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SPAN European Union 2009: A Preparation by Patrick G. Wilz May 13 2009

It would be an understatement to write-off these past few months of preparation for the SPAN program as a “new experience” or “eye-opening.” It has been far more than platitudes can or should describe. This is mostly due to the fact that I have not yet tasted the meat of the program’s offerings, though the mounting excitement for this summer’s research has engendered in me a growing hunger and anticipation for the experiences (and work) that lie ahead.

Interesting is is how I now reflect only upon the preparation of my industry, having little to show, at least in the academic sense, for the past several months of work. But, come to think of it, the personal connections with former and fellow SPANners has been worth it all. The enthusiasm for scholasticism, objective analysis and research, has been an euphoric atmosphere for someone who clings dearly to the same interests. After four years of experience at the University of Minnesota, it causes more than slight chagrin to report on our campus’ rather spotty appreciation for things academic. Most of my conversations with former classmates have focused on skipping lecture or their general anticipation for their college experience to end. I would feel hesitant to judge these people f they themselves did not so eagerly dismiss education and quality for personal improvement so flippantly. Some refuse to see the forest for its trees.

Thankfully, no, refreshingly, I have enjoyed the exact opposite from the SPAN program. What a delight. If I could have spent only five minutes updating my understanding of the contemporary political of social environments in Albania, Turkey or Cyprus, I would have been more than content and, more importantly, informed. On the contrary these conversations have been exhaustive and inspiring. It has been a pleasure surrounding myself with able, intelligent and curious students who have their own expertise and interests. I’ve learned quite a bit from them already, and plan exponential returns as the summer research commences. This experience would have been difficult without SPAN and its wonderful ability to bring ambitious students together.

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