News News: Italian Studies Spring 2014

The Best Worst Experience Ever: Finding my niche in Italy

Casey-ThompsonI would have never guessed as a Freshman at William & Mary how much of an impact studying Italian would have on my life. I began college wanting to double Major in Hispanic Studies and Business, however after taking my first Italian class and spending so much time in the Italian House even before my two years as a resident, my plans had already changed. I remember going to my first conversation hour at the Italian house incredibly nervous, and leaving incredibly inspired. The house tutor that year, Giacomo Poli, essentially taught me how to speak Italian while I went along with a textbook to learn the grammar. I attended every activity I could at the House as Giacomo really instilled an appreciation for the Italian culture in everyone who went there. Thanks to him I was able to start Italian in the classroom that Spring in Italian 202 with Professoressa Boyle, who made me love the Italian language and culture even more and easily convinced me to pursue a minor in Italian, as well as do my study abroad semester there.

Being a Business major I decided to study in Milan, at Italy’s top Business School: La Bocconi. I created my own study abroad program by going through their single courses program and getting approval from many people between the Reeves Center and the Business School. After just a few days at Bocconi, I began to question my decision to create my own program. For being such a highly appraised University, I had a different experience. Let’s just say they made everything a struggle, and didn’t allow me to do practically anything at the school besides attend class. The terrible experience with Bocconi was actually for the best as it turns out. I figured out that Business was not the field of study for me and I also improved immensely on my Italian arguing skills when dealing with their registrar. But where I really improved my Italian was outside of Bocconi, and mostly outside of Milan. I am proud to say that I did not speak to one American the entire time I was in Italy, and for that matter, I spoke barely any English. Speaking Italian became first instinct after befriending so many cyclists.

Now here’s where I thank God that I brought my bike with me to Europe. It gave me such a unique study abroad experience that also helped shape my future. Through the Cassinis cycling team in Milan, I was able to connect with so many other cyclists around northern Italy. The cycling community no matter where you go is such a welcoming one. Through the people, I met I had the opportunity to fully explore the area around me because someone is always proposing a new adventure! From cycling the seaside in Liguria to crossing the Swiss border to climb l’Alpe di Neggia, and from having amazing opportunities such as cycling around the Montichiari velodrome or touring the Bianchi Factory, they allowed me to truly explore and grow within the Italian cyclist culture.  One particular friend from the team, Ale “Ironman” Sciarro, was one of the most inspiring and adventurous people I had ever met. He was dedicated Ironman triathlete who simply loved sharing his passion for the sport with others. He took me on several neat adventures, such as riding with his triathlon team on the world-famous autodrome of Monza, going around the Lago di Bracciano outside of Rome, and most importantly introducing me to the mountains of Lecco, where I first climbed Ghisallo, one of the most renowned climbs in the Giro di Lombardia. Little did I know that introduction ride to Lecco was more of a sneak peak to where I would be conducting my research this summer.

A week later after that ride, lo Sciarro sent out an email seeing if anyone wanted to accompany him in doing the Granfondo Cinque Terre. Wanting to explore as much as possible on my bike, I quickly said yes and that weekend was provvidenziale (heavensent). During a dinner at a small bed and breakfast outside of the town before the race, we encountered a larger group of people who recognized us as cyclists, and also the fact that I was not Italian, which led to very lively conversation as to what on earth I could be doing there. We discovered they were all from Lecco, where I had just biked a week ago. From a single conversation, I could already tell they were a special group. There was Fabio, ex-pro cyclist, his fiancée Laura, his father Elio, and their family friends Gianni, Mario and Enrico. Luckily, I ran into them again the next day after the race.

In a Granfondo there are usually two courses to choose from: a long or “short” course. I was disappointed in myself for not choosing the longer route and instead opting for the short 86km course due to the heat and humidity that day. Upon finishing, I heard “L’americana!” I turned around to find Enrico surrounded by the others from the night before. My disappointment with myself was immediately transformed to happiness. I ate the post race meal with them while I waited for Sciarro to finish the long course. I found out they all did the race in honor of a friend of theirs, a previous winner of the race, who passed away. Also a part of their group was il Don Agostino, with a few teenage boys from la communità Don Guanella of Lecco. Don Guanella is an educative community that houses several young boys from outside countries and helps them learn and grow until they are 18 years old and ready to go out on their own. They explained to me the wonderful concept behind the community and that il Don provides a road bike for every young boy there as a way to help them integrate themselves into the city and the outside world. I was touched by that concept and then incredibly thankful to have met them. I exchanged contact info with Fabio so I could take the train up to ride with them in Lecco, which I could not wait for.

A whole two months later, I made my return to Lecco. Due to conflicting schedules and my travels, it took a while to finally plan a ride together. I arrived at the train station and received a hug from Fabio, Elio, and Gianni before we set out to do the Ghisallo climb. The entire ride (literally) they explained to me everything there is to know about the mountains, the lake, and the history of where we were biking. I could go on forever about how wonderful that ride was, and how much they shared with me. Basically, I grew even fonder of them and might have invited myself back to ride again later that week. They were delighted and that’s when I started spending more time in Lecco than Milan. That next weekend, after a beautiful ride to Varenna, they invited me to their house for lunch and a hike to Monte Barro, where I met Fabio’s mother Gabriella and his brother Luca, also incredible cyclists. They actually live away from Lecco in Castello di Brianza, which is also part of the region of Brianza. That marked the first of many delicious meals and fun times spent with them, and as well as the first time I heard their dialect spoken: Brianzolo.

This family made my study abroad experience unforgettable and made me want to return to the beautiful area of Brianza as soon as possible. So, I decided to forget about finding a Business related internship for the summer and I pursued an honors fellowship through the Charles Center to further research and document their dialect, as it is slowly disappearing with the passing generations. I will also be looking at how it is spoken across three regions. This research project will serve as an outlet for me to study what I’ve always had a passion for from my Spanish and Italian studies: Language. I will be spending this summer back in Castello di Brianza, in the province of Lecco to answer the many sociolinguistic questions I have about their dialect, as well as provide documentation for it.

News News: Japanese Studies Spring 2014

Japan Studies Seniors Present Research at AMES Conference

Student presentations at a conference on April 12 showcased a wide range of interests in Japanese culture and society, as well as the possibilities for student research at William and Mary.

Graduating seniors in the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES) Program presented the results of year-long research projects at the AMES Undergraduate Student Conference.  Among the thirteen presentations over the course of the day, five focused on Japan.

Elizabeth Denny discussed the Takarazuka Revue
Elizabeth Denny discussed the Takarazuka Revue

Elizabeth Denny discussed her research into the Takarazuka Revue. Founded in 1914, Takarazuka is Japan’s most popular theatrical institution, staging elaborate musical period dramas, including The Great Gatsby and Gone with the Wind, with an all-female cast. Denny’s project examines how the theater performs male and female characters on stage, and the implications for the social construction of gender. Elizabeth based her presentation on her Honor’s Thesis, for which she was recently awarded Highest Honors.  Elizabeth recalls the beginnings of her interest in Japan: “I took my very first Japanese language class all the way back in 2004, as an eighth grade elective, simply because it was different from anything else I’d studied… Almost ten years later, it has taught me so many things: how to succeed and, more importantly, how to fail; how to look at the world from a different perspective; and most of all, what I love in life, which is studying Japanese culture.” Elizabeth plans to apply to graduate programs in Japanese Studies next year.

Tim Hogge’s presentation focused on the work of Japan’s master of animation, Miyazaki Hayao, the director of such modern classics as My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky, and Princess Mononoke. Taking issue with scholars who argue that audiences no longer respond to “grand narratives,” Hogge analyzes Miyazaki’s hit film Spirited Away and finds ample evidence for the continuing relevance of such narratives. Tim cherishes the opportunities he found at William and Mary: “Studying Japanese has allowed me to not only learn another language, but learn about another culture that is so vastly different from American/European culture, and allowed me to study abroad in Japan and have such a wonderful experience learning the language and culture first-hand.” Tim, too, plans to continue his studies: this fall, he enters the Masters program in East Asian Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dylan Reilly looked at the recent social phenomenon of hikikomori—otherwise healthy adults, many of them in their twenties and thirties, who shut themselves indoors, refusing to go into society or interact with others. Dylan presented some of the sociological, psychological, and economic factors that have been identified as possible influences on the growth of this phenomenon. He then examined the representation of hikikomori in pop culture, as well as the virtual community of hikikomori on-line. Dylan will also be entering the Masters program at the University of Pittsburgh this fall.

Madeleine Spangler presented on the subject of Japan’s hisabetsu burakumin—descendants of Japan’s feudal-era outcast groups, who still face discrimination today. Madeleine’s presentation traced the history of this community from the feudal era to the present day. It also introduced the author Nakagami Kenji, whose stories helped to raise awareness of the discrimination faced by the community. Finally, she identified key factors that will impact social attitudes going forward.

Steven Pau’s presentation focused on the “zainichi” community of ethnic Koreans living in Japan
Steven Pau’s presentation focused on the “zainichi” community of ethnic Koreans living in Japan

Steven Pau’s presentation focused on the “zainichi” community of ethnic Koreans living in Japan. He traced the difficult history of this community, from Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910, through the uncertainty at the end of World War II, to the fracturing of identity in the Korean War. Steven addressed the question of zainichi naturalization and acculturation within Japanese society, and charted attitudes toward that process voiced by various zainichi activists and intellectuals.  The last part of his presentation discussed the issue in light of the recent “Korean Wave”—the boom in the popularity of Korean pop culture among Japanese consumers—arguing that it presents new opportunities for zainichi identities.

Steven’s research grows out of his unique, self-designed major, titled “Japanese Culture and Language Studies.” During the Fall 2014 semester, Steven also helped to organize the William and Mary Issues of Identity Conference, which brought to campus scholars from several universities in the region. Steven heads to Duke University this Fall, where he will enter the Masters program in East Asian Studies to study the intersection of nationalism and identity and critical race theory.

Our congratulations to these and all the other students who presented at the AMES conference! Your presentations demonstrate the College’s commitment to student research. We encourage you to continue exploring your interests, whether within or beyond the academy.

Link to all the presentations:

News News: Russian Studies Spring 2014

Russian Studies: An interview with graduating senior Sophie Kosar ’14

Sophie Kosar is a graduating senior with a Russian and Post-Soviet Studies major, who had very rich and fulfilling experiences both at William & Mary and in her studies abroad. Over the course of her studies she published two articles about history and modern day urban development of St. Petersburg.  One of her articles appeared in the Journal of Undergraduate Studies at Columbia University.  Sophie also produced a documentary film The Marine Facade: Underneath Piter’s New Face, which was screened at several  domestic and international film festivals.  During her senior year she worked on a translation project for the Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relation.

Sophie is the recipient of the 2014 MLL Outstanding Achievement Award in Russian Studies, which is given to a graduating senior for contribution in research and Russian language studies, she is a member of the National Slavic Honor Society — Dobro Slovo, and she is the recipient of the 2011 Dobro Slovo Scholarship to study abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia.

We recently sat down with Sophie Kosar for a conversation about her research in St. Petersburg and about her experiences in the Russian and Post-Soviet Studies program here at William & Mary.

Here is Sophie’s original documentary:

News News: French & Francophone Studies Spring 2014

Preston Heinlein (’14) speaks about his experiences as a major in French & Francophone Studies

Preston Heinlein transferred to W&M at the beginning of his junior year. He knew that he wanted to study linguistics and the French language in particular. He spent a summer in Montpellier, taking courses at the Université Paul Valéry and working on an independent research project about the local LGBT community, which he then presented at the annual W&M Fête de la Recherche. Other highlights of his time at the College include his experience working as an intern for the 2014 French & Francophone Film Festival. Preston has just been elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and is the recipient of the 2014 St. Onge prize for the student in French & Francophone Studies who shows the most promise for graduate-level work. Next year he will teach English in France through the French Embassy’s TAPIF program.

News News: German Studies Spring 2014

German Studies: The Language of Film is Universal? – Teaching Language through Film

206_3Is there such a thing as a universal language of film? The students in German 206 “Intermediate Composition and Conversation, team-taught by Visiting Assistant Professor Jennifer Gülly and German House Tutor Carolin Wattenberg, ” were about to find out: thirteen movies covering almost 100 years of German and Austrian film history. Thirteen movies, that’s thirteen individual stories: the story of a young couple whose life is torn apart by the Berlin Wall (The Promise); the story of a son who keeps the GDR alive in an attempt to save his mother’s life (Good Bye, Lenin!); the story of a boy who refuses to grow up out of contempt for his elders and their ready compliance with the Nazi regime (The Tin Drum) or the multiple stories of Turkish, Russian, and other immigrants and their struggles behind, between, or across physical and psychological borders.

The range of movie plots, characters, themes, and styles put us in a very fortunate position: they provided us with a sheer endless source of material to discuss with our students. It was not just the fact that they made it possible for us to cover a variety of vocabulary but the movies also provided us with visual representations of Germany’s history and culture. We would spend one week on each movie; first giving students an introduction into its specific historical background and context, before moving on to a more specific discussion of the movies’ themes, plots, character developments, cinematography or scenery.

206_2The students actively led class discussions by doing three oral group presentations each. The purpose of these was not so much to provide a synopsis of each movie but for them to think of crucial questions and issues that they’d want to discuss with their classmates. Presentations challenged them to practice speaking German freely and in front of an audience, while also actively managing their classmates’ responses and reacting to them in real time.

Homework consisted of additional grammar exercises geared to the specific movie contexts. Compositions of three to four pages required students to analyze the movies in greater detail, compare them to each other or to creatively elaborate on a given theme from the perspective of one of the characters, e.g. through diary entries, inner monologs or letters.

For their final assignment, students will work on their own subtitling projects. They will produce English subtitles for one of the movies we discussed in class. They’ll be introduced to both technological as well as linguistic aspects of creating movie subtitles. Apart from the mere translation of individual words from German into English, students will face the challenge of grasping the core of each dialog, its irony, humor, context, and even more importantly, its subtext. They’ll realize that it’s more than just words they’ll have to translate and that it can be very challenging to lend an American voice to characters who are very much determined by their German language. In the end, students will have to find an answer to the question that has accompanied us all semester long: Is the language of film really universal or always inextricable from its national context?

Carolin Wattenberg helps students navigate an important concept
Carolin Wattenberg navigates an important concept

Jennifer Gully illustrates a point
Jennifer Gully illustrates a point
News News: Chinese Studies Spring 2014

Chinese Students Show Their Research Skills

In fall 2013, seniors majoring in Chinese took Prof. Calvin Hui’s course CHIN 428 Advanced Seminar in Chinese, which focused on fashion, media, and consumer culture in post-socialist China. By the end of the course, they did research and produced a paper relating to the course’s major concerns. They also presented their research outputs in the 2014 Chinese Major Forum. You can have a taste of the interesting projects that our Chinese majors produced in the research seminar.

Rachel Faith, Male Cosmetics Advertisement

Tyler Brent, Cooperative Marriage Between Gay Men and Lesbian Women in China

Sara Rock, Dog Ownership in China

Daniel Otto, Changing Views on Sex and Sexuality in Post-Socialist China

Linda Baysore, Peng Liyuan’s Fashion

News News: Hispanic Studies Spring 2014

Intercultural Competence: A Conversation with Hispanic Studies Alums

Prof. Terukina, Ben Boone, Prof. Root, Sarah Parks, Maybelline Mendoza, and Prof. Stock
Prof. Terukina, Ben Boone, Prof. Root, Sarah Parks, Maybelline Mendoza, and Prof. Stock

Following in the steps of a successful Career Panel held last year, Hispanic Studies majors and students welcomed our successful alums back on campus for a conversation.  On March 24, Ben Boone (HISP ’07; Ph.D. Candidate, Dean of Students Office at W&M), Maybelline Mendoza (HISP ’07; MBA Candidate), and Sarah Parks (HISP ’03; Master in Social Work) shared their experiences in the Hispanic Studies program (such as Sarah’s trip with Prof. Silvia Tandeciarz to La Plata that eventually led to the creation of our W&M study abroad program), their post-graduation trajectories, and their professional paths with some twenty Hispanic Studies students.  This brown bag event, “Putting Together Your Career Tool Kit: Hispanic Studies and Intercultural Competence,” highlighted the training our alums received in cultural competence and intercultural bridging, and the role that these skills play in their trajectories in higher education administration and non-profits in Nicaragua, the world of business and the beauty industry, and public service scenarios from community health clinics and low-income housing community center to welfare of immigrant children.

Our alums, students, from freshmen to seniors, and faculty engaged in a lively dialogue that underscored how our program contributes to creating global citizens.

The event was kindly co-sponsored by the Cohen Career Center, and the Charles Center.