By Kistler Hunt
Julia Klass ‘20 has spent the last month in the Loire Valley of France. During her time in France, she has been living and working inside a chateau, gradually repairing it. Klass graduated from Honors at Appalachian in May of 2020 with a bachelor of science in ecology, evolution, and environmental biology and a minor in anthropology. For her Honors thesis, “Facial Reconstruction Of An Ancient Mycenaean Skull,” Klass worked with Dr. Gwen Robbins Schug, professor in the Department of Anthropology, as her director. Her second reader was Dr. Ted Zerucha, director of general education, professor in the Department of Biology, and Honors academic mentor for biology and pre-health students.
Klass was inspired to go into this line of work after hearing about the program Workaway that provides food and housing in exchange for work. Workaway allows people, as Klass explained, “to not just see places, but interact with them, contribute to them, and really learn from them.”
Klass’ work varies daily. Primarily, she aids the chateau owner in renovating and restoring their chateau through sanding walls, painting walls, and much more. The Loire Valley where she works is particularly known for its copious amounts of chateaus. As Klass mentioned, “You can't throw a stone out here without hitting a chateau.” For this project, she’s working with a group of nine other people from varying backgrounds – two from Germany, two from Israel, three from the United Kingdom, one from France, and one from Russia.
Photo above features some of the work Klass has done on the chateau. Her work entailed scraping paint off the walls and has since been in the re-painting phase.
Throughout Klass’ time in France, she has learned more about the chateau’s history and the Loire Valley in general. Klass remarked,
“I really love discovering the personality of the chateau day by day. It feels like a living thing sometimes… There is an insane amount of history here.”
Klass highlights that the Honors College was a major influence in her decision to become a part of this program. She cited the exemplary support from Dean Jeff Vahlbusch, “[He] was instrumental in my decision process for coming here…and told me exactly what I needed to hear: I already knew what I wanted to do so I should go do it.”
Klass will remain in the Loire Valley until mid-June and feels grateful for the enormous insight this experience has given her.
Top photo features Julia Klass in the town of Blois, the town closest to the chateau she’s working on in the Loire Valley.