Nadège is a native Belgian as her home is Brussels. She is studying law and anthropology with a minor in art history! Now, instead of boring you with my description of her, I’ll let Nadège tell you about herself!

Me: Why did you come to UCU to study the liberal arts and sciences?

Nadège: Well, I would really like to work across disciplines. Combing law and anthropology seemed like a great choice based on my interests. I would really like to work with indigenous populations, the environment, and with human rights. The liberal arts and sciences allowed me to explore and learn about all of these things!

Me: Cool! How did you get interested in working with indigenous populations?

Nadège: When I was 14 a guy came to our lecture from a village and talked about how they are trying to fight big companies that want to take their land. From this experience, I knew I wanted to do anthropology, because learning about their culture and the preservation of it was so cool! But I knew I need something heavier in my background. I tried politics and law and I loved them! Law is my favorite now and with it I hope that one day I can be a legal expert working locally with indigenous peoples to help preserve their identity, culture, and protect their rights. Culture is so cool and I really want to help preserve it for places that have one. Coming from Belgium, I never felt like I had a culture and so I realize how special it is to have a culture and I want to protect that!

Me: You never felt like you had a culture? What do you mean?

Nadège: Belgium is such a new country; it was only formed in 1830! It doesn’t have a long history. Plus, the division between French and Flemish speakers in our country really hurts the ability to have a unifying culture! But, when I see indigenous peoples they have such a long history of tradition and culture and I want to help sustain that, because I have never felt that so strongly. The only time I really feel a cultural connection to other Belgians is at Christmas. Europe was super touched by Christianity and a lot of our events have to do with that. To be honest, I don’t really know what Christmas means in Christianity, but for me, Christmas always had a feeling of being connected to my community. I feel connected to the past and the people around me. But that is it! Culturally, I want to feel as connected to other Belgians as I do at Christmas all the time!

Me: What do you think created a feeling of never having a culture for you?

Nadège: We were always influenced by big countries. I actually know more about French politics than Belgium ones! We are like a transitional country I feel. All the artists have to go through France, not us, like Stromae! Lots of people think he is from Paris, but he is from my city, Brussels! Artists are immediately related to the Netherlands or France. We can’t really make something ours because it always goes through others to be heard by the world. Also, we are super international. I love that we are so international and multicultural, but also there are so many influences that we can’t make our own. It’s bad, but it’s also good. I admire the beauty of living in a deep cultural tradition, but I do love Belgium and being able to help construct our culture! Like we love to laugh and live life! We really relate to that and it is our attempt to create a national identity to be proud of!

Me: So how would you like to use this to contribute to the world?

Nadège: I want to help preserve culture, because I know how unconnected someone can feel when they don’t have the tie of culture connecting them with others. But beyond that, I want to help open debate between indigenous cultures and the international community. Indigenous communities aren’t always right. But I want to be a part of the debate and discussion to let those cultures live!

Me: I love your perception on culture! So, anything that you would like to say to the culture and people in the U.S. or Valpo?

Nadège: People should be proud of identity and culture and cherish it! Be proud to be in the US where there are so many people from other places. The diversity is so cool and can create a new culture! On se construit par notre histoire et celle des autres. C’est la beauté de notre monde. (trans. We build ourselves by our history and that of others. That is the beauty of our world.)

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