London/Paris/Brussels

Contemporary Europe: July 2 - 15, 2016

Tuition: 2 weeks at $5,190

(not including airfare and insurance)

London: Arrive July 2, 2016

Day 1, July 2: Orientation and Residence Check-in

Once in London, our program guide(s) will be waiting in anticipation at the airport to greet you. We will then travel by bus or “the tube” to central London where we will check in to our hotel or shared residence. To recover from your disorientation, you will meet the other students and program guides for a welcome orientation. We will do introductions, icebreakers, and talk about the nuts and bolts of traveling in Europe with particular attention to cultural issues and safety protocols. To gather your bearings a bit more, we will then take a light stroll to dinner where you will be given your GoPros along with video-training to help you get the most out of your experience abroad.

Day 2, July 3: Learning to Communicate and ‘Read’ People: Improv and the Power of Story-telling

Theatre has served as a cultural underpinning for Western society. The rich history of theatre in England is celebrated on your first full day in beautiful London.

Breakfast begins at one of the city’s most iconic morning gathering places. We take the group to Hyde Park across the street and engage in a learning experience that allows students to understand the importance of communication and story-telling.

Storytelling is how we create our world and the world around us; it is the set of scripts that help shape our identities. In our attempts to better understand the world we live in, however, improvisational techniques will provide us with the tools to not only tell stories but, more importantly, listen to stories, especially when they are different from our own. What happens when we have to go off script, leaving our own perspective to inhabit the perspective of an other?

Our team’s Go-Pros are buzzing. At the end of the day, our best story-telling performances will be posted on Culture Academy TV.

We continue to The Globe Theatre for a matinee performance then have a casual dinner and finish the day at the legendary Southwark Playhouse.

London Building
London Big Ben

Day 3, July 4: Understanding Difference through Anthropological Eyes

Anthropology represents a scientific and historically informed view of what happened to make us the way we are today.  Going to tourist sites often misses the entire story. The day begins with a presentation in how we understand and create difference by looking towards our past. Instead of taking a bus to Big Ben however, we continue with an unexpected but strikingly valuable tour of the bathrooms from the Knights Templar. Yes, bathrooms and, more specifically, “toilets” – those things that make you want to wash your hands the minute you hear the word or the filthy sound of the flush (or even worse, hearing no sound at all). Why do we consider some things dirty, abnormal, and dangerous while other things are clean and safe? Through the history of toilets, students will have a chance to discover London by exploring our daily rituals and lifestyles.

To further our understanding of diversity and difference, students will have a chance to explore London’s vibrant art collections at the Tate Modern. After, we will walk to The Laughing Gravy restaurant to taste delicious seasonal London cuisine!

Day 4, July 5: What’s so high about High Tea? Inventing Britain through colonialism

Students will begin the day with sugar at a nearby bakery to delve into the history of the British Empire. From the Protestant Reformation to Colonialism to the practice of High Afternoon Tea, we will go beyond the common, grandiose stories of Britain’s historical dominance to explore its part in proliferating violence and inventing race and “high society.” Throughout the day we will demonstrate a very different story of British power while visiting sites marking the history of the Reformation and the Industrial Revolution.

We will then engage the students in the ritual of High Afternoon Tea once they understand the dramatic past that has led to this very pleasant practice.

Day 5, July 6: Are they British? Multiculturalism in Britain and Europe

London is one of the most, if not the most, multicultural cities in the world. Today, we will explore the rise and fall of the British Empire, which has led to London’s very diverse society. We will take students on an exploration of various London neighborhoods such as Soho, Chinatown, and historic Spitafields in the East End to probe into topics such as diversity, immigration, integration, and racism.

For lunch, we will walk to Brick Lane to see the thousands of Indian restaurants and indulge in the delicious food.

Day 6, July 7: Trip to Oxford

A trip to London for high school students is not complete without a visit to the University of Oxford. Students will take a tour of the campus followed by an afternoon hike with views of the surrounding town and charming villages.

Central London Skyline
Student Outdoors Studying

Paris: Arrive July 8, 2016

Day 7, July 8: Day of the Flaneur: Why is Paris so beautiful?

Walking and looking: we will spend our first day in Paris simply exploring- walk, taste, observe, shop, and walk some more while getting lost in the city (all the while knowing exactly where we are). Using the city of Paris as our example, students will embrace the city’s urban structure and see first hand how it’s influenced the way we live and how we interact with others.

We will also visit the very iconic Louvre paying particular attention to one 18th Century painting to explore the French Revolution, the Enlightenment, science, and the “body”. We will explore how art represents and challenges the Western values we cherish today.

Day 8, July 9: Nationalism and Anti-Semitism

The Marais in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements is one of the oldest and most popular areas in Paris. It is also home to a large Jewish community as well as LGBTQ community, rich with a beautiful, sacred, and tragic past. Beset by narrow, cobblestone streets and architectural structures ranging from gothic to art nouveau, the Marais is a peek inside France’s struggle for a national identity. While touring the Marais and parts of Nazi-occupied Paris, students will engage in captivating discussions on the history, as well as the rise, of anti-Semitism in France.

After grabbing a delicious falafel sandwich off rue des Rosiers, students will then have a chance to also visit the Musée national Picasso.

Day 9, July 10: Islamophobia, Migration and Refugees – Global problem or global solution?

After waking up in the morning to taste one of Paris’ best butter croissants at Patisserie Laurent Duchene, students will have a chance to explore the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to investigate the concept of tolerance and the benefits of intercultural dialogue. An organization that aims to build peace throughout the world, UNESCO provides the intellectual backdrop for understanding critical world issues such as the current global migrant crisis, terrorism, and the French practice of laïcité.

We will then travel to the 5th arrondisement to get a crash course on France’s cheeses before picnic and people-watching on the Seine in the afternoon.

Day 10, July 11: Brussels

Although small in comparison to Paris and London, Brussels deserves to be more than a mere day trip from Paris. Students will discover the city of chocolate, waffles, fries (yes, they are in fact Belgian not French), and home to most of the European governmental institutions and myriads of non-governmental organizations that work together to create a united Europe.

Arriving at Gare Centrale in the center of Brussels, students will immediately be greeted by La Grand-Place, an iconic square exemplifying the diverse and tortured history of Belgium. After checking in to our residence, we will walk to the upscale Sablon area to taste delicious Belgian chocolates from Pierre Marcolini or Witamer (we will skip Godiva) while also passing the various shops housing old and new African art. As we make our way up Le Sablon we will stop by the Magritte Museum to introduce students to surrealism and its influence on pop-culture today.

At night, we will catch a performance at the Bozar.

Day 11, July 12: Brussels

The next day, students will participate in a historical, political, and cultural journey with tours of the European Parliament and the European Commission. They will learn about the European Union, what it is attempting to do, why it was created after World War II, and how it influences the United States. There, we will have a chance to speak with Parliamentarians and other governmental officials about having and creating a European identity.

We will also visit non-governmental organizations such as the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) to learn and discuss Europe’s fight against Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of exclusion in order to understand the construction of race and inequality.

Next door to the Parliament, students will walk to Place Jourdain, known for having the bestfrites in Belgium, then later gather at Place Luxembourg for an afternoon snack where young European civil servants hang out after work.

We will then head out to dinner at Place Saint Boniface facing a beautiful medieval church residing next to Brussels’ lively Matonge – the African quarter in Brussels.

Euro Building
Aero Photo of Church

Day 12, July 13: Return to Paris

Culture and Food

One cannot walk away from Paris without enjoying the pride and joy of French culture – the food! We will discover France through its culinary creations and the work it takes to create fine cuisine that has built the identity of a nation. But as any anthropologist would say, it is not enough to observe, we must participate! Students will enjoy a hands-on cooking class to understand how heightening our senses of taste and smell can brand a whole culture.

In the evening, students will shop for food at their local markets and collaborate to make their own French-style meal.

Day 13, July 14: Culture, Fashion, and Identity

The center of fashion, the city of Paris is also well-known for its haute couture and luxury goods. Apart from visiting the grand magasins of Paris to learn the ways Paris has changed the way we buy clothes, we will also delve into the concept of fashion itself – how it is linked to the rise of democracy, how it influences Western ideas of beauty, and how it attempts to shape our perception of our own bodies.

Today we will skip the Champs Elysee and head towards the Fondation Louis Vuitton to explore the links of fashion to art, gender, politics and culture. In the evening, we will then take part in the wondrous celebrations of Bastille Day commemorating the beginning of the French Revolution!

Day 14, July 15: Departure

Au Revoir!