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

Final Days

Time July 6th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

It’s all coming to an end. With less than a week left, I know it will soon be over. I’m currently trying to fit one las trip into my semester by visiting Salta & Jujuy – a beautiful area in the north east of Argentina. I didn’t get to see a whole lot of the country, but I tried to make it to as much as I could and I’m glad I’m making this trip, even if it’s causing me trouble.

It’s not an easy thing to admit, but I am a procrastinator. For various reasons, all my own fault, I put almost everything off until the last minute. Unless you are a super calm person, this is not a position I recommend being in. If you’re interested, here’s a run down of what my finals are like.

Two of my classes are finished. Possibly my favorite class was an overview of Argentine literature with Martin Kohan, a well-known author here. We had studied authors like Borges, Art, Cortázar, and Walsh. I wasn’t super worried about it, but I studied hard and took an exam I felt I did well on. Martin had a very easy way of explaining things and it set me at ease. Read More »

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Mendoza, a city of culture

Time May 25th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

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!

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Daily Life as an Irish Student

Time March 7th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

Life in Ireland, wow, it’s amazing.

Of course, it has its ups and downs, but that’s just life in general. The best part is, every low is “higher” than the lows at home, because I’m here!

The most notable thing about Ireland that differs from The University of Tulsa would be the daily life. Here, I live in an apartment with four other girls, have a 20 minute walk to class, cook for myself, and have to adapt to the weather at any given moment. But hey, I’m learning how to live on my toes!

The best advice I can give to a student who is looking to study in Ireland is to pack with the weather in mind. The Irish students dress up, for classes, but only under their coat and rain jacket! A big hood is a must, layers, a scarf, and although they don’t wear rain boots a lot, when it pours they’re needed. The rainbows are beautiful, the grass is green, the walk to class is reflective as we pass the Irish countryside. Learning to cook has been a bit of a struggle, but luckily the other IFSA students and my Irish roommates are phenomenal chefs!

Daily life of an Irish student involves waking up in a snuggly bed and having to get up out of the burrito, put on some fuzzy slippers, and shower in the morning while the water is still warm. Put on a couple layers, make some breakfast and pack a lunch, double check that my charger is in my bag, and head to campus for the day. As the twenty minute walk is enjoyable with nice weather, I always have my rain jacket and enough homework to keep me on campus if it starts to pour, because the weather changes every 30-45 minutes. Tutorials (larger lectures) and Seminars (smaller discussions) throughout the day, studying and socializing in between, and making sure to keep up with the weekly socs (societies, which are like our clubs) email! Campus is always lively, whether it’s the cafeteria, Smokey’s Cafe, the library, the Arts Concourse, or the campus bar, Sult. With coffee and soup a day, I’m starting to feel more Irish. Hopefully I’ll turn a little greener for St. Patrick’s Day!

But until then, stay warm (and dry)! Read More »

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Normal, Mundane, and Other Synonyms for School

Time February 21st, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

Sometimes you do pretty normal things even on a different continent.

As I said in my very first, pre-departure post, you get a lot of advice before you leave the country. You hear a lot of stories from those who have studied abroad before you and you see pictures and blogs from peers who spent semesters in Spain, Rome, or wherever the wind took them. But here’s the problem: they only tell you about the adventures. The beautiful sunrises they saw over mount-whatever; the fun nightlife in a certain city; the amazing and inspiring people they met. Yet there is a fundamental detail that is left out of all of these tales—studying abroad involves a lot of completely normal moments. No one tells you that you will still binge-watch Gilmore Girls in bed, or that you’ll have quiet nights where you do nothing, or that you actually have to study for the classes you’re taking.

While this seems like a pretty obvious part of being away for an entire semester, it took me two weeks into classes to actually be okay with it. For the first part of my time abroad, I hated any gaps of free time I had in my schedule. I felt like I always needed to be doing something to make my time here valid and worthwhile. If I didn’t do something fun every night, I wasn’t getting the full “abroad” experience. It wasn’t until I was sitting in my Wednesday morning seminar the other week that I had a huge breakthrough—we were discussing the reading we were supposed to have done for class and I sat there not knowing a thing. I didn’t do the reading because I’m a student abroad, and students abroad most certainly don’t need to do the readings. But as I sat in class in a bubble of confusion wondering why pre-Raphaelite art was considered scandalous to upper class Victorian-era citizens I realized a fundamental fact: I came here to take classes because I’m in college. Read More »

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Week One (Primera Semana): Maintaining Sonrisas

Time February 8th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Cuba | No Comments by

My Cuban host father picked me up in a black Led Zeplin t-shirt and what appeared to be a pair of new, dark-brown Timberland’s. His wife, my new host mom, emerged from behind him, a giant, welcoming smile — “sonrisa” (I love this word because it sounds like they refer to smiles as sunrises) — in tow. I ran to them and awkwardly planted the traditional Cuban-one-kiss-greeting on their cheeks as we embraced. This is mi familia for the next four months, along with their twenty-five year old daughter, Nelli, and two adorable dogs: Sombra (Shadow) and some other name I have yet to make out (it starts with a “C” I think, but only those with an ear for the Cuban accent can confirm, which is not me — at least, not yet).

I live in the most amazing old casa. The ceilings are so high I get dizzy looking at them, the long halls are stacked with painting after painting (in which I find a new detail each time I pass), and the sound of birds chirping on the red-budded tree outside the stain glass window in our room greets my roommate and I each morning. I am immediately filled with questions about how a family living off of the equivalent of twenty dollars a month can afford such a beautiful home, but maybe it is government owned or maybe they are able to afford it because they are paid so much to host us (and in the past, tourists). And what are the homes of other Cubans like? I want to ask about my host dad’s job with the radio station — whether he can broadcast whatever he wants or only what the government tells him — and I want to ask my host mom about being a woman in Cuba and what she has done with the prestigious, free education she has benefitted from. I want to know the word for every foreign object and type of food, the instructions on how to unlock the front door (I’ve been fumbling with that), and the biographies of every human who seems to come and go daily from this big ol’ house. Most of these are questions that I expect to either find out the answer to myself in the coming days, or questions that I feel can only be asked after a close, trusting relationship has been formed. My host padre has already said that he is here to answer any and all of our questions — just not to comment on politics. We’ll see. 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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Classes, Welsh Cakes, and the Great Outdoors

Time January 30th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

As I start this post the first thing I’d like to say is that I love Wales. With all of the emotions I feel on a daily basis here, whenever I’m out and about in the city or walking around on campus the feeling I experience most overwhelmingly is excitement. While the past week and a half have felt somewhat like a dream, the reality of a semester abroad has finally sunk in as classes have begun. I did it. I followed through on accomplishing a goal I set for myself long ago, and made my dreams a reality. Now all I have to do is remember that excitement as classes, and real work, begin.

SO, about those classes. Before leaving for the semester, one of the most common questions I was asked was “Alex, what classes are you taking in Wales?” Well, after months of not knowing and not actually figuring out my schedule until the first real day of classes, I can happily say that I am registered. I’m taking three 20-credit courses, each equivalent to about 6 credits on the U.S. scale. I’m taking a Victorian art class, an environmental politics class, and a class looking at how different countries have developed culturally, environmentally, and economically. While normally I wouldn’t be exactly thrilled for classes to start, I am actually very eager to begin learning and have some of my free time taken up. So far the classes seem promising.

Now onto something more exciting than school… Welsh cakes. This past two weeks in Wales has introduced me to something that has exposed the naivety I hold in my culinary experiences. The gap in my pallet. The type of breakfast pastry that I’m convinced could cure the ill, could put an end to all international disputes, and could bring a grown man to tears. A pastry called a “Welsh cake.” For those who don’t know (like me a week ago), a Welsh cake is somewhat of a cross between a cookie, a pancake, and a scone with chocolate chips or raisins. It’s life changing. In my book, Welsh cakes are right up there with Beyoncé. I’ve gotten them a few times on the way to class, and I got them with some of my flat mates when we went into town together. I have a strong feeling that I’ll have to allocate a chunk of my abroad-budget specifically for Welsh cakes.

To work off all of the Welsh cakes, I’ve taken some time to explore the great outdoors. My favorite spot to run so far is this beautiful bike path that goes alongside the river near my flat. Not only is it a stunning view, but it’s a good break in my day and lets me get some fresh air. On Wednesday, some friends and I went on a night hike with a club on campus alongside the bay. It was actually very random, and the club we went with was really strange. It was about a 4 or 5-mile hike in the dark that went through back wood trails that led to a path on a cliff that overlooked the bay. It was one of those experiences that ended with us asking ourselves “what the hell did we just do?” After warming up at a pub and deliriously laughing about how weird it was, we decided that the experience was worth it.

While the night hike isn’t necessarily something I’d do again, it was the kind of experience I was craving. I needed to get off campus and do something a little random and adventurous that I’ll have good memories from. This weekend we’re headed to Three Cliffs Bay for more hiking, and the following weekend I will visit Stonehenge and Snowdonia National Park. I’m starting to realize that if I go into this semester with the right attitude and continue to do things that push my boundaries, I can shape it into whatever experience I want it to be. Hopefully, I’m able to create a semester that exceeds my expectations. So far, I’m thinking I’ll have no problem doing just that.

 

That’s all I’ve got to say for now.

Cheers,

Alex

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My First Week

Time January 23rd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

My first week abroad was mixed with so many different emotions! I honestly think that I felt every emotion possible this week. I was excited to move into my dorm and see how everything was set up. I was surprised to see that I had my own bathroom and shower right in my room! I was so happy to finally unpack my bags! Living out of a suitcase was really  drag and it was starting to get to me.

The day after I moved in I got to meet my flatmates. I was very nervous about this because I really hoped that I would like them all. I was so delighted because all of my flatmates were wonderful! It was amazing how all of us just clicked and instantly got along! One of my biggest fears before studying abroad was that I would not get along with my flatmates. Luckily, all of my concerns went away after meeting them! I must say that I feel lucky to have been placed in such a wonderful flat with amazing people.

Unfortunately, on Sunday night I started to feel regret. I began to feel as if I had made the wrong decision to study abroad. I kept thinking that it would just be easier if I was home in my usual routine. I could be at home with my family and friends enjoying life the way it was. I was feeling so down that I even looked up how much it would cost to fly home. I had only been in Scotland a few days and I was already missing home. Even though everything was going right, I felt that my decision to leave was wrong. I went through this inner struggle most of the day on Sunday. Then I was watching the sunset and my feelings started to change. I was walking outside and the sunset had been perfectly placed behind a tree. The branches were lit up by the sun and in that moment I felt complete peace. I knew in my heart that studying abroad was the right thing to do. In my life I will never get to experience anything like this again! I felt a type of tranquility that I’ve never felt before. It was like something was telling me that I had nothing to worry about.

16114442_1351103798243184_1814365309122428851_n Here’s the image of the sunset behind the tree

Once I actually started classes my week started to get even better! I’ve always liked school and part of studying abroad is learn things that I may not learn any other way. In my classes I was even happier with my adventure whilst studying abroad! I felt that my life began to be structured which was missing from the trip so far. Now that things were starting to get settled I’m very happy with my decision to study abroad! Even though I struggled to be where I’m at now, it was worth it.

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Coming Back Home

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

This might be the blog post I have dreaded the most. When hearing “final blog post,” one would think it should wrap up my whole semester abroad nice and neatly with a cute little bow, probably with some important moral of the story or reflection about how much I’ve grown this semester.

However, I can’t quite do that. Not only is it too much of a cliché, but I am also realizing that my experience abroad cannot all be summed up in a few hundred words, written about with a note of finality that could somehow mean I’m done living it.

A lot of my friends in my program have mentioned how much they’ve changed and discovered who they are. I am not sure I really had that experience. Sophomore year at Georgetown was an important, challenging and transformative experience—and I think I left it already knowing who I am and the person I want to be. So what do I take away from my experience? While they can’t really sum up my whole experience abroad, here are a few things that really impacted me:

  1. My host family: I’ve touched on this in past blog posts, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way. Living with a host family has helped me to improve my Spanish so much more than I believe I could have if I lived in a student residence with other international students. I can’t begin to explain how comforting it was to have a warm, home-cooked meal to come home to each day at the end of my classes. Having a “mom” abroad to hug, vent to, and share my day with is what really made me feel at home in Santiago.
  1. Improving my Spanish: This comes from living with a host family to taking all classes in Spanish with Chilean students. It was difficult at first—especially taking an economics class in Spanish with different symbols and formulas, but it was worth it. It was a learning curve—I didn’t feel like I started to notice myself significantly advancing until about two months in.
  1. My classes- Two classes I took were a couple of the most interesting classes I’ve ever taken. I took a class called “Economic Development in Latin America” and “The Foreign Policy of Latin American Countries.” In the States, the only time we ever learn about Latin America is when we talk about the Mayas, Aztecs, or Incas, great empires, and important to study, yes. However, I’ve never really studied contemporary Latin America, especially from a non-U.S. perspective. While there are definitely aspects of my country that I am extremely proud of, I’ve learned just why so many non-Americans are angry about actions of our past. Learning of the not-so-stellar ways that the U.S. has involved itself in other elections has been humbling.
  1. Learning about the dictatorship: I don’t believe that I discussed this in any earlier blog posts, and perhaps I should have. Chile experienced a dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet from 1973-1990. I can’t even begin to describe how awful it was or the ways that it still permeates society today. Before I came to Chile, I knew nothing about it, so I’m glad that I am at least a little less ignorant about it now. While I don’t want to go into details for personal privacy’s sake, my host family was actively involved in the resistance. Unfortunately, many people, usually political opposition like socialists, were tortured, exiled, and executed. While it was sad to learn about, learning about it helped me to better understand Chile as a country.

I am back now at home in Boston. I miss Chile, especially my host family. But it is also really nice to be home. I don’t, however, feel like this is the end of my abroad experience. Maybe what I can take away is that I opened my mind more this past semester. And I plan on continuing doing that, traveling, and learning through the stories of more people I meet as time goes on.

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Time to Return Home.

Time December 2nd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia | 1 Comment by

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Academics in Chile

Time December 1st, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Friday, November 18th, marked the last day of classes at la Universidad Católica. While this was one of the first sure signs that time in Santiago is winding down I can’t relax too much yet; I still have three classes to worry about and a slew of assignments to complete over the next two weeks. Conveniently, I’m also going to be spending the next four days without wifi, which only complicates the end-of-term academic onslaught. However, with the warm weather and increase in people selling ice cream on the metro, my mind is definitely looking forward to finishing up the academic side of study abroad. Before I do so, I just wanted to do a more comprehensive overview of academics in Chile. When I was investigating programs it was hard to find a lot of definitive information that really explained how difficult (or easy) classes were in Chile or how they were structured. While most of this information will really be comprised of my own opinions, I hope it is helpful to anyone curious about academics in Chile!

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Casey in Class

Time October 3rd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

Now that I’ve accomplished what seemed impossible last weekend–enrolling in classes–and have completed my first week of classes, I feel like I’ve had a decent amount of time to compile the list below:

​10 Things to Know About Uni When Studying Abroad in the U.K.:

  1. Courses are called modules. Classes are called lectures. Schedules are called timetables. Semesters are called terms. If the accent doesn’t give away the fact that you’re from the US, using any of these “American English” terms will.
  2. Professors are not called “Professor” until they’ve earned the title, much like how you wouldn’t call a professor who hasn’t gotten their doctorate “Dr. So-and-so.” Lecturers is a more appropriate term.
  3. My lectures have between 30 and 230 students in them, as opposed to back home, where I’ve never been in a class with more than 20 students. I definitely just feel like a number here (except for in the class in which I was called out for “being the American who emailed a lot of questions ahead of time.” I felt more than just a number in that class for sure…).
  4. University (Uni, for short) and college are not the same thing here like they are at home. When people ask what school I go to back home, I feel like I have to explain myself every time I say “Emory & Henry College.”
  5. Students attend Uni for 3 years, not 4. They don’t use freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors as descriptors, but say they are in Year 1, Year 2, or Year 3.
  6. Every lecture is set up the same way. The lecturer stands up in front of the class, opens up a PowerPoint presentation, and begins the lecture, not a second too early and not a second too late.
  7. Lectures are once a week. Not Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Not Tuesdays and Thursdays. Just one day a week.
  8. Lecturers will send/upload the slides for their lectures before the actual lecture, sometimes as far as two weeks in advance apparently. Students are expected to look at the slides beforehand, take notes on the slides, read out of 20 different books, take notes on those, and then show up to lecture just to take more notes, which they should review and rewrite later, combining them with the notes they took before the lecture. When looking at the amount of prep work students do here compared to the amount I do at home, I feel like I’ve been “college-ing” wrong this whole time.
  9. There is no such thing as a liberal arts education. It is completely unheard of to take classes in different schools. Students pick a school (or major) they want to be in and will only take classes in that school. For all of my E&H readers, this means no Transitions, no Foundations, no GWIC, no Connections, no Modes, etc.
  10. There are no pop-quizzes, no quizzes in general, no tests, no mid-terms, no reflection papers, and hardly any coursework. You can wave participation grades goodbye because there aren’t any of those either. Most of the time, each module will have one or two grades total. Whatever those grades are amount to your final grade. In a couple of my classes, I will have one graded written exam–a 2000 word essay–and in others I will have two written exams that will be averaged together. Yikes!

Side-note: I don’t mean to generalize with this list. It is just what I found to be true with my experience. Although some of these things will probably be a little difficult to get used to, I still feel like I am a normal college student, boarding the struggle-bus and fighting the battles of non-essential spending and procrastination.

In the end, my lectures seem like they’re going to be pretty interesting! I’m already super excited about this semester, and it’s only been a week! 10 more weeks to go! Wish me luck!

Want to know more about me? More about my adventure? More in general? Check out my travel blog “Casey in Cardiff” by clicking here or typing the following into your browser: www.caseyincardiff.weebly.com

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Wait I have to take classes here too?

Time September 12th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | 1 Comment by

Wow time has flown! I’ve already been in Mendoza for over a month!

A lot has happened since my last update. Most importantly, I’ve chosen my classes for the upcoming semester. I will be taking two classes at the local university (UNCuyo) – Historia de las corrientes literarias (History of Literary Movements) and Antropología Social y Cultural (Social and Cultural Anthropology), along with two IFSA-Butler classes – a mandatory Spanish class and Desarrollo Regional (Regional Development). I am a little disappointed that none of these classes focus on Latin America or Argentina specifically, but overall I think all of the courses will be interesting and useful in the context of my major at Macalester.

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Classes in Chile

Time September 8th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

This slightly lengthy post will reflect on about class structure in Chile, and the differences between La Universidad Católica and La Universidad de Chile. I’ll first try to explain the general university environment before breaking down the differences and similarities between the two universities I’ve enrolled in.
As a student at a small liberal arts college in rural Minnesota, attending classes at universities with over 20,000 students in the midst of a major city is a very unfamiliar world. Carleton has 2,000 students, and it takes roughly 10 minutes to walk from one end of campus to the other. Most of my classes there are discussion-based, with reading usually assigned as homework and frequent assessments that more often than not are essays or research papers. While in class students are quiet, and most of the time we’re given opportunities to discuss questions and observations with those sitting around us In Chile, classes are usually lectures where the professor still interacts minimally with students . Homework consists of reading, and assessments are much less frequent and almost always tests. Classes usually start late, and students pass time by taking notes, surfing Facebook, sending messages on WhatsApp, and chatting with each other.

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Life Update

Time September 2nd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Last weekend I skyped my parents (and grandparents!) for the first time since arriving in Chile. We’ve been chatting via Snapchat and WhatsApp, but of course there’s no substitute for a face-to-face interaction! I’m notoriously bad with communication, so it was really nice to be able to debrief and talk about the last month and a half at length, telling them about what I’ve been up to while feeling bad for not skyping them sooner. Reflecting on this experience, I thought I’d also post a blog entry that has similar content so that you can see what I’ve been up to. Anyone considering studying abroad in Santiago can also hopefully get an idea of the flexibility IFSA gives you to really make your study abroad experience unique.
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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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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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Becoming Porteño

Time March 30th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, Argentina, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So I know last week (or maybe it was two weeks ago now) I talked a lot about the excursions and the exciting things I had been doing, so I figured this post could talk about my day to day life and how adjusting to life in Buenos Aires has been.

I have started classes, and as I mentioned before, I’m taking film theory, theatre, and Latin American politics as well as the required literature course. I’ve only had one film class, but it seemed to be interesting, and I’m excited to learn about the different aspects of film, and we also get to make our own short film throughout the semester! Theatre is amazing, it’s one of my great loves, and I’m excited to get to have an opportunity to look at a culture so rich and full of theatre and playwrights. It’s also very fun because we get to do a lot of improv. Latin American politics is by far my most difficult class, but it’s interesting to learn about the political structure and history of this culture. I love my literature class so much – my teacher is amazing and cool and I love reading and literature anyway.

Adjusting to the city has been kind of crazy, but also one hundred percent average. There are three stages of culture shock: Excited to be experiencing a new culture, absolutely hating everything and wanting to go home, and being adjusted to life in your new city. The first and second stages for me kind of mixed together – Sometimes I was excited to explore the city and everything just seemed surreal and amazing, but other times I missed home and my dog and my friends so badly that I couldn’t imagine being here for the rest of the semester. At this point, I’ve evened out. Of course I still miss everyone, but it’s easier as I get closer to the people here. Often, I miss certain conveniences of home, but I also find myself thinking “How am I supposed to live without (insert Argentine thing here)?”

It’s not always a picnic – speaking Spanish all the time and having to think about exactly what i’m trying to say can get really tiring, but I also notice my Spanish improving every single day. I find myself stopping at least once a class to think “this is amazing that I can understand this.” I really think that all the hard work is worth it.

My host mom is so kind and I am so grateful for her. I live with her and two other American students, we get along so well, and we laugh all the time. Also she is an AMAZING cook – I’m always happily full after dinner. On the weekends, I will usually go to read my book in the park for a few hours, then my friends and I get dinner, go to a bar, and then sometimes we all go to a boliche, but I don’t really like dancing, so I usually head home after we go to the bar. After school most days, I stop at the little empanada place by my house; they’re so kind there and they know my name and my order, which really makes me feel like this place really is home. Day to day life is pretty normal, but still different from anything I’m used to in the states.

It’s hard to believe I’m close to being halfway through the program – time has really been flying! I really feel as if I’m adjusting to the culture and (hopefully) becoming passable as a Porteño. I think it’s working because I have less and less people asking me where I’m from, and I have more and more people asking me for directions.

Next week, over Semana Santa (Easter break), my friends and I are headed to the beautiful Iguazu Falls for the full moon, and I can’t wait. That’s what I’ll be talking about next time! Until then, have a great week! :)

 

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Week 3

Time August 25th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The Weather

It’s kind of cold here, mostly because of the humidity.  I’ve been wearing sweatshirts, or at least long sleeves, every day, but unfortunately, I only brought three sweaters/sweatshirts, and somehow I managed to lose one of them in my first week here.  Also, I have only seen the sun three times in my three weeks here.  That’s not an exaggeration either… the first time I saw the sun here was my first day, when one of the guys who as been here for longer pointed it out and was amazed to see it.  The second time was during one of our orientation classes (which take place in this really awesome partially-outdoor brick courtyard thing) when somebody saw part of the courtyard become fully illuminated, a clear distinction from the shadows everywhere else.  He alerted everyone in the class, and we all frantically got up out of our seats to run over and look at the sun, before it was gone.  The third time was a few days ago when I went to an art museum with some friends. I should mention that all of these times, we didn’t have a clear view of the sun; we could just clearly see the glowing outline of where the sun was through an unusually thin layer of clouds, and only on one of those occasions did the sky look blue and like anything that could be considered something other than cloudy.

Even though this makes it sound bad, I actually really love the climate.  It’s very comfortable as long as you have a light jacket or a sweatshirt to put on when you are cold.

Chorillos

I caught my first glimpse of real poverty in Lima when I went to the Chorrillos district on Sunday.  My host mom invited to to come along to a family picnic with her daughter, her daughter’s husband and two kids.  We were in a nicer part of Chorillos in a gated community connected to a country club, where we went for the picnic, but driving through parts of Chorrillos I began to see how many people in Lima live.  There were stray dogs everywhere and looking up into the hills off of the main roads were densely-packed, self-built houses separated by dirt roads.  I can’t wait to start working with people from these areas of Lima when we start the volunteering part of the program in Villa El Salvador next weekend.

The Art Museum

I went with some friends to the historical area of Lima to an art museum.  Unfortunately, almost all of it was closed and being renovated, but one pre-Incan exhibit remained open and it was pretty cool, and the building itself was very interesting.

Pictures of Miraflores, Chorrillos and the Art Museum

Classes

I don’t have a whole lot of hope for getting Computer Science/Engineering credit while I am studying abroad here, so I decided to expand my horizons a little bit and take some random classes that interest me.  In addition to the two IFSA required courses, both of which are basically Peruvian History/Culture classes that seem fairly interesting, I will be taking Bio-Huertos (which in English is something along the lines of ‘Urban Farming’), Actuación 1 (Acting 1), and Cine (Film).

Urban farming is something I have always been interested in, and I came here wanting to take an agriculture class or do something related to agriculture with my volunteer work, so Bio-Huertos appealed to me.  Plus there is a lot of class work time in the gardens, where I will hopefully be able to make some Peruvian friends.

Film seemed like a good mix of a fun time and a cultural immersion class that involves discussion and watching films in Spanish.  Our professor has said that he will be exposing us to films from all over the world from all different eras and genres.  The first film we watched this week was the American horror movie, The Exorcist.

Acting has been interesting thus far… I was originally going to take it because I was having trouble finding courses and because there was a chance that it would give me credit for a public speaking requirement I have for Northwestern, but after I went to the classes, I realized that, not only is it pretty fun, its a very verbal-communication heavy class, and I am the only non-Peruvian student, so it has been great for my Spanish, as well as interacting with local students, and we already have a class Facebook group!  If I can learn to act in Spanish, I’ll probably be able to do just about anything in Spanish.  But the class has been unlike any class I’ve had before thus far… Through the reading I have learned things like ‘An actor must have an exceptional perception and sense of sight, hearing, touch, pleasure and smell’, or ‘Being an actor requires an insatiable curiosity for the human condition’, and that ‘Actors must be physically and mentally stronger than other people’.  In class so far, we have mostly made verbal presentations and played games.  We even spent about forty minutes one day ‘exploring the space’ where the class was held.  It was awesome.

All in all though, I think Tobias Fünke’s portrayal of acting is pretty accurate thus far.

Spanish Skills

My Spanish is improving quickly.  I can easily understand all of my professors, or anyone else speaking clearly.  Speaking is much harder, but I’ve been able to make some impromptu verbal presentations that were slower than everybody else’s but still coherent and I said everything I wanted to say.  The hardest things for me are vocabulary and understanding people at stores, on the street or in social settings when I am not initially devoting all of my attention to listening to them.  Also, at the end of the day, I find I am much more tired than I would be if I were speaking English all day.  English also becomes much harder when you are in that Spanish groove, and so I often find myself unable to communicate a complex idea in English or Spanish. tl;dr: My Spanish has improved a lot here but I’ve still got a long way to go.

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First Day of Class

Time March 6th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Monday was my first day of class at UNSW! The morning was spent preparing for this milestone. I figured out how to print things (10 cents a page!), mapped out the fastest way to get to my classroom, and chose an adequate “first-day-of-school” outfit. The debate consisted of “grey shirt or blue shirt?” My closet overfloweth.

When I finally got to class, I was so excited I could barely sit still. Also, I wasn’t 100% sure I was in the right place, so I had to make it look natural if I suddenly realized I was in the wrong place. That’s the actual reason I was slowly wandering around outside the classroom. At 2:01 when the professor hadn’t shown up yet for my 2:00 class, I was devastated! They were going to cancel my first class? I had prepared all morning! Silly Anna. Classes here typically start 5 minutes after they’re marked to start, to allow for walking time. And they end 5 minutes early as well. So, not long after I started to panic, the professor showed up and let us all into the lecture hall.

A lecture hall is new for me, especially for a third year chemical engineering class. At Bucknell, I’ll graduate with 20 other chemical engineers. I walked into a lecture hall big enough to seat all of the chemical engineers (all 4 years) at Bucknell. And their extended families.

AnnaLecture

I took a seat on the end of a row near the front so that I didn’t interrupt anyone’s unspoken group seating plans. There were 2 open seats next to me when another student walked up to my row. And then he looked at the empty seats and me and spoke these words:

“Do you have any friends?” 

What an honest man. Tells it like it is. Not knowing whether he was genuinely interested in my apparent lack of social life or if I was misunderstanding, I laughed and went along with it with a resounding:

“Nope, no friends.” 

He realized what an awkward exchange we were having and rephrased it to

“Friends coming to sit here?”

Phew! Okay there’s hope. Long story short, I started the class with no friends, and ended up with two: the boy who sat next to me, Bob (I tried really hard to pronounce his name correctly but he insisted I call him Bob instead. Must have butchered it pretty badly), and his friend.

And so begins my semester of thermodynamics! No matter who’s sitting next to you (although I do miss my pal Kev), or how the word “equilibrium” is being pronounced (the professor likes to say “eh-quilibrium” instead of “ee-quilibrium”), a phase diagram is the same. And once you start taking notes, it’s like playing a soccer game – you just tune everything else out except for what you need to focus on. Yea, there were 2 big projector screens instead of one, and the professor had to use a microphone, but I knew this stuff. Well, I knew where I was. And it felt good to be home.

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I don’t like being the dumb kid

Time October 15th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Midterms were particularly hard this year for me. That’s not to say they weren’t par for the course at a national university. They mostly included in-class essays and short answers based on the readings, presentations, etc.

What’s changed is that none of this is in English anymore.

I’ve been frustrated a lot recently with my academic abilities in Costa Rica. In the States, I’m used to handling a full course load along with extracurricular activities and even some part-time work.

But in Costa Rica, my only activities outside of class are trips on weekends, which even then often include long stints of pouring over history and literature readings, usually playing catch-up. Weekdays, I go home and sit on the balcony and read. Or sit in the library doing research. All of these take longer because I’m working in a language in which I am not fluent.

At a rate of about 10 pages of reading an hour, it doesn’t leave much time on weekdays for anything other than an occasional Skype session home, a jaunt to the bars with friends or a stroll through the Internet to catch up on the news.

The remainder of my time is spent slowly, laboriously reading every class reading in the hopes of understanding class discussion.

It usually doesn’t work.

In class, I catch the general themes of each professor’s talk but rarely understand every single word. I understand even less of what my classmates say, as they often employ colloquialisms and accents to which I am not accustomed. I usually spend the two to four hours of lecture each week staring at the professor more or less clueless to the train of discussion.

Professors try to help. I can turn in my essays after being graded to improve either my grammar or the content of my essays. In class, the professors take my questions eagerly and even speak a little in English to emphasize key points.

I don’t like it.

I don’t like being the dumb kid in the class.

I don’t like being the gringo.

Costa Rica has been an amazing experience, and I’ve been on so many adventures I sometimes can’t remember them all.

But simultaneously experiencing one of the most challenging semesters of my academic career and being demoted to the dunce in the front row is not exactly thrilling.

To be fair, I chose to put myself in this situation. I chose IFSA-Butler’s Costa Rica progrm at la Universidad Nacional because I didn’t want to just go on an extended vacation and hate my classes for their simplicity. I didn’t want my study abroad experience to be a booze cruise. If I’m paying tuition, I want to get my money’s worth.

I also registered for harder classes, without other Americans, in the hope of simultaneously meeting ticos and engaging in academic material that was relevant and interesting. If there’s one thing I hate more than extra homework, it’s feeling like I’m wasting my time.

But I wasn’t prepared for the major shift of moving from the top of any given class in terms of grades, participation and academic insight to the bottom, desperately feeding off the crumbs of knowledge I may or may not find between lectures or readings.

The fear of wasting my semester academically may have caused me to do just that in terms of the academic content I’ll bring back to the states.

Nevertheless, at the risk of sounding absolutely cliché, I’ve learned more about myself here than I did in three years at an American University.

I enjoy being in the know.

I don’t enjoy being clueless.

I can handle uncertainty, but only to a certain degree, and most certainly not when my GPA is on the line.

My Spanish is good and is improving, but will likely never reach fluency without some more serious effort and years, not months, of immersion.

Those realizations help put my challenges in perspective. I’m not completely failing all of my classes, and I don’t have to be a straight-A student in order to graduate in May as planned.

Maybe my tuition isn’t being wasted after all.

Here’s to hoping finals go better than midterms.

***

Follow the rest of my adventure throughout Costa Rica here at IFSA-Butler’s blog, at my blog, on Twitter or even on Facebook.

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Reflections at the halfway mark

Time September 12th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

September 11, 2013

67 days.

67 days I’ve been in my new home of Costa Rica.

67 days until I go back home the U-S-of-A.

I have a  lot of mixed feelings about that revelation, some of them clichés but all genuine.

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10 survival strategies for the first week of classes abroad

Time August 5th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

New campus. New students. New professors. New subjects. New regulations. New languages.

All of the change associated with studying at a new school is enough to drive even the most competent student mad.

Here are a couple of tips I picked up from my experience of “syllabus week” at a foreign university.

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more surprises

Time March 21st, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today roughly marks the date when I set off for Argentina a month ago. WOW. I remember days before leaving, how extremely nervous I was, and in my anxiety, I was questioning whether I should actually leave home since I wasn’t very confident about my Spanish. I was also worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle homesickness; after all, I’d lived in the Boston area for 10+ years AND Brandeis is only minutes away from my hometown. And yes, I’ve traveled before, but this would be the longest and farthest I’d be away from my family and friends. I kept wondering how I would make it five months. BUT looking back now, I can’t emphasize how extremely relieved I am that I’m here. And while I’m at it, I’ll stress again how Mendoza is the place to be :) It’s essentially the outdoor lover’s dream. The weather is beautiful, palm trees line up the sidewalks, gorgeous parks, inviting flower gardens, and best of all, everything is walking distance! (So far I’m refusing to take the micro/buses until it gets cold. And I’m proud of myself for not needing my map anymore!) With all these things, it’s impossible to feel homesick or stressed out. And that’s another point I want to make (although I think I’ve emphasized it before): I haven’t felt this relaxed in so long. The culture is to live and enjoy life; and so, I’ve been able to shed the stress I’ve always accumulated during the past semesters.

This past weekend was my 21st birthday and St. Patrick’s day, so needless to say, there were celebrations :) The streets were so packed it was hard to find a place to sit down!

On a different note, I went to my first class at UNCuyo yesterday. My friend and I each wrote down the times and names of five classes we wanted to check out before committing to a set schedule. Once we got to the building of the first class, we had to locate the wall that contained information regarding professor names, class hours and locations, and office hours. We were slightly frustrated that the times of all five classes had drastically changed. Furthermore, the classrooms were hard to find (we wondered if there were multiple classrooms with the same number), and I felt more unsure about what my schedule would look like….for example, I wanted to take an art class but every art class is around 16 hours a week. Since I only want to take it for fun and not as an art major, I’m not quite sure I’ll follow through. Anyways, we entered a class about 10 minutes late (oops), and I could immediately sense EVERYONE watching. Which was weird to us, since there was a continuous stream of students coming in the room (AND leaving, darting right past the professor!)! Someone even came an hour and a half late to the class (I wondered why she would bother coming). We tried to blend in with the class and take notes, but it was hard because the professor proceeded to ask us where we were from, and any time US was mentioned in conversation, he pointed toward us. As if we needed more attention….-_-  I thought I imagined the stares, and the curious glances, but my friend confirmed that we actually weren’t. Maybe it’s because we were wearing bright colors. No se.

But I can honestly say that I was relieved. First off, the professor told us he had experience with international students and spoke pretty slowly, so we were able to understand roughly 80% of the lecture. Second, the material was interesting and the other students seemed pretty nice/interested in the class and in us. So I guess it was okay…..but after class, we were told to buy photocopies of the syllabus (programa). Seeing as we had 2 hours until our next class, we went to the photocopier, but the cashier told us there weren’t any syllabi. Confused, we then went to find the professor, and when we couldn’t, we decided to just recover from the class outside, but just as we were about to leave, a Johnny Depp look-a-like professor quickly approached us and INSISTED (VERY STRONGLY) on helping us and wouldn’t leave us alone until he located our professor. So basically, our professor walked us down to the photocopier, reassured us (at least, that’s what it sounded like, at this point I was so exhausted that my brain was refusing to operate at 60mph translating and spitting out Spanish), and directed us to a (very cute) classmate who spoke English and helped us out. It was a long day. 

To be honest, the experience made us miss the school system in the US. Yes, they don’t take attendance here and in a lot of ways it’s easier to get away with things and not to be studious, but in the US, powerpoints would be posted online, all registration and academic information would be easily provided, and everything is very organized. I think I wasn’t expecting myself to have to exert so much energy in finding classes, figuring out my schedule, and operating on my own…..since everything in the US is a lot easier. Don’t get me wrong; I am very capable of acting independently, but it was hard to be independent with no information available, if that makes sense. But complaints aside, I’ve only been to class once, and it can only get better, right?

*Fall is coming to Mendoza! The air is definitely getting slightly chilly, but I’m still loving the weather! I had to keep telling myself it’s FALL, not SPRING, since I’m in the southern hemisphere.

from top to bottom: San Martin Park/acequias, aka “gringo traps”/lake/beautiful sky

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Start of Class

Time January 25th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This week was the start of classes at Leeds and I’ve been to all mine at least once. Most of my classes just meet several times a week in normal lectures like I’m used to. Well, normal in the fact that the professors stand at the front of the room and….lecture. Not normal in the fact that all of them are in lecture halls with 60-100 people. I’ve never been in a math class larger than 30, and that was just one. Almost all the rest of mine have been somewhere between 8 and 15. I only know of two actual “lecture halls” at Butler. All of the classes I’m in here in Leeds are in lecture halls like you see in the movies. We sit in theater seating and the professors use large projectors and movable white boards to teach. The funny thing is that in the building I’m in, the lecture halls are situated on the front and back of the building along 4 different staircases. You enter the room through skinny doors along the stairs that go strait into the different rows. It is possible to go in the bottom door and walk across the front, then go up the stairs on the other side of the room and pick a row then, but I usually just sit in row B or C and enter from the stairs. Next week we start having workshops, which are smaller group meetings where we can talk about homework problems and ask questions. Today is my free day, which I’m taking full advantage of. I cannot wait for a day to relax and catch up on some reading :0)

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