Parlez–vous touriste?

rwilloughbyby Russell Willoughby
Sigma Tau Delta Study Abroad Scholarship Winner
Phi Xi Chapter, University of Alabama

Though it seems like hardly a month ago, it has been almost a year since I applied for the Sigma Tau Delta Study Abroad Scholarship for a year-long program in Paris, France. The generous award funded no small portion of my program and expenses in what we all know as an (outrageously) pricey locale. Living in a city that remains—for so many people, spanning so many periods—a paradigm of glamour, culture, and exploration is, most days, incredibly daunting. There’s just something about Paris: a world capital that was both a haven for the intellectual bohemian set of the 1920s and a beacon of couture, the city somehow seems to revel in dichotomies, while also defying them.

Loire Valley region of France

Loire Valley region of France

Now that I am at the half-way mark (!) of my year-long program, I am able to rattle off recommendations for restaurants and arrondissements and bookstores and order my lunch with minimal embarrassment; yet, try as I might, I will never be able to fully remove my Americanness in favor of a haute couture French identity. But I don’t want to! Though I can call myself resident, I don’t underestimate the humbling power of also being touriste. Some of my best conversations with actual residents (i.e. Real Live French People) have been centered on a mutual eagerness to know each other’s cultures. The French have a reputation of being frosty to ex-pats and tourists alike, but my experiences have only been warm and—even more importantly—authentic.

Houses in Strasbourg, France

Houses in Strasbourg, France

More than focusing on having a “traditional study abroad experience” (whatever that means), I strongly encourage anyone considering it  to approach not only the decision but also everything that follows with a YES mentality, even—especially!—to the point of discomfort. Thanks to my new-found freedom from the fear of “awkward” (fittingly, there is no true translation in French) I have friends here from France, Belarus, Taiwan, Tunisia, Georgia (the country), Israel, Jordan, Sweden, and beyond. In Paris I’ve lost the comfort of college-town cloisters, but I’ve gained a sense of belonging that transcends country borders.

Applications for the Spring 2014 Study Abroad Scholarship are due April 1.

It’s All About the Fog

This piece was the honorable mention winner in the 2013-2014 Far Western Region Blog Contest.

lbeckerby Leah Becker
Vice President, Alpha Upsilon Epsilon chapter
University of Portland, Portland, OR

Northwest literature is all about fog. Yes, there is much more to Northwest literature than the weather, but what it really comes down to is fog. You see there is no other fog like Northwest fog. It’s not like the fog in New York City that tumbles in like ocean waves and swarms around buildings and into alleyways. It’s not like the yellow fog in T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” that rubs its nose against the windowpanes and circles before slumping sleepily on the floor. No, Northwest fog is tall. Northwest fog drips, but at the same time it floats. Northwest fog is tinged blue, giving everything a hue of late dusk or early morning. Northwest fog isn’t a wall and it isn’t a soup: it’s another sky.

fog

Foggy view of Lake Washington in Washington state

The reason why fog is so important in Northwest literature is because a huge part of life in this region revolves around the weather. One of the main reasons it took so long for our forefathers to settle this region of the country was due to the inclement weather. In fact, the weather was more than inclement: it was aggressive, menacing, and threatening. The chaotic downpours of rain, hail, and flurried and watery snow did not allow for the patterned, exacting life of the early Americans. Crops that thrived one year were dead and dormant the next. Houses that withstood winter might crumple in the mudslides of the spring. The land of the Northwest was unpredictable, and thus the region drew a motley crowd of stubborn and crazed settlers from the fringes of “regular” American society.

These settlers—the lumberjacks, determined farmers, pioneer women, and hard-worn children—became the Northwest’s first written authors, following generations of Native American storytellers and oral historians. These original settlers wrote about standing up to the nature of the Northwest, transforming the land in order to build more prosperous lives. While sometimes noted for its beauty, the landscape of this early Northwest region was more often seen as a challenge to overcome.

However, as the proceeding generations learned to listen to the language of the land and live alongside it, the literary depictions of the Northwest region evolved. The hard-worn children of the first settlers learned to accept the region’s “faults” and build their lives around the rain, hail, mud, and ice. As their acceptance of the region grew, so did its value. Thus, nature in current Northwest literature is no longer a driving, antagonistic force, but is instead seen as a daily part of human life that is embraced and utilized for spiritual and meditative experiences.

BeckerBlogPic

Cathedral Park underneath the St. John’s Bridge in Portland, OR

Northwest literature today, however, is often overlooked as being Northwestern, for the stories no longer focus solely on mountains, weather, and forests. Instead, books by Northwest writers, or even books taking place in the Northwest, tell larger stories with heroic characters, fantastic events, and dramatic endings. Nature, it seems, has taken a backseat in such literature, for it is no longer a main character, but rather a member of a large and inconsequential chorus. However, to put region and nature into this box in the background would be wrong, for it is not lying in wait behind more essential plots and characters. No, rather nature and region is overarching in Northwest literature. It is in every scene and within every character, shaping actions, words, thoughts, and motives. In this way Northwest literature mirrors Northwest life, for just as the region becomes a part of those who live here, so it becomes a part of all of the literature it inspires. In the world that is Northwest literature and life, region is the sky, encompassing every aspect of the small corner of the world it “rains” over.  The people and the novels soak up this inspiration and become denizens of a Northwest spirit that lives through them.

Thus, Northwest literature is all about the fog. Fog in the Northwest doesn’t tumble or nose its way into things. Instead it slowly eases down from the sky in wisps and droplets. It falls down into the dips in the tree lines and it encircles and curls around those who walk within it. It is weighty and patient as it carefully and expertly seeps into our lives and into the day. Just like the fog, region is not overt in every Northwest novel or poem that it inspires. In Northwest literature the region seeps into the story in the same determined, yet gentle way the fog seeps into the morning. Both fall from their overarching states and settle among us, however subtly, and in all we do, in all we write, we reflect the region and the fog.

Southwestern Student Leadership Candidate

TU-14-photo-Laszik-Stephanie Stephanie Laszik
Candidate for Southwestern Student Representative, 2014-2015
Graduate Student, Epsilon Omega Chapter, University of Texas at Tyler
Tyler, TX

Positions, other memberships, offices, etc., currently or recently held:

  • Sigma Tau Delta: Epsilon Omega Chapter Member since 2012
  • Publication Committee President 2012-2014
  • Vice-President Fall 2013-2014
  • Other: Phi Alpha Theta 2013
  • Sigma Alpha Pi 2012 (National Engaged Leader Award)
  • Walter Prescott Webb Historical Society 2012 (Secretary, 2013)
  • Spanish Club 2012
  • Significant Practicum Experience: Pixels, Panels, and Prose, Tyler, TX, 2013 (Presenter)
  • Student Research Conference, Tyler, TX, 2013 (Presenter)
  • Phi Alpha Theta 2014 Biennial Convention, Albuquerque, NM, 2014 (Presenter)

Explain why you are running for office and comment on any skills, experience, or personal qualities you possess that would contribute to your performing the following duties: promoting communication among chapters other than your own, producing official publications, assisting your Regent, serving on the Student Leadership Committee. Further comments or ideas are encouraged. Include your region and your first and last name at the top of the page. Please do not include sensitive personal information in your essay. Candidate essays will be displayed publicly before the election. Do not exceed 500 words:

As a seasoned representative of student interests through my contributions to various academic organizations, I would be honored to rise to the occasion and offer my dedication to the interests of my fellow Southwestern Sigma Tau Delta members. With a firm belief in the opportunities and necessity in networking, I will promote communication across the Southwestern region and further develop active participation throughout chapters. I look forward to having the opportunity to represent my chapter and region and assist the Regent and Student Leadership Committee in the following year. The ability to promote the core beliefs and goals of Sigma Tau Delta is important to the continued growth, success, and integrity of the field of English studies.

There is still time to apply for a student leadership position for any region. Simply bring your completed application form to the convention and turn it in at the convention registration desk any time before the Regional Networking meetings on Thursday afternoon.