What is your school affiliation and what year are you?
Junior in CAS
What is your major (if declared)?
European and Mediterranean Studies (but I don’t focus so much on the “Mediterranean” part)
What inspired you to study in Berlin?
Language practicality, really. I felt confident in my skills in French and realized that if I put my mind to it I could get the basics of other romance languages down pretty quickly, and I decided that I should do the same with a Germanic language. I had no idea that Berlin would be so eye-opening for me, I dived in head first with very little thought other than, “I’m going to make the best of this.” In addition I was on point about the language idea – I am determined to learn languages such as Norwegian and Dutch because I know my knowledge of German will make things significantly easier.
How was your experience? What was most inspiring, surprising, or moving about your time there? What did you find challenging?
The most moving moments of the 11 months I spent in Europe:
Traveling from Klaipéda to Vilnius in Lithuania, I sat next to a man born in 1932, the same year as my grandfather. He did not speak English, but spoke Russian and a little bit of German. His German, and his accent, were hard for me to understand, but somehow, after an hour and a half of communicating through limited German and hand gestures, I found out he knew someone (maybe a daughter?) living in Chicago, that he had three sisters, that he knew many a Russian drinking song, was named something that sounded like “Bratislava”, and he taught me how to say nose and eyes in Lithuanian, and he gave me a kiss goodbye. I’ll never forget him and our 90 minute conversation.
Best moment in Berlin: walking through the park near my apartment (I was living off-campus) at night in the late fall – it was dark, the moon and the lights reflected off the little pond, and there was a large group of parents with their small children. The children were around the ages of 1 to 3, and they all held these little lanterns and sang songs. I love Volkspark am Weinsbergweg, as well as Bartholdy-Mendelsohn Park, the two places I found the most peaceful the closest to home.
I understand that you started a student organization, Earth Impact Club, while in Berlin during the fall term, 2014. Can you describe why you did so? What is the club’s mission and vision?
I am involved with a couple of different student groups and campaigns on the NYU campus that have to do with environmentalism and I missed being a part of that culture. I also took a course on European Environmental Policy my first semester in Berlin and realized how many aspects of German policies are far more advanced than American policies, and how, on a local scale, Berlin is a decently sustainable city (at least in comparison to New York or Pairs or London and many other places). The point of the Earth Impact Club is to explore Berlin through its environmental and sustainable aspects.
There are many different components of the club that each group of students can pursue each semester: visiting gardens and parks, getting involved in the Berlin community to learn about how Berliners feel connected to their environment, understanding what the city is doing to promote environmentalism and sustainability, learning what we can take away from the successful environmental and sustainable aspects of Berlin, and figuring out how Berlin itself can improve. The most important question: what kind of attitude does it take within a community to make a city sustainable? How is that done, or not done, in Berlin?
Has the Earth Impact Club continued to operate even after your departure? Is it linked at all with similar groups in NYC or at other sites? Is collaboration across NYU’s global network on environmental issues something you see happening?
The Earth Impact Club continues to operate this semester and I certainly hope to see it continue in the future. This is one of the projects I will be working on in the future – how to create a sustainable network of student groups that reaches NYU’s global extensions. This isn’t just something I see being done, it is something that should be done.
The Earth Impact Club is not currently officially aligned with any NYU campus-based groups. I do not see the EIC becoming, say, an extension of EarthMatters, however I will put this forward: I consider myself a representative of Oxfam America at NYU and NYU Divest (from fossil fuels), an ally of EarthMatters, the Community Agriculture Club, and many other environmental and sustainable groups on campus. We can’t have small subsections of each individual group on study abroad campuses, however we can have one group that incorporates all these groups. Since these groups are all in coalitions at the New York campus, this is feasible.
I also understand that you won a 2015 President’s Service Award for your inspirational contribution to NYU Berlin’s environmental awareness through the Earth Impact Club. Congratulations! How did it feel to be honored in this way?
I am very thankful for the administration in Berlin. They have been so supportive as mentors and as friends, and it is the greatest honor to be recommended by any of them for anything. I am also thankful for the community that this initiative serves – the students I worked and continue to work with. They were the ones who shaped the first semester of the Earth Impact Club and provided a framework for the future. I am also incredibly impressed and excited as I learn what members are doing this semester. It’s not this award that matters – it’s the community’s participation, learning and gratitude.
Has creating this group and focusing on environmental issues in Berlin informed your thinking about your future plans? If so, how?
Yes. I have learned quite a bit about how I function as an organizer and how I perceive urban planning and environmental policy. I know that sustainable improvements to our society – including the way we think as individuals, communities and societies – is, and will be from now on, an important component of what I do.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your time in Berlin or while at NYU?
Ich vermisse dich, Berlin.
Each semester, shortly after landing in Australia, NYU Sydney students retreat to a lesser-known corner of greater Sydney for a field trip. Most recently, these overnight excursions have been to idyllic Milson Island, on the Hawkesbury River.
“We stepped off the boat,” recalls student Lori Gao. “We walked up a steep, hilly path and split into cabins named after Australian birds. After settling into our lodges, we assembled on a large sunny field for a group introduction, and split into groups to perform various activities throughout the next two days. We built rafts, played cricket, shot bow and arrows.”
Field trips are an integral part of a semester at NYU Sydney, and Milson Island in particular is good fun. There are campfires and marshmallows, guitars and ghost stories. But there’s more than that.
“The Milson Island retreat was indeed one mentally and personally, allowing time to unwind, contemplate, connect, and culminate experiences,” wrote student Diptesh Tailor in a paper after his visit in spring 2015. In particular, Diptesh was impressed by the “tranquility and calm vibrancy of the environment.”
The start-of-semester retreat has two main aims. One is for NYU staff and newly-arrived students to get to know one another. It’s a bonding exercise. A second aim is for students to get a true taste of the Australian landscape: the curious wildlife; the grand sandstone; the sweeping waterways. The retreats forge connections in the great outdoors, among the kangaroos and kookaburras. They blend community and nature.
For many students, it is the wildness of the Australian landscape that leaves a lasting impression. As student Robert Leger wrote in a paper submitted for the Global Orientations course, “An impressive amount of this country has been left largely untouched and unaffected by civilization. One instance of this pristine environment was evident in the surroundings of Milson Island. Although the island itself is developed – to an extent – its surroundings, the forests and estuary encompassing the small island, appear as though they are lands that have never been trod on.”
During each semester, NYU Sydney students are offered an array of field trips. Some, such as the surfing trip to the northern beaches, are for all students. Others are for students of particular courses. For Global Media, for instance, students visit ABC TV to be in the studio audience for a live broadcast of the panel show Q&A.
“I couldn’t get enough of Q&A,” wrote student Kate Rowey after her visit. “I left with a much better understanding of Australian politics, not just conceptually but how Australians discuss their politics. I took a leap and decided to request to be in the live audience for the following week’s Q&A. To my excitement, not only was I invited back but I sat front and center.”
“The field trips are special,” says Professor Jennifer Hamilton. “It is rare to get field trips in undergraduate programs because the classes are so big. The size of the classes here in Sydney enable us to offer a range of learning experiences.”
During field trips to Earlwood Farm, Professor Hamilton has taught Eco-Criticism students about experimental, eco-friendly farming she and others are practising right in the heart of suburban Sydney. Hamilton loves it when students hold her chickens. “Do you live in a hippy commune?” one student asked. No, she answered – even though she had to admit hers is hardly an ordinary house in the ‘burbs.
Meanwhile, as an anthropology professor, Petronella Vaarzon-Morel is especially fond of field trips. “Participant observation is a hallmark of the anthropological method,” she says.
With students of Anthropology of Indigenous Australia, Professor Vaarzon-Morel has visited the Kur-ring-gai Chase National Park to see Aboriginal rock art sites.
“Learning about rock art from a photographic image is simply not as informative – nor exciting – as being culturally immersed in the environment in which the rock art was produced,” Vaarzon-Morel says. “In Kur-ring-gai Chase National Park students were able to walk around rock art designs depicting whales, dolphins and other animals, and with the smell of salt water and wind in their hair, experience the import of the site in a visceral way.”
On-site, the students were taught by Matt Poll, an Indigenous expert with immense knowledge of archeological sites. On these and other anthropology field trips, students are always particularly keen to learn about bush medicine and bush tucker.
The effects of the field trips can be profound. For some, the visit to Milson Island has prompted a philosophical redrafting of the relationship of human beings and nature. This insight is reached, in part, thanks to the dramatic contrast between the Aussie wilderness and Washington Square. If Milson Island is largely about community and nature, it encourages many students to reconsider their conceptions of both.
Milson Island led Diptesh Tailor to imagine green cities, which would be peopled by “proactive, globally-oriented citizens who challenge conventional boundaries and share their creative and intellectual insights.”
As he wrote after the retreat, “I hope to continue to develop my perspective on nature … and the prospects for the civilisations which will pioneer the evolving relationship with nature and self.”
On Friday night, Czech Radio is launching the world premiere of four unusual electroacoustic compositions that combine audio from New York City with recordings from Prague, exploring both cities through their sounds. The project was created under the umbrella of the Citigram – a program started by NYU Steindhardt – and produced for Czech Radio by NYU Prague professor Michal Rataj. The program can be heard around the world Friday, April 24 at 10 p.m. Prague time (4 p.m. EST) at http://www.rozhlas.cz/radiocustica_english/portal/
Professors Michal Rataj at NYU Prague and Tae Hong Park at Steindhardt are both are composers of electroacoustic music – a relatively new field that incorporates, manipulates and experiments with digital sounds in compositions. These two professors joined forces thanks to Evan Kent, an NYU music student who was in Michal Rataj’s composition class in 2013 suggested the two should meet.
The project of Citigram started a few years earlier in New York in 2011, when Professor Park became interested in the idea of digital maps like Google maps. There were so many surrounding us, but none of them had any sound. This seemed wrong – how can you understand a city without sound? Collaborating with colleagues, he decided to build sound maps, creating compositions that, using new recording technology, could represent a place in a way that that is not dependent on visuals –often using abstract compositions to evoke the rhythms of the city. According to Professor Park, “Citigram aims to look at ways of using sound maps as an interactive map for users. Anyone with a computer with a microphone could stream data from our server and create their own musical pieces – as has been done for the radio project in Prague.“
Former NYU Prague student and musician Evan Kent, who studied under Michal Rataj in 2013, has created one of the compositions that will be premiered on Friday. Evan has taken soundscapes from New York and Prague. “Navigating space between the documentation and the composition has been important for me lately. Speech scapes allowed me to work with text in a semantic way, as one might hear in instrumental music.“
Current NYU Prague students Jack Bandarenko, Austin Guerrazzi, Darien Henshaw, Georgia Mills, Evan Wardel are all taking Michal Rataj’s class and were also involved in the project, making recordings of a Prague soundscape that were used in the pieces.
Another piece premiering on Friday is called “Aggressive City Rhythms” and uses urban sound data collected in Prague and New York. Composer Michael Musick explains that “The piece invokes the excitement and controlled aggression that soundscapes of these cities offer their citizens.“
The possibilities of Citigram are huge, and the Center for Urban Science and Progress at NYU has been involved in analyzing the urban spatio-acoustic noise. Citigram has also been collaborating with CalArts and including soundscapes of LA. The involvement of another NYU campus on another continent offers an exciting new dimension to the project, especially as the world is becoming increasingly urban. Profesor Park notes that “this is the first time in human history that 50% of the entire population is living in cities – and it should be 70% in 2050. The number one complaint of New Yorkers is noise pollution. The maps that are being developed can explore this, serve as a utility for people.“
We hope you join us here in Prague on Friday!
More information about the project is available on the website.
In March, NYU Florence student Primo Stropoli became a Greco-Roman wrestling champion of Tuscany for the second time in a row.
Primo started wrestling in 2004 when he was a freshman at Onteora High School and, since then, he has never stopped practicing the sport. As an undergraduate, he wrestled on the club team at the University at Albany and eventually went on to become the president of the club.
In August, when Primo came to Italy to pursue his master degree at NYU Florence, he started practicing with the U. S. Sempre Avanti Juventus wrestling club at the communal gym on Via della Chiesa. Since the very beginning, the team and the coach, Massimo Aresti, got along with Primo, taking him in as part of their family. The club recently celebrated its 110th anniversary and offers a wide range of athletics for the Florentine community, which include boxing, judo, jiu jitsu, pilates, and gymnastics. The gym also trains competitors in preparations for Florence’s annual Calcio Storico.
The Italian Federation of Judo, Wrestling, Karate, and Mixed Martial Arts (FIJLKAM) organizes the Tuscany Regional Championships. Wrestlers can compete in either Greco-Roman or Freestyle. Primo first competed on 7 December 2014 near Pisa, where he placed first in the Greco-Roman division for the 75 kg weight class.
The second tournament took place just outside of Florence at Bagno a Ripoli on 29 March 2015. This time Primo decided to drop down and compete in the 71 kg weight class. The tournament for the over-18 athletes officially started around noon because the children and teenagers compete first. Wrestling teams from all over Tuscany meet and wrestle in weight classes ranging from 59 kg to 130 kg. Florence alone has three different wrestling clubs and the rivalry between them creates a competitive atmosphere.
When the last match of the day was over, the award ceremony started. Several wrestlers from the club placed in other weight classes, earning U. S. Sempre Avanti Juventus first place in the team standings. At the end of the ceremony, everyone was very proud of the accomplishments of the day, and especially about Primo’s victory. His teammates and he are very glad to be part of the same club. They share their past wrestling experiences and teach each other different American and Italian techniques. Although they come from different backgrounds, the sport of wrestling creates a strong bond between them and brings them closer both as teammates and individuals.
By Alice Centamore, NYU Florence student
On April 19, NYU Abu Dhabi’s first TEDx conference – TEDxNYUAD – brings 11 inspirational and innovative talks to the NYU Abu Dhabi community and public.
Most of us have heard of TED Talks. These awe-inspiring, empowering talks revolve around the theme of innovation, change and thinking differently. TED has become a global phenomenon because it provides a platform for people to share their ideas and stories.
TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission: ideas worth spreading. It supports independent organizers who want to create a TED-like event in their own community.
In a university that is still new and building from a blank slate, the student body has many varied and dynamic experiences that go unshared. Within this diverse community, countless students have incredible stories and ideas inspired by their achievements, struggles, aspirations, experiences, interests and passions. This year’s speakers will talk about an array of topics and ideas that question how we view the world and the ideas we hold.
TEDxNYUAD will feature speakers from the United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Chile, Ethiopia, India, Montenegro, Ukraine, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Qatar. But the talks go beyond the boundaries of the speakers’ nations and will relate to and resonate with global issues, individual struggles, socio-political matters and technological advancements.
Charlotte De Bekker
Charlotte, a Dutch artist and filmmaker who grew up in Ras Al Khaimah, surrounded by Ikea furniture and caught in hipster angst, will question her previous conceptualizations and attempts at constructing authenticity.
Maitha Al Memari
As a young Emirati woman wearing the Abaya, Maitha is exposed to continuous questions regarding her choice of dress. She will explore how the Abaya is not a form of oppression, but a form of expression.
An avid traveller with a passion for science and film, Sam will question the idea of ‘home’ and what this means to him.
Everyone has a story. How do we make sure that our voices are heard and our stories are told the right way?
Jovan who became the youngest competitor at the Montenegro National Youth Chess Competition at the age of five, will talk about the game of blindfold chess, and what it tells us about who we are.
Sara Al Shamlan
A Qatari social entrepreneur, Sara will talk about how curiosity and unlikely interactions with those different from herself led her to reevaluate her life and find a passion worth pursuing.
Vasily is a Ukrainian engineering student and technology enthusiast whose team won the UAE Drones for Good Award 2015. He will talk about how innovation should always have a purpose.
Amer led one of Brazil’s largest peaceful campaigns against corruption and will talk about how individuals, especially youth, have the potential to change the world.
Through his interactions with the immigrant communities, Mohit will recount the many stories he’s stumbled upon while playing street cricket.
By combining his passion and love for theater and video games, Attilio will take us on an exciting journey of finding the heroes in ourselves.
Meera Al Agroobi
In high school, Meera was a bully. After having studied psychology, she is today an advocate of social issues in the UAE and will talk about her passion to help young bullies overcome their own evils, and change how schools deal with bullying.
What is your school affiliation and what year are you? What is your major (if declared)?
I’m a senior in the College of Arts and Science studying Art History.
What inspired you to study in Berlin?
I studied French and German in high school so going into NYU I always knew I was going to study abroad in either Paris or Berlin. The Berlin program seemed to have more of an arts focus and Berlin is a lot cheaper to live in than Paris so those factors lead to me choosing Berlin over Paris. Berlin also seemed a little more gritty and mysterious to me, so I wanted to explore that.
How was your experience? What was most inspiring, surprising, or moving about your time there? What did you find challenging?
My experience in Berlin was invaluable. To me, it helped me connect with the contemporary art world and showed me that it wasn’t this inaccessible, ephemeral thing. I had been working in fashion before and was getting a little jaded with the fashion world and its incessant machine-like nature. It was losing its substance for me, and so I was eager to dedicate more time to exploring the art world. Just meeting people from all over the and from all different walks of life was rewarding and humbling. Being abroad and feeling like an outsider was a great experience and helped re-shape and inform my worldview. When you are away from everything you have ever known in this foreign and nuanced environment, you become so vulnerable to change in a really positive way.
I understand that in collaboration with another student, you opened a student art show in Berlin last fall while in Berlin, REIFWERDEN, that was a huge success. Can you tell us about the show?
I was taking a studio art class in Berlin and a fellow student, Maia Smillie, approached me about including some of my work in a show she was trying to organize. One thing lead to another and we ended up collaborating on the show together. I decided not to include any of my own work as to focus on highlighting the work of the other students in the program. The new art studios at St. Agnes opened in October and we timed the show to open in December right before finals. It was a lot of work with a time frame of only about a month but it was well worth it. Everyone at NYU Berlin and the St. Agnes studios was great about communicating with the curatorial team and giving us both lots of freedom and lots of support. The fact that Johann König, owner of the eponymous Berlin gallery and the St. Agnes complex, came to our show and spoke with us really meant a lot. We also had a few journalists including a writer from Frieze magazine attend. But above all, being able to provide a platform to showcase student work and engage in dialogue was most rewarding. REIFWERDEN means gestation in German and curatorially we were looking to explore this idea of Berlin being a temporal/spatial moment of exploration and trying new things. A lot of the artists exhibited were taking a studio art class for the first time or were exploring a new technique or medium so seeing people work and progress was an integral part of how we organized the show.
I also understand that you recently gave a presentation about your experience
working on the show at the NYU Abu Dhabi Global Leadership Summit where you spoke on “curating meaningful art exhibitions in a global context”? Can you give us a sense of what you covered in your presentation and share your thoughts on this interesting topic?
As a person of color and a queer person, in the work that I do with curating I seek to highlight the work of people from these often under-represented and marginalized communities. The challenge therein is creating exhibitions that highlight and celebrate the work of these artists without reducing or essentializing it to their identity. For me, I start my work with thinking of the art itself which I find through building relationships with artists, peers, students, people I meet on the street or at parties, etc. I want to curate exhibitions that have meaning and can engage people in meaningful dialogues but without needing to force work into narrow categories or interpretations. The feedback I got from the conference was great and highlighted the importance of communication and networking. Especially within more global contexts, I think it is important to get input from people outside of the “art world” that can bring in another perspective.
How has the experience working on the show in Berlin influenced your work now that you have left?
I learned a lot just in terms of the pragmatic aspects of organizing a show. One of the photography teachers, Christina Dimitriadis, leant us her expertise and gave us assistance in installing some pieces; learning how to be your own art handler is a crucial skill in organizing these kinds of DIY exhibitions. Additionally, I had to be extra sensitive when collaborating with the artists in Berlin since most were my classmates. I think that sensitivity made me a better communicator and allowed me to be more understanding and more patient. As a curator, you have to be a liaison between all different kinds of people and institutions so having a vocabulary that can help translate things from one group to another was important thing that I learned.
I also understand that you are currently working on a “Students for Sexual
Respect” photo campaign. This sounds like a timely undertaking on an important topic. Can you describe this effort? What is your mission and how are you executing it? Who is in involved and how do you intend to use this work? Will NYU Berlin or other global sites be involved at all?
I’m consulting on a photo project for the Students for Sexual Respect club here at NYU New York. The club was started by a fellow Admissions Ambassador, Josy Jablons, and in talking about the project things, again, happened very organically and I got involved in the organizational aspect of things. We are calling it the #BetterSexTalk campaign and we prompted students to give a piece of advice to their younger siblings or their younger selves that they wish was included in their “sex talk”, if they ever had one. Having such sensitive material attached to your photo is really brave and we got a wide variety of students and student organizations from all different perspectives to participate. Ultimately I think people offering this moment of vulnerability will allow people to feel comfortable in engaging in a larger dialogue about sexual respect.
Our photographer Emilio Madrid-Kuser was eager and cooperative in offering a lot of his time to work on this project. The majority of this project has been spearheaded by SSR and myself but having the involvement of so many different students has made this project successful. We are installing the photos throughout the Washington Square campus during the month of April. Plans are currently in the works to expand it to NYU’s School of Engineering Brooklyn Campus and NYU Berlin.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your time in Berlin or at NYU?
I am really thankful to be able to have discussions about social justice and identity during my time at NYU. My worldview has been expanded and if anything my education here at NYU has made me eager for more knowledge. In understanding how much privilege I have been afforded in my life I feel a responsibility to share what I have learned with others and in turn learn from them as well. The global nature of the education I have received has been crucial in my undergraduate experience. In the last three years I have visited three continents with NYU and I think that’s something that is pretty unique to the NYU experience. I hope after I graduate NYU continues to be a place where people can engage in these sticky, complex dialogues in a critical and productive way.
NYU Washington, DC students recently visited the Supreme Court to meet with former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Justice O’Connor had an engaging conversation with the students about her career and the workings of the court.
On April 13, La Pietra Dialogues will host a special dialogue organized by NYU Florence student and GLS Junior Claudia Cereceda entitled Mare Nostrum, Mundus Noster | Our Sea, Our World: Refugees Crossing the Mediterranean and the Humanitarian Response. War, displacement, and economic instability are are driving larger numbers of people to abandon their homes in places like Syria, Eritrea, and Mali, and to seek refuge in Europe. This dialogue will explore the refugee crisis in Italy, Italian citizens´ perceptions, and what efforts are being made by governmental agencies and NGOs in response. On Monday Claudia will be joined by Flavio Di Giacomo, Christopher Hein, and Beat Schuler of the International Organization for Migration, Italian Council for Refugees, and United High Commissioner for Refugees.
What is your school affiliation and what year are you? What is your major (if declared)?
NYU Senior, Class of 2015. Major: Russian & Slavic Studies
What inspired you to study in Prague?
As a Russian/Slavic Studies major I must study in a Slavic-speaking country and/or country influenced by Russia.
Several friends on the NYU fencing team, which I’ve been a member of throughout my undergraduate studies, studied abroad in Prague during their time at NYU and highly recommended it to me.
How has your experience been thus far?
My experience in Prague was amazing from day one. The first time I realized I felt so at home in Prague was in September at the beginning of the Fall semester when my friends and I were on our way back from a weekend trip to Berlin. My friends were very sad to be leaving Berlin and wished they could’ve spent more time there and even said that they wished they had chosen Berlin as their study abroad site rather than Prague. I, however, was so happy and relieved to be coming back to Prague, although like my friends I certainly enjoyed my brief time in Berlin. Other than the obvious beauty of the city, I find the people in Prague exceedingly polite and helpful, although in a different way than in the US. Most of all being in Prague has taught me to not impose my own cultural views, such as friendship, courtesy, and respect, onto another culture that is in no way connected to my own, and to take one day at a time. For example, being competitive means one thing in the US and another thing entirely in the Czech Republic. This applies to almost anything, and especially to the things I’ve mentioned above (friendship, courtesy, etc.).
Are you interning and, if so, how have you found the internship experience?
Although I am not interning here in Prague, I have had the opportunity to take classes that are very specific to my major/interests and which arguably have taught me more than my classes back in New York. Last semester I took a class on Sociology of Communist Czechoslovakia, History of Nationalism in Central/Eastern Europe, and Politics of the European Union, and this semester I’m taking Czech Literature, Law + Human Rights in Central/Eastern Europe. These classes have taught me so much about the Czech Republic and also about its relationship to the East and to the West.
I understand that you are from a fencer and are training with the national fencing team in the Czech Republic. Can you describe that experience?
I started training shortly after I arrived in Prague, in September, at Sports Centrum Praha in Letňany, a neighborhood in the Northeast corner of the city. This club is recognized as the best club in the Czech Republic and is the main training facility for the members of the men’s epee national team, as well as the majority of the junior and cadet fencers who represent CR (there are three official age groups in fencing: cadet, junior, and senior). The head coach of the national team is also the head coach of the club.
I think training at SC was the best decision I made during my time in Prague and it was definitely a huge part of my decision to stay in Prague for a second semester. The fencers and the coaches have been so welcoming and are happy to have a fencer from abroad training with them on a regular basis. think they also like having another female fencer at their club as women’s fencing is several steps behind men’s fencing in the Czech Republic and the majority of young girls who start fencing stop by the time they are looking to go to college.
The fencers at SC are a very tight-knit group and really make huge efforts to include me in that group; they always invite me to events such as holiday parties, birthday celebrations, tournaments, training camps, and even after-practice drinks. The national team members in particular are a huge inspiration to me as a fencer and as a person. They work very hard, in some cases training up to three times in a day, with a private lesson with their coach in the morning, followed by strength and conditioning training, followed by fencing in the evening. hey are very impressive when it comes to their mindset/mentality toward fencing. They never refuse to fence with someone just because they are younger or at another level with their fencing. They approach each bout (what a match is called in fencing) with the same amount of effort and know that something can be gained/learned by fencing with any fencer regardless of their age or their ability. Also impressive is their dynamic as a team. Fencing is an individual sport and as such can create serious problems for the “team dynamic” and for the success of its members, because as a fencer you are a member of the team but are competing against your team members just as you are competing against fencers from other countries. However, the Czech fencers really support each other and are genuinely happy to see each other succeed, even if one fencer is having a particularly bad day while another is doing exceptionally well. They know that doing well personally is important, but being successful at a tournament or competition is also important for the country and for representing the Czech Republic.
How did you come to train with them? What advice would you have to other students studying away who may be keen to pursue athletic or other interests overseas?
I first came to know about SC Praha from a friend of mine who graduated from NYU in 2011 and also studied abroad in Prague. He was also a member of the NYU fencing team and fenced several times at SC to avoid getting rusty/out of shape; it is well known among fencers that taking a break from training even for 2 weeks can really hit hard. In this way it is quite the opposite from riding a bike. Luckily, my friend told me the name of the club where he had fenced at, so the rest of the process was very simple. I searched on Google Maps for the name and address of the facility and how to get there, and went. When I got there I sought out the coaches and asked them if I could train there, what days/times they hold their practices, and how much it costs to be a member. With that information, I left and returned the next day to start training. Everything really took off from there; I have been training at SC consistently Tuesdays through Thursdays at their practices. I also have participated in two training camps hosted by SC that are open to those fencers in the Czech Republic who are nationally ranked, and have fenced in two national tournaments (I am currently ranked 34th).
I regard training at SC as the best decision I made while abroad in Prague and would highly encourage any other student to pursue their interests while overseas, even if it is not necessarily an athletic interest. It can be really easy to feel out of place or like an outsider while studying abroad, and pursuing some personal interest is the best way to overcome this feeling, make new friends, and learn about a new culture. I admit that it is very intimidating to put yourself in a new situation; my first couple weeks at SC I was even nervous to ask people if they would fence a bout with me because I had no idea how they would react.
I think pursuing some personal interest is also a great way to overcome the sense of homesickness and the general strangeness of being abroad. Fencing was great for me because it is something I always did in New York, so even though I was in a completely different place I was able to maintain something from back home that I consider a huge part of my life. Pursuing an interest abroad teaches you more in general about any vocation. For example, with fencing, I was able to notice different attitudes toward things such as friendship, competition, and hard work. Plus, I was able to see differences in the fencing style and habits of Czech fencers versus fencers in the US. Getting another perspective is never a bad thing, in my opinion.
Has training with the Czech team changed or informed your experience in Prague? If so, how?
Training with the Czech team has really given me insight into what it means to be an athlete in CR and what it means to be Czech. I am certain that without fencing, I would not have been so enthralled by my experience in Prague and would not have decided to return to Prague for a second semester. There are so many things that fencing gave me access to that are not related to fencing but related to the great friendships I cultivated as a result of it; for example, going to pubs with other young fencers, going to birthday celebrations, and celebrating holidays such as Easter. Training with the Czechs has also given me such a sense of pride in the Czech Republic and in knowing so much about the country and its people.
I think it could be very easy to live in Prague for a semester and leave still a tourist. Luckily because of fencing, this was not the case for me. The friendships and hours of fencing in Prague will always stay with me and will continue to give me a sense of greater perspective when it comes to sports and life in general.
On April 2 – 3, NYU Washington, DC will host a two-day mini-conference which will bring together researchers, policy makers, and activists from top East-Coast educational and policy-influencing institutions to examine the different ways that human bodies interact with and exceed boundaries.
We constantly move throughout… walking, biking, driving, or taking transit. Yet a variety of hidden boundaries such as laws, urban design, and physical limitations shape how we move about the urban space. Come join transportation experts, activists, and policy makers for a screening of the experimental short documentary Every Speed, followed by an engaging discussion about rethinking how we move through the city.