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Our 2014 Cultural Vistas Fellows returned home this week from eight weeks interning abroad in Berlin, Buenos Aires, and Singapore.
Check out this video by Singapore Fellow Esther Chan, then go read more of their stories from abroad!
Die Weltmeister sind heimgekehrt und Berlin feiert die Fussballhelden. | The world champions have returned home and Berlin is celebrating its heroes.
Our International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) group of Russian performing arts management professionals have had a busy first week in the United States, including visits to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and Moog Music Factory in Asheville, North Carolina, as well as meeting with Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer!
This weekend Cultural Vistas staff were excited to take seven Train USA participants — representing the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, and Switzerland — on a moonlight tour of Washington, D.C.’s historical monuments.
This weekend has been a whirlwind of new experiences, family bonding, and fun! From a Singaporean wedding, to meeting many of their young adult friends, to Chinatown, to a concert at the gardens, steamboat, reading books and tucking my mei-mei, and di di (little sisters and little brother) in to bed, to church this morning, to the beach, sontomosa, eating, eating, and more eating…it’s been incredible!
Today was our first full day in Singapore, and it was an exciting one! After being shown around NUS by Mey, we visited Senoko. Not only is NUS probably the most beautiful university campus I’ve visited, but trash can be way more exciting than I thought. From learning to use chopsticks like real Singaporeans to watching grown men use video game-like controls to operate trash lifts, it’s been such an amazing start to AYLP.
Our 2014 AYLP Singapore & Malaysia class of 22 U.S. high school students and two educators are exploring sustainable development as they experience the people and cultures of Southeast Asia for the next three weeks!
Follow along on their tumblr or on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #WereMalaySing!
"The attitude of the women of Argentina is a sort of ‘no nonsense’ grace. They perform surgery in heels (I have witnessed it) while looking flawless."
Read more first impressions from Montana State University student Quinci Paine, AKA “La Doctora Rubia.”
We recently welcomed International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) participants from 22 different countries spanning 5 continents for a three-week professional visit to explore issues, trends and best practices in investigative journalism in the United States.
Oh, yeah, and they also got to spend some time with Bill Clinton during a volunteer activity with Habitat for Humanity in Denver!
Cultural Vistas Europe, The Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University, and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) recently hosted a joint Transatlantic Alumni Networking Reception together in Cultural Vistas’ event space overlooking the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
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Alumni and current students, many of whom count two or more of the hosting organizations among their alma maters, came together to acknowledge their complimentary work in transatlantic relations.
“Europe and the US share so many cultural, political, and economic values, so it’s essential that we stick together when facing the challenges of the 21st century,” said Will Maier, Cultural Vistas’ European Office Director. “It’s reassuring for the future of US-German relations to see how many of our alumni who actively work as committed transatlanticists already possess strong the ties with the Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University and the DAAD, both important partners for Cultural Vistas.”
Just another day on the Cultural Vistas Fellowship… taking a business trip to China! A very cool opportunity for 2014 CV Fellow Denise, currently interning at architecture firm AG Ingo in Singapore.
I departed Changi Airport (which is truly phenomenal, both in organization and architecture) at 2 a.m. this morning, arriving at Chengdu after an easy 4 hour flight. The majority of the day has been spent on travel, because we had to drive quite a ways to get to the hotel. I got a decent introduction to China via the car ride. It is nowhere near as organized and pristine as Singapore. At first, I couldn’t help but think the landscape resembled that of the Pixar movie Wall-E, filled with tower upon tower upon tower of bleak, desaturated housing blocks. After a while, this landscape gave way to rolling hills speckled with small-scale agriculture, including rice paddies and corn fields. We stopped to pick up fresh peaches and plums from a fruit stand and got a local delicacy for lunch at a nearby fish restaurant. As per usual, I tried to deny more food when I was full, but it is actually considered rude to decline such offers. I am trying to balance respect with fear of an ever-widening waistline. (It’s not going well). Once we reached Neijiang, the landscape turned into a bustling city with lots of first-level retail, street vendors, and busy streets. It is obviously very urban, but it’s not clear-cut like it was out by the airport.
I also got my first introduction to Chinese business deals. I sat around a table in padded couch chairs with “fancy-looking” green tea glasses in front of each of us. The high rollers went over to a separate table to further discuss their plans, while I waited with the others. I got left feeling like the teen that just got upgraded from the kiddie table at family reunions who doesn’t quite know how to engage in conversation with the adults. If the adults were speaking Chinese, of course. When the high rollers returned, the conversations seemed to be between two men, while the rest offered a few comments here and there.
We finished up the day with more chatting over a hot pot dinner and stopped by a square with lots of social activities, including group dancing and top spinning. The city looks far more impressive lit up at night.
People smoke here. It’s not even frowned upon, as they offered an ashtray at the “business table”, in front of the elevators, and in the hotel rooms. [Also, it is legal to smoke in Singapore. And lots of people do so. I find it strange that they can ban spitting, selling gum, and eating/drinking on the MRT, but smoking - something that has been proven to cause health problems - is allowed. This goes to show how group thinking tends to trump individual concerns in Asian countries. You would think they would consider secondhand smoke more devastating than spit marks on the ground, but I don’t make the rules.] Our car driver offered me a cigarette while we were sitting at the business table, but that’s one offer I felt comfortable turning down.
Drivers seem to get worse as I travel from place to place. Panama drivers have nothing on NY taxi drivers that are nothing compared to the upperclass Singaporeans with expensive luxury cars that are nowhere near as bad as the drivers in Chengdu, who honk at EVERYONE and EVERYTHING and seem to have no regards for speed limits or the yellow lines that mean DO NOT PASS. Intersections are particularly terrifying, because there are no lights, no stop signs, and no order. There are also people driving mopeds and rickshaw-style carts with engines that are piled high with produce and other goods in the back.
So as to not offend anyone, I was told by my advisor to wear my hair up, take off my jewelry, and wear a blazer. That’s what I mean by intimidating. These meetings were with government officials and business professionals. And then there’s me: the 3rd year architecture student from Nowhereville, Indiana, who speaks no Chinese or Cantonese, who hardly owns any business-y clothes…(and who uses words like “business-y” and “fancy-looking” to describe things).
Three more days in China. Suddenly, I think I miss being packed into the MRT like sheep. Is that weird?
To all my architecture friends out there: YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE MY LUCK. While on a site visit to NTU, one of the major universities here in Singapore, I was lucky enough to get to see not one, but TWO internationally renowned architects that I have studied. The first is a dorm complex designed by Toyo Ito. He is famous for the Serpentine Pavilion and Sendai Mediatheque. I’m a huge fan of his work. The dorms will be completed within a month, so hopefully I will be able to see the facility completely finished before I leave. I will probably spend more time at this location because the man that brought me on the tour is the head engineer on the project. He made it seem like conversing with Ito was no big deal. I kept my composure, but on the inside, I kept thinking, “I WOULD KILL TO MEET TOYO ITO.” (Not really. I am a good girl.)
The second building is also under construction: a Learning Hub designed by one of my all-time favorite architects, Thomas Heatherwick. He is famous for the Seed Cathedral and the 2012 Olympic Cauldron. The building at NTU is composed of pre-cast, grooved concrete pieces that when assembled, resemble a dim sum pot. I didn’t know he was the designer until I flipped open a magazine while waiting in one of the campus lounges and saw and article about upcoming projects.
The engineer didn’t understand my excitement when I found out that tidbit of information.
There was also an excellent green-roofed building that houses the school of art and design, but I did not recognize the architect. Although it resembles a building by Ito called GrinGrin of which I am familiar.
The list of incredible architects that have contributed to Singapore continues to grow: Zaha Hadid , Toyo Ito, Norman Foster , Thomas Heatherwick, Moshe Safdie , DP Architects, Paul Rudolph, IM Pei, WoHa
With such a stunning repertoire of architecture, it’s hard to believe that Singapore is almost too small to find on a world map. It really puts things into perspective. (For me, at least.)
Last week Cultural Vistas staff met up with 20-plus San Diego-based Train USA and Korea WEST participants for a get together at Basic, a downtown pizza joint that serves up some interesting “All-American” pizzas… like mashed potatoes and bacon!