Monday, April 30, 2018

SAIS Europe Travel Memories around the Globe

As the academic year comes to a close here in Bologna, SAIS MA student Emilie Uhrhammer, USA, MA student in Conflict Management, took the opportunity to interview her SAIS Europe classmates to learn more about how they spent their free time. One particular time during the year when students traveled was during spring recess. Below are her reflections as well as her student peer interviews.

Each year, as the snow melts and blue sky reappears in Bologna, students anxiously look forward to our first vacation of the New Year: spring break. Each student looks forward to the pause for different reasons: some return to their native country to reconnect with family and friends, others engage in SAIS study trips to further enrich academics, and many others go globetrotting across Europe or nearby states to take in new sights. SAIS Europe’s location offers the perfect launching pad for adventures abroad, and many are inclined to take advantage of relatively inexpensive travel fare to visit as many new places as possible. Others, however, prefer to dig in their heels here in Italy. Many use the break to soak in precious quiet time in Bologna or to explore the many famous Italian destinations on their bucket list.

With these different ways to spend break come different social, intellectual, and emotional experiences. Many students travelled alone for the first time, others shared their hometowns and cultures with new SAIS friends, and some bonded with students they had never gotten the chance to interact with outside of the classroom. Some spent their week enjoying paella on the beach, while others engaged in difficult conversations in war-torn societies, or went on a quest to better understand the role of critical international institutions. Others used the time to explore family roots or visit religious sites meaningful to their culture. The variety of ways students chose to spend their holiday reflects the diversity of students present on campus. It was a pleasure to hear the many tales at the end of it all. Below, I’ve collected the stories of a handful of fellow students. How would you spend your break while at SAIS Europe?

SAIS students in The Hague

ILAW Study Trip to The Hague, The Netherlands
Sarahann Yeh, USA, MA in IR/International Law

This year I was lucky to be one of nine students to visit The Hague as part of the annual ILAW spring study trip. My favorite visit was to the International Criminal Court, during which we received a briefing on current legal proceedings and got a peek at one of the court rooms. It reinforced the knowledge I’ve gained from the International Human Rights course at SAIS Europe. I now have a better understanding of how and why the ICC functions as it does. Other organizations we visited include the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law (HiiL). In our off hours, we were lucky to meet up with several SAIS alums and explore the city!

American Foreign Policy Study Trip: Ukraine
Kiev, Ukraine
Caitlin O’Grady, USA, MA in American Foreign Policy

The American Foreign Policy study trip to Ukraine was a great opportunity to experience the country's culture and hear directly from experts on the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. It changed my perspective on current foreign policy towards Ukraine and revealed the potential for meaningful reform, especially as the country nears elections. Our exposure to a diverse group of high-level experts was invaluable, and I will remember it for years to come.

Rain, Snow, and Great Friends: Krakow, Poland and Naples, Italy
Emilie Uhrhammer, USA,  MA in Conflict Management
Naples, Italy 

My spring break was plagued by lots of snow and rain, several bouts of food poisoning, traffic tickets, and direction mishaps. However, it was also filled with laughter, great friends, delicious food, and the opportunity to see incredible new sites. I spent the first half of break in Krakow, Poland with four fellow SAISers. We ate more pierogis than one might have thought possible, descended into ancient salt mines, and had the sobering, centering experience of a day at Auschwitz. Returning to Bologna, we rented a car and set off on a road trip, stopping for pizza in Naples, to see the beach in Camerota and the Amalfi Coast, then to an ancient village on top of a mountain in Bagnoregio, exploration of the ancient cave dwellings of Matera, the turquoise blue (even in the rain) waters of Polignano, and finally, the golden sunset of San Marino. 

It was an absolute privilege to visit so many diverse places, each with their own history, culture, and traditions. But even better was the chance to be stuck on a plane and in a car for so many hours with such amazing friends, for whose acquaintance I’m forever indebted to SAIS. 

SAIS Study Trip: Berlin
Daniel Frey, Austria, MA in IR/International Political Economy
German Reichstag Building
with fellow SAIS students

Visiting Berlin had been high up on my bucket list for a while and so the annual Berlin trip organised by Prof. Kuehne seemed like a great chance to explore the city. But the excursion turned out to be much more than a conventional city trip. The Berlin study trip gave me the opportunity not just to see the sights but to enter into the cultural context in which German political decisions are made. The agenda was filled with a number of interesting appointments such as meeting with an MP of the Green Party and having a luncheon at the K├Ârber Foundation, a leading German think tank. Yet, these experiences were a lot more meaningful after delving into the history of the place through an in-depth tour of Berlin as well as a visit to Sachsenhausen, a Nazi concentration camp. To me, this was the most important lesson: Only by grasping how Berlin was shaped by its history, can one really understand how this legacy still influences political discussions today. Of course, there was also room for less formal activities in the shape of the occasional snowball fight (due to unusually heavy snowfall in mid-March) or discovering Berlin’s unusual and interesting night life with SAIS alums. Without any doubt, the Berlin trip was an intensive four days and more exhausting than your usual Spring Break, but it was definitely worthwhile.  

Finding Family Roots: Near Turin, Italy
Grant Marcinko, USA, MAIA 
Near Turin

For Spring Break, I spent the first several days taking a road trip to the villages in Italy of my great-great grandparents left behind to take part in the American experience. Though I had a family memoir, I was not sure what to expect much less what I would find. With the last-minute addition of fellow SAISer Christaan, we set out to meet the townspeople, visit churches and cemeteries, and peruse municipal records. As it had been over 100 years since my family had left, I was unfortunately unable to learn much additional information but I was encouraged to reach out to the records office in Trentino.  Regardless, the opportunity to Face Time my grandmother to describe the towns and the peoples that her grandparents came from was worth the trip. We also managed to have some adventures beyond the sentimental nature of the trip. Returning from the snow capped mountains, we made a quick stop to do some hiking by a stream. As any good Dutch person would do, Christaan persuaded me to take the plunge into the icy waters.

Kevin and his family near Naples

A Family Affair near Naples Kevin Rejent, USA, MAGR

My family and I rented a van and drove to the Amalfi Coast for spring break.  It was me, my wife, our four kids, and my in-laws driving what should have been seven hours; but ended up being closer to nine due to some similarly named roads near Naples.  The trip was a lot of fun, with visits to Positano and Pompei as well as stops in some smaller towns on the coast.  However, if you plan on visiting the Amalfi Coast, I would recommend: a) not driving a giant van on the Amalfi Highway, and b) making sure your car will fit between buildings BEFORE you get stuck.  We had to back out once or twice.  Overall, it was a great addition to the memories we are making this year, with so much history, culture, and of course, amazing food, so accessible from Bologna.

New Perspectives in Israel
Gael Fostier de Moraes, France/Brazil,  MAIA
Gael in Jerusalem

I went to Israel during my spring break in a last-minute decision. A friend of mine told me that the flights were cheap and I had always wanted to see what Israel looked like. I think it's one of those countries that receives a lot of attention from the media and not always in a positive way. I therefore thought I should check it out to properly inform my ideas first hand. Jerusalem, which is central in the history of Europe and Middle East, and a central place for many religions, was also another reason why I wanted to visit Israel. I was very surprised to find how well organized the country is and how well everything functions. I found Israel quite a safe country and the warmth of the Israelis was quite welcome.
The other impressive thing is to see how people from the three different central religions from Jerusalem coexist in such a small space in an antique city. To also note.. the beaches at Tel Aviv are also amazing!

A Bolognese ‘Staycation’
Ayoboni Akindolie, Nigeria, MA in African Studies

Nigerian food in Bologna
I decided not to make any significant travel plans for spring break. I figured that there would be enough to see in Bologna, or somewhere nearby like Florence, if I decided to travel last minute. I started with a birthday party on Friday night/Saturday morning, and that was enough excitement to last for the rest of the break! It was the best time! It was good to catch up on internship applications, and plan and just process the ways my life had changed over the past year. If you’ve had a hectic period with few breaks leading up to resuming at SAIS, a ‘staycation’ is highly recommended. I also finally made a trip to the African store in Bologna. Here’s a picture of a Nigerian dish I made with ingredients from the store for my birthday celebration with fellow Saisers.

Solo Adventure in Music and Art in Paris and London
LeAnna Roaf, USA, MA Latin American Studies

Through my travels, I have become a collector of music and earrings. A strange combination that I found allows me to bring a memory home that I can share with other people. This Spring Break I decided to travel alone to Paris and London. My experience in Paris was one of music. I've become a fan of classics like "Sous Le Ciel de Paris" by Juliette Greco and other hot tracks like "Pan" by Mina Tindle. In London, I discovered store after store of second-hand clothes from every decade probably since the 1920's. It was fabulous! Traveling alone was liberating and exciting and the perfect way to take a break from my studies and enjoy this magical year in Europe.

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