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Athletic Teams Mix Culture & Victories during Summer European Adventures
July 26, 2011
"Any time you go somewhere with a football team, they're gonna
be noticed," Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology professor Mike
Kukral chuckles. The geography professor accompanied the
college's football team on its trip earlier this summer to Europe,
where they emerged victorious in a charity benefit game against the
Austrian national football team.
Seeing The Sights: Members of Rose-Hulman Institute of
Technology's men's basketball team had some fun at Mont
Saint-Michel near Normandy during a recent trip to France.
The trip was also educational as several football players took a
Central European Studies course, developed and taught by Kukral, to
fully appreciate the history and culture of Prague in the Czech
Republic and Vienna, Austria.
"We want to promote more international education at Rose-Hulman
and this is one of the ways to do it," Kukral says of the trip and
its corresponding class. "It's a great experience to educate
Rose-Hulman students about these cities." He adds that
immersion in another culture provides an education that can't be
found on the home front. "You can only learn so much in a
classroom or a book," Kukral notes.
In addition to the game, the team traveled to Hradcany Quarter,
St. Vitus Cathedral and the River Vltava in the Old Town Castle
District of Prague, as well as Vienna's Schobrunn Palace.
"It's very important to internationalize or globalize Rose-Hulman's
curriculum," Kukral says. "One of our goals is to get
students into other cultures because their jobs are going to take
them all over the world."
As a civil engineering major, Mitch Snyder took a particular
interest in the architecture of the cities he visited. "I
don't know how they did this without any modern equipment," he
marveled as he recalled the grand cathedrals and massive palaces of
Kukral indicated a valuable part of an international experience
is recognizing "differences you never thought of or
expected." He adds, "You realize that things are different
everywhere you go - and things are the same everywhere you go."
Among the cultural differences, Snyder noted some of the subtle
things that were most surprising in the international
setting. "They didn't have any ketchup over there and that
kind of threw me off," he said.
International experiences were also gained this summer by member
of the men's basketball team, which traveled to France, where they
played, and won, three games. Players had the opportunity to
tour the Champ Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe and the Notre Dame
Cathedral. This was the team's fifth international trip under
head coach Jim Shaw.
|Good Luck Charm: The Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
men's basketball team found a familiar - and welcome - sight in an
elephant statue in front of the Musee d'Orsay, a museum in
As with the football team, the basketball players stood out
among the Europeans during their travels. Basketball team
member Spencer Harlan says that the players' height, along with
their American clothing, left no doubt among the French that the
students were from the U.S.
"People would point us out on the street and say, 'Oh,
Americans!'," he says.
Harlan, who had never before traveled abroad, continues, "The
major thing I learned is what it's like to be in a completely
different environment, with a completely different way of thinking
and viewing things."
The basketball travel group had a particularly moving experience
when members met a group of British World War II veterans near
"I probably could have sat there and listened all day.
I've only ever talked to one other World War II veteran," Harlan
says of the encounter. "It was a wonderful, life-changing
Kukral says that students traveling abroad representing
Rose-Hulman are not only gaining a valuable learning experience,
but they're also ambassadors for their school and country.
"Everyone that met our team was very impressed," he says of the
football team, adding "I heard a lot of positive things about their
manners, their attitude and their interest . . . Everywhere we
stayed they were great ambassadors for Rose-Hulman."
Football player Ben Parker credits Kukral's Central European
Studies class, as well as traveling alongside the geography
professor, with helping him appreciate the cultural aspects of the
||Carrying American Banner: Rose-Hulman Institute of
Technology football players brought an U.S. flag onto the field in
pregame ceremonies before the Charity Bowl game against the
Austrian national team in Vienna.
"Everything you saw, you already knew what it was," he
said. As the group toured the historic Charles Bridge in
Prague, Parker enthuses, "Dr. Kukral was dropping knowledge bombs
on us, telling us all kinds of stuff."
Snyder comments that although there were many cultural
differences, the similarities outweigh them. "It's definitely
opened my eyes (about other cultures). Just seeing what else
is out there and understanding how other people live. But,
overall, they're a lot like us."
Learn more about the football team's European trip, including
Facebook updates and photos, at