Lessons from Prague: Human rights are universal, but how we see them depends on where we live

Prague: A window on a different world

 I personally believe that every trip officially begins once you reach the destination, you step outside and take that very first breath of air in a different environment. After months spent inhaling freezing Vermont air, and a dozen of hours breathing recycled airplane oxygen, stepping in the open-air of Prague was almost cathartic. I stood firmly outside just the time to fill my lungs with as much fresh air as possible, and for a second my mind brought me back to my home-country, Italy.

 A long frosty semester spent in Vermont buried by snow can play some tricks on your mind: Even if Italy and the Czech Republic have little in common, at first impression it felt familiar. At the end of the day, there are only a few European countries in between them, instead of an entire ocean.

  On the bus ride to the Anglo-American University, where the conference is hosted, by looking outside the window my mind kept comparing and flashing to my beloved Italy. I noticed people wearing stylish modish clothes and walking around the city smoking cigarettes and sipping espresso instead of diluted Dunkin’ coffee. I admired the combination of very modern and innovative building like the “Dancing House” designed by Vlado Milunić, standing next to ancient monuments dating back to war times. Tiny city cars were zigzagging between old bridges and narrow streets in order to pass slow trams and public buses.

  Finally, I saw green grass growing around wide parks, where people were enjoying the bright sun and the warm weather above 50 F, which will not occur regularly in Vermont for the next couple of months. From the nostalgic point of view of an Italian, Prague is a momentary cure for a homesick girl who has spent too much time in the light-deprived winter of Norwich University, yet an undiscovered city preserving an incredible turbulent history while following the European trend towards modernity and globalization. [Read more…]

The Norwich Prague participants

Norwich students gather for a group shot at the Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Rights in Prague March 8, 2019. Norwich history professor Rowland Brucken is co-organizer of the event, which has expnded beyond his wildest dreams. In 2021, it will be held at Norwich.

Thoughts from Prague, Part II: History and Human Rights brought home

Guidon staffers Sonja Jordan and Michelle Masperi are in Prague during spring break to cover a conference on Human Rights co-organized by Norwich history professor Rowland Brucken.  

Last night we went on a guided tour throughout the city. We were all hungry, jet lagged, and had been on our feet all day. The wind was brisk and my feet were throbbing with every step on the old cobblestone streets. But when you are in the pack, you follow.
  We started first by seeing the Charles bridge. The sun had set and the water was lit up with the reflections of the car and boat lights. It was windy and loud, but oddly, I felt at peace and very quiet when I saw the bridge that had started being built in 1357. This bridge is the oldest man-made structure I have seen in my whole life. This bridge is older than my country.

  We pushed on, and arrived at the Cathedral Church Sts. Cyril and Methodius, otherwise known as the Parachutist’s church.It was here that on June 18, 1942, Operation Anthropoid was carried out. In the church was Reinhard Heydrich, the third-highest ranking Nazi, who was assassinated by seven Czech and Slovak men. This is considered one of the greatest acts of resistance in all of occupied Europe, especially considering Czechs were not allowed to fight in the war due to the Munich Agreement. [Read more…]

Thoughts from Prague

Guidon Editor Sonja Jordan, whiling away time on the way to Prague, Czechoslovakia, to report on a Human Rights Conference for the Norwich student newspaper.

After many meetings, many email chains, and many nights of hard work at Norwich, Michelle Masperi and I found ourselves this week traveling 3,800 miles throughout the late night on a flight to Prague, in the Czech Republic, for an Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Rights. Invited to join the trip at the last minute, as both Guidon staffers and communications majors, our aim is to report on this conference, organized in part by history professor Rowly Brucken, who also arranged for a group of Norwich liberal arts students to attend. But first we had to scramble to get organized and pack and get to Boston for our flight.

The first flight was delayed 40 minutes and was nearly empty, with full rows of seats left unoccupied. I spent the flight dozing and watching World War II documentaries. I looked out the window and saw nothing but black, it felt like I was actually time traveling. Behind me, the baby who stared at me though the crack in the seat cooed quietly, and I dozed to be awoken by a woman with Swiss yogurt and the strongest airplane coffee I’ve ever had.

We arrived bleary eyed at a brief stop in Switzerland, where I purchased a small iced tea for the cheap price of $10, and had my first experience at customs. I got the very first stamp in my passport, and ran across the airport for a much needed nap at the gate. Simultaneous to our travel, a group of students from Norwich attending the conference with us were spending their layover in Dublin, where they drank real Irish Guinness at 6:30 in the morning (the only acceptable drink to have at that hour in Dublin).
[Read more…]

Mens soccer bows out after stellar season

Freshman midfielder Azma Issa looks downfield on the pitch. Picture by Norwich University

The Norwich University men’s soccer team enjoyed a record-breaking regular season after an extremely hot start.
The Cadets had a great season both in the GNAC and out, finishing with a record of 11-3-4, and making it to the semifinals of the GNAC tournament.
Although the team took a hit when last year’s class graduated, the freshman class did an excellent job of filling the spots that were needed.
“Anytime you have a lot of new player’s things are going to be different than the previous year,” Said Adam Pfiefer, the men’s soccer head coach. “I think guys pushed last year to start focusing on their daily jobs and have the focus at each practice and each game at the same levels at all times.”
[Read more…]

FTX organization changes draw praise

Picture from Norwich University Army ROTC.

After weeks of preparation, Norwich Army cadets held their annual Field Training Exercise (FTX) in mid-October, which received praise from many of the students in attendance compared to criticism in years past.
On Thursday, Oct. 11 all over campus, Norwich cadets could be seen in uniform walking towards Shapiro Field House with gear on their backs for a weekend full of outdoor learning at the FTX, the Army field training exercise that happens once a semester.
For four days and three nights, first and second year cadets who are members of the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (AROTC) Pioneer Battalion stayed in different locations on Paine Mountain to receive “good training that will help them prepare for advance camp,” said Army ROTC cadet Kaylee Walker, 20, a senior physics major from Fort Myers, Fla.
For many, this FTX was a requirement, but for others, they volunteered hoping that this could help them become contracted.
[Read more…]

Norwich students share their volunteer experiences from trip to Tanzania

Every summer, a selected group of Norwich students take part in what many of them call a life-changing volunteering experience in Tanzania, Africa.

Located in the Wise Campus Center of Norwich University, the CCE offers a wide range of volunteering programs, but there is little doubt the trip to Tanzania is one of the most sought opportunities.

“I was constantly exposed to it. It took me a while to realize the importance of such opportunity, but finally I decided to take part of the trip,” said Brandon Johnson, 20, a sophomore, architecture major from Lauderhill, Fla., who took advantage of the chance during summer of 2017.

The trip to Pommerin, Tanzania, is supported by the Northfield Rotary Club of Vermont, an organization that serves as the student-driven volunteer coordinating hub of the university. Nicole Didomenico, director of the CCE, says the goal of the organization is to find local and international volunteer opportunities that match students personal and professional pursuits.

Norwich student working with the inhabitants of Pommerin. Photo by CCE Facebook Page

“It’s important to help other people’s succeed. In this case, we are helping a whole community succeeding. Being able to make the self-sufficient will allow them to greater opportunities in their futures,” said Patrina E. Krewson, 21, a junior Chinese major, from Farmington, N.H. “This could lead them to access and/or success in education, medicine, government.”

In collaboration with the Rotaract Club at Norwich, these trips have been organized since 2014. Prior to this past summer, the CCE visited the same location in Tanzania four times, creating a long-term bond with the local community and turning the trip into a yearly tradition. [Read more…]

For Pegasus Players, a musical first: Cabaret

Professor Jeff Casey. Picture by Norwich University

With the completion of Mack Hall Auditorium, The Pegasus Players are making a big comeback by putting on the acclaimed musical “Cabaret,” winner of eight Tony awards and a highly entertaining show.
The goal is to “demonstrate to the community, that (the club) is doing work that deserves their attention,” according to the club and theater company’s advisor, professor Jeff Casey.
“This performance is stage one of our strategy of getting the community in to see the work we do. We want to be of service to the community and we want the people that live both inside and outside the gates of Norwich to come in and see what we’re doing,” said Casey, assistant professor of the theater department of English and communications and advisor to the Pegasus Players.
[Read more…]

Norwich softball looks forward to strong season

This year, the Norwich Softball team is working hard and early on creating a “family-like atmosphere” when working on their fall season and working their way into their spring season, say members of the women’s squad.
For cadet Makenna Wade, team building is a key goal. “I’m cadre, but when I’m on the softball field I’m just Makenna,” said Wade, 20, a junior computer science major from Pensacola, Fla., who is a shortstop for the Norwich softball team.
Wade really wants to focus on the team bonding and the chemistry that this team holds, as well as making sure that the team looks professional in what they do.
[Read more…]

Study abroad opens many new doors

Cadet Brendan Moreina during his semester abroad in Machu Picchu. Picture by Thomas Blood

From distant cities in China to popular European capitals in Prague and Berlin, Norwich students who experience study abroad gain cultural breadth, important additions to their résumé and opportunities for adventure.
Norwich University offers students a chance to gain both “experience and perspective as a person as well as for future careers,” says the Assistant Director (AD) for Education Abroad and Away at Norwich, Thomas Blood.
“(Employers) know they are not taking a risk hiring someone who has studied abroad,” said Blood. “They know someone who has studied abroad is capable of rising to the occasion in the face of a new challenge, which is very important for any career.”
Students have the chance to study in a foreign country for the same price, if not less, than what they pay to attend Norwich, he explained.
[Read more…]