Professors discuss how they ‘enjoy Europe from afar’

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Professors discuss ways to enjoy European culture from home. The BYU David M. Kennedy Center For International Studies hosted this event since travel has been restricted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Kaylyn Wolf)

Far away from the bustling sidewalk cafes of Paris, four BYU professors sat at their own “cafe” table in the Herald R. Clark Building around stemmed wine glasses and a green bottle of Perrier. Their discussion was broadcasted for those in attendance of Cafe Europa, an event staged by the European studies program at the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies.

The concept of Cafe Europa is that members of the audience are in a cafe in Europe eavesdropping on professors who are winding down from classes with a bottle of sparkling water. 

Today’s topic of discussion was led by Heather Belnap, the European studies coordinator. The discussion was titled “Europe from afar” and focused on what the professors have been doing to get their fix of Europe since they haven’t been able to travel because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

For those missing the art of Europe, Belnap mentioned the immersive Van Gogh experience in Salt Lake City where projections of European artist’s masterpiece paintings fill the exhibition space.

“There is something to be said about these immersive experiences piquing kind of an interest. I can especially see it for younger kids who might feel the wonderment of it and want to continue in art history,” Belnap said.

Carter Charles, an assistant professor of religious education who lived in France for 17 years, said that he had a part of Europe with him all the time. He stays up to date by constantly following the French news and frequently enjoys crepes that his wife makes.

Spanish and Portuguese professor Anna-Lisa Halling said she was planning on going on a study abroad trip to Lisbon, Portugal last summer, but was devastated when it got canceled. Halling said one thing she loves about Lisbon is that it has so many museums. 

“They all have virtual tours, which is really fantastic. So you can actually go into the museum, walk around and make your way through the museum. And others are more curated collections of different pieces and different exhibits,” Halling said.

Nick Mason, a professor of English and formerly a European studies coordinator, was just about to conduct a project in the Lake District of England when the pandemic struck.

While his research was interrupted, he said the silver lining of the timing of the pandemic was that it happened during what he refers to as “peak TV”: a time where, through various streaming platforms, European media has been made very accessible. 

One of Mason’s favorites is the French series “Call my Agent!” which is set in Paris and can be watched with subtitles. He said the gorgeous, iconic Parisian settings featured in every episode felt like he was enjoying a Parisian vacation from home.

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