Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Life After Abroad

Time May 22nd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

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 »

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Academics Away from America

Time February 2nd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

Academics Abroad: The reason why you chose the country/program you chose. The most important thing about studying abroad, the studying! And yes, I still focus on school while I’m abroad having fun, but going through IFSA-Butler made it so much easier.

Prior to leaving: I had no idea where to go. I knew I had to make sure I would still graduate on time, since I had not planned to go abroad (again). I knew I had two psychology classes and statistics that I needed specifically, and two electives. I made many phone calls and emails to the IFSA staff once I had chosen Ireland, wondering how many classes Irish students take (typically 6, or a lightened course load of 5). I knew I needed Tulsa to approve the classes before I left. I had Tulsa approve 8 classes with the help of the IFSA staff and their syllabus bank, and contacting a professor as statistics can have prerequisites and as a sophomore I was planning on taking the senior-level cognitive psychology class! Ah! Luckily they had previous students take the psychology classes that had passed the class. Statistics was still in the air, but we would see when I got here.

While here: I got to meet the other 15 IFSA students here. Luckily, I had students in both of my psych classes, and one of my electives, Celtic Mythology! As I went to my first sociology lecture, I realized it wasn’t for me, but here at NUIG there is a two-week add/drop period. I contacted Ashley, the IFSA rep, and asked for help to switch into Celtic Archeology, another elective class that had many IFSA students in it. She easily helped me and I emailed the international office here to get a course outline, to email back to Tulsa! And within a few days Tulsa had approved it too, yay! The only thing left in the air was statistics, so I waited after the first lecture to introduce myself to the professor, who was incredibly kind. He said that last semester half of his class got high honors (basically an A) and he wanted to help me achieve that. His office was open Monday – Wednesday for tea and help, gave me two class representatives to ask, and the campus resources and the hours that they have statistics tutors. I knew I could succeed in such a positive environment (he also passes around candy each class, so that was a perk). After the two-week add/drop period, we had to register online to get Blackboard and register with IFSA. Ashley came to campus to help us through the process – wow! Read More »

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Pre-Departure Advice… For Myself

Time January 10th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

Hello, and welcome to my little blog of adventures. My name is Alex and I’m a sophomore from Drake University studying abroad in Cardiff, Wales. I leave in two days but that hasn’t really sunk in. I’ve started to say goodbyes, I’ve begun packing, and I’ve also managed to come down with a horrible cold (great timing, too). And although this week feels like every other week, I am about to embark on a journey that will change my life in a profound way that I won’t be able to understand until it has already happened. I think that’s pretty neat.

The past days, weeks, and months have been filled with preparation. But one thing that every student about to go abroad gets lots of is advice. Those who have studied abroad before you will tell you about how incredible their experience was, what you should do when you’re abroad, and of course where you MUST visit. I love hearing what everyone has to say about traveling—I’m a sponge when it comes to taking in travelling tips and knowledge. But I also want to go into this experience with my own goals and some pieces of advice for myself. So here is what I have to say to the future me that’s about to board a plane into five months of uncertainty and excitement:

It’s okay to cry at the airport when you leave your family, just for the love of God make sure you’re wearing waterproof mascara.

Be frugal and wise with budgeting but don’t freak out about money the whole time. It’ll work out just fine.

Take that trip to Greece that you keep saying you will. You packed that swimsuit for something and it’s not just to take up space in your suitcase.

Drink good wine. Eat good cheese. And bread. And pasta.

Try weird local foods that you probably won’t love but it’s all about the experience amiright?

Do something crazy like bungee jumping or cliff jumping, just don’t tell your parents until after you’ve done it and survived (sorry mom and dad).

Speaking of mom and dad, give them a call every once in a while to make sure they know you’re alive.

Buy little souvenirs for yourself and loved ones.

Visit friends who are abroad in different countries, even if you only get the chance to meet up for lunch.

Take pictures. You suck at this. You brought a camera for a reason. USE IT.

Write down things in a journal because no matter how memorable an experience feels, details will become blurry once you’ve been traveling for five months.

Make friends with people from other countries!

And finally, have a blast because you’re only 20 years old in Europe once ya crazy kid.

This post marks the very beginning of a life changing, comfort-zone pushing, and challenging experience. I have no idea what my life is going to look like in a few days–your guess is probably just as good as mine. I hope you stick around to see how it all plays out, it should be an interesting few months!

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Traveling Tips: Things I Wish I Knew

Time January 4th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, England | No Comments by

Hello all,

I’m currently writing from Chicago, Illinois as I have returned home after my absolutely wonderful semester abroad. After my Michaelmas term at Oxford ended, I spent two weeks traveling around Europe with my friends. Prior to studying abroad, most of my traveling was with my family. It is an entirely different experience to travel with peers. There are many important decisions to make and rather than simply following my parents, it was on me to determine the best course of action. Prior to my semester abroad through IFSA-Butler, I would have considered myself a novice traveler. However during my study abroad experience, I saw eight different countries, navigated the public transportation system of foreign nations, and learned to communicate despite language barriers. I honestly learned just as much while traveling as I did during the academic term. The following are some tips that I noted during my adventures:

  1. Know the measurements of your suitcase. Even if your suitcase is always allowed as a carry-on for various American airlines, it may be too large for certain European airlines. Either take a picture of the original tag of the bag or look up the exact suitcase online and write down its exact measurements. Additionally, while traveling it is really important to fully understand the luggage requirements of the specific airline. Sometimes the flight may be cheaper but they may charge for carry-on luggage and with the extra charger, that flight may become more expensive than the second cheapest option. Another important thing to consider is that it is often cheaper to purchase baggage online rather than at the airport, so if you expect to pay for your bag try and pay for it earlier rather than later.
  2. Bring locks. Locks are really useful if you plan on staying in hostels because many of them have lockers available. I brought a lock for my suitcase (that is TSA approved of course) and one for my backpack. One of the biggest tips I received was to be wary of pickpockets so whenever I traveled I kept everything locked. Then when I arrived at our hostel, I would take the lock off the suitcase, put the suitcase inside, and then use the lock for the locker.
  3. Carry a filtered water bottle. First, look up whether your country’s tap water is safe for drinking. If I determined that tap water was safe, I would fill up my Brita-filtered waterbottle. This was not only convenient for having water on hand, it ended up being a cost-saving measure. I found that many restaurants would only provide bottled water and they will subsequently charge to your bill.
  4. Don’t overuse the currency exchange. It is important to remember that every time you exchange currency, you are losing money. I found that in the beginning I was overestimating how much cash I would need at each location. It is really helpful to get a credit card that does not have international transaction fees. I figured this out prior to leaving the U.S. and found it incredibly valuable. With this kind of credit card, I learned that I really did not need too much cash. By the end of my trip I was only taking out a little bit of cash and reserved it for things I knew I couldn’t pay for with card such as cabs and small food stands.
  5. Protect your passport. While I advise against carrying your passport everywhere, I also advise against leaving it in anywhere that might not be secure. If the hostel I was staying at had a locked locker, I felt comfortable leaving my passport. Otherwise I kept it within an zipped inside pocket in my jacket. It is definitely the most important thing you have and by far the most difficult thing to replace. A good rule of thumb is that at any point in the day, any day of the week you should be able to say where your passport is currently located.
  6. Google Maps is great for public transportation. Using public transportation is such a great way to save money. Furthermore, it is much easier than I ever anticipated. Google Maps worked in every city I was in and I found it to be incredibly accurate. Additionally, I found that in places such as train stations and bus stations it is relatively easy to find someone who speaks English and they can tell you exactly what kinds of tickets to purchase. Google Maps not only tells you which bus or train to take, it also tells you the time it will arrive and when the next one is coming. Furthermore, you can download a city to your saved “offline” locations and then you can use Google Maps without any wifi or data.

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Five Ways To Pack A Semester’s Worth of Stuff into One Suitecase

Time September 29th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, England | No Comments by

As someone who actually enjoys packing and overpacking, I could not even begin to fathom how I would pack for an entire term at Oxford with a single suitcase. I can pack that much for a week vacation; however, as I’m currently sitting at the airport having already checked my single piece of luggage (coming to 49.5 lbs), I am proof that what seems impossible can be done. Here are 5 tips for how I made it happen:

  1. Plan and Place: When I overpack it’s usually because I bring an article of clothing or a pair of shoes that I really like but never end up wearing because it didn’t coordinate with the rest of what I brought. To make sure that I made the most of my suitcase, I planned each one of my outfits and placed them on the ground. If a pair of shoes was only really fit for two outfits, I decided to leave them and go with a different option of footwear. Additionally, by folding them and placing them on the ground I created an estimate of how much space everything would need. This allowed me to make reductions earlier rather than later as it was much easier to take things from my floor back to my closet than from the bottom of my suitcase back to my closet.
  2. Mix and Match: Now this applies to clothes, but what I mean is to mix and match packing styles. There are a couple different packing styles: folding into neat squares, laying flat with minimal folding, rolling, etc (maybe you’re none of these and prefer to toss things into your suitcase and however they land is how it travels). I found to make the most of my suitcase, I had to do a little bit of everything. If you only use one method,  you have a lot of unused space. I rolled thing t-shirts to put inbetween and around larger sweaters that I folded. Doing this allowed me to fill every inch of the suitcase.
  3. Pack Weird Shapes First: For me this meant my shoes. Then follow tip 2 and add materials to fill in the gaps. It was much easier to pack around my shoes then to try and fit them in on top of everything else.
  4. Rule of 1: I have a lot of clothes and I have a lot of clothes that look alike but are slightly different enough that I will try justify why I need both. Having only one suitcase really knocked this habit out from me. My rule was that I could only bring one of something. One vest, one pair of gym shoes, one navy blouse, etc. However, I did make one exception to this rule. If I could see myself needing the item a couple times a week, I allowed myself two, so a few things that made this cut: leggings, plaid shirts, and jeans.
  5. Avoid Memorable Patterns/Pieces: Some of my favorite pieces of clothing are super unique and as a result pretty memorable. If you’re like me and you’re going to have to a Lizzie McGuire outfit repeater, you might have to leave some of your favorite pieces behind. A plain t-shirt can look entirely different if you throw on a scarf or a necklace; however, there is not much you can do to a brightly patterned shirt with distinct cutouts. I invested in some high-quality basic pieces. It was much easier to fit more necklaces than to fit more cardigans.

So with those five rules and some time spent sitting on my suitcase to flatten everything out, I managed to pack a semester’s worth of clothing into one suitcase. Stay tuned to hear about my adventures when I actually get to London.

 

Till then, happy packing!

 

xx

Zaya

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College and Uni: Going from Liberal Arts to Abroad

Time August 9th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia | No Comments by

There’s been a lot of new slang I’ve had to learn since coming to Australia. Usually, everything is shortened and that was the case with the word university. The word college is basically non-existent here and even saying university can be a bit of a stretch. No, the word Aussies prefer is short and sweet when it comes to their schooling: Uni. That’s only the beginning of the differences between small liberal arts colleges in the U.S. and giant universities across Australia. Being in classes for two weeks now, I’ve slowly adapted to the giant lecture style classes and more independent teaching method found here at the University of Adelaide, and hope I can provide some insight for future liberal arts students looking to study abroad.

First off, it has just been plain bizarre even being back in classes when I see my friends posting photos on Facebook hanging out on the beach, going to concerts, and enjoying their summer when I’m off to my 10:00 AM lecture in 50 degree weather. Getting back into the school work grind is a process in itself, but throw in an entirely new university and teaching system and it becomes a whole new journey. The biggest course I was ever in at F&M had about 35 people in it while the biggest lecture I have here in Adelaide has about 150 students. So besides the obvious size difference, what are the big differences in course work, teaching method, and overall university life in Australia versus that in the U.S.? Read More »

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Reflecting on the Last Four Months

Time May 23rd, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

They say all good things come to an end.  Unfortunately for me, my time in Limerick, Ireland is over.  I returned home five days ago and I am still having a tough time coming to grips with the fact that it will be a while before I return back to Ireland.  It was the best and fastest four months of my life and I am so incredibly happy I was able to do something like this.  Since I was young I always wanted to spend time in Ireland.  As I explained in my first blog post, Limerick is the home of both of my grandparents who emigrated from Ireland to the United States in search of a better life; the American Dream.  Ever since I can remember, pride for my Irish heritage was instilled in me and that is something that I hopefully can engrain in my children’s lives.

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From Limerick to Galway Back to Limerick and Off to Scotland!

Time May 4th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

I decided to take a break from studying for my Irish history final exam (I can not believe I just said final exam… what?!) and catch up on what is going on with me these past few weeks. I feel as though each time I sit down to write, I’ve done something new and unique which I feel has epitomised my study abroad experience… I’m definitely not complaining! Read More »

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A Walk of Coogee

Time October 31st, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

A little walking tour of the town where I live. Only 2 more weeks!

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Sick in Sydney

Time March 17th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Please note that this blog post was written on Friday, March 11th.

Hello from beautiful Coogee Beach! It’s been a while since I’ve written, and for those waiting on bated breath for my next blog post, I apologize. Truth be told, internet is EXPENSIVE. Plus, I’ve been too busy doing fun things to write about! So that makes it okay, right? Anyway, I’ve been pretty sick the past few days, so what better time to take a moment and blog?

The last time I wrote, I was off to the last day of orientation. Since then, classes have started! We just finished up our second week, and things are going well so far. My schedule is still a little bit up in the air as I haven’t been placed at an internship yet, but this Monday I have an interview with Rolling Stone Australia! Talk about a dream come true. If I get an internship, the classes I will be taking are: Australian Cinema and TV, Contemporary Approaches to Cinema, and Marine Environment.

Over the past two weeks we’ve done a lot of exploring around Sydney. We discovered Eastgartens and Bondi Junction Malls, we have done the gorgeous walk from Coogee to Bondi (it takes about 1.5 hours, but it’s beautiful), we saw Chelsea Handler at the Sydney State Theater, we went to the first rugby match of the season, and have spent a lot of time at the beach! Oh, and studying, of course.

I’ve been here for a month, and I feel as if the time is flying by. My friends and I are starting to book trips, which is incredibly exciting. We just booked spring break in Thailand, on a program called Thaintro. Thailand is the one place I’ve been dying to go to, so it’s safe to assume that I’m counting down the days.

The week ahead is going to be amazing. Tomorrow we’re going to a surf competition in Bondi, and my roommate and I are going to Future Music Festival. It’s a lot of techno and house music which isn’t really my style, but we have VIP tickets, so that should be fun. Sunday we’re going to the Taste of Sydney Food festival. Monday is my 21st birthday, so after classes and my interview we’re going to a nice dinner in the city. Tuesday we’re going to Hunter Valley, which is like Napa Valley wine country, for wine tasting. Last but not least, Thursday we’re going on a cruise around Darling Harbor for St. Patty’s day. It’s definitely going to be a jam packed week!

That’s all for now! I’ll try to keep you guys more up-to-date next week.

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Snow, Snow, Go Away

Time January 26th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The countdown is now at two and a half weeks, and we are on the millionth snow fall of the 2010 -2011 winter season. I am NOT a fan of the cold weather, but at school it never really seemed so bad. I was talking to one of my best friends from Lehigh this morning who is at school, and she was telling me that a bunch of my friends are going sledding this afternoon. I wish I could go sledding with them!

Instead I’m in New Jersey, completely snowed in. Today is my day off from work and I had a day full of errands planned. I wanted to order Australian Dollars, do some summer clothes shopping, go to the gym (bathing suit weather in less than three weeks?! Uh oh…), and so much more. But I’m still managing to be productive! I’m reading my IFSA-Butler brochures, making to-do and packing lists, thinking about budgeting while I’m abroad, and actually cleaning my room a little. Not too bad for a snow day!

That’s all for now. Unfortunately, working two jobs doesn’t make for a very exciting life (but it does make for a lot of money!). At least I have so much to look forward to in just a few weeks!

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Orientation

Time February 8th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The orientation was amazing. There is simply too much to write about so I will highlight the most remarkable things that I experienced. I will start with the food. I can confidently say that I have been overfed and that I have experienced Egyptian hospitality. I do not know if this is the norm, but nearly every meal after breakfast consists of 6 appetizers, drinks, 3 main course dishes, dessert and coffee/tea. I cannot seem to get enough Turkish coffee these days (ah-wah masboot) and they (collective they) cannot seem to tire of feeding me tahini.

Besides the food, the orientation has offered me several opportunities to explore Egyptian historical monuments. So yes, I have seen and been inside the pyramids and ambled by the sphinx; and yes I have seen King Tutankhamen’s casket along with several well-preserved mummies; and yes I have prayed in Saladin’s Mosque; and yes I have been in the Citadel at Alexandria etc etc. This is all well and amazing in its own right, but what stands out are the people.

First and foremost, most Egyptians think that I am Egyptian. Whenever I tell that I am not Egyptian, the second thing they tell me is that I must be Arab. When this too has failed, they still insist that my face is Egyptian (khalass!). For the most part, the locals I have tried to talk most with are the Taxi cab drivers. Most taxi drivers here love to talk. I normally start by telling them where I am from and that I like Egyptian music; typical response: Oum Kulthum! Ya Helwa! Then we play the heritage guessing game (aren’t you Egyptian?) and then the religion guessing game (but you are Muslim yani?) and finally the “what I like about the US” game (Jimmy Carter!!).

We also received several lectures ranging from topics of health, Egyptian music, ancient Egyptian history, archaeology, women in the Arab world, and Islam. We got a lecture from none other than Egypt’s Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities: Dr. Zahi Hawass.

A rather flamboyant personality with an inclination towards stardom (and abhorrence for cell phones), Dr. Hawass explicitly schooled us on the recent groundbreaking archaeological digs he was leading and the arduous tasks he undertook in order to become the best in his field. I asked him what his greatest disappointment was, and he answered without batting an eyelid “I have none”. After the lecture he commissioned a pass that will allow us (as a group) into any historic site monitored by the Council of Antiquities including all Museums for free! This tremendous gift has enabled several of the trips on which we went.

IFSA Butler held a photo contest among us Egypt students. I somehow managed to win! Below you will find the pictures that I submitted. This is ironic considering the number of times that I forgot my camera! The photos were judged by Chris Harrison, Dr. El Komi and very kind  (and famous) photographer whose name I have regretfully forgotten…I am sorry about this; as soon as I can find his name out I add it without fail. The prizes were: a wonderfully painted ceramic mug and what appears to be a wooden-ebony in-layed box of dominoes.

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