Study Abroad: Recent Experiences
History students are encouraged to spend at least a semester abroad. During their time abroad, students acquire skills and experiences that serve them well throughout their academic and professional careers. In addition to acquiring fluency in a foreign language, students benefit as well from the exposure to other historical approaches and the proximity to rich archival resources. The history major is designed to facilitate such study abroad, and many students take advantage of the opportunities available at Haverford.
Recently juniors have spent their time abroad in:
Zhao Fang is spending his junior year, 2007-2008, at Oxford University where he is studying modern European history. He has found the experience challenging and, at times, frustrating. He recently wrote:
"I am now enrolled as a visiting student, studying modern history at Mansfield College, Oxford. There are three eight-week terms here at Oxford. In each term, a typical third-year history student takes a primary and a secondary tutorial on the subject of one's choice. One's academic performance is evaluated on the basis of the quality of the essays and discussions with the tutor during these tutorials. Public lectures are open to all members of the university, and it is very important for one to attend the relevant lectures as a supplement of the tutorial. I found that most lectures I attended were interesting, thought-provoking, and informative. However, my experience of the tutorial system is a mixed one: for most of the time I felt that the length of the tutorial is insufficient to discuss fully the essay I prepared before the tutorial, especially when the tutorial is conducted in the traditional Oxford style (one reads the essay aloud in front of the tutor, and the tutor criticizes the points made in the essay). The conversation between an egotistical and vain student like me and an intellectually smart but usually arid tutor can easily devolve into an ideological/philosophical debate with no relevance to the historical issue under investigation."
~ Zhao Fang '09
Cassie West's interests in medieval European history and, more precisely, medieval Irish history, prompted her to spend the spring semester 2008 studying at the National University of Ireland, Galway. She is taking full advantage of the incredibly rich archival and cultural sources along with the interesting faculty and NUI Galway. As she explained:
"I could not be more pleased with my decision to spend the spring semester in Galway, Ireland. I was drawn to the city for two reasons. The first reason was my interest in medieval history. In the Middle Ages, the city of Galway flourished as a port for international trade. The city of Galway bears the nickname of the "City of the Tribes" because of the fourteen merchant families that established rule during this time of economic prosperity. The second reason was the opportunity to take advantage of the resources available at NUI Galway. I was excited to conduct research from the collections available at the James Hardiman Library, as well as the chance to study under a foreign faculty. The country itself is steeped in history. Although my interests are slanted more toward medieval history, I can't help but be intrigued by the story of the two Irelands in the 20th century. I have found that being abroad has given me new perspective on my studies at Haverford that I am sure will prove to be very beneficial in my senior thesis."
~ Cassie West '09
Jordan Thompson went to Paris for the food, but gained more than a culinary experience:
"I studied abroad in Paris during the spring semester of my junior year. I was attracted to the study abroad program because it promised a broad range of strange and alluring cultural experiences. I chose Paris because I speak adequate French and like food. I soon discovered, however, that the benefits of studying in Paris extend beyond pastries. I loved the opportunity to experience Paris as an ersatz Parisian. I lived with a French family and regularly endured the unique sights and smells of daily Metro commuting. Eating meals and spending evenings with my host family improved my French and gave me insight into the intricate dynamics of the French identity. Wandering daily through a simultaneously modern and historical city provided innumerable cultural and academic opportunities. I took history and political science classes in French, and I frequently visited the Louvre and Musze Cluny with my art history professor. My courses allowed me to engage with my studies in new and interesting ways, and my experiences both solidified my interest in exploring French history for my senior thesis and contributed to the improvement of my language skills essential to such an endeavor. Study abroad was an extremely useful experience, both personally and academically."
~ Jordan Thompson '08
Jenn Hare wended her way through history while studying abroad in Spain:
"Spanish has always been a big part of my academic and extracurricular life, and improving my speaking skills and soaking up Spanish culture topped my list of goals before leaving. Once there, however, I found that learning history became not only a part of my classroom experience, but of my everyday life. My history classes at the University of Sevilla focused on Medieval and Early Modern history of Europe and America. I was thrilled to see pieces of that history as I walked the streets of Sevilla. Just around the corner from my house was a marketplace built over dungeons where people were tortured during the Inquisition, which we were exploring in my Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Medieval Spain class. Almost every building and street showed some of the architectural and artistic influence Muslim conquerors brought from the Middle East and North Africa. As I walked to class everyday, I passed the massive Tower of Gold, originally built by Muslims who ruled the city and later used by the Spanish to store the gold they brought back from the New World. Living in a city whose past is visible on every street corner made me feel closer to history than I ever had before. Only study abroad could have given me that experience."
~ Jenn Hare '09
Alex Waleko spent the Spring semester 2010 in Granada (Spain) digging through archives and primary sources:
"I spent the spring semester 2010 in Spain, where I attended the University of Granada. The University itself has a rich history, since it was founded in 1536 by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. While taking classes, I also conducted an independent study course so that I could make considerable progress on my thesis research. In my 300-level seminar on Occult Sciences in Early Modern Europe, I studied astrology in the court of Alfonso X el Sabio, medieval king of Spain. I focused on one manuscript, the "Libro de las cruzes," an Arabic astrological text translated into Castilian under Alfonso's patronage. During my semester in Spain, I expanded my research, looking for related scientific manuscripts written at Alfonso's court. Studying at the University of Granada gave me access to even more manuscripts, at times in facsimile or digitalized format. I also located and acquired a couple other manuscripts that had been digitalized or copied by the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid. Studying in Spain also enabled me to expand my research through a wide range of secondary sources that were not as easily available in the United States. It was very exciting to continue to work on such an interesting topic, especially in having the chance to work closely with the original primary sources, and I am looking forward to further developing my research in my senior thesis."