Magellan Logo     
December 2013
 New Mexico landscape. Photo taken by Casey Ortega, Class of 2015, on her 2012 Magellan.  

Welcome to the sixth issue of the Magellan Messenger, the e-newsletter that strives to connect the W&J community and friends of the College with the Magellan Project. Each issue features articles written by Magellan recipients as well as updates on events related to the program. 



    More Than Meets the Eye     
Elizabeth Ekstrand, Class of 2016



Elizabeth Ekstrand (with camera) photographing architecture in Berlin.

I didn't sleep at all the night before I left on my Magellan project. I was so worried that something was going to go wrong. I had spent the entire summer planning for my trip to Berlin and London to study how World War II affected the architecture in these two cities. Packed away in my carry on was a binder full of itineraries, research, and a sheet of paper titled "If things have gone horribly wrong" with emergency phone numbers, the location of embassies, and the words "DON'T PANIC" in large friendly letters. As I approached the airport with my parents I could feel my throat starting to close, and I got shaky because I was so nervous. I have been abroad before, but I have never done it by myself. When I hugged my parents goodbye at the security checkpoint, I turned around and choked back tears. Walking ahead, I confidently handed the TSA official my passport, went through the metal detector, and I haven't looked back since. All of my worries I soon learned were quite ridiculous.


Berlin was absolutely amazing. While there I fell in love with the city and have decided I want to live there when I am older. It was the second time I've been to Berlin, so I had a bit of familiarity with it and had absolutely no desire to go to any of the touristy attractions. It was very interesting to see the stark contrast between the former East and West even though it has been 20 years since the two halves of Germany were reunited. For a while, I met up with two W&J girls who also were on a Magellan, and they came with me to Karl-Marx-Allee, which was the showpiece of East Berlin. It is flanked on either side by large boxy apartment blocks that were mirror images of each other, and in the middle there is a wide grass median. The two W&J girls had been in Poland and Minsk, also former Soviet-controlled territories, and they were amazed by what they saw in Berlin. Karl-Marx-Allee looked more like what they expected Minsk to look like. They said they felt like they were in an entirely different city than the Berlin they got to know earlier that day in the West.


My favorite experience of my Magellan was when I got into a really interesting conversation by chance with a woman who randomly sat down next to me at a café because she felt like she was going to pass out; it was very hot outside. We began to talk, and she could quickly tell by my accent that I was not from Germany. She asked me why I was in Berlin, and I started explaining my project to her. The woman actually grew up in East Berlin, and she automatically started talking about the differences between the ways the two sides were rebuilt. She said in the West it felt like you weren't even in Germany; it was like you had walked into New York City. She liked the way that the East kept a little bit truer to the original layout of the city, and felt more comfortable. I couldn't agree more. The East has so much more character than the West. The neighborhood of Kreuzberg is adorable. A canal runs down the middle, and the streets are lined with three-story town homes with flower boxes, but because it is an artist and immigrant neighborhood it has political murals spray painted onto most everything. In the West, especially in Potsdamer Platz, you just feel small and insignificant like I guess you should for being in a city that would take you three days to walk across.


Even though the division is still visible, there are some overarching characteristics to the rebuilding of Berlin, especially post-reunification. When the German government was moving back to Berlin after being stationed in Bonn since the end of the war there was a lot of attention paid to the symbolism behind the buildings. One great example of this is the new dome on the Reichstag. The original was destroyed during the course of war, and the Reichstag itself was in extreme disrepair. For financial reasons the decision was made to restore the building with one major change, which is the glass dome that now crowns the building. In the dome you can see down into the meeting chambers of the Bundestag, the German version of Congress. It symbolizes the transparency that the German government is striving towards and that the previous regimes did not have.


After Berlin, London seemed like a whole different ball game. I was completely there by myself; no one else was on a Magellan there at the same time as me. I did not have a good start to my stay in the city because I completely bought the wrong train ticket three times, and within the first hour of me being there, multiple people gave me lectures about why the United States is the worst country. I absolutely hated it. To me, London was just another big dirty city with a culture that is basically the same as my own except their accent is different. I could have just as easily been in New York, and the entire time I was there I did not understand the allure. This really upset me because I absolutely adore British literature and pop culture, and I couldn't understand how this place could produce so many things I loved.


My entire first day was spent in an angry silence as I went around the city doing all the classically touristy things I figured I should do because I had never been to the city before. It took a phone call from my mom to help me gain some perspective. She was more excited for my trip than I was, and it made me realize that I was being ridiculous. I had this amazing opportunity and being in a bad mood was wasting it! After that I tried to have a more positive outlook on my trip. I went to a really cool neighborhood called the Barbican, which was a post-war development built on a completely destroyed area that combines living, working, and recreation together. It is in the brutalism design style; it's all harsh corners and concrete. I also got to see the maps of the destruction from the war at the London City Archives. It was amazing to see how concentrated and exact the bombing was and how detailed they were with recording the damage. While in London I also got to meet with Chris Rogers and Patrick Morley who are both experts on the post-World War II rebuilding of London. I thought they were both architects, but in reality they just do research on the side for fun, which was reassuring to me because this past year I had been conflicted about not studying history although the subject really interests me. They made me realize that history simply can be my hobby. I also met some amazing people in my hostel who made my time alone not lonely.


The one thing that really stood out to me in both London and Berlin was the tourists and how disrespectful they are. It was amazing to me the places people would pose for group photos. In Berlin for example, people took a jumping picture in front of Neue Wache, a memorial which consists of a mother holding her dead soldier son. It's a memorial to all who died in both World Wars. And in London, there were people posing in front of a group of people protesting about the current situation in Egypt. So to all my fellow W&J classmates: Don't be like these tourists; do a Magellan instead!


Everyone Has a Story to Tell     

Joseline Cortez, Class of 2015     



   Joseline Cortez in Barcelona, Spain. 


When I look back at my Magellan experience, I think to myself, "How did I survive on my own? How did I not get 'taken'?". It's hard to believe that I traveled all on my own to both Spain and Italy and had one of the most fascinating experiences anyone could ask for.


When June 5th came around, and it was time for me to leave home, I became terrified. I was insecure and didn't think I could ever travel on my own. When my family dropped me off at the airport, they seemed excited because once again, I was doing what I love to do, which is travel. As I checked in my bag and got my boarding pass, I knew it was time for me to begin this adventure all on my own. Like a baby, I began to cry saying to my family that I didn't want to go anymore. But I had to tough it out and embark on this unknown adventure.


My Magellan project was to spend two weeks in Spain and two weeks in Italy and study the Latin American immigration in both countries. I spent the first week in Madrid, Spain and the second week in Barcelona, Spain. I had never been to a country where people were so nice to tourists. I was incredibly fortunate. My initial plan was to go to the markets and try to find people with a Latin American accent to talk to and hear their story as to why they decided to move from their homeland. This turned out to be more difficult than I thought because I didn't find many Latin Americans in the markets. However, I did meet many Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Colombians and Bolivians in the hostels that I was staying in. As I relaxed in the hostel in Madrid, I noticed the maintenance man was speaking Spanish on the phone but with a slightly different accent. I felt awkward approaching him and asking him where he was from, but I had to be confident. I politely approached and said to him, "Hola, de donde eres?" and he responded in Spanish, "I'm from Peru." I was so excited that after four days I had finally found a Latin American that I could speak to and hear a story from for my Magellan project! We began to talk, and he mentioned to me that he, his wife and his daughter had decided to move to Spain in search of a better lifestyle and better job opportunities. When he got to Madrid, Ernesto explained that he and his family had easily acclimated to the Spanish culture and the advantage they had was their ability to speak the native language so language was not an issue. As I interviewed many other Latin Americans, I realized that one of the main reasons why many people from Latin America moved to Spain was because it was one of the countries that could provide better financial stability, and as they moved to Spain they easily adapted to the culture due to their advantage of speaking the language fluently.


Not all stories where the same, however. For example, I met a woman from Colombia who had met her Spanish husband while she was in college in her homeland. He was an international student at her college, and they both fell in love. This was a very atypical story to hear about why someone left their homeland, but as they say, everyone has a story to tell.


One of the stories that really impacted me and changed my view of immigration in general was that some people from Latin America were trafficked over to Europe to do labor jobs that many Europeans do not want to do. This reminded me of the slavery period in early US history. It is so mind blowing to me; how can this exist in our world today? Many of the people that I interviewed did not want to go into details about how they were trafficked over to Europe for obvious reasons. This is definitely an issue I want to research moving forward.


I spent the last two weeks in Italy. Being in a country where I wasn't too comfortable with the language was a struggle for me. Nonetheless, I was able to do just fine. I stayed with host families, which was an incredible experience. During the day, I visited different markets and shops in search of Latin Americans. It was very easy to spot them because they were speaking Spanish instead of Italian. When I began to ask them why they decided to move to Italy as opposed to a country like Spain where they can assimilate easier, they explained to me that many times it was due to a family member who had initially moved to Italy, and so they wanted to stay together and decided to move there as well. Others said that Italy is where they first found a job. I also met a Salvadorian man who said he had moved to Italy because they had provided political asylum to Salvadorians fleeing from the civil war during the 1980's. I immediately had a connection with him because this is the same war that caused my parents to leave El Salvador and migrate to the United States. All through my Magellan, I heard many stories of why Latin Americans left their homelands and how they had established themselves in Europe. It was nice to see how well many of them had adapted to the European culture.


Being away for the entire month of June helped me to grow and mature. I was terrified to travel on my own, but as soon as I arrived in Europe, I was just fine. I was able to learn about reasons for Latin Americans leaving their homelands, but I think most importantly I learned to trust myself and be confident in whatever situation I was going through. It was definitely difficult not being able to communicate well with Italians and having to find the right metro. But I wouldn't change anything about this experience because it made me a more confident and independent young woman.


    Taking a Second Look at Politics       

TaTiana Johnson, Class of 2014  



   TaTiana Johnson in Belize City, Belize. 


As I stepped off the plane in Belize City, I anticipated the adventures I would have, the people I would meet, the places I would explore, and the culture I would encounter. However, I was unprepared for the lessons I would learn about myself or the humbleness of the people. The citizens have so little but accomplished so much in the short span of their lives. After visiting Belize and speaking with the citizens I am forever grateful for the small amenities and opportunities afforded to me daily.  


I went to Belize to study politics, and while there, I had the unbelievable opportunity to sit and listen to a Supreme Court case. Although I could not always fully understand the situation, it is still a moment I will treasure. I was able to visit many historic and wonderful places in Belize as well. Although I went to Belize City to learn about their political system and political parties, I also learned more about myself as a person.  


Considering the financial instability of the country and limited resources, the citizens' knowledge and preparedness pleasantly surprised me. I did not expect everyday citizens to be well read on political party platforms and current politics. Citizens were knowledgeable regarding the two major political parties: United Democratic Party (UDP) and The People's United Party (PUP). There were varying opinions about the UDP and the PUP's role in governing the country, looking out for the people's best interest, and the best interest of the citizens specifically in Belize City.


Current resident Gabriel is a proud supporter of the PUP. He is a 67-year-old security guard residing in Belize City. Like many senior citizens in Belize, Gabriel is having financial difficulties. He cannot afford to pay his electricity or water bills. The minimum wage in Belize is approximately 4.00 (BZD) per hour which is the equivalent of $2.00 (US) an hour. The minimum wage according to Gabriel has not increased since the UDP has taken office, but the cost of living continuously rises. He does not trust the UPD and claims, "Unless you are friends with Dean Barrow or someone in office you suffer and receive little or no help. The senior citizens suffer the worst." In Gabriel's eyes, finding a job is impossible under the UPD. He cannot wait until the PUP is voted back into office. He holds the political party in high regard, and compared their thinking and political platform to that of the U.S. Democratic Party.


Gabriel is a man with whom I found it easy to share conversations regarding politics both in the U.S. and Belize. I was introduced to his family and allowed to join them for a Belizean meal. He is an amazing older gentleman who offered kind words.


Belize native Traci is a firm supporter of Dean Barrow (Prime Minister) and the UDP. She believes her family receives adequate help from the government. She preaches patience and trust in both God and the UDP, because "They can only help so many people at a time and people have to practice patience until it's their turn for help." According to Traci, she has not suffered any hardships during Dean Barrow's tenure. Her and her husband's businesses are thriving, and the UDP even provides her two sons with scholarships for college. She does not have any major complaints with the way things are being handled.


Traci is a very spiritual woman who invited me to dine with her family and receive an authentic Belizean meal. Her husband, who is part owner of her restaurant, gave me a tour of their facilities and let me help prepare a meal, which was a great experience and introduction to Belizean cooking. I was able to easily converse with Traci on many topics even if we held different opinions.


After reviewing both interviews, I took those conversations in stride and listened carefully when I conducted interviews with the two major political parties. Subsequently, after discussing their political platforms I formed opinions and a bias towards one political party.


Stephan Latchman is one of the most humble men I've ever met in my life. He accomplished so much at a young age but was genuine and not egotistic when relaying facts about his achievements. He was the General Secretary of the biggest trade union party in Belize, was the major of two different municipalities, was a part of the City Council for two terms and is the National Executive of the PUP. He says he "is self-educated and Belize motivated." He believes even when you're not in power or you feel like giving up, "You never relinquish drive." In his opinion the PUP stands for equal social classes, which is a major issue. The PUP offers freedom of the press and gives all opinions on political situations and stances. His assessment of the UDP platform on issues is not flattering, but the things he does for his community are amazing and inspiring. He truly wants to see his nation and people flourish and grow. I hope to help him in possible future endeavors. I was offered the chance to return to Belize to work on apartments and shelters for one of the organizations he started. If my schedule permits within the next summer or two I will return to Belize and work alongside PUP representatives and volunteers for the betterment of their community.


Another gentleman I met who is wise beyond his years was Alberto Vellos. Alberto is another humble individual who downplays his achievements. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Belize Times, President of the Belize Youth Movement, started a youth group named Nation Builders, is President of the Commonwealth Youth Program, and is a PUP Representative. Down to his core he is a nationalist and represents social justice for his people. He feels strongly about all political and economic issues, and he believes the Belize Times provides checks and balances of information to the public. The newspaper offers a critical look at the political scene in Belize. He states, "The roles the youth play are so critical. The decisions of today affect the youth of tomorrow." He has a finger on the pulse of the political scene and is not afraid to report his take on the news and the opposing party of the UDP.


These two political representatives of the PUP party struck a chord with me and made me look carefully at our own political system. These two gentlemen changed my mind about the integrity of some politicians. I realized there are actually politicians who still represent the people's interests and not their own, and this reminded me that there can be honesty in politics.  

  TaTiana with some of the people she met in Belize.

Researching Memory      

Ashlyn Mannery, Class of 2014    



Ashlyn Mannery at Indiana University Bloomington.   

Over the summer, I completed a Magellan project as an intern at Indiana University Bloomington for the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. While there, I worked in the Comparative Cognition animal lab under the supervision of Dr. Jonathon Crystal and lab technician Wesley Alford. My research involved testing the memory of laboratory rats to assess their source and episodic memories. The rat model is used to further the knowledge of the components and limitations of these types of memories that are commonly affected by Alzheimer's disease in humans.


When I first arrived in Bloomington, I met with my mentor and the REU program coordinators. My mentor and Principal Investigator of my research project was Dr. Jonathon Crystal. When I met with him for the first time, he showed me around his lab in the Multidisciplinary Science Building on the IU campus. As we toured the testing area, he began to explain my project. He informed me that I would be receiving my own group of test subjects and that my project would be done independently. I was excited by this news because I knew that many other summer researchers are not allowed to fully run and control their own projects. However, with the great news came discouraging news. The research project would need to run for a total of 3-5 months, so I would only be starting the project and would be back at W&J long before the results were obtained. Although this put a damper on my enthusiasm, I was still very excited to get my project started and see the progress over the next nine weeks.


One of my first accomplishments of the summer was the writing of a research proposal for my project. I did not have previous research experience, so aside from my Magellan application, I've never learned the process of writing and submitting an advanced research proposal in order to receive funding. I had a two-week deadline to write two drafts and a final proposal, and once the proposal was finished and the final submission was received by the program coordinators, I felt elated. First, I had no idea how much time and literature research grant proposals required in order to receive funding for the projects. I spent almost a week researching publications related to my project. Second, I have never written a large-scale proposal before and was unsure about how to produce a well-written, detailed explanation of my project. Although my mentor was available to give feedback much like Magellan advisors, the purpose of the proposals was to write them ourselves, learn from mistakes in the first few drafts, and use the feedback to make it better for the final submission. When my mentor reviewed my final draft and told me that it was ready to be sent to the program directors I was excited because I had learned to write a proper grant proposal. The proposal process was so useful because I know that I will soon have to write a grant proposal for my own research projects in graduate school, and it will be much easier to craft a well-written and concise proposal thanks to my experience at Indiana.


Towards the end of my second week at Indiana University, I began to train my rats for the experiment. My summer research would be a continuation of a previous study by Crystal and colleagues that was published in Current Biology in March of 2013. Episodic memory, which was a topic of study in the Crystal lab since 2010, is the ability to recall information from a given episode or memory. It encodes and then retrieves information based on the content of the memory, known as the "what," the location of the memory, known as the "where," and the context of that memory, known as the "when." One type of episodic memory is source memory, which was the focus of the March 2013 Current Biology paper as well as my summer research. Source memory is the ability to recall a source from a particular memory. An example of this is when a joke is told. In order to not retell the joke to the same person you hear it from, you must remember who the source was, as well as what the joke was, where it was heard, and when the joke was told. Source memory is particularly affected by Alzheimer's disease, as patients find it difficult to identify loved ones, and often retell given information to the same person. This is either a failure to encode or retrieve source memory successfully.


Dr. Crystal acknowledges the degeneration of this particular type of memory, and after discovering that rats show evidence of source memory, he continues to study it using an animal model. Because animals in his lab are tested from three weeks of age until late adulthood, he is attempting to pinpoint where in their lifespan this decline occurs and what are common signs in early adulthood that can indicate an onset of Alzheimer's later in life. His is one of only a few animal behavior labs to study this type of memory, and while his previous study has supported the notion that rats do have source memory, we decided to validate that assumption in my study as well as take it a step further. My summer research looked at the extent to which animals can encode and retrieve source memory and how much information is too much for them to do so successfully. Thus, we implemented a memory load by testing in two distinct testing locations as well as made the baited locations in the radial arm maze random per testing session. My animals were trained from week two to week four and then tested week five to week ten. Experimental testing continued and results were expected to be analyzed in mid-October.


During my last week at Bloomington, I presented my summer research to the other REU interns, their mentors and Principal Investigators, the coordinators, and the director of the REU program. I received a Certificate of Merit for my work in the lab and will be recognized nationally as an NSF undergraduate researcher. Although I did not get to witness the outcomes and results of the experiment, I was so excited to be a contributor in this type of research. Alzheimer's disease affects millions, whether it be patients or loved ones, and I was so honored to be chosen to help the Crystal lab get one step closer to finding a piece of the puzzle. I cannot describe how this experience has helped me to grow. Because I did not have previous research experience, I was nervous about what graduate school would be like and if I would be able to successfully carry out a research project to present as my senior thesis. After my summer at Indiana thanks to the NSF and Magellan, I am confident in my lab skills and my ability to work in a lab as a graduate student. Also, I am ready to take what I have learned and share it with the W&J community in hopes of sparking research interests in other undergraduates like me.

Issue 6    

In This Issue
More Than Meets the Eye
Everyone Has a Story to Tell
Taking a Second Look at Politics
Researching Memory
New interactive Magellan map now available. See where our students have gone and learn about what they have accomplished.

 Washington & Jefferson College
60 South Lincoln Street
Washington, PA 15301