Green Energy in Pamplona | Summer studies with the Hershberg Scholarship

 

Every year our Hershberg Scholarship provides funds of at least $1,500 to promising research trips abroad. This past summer one of our recipients, Darby Brown, a senior at the University of Kentucky, spent the summer in Pamplona, Spain, learning about renewable energy infrastructures. An account of her stay, in her own words, is below.

Hershberg Scholarship applications are currently open until February 15, 2019. For more information about requirements and to apply, visit our Hershberg Scholarship webpage.


A wind farm in Spain, El Perdon

The Navarre region of Spain is a world leader in renewable energy usage and technology. Thanks in large part to the World Affairs Council, I had the opportunity to study in Pamplona, Spain, a city within Navarre. My studies exposed me to an array of technologies and gave me access to industry experts in each field. Just as important as the learning done in the classroom was that done outside of it. Staying with a host family immersed me in Spanish culture, pushed me far out of my comfort zone, and taught me lessons that I will keep for the rest of my life.

Upon my arrival in Pamplona, I was greeted with a warm welcome from my house mom, or ‘Mama Zubi’ as she had us call her. Nervous and weary, I rang the buzzer for her apartment. A voice came on the line and started speaking to me in hurried Spanish. I managed to get the door open and lug my suitcase halfway up the stairs where she met me with hugs, kisses, and excitement over her new “chiquitita”. She fed me a grand Spanish lunch complete with local cheese, chistoro, and pimientos, and showed me around my new home. Mama Zubi rushed through her house excitedly showing off everything from her fresh herbs to her book collection—a tour given entirely in Spanish. I tried to keep up with her but Spanish 101 and the Duolingo app had only gotten me so far. In the end, we got through it with a little Google translate and a lot of charades.

A field trip to Lizarraga, a town that powers all of its public spaces using a solar photovoltaics/hydropower system and connected microgrid.

No, my house mom did not speak English. At times, it was overwhelming to live with this communication barrier. Never before had I needed to communicate with someone and not been able to. However, it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever experienced. Thankfully, my program began with two weeks of intensive Spanish language courses. From the first day, I became acutely aware of how important those Spanish classes would be in order to communicate in my own home.

Mama Zubi was an invaluable part of my language studies because she encouraged me to practice speaking at home. She was patient and held many conversations with me similar to those you might have with a kindergartner as I learned. She not only encouraged me to learn the language, but to be fully immersed in her culture. Her encouragement and inclusion empowered me to dig deeper, ultimately delivering a more complex understanding and appreciation of life in Spain. I immersed myself in many aspects of the culture that I would otherwise never have experienced. Among these were dancing the bachata and the jota with locals in the Plaza del Castillo, making friends with the bartender and becoming a regular at my favorite pintxo bar, and conversing in Spanish with the families of the friends I made abroad.

Living with a host family enhanced my understanding of renewable energy and conservation, as well. I observed firsthand the Spanish lifestyle at home. I noticed how she kept lights off, opened windows rather than blasting the AC, and moderated her hot water consumption. She had no car and walked anywhere she needed to go. Small things like this contribute to the low average energy consumption per capita in Spain—nearly a third of what it is in the United States. I expected to learn about renewable energy in Spain, but the necessity of a sustainable lifestyle was a lesson I did not expect. Becoming energy and waste conscious is the first and most important step in creating a sustainable world.

Darby’s farewell lunch from Mama Zubi.

The issue of sustainable living that started with cool showers at home extended into the classroom. The American students compared our individual energy consumption to our Spanish professors’ and talked about alternatives like biofuels that can be easily implemented in your own home. These professors were usually working professionals, and experts in their respective fields. Each professor gave an inside look into their industry and challenged the class by offering insights that we would not have encountered in the United States.

Being in Spain gave me access to much more information than I would have had in a traditional classroom. Some of the technologies we studied, my favorite being the Oscillating Water Column, have not even been introduced in the US yet. We took field trips to see all of these technologies in action. In our field trip to an Oscillating Water Column test facility I experienced firsthand how much energy can be harnessed from a single wave. That is one wave I will never forget.

Darby, Mama Zubi, and another student Rose at the San Fermin Festival.

Studying abroad enhanced my learning in so many ways, but just as important is impact it made on me personally. Living abroad, especially with a host family, host family was a huge test of patience and a testimony to the human spirit for both parties. Certainly, there were times when we got frustrated. There were times when it took 5 minutes to communicate a single sentence before we finally gave up and used google translate. There were times when Spanish television, Mama Zubi on a phone call in Spanish, and foreign music were simply too much and I hid in my room just to get a break. There were also times, however, where I laughed harder than I can ever remember with her. There were times when her hugs, just like a real mother’s hug, made everything okay. I am amazed at the bond we formed and the love I feel for her despite our language barrier, and I know she feels the same. While I was certainly made aware of the importance of verbal communication this trip, I learned to appreciate nonverbal communication and natural human connection even more so.

My time in Spain was priceless for the amount that it improved me personally and prepared me to better serve my community as a young professional. I am so thankful to the World Affairs Council, my professors, advisers, and family for making this experience possible. I learned so much while studying abroad and will carry those lessons with me for the rest of my life. I would recommend studying abroad and doing a homestay to any student, especially those with curious minds who want to make an impact in our increasingly global society. One day, I hope to pay it forward and host an international student just like Mama Zubi. For now, I would encourage anyone who is able to consider hosting an international student. The experience is truly unique and endlessly rewarding. And we, the students, appreciate you more than you know.


For opportunities to host your own international students, visit our Host Family and Volunteer page.

Hershberg Scholar Kaitlin Henning on research trip to Mexico

Kaitlin Henning is a undergraduate at the University of Kentucky studying anthropology and international studies. Last year she became one of our two 2017 Hershberg Scholarship winners with her proposal to travel to Oaxaca to study social justice. A reflection on her experiences this past summer in Mexico are below.


This summer, thanks in part to the Hershberg scholarship, I spent two amazing months in the Southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. These eight weeks were filled to the brim with experiences and adventures which have forever changed my perspective. As a student of the SURCO organization (University Services and Networks of Knowledge in Oaxaca) my classmates and I took classes on the effects of neoliberalism as well as experienced the beauty of one of the most biologically and ethnically diverse regions of the world through first hand field work. For the first half of the trip, our group took weekend trips to different parts of the state to speak and visit directly with activist groups and cooperatives who were experts on individual topics we would spend the week before learning about in class. These weekend trips took us from hundreds of meters up into the mountains to meet with indigenous communities struggling with land reform in the north to Afro-Mexican communities navigating identity politics on the southern coast.

One of my favorite trips was to the Vida Nueva women’s weaving co-op in the nearby town of Teotitlan del Valle. These women, varying in age but all members of the Zapoteco indigenous community, were defying traditional gender roles by weaving tapestries and making other weaved crafts and selling them themselves in the Oaxaca markets. Traditionally, the practice of making and selling these items were considered men’s work but to preserve the tradition after men in the community relocated due to labor migration, women in this community took over the trade. They use the money they to earn to buy supplies as well as execute an annual community project. After making us a delicious meal, these ladies showed us how they cleaned and spun wool, which, to my classmate’s and my chagrin after trying to emulate their actions, is much harder than their expert hands make it look. They also explained to us the various methods they use to make the all-natural dyes they make to color the wool, and how delicate this practice is in order to achieve just the correct hue. They demonstrated how the addition of acids and bases can change the shades of colors as if by magic. Each pattern they incorporate into the tapestry and each color has a specific meaning important to the representation of their culture and the themes they are trying to present through their art work.

My last few weeks in Oaxaca were spent conducting research on and gathering testimonies from indigenous community radio stations. These stations use the sound waves as a form of vigilance to inform their communities of the truth in news when the media does not honestly report events that are of relevance to them. This was most markedly noted when in 2003 the village of Santa Maria Yaviche was attacked by a paramilitary group supported by the government after attempting to unite with the Popular Indigenous Council of Oaxaca to claim their rights. This attack was not reported by the media and the news of the killings would have been silenced had it not been for the use of these community-ran radio stations that shared their testimonies with the state through this medium. My research took me to five different towns to meet with community DJs and learn about the specific causes for which each station was organized. These causes ranged from women’s empowerment to environmental preservation.

In addition to this research, I am now also drastically more comfortable in my Spanish speaking abilities. Not only did I attend Spanish classes and interact with my Spanish-speaking host family every day, but all my research interviews were conducted in Spanish as well. This practice gave me a practical experience with the translation process that is already serving me well in my Spanish classes at UK this semester.

I will never forget my time in Oaxaca and am immensely grateful for the lessons this scholarship as afforded me. On this trip, I met some of the most amazing people and accomplished things I never imagined I would be able to do. My limits were tested for the better and I have returned to campus with the knowledge that I have accomplished hard work and am ready to do more. I would like to thank Mrs. Hershberg and the World Affairs Council for their generosity, without which, I would not have been able to experience this adventure of a lifetime.

2016 Hershberg Scholarship Recipients

  World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana
Announces the 2016 Winners of the David Hershberg Scholarship

 

Louisville, KY. (March 29, 2016) – The World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana (WAC) is pleased to announce the winners of the annual David Hershberg Scholarship for Study Abroad. The winners, who each will receive $2000, were selected based on their commitment to enhancing their knowledge of international affairs and for their dedication to making the world a better place. The scholarship monies will be used to help defray the costs of their respective study abroad programs.

This year’s award winners are:

Alice Kennedy, a University of Louisville student who is earning her master’s degree in Public Health. Alice wants to peruse a career in the international monitoring and evaluation of Public Heath Systems. Alice will use her funds this summer to research and gather information on the public health systems in Ghana.

Amos Izerimana, a student from Berea College who is majoring in Peace and Social Justice Studies. Amos wants to pursue a career in Peace Studies helping refugees. Amos will use his scholarship to further his understanding of peace building strategies at the prestigious Caux Scholars Program in Caux, Switzerland this summer.

The David Hershberg Scholarship for Study Abroad was established in the memory of David Hershberg, a Louisville educator, mentor, and guiding force in the creation and development of the Louisville International Cultural Center (now the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana). Dr. Hershberg was a career faculty member in Romance Languages at the University of Louisville, and was particularly known for his dedication to his students and their development.

The World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana is a non-profit member-based organization whose mission is to promote cross-cultural awareness, education and tolerance through nonpartisan discussions on current international issues. Through our speaker series, international visitors program and education-centered opportunities, WAC provides the community with the tools and knowledge to develop an informed citizenry and increase the global competency of students, educators and professionals.