Rock and Roll and the Fall of Communism

By Matt Robertson, Graduate Studies in History

Studying abroad means more than just studying, and few public institutions of higher education facilitate the experience better than Chico State. Two weeks ago in Berlin, I saw Checkpoint Charlie (where WWIII almost began) and the Brandenburg Gate, and quivered with unbridled emotion at a Holocaust museum.  But the one experience that stood out the most: seeing Russian soldiers’ autographs on the interior walls of the Reichstag after they had taken the building in 1945, effectively ending WWII in Europe. It wasn’t any special message from the soldiers, although I can read some Russian, it was who I was with that made the moment—Professor Kate Transchel.

One fine April day, I strolled by my grad advisor’s door and noticed a poster that indicated she would be teaching a class in Germany this summer on Rock and Roll and the Fall of Communism. What a topic!  So, I popped my head in, and instantly she said “Well, you HAVE to come!” I owe the amazing Dr. Transchel a debt of gratitude unlike any other. She changed my life in her Russian History class when I was an undergrad, turning me into an active, intellectually engaged adult.  I took her commandment to join her in Germany VERY seriously.  So now, not only am I a student in the class, but I am also lecturing and serving as a TA for my mentor.  Pay attention to those study abroad posters on campus!

The Chico experience is not limited to life in Chico.  The joyous reaction on my professor’s face upon seeing me in Berlin, making our adventure a reality, said it all.  If you open yourself to the experiences  available to you at Chico State, there is no telling where they will take you.  I’ve produced and directed a documentary film on Spanish soccer, I’ve traveled to Russia, and now I find myself in Germany, lecturing on The Beatles and planning trips to Paris and Prague.  The Chico Experience starts with people and your relationships with them.  CSU, Chico is the beginning—the rest is in your hands!

This is the last piece in a series of four about the Study Abroad opportunities available at Chico State year round.

Study Abroad in Spain

By Gia Martucci, Senior, Liberal Studies Major

One evening about a month ago I found myself sitting on my 7th floor balcony, catching up with a good friend of mine from Chico when he confessed that he thought I was very brave to traverse the world by myself to spend the summer in San Sebastian, Spain. Maybe he was right—I certainly knew no one in this foreign country and the only Spaniard I can have a coherent conversation with is a three year old.

I told him that I was looking for a challenge, something to shake myself up—I wanted these experiences to be my own. That conversation happened within the first few weeks that I had moved into my temporary new life on the northern coast of Spain. Four weeks later, as I’m quickly watching my time here come to an end, I realize that I’ve gotten exactly what I signed up for.

Five weeks ago, I stepped off a plane in Madrid deliriously tired (and hung over—did you know they serve complimentary wine on international flights? Bad idea.) and with no clue about what I’d gotten myself into. Four days of befriending students from around the U.S. and touring the biggest city in the country, I was whisked to San Sebastian and handed the keys to a 7th floor apartment with a balcony that overlooked Auriol Beach.

Nothing about my life felt real at that point; I’ll call it the honeymoon phase (which quickly ended the first day that I found myself lost in the rain while carrying 30 pounds of groceries, but that’s a whole other story). The strangers I met in Madrid became my family as we all braved culture shock, Spanish cuisine, and the monsoon weather the first few weeks. While my beginning level Spanish class did little to improve my Spanglish, my surfing class became both the bane of my existence and a twice weekly joy, depending on the weather. You see, there are many daily ups and downs when trying to navigate a new culture and a new city.

During my short, yet well-lived time abroad, I’ve seen so many beautiful places, been submerged in a new culture, and created experiences that will change me forever. Of all of my souvenirs from this wonderful adventure, the ones I’m most proud of, are the hard lessons learned. This crazy ride may seem like an extended vacation, but I wasn’t always spending my time on the beach—sometimes I was forced to do my homework as well. There were many times when I was lost, geographically and figuratively; 9,000 miles is a long distance from my home in Chico, and there were many moments when I felt that same distance between myself and my new community. But those stressful and harrowing experiences are what give us the strength to be bolder in the future. I know I have met these challenges with resilience, and I’ve learned that I am more capable than I had ever imagined.

In two weeks I’ll be back at home in Chico amongst familiar faces and hopefully with a Pale Ale in hand, and while it may feel like the good ol’ hometown that I know and love, I won’t be the same. If I have learned anything from the Spanish culture, it is that we must always live for the present and push ourselves to savor every last moment. Hesitations do nothing but hold us back. Let your inhibitions fall to the wayside; go topless on a Spanish beach, sample foods that you’ve never heard of before, and laugh at yourself in the process.

As I embark on my next adventure (my second and last senior year of college), I’ll take this lesson with me and wring every last delicious experience out of my limited time here in Chico. I know that when I cross that stage in May, I’ll have the same feeling as I’ll have when I board my plane in Madrid to return home—the satisfaction of knowing that I have absolutely no regrets.


This is the third piece in a series of four about the Study Abroad opportunities available at Chico State year round.

My Summer in Prague

By Kjerstin Wood, Sophomore, Major: Journalism

Here’s a question for you: What can you do in 57 days? Let’s narrow it down even further—what can you do for 57 days in the summer? With no classes, friends travelling back home, and maybe you dreading going back to that summer job you’ve done five summers in a row?

Here’s what I’m doing with 57 days of my summer vacation: travelling to five different countries, learning a foreign language, immersing myself in an entirely new culture, and getting ahead by finishing a chunk of my upper division theme, not to mention elective credits. I’m meeting American students from all over the U.S., as well as students from all over the world. I’m challenging myself academically while gaining independence and professional experience. I’m representing the Chico community in an international forum—all in just a little less than two months.

As someone who participates in many great on-campus events, clubs, and Greek life, I wondered how I would be able to study abroad without missing all the great events that occur on the Chico State campus. So when I approached the Study Abroad Office and found out about all the amazing summer programs available, I rallied to find the funds, the program, and the location best for me.

Prague has become everything I could have possibly imagined. Beautiful, scenic, historic, cultural—for me it was the best location. My professors are all fabulous, and most of them have lived in Prague or the Czech Republic their entire lives. What I love most about the classes here are that most of the things we’re learning about we can actually go out and experience! My Alternative Cultures class was studying the importance of graffiti and street art in the political sense, and we were able to visit the legal graffiti wall in Prague called Tesnov and discuss the various forms of street art. My program director, Jan, was present at the very first protest that sparked the Velvet Revolution in 1989, which led to the fall of Communism in the Czech Republic.

While here I have visited Krakow, Poland, located near Auschwitz and home to St. Mary’s Church. I was even lucky enough to visit the “city of dragons” during their Independence Day festival, a large parade on the river with fireworks and balloons. I have also been to Nuremburg, Germany, and this weekend the USAC group is going on a five-day trip to Vienna, Austria and Budapest, Hungary, with several stops along the way.

There will always be excuses for not going abroad, but in my opinion there’s no better time than the present. You could spend your whole summer at home with your family, visiting friends, which is a fun and great way to spend your time, but why not experience something new? Why not meet amazing new friends and learn more about yourself through an entirely new culture?

If you have any questions, go to the Study Abroad Office and have a chat with a peer advisor or Coordinator Tasha Dev, or just ask a friend who’s studied abroad. I guarantee you will not find a single person who regrets it. I know I don’t!


This is the second piece in a series of four about the Study Abroad opportunities available at Chico State year round.