Winnebago for Export: Winnebagans Abroad

Winnebago cultivates a spirit of adventure. It is, after all, the camp for the boy who will. And one kind of adventure that many alumni have embarked on for decades is overseas travel. There are Winnebagans who study abroad and Winnebagans who go on extended backpacking forays, bringing pep and vim to the hostels of the world. But some alumni, including former Peace Corps volunteers Uncles Phil and Andy Lilienthal, go further: They choose to live outside the United States for longer periods of time.

We caught up with a few of these current and former expat alums to hear about what they’ve been doing, what they thought of their time living outside the States, and how it all connected to their time at camp.
Their experiences have been varied. Dave Franzel (SL ’03) decamped for Egypt just before the Arab Spring and opened a burrito joint in Cairo. Zach Rosenbloom (SL ’04) journeyed to rural Japan, taught English classes, and fell in love. Jacob Addelson (SL ’07) won a fellowship to study history in the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Jonathan Nathan (SL ’08), a Ph.D. candidate in intellectual history, chose a U.K. home base from which to travel to capacious archives across Europe. Sam Schiller (SL ’13) decided to pursue his undergraduate studies in coastal Scotland. Below, they tell their stories.
—Samuel Lewis (SL’ 12)

Dave Franzel
Senior Lodge 2003
Country: Egypt

WAN: So, let me get this straight, you started a burrito joint in Cairo?
Dave Franzel: Ha ha. Yeah. So I started cooking in college on a hot plate in my dorm room, and it quickly grew into a passion. I learned the ins and outs of the culinary arts working in a gourmet kitchen on campus, and when I moved to Egypt I joked with friends about opening a restaurant there. One day in a car driving past the pyramids (you’re always driving past the pyramids, I guess), a couple of friends and I were lamenting the lack of burritos in Cairo. On something close to a whim, we decided to take the initiative and bring the burritos there ourselves. The revolution set back our plans to open a Chipotle-style dine-in establishment, but a year later, after much experimenting, planning, fundraising, and building, we had a fully functional delivery-burrito kitchen in the heart of Cairo.
WAN: What did you miss most from the U.S.?
DF: Well, it was burritos. Then after we opened Gringo’s, it was probably toilet paper.
WAN: Has your time outside the States made you think about American life any differently?
DF: Definitely. In many ways, both good and bad. For one, it made clear to me how regularly we take for granted what we have here in America. In general, I’ve seen far more unhappiness among the haves than the have-nots in my life. It’s easy to forget how strong our opportunities are and how protected our rights are relative to most of the world.
WAN: Did anything you learned from your time at camp help you while you were overseas?
DF: I attribute so much of my personal growth to my days at camp, it’s hard to identify the specifics. One thing that comes to mind: At camp I learned to be comfortable living without the amenities you find at home in a developed country (electricity, AC, and TV, for example). I think this translated to a preparedness for living in a country that lacked a lot of different types of amenities.
WAN: What advice would you give to Winnebagans thinking about moving to a different country?
DF: Do it.

Zach Rosenbloom
Senior Lodge 2004
Country: Japan

WAN: Why did you choose to live in a different country?
Zach Rosenbloom: I never traveled abroad while at college. I had never spent a significant amount of time in another country. And I wanted to experience the world from a different perspective. I also wanted to test whether teaching was for me, and there are a multitude of companies and programs recruiting English teachers abroad. I was really interested in Japanese culture when I was younger—I watched and read a lot of anime and manga, studied a lot of Japanese history, and ate a ton of Japanese food. The pieces all seemed to fit together. So Japan it was!
WAN: What was the biggest “culture shock” you had while abroad?
ZR: The biggest shock for me was getting used to not understanding most of what was being said around me. I hadn’t studied Japanese before moving.
Otherwise, I adjusted pretty quickly and didn’t get much in the way of culture shock. Reverse culture shock, on the other hand, was very real. Why is U.S. currency so flimsy? Why are New York City subways so dirty? Why is it normal for public transportation to be late? Why is there so much food on my plate?
WAN: Can you please share a humorous or interesting anecdote from your time abroad?
ZR: One night, I was out with friends after work and we decided to go to a karaoke studio, which is very different from the stereotypical karaoke scene in the U.S. You get an hour in a private room with a TV and a karaoke system, and you can order food and drinks to the room. We went out immediately after work, so I was still wearing my office attire (suit and tie). On our way in, a group of Japanese patrons walked by. One of them saw me, stopped, and then began yelling, “Brad Pitt! Brad Pitt!” If only.
WAN: What did you miss most from the U.S.?
ZR: Diners. Toyama Prefecture has “family restaurants,” which are close to diners but miss the mark on the comfort-food aspect. It was really tough finding a good place to go out for breakfast where I lived, although this could have been because I was in a more rural part of the country.
WAN: Did you learn anything about yourself while abroad?
ZR: When I look back at how much I loved my time in Japan, I have to push myself to remember that I couldn’t read, write, or speak Japanese at all when I first arrived. But I still found ways to communicate in daily life. I think about how much I was able to learn on my own whenever I feel discouraged in my day-to-day.
WAN: I heard you met your wife in Japan?
ZR: It’s true. I met her because she was also an English teacher with the same company. She’s Japanese, but she has studied English since she was in junior high school. We got married at City Hall last year.
WAN: Did anything you learned from your time at camp help you while you were overseas?
ZR: Winnebago’s core value of trying (“not for the boy who can, but the boy who will”) is, I think, a big reason that I felt comfortable enough to venture out and explore a foreign country. Had I not had ten amazing summers at a place that praises effort like Winnebago does, I may not have been so bold.

Jacob Addelson
Senior Lodge 2007
Country: England

WAN: Can you please share a humorous or interesting anecdote from your time abroad?
Jacob Addelson: When I visited Edinburgh, I spent a great evening in a local whiskey bar on a wet, January day. A German film crew happened to be in the bar making a short film that would be shown back in Germany in order to attract German tourism to Edinburgh. They happened to interview me and the director gave me his card. Later, I viewed the short bit online and saw myself featured in a tourist film in which my voice had been dubbed over in German. I can only hope that many people from Stuttgart have made the trip to Scotland because my dubbed endorsement for good Scotch was very effective.
WAN: What did you miss most from the U.S.?
JA: Mexican food. One of the few parts of the world that England never brutally conquered was Mexico—or any other part of Latin America for that matter. The enchiladas and tacos in England are unsurprisingly terrible.
WAN: Has your time outside the States made you think about American life any differently?
JA: It’s a little facile, but America is really unique for its level of heterogeneity. There is a cultural analogue with something like sports. In many parts of the world, there is one sport that matters nationally, and that is football (soccer). In America, there are no fewer than half a dozen major sports that people will follow closely. You can see many more Americas than there are Germanys or Frances or Italys, and so I think more now about how culture and politics work together than I did before.
WAN: Did anything you learned from your time at camp help you while you were overseas?
JA: All the same things that make Winnebago special—finding fun and beauty in the smallest things and details—apply equally when one is living abroad. The greatest level of immersion into another culture happens when you are willing to find something special in the mundane, everyday parts of life.

Jon Nathan
Senior Lodge 2008
Continent: Europe

WAN: Why did you choose to move to a different country?
Jon Nathan: It’s hard to study European history in America unless you want to constantly cross the ocean to visit libraries. Cambridge is just a £20 Ryanair ticket away from most of the archives I need.
WAN: Can you please share a humorous or interesting anecdote from your time abroad?
JN: I once wondered idly what the most precious book I could get my hands on in the Cambridge University library was. So I ordered up the Moore Bede, which contains the earliest example of writing in English, period. The librarian handed it to me, no questions asked.
WAN: What do you miss most from the U.S.?
JN: Wilderness. Europeans cut down their forests in the late Middle Ages, and it’s rare to find someone on this continent who’s spent nine days cut off completely from human civilization. The wildest you generally find in England or France is a picturesque farm.
WAN: Has your time outside the States made you think about American life any differently?
JN: I’ve thought a lot about cars. You can get around most cities and regions in Britain on pleasant buses and trains, which drives home how much of American life requires rolling down Cyclopean highways in a car. It’s an ugly and dispiriting thing that we’ve learned to consider normal.
WAN: Have you learned anything about yourself while abroad?
JN: I get lonely quickly but bored slowly. So I’m happy to wander endlessly so long as I have a good friend or two to wander with.
WAN: What’s the most interesting thing, academic or otherwise, that you’ve learned while abroad?
JN: Europeans leave their eggs on the counter.
WAN: Do you ever see other Winnebagans there?
JN: All the time. Plenty of Winnebagans, American or otherwise, stop through London once in a while, so I often have the chance to catch up.
WAN: Has anything you learned from your time at camp helped you while you’ve been overseas?
JN: I think all the time about how Winnebago taught me to shrug off fear for the future, smile, and say, “I’ll figure something out.” This is especially valuable whenever I’m on my own in a strange country.

Sam Schiller
Senior Lodge 2013
Country: Scotland

WAN: Can you please share a humorous or interesting anecdote from your time abroad?
Sam Schiller: First, some important context: In Britain the word “pants” refers to underwear, while “trousers” refers to what Americans call “pants.”
During my first semester, I told my friend that I re-wore my pants and was surprised to see the horrified expression on her face. She quickly realized that I was referring to “trousers.” But it is an amusing story nonetheless.
WAN: What do you miss most from the U.S.?
SS: The food: New York City bagels, rugelach, etcetera.
WAN: Has your time outside the States made you think about American life any differently?
SS: One of the biggest differences between America and Scotland is the presence of socialist policies such as universal health care and accessible student loans, which are absent in the States.
WAN: Has anything you learned from your time at camp helped you while you’ve been overseas?
SS: One of the most important things I learned at camp was the value of independence. This was something that was demonstrated clearly to me during trips such as the Allagash or the St. Croix. Because of this, I have been able to better tackle the challenges associated with living away from my parents for the first time and living in another country.
WAN: What advice would you give to Winnebagans thinking about moving to a different country?
SS: I would tell them to go for it! Moving to Scotland has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Much like camp, it has exposed me to ideas and people that I had not previously encountered and has definitely been a formative experience for me.


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