Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler
Coming home has been such a bitter sweet experience. Towards the end of my journey I was really missing home and the lifestyle that I have. Colorado is such a beautiful state and I was really looking forward to seeing my family and friends again! I was so happy that I didn’t have to be long distance from my fiancee anymore and that we could finally be together! Long distance was one of the hardest things that our relationship has faced and I was glad to have it over. At the same time it meant that I had to leave Scotland and all of my friends there. Even though most of my friends are a short plane ride away, it’s so different than living together in the same flat. I’ve been home for two weeks now and I still feel like I should be waking up next to my friends and going on an adventure in Europe. Study abroad is such an interesting experience that I think only your friends abroad truly understand it. Of course I can describe to everybody back home how I feel but, nobody really understands it unless you experienced it.
I was supposed to return home on May 29th but my flight ended up getting canceled so I didn’t end up leaving until May 30th! Of course I was slightly sad to go home yet but, I was so happy that I got one more day in Scotland. That last day really made a difference. It felt like closure. The extra day I spent in Edinburgh with my closest friends and it felt so nice to have that last gathering together. I never would’ve thought that extra time would make such a difference but it really did! It was more relaxed and laid back than trying to pack everything and say goodbye to everybody at once.
Coming home and being able to reflect for a couple of weeks made me realize a lot of things about myself. Before studying abroad I felt like I couldn’t handle the real world. I felt so dependent on my parents that I didn’t think I could handle graduating college. Even though I’m engaged I was worried about starting a life with my fiancee. Study abroad changed my view on being alone. Of course I still missed everything back home but it made me realize that I can do it. I can be on my own away from my parents. I will be able to get married and start a life with my fiancee. I would say that my view of the world is completely different as well. Traveling and going to new places really changes your perspective on how vast and wonderful the Earth is!
If you’re reading this and even considering study abroad you should do it. It’s the most incredible experience that will impact you for a lifetime. Don’t worry about expense because it’ll be worth it no matter the cost. In retrospect study abroad really is a pretty good deal. You’re paying much less than you would to live abroad for 5 months in a different setting. The best advice I can give is to go out and explore. The world is just waiting for you to go and see it!
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 »
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.
It’s May. In one week from today I will be on a plane back to the states. I have papers and projects to do this week. There are a few things about this picture that really aren’t quite right.
This post is about what I did over Easter break, but before I get to that I need to just acknowledge how crazy it is that I’ve already gotten to the point in my semester where I’m writing this. January was spent getting my feet on the ground and adjusting. April was spent travelling. February and March, however, seemed like endless hours spent planning my Easter break endeavors. And now they’re done—the trips have been taken, experiences have been made, and lessons have been learned.
On Wednesday, April 12th I left Cardiff early in the morning and walked to the Sophia Gardens bus station where I departed for Birmingham airport. I spent most of the day travelling, but by 7 PM I was standing outside of the Barcelona airport, suddenly much too warm for my jacket. Now I won’t bore you with the day-to-day itinerary of what I did, but there are a few moments I experienced throughout the few days I was there that were pretty magnificent. First, walking through the city itself is kind of magical. The trees, buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí everywhere, the sun, and just the feeling of the city had an energy that was contagious. Another part of Barcelona I loved was Bunker Hill. It was an old Spanish Civil War bunker that sat on a massive hill overlooking the city, and the view was incredible. It was the city, the ocean, and the sunset, all in one beautiful picture. It was profound and magical and worth running up a large hill for. Later that night we went to a Spanish club—my last highlight of Barcelona. It was a city that made you want to dance and that night we all danced and laughed and tried to ignore the fact that we all had flights the next day taking us away from the beautiful city. Read More »
With the semester halfway through, I am getting less and less excited to go back home. One of those reasons? The friends I have made here. I am a mid-west girl already planning my travels to the New England area to see my friends once we’re back in the States. Luckily, IFSA Butler provided us with an excursion as part of IFSA Ireland. And although not all of the Galway Gang could make it, the group of Galway Girls were great to hang out with and get to know better. A girls weekend down in the books! Here are some of my favorite moments from the three day weekend in Kilkenny! Read More »
The middle of March was the halfway point of my program and my time abroad! It’s a bitter sweet moment. I think about how I’ve had such a great time here and how I’ve made such wonderful friends but, I do miss things about home.
So far I’ve experienced wonderful things in Scotland! I’m so happy that I chose the University of Stirling for so many reasons. The campus is really great and the scenery is beautiful! My favorite thing about Stirling is how the campus is removed from the city. I like that it feels secluded. The campus really is it’s own little town in a way! My home university is a commuter campus and I live at home, so being able to live on campus has been a great new experience for me. I enjoy being able to cook for myself and having freedom to have my own schedule! I’ve been able to grow in ways that I can’t describe. Having independence abroad has made me feel more like an adult. Before I left, I felt like I was in between an adult and a teenager but, coming to Scotland has made me feel like a capable adult! Read More »
Hi again! It’s been a little while since my last post, but this is just to say that I’m alive and, um, doing. I’d say doing well, but at the moment I’m currently struggling with what is probably the flu. I’d like to say this has lent me a lot of time for introspection, but really, it’s just been kinda gross all around. Still, I have some awesome stories from before I landed myself with a cold, so I’ll share them now to valiantly ignore my current well-being.
Last weekend I got the chance to head back into London for couple days, to visit my friends Rebecca and Miranda! They’re also on the IFSA program, just at Kings College in London instead of out here in Norwich with me. We had promised each other many adventures together, and we did our best to start that. Rebecca spearheaded this weekend’s charge. Our target? The Magical Lantern Festival, out in some middle-of-nowhere park in London. As a newbie to the tube, I was wholly reliant on the solid one week of experience my friends had to guide me around. I’m honestly surprised we didn’t get lost. I was half-expecting to be like, one of those ghosts just doomed to eternally wander the London underground without ever reaching my destination. I have it on good authority that that’s a thing. That, and apparently the story behind the “mind the gap” voice guy will make you cry every time you hear it.
So we made it out to Chittiwick Gardens (the spelling of that may or may not be atrocious), and after some fruitless wandering and then defeatedly asking a friendly passerby for directions. Once we were finally there, though, it was worth it. The Magical Lantern Festival definitely lived up to its name, with displays of cultures from all across the world rendered in brightly-lit cables and sculptures that stretched across the lawns. I got myself a mulled wine to keep my hands warm, and wandered among designs that showcased the entire Aladdin cast to a rendition of a giant masted galley ship in bright blue and white lights. For lack of a better word, it was a magical night.
The following morning, I had to go back to Norwich, but I wasn’t in too much of a rush. Plus, morning by college standards more or less means any time before dark. We spent a little time wandering Hyde Park, and then went off and had afternoon tea at a tiny little french cafe that made me feel horribly underdressed on principle. It was a wonderfully British experience.
Anyway, all good things must come to an end, and it’s not like Norwich doesn’t have its own appeal as well. I came back to campus, went to class, got the chance to do a little pub exploring (the Adam and Eve pub is apparently over a thousand years old, which amazes me), and visited the beautiful Norwich Cathedral as well. I’ll tell you more stories later; right now, I’ve got a cold to beat.
After officially being home for two weeks, I decided that it was time to write my final blog about coming home. There were many things I missed while I was abroad. The number one thing, of course, was my family. Christmas was even sweeter, especially after missing Thanksgiving. Funnily enough, the second was Dunkin Donuts iced coffee! During customs and baggage claim, I was lucky (and spoiled) enough to have my parents get me my normal Medium Iced Coffee with Caramel Swirl and Cream from the Dunkin at JFK. Thirdly, I’ve missed my friends. Many of them I kept in constant contact with during my semester away but others it had been awhile since we had talked. Either way, we fell back together like we always do and it was comforting. Read More »
Thanksgiving is consistently one of my favorite times of the year. It comes at a very stressful time during the semester, so it’s always so nice to go home for a week, be spoiled by my parents, and eat comfort food. I completely forgot that the English don’t celebrate Thanksgiving (understandably so) and come September I realized that for the first time in my life I would be celebrating the holiday away from my family.
Initially, I was really nervous – truthfully more than I expected to be. My parents even offered to fly me home for the long weekend because my tutorials on Monday/Tuesday allowed me to do so without missing anything important. However, I declined their kind offer because I felt that a part of being abroad is to adapt to new, potentially uncomfortable situations. Being away from my family on a day that I have never been without them definitely fell into this category. Read More »
The second half of my semester abroad flew by! My life got busy with planning trips, final exams and presentations, and my family visiting me. Trying to cram in as much as I could, combined with spotty wifi while traveling through Argentina, caused my blog to be pushed to the back burner. But, now I’m stocked up on amazing photos and stories to share about this crazy life abroad!
My friends and I decided to take a break from the city and travel Mendoza, Argentina for a long weekend. When we arrived to our hostel, we couldn’t help but giggle at the translation mishap that read “your funniest travel experience”. The sign was comical, but the rest of the hostel was overflowing with good vibes. We befriended some Germans backpacking through South America, and ate an amazing asado (barbecue) with them.
I was craving a little adrenaline, so I convinced my friends to sign up for one of the excursions that the hostel offered. We woke up early and took an hour long bus ride from our hostel to the mountains. The first half the of the day we hiked with our tour guide to an over-hang that we could repel off of. I love heights and I was the last one to jump, so getting to watch the expressions on my friends’s faces who feared heights was priceless.
In the afternoon, we geared up in wet suits, life jackets and helmets and headed to the Mendoza River for “white” water rafting. Even though the water was completely brown from sediment and runoff, the experience was exhilarating. The rapids soaked us and our guide excellently guided us through the tricky parts.
After another full day of a bike tour through vineyards, we were exhausted and ready to get on the bus for the 14 hour trip back to Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, at about 4:30 am we were awoken by an announcement that the bus had broken down. We waited for a new bus to arrive, but were then told that there were only 30 available seats. There was a titanic-esque moment when they announced that only women and children should get on this bus, but we were lucky enough to all find seats. The 14 hour bus ride ended up being closer to 20, but through the midst of the travel chaos I was able to snap a picture of the sunrise and was reminded that you need a certain amount of resilience and flexibility when traveling in a foreign country.
Part 2 coming soon!
Whispy by Hyleo (w/ Ollygon)
My Heart by Subtact
Since Scotland does not have the Thanksgiving marker to kickstart the holiday season, Christmas markets started in Edinburgh on November 18th. The markets are full of amusement park rides, Christmas music, festive beverages, and crafty shops. My Colgate friends, Sarah and Liz, visited me that weekend and kicked off the Christmas season with me. Liz and I had an incredible view of the city on the Ferris wheel. Sarah and I shared donuts covered in chocolate sauce.When my cousins visited, Madelyn and I braved the most intimidating ride of the markets. The “Flying-Star” were swings that went as high as the top of the Walter Scott Monument, or about 200 feet high. It was terrifying but we prevailed and celebrated this feat with Bailey’s hot chocolate and mulled cider. The Christmas markets are paradoxical in the sense that they induce a sense of homeyness and homesickness at the same time. I enjoy them but they also make me look forward to Christmas with my family.
The countdown has begun! In less than a month, I will be back home, home to the peach state of good ol’ Georgia. I can’t believe time has flown as fast as it has. I’m so excited to be home. The other day as I was cleaning my room, I got inspired and I started to pack. I packed all the winter clothes that I had brought to Peru (there is really no need for them now that it is spring time here). I also packed some of the souvenirs that I have bought from when I went to Iquitos and Cusco. I have yet to be close to finishing with my souvenir shopping, but for now, I’ll pack everything that isn’t breakable into my massive pink and black suitcase. I’m hoping mom will take it back home when she comes to visit me for Thanksgiving break…
In preparation to my leave, I plan to exercise as much as I can because I’m going to be eating as much Peruvian food as I can, because truthfully I will miss it. Peru has a huge variety of fruits and potatoes. My host family is not much of vegetable eaters, so getting back to the U.S. will be good for that reason. The main reason though that I want to be home is that I miss people. Peru is a very (VERY) affectionate country. You are greeted with a hug and a cheek kiss, but it doesn’t fully make me not want to be hugged and kissed by my family and friends. *cough, cough, and boyfriend.
I’m anxiously awaiting the day I go home. It’ll be a good change of things. I’ve gotten used to having my breakfast waiting for me in the mornings, and I need to do my bed more than I should. I also need to eat better. Having a sweet tooth is not good when you are staying in Peru for 6 months. There’s delicious mouthwatering sweets at every corner. Peru is too good for my own good. Haha. I just hope time flies and that final exams are not too stressful! Smooth sailing is the plan. Let’s hope it happens that way. Until then, I’ll keep enjoying Peru.
This past weekend, I traveled to Amsterdam with Norah, one of my IFSA-Butler friends. On Friday, we started at the Anne Frank Huis. We waited in line for almost two hours but it was undoubtedly worth it. I felt that the museum was presented so well. Otto Frank insisted that the rooms be unfurnished, leaving only items authentic to the Frank family and their helpers to be showcased. There was a reverent atmosphere, especially in the annex of the top floor of the house.
Following the Anne Frank Huis, we walked down Prinsengracht, a scenic street along a canal towards our hostel. After checking in, we had dinner at an Indonesian restaurant and splurged on a
Rijsttafel, a rice table of appetizer-size portions of meats, seafood, vegetables, egg rolls, satays, nuts, and fruits. Amsterdam is known for its Indonesian food due to colonisation, and it did not disappoint. Following dinner, we walked through the Red Light District, the hub of legal prostitution in Amsterdam. It was a surreal, thought-provoking experience that led to good ideas and conversation.
On Saturday, Norah and I started the day with an hour-long canal ride through the city. We learned about the city and saw some of the historical sites. Next, we went to the Van Gogh Museum, my favorite part of the weekend. I loved this museum so much because it displayed Van Gogh’s pieces in chronological fashion. I absorbed his evolution as a painter and as a human. There is a room devoted to letters Van Gogh wrote to his friends and family. I watched Van Gogh dive into the world of modern art and eventually into his manic last stage as a painter. He painted 70 paintings in the final three months of his life. These paintings, showcased on the final floor of the gallery were the most poignant to me. I felt connected to his story and found them to be beautiful. I have seen individual Van Gogh works, but it was especially meaningful to see over 200 consecutively.
The rest of the weekend was spent walking around the city in different restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops! It was a much-needed break from the emotional stress of the United States election and a weekend well spent with a good friend.
At Colgate, I go home for a long weekend during October. This weekend gives me the perfect dose of home, filled with parents, apple cider, and radical foliage. It’s the thing that gets me through to Thanksgiving. Of course, I could not go home this year. So on Halloween, I got a tinge of homesickness thinking about all of the fond memories I have had with my brother and parents over the years. As I look forward to Thanksgiving, I can already feel the oncoming sadness of missing my loud, loving family. This is an indication of how blessed I am to have a family that I love coming home to. Additionally, I am even luckier to have two of my cousins arriving in Edinburgh on Thanksgiving to visit me for a week.
To combat my homesickness, I have been video-chatting many friends and family. I have attached a few snaps I have taken of our conversations.
On the last day of Atacama, we traveled with our guide to Valle de Arcois where we had the most incredible send off (and view!) I got the chance to fearfully climb a few mountain structures and conquer my fear I developed when I split open my knee and hand on a rock the previous day. We ate a few empanadas of pino, vegetarian and pollo and were given a personal tour of the whole area. It was really relaxing to a weekend of semi intense activities and climbing and a chance for the whole group to laugh, talk and play music. Our guide’s playlist was fire so of course we had a sing along to every classic American jam that came up. Atacama has my heart, ¡siempre!
This weekend was yet another trip outside of Wollongong, this time a venture to Melbourne, Victoria! We took another hour and a half flight out of Sydney and got to Melbourne late on a Thursday, stayed in a quaint AirBnB (so nice to actually have someone who knew the city to give us the best go-to tips) and took our time exploring the city and surrounds over three whole days. Since we had a total group of eight people we split up in two groups and drove a rental car (wonderful freedom, yet driving on the left is STILL bizarre even three months later).
The first whole day we spent driving south down the Great Ocean Road to the 12 Apostles — fun fact, there are only 8 total rocks, maybe they just sound better as 12? — with pit stops at lookouts, beaches, and cafes along the gorgeous stretch of windy roads on the south coast of Australia. We saw the Apostles then hopped around to the London Bridge, the Arch, then chased the sunset back to watch it set over the Apostles again on the water (which is very rare to see on the East coast). Read More »
I am a singer. I’ve been singing my entire life and I consider it to be a major part of my identity. However, in the context of school, I am a science major. Back home, I am a member of an a cappella group and I participate in student-run theater. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to get involved in music while abroad, but–luckily–I was wrong. All semester, I’ve been involved in a paper called “Musical Theater Voice.” Class each week involves taking voice lessons, choosing songs, and singing them. My final examination is a concert, in which I will perform four songs (yes, THIS IS FOR CREDIT). The paper also involves a weekly GROUP class, in which a large group of us learn, sing, and (sometimes) dance to full-cast numbers from musicals.
I think this paper has been very enriching for me, both as a course and as a cultural immersion. I am the only international student in the group, and it’s been so special for me to intimately get to know a group of kiwi students. I feel as though the American abroad experience can be somewhat limiting in who you get to know, as international students tend to mainly interact with each other. This course has made it possible for me to truly befriend a group of Kiwi students and they are absolutely wonderful.Fiora (left), Sam (right), and me before our lunchtime concert
We had a performance a week ago, in which we performed a handful of group and solo numbers. My small group performed a song called “A New World.” The six of us had worked on our harmonies and blending for weeks prior to the concert, so it sounded incredible the day of. The large group numbers came together nicely–practically everyone remembered the choreography! I could feel the support of the group around me, and it filled me with warmth. It just proves that music can bring anyone together, no matter where you come from.The final pose from “I Got You,” one of the major group numbers
After the concert, we all met up at Eureka, a cafe/bar right next to campus. We sat and ate chips (fries) and wedges (wedges) and the most delicious brownies. The conversation centered around the weird little differences between America and New Zealand. For instance, our desserts at home are served with whipped cream or ice cream, as opposed to whipped cream or yogurt. Along with that, an “iced coffee” at home would be cold coffee with ice in it. In New Zealand, it is a blended drink made up of coffee, ice cream, whipped cream, etc. No wonder it costs so much more!!The most delicious brownie ever (and yogurt) at Eureka
If I appreciate anything from this experience, it will be the people I’ve met and the things they have taught me. Living in another country is only half the battle–to really immerse yourself in the New Zealand lifestyle, you must befriend the people.
As I enter my second week of registration period at the University of Havana, I decided to take a moment and reflect on our group adventures thus far.
From Toronto, my group and I endured a 3 hour flight to Havana as well as an additional 3 hour wait for our bags. When we finally made it through customs, our director Michelle was waiting outside to welcome and deliver us to our families. Because of our late arrival from the airport, we were only able to exchange brief introductions with our families before going to sleep. Read More »
We all know that the only reason students go abroad is to eat delicious food and take pictures of it for Instagram. So, to make sure you guys knew where to get the good stuff in Brisbane I decided to turn into a restaurant critic for a day. From date night to experiencing a new world or just enjoying some comfort food, here are the five places you need to eat at if you live in South Bank, Brisbane:
“Cuanto más participa menos observa y cuanto más observa menos participa.”
Translation (roughly): “The more you participate, the less you observe and the more you observe, the less you participate.”
I found the above quote in one of the readings for my anthropology class. It stuck out to me because, much like an anthropologist, I am living and studying in a new environment for a specific amount of time. And although I am not taking field notes and conducting interviews, I am constantly observing the culture, habits, and traditions that I grew up with and comparing them to those of my new environment (never in a better/worse comparison, but more in an “Oh, this is different. I wonder why they do this here and I do something else in the United States?” kind of way).
But because I tend to “observe” more than I “participate”, I sometimes feel like I am not making the most out of my experience in Mendoza. Like the quote above suggests, I sacrifice participation time for observation time.
I see this discrepancy most acutely in my relationships. For example, I have not made any local, Argentine friends. Of course, I have acquaintances that I’ll greet before my classes and who will help me if I don’t understand something. And I know one, super-sweet girl through a mutual friend. But these people have never invited me out to a bar or a picnic in the park.
To be fair, going into this semester, I did not expect to make any Argentine friends — I know myself well enough to understand that the mere act of living and studying in a new country (as well as making friends from other colleges in the US) would be difficult enough; the observer in me would already be stretched to participate in customs and activities that were out of my comfort zone. Nevertheless, it is difficult to watch other people on my program making friends (or even acquaintances) with Argentines because I always second-guess myself, “Are they making more out of their experience than I am?”
For the past two weeks, I have been mulling over this question and working to reframe it: “How can I make the most out of my experience in Mendoza?” After all, my idea of the best study abroad experience is not necessarily the same as a classmate’s idea. We all move at our own pace and need different things to thrive in our environments (something that I always need to remind myself).
So at this halfway point in my semester, I have made three goals for the rest of my time in Mendoza:
- Say yes to every opportunity.
- Always try something new.
- Speak as much Spanish as possible.
Keeping my fingers crossed that opening myself up to new opportunities and experiences results in an even more well-rounded and fulfilling experience. (Because don’t get me wrong, I already feel so happy and excited to be in Argentina for the semester!)
So far (as the pictures below suggest), saying yes has only resulted in good things
(Except for a small bout of food poisoning, but that’s a different story…)