A Lifetime of Experiences, All in One Week

5An adventure like to the one we experienced in Costa Rica only happens once in a lifetime. The beautiful sights and sounds, friendly people, stunning activities, and the amazing friendships that I formed there were unbelievable. Every expectation I entered the trip with were completely and wholly fulfilled. Costa Rica and, by extension, the people I spent my time with there, opened up my world and helped me grow as a person. Picking one day or experience to share out of all the memorable times is nearly impossible, but the exploit that left me with the most vivid and lasting memories was the trip to the waterfall.

To reach the waterfall in La Fortuna, the group had to descend a narrow staircase down through the canopy. The brief windows in the tree cover provided breathtaking views of the Waterfall2surrounding jungle and waterfall. Once we reached the base of the waterfall, it was time to shed shirts and shoes to submerge ourselves in the frigid and refreshing waters cascading down from above. The water was not only invigorating, but extremely powerful as well. Try as I might, my aquatic expertise did not afford me close proximity to the waterfall because of the immense strength generated by the water pouring into the pool below. It reminded me how strong the forces of nature can truly be and the scary beauty that accompanies it.

15A quite pool downstream from the waterfall provided a welcome respite to the powerful flood of liquid that had been coursing around us upstream. Crystal clear water and local fish enticed the group to lounge and swim in the relaxing waters. Always up for more excitement, I joined a few other adventurous souls on a hike through heart of the jungle. It was a winding path through underbrush, along steep drop-offs, and even a vast gorge that required a suspension bridge to traverse it. The scene at the peak of the hike opened up to a viewing deck on the edge of the cliff. It provided a stunning view of the waterfall and surrounding jungle, with the majestic, albeit ominous, volcano looming in the background.

The entire trip was a rewarding and rich way to spend my spring break, but the waterfall and hike stood out above all.  Costa Rica has many such amazing and diverse landscapes, each one more magnificent than the last. Its beautiful weather, accommodating people, and scenic settings would be sure to lure me back.

Blog Post by Killian Probst

A Non-traditional Student, A Traditional Experience

Thinking back on my time in Costa Rica and all the experiences, I am truly amazed. From horseback riding in the hills of Nosarita to surfing in beautiful Playa Samara, this trip was packed with great fun and excitement. But the most memorable experiences came from the 7people. The people I was honored to travel with, and the people in Costa Rica I was able to spend time with, were what made this trip so amazing.

Last fall when I first heard about the trip, I can honestly say I had very little interest in going. Since I’m a non-traditional student I figured that this trip would not be for me. I had traveled abroad in college before when I was younger, so I thought that this trip was for younger students. I found that I was wrong! When a fellow classmate of mine told me she was going, I shared with her my feelings on not going and why. She told me she was going and she was actually older than I was. Eventually I decided to go and I am glad that I did. I quickly realized that characteristics like age, race, and gender didn’t matter on this trip. Living in a country that is so stratified, it is difficult to imagine people from different backgrounds coming together and enjoying ourselves like we did in this trip.

The other great part of this trip was the time I was able to spend with the people in Costa Rica. I knew no Spanish, so speaking to my homestay family was very difficult but I could see that they appreciated my effort to communicate. Living in someone’s home, eating the food they prepared, and being taken care of was challenging as well. Being a mother myself, I know how difficult it can be to take care of a home and family, so I wanted to help my homestay mother 14whenever I could. She of course didn’t want me to since I was her guest, but she was grateful and I could feel it. Living with a family I couldn’t even verbally communicate with made me feel very vulnerable and was very frustrating at times. But learning to communicate with non-verbal skills in order to express my needs shows me how much you can really say without words. I felt by the end of my stay there with my host family, I really had a good idea of who they were.

This trip was packed with amazing adventures that I probably will never be able to experience again. I am so grateful for that fellow student of mine for talking me into going. It was a trip that has filled me with a lifetime of memories.

Blog Post by Leah Nagy.

Cultural Richness of Costa Rica

It is incredibly difficult to think of just a single experience that has made an impact on my life during my trip to Costa Rica. I took something from each and every experience on this trip. TheIMG_2960 waterfall, zip-lining, surfing, and living in a household that spoke a different language than my own really pushed me out of my comfort zone. However, if I had to choose one experience, then I would say that experiencing and interacting with the community in Nicoya and Nosarita would top my list.

The value and sense of community in Costa Rica is incredibly more enriching than it is here in the United States. Whether I was simply walking down the street in Costa Rica, stopping at the “supermercado”, or walking into another family’s home, I always felt so incredibly welcomed. I never once felt that I was imposing on their life, like I often do here in the states. In Costa Rica, people want you to open up to them and they genuinely want to hear everything and anything you want to say. No one was staring down at their phones; they were looking up at the stars or mingling with family and friends. I had never realized how individualized we are in America. I grew up in an extremely close-knit family that taught me family comes first. However, the people in Costa Rica do just exactly as I was raised to do: you put your family first no matter what. It is Host Familyincredible to see the impact that this has on a community where everyone holds similar beliefs and never puts himself or herself above other community members. One experience that really struck me as incredible was when I was in Nicoya and everyone was so happy and content with what little they had. They didn’t surround themselves with television, Hollywood, or cell phones. They just spent time with each other.  All of the bonds I made with the people in the towns and the people in our group have forever impacted my life in a positive way.

Therefore, maybe in the end the most meaningful experience that happened to me was that I learned to be optimistic and not afraid to try new things. From this trip, I have learned to take advantage of every experience, so that I am able to experience everything much more. I have matured past where I originally thought was possible, and it was all thanks to this trip!

Post by Mandi Bowser

Photos Courtesy of Hailey Hennessy

Arzberg: South Bend’s Beautiful Sister City

Arzberg (2)When you look at the landscape of Arzberg, or even Southern Bavaria as a whole, you can see why the country is so filled with historical culture. The landscape of high grasses and forests on the hills make it seem unlike anything in the South Bend area. Just looking at pictures of this area really makes one contemplate moving there to live and retire.

In addition to the absolutely stunning country-side, the landscape is also dotted with medieval castles and towns with historical ties to the medieval-era. One such castle that is still standing is Berg Hohenburg. Used as a fortification along the Czech border, it sits atop a large hill and provides a breathtaking overlook onto the country side. The castle itself seems to be a standard fortification from the era. The Burg Hohenberg (2)stones that line the wall primarily consist of smooth river stones that were, in all likelihood, found in the stream adjacent to the castle.

The castle grounds are something straight from medieval stories and lore. With drawbridges, community gathering areas, and sprawling grassy knolls outside of the walls, this castle would have been absolutely stunning during its prime. That’s not to say that it is run-down or ugly in its current condition either. The castle has been remarkably preserved through the centuries. The main residential building, which lies next to the entrance to the grounds, is as large as many small hotels in the United States. Combined with the nature paths in back of the castle, an old bunker, and the community gathering area across another bridge within the castle, this lodging facility is as luxurious as hotels in America, but retains its medieval appeal.

Arzberg (5)The actual city of Arzberg is a gem also. The combination of buildings with historical facades and the cobblestone roads, along with the construction of modern windmills and paved roads, makes it easy to return to the past while staying connected with the modern-era.

Arzberg was primarily known for its fine porcelain products in decades past. This, however, is not the only thing to see and take away from Arzberg. Perhaps the Arzbergmost intriguing part of Arzberg is its citizens. When our group arrived, we were unsure what to expect. From the moment we stepped off of the train, though, we were immediately welcomed into the community. The only real way to describe their reception towards us is nostalgia. TheyArzberg (3) made us feel as though we always belonged there and had just returned home from a long trip. Immediately from the train, we went to Berg Hohenburg to unpack, and then went to meet Mayor Stefan Göcking. Once entering the city hall, we immediately realized how important the relationship between South Bend and Arzberg is. In the reception hall, we were greeted with a display case which houses the document of friendship between our two cities, along with other documents between South Bend and Arzberg.

Arzberg had so much more to offer than South Bend, even though it is not even one tenth its size. Where as South Bend offers quantity, Arzberg offers quality.  With such a deep culture and history, it is not surprising that I had such a wonderful experience and would go back in a heartbeat. It really gives you a sense of just where you are in the world and how much more there is to experience.

Graffiti in Berlin: A Feast for the Eyes

While traveling this summer on IUSB’s study abroad trip to Berlin and Prague, one of our assignments was to create collage journals. With these collage journals, we were afforded the opportunity to have free rein to recreate our memories as we saw fit, being able to reflect back on the impressions both cities had left in our memories. One of the most striking and inescapable themes I decided to pick up on and highlight in my journal was while I was in Berlin. This theme was the graffiti found on walls of buildings, stairs following down to Berlin’s many U-Bahn stations, windows of various shops, and anywhere else there seemed to be an uncovered canvas. No matter where you turn in Berlin, there is graffiti waiting to be found just around the corner.

But what I did not realize at first was just how taken aback I would be by all this graffiti. When you think of the term “graffiti,” you tend to think about buildings being defiled and explicit words being strewn across a city for all to see. The graffiti in Berlin, however, is unlike any other I have seen. The artistic quality and the time it must have taken for these pieces to be completed reflect creative expression and impassioned attention to detail.

When I show my personal photos of various pieces of Berlin’s graffiti, I always say, “Berlin itself can be seen as one giant art exhibition.”

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Because the majority of our time in Berlin was spent in the former Communist East part of Berlin, it was a constant reminder of how the former GDR’s economy and livelihood was seen as “stunted” by those in the Western part of the city. Run-down buildings with shattered windows and tattered apartment doors seemed to be the places where the most, and often most vibrant, graffiti could be found. In my opinion, that is a testament to how those Berliners took back the city as a whole in order to revamp and reclaim Berlin, and Germany overall, as a unified place. More than anything, the reminder of the former East Berlin is present by having not only part of the Berlin Wall still standing, but having pieces of the Wall erected around the city with the same artistic graffiti covering the pieces from top to bottom. Unfortunately I was not able to get my own picture, but one of the most famous pieces of art on the Berlin Wall is “The Fraternal Kiss” between Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker.

Berlin, East Side Gallery

Berlin is often described as a gritty, harsh, and rough-around-the-edges city. Even the mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, described Berlin as “poor, but sexy.” After spending one week in Berlin, I must admit that Mayor Wowereit is definitely correct in his explanation. Although Berlin tends to be a whirlwind type of city, one thing is certain: Berlin is a city that is sure to captivate your senses.

(c) Maddie Kindig (All photo credit of graffiti belongs to me, except for the one “kissing” picture)

Free Movie at the Natatorium: “Slavery by Another Name”

On Thursday, September 18 from 6.30-8.30pm, there will be a special screening of the documentary “Slavery by Another Name” at the Natatorium.

Few people in this area are aware of the rich legacy of Civil Rights — or the sad tragedy of segregation — in northern Indiana or specifically in South Bend. In 1922, the Natatorium opened in South Bend for whites only. As the Great Migration brought numerous African-Americans north looking for work and freedom, this shocked many of them as they expected northern states to be completely desegregated. By 1931, several prominent blacks in South Bend started to protest the segregation at the Natatorium, but no significant gains in rights occurred until the city of South Bend passed a new tax in 1936 to pay for repairs at the Natatorium. The tax frustrated blacks in the community as they paid for the repairs, but could not swim, and by 1937, thanks to several protests, African-Americans were allowed to swim once a week. In late 1949, citywide protests consisting of both blacks and whites erupted once again over segregation of the Natatorium and on February 3, 1950, the Natatorium was fully desegregated.

In May of 2000, sixteen IU South Bend students and faculty participated in the Freedom Summer 2000, studying the Civil Rights Movement in the South. When arriving back at South Bend the students founded the Civil Rights Heritage Center to “record, preserve, and celebrate the struggles and extraordinary achievements of citizens committed to social justice.” In 2010 the Engman Natatorium became the official IU South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center. The Natatorium is a significant and culturally relevant landmark both in the history of South Bend and the Civil Rights Movement, serving as a reminder that the both segregation and the Civil Rights Movement were local, as well as national, in the fairly recent past.

The preservation of historical landmarks such as the South Bend Natatorium is essential for humanity and for societal growth. So please visit the Natatorium on Thursday September 18, from 6.30-8.30pm for a special screening of the documentary “Slavery by Another Name.” The event will also have a special guest, Dr. Mitch Kachun from Western Michigan, who researches “how African Americans during the 19th and 20th centuries have used historical knowledge and public commemorations in their efforts to work for equal rights, construct a sense of collective identity, and claim control over their status and destiny in American society.” The Natatorium and other museums that are similar in nature are essential not only to remind us where we once were as a nation, but guide us to where we are going we are going in the future. Please come for this event and learn about local history and the history of our nation.

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For more information visit the Natatorium’s website: www.thenatatorium.org
Or the Civil Rights Heritage Center website: www.iusb.edu/civil-rights/

Branch Out: Travel Abroad

Have you ever considered traveling abroad through one of the IU South Bend programs? The study abroad programs take you beyond the classroom to experience an entirely new environment – new sights, smells, sounds, and way of living. I took part in IU South Bend’s Mexico program last summer.

Lowell Ritter photo

Personal photo – Hierve el Agua

As soon I got off the plane, it was obvious I was in a different country. Bits of conversation in Spanish were heard and I attempted to translate the directional signs. Four weeks later, each member of our group had grown in their Spanish skills and felt comfortable in the country. Things that were unusual at first (like not flushing toilet paper!) were the new normal.

On the Mexico trip, students stay with a host family, which not only makes it necessary to utilize your foreign language skills, but lets you see what it is truly like to live in Oaxaca, Mexico. The house where I stayed with one other IU South Bend student was large and also had students from Stanford University staying. The family was friendly, the neighborhood was extremely safe, and there was a festival almost every weekend, most notably the Guelaguetza. In addition, we visited famous archaeological sites, such as Teotihuacan.

The trip combines studying Spanish at the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca, visiting archaeological sites, and staying with a host family to create a rich experience. The institute also allows you to take cultural classes, such as cooking (my personal favorite), salsa dancing, or creating Alebrijes.  My one piece of advice is to not be afraid to try the trip. If finances are holding you back, remember there are scholarships available and you should speak with the Office of Financial Aid. If you are nervous about what you may experience, take a leap and travel overseas because you will be thankful you did!

Remember, there are many trips. If Mexico is not the right trip for you, consider traveling to Germany, Costa Rica, Berlin and Prague, Florence, or London.

This post is by Lowell Ritter (lbritter@iusb.edu), who graduated in May 2014.