Annelise Colvin: Cameroon
Annelise Colvin ’15 was both nervous and excited about volunteering at a French orphanage in Douala, Cameroon, after receiving a Junior Summer Fellowship. In the two and a half weeks she spent with the Humanity Exchange, an organization that sends students to foreign places, Colvin worked with children to prepare them for their upcoming school year.
Colvin applied for her grant by submitting a project proposal that included her goals for the trip and why she thought she deserved to win.
While volunteering in a local orphanage, Colvin spent time with 10 children, bringing them candies and pastries and helping them prepare for the upcoming school year.
She said that she was surprised by how the children were always smiling and seemed overjoyed despite their circumstances. A current French student, Colvin also took advantage of being around native speakers to improve her conversational French.
“In a classroom, you are taught to speak very proper French, but all the children spoke really fast slang French,” Colvin said. “I’ve found that I already understand a lot more of what people around me are saying than before I went there.”
She lived with a host family who introduced her to other locals during dinners.
Many of the traditions seemed foreign to her as an American.
“We ordered this entire fish, and it was a whole fish with heads and eyes, and you eat with your hands,” Colvin said. “That was my first real look into their culture.”
Although Colvin was apprehensive about staying in a foreign country alone, she said that she was extremely glad that she was able to experience such a unique opportunity.
“I would tell anyone thinking about applying for a fellowship to just go for it, and think of the craziest place you can go and just do it,” Colvin said. “Now I appreciate things I had never thought about before, like taking a bath and going out to eat knowing that everything is cooked well… Originally I didn’t know what to expect, but the whole [experience] has really opened my eyes to what is happening in Africa.”
Alex Grande: Spain
Alex Grande ’16 took cooking classes in Valencia as part of her Iberian Latin American Studies Fellowship. She studied Spain’s history and how its cuisine was affected by historical events. In addition to taking classes where she learned about Spanish traditions and cuisine, Grande also traveled to learn more about the food.
“I went to El Palmar,” Grande said. “That’s where they grow Valencia rice, which is the rice they use for their paellas, so I got to go there and I got to see where the rice was grown and actually try some.”
Using what she learned in Valencia, Grande chose to create a historical booklet with traditional recipes of Spanish foods along with information about the dish and historical background.
Some of the foods that Grande will be putting in the booklet include paella, tortilla de patatas and a variety of tapas. She chose Valencia for this project because the city is well known for its food.
“Since that’s what I was studying, I wanted to make sure I went somewhere that had that specifically,” Grande said.
The city of Valencia is smaller than Los Angeles, Grande said, and she appreciated the fact that she was able to go out to restaurants and cafes to meet with friends and eat.
Grande also appreciated the extensive public transportation, which made traveling around easier. The friendliness of the people also made an impression on her.
Along with learning about Spain’s culture, history and cuisine, Grande also learned to be independent: how to look out for herself and find her way around a foreign city. She got lost in Valencia one day, but managed to get money from her card and find her way back home.
“That experience, as terrifying as it was in the moment, helped me learn how to do things by myself and problem solve in a foreign city,” Grande said.
Karenina Juarez: Mexico
Karenina Juarez ’16 interviewed Mariachi music scholars and gathered research this summer after being granted the Iberian Latin American Studies Fellowship, with the goal of ultimately compiling her findings into a short documentary and a proposal for the teaching of a Mariachi music class at Harvard-Westlake.
She met with authors and historians with expertise in the field of Mariachi history and technique, all the while checking in with Interdisciplinary Studies department head Larry Klein.
Juarez traveled to Washington D.C., to interview Daniel Sheehy, Mariachi historian and Director of Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. She also traveled to Texas Tech University in June to meet with Professor of Musicology Lauryn Salazar.
Juarez recently returned from the International Mariachi Festival in Guadalajara, Mexico, one of the final legs of her summer fellowship where she attended various workshops.
She has begun work on her documentary, organizing her film and has begun editing together. In this way, she hopes to expose her peers to her newfound fascination.
She plans on finishing editing the movie during the month of September. After the documentary is complete, Juarez will write the proposal for the Mariachi master class she hopes to put into place at Harvard-Westlake in collaboration with the school’s music department. In this class, orchestral and vocal musicians would learn the origins and ways of performing Mariachi.
Juarez’s interest in the music style stemmed from hearing executive producer of Latino USA Maria Hinojosa speak on National Public Radio about the rising numbers of Mariachi ensembles in American colleges.
Juarez said that she hopes to join a student-based ensemble in college to get more involved in the Latin-American culture and to realize her newfound passion.
Diana Kim: South Korea
Diana Kim ’15 studied ceramics through a hands-on workshop and visits to museums in South Korea as a recipient of the Gunter-Gross Asia Initiative Summer Fellowship. For 10 days, she participated in a ceramics apprenticeship program with Master Choi In Gyu in Icheon.
“Icheon is a home to families of potters that have stayed there for generations,” Kim said. “The potters are known as the ‘Living Cultural Treasures of Korea,’ as they reside in these villages and produce some of the finest ceramics in the world.”
The goal for the workshop was to complete a traditional Korean tea set, which Kim decorated with lotus patterns. She used a celadon glaze, which results in a distinct green color. Kim spent her mornings throwing clay on the wheel, and her afternoons trimming, carving and glazing for a total of eight hours at the workshop each day.
“It was an extremely intense experience,” Kim said. “My teacher wanted to teach me the most in the short time I had, so the 10 days were both physically and mentally exhausting but incredible nonetheless.”
During the first days of the workshop, Kim made basic forms such as cups and bowls to improve her technique at the wheel. In that time, Kim made more than 20 cups but had to throw almost half of them away.
“[Master Choi] imparted a lot of wisdom on what it’s like to create ceramics for a living and the mentality you have to have to create art,” Kim said.
After the program, Kim spent five days in Seoul museums viewing white porcelain, celadon and earthenware pottery.
Sabrina Szu: China
Twins Sabrina Szu ’15 and Sophia Szu ’15 studied the effects of China’s air pollution and environmental factors on the country’s society and culture this summer as part of the Gunter-Gross Asia Initiative Fellowship.
After receiving the grant, the twins studied under a professor at Peking University in Beijing. With the professor’s aid, they were able to write a scientific report documenting their finding. In the report, they discussed the amount of sulfur in the Chinese atmosphere and compared it to that of the United States.
Now that they are back from the fellowship, the Szus said that they are hoping to publish their report in a scientific journal.
“We talked to our environmental science teacher, and she told us to submit it to the science journal at Harvard-Westlake,” Sabrina Szu said.
Both Szu sisters agreed that the experience was very impactful to their lives and changed their perspective.
“I think that, especially at our age, researching with a university professor at one of the top schools in China was really eye-opening experience that really affected us both and how we view education,” Sophia Szu said.