As the Dartmouth community prepares for Thanksgiving, Dartmouth Now asked students and faculty participating on the College’s fall foreign study and language study abroad programs in Peru, Scotland, and China how they plan to observe the holiday far from home. These and dozens of other off-campus programs are offered through the Frank J. Guarini Institute for International Education.
“A highlight of the Spanish LSA+ in Cusco, Peru, this fall was a trip to Lake Titicaca, says Professor Silvia Spitta. “We visited the Uros floating islands and stayed one night with Aymara families on an island.” (Photo courtesy of Professor Silvia Spitta)
“Cusco is a magical city that lies at over 10,000 feet,” says Robert E. Maxwell 1923 Professor of Arts and Sciences Silvia Spitta, who is directing Dartmouth’s first advanced Spanish language study abroad program (LSA+) in the Peruvian city.
“You cannot go anywhere without being aware of hundreds if not thousands of years of Inca and pre-Inca history,” Spitta says. Cusco is bilingual, so students are studying “survival Quechua” in addition to their advanced classes in Spanish, she says.
Two days after Thanksgiving the group heads to Lima for two weeklong workshops—one with Afro-Peruvian singer and Grammy Award winner Susana Baca, the other with the renowned theater collective Yuyachkani.
“Our Thanksgiving will combine a traditional U.S. Thanksgiving with the Cusco end-of-the-program celebration,” says Spitta. The feast will be held in a local restaurant that will provide the turkeys. “The students will bring all the rest.”
Students have invited the Cusco host families with whom they’ve lived for the past several weeks. “The students will cook the meal with their families and show them how to put together a traditional American Thanksgiving,” Spitta says.
Rachel Hand ’18, a geography major from Great Neck, N.Y., says she’s looking forward to making “sweet potatoes with cinnamon and marshmallows” with her host mother.
Spitta says the only traditional Thanksgiving food not available in Cusco is cranberries. “Awaymanto, or cape gooseberry, will be our substitute.” The tart golden berry grows in valleys throughout the Andes, she says.
Other highlights from the program have included a trip to Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca, “where we visited the Uros floating islands and stayed one night with Aymara families on an island,” Spitta says.
Students have “climbed mountains in Arequipa, visited Peru’s ‘Grand Canyon,’ the Cañon del Colca, traveled to Bolivia to the Salar de Uyuni and the jungle at Puerto Maldonado, and hiked to ruins that are being hailed as a new Machu Picchu—Choquequirao.”
Hand says, “One of my favorite trips was to Pumamarca, a rural town about 20 minutes from Cusco, that is the hometown a staff member at the university where we’re studying. Seeing her background and culture has been a highlight of my trip so far.”
The LSA has given Hand the opportunity to become friends with classmates she might not have met otherwise, she says. “Being away from Dartmouth has given me time to focus on my adventurous side.”
The religion and philosophy departments are both leading foreign study programs (FSPs) at the University of Edinburgh this fall, and the programs will combine forces to celebrate Thanksgiving this year.
“We’re doing it up in a serious way,” says Associate Professor of Religion Kevin Reinhart, who is organizing the meal with Susan Brison, the Eunice and Julian Cohen Professor for the Study of Ethics and Human Values and a professor of philosophy.
Students on the religion FSP are taking two courses taught by Edinburgh School of Divinity faculty, and one taught by Reinhart. In his class, “Ritual in the Postmodern UK,” Reinhart says they have been learning about the meaning of rituals. “They’ve all been studying ritual, so they know the importance of feasting together,” he says.
“There will be a lot of Dartmouth people sitting around one table,” says Sara McGahan ’17, a neuroscience major from Atlanta, Ga. “Some of us are planning on making a few dishes beforehand. I'm looking forward to cooking with the friends that I’ve made here.”
On the menu: turkey with all the fixings. “You have to reserve turkey early because they tend to be reserved for Christmas day,” says Reinhart. “It used to be difficult, but now you can find things like cranberries and canned pumpkin for pumpkin pie.”
To accommodate the programs’ vegetarians, Reinhart says, they will also serve vegetarian haggis—like the classic Scottish savory dish, minus the sheep’s offal.
Robert Muttilainen ’16, an economics major from Long Grove, Ill., says, “This term has been one of the most valuable and enjoyable of my Dartmouth experience. I love the city of Edinburgh. It is very walkable and full of history and friendly people. My courses have been incredibly worthwhile and surpassed my expectations.”
“Spending time away from campus has allowed some much needed time of reflection,” says McGahan. A highlight: a trip to visit early Christian sites on the island of Iona.
The group has also had the opportunity to visit other key landmarks of Scottish religious history, including Rosslyn Chapel, Melrose Cathedral, Durham Cathedral, and Lindisfarne Island.
The Edinburgh Thanksgiving feast will be hosted in the home of a Dartmouth alumnus from the Class of 1974 who teaches at the university. “The Dartmouth network never ceases to amaze me,” Muttilainen says.
“One of the best moments in the program took place while we were in Tibet,” says Visiting Lecturer in Chinese Fenru Shi. “We had just visited the Gandain Monastery, and the students were taking a break on the mountain to admire the view. Our tour guide handed us a long string of prayer flags, on which we wrote down the names of people whom we wished the heavens would bless. Before we hung the prayer flags, each of us held onto a flag while we took a group photo, the long string of red, yellow, blue, white, and green billowing in the breeze.” (Photo courtesy of Visiting Lecturer Fenru Shi)
“The Chinese LSA+ program exemplifies the three-part learning process championed by Confucius when he said, ‘I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand,’ ” says Visiting Lecturer in Chinese Fenru Shi, who is leading the program in Beijing this fall—and organizing what will perhaps be Dartmouth’s farthest-flung Thanksgiving.
In addition to studying spoken Chinese, calligraphy, and tai chi, students have participated in field trips to museums and performances around Beijing, and had the opportunity to visit Tibet.
For Thanksgiving, Shi says, “We are planning to have a traditional Thanksgiving feast with turkey and stuffing at a Western cuisine sit-down restaurant. During the Thanksgiving dinner, we will express our gratitude for our teachers and students. A week before the feast, we will draw names from a bowl and write a thank-you card (in Chinese, of course) to the teacher/student.”
Jennifer Zhao ’18, a biological chemistry major and Chinese language and literature minor from New York City, says, “I’m a little disappointed that I won’t have Thanksgiving with my friends and family back home, but I look forward to celebrating in Beijing, honoring the memories I have made here and the experiences I would not have gotten anywhere else.”
So far, Zhao says, visiting Tibet has been her favorite part of the program. “I immediately loved Tibet the moment I got off the plane and saw the scenery. It was so breathtaking.”
One of Shi’s favorite moments was also in Tibet. “We had just visited the Gandain Monastery, and the students were taking a break on the mountain to admire the view. Our tour guide handed us a long string of prayer flags on which we wrote down the names of people whom we wished the heavens would bless. Before we hung the prayer flags, each of us held onto a flag while we took a group photo, the long string of red, yellow, blue, white, and green billowing in the breeze.”
For Dartmouth students thinking of studying abroad, Zhao says, “If you have even an inkling of wanting to go abroad, definitely do it! There’s a lot you pick up when you live in a country for a few months while taking classes and learning about culture. You learn more about yourself and what you’re capable of.”