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I’ve been home for a few days now, and it still feels a little unreal. Not just because of the jetlag, though it certainly plays a part.
For the past six months, I was living and breathing a different culture. And sure, that culture was England, which isn’t anywhere near as extreme a change as some students experienced, but it was still different. There are a lot of little details that make a big difference, especially when they pile up over time, as these did. Politeness, at least compared to the U.S. standards, is ratcheted up to eleven. I’m slowly getting used to not every sentence being preceded by “I’m sorry, but…” or “would you mind if I…?” and so on, as well as the sudden absence of breakfast pastries, tea shops, and other little things. I’m also also getting used to not living alone anymore, which is perhaps the biggest change. I’m very happy to be home, and to have a summer living with my parents again. There’s nothing like British cafeteria food to make you miss the benefits of having family close by, especially if said family can cook.
But I do miss being able to set my own schedule, and having the means to do so. At UEA, I decided what I was going to do every day, and when and in what way I was going to do it. And I could do that. It was easy to buy food, get places, even travel into London on a whim. Public transportation in the UK is at a completely different level from back home. Here I need a car to get anywhere, and cars are usually taken by everyone else who needs to get places more urgently than I need to just because I want to wander. It’s a level of personal freedom I’m sad to see go away, even as I’m grateful for the trade-off.
I think freedom is the right word. Freedom to set my own path, freedom to go where I will, do what I want, and the freedom to experience so many new things that I couldn’t at home. I was on a continent where age can be seen in stones lain centuries before my feet ever stepped across them. I saw castles that were ruins before my family’s line was a twinkle in humanity’s eye. I heard stories that will never, ever leave my mind. Some of them I’m going to make my own. I can do that, and it’s what will let me bring some of this world back with me.
Traveling abroad is a lot of things. I learned how to write poetry, I learned how to structure my short stories better, I ostensibly even learned a little bit about witchcraft, and I started to learn the first thing about being British, starting with a healthy appreciation and somehow also apathy for London. It was learning, it was new things to learn after a time feeling like there wasn’t that much left for me, and it was a reminder that being world-weary isn’t something anyone should ever feel, especially if you’re still young. I learned I have a lot of traveling left to do, and stories left to hear and share elsewhere.
I left, but that awareness isn’t leaving. The next time you travel, I hope it’s the same for you.
The last IFSA led field trip was to the Providence of San Gerardo de Dota and it was by far my favorite one. First, let’s talk climate. Being from Massachusetts and studying at my home university in Vermont, I never realized how much I’d miss the cold, but I do! One great thing about Costa Rica is that for such a small country there is an incredible variety of climates all within a 5 or 6 hour drive, at most. And in the mountains it gets cold, I loved it! We also had the privilege of listening to the knowledgeable woman in this photo who showed us her permaculture farm and sustainable tourism lodge. It rained the day we were supposed to milk a cow, whose barn was a slippery walk away, so we got to milk a goat instead! The entire weekend was an amazing experience. I only wish we had visited sooner so that I could return.
This post is a compilation of photos from three separate trips to Santiago. The first two were through IFSA-Butler: the first to learn about immigration in Chile, and the second to visit the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (the Museum of Memory and Human Rights) and learn more about the political history of Chile. The third was to visit my Chilean sister Cata who studies in Santiago. The first trip was interesting and fun. We went to the Parque Palestina for a discussion on middle-eastern immigration in Chile, had lunch at a Mediterranean restaurant, spoke with a professor about racism, and went to a street festival celebrating immigrant culture. The second trip was interesting, enlightening and upsetting. At the museum, we had a tour about the history of the Chilean dictatorship during the 1970s-80s. Then we went to a memorial park which—from 1974-1978—had been the largest torture center in Santiago. There we had a tour with a survivor of the camp which was difficult to listen to but also very important and insightful. In the evening, saw a play about a Mapuche boy that was murdered by a police officer. It was an emotionally exhausting day but very important and interesting. The third trip was super fun and it was great to spend the weekend with Cata. She took me to San Cristobal and Santa Lucia–two beautiful cerros (large hills/small mountains) with great views of Santiago. Overall, Santiago is a great city with lots to offer. It has history, culture, and nature as well as great places to eat, see, and/or visit. Each of my trips were distinct and gave me a unique perspective on Chile and its’ lovely capital.
Ese post es una compilación de fotos de tres viajes distintos a Santiago. Los primeros dos fueron con IFSA-Butler: lo primero para aprender de inmigración en Chile, y lo segundo para visitar al Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos y aprender más sobre la historia política de Chile. En lo tercero, visité a mi hermanita chilena Cata que estudia en Santiago. El primer viaje fue divertido e interesante. Fuimos al Parque Palestina para una discusión de inmigración árabe en Chile, almorzamos en un restaurante mediterráneo, charlamos con un profesor sobre el racismo en Chile, y fuimos a un festival para la cultura inmigrante. El segundo viaje fue interesante, esclarecedor y triste. En el museo, tuvimos un tour sobre la historia de la dictadura chilena. Después fuimos a un parque de memoria que—durante 1974 y 1978—era el centro más grande de tortura en Santiago. Alla tuvimos un tour con una sobreviviente que fue difícil de escuchar, pero importante y perspicaz. En la tarde vimos una obra de teatro sobre el asesinato de un chico mapuche por un carabinero. Fue un viaje muy pesado pero muy importante e interesante. Mi tercer viaje fue muy divertido y fue genial pasar el fin de semana con mi hermana en Santiago. Cata me trajo a San Cristóbal y Santa Lucia—dos cerros muy lindos con vistas maravillosas de la ciudad. En fin, Santiago es una ciudad con mucho de ofrecer. Tiene historia, cultura y naturaleza además de muchos lugares para comer, visitar, y/o ver. Cada uno de mis viajes fueron muy diferentes y me dieron una perspectiva única de Chile y su lindo capital.
Well, that’s the semester done. I traveled, trained, trammed, troubled, traversed, and triumphed. And then I had my exams, and I have an entirely different slew of words for how that went, mostly of the four letter variety. Regardless, though, I made my way through, and I’m currently using my phone as a hotspot in Heathrow because the wifi here is allergic to functionality.
It’s a weird feeling, knowing that by tomorrow I’ll be back in the states. It’s not necessarily a bad feeling – I have missed my home, my friends and my family quite a bit these past six months – but it is an odd one. Nothing feels quite real right now, because I’ve just packed up and left a place I got to call home for a half year, and there’s a good chance I’ll never be back in the area again. I don’t know that I like that, so for right now I’m determined to keep as many memories of the place as I can. In my own fashion, that probably means I’m going to have Norwich, if not UEA, appear as a backdrop in one of my next novels. It’s certainly suited for it, with all the charm and old architectural styles that surround the city center. Even if I don’t end up walking those streets in person, I get to write about them, and that’s almost as good.
Studying abroad has been an adventure in self-maintenance, or personal growth if you’d prefer the self-help phrasing. A lot of what I’ve been doing, both by virtue of living completely alone and without an immediate, close support network as well as the far more hands-off approach of universities in the U.K., has been entirely driven by me. Figuring out what I want or need to do every day and how I’m meant to manage that hasn’t always been easy, especially during my recent trek through Europe (I think I might have run at least a mile just trying to catch my trains alone). It has been edifying, though, and it’s one of those moments where once I’ve done something, no matter how unpleasant or hard the experience was, I know I can do that something again if it comes to it. Out of all the things I’m bringing back with me, that knowledge is probably what I’m most grateful to have.
I also brought back some fancy tea, of course, but that sounds less impressive. I’ll have one more reflections post in the next few days to wrap things up, but for now, I await my plane and try and figure out for the tenth time if everything is where I left it. It is, but try telling my anxiety that.
The other day when I was walking home from the bus stop, I was struck by how familiar and comfortable Recreo, my neighborhood in Viña del Mar, feels to me now. What struck me was not just that I feel at home here, but more so that I feel as if I am a part of the neighborhood, instead of just some foreigner stuck in limbo between vacation and immigration. My walk home from the bus stop is essentially uphill the entire way, but I never get tired of it. I get off the bus at Viña’s biggest icon and tourist attraction, “El Reloj de Flores,” which is quite literally a clock composed of flowers planted on a hillside next to the ocean. Now, ironically, the Reloj de Flores was recently wiped from existence when a giant pine tree was uprooted and fell down the hillside in a miniature mudslide caused by the unprecedented torrential rain of the past two days. The precious monument was destroyed without a trace and they are now estimating that it will take around forty million dollars to fix it. In my opinion, not worth it for a circle of flowers, but to each his own.
Anyway, as I was saying, the other day when I was walking home, before that weekend of rain and the Reloj’s tragic death, I was struck by how much my neighborhood had really begun to feel like my neighborhood. I know every dog and cat and where they hang around, basking in the sun and begging for food or attention or both. I know every crack in the sidewalk, every piece of graffiti. When I come up the stairs from the main, I wave to the store owner on the corner who’s almost always standing outside enjoying the day and talking with friends. He and his wife came over on Easter when my Chilean mom’s boyfriend made enough paella to feed a small army. I recognize the homeless men drinking beer on the steps near the park. I smile at the old man who always walks his poodle down to the lookout at the same time that I come home for lunch each day. I know at exactly what point the smell of Papa John’s will drift to me as I walk up to Diego Portales and turn towards my street, Arturo Prat. It seems that Chile shares the U.S.’s traditional of naming streets after historical figures that no one really likes and whom, outside of the nationalistic bias of history books, seem to have done more harm than good.
I have subconsciously memorized the barks of each dog that will sound off in order as I pass by their respective houses on the way to my own. My favorite is the paradoxical German shepherd three doors down who always sits perched on the ledge of house’s fence like a cat and whose bark is surprisingly high-pitched for a pup of (at least) 80 pounds. When I get to my house and take out my keys, I no longer have to study them to see which one has less rust (that one goes to the gate, the other to the house) because I can feel the difference.
I often recognize faces of people I know as I am walking around the Recreo neighborhood and it makes me feel proud. The man at the local liquor store, whose parents sent him to grade school in the U.K. so that he could learn English, always likes to practice speaking with me when I come in for cheap wine. My friend Amelia’s Chilean host mom who owns a boutique next to the sushi place by the train station, who is probably the sweetest, happiest woman I have ever met. My eccentric history professor who I always see reading the newspaper in Café Recreo. The parking attendant that always smiles and says hello when I pass by. The group of neighborhood guys that looked after my friend Colin and I when we first got here and are always excited to see me. Friends that I’ve made, young and old. And not just the people I have met in Recreo, but all of the friends that I have made here, friends that I truly care about. Friends that I can’t imagine leaving in a month and potentially never seeing again. They have all impacted my life here and who I am because of it, in their own way.
I have always been a strong believer that who we are as people is a patchwork made up of the influences of the people we encounter in life and the ways in which they help shape our heart, some obviously more so than others. There is an African philosophy native to the Nguni tribe in southern Africa called Ubuntu which, if you know me well you’ve most likely heard me talk about. Directly translated it means, “I am because you are.” But it is a way of life founded upon the belief that our humanity is constructed and nurtured through relationship with others, that we are all intrinsically connected in this way and, therefore, we should treat one another with love, graciousness and respect.
In that moment, walking down the street to my house, I thought about the people that I’ve met here in Chile and all I could think of was how fortunate I feel to have had them contribute to the ever-growing patchwork of my humanity. My heart is full!
This picture of this gorgeous frog was taken on a two-hour hike I took during a field trip with my natural resources class. My advice for anyone choosing classes at the Universidad Nacional in Costa Rica is to sign up for ones with field trips! Honestly, even the most boring ones were really fun as I got to hang out with all of my classmates in a much more casual and engaging setting. It’s also a great way to explore the country, especially on a budget as most travel costs are covered and food and lodging is at reduced prices!
Our second trip that IFSA organized was to the Isle of Skye. It was a long 5 hour bus ride to get from Glasgow to the large island in the north west, but it was broken up by fun, quick stops in highland towns and continuous historical facts from our tour guide. Everyone was struck by the beauty and vast wilderness of the highlands which felt so purely Scottish. I hope my pictures can somehow do it justice.
The other day, I got back from my last major trip of my study abroad program, San Carlos de Bariloche. It came at an interesting moment in my time here. Just a few weeks ago, I was feeling a little down, unable to put my finger on why. I haven’t felt homesick and everything was going fine. I guess I was just having a lull where everyday was feeling more or less the same, I had a little more work than I wanted and while I wasn’t homesick, things were happening at home and at my home university that I was missing out on. Other study abroad and university friends were preparing for summer break and to go home to family and I still had over two months a head of me. Another IFSA student reminded me of the “S” or “W” curve (depending on who you talk to) that describes the highs and lows during a semester abroad (and by extension, life in general!). I was halfway through my program and felt like I could predict everything that was left, unsure how much highs were even left for me. I shook off my lull to prepare for probably my final adventure outside of Mendoza, Bariloche.
I was already a little disappointed that I came to Argentina and couldn’t see Patagonia (since it’s been getting colder, more and more of the trails and excursions are closed so I didn’t think it would make sense paying to fly down there). *Important point: If you are coming in US Fall semester, the months get warmer so it makes sense to wait for nicer weather or even after your program to travel down there…if you come in US Spring Semester, try your best to go earlier in the semester when it’s still warm and you’re not running out of breaks!* Still wanting to see more of Argentina’s beautiful Patagonia landscape, a friend with IFSA in Buenos Aires and I decided to meet in Bariloche, a beautiful city just North of Patagonia with an abundance of lakes, mountains, forests, excursions, tours and ways to get to know a very different part of Argentina than our host cities. My disappointment on missing Patagonia definitely ended once I arrived (but of course I would like to see it someday!).
Having little experience booking and planning trips on our own, we figured out transportation, lodging and excursion plans individually ahead of time, collecting advice from host families, IFSA staff and other students. We traveled from our respective cities alone (this was new to me so I was a little nervous, but it turned out fine and I managed to solve the little issues I encountered along the way!). From there, we were on our own and since it’s low season, we were often traveling completely alone in forests, up mountains and across landscapes we were all but familiar with and with few signs to tell you you’re going the right way. We would even go hours without seeing a single other human, with unreliable cellphone service and a map that was quite lacking in detail. Many people we met were surprised these two “chicitas” of only 20 and 21 years of age were traveling in Argentina on our own, not even fluent in the language! That’s when I realized the breadth of what I was doing. Before college, I never traveled anywhere alone. Just a year ago, I couldn’t imagine traveling internationally alone. At the start of the program, I was nervous about walking around my host city alone. Somehow, now I was traveling across the country alone exploring new natural landscapes with only my friend at my side. And we were doing fine! I felt and I feel such a strong sense of joy that I’ve been able to grow in this way so quickly. It has been such a smooth transition in getting more comfortable and pushing my limits that had I not taken the time to reflect, I would not have noticed.. at least for a while. Read More »
My flatmates and I decided to take a little road trip to the northern part of England and Wales! We all really wanted to go to Wales and the only way to do that would be by renting a car and driving down. My flatmate, Julia, graciously offered to drive! She also let us stay at her aunt and uncle’s house! It was such a great opportunity so I couldn’t say no! I really love road trips and I was so happy to be going on one with my friends! We started our 3 hour journey from Glasgow! The drive really wasn’t terrible at all and to our surprise there wasn’t many cars on the road the whole drive. Of course a lot less people live in these areas than most places in the states! After our long trip we made it down to England. The house we stayed in was very quaint and it was along the shore about 10 minutes from Blackpool! We had a lovely home cooked meal and no meal is left without drinks. Without even realizing it I had a whole bottle of prosecco to myself! Luckily, it was over about 6 hours so I felt fine!
The next day we ventured to Liverpool in order to see the Beatles museum! Getting there was easy but parking in Liverpool was atrocious! We drove around the same street several times before we were able to find a parking lot! After the whole parking fiasco we walked up to the street to get to the museum and there was some type of train parade! We had no idea what we just walked into! It wasn’t too hard to navigate through the crowd but it was still strange! We saw a ferris wheel and decided that we wanted to go on it! The top was such a wonderful view of the city! We could really take in all that is Liverpool. Once we got back down to the ground it was time for the Beatles museum! The museum was one of the best things I’ve ever experienced. It was one of my favorite things I’ve done this entire semester! It wasn’t set up like a normal museum. It was as if you were walking through their lives. It didn’t contain that many artifacts rather it contained storytelling and recreations of the actual pubs they played in. The audio tour provided most of the information. This is something that I would highly suggest for anybody who goes to the UK! I could really go on and on about the museum but you’ll just have to visit for yourself! Don’t want to show too much so this is just the entrance! Read More »
I talked about cultural events in Mendoza in my last post but I am by far not the most cinematic or artsy person. I do really enjoy community service however. Coming from a background of spending my free time doing community service at my university, I was excited to find that I didn’t even need to ask what was offered here; IFSA already has relationships with certain organizations here in Mendoza and while you can look for community service on your own, you can also try out the opportunities they offer. From IFSA, we were invited to help out in an education facility for adults with special needs, reading books aloud in English to help extend the auditory book collection for students who are blind at one of the universities, a knitting club of sweet Mendocinas who create absolutely incredible blankets and clothes for children in nearby hospitals, teaching English class at a local institute and helping out in the warehouse and at other events of a food donation NGO here. It was a difficult decision, but I ultimately ended up choosing to work with the NGO, named El Banco de Alimentos and later joined the knitting group too. Despite translating to “The Food Bank,” El Banco de Alimentos is a highly sophisticated and intricately-designed organization. There are 16 of them across Argentina, all opening as a response to the 2001 economic crisis which worsened the already struggling food bank system. It was begun by a group of entrepreneurs using their business assets to help feed the hungry and poor. It has now expanded greatly, receiving donations from many sectors of society, working with grocery stores to lessen food waste, involving the community, feeding those most vulnerable to under- and malnutrition and educating other organization on food storage, handling and distribution. Read More »
One thing I was looking forward to during study abroad aside from a new academic environment, was getting to know and even getting involved in the community. Mendoza may be a smaller city, but cultural events are not only important, but varied, frequent and often free or of little charge. Several areas in the city are known for screening movies weekly, often for free. You can find older and modern movies and movies from Argentina, the US and many other countries (of course with subtitles). Live plays happen all the time too so if you’re Spanish is good enough to follow them (mine is not) they are also a cool thing to check out. There are not only formal concerts like celebrations of classic rock and Argentina’s take on jazz and the blues as well as classical music events, but you can often happen upon informal mini concerts in the parks and plazas. Some even involve dancing. Personally, I really enjoy going to events that involve dancing. Not boliche-type dancing (I can’t dance at all) that happens late into the night at clubs, a young person’s typical pastime here, but actually watching the small dancing events put together by the city or other groups. Sure you’ll see much more tango in Buenos Aires, even in the streets, but I have been lucky enough to attend events involving the tango, mamba, samba, milonga and baile folklorico (which is more traditional). They all have different histories, dress and meanings and derive from around South America, but I can saying that I’ve been impressed by all that I’ve seen. Last week there was even an event in the one of the largest theatres in the city where you could watch a world famous traveling dance troupe. Tickets were only about $3.50 USD plus a donation of milk powder to the local food bank. Of course I was too late and the tickets sold out, but this just speaks to one of the great opportunities I’ve seen in the past few days. There’s a lot to discover if you look for it and luckily IFSA sends you updates of upcoming events too! As much as I like to watch dancing, I refuse to actually learn it it seems. However, if you are interested, not only can you take dancing classes at a local institute and possibly get some credits for it, depending on your university, but there are free dancing classes at the park too (as well as low-cost painting, photography, and other skill classes). Mendoza is a city that truly celebrates culture and has a wealth of events for those interested!
People from the US generally live full lives. They are always busy with work, chores, or various other activities. Even things that are supposed to be fun take on a quality of value – how much of my time is this worth? What do I get out of it?
To Argentinians none of that matters. The point of life is not to complete x number of things before you die, but to enjoy yourself in all possible moments and to not rush through life. Why would running to meet someone for coffee be any more worthwhile than strolling slowly and taking in your surrounding? The two of you will meet either way.
Argentinians enjoy staying in coffee shops for hours, whether chatting or simply starting off at nothing. A term I learned from my host mom is hacer fiaca, do nothing intellectual and simply lay about. Life may move forward, you will catch up eventually.
This is all possible because the people of Argentina jointly decided it was okay. If I decided to show up late for class or sit in a cafe for hours in the US, people would be angry with me. Even though I know I can’t continue these habits back home, it has taught me not to worry about filling every second with something worthwhile and to not rush through life.
My ten-day adventure hiking through the Patagonia mountains in the extreme south of Chile and Argentina was without a doubt the most physically-challenging, but also the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. We started with the W trail of Torres del Paine national park outside of Puerto Natales, Chile with three nights and four days of hiking through every type of terrain imaginable and camping in freezing temperatures. Due to poor planning, we ended up embarking on our trip at the end of high season, and going into the low season, which starts on May 1st. In the end of April and beginning of May begins the transition into the winter months in the Patagonia and, for this season, the park has much stricter rules and regulations for hikers because of the added danger (and liability) of the more volatile weather. Although this made things significantly more difficult from a planning perspective, it was totally worth it to be able to experience the trail during the fall season with the colors of the changing leaves. The combination of the white snowy peaks of the mountains against the black rock of their bases, the translucent blue of glacial ice in the distance and the blazing oranges and reds of the trees left me feeling dizzy and drunk on the incomprehensible beauty around me.
I went into the trip with the intention of writing in the tent every night so that I could capture every memory, every feeling at it’s very freshest point of expression. But after we set up camp and made dinner at the end of each day, I could barely keep my eyes open long enough to zip up my sleeping bag, much less express my thoughts in a coherent and appealing manner. Conversations amongst ourselves and the other backpackers that we met in the communal cooking areas of the campsites were an amusing jumble of obvious statements and delirious, winding stories tumbling from exhaustion-clouded brains. Luckily, the basic introductions usually carried us over until we could get food in our stomachs, which helped immensely with the amount of brain power available to donate to conversation. Most of the people we met on the trail were around our age, many of them also students, and within our interactions existed a kind of raw, childish excitement, like we were all just a bunch of overgrown kids running around splashing in creeks and looking for adventure. The adrenaline high we rode through the trees formed bonds of shared incredulity, bonds I won’t soon forget. Read More »
At first glance, not much is different here in New Zealand. They speak English, eat all kinds of food, go to school, talk about Donald Trump, and watch their own version of the Bachelor – pretty much the same as the United States. However, after a couple months of living here some small differences stand out.
- Shoes are not required. I often walk around the grocery store (which is in the middle of Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city) and see people grocery shopping without shoes. I’ve also seen this is in at least two restaurants. No shirt, no shoes, no problem.
- The farmers’ markets. They are freaking incredible here. Not only is the produce big and beautiful, but it’s all locally grown and organic. Now you may be thinking, “yeah that’s what farmers’ markets do.” But I know that when I think of farmers’ markets back home, I think of the hefty price tag that comes along with this uptick in quality. However, in New Zealand, these plump fruits and vibrant veggies cost about half of what they do at the grocery store. When you’re a student on a budget, it pays to get up early on farmers’ market mornings.
- The “as…” mystery. It’s really common here for people to say “sweet as,” or “nice as,” when they’re describing something. But they never finish the sentence. The beach was “sweet as” what? The cheap take-away restaurant was “dodgy as” what? The essay you just turned in was “crap as” what?? They literally give you no point of reference for what their saying, and this linguistic trend just leaves me hanging time and time again.
- Tea time. This might be one of my favorite parts about New Zealand culture. During our program orientation and during the short time I worked on a vineyard I was on a schedule made by New Zealanders, and both of those schedules included two strict tea times per day. Essentially, halfway between breakfast and lunch everyone stops what they’re doing to have a cup of tea (or a cup of coffee) and a snack and chat with each other. And then they do it again between lunch and dinner. If you suggest to a New Zealander that tea time be pushed back, shortened, or ignored, they will give you a look that says, “Americans are crazy and I would be perfectly happy never to see another one of you again.” Tea time is no joke.
- Speaking of warm beverages, coffee. In New Zealand, filtered coffee only exists in the memories of exchange students and other foreigners. So if you’re coming here, either prepare yourself for instant coffee or bring your own French press.
Overall, the differences between New Zealand and the US are not extreme. Some of them I would like to keep (snack time twice a day? Yes please) and some of them I could do without (please wear shoes in the grocery store, I don’t want to smell feet while I’m picking up bananas). When it comes down to it, New Zealand is a land all of its own, and I’m glad this is the place I get to spend my semester abroad – even if it turns me into a tea drinker.
Footage from the set up, opening, and critique for the end of the year show for GSA second year students. It was rewarding to be a part of such a collaborative production that showcased everyone’s hard work.
Wow, I never thought this day would come. I was so back-and-forth on going abroad in the first place, I never thought that I would go and miss it so much. The only thing that’s getting me through being back in The States is knowing that I will go back to Ireland one day and show my loved ones around.
Looking back, there were many challenges. Adjusting at the beginning of the semester to a new country, seeing my friends go back to school and having FOMO from parties, figuring my way around a new city, new school, and new grading system, finding a balance between time by myself and with friends (as it was my first time living in an apartment), learning how to cook, the list could go on and on. But the challenges were little speed bumps. They were hard for a day or maybe even a week, but I was over them in no time. I knew how temporary this semester was going to be.
One of the first weeks I sat down and wrote out all of the weekends I had in Ireland. Then I added the two IFSA trips, a few travels of my own, and I realized how short the semester would actually be. Thinking about it being so temporary made missing out on fraternity parties and tailgates much easier – especially when I was traveling around Ireland or the rest of Europe! Read More »
The title is actually a misnomer. I’ll give you a hint: there’s no such thing as over-preparing for a trip that involves needing your passport and leaving the country you’ve been given temporary permission to stay in. I’m a fairly laid-back person, and even I get that forgetting a detail here is a terrible idea. I’m leaving to go on a nice, not-quite-two-weeks trip through Europe on Friday, and the only reason I’m not panicking right now (or possibly being dangerously oblivious) is because I’ve done a fair amount of plane travel before this. If you’re interested, I have a few tips and reminders to share. After all, it seems a shame not to make at least one big trip while traveling abroad – there’s so much that’s usually far away now just right next door.
First things to remember is the most important: your passport. Everything else you can usually find a way to print out, show an email of, or otherwise replace so long as you have enough time to do so. Passports aren’t replaceable, and they’re you’re only ticket into and out of any country you choose to visit. So remember to bring it with you, put it in a place that you’re sure you won’t forget about and you’re sure it won’t fall out from, and most definitely somewhere on your person that someone’s not going to just reach in and steal it from. Buy one of those stupid-looking necklace pocket things if you have to. Yes, you’ll look like a tourist, but I have news for you: you’re a tourist. Better to look stupid than to be stranded.
Second is the other important, can’t do without stuff. Boarding passes are next on the list. Different airports allow you to check in before your flight at different times, and only give you a boarding pass once you’ve done so. Figure out when you can check in, do so at the earliest opportunity, and then print out a couple copies of your boarding pass: one for your backpack, one for your bag, maybe even a carefully-folded one for your pocket or wallet or something. Make sure you have something to show to security when you arrive, is what I’m saying. After that, email records for where you’re staying. If you’re hopping from one hostel to the next on a daily basis like I am, this can get overwhelming, but their records aren’t perfect. Keep track of that confirmation email that says you’ve checked in, just in case their computer goofed and lost it. Train and bus tickets should also be printed when you can, and easy to pull up on your phone fast as well. Itineraries, meds, personal requirements, enough clothes for the right weather…. beyond that it’s a little more like the usual preparations. It should be fun, and well worth the effort.
See you in a couple weeks.
My flatmates and I looked up flights to Italy and we found some cheap flights to Milan! We all couldn’t say no so we booked them! We started off in Milan and quickly found a place to get some pizza! I think I ate more pasta and pizza than I ever have over the weekend. The second day we took a trip to Verona. Verona was very much like what I pictured Italy to be like. The architecture of the buildings was exactly what I pictured. Verona was so beautiful and it really felt like spring time! We had a funny encounter with choosing a restaurant for lunch! My friend looked up places to go and she found a cheap place for us to go. Well we walked up to the restaurant and looked at the menu outside. To our surprise there was horse and rabbit meat being served!After a few laughs we ended up choosing a different restaurant! That was one of the most culture shock things that I experienced with abroad! We climbed to the top of a tower where we could see the whole city. Overlooking Verona was one of the most surreal experiences of my life! Italy is seen as this dream destination and it was so surreal to actually be there. I honestly felt so free in that moment. I felt like I had overcome so much this semester and being in Italy made me realize how vast the world really is. It’s so much more than just picture;physically being there changed my view of the world. Read More »
When Ashley, our IFSA-Butler Ireland representative sat us down for our Welcome Event, she mentioned how fast this semester would go. Through the ups and downs, the cold showers, the studying late nights, the friendships, the traveling, and everything in between, I never thought Ireland would really become my home in such a short time. And I never realized how fast the semester would really go.
Luckily, I didn’t have to do it alone. With the other 15 IFSA-Butler students, and a few honorary members, we became a group of strangers to a family. I hope you enjoy my last few photos in Ireland as much as I do.
They say that some memories can make you happy, and some can make you sad, but the memories that make you the happiest looking back years later are the memories of travel. I’m so lucky to have traveled throughout Ireland during this semester, and am so thankful to IFSA-Butler for helping me through this crazy change in my life! Read More »
Essays done. Exams loom. It’s a big thing back in the US, but the way exams are viewed over here puts that to shame. At UEA, at least, this period is called Revisions, because that’s what you need to be doing all the time: revising. Now your essays, mind you; those are already turned in, and whatever grade you’ve received on them is already written in stone and on your final grade. No, revisions refers to the near-endless process of preparing for all the things you need to write during exams, and that’s a lot. I’ve received a lot of advice I can best term as faintly alarming, the most memorable of which was to practice writing out an essay for an hour so that I can clock my handwriting endurance, how long it takes for my hand to start cramping, and just how many words I can squeeze out in a 50 minute period. When people tell me to practice my words per minute, I start to get nervous.
A large part of this, I think, comes from the difference in class structures and grading systems from the US to the UK. Exams are weighted a lot more heavily; I have some friends for whom their exam or final essay counts for 100% of their final grade. That’s a lot of pressure on one small, timed event, so it’s little wonder that every professor is stressing heavily just how much time you ought to spend preparing to take it. I’m lucky in that I only have one exam to take, for my Witchcraft course. I’m less lucky in that I’m not fond of the course material and I’m not looking forward to reviewing and memorizing it all, but still. Another difference is the amount of guidance that you’re given. Optional readings outnumber required course reading for courses over here by a sizable amount. Essay questions you’re given on exams, and given early to prepare for what questions might be asked during the exam, are the definition of open-ended given to extremes. There’s no bullet-pointed list of things for you to memorize and regurgitate: you need to have an answer ready that you’ve come up with yourself.
It is, in short, a bit stressful. But such is the price you pay for a more relaxed workload during the rest of the time. In a couple weeks I have a break until my actual exam, so I’ll be traveling a lot. And studying. Should be fun, and I’ll post again soon.
As the semester is nearing, I’ve been reflecting on how jaded I’ve become to how many amazing things one can witness in a day just walking around Glasgow; such as performers busking on Buchanan and Sauchihall street, wandering the necropolis, or discovering unmarked book stores tucked away in a close. I’ve had to remind myself at times that even when I feel as though I’m accomplishing very little, I’m still seeing and experiencing more than I might appreciate in the moment. Looking back, I really haven’t had many dull days.
I’m home! I’m surrounded by American accents and cars that drive on the right side of the road and boy does that feel weird. I’m out of money, finishing my last few papers, and sleeping in my own bed. I did it! I made it a semester abroad, with getting barely any bumps and bruises along the way. Here are a few things I’m feeling.
Sad. A place that once felt so strange became home and just as I got my feet wet in Cardiff I was shipped back to the U.S. My epic, European adventure has come to an end.
Culture shock. I remember attending my home university’s pre-departure meeting where they told me that I would experience reverse culture shock upon my return to the United States. I brushed that off, not thinking that I’d feel much different or have a difficult time adjusting back. But holy cow does it feel weird to be home. Everything’s the same, but it’s also different in the sense that everyone I left behind at home kept living their lives and whatnot, which sounds like an obvious thing but walking into it after four months of being away, is a lot to take in.
Happy. I am so glad to be home. I’ve missed my family and friends so much, and while I’ve kept in touch through Facetime, there’s nothing like hugging your parents after months without seeing them. In a few days I’ll head to Des Moines to see all of my college friends, so the happy reunions keep coming!
And finally, satisfaction. I’ve gotten most of my travel bug out (for now), and I’ve experienced so many things that I never dreamed that I would. Before I left I set out a list of advice for myself, and looking back at it now I smile knowing that I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. I took pictures, even though I’m usually so bad at remembering to. I drank good wine and ate (probably too much) good cheese, bread, and pasta. I called my parents, bought a few souvenirs, and wrote things down in a journal. I visited friends abroad in other countries, and did one or two crazy things that I told my parents about (after, of course). I went to Greece like I kept saying I would, because after all I did pack that swimsuit for something.
This semester I learned how to navigate countries where I don’t speak the native language, I learned how to use public transportation in cities I had never been to before, I learned how to make strangers into friends within one conversation, and I learned that the world has so much more to offer than I thought was possible. I knocked off a lot of countries off of my to-visit list this semester, but as I traveled and heard other peoples’ experiences in other places my to-visit list kept getting longer.
This post marks the end of a life changing, comfort-zone pushing, and challenging experience. I had no idea what life was going to look like once I stepped off of the plane in London a few months back, but I sure am happy I stuck around to find out.
I’m officially signing off, but this isn’t the end of my adventures, that’s for sure.