Bye Bye (Is How They Say "Bye" In Nijmegen)

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There is time for just a few brief words before I pack up my laptop and put it into storage as Mary Beth, Mindy and I embark on the last leg of our PIRE adventures -- two weeks in Spain!

From State College, to Palenque, to Nijmegen, this research experience has been a whirlwind of new languages, ideas, challenges, faces, places, and friends. After our first lab meeting with John Lipski in August 2013, the notion of fieldwork was just beginning to materialize as a possibility. John introduced us to the inner workings of Lengua and to Palenque, but actually flying to Colombia to pursue linguistics seemed a bit farfetched.

Fast forward to May 2014: Mary Beth, Mindy and I flew to Cartagena. We immersed ourselves in the languages and the cultures. In Palenque, we learned about much more than a creole. We encountered an entirely different, yet not so foreign way of life and made some incredible friends along the way. Then, in June, we arrived in the Netherlands. With the help of Dr. Pieter Muysken and numerous other grad students and professors at Radboud University, we took our raw data and processed it into meaningful, sharable results. Besides making progress with our research, we had the chance to really live life day-to-day in a new city. Also, I had the chance to befriend and to play ultimate with Radboud's team, the BFrisbee2's, a great bunch of people. Even when I'm in beautiful Spain and back in State College continuing work on my research, I will sorely miss Nijmegen.

And so, the time has come to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who made this summer possible. This wasn't just a overseas research crunch-the-numbers kind of experience; this was unforgettable. Thank you to everyone at Penn State who works hard to make PIRE happen. Thank you to Dr. Muysken for being such a patient teacher and for being so excited on our behalves. Thank you to John for everything, particularly helping us to love Palenque as much as he does. Thank you to all the kind, generous, (mostly Dutch) people I've met here, especially the BFrisbee2's. Thank you to Jenny who worked on a separate PIRE project in Nijmegen. I wish she could have stayed longer! And finally, thank you to Mindy and Mary Beth. Without you guys, this summer would've had a lot less laughter and far fewer adventures -- it wouldn't have been the same!

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Gracias, bedankt, and thanks!

Last Days

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Two months flew by incredibly fast. These last few days in Nijmegen have been bittersweet. I have conflicting emotions of wanting to go home, see my family and friends, and start the next semester but also not wanting to leave this beautiful country. I don't want the adventures to end either, but thankfully we've got one more left.  On Monday we are headed to Spain. We will be traveling to Barcelona, Granada, Malaga, and Seville. It seems like a lot and it was stressful at times to plan but it will definitely be worth it. I am looking forward to exercising my Spanish muscles again. They have been out of use since Colombia, two months ago, and have been struggling to keep quiet. I just hope I can start where I left off with my Spanish speaking. It improved exponentially in Colombia where I was immersed in the language. However, after two months of no practice I am afraid it may have dwindled a little bit. I am very excited to travel to yet another country and experience a culture very different from here in the Netherlands. 

I know my situation was very different from the other PIRE students since it started out with field research, but also because I was fortunate enough to travel with Danny and Mary Beth. We have gotten very close during our travels and I am so happy I was able to experience all of this with them, and I can't forget Jenny! Its crazy how quickly you get close to people while you are traveling. I hardly knew Jenny before this trip and yet we became such great friends. I would have been much more challenging if I were on my own so I am very glad to have been surrounded by wonderful people. It has been great traveling together but also helping each other with our research and sharing ideas.

I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity and I would like to thank everyone from PIRE that arranged this experience. I would like to thank Dr. Pieter Muysken for his kindness during our stay and for his brilliance that was shared to improve our experiments. The entire Radboud CLS department was very welcoming and willing to help with our projects (and even invite us to lunch). Thank you to Prof. John Lipski for sharing all things Palenquero with us and for bringing us to Palenque, Colombia. Also, thanks to Prof. Lipski for taking time from your busy schedule to continue consultation with us during our stay here in Nijmegen. I have learned so much about linguistics and what goes into research projects. 


I hope all my fellow PIRE students had great summers and are getting some interesting results. See you all soon!

The PIREates say goodbye to Nijmegen

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Throughout the past two months, I've coded more data than I possibly could have imagined. I've spent hours listening to Lengua Palenquera and rearranging spreadsheets to my heart's content. I'm happy with the preliminary results that I've gathered, and am so excited to share this with the CLS this fall! I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Pieter Muysken here at Radboud University, and look forward to continuing to work with and learn more about Lengua throughout my senior year.

I would like to extend a HUGE thank you to our professor John Lipski. He not only taught us about Lengua throughout the past year, shared articles with us, discussed his experiences and answered our many questions, but he also offered us the opportunity to conduct our research projects in Palenque, Colombia. I will never be able to sufficiently express my gratitude for our time in Palenque. It was one of the best experiences of my life. In addition to guiding us through our first research projects, John also introduced us to many incredible Palenqueros whose warmth and kindness I will never forget. He furthermore helped me to realize how much I love the field of sociolinguistics, and I can't wait to keep working with him in the fall!

I would also like to thank my fellow PIREates, Mindy, Danny and Jenny. I could not have asked for better friends to spend the summer with. Together we coded, cooked, learned some Dutch vocabulary, explored via fiets, adventured through Europe and had so much fun. Thank you to each of you for being so smart, fun and wonderful, and I look forward to many more family dinners together this fall. :)


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Spreadsheets have become my life. Everywhere I go I see them. My brain thinks in rectangles. The hardest part about coding is trying to see through the endless possibilities and just focus on one. I look at speech samples from 35 participants and not much is consistent. Which makes perfect sense. We do not all speak exactly the same way. One of the consequences that coincide with field work is that your experiment doesn't turn out exactly the way you plan. So although I was looking at code-switching and have gathered significant data on the topic, I can't help but see how much participants vary in grammatical and lexical features. It was so interesting to see the variation while I was transcribing all of my recordings last month. However, now the variation has become my enemy. Somehow this variation needs to be made into codes so that I can get statistical results of Lengua Palenquera and how it is spoken. It is a slow and thought provoking process. I now truly understand the tediousness of analyzing linguistic data and I hold in high regard researchers who have been doing this for many years.

Last week Danny, Mary Beth, and I met with a doctoral student who studies Javanese influence on Dutch spoken in Suriname. When I heard this I was blown away. I had no idea there is a Dutch presence in Suriname, and of course I've never heard of Javanese before. I never entirely thought about how many different linguistic situations can be studied. English is my native language so I'm always thinking about bilingualism among English and other languages but I am naive to think in this way when there are so many other language combinations out there. I somewhat acknowledged their existence but never fully thought about just how many possible combinations there are. 

As far as traveling goes, we have toned down our international adventures a little bit. This week Nijmegen is hosting their annual Four Days Marches. Four Days of over 100,000 incredible people walking 40-50 km. There is an array of people that March; young, old, and the prevalent military group. For those that do not walk, there is plenty of entertainment in the center city. There are large performance stages on most streets, food carts selling international and common carnival foods, a Ferris wheel and other small rides, plus many more activities. Even in four days I don't think it would be possible to see everything going on in the city. 

I can't believe how fast my time here has gone. I feel that I have achieved a lot but I'm not quite ready to leave yet. I love being in Europe and learning so much about different cultures, cities, and people. I have done this both through traveling and through meeting people in the CLS here at Radboud. 

Nijmegen Wiki

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My middle school teachers always used to tell me not to trust Wikipedia. So, I've decided to make my own entry based solely on my personal experience in Nijmegen. Here's all you need to know (and, coincidentally, everything I've learned) about this city. To learn more, I recommend going to Wikipedia.


Nijmegen, (pronounced, more or less: NIGH-may-hen), is a little known city near the eastern border of the Netherlands, just a stone's throw away from Germany. Although very few Americans have heard of Nijmegen (or can pronounce it properly), it is acclaimed internationally (at least in Europe) as the home of Radboud University and the host of the annual Four Days Marches, held every July. Nijmegen has a population of about 160,000, a sizable percentage of whom are full-time students.  The city claims to be the oldest in the Netherlands, but a little digging reveals that Maastricht, way down in the southern part of the country, is older. Archaeological evidence to prove Maastricht's seniority is inaccessible, buried under present-day homes and streets. No doubt, however, that Nijmegen is still really, really old -- at least 1,000 years. 

Panorama of Nijmegen



1. History

2. Topography & Climate

3. Transportation

     3.1 Trains & Buses

     3.2 Bikes

     3.3 Cars

4. Culture

     4.1 The Arts

     4.2 Nightlife 

     4.3 Fitness

5. The Four Days Marches

6. Education

7. People

     7.1 Language

     7.2 Attitude 

8. Portrayal in the Media

9. References



With at least 1,000 (but probably more) years under its belt, Nijmegen has been through a lot. Remains of castles and strongholds can be spotted in a few locations around town. Evidence of a retaining wall which once protected the city's center until the late 19th century can be found by following the sloped streets -- and by looking at large, clearly marked restorations. 

More recently, things took a nasty turn in Nijmegen during World War II. When Allied bombers attempted to push the Germans back into Germany, they mistook Nijmegen for a German city and laid siege to it. Countless buildings were destroyed; numerous historic homes, churches, etc. were razed. As a result, architecture in Nijmegen today features a healthy mix of classic and contemporary style. 

Topography & Climate                             

By Dutch standards, Nijmegen is very hilly. For this reason it made an appealing spot for strategic city founders. Today, those hills are the bane of many of the city's bikers. The majority of Nijmegen's residents live within a few kilometers (or a couple miles) of the City Center. The city is quite sprawling, however, and there are very few high-rises. Nijmegen boasts an impressive park-to-person ratio.  

Inside a Nijmegen Park

Because it lies in the northern half of Europe, farther from the equator, during summer months the sun is almost always shining. Most nights last from only about 10pm (sunset) until around 4am (sunrise). Average temperatures tend to be cooler than in the North Eastern United States. Many Nijmegenaars complain during the hotter, more humid days. In the Fall, Winter, and Spring there is also weather. 


       Trains & Buses

The train and bus system in Nijmegen is based out of the center station, aptly named Centraal Station. Most the trains running through the station are destined for other cities. A network of tracks also snakes through Nijmegen. Like other Dutch railways, Nijmegen's trains are very punctual and plenty of people take them. (For information on Nijmegen buses, see Bus Comparison.) 


The Netherlands has 2.5 bikes for every person and in Nijmegen there are plenty to go around. Nijmegen is a cyclist's paradise: every road has a designated bike lane; there are traffic lights catered specifically to bikers; all intersections have a "green light" button for bikers to push that will influence the light cycle; bikes have the right of way over automobiles, pedestrians, and other bikes. A high volume of bikes also results in a high volume of of bike-thefts. Nijmegenaars who wish to keep their bikes lock them in bike racks, some of which are two-stories high. A special police bike-traffic control unit periodically hauls off unlocked bikes. Because of the risk theft and damage, almost all cyclists buy their bikes used. 


Nijmegen's roads also allow for the driving of automobiles. Cars can be found driving both to and fro. Owning a car in Nijmegen is very expensive; almost no students own cars. 


      The Arts

Nijmegen attracts an impressive range of musical talent, especially for a city of its size. During the Four Days Marches in particular, the city in inundated with music [link]. A few theaters offer live performances. A number of cinemas feature mainstream new-release movies; at least one art house features cult-classics and experimental films. Less noisy art forms such as painting, sculpture, and urban murals also can be seen throughout Nijmegen. 


As a "student city," Nijmegen maintains a vibrant nightlife. Established destinations include any number of bars and clubs. Party people both young and old can also be found drinking in parks or on their front porches. Radboud University has its own on-campus bars. Unfortunately for the youngest Nijmegenaars, the Netherlands raised the minimum drinking age from 16 to 18 in early 2014. 

Also present in Nijmegen are "Coffee Shops," which do not, as their name suggests, focus on selling coffee, but rather on legal marijuana. Dutch laws concerning marijuana sales are murky. The official ruling is a tacit acceptance of its use. Due in part it its legality, marijuana consumption is markedly less popular in the Netherlands than it is the United States. 


Nijmegenaars are serious about their physical health. There are more fitness centers in Nijmegen than there are McDonald's. Outdoor fitness classes can be spotted doing calisthenics in public parks in broad daylight. 

The Four Days Marches                           

Almost in its centennial year, The Four Days Marches (in Dutch, Vierdaagse Afstandsmarsen), is the city's biggest event of the year [link]. Over 40,000 people from dozens of countries sign up to complete the marches: four straight days of 40 to 50km of walking. Army units and geriatrics comprise the majority of marchers, as they have the most time to train. Other age groups and professions get in on the fun as well. 

Surrounding the event itself is an elaborate, citywide party which starts the Saturday night before marches begins and ends the following Friday night. During every day and night of this seven day festivity, Nijmegenaars and visitors flood the city center for free music, dancing, an array of international cuisines, kid-friendly entertainment, adult beverages, carnival rides, and creatively decorated public restrooms. 

Fireworks just hours before the marches begin

The marches and the parties do not solely function as a fundraiser nor do they have one beneficiary. The marches go on for the sake of marching. The parties go on for the sake of partying. 



Attending school in Nijmegen, as with other Dutch cities, is compulsory. Students test into one of seven "tracks" at a fairly young age, around the beginning of high school. Although there is room for movement from one track to another, only the most academically inclined students -- those in the top track -- can go on to a university. Others will graduate en route to a college. Still others will be go on to vocational training. Some will graduate and then spend time taking advantage of the Netherlands' generous welfare system. 

Universities in the Netherlands are not free for Dutch citizens, but are fairly affordable. Government subsidies are available to most students. Nijmegen is host to Radboud University, one of the most prestigious institutions in the country. Many Dutch students earn bachelor degrees at Radboud. The university also boasts many masters and doctoral programs. Germans come across the nearby border in droves to study at Radboud University. The campus is large, modern, and well maintained. Radboud has an excellent linguistics programming spanning across multiple labs, including the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguists [link]. Research opportunities for international students abound, especially during summer months. 



The dominant language in Nijmegen is Dutch. Nearly all Nijmegenaars are bilingual or better, with English being the most popular second language. Many departments at Radboud University function in English. For foreigners attempting to order food or buy a bus ticket, there are no shortages of Dutch to English translators available. For foreigners attempting to learn Dutch, there is little hope. Besides some common ancestry and certain cognates, Dutch and English are not mutually intelligible. Dutch people are the first to declare that Dutch is difficult to pick up. Dutch people are also the first to switch into English when a foreigner is struggling, e.g. trying to order a "pizzadag," which is not a food, but a promotion meaning "pizza day." 


Stereotypically, Dutch people, including residents of Nijmegen, are friendly, helpful, and humble. The Netherlands has a comparatively small wealth gap and this is evidenced by only slight differences in Nijmegen home sizes. Dutch culture promotes the idea of social equality and scoffs at the notion of showboating or putting on airs. A famous Dutch saying ("Doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg.") translates literally to "Just act normal, then you're acting crazy enough as it is!" which translates to "Even though you're weird, it's better to just roll with it." 

Throughout history, outsiders have also voiced their opinion on Dutch culture. In the early 1600s, the Japanese interpreted Dutch forthrightness and lack of social hierarchy as a lack of social grace, suggesting that "Where a Dutch person has walked, not even grass will grow." However, there are acres (and hectares) of grass growing in Nijmegen.

Portrayal in the Media                          

Mainstream American media has not heard of Nijmegen. However, Dutch culture in general has been a punching bag for the uninformed. Movies and TV shows in the United States have poked fun at the Netherlands for decades. 

Examples of Dutch-shaming:

  • A 2011 episode of South Park referenced a farcical Dutch folk song about American musician Slash called Vunter Slaush.
  • The character played by Portia De Rossi in the short-lived show Better Off Ted repeatedly besmirched the Netherlands.
  • The 2002 movie Austin Powers in Goldmember featured a Dutch character who proclaimed the notion that he was "from Holland" was "weird."


      1. Magerman, Daniel. "Two Months in Nijmegen." A unwritten short story. 

      2. Google Translate: 

      3. Cranendonk, Tristan. A walking tour of Nijmegen. 

Coming Home

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Here it is- the post I've been dreading writing- the last post. I've finally completed my research here in Granada, and I don't want to leave! My flight leaves tomorrow morning, so I'm all packed and ready to go. This experience was so great, and it came to an end much quicker than I hoped. In the end I wound up testing 33 participants. I'm very happy with this number. Although I'm sad to be leaving Spain, I am eager to get home and back to Penn State in August to start coding my data. I am very excited to see how it all turns out. I haven't had the opportunity to code any of it yet, so it will be a complete surprise. Before my last day, which was today, I had the opportunity to take some pictures around the lab. Here are a few.




This past weekend and week I traveled to Madrid and Barcelona. Both cities were beautiful. Being in central Spain and then northern Spain was much different than living here in Granada. Both cities are very big and full of life. Granada is full of life as well, but it's a different, more laid back life that I grew accustomed to. I met many new people in Madrid, and in Barcelona I met up with a friend that I met on my trip to Morocco. Although I only had about 36 hours in both cities, I had the time to explore and see all the famous sites- the Prado museum, Plaza Mayor, the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, and some other things as well. I was happy to be back in Granada yesterday and today though to say my goodbyes. I spent a lot of time walking around the city to take it all in before heading home. I stopped by the cathedral and the Cartuja monastery which I hadn't had the time to see before. They were both beautiful. I also did some last minute souvenir shopping for my friends and family back home. It was a great last few days.

I want to take the time now to give a few shout outs. First I'd like to say that everyone at CIMCYC was so much help to me while I was here in Spain. I had many, many questions along the way, and everyone was so willing to help me, no matter how small the problem. I am very thankful to everyone in the lab, including my mentor, Teresa, who I am very grateful to for allowing me to come into CIMCYC and feel like I was part of the team.

Next, a big thanks to Paige for making Spain so much fun! We had so many great experiences together, and I would have been very lost around Granada and Spain without you here. Have fun traveling around Spain and France these next two weeks.

Next up, Christian! Thank you so much for all of your help getting my stimuli ready for Spain. Without you I wouldn't have had anything to bring to Spain, and I am so happy that you were able to help me out. I'm grateful for your help this summer back at Penn State as well. I'm sure we will be working together a lot in the fall, and I'm really looking forward to it.

And last, but certainly not least, Eleonora. Thank you for everything these past several months. You helped me so much from the very beginning of my application right up through my time here in Spain. I'm so happy we've had the chance to work together, and I can't wait to get back in the lab this fall!

I hope everyone enjoys the rest of their summer, and I'll be seeing you all in August. I hope all the other PIRE students had as great a time as I did, and I'm excited to see all of your end results. Cheers to a great PIRE Summer 2014.

Recruit, Run, Repeat

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                I do not understand how research was done before the age of the internet. Every day, I sent out emails to grad students, doctoral students, friends of friends, and anyone else who I discover is a native English speaker. I sent out so many emails that I kept a template message in a Word document and just changed the name each time I emailed someone new. While a lot of the people who responded were too busy to participate, I was absolutely blown away by the number of researchers who took the time to help me find other potential recruitment pools. I have to give a special shout out to Antje Stohr who sent me a long, detailed email that included the names of English speakers she knew as well as the heads of departments who may be able to send my recruitment call out in a list serve. Nearly every time someone people emailed me that they could not participate, they included at least one other potential recruitment source in their response. I don't know if it's the researchers at Radboud or linguists in general, but the individuals I talked to were so willing to help me. Only two of my participants ended up coming from the SONA system; I found everyone else through word of mouth. I am so grateful to everyone at Radboud University who took the time to keep a young, naïve, undergraduate researcher from getting in over her head.

                As tedious as I found splicing sentences, I realized that I love running participants. It's so gratifying seeing everything I worked for fall neatly into place. Every day I ran a participant, I arrived at the Spinoza building an hour early. I bought a delicious specialty coffee that probably had my daily caloric intake in the whipped cream alone. I went to the cubicle I had booked for the day, set up all my research equipment, and placed all the forms I needed the participant to sign in a neat pile next to the laptop. When the participant arrived, I walked them through the instructions of the experiment, sat in during the trial sentences, then moved to a desk right outside the cubicle for the duration of the study. During the hour and a half when my participant was engaged in the experiment, I either read or chatted with one of the other researchers also running their study.  I loved the routine, the organization, and the fact that the experiment I worked so hard on was slowly coming to life with each new participant.

                Besides recruiting and running participants, my week also consists of a lab meeting held every Wednesday. I've been to a lot of lab meetings throughout my time working in Dr. Van Hell's lab, but I have definitely gained a new appreciation for the presentations researchers give. Ever since I began working on my own study, I realize just how much hard work goes unsaid in each presentation. The hours spent creating stimuli, recruiting participants, and analyzing results gets summed up in a manner of minutes. Each week, I listened to two researchers discuss their experiments. I left every lab meeting with a deeper appreciation for potential directions of linguistic research. I can't wait until I become enough of an expert in the field to provide an insightful, highbrow comment of my own at the end of a presentation. Right now, I'm more focused on paying close attention so I can fully understand each researcher's experiment. I realized I enjoy listening to presentations much more than I enjoy giving them. At the last lab meeting of the year, I gave the final presentation about my own research. I created the slide show a week in advance and knew all the talking points I wanted to discuss. I was so nervous that I wasn't going to sound as eloquent or educated as the doctoral students and post docs who presented in the weeks before me. I'm sure I sounded incredibly nervous as I went through my presentation, and I know I definitely spoke too quickly, especially considering that English was not the native tongue of many of my audience members. Nevertheless, I got through the presentation intact. I like to think I answered all the questions with much aplomb. I'm proud to say that there were no questions that stumped me completely. After I finished my presentation, I went out for drinks with other members of Dr. James McQueen's lab. For the first time, I felt like I was spending time with colleagues rather than superiors. I truly felt like a researcher.



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