Big Hope 2: Little Things Matter

When I was told to write a blog post about the Big Hope 2 Conference I decided to wait longer. Why? Because I thought maybe there is going to be something very huge that is going to change my experience and that I will never forget — something similar to meeting the President of your country, your favorite singer or even signing a contract. You know THAT FEELING! The days went by so fast and as I am sitting here I realise that the things that touched me and changed the way I see things were the little things.

My first experience was with an incredible woman named Angela Samata. She is a BAFTA Award winner and her story is so life-changing. After she shared her story, I decided to linger and eventually I had the chance to speak to her. We instantly connected. After exchanging our contacts, I was hopeful that she would keep her promise of staying in touch with me. When I was about to leave and talking with my friend outside of the ‘VIP’ place  for guests, she decided to come out and interrupt my conversation with a friend to invite us to her table. It might be nothing to some, but I was touched. In that very moment I saw humility, love and honesty. It’s only been a few days but she emailed me already. She kept her word and I like it; but I’m also here wondering: how can a person who has been through so much have such a beautiful and warm heart?

Another experience was when everyone left me at Liverpool Hope University alone. Somehow that day I did not feel too well, and everyone was in the mood to go downtown. So after taking a nap, everybody had disappeared. Talk about being hurt? Honey, that was betrayal at the highest level. LOL! So I decided to have fun on my own. Guess what? I read a book. Huh! While I was reading, one of the speakers from our discussion forums decided to come speak to me. In my head, everything was spinning. Why would he talk to me? To my surprise he just wanted to know about Rwanda. We had a conversation and I knew it was an opportunity to get connections. It is not every day that you get the chance to speak to a multi-millionaire from Nigeria. We exchanged contacts and he was very humble the entire time. People are actually not who we think they are. There is always a person beneath the position and the power. Everyone is human and no man is more important than the other. He showed me that.

Lastly, one of the greatest highlights has been getting to know Hope College students. It’s crazy how just a change in an environment can make people come closer and make people know one another better. I discovered personalities, laughs, smiles, cries, vulnerabilities, and the list goes on. That was my favorite part.  And it’s all these little things to me that mattered on this trip. I felt like for once I have people I know and am safe with away from home. Shout out to all of them!


By Brenda Indekwe

Big Hope 2: Friday – Education Session

We had multiple speakers come in on Friday to give us some fruit for thought, like Phil Jennings the General secretary of the UNI Global union. He quoted Nelson Mandela by saying “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” His talk was followed by a discussion on the topic of education, where I got to listen to seven impressive people talk about their views on this topic.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”

I believe education is the key to peace because it is the greatest tool we have for stopping strife and resolving almost every issue currently plaguing the world. I think to truly understand and respect one another we need the will to take the first step and experience the different cultures that are present all around us. I think overall I am having a great time broadening my views on current issues in the world and experiencing all sorts of different cultures and perspectives, and I am very grateful that I have the opportunity to do this.


By Kenneth Munyuza

Big Hope 2: First Day Thoughts

Hey, everyone! Quick life update: I’m spending this next week in Liverpool, England, at a global leadership conference called The Big Hope 2! 400 students have traveled from all over the world to attend these leadership seminars together! I was given this opportunity through my Social Work academic advisor, Dr. Feaster, and am traveling with 20 awesome students from Hope! I couldn’t be more excited for what I’ll learn in the coming days and thought I would share a bit about our first day here. What I’ve learned today has already challenged me to think deeper about how to be a better leader, and overall, a better person!
While there weren’t any seminars today, there were a few comments made during our opening ceremonies that I took note of…

A quote was shared from Baroness Caroline Cox of Queensberry— “I believe in the sun even when I cannot see it, and I believe in love even when I cannot feel it. Love isn’t feeling, it’s DOING.”

Rev. Michael Lapsley stated that, “every story needs a listener.” Also, “whether religious or not, we are all simply trying to figure out WHY we’re here.”

And His Excellency Karma Ura said, “half a tree isn’t visible, it’s underground. Half a person isn’t visible — you cannot fully understand them unless you see their roots.”

As someone who wants to work with people, I LOVED hearing this messages this afternoon. It motivated me to have an open mind to new friends, new discussions, and even new food! I’m happy that some of my closest friends are a part of this group, but I’m also eager to see what new friendships develop after this conference!


By Madelyn Mikitka

Viajando alrededor del sur de Francia/ Traveling around the south of France


El siguiente blog trata sobre un periodo de aproximadamente diez días a finales de marzo y principios de abril llamados Semana Santa. Es una semana muy importante porque los Latinos y muchos cristianos nos pasamos mucho tiempo durante esta semana celebrando la muerte y resurrección de Cristo. Yo originalmente tenía pensado quedarme aquí en Madrid pero al llegar al programa me indicaron que se requiere que los estudiantes dejen su alojamiento durante la semana. Entonces pues a buscar que hacer durante Semana Santa. 

Sabía que tenía dos primos aquí en Europa que estaban estudiando en Francia y pues esto me daba una buena oportunidad de poder conocer por lo menos uno de ellos. Lo bueno de ser mexicano es que tenemos familia por doquier y aunque no sea un familiar de la forma más directa, somos familia. Tengo varios recuerdos de cuando llegaba a alguna fiesta o reunión familiar y mi mamá o papá me señalaba a un señor o señora que no conocía y me decían: “saluda a tu tía” o “tu primo”. A final de cuentas se encuentra familia hasta en los parientes más lejanos en México.

(Haz click en las fotos para verlas en grande/ Click on photos below to enlarge them)

Entonces al empezar la Semana Santa abordé mi vuelo del aeropuerto Barajas aquí en Madrid hacía el aeropuerto Toulouse-Blagnac en el sur de Francia. El vuelo fue de aproximadamente una hora y me dieron cacahuates abordo. Bueno, pues llegué a Toulouse y entre que comprendía como funcionaba el tram y por fin llegué a la estación indicada, por fin conocí a Miguel. Miguel, gracias a Dios, es un chavo criado a la mexicana. Es súper buena onda, paciente, trabajador, entre muchas otras cosas. Lo bueno de ser mexicano es que donde cabe uno, caben dos; todos somos familia y todos somos buena onda. La verdad es que ya no queda escribir mucho más — el sur de Francia es hermoso y mi primo me cayó muy bien. 


The following blog is about a period of about ten days in late March through early April called Holy Week. It is a very important week because Latinos and many Christians spend a lot of time during this week celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ. I had originally planned to stay here in Madrid but when I arrived at the official program they indicated that this would not be the case. They required students to leave their housing accommodation during the week. So I had to look for something to do during Holy Week.

I knew that I had two cousins ​​here in Europe studying in France and this gave me a good opportunity to get to know at least one of them. The good thing about being Mexican is that we have family everywhere even if it is not a family member in the most direct way we are all family. I have several memories of me arriving to a party or family reunion and my mom or dad pointing me to a man or lady I did not know and saying: “greet your aunt” or “your cousin”. At the end of the day family is found even in the most distant relatives in Mexico.

(Click on photos below to enlarge them / Haz click en las fotos para verlas en grande)

At the start of Holy Week I boarded my flight from Barajas airport here in Madrid to Toulouse-Blagnac airport in the south of France. The flight was about an hour and I was given peanuts on board. I arrived in Toulouse and after figuring out how the tram worked I finally arrived at the station where I was going to meet my cousin, Miguel. Miguel, praise be to God, is a guy who is very Mexican. He is super cool, patient and hard working, among many other things. The good thing about being Mexican is that no matter what, we are all family, and we all have good vibes. There is not much more to write other than that the south of France is beautiful and meeting my cousin was a great experience.


Big Hope 2: Day 5

After four days at the Big Hope 2, it is still hard at times to believe that there are students from 40 different countries here. We have done a lot of listening and learning through the seminars and discussions, but today was our day to finally get a bit of a break as we went on a variety of day trips. Along with about 10 other students from Hope College, I went to the quaint town of Chester, and old Roman barracks. So yes, the walls surrounding the city were built about 2,000 years ago, though they were later rebuilt and strengthened after the English Civil War in the 17th Century. We walked along these walls to get to (what was left of) the Roman Gardens and amphitheater. the walls leading over part of downtown Chester.

The walls leading over part of downtown Chester. The wide roads were almost exclusively for pedestrians, and downtown, the first floors of all buildings were filled with shops while the upper floors are residential.

        My favorite building that we visited was the Chester Chapel. It is a massive structure filled with discreetly located chambers, mysterious staircases we weren’t allowed to investigate, an actual garden in the center of the chapel, and on this day, a slew of antsy schoolchildren preparing for the Chester Mystery Plays – a huge festival put on by professionals in the area as a cultural celebration.

        The greatest moment of the day was eating lunch by the docks on the River Dee. There we encountered a grey-bearded man fully adorned with a leather jacket, and artfully wielding an accordion. A couple of girls from our group began chatting with him and he soon opened up to us and talked about some of his experiences, which included him learning to play the harp in South America. As we selfishly deprived the locals also catching lunch of  their entertainment, he finally asked if any of us played musical instruments. Between the seven of us we had one saxophone and one viola player. “Ah,” he responded thoughtfully, “no young people play music anymore.”

        As some of us were meandering our way back to the bus, we found a local couple with a corgi – ok fine, we found Colin the Corgi and then noticed the couple. Anyway, we started talking to the couple about Chester, the World Cup, and how we ended up in England. It turned out that the guy had gone to Liverpool Hope, the university who is hosting us, and they were incredibly open and friendly. Like most of the British we have come across in the region, they made the extra effort to ask us questions and make us feel welcomed. I think I speak for us all by stating that this conference has taught us a lot, but the people we have been surrounded by are truly what have opened us up to fully take in all that the Big Hope 2 has to offer.


By Caleb Miller

French Soccer, Versailles, and the Louvre!

With the World Cup kicking off this weekend, my study abroad friends and I bought tickets to the World Cup send-off game of France vs. Ireland at the Stade de France. As an avid soccer fan, I was super excited to see one of my favorite national teams (France, of course!) take on Ireland. European soccer games are an exciting experience in itself. Fans were singing soccer fight songs throughout the metro rides, and the crowd at the game was even more rowdy. The French fans sang the national fight song throughout the entire game, successfully drowning out the attempts of the Irish fans trying to sing. My favorite part of the night was that we took a baguette into the game and used it to cheer with (yes, you read that correctly).  France defeated Ireland 2-0, and closed with a small World Cup send-off ceremony. We did get caught in a massive flash-flood on the way out of the game, which now we look back on and laugh about; mainly due to the fact that I ran barefoot because I love my Birkenstocks too much to see them get ruined!

***Bonus points if you can spot the baguette in this photo

Later in the week for marketing class, our IES program took us to the Palace of Versailles. The palace itself is massive and covered in extravagant gold. The inside houses hundreds of famous artworks, and of course the famous Hall of Mirrors. After touring the palace, we explored the backyard gardens. The gardens cover over one mile, including sculptures, fountains, and a hedge maze. At the back of the hedge maze, I found a small café hidden in the garden. This was one of my favorite places to eat, as it was very serene and peaceful.


On the weekend, I decided to take on the true challenge of Paris: tackling the Louvre. The Louvre has over 35,000 pieces of art and several floors. I started very early in the morning and followed a plan to see the artworks I was most excited about. My favorites included the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, and the Egypt exhibits. I explored the Louvre from opening to closing time, and saw everything I planned and more! I absolutely loved the Louvre, as there were so many timeless pieces of art history.


A few hours in, I found my absolute favorite piece of art. I stumbled across it on accident, and fell in love with the intricate detail. I also thought it was funny that this painting is actually a painting of other famous paintings. The piece is called Gallery Views of Modern Rome by Giovanni Paolo Panini (attached below). The room this painting hangs in was completely empty, so I was able to enjoy the art peacefully which is rare in the Louvre.

After hours exploring the Louvre, I ate at Café Marley which overlooks the Louvre courtyard. The Louvre is a massive museum, but definitely one of my favorite places in Paris. I hope to come back to see even more art at the Louvre!

Au Revior!

-Alissa Smith


Exploring the Region

As I mentioned in my first blog post, Freiburg is situated in the lower corner of the Black Forest, very close to where France, Switzerland, and Germany intersect. From Freiburg, it’s easy to get to the quintessential Black Forest, to venture into the Badish wine region, or to head into Switzerland to hike in the alps. The Rhine River flows only a short distance to the west, dividing France and Germany.

In this post, I’ll talk about the notable villages around Freiburg that I can visit using only regional transportation, which means it doesn’t cost me anything to get there.

A field of spring wildflowers with the blue mountains of the Schwarzwald rising in the background- what could be more typical of the region?

Using my semester ticket for the public transportation, I can go anywhere in the regional transportation network. One charming place is the village of Staufen. To me, Staufen feels like a miniature version of Freiburg. Almost as old, Staufen has the same medieval colorful facades and baechle, just on a smaller scale. The main street is lined with shops and street cafes, and if you wander into residential areas, the houses are just as picturesque.

This metal sculpture of an ostrich is wearing a “Bollenhut”, or a “ball hat”. The red pom-pom covered hats are part of the traditional folk costume of the Black Forest region. This photo was taken in the village of Staufen. In the background, you can see a little bit of the main street.
This vineyard hill is topped with the ruins of the old castle that overlooked Staufen until it was destroyed in 1632. You can hike up to the top and poke around in the ruins, as well as get a great view of the countryside!

Staufen is also famous for one legendary citizen- Dr. Faustus. The real-life Faust was an alchemist who lived and worked in Staufen until he died in an accidental explosion while experimenting with ways to turn lead into gold. Because of this, his death very soon turned into a medieval moral legend about a man who sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for worldly goods, but got what was coming to him in the end. The legend inspired the so-called “German Shakespeare” to write a play in which Faust is the titular main character. The house where Faust once lived has a mural depicting the legend on it.

This photo shows the town hall (blue building with coats of arms) and main square of Staufen. It’s full of good restaurants and cafes!

Also in the region are the quintessential Black Forest towns of Triberg, St. Peter’s, and Furtwangen. Triberg is home to many kitschy cuckoo clock shops, the highest waterfall in Germany, and the Black Forest museum. Furtwangen is similarly kitschy and has the German Clock Museum. The cuckoo clock is originally from the Black Forest, and it’s always a fun time to visit one of the museums and see how the clocks work and listen to the different chimes. I can’t say that I exactly recommend trying Black Forest cake- I’ve been disappointed each time I’ve tried it- but there’s also a sense that you can’t not try at least one slice.

This especially fine clock is no cuckoo clock, but is one of the pieces on display in the German clock museum in Furtwangen.
The stunning baroque chapel in St. Peter’s is worth a visit. I got a tour of the chapel and former monastery with an IES day trip.

St. Peter’s in the Black Forest is also a charming town with one unique feature to distinguish it- the former Benedictine monastery and seminary that features beautiful baroque art and architecture.

Maultaschen is a traditional regional dish that you can try in the Black Forest. It’s basically meat-filled noodles with gravy on top. I often buy these from the store and heat them up at home for a meal!

Now that the weather’s warmed up, I’ve been exploring the countryside behind my neighborhood, which is the Western-most section of the city. Once I leave the city, there’s miles of farmland and forests, broken up by little villages. Yesterday I had a chance to explore the Opfinger Lake- I have no photos though, because in typical German style, the swimmers were all nude! While I don’t anticipate participating in the Freikörperkultur (“free-body culture”), I plan on going back to swim, especially after my classes are over.