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

The Finale (Part Two)

Time May 11th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Wales | No Comments by

I’m home! I’m surrounded by American accents and cars that drive on the right side of the road and boy does that feel weird. I’m out of money, finishing my last few papers, and sleeping in my own bed. I did it! I made it a semester abroad, with getting barely any bumps and bruises along the way. Here are a few things I’m feeling.

Sad. A place that once felt so strange became home and just as I got my feet wet in Cardiff I was shipped back to the U.S. My epic, European adventure has come to an end.

Culture shock. I remember attending my home university’s pre-departure meeting where they told me that I would experience reverse culture shock upon my return to the United States. I brushed that off, not thinking that I’d feel much different or have a difficult time adjusting back. But holy cow does it feel weird to be home. Everything’s the same, but it’s also different in the sense that everyone I left behind at home kept living their lives and whatnot, which sounds like an obvious thing but walking into it after four months of being away, is a lot to take in.

Happy. I am so glad to be home. I’ve missed my family and friends so much, and while I’ve kept in touch through Facetime, there’s nothing like hugging your parents after months without seeing them. In a few days I’ll head to Des Moines to see all of my college friends, so the happy reunions keep coming!

And finally, satisfaction. I’ve gotten most of my travel bug out (for now), and I’ve experienced so many things that I never dreamed that I would. Before I left I set out a list of advice for myself, and looking back at it now I smile knowing that I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. I took pictures, even though I’m usually so bad at remembering to. I drank good wine and ate (probably too much) good cheese, bread, and pasta. I called my parents, bought a few souvenirs, and wrote things down in a journal. I visited friends abroad in other countries, and did one or two crazy things that I told my parents about (after, of course). I went to Greece like I kept saying I would, because after all I did pack that swimsuit for something.

This semester I learned how to navigate countries where I don’t speak the native language, I learned how to use public transportation in cities I had never been to before, I learned how to make strangers into friends within one conversation, and I learned that the world has so much more to offer than I thought was possible. I knocked off a lot of countries off of my to-visit list this semester, but as I traveled and heard other peoples’ experiences in other places my to-visit list kept getting longer.

This post marks the end of a life changing, comfort-zone pushing, and challenging experience. I had no idea what life was going to look like once I stepped off of the plane in London a few months back, but I sure am happy I stuck around to find out.

I’m officially signing off, but this isn’t the end of my adventures, that’s for sure.

Cheers,

Alex

 

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Home

Time January 9th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, Ireland, Scotland | No Comments by

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 »

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An English Thanksgiving

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

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 »

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Casey is Counting…the days until she can go back, the amount of money she has left, the number of memories she made, etc.

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

It’s official. I am back in the US of A. But before I talk about that, let me tell you about my pre-Christmas adventures!

The first weekend in December was my last real weekend in the UK, so I figured I’d make the most of it! First, I headed to Bath for the crowded Christmas Markets, where I stocked up on Christmas presents for my family, and the Roman Baths. It was quite a fun little trip! Next on the list of places I had to visit was Northern Wales. I got on my first train of seven for the day on my way to Blaenau Ffestiniog, a slate mining town, home to Bounce Below–the largest underground trampoline park in the world! I had a blast at the underground trampoline park! Then, I made it to the town with the longest name in the world–Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

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Final Thoughts

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

I’m finally home!! After my program ended, I was fortunate enough to travel around Argentina with my parents for ten days before catching a flight back to the States (I’ll insert some pictures of our adventures below) and since then have been having a relaxing holiday week with family and friends.

To wrap up this blog series, I wanted to share three takeaways on my study abroad experience now that I have been home.

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Final Reflections

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

Some thoughts now that I’m back home. Thanks for watching :)

 

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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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Homeward Bound

Time January 4th, 2017 in Ireland | No Comments by

It was hard to say goodbye to the beautiful Trinity campus, but I am sure I will be back again some day. It is definitely good to be back home with friends and family (and I’m sure they will all appreciate the Irish Christmas presents I brought them), but I will miss Dublin and all of the great friends I met there through the IFSA program and through Trinity College.

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Flying back into Chicago I finally got the sight of snow, which I had been missing the whole semester. The IFSA program was an incredible experience. It was amazing to be in a completely new city, that I had never been to before. And be able to study, live, and travel with people whom I had just met.

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Reflecting from Home

Time December 16th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | No Comments by

After almost 5 months I’m finally home. When I’m asked how my experience in Argentina was, I immediately respond “AMAZING!!” and start telling stories. However, when I’m asked how it feels to be home, my response is “it’s kinda weird actually”. It was weird walking through the Denver airport and seeing all the signs written in English, and being able to understand every conversation that’s going on around me. It was weird walking into my house and sleeping in my old bed. The normality of home makes it seem as if the whole thing was just a dream. Read More »

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Home Sweet Home

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

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

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

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A Scottish-American Thanksgiving

Time December 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland, Scotland | No Comments by

November 24th was like any other day in Edinburgh. The grocery stores were not flooded with people picking up forgotten instant stuffing mixes, or that additional can of cranberry sauce, in case one wasn’t enough. Thursday classes were on schedule as normal at the university. No “turkey-trots” were closing the streets in the morning. However, for American students, November 24th meant Thanksgiving (most likely his/her first) away from home. IFSA Butler, my abroad program, threw an American Thanksgiving get-together the Wednesday night before. We had a Ceilidh, with a Scottish band and traditional Celtic dances. I got to reunite with many American students who I had not seen in awhile. However, when I got home, the worst wave of homesickness rushed over me. I come from a huge family of fifty-three (!!!!) cousins and the idea of not seeing a majority of them over this holiday was tough. I missed my parents and of course the many “dad jokes” that surface around Thanksgiving. I called my parents and they comforted me by reminding me that I was lucky enough to have two of my cousins flying in the following day to help me celebrate the holiday.

On Thanksgiving, I met my cousin Madelyn for brunch following her red-eye. We walked around the city a little and then grabbed an “it’s five o’clock somewhere” pint in true Thanksgiving fashion. When Roman, Madelyn’s brother, landed, it was time for me to go to my last seminar of the term. We met back up for dinner and although it was not a turkey with all of the trimmings, it was still an incredible feeling to be with family so far from home. After dinner, I Facetimed into my Aunt Rose’s Thanksgiving party and was promptly circulated around the gathering of roughly thirty of my family members. I even made it into a few pictures through the screen of my cousin’s iPhone. Afterward, Madelyn, Roman, and I celebrated with my American friends in our favorite pub. I am SO happy that they were able to come and spend the week with me. It was a Thanksgiving I will always remember but of course, I am looking forward to next year’s gathering surrounded by my whole family.

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Time to Return Home.

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

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End.

Time December 2nd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

Alas, my semester abroad has come to a close. In fact, it’s been over now for a few crazy, holiday-filled weeks. I must say, it’s been absolutely wonderful. As great as it was to be abroad, I truly missed my family and friends back home.

I feel like the “culture shock” of re-entering the states is either severely delayed or a lot less shocking than I expected. I’m not shocked at all. I feel almost overwhelmed by love and affection in a way that I am now much more grateful for, after having spent so much time on my own this past semester.

I honestly believe that time strengthens bonds, and the 4.5 months that I was away strengthened all of my relationships back home. I feel so lucky and so loved.

My last week in New Zealand was hard. Unfortunately, it was heavily affected by the weight of the election. I felt a constant need to be surrounded by people who understood how I was feeling, yet all of those people were across the world. It was much harder for me than I ever would have expected to be alone at this time in my life.

And suddenly, it was the end.

I packed my bag, dropped off my key, cooked the last of my food, drank one last coffee, waited for the shuttle.

I got on two planes, hardly missed the earthquake, slept a few stiff hours in a middle-of-the-middle seat, came back through customs.

The next day, my flight from San Fransisco to Hartford got rerouted, leaving me with a 40-minute layover in Houston. The flight from San Fransisco to Houston got delayed due to mechanical difficulties and I was sure I would miss my flight and have to spend the night in Houston. Fortunately, they pushed back the departure time of the second flight, and I made it home safely at midnight on November 14th.

One checked bag, one carry-on, one handheld item.

10 flights.

Countless hours in a car.

One abroad experience.

Goodbye New Zealand.

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Tick- tock…is it time yet?

Time November 30th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Peru | No Comments by

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.

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Saying Goodbye

Time November 23rd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia | No Comments by

There was no way to describe how I felt when the plane landed back on American soil in Los Angeles on Sunday. Looking back it all seems like a blur. I woke up in my bedroom the next morning almost confused as to how I wasn’t back in my apartment in Adelaide, as if flying home was all a dream. That’s how the past few days have felt being back on Long Island, dreamlike. It’s as if nothing has changed but at the same everything has. When I first arrived in Australia I remember a similar feeling. When I said goodbye to my friends and family it felt so unreal, as if I would just be seeing them the next day. That’s how it felt when I left Australia, but it a way that’s comforting because I know I’ll see it again one day. Read More »

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Homesickness

Time November 16th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Scotland | No Comments by

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.

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Post-election Thoughts and Short Update

Time November 11th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | 1 Comment by

So sorry this is about a week late!

I struggled to decide what to write about for this week’s post – should I just write a happy update and leave politics out of it? Or should I address how I’m feeling in Argentina after the results of the 2016 presidential election? I’ve decided to share a little bit about my feelings on the election, as well as an update of what I’ve been up to for the past three weeks.

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How do you Describe Australia?

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

I have a hard time defining what it means to be “Australian” almost as much as I have defining what it means to be “American.” I could describe how I feel being American, but I’m sure that someone who lives even only an hour from me has a completely different definition. It’s hard to find those small, common threads across a culture as multicultural as Australia’s or America’s. If anything I think the fact that everyone within the country is so different is a defining factor of the culture.

Before I came to Australia, I definitely had a bit more of a stereotypical image of Australians, only really receiving information on the country from the media around me. I loved watching the Crocodile Hunter when I was little, H20 was a show I watched in middle school, and everything else about the country seemed so remote. Mermaids and crocodile hunting were definitely more of a fantasy of mine when it came to Australia, but the beaches, wildlife, and landscapes were not. I came for the wildlife, that was always my number one reason for coming here, and in that aspect I have not been dissappointed, but also I guess I didn’t realize just how many other aspects there are to Australia. Like we watched in class and in the tourist commercials for international travellers, the brilliant landscapes and relaxed atmosphere are what seemed to be sold the most about Australia, but after coming here, those aspects have kind of taken a back seat. If anything, I felt more resonation with the Quantas commercials even though Australia isn’t my home because I understand that it is home for so many. It’s bizarre to say that but when you’re travelling it’s easy to forget that your vacation spot for someone else is where they’ve lived their entire lives. Once you open your eyes to that I think you experience more of the authenticity of the country you’re in.

You can connect to the people more personally and you may even start to feel like a “local” yourself. Adelaide is not my “home” but I feel at home here even after only being here a few months. The touristy commercials and expectations have faded away. Sure, I’ve experienced plenty of those things from diving in the Great Barrier Reef or petting a kangaroo, but I’ve also been invited over for a homecooked meal with Australian friends, gone for long walks around the city, and experienced life that’s not a vacation in a place that’s often looked at from that perspective where I come from.

It’s made me think about home a lot, specifically how I maybe don’t appreciate my own city for all the little hidden quirks or surprises it has. We had a conversation in my Australian Classics class the other day about a novel we’d read that takes place in Adelaide. In many points throughout the novel, the author describes with fervent detail small places around Adelaide, down to the names of the streets they’re on. The tutor asked if the class felt that the extreme descriptiveness might hinder readers who aren’t from Adelaide. A few people nodded in agreement but I felt, being an outsider, a little differently. Hearing the city being spoken of with such familiarity and fondness, though I may not have understood all of the references, I understood the feeling the author was trying to portray. The feeling of home, and knowing your own like the back of your hand. I don’t know Adelaide like that, even now, but getting to know it has been such a journey, and I feel more closely connected to the city because of it.

Here’s some photos from a little expedition I took around the city to try and capture the place I’ve been lucky enough to call home for the past few months.

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A local performer at Rundle Mall. Performers of all kinds can always be found up and down the strip of shops including a didgeridoo player, jugglers, escape artists, violinists, and more.

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A view of Rundle Mall (including the famous Mall Balls) from atop the Adelaide Arcade.

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University of South Australia students display their fashion designs inside of the Adelaide Arcade.

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A view of the Adelaide Arcade from the balcony.

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One of the many amazing street art paintings on display throughout Adelaide.

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The mural at the end of Rundle Mall, always changing and receiving additions from all different artists.

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Street art by Peter Drew as part of the art movement throughout Adelaide called “Real Australians Say Welcome”.

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An example of some of the old-fashioned buildings still remaining throughout Adelaide.

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Relaxing by the Botanic Gardens.

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A gorgeous greenhouse found inside the Botanical Gardens.

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Bridge leading to the University of Adelaide covered in hundreds of locks, very much like the Pont des Arts in Paris but luckily not collapsing.

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Some of the many black swans that can be found down at the River Torrens.

 

 

 

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Reflecting on the Last Four Months

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

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

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Bringing It Home

Time May 19th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

The road to home was not easy. I spent my last night in Cork at a house party with my dear Irish friend (who I already miss desperately) and stayed up sitting in my empty room until 5:00am when I was to leave for my bus. After trying and failing to make the 45 minute walk with my suitcase and two backpacks, I called a cab and made the bus just in time. Four hours later, I was going through US customs screening, two hours later I boarded the plane, ten hours later I was in the San Francisco airport. Everything, somehow, felt as though I had never left. I greeted my parents like no time had past, the two-hour drive to my small town was uneventful. Nothing had changed (but my town never changes). I somehow managed to not get jet-lagged and was able to stay conscious through the day. It was the late afternoon, and we prepared dinner with the rest of my family, like every Sunday that I’ve been home since college. Day turned to night: my bed had the same blankets, my shower had the same shampoo, my  room was in the haphazard state I left it when I first set off for Ireland. I went to bed and woke up, and it was truly as if I had never left. For the few days I was home, I doubted the “post-abroad slump” that so many people had warned me about. Read More »

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Adjusting to Home

Time September 15th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, I’ve been back in Seattle for about two months. My summer was crazy busy, and now I’m back at Saint Martin’s. Being home and adjusting back to home has been weird, and at times it’s been uncomfortable.

The hardest part of adjusting back into my group of friends and my family was that, at times, it felt like everything had changed without me there. Other times, though, it felt like I had grown and changed SO MUCH and everyone else had stayed exactly the same. Also, no one really wanted to hear about my whole five months in Argentina, which was hard because I wanted to tell everyone about every little thing that had happened.

Over the summer, I stayed really busy. I spent a couple weeks with my friends, went to a family reunion, performed in a musical, and then spent time with family from out of town. Now, I’m back in school, and it’s different. My classes are more difficult, although it’s kind of weird to have all of my classes be in English, and I feel like I have less time to get out and explore my surroundings. I guess I don’t need to, but it’s weird how I feel like I know Recoleta and Palermo better than I do the town I’ve lived in for the majority of four years.

The other hard part is remembering that a semester passed here without me; the memories of SMU that seem so recent to me are almost a year old. Especially odd are the “recent” memories I have with one of my best friends – he studied abroad the semester before I did, so we barely saw each other for the entirety of the last school year. It kind of feels like I existed for five months in an alternate universe.

I think maybe this post makes it sound like I hate being home or like adjusting back to the US was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – I dont, and it’s not. Some days are harder than others, and you keep the experiences you’ve had close to your heart, and falling back into step with your friends does have it’s tough moments. However, getting to cuddle up with my dog pretty much makes every hard moment worth it. I loved my time in BA, I wouldn’t trade it for the world, and I think I’d like to go back there someday, but at least until I graduate, I’ll be staying in Seattle.

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Back Home

Time June 30th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After 5 months abroad, I have finally returned home. School ended about two and a half weeks ago and I have been in the U.S. for a week. The last few weeks have been an absolute whirlwind of activity and emotions.

Saying good bye to the friends I made over my semester was terribly difficult, but with technology we hope to stay in contact. One even lives only a couple of hours away!

I was able to stop on my way home in Brussels, Belgium for a long weekend to meet with a friend. It felt like a world away, but was a much needed holiday after school. The weather there was sometimes as much as 50 degrees cooler than Dubai was at the same time. I was really cold most of the time I was there, and was very bummed when my luggage was lost and I didn’t have any cold weather clothes. Having the opportunity to meet with someone else who had just completed their study abroad experience in the city they called home for the last few months was really cool. We got to share and compare experiences and talk about how we had changed as people and our outlooks on life.

But, I have to say it is relaxing to be home again. Home is comfortable and welcoming, but now I definitely know that the rest of the world is only a plane ticket or a car trip away, and I can’t wait to see more.

I don’t want to make my experience sound like the perfect vacation. I did have homesickness and depression at times, and they definitely effected my experience at time. It was very tough to watch things happen at home and know that there was little you could to help friends or enjoy the experience with them. The last couple weeks were particularly tough, as I was very much looking forward to being back home, but school was in the way.

Study abroad helped me grow as a person in ways that I may not be able to notice yet, but the experiences I have will be with me forever. This experience will be something I am happy that I took part of for a long time, but I know there will be times that I second guess my decision.

Study Abroad is a great opportunity to test yourself, and see your boundaries and surpass them. You will be put in many uncomfortable situations and will learn more about yourself and the people who are close to you while you share the experience. It may help you realize how enjoyable your life is and how much you enjoy your life at home. Or it could open your eyes to how much more the world has to offer. Hopefully, it will provide both.

As my last message I would like to share something a friend told me about his experience and a thought I share, “I loved my experience, but at the end if someone offered me a free week instead of going home, I would turn them down.”

 

Thanks,

 

Tom

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Taking a break: Part 3 – Coming “Home?”

Time May 22nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

One of the weirdest feelings I’ve experienced so far being abroad is returning to UNSW after mid-semester break. It’s made me really think about home, and what home means to me.

In the United States, whenever I’ve gone on vacation (or “holiday” as they say over here in Oz), it’s a given that afterwards I’ll return home. And even at school – at Bucknell – I’ve come to think of that as home, too. Bucknell became a second home to me within my first semester there. And somehow, even though I’ve been here at UNSW for about 2 and a half months now, it’s not home.

It’s just a bit interesting to go on vacation, and not go home when it’s over. Where am I then, if I’m not home, and I’m not on vacation?

It’s not something that’s got me worked up or anxious – just simply something I’ve been thinking about and figured I’d share.

I’m thrilled to be back with my friends here at UNSW, and back to the familiarity of classes, and my room, bed, and washing machines (MUCH needed after romping around Tassie National Parks). But the feeling of being “home” eludes me. Mom and Dad are probably thinking “Hallelujah! She’ll come back!” at the moment 😛

There’s a familiar phrase – “Home is where the heart is.” Does that mean my heart’s not invested here? Going back to the United States will be easy? I don’t think so.

So I’ve decided that phrase doesn’t go both ways. It’s like the whole square/rectangle deal – a square is a rectangle but a rectangle isn’t necessarily a square. So, in regards to this, home is where the heart is, but where your heart is isn’t necessarily home. AND, just like there’s lots of different rectangles, hearts can be in lots of places at once. There’s another cliché – one about giving ALL of your heart to something – that’s a bit bogus. Don’t compare me to Voldemort now; I’m not talking about soul splitting. I’m just saying humans are capable of lots of love (that’s what my dad thinks “LOL” stands for).

SO, in conclusion, I LOVE Australia, and it”ll always have a piece of my heart. But, I left a good chunk of my heart in the United States. That’s where my square is. I wish I could fit my new love, Australia, into that square, my home, but then it wouldn’t be so unique and amazing, now would it? So you all have to come experience it for yourself, and leave a bit of your heart here, too.

LOL,

Anna

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Double, double Cultural Boil and Trouble

Time May 19th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

I was gonna write a different blog post today, likely something trite about how much time and have left in Argentina (answer: not that much eeek), and how I should be consistently conscientious (stuff I referenced a bit in THIS post) while I am here to get the most out of my abroad experience.  It would’ve been straightforward, mildly (psh, more like SUPER) interesting, and safe. 

But I don’t want to write about that today.  I’d rather write about what’s been actually perturbing me lately, much more than my efforts to be a well-behaved cultural traveler.  What’s been perturbing me lately has been culture shock.  Culture shock, aka the buzz-word of every study abroad program story ever, is defined by our friend the Webster Dictionary as, “the feeling of confusion, doubt, or nervousness caused by being in a place (such as a foreign country) that is very different from what you are used to.”  However, Noah Webster also never left the United States, and while he was a brilliant revolutionary thinker (and also certainly never contributed the phrase “Culture Shock” to the lexicon that now bears his name), he had no experience with this sensation first hand.  So, for his posthumous (RIP Noah) information, and for yours, I would like to explain what culture shock means, at least to me.  

First, let me start with the word, “Shock.”  In my case, it’s a misnomer.  It wasn’t as if one day, out of nowhere, all of my doubts and fears and petty annoyances about living in Argentina came crashing down like a lightning bolt from the heavens; and as I lay smote between the calles, the denizens of the Whitman Off-Campus Studies office cackled at my dismay between cries of “I told you so!”  No no, nothing like that.  It’s more of a Cultural Boil, really.  This feeling is subtle: tough to quantify, and can sometimes take a while to kick in; but by the end of it you’re in hot water and you’re not really sure how you got there (even if the signs were all there).  One day, it’s the feeling of inadequacy as I fumble through a foreign language while trying to do something as simple as tell the bus driver my destination.  The next day it’s stepping in the dog shit that laces the streets of downtown Buenos Aires.  Today, it was getting sandwiched between two smelly people on the bus while yet another politically-charged protest spilled into the streets of my route, hopelessly clogging traffic and thus causing my commute to turn to a standstill.  I was en route to change money on calle Florida so that I could pay for an excursion onto a glacier in Patagonia (my weekend destination, because my life here is still unreal), and despite having had a pretty good day up until that point (see the preceding parenthetical statement), I all of a sudden felt overwhelmed by everything.  I almost wept, just because it was all just so damn different and so damn obnoxious.  WHY did the people had to protest about every little thing in this country?!  All of these grassroots political parties want the same stuff, and it’s not like rioting in front of the Casa Rosada every freaking week is going to make the president see you in a better light.  And WHY was I crammed into this crowded bus to go get swindled by a sleazy merchant and then go wait in line so that I could pay something that I could do by credit card if I were at home!?  WHY don’t the people walk faster in this country, HOW should I be expected to get to class on time if the commute is always this chaotic, WHAT do I need to say so that the people here don’t look at my foreign self as though I were a beetle, and WHERE can I find a decent cup of coffee (most of the coffee here is rubbish)?!  WAAHHHH!!

ahem.  Pardon me.  Give me a second to collect my aching mind.

Alright, we’re good.

After my deluge of feels subsided, that’s when I realized I had been well and truly culturally boiled.  It wasn’t fun, but I think it was actually a super necessary part of my abroad experience, especially since I wasn’t really expecting it.  Despite a childhood in which I was unable to leave on a week-long backpacking trip without crying myself to sleep every night because I missed home (this was at age 14, mind you), I’ve recently become a person who embraces new experiences, thrives on change, and is comfortable with pursuing multiple different passions.  To me, studying abroad was a natural extension of my curiosity, and I couldn’t imagine how people could ever get fed up with the experience (especially someone who is lucky enough (as I am) to live in a house with a family and hot food and running water and internet).  I had read many of my friends’ blogs about culture shock (shoutout to my pal Rachael Barton’s post, especially), and while I had enjoyed learning of their insights, I never really took it much to heart.  “That sort of doubt and annoyance is for other, less adventurous people” quoth I, “and I’m never going to feel anything like that.  Besides, Argentina is too fun!”  And I was right, to an extent, but I also had no idea really what to expect.  

See, culture shock is different for everybody and for every situation.  I absolutely adore Argentina, pretty much every day here is fantastic, and because I was so happy here I assumed that culture shock (a presumed “sad thing”) would never catch me.  But cultural shock isn’t happy, nor is it sad.  It’s a realization, a state of mind that caught me in the middle of an everyday discomfort that made me realize how (despite my high level of comfort in this city) unfamiliar every damn thing was.  However, it is a necessary realization, and one that I am honestly grateful for, because so many people live their whole lives without realizing the unbelievably vast amount of culture that exists on this planet.  Therefore, today was a learning experience for me, and while I definitely wanted to Skype my family and hug my fat cat again today, I also took a step towards realizing the beauty that lies within the innumerable bits and pieces of culture that separate the Argentines from me.  

Gosh, it feels good to write this out.

Yes, I still hate how misogynistic the men here can be.  Yes, the commutes can absolutely suck.  Yes, I sometimes just miss having the familiar twang of English wash over me as compared to the constant rush of oft-indecipherable Castellano.  And yes, today these differences all got to me in a pretty emotive way.  But I wouldn’t trade these feelings for blissful happiness, or really anything else, because without these realizations, I would never have realized how many new things I am absorbing during my time here.  After all, sometimes it takes a shock to get the heart beating again.  

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Welcome Aboard!

Time February 3rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello all, and welcome to my blog.  This is not the first blog that I have tried to create, but I think that this will be the one that I’ll pay the most attention to.  All of my other efforts at blogging have coalesced into various URLs composed primarily of baseless yammering, and I will endeavor to make this blog something that is entirely more interesting, informative, and (dare I say it!?) fun.  Then again, considering this is my first experience of an extended stay in a foreign country without my family, I bet I’ll have a lot to talk about. Read More »

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