While many of the students traveled to Europe, Elaine M. Belitsos ’05 took the road less traveled to Havana, Cuba.
“I had spoken to people who had gone to Cuba,” Belitsos said. “But I could not get a feel for Cuba without being there and experiencing firsthand what might change in five years.”
Belitsos attended the speeches of Cuban President Fidel Castro, which typically lasted more than four hours. The political climate in Cuba affected her educational experience—her class on socialism was taught by a supporter of the revolution. Still, Belitsos says her professor a more balanced perspective than she had expected.
Kelsey E. Corlett ’05 and Arin C. Hotz ’05 traveled to Italy where they encountered a culture a far cry from that of their hometowns of Iowa and Montana. They stayed in rundown hotels and were frequently harassed by Italian men.
On the streets of San Remo in northern Italy, Italian men yelled and catcalled at Corlett, and one man even attempted to punch her as she walked by.
Both Corlett and Hotz exchanged a knowing glance and then laughed, fondly recalling this as one of many adventures from a semester abroad.
For Stephanie Frias ’05, the highlight of her time in Italy came at a Justin Timberlake concert in Milan, where she was invited backstage to meet Cameron Diaz. She won this honor simply by proclaiming her American nationality during the concert. Her other American friends were brought on stage to dance with Timberlake for the same reason.
When not on-stage, however, Frias found courses at the University of Bologna easier and less intense than those at Harvard. Altogether, she was impressed by the open-mindedness of Italian culture.
Ruth V. Jesus ’05, a native of Portugal, actually felt more friction with her American peers than with the local Brazilian culture. But she still sums up her experiences in Brazil last fall—and Sweden last summer—as largely beneficial.
“The classes, the culture, were very human,” said Jesus. “We were studying but by playing games or while at the beach.”
Chaandi K. McGruder ’05, who spent fall semester at Paris, France, said that her dark complexion often confused Parisians about her nationality.
“No one first thought me to be American. They thought I was African,” said McGruder. “I had to explain to them that I had never even been to Africa.”
The students gathered in Ticknor lounge yesterday had reaped the benefits of the College’s renewed efforts to bolster study abroad, and even despite dysfunctional trains and sub-par hotels, Corlett and Hotz fully endorse international study.
Jesus was so excited by her trip to Scandinavia that she has decided to live in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“The only real reason to do something is passion,” she said.
-Staff writer Robin M. Peguero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.