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Home Sweet Home

Time December 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

After a whirlwind of exams, packing, planes, and turkey overload I finally find myself recovered from jet lag, back on American time, sitting on my couch basking in the glimmering lights from our Christmas tree. My reunion with my friends and family has been warming.  Kind of like when you come home from your first semester of college and the only question you get asked is “How’s school?!” or “Don’t you love college?”, the only question I’ve been bombarded with is “How was your trip?” It’s safe to say I’ve been the talk of the family since I’ve been gone, and I’m more than happy to share my experiences with everyone who asks.

I genuinely can’t believe that it is already over.  I remember moving into my Urbanest apartment like it was yesterday.  But, at the same time, when I think back to those four months they are a blur.  Honestly, I sometimes feel like I dreamed it all. When I scroll through my camera roll on my phone and recount all of the amazing places I visited, adventures I journeyed, and friends I met I feel nothing but gratitude.  It’s no corny exaggeration to say that it was the trip of a lifetime, and the longer I spend at home and the further it gets behind me, the more and more I appreciate it. Read More »

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Un-Bali-vable

Time November 9th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

One of my biggest fears when I chose to study abroad in Australia was that I would not get as rich of a cultural experience as my counterparts would in places like Europe, South America, and Africa. To my satisfaction, Australia still presented me with quite the cultural shock.  But, to this date the most amazing cultural experience I have encountered was in Bali.

For the reading week period we had off before exams, a group of about 15 of my friends and I booked a beautiful villa in Bali. So, after the last day of class I packed my bags for the anticipated warm weather and jetted off to the airport to catch my almost 7 hour flight to Indonesia.  The plane ride was particularly brutal because I sat in the kiddie section of the plane. Anybody who knows me knows I adore children but 7 hours with 6 different children, all under the age of 7, held in a confined space challenged my patience to a new level. Despite the commotion,  we finally landed in Denpasar around 4pm Bali time, collected our bags, and met our driver to take us to the villa. Read More »

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Advice About Budgeting in Buenos Aires

Time October 27th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

The title is a misnomer because I’m not really going to be talking about budgeting during study abroad. If you are a firstgen college student/ poor and planning on studying abroad, I really hope you’ve been planning for this for awhile now. Basically, study abroad is different from “real life” at whatever university. If you don’t treat study abroad like it’s different, you’re going to have a bad time. Don’t expect to be as frugal as you are back home. It’s definitely possible, but you will be miserable. There are expenses in study abroad that don’t come up in regular school situations. You will be going out more, eating out more, and hopefully travelling more. Anticipate these expenses and plan for them. The two biggest money-handling mistakes I’ve seen on study abroad are:

  1. Spending as frugally as one would back home and not being able to experience study abroad as it should be experienced
  2. Spending more money than one normally would because it’s #studyabroad but then constantly berating oneself for the reckless spending

Both of these behaviors are a MISTAKE and will detract from your study abroad experience. I was in the first boat for about 3 weeks, the second boat for another 3 weeks, and now I am free from both! I already sort of went over why number 1 is a mistake above. Don’t treat study abroad like it’s back home. If you have a college budget, don’t just carry it to study abroad and expect it to work and be fine. Number 2 should be obvious to everyone. If you’re berating yourself for your spending, you’re just going to make yourself feel awful. Also, study-abroad spending is not “reckless spending”. It’s a once in a lifetime experience and should be treated as such. The best thing to do is spend the extra money on the study abroad experiences (relative to each individual person’s  means/ budget) and be fine with it.

Alright, so how do you get to that point where you can spend and be fine? This is where the planning comes in…That I hope y’all were doing way beforehand. If you are like me and don’t have family members to hand you money at your every whim, having the ultimate study-abroad experience takes a little finessing.

Apply for IFSA scholarships/jobs! The IFSA first-generation scholarship literally saved me so much grief. Apply for other scholarships as well. Apply for all of them, if you have the time. If you are eligible, apply for the Gilman scholarship. There are also a lot of university/region specific scholarships out there. These are usually less competitive than the nationwide scholarship programs. Brush up on your writing skills because you will be writing a lot of essays. My university has people that specifically help with proofreading scholarship/fellowship application essays. Check to see if your university has something similar.

For those that have a job during the school year: SAVE. I am serious. It is painful and hard, but it must be done. I managed to save a significant amount of money in a little over a year by consciously restricting my spending. That is in addition to paying for my miscellaneous expenses( like soap, conditioner, etc.). I created an incredibly restrictive budget for myself and stuck to it. My sophomore year social life suffered considerably, but I saved that $$$. Watch Netflix with your friends. It is free and fun. Don’t eat out. Don’t buy Starbucks. Don’t take that Uber to the bar/wherever. Obviously, it’s impossible to completely follow these guidelines unless you are a complete recluse, but you need to make a concerted effort to spend less. Sometimes I’d go to random club meetings/career events to get the Pizza/catered food when I really, really wasn’t feeling the dining hall.

Other options are, of course, loans. But taking out a loan is a personal decision and everyone qualifies for different types/rates.

Also! IFSA specifically provides students with budget calculators, so look that up. Just make sure to be realistic and don’t plan on spending $5 USD a week in expenses. Good luck!

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New Zealand- A Fairy Tale

Time October 17th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

When I came abroad I made a rule of thumb for myself: have low expectations. By setting low expectations, despite all the hype I heard about a certain city or bar or restaurant, I would never be disappointed. But, after leaving New Zealand, I’m going to tell anyone and everyone that it’s okay to have high expectations there – – they will be met.  If there is one place in the world that deserves to be talked up, it is definitely this country.  I wanted to take a picture of everything — the roads, the mountains, the sheep, the hostel, the bars, the water, the lakes, the food… the list goes on and on because everything here was picture-perfect. Not only were the scenery, landscape, and fresh air pristine, but also the people were friendly, outgoing, chatty, and welcoming.

Two of my friends and I rented a car for the 4 days we were there and it definitely was worth it. I have no idea how we would’ve navigated all of the destinations we did if we didn’t have one.  We arrived late Thursday night around 10pm and roamed around the small town for some dinner.  Funny enough every restaurant we asked looked at us like we were crazy for asking if they were still serving dinner at that time.  Luckily an Indian restaurant (my favorite) just down the street was still open so we got to fill our stomachs with chicken tikka and red wine before bed.

The following morning we woke up at 7am to make the 5 hour drive to Milford Sound.  Although I was dreading how long of a day of driving it would be, the drive actually ended up being my favorite part.  It was incredibly scenic with lush green vasts of farm, sheep, and snow-capped mountains drawing my attention the whole way.  We arrived to Milford Sound by 1pm, with a couple of stops along the way, and prepared for our kayaking tour at 2! Kayaking was beautiful, and a lot more difficult than I had anticipated.  We walked 6 miles to a hidden waterfall along the Sound then kayaked back, so we made it back to the car to head home by 7pm.  The drive home was much less entertaining given it was dark, we were starving, and exhausted; but, we powered through by playing classic car games like would you rather.

The rest of the trip was relaxing and peaceful.   The following day we recovered with a nice hike up Queenstown Hill, ate at the infamous Fergburger, napped, and got dinner at a yummy restaurant on the water called the Public House.  Sunday morning we booked Onsen Hot Pools which were incredible private hot tubs overlooking Skippers Canyon. We then drove about 10 minutes to Lake Hayes where we enjoyed the weather in the sun. We unfortunately had to wake up early the following morning to head home, but there is no doubt I will be returning to that country for my honeymoon (:

 

 

 

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Random musings

Time October 10th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

I wrote this 1.5 months ago and forgot to post…whoops. Well, I’ll be updating a lot in the next few weeks because I am oh so very behind. (Shoutout to Dylan for motivating me.)

 

Hello! Here I am! Once again screaming into the internet void and not pausing long enough to see the ripples. Well, I’m still here. In Argentina. It’s been fun! I think the problem I have with writing these types of blog entries is that I never know who my target audience is supposed to be. Is it me? Can I write this like a stream of consciousness diary entry? My family? Who I forget to update about my life and don’t remember what thread of a hastily written text/email I should pick up on in order to preserve a semblance of coherency in the “Infrequent Updates of Amber”?  I also have a hard time deciding what I should write about when I finally sit down to write something. My mind runs all day long, filling the pages in my brain: I have novel length comments on my experiences in Argentina, my thoughts on the culture, interesting tidbits of my life, you name it. Trying to fillet these novels into something that could be considered a manageable blog post is what is the most challenging for me. It’s definitely not for a lack of words. Again, since my thoughts are flitting faster than my fingers can keep up with, I’m going to write about a series of unrelated /things/ and, as always, hope that they prove useful or entertaining to whoever is reading this blog. (Is anybody out there?)

 

Also, a little bit of side information: I think that, for the most part, my blog will be devoid of pictures. I am the owner of a barbie phone, and unfortunately, I really don’t have the patience to attempt to take pictures on that thing. Thankfully! I have friends with ~nice~, ~snazzy~ phones that are kind enough to take pictures of our shenanigans. (Don’t worry, mom…I’ll get those to you eventually. Don’t hold your breath, though)

 

Argentines HATE giving change. Like, hate it. Detest it. Loathe it. It might honestly be their least favorite activity aside from watching their sports teams lose a match(please don’t talk to me about sports. I know nothing). I could go into a background on Argentine currency and the rampant inflation(™), but tengo fiaca and who has time for that? So, I will just say that until a few months ago, the largest Argentine bill was a $100 peso note. As of the moment I am writing this, that’s equivalent to less than 7USD. Yeah. So before the $500 bill was introduced by the new government, Argentines carried around STACKS AND STACKS AND STACKS of bills (Bandz are a necessity) Or, you know, used their debit/credit cards. But this country is still more cash friendly. I digressed…I don’t know how people can even survive with the $500 bill because I run into enough trouble paying in $100s(that’s what the ATM usually doles out). EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I attempt to pay with a $100 note, I receive the same response “do you have anything smaller?” Like….no. the ATM only gave me 100s. I also just spent $45 pesos…it’s not that difficult to give me a $50 and a $5 peso note. This happens at places where a lot of money is being spent, as well. I spent around $430 pesos running errands, and paid with 5 $100 peso notes. And yep, got the same question again. No, sir….I only have 100s…sorry. It puts a lot of my normal US activities in stark contrast. Like buying a .17 cent banana with a $100 bill at the grocery store because the Starbucks right next door did not accept any bill over a $20. I can’t imagine anything of the sort flying in Argentina. It’s just interesting to think about it.

 

The food here is dope. Despite not believing in anything spicy, the food here still manages to taste good. It’s honestly hilarious what the Argentine definition of “spicy” is. I can’t even describe it because every time someone has told me something was spicy, I’ve just been confused and disappointed after it didn’t end up being spicy. Mexican food is still higher on my list, but Argentine food makes a name for itself. It helps that I am a meat lover, and there are traditional Argentine steakhouses( parrillas) on every street corner. So far, I’ve only been to two. I will definitely go to more during my time here. Thank you, God, for providing such healthy cows to this blessed country.

 

I started school! Did I mention that? It’s….interesting, I guess. All of my classes are once a week and three hours long. I’m going to be obnoxious and say that back in the States, I was pretty good at the whole “passive learning thing”. I’d sit in class and somehow absorb the materials that were most emphasized, all with my chin resting in my hand and thinking about subjects that were decidedly not academic in nature. (I wonder if I can take a nap before my club meeting? I should check StubHub to see if the prices of that concert have gone down. I’m so lazy, I wonder if someone will cover my shift this weekend) Butttt…..low and behold, passive learning is next to impossible when everything is being taught in a language you can barely comprehend! It’s almost laughable how many times I’ve caught myself staring at the white board and realizing that an hour has gone by in class and I have no idea what the professor was saying for the last 20 minutes. Thankfully, I’ve got friends in all the right places, and they always answer my panicked queries after class is over (#1 SQUAD). Also, i’m not totally helpless because I do have source material that I can go over at home. I also have allowed myself to learn some pretty interesting things while away. It’s been nice to get out of the US academic bubble and realize that *gasp* other people exist and their histories and beliefs are important and valid.

 

I think I wrote this at 4am sometime in August….I enjoyed reading it because I’m narcissistic. Hope you enjoyed this half as much as I did.

Next up: who knows?

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Spring Break in the Fall

Time October 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

I’m writing this post the day after I returned from the most incredible Spring Break trip of my life. A small group of my friends and I booked a tour called One Fish, Two Fish with Extreme Adventures – –  to anybody reading this and thinking about studying abroad in Australia, DO THIS.  I have never met so many people, seen more beautiful things, or done more adventurous stuff in 10 days than I did on this trip.  The tour guides were a blast and made sure we not only had a good time, but also got to do and see everything we wanted to.

We started the trip in Brisbane which was a very urban, modern city. We boarded a bus that would soon be our home essentially for the next 6 days and began heading up the coast of Australia. One of our first stops was the Australia Zoo,  basically a Steve Irwin shrine to my pleasant surprise. We hung out with kangaroos and saw a crocodile show by Bindi, Steve’s daughter.  We then stopped at Rainbow Beach and watched sunset at Carlos Sandblow.  This ‘beach’ was absolutely breathtaking.  When you emerge from the forest and look left it’s the ocean and look right it’s the rainforest.  The sky literally looked like cotton candy, or ‘fairy floss’ as Australians would say.

The further north we kept heading the warmer and warmer it got.  It finally started to feel like how I had pictured in my head Australia would feel – – warm, sunny, and bright.  The following day we went to Fraser Island where we boarded what looked like military machines to ride along the beach, through the forest, to a stunning lake called Lake Mackenzie. It’s entirely pure freshwater and was crystal clear. On the way back to the ferry we got to see six whales swimming along the shore with us, so I guess I got my whale-watching in for free!

After Fraser Island we headed to the Whitsundays (aka the most beautiful place on Earth). The first day here we sped around on yellow speedboats, snorkeled part of the reef, I shot some footage of a beautiful sea turtle, then ended the day with lunch on Whitehaven Beach and a beach party. Easily the best day of the trip, if not my life.  The next day we got to do a similar thing and cruise around the islands on a sailboat, jump in for a swim, and soak in the sun.

After the Whitsundays we headed further up the coast towards Cairns, but along the way we stopped in a small town called Tully where we got to white-water raft in crocodile-infested water.  Not necessarily something I was excited about, but they ensured us we wouldn’t have an encounter despite the warning signs along the river banks.  After Tully we finally made our way into Cairns where we spent the last four days of our trip.  Cairns reminded me of a better version of Myrtle Beach – a tropical, party/vacation city.  In Cairns we scuba dove on the Great Barrier Reef, bungy jumped from a 164 foot tower, swam in a natural waterfall, and pub-crawled via a party bus through the best bars and clubs of the city.

It’s safe to say by the end I needed 48 hours of sleep, gallons of water, and a ton of shade, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Next adventure: New Zealand. And, cheers to a second spring break next semester.

 

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Time Flies

Time September 8th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

It’s crazy to think I’ve already spent almost two months here in Sydney.  While I just finished mid-terms, all of my friends from home and friends who are studying abroad in other parts of the world are just starting class.  However, watching their Snapchat stories I am jealous of their beautiful summer weather.  When we first got to Sydney all of the locals sympathized with us because we arrived in their “dead of winter” (aka 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is not a severe winter in my books), but I figured it would warm up quickly.  To my dismay, it certainly has not warmed up enough.  I ignorantly decided to pack mostly shorts, tank-tops, and swimsuits, so my winter wardrobe has now been worn thin.  While it does reach the upper 60s during the day, and occasional low 70s on sunny ones, the wind makes lying out on the beach impossible without a sweater.  Spring has officially begun though, so hopefully within the next couple of weeks I’ll make use of the cute swimsuits I splurged on before arriving.

Having just completed midterms I’m beginning to feel anxious that my time here has gone by so quickly.  I’m struggling to cram all of my bucket list into the remaining weekends we have left.  Thus far, I’m headed to Cairns, the Whitsundays, and the Great Barrier Reef for mid-semester break on an action-packed tour bus with most of my friends. The weekend after we return I’m flying to Queenstown, New Zealand to do some glacial hikes, kayak Milford Sound, bask in a hot spring, and eat at the infamous Fergburger.  That leaves just 2 weekends in between my return from Queenstown and departure for Bali during reading week.  While I love the fact that I’m getting to travel to so many different countries, I’m a little disappointed I don’t have more time here in Sydney.  Just when I think I’ve gotten my bearings and have seen all there is to do, I stumble upon a new suburb or shopping center or park that is just as incredible as the previous. Not to mention, I wish I had more time to see more of Australia.  I truly didn’t grasp the size of this country until looking up flights for different destinations.  When I thought I could make a “quick weekend trip” to Perth and Ningaloo Reef my Econ partner (a local) laughed and told me “you realize that’s a six hour flight”.  I suppose in the states I wouldn’t consider making a quick trip from Florida to Cali, but when in Australia…

It’s safe to say Sydney, and my apartment in Urbanest, is actually starting to feel like home.  I wish my friends and family could come visit so I could show them all of my newfound favorite pubs, restaurants, and walks.  I know when I go home and tell the stories, show the pictures, and describe my experience the words and photos just won’t do this amazing country, city, and experience justice.

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After the return

Time August 31st, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Costa Rica, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Home

Summer away

Return to SU

So I waited extra long to write this because I didn’t feel like I had a transition back to home. The day after my flight back from Costa Rica, I left early in the morning for my REU at Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography (much to my parents’ dismay). So my transition period with my family and at home did not really take place and sort of felt delayed since I was once again moving to a new place for a few months.  However, every time I’ve been home over the past eight months, I’ve noticed more dramatic differences than even after spending weeks at school without coming home.

 

Now, on the second day of classes and after two weeks and a half weeks back on campus (due to Residence Life training), I am starting to really see changes and differences. There are physical changes to campus that are new to me. Yet, whenever I point out some of these changes, someone will remark that that particular thing has been this way for months. Then there are other changes that are actually new to them else well because they happened this summer. In addition, faculty and staff changes took place last semester that I did not find out about until I returned to campus, so I had/have a bit of new information to digest.

 

At the same time, it feels like this is my first time taking classes since last fall, before I went abroad. I took challenging classes abroad, yet somehow they almost feel like they don’t count here (even though they all will transfer). I’ve only noticed a few things so far but in my friend group, there are things that happened last semester that I don’t understand the reference to since I wasn’t here. Yet, whenever someone asks me how my semester abroad was, I always have to pause because there is too much to say, but not enough time to say it. I always find myself saying something like “Good” because it’s impossible to describe months of a cross cultural experience in a sentence or two.

 

And I realize that in a way, this is just the beginning of the transition back. I have learned that when it comes to experiences like studying abroad, I am almost unable to fully appreciate the experience until I have put enough time and distance between it so I can reflect. This means that I will probably realize more and more things as this new semester back home continues.

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>>Studying<< Abroad

Time August 16th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | 2 Comments by

This post is being written under much more stress than the previous two as I’m quickly realizing, to my dismay, that the studying aspect of study abroad is very real.  Having just completed Week 3 of classes, assignments, papers, presentations, and project due dates are approaching much more rapidly than expected.  I have always been the type to organize and plan my schoolwork well in advance, but adjusting to the new self-taught style of learning here has made it much more difficult.  Advice — pencil in your assignment due dates in a planner straight away so that when planning trips you don’t accidentally journey to another country the day before a 2500 word essay is due (oops).  Although the idea of schoolwork is still hard to grasp, I’ve enjoyed the courses I’m enrolled in.  I was extremely hesitant to follow through with my “Performance: Production and Interpretation” theater class given that I’m majoring in Biology back home, but thus far I’ve actually been intrigued by the plays we’ve had to see.  Side note: I’ve had a hard time grasping the spelling differences between American and Australian English.  Theatre vs theater. Colonisation vs colonization. Colour vs color.  I’ve also been keeping note of some of my favorite slang terms used by Australians.  “Arvo” for afternoon. “Fairy floss” for cotton candy. “Brekky” for breakfast. “Heaps” for a lot/really/very (as in there’s heaps to do in Bondi or I’m heaps keen to go out tonight). Not sure if I’ll ever catch on but I never cease to be intrigued by their lingo. Read More »

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So, I’ve been here for….a month??

Time August 3rd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

The thing about this whole blogging thing…is that I forget to update until approximately a million and a half things have happened in my life. And then, I am slightly overwhelmed at the momentous task of describing all of these “million and a half things”. This is also one of the reasons why I never send email updates to people, even though I always say I will. (Shoutout to the people that get email updates from me once a year!) 

Since I am lazy and have a horrible memory, I am going to write about tiny tidbits of my life that have stood out thus far. Read More »

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Life After Oxford

Time August 2nd, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Well, it’s been about a month since I left Oxford and the United Kingdom for the States. Between Brexit and the national conventions in the US, there has been no shortage of news-making activity in either my new home or my old one in those few weeks. And while it’s certainly not news-making, there’s been plenty of activity going on my own life as well!

I came home to the customary heat of California (which has always been overwhelming to me, but was even more so after six months in such a cold, rainy climate). Catching up with friends and family was both familiar and new–when I saw my mom and the close friends I hadn’t seen for so long, it really did feel like no time had passed, though there was so much to talk about (I know, I know…it sounds cheesy, but it’s true). Plenty of time was devoted to hanging out with my pets and with the lovely animals that I grew up with at the vet hospital where my mom works. And, of course, I indulged in some delicious Mexican food. There is so much tasty food in California (well, much less now, since I ate quite a bit of it), but I had especially been craving good Mexican food ever since our dining hall in Oxford served “burritos” made with wild rice pilaf and stewed kidney beans (it’s just not right!!!).

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Familiar Faces

Time July 26th, 2016 in 2016 Summer, First Generation Scholars, Scotland | No Comments by

It hit me two days ago. “Hit,” is an understatement, more like pelted me in the face. So much so, that when I FaceTimed my parents and my dad cheerfully said, “we’ll see you in just two weeks!” I couldn’t stop the tears from running down my face. The realization that I’ve been away from my loved ones for so long finally set in after being in multiple foreign countries for over six weeks.

I’ve sculpted out time in my schedule (nearly) every day to FaceTime, email, or text my close family and friends. I don’t think there’s anything better than receiving letters or postcards written by the hands of loved ones. So I’ve been fervently scrawling to everyone back home. But GOSH DARN IT communicating through a lifeless computer screen, and even colorful postcards, don’t quite suffice to real face-to-face embrace. Read More »

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Sydney Stole my Heart (and my Wallet)

Time July 25th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Exactly two weeks after arriving in Sydney I can undoubtedly say this was the best decision of my life. All of my anxieties, worries, and fears were left in the trail of the Qantas airplane we flew on. From the moment I reached the airport I had already met dozens of new people, and now 14 days later I have adopted a new sense of independence, confidence, and eagerness to explore my new home.

Alongside these new traits though has come a serious toll on my bank account.  Sydney is beautiful, but you certainly pay the price to live here.  A small coffee from a street vendor (and keep in mind a small in Australia equates to kiddie cup in Australia), can ring up to $4.50 AUD.  A single load of laundry costs $8, and if you want a yummy dinner be ready to throw in at least $30.  All of this doesn’t even include the absurd night life costs, with cover charges up to $30 and drinks at least $10 a pop.  For those of you looking to study in Sydney I by no means say this to deter you, but definitely be prepared. On the plus side, minimum wage here is around $20 AUD/hour so I quickly took it upon myself to find what they call “casual” work.  Being a study abroad student this type of work is perfect because it requires the least amount of commitment.  The job I found at an after school day care allows me to change my availability every week and has certainly put an ease on my mind and bank account. Read More »

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From LAX to DFW to EZE

Time July 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, First Generation Scholars | 1 Comment by

You know, I should have learned by now that I always think I have more time  to get things done than I actually do. I was planning on writing a blog post the day before I left the country, but obviously that didn’t end up happening. So, now, i’m writing it on the plane to Dallas. Let’s hope I remember to post this during the layover. Read More »

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Pre-Departure: #NervousbutExcited

Time July 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

As the departure date for my trip halfway across the world, to Sydney, Australia, approaches T-9 days, the reality of my journey has begun to resonate with me. It feels like just yesterday I was an eager freshman visiting the Wake Forest University Study Abroad office discussing the opportunity. I was already fortunate enough to have explored Europe on two separate occasions, and as I narrowed down my choices I couldn’t get the hundreds of iconic pictures of Australian beaches, wildlife, and cities pinned to my “Bucket List” Pinterest board out of my head.  I immediately knew I couldn’t resist the opportunity to experience ” the land down under” for myself. Read More »

How do you express yourself in a non-stress environment? Study abroad.

Time June 22nd, 2016 in 2016 Summer, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

“The Warrior knows that he is free to choose his desires, and he makes these decisions with courage, detachment and sometimes, with just a touch of madness.” -Paulo Coelho

 

The day I left for Mexico, I remember how happy, yet sad, I felt.

I was happy for many reasons. I knew, at that moment, how fortunate I was to be there.

You know, deciding to study abroad isn’t a decision one should take so lightly, in my opinion. It’s a decision that must be considered in its entirety because one has to be willing to change, and experience personal development and growth. Read More »

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A Few Bits of Advice

Time June 20th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

For those planning on or thinking about studying abroad, I’ve come up with a few bits of advice based on my own experience. Some will be of particular interest to certain groups (other first generation students, students planning on travelling with IFSA-Butler, students interested in Oxford, etc) but others will be more general. Here goes!

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Heading home

Time June 20th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Wow. As I type, I am on a bus to the airport, passing the grandiose buildings and beautiful stretches of river and field of Oxford for the last time (at least for now!). I’m listening to the same playlist that I listened to on my way here in January, with the same precariously overstuffed backpack at my feet. But I could not feel any more different from then than I do now.

When I first arrived in Oxford, I was not in a very good place; in addition to the usual anxiety of starting a new life in a new country, I was feeling emotionally unprepared for such an ambitious journey, as I was dealing with some difficulties personally and at home. The excitement of orientation put some of my worries at rest, but they returned as I started my studies. Though I know I’ve touched on it previously, I don’t think I’ve fully described the extent to which I struggled those first few months. I felt completely overwhelmed by anxiety, worry, and insecurity much more often than not. Read More »

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“It’s more expensive NOT to study abroad!”

Time June 18th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

As I reflect on this journey, I’m convinced that we all belong in a wonderful world that’s full of beauty, charm, and adventure. Being a first-generation college student isn’t easy, but today, I’m grateful more than ever for this life. Studying abroad has emphasized the importance of doing things now because sometimes “later” becomes “never.” This is what makes the journey of a first-generation college student unique. Read More »

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¡Hogar dulce hogar!

Time June 12th, 2016 in 2016 Summer, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

The life of a student who studies abroad is filled with unique and unforgettable memories based on my own experience so far. Personally, I’d like to consider that my background has helped me to live and appreciate a more independent lifestyle and to have a mindset deeply rooted in my values and morals.

While my parents have always supported me and my educational goals, they know that it’s perfectly fine to let me grasp opportunities and take risks in order to accomplish my dreams. Read More »

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Mérida, Yucatán, México

Time June 8th, 2016 in 2016 Summer, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Wow, time slow down! The past few days have been crazy! It has definitely been challenging to adjust to the fast-paced life of being a study abroad student, but my host family instantly made me feel at home away from “home” so the loving support was highly appreciated! Upon arriving, my life began to take a new journey- a journey that has given me opportunities to discover myself in ways that I didn’t know were even possible. Though my time here has been short, I’m realizing that everything anyone ever told me about studying abroad is completely true. My peers, like me, all have different stories and dreams, and if there’s anything they all have in common is that they cherish and know that the best education anyone will ever receive is from traveling. Read More »

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Preparing to return home

Time June 6th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Costa Rica, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Mixed Feelings  

Looking forward 

Experiences 

I can’t believe that in less than two days, my semester abroad will be over and I’ll be headed back to the United States. At this point, there are things that I miss about the U.S. and I am looking forward to go back, but on the other hand, there are also things that I do not miss. Likewise, there are lots of things that I will miss about Costa Rica (food, host family, etc..) but there are also other things that I am ready to leave behind.  

I’m in the middle of my finals week and past the worst part. I’ve been ready to be done with classes for a while, especially after seeing friends from home finishing the semester a month ago. I am also ready to start my REU (like an internship for science students) that I have been figuring out the logistics of since mid-March. However, this means that I will be home for less than 24 hours before I leave (I live in South Central Pennsylvania and my REU is in Rhode Island), which means that I have barely any time to spend with my family and pets.   

I’ve had so many experiences abroad that I don’t even know where to begin to articulate them to family and friends. And you can only understand some of them if you were here to experience them for yourself. Throughout, I’ve gotten more comfortable with public transportation, which barely exists at home, and is one thing that I will miss but will be difficult to convey to my family since if we want to go somewhere at home, we just drive there ourselves. While it’s more convenient, it is also so nice to know that if you do a bit a research, you can get to just about anywhere in Costa Rica by bus. I’m also much more comfortable with Spanish after spending a little more than four months here. 

 In sum, I will miss Costa Rica and hope that I can come back in the not so distant future. I will miss my host family and friends. 

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Your Story

Time May 26th, 2016 in 2016 Summer, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

Allow me to introduce myself by first stating these powerful words to live by:

“Life gives you the opportunity to write, to fix, and to improve your story every day. Be wise and write a good story… your story!”

Now, let me provide to you a small glimpse into My Story:

Recall a first-time ever experience. Perhaps you remember feeling excited, frightened, terrified, and happy all at once. Perhaps not because you were ready to live in the moment. Read More »

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Advice to other First Generation College students

Time May 26th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Costa Rica, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Ask someone when you’re unsure about something:

When I’m not sure about something, I usually just take some time and try to figure it out myself. Looking back, I wish I had been more proactive initially in seeking out answers to my questions, but at the same, everything is very overwhelming initially and it’s okay to take a step back from everything to ground yourself.

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What’s the Takeaway?

Time May 23rd, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Last semester, back in the States, I had a professor who mentioned to our class her distaste for the word ‘takeaway.’ I hadn’t quite considered it before, but I quickly realized I’m not a fan of the word either. When I think of the phrase “So what’s the takeaway?” my mind conjures up a very bureaucratic scene of men in suits and ties, PowerPoint presentations, and coffee mugs–sending a shudder through me. The worst part of the word ‘takeaway’ is not its business-meeting-jargon-ness, but that it implies that we can ‘boil it down’–“it” being the content of a presentation, a book, an experience, etc–to a quick, quippy message that we can tuck in the back of our minds.

I know that when I consider how my time at Oxford has affected me, I will need to figure out what the takeaway is. For my resume, CV, grad school applications, and for every step in my future career-planning, my time at Oxford will need to be boiled down to the useful skills and tools I have extracted that have better prepared me for my life.

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