Longitude & Latitude

The Internationalist

Erin Litke's global education

By Jon Elliston

Erin Litke

Erin Litke

Erin Litke, a 22-year-old UNC Asheville senior, was born in New York. Even so, “I don’t really consider myself to be from anywhere,” Litke says—which makes sense, in view of her studies and globetrotting.

Litke, who’s pursuing a double major in German and International Studies, with a minor in Asian Studies, is presently in Germany for a year of study abroad. And she spent five weeks this summer studying in China on a scholarship to Shanghai’s Fudan University.

We caught up with Litke recently by email to learn about her China experience.           

How was your time in Shanghai? What were the highlights?

My experience there was fantastic. I remember vividly the night the university took us on a cruise down the Huangpu River. Shanghai really comes alive at night; after dark most of the skyscrapers put on moving light shows like fireworks or waterfalls on the sides of the buildings, so we got a great view from our riverboat.

We also took weekend trips to see some historical sites, such as the lingering gardens in Suzhou and the West Lake in Hangzhou. The classes were also very enjoyable. It was interesting to get a Chinese perspective on subjects I had already studied in the U.S.

I realized that understanding Chinese culture is not something you can just learn from a book. "—Erin Litke '13

What were the biggest challenges?

The workload for the classes was very heavy, coming close to a full semester’s worth of work in a period of five weeks. Also, just figuring out how things worked there was challenging at first, but luckily I speak enough Chinese to get around.

What were the lessons you took away from the experience?

I already knew a lot about China from classes and personal research, but when I got there I realized that understanding Chinese culture is not something you can just learn from a book. It was important to experience a culture vastly different from my own and begin to learn how to navigate it.

I was impressed with the Chinese students that I met. They were well informed about world events and eager to learn about other cultures. I was surprised how open for discussion “sensitive” topics were with most of the Chinese people I met.

While at Fudan I discovered a graduate program that I am now considering applying for once I graduate. Also, unrelated to my studies, I am very interested in martial arts and would love to eventually have the opportunity to study martial arts in China. One way or another, I definitely believe that I will go back eventually, and I’m already looking forward to it.

Erin Litke

Under a Tuscan Sun: The Badia a Coltibuono vineyard and former monastery in Tuscany  hosts an archaeological project that provided students with first-hand experience at a real dig this summer.

Dig This!

The gods ate chickpeas—who knew?

The discovery of an ancient offering of chickpeas to the Etruscan gods was just one of the fascinating finds made over the past few years by a team of faculty and student archeologists at the Cetamura del Chianti dig site in Tuscany, Italy, where some UNC Asheville students and faculty worked during summer, 2012.

“When we think of ancient cultures, we think of monumental architecture and marble statuary,” says Laurel Taylor, UNC Asheville classics and art lecturer, and president of the Western North Carolina chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America. “This is a very different kind of place.”

For three years, Taylor has taken students to an archeological field school at Cetamura del Chianti to work and learn on a real archeological dig. Lora Holland, a UNC Asheville classics professor, also participates in the dig and runs the lab at the nearby Badia a Coltibuono, a well-known Italian vineyard and medieval abbey where the artifacts are brought for processing. There they join faculty and students from Florida State University and New York University, along with various Italian scientists, and spend five weeks excavating and examining finds from an ancient Etruscan sanctuary and artisan workshop.

“They were pulling up really cool stuff, like ceramic tiles,” says UNC Asheville student Kat Holloway ’13, an art major. “I’m a ceramics concentration, and I was really surprised at how much of the material we were entrusted with.”

These finds tell us about the daily life of common people, which sometimes gets overlooked."—Sally Tucker '13

A Neolithic ax head, metal containers, and grape pips also were discovered. “These finds tell us about the daily life of common people, which sometimes gets overlooked,” says Sally Tucker, a senior interdisciplinary major.

The discovery of organic matter, such as animal bones, is especially exciting and unusual. Tucker made one such find.

“The grape seeds were in the flotation,” Tucker says, describing the archaeological technique of sieving soil through a water basin to reveal the contents. “One of the Italians saw it, and he was like, ‘Get out of my way, that’s a grape pip!’ ”

While organic remains had been discovered at the site before, most organic material was burned as offerings to the gods. “The ultimate hope is that they’ll look at the DNA, and find out the relationship to grapes that we know were grown in the region in later periods,” Taylor says.

The students didn’t spend all their time in the trenches, however. Weekends provided time to visit the nearby cities of Florence and Siena, and attend events like the Florence Gelato Festival.

“It’s a different way for students to experience college life,” says Holland. “The mental stimulation of being in Tuscany, experiencing new foods, trying to get along where you don’t know the language—it’s such a profound experience that the students are sharing.”

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