WINTER 1998 Montanan - Volume 15, Number 2
by Caroline Patterson
The following are excerpts and Photos from students who have recently been abroad. Each year, hundreds of University of Montana students update passports, pack up bags and head off into unknown territory, ranging from China to Mexico, as participants in one of UM's international study programs.
UM offers study abroad programs in Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia and Spain. Direct exchange programs are available for students at universities in Canada, China, Denmark, Japan and New Zealand.
Camiel Becker is a sophomore in Spanish and psychology from Red Lodge, Montana. In 1997 he took part in the International Group Study Program in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Zapotec ruins, Monte Alban, Oaxaca.
Photo by Camiel Becker
"A lot of times as I walked home from school, there would be kids on the streets, and they would be yelling gringo or guarro because I was tall and white and American-looking, and they don't like Americans coming into Mexico. It's the reverse of what you see in the United States, because here there is a great deal of prejudice toward Latinos. I learned a lot being on the other side of things. One of the best experiences I had was learning the language and actually being able to get to know some of the people from Mexico. Knowing that you're able to keep a friendship in another language is a very neat thing."
Susann Framness from Hungry Horse, Montana, is a senior majoring in German and art. In 1995 she took part in the Heidelburg/Vienna Study Abroad Program from the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.
"After studying German, I was interested in utilizing my language skills. The best way to improve your language is to go where the native language is spoken. This kind of immersion in the culture makes the language more real, and you just become a sponge to it.
Hapsburg Palace, Vienna, Austria..
Photo by John F. Patterson III
When I was on a train, I met a gentleman from Serbia, and in German we had a very good discussion about the war. It was incredible to hear the perspective of someone who had lived through the war. It wasn't just another media story.... He had lost a family member and lived on bare necessities¬cold water or no water, no transportation, limited food¬that we take for granted."
Brian Martin from Norfolk, Illinois, spent ten months in 1997 on a direct exchange at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand, one of Missoula's sister cities. He is a senior in English and history.
Lawn bowling in Palmerston North.
Photo by Paul Lauren
"In New Zealand, they had McDonalds, Levis and American pool halls, movies and music, but it was still distinctly New Zealand. The people were easy-going, they'd pat you on the back and say, "How's it going, mate?" Rugby was extremely popular. The Maori, the indigenous people, were outspoken and active in government. We saw them perform hakas (war dances), visited old villages and watched cultural shows where they dug a pit in the ground, called a hongi, and cooked their food. And all the news was of the South Pacific islands."
Amber Schwanke from Missoula, Montana, is a senior majoring in Japanese. In 1996-97 she participated in a direct exchange to Kumamoto University in Kumamoto, Japan, another of Missoula's sister cities.
"There is this idea that if you're foreign, you can't possibly understand the trappings of Japanese culture. [The Japanese] are often shocked when foreigners like sushi. Or they are surprised when foreigners express an understanding of something cultural, like the Japanese appreciation of cherry blossoms. Yes, there are things I could never comprehend about Japan even if I lived there ten years. But as far as eating with chopsticks or liking to wear a kimono, I was not expected to like that."
Festival-goers in Tokyo.
Photo by Lori Taylor
In spring 1995 Serendia Compton went with the International Group Study Program to Rome, Italy. A senior in psychology, she is from Missoula.
"At first, you couldn't communicate with people very well, which was frustrating, and sometimes you didn't want to crawl out of bed. But when you did and you were able to ask for something that you needed and when you could read the signs and figure out the money, you got confidence. Rome is now like a second home. I can close my eyes and find my way down the streets. Shopping in the markets was one of the neatest things. Every day at the Campo di Fiori, there were cheese vendors and meat vendors and fruit vendors. Sometimes we'd pack fresh mozzarella cheese balls, kiwi fruit and bread and then wander off to the Tiber to see up and down the river."
Serendia Compton in Rome, Italy
Photo by Serendia Compton
In 1996-97 Trevor Kilgore from Missoula was on a direct exchange to Hangzhou University in Hangzhou, China. He is a senior in business management.
"Sometimes I'd be walking down a street in Hangzhou (a city of three million), and it would hit me that this is China. It was such a foreign place, and I wouldn't see someone that looked like me for a long time. This was a place far different than I'd ever been before, and that was exhilarating. It was about as opposite from Montana as you can find in the world, and that was fun."
Bikes in Xi'an, China
Photo by Trevor Kilgore