FYP abroad

Dear incoming FYP class,

When it’s 3 a.m. the night before a paper is due and you still have no idea why exactly it matters that a teenager named Augustine stole a pear, you might be struggling to find any meaning in Confessions beyond your personal will to destroy it.
And when you’re dressed up like the most glittery Dante’s Beatrice to ever grace the Wardroom, you might mostly be questioning how many Beyoncé songs this deejay has on his setlist.
But I think you already know that you’ll finish the Foundation Year just a little bit different than how you began it.
Your mental suitcase will be packed full of odd and interesting stories, factoids, and questions, many of which you might not even realize you took with you until you’re far from the King’s quad.
I recently spent six months in Europe, taking two months to travel after a semester in France. While reflecting on my own travels, I became interested in “FYP moments” in the diverse journeys of my friends. I define these as the instances where our personal experiences and our memories from this program collide.
It turns out that these wonderful, nerdier-than-you-thought-you-were moments aren’t very hard to come by. Here are a few.

Charlotte Butler lived in Chapel Bay when she completed FYP. Famous for typing lecture notes at lightning speed and her fabulously aerobic dance moves on FYP Mondays, Butler now studies English and political science at McGill University in Montreal.

Her most recent FYP moment took place during time spent in Greece in June with a King’s classmate, Thomas McCullough.
Butler and McCullough knew that their Greek experience exemplified a common juxtaposition – the cohabitation of rich, archaeologically visible histories and inevitably resulting tourism-based economies.

Charlotte Butler in the Acropolis of Athens. (Photo: Emma Jones / The Watch)

Put simply, in Greece, it wouldn’t be at all strange to find yourself enjoying a post-nightclub gyro amidst rubble from the 10th century BC.
And yet, by spending time within an immensely changed Greek society, Butler could feel the energetic, living nature of FYP texts like Homer’s Odyssey and Plato’s Republic.
“It was cool to think that people wore togas there, walked through marble colonnades, and lived in a society that so fostered (philosophical) thinking—to think back to the source of the philosophy as a product of a culture as opposed to its outcome,” said Butler.

Clara McGaughey, currently an English and early modern studies student at Dalhousie University, has become a fixture in the King’s quad; both because of her immeasurable contributions to feminist initiatives on campus, and also because she pretty much never leaves the Wardroom.

She spent the past semester studying at Oxford University, in England. McGaughey’s “FYP moments” came at many points during her semester, as she realized little-by-little that in many ways, King’s resembles a micro-Oxford.
Each of Oxford’s more than 40 colleges is a little bit like King’s – it has a quad surrounded by residences, a dining hall with formal meals and robes, and it’s own library. Even the residence rooms are structured like the Bays at Kings.
The more she studied at Oxford, the more she found herself relying on the interdisciplinary academic foundation she developed during FYP. One day, she even took a field trip to Jane Austen’s former home in Bath, England, to enrich a paper she was writing.
“The way that FYP encouraged us to look at texts from all angles, to take philosophical, historical, and sociological approaches in addition to literary ones came as a real benefit to me while I was studying and exploring abroad,” McGaughey said.

Since completing FYP, Ally Soule has spent her time majoring in Biology, studying in Denmark, but mostly perfecting the art of incredibly precise needlepoint wall art.

Soule’s favourite “FYP moment” was the pick-me-up she needed on an otherwise sleepy day in the Musée D’Orsay in Paris.
“I’d already spent a significant time in museums and galleries in my travels. To be honest, on this day I was pretty tired of looking at art that I didn’t know much about. I wasn’t feeling very stimulated by it,” Soule explained.
But while leafing through the museum’s guidebook, a reference to Manet’s “Olympia,” a painting caught her eye. The painting, she remembered, had been the subject of her favourite FYP lecture.
[pullquote]“I found it so amazing how a subject that was once of little interest to me became so fascinating.”[/pullquote]
“I went to find it in the museum, and it was unreal seeing it in person.”

Brody Wilkinson-Martin is believed to own the highest volume of plaid shirts of anyone in his FYP class. He currently majors in theatre studies. Recently taking a few months to study the Baroque period in the Czech Republic and travel Europe, Wilkinson-Martin structured some of his trip around paying homage to FYP thinkers.

His most memorable “FYP moment” took place in Paris’ Montparnasse Cemetery while visiting Samuel Beckett’s grave.
“Before coming to King’s,” he mused, “I never would have expected that a European cemetery would be an important place for me to visit on a European vacation.”

Brody Wilkinson-Martin at the Orangerie Museum in Paris. (Photo: Emma Jones / The Watch)

Reading Samuel Beckett’s work, especially Krapp’s Last Tape, influenced his course selection after FYP, eventually guiding him towards a major in theatre studies. In Montparnasse, it even led him to Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Eugene Ionesco, all buried inside the same gates.
“FYP is a strange and amazing institution in this way,” Wilkinson-Martin said.
“Through the discussion of one single text at a time, it implores minds to thirst for further learning, in the academic abyss, but everywhere else, too.”

Sam Gleave, likely to be the campus’ most majestic redhead, was beloved during FYP for his ability to engage in serious discussion about ancient philosophy while simultaneously participating in a Wardroom dance party.

Currently studying classics and early Modern Studies, Gleave spent the past May in Florence, Italy, on the first ever study-abroad program put on by King’s.
Gleave’s personal reflections on FYP take place in a number of specific instances. Each instant, for Gleave, reminds him of the deep foundations from which he has grown.
[pullquote]“I can’t cash a cheque now without thinking of Marx, can’t listen to the radio without thinking of McLuhan, can’t drink wine without thinking of Euripides,”[/pullquote] he said.
“My god is Dante’s and my soul is Aristotle’s, which is twice as unnerving because I wasn’t quite sure I had either a soul or a god before King’s—although, truth be told, I maintain Montaigne’s healthy skepticism on the subject,” Gleave reflected.
“FYP justified my vices and condemned my virtues and I am so much happier with the person I am now.”

It’s wholly unrealistic to think that we remember everything you learn in the Foundation Year. It’s also undeniable that, though often to our own surprise, “FYP moments” can be experienced everywhere and at any time.

They are as little as feeling ourselves light up when we see a painting that we know something about.
And they’re as big as the realization that our worldview now dons some kind of irrevocable “FYP lens;” a particular frame of reference and a reminder to look to the past when we’re thinking about our engagement with the present.
When we’re on our own journeys, whatever they are, “FYP moments” are personal reminders of the place where we came from, what we took from it, and how much we still have to learn.

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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