14. Final reflections
I wasn’t sure what to say in this “final reflection” of this course, other than it was and wasn’t what I thought it would be (in a good way!). When I read the title of this blog, that annoying Christina Aguilera song from the Mulan movie soundtrack came into my head....ah the 90’s. *sigh* Not too sound overly cheesy (however, it is my nature), but I learned a lot from this course and I had an incredible experience, no doubt enhanced by the readings and discussions had with Steve Hutkins (I’m not being a brown-noser, but I genuinely happen to think I wouldn’t have gotten the same experience in this class without his insight on traveling). This course showed me a new way of thinking towards what one should do as a traveler as opposed to a “tourist”, and if that negative connotation towards “tourists” was in fact, justified. More than anything though, the articles we read on the sociological aspect of travel were quite informative, as much as I initially disliked them. They helped expose me to much more in-depth information about traveling as people did in the “old days”, if you will. This course also allowed me to meet great, new, like-minded andopen-minded individuals with a desire to see and explore the world around them, as I desire to as well, whereas most people are rather content living in their own little bubble without daring to step outside their comfort zone.
I’d like to wish everyone in class a great trip to wherever you’re going, be it Paris, Prague, London, Vietnam, Tanzania, Buenos Aires, Brazil, it sounds like it will be an amazing time. Also, I hope everyone keeps their blogs going, even part time, while they’re abroad, especially since I’ll be at the website at least once a week in this class’s counterpart, “The Art of Travel.”
Over the past few weeks, as I think I said in my free post, I’ve had the opportunity to look at the country I’m going to a much deeper degree than I would have otherwise. I think it was good to try and practice challenging assumptions here before doing in vis-à-vis some high level of culture shock (that I’m sure will occur anyhow). Certainly, it would be impossible to experience Germany in the same way that I will experience it over the next couple months but that isn’t really my main concern here. I’m glad that I’m going abroad, and I think that the most important thing to have drawn out of this class, at least for me, are the tools with which I can make my travel/tourist experience more useful and become self-reflexive.
That said, I have two very different topics I’d like to talk about briefly for my final post that I find intriguing:
I’m a big planner and so this class definitely enabled me to make time to plan for Paris. I’ve made a list of big things I want to do while studying abroad and a list of fun little things to do when I wake up in Paris and don’t know what to do.
Late January: Somehow get a press pass, pretend to be
assistant or, at worst, just sneak in to see the Chanel couture show.
Sometime in February or early March: Go to London. Eat authentic fish and chips, go to Top Shop, see Roni Horn at the Tate Modern, take photos of the punk street fashion.
March 17-21: Go to Art Dubai. Soak up and take tons of photographs of the beautiful architecture, brave the markets, and go skiing in a mall.
April 5: FINISH the Paris marathon and break my personal record!!!
April 11-26: Spring break in Barcelona and someplace else I haven’t yet decided. See Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia!
When the weather gets warm: Go to Versailles one Sunday and bike around the gardens.
June 10-14th: Go to Art Basel in Switzerland and take tons of photos and spot tons of art celebs.
Little Things To Do
Go to a fromagerie and ask for their three most famous cheeses.
Museums to hit up frequently: Louvre, Pompidou, Musee D’Orsay, Picasso Museum, Musee Rodin.
Go walk the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and window shop at the Christian Louboutin flagship store.
Find the original Chanel boutique.
Have tea and macaroons with a friend at
I've had a really good time in this class, it was great getting to meet and talk with other students who are going abroad and I learned a lot about Cuba. When I heard that NYU had a photography program I knew I had to apply not only because of my interest in photography but because when else would I have the opportunity to go to Cuba? Apart from the Revolution, I admit that I knew very little about Cuban culture and history before taking this class.
The blog assignments forced me to do a lot of research that I otherwise might have done at the last minute, if at all. I especially liked the book assignments, because they gave me tan excuse to do some non-school related reading. Reading "Havana: an Autobiography" was very helpful since I now feel like I have a basic knowledge of the history of the country that I will be living in for four months, plus it was fun to read! Watching Soy Cuba also got me even more excited to go to Cuba. After researching the Riviera, I realized that it was the hotel where they filmed the scenes of tourists swimming at the hotel pool, which is pretty cool. The island looks so beautiful in black and white, I can't even imagine what the film would have looked like had it shown all the colors of Havana.The map assignment was also great. Although I need to walk around to really figure out where I'm going, I did find places that I want to check out in my spare time.
Oh man. I’m so excited, I can’t contain myself. I find myself talking about Argentine to anyone, whether they want to hear me or not. We could be talking about chemistry and somehow I’ll incorporate Argentina in the conversation. Anyway, the main reason I took this class/independent study was that I had been concerned with the fact that I wouldn’t be able to look back on my travels with clarity because I hadn’t documented them. I simply wanted to articulate my experiences in written form. This class has definitely helped me to do that. Sometimes I feel that I neeed some structure in my life, and this class provided that with ease. Having a set topic to discuss and knowing you’ll get feedback is very encouraging. The topics were so helpful because it forced you to think about things that you might not have otherwise. For instance, our topic on authenticity, isn’t something I’d normally give much thought because of the subjectivity of it, but it is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted, especially as a visitor in another country. I do wish we had more open topics to share, but I guess we could always just submit more posts if we see fit.
I am going to assume that writing about a place is more accurate when you’re actually in the place. It’s difficult to understand a culture when you aren’t immersed in it. That being said, I do not mean to chide the intent of this class because I did learn a lot about Prague and it definitely increased my excitement about going there.
Many of the blog assignments were very educational. I enjoyed reading travel guides and narratives, studying maps and the layout of Prague, learning about the cuisine, and a few others like music and cinema. However, I think it would have been cool had we had more open topics because this would provide us with the opportunity to explore exactly what we want (which is probably what we will end up doing when we go abroad anyways).
Something else that was on my mind during the course of the class is that it felt like an independent study. It was cool to see where other people are going and what they had discovered about their abroad site but it often felt like I could only really connect with the information of my specific location as I was the only one to actually study it (I think there’s only one other person going to Prague from the class aside from me).
I’m not sure my philosophy of Prague has altered during this class as I had no prior knowledge of it to begin with. I am really excited to explore the city and get to know my way around. The city seems to have a simple layout similar to Chicago (my hometown). The language barrier is a concern of mine as I know no Czech, but I’m hoping to pick some up while I’m there.
Overall, I feel pretty confident and about this upcoming experience. I have traveled a lot before and have really enjoyed every place I have been. I can’t imagine Prague having a different effect.
I am very happy that I took this course because it provided me with the time and the motivation to research Buenos Aires. Over the weeks of the course, I feel as if I have developed at least a moderate level of familiarity with Buenos Aires, which is excellent considering that I knew very little about the culture of the city beforehand. I will admit, at first I was a little distraught about Abroad At Home because during the first two weeks, I was unhappy with the massive amounts of readings and even more, the endless negative perspectives that the readings conveyed about travel. Yet, after the entire class expressed dissatisfaction with the readings, the course took on a much more liberal and positive form that I began to enjoy.
Over the past few weeks, I have only become more excited about traveling to Buenos Aires. Initially, I had very few expectations of the city aside from a very limited set of generalizations about Argentines and their culture. As a result, everything I have learned about the food, the music, the cinema, etc., has produced a more tangible imagining of the place. Although many of our readings discussed the negative aspects of pre-existing expectations of place, I feel that I have learned about Buenos Aires on so many different and diverse levels, that I have gained a more democratic and variable understanding of what the city might be like.
Before this class, I had a very romanticized perception of the city of London and the British. I think that after browsing travel websites about England and reading my travel books I’ve realized that the things which have helped me the most are those that point out the cons or downsides of living there, mostly because it helps me feel prepared for anything (and the worst). I sometimes imagine a place I’ve never been to too far out of the realm of reality, and therefore when I actually get there it’s inevitable that I’m slightly disappointed by reality. I feel much more comfortable knowing about the high prices and exchange rate (although it has definitely been decreasing!), the serious drinking problem among the British, how easy it is to get lost in the city, how the British are still a “class obsessed” culture, etc…It’s comforting to know what to truly expect.
Throughout this semester I have found myself facing excitement and anxiety about my trip abroad. After signing up for classes I became more excited about them because it is the one set activity I know I will be doing. The classes I am taking pertain to my interests and sound like they will provide opportunities to get involved with the city, whether that be music performances for my Latin American Music class, a tango performance for my Tango and Mass Media course, or watching a movie for my Latin American Film class.
Something I am considering more and more is doing community service throughout the semester. It sounds like NYU has many options to participate in activities that will get us involved with natives and have a rewarding experience. This also sounds like yet another good chance for me to practice my Spanish. My Spanish language class this semester has been a real challenge and borderline discouraging, I just keep telling myself that it will come much more naturally once I am submerged in the language.
Ok, first off I have to say that this was my chill class of this semester. What I mean by that is every semester I choose a class that is for fun and has that very informal educational feel and this course filled that space for me. It was nice coming in every class and feeling comfortable to talk about everything and not be stressed with “Did I do this? Or Did I forget my homework at home? Or did I print that out?” you know, those kind of situations.
First, I was very happy with the discovery of the city through the tourist perspective. I am a newbie and the subject allowed me to discover the Met and the Jewish Museum for the first time, and I overcame my fear of the subway and walking around the city at night. Not only did I learn the system and several walking routes to campus, but I met pretty interesting characters along the way:) It’s been a great experience for me because I felt that I would hate NYC for the rest of my time here, but now I’m startin to love it…now;).
The readings I did not like (Sorry Steve) but talking about our blogs and the research on culture were my favorite parts. Through the work with Google maps I became familiar with the streets surrounding my apartment and campus. Music was my favorite blog. I discovered Carla Bruni, who I learned is the first lady (Thanks Steve), Anais, and Sheeduz. Hopefully, I can get to see them perform. Food was interesting. I did not like the restaurant I went to, but due to the diverse culture in France I pray that I will find something that fits my taste, and not starve to death!! All I know right now is that I love the baguette, but one cannot live on bread alone;).