Lessons from “East” Germany

Hands-on visit to the basement prison used by East German officials

Hands-on visit to the basement prison used by East German officials

Last weekend my host family and I went into the Harz Mountains, the tallest mountain range in Northern Germany. While the Brothers-Grimm-esque scenery was stunning, what caught my attention was a road sign: “Germany and Europe were divided here until the 21st of December 1989 at 8 AM.” I’ve taken modern European history both in Exeter and elsewhere and only now have I begun to understand World War II’s legacy on the modern German conscience. I’ve been learning history “hands-on” here. Our history teacher took us to an Inner-Border Museum several weeks ago.  During the hour trip there and back, he told us about how he often crossed the border to visit family members stuck in the East. He explained how they’d smuggle bananas, quality coffee, blue jeans, and other western goods into the country. When we pulled up to the museum, formerly a vehicular border-crossing, he commented on how the building seemed friendlier when East German guards weren’t swarming the place. 

The museum told not only the story of Germany, but the story of separation. The first room we entered was a short film on walls that are still exist, or, “walls still to fall.” If you broaden the idea of “walls” to include divisions such as cultural misunderstandings or various phobias, it’s interesting to then analyze the German approach to the events surrounding Charlie Hebdo and the so-called “Islamization of Europe.” It’s not an easy topic but, as an Exonian, I prefer the harder discussions. The talk lately has centered on PEGIDA, a German anti-Islamic organization. Most Germans disapprove of PEGIDA. They view a multicultural society as stronger and more successful. 

Not just another strip of land.  This used to be dotted with a razor-wire electric fence, watch towers, and mines.  Now, it's a nature reserve.
Not just another strip of land. This used to be dotted with a razor-wire electric fence, watch towers, and mines. Now, it’s a nature reserve.

For me, it’s a lesson in learning from the past. The Germany I’ve been living in is not the Germany my grandparents and great-uncles fought against. As much as I’ve been able to understand the history of German, I’ve been able to learn more about  the current views of German and they give me hope that the past won’t be repeated. 

Greetings from Germany

Hallo aus Deutschland!

front door of an old town hall

One of my favorite things about Exeter are the opportunities for immersive, global learning experiences.  One of the requirements for Exeter students is to take a foreign language through the third year level.  While some stop after that point, many, like myself, continue.  What lures many of us to continue to the fourth year level and above are the many abroad opportunities where you can experience the language, and its culture, first-hand.

stained glass window telling the history of Göttingen

I’m writing this post from my room in Göttingen, Germany.  From my desk, I can see woods, the crazy-environmentally friendly German houses, and, Continue reading

Costa Rica!

hector costa rica groupThis might have been perhaps the most fun summer, with a 10-day trip to Costa Rica from ESSO (Exeter Social Service Organization, our community service program) with 12 fellow Exonians and 2 chaperons, Mr. Hawkins and Ms. McGahie.  Our team will forever be indebted to the University of Georgia at Costa Rica (UGACR) for sponsoring our stay. Upon landing into the country’s capital we were taken to the lush rural community of San Luis de Monteverde at the UGACR campus. 3 days of intense hiking through the forest ensued, with spectacular sights.

We then took on a brief community service project; after the community center experienced normal wear-and-tear, we sanded and varnished all the tables, laid a rock bed foundation for a building, and much more. Here’s a picture of the team digging a waterway for floods, so they don’t destroy the building:
hector costa rica farm

The next part of the trip was devoted to a 3-day homestay, a special, memorable experience for our team. After a day’s drive to a village through Guanacaste, we arrived in a town of 100 people in a place called Quebradas de Nando. I lived with a nice family of 4; Nena, Richard, and their two sons Arley and Andrey. I’ll always be grateful to Andrey, a master marimba player, who taught me how to play in just a few days.

To make their school wheelchair accessible, we created sidewalks and stairsteps around the one room schoolhouse. Here’s a picture of us carving the sidewalk:
hector costa rica sidewalkTo finish off our stay, we threw a giant tamale-making party and invited everyone! Here’s a pic of us with our culinary expertise:
hector costa rica dinnerThe final days of our stay were marked by leisure in paradise at the CIRENAS campus just a short trek (over two rivers and a mile-long beach) away. After surfing lessons and a horseback ride through the jungle, we spent our last days at the beach, enjoying the sunset.
hector costa rica horse

I’ll always remember the absolute paradise of isolation, the beauty away from hotels and cityscapes that make Costa Rica truly unique. It caught us in awe of wildlife and in love for sustainable living, from the simple lifestyles of Quebradas de Nando to the wildlife reserve at UGACR. Thanks to Michaella ’16, Rohan ’16, Sasha ’16, Spencer ’16, Kelvin ’15, Rebecca ’16,Efe ’16 Sacharja ’15, Ashley ’15, Julie ’16, Kelly ’17, our guides Mane and Amelia, our fabulous driver Fabio, and our chaperons Mr. Hawkins and Ms. McGahie for a truly memorable, transformative experience.

Spring Break in China

RS China 1Hi Guys,

First, congrats and welcome to all of the newly admitted students! I can’t wait to see you all next week during Experience Exeter. I can easily remember my revisit day, and know that it was that day, after sitting in on classes and hanging out in a dorm, that I knew Exeter was the right place for me.

For spring break this year, I went on a ten day trip to China with five other students and six teachers, all Exonians. The group consisted of one prep, one lower, three uppers, and one senior, a few Chinese teachers as well as math, English, and history teacher, and the director of the Lamont Gallery. The main objective of the trip was to learn about the migrations of Chinese families and individuals from rural to urban areas. By speaking with experts who have studied this pattern as well as with locals who have migrated to the cities themselves, we learned about the job opportunities migrants find and the challenges they face.RS China 2Our time in China was split between three large cities, Beijing, Chengdu, and Chongqing. We spent our days exploring the local neighborhoods, visiting famous sites like the Imperial Palace, and trying lots of cool food (Chengdu and Chongqing are both known for food that incorporates the Sichuan peppercorn, a spicy seed that literally numbs your mouth when you bite into it). 

Of course, to learn about migration from rural areas, we had to spend some time outside of the city. While in Beijing and Chendgu, we spent one night each in the countryside. During the rural home stay outside of Beijing, we had the opportunity to hike up to a remote section of the Great Wall; reaching the top of the mountain and looking out over the countryside from the Great Wall was probably my favorite moment of the trip, though there are tons to choose from.RS China 3After studying Chinese for almost three years as my language course at Exeter, it was awesome to visit China for the first time and get to use my speaking, listening, and reading skills outside of the classroom. I’m so thankful to Exeter for providing this “co-learner” trip experience (co-learner, because of the 1:1 student:faculty ratio), and I can’t wait to hear about other Exeter off-campus trips in the future.

Monday marks the start of the first full week back from Spring break. Although the weather doesn’t quite reflect a vision of spring (the forecast is calling for temperatures in the high thirties), the shrinking patches of snow on the quads and the increasing determination of boys to wear shorts are both sure signs that spring term is here. Fingers crossed for lots of sunshine when you visit next week!

See you then,


Winter Time Music

Hey everyone!

The air has turned bitter, the days have grow short, and snow is on the ground. There is no mistaking it, winter is here! And with winter comes festive music of all types–just recently, around 30 Exonians and I had the opportunity to watch the Youth Boston Philharmonic Orchestra perform in Symphony Hall, and it was amazing. They played an assortment of pieces, ranging from A Gandolfi piece to Shostakovich’s famous 5th Symphony. Although I am not the most experience listener of classical music, it was really interesting to hear kids like me, two of whom attend Exeter, complete extremely difficult music in such a professional fashion. If I ever get the chance again, I will definitely go.

Have a happy winter!


Boston Philharmonic Orchestra

Summer Break 2013- Make the Best of It!

Hello scholars!

Most students would agree with me when I say that summer break is the best of all! Though we all love Exeter, it is kind of nice to break away from the scene every once in a while. I particularly love it, because I have the time to do many programs out of state that I am unable to do during the school year. Now, my summer schedule is packed with extracurriculars. I will be doing everything from Spanish emersion programs, to Journalism workshops, to law programs, and several shadows of professionals in each industry.

Today was the last day of my Journalism workshop at the renown Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University that spanned over four days. Here, I learned about writing newspapers, different columns, blogging, broadcasting, broadcasting, and more! I definitely learned  a lot and my print news writing skills have improved tremendously.

Here, I also made some amazing connections! I really suggest that though tempting, you don’t spend your summers wasting away and just sleeping. Get out there and try to improve your skills there are many programs out there. You can apply during the summer, or even earlier during spring term. Earlier is better, especially if you are looking for financial aid.  I will keep you all up to date with my summer achievements!

Until next time,


UNH Field Hockey Camp

Hi, All!

I got back from UNH on Monday from field hockey camp. Some of the girls from the team at school went to the camp together and it was a ton of fun (and extremely hot out, 95 degrees or worse!). It was an all day camp, so we started in the morning at 8:30am and our day ended at 8pm. There was optional play too, so if you wanted, you could play till 10pm. I stayed with the girls on the team because they’re day students and commuted while the majority of the campers were boarders. While we were at the camp, we got the chance to meet two new Exeter students! One of them was going to be a prep and the other was going to be a new upper. They were in our group during skills in the morning sessions and were on our team in the evening during games. It was good to play with them, and get to know them too, since they will become fellow teammates.

Aside from field hockey, some other things I have been doing over the summer are skipping a term of math, and staying in bed to procrastinate from doing anything productive. Skipping a term of math definitely wasn’t the most fun decision I have made, but I said I would do it, and well, it would be awkward if I didn’t do the work. I know, you’re probably wondering what skipping a term of math is. At Exeter, everything is done by term, so if you are in the 300s level math (I am), the sequence goes 310, 320, 330, 340. Meaning if you started the 300s level in the fall term, in the fall you would be in “310”, in the winter you would be in “320”, etc. There’s an accelerated course of 300s, going 311, 321, 331 which completes the 300s math in three terms rather than four. Well, I am skipping 320 over the summer so I can go into 330 in the fall. I did this because I wanted to finish the 400 series of math when I begin it. Motivation to do math is pretty rare in the summertime, and it’s been a pretty rough time forcing myself to do it. To finish the 400 series of math, I would have to skip a term next summer as well, but now I think I won’t. You live and you learn, right? Besides math, I’ll be vacationing at Bethany Beach soon! Time to buy some sunscreen. I will definitely have more eventful stories to write about later in the summer. Hope your summer has been fun and relaxing!