"Dispatches from Europe" Blog Contest

Are you planning on traveleling to the European Union this summer? Submit a post to be featured on our Across the Pond blog and win prizes!

Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blogs

The third Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic class traveled to the Arctic Circle in summer 2014. Check out their blog entries from this summer!

Ringing the Bells at the Banner of Peace

Landscape Architecture Doctoral candidate Caroline Wisler reflects on her travels to Bulgaria.

Zach Grotovsky's Summer 2013: 14 Cities, 15 Weeks, One Long Adventure

University of Illinois graduate student in Germanic Literatures and Languages Zach Grotovsky documents his travels throughout Eastern Europe in the summer of 2013.

Polar Bears

The Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic class spotted polar bears in Norway!

Peaceful Opposition in Izmir

MAEUS student Levi Armlovich describes his experiences with the protests in Izmir, Turkey.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Student Dispatch: A Note from Istanbul

Hristo Alexiev, an MA candidate at the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (REEEC), recounts his experience in Istanbul as a FLAS fellow. Visit the FLAS website for more information about FLAS fellowships. This article original appeared on REEEC's blog.

by Hristo Alexiev
One of the panoramas visible from Boğaziçi University
 Coming to Istanbul is always a special experience, even if it is not the first time you’ve set foot in this former capital of three empires. The city is now estimated to have a population of over 15 million people.  It has a thriving economy, as well as a vibrant cultural life with many faces, both Asian and European, each one having multiple districts hosting very different cultures and life styles: from the ultra-modern Istinye neighborhood to the traditionalistic Fatih District.

The two months of intensive language training were obviously not enough to see everything that Istanbul holds, but we did get a glimpse of what this magical city is all about. The program included four to five hours of Turkish language instruction and lab each day, with plenty of homework, as well as regular screenings of Turkish movies each Monday afternoon. There were many things that had the potential to distract students from their studies, among which, the fact that Boğaziçi (Bosphorus) University has one of the most beautiful and picturesque campuses in the world, directly overseeing the Bosphorus. Perhaps the most distracting, and actually painful, thing was the extremely hot weather combined with high levels of humidity, literally making you melt while trying to reach the classroom, follow lectures, learn hundreds of new words, and do grammar exercises. The Monday Turkish film screenings were a nice break from this routine, as the hall where most movies were shown was one of the few places on campus to have a working A.C. I also thought that all the movies had been picked with a lot of taste, and showed different aspects of Turkish culture: some absolutely hilarious, others covering historical events and carrying deep spiritual messages.

In addition, the program included cultural trips to different parts of the city, like the trip to the Fatih District of Istanbul, a place where one gets the feeling that time has stopped, and that in a way, little has changed since the times of the Ottoman Empire. Alongside its numerous cultural monuments, such as old mosques, churches, and religious and secular schools that relate to the various religious and ethnic communities who lived in the Ottoman Empire, one can sense the traditionalist spirit of the people who live in this district. A significant portion of the population in the Fatih district, both men and women, dress in a fashion reminiscent of the Islamic empire that ruled most of the Mediterranean in the times of Süleyman the Magnificent.

Süleyman and Hristo in a restaurant on the Galata Bridge. In the background the New Mosque (completed 1665).
During the first day of classes, one of our professors had remarked that it is very often the case that their assistants end up becoming our best friends. This was definitely the case with Büşra and Seda who assisted the professors for the advanced level class, as well as many of their friends and fellow assistants. It was Seda’s and Büşra’s idea to organize a trip to Eyüp outside of the official program. Eyüp is another municipality of Istanbul with a very distinct character. Ramadan, an event that changes the character of the metropolitan by bringing it closer to its cultural and religious traditions, had started a couple of weeks prior to that. Besides hosting one of Istanbul’s most remarkable monuments, the Eyüp Sultan Mosque, this area traditionally becomes particularly vibrant during the long nights of feasting after the Iftar (the breaking of fast during Ramadan). Crowds of families, friends, and company get together to drink tea, eat, and have fun after the long days of fasting in patience. Quite a few classmates and I had a marvelous time exploring this beautiful area of Istanbul during such a special time. I believe this is the first time I had the chance to understand and fully experience what stands behind the expression Ramadan’ın keyfi (‘the good times of Ramadan’).

The sea is an essential part of the city’s vibrant life. Many people commute between the Asian and European parts of Istanbul. Usually the reason for this is the more affordable housing on the Asian side. While this can be time-consuming, it is also a beautiful experience, especially in the hot summer months. There is no place as refreshing and beautiful as the Bosphorus when the rest of the city is troubled by traffic and burning heat. While traffic is actually a serious concern for the fast-growing metropolis, it is comforting that one can ride one of the “Marine buses” every day, to and from work at the price of a regular bus trip. This is also the case if one decides to embark on visiting one of the Prince’s Islands.

The Eyüp Sultan Mosque on a Ramadan night
The intensive summer course on a FLAS fellowship was a wonderful experience that helped me strengthen and further develop not only my prior knowledge of the language, but also better understand the culture from which this language springs. Two months are not enough to explore fully such a city as Istanbul, but I am certainly looking forward to seeing more of its many faces and understanding it better as I embark on a full year of academic study on a Boren Fellowship.

Hristo Alexiev is a MA candidate at the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center at UIUC, and a FLAS recipient for the 2011-2012 Academic year and Summer 2013. His focus of studies is Balkan languages and history, with a particular emphasis on modern Turkey and the significance of the Ottoman legacy in modern day relations between the nations of the Balkans. Hristo was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. After graduating from the French Lyceum in Varna, he studied Romanian, Modern Greek, Spanish, and Turkish, in addition to a limited knowledge of Serbo-Croatian. He is currently continuing his study abroad in Istanbul under a Boren Fellowship until June 2013. After completing his studies he hopes to pursue a carrier in foreign relations.

Monday, September 10, 2012


by Nathan Yan

Coming into college, I really didn’t expect to learn much. I was going to get my bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering, spend a couple years working in consulting firms, and then apply to business school and enter into the world of finance. College was simply a stepping-stone, a requirement to get to the next step of the overall plan. In retrospect, I realize now how ignorant I was about society. To me it seemed like the mentality of every college student in engineering only chose their major for job security, and why wouldn’t they? In times of economic turmoil, job security is the most logical asset to acquire. As I met people of different occupations around Greece, I slowly started to realize that people are passionate about what they do. My whole life has progressed with the naïve thought that success is measured by the number of zeroes at the end of your paycheck.

I came on this trip to Greece, a nation flourishing with history, in order to learn about renewable energy, a field I only pursued for potential entrepreneurial endeavors. I didn’t really care much for the history or even the scenery for that matter, yet on the second day of staying in Athens, my view changed. As I walked up the stairs of the Acropolis, our impromptu tour guide, George, passionately described the great history behind the Parthenon and its surrounding ruins. For the first time in a long time, I was suddenly immersed by history. I carried this awestruck mentality to every historic site we visited on this trip: Olympia, Delphi, Knossos, and many others.

Interacting with the staff at the Agricultural University in Athens and hearing their lectures and discussions, I could immediately sense their passion behind what they do. These intellectuals purposely chose the engineering lifestyle over more financially promising endeavors in order to improve society.  At the farewell dinner with the faculty, they ranted about how some of the foremost intellectual minds choose selfish lives of finance, taking money from others, versus applying their potential to more beneficial fields of study.

In the simple words of George, he said that no matter what we pursue in life, it’s always important to study two things: history and poetry. These two subjects round out one’s intellect, history for its simple beauty and poetry for its intrinsic romantic character. It’s like when you ask everyone for advice for college. Whether it was writing application essays or choosing which major to go into. The advice was pretty uniform: pursue what you’re passionate about. Like most adolescents, I passed up simple life advice only to come across it again through my own experiences.  Although this might sound too dramatic, this trip has restored my faith in humanity. It has revitalized the notion that one can be passionate about what they do, that life still holds beauty in the power of a community working together.

This article is one in a series of blog entries written by University of Illinois students who were selected to travel to Greece to participate in a four-week Renewable Energy Concepts Study and Cultural Tour, provided by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Tour participants embarked on technical field trips, cultural excursions, and collaborated with students from the Agricultural University of Athens and the University of Thessaly in Volos to solve real-world engineering problems. This program is partially supported by the European Union Center through a US Department of Education Title VI grant.

Friday, September 7, 2012


by Jialing Ye

I appreciate coming on this trip with my fellow students this summer. It is a very fun and meaningful trip. I am learning a lot about renewable energy, and I have fun by visiting all the beautiful places in Greece, too. Before I came to Greece, my parents and I were both worried about this trip, because we heard that the economic situation is very bad in Greece. I thought that this trip might be dangerous. Obviously, I was over-thinking too much. This trip has helped me learn more about different cultures, and also about renewable energy in the EU.

When I first came to Greece, I thought that the environment looked similar to China. I think it’s because they are both developing countries. Different from Chicago, Athens has more of a night life. There are a lot of people sitting outside of the restaurants and bars, chatting and watching football games. This is totally different from the Greece that I imagined. I thought that since Greece is experiencing an economic crisis, people would not go out to spend money at night. After I spent few more weeks in Greece, I knew I was wrong. I can tell that the economy is worse than before, because when we passed by the shops, many items are on sale. Also, I see some unfinished construction buildings. I think every country will survive this kind of economic crisis, even the U.S.  I feel very safe and comfortable in Greece.
The Parthenon

I really enjoy my days in Greece. I can tell that the culture here is different from the culture in U.S or China. People know more about how to enjoy life. Every Sunday, almost all the shops are closed. People will stay at home or go to park. At night, people will go to the bar to drink and chat with their friends, no matter what. In restaurants, waiters serve everything at a slow pace. This is quite different than life in America. I feel like people are so chilled and relaxed here. Greeks are not very rich, but they know how to enjoy their life. I think this is what we can learn from them. In addition, the people in Greece are very nice to foreigners. We stopped by a restaurant to buy water on the way to Volos, and the owner of the restaurant give us a lot of gifts and free tea. We also met a lot of different people, and they all wanted to help us. I am very thankful that I met all kinds of people and got to know more about the Greek culture.
Sunflower on a Greek farm

I noticed that a lot of things are environmentally friendly in Greece. Every supermarket has a basket to recycle batteries. On the buildings’ roofs, I can see a lot of solar heater machines. Wind turbines can be seen frequently on the mountains. Photovoltaic can be seen a lot, too. When I passed by the supermarket, I saw a lot of advertisements for renewable energy. I find that using renewable energy is part of their life style already. Greece offers examples of how to develop renewable energy.

Overall, I think this trip is having a substantial effect on me. I am not only learning about renewable energy, but also about a different culture and lifestyle. I’ve opened my mind and broadened my horizons. This has been an unforgettable trip.

This article is one in a series of blog entries written by University of Illinois students who were selected to travel to Greece to participate in a four-week Renewable Energy Concepts Study and Cultural Tour, provided by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Tour participants embarked on technical field trips, cultural excursions, and collaborated with students from the Agricultural University of Athens and the University of Thessaly in Volos to solve real-world engineering problems. This program is partially supported by the European Union Center through a US Department of Education Title VI grant.

Jialing Ye is a junior studying Civil and Environmental Engineering with a concentration in Environmental Engineering. She resides in Chicago.

Friday, August 31, 2012


by Sarah Freriks

Hello, Everyone! I’m writing to you from a private balcony off the Pagrati apartment I’ve shared with my two roommates for the last month or so in Athens, Greece.  It’s bright and sunny, the sky that otherworldly early morning blue that promises another day of beautiful weather.  My neighbors are just waking, drawn out onto their balconies for sunshine and the orange trees in our private courtyard.

These weeks have centered around lots of travel.  In the past four weeks, we have traveled from Volos, Meteora, Delphi, Olympia, and several islands including Crete and Thira.  While the travelling seemed endless, we have had ample time to explore Athens and its extraordinary history.

One of the advantages to truly living in a foreign country for an extended period of time is that you are forced to live and interact in a way wholly different than if you were merely another tourist in a hotel.  From realizing that there are switches to turn the oven on and off to the first trip to the market, living abroad allows you to live and experience the lifestyle and cultural differences of the native people.

The people of Greece have been exceedingly friendly, even if most of us have not had enough broken Greek or English to converse fluently.  The market, the street, anywhere, is the perfect place to meet new people.  We have our favorite gyros stands and nearby restaurant, Dionysus, where the owners know and recognize us. In fact, they know and recognize most of their customers.  The people of Greece are very social and connected to one another in a way unlike the States. 

They are conscientious of one another (I wasn’t sure we had neighbors for the first two weeks-they are so quiet) and go out of their way to introduce themselves and strike up conversation.  This results in a wide, diverse social group that they take great pleasure spending time with.  While friends and family are important everywhere, in every culture, the Greeks we have met spend their free time and work time together.  It is very rare to see people listening to iPods or texting on their cellphones.  They are more likely to be chatting over souvlaki and gyros in a café or sharing a lively conversation on the street.  This gives the cities a very warm, neighborhood-like atmosphere, and this hospitality is extended to polite and interested tourists.

This atmosphere of family and friends extends to the way they take care of their city and its treasures. One of the first things that we noticed about the Greek cities that we have visited is how clean they are.  While Athens is relatively small compared to many other cities in the United States, it is spotless.  The people work hard to keep it that way, too, because the city is their home.  Unlike many places where people are generally only willing to accept responsibility for their private dwellings, the Greeks as a community take pride and invest in the common welfare of their communities.

Another key difference from the United States is the intergenerational interaction.  Older (aged 30+) Americans generally only lie on the beach and encourage their children to be still or play by themselves, and people unofficially socially restrict and separate people by age group.  Whereas all ages of Greeks swim, dance, and play together.  This has resulted in, I believe, a stronger sense of community and social identity for all. They learn how to interact appropriately with all members of society, and not just with their parents and their age group.  Older members of society also serve as fully-invested mentors and inspiration for younger, less-experienced members of society.

The benefit of this contact shows in the warmth and caring they show for all members of society, even the not-so-stray dogs and cats that populate the streets.  Daily, I see old and young alike supply food and water to the homeless people and animals.  Not only that, but parents teach their children to show generosity and kindness to all by leading by example. 

In my sociology class, we learned that the stereotypical (though very real) angst that American teenagers experience is not universal.  When younger generations have such limited experience and so little investment in older members of society, how can you become a fully functional, involved member of society if no one shows you how?  It is more than sending children to school-it is the daily emotional, physical, and social engagements that bind people together and share cultural knowledge. I believe that the community culture that Greeks have created for their people has leant itself uniquely to the development of good members of society.  Their belief in the value of both individual and community responsibility allowed them to make history and serve as global inspiration for thousands of years as the cradle of democracy.

This trip has given me unique insight into the history and culture of my own country and the ideals it was founded on.  In so many ways, your history is your identity and, to an extent, Greece and her democracy is my history and inspiration too.

This article is one in a series of blog entries written by University of Illinois students who were selected to travel to Greece to participate in a four-week Renewable Energy Concepts Study and Cultural Tour, provided by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Tour participants embarked on technical field trips, cultural excursions, and collaborated with students from the Agricultural University of Athens and the University of Thessaly in Volos to solve real-world engineering problems. This program is partially supported by the European Union Center through a US Department of Education Title VI grant.

Sarah Freriks is a junior studying Agricultural and Biological Engineering with a concentration in Renewable Energy and continued study in foreign languages. She resides in the rural countryside past the far-west suburbs of Chicago.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


by Kevin Banas
When preparing for my study abroad experience here in Greece there were a couple factors that people around me, and the media were making a big deal about. Everyone was saying that the Greek economy is on the verge of catastrophe. They said that the country was heading for a “great depression”, and that riots are occurring all over the place, making it a dangerous and unstable environment to be in. Not to mention, Greeks dislike Americans, and I will be treated badly. However, after spending over a month in Athens, with several side trips to different areas in Northern Greece, including the Peloponnese, and multiple different islands, I can say with confidence that what I have experienced here has led me to believe that these perceptions of Greece have been blown way out of proportion.
First off, regarding the economic situation here in Greece, if there is a “great depression” heading this way, I for sure have not noticed anything to make me believe this. Of course, I have walked through areas with abandoned shops, graffiti covered walls, and less well off areas; however, Greece is, to my knowledge, a second world country. They have had these areas long before the economic crisis began. With that being said, everyday I leave my apartment and walk down the streets, the cafés are always full of people drinking their coffees, smiling and conversing. Furthermore, personally I have noticed many more homeless people living in Chicago than here in Athens. Every time I have gone out to eat dinner the restaurants are always packed with people, tourists and locals. Not to mention the fact that you can still find people going out to the clubs on a Tuesday night, and staying out until 4-5am in the morning. Now if this country was on the brink of disaster, do you really think the environment would be this way? I have made relationships with over 10 different Greek people from across the country, and have not heard them discussing any personal problems with finances, or anything of that nature. So, in my personal opinion, there is an economic problem here in Athens; however, it does not seem any more serious than what I have noticed in America.
Another thing I saw in the news before coming to Greece was descriptions of the riots. Angry protesters throwing flaming cocktails, tear gas, and arrests dominated the news about Greece. However, I have been here for over 4 weeks and not only are the people all in a good mood, there have been no signs of any protesting anywhere. A couple of processions have passed areas around my apartment, though all of them have been religious-related.
Lastly, to answer any questions about Greek-American relations, or ill treatment from any of the locals: if there is any of this going on, I have not experienced it. All of the personal interactions that I have had with people here have been very positive. One thing that I have noticed about the Greeks is a genuine care for others’ happiness and well-being. Whenever we received a lecture from a Greek graduate student or professor, they would always track the students’ expressions. If we are yawning, or seem disinterested, then they would move onto a different area that we seemed more interested in. In general they seemed a lot more interested in teaching us what we wanted to learn, rather than what they wanted to teach. Also, while on our coach bus tour of the ancient sites of Greece, our tour guide would always make sure that everyone was in a good mood. If people seemed tired, she would take a break and give us a couple hours to sleep.

One of the great friends I made while abroad
On an ending note regarding my time here, I have come to one basic conclusion about the Greeks, which is that they are probably the most passionate people I have ever come into contact with. One of the Greeks that I had the pleasure of spending time with here stated it perfectly. He said, “the Greeks are a very passionate people, if they like you, they love you….if they dislike you, they hate you.” Walking down the street in Athens, waiting for the metro, or just sitting at a café, you will always see Greek couples hugging and kissing each other no more than one foot from other people. However, this is normal for people here. All of the Greeks that I have befriended here talk about meeting up again if they are in the US, or getting a drink before I leave. They truly like us, the students, and have our best interests in mind.

All in all, I have thoroughly enjoyed my month here in Greece. I loved every ancient site that I’ve visited, every restaurant that I’ve eaten in, and every person that I’ve had a conversation with. Now that I’m leaving, of course it’s a sad moment, and I’m going to miss it, though I am ready to come back to the US. However, more importantly, it is not that sad of a day because I know that I will come back here sometime soon. It is too rich of a country, culturally and historically, to not return to.

This article is one in a series of blog entries written by University of Illinois students who were selected to travel to Greece to participate in a four-week Renewable Energy Concepts Study and Cultural Tour, provided by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Tour participants embarked on technical field trips, cultural excursions, and collaborated with students from the Agricultural University of Athens and the University of Thessaly in Volos to solve real-world engineering problems. This program is partially supported by the European Union Center through a US Department of Education Title VI grant.

Kevin Banas is a senior studying Environmental Economics and Policy. He resides in the Northwest Suburbs near Chicago.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Local Food and Hospitality in Athens and Volos

by Carina Hilber
Sweden, New Zealand, France, and the UK are all places that were visited this summer by University of Illinois students, including some of my closest friends.  I remember talking with others about summer travel plans and seeing their reactions of surprise and awe.  I also remember the many puzzled looks I received when I said that I would be going to Athens, Greece. I learned that I was going to Greece at the same time the media reported riots, political unrest, and an economical crisis in Greece.  Parents, professors, and friends were worried about the trouble I might run into in the capital, as well as possible anti-American sentiments.  The embassy did not give any recommendations against my travels, and so on the 21st of June I set off on the trip of a lifetime.

Upon arrival to Athens I was in shock; coming from a small town I had never experienced a city such as Athens that was so full of life.  Our study abroad professor had visited a few times prior, and whenever we went to a restaurant or to a shop that he had been to before, many people recognized him and greeted him as an old friend.  It was amazing to see the camaraderie that developed from a short visit, maybe once or twice a year.  Eventually our study abroad group ventured out without our professor, which was somewhat difficult given our extremely limited Greek vocabulary.  However, each time we managed to get through with the help of hand signals, some laughs, and lots of smiling.  Sometimes we would even receive a Greek lesson from those we played charades with.  Once, when my roommate and I went to look for bathing suits, we met a store owner who dreamed of coming to America.  She seemed enchanted by the cities and asked us what life in America was like.  Upon leaving, everyone was in smiles, and we wished that she would be able to fulfill her dream someday.

During our study abroad we took a trip to Volos, which was a four-hour drive and included multiple water, food, and bathroom breaks.  During a stop for food, the owner of the restaurant came over to talk to us while we waited for our group. We conversed about where we were from and what we were doing in Greece.  Then, he decided to show us around his restaurant and teach us about the traditional foods and herbs of his region.  He sent us away with food, herbs, and an invitation to return for a special lunch on our way back.  These wonderful experiences made me think that, contradictory to the media’s reports, people are still living life to the fullest, despite current hardships.  Especially in Greece, where the people were excited as ever to share their life stories, wishes, and experiences, in order to befriend a study abroad group from the US.

This article is one in a series of blog entries written by University of Illinois students who were selected to travel to Greece to participate in a four-week Renewable Energy Concepts Study and Cultural Tour, provided by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Tour participants embarked on technical field trips, cultural excursions, and collaborated with students from the Agricultural University of Athens and the University of Thessaly in Volos to solve real-world engineering problems. This program is partially supported by the European Union Center through a US Department of Education Title VI grant.

Carina Hilber is majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology with a minor in Chemistry, and resides in Rantoul, Illinois.


Kalimera from Greece!

by Antonia Nepomuceno


Good morning from Greece! It’s amazing how quickly one can adjust to a new environment, and respond with a “ghia sas”(pronounced ya sas) or “kalimera” instinctively. At the same time, it is not until you put yourself in a new place that you realize some things will never seem normal. Like toilet paper not going in the toilet. Whether or not I have adjusted to some things, staying in Greece for four and a half weeks has been an exciting and worthwhile experience.
Being in the capital, one learns some telltale signs as to whether someone is a native or not. Greeks can wear pants, blouse, and jacket in 95-degree heat without sweating. Everyone has stylish, or faux-stylish, sunglasses. Mentioning your hometown evokes name after name of some distant relative who lives there. Say “Chicago” and the first response is “Chicago Bulls”. Eating dinner before 8pm spotlights you as not Greek. Despite my group’s lack of Greek-ness, we never had a negative encounter. In fact, people tended to be genuinely excited to be talking to someone new, different, and not related to them by some distant cousin. And they will gladly tell you which names and word roots come from what Greek word. If you have a Greek name, then you are already halfway into their family. But the people make only half the experience, when you consider that the birth of Western civilization occurred here.

Seeing things first-hand is like rediscovering everything I ever learned in school. Put those little pictures in the textbook in the middle of a living city and you have the Acropolis standing in the middle of Athens. Taking the tram, we would see the Parthenon at least once a day and barely have a second thought. Well, that is the look I’d go for, pretending to be local. Really, I’d be exploding with the craziness of the situation. Am I really staring at the Parthenon from thousands of years ago while taking the bus to get to a lecture on renewable energy?! That’s like living next to the Grand Canyon, but not even blinking an eye. Greeks live with their past sitting in clear view. In Chicago, it’s out with the old and in with the new. There, we say let’s make the skyline. In Greece, you look at the same skyline that’s been there for a long time.

While being fully immersed in Greek culture, it’s always fun to run into someone from the same place as you and compare notes on what you’ve seen and experienced. We had the pleasure of meeting a couple people from Australia, and hearing what they had to say about Greece versus home was really cool. They had the same perspective as us, the tourist, yet compared it to a totally different standard of “home”. At home, we have air-conditioning. Here, a little siesta to hide from the heat is economical and means you can stay up later and do as the Greeks do.

Although some things I have yet to adjust to, such as their “driving laws” (more like guidelines if you ask me), I have become attached to this place and its culture.

This article is one in a series of blog entries written by University of Illinois students who were selected to travel to Greece to participate in a four-week Renewable Energy Concepts Study and Cultural Tour, provided by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Tour participants embarked on technical field trips, cultural excursions, and collaborated with students from the Agricultural University of Athens and the University of Thessaly in Volos to solve real-world engineering problems. This program is partially supported by the European Union Center through a US Department of Education Title VI grant.

Antonia Nepomuceno is studying Bioengineering with a minor in Spanish. She is from the Northwest suburbs of Chicago.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Merhaba From Turkey!

by Natalie Cartwright
Images of touring infamous European landmarks like the Colosseum in Rome, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Alhambra in Granada are usually what people conjure up in their minds when they think of study abroad, but so far, my current experience abroad has been far from such picturesque destinations. Maybe the reason that my experience is playing out differently than the typical experience is because I am actually in Asia and not Europe, but I think a few other things make my experience abroad a stand out one.

Ankara is the city I currently call home and when I explain where I live the words, “with my Turkish family” are always one of the first things I say. Yes, I can gratefully say that a loving and extremely hospitable Turkish family has taken me in for the summer. But, I shouldn’t have had worries because in general Turks are extremely friendly. This means a host mother who doubles as a superb chef, who always makes sure that I have had plenty to eat, and makes me feel special because she greets me and sends me off with the kind word of "canım" ("my life"). But, another quirky dimension exists because they also took in an exchange student from Japan. We may be a house of three different native tongues and cultures, but we are able to live peacefully together with many inside jokes forming on a daily basis.

My mornings are spent taking Turkish language courses at Tömer, an 8-story language school with students from across the globe. Scratch that, the eastern half of the globe. As of yet, I remain the only westerner (American/West European) in my courses and possibly the whole school. The situation really gives meaning to the saying of one common language.

This past month I have adjusted quite nicely to city living and Turkish life. Taking the metro daily was a new experience for me, but one that I feel I have finally mastered. A feeling of great success overcomes you when you no longer are lost in the crowds of commuters. Similar to the feeling of success I had when I found out I passed my June Turkish level exams, or when I blend in enough to be approached for directions – sometimes I am of help, most of the time not so much, since I myself only know certain parts of the city.

My consumption of çay has increased exponentially since my arrival, along with my ability to predict when the next Call to Prayer will sound. I have mastered a keyboard in two languages as well as can now teach someone else the game of Tavla (backgammon). A few hours in the afternoon spent at a café with friends playing the boardgame is not only common but also relaxing. I am no longer fazed when I see three egg shops or pharmacies in a row, but I am still shocked by the cheap cost of bread and the amount of bread that is consumed in this country. Don’t let this lead you to believe that I am not guilty of eating copious amounts though. I’m pretty sure I have a hidden Turkish gene for the ability to consume extraordinary amounts of bread.  Something that is not so cheap – gasoline! At $12 a gallon, you better believe I am happy to be an on-foot and metro commuter.

While most of my time has been spent in Ankara, I did travel to Southeastern Turkey for a weekend, with more travels to see this vast country planned in my coming weeks. Just how American cities have their differences, Turkish cities do too, with each city and region offering their own specialties and customs. While in the Southeast my fellow travelers and I made sure to partake in local cuisine, including a traditional and extravagant Turkish breakfast, and Kurdish culture, by visiting historical buildings including a still active Kurdish coffee house. We also saw the rest of the sites that were suggested by our travel guide: Lonely Planet.

I go into every day not knowing what to expect, but know that at the end of the day I will be grateful that I have been given the opportunity to study Turkish abroad because stuff just has a tendency to click more when you are truly living it. So for the time being, I will continue to blend my American identity into my newfound Turkish life and make the best of it. Stay tuned for more updates from Turkey – this is just the first of 7 months abroad for me!

Natalie Cartwright is a second-year MA student in European Union Studies. She received her Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2011. Her interests include migration flows, environmental sustainability, Italian and Turkish. Natalie has spent the summer studying Turkish language at Ankara University TÖMER and will spend the fall 2012 semester studying at Bogazici University in Istanbul, in both cases with support from EU Center Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Magnificent Sights and Friendly Faces in Greece

by Liyu Lei
The study abroad group in front of the Parthenon
I am Liyu Lei, and I am studying renewable energy concepts in Greece. This has been an awesome program that has given me the opportunity to learn about renewable energy including solar, wind turbine, hydro-power, biomass, and geothermal energy, as well as travel to Greece!

The Greek financial crisis was dominating the news in the couple of months prior to my trip. My family and I worried about safety during my study abroad trip. When we first arrived at Athens, we had to find our way to the University and to some historical sites. Surprisingly, I was never rejected by anyone when I asked for directions. I still remember clearly the experience we had on our way to the Acropolis. Professor Zahos’ friend, George, volunteered his time as our tour guide. We were supposed to meet at the entrance of the Acropolis at eight-thirty. However, we were still struggling with the directions at eight o’clock. While we were looking at the map and trying to identify the streets, we heard a voice belonging to an old man: “Do you need help?”. He not only helped us find the correct route on the map, but he also walked about 15 minutes with us to our destination. Although we were still a bit late, we were so lucky to meet him. After this experience, I felt safe! Even today, I can’t remember how many times I have received assistance: people helped me pick up my wallet when it dropped to the ground, people reminded me to zip up my purse, and people gave me a hand when I got lost. Although I may not remember their faces, I will remember their smiles, so pure and sincere.

Despite the financial crisis that has afflicted Greece’s economy since 2010, Greeks love living their life. Compared to the United States, their living style is quite relaxed. They regularly go to work from nine in the morning to nine at night. During the summer, some stores are required by law to close from two-thirty to five-thirty due to hot weather. They call this period “quiet hour”, during which no noise is allowed inside resident buildings.  Many stores are closed on Sundays for church and family activities.

Greeks are famous for their liveliness. Although Greek women follow the tradition of cooking for their household nearly every day, they also like to spend time eating, drinking, and dancing at night with their friends. Whenever you walk down the street at night, you see many Greek adults chatting at the bar or restaurant, sharing their daytime experiences with one another.

Hydra Island
Today, Greece still maintains their tradition of folk dancing, which attracts audiences from all over the world. Dance often plays an important role in the life of a Greek. Through it, they express their feelings about everyday life. They dance during religious festivals and ceremonies, and one can find folk dance performances in Athens easily. I saw a wedding party in Delphi, where the bride and groom danced traditional Greek dances that were combined with modern dance as entertainment for the audience. It seems to me that Greeks have adapted modern dances in order to add diversity to their traditional dances.   

Odeum of Herodes Atticus
Greece is famous for its historical sites and very blue seas. The Acropolis is the one historical site that we cannot wait to visit. Thanks to George, we learned about the mythology and history of the temples, such as the Parthenon, Athena Polias, Propylaea, and Erechtheum. In order to better understand Greek culture and history, we took a four-day classic tour. We went to Epidaurus, Mycenae, Olympia, Delphi, and Meteora. Although they are ruins today, I could see their past glory from the magnificent architecture. There are numerous beautiful islands in Greece. The sea water is bluer and calmer than you can imagine. You should not miss it!

This article is one in a series of blog entries written by University of Illinois students who were selected to travel to Greece to participate in a four-week Renewable Energy Concepts Study and Cultural Tour, provided by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Tour participants embarked on technical field trips, cultural excursions, and collaborated with students from the Agricultural University of Athens and the University of Thessaly in Volos to solve real-world engineering problems. This program is partially supported by the European Union Center through a US Department of Education Title VI grant.

Liyu Lei is a junior studying Food Science and Human Nutrition. She chose her concentration in Human Nutrition because she is interested in understanding the relationship between food consumption and human development and health. She currently lives in Chicago.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mine 2B, Airships, and Twenty Years of Tourism

By Alexandra Wright and Jane Rivas
Today we started bright and early.  It was our intention to scale the cliff face directly behind our guesthouses with the goal of exploring the remains of Mine 2B.  Of all the mines present in the mountains of Longyearbyen, Mine 2B is the most complete.  It was created in 1937 after its adjoining mine, 2A, became too long, so an alternative, and more practical, entrance was created: 2B.  The mine used the long wall technique, where long tunnels were used in the mine with side aisles.  The coal was extracted via coal cutters and floor scrapers that helped to move the rocks to the entrance of the mine where they could be processed.  In 1943, with the continuation of the World War II, German warships visited Longyearbyen and set fire to its mines.  It was not until 1947 that work was restarted in the 2B system.  It continued to be in use until 1960 when the coal seam ended and Store Norske started work on Mine 5.
Like many of our other hikes, the one up to 2B proved to be a rewarding challenge! Being able to maneuver around within the old mine, its adjoining buildings, and the surrounding landscape provided us with a valuable new perspective on the mining industry present in Spitsbergen.  The steep terrain, cold climate, and relative isolation faced on the side of the mountain represented only a fraction of the difficulties faced by those that chose to make their home here.  Having seen this mine, it also gives a greater historical significance and understanding to the role that coal mining companies, like Store Norske, have and continue to play within these Arctic environments.
After safely making it back down the mountain, we continued to examine the built environment within Longyearbyen city while grabbing lunch at the local café, Fruene.  Our next stop was the newly opened Spitsbergen Airship Museum.  A private owner, with the sole purpose of bringing these artifacts back to their rightful home, compiled the entire collection and covered the ceiling and walls with aluminum to give the exhibition a modern Arctic feel. The museum deals with three of the dramatic aerial expeditions to reach the North Pole that originated in Svalbard. Our day concluded with a relaxed interview of Andreas Umbreit, a local tourist company owner.  It was nice to discuss over hot chocolate the changing character of Arctic Tourism as a means of better understanding the evolution that has occurred in this location. 

Alexandra Wright is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is currently studying Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences with a concentration in Human Dimensions. She is from Chicago, IL

Jane Rivas is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  She is currently studying in the pre-medical field and pursuing a duel degree in Chemistry and the History of Art.  Jane is studying in Stockholm, Sweden with the Arctic Summer Program.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Svalbard Museum

by Georgy Petukhov and Noel Piatek

Today the group was pretty exhausted from the extensive reindeer hike the day before. We started a little later so that everyone could catch up on some sleep. During the day we split off into our project groups and were able to walk around town to observe the built environment and to get some interviews from local townspeople and tourists coming in on a cruise ship. We were able to find a plethora of helpful information to write about in our final paper about the changing Arctic. During that free time in the afternoon many people sent postcards back home to friends or relatives. Later we recombined as a large group and headed over to the Svalbard Museum, which is connected to the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS). 

UNIS is a research university focusing on arctic biology, arctic geology, arctic geophysics, and arctic technology. UNIS does not give out degrees but is seen as a supplement to Masters and PhD work. The museum was not big but it tried to cover most of the topics related to Svalbard and Longyearbyen in particular. In the center there was a stuffed polar bear along with other animals displayed. The museum walls were replete with descriptions of various topics such as animal life, Pomors, whaling, mining and geology. Pomors were the Russian whalers that were said to arrive in the 15th century by the Russians. In the Svalbard museum, however, they were said to arrive in the 17th century. This is interesting to note because both Russia and Norway are trying to establish their historical presence which is why these dates may not coincide. They were very interesting but we didn’t have time to read everything so some had to take pictures of these posters in order to read them later. The museum also contained a variety of books in reference to the Arctic, and lo and behold on the shelves was a text written by our very own Dag Avango, Sveagruvan (Svea Mine), which is pictured. There, at the museum souvenir shop, Georgy Petukhov carelessly forgot his precious yellow notebook with all his notes. He had to run back from the local supermarket to the museum that was to be closed in a minute. Fortunately for him our professor Dag Avango noticed the abandoned notebook on a book shelf and picked it up. 

After a short group discussion on an arctic meadow near the museum doors most of the students headed back to the guesthouses. Georgy on the other hand decided to go to the only city church, named Svalbard Church, which turned out to be a very cozy place. He could not resist the temptation to stay there for several hours to read a newspaper before going back to the guesthouses himself. Such were the events of July 15, 2012. 

Georgy Petukhov is a sophomore studying Computer Science Engineering and minoring in Chinese. He is from Moscow, Russia. 

Noel Piatek is a senior studying Integrative Biology with a concentration on Conservation and Ecology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She is from Homer Glen, Illinois.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


The Illinois International Photo Contest invites students to submit a photo and accompanying essay of their studies abroad. Recent MAEUS graduate Lauren Turk was awarded 2nd place in the Personal Connection category for her essay and photo of the Louvre in Paris.  Lauren's essay originally appeared in the Study Abroad July newsletter.

by Lauren Turk
Paris is an overwhelmingly enchanting city; the buildings adorning the streets exude beauty and brilliance, while the contents within these buildings hold endless art, history, and intrigue. On Wednesday evenings the Louvre is open late. One of my favorite pastimes was to go to the Louvre, alone, on those Wednesday evenings, to explore and contemplate the endless artifacts of history. I began feeling a personal connection with the museum and with my favorite artists. As I learned more about them through their artwork and masterfully conveyed messages, I also learned about myself. Many might never believe it to be possible to find yourself alone in front of the Mona Lisa, or the majestically grand rooms throughout the Louvre—but it is. Roaming the Louvre solitarily is fantastic; for I wasn’t alone at all! Millions of emotions, expressions and pieces of history were staring at me in the eye. The city of Paris taught me more about art, love and emotion than I had ever imagined. This particular Wednesday evening was my last in Paris; as I looked out upon the city from within one of the most historic buildings in the world, I knew that my love for the city would never fade, for that which we love we never truly leave—it becomes a part of us.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Embracing Arctic Nature: Glacier Valleys

by Robert Nystrom and Miriam Zarate

Our sixth day at 78 degrees north provided another exciting adventure for us all. The day started off with a hike from our guesthouse in Longyearbyen to Endalen and Advent Valley with the intentions of studying reindeer and also learning more about the environment as a whole. Ironically the only reindeer we saw on our hike was on our way out of the city of Longyearbyen. This fact however did not make the hike any less valuable or breathtaking. On the way out of the city we experienced another frightening encounter with arctic terns. These birds are extremely aggressive and will peck at your head in order to protect their territory, leaving "a pecking you won’t soon forget” according to our Swedish instructor. Luckily for our group we were able to scamper through their territory with only a few close calls. After escaping the arctic terns we passed by the lodging facility for the sled dogs in Longyearbyen, then right on the edge of the safe zone we stopped to take pictures with the famous polar bear sign.

Once out of town the real hike began. We walked alongside the mountains and looked at some of the cultural heritage remains from old mining infrastructure. There was a long series of Aerial coal transportation towers along the majority of the hike. While cultural heritage sites on Svalbard are technically anything constructed before 1946 a special exception was made in order to preserve the mining infrastructure.  We also discussed how to tell the difference between a valley created by a river and a glacier. A glacier valley will have a U-shape while a river valley will have a V-shape. When we finally reached Endalen Valley we hiked up the mountain a bit until we had a good vantage point over the valley and stopped for lunch. During our lunch we were annoyed by mosquitos, which we did not expect to find.

After lunch we listened to Professor Bruce Fouke lecture on the Arctic in the changing climate. He pointed out many interesting statistics and facts. He pointed out that from 66 degrees and north it is expected to warm at twice the rate of the global average. Professor Fouke also made it clear that the real cause of rising sea levels is not the melting of sea ice but the melting of glaciers. He informed us that it is estimated that the sea level when arctic glaciers melt by 2100 will by 60 cm higher. Professor Fouke then discussed that the Arctic has a higher albedo as the snow and ice melts and as a result will warm more rapidly in the future. He wrapped up his lecture explaining one last effect of melting permafrost. When permafrost melts it releases methane. Methane is the second most effective greenhouse gas, following water vapor, with the third most effective being carbon dioxide.

After the lecture by Professor Fouke we hiked a bit more over to Advent Valley with hopes of spotting some Svalbard reindeer but were unlucky. Since this would be the last day that Professor Fouke would join us, we decided to celebrate his last day with dinner at Kroa, where some of the students opted to try whale meat. The dinner was both a farewell to one of beloved professors and a great way to relax after our adventurous hike through Endalen and Advent Valley.

Robert Nystrom is a sophomore studying Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois. He is from Villa Park, IL. 

Miriam Zarate is a junior studying Earth, Society, and Environment with a concentration in Science of the Earth System. She is from Bartlett, IL.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Below the Surface

by Sarah Rivard and Nick Musso

Friday the 13th turned out to be a great day despite superstition. As usual we woke up bright and early, had breakfast and set out for another day of interviews and exploration, this time about what lies beneath the surface of Svalbard. First, we met with Morten Often, the Vice President of Exploration for the Store Norske Spitsbergen Coal Company. Mr. Often presented a PowerPoint that offered information such as Store Norske’s history on Svalbard, its current practices in two of its active mines and future plans for Norwegian coal and also gold mining on the archipelago. The presentation was then followed by coffee and many questions that we were eager to ask. Having the opportunity to talk to a representative from the Spitsbergen Coal Company was very valuable for us and our research. It has given us a better understanding of Norwegian intentions regarding the outcome of Svalbard’s future.

Later that same day, we were lucky enough to take another boat ride to Janus Mountain. This particular mountain in Svalbard is famous for its large amount of fossils, from the smaller, shelled marine organisms to the large marine animals such as the plesiosaur and ichthyosaur. As we hiked up the mountain, we learned about the different marine environments that formed the terrain we walked over, depending on the depth of the water at that time. Once we got to the site, we used the shovels and rock hammers available for tourists and set to work hunting for the perfect fossil, from bivalves and clam-like fossils to cone-shaped squids to the coveted spiral ammonites. Some even had dreams of unearthing a new plesiosaur! We had a lot of fun digging for our own fossils, and it was a great feeling to crack open a rock and be the first person ever to see what was inside. We all left Janus Mountain with bags and pockets filled with our souvenirs. We did, however, have to dodge attacks by an Arctic Tern, one of the most aggressive birds of the tern family, as we trekked back to the beach. Fortunately we were taught how to handle these attacks by raising our walking sticks into the air, causing the tern to attack it instead of us, and everyone came to each other’s aid.

On the ride back to Longyearbyen, we stopped just outside of the harbor to hear another story from our guide. After he had finished, a few of us looked over the edge of the boat and happened to see some jellyfish! Our guide spent several minutes explaining the different types we saw, and even borrowed a water bottle to catch some for us so we could get a better look. It was strange to see them this far north, especially since a lot of us had never seen any wild jellyfish before! All in all, Friday the 13th turned out to be a very lucky day for all of us.

Sarah Rivard is a senior studying Integrative Biology with a minor in Atmospheric Sciences. She is from Kankakee, IL.

Nick Musso is a junior studying Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences with a concentration in Human Dimensions. He is from Oak Lawn, IL.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Goodbye Barentsburg!

By Rebecca Herrmann and Aaron Letterly

 Our second and final morning in Barentsburg found our group enjoying a traditional Russian breakfast of eggs, sausage, fruit, and drinkable yogurt! After filling ourselves to the brim, we went on a visit to the Pomor Museum.  There were exhibits on Geology, Nature, History, and Art.  There was little information in the exhibits so we had a tour guide, Vadim F. Starkov.  Starkov knew very little English, so we had a member of our group, Georgy, translate for us.  The museum centered on Pomor history.  The Pomors were Russian and hunted walruses and whales.  They claim to have come to Svalbard in the 15th Century, while Norway says that the Pomors did not come until the end of the 18th Century.  

Calendar used by Pomors
After the museum, we visited the research station to talk to Alexander Tebenkov, the Chief Geologist.  In the room where we sat, there was a map of Svalbard with signatures on it.  If you work at the research station for more than two Arctic seasons, you get to sign the map.  As a geologist for Arktikugol (the Russian coal company), Tebenkov’s job is to look for coal and study the continental shelf.  Tebenkov spoke of the frustrations he has when he has to get permission from the Governor of Svalbard to do research.  But he is also glad that the Governor is from Norway, because the environmental protection laws keep the land nice.

When the visits were complete, we got a few more hours to explore the unique and imposing built environment of Svalbard’s largest Russian settlement. The delta where the town’s power plant empties into the Greenland Sea is a peculiar blend of natural environment and human interference; the glaciers shine pristinely in the distance, but a dilapidated steel ship and oily outflow from the coal plant tarnishes the view from almost every perspective.

We returned to Longyearbyen via Zodiak fjord boat, and the calm seas allowed our adventurous pilots to partake in the arctic version of water sports. The two groups alternated soaking each other with sea spray by motoring through our wakes. A lone bearded seal on the docks of Longyearbyen greeted us upon our return, and we nearly forgot about our soaked life suits as we eagerly photographed one of the more entertaining examples of Arctic wildlife. 

Rebecca Herrmann is a Junior studying Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois, with a focus in Environmental Engineering and Sustainability.  She is from Batavia, IL.

Aaron Letterly is a Senior studying Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois, with a concentration in Climatology/Atmospheric Chemistry.  He is from Latham, IL.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Barentsburg, Svalbard

by Dariusz Hareza and Lauren Ceckowski

Our third day in Svalbard began our adventure to Barentsburg, a Russian mining town.  To get there, we were split into two groups to journey across the arctic waters by zodiak! Our adventurous tour guides at Spitsbergen Travel suited us up in survival suits and lifejackets for the ride of a lifetime. On our way out of the dock we got our first glimpse of a seal basking in the sun beside the boats. Our two hour boat ride was exciting, but also full of learning experiences. We stopped along the coast of Spitsbergen to listen to a lecture on the history of Grumant City. It was a Russian mining settlement established in 1912, and abandoned in 1965, leaving behind an eerie ghost town of the Soviet Era.  Also along the way, we paused along a massive outcropping to observe hundreds of Arctic Puffins who had built nests precariously perched on the cliffside.  Then we were off again with the wind and the spray of the salty Arctic Ocean in our faces!

Wind burned and wet, but nonetheless exhilarated, we docked in the small port of Barentsburg, Svalbard. Barentsburg was established in 1932 by Arktikugol, a coal company, which still controls the settlement to this day. As we walked up the steps from the dock we first felt as if we were transported back in time to Soviet Russia, a much different feeling than arriving in Longyearbyen.  The center of town held a statue of Lenin as well as vacant buildings of a time past.  A single road cut through town connecting the school, hospital and sole hotel and restaurant.  As we looked past our initial impressions we realized that Barentsburg was not only a town of the past, but looking towards their future. Buildings were under construction, the hotel was remodeled and new murals were beautifully painted.  Barentsburg seemed to see a future outside of just a coal mining settlement.

After making our observations of Barentsburg, we got together as a group and prepared for another hike. This time we were planning to explore the shores for possible tidal pools so that we could get a better understanding of the abiotic and biotic factors involved in such a unique ecosystem where organisms had to be able to survive in both a marine and terrestrial environment. As we walked out of Barentsburg we arrived at our first sign that warned us that we were leaving the Safe Zone and that is when the threat of meeting a polar bear became chillingly real to us. As true tourists, we stopped to take a number of photographs with the sign. As we neared the end of our hike, Dr. Avango pointed out the Russian helipad off in the distance. He told us that it was built in response to the airport that had been built in Longyearbyen. Yet, though the Russians say that its purpose is solely for helicopters, we were driven to think that they may have had other intentions for its use since the runway was much longer than a helicopter needed to land. We will leave the political intrigue for another time.

After a thorough talk about the effects of erosion, we turned back since it was about time for dinner. When we arrived to eat, we saw our tables at the Barentsburg Hotel covered with a great assortment of Russian cuisine. The tables were covered in foods we had never seen before and after such an excellent feast we all broke into songs from our various backgrounds and had a most jolly evening. We could hardly wait for what Barentsburg still had to offer us the next day.

Dariusz Hareza is a junior studying Molecular and Cellular Biology with Honors Concentration, minoring in Chemistry, and is Pre-Med. He is from Oak Lawn, IL.

Lauren Ceckowski is a senior studying Earth, Society, and Environment with a concentration on Society and the Environment.  She is from Gurnee, IL.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Talk Radio with Bryan, Tom, James & Todd

Todd Gleason, Farm Broadcaster, University of Illinois

The European Union Center on the University of Illinois campus has taken a group of high school teachers to Brussels, Belgium. In this 20 minute conversation, Director of the European Union Center Bryan Endres joins WILL Radio host Todd Gleason and trip participants Tom Bruno and James Garcia to discuss the Summer Study Tour.

Listen to their conversation here.


The Glacial Trek That Induced Muscle Memory

by Sarah Buckman, Pratik Patel, and Alex Li

We finally arrived to the most crucial and exciting part of the Arctic Summer program, which is Svalbard. We visited Spitsbergen, a big island that is part of the beautiful archipelago known as Svalbard. We made camp in Longyearbyen, where glaciers covered the mountainsides all around the valley. The sun seemed never to set, but rather it circled the valley throughout the day like a merry-go-round. Due to the warm ocean currents near Spitsbergen, Svalbard is also called the tropical island of the Arctic. After arriving to the most northern city in the world, we feasted on a big breakfast and headed out for our first hike near Longyearbyen. Hiking through the beautiful terrain was not only difficult but also satisfying. It was our way of challenging the hostile Arctic environment and experiencing a small part of the obstacles other explorers have in history.
Today we conquered Longyearbyen. We started to cross the creeks. Although the water seemed very shallow, it was very hard to achieve balance because of the rocks. We spent 45 minutes and finally found a plateau to have a rest. At the same time, Bruce started his lecture about rocks and landscapes. After 10 minutes rest, we put on our jackets and backpack and moved forward. We climbed up a slope covered with snow and ice to get to the top of the mountain. We had to be really careful because this was extremely slippery. Although we were hiking in weather around 5 degrees Celsius, people were sweating and took off their jacket. Everyone was out of breath. Finally, we made our steps to the top of the mountain that was embraced by the glaciers and fjords. It was the most beautiful view we had ever seen so far. Now, we were allowed to have a longer rest. We took out the sandwiches and started to eat. After that, we cleaned up the place and prepare to head to the other side of the glacier.

As we began to walk, Dag, our leader of the glacial hike, informed us of the crevasse that he saw ahead of us. For those who do not know what a glacial crevasse is, it is an alarming melting hole that can be found in parts of the main glacier that has begun to receive most of the melting water that feeds all the way to the bottom of the glacier. Very tentatively, we kept in our single-file line while passing the crevasse to our right. Yet, there was something very suspicious to the left of our pathway that consisted of a dirty bodily imprint of large proportion with a piece of reindeer meat. It could be suspected that this place around the glacier was once an area for a polar bear. As we continued to walk, we learned about rock formations that make a conical structure out of the terrain and occur due to the rotation of rocks and distinct melting patterns of underground glacial areas, our geologist Bruce informed us that they are called “pingos”. After taking many pictures, hearing lectures, and enduring the trek across both snow and muddy permafrost, we finally reached the remnants of an old mine located on the valley of Longyearbyen, one that had experienced a rock collapse that filled the entrance. Carefully, we meandered down the mountainside and took great pleasure in the warmth of our restful beds where we could relax from the long hike. 

Pratik Patel is a senior studying Atmospheric Sciences with a concentration in Atmospheric Dynamics/Chemistry. He resides in the Northwest Suburbs near Chicago. 
Sarah Buckman is a senior in both Global Studies and Spanish with a concentration geared in environmental sustainability. She usually resides in the city of Chicago.

Alex Li is a sophomore studying Agricultural Engineering. He is an international student from China at the University of Illinois.