January 25th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | 6 Comments by Ben
Enjoying the ice and snow before Costa Rica
It’s about time I leave for Costa Rica! Yes, it’s about time. It’s always about time here in America. People scheduling, deadlining, prioritizing, running errands, meeting quotas, speeding around all for the sake of time. And when the day is over, we complain about not having enough… time. Here in America we “spend” our time, like one would spend money. (In fact, some people would even equate time with money). This morning I “spent” time with my family talking over breakfast and then I “spent” time playing tennis with my dad on his break from work. We do so much spending of our time; will we ever run out? There’s nothing wrong with saying we “spend” time doing things; it’s just the way we English-speakers tend to say it. But I love what Spanish does with time. Spanish speakers “pasar tiempo,” or “pass time,” doing things and being with people. That’s also just the way they say it, but isn’t that neat? I’ve been told to expect a much slower pace of life in Costa Rica and to prepare to use lots of patience (good thing I’ve got a little practice in patience from having 4 siblings… just kidding, hermanos!). Perhaps “passing the time” will be a new experience for me down there. I hope to embrace it.
I wouldn’t say I’ve embraced all this packing I’ve had to do these last couple days though. My suitcases have never been this full. Ever. They are so full I may have to walk on that plane tomorrow wearing a suit jacket, 4 pairs of socks and two hats. Maybe even a bath towel. How’s that for an awkwardly suspicious international air traveler? I also haven’t fully embraced the fact that we have to leave our house at 5 a.m. to make it to San Antonio the suggested 3 hours before my flight’s departure. Oh well, at least I ought to have a lot of time to practice “passing” tomorrow morning…
January 22nd, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by Carla
I have been in Egypt now for a week and it is still just as I had remembered it. (More beautiful than ever!!!) Even though the flight in, or should I say flights to get to Cairo seemed like they were taken from a Hollywood film, I made it safe and sound. The first two times I have flown to Egypt everything regarding travel and airports went smoothly. However, this time around being winter and going through London Heathrow Airport (LHR) things changed. Of course, every day I was in Boston I checked the weather channel to make sure and pray that it would not be snowing so that my flight would not be cancelled or delayed. Nevertheless, I overlooked checking LONDON weather. The day I was leaving Logan International Airport my flight was delayed, but I managed to get on the flight that had been delayed since 4pm and we left at 8:45pm. The flight was going great till about 1 hour to landing. The pilot informed the passengers that he had been informed that we couldn’t land in London because the runways were iced over, so we were rerouted to Glassgow, Scotland. I was not too worried about this set back because I had an 8 hour wait at Heathrow to fly out to Cairo. But once we landed in Scotland, no one had any idea what was going on. This is when the nightmare began!!! Everyone got off the aircraft walked to the gate and entered. We had to go through customs and immigration. We were instructed to form a line or queue as they say. The line was so long and every time you would ask an airport employee none of them knew what was going to happen or what we were supposed to do apart from wait in the enormously long queue. I waited for about an hour in line without moving an inch forward and then to my surprise the fire alarm went off. All of sudden you could hear the loud speakers instructing everyone to leave their luggage wherever it was and exit the building. I grabbed my backpack and left my carry-on and big suitcase (which I forgot to mention we had to claim, so you could picture me at 5’4’’ with this bag that goes up to my waist, at least). Anyway, everyone ran for the exits with their stuff out into the freezing weather. (Thank God I had kept my winter coat with me.) We waited for about 20 minutes, no firemen came or police and we reentered the airport terminal. Formed the line AGAIN!!!! For another hour I made the line made it to the attendants who were taking down your information and putting us on busses to transport us to a local hotel for the night so that we could catch our flight the following morning. I made it on the bus, exhausted from not sleeping on the plane and all of the hustle and bustle of the day and waited for about 40 minutes. I kept on making prayers in my head so that everything would be fine and suddenly an airport attendant stepped on the bus and said that we were the lucky few that were going to make it on the plane to Heathrow that same day. I was so happy I cannot even explain the feeling. I had false hope that I would make my connection in Heathrow to Egypt at 4:55pm. Mind you it was already 1pm. I made it on the flight at about 2:30pm, estimated the hour flight to London and was thinking everything had turned around for me. But of course we had to wait for the plane to be de-iced, and wait for a spot at LHR. So we really took off at about 3:30pm. We landed in LHR at about 4:35pm and I was ready to run. However, once again there was an obstacle. Because I had to claimed my checked luggage in Scotland and it could not be checked all the way to Cairo, I had to claim it again in LHR, go through customs, immigration, and check-in for the third time!!!!! It was pretty much hopeless, but of course being young and hopeful I still thought I would make it. I got off the bus that took us from the plane to the terminal, followed the “connecting flights” signs and asked the first person I saw in uniform what I should do and if my flight to Egypt had left. I was thinking it could be delayed as well, since everything else was. The gentlemen said that if I ran I would make my flight, but I had to get my luggage and check it. I ran to the place where they stamp your passport, showed the guy I had already entered the UK, went through, claimed my luggage (again 3rd time, after waiting 1 hour), and went upstairs to check in. When I got upstairs I asked another agent if I could make my flight and he said I was too late. I had missed it. He told me to go to the man in the blue shirt, who knew what I should do. So I did just that. When I looked at the man in the blue shirt in despair he told me I had to call British Airways and rebook. This was the point where I started to lose my calm. A British Airways attendant (female) saw my face and said “come with me I will help you” so I did. Holding back my tears from exhaustion, despair, and stress I told her which flight I had missed. She took her mobile and called the airline. Since she was an employee she did not have to wait on hold forever. We sat down on a bench and she said I was all set for the next day’s flight to Cairo. The kind lady asked me if I was ok, but when someone asks me if I am ok and I am holding back tears, it’s never a good combination. So I broke down for about 5 seconds. She told me not to worry gave me a kiss on the forehead hugged me and told me she was going to take me to the queue for the hotels. However, she then changed her mind and skipped me in front of all of the people and took me to a very kind man who would book my hotel and give me the voucher. He started asking me questions about my trip and talked about Islam. I felt better. After about 2 hours I made it to the hotel, ate dinner, and slept. The next day I woke up had breakfast, checked out of the hotel and made it to LHR at 1pm. I wanted to make sure I would not miss my flight again. Checked-in in about 15 minutes, passed the security inspection in about 10 minutes and waited. My flight was supposed to board 3:50pm. We boarded at 6:30pm. DELAYED yet again. Once on the plane we waited about 1 hour before the captain started informing us why we were waiting. First it was because there was a line for the deicing process. We were served dinner on the ground, the crew turned on the entertainment for us and we waited. During the 8 hours of waiting inside the aircraft on the ground everything imaginable happened. Not only were we delayed and kept getting pushed back in line to deice. There was a medical emergency on board. Some older man was having medical problems. We found out about this when the captain asked if there was a medical doctor on board (just like in movies). To add to the problems, a plane that was on the runway at LHR about 3 miles away from where we were had a bomb threat so we had to wait till that cleared. Let’s see: medical emergencies, delays, bomb threats, weather issues… everything happened. Nevertheless, we took off at 2:30am London time on January 9, 2010. We landed safe and sound in LHR at around 7:30am. I passed through customs, immigration and got my luggage in record time of about 45minutes. Alhamdullilah the nightmare was over. I could not believe I had made it. After three days of travel.
January 20th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by Leah
It is officially week two in Mérida. The first week was blessedly cold – I kept a sweater on all day, had to turn on the heater to warm the shower water, and didn’t think once about turning on my fan before I crawled into bed. Unfortunately, the cool air has passed and the heat has once again settled over the city.
Studying abroad for a year was by far the best decision I have ever made. While I know I will still have days full of frustration and confusion, they will come with much less frequency. Each day I enter the facultad, I get excited knowing I am going to get to spend the day studying, chatting, and laughing with friends I already know well. Rather than walking around feeling slightly lost and out of place, I now feel as if I can attack AND conquer anything. Any timidness that remained from the past semester has disappeared.
My favorite night so far was last Thursday. Rebeca, my host Mom and I, went to eat taco arabes, small, handmade, pita-like tortillas covered with pork, onion, cilantro, tomato, and smothered in the most delicious, mouth-watering garlic sauce I have ever tasted. Yum!! Afterwards we went to see Avatar. I wasn’t planning on seeing the film, but who can say no to a free ticket? It ended up being one of my favorite movies of all time. For three hours I sat glued to the huge screen and didn’t once look at my watch. Not only was the landscape beautiful but the film also brought up very provocative questions about colonization, the environment, and where we want to go as a “modern” society.
Lastly, let me give you all a quick run down on my classes. I’m taking Spanish, Latin-American Culture and Thought, Caribbean Literature, Philosophy of History, and Latin-American Essays. All are interesting and I love all my teachers and the way they teach. (I made sure to chose teachers that appeared very organized this semester.) I am most excited about the philosophy class. Not only does my favorite teacher lecture, most of my friends from last semester are in it. Not all of my classes will be as fun however. I am scared my essay class will be very difficult and I hope all the extra effort I know I will have to put in to it will pay off in the end.
January 19th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by Muneer
It is just a few days before I board the flight onto Egypt and I am starting to feel nervous. I have tried not to keep my expectations too high so that I will truly enjoy every moment in the country.
Tomorrow afternoon I board a train to Penn Station, New York, where my sister will pick me up. Then, on Monday I get dropped at the airport and away I go.
I have done the last bits of my luggage check and have a feeling that I am lugging around a little too much…I have a tendency to overpack, but I rather be over prepared than under prepared. Still, I do not think I am prepared in the sense that I do not know Arabic, and am unfamiliar with the culture. I plan to submerge myself in the language when I get there and see if I can just pick it up. It will definitely be difficult, but not impossible.
January 13th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | 3 Comments by Ben
I am currently experiencing a trip before THE trip here in the dry, west Texas air of Lubbock. Costa Rica must wait another 10 days, for I am in the midst of a week-long stay in the land of the Texas Tech Red Raiders. All it took to get here was 6 and a half hours of driving, a little bit of singing and dancing in the car, and a small cherry limeade from Sonic. And it was totally worth it! Though while Emily is beginning a new semester of school and life here, I am forced to wait patiently for the unkown that awaits me in Heredia.
Things like exchange rates and calling cards have become commonplace in my conversation these days as I am preparing to learn to do normal things a little differently. I have been told some places take US dollars, others require colones (Costa Rican currency), wait to change currency until arrival, never exchange money with street vendors, I need a departure fee to leave Costa Rica, and on and on. However, in this whole process I am pleased to report that I feel less than overwhelmed. I am more ready and excited than anything.
My host mom reminded me to bring a suit jacket with me for Julio’s wedding, which of course got me all excited again about attending. Going through this whole wedding preparation process myself, it will be interesting to observe how a Costa Rican family handles it. I’m sure there will be some sort of mental note-taking on my part at the wedding, but probably more dancing than anything! That’s why I was practicing my moves on the way to Lubbock. Although I’m sure they can show this white boy a lot about what it means to dance with a Latino flavor. As for now, I’m going to keep my American spices alive here in the great state of Texas until I begin to join them with those of a more distant land.
January 12th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by Leah
Its 10:30 at night and here I am again sitting in yet another airport. Sometimes I feel that I pass more time in airports than I do anywhere else. I feel restless – always hopping from one place to another. In fact, while this summer I have the opportunity to go to both India and Africa, I almost long for a relaxing summer doing the typical college internship 9-5 day. Yet who can pass up such wonderful opportunities? At the age of 20, I have already had the chance to see so much more of the world than most people see in a lifetime. My great uncle, for example, has not traveled more than 30 miles from his Wisconsin farm in his whole life. My understanding and perception of the world are much more complex through my opportunity to see and interact and live in such different cultures from my own. On the other hand, these explorative opportunities do not permit me to spend time with my friends and loved ones at home. The more time I spend away from home, the more I realize how blessed I am to have such an intricate and extensive web of support. My parents put up with my lack of certainty about what the future holds and my constant change of plans and my “brilliant” new ideas. My friends comfort me when I feel homesick or confused and encourage me to continue my journeys. But I rarely get the chance to just sit back and enjoy home.
Anyway, that will all sort itself out in the future. Right now, I am heading back to Mérida. I am horribly sad to be leaving home yet again. This time I am certain that when I return after this semester, many of my friends will have decided to stay at their respective schools for the summer. Despite this, I am excited to head back to Mexico. Talking to my friends in Mérida through Skype or Facebook chat leaves me feeling energized and excited to embark on yet another semester in Yucatán. I’m excited to see familiar faces and meet the new students in the program. I want to see if Dana has begun to walk and introduce the S’more to the grandkids in the household (who can resist toasting marshmallows in 80 degree weather over a hot stove?). I’m excited for sitting around my friends’ living rooms laughing at cheesy jokes and eating Japanese peanuts. It will be so interesting to see how this semester compares to the last, I can’t wait to arrive and start yet another adventure.
January 11th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by Muneer
One of the things I need to do before going to Egypt is getting an HIV test. Egypt may choose to reject someone access to their country if they are HIV positive; the United States shared Egypt’s policy until just last week.
Several years ago, when I was in Kenya, I did an independent study on the negative social stigma associated with HIV (specifically in Mombasa). In my study I reported on how local forces and stigmas affected the lives of those with HIV and AIDS. However, I did not consider, until now, the institutional forces that directly shape the lives of those with HIV. The (late) United States and Egyptian policies regarding foreign HIV-positive nationals is an example in which governmental institutional forces greatly affecting the lives of those with HIV in an attempts to protect those within its borders.
Consequently, Egypt has a relatively low rate of HIV; an especially stark comparison to its southern Sub-Saharan counterparts. However, according to UNICEF, access to information about the spread, prevention, and treatment of HIV is currently limited. I am interested in discussing with some Egyptian locals on their view of the pandemic, and whether they are concerned with its spread. I also would like to informally compare the attitudes of some medical workers in Egypt to the ones in the U.S..
Recently I talked to one of my good friends who works as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in the U.S. medical field. She expressed concern on the changed U.S. policy of allowing people with HIV into the country. She gave me the medical worker’s perspective that working with a large population of under-treated HIV infected people is nightmarish and complex. (Note that we live in the Baltimore-Towson metropolitan area, and that according to Maryland AIDS Administration, “Baltimore-Towson had the fourth highest AIDS case report rate of any major metropolitan area, 29.6 cases per 100,000 population during 2007″…a seemingly valid reason for concern).
There are more people with HIV in Maryland than in the entire country of Egypt.
I look forward to learning more about this subject.
January 8th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by Brandi
Well it has been nearly a month since I returned from studying abroad in Cardiff. Even though I am happy to be back and see all my family and friends, I truly do miss living in the United Kingdom. I told my family I wish I could bottle them up and take them to the London.
It seems like once I got fully acclimated to the UK lifestyle; it was almost time for me to leave. Now that I am back here, I find myself having to readjust to my hometown and my home university. Some of the adjustments included time zone differences and weekend routine activities. For the first 3 weeks I was at home I found myself waking up at 4 a.m. central time, which would mean it was 10 a.m. in Wales. Nowadays, I wake up about 6 in the morning.
One of the things I miss the most about in being in Cardiff is walking around the city and seeing all the various architecture. I also miss many of the news contacts I made as well a restaurant I enjoyed called Nando’s.
Overall, my study abroad experience enabled me to grow mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. I am very thankful for the experience, because it has changed my life forever. For example at first I was considering a career in domestic policy, now I am going to graduate school for international policy so I can have international component in my career. Hopefully, one day I will get to come back to the United Kingdom and work in London.
January 7th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by Ben
My family's attempt at dressing me like a Tico at the party they threw for me
I can already tell this is going to be the best blog I have written all year. Of course, it will also be the worst since this is the only one I have written so far in 2010… happy new year, everybody!
Entry into Costa Rica is now a mere 17 days away, but I can’t say it has begun to feel any more real that I am going to be in another country this month and the following five. I am now fully immunized for yellow fever, typhoid, tetanus and swine flu. The last two have nothing to do with my travel to Costa Rica. Explanations: 1) it was just time for another tetanus booster and 2) I was peer pressured into getting an H1N1 vaccine shot up my nose (but no, I don’t regret it). I am bringing medication for malaria prevention north of W Panama, and another prescription will take care of the malaria in E Panama and below, should I choose to ever travel down there. I had the option to bring pills along for traveler’s diarrhea, but I think I can just tough that one out.
Butler has continued to send me helpful emails about money, details and whatnot. However, if I am honest with myself, I have not really read all of them thoroughly… YET. I plan to eventually fill my head with an appropriate amount of preparatory knowledge before packing and leaving, but I like to think it will be okay if I put that off for a few more days at least. Call it procrastination or ignorance if you like, but I prefer to think of it as taking life as it comes. I can guess there will be a lot of that kind of attitude needed this year; probably for all of us.
A lot of my friends (including my siblings) are returning to school now that January has almost completed its first full week. Huh, school… I remember what that was like once. No American education for me anymore (at least for the next 5 months). Bring on la universidad!
January 6th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by Leah
I have officially been back in the United States for 1.5 weeks and it’s strange how fast I have adjusted to being home. Yes, there are some things that have been hard to get used to. Often times I look around frantically in an effort to try to find a place to throw away my toilet paper or I forget to grab a jacket on my way out of the door. But home is home, and I instantly readjusted to my salad eating, mountain running, friend visiting ways as if I had never packed up my things and lived in a foreign country.
Despite the easy adjustment, I realize it is only that way because I know in a week I will be returning to Mérida. I didn’t have to say goodbye to the friends, family, and country I have grown very close to over the past four months. Instead I get a nice vacation at home before returning to Yucatán to continue where I left off.
And I already have plans for when I return. One of my friends from the restaurant I work at every time I return home to California, offered me the opportunity to stay with her friend in Mexico City. She tells me the family, although poor, is very excited to have me and yesterday I was able to see that for myself. I told them I could stay for four days and they repeatedly asked me, “Why four? Why not eight!?” The hospitality they have shown towards someone they have never met and have no real connection to is overwhelming. I can’t wait to get a real tour of Mexico City from people who actually live there. Additionally, if time and money hold out, I would love to see another part of Mexico, whether it be Monterrey or Nayarit. Lastly, I really want to start volunteering with elderly people within the Mérida community. However, many of the nursing homes do not want any help at all, so hopefully I will be able to convince them that my efforts and assistance will be worthwhile. All in all, I’m very excited for all the things I will be able to do next semester—especially since I already know the area and will not have to make such a drastic adjustment.