Thursday, July 26, 2012

Days 25 and 26

It's over, and my heart is breaking. But I'm also so grateful to have been able to spend time with some of the best students from all over Europe, and I know that we will always be a family.

Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Institute 2012.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 24 - The final few days

Today, we returned to a fairly normal schedule at Wake Forest.

I fell asleep trying to hang out and maximize my time with my friends, so I guess this will be a fairly short blog post! We went to classes to discuss our final product--ours will be a rap battle/debate format. I'm not quite sure how that will turn out, but I'm looking forward to seeing it! In class, we discussed the ideas of what freedoms were and in what order they were ranked in terms of importance. We had some debate over the importances of the right to life and the right to liberty, which surprised me, honestly. It was a reflection of the "I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees" sentiment!

Later, children from the Boys and Girls Club of America came to tour "Europe". Everyone gave short presentations about their countries. I learned how to do Eastern European dances, Western European dances (specifically from Belgium with Wouter-Jan), and different little facts about the countries that the fellows were from.

I can't believe that the program is ending soon. I'm feeling pretty sad.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day 23 - And a return to "home"

I'm back in the Jennings' home right now, after a trip to the Carolina Beach, and I'm starting to feel a wave of homesickness. A little homesickness for my actual Charlotte home, but actually more for the dorms on Wake Forest's campus (sorry, mom). I miss being with everyone, and being able to see each other fairly easily. Of course, now once everyone returns to their homes, that will become an even larger impossibility. My stomach just dropped.

I'm trying really hard not to think of it right now.

But today was a wonderful last day to my home-stay/"cultural experience". Even though a few of the other fellows teased me a little, saying that the North Carolina cultural experience must be so new and exciting, I really do think to some extent, it was a cultural experience. Because of my Korean-American heritage, I don't often speak English at home, nor does my family act like what might be considered an "American" family.

We came back from Wilmington and Carolina beach, after stopping by a wonderful seafood place. After dinner, Modesta, Denada, and I gave our host family our presents. I had brought Korean traditional fans and magnets. Modesta brought chocolate, a DVD explaining Lithuanian history, a polo shirt, and a wonderful book filled with Lithuanian landscapes (I definitely felt a little bit outclassed). Denada brought Albanian brandy, a statue of Skanderbeg (Albania's national hero), and a flask. I'm surprised she got through customs--the brandy was 40% alcohol!

Sarah, my host sister, me, and Modesta at the beach!

Anyhow, I'm packing for the dorms right now. I can't believe we only have three days left.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Day 22 - A Day at the Beach


That sentence in itself should evoke images of bluish waters, sandy beaches, heat and humidity, colorful beach houses, calming waves, and child-like happiness.

Needless to say, that image in your head is accurate.

After a three hour drive, my host family and I arrived and headed straight for the beach. We swam, played in the sand, sang, and laughed. Modesta, while searching for shells, found the perfectly intact exoskeleton of a crab. I found some brain coral. My hair, while writing this, is still full of sand after two showers. I found sand in my ears.

Just a few tidbits of my day. The only day in which I've had a full break from this fast-paced program, but not a day in which I didn't learn. I learned parts of the Lithuanian language, learned about general Lithuanian and Albanian views on feminism, used some old music composition skills to try and arrange a version of a song for the talent show. It's going to be a surprise.

After the beach, my family and I headed to downtown Wilmington. There was so much street music and little indie bands were playing everywhere! And my parents told me that they were also in Wilmington with my little brother. Perhaps we will meet up, but perhaps we will not! I miss my family terribly, but I honestly don't want to impose on my host family who have been nothing but incredibly patient and considerate. I just can't wait to see them, but I don't want to leave. xx

-Pictures will come later, when I'm more awake!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Day 21 - Productivity Part 2

Today was another extension of productivity.

In the morning, after a short convening with everyone in the main auditorium, the human rights group headed off to ReStore, which is a store owned and operated by Habitat for Humanity. In general, I honestly was a little confused by our role there for the most part, but events that unfolded there led to lively discussion later.

For example, when our guide was giving us instructions on what to do, he specifically said that girls should organize because we "were good at making things pretty", while the guys should do the lifting "because it makes them feel manly". While this seemed to be a mild attempt at humor, the fact was that he was completely serious, and kept on recruiting "guys" to lift. To my mentors' credits, they kept on recruiting a mixed bunch of students. Later, this incident would inspire spirited debate about the boundaries of feminism and sexism.

Also, often times, we just seemed to be shifting things from one place to another without any reason. I was initially kind of reluctant to do this, because there seemed to be no purpose. However, later, I realized through discussions that nonprofit organizations, are, in fact, mostly undercover, behind the scenes work. Just because the activity was not as organized nor as interesting doesn't mean that it was crucial. I guess I will never know whether my work actually was important, but can only hope that it was!

After getting back late, we split off into different groups. First, the American fellows convened to plan a surprise that I will discuss later. Second, the human rights group convened to plan another surprise for later.

My host family has decided to go to the beach tomorrow! I'm very excited. Tonight in downtown Winston Salem was also very exciting, though, however. After doing some thrift shopping, we went to eat at the local Mellow Mushroom and go to an outside concert. It was just a nice, normal day--one in which I realized that I've become quite close to my host family. It really was almost like having another family.

Organizing, organizing, organizing

"To funk, or not to funk?"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 20 - Productivity

Today was probably one of the most productive days of my life, let alone my time at BFTF this summer.

After convening to our separate classes this morning, I first headed off to an optional speech given by the directors of Authoring Action, the subject organization of the film produced by one of our mentors, Vanessa. The directors talked about several different things, in more a general sense. For example, how art could be used to portray characters, but not be compartmentalized to just 'art', but reflect a sense of the characters' lives. One of the directors had been a playwright and a movie director, and so he described his philosophies in each of the two media--his advice: shoot a wedding. To capture what is often the biggest moment in anyone's life in a measly one or two hours condensed film would be very difficult--what can you cut out safely on a day that you want to remember forever?

After returning to my human rights lecture, I gave a speech on one of my favorite topics--the history of human and civil rights in regards to United States democratic interventions, or when the United States intervenes in other regions to establish democracies or encourage emerging democracies. But the unfolding events were even more productive and fun.

I didn't go to the Pit for the first time! I went to Shorty's, which is a little American restaurant. But the significance in this is that I attended a lunch meeting with a professor from Wake Forest University. I spoke and ate with a professor in the area of Computer Science. It was amazing to hear him describe some of the issues in cutting edge technology--particularly the idea that some problems, mathematically, have been proven to be impossible to solve. For example, we discussed the idea of an infinite loop that is triggered by faulty programming, and the one-time cipher used in cryptography. Mihaela from Macedonia, Francois, and David were also there.

Then, the human rights group went to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Winston Salem, and helped perform tasks that benefitted a yard sale that would be implemented for various organizations. We mostly sorted through items, but were introduced to how the Second Harvest Food Bank worked, and how non-profit organizations worked.

Then, we came back and went to Little Richard's BBQ and to the AMF Bowling Lanes with many, many different fellows. I'm proud to say that my host family was the one that helped organize this great time with other fellows--and it was so fun. I am also going to say that I will never bowl normally again. It just doesn't work for me.

Molly's sleeping over at my place today! I'm really glad to have made some great friends here, and to build some great relationships. I realized a lot of that tonight.

LPOTD 6. Selfiez with sleepy Sara and Lorik.

"I only roast people if I like them." - Lorik

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Day 19

As the number of days left in the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Program are slowly dwindling down, I feel almost like I'm leaving home to find a home to leave it again.

Today was a day focused mainly on human rights. There wasn't any structured learning, but instead, there was a free period for us to work on building formal speeches for our discussion of controversial human rights violation issues in each of our respective countries. I'm researching human and civil rights violated during the process of imposing democracy in other nations, specifically looking at the United States' involvement.

We went to a retirement community in Winston-Salem to watch the Arts group perform their pieces. Katarina from Montenegro played classical piano. Emma presented a piece of artwork that was a portrait of Antia. Many people recited poems they had wrote. It was all very touching, and very impressive, considering that it was all put together in less than three days! And the residents seemed to enjoy the presentation, and we were able to speak with them after the performances.

And after, we returned home to the Jennings'. I've been having an amazing time at their home, and am really grateful for their offering to keep us here. Modesta and Sarah and I sat and jammed to "American Boy" by Estelle, as well as various Coldplay and Adele songs. I think we may perform that at the final performance! I'll be rapping of course. Kanye, Sara, eh.

LPOTD5. I've been told that it's very easy to get ahold of guns in the United States by many different European fellows... I guess they're right.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Day 18 - Plucking eyebrows, baby monkeys, and social movements

I love being at Wake Forest University, and I love being at the BFTF 2012 program.

Today, the human and civil rights lab became even more interesting. This morning, we discussed the ideas of social movements with a lecturer who came in and cited examples from the London Riots to feminism in its early stages to the Arab Spring. And not only that, he was really quite interesting and quite good at facilitating civil discussion about issues that we may disagree about. We talked about the differences between a top down and a bottom up, more "organic" type of social movement facilitated by the populace. 

We also sat and discussed our human rights trees again. Aaron and Ilaha often ask some difficult questions, but it's nice being challenged to think critically. Often times during school, we gloss over questions by memorizing the facts and get away with it, and it's nice that BFTF encourages this kind of in depth thought process.

We essentially sat and discussed different ways how to effectively convey answers to controversial issues for the rest of the time. From inauguration videos of JFK to Margaret Thatcher to Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" to Malcolm X, we analyzed body language. Diction. Imagery. Metaphor. Personal appeal. Appeals to authority. Tone. Volume. Tempo and meter. So many different aspects that are crucial in social interaction are also key during oration, which I thought was interesting. We also watched a video of a speech Aaron gave! He does a lot of work with the Wake Forest Speech and Debate team, and so watching an orator at the collegiate level was impressive.

We also plucked Lorik's eyebrows. LPOTD5. This is how he gets the ladies.

"I'm just like... 'Look at my eyebrows', and get a lil closer..." - Lorik

Monday, July 16, 2012

Day 17 - Back to Wake Forest

It was my first day back on Wake Forest University's campus, and I definitely missed it. I suppose that because it is the first place I arrived on campus to for the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows program, it could be considered a second "home". And I'm looking forward to finding another "home" for college next year-- it's something that I am a little apprehensive for, but what happens, happens for a reason.

Either way, today was the resuming of classes. For my human and civil rights classes, we first attended a debate seminar with Dr. Von Burg, where the topics ranged from European versus American football to Turkish involvement in the European Union. In the classes, we participated in "SPAR" debate, which I recognized from this past year's circuit of debate.

It was so nice being back in The Pit for lunch. It was very crowded with other students from different camps, and I actually ran into a few friends from school! Namely Ford... Bedford. But sitting and chatting with all my fellow friends was a return to the "norm", and something that I had missed dearly.

Then the afternoon sessions of classes! We sat in a circle and drew philosophy trees. I don't have a picture of mine at the moment, but I will post one later on. We talked about which issues stemmed from which, and fell into a lively debate about realistic morality and idealism. It reminded me of the Lincoln Douglas debates of what ought to be, versus what should be. Historical references and philosophical principles were thrown out into the conversation, and it was all very interesting!

Next, we attended the LGBTQ Center in the Benson Center at Wake Forest University. We essentially discussed what Lesbian, Gay, Bisexuality, Transgender/sexual, and Queer statuses were in society, and how the college campus reacts to each of these identities. It was quite interesting, especially keeping in mind the Amendment One debate that had occurred in North Carolina not too long ago.

But mostly, it was just amazing seeing everyone again. Love and literally, kisses.

xx Claudia, Cristina, and Roma

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Day 16 - Cultural Experiences Abound

My home stay family has quickly become like another family to me. I've really enjoyed my time with the Jennings family, and their daughters, Sarah and Emily, are very relatable! I can talk to them about music, school, North Carolina, etc, and it's easy to hold a conversation with them. Because of our similar interests, academic backgrounds, geographical locations, and common languages, it's easy to see how we would get along well. However, Modesta and Denada also seem to be getting along as equally as well!

I think something nice about the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows program is the vivid illustration of how cultural barriers often exist in our minds. Despite the difficulty that some of the fellows have speaking English and or conveying ideas in English, it's been very easy to make what seems to be life long friends in this program. I honestly envision myself traveling to different European nations and being able to visit some of these friends, and having some of them visit in the United States. I know that a few have expressed interest in wanting to study here, but have also bemoaned how expensive tuition is. I'm helping them search for scholarships!

Anyway, today, I did various activities that further illustrated more cultural experiences.

Firstly, I attended the Strong Sun Powwow with my host family. We were able to watch a few Native American tribal dances and traditional performances, as well as a parade of Native American representatives from all over the Americas. Literally, the population represented ranged from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to las indigenas from Ecuador or Guatemala. I also noticed a very strong showing of Native American veterans from the United States Armed Forces present, and very strong support for the veterans present. Despite some of the actions taken by the US government throughout history towards the Native Americans, I thought it was very admirable yet a little confusing how much support there was for the armed forces from the Native Americans. To further prove my point, there were stands of vendors just selling patches, pins, and T-shirts emblazoned with the ARMY, NAVY, or AIR FORCE logos.

But anyway, the performances, clothing, and presentations were all very interesting and authentic! Here I am pretending to be a Chief...

Afterwards, after a period of rest, in which I took advantage of for some of my other work, I attended a "family" dinner with some of our friends from Italy. After some lively discussion about the 2012 Euro Cup, (football is a much more popular sport in Europe than here!) we sat down to some gnocchi. And mozzarella cheese and tomatoes and basil. And baguettes. And pies. And Ghirardelli chocolate. And egg mice.

I also met two Italian students roughly our age there--Elisa and Francesco. More illustrations of how Benjamin Franklin has made it seem so much easier to interact with students from such diverse backgrounds. Before the program, I could and would get along with my friends in Charlotte very well. But I was never exposed to such different cultures in a short period of time, and thus, never made friends with students from all over the world. However, even after talking to Elisa and Francesco for a few hours, we were able to discuss music, put together puzzles (literally--the two little girls wanted us to help them with Winx puzzles), and have conversations in halting English, Italian, and Spanish.

Anyway, long day at Wake Forest ahead tomorrow! I'm looking forward to being back on campus, because I miss everybody! Ciao. xx

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Day 15 - Adventures in Winston Salem

It's been an interesting time staying with my host family in Winston-Salem so far! As a Korean-American, I feel that many times I identify more with the "Korean" portion of my racial identity, and today's trips with the Jennings family have helped me find more similarities and differences with my family and what may be considered a more "American" family. Of course, each of these terms are used fairly loosely, as all families have unique characteristics that make them different.

Today, we slept in. We haven't slept in any other day during our time at the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows program, so this was a life saver. But we didn't stay dormant for long! We had a busy and fun day ahead of us.

Long story short:

We went to a locally operated bagel store. Then to a locally owned and operated secondhand book/records/CD store named Edward McKay. (Where we saw Theo and Nina, as well as their host family). Then to hiking on Pilot Mountain. Then to a locally owned Asian fusion restaurant. Then to a local street music festival--a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival band. We danced and saw Francois, Dillon, Joe, Ludwig, Diane, Antreas, and Richards there.

Pilot Mountain
R&R Street Festival

It's been a fairly methodical day--one of the first in which there was no direct educational or academic learning. However, it's been a reminder of how quickly I've made friends with European fellows, and how, despite the fact that Dr. Petrou cautioned of a "culture shock", we're almost like a family.

And throughout all this, I'm still trying to keep up with all the things I have to do outside of the program! Ciao.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 14 - Home Stays

Got back from Washington DC, and had a nice, sleep-filled bus ride back home on Bus A.

I met my host family today, though! I'm staying with the Jennings family in Winston-Salem, and so far, I'm loving it. They have two daughters around our age, and I'm able to relate to some of their daily lives, as I live not too far away from them. I've even been to their school for extracurricular activities before!

There's not too much to blog about today! I'm staying with Denade and Modesta, and so far, the sailing is smooth! They're both quite interesting, and Modesta and I share similar music interests, which has been fun to discuss.

Tomorrow has some exciting events planned, though, so I'm looking forward to blogging about them tomorrow!


The DC Metro!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Day 13

It's been a long day again. I've figured out that being at the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Institute is like being at school, plus mostly international students, minus the stress from grades.

But speaking of grades, Advanced Placement scores are out. AH.

Anyways, today was a big day! However, for brevity, I'll be using bullet points again. I took longer notes on paper, but honestly, my fingers are a little tired... I guess I should probably get some sleep soon!

  • I went to the Department of State. At the Department of State, we discussed how the United States government offered different opportunities to youth all over the world, particularly through the form of Youth Councils. I found out that there is no existing United States Youth Council, which is interesting. I think I'll probably email the Department of State to see if we could get one going--today's experience was interesting.
Cedric, Amber, and I at the Department of State
  • Anyway, we split up into different delegations representing countries from around the world to debate controversial topics. Syria. Iran. Afghanistan. The global economic crisis. I was a part of the German delegation for the global economic crisis, so obviously, I advocated for the austerity that was existent in the German fiscal policy to be spread to the countries of southern Europe (Spain, Portugal, Greece, etc). Dillon was my group's representative, and he knew so much about the European crisis! I thought the entire event was relatively well put together, as we only really had a few days to prepare. 
  • Next, we went back to the Washington Center. Tony Cerise talked to us for some time, but then we discussed the policies of Amnesty International with a representative. Because I am a part of the human rights and civil rights lab, I thought Amnesty International's work with such letter writing campaigns and media movements like their involvement with Aung San Suu Kyi was inspiring. 
  • Last day in DC for a while. Even though I grew up here, it's weird and exciting being back. The city I loved and grew up in has changed, but it's still very recognizable. Maybe I'll even study here in the future. 

"[penguins] are so cute." - Lorik
And he sent me this link: Dying.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Day 12

Today's been a long day, so I'll probably be keeping this blog post shorter than the norm; I love bullet points.

  • We visited the Newseum, which really brought back memories from last year and my time with the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America. I took pictures by the same features of the exhibits, and watched the same documentaries in the museum, but it was interesting seeing the news and reading the history of the news with fresh eyes. For example, there was a huge focus on the press of 9/11 and post-9/11 after effects, however, I don't remember there being such a huge emphasis last year. And the 4D video was much cooler than I remembered!
Adam and I recreate Muhammad Ali
  • Apparently I look like I'm 12 or under. The Newseum staff let me eat a kid's meal.
$6 for pasta, a roll, and a drink? Unheard of in an overpriced museum setting!
  • I then toured the National Gallery of Art with Cristina, Richards, and Hana. I went to the George Bellows documentary, saw Rodin's and Degas' sculptures, Calder's hanging sculptures, etc. I only really had time to really absorb the art from one floor, but I enjoyed myself very much. 
  • Afterwards, we went to the Capitol. Took a photo with Richard Burr, the Republican Senator from North Carolina. Took tours of the Capitol. Visited the Senate and the House galleries. (Which, by the way, were interesting because of the recent hubbub about the healthcare bill.
  • I had a conference call with The Echo Foundation--I'm really looking forward to work with them again this year. But there's so much to do, not enough time!
  • I really like Pita bread. 
  • LPOTD 2. 
There was a part of the Newseum in which we could upload photos of ourselves and tell the world where we were from. Lorik thinks this photo is a good representation of himself.

"These bugs, they're all over me. Just like the girls." - Lorik

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Day 11 - Miscellaneous Journeys

It's been a long but eventful day.

We kicked off the day by going to The Washington Center (, where we met Tony Cerise and Dr. Andrea Baron to discuss various topics. The Washington Center is a non-profit organization that offers internship opportunities to students who are interested in working in Washington DC. The topics that we discussed were ones that I was particularly interested in--and ones that I did my senior exit project and International Baccalaureate Extended Essays on. These were also the main topics of my research for the National Forensic League Public Forum debate topic of 2011, and the center of the curriculum I wrote and published through The Echo Foundation. (

We discussed what democracy was, and the key characteristics that defined the ideals of democracy. We also discussed the role of the United States acting unilaterally to spread democratic ideals in emerging democracies (ie. the role of the United States in the Arab Spring), as well as the ethics behind multilateral organizations like the European Union or the United Nations interfering with humanitarian aid, and thus violating state sovereignty. Roma and I had a few moments when we definitely appreciated the experience we had from Lincoln-Douglas and Public Forum debate.

I thought it was really interesting how there were many different perspectives reflected from representatives from different countries. For example, while discussing the conflict between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, representatives from each of the countries were able to calmly discuss their views on the violence that occurred, despite the tensions in the countries' relationship.

The Washington Center

Tony Cerise

Dr. Andrea Baron
We also looked at some political advertising of the two main candidates for the upcoming 2012 Presidential Election--Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. This is by far my favorite advertisement, though. Thank you, Jay Leno.

Afterwards, we stopped by the Union Station in Washington DC for lunch. The abundance of "Au Bon Pain"'s and chomping on a baguette reminded me so much of the Washington Workshops I did last year. I miss everyone so much! Speaking of which, one of my best friends from that program, Lylla , has been accepted to a very prestigious international study program for her university experience. I'm so proud.

Then the group moved onto the Holocaust Museum. Honestly, going to this museum makes me really upset. I don't like to talk to people in the museum, and I don't like to walk with people through the exhibit. Perhaps I'm just being moody, but I almost feel disrespectful if I smile in the memorial. I think it's really important that we remember what happened so that it never happens again, but seeing the piles of children's shoes and the locks of hair really gets to me.

And coincidentally, the "passport" that I received at the beginning of the tour had the information for a girl named Sarah. Sarah was born in June of 1930, and was planning on studying piano in a conservatory. That would have placed her around my age during the time of the Holocaust. The similarities, though coincidental, were a little shocking. She didn't survive the Holocaust.

The Holocaust Museum
The rest of the day just passed by in a blur. I went to Cosi again, and had the best Raspberry Mojito Lemonade I've ever had. Laid around with Molly, Sigvard, Lorik, and Jeanne. Got caught in the rain.

One of the highlights was definitely running in the rain though. My ankle has been feeling better, but I just wanted to jog, and went on a run through Washington DC with Ludwig and Wouder-Jan late at night. We ran to the Washington Memorial, to the Lincoln Memorial, through the States' Fountain, and through the Vietnam War Memorial. It probably wasn't the best idea, because by the end I might have been limping a little slash a lot, but it was so worth it. I'll just take a Tylenol later. The view during the run was beautiful, and we sang the Beatles, Mumford and Sons, Carly Rae Jepsen, and national anthems the entire run.

10th Floor View from GW University Dorms
And a new tradition. LPOTD, meaning Lorik's Photo of the Day. Here's photo 1, with a sweet quote.

"I could kill you right now and feel nothing." - Lorik

Monday, July 9, 2012

Day 10 - Hello, DC!

Right now, I'm at George Washington University in Washington DC--and thankful to have access to the Internet through the wireless connection on a laptop.

Traveling today has been quite fast paced. First, we toured the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, in which we watched an oral presentation about the history of the Constitution and roamed through an exhibit outlining the United States' governmental history (from presidents to Supreme Court cases to legislation). I got to wear the robes of old Supreme Court justices, and voted in mock elections for the next President of the United States. So far, it looks like Barack Obama will win the next election--at least according to the Fellows' votes. 67 to 33 percent (aka Mitt Romney).

Me and Barry. We're on a first name basis.
Next, a few of the Fellows (Francois, Roma, and Max) and I broke off from the group to tour the Old City. We saw the grave of Benjamin Franklin, a statue of Benjamin Franklin, and Franklin Street. I suppose the City of Brotherly Love is quite proud of him? Quite appropriate for the group photo of the BFTF 2012! (We also received t-shirts as a surprise!)

We stopped by the US Mint first. I was honestly a little surprised--it seemed more like a museum than an actual factory. I was expected coins pouring out of machines, but it was definitely less active than I expected. However, the exhibits were informative and witty. (Roma really appreciated the puns... "What do you do for a job?" "...Oh, I make money.")

The actual factory
I had a Philly Cheesesteak, just to see if I would change my mind about whether I liked them or not. I didn't. Oh well.

But then, the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Institute headed off to DC.

A few friends and I stopped by the White House after grabbing some dinner at the Cosi Cafe (the TBM sandwich is amazing), and talked to a lady at Concepcion Picciotto's tent. A quick explanation: Concepcion Picciotto is called "The President's Neighbor", and has been sitting a daily vigil for anti-nuclear protests since 1981.

Concepcion Picciotto's Tent
This really reminded me of the program I went to last year as an essay winner of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America. I actually saw this same tent, and talked to Concepcion. It's crazy how quickly time has passed, and how quickly you make friends in such a short period of time! In fact, today was the birthday of one of the girls I met through that program last year. And further, she lives in Philly and goes to UPenn. Happy birthday Madeleine.

On another note, I really hope that Austeja feels better. She felt queasy for a few days, and today, she was rushed to the hospital because of her appendix. The doctor says that the surgery should be fairly simple and that she just needs some rest, and I hope she can visit us in DC soon.

Anyway, now I'm in my dorm with Anathea, Hana Colic, and Ollena Sandul. Getting ready for another long but exciting day tomorrow!


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Day 9 - A Day in Philly

A few things about today:

1) It is quite difficult to blog from an iPhone. I am not complaining, because I am eternally grateful for it, but without Wi-Fi in the hotel, my poor thumb fingers are working overtime on this touch screen.

2) I am forever a city girl. I love Philly. Minus the cheesesteaks, which really just seem like heart attacks waiting to happen. But no offense if you like that sort of thing!

3) Today we toured the Constitution Center and the Liberty Bell. I learned some fun facts today. For instance, we celebrate the 4th of July as a mistake. The idea to declare independence was voted on on the 2nd, written in draft form on the 4th, and signed quite a while later-I believe the tour guide said in August. On a side note, I received a huge copy of the Declaration of Independence, and all the s's are written as f's. Funny how the English language has evolved over the years.

4) Things I learned in school are actually quite useful. Hearing about our nation's history and visiting some of these historical locations was really exciting because I could finally make a physical link between the places I'd heard about in school and where I stood. Parts of the tour and of the exhibits I was able to recognize from classes at school. Thank you Mr. McHugh, Mr. Cook, and Mr. Murphy!

5) Afterward, we were able to tour the city, go shopping, and just spend time together. My friends and I wandered down Walnut St and Chestnut St, browsing some of the shops for a little bit. I thought it was really interesting how some of the things they thought were expensive in Europe were considerably cheaper here (ie. Nike or Adidas) and things they were used to in Europe were more expensive (ie. Zara). It was honestly just exciting watching them get excited about buying presents for friends or family, or just for themselves.

6) On a more serious note, I also realized how dangerous cities could be. While we mostly traveled in packs, one of my friends had an incident in which she disappeared for a few hours and nobody knew where she was. There were some scary rumors about strange men accompanying her, but she's back safely, and thank God she's alright.

7) I was really able to get to know Adam from Poland better today, and we took photos together! He's really passionate about the arts (and in fact, when we were choosing labs for the next week, he crossed out all the other options except for the arts and expression one!), and it was fun to watch him find different commonplace things to be so beautiful.

8) I bought my first two piece bathing suit. Consequently, it was used in the pool not too later. Two security guards showed up. I suppose we were a little rowdy.

"I am in a pool. What do you do in a pool? I don't know." - Wouder-Jan

9) When I went on a run today, my ankle popped and has been throbbing a little. Hopefully it will get better soon. I'm glad that Anathea and Gunes are healing at a relatively quick rate though.

10) I remember that a few lunches ago, Wouder-Jan and I had a talk about homeless people and beggars in our respective countries of origin. I told him that my philosophy was not to give money to people, but help them get what they really need, like food or shelter. I thought that this was more effective than just giving money, because of high levels of alcoholism and substance abuse-my giving of money could just fuel the flame. Kat had a slightly different opinion, advocating for giving money to those who beg for it in some cases, and leaving it up to the beggars to make the right choice to utilize it. I think she does have a valid point. But today, many people came up and asked for money. When I asked them what they wanted it for, some of them were flustered and walked away or cursed at me. But one man sticks out in my mind-the man I met outside my dinner at a McDonald's. He asked for money and when I asked him why, he said it was because he was hungry and hadn't eaten. So I had some money from my stipend and with the money he had also garnered during the day, we bought him a Big Mac and a sweet tea. Just a thought.

11) I love Au Bon Pain. Brings back memories of traveling for debate.

12) I also convinced someone that I was from the UK today. It was bloody hilarious.

13) Tomorrow we leave for DC! Ciao.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Day 8

Moral of the day: I hate buses.

We left for Philadelphia today by bus, and it took approximately 13 hours total, complete with an engine failure and an oil leak that required fixing. But in the end, I'm here and I have some awesome pictures of sleeping people. I suppose I won't publish them out of the goodness of my heart...

But on the way there, I thought it was funny that "Mean Girls" and "Hot Fuzz" were played back to back. From a chick flick to a semi-horror satire? Interesting and entertaining movie choices. Honestly, though, I was asleep for most of the ride. Carsickness and motion sicknesses have been the banes of my existence since I was young.

I did spend some time talking with Claudia from Slovakia about the Slovakian education system and the International Baccalaureate programme in her country. She tried to explain this thing called Gymnasium that is common in Europe, but I'll have to do some research on my own.

Anyway, I'm finally in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love! We went to dinner at a place called Jake's Italian Pizza and Grill, and was surprised to find a paper plate from the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Institute of 2010 on display! One of our mentors' names, Daniel, was on the displayed plate as well.

At the hotel, we swam for a bit before retiring in for curfew. I'm looking forward to a fun day tomorrow. Ciao.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Day 7

And yet another day comes to a close.

Time is going too quickly, and I can't believe 7 days have already passed. I miss everyone already. But why am I getting sad?! Tomorrow, we leave for Philadelphia, and I'm so excited.

This morning was the last day of our first week of classes. We finished up our mock European Union, with a successful treaty for the North, South, East, and West. I'm glad that we could come to such a peaceful compromise.

While this conclusion seems to be quite simple, the discourse that actually went into coming to this conclusion was quite tricky. For example, there seemed to be some clashes between members in their own groups and of course with groups of others. Thankfully, I think we were able to learn from each other, actually--not only about the ideas of democracy and types of government, but also how to handle "internal" and "external" conflicts. In fact, the "world" almost came to war once! Thanks Wouder-Jan... Or "Wes". A new friend from Belgium.

The final resolution and our signatures

After lunch, in which I learned to eat like an European, we broke into investigation labs about certain different topics. There was one about education and child welfare, environmental sustainability, documentary films, radio and journalism, arts and expression, and human and civil rights.

Eating like a European
The human and civil rights group was quite interesting. Our leaders are Ilaha and Aaron, and we discussed in depth what the ideas of morality and ethics were behind the existence of human rights, as well as specific types of human rights violations that we found interesting. Among the few named were organ trafficking, color blindness, and religious and ethnic discrimination.

In our lab--Human and Civil Rights
 Afterwards came dinner. We played an international game of "football", and Molly taught me how to do a cartwheel! In exchange, I sprained my ankle. Gunes from Turkey was unfortunately injured, and had to be rushed to the hospital. Thankfully, he's better, but he still has a cast. People have been getting hurt so often. A few days ago, Anathea fell quite badly, and her face was bloody and bruised. I hope both of them get better soon.

Sleepy Sigvard
Adam from Poland and I also had a heart to heart. I'm so excited to be meeting people from all over the world who are so diverse. He loves art and music, and is so unique and kind. We learned some fun phrases in each other's languages, and discussed French politics.

Afterwards, Wouder-Jan and I listened to some music together. Mumford and Sons, Dave Matthews Band, Avett Brothers, Simon and Garfunkel, Norah Jones, The Civil Wars, Bon Iver. His Apple MacBook's keys are in Dutch! Crazy stuff. Ciao.

As sort of a PS) Joe and Kat say that my British accent is getting better! I think I will only speak English with an accent for the rest of my life. It makes me sound slightly more sophisticated!

Dutch Keyboards? Blows my mind

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Day 6 - An International Dinner

I woke up super late today. While the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Institute is amazing, it's incredibly difficult to smush a time of such productiveness and fun into one month. And I'm a little tired, but I'm having too much fun to care. Maybe I'll start drinking coffee.

Anyway, after a mad dash to wash myself and go to breakfast and then to the announcements, I went to class. This class was taught by Dr. Alessandra Von Burg, and is called "Citizenship and Conflict". Essentially, today we were able to go around and discuss various methods of citizenship and the social movements within the populaces of each country, which took quite a long time. Afterward, we split into different groups and began to serve as leaders of fictional countries to practice the ideas of compromise and democracy. I'm currently the president of the country "North", which is an authoritarian regime stooped in poverty. Go figure. 

But I think the negotiations worked fairly well! Tomorrow, we'll be writing a resolution to the resolutions to see if we want to build alliances (and YES, we do, in order to expand our trade routes). Shout out to Denada from Albania, Gabriela from Bulgaria, Alvaro, and Richards! 

Lunch, I think, is always one of the more fun events during the day. Even though we're rushing to get between classes and such, we always have funny little instances that occur that brighten the whole rest of the day.

Richards is eating 5 plates of food. The American Dream has been achieved.
For example, my friend Lorik pulled out his wallet. To a ton of money. I'm not going to say how much, but it was a lot. His reasoning? "Where else would I put it?"

Lorik... Just because we are at the Benjamin Franklin Institute doesn't mean you carry around multiple Benjamin Franklins...

Molly from New York? Euros? That's my girl.
Classes resumed, and basically negotiations between countries occurred. I can finally understand why discourse in Congress seems to go nowhere sometimes. Because while I may try my best to move forward on a point, there will be obstacles. And quite honestly, some of those obstacles are unexpected. For example, there sometimes are cultural differences or personality differences in between some of the fellows that I'm noticing. Today, there were constant tiffs between some of the fellows between rival nations, and it was quite uncomfortable. I didn't realize that some of the fellows would take simple questions so personally, and as a non-confrontational person, I hated it. But in the end, I think we're almost to achieving the ideal state for the "North".

Last, but definitely not least, was the International Dinner. Some of the recipes submitted by my friends were selected to be prepared. Those that were selected prepared a course (appetizer, entree, dessert) for all of the fellows. It was delicious. In the great words of my friend Victoire, "I'm too scared to try new foods because if I fall in love with it, I will crave it for the rest of my life." And that is quite true. I will want some of these foods for the rest of my life.

And afterwards, those that didn't prepare food (namely me), helped clean up. And even cleaning up was a simple pleasure that I will not forget. We ended up singing songs from "The Sound of Music" and "Mary Poppins" as we scrubbed away, swept, and folded chairs. And afterwards, we played basketball/soccer/football/volleyball with a bouncy ball that had lost most of its air. Some of the boys remarked that I was a great weight for weightlifting. Go figure. Again. And some of them decided to go ahead and practice. Go figure. Thrice. But all in all, it was a beautiful time of different foods and different cultures coming together for a literal celebration of diversity.

My plate in the middle of my demolishing it.

Emma, Vilde, and Antreas preparing their foods.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Day 5 - An Independence Day Celebration

Today honestly has been one of the best days of my life.

After waking up and just heading straight to classes, I learned about comparative constitutionalism by studying the United States Constitution and comparing it to other constitutions, namely the South African constitution. One thing that was really interesting was how the South African constitution had so many specific outlines for its sections, while the United States constitution had a relatively general and vague wording. I then wrote my own constitution with a group of people that became the country... Franklainia. Shout out to Cedric, Claudia, Carmen, Karla, Hemide, and Modesta!

The Constitution of Franklainia
Lunch is always entertaining. Even as an Asian-American, I'm adjusting to the constant stream of "American" food, so the adaptation process of some of my friends has been hilarious.

Austeja and her pizza
After lunch, we came back to class, and prepared for a more formal style debate. This was really interesting because I do debate for my school, and I've been fairly heavily involved in the forensics community--I've even debated at Wake Forest before. This time, I took the position of a judge, and ruled in the negative of the following resolution: the United States constitution should stand as a model for democracy in emerging democracies.

But of course, we had a few adventures during that period. For example, Francois helped me learn French. Je sui convencue. 

The actual debate!
After the debate was the exciting part. We had a fourth of July celebration! Cedric of course was his usual paparazzi self.

 A water battle ensued after Dr. Petrou brought out the water guns.

Joe from the UK

As usual, I finished up the evening with a nice jog, and came back to my room to find that Max from Georgia, Christos from Greece, and Antreas from Cyprus had started up a game of UNO with Cristina, my suitemate. Of course, I joined in. Soon, Antreas and I had formed an alliance. The photo below was taken to imitate some of the world leaders in their jolly handshakes when signing an alliance, but I'm struggling a little bit... We were such nerds! We could have called it UN(oh) rather than UNO... Ciao.

Cyprus and North Carolina make a formal alliance.