Many of us abroad have been teased - or have ourselves joked - about the apparent lack of "studying" while "studying abroad." With Instagram feeds full of travel pics, it's easy to see how one might get the impression that #studyishabroad would be a more apt title for these 10 weeks. As I pour over an MBO model for my finance class at LBS on my train back to London from Scotland, I can assure you there is a good deal of actual studying happening for me (though it's rarely very photo/social media worthy). I have also been super lucky to travel a LOT during my time here though. And as I reflect back on all the trips, I can say with certainty that I've learned about as much outside the classroom as in it. It sounds cliché, but hopping around Europe meeting new people and hearing the fascinating histories of all these cities and countries has been incredibly enriching for me. Here are some of my more interesting discoveries:
Tenerife, one of the small Canary Islands off the coast of Morrocco, hosts the second most popular Carnival celebration in the world (behind Brazil). It's a multi-week party that takes over virtually every street in Santa Cruz and feature parades, the naming of a Carnival queen, and a dedication to costume wearing that could rival a Kellogg ski trip party. I had a blast taking in these festivities with some of my MMM '16 besties!
After two years of dedicated service as a Cork & Screw officer, I finally made it to one of the regions I've been hearing about since the beginning - Burgundy, home of some of the finest old world Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays I've ever had the pleasure to taste. And I learned so much on our tasting/tour. For example, wines from Burgundy follow an extremely complicated labeling convention which sometimes even identifies the exact place where the grapes were grown. For example, a Premier Cru (one of the highest tiers of Burgundian wine) will not just have the winemaker's name on it, but also the name of the village and plot of land on which it was grown. Equally fascinating - after tasting somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 (!!) of these Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, I couldn't believe the amazing variety caused by these different terroirs. The impact of even small soil differences on the flavor of the wine was incredible.
For most of my lifetime, I have known Germany to be a single, unified country, but much of Germany's fairly recent past has been characterized by quite the opposite. Even before the Berlin Wall divided the country, the area now united as Germany consisted of many separate states including Prussia and Bavaria. It wasn't until 1871 that these 25 states were unified, creating the beginnings of modern Germany. As a result, the country is far more varied than I initially expected - from the Bavarian beer halls of Munich to the stark landscapes reminiscent of a communist past in Berlin. Understanding this history also shed light on a childhood with a somewhat cloudy understanding of my cultural heritage. After years of hearing I was German...no wait Prussian...no wait German, I now have a more nuanced understanding of my ancestry!
While I will fully admit I am not a Harry Potter fan (I haven't read the books...crazy, I know), I was surprised to learn the extent to which Edinburgh Scotland influenced the much loved series. Apparently J.K. Rowling moved to Edinburgh to live with her sister and finish writing the first book, so I while I was in town this week, I got to see the coffee shop where she did much of this writing. Even more fascinating is what's pictured above. While Rowling has not formally revealed much of the inspiration behind her book, there are many clues in Edinburgh. The cemetery above featured the graves of a "Tom Riddell" and "William McGonagall," and the building in the background is George Heriot's school, a private Scottish school featuring 4 houses that may well have been the inspiration for Hogwarts.