One of the best parts about St. Lawrence University is their attention and emphasis on cross-discipline concepts and subjects. Being able to learn about cross-disciplinary content related to my major and minor miles away from SLU in European cities is an experience I will never forget, one that would not have been possible without the generous donations of the Romeo-Gilbert Intercultural Endowment, and Mr. Paul Gilbert and Mrs. Patricia Romeo-Gilbert. With this grant, I was able to apply the concepts I learned in my FYS with Juraj Kittler, London Coffee Houses and Modernity. In that class, I was introduced to the concept of the public sphere, and although our focus was limited to the influence of public spheres in only London, the seed was planted.
Together with Jordan Flanagan 20’, a Government & Economics major, we wanted to increase the value of our abroad experiences through applying what we learned from Kittler. Jordan, who was also in my FYS, spent her semester in Copenhagen, Denmark. The topic we decided to pursue through the grant was to the different locations of the public sphere in Europe in distinct time periods in order to analyze the political, economic, and cultural roles of these locations. The research looked to uncover the dynamic nature of the public sphere and its relationship with technological and societal developments. We divided the focus of our proposal to correspond with our
majors and interests. I looked at the historically significant coffee houses in Vienna and Prague, while Jordan visited many current public spheres in different communities in Denmark and Germany.
With my focus on the historically significant public spheres in this city, I spent much time in coffee houses, the most common public sphere in 18th and 19th century Europe. The most notable coffee houses I visited were Café Landtmann and Café Central. Café Landtmann attracted my attention because that was the spot Sigmund Freud chose to engage with the community, and over time, he gained a following of eager individuals wanting to learn about what he was preaching. The best part—my host mom’s house was a street over from Freud’s original apartment. Café Central is one of the most famous coffee houses, so getting a table for coffee and cake takes over an hour. However, it is worth the wait. The staff explains that this is the best current replication of the atmosphere of a coffee house in this influential time. Both of these coffee houses were interesting to read about before my arrival in Vienna, but they exceeded my expectations. Living right in the middle of history is a feeling unlike any other!
Jordan and I experienced different versions of the public sphere separately due to lack of shared time off, but we were able to extend our time abroad and meet up with our FYS professor to discuss journalism and the public sphere in Venice, Italy. Jordan and I also were able to share with the students he was teaching in Venice about our findings.
Because of the generosity of Mr. Paul Gilbert and Mrs. Patricia Romeo-Gilbert, I was able to enrich my abroad experience by applying my background of history and communications in a unique setting outside of SLU.