[Summer 2015: Culture & Psychology in Italy]

This is a compilation of student blog entries from the Summer 2015 study abroad program to Italy with Psychology professor Dr. David Earnest. Enjoy!

Day 16 (Pt. 2): The Farewell Dinner

Student Author:
Lindsay Wolfe

On our last night in Italy we went out as a group for our Farewell dinner. We went to a quaint little restaurant called Mama Eat in an area most of us at previously had previously visited while in Rome.  After being seated by the warm staff, we all chatted about our trip and reminisced on the last two and a half weeks that we had spent in Rome and Florence making good memories. During our outing we were given a starter of Bruschette Miste, which was two pieces of bread covered in mushrooms and eggplant decked in mozzarella. After, we were given our first dish of Bucatini alla Siciliana, which was a delicious pasta dish, covered in herbs, vegetables, and olive oil. While most of us were filling up at this point we knew we needed to finish because the most delicious part of the meal was yet to come. For our main dish we were given the options of Bombette, Pollo con Limone, and Patate con la Scamorza. Most of us choose to eat the Pollo con Limone, which was chicken and lettuce, covered in olive oil and lemon juice though some choose the Bombette (meatballs and stuffed meat bombs). We all scarfed down our dish and while we were completely satisfied we were still craving more of the delectable food we had grown accustomed to in Italy. To finish off the night we were brought crispy pastry bread filled with warm Nutella. By the end of the dinner we were all incredibly happy and full but also not wanting the night to end because we knew that meant leaving Italy in the morning. The Farewell dinner was an amazing last outing as a group, team, and family. It brought us together one last time in the place most of us had grown and fell in love with. We all got to say goodbye to Italy together and there is no other way I would rather have spent the evening.

Day 16 (Pt. 1): Free Day!

Student Authors:
Alyson Hinz
Sujay Nair
Myya Singletary

The last day before leaving Italy we had a free day in which we could explore Italy at our leisure. This was a perfect way to end the trip because it allowed us to unwind before a long trip home. Many of us choose to go to Lago Albano, a crater lake, while others decided to continue their exploration of Rome and shop. For most of us, two busses and an hour and a half later we arrived at the lake. A big reason we decided to go to the lake was to get away from the city life and enjoy nature. It was nice to be away from fast passed city life and enjoy a relaxing day at the lake.

From the shore of the lake we were able to see the Popes summer home which is something we never thought I would be able to say. The lake offered various day activities such as paddle boating and boarding, canoeing, and kayaking. Many of us decided to go kayaking/paddle boarding. We were actually able to jump right into the lake from our kayaks and it was so refreshing. The water was warm and clear and the further you went out into the lake the more serene it became. We paddled out close to the other side of the lake and we were hit with a calm sense of contentment as I took in my surroundings. The environment was so serene and we were able to reflect on our adventures in Italy so far and being out in the water with the fish swimming around with us was a memory that will stay with me forever.

After three hours kayaking and paddle boarding around the lake, we were ready for lunch. For lunch Chris, our program director, showed us a food place that served fresh pork sandwiches. This was a great way to end the day trip because after this some of us decided to head back to Rome on our own. This was one of the coolest parts because we were finally able to navigate the transit systems after a long two weeks and get by in Italy without help. It was like the final test before leaving to go back to America. We were very happy with the opportunities that were provided on our free day and were happy that we took advantage of such a beautiful place.

Day 15: Lecture with Dr. Matteo Pretelli

Student Author:
Gloria Sykes

It is our final morning in Florence and today we had the privilege of speaking with Matteo Pretelli. Dr. Pretelli gave us a wonderful history lesson on the relationships between Italy and the United States between 1861 to today. This lecture covered Italy’s transitions from city states to the democracy it is today, with a little help from the Unites States, and the stereotypes that have developed between the two countries. We discussed the immigration of Italians to the US, prejudice that existed against Italian immigrants, and the transitions from Italian heritage being a negative to the positive image that heritage has today. Our time with Dr. Pretelli ended with discussion of the documentary “Girlfriend in a Coma” which chronicles the economic and social issues that plague Italy today. Based on our experiences in Italy to date we were able to have a positive and engaging discussion about Italian culture and where Italy appears to be headed in the future. Overall this experience with Dr. Pretelli was a productive morning in which we learned much and we took away some thought provoking topics for our train ride back to Rome.

Day 14 (Pt. 2): Leonardo de Vinci Museum

Student Author:
Nia Jones

The Leonardo de Vinci Museum was one of the main excursions I was looking forward to on this program. This interactive museum allowed patrons to both view and work/play with replicas of de Vinci’s inventions while also appreciating some of this drawings and recreated paintings. Leonardo de Vinci was an engineer, artist, and scientist who overcame social adversity as the illegitimate son of a noble man to become a great historical figure. De Vinci learned from nature, observation and self-study. His dies and inventions exemplify the Renaissance movement and the new ways of thinking of the time.

Leonardo’s inventions and machines included flying machines, automatons, war engines, levers, drills, and toys. His inventions spanned all areas of human life. His paintings and artworks illustrate his perfectionism and tireless work to represent the beauty he saw in nature. Leonardo’s interests, in flight, the human body, animals, and the human condition reflect many of the Italian ideas of the renaissance and today of enjoying life and appreciating nature. Being able to see his pieces in person and reading about his live was an experience I truly enjoyed. Another great experience added to the list.

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Day 14 (Pt. 1): Uffizi Gallery

Student Author:
Rosemarie Buehn

Entering the museum, you encounter an ornately designed room with lofty archways and painted ceilings – even the security check room is wowing. As you walk up the grand stone staircases you are met with busts of various historical entities from Italy’s past, including Menandrus, a famous playwright from Athens. Three flights of stairs later, you’ve entered into the gallery. This first room boasts fine, multicolored tile flooring, holding ancient statues of political figures, two empty sarcophagi, and sculptures of dogs that were meant to guard these tombs back when they were occupied. Beyond this room lies various corridors displaying the tastes of the gallery’s founder – Granduke Francesco dei Medici. This 100 opulent structure built by Vasari in the 1500s, and was originally used as office space for the royal family. Throughout these halls and chambers hang numerous paintings by numerous artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, and Lorenzo di Credi, to name a few. One of the major works that we saw in the Uffizzi is the famous Birth of Venus, a beautiful piece done by Botticelli. What paintings that are not of mythological beings or prominent members of the royal family are mostly of religious scenes, such as the Nativity, the Crucifixion, and pieces honoring the Blessed Mother Mary. In all, the Uffizzi Gallery was a remarkable place in which one is given the opportunity to truly place himself back in time. As with every other place we have visited on our journey so far, we are thankful for such an awesome once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

Day 13: Republic Day

Student Authors:
Bradford Drewniak
Melanie Maino-Vieytes

Today, the second of June, we had the opportunity to attend an Italian national holiday. Festa della Reppublica, also known as Republic day, is a national holiday in Italy which commemorates the transition of government in Italy from a monarchy to a republic.  This change took place shortly after the fall of Mussolini after World War II. Now every year this decision is celebrated throughout Italy. There is a huge parade mainly in Rome that the president usually attends. In other major cities, like Florence the holiday is celebrated in the same way by not in as large of a scale.

While attending a Republic day celebration in Firenze (Florence, Italy) I was intrigued by the similar feeling given off just as that of the 4th of July in the United States.  While not nearly as full of energy and celebratory as in the United States, there definitely were feelings of patriotism and national pride in the air.  Over the course of our observation we saw a military band march through the city as well as a wreath laying at a monument to commemorate the sacrifices of soldiers who had given their lives for the country.  There also was additional fanfare such as concerts and speeches by politicians and other local officials.  Unfortunately, given my lack of knowledge of the Italian language I was unable to get a full grasp of the speeches made but the general feelings of celebration transcended beyond the limits of language.

Day 12 (Pt. 4): Italian Cooking Class

Student Author:
Kristina Lefelar

Today we had the opportunity to take an Italian cooking class at Apicius, part of the International School of Hospitality of the Florence University of the Arts. This was by far one of my favorite activities of the trip. Our instructors separated us into groups and them provided us with the recipes for our made from scratch dishes. For two hours we took turns chopping vegetables, deboning chicken, stirring sauces, kneading pasta dough, using the pasta press, melting chocolate, etc. My favorite part of the session was making fresh pasta from scratch. We made tagliatelle al pomodoro (tagliatelle pasta with tomatoes), pollo alla cacciatora (chicken cacciatora), and panna cotta (vanilla dessert with chocolate sauce).

After experiencing this class, I understand the importance of cooking food in Italian culture. Italians pride themselves on their ability to make a very fresh dish with care. In the Unites States or fast food philosophy emphasizes quick, processed, cheap food whereas in Italy the slow food movement of using fresh ingredients and making a meal with care is most important. This class has inspired me to make food as fresh and unprocessed as possible because it really is not that difficult to make fresh and delicious meals from scratch. Also, I will work to stress the importance of caring for the foods we eat to better our health and enjoy our meals a lot more.

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Day 12 (Pt. 3): Galileo Museum

Student Author:
Calrysha Issac

Along the Arno river in Florence, Italy is the Museo Galileo – which holds an impressive collection of Galileo artifacts and other scientific tools from the Lorraine and Medici family collections. Featuring artifacts such as telescopes and thermometers, this museum gives insight to the science that took place during the Renaissance era. Karen, our tour guide, was filled with extensive knowledge regarding Galileo’s time. We learned of the negative stigma against science in Italy at that time. This was evident through the animosity towards Galileo both from the church and general populace. Galileo, now known as the father of modern science, was heavily criticized by the Catholic Church; showing the rift between science and religion in Italy’s culture. For many, it challenged the beliefs and values of religion. Others however, were fascinated by the draw of science. Examples of the museum’s collections include the Armillary Sphere, which was used for astrology purposes as well as reading horoscopes, and Galileo’s telescopes, inventions, and finger bones. The Museo Galileo truly exhibited the innovations of the Renaissance time as well as the intellect and forward thinking of Galileo.

Day 12 (Pt. 2): Basilica of Santa Croce

Today we visited the Basilica of Santa Croce. Other than being an operating church, Santa Croce is the final resting place for many famous and wealthy citizens of Florence including Michelangelo, Galileo, and Marconi. The basilica is also home to a memorial for Dane Alighieri, the writer of Inferno. Dante, famous for his descriptions of the nine circles of hell, openly spoke against the Pope and was exiled from Florence. Though his body is buried in neighboring Ravenna, the people of Florence built the monument to commemorate the great artists.

Visiting the basilica greatly changed my perspective of Florence. This visit gave me insight into how many influential people helped shape the city and the world beyond. Prior to this visit, I did not truly understand the impact these influential and wealthy individuals had on their home city and the pride that the people of Florence have for their ancestors.  

Day 12 (Pt. 1): Lecture on Intercultural Communication

Student Author:
Kinza Shah

This morning we attended a lecture at the Florence University of Arts on intercultural communication. This lecture focused on many elements of intercultural communication including the differences between US and Italian customs. We discussed obstacles to communication such as stereotyping (generalizing to a group of people), prejudice (assuming that all members behave in the same way), and ethnocentrism (evaluating another culture according to preconceptions originating from one’s own culture). We also discussed several differences between the US and Italy. First, in Italian culture great importance is placed on appearance and fashion in all activities. Casual attire is reserved for home and the beach. Second, the Italian motto “hurry up but with a slow pace” illustrates the Italian perspective of getting work done but at a leisurely pace that allows a person to enjoy life rather than living to work.

Attending this lecture allowed us to think about the meaning of culture, why it is important, and what components of society are part of culture. Engaging in this lecture was a thought provoking experience because it allowed me to think about how studying here in Italy has impacted my personal perspectives of the world and others. Learning about the importance of intercultural communication inspired me to continue learning both here in Italy and further abroad.

Day 11 (Pt. 2): Antica Macelleria Cecchini and The Butcher of Panzano

Student Authors:
Bradford Drewniak
Carlysha Issac

An hour outside of the captivating city of Florence lies Panzano, a small Chianti region town in the Tuscany countryside. It is in this small town where one can find Antica Macelleria Cecchini. This famous restaurant is run by Dario Cecchini a legacy butcher who prides himself on turning all parts of a slaughtered animal into culinary delights. Let us introduce you to Dario Cecchini; the man, the butcher, the culinary wonder. Dario Cecchini is an internationally acclaimed butcher because of his sustainable, local approach to the commercial meat industry that is continually growing in quantity and drastically lowering in quality.  He has dedicated himself to advocating a return to local butchering wherein quality, sustainability, and price are all one in the same.

Upon arriving outside of the restaurant we were greeted with a free buffet which offered a variety of cured meats, cheeses, lardo (herbed lard), fresh bread, and wine.  The most striking part of it all was that it was set out for the whole village to take part in.  Once we sat down at his restaurant, we were greeted with cheery service evident of a sense of pride in their product.  Our first interaction with the man was when he announced the arrival of our first round of steaks cooked particularly for us. The experience was like no other. Then one of the cooks came out of the kitchen, bellowing to the heavens the arrival of this beautiful gift of meat, after which Dario began to periodically blow a horn which sounded something akin to a medieval call to arms as well as a children’s’ birthday party act.  To put it simply, they were proud of their product.

In regards to the meal itself, it stood apart as huge in quantity and quality.  All together, we ate beef tartar (slaughtered the same morning), seared rump carpaccio, Florentine style steak, Panzanese steak (slaughtered within the village limits), garden vegetables which we dipped in local olive oil that was garnished with Profumo del Chianti (a local herbed salt), Tuscan beans in olive oil, baked potatoes with Lardo (herbed pork fat) and Profumo del Chianti, Tuscan bread, Vittorio’s wine from the surrounding area.  While this meal was astounding in size, it never failed to impress in quality.  Amongst the group we were offered over 50lbs and did our best to be good guests and finish our portions.

At the end of our dining experience, Dario gave us hugs, shook our hands and wished us a well journey.  The man left quite an impression between his large stature and baseball mitt sized hands.  Given the Italian pride in food and the endless supply of fresh, local ingredients it is no surprise that we ate so well.  Dario’s passion illustrates the passion of Italian culture for food. As such, Italian cooking incorporates hospitality and togetherness into the environment and every dish. Sitting at one of his tables, I was introduced to new dishes and new friends. For Italians, good food is cherished as a luxury that is meant to be savored and taken to heart. If we can give anyone any beneficial advice about visiting Tuscany it would be to meet and eat with incredible man who is known as “The Butcher of Panzano”.  He will provide a one of a kind gastronomical experience that cannot be replicated in any other spot on the globe.

Day 11 (Pt. 1): Day in Panzano

Student Author:
Alexis McCoy

Italy is a country full of culture and regional differences. Prior to today we had spent time in major cities, Rome and Florence. We had experienced the hustle and bustle of crowds, traffic, shops, corporations, and big city life. Even Florence with is relaxed atmosphere and cobblestone streets could feel stressful at times. However, today we left Florence on an hour bus ride to the small town of Panzano.

After traveling through the rural Tuscan countryside of open fields, vineyards, farms, and sleepy towns, we arrived in Panzano. This quant town was our home for our day in the Chianti Countryside. We walked through the town, had class on the steps of the town church, eat at Antica Macelleria Cecchini, and some of use even took short hiking tour of the local countryside and vineyards. The architecture of Panzano was less extravagant than what we have seen in the cities but complimented the beauty of the Tuscan countryside.

Personally I have always been fonder of city life. Panzano has encouraged me to grow and appreciate rural settings more. Being able to look out into the distance and see only small communities, trees, grass, vineyards, and unspoiled nature was incredible. The psychological stress and anxiety of city life melts away in a place like Panzano. For the short time I was there I felt at peace. This day excursion was an awesome experience that gave me a new perspective on Italy and lifestyle.

Day 10 (Pt. 3): Boboli Gardens

Student Author:
Emily Carlson

The Boboli Gardens are an 11acre park that stretches from the hill behind the Pitti Palace to as far as Porta Romana. The Boboli Gardens have been maintained by the Medici and Lorraine families since 1418. The gardens hold a variety of sculptures as the Medici family were supporters of the arts and principle funders of the Renaissance in Florence.

When walking the gardens, it was hard to miss the beauty around us and the hot Tuscan sun. I reflected on how hot individuals in the 1500s, particularly the women in heavy dresses, would have been. My modern clothing made of lightweight breathable materials seemed too much for the aggressive sun. Upon further reflection, I grew to admire those women of the 1500s with their tiny fashionable fans. These women braved the heat to enjoy nature and the beauty around them. After laying down in the shade and watching the clouds go by, I realized that modern luxuries and technology have kept us from the beauty of nature and gardens such as these. Once I stopped complaining about the heat, I was able to appreciate the beauty of nature and the sculptures that adored the gardens. This visit not only taught be something about the women of the renaissance but also about myself and our society.

Day 10 (Pt. 2): Palazzo Pitti

Student Author:
Patricia Hanson

This afternoon we visited the Palazzo Pitti, it is a palace that the Pitti family built while they were feuding with the Medici family. While building this extravagant building, the Pitti family ran out of money. Eventually their rivals, the Medici family bought the palace for a fraction of the price. The view of the palace from the outside alone shows that this palace was one that could only be bought by the same family who funded the Renaissance. The museum of the palace included many sculptures, elegant vases, old documents and other artifacts. Some of the artifacts were written documents and letters from the Medici family members. Knowing that these articles were still reserved shows just how much pride Florence takes in these artifacts and how much they honor the Medici family.

The art and overall look of this palace was breathtaking and makes one appreciate art in a new way. From the floors to the ceilings, we were all amazed by the art and the amount human artistic talent. The paintings on the ceiling were just as beautiful as the ones on the walls.  Each room was a different adventure on its own. Every room had paintings, beautiful wall art, drapes and overall showed us that we were walking the halls of where royalty once resided. Pictures of the Palazzo Pitti may be available on Google, but not even a photo with the most high tech cameras can do this place justice.

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Day 10 (Pt. 1): Santa Maria dei Fiori (Duomo)

Student Author:
Devin Garcia

For our third day in Florence, we visited the Santa Maria dei Fiori, better known as the Duomo. This massive building served as a Catholic Cathedral for many centuries, with its construction beginning in 1296. The Duomo wasn’t completed until 1436, due to a lack of money for the construction of the 114 meter high dome. The dome was inspired in part by the Pantheon in Rome, being engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The ceiling of the dome features a painting that represents different sections of life ranging from Giorgio Vasari’s depiction of Hell at the bottom with the devil and demons torturing damned souls to depictions of God, angels, Christ, and the 12 disciples towards the top.  Overlooking the souls on earth at the top of the dome were the 12 disciples of Jesus, Christ, and God seeming to look down and observe all of God’s creations.

After climbing the 463 steps to the top of the Duomo, you are presented with a perfect view from the heart of Florence. After descending from the dome, we visited the crypt of the Duomo where Florentine Bishops were buried here, including Brunelleschi. Overall, I was very inspired by this building. I was amazed to learn that the building was over 7 centuries old, and yet still in such pristine condition. I think that this building reflects the entire city of Florence, a combination of history, art, and function. After being here for a few days, I have fallen in love with this city. The narrow streets lined with cozy apartments and villas, the simple yet classic food (especially prosciutto), and the overall relaxed atmosphere of the city.

Day 9 (Pt. 2): Ganzo Teaching Restaurant

Student Author:
Michael Sullivan

Today we visited Ganzo, a teaching restaurant, to learn about the food and wine culture in Italy. The manager of Ganzo gave us a brief lecture on food and wine in Italian culture in which he discussed how wine in Italy is tasted and not drunk. In Italy, wine is considered part of the hedonistic virtue of the country. Everything that is consumed should be enjoyed and savored rather than simply ingested. In terms of wine, the sight, smell, and taste of the wine should enjoyed with every sip.

After learning about the culinary culture of Italy, we took part in a wine tasting. We learned about how to swirl wine to look for how the wine moves in the glass, smell wine to identify flavors, and finally taste the wine. This wine tasting taught us how to properly experience wine so that the complexity of the wine triggers your senses. It was fun to discover the complexity of wine and how to enjoy it. I’ll think of wine in a different way and will try to take on the laid back attitude of enjoying wine once I return home.

Day 9 (Pt. 1): Foodie Tour of Florence

Student Author:
Abigail Smith

Florence, Italy is known for its food. After finding out we were going to do a foodie tour as part of our visit, everyone was beyond overjoyed. Our tour began at an outdoor market where we laid our eyes on stand after stand of fresh colorful fruits and vegetables. After a brief walkthrough tour of the market with stands selling all manner of foods, clothing, and jewelry, we were treated to a sampling of fresh produce that included fresh peaches, cantaloupe, tomatoes, kiwi, strawberries, and cherries, and more.

Our next stop was a local hidden bakery that our guide assured us makes the best focaccia bread in Florence. He was absolutely right! The focaccia bread was brushed with just the right amount of olive oil and salt. After quickly finishing off our delicious bread, we made a quick coffee stop. Though the espresso in Italy is wonderful, from personal experience, I can say that the caffé latte was absolutely incredible.

Our final stop on the tour was an enclosed market that contained a variety of restaurants and food stands. Here we had the opportunity to taste fresh buffalo mozzarella, varieties of specialty cheeses, prosciutto and other cured meats, trip sandwiches (cows stomach), and bread with truffle butter. All were amazing and the last two dishes were foods that most of us had never tried before. Most of us answered the challenge, tried everything, and enjoyed it. Overall the tour was filled with incredible food and truly gave us a glimpse into why Florence is known for its delectable meals.

Day 8: Florence Walking Tour

Student Authors:
Rosemarie Buehn
Patricia Hanson

Florence is beautiful. When comparing Florence to Rome, it almost feels as if we are in a completely different country. The difference started on the train ride as the graffiti we saw in Rome quickly vanished and was replaced by rolling fields and countryside. Our walking tour of Florence stated with a peaceful stroll down Florence’s busy streets. Though there are many tourists in Florence, the city seems more peaceful and quiet than the residential areas of Rome in which we stayed. The streets are narrower with less traffic and congestion.

Our transition to a Florentine pace of life has been smooth, partly because of this being our second week in Italy and our becoming more accustomed to Italian culture. The city has a friendly feel and individuals we pass on the streets are noticeably more forward in their greetings. The alleys are lined with stands and racks offering all sorts of goods and gifts, one street was filled with coats and purses and smelled entirely of leather. Like most of the places we have visited in Italy, Florence and its sites appear to be from a postcard. Today we scratched the surface of Florence by seeing the outside of the magnificent Duomo, as well as walked the Piazzale Michaelangelo, which provided a beautiful panoramic view of Florence. We are eager to explore more of the city and experience all of the adventures it has in store for us. With a city so charming, it only takes a day to fall in love.

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Day 7: Lecture with Daniel Williams (ex-patriot blogger)

Student Author:
Kristina Lefelar

This morning, our group heard from Daniel Williams, an ex-patriot blogger now living in Rome, on his experiences immersing himself in cultures different than his own around the world. His first point was that “going native” can never be fully accomplished because as a foreigner in an unfamiliar society we will always be different in some way. In fact, being a foreigner in a new culture may come with advantages (greater hospitality) and disadvantages (exclusion from certain social events). Williams also stressed the importance of communication through language and using languages, other than English, as a way to form relationships. Many people will be more open and friendly when you attempt to speak a language other than English. Attempting to learn and use another language can go a long way to building relationships with others. Using the host country language allows American’s abroad to be seen and treated like ordinary people and not simply tourists. The final point of the discussion was that understanding cultural norms is an important part to understanding a country and its people. He stressed that these norms, spoken and unspoken, take time to learn and that the act of trying to understand the culture goes a long way with local people. The willingness to insert yourself in a place that you aren’t familiar with is a great way to grow personally and professionally. I felt that Daniel Williams really motivated the class to appreciate and embrace the uncomfortable differences that we may encounter. The knowledge that we are bettering ourselves and developing a broader perspective of our world is exciting. 

Day 6: Colosseum, Palatine, and Roman Forum

Student Authors:
Emily Carlson
Devin Garcia

Today we visited the 3 of the most historical sites in Rome: The Colosseum, Palatine, and Roman Forum.

The Colosseum dates back to 80 AD during which time the Emperors Vespatian and Titus erected this structure in an attempt to leave a lasting impression of their reign, while also trying to win over the citizens of Rome. Gladiators fought in the Colosseum, fighting either each other or even animals in the arena. The Colosseum also featured executions, animal vs gladiator battles, and even mock sea battles. The Colosseum is not only a representation of Italy’s history, but the history of humanity. The environment of the Colosseum exudes a sense of openness and change, which pours from the ancient stone walls of the stadium. The open view of the sky represents the openness of the horrific past of Italy in terms of enslaving people and forcing them to fight to the death, while the weathering walls portrayed the decaying of these practices and the harsh reign of Roman emperors. While the Colosseum used to exemplify status, power, and sport back in ancient Rome, the once dominating structure represents change into a better way of life for Italy and all who visit it. While we as humans are not perfect it is important that structures like the Colosseum remain intact to remind us not to repeat the ways of our gruesome past.

The Palatine is one of the most ancient parts of Rome. This historical Roman city is located adjacent to the Colosseum. Romans began to live here as early as 1000 BC, but this site later became the exclusive home to the emperors of Rome. This structure sits about 70 meters from the Forum, and has many temples dedicated to various gods, including a temple to Apollo. My favorite part about the Palatine was the views. From the top of Palatine hill, you can overlook the majority of Rome and view such sites as the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Roman Forum.

Finally, our last stop was the Roman Forum. This site was the center of Roman public life for many centuries. The Forum refers to a rectangular shape plaza that catered as a marketplace, while serving as a stage for elections, criminal trials, and even gladiatorial matches (before the Colosseum was built). The most amazing part of the Forum is all the different social events that were held in the plaza. The multiple use of the land truly showed the embraced culture of socializing here in Italy.

 Day 5: American University of Rome

Student Author:
Sujay Nair

This morning we met at the American University of Rome to learn about Italian workplace culture. Many topics were discussed such as how “Italians work to live” which is the opposite of how “Americans live to work” and how Italian companies are still fairly prejudice towards women. In Italy, prejudice towards women in the workplace is partially due to the perception that women are a liability to the company because they could get pregnant and the organization would have to give them PTO/maternity leave for a total of 5 months (2 months before birth and 3 months after birth).  In which case they would need to either find a replacement for her or her colleagues would need to bare the burden of her absence which may not be viewed as  fair by the rest of the team.  On top of this, the company may have to provide “paternity leave” to woman which consists of a 1 year absence without pay.

We also discussed how Italians spend their money differently than Americans. Americans are more typically more focused on buying things were as Italians spend their money on the things they see as being important in life. Italians care more about making the money they need to enjoy life and they would rather spend their money on nice cloths or a vacation with their companion then have a new car or cable tv. Our discussion comparing the US and Italy was very informative and provided me with a new way of thinking about the country that is so dear to my heart.

Day 4: Eataly

Student Author:
Abby Smith

Eataly is a multinational organization with stores open across Italy, the U.S., Asia, and Europe.  At first glance, Eataly in Rome is incredible!  Upon entering the store, all you see is room around every corner. This store has four humongous floors with almost every Italian ingredient  and dish you can imagine. Before exploring Eataly on our own, we were treated to a guided tour of their bakery, brewery, mozzarella, and pasta labs.

The four floors of Eataly Rome are arranged like a grocery store and split into sections based on food categories. The store also contains 13 restaurants spread throughout the store so that you can “try before you buy” Eataly’s products.  For example, there is a pasta restaurant located next to the pasta section so before buying any of the fresh homemade pasta you purchase a sample to enjoy to ensure that you will like the product.

During our visit to Eataly, they were extremely generous and provided a mountain of food for us to sample. First they started with fresh baked bread and pizza. Then we moved on to the brewery that is inside the store. They gave us both a light and a dark beer to sample.  After this there was a mountain of prosciutto ham and various kinds of cheeses to try.  They also gave us honey to dip our cheese in, which was a new experience for me but was delicious.  Our final spot was the pasta restaurant where they gave us heaping samples of two different types of pasta with delectable sauce on them.

Our visit to Eataly was filled with learning and delicious food.  It was incredible to see how generous the people were and how well they treated us.  Eataly was an overall A+ experience that illustrated the strong food culture of Italy.

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Day 3: Vatican Museum

Student Author:
Kinza Shah

Today we visited Vatican City and had the incredible opportunity to spend time at the Vatican museums.  The museum, founded by Pope Julius II in the 16th century and spanning 54 galleries, displays many works of distinguished classical sculptures and some of the most important masterpieces of Renaissance art.

Though all of the museum galleries contain many beautiful paintings and sculptures, the Egyptian and Hercules exhibits were my favorites. The Museo Gregoriano Egiziano which houses a collection of Ancient Egyptian material including the use of mummification to preserve the body that played a critical role in the funerary rites of Ancient Egypt.  I was also enthralled with the towering statue of Hercules. This bronze statue was found in 1864 in the area of Pompey’s Theatre and shortly afterwards was given to Pope Pius IX.  It had been struck by lightning and following the Roman custom, had a ritual burial with the remains of a lamb until exhumed.

Both of these magnificent pieces of art related to the context of psychology and culture as both were inspired by cultural beliefs that have been passed on through the centuries.  Viewing and learning about these work allowed me to better understand how the history of each piece is linked to the cultural beliefs, mental practices, and behavior.  I am excited to experience more of Italy’s artwork and cultural works.

Day 2 (Pt.2): BE FREE / Casa Internazionale delle Donne

Student Author:
Melanie Maino-Vieytes

Today we had an incredible opportunity to visit the Casa Internazionale delle Donne and listed to the president of the BE FREE organization (Dr. Oria Gargano) speak about woman’s rights.  She discussed her experiences with women’s rights not only in Italy, but in the U.S.  She had once worked at the John’s Hopkins University in the center of Baltimore and Human Rights Watch in D.C.  When asked about what she found as a key difference between Italy and the U.S. she explained two main factors, funding and support. When in Baltimore, the amount of funding was never an issue as companies like for Ford provided funding for many causes. In Italy she mentioned that it was difficult to get enough funding from the government and other sources. In terms of support, she talked about how when working in Italy feminists must “shout” to be heard when defending women’s rights.  In contrast, in the U.S. she stated that there are several organizations nationwide and knowledgeable people willing to defend against gender inequality.  The BE FREE program works towards helping women gain independence from domestic abuse situations. They work with hospitals to train personnel to become more knowledgeable about domestic violence warning signs so that woman can get appropriate help and provide other services that help women gain and retain their independence once free from abusive situations. Finally, the president of the organization  showed us around La Casa Delle Donne where we got the chance to see the old detention center that had been used to detain then considered “disabled” women of the mid 19th century.  These rooms were incredibly small and also contained names of women who have been killed through domestic abuse.  One fact we learned was that one women is killed every three days by someone they know in Italy.  Though intense, I really enjoyed my time and truly believe it is incredible that women like Dr. Gargano fight so hard to create programs that better the lives of Italian women living in fear.

Day 2 (Pt. 1): Guided Rome City Tour

Student Authors:
Michael Sullivan
Lindsay Wolfe

Our guided tour of Rome included several historic and famous locations throughout the city including the Largo di Torre Argentina, various Palazzos, the Pantheon, Campo dei Fiori, and the San Luigi dei Francesi.  Our first stop, Largo di Torre Argentina, contains four roman temples including Pompey’s Theatre and the Temple of Fortuna (goddess of luck and those who carry themselves with great ambition). These temple ruins lie in the center of Rome surrounded by the modern hustle and bustle of everyday life. These runs have also become a cat sanctuary for strays sponsored by the city. This and other Roman architecture on the tour portray a unique style with a heavy focus on strong pillars and intricate designs.

Our last site on the tour was the Pantheon. This historic 7th century site, that many of us learned about growing up, is nearly impossible to truly understand until experienced in person. The church’s size is overwhelming at first site with its expansive stone pillar entrance and vast open interior. The walls are covered with various statues and tributes to historical figures such as the famous, talented artist, Raphael who was entombed there after his death. The Pantheon’s painted dome ceiling with spotlight center opening add to the church’s grandeur. The visit to the Pantheon and other historic sites was breath-taking and incredibly memorable.  Structures as old and beautiful as these are not present in the United States. Exploring these sites and buildings opens your eyes to how much history and culture are out there to be explored.

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Day 1 (Pt. 3): Welcome Dinner

Student Author:
Alyson Hinz

After a long 9 hour flight and a day of exploring Rome, it was nice to finish the day with a relaxing dinner in Trastevere. The restaurant we went to was called Ai Spaghettari.  The atmosphere of our restuarnat, Ai Spaghettari, was quiet and cozy. We started off meal with appetizers of suppli, Pizza Bianca con mortadella (my favorite) , and prosciutto cruel. Next, came the entrée, a choice of rigatoni all amatriciana (pasta with tomato sauce and 2 types of cheeses), paccheri al carbonara (pasta with white sauce, cheese, and bacon), and cacio e pepe (white sauce and cheese).  Accompanied by house read and white wine, our meal represented true Italian fare. Lastly we finished the meal with a very light cake called un pezzo di torta.

This meal taught me a lot about Italian food culture. For instance, in Italy it is customary for restaurant patrons to complete their entire meal as taking left overs home is considered rude. If there is still food on the plate, the waiter or waitress may ask if something is wrong with the meal.  I also learned that most wait staff know a little bit of English but are happy when someone tries to use Italian (even badly). This interaction was a great way to get comfortable saying these common phrases. The welcome dinner was a really important way for us to get to know one another and begin our introduction to Italian culture. Though some of us may not be familiar with Italian customs and language, this dinner was a great way to learn more in a group setting.

Day 1 (Pt. 2): Walking Tour of Travestere

Student Authors:
Gloria Sykes
Nia Jones

Trastevere seems to be one of Rome’s favorite neighborhoods. The neighborhood’s colorful buildings, flowers, and fashion, were both welcoming and stunning. We were able to travel down different streets and cobblestone alleyways that allowed us to see Rome from the neat little areas that many tourists will never discover.  As we traversed Trastevere, we passed many restaurants with street side tables, booths and vendors selling their crafts and goods, and Romans enjoying the beautiful day and their city. Done one street, we stopped for the first of many great meals, authentic Roman style pizza and sandwiches. This tour break and meal gave us time to explore the Santa Maria Fountain. Here we were able to sit on the fountain steps with locals, listen to an accordionist, and realize that we were actually in Rome.

As our first experience in Rome, this tour gave us our first look into Roman culture. Right from the start you could definitely notice many cultural differences between Italy and the USA. These included women (and men) not wearing shorts despite the warm weather, small cars and mopeds weaving down streets and alleyways despite pedestrian traffic, the polite and down to earth nature in which everyone communications and interacts, the up rather than out architecture and apartment design, speedy tram and bus system, and the vocal cat calls made by men when the see an attractive woman. Spending the afternoon exploring the neighborhood of Trastevere was a great start to our program and a exciting glimpse into what is yet to come.

Day 1 (Pt. 1): Galleria Borghese 

Student Author:
Myya Singletary

After arriving safely in Rome, we began out study abroad program with an adventurous and compelling tour around parts of Rome on the sunny afternoon of May 21, 2015. Our first official visit was to the Galleria Borghese in Rome, Italy. Galleria Borghese is a quaint art gallery with two levels, each containing historical art from Rome’s past in the form of paintings, portraits, sculptures, and furniture. I found this museum to be  particularly interesting because it contained the many different art styles of early and renaissance Italian culture. I found the many historical works which included strong religious themes from ancient Roman gods to more modern Christian beliefs. For example, there was a collection of art focused just on Angels and another collection that appeared to be about Demons. I also noticed that the art showcased was less conservative than we are used to in the U.S. in that the human form presented in paintings and sculptures was very exposed. The architecture and design of the gallery was my favorite part. The light was a warm glow and made the experience feel welcoming while the ceilings were meticulously painted with various portraits and depictions of historical or religious scenes. Though I wish I understood more of the Italian language, in reality, the beauty of the artwork needed no explanation.

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Introduction: Summer 2015- Culture & Psychology in Italy

Welcome to the 2015 Culture and Psychology Study Abroad Program to Italy blog space!

Italy, particularly the cities of Florence and Rome, have historically been centers of culture change and expansion for generations. The Roman Empire, Roman Catholic Church, and the Renaissance represent just a few of the far reaching cultural influences to have started in Italy and touched many other cultures across the globe. Psychology influences and is itself influenced by culture in many ways. As such, traveling to a rich and diverse culture is an ideal way to illustrate first-hand how culture and psychological concepts are intertwined. By immersing ourselves in an unfamiliar culture, we will be able to see and experience the cultural differences and similarities that exist between the Unites States and Italy and grow on both professional and personal levels.

I would like to offer those of you at home the opportunity to join us on this adventure by following our posts.

While abroad, students participating in this program will be posting about the culture, people, excursions, speakers, their personal stories and reflections, and other activities they experience during this 2.5 week trip to Rome and Florence, Italy. I invite you to share in this unique experience with us as we explore Rome and Florence while examining the similarities and differences between Italy and U.S. culture from a psychological perspective.

David Earnest

Program Faculty Director and Assistant Professor of Psychology

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[Summer 2014]: Culture & Psychology in Argentina

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Day 11 (Pt. 2) – Farewell Dinner

Student Author:
Megan Graffam

Well, the day we never thought would come has arrived. Tonight was our last dinner in Argentina. Of course we enjoyed amazing steak, salad, and desserts as usual. I can not even put into words how amazing the meal was. But truthfully what hit me the most while enjoying this dinner was that it was probably the last time our study abroad group would all be together. These people have become my support system through this crazy adventure. They have laughed as I butchered Spanish trying to order a meal, encouraged me when the culture shock began to set in, picked me up when I fell in the streets of Buenos Aires (literally), and held my hand as we all adapted to the new culture together. This entire trip has been a learning experience for all of us and I think that we have all realized we are capable of so much more than we ever thought. For example, not only did we survive Buenos Aires public transportation for two weeks – and let me tell you, at one point of the trip I was not sure I was going to – but we learned to embrace the whole experience. This study abroad experience has truly opened up my eyes to the possibilities that exist outside of the United States. As tacky as it sounds, there is truly a whole world out there to explore.

I just want to give a quick shout out to the best study abroad faculty advisor in the world. It takes a certain type of professor to put up with 14 undergrads for two weeks in a foreign country. Dr. Earnest planned this amazing trip, making sure we learned something but also had a blast during it. It would not have been the same without him. Also, a shoutout to ISA, who were always willing to answer any questions or doubts we had. They constantly made me feel as though I was in good hands.

Tomorrow we will start our long trek back to the US. We all are excited to see our friends, families, and pets! I think we will all miss Argentina but who knows, maybe one day we will be back.

Day 11 (Pt. 1) – ESMA

Student Author:
Noemi Giron

Desaparecidos. The word used to describe the thousands of innocent Argentine people who were tortured and killed because they were activists, unionists, and students. The Dirty War, as many people may know it, occurred between 1976-1983. During this time, the Argentine Dictatorship and Navy began using the grounds of the Escuela de Mecanica de la Armada (ESMA) to detain people. The ESMA was the largest clandestine detention center during this time and within its walls around 5,000 desaparecidos were tortured and/or murdered. Because evidence regarding the desaparecidos has either been destroyed or kept secret by the repressors, many of the actual numbers of held in ESMA are only estimates.

During our tour of ESMA, we were taken to the officers quarters where the desaparecidos were held captive were processed, detained, and tortured. Walking around the dark cold basement and attic like third floor, one could only imagine what the desaparecidos went through and the amount of slave labor they were forced to do including falsifying documents so their oppressors could kidnap other civilians. Once taken persons were handcuffed, shackled, and hooded in silence for their time at ESMA which could range from days to years.

Although progress has been made to help create a sense of remembrance, it is still a hard and sad topic in Argentina. Through ESMA’s motto “Memory, truth, and justice” they allow others to learn and share in the history of what happened to their people. Hopefully what we have seen today will open our eyes to the crimes and atrocities that can occur when power is misused.

Day 10 (Pt. 2) – Wine Tasting

Student Author:
Bradford Drewniak

As a part of our cultural integration into the Argentine lifestyle we attended a wine tasting at ANUVA wines in Palermo, Buenos Aires.  This event was extraordinary in that we were able to try a total of five fantastic, local wines.  These wines were unique in that they represented the eclectic state of the wine industry in the region.  Argentina is the eighth largest country in the world and presents a plethora of micro-climates for various grape varieties.  Our introduction included not only the famous Malbec variety of grape but also more region specific varieties such as the Bonoroa.  

 In Argentina, wine is not only a recreational drink; it is a symbol of community spirit.  In the U.S, we live as individuals in a fast paced society.  True community experiences are few and far between in our hectic lives.  In Argentina, wine is a quintessential symbol of a polychronic lifestyle.  To truly enjoy wine one must sit back and dedicate themselves to a period of relaxation and socialization.  Having wine with a meal is a typical practice in this region of the world.  This cultural practice encourages communal recreational experiences.  In the U.S we don’t dedicate our time to such practices as it impinges on our productivity.  We don’t have to necessarily consume wine on a regular basis to experience what it symbolizes.  However, in Argentina wine represents what community should be.  And hey, it can act as a social catalyst as well.  Either way the U.S can learn a thing or two about what wine truly means to Argentine culture.

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Day 10 (Pt. 1) – IAE

Student Author:
Amanda Canby

IAE, Argentina’s best business school, is absolutely gorgeous. The campus is small, with four main buildings including one for the professors, two executive buildings, and the auditorium building. Interestingly, Argentinean schools do not have frats or sororities because typically students do not have time for much of a social life as they are busy with school and work. CONFyE, a resaerch group we met with at IAE, focuses on two lines of research including work and family balance and woman leadership. Two important subjects for the people of Argentina, their goal being to compare Argentina with other cultures and promote active change in Argentina. Different than in the United States, Argentinean students are not required to take classes outside of their degrees making it possible for them to graduate college with a PhD in only 5 years! It is not even an option for most students here to get anything below a Master’s degree level.

I actually found the whole experience of college here in Argentina to be quite interesting. I wish that I could go to a college back at home that is similar to how it is here.  I can see from their perspective why it is so important simply to get to the point, get the degree, and get out there to find the right job! In my opinion, if we could do things that way in America, not only would more people be successful in finishing their degrees, but they could start searching for jobs sooner. Realistically, looking for a job with only a Bachelor’s degree is a dead end for a lot of majors… psychology in particular. The length in time in which it takes to get their degree deters many students because they know that they will not find their dream job afterwards. So I say let’s bring a new style of learning back to the U.S. and speed things up for Psychology students!

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Day 8 – Dia de Campo

Student Authors:
Tamara Gardner
Michelle Nguyen
Jason Refsnider

Today for Day 8 of our adventures through Argentina, we enjoy an wonderful array of Argentinian history at Dia de Campo and the cathedral of Lujan.

On our way to Dia de Campo we visited the Cathedral of Lujan. It was an amazing site to behold. The entire structure of the building was breathtaking. Inside the Cathedral there were many people in attendance for a service. The building itself is very artistic in every way from the statue of Jesus to the multiple statues of the Virgin of Lujan. As I was walking around I noticed smaller rooms with people inside praying illustrating the importance of personal prayer time to Argentina’s catholic believers. The Argentine people take their religion very seriously and it showed by all the examples that I walked past. It was impressive to see the devotion people had to their religious beliefs and the gorgeous cathedral in which they came to pray.

After Lujan we traveled to Dia de Campo. Dia de Campo was the wonderful event in which visitors experience the wonders of rural farm based culture of Argentina, on the outskirts of the major city of Buenos Aires. Dia de Campo is one of the most peaceful places. We were exposed to many aspects of traditional Argentinian culture such as an Estancia (traditional Argentinian Farm), Asado (Argentinian cuisine), and traditional dance. Our day was full of cute animals, delicious food, and upbeat music and tango. We had the chance to explore the farm and several of us took advantage of the horseback rides and horse-drawn carriage. After interacting with the animals, we had the great pleasure of eating a wonderful four course lunch which included salad, chorizo and blood sausage, chicken, and steak. After our glorious meal, the staff entertained us with a tango show and some of us even participated. It is great to watch tango, but it is so much more fun to dance tango

After our lunch and show, we watched as the staff competed in a sport that is, how I would best describe, similar to jousting. They did not charge at each other on horseback, but they would ride their horses as they attempted to aim a pole into a small ring on the end of a stick as they rode by. The winner would then give the ring to a woman of their choice, who would then give them a kiss on the cheek. After the sporting event, we had afternoon mate, a traditional Argentine tea, and a pastry similar to baklava.

In reflection, our group was pleasantly delighted with the experience of the Argentinian Estancia ranch life, and specifically the dancing. For me, the dance symbolized not only a form of entertainment, but an appreciation of culture. In observing the dancers perform the various dances with style and poise, it was evident they respected the history of their Argentinian heritage. Even as they acted out the dances with us students, they enjoyed the interactions and worked with our skill level. It was a great event and interested me to look up dances from other cultures as well.

Dia de Campo is definitely an experience visitors to Argentina should be apart of!! I am very grateful to have been able to visit Dio de Campo. It is a beautiful, peaceful place that serves as a small reminder that living things are able to coexist in a world that seems to lack such solidarity.

Day 7 (Pt. 3) – Guest Lecture: Argentina History and Economics

Student Author:
Cameron Jackson

I will be honest. I did very little research about Argentina before I arrived. I bought a Lonely Planet book about Buenos Aires and aside from flipping through it a few times, I didn’t really absorb any of the information. I was too excited about being in the country that I didn’t think the rest mattered. This was very ignorant of me, something I try to avoid as an American who travels.

Aside from some very basic background information from articles I’d read for this class and what little information I learned in high school about Argentina’s dictatorships, I came in blind. Our second guest speaker today was a professor of history at a university in Buenos Aires. He gave us very detailed information about the history of Buenos Aires and Argentina starting from the discovery of Latin American by Colón (or as we know him, Columbus) in 1492 and went all the way to the present.

I learned more about Argentinian politics in two hours than I know about the politics of the United States (just kidding, but it was A LOT of information).

What I thought was the most interesting was that although there were coups in Argentina against the government, they were strictly about political parties not religion. Argentina is a very Catholic country. 80% of the population is Catholic, although they are not all practicing Catholics, it the the dominant religion. No one questions the fact that their political leaders must be Catholic and that there is a no separation of church and state. Though that does not mean that the city is constantly preaching Catholicism.

The history lesson was a nice change of pace from the other speakers we’ve had so far. Instead of Sebastian prompting us with question after question, I felt like I actually got a lot out of those two hours.

Day 7 (Pt. 2) – Gender and Family relations

Student Author:
Collen Sippel

In Argentina, families interact differently than they do in the States. For example, in Argentina, it is normal for children to live at home well into their late twenties. In Argentina it is also common for many generations to live in the same household. These two cultural differences can be explained by the fact that it is easier to stay at home longer after the teenage years due to the economy. It is very expensive to live on your own. Also many generations live in one household because nursing homes do not exist.

Gender differences in Argentina are changing overtime. Gender equality is increasing due to evolved ways of thinking more and more women are attending college and getting jobs that were once dominated by men. These evolving gender relations are presented by the fact that in 2010 gay marriage was passed in Argentina.

As gay rights and women’s rights are increasing in Argentina, it is important to note that like everywhere in the world, stigma related to being a part of the LGBT community, or being an independent working woman, still exists. Though this stigma is decreasing through generational differences and education it still exists.

Our guest speaker today prompted us to think about the gender roles we ourselves hold, and question the way we experience these opinions. We also discussed social situations in which gender effects the way we perceive events. The cultural differences between the United States and Argentina contribute to family and gender roles. Belief systems, values, leisure, behavior, job selection, and expectations create the gender differences that we perceive as a normal part of life.

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Day 7 (Pt. 1) – Mercado de Liniers

Student Author:
Jenna Hollingsworth

Our visit to Mercado de Liniers was an opportunity to see a side of the food industry we would not have otherwise known. This was not a farm, it was a meat market where cows came from neighboring farms and were sold in preparation for the slaughter house. Different restaurants and grocers came and bid on the animals.

The cows are brought throughout the night and early into the morning. When they arrive they are weighed and sorted according to their weigth. Each weight category was put into different pens and in the area corresponding to the broker in charge of selling them. It is important to note that these animals are not pets, they are products. They are hearded to and from different areas of the market as needed and that consist of a man on horseback with a whip or belt. The market is not a glamorous place, it is dirty and muddy as you would expect animal pens to be. The cows come from the farms, to the market, and then on to the slaughter houses; however, it is safe to be a horse at Mercados de Liniers.

In reflection, I saw the market for what it was, it is a place of business where cows are the products. It did not matter that I thought of the cows as farm animals or pets because that was simply not the case here. We were able to observe the market from highrise walkway above the market where we walked throughtout the vast market. This experience allowed me to see that cattle as a busniess and way of life or livelihood for many people of Argentina.

 

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Day 6 (Pt. 3) – Tango Show

Student Author:
Michelle Nguyen

Tonight we paid a visit to Cafe Tortoni to see a tango show. Tango dance originated in Buenos Aires, and if there were anything that could capture the spirit and culture of this vibrant city, it would be tango.

The people of Buenos Aires are very emotional and affectionate, and I saw their dance in the exact same manner. Tango dance is not just the synchronized movement of a pair of dancers, it is emotion manifested into physical connection.

When you think of tango, what are the first words that pop into your head? Sultry? Seductive? Indeed, tango is both, but it is so much more. Seeing tango in person makes the emotion so much more tangible than in any other platform (this post will not do it justice).

Tango dance displays the appreciation of body and soul. The body language used between the dancers are immensely intimate. The eye contact, the slow strides, the delicate placement of hands… It is raw, passionate and aggressive. There is a competition for dominance between the man and woman and in the end, both show complete submission. It is incredibly emotional and intimate and as I said, this post will not do tango justice.

Along with seeing tango dance, there were also other performances throughout the show. The MC would come out and sing in between dances, and several dancers performed amazing dance solos with the accompaniment of a single drummer. The movement of the dancers’ feet were incredible, as they were both fluid and rigid. Most of the time, their legs were nothing but a blur. Seeing tango in person definitely gave me a new appreciation for the art. The performers were not only dancers, they were actors and story tellers as well. Tango perfectly exemplifies the passion and resilience of the Argentine people, and I have gained more admiration for the art now than I ever have before.

 

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Day 6 (Pt. 2) – IBM in Buenos Aires

Student Author:
Kari Haines

Today we had the fortunate opportunity to visit IBM’s Buenos Aires office. The recruitment manager and diversity consultant took time out of their day to meet with us and discuss some of their individual roles in promoting the goals of IBM.

The recruitment manager works in the off Argentina, but manages several companies in various Spanish-speaking South American offices. After walking us through the basic of the recruitment process and his interactions with other recruitment team members, he spoke to how technology, such as LinkedIn, has opened a multitude of doors to find and recruitment applicants across South America.

The manager, who graduated with a degree in Psychology from a local university, also talked about how, counter to tradition in Argentina, IBM does not use Psychological (projective) tests but instead uses logical (intelligence and personality) test just as we do in the U.S. Also much like in the U.S., many psychology majors go to work in HR and recruitment areas as these positions allow psychology students to use their expertise on human behavior.

The diversity consultant then discussed the various structures in place to promote a safe and diverse IBM. IBM tries to stay one step ahead of the diversity curve as IBM brands itself as “diversity is in our DNA”. Examples of this can be seen in their hiring process with their first woman and African American employees being hired in the 1800s, their first disabled employee being hired in 1914, and their first LGBT individuals being hired in 1984.

Despite sexual orientation being considered taboo and not openly discussed in business, IBM has included sexual discrimination in their non-discriminatory act, and given domestic partner benefits before same sex marriage was even legalized in Argentina in 2011. Through  participation in diversity awareness workshops, IBM continues to encourage an inclusive environment.

Day 6 (Pt. 1) – Museo Evita

Student Author:
Bradford Drewniak

As a part of our various study abroad activities we visited El Museo Evita.  El Museo Evita is a museum dedicated to the life and mission of Evita Duarte, the wife of Argentine President Juan Peron.  Evita wasn’t simply the first lady of Argentina; she was an actor, a politician, and the heart and soul of the community spirit of Argentina.  She was a champion of the poor and underprivileged and spearheaded a plethora of social programs aimed at improving education and enhancing social support for those most in need.  As a populist politician she focused upon helping the “descamisados”, the shirtless ones.  Like most politicians, she was either loved or hated.  The rich hated her, and the poor loved her.  This was to be expected of any robin hood-like character.  Social programs are incredibly expensive and that tax money has to come from somewhere.   However upon her death from cervical cancer in 1952 the country faced an outpouring of emotional turmoil.

It was an incredible experience to attend Museo Evita and gain such incredible insight into the golden age of Argentina.  During the reign of Peron Argentina was not only growing, but thriving.  Watching films of Evita and her husband it felt as though I was watching a film taking place in Italy, France, Spain or some other prosperous European city.  Getting this alternative perspective on Argentina allowed me to see the country in an extremely different light.  Argentina has encountered intense economic highs and lows over its history.  These changes have defined the Argentine identity.  When boiled down, Evita is the pure memory of the golden age of Argentina.

Day 5 (Pt. 2) – The Residencia

Student author:
Megan Graffam

When we first arrived to the residencia, we all were shocked. This 10ft x 8ft cement “cell” was going to be our home for the next 2 weeks. We even started joking and calling our roommates our “cell mates.” As our first week passed, I think we have all grown to appreciate the residencia. We are surrounded by other students who are all willing to talk and share their knowledge of Buenos Aires.

We also have the sweetest ladies cooking us breakfast, lunch, and dinner (always very good!) and we have each other as a close knit support group through this crazy adventure. Although we have faulty wifi that seems to only work at 2am and showers that don’t believe in a medium temperature, I think our home (the residencia) has started to grow on us all.

The residencia has the cutest bakery and cafe right next door and easy access to restaurants and night life. I think we all appreciate this since we do not have to go far from “home” after our long and busy days. The residencia also has common rooms where we play cards and just meet up to talk. Although the residencia was not exactly what we were expecting, I believe it has been a way for us to all become closer during this whole process. Now we are off to our next adventure… Tango!

Hasta Luego!

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Day 5 (Pt. 1) – Intercultural Communication

Student author:
Tamara Gardner

Have you ever felt anxious, frustrated, or even confused when you feel someone doesn’t understand you? How would you respond, and furthermore, what if your responses were used for the basic judgement of who you are. Communication and the interpretations that follow are influenced by culture.

For the 5th day, of our trip through Buenos Aires, we attended a Multicultural Communication Lecture focused on the theme of difficulties experienced between communication and culture. In an open lecture, lead by Argentinian native, Maria Ines Quiroga, who received her graduate degree from UMBC in Baltimore, we discussed various topics including, personal feelings that result from language barriers, numerous factors that affect modes of communication, and specific ways to understand these differences and maneuver through them.

In our discussions, we talked about how difficult it can be to overcome these communication barriers, especially on a cultural level. To further understand this we discussed it on terms of how it applies to each country we are covering. In the U.S., we tend to present language in a direct manner and focus priority on ourselves as individuals. This is very much different from the Argentinian society, which identify themselves within their society collectively, and tend to be some what indirect in communication. Maria taught us how it is important to understand that neither spectrum is incorrect, but that each system involves different rules and cultural practices. In addition, natural barriers in communication can be very hard to process in our minds, because we may assume everyone universally comprehends situations  in the ways we do, which is not always the case.

Throughout our trip, many of us have been faced with varied levels of difficulty in handling simple events such as ordering a specific food or even asking for directions. In doing so, some of us have become frustrated and reluctant to perform certain task, just to keep things simple. For me personally the most important concept I learned from Maria’s lecture was the “Iceberg Theory of Culture”.  The idea of this theory is basically that we judge and process other’s culture by what we see (the visible portion of the iceberg), but it’s important to remember there are a multitude of reasons and purposes of why that culture acts as they do (the bottom unseen portion). Ultimately, the overall takeaway message from this lecture was that as we come in contact with other cultures, it is truly vital that we have an open perspective on how we view and perceive interactions. As our minds are more open and accepting of the differences from our own culture and society, we become more willing to adapt to the practices of other cultures, break our own prejudices, and accept the cultural differences displayed by others.

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Day 4 (Pt. 2) – Hotel Bauen

Student author:
Alex Patterson

Today we visited the Hotel Bauen, a cooperative run hotel in Buenos Aires. This hotel was closed in 2001, during a disastrous week in Argentina when the hotel owners went bankrupt following social uprising and economic turmoil caused when the president resigned and left the country. About a year and a half after the hotel closed, former workers got together and decided to reopen the hotel on their own. With an agreement with the government, the workers were able to enter the building and start repairing the hotel. In the beginning the cooperative employees were so desperate for funds that they resorted to begging in the streets for enough money to sustain the hotel and feeding their families. As time passed, they were able to exchange goods and services with people in the community, other  cooperatives, and people who needed a place to stay. It was several years before the hotel became self-sustainable and now it is a fully functioning hotel run completely by the employees who democratically make organizational decisions.

The story of Hotel Bauen would be very different if it had occurred in the U.S. The U.S. legal system supports private property owners and if an owner wanted to close their hotel there is very little recourse for the workers who may want the property to remain open. The experience has shown me a lot about how cultural shaped “human nature” is. I’ve been told many times  that there is no such thing as altruism and that human nature is to put the self before others but during the takeover process many, including some branches of the government, helped the employee of Hotel Bauen at great cost to themselves. For years, many workers at Hotel Bauen took home little money and could barely afford to feed their families. The commitment of employees to Hotel Bauen was so strong that many made personal sacrifices to keep it alive. With over 350 other recuperated businesses in Argentina, many workers have taken control of their organizations and lives.

In America many people “jump ship” once it becomes apparent that a company is losing business or going under, and this is considered the “smart” thing to do. The example of Hotel Bauen illustrates the cultural differences that exist between Argentina and the U.S. While American culture focuses on making as much money as possible, Argentine culture puts a higher price on worker and being a part of something greater than oneself.

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Day 4 (Pt. 1) – Carrefour

Student author:
Kari Haines

Carrefour is a French based international company that is the 2nd largest retail chain in the world. Its stores can be found in across the globe and 22 of Argentina’s’ 24 states. Carrefour is primarily a grocery store, but depending on the size can also include other departments such as electronics. We met with Carrefour’s CFO and the director of Human Resources.

It was very interesting to hear about the responsibilities and goals of Human Resources. They described how with Carrefour there are different levels of authority from directors, to managers, and chiefs that help make Carrefour run smoothy and with high employee satisfaction. One point I found particularly fascinating was the different cultures that exist within Carrefour (corporate and local store). In order to help promote better understanding Carrefour attempts to rotate some of its employees between the corporate office and local stores.

Overall Carrefour seemed to be a company promoting happy healthy employees. This was an amazing opportunity to talk with the leaders of the organization and learn about their family oriented culture and work practices.

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Day 3 – Teatro Colon

Student author:
Emma Haviland

Hola from Buenos Aires!

Today was our third day in Argentina and we had much of the morning to ourselves to sleep in, which was absolutely wonderful after a few days of waking up early. We ate lunch at the residencia and then traveled to Teatro Colon. met outside at promptly 2 pm to go on a tour of Teatro Colon, which required our first subway ride in Argentina, an experience in itself. The Tatro Colon is the national theater or Argentine and one of the worlds most famous theaters and opera houses.

If I had to sum up the Teatro Colon in one word it would be “majestic.” Walking into the builidng, I felt completely overwhelmed by its beauty and the attention to detail that must have gone into its construction. The theater itself is over a hundred years old and heavily influenced by European architecture. It took three architects to finally complete the Teatro Colon – the first two architects were Italian and died at age 44 and construction was actually stalled for years because so many architects were afraid of the curse to take on the task of completing the “haunted” Teatro Colon. The interior and exterior of the building are absolutely beautiful. Much of the flooring inside is covered with tiny ornate mosaic tiles, which were hand cut and placed during the original construction. Gold leaf is painted everywhere and the ceilings are complete with fantastic murals. It’s impossible to touch upon all the details of the theater in writing and I’m sure my pictures will do a much better job than I ever could.

Ciao!

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Day 2: El Tigre

Student Authors:
Amanda Canby
Amanda Hatton
Noemi Giron

Our trip to El Tigre was an exciting and beautiful trip into the areas surrounding the city of Buenos Aires.

We began our journey by taking the bus and the train, both somewhat scary experiences, but once we arrived in El Tigre I was completely in awe! The river is lovely and full of boats, canoes, row boats, and kayaks that people who live in the town use to get around. Our boat tour of the area was was exceptional with every person on the tour receiving a hot coffee drink and a sweet snack to enjoy while on the beautiful ride. We were given a descriptive overhead of everything in the town, including the historical aspects, the houses along the river, and the grocery boats. They also have boats that come to pick up students and teachers to take them to the nearest schools. They even have ice cream boats that deliver!  The tour boat moved at a pretty slow pace because the water is only about five feet deep and to go faster would pose a risk of getting stuck. The homes by the water were small and quaint and most of them had docks for their personal boats in order to get around. The best part of the whole experience for me was going outside and standing on the back part of the boat… feeling the wind against my face and just viewing the beautiful surroundings. I took several lovely and rememberable photographs.
While returning from El Tigre, we stopped at the Plaza de Frutas. The plaza offers a variety of options for eating and shopping. This proved extremely overwhelming not exactly knowing what is going and not understanding what they are saying. Bargaining with people was a lot harder when you do not understand what either party is saying. This area was very interesting and reminded me of the little stands that they have in the mall on a board walk, mixed with a street fair.

While at the Plaza de Frutas a group of us ate at a local restaurant right near the water. In Argentina one of their speciality dishes is called “Locro”. This plate consists of pinto beans and pig meat. Locro is known as the plate eaten during the Argentine Revolution and as such it was important to eat it at least once. It proved to be a testy dish!

After the Plaza, our group was taken to a restaurant right on Rio de la Plata. This restaurant was very popular as people could order coffee with milk, tea with milk, and submarinos, hot milk in which a chocolate bar is stirred until melted. After everyone enjoyed their beverage, we were given the opportunity to go near the Rio and take pictures. Not only was this area entertaining but if you turned slightly towards the right side of the restaurant you could see the most captivating view of the Buenos Aires cityscape.

Buenos Aires Argentina study abroad

Day 1 (Pt. 2): Welcome Dinner

Student author
Jason Refsnider
The first experience of going out for dinner in Argentina was very different from eating in the US. There was great food, excellent customer service, and a busy crowd. What stood out to me the most was the amount of adults going out to eat during the later hours in the evening (10pm or later). I’m use to seeing many adults (over 30) going out to early afternoon dinners and falling asleep in the early evening. It’s amazing that many adults know how to have a great time in a restaurant. Everyone is laughing with each other and enjoying the food. I’ve never had a meal like this where I was full for the rest of the night after eating amazing empadadas and argentine steaks. The overall way they built the restaurant was also very interesting as iti felt like you were living in a big cave where everyone seemed peacefukl, happy, and very family oriented. It’s great to walk into a restaurant where you feel nothing but peace and happiness.  As for customer service, I would say it’s a much more pleasant experience thsn I traditionally have in the US. The server took care of all the orders from our ISA coordinator since our Spanish was somewhat lacking. She never had an attitude toward any of the study abroad students who were not comfortable with the language. It’s hard to find that kind of quality service anywhere you go in North America. Again, I was blown away by how the atmosphere was very peaceful and relaxed.  The biggest takeaway was the overall enjoyment I had in this restaurant.  I’m looking forward to many more pleasant experiences in many other places and having a sense of peace in the country of Argentina.

Buenos Aires Argentina study abroad

Day 1 (Pt. 1)- City Tour of Buenos Aires

Our Buenos Aires City tour included trips to La Boca, La Recoleta, and Puerta Madero, and other neighborhoods

Student authors:
Cameron Jackson
Jenna Hollingsworth
Colleen Sippel
After an arduous 14-hour journey to Argentina, we disembarked, relieved to be off the giant tin can with wheels and could finally breathe the cool non-recycled air. Customs was a breeze, and after we collected our luggage we met Inez from ISA who gathered us for the city bus tour. Inez was enthusiastic and helped us to fight off our extreme exhaustion during the city tour.
Our first stop was the neighborhood of La Boca, which is the oldest and now most impoverished neighborhood in the city. However, in its prime, La Boca was quite wealthy but after the outbreak of yellow fever, citizens escaped to other neighborhoods leaving their empty homes for future immigrants to the city. The houses and buildings are bright and colorful. There’s an interesting juxtaposition of the old and the new. In La Boca we were first introduced to Argentine culture while we ordered our first meal in the country, explored local shops, and just watched the hustle and bustle of the people. This was a great spot to simply observe and take in the culture while adjusting to our new surroundings.
From La Boca we went to Puerto Madero, the most expensive neighborhood in the city. Aside from banks and office buildings, residential buildings are mostly empty due to the high cost of renting. Puerto Madero is the equivalent to Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. It is home to the Catholic University of Argentina, where Pope Francis was on the board. In this neighborhood we saw some familiar faces amongst the Argentine landscape in the presence of recognized chain restaurants such as TGI Friday’s and McDonalds.
From there we went to Montserrat and San Telmo, home of the national congress. Most of the population of Buenos Aires works in Montserrat or San Telmo. As this is the heart of government and city center. This are while busy during the week becomes a ghost town at night when the office workers and government officials retreat to their homes in other areas of the city.
Buenos Aires is a city full of European cultural influences, mostly stemming from Spain and France. The architecture is very French while the culture is very Spanish. The city tour allowed use to enjoy and slowly become immersed in the city and culture. Getting used to the language differences as well as other cultural differences is definitely going to be one of the more difficult parts of this experience. Though we may have always been aware of cultural differences, most of us have never truly experienced them to the extent we did today. We have all very quickly developed an understanding of how difficult it is to be surrounded by people who share the same language while most of us do not. 

We can’t wait to see more of the city when we have had a decent amount of sleep!

Introduction: Summer 2014: Culture & Psychology in Argentina

Welcome to the 2014 Culture and Psychology Study Abroad Program to Argentina blog space!

Ever wondered…

  • Why Buenos Aires is called the “Paris of South America”?
  • How exposure to new cultures can change our lives?
  • What exactly is a gaucho?
  • Is human nature really universal?
  • What exactly was the Argentine “Dirty War”?
  • How our national history really impacts our day to day lives?
  • What is the real story behind Eva “Evita” Peron?
  • How interrelated are culture and psychology?
  • Is Argentine beef really as good as everyone claims? And what about the wine?
  • What differences exist between Argentine and U.S. culture?

If you have ever thought about any of these questions or I have just peaked your interest, I would like to offer you the chance to join us on this adventure by following our posts.

While abroad, students participating in this program will be posting about the culture, people, excursions, speakers, their personal stories and reflections, and other activities they experience during this 2 week trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I invite you to share in this unique experience with us as we explore Buenos Aires and examine the similarities and differences between Argentine and U.S. culture from a psychological perspective.

David Earnest

Program Faculty Director and Assistant Professor of Psychology

Check out this Buenos Aires video from the Travel Channel!

[Summer 2014] Peru: Life at the Top

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Check out more student photos from the journey to Peru in this post.

 

6-14-2014 from Prof. D

Our last day in Peru

I slept in till 7AM!!!!!- After taking a shower I headed up to the breakfast bar where enjoyed a continental breakfast that consisted of scrambled eggs, roll with butter and jam, cereal and watermelon juice. I then relaxed with my laptop and a cup of coffee on the deck and caught up on news, emails and updates to this blog. It was a nice way to spend the last morning in Peru; especially given how busy we had been for the last 9 days. There was nothing on the agenda until 11AM. At that time everyone checked out of the hostel and we reunited with Edwin. He gave us a brief tour of the Temple of the Sun (Coricancha), the most revered temple of the Incas, dedicated to the Inti, the Sun God. The Spanish would demolish the temple and build the Church of Santo Domingo. After an earthquake only the Inca stone walls (built of large, tightly-interlocking blocks of stone) remained. From the Temple of the Sun we moved on to Cusco Cathedral, which is located on the Avenida de Sol, the main road of Cusco. The massive structure took nearly 100 years to complete and it serves as the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cusco. As you can imagine it has a rich history. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed inside, so you will have to rely on google if you want to view the many artifacts and Colonial art. Better yet, if you have the means, go visit! Everyone left the church thoroughly impressed. We thanked Edwin and said goodbye. At this point we split up and searched for places to eat lunch. Some of us did some last minute souvenir shopping. I managed to enjoy one more stuffed avocado (is that 5?), the best one yet! By 4pm it was time to head to the airport to catch our 6:30 flight to Lima. We took off and landed without a hitch. In Lima, it was time to say goodbye to Jonny. I couldn’t thank him enough for all he had done; the translation, counting change, ordering food, offering worldly advice, etc. He is a professional and I can’t imagine pulling off this trip without him. I know the students agree. We wished him all the best and parted ways. We could handle it from here.

Unfortunately, our flight leaving Lima was delayed, causing us to miss our connection in Miami. Yes, while it was an inconvenience at the time and we were all frustrated, in the end it didn’t matter. Nothing could diminish our spirits at this point. The trip was a huge success and we all eventually made it home, safe and sound!

And it was good to be home!

6-13-2014 from Prof D.

MUCHO WOW!

It was another early wake up call (4AM) but no one appeared to be bothered by it. We had been waiting for this day with much anticipation- this was the day that we would finally see Machu Picchu! In order to see the “Lost City of the Incas” at sunrise it was imperative that we board one of the earlier buses transporting tourists to the top. We were standing on line by 4:30 and had managed to board the 2nd bus. Jonny was amazed that we were able to pull it off, given the size of our group (14 students + Roger, Wilbur, Jonny and me= 18 amigos). The bus took us up a series of switchbacks on our way to the top. Once we arrived we patiently waited in line for the gates to open. It was a cool morning, but that would soon change once the sun came up. At 6 am we walked through the gates and there it was-Machu Picchu! We had some time before sun rise so Roger gave us a tour around the ruins and pointed out all of the special features. The Incas were ingenious engineers. At around 7am the sun peaked out from behind the mountains! It was indeed spectacular! Awesome! Majestic! Mucho WOW!

We spent most of the morning walking around and taking pictures. By 10 am we were in line to hike to the top of Wanya (Huayna) Picchu, that small mountain overlooking Machu Picchu that is featured in so many photographs. It is said to be the home of Machu Picchu’s most important priests. Access to the trail is restricted to 400 visitors daily. In my opinion, a visit to Machu Picchu is not complete without climbing Wanya Picchu, so make sure you make a reservation well in advance. The climb is steep, narrow and rigorous at some points, but the entire experience was exhilarating! The view from the ruins on top is well worth the extra effort. This was the icing on the cake! At around 12:30 it was time to say goodbye to the Lost City. We boarded a bus and headed down to Aguas Calientes. We were a bit behind schedule so Roger had organized a take out lunch to ensure that we would make the 2:30 train back to Ollantaytambo. We did!

The train ride was tremendously satisfying because it marked a point in the trip when we could sit back, relax and marvel at all we had seen, heard, smelled, tasted and accomplished in such a short period of time. The train arrived in Ollantaytambo close to 4pm. We collected our bags and left the train (Prior to leaving for the hike Roger had distributed red duffel bags to each member of the group. We were instructed to fill them with our belongings and the porters would transport them along our trek.) Before heading toward the bus Jonny took a quick head count and bag count. Everyone was present but one bag was missing!! I initially thought it was not big deal- oh well, somebody lost some clothes, maybe some deodorant and a toothbrush. Yet, it was quickly revealed that inside the missing bag was the spirometer!!! I panicked. While the spirometer would be expensive to replace, I was more concerned with the fact that it contained all that data we collected from the porters and the students. All that hard work- nothing to show for it. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, Jonny acted quickly. He called the restaurant from where we had picked up our lunch, he called the train station, we checked the train- no bag! Finally, he and Roger contacted the main office at Llama path to see if the tour group behind us had picked up the bag (remember, they were all the same!). This is where having a Spanish speaker really came in handy. Everyone was listening to his conversation, trying to discern what was being discussed. At one point I heard him spell the name of the student whose bag was missing. After what seemed like an hour long conversation Jonny hung up the phone and told us that another Llama path guide may have picked up the bag at the restaurant. But there was no way of confirming this until that guide arrived in Ollantaytambo and had cell phone service. This was a positive sign but we weren’t out of the woods yet. At this point there was nothing to do but to board the bus to Cusco and hope for the best. The mood was tense. No one spoke. Then about an hour into our journey, Jonny’s cell phone rang. He answered it and started to speak in Spanish. I listened intently, hoping to pick up any sign of good news. Then, after what seemed like another hour-long conversation, I heard Jonny say “PERFECTO”! I didn’t need a translation. The guide had found the bag and would be dropping it off in Cusco later that evening. The bus erupted in cheers. All was well again!

Later that evening we went out for dinner to celebrate. Peruvian pizza! There was music and dancing and toasting. The mood was pure jubilation.

In case you’re wondering, here’s what jubilation looks like.

6-12-2014 from Prof D.

If Wednesday was our challenge, Thursday was our reward! After 10 hours of mostly uphill hiking, it was all downhill from here. We were about to be treated to some marvelous views of the Sacred Valley. However, we did have some business to take care of before setting off on our hike for the day. At 5:30 AM we arouse from our tents so the students could complete their “step tests” at 3800m. A couple of the groups wanted to examine how altitude would impact one’s fitness capacity. Since we didn’t have access to a treadmill we needed to improvise, so we had carried with us two 16” step stools. They could be easily broken down and each student was responsible for taking one part. Before going to bed I had assembled them so they would be ready to go in the morning. I was a bit nervous because completing a 3-minute step test at 5:30 AM, at 3800meters, after an exhausting hike the day before was no small task. We had developed a systematic way of making sure everyone was tested in the shortest period of time so as not to impede the progress of the porters. The students successfully pulled it off!! They put forth a tremendous effort, especially given that some were exhausted and still feeling the effects of the previous day’s hike. Yet, no one complained and they performed the task with great efficiency and enthusiasm. I was so pleased to have collected these data and it demonstrates that science is not only an intellectual challenge, but can be a physical one as well!

After packing away the stools and enjoying a warm breakfast we headed toward the ruins of Huchuy Qosqo, which lies above the 3000 meter high town of Lamay, our final destination of the hike. We could see some marvelous views of the Sacred Valley. Roger gave us a brief history lesson of the Incas and asked us if we knew what was the factor that ultimately led to their demise. While most people assume it was the steel, cannons and horses, the “germs” is the more likely candidate. After he was finished, Roger allowed us to explore the ruins on our own. I chose to take a nap under the hot sun. When I awoke I realized Jonny had done the same thing. From here we headed down a steep set up switchbacks (Think San Francisco’s crooked street on steroids) toward Lamay. This was a very technical descent that took us roughly 2.5 hours. We could see camp down below. We finally arrived at around 2pm. The Porters were waiting for us, applauding our efforts. After enjoying another exceptional feast that included chicken ceviche(!!!!!), it was time to board a bus and head for Ollantaytambo. We thanked the porters for taking good care of us throughout our trek. We will never forget them. In Ollantaytambo we boarded a train that took us on a 1 hour 45 minute ride through the scenic Sacred Valley to Aguas Calientes, the town which serves as the principal access point to Machu Pichu. We arrived, checked into our hotel and headed out for dinner. I had some alpaca (better this time) and my favorite dish, stuffed avocado (I think this was my 4th time enjoying this dish!). After dinner, we picked up some essentials (by essentials I mean water!) and headed back to our hotel. The students repeated the step test (this time at roughly 2000 meters) and then proceeded to their rooms for some much needed rest. Our accommodations at the Waman Hotel were exceptional! The best feature – a hot shower!

6-11-2014 from Prof D.

THE DAY

I did not get much sleep. I was tossing and turning all night, worried about the trek. Plus, my room was located next to the entrance of the hostel and I could hear everything!!! I was nervous that the students would be exhausted and in poor spirits. Much to my surprise they were alert and ready to go. Roger and Wilbur greeted us at the Hostel. Their company is Llama Path, which specializes in leading groups through the mountains. They were experts, native to Cusco. They both studied tourism at a local institute and had over 10 years of experience between them. The bus arrived at Tambomachay (3700 meters) at around 7:30. Shortly thereafter, a large red bus with the Llama path insignia pulled up. Out came 18 porters dressed in red uniforms. These men were also natives to the highlands and were responsible for hauling our gear and supplies up the mountain and to ultimately set up camp. They ranged in age from 19 to about 45, all super athletes! After some brief introductions the group set off for a long day in the mountains.

The trek was gorgeous, the hiking moderate to difficult! It was overcast and the temperature cool. Very comfortable! Views were spectacular. Words can’t describe the beauty so hopefully the students will add some pics. Eventually, the group spread out across the trail and people were moving at a different pace. Most of us chewing on cocoa leaves and inhaling some “condor pee” (yes, you read that correctly) to avoid altitude sickness. For some of us, these traditional preventive remedies worked (maybe?), for others, not so much. It was not until the end of the day that I was able to assess how everyone was feeling. At 1:30 we all arrived at the predetermined lunch spot at about 4100 meters. The porters were waiting for us. They had set up a tent and they began serving a two course meal. The meals for the trip far exceeded expectations. They were traditional gourmet Peruvian dishes that included, my favorite . . . palta a la reyna (stuffed avocado)! Awesome!

After lunch we still had to climb. It took us about 2 hours to make it to Huchuy Quosqo pass, our highest point at 4300 meters. This was a great moment. Despite being exhausted everyone managed a smile and recognized what an accomplishment this was. After a brief respite to enjoy the view we made our final descent down the mountain to Paucarcancha. Joining us was a herd of alpaca being led by a Quechuan woman.

The last of our group arrived at camp at around 6. Tents were set up, warm towels were provided and Roger informed us that “happy hour” was at 6:30. Many of us were suffering from intense headaches, some were nauseous and a few, downright sick! This was a moment that everyone had to dig deep. Happy hour consisted of popcorn, hot chocolate, cocoa tea, crackers with butter and jelly and soup. This was followed by the main course. The pizza with pineapple was especially tasty. I felt bad for the students who didn’t have the desire to eat anything. Some went to bed early.

As dinner was winding down we realized that one of the experiments we were planning to conduct was not going to work, so we had to switch gears. I had discussed with the students earlier that it might be pretty cool to test the lung capacity of some of the porters. Typically, these values are very high in native highlanders, which explain, in part, why these people thrive at high altitudes. I asked Roger if he could help recruit some of the younger porters to blow into the spirometer, that was kindly donated to us by the company ndd.medical. He said no problem. By the end of the evening we had collected data on 6 porters!! The whole process was a great bonding experience and fun!! Everyone was cheering and laughing, the porters were playfully teasing one another. Awesome! Check out this student video of the porters’ experience with the spirometer:

I went to bed feeling like we had done some good, although I was still worried about those students who were not able to enjoy that unforgettable moment on the mountain. I was hoping that the coca tea and a good night’s rest would provide some relief. One thing that we had in our favor- early bed time, 9:00pm!

6-11-2014 from Prof D.

A very busy day on Tuesday, students and I are tired but positive. We are about to leave for our trek: the moment we have all been waiting for. Hope to talk to you in two days!

6-10-2014 from Prof D.

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep!!!
That was the sound that we all dreaded to hear- the 3am wake up call. Johnny had packed us breakfast and we boarded a bus that took us to the airport. Our flight was at 6:30 and we needed to meet our transportation in Cusco by 9:30. The time in the airport was spent discussing the fifth journal club, “exercise training at high altitude”. The question of whether altitude training actually improves athletic performance is much more complicated than the students had expected. They can fill you in on the details. En route to Cusco we could see the Andean peaks outside the window. Spectacular view! When we landed, the sun was shining bright (and hot!) even at this early hour. This is the first time we saw the sun since leaving Baltimore. The group was greeted by Darwin (like Charles Darwin- that’s how he introduced himself) and Edwin, our guide for the day. They first took us to the Milhouse Hostel so we could freshen up before heading out for the day. It features free wi-fi, upstairs patio bar overlooking the rooftops of Cusco, where breakfast is served on a daily basis and nightly entertainment (This proved problematic later in the evening when everyone was trying to get a good night’s rest).

Once everyone was ready we boarded the bus and headed to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We headed “up” some curvy, bumpy roads. Everyone marveled at views of Cusco below, meanwhile I was trying to keep down my breakfast. After a brief stop at a market to pick up some souvenirs we arrived at the Pisac ruins, in the Sacred Valley. Edwin gave us a nice tour of the site and explained some of the history. The ruins feature agricultural terraces which enable production of food at high altitudes. He also introduced us to Peruvian mint- ahhhhhhh refreshing! Unfortunately, after some walking and picture taking we had to board that dreaded bus. It was getting late, well past lunch. We were all tired and hungry. We stopped in the town of Urubamba for a buffet style lunch. All the usual goodies were there, including the highly anticipated guinea pig. However, few of us, including myself, didn’t have the stomach to try it (an ominous sign!).

I think by the end of our lunch (which was actually an early dinner) we looked forward to heading back to the hostel for some much needed rest. We had been up since 3 am. Most of us forgot that Edwin was planning to take us to another ruin in Ollantaytambo. This required about a 30 min ride on that bus. It was getting late and Jonny and I decided to cut the tour short. Ollantaytambo served as the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti, who conquered the region. It is known for its several storehouses made out of fieldstones that defended their contents against decay. Both sites were marvelous but we needed to hustle back to Cusco in order to meet up with our guides for the hike, Roger and Wilbur, and to eat dinner. It took about an hour. Dinner was a bit hectic, fast paced and it was hard to hear Roger and Wilbur give their instructions. We rushed through dinner, a big disappointment since I was enjoying the food so much. I did manage to eat some Alpaca on spaghetti. Thought it was a bit overcooked, but good flavor nonetheless. It was late when we got back to the hostel. I think everyone was a bit nervous and it appeared that morale was down. We needed to pack our things for the trek. This included all the devices we would be using to collect data on the trail. Tomorrow was a big day. 5:30 wake up call.

6-9-2014 from Prof D.

Today was hospital day. We boarded a bus and headed for Hospital Nacional “ Hipolito Unanue”, a public hospital located in El Agustino which is east of Lima. We were greeted by Dr. “Dino” Cabrero and Dr. Ricardo Sanchez. We spent the morning touring the hospital and asking lots of questions. They talked extensively about what was the leading cause of morbidity and mortality- respiratory disease; at least in the poor areas where people cook and heat their homes with open fires. They did mention that obesity rates are on the rise and along with it, cardiovascular disease. The students were interested in whether physical therapy was an important discipline and they responded with a resounding “yes”. Many suffer from degenerative illnesses and trauma. After the tour, they led us to a newer wing of the hospital, dedicated to treating patients with TB. We sat in a small lecture hall and Dino gave a comprehensive talk that covered 5 main areas; 1) the condition of health in Peru, 2) high altitude illness (especially relevant for our group), 3) nutrition across the various regions of Peru, 4) the Peruvian Health system (both public and private) and 5) how medical training works (also interesting since we have some aspiring health care workers in the group). Regarding the 4th point, I’m glad the students were able to see and hear an expert talk about how publically funded health care delivery system actually works. Interestingly, Dino informed us that a few days prior to our arrival, Peruvian physicians working in the public sector had just ended a 3 weeks long strike over low pay and lack of resources. So thankfully, we managed to miss a time when it wasn’t working at all. Dino did a wonderful job. Another highlight of the trip!!

With much gratitude, we thanked are hosts and headed back to home base. I noticed a PR person taking pictures of us, so keep a look out for our picture on the hospital website www.hnhu.gob.pe. I forgot to mention that on our way to the hospital the students delivered their research proposals to the rest of the group. They have some really cool projects planned! The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing. I postponed journal club till tomorrow morning to give students more time to collect their thoughts. At dinner Jonny asked the students about their experience so far. They seem to be enjoying it immensely. We have reached the halfway point. Tomorrow we shift gears and head to Cusco. Early wake-up call so I will say so long for now. Oh, dinner tonight was PHD “pizza hut delivery”.

6-8-2014 from Prof D.

Last night I overheard Jonny talking to the students about going for a run in the morning, so naturally I inquired about the details. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see the city, and the ocean, at an hour when most people were still in bed. Four of us left the hostel at around 6:45. He took us through a beautiful neighborhood in Miraflores on the way to the coast. If Barranco was like New Orleans, this section of the city reminded me of parts of San Francisco and Milwaukee (if you can believe that!). The run was peaceful and quite, the ocean majestic! On our way back I noticed a catholic church with its doors open, ready to welcome parishioners. Peru is over 90% catholic. Had I been thinking ahead, I would have facilitated a trip to church. I was surprised to hear later that many of the students (including some who are not catholic) would have been interested in attending a mass.

Jonny had chartered two vans to take us to meet Pim van den Hoven, a Dutchman who has spent the last three years selling organic foods and promoting “alternative medicine” in Peru. He gave the students a powerpoint presentation on these topics. Pim has no medical training and I’ll have to admit that I was a bit of a skeptic, but he made several points that I agree with; namely, sugar is our enemy, not FAT! This was great to hear and challenges the current medical dogma (although this is starting to change). Of course, he made several other points that caused me to raise a few red flags. In all, this was a very important activity for the students to be involved in since it forced them to think critically. They were attentive, engaged and asked good questions. And Pim was a gracious host. He offered us smoothies (the “healthy” kind) and samples (I enjoyed the coconut and goose berries- fresh not dried).

After he met with us he hopped into one of our vans and accompanied us to Mercado Bioferia (organic market). It is probably what you might expect- local vendors selling produce and other items. We were introduced to dragon fruit (tastes a bit like kiwi), picae (looks like big green beans with cotton candy in the middle- tastes a bit like cotton candy too). I bought some cherimoya to share with the group at breakfast the next morning (very sweet- I didn’t care for it- neither did anyone else).

We thanked Pim and headed back to the hostel. Before dinner we discussed journal club number 4- Differences in physiological adaptations to altitude between Tibetans and Andeans. I’ll just say there are differences. Again, you can follow up with the students regarding this. We walked back to Kennedy Park for a quick bit to eat. Jamon de serrano (Peruvian ham sandwich) for me! The group then took taxis to Parque de la Reserva, the world’s largest fountain complex in a public park. It was impressive and definitely one of the major highlights of the trip so far. We all thanked Jonny for recommending it. Hopefully, some students will be posting pictures of this park and the rest of the trip’s highlights on this blog soon. All for now.

6-7-2014 from Prof D.

Late in the evening

I noticed that Nathano’s did not display their menu on the website, so I’m posting some of the dishes here; Lomo Saltado, Ensalada Mixta, Chaufa con pollo (essentially Chinese fried rice; yes, Lima has a Chinatown) and Pollo al oregano. These were the main dishes- all exceptional! Palta a la Jardinera (avocado with veggies sprinkled on top!) was one of the appetizers-delectable. Peru is known for its avocados.

After breakfast we boarded the bus and headed to the Pachacamac ruins, which is located about 20 miles southeast of Lima. On our way there we could observe the many shantytowns, lining the highway. When we arrived at Pachacamac, Rosa reminded us that while most people may associate this archeological site with the Incas, they actually inherited it. It served as a religious site for the veneration of Pacha Kamaqu “earth creator”. The tour included stops at the “Temple of the Sun” and the “Temple of the Moon”. Interestingly, one can determine which culture built these structures by the way the bricks are laid (either vertical or horizontal). The walk to the top of the Temple of the Sun included a minimally steep climb. I am being generous, because compared to what we are about to face on Wednesday, we might as well have been rolling downhill. At the top, we could see the Pacific Ocean in all of its glory. The wind was steady and a bit chilly. Pachacamac is located in a desert area but directly below us were verdant fields where people (and horses!) were playing polo. At around 1pm we boarded the bus and headed back to Lima.

When we arrived it was time to say goodbye to Rosa. She was a wonderful guide and extremely informative. We were lucky to have her and sad to part ways. It was well past lunch so we were hungry. We headed to Kennedy Park (yes, you read that correctly), the home of painters and artisans. There were many places to eat in this area and Jonny chose another gem! I failed to get the name but the Papas a la Huancaina and Bistec a lo Pobre were exquisite! We walked through the park and among the cats (google it) on our way back to the hostel. At his point it was late in the afternoon. After about an hour I met with the students to discuss our 3rd journal club- functional adaptations to life at high altitude. This was an extension of the previous day’s topic, but the focus was on what happens to the body during longer stays at altitude. I think the students are starting to get the hang of it. If you have any questions about the O2 dissociation curve I’m sure they would be happy to answer them. Katie and Will also took this time to pitch their research proposal to the group. The other groups will give their proposals tomorrow.

At around 8:30 the groups took taxis to an area of Lima called Barranco. It reminds me a bit of New Orleans. The center was set up like Jackson Square. A band was playing music. After some time enjoying our surrounding we headed to the area where the restaurants were located. All of them were vying for our business by offering pisco sours on the house (by the end of the evening we had received one and a half- perhaps they thought we wouldn’t notice). We ended up choosing Toto’s. I ordered Porcion de tequenos con queso (somewhat of a light, flaky pastry with cheese) and chicharro de Cameron (fried shrimp with a distinct taste). I washed it down with a Pilsen allao (I’ll call it a Peruvian Pilsner). The food was muy excelente (starting to run out of adjectives) but took a while to come out. As a result, we had to hustle back to the main square to catch our cab. We all arrived at the hostel before midnight. Off to bed.

6-6-2014 from Prof D.

In Lima, Later in the evening

Wow, what a busy day! After eating breakfast at the hostel we met with Rosa, our guide, who led us on a bus tour through Lima. Among the high points was a brief stop at “Love Park”, which offered some majestic views of the Pacific Ocean, despite the overcast morning. The park was constructed after the mayor of Mira Flores was inspired by what he saw during a visit to Barcelona.  We toured through much of Mira Flores as well as the central part of the city, stopping at the Plaza Mayor, which is surrounded by Governmental Palace, the Cathedral of Lima and The Archbishop’s residence, the Municipal Palace, and the palace of the Union. This is the point where the federal government, the city government and the spiritual leadership intersect. It is quite popular and we noticed many other tourists along with several school groups. From here we walked to the Monastery of San Francisco. Everyone was captivated by the Baroque architecture, the hand crafted cedar ceilings, the Moorish-styled naves and the extensive catacombs. After boarding our bus we headed to lunch. Throughout the trip, Rosa was introducing (or perhaps reintroduced) us to the rich cast of characters that shaped Peruvian history and culture (eg., the Incas, Francisco Pizzaro, Simon Bolivar, San Martin and Admiral Miguel Grau). Lunch was everything I hoped it would be. We ate at Antigua Taberna Queirolo, an establishment that has been operated by an Italian family for three generations. It is quite popular among the locals and the food did not disappoint. Despite what you might think it did not serve pasta and red sauce, but rather traditional Peruvian cuisine. You can view the menu here http://antiguatabernaqueirolo.com/. For those of you who know me . . . can you guess what I ordered?  After lunch, it was on to the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History. Rosa gave us a wonderful tour, although many of us were quite exhausted at this point. Something that came as a surprise to many of us was how short a period of time the Inca Empire was in existence prior to Spanish conquest. Many cultures pre-existed the Incas, including the Wari people (500-1000 AD). We also learned about “head binding”. Look it up! Most of us slept on the way back to our hostel. Once we arrived we retreated to our rooms for some more rest and some of the students prepared for our 2nd journal club before heading off to dinner.
The topic of journal club was acute physiological adaptations to high altitude. Chief among them is an increase in ventilation, which is a response to the low partial pressure of oxygen. A consequence of this is a reduction in carbon dioxide. This in turn leads to changes in the acid-base balance of the blood and . . . well, I won’t bore you with the rest of the details. Please ask the students about this upon their return. At 7pm it was off to dinner at Nathano’s. We all shared a number of dishes, including the highly anticipated ceviche! Everything was delicious, including the “must try” pisco sour. I think I’ll have another! We arrived back at the hostel . Later in the evening I saw some students in the breakfast area working on their next assignment which reminded that this was indeed a “study” abroad. More work to do tomorrow.

6-6-2014 from Prof D.

In Lima

We landed in Lima last night at about 10:30 local time (we are one hour behind EST). The trip went smoothly except for one minor hiccup. One of the student’s bags was left in Miami. Ugh!! Hopefully, it will be delivered to us later this evening. Jonny greeted us with a warm smile, water and some snacks. After exchanging some money we hoped on a private bus and headed to La Casa Nostra Hostel in Miraflores. Despite the comfortable accommodations and long day I didn’t get much sleep. I haven’t queried the students yet, but I suspect most will agree. During our first “journal club” we talked about how sleep is altered at high altitude. Specifically, some people experience intermittent breathing which can lead to arousals and ultimately cause fatigue. This was not the case last night however, for Lima is located at sea level! Well, Jonny has an action packed day planned for us, with trips to the National Museum of Anthropology and a Lima city tour. We should arrive back at the hostel at around 3pm. Talk to you then.

6-5-2014 from Professor Devon Dobrosielski

. . . and so the adventure begins.

Greetings friends! The “Peru 2014: Life at the Top” program is officially off the ground, literally! I am writing this post from the comfortable (??), pressurized (!!!) confines of an American Airlines 737 jet, currently cruising at about 30,000 ft. Joining me on this flight are 14 eager Towson students participating in the study abroad program. Our final destination is Peru, where the students will gain first-hand knowledge of the basis of altitude stress and the challenges, responses and factors of exertion affected by high altitude. We are very excited about what lies ahead. Any expedition requires a great deal of planning. That said, the students have spent the last three days in the Towson Wellness Center, collecting “sea level” data on themselves. Everyone underwent a maximal graded exercise test, comprehensive body composition assessment with a DXA scanner, assessment of resting and hyperemic blood flow and resting metabolic rate. Using these data as well as the “tools” we are bringing with us (more details to follow) they have designed some interesting experiments. I look forward to sharing them with you later. We are about to land in Miami. That’s all for now.

In Miami

With the first leg of our journey complete we set our sights on Lima, where we will spend 4 days before heading up to higher altitude. Jonny, our “asset” on the ground, is set to meet us in the airport. Jonny is from Connecticut, but has spent years in South America and is fluent in Spanish. We have had great conversations with him on the phone and the group looks forward to meeting him in person. It’s time to board our flight to Lima, 5 hours. Next time I post we will be in Lima!

Keep checking back for updates from Professor Devon Dobrosielski and his intrepid students live blogging from Peru!

For more information on the program, click here.

Peru Study Abroad

Photo courtesy of William Saffell