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

Halfway Point

Time April 3rd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

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 »

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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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Feeling Sick but Not Discouraged

Time September 12th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Peru | No Comments by

fall-program-standing-in-front-of-a-water-fountain The fall program (11 of us) I’m on the far left

It is Tuesday August 16th, and I’m writing because I feel inspired and sick. This weekend my body decided to attack me and I became very sick. It has been the second time in two months that I’ve gotten sick here in Peru. Was it something I ate? Probably. Could it be that I have something unpleasant living in my stomach? I really hope not, but maybe. Am I hitting the gym too hard, and I’m wearing myself out? I doubt it. Maybe it was due to the fact that I got my feet wet Thursday playing in the water fountains when we took a city tour of Lima that cold misty night. I was walking around with wet feet for 3 hours that day, so I do think that that has made me sick. Do I regret it? No. I had so much fun that night. Adrenaline pumped as I tried to go through the fountain. One wrong move and you could get sprayed. It happened to me once. I should have listened to my study abroad director when she advised whoever wanted to play in the fountain to bring a set of clothes. I should have brought an extra pair of pants and shoes. Oh well, lesson learned. Read More »

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Am I Homesick or Weathersick?

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

Weeks ago I was so jealous every time I opened Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook and was greeted by pictures and videos of sunshine, beaches, warm weather, oh did I already mention sunshine?!! All of my friends were on their spring breaks and from the looks of it, they all had so much fun! Now, don’t get me wrong, but how are the people in Ireland so friendly all of the time? Is seasonal affective disorder a thing here? Normally I don’t mind the rain, in fact, some of my favorite days are rainy Fridays. However, the rain is getting a bit redundant. Or at least it was when my friends were at the beach. Then, the week of Saint Patrick’s Day, the weather was gorgeous! And it has been for a few weeks now!  (Natasha, is this where I pew pew pew?)

water

I think I’ve transitioned to studying abroad fairly well if I do say so myself. I was tired from traveling at the beginning so I don’t think I actually had jet lag (as for daylight savings, I’m struggling big time with that). It feels like I’m still just away at college, which I am, but instead of being an easy four-hour drive away, I’m a six/seven-hour flight across an ocean. I talk to my parents more frequently than I do when I’m at UVM, and just about the same amount with my brother.

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Family and Friends

Time October 28th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, England, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Back home, my family and friends still have each other and life goes on as usual. The only difference for them is that I’m a long way from home. My parents, boyfriend, gran, and one of my aunts have taken it the hardest. I text my parents through an app and Skype, message my boyfriend through another app, and keep my gran and aunt updated with frequent pictures and posts on Facebook. I miss them all terribly. I text my parents every day or two and message with my boyfriend daily. I also have a weekly appointment to talk with my parents on Skype, and we usually talk for an hour or two, just talking and spending time with each other. At first it was really hard, seeing them made me really sad and homesick the first few weeks, but as I settled in here and made friends and started having a life here at school, it got easier to talk with them back home. I still miss them all terribly, but having ties here makes being away from them easier.

One of the hardest things to deal with is the homesickness. Most days it isn’t too bad, but sometimes it just suddenly hits really hard. One of the things I’ve found that helps is staying busy. I’m in 3 societies (clubs), I read a lot, and I hang out with my housemates. The more involved you are in life on campus, the easier it is to fend off being so homesick. When I do get really homesick, though, I talk to someone from home. Either by messaging them and sending pictures back and forth or Skyping. Just knowing that someone from home is paying attention to you and getting that reminder that they’re ok and you are too helps. Another thing that helps is to remember that the feeling will pass and in a few months you’ll be back home with everyone and everything you love.

 

Some helpful apps: What’s app (both parties have to have the app, uses data on both sides to text/message), GroupMe (you can text people, the app uses data and assigns you a random number from the same area as whoever you’re texting so you need to identify yourself the first time. If both people have the app it works better), Skype (video chats and messaging), Facebook Messenger. All of these apps are free and there are many more out there.

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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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Home Again

Time January 29th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

“We are torn between a nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.” – Carson McCullers

So I’ve been back in the US for a while now.

Being back is possibly the strangest feeling in the world. When I first got back I was exhausted. I was so happy to be home to see my family and my friends and celebrate my 21st birthday the American way, celebrate Christmas and New Years with people I love and hadn’t seen in months. And it was especially bittersweet as I had only recently found out that my family would be moving in a few months, so I was trying to soak in every moment in Memphis that I could. It was normal being back, or as normal as going home for the holidays is when you’ve been away at school.

But now that I’ve been back at college for a couple of weeks, I’m realizing just how strange being back is. I don’t exactly know how to explain my experience abroad. I loved traveling, seeing new things, meeting new people, forcing myself to be more confident in my abilities, creating deep friendships in short periods of time. When people ask me, “How was it?” all I can say is, “Amazing, life changing.” I don’t know how else to describe it in a short, conversational way. I don’t want to dominate the conversation with all my tales, which I could easily do with the amount of things I experienced.

A lot of people go abroad at my school and most of us live in a building together, so it’s nice to be able to compare experiences or commiserate, whichever we feel like. But I miss the group I went abroad with. I miss feeling like every moment was a treasure and you couldn’t waste it because you never knew when you’d be in that place, in that moment, again. I miss the feeling of adventure and mystery. And I know that I can travel here, meet new people here, see new places, try new things. But I guess it just doesn’t feel the same. It has inspired me to want to be more involved at my home university in an effort to get that feeling back. And I’m hoping that I won’t miss Ireland, and Europe, and all my friends so much as time goes on.254857_4374867528855_1012273642_n 246497_10152144752640089_301287136_n 281458_10151221655944417_124949117_n 335162_10152144749030089_453677619_o 374028_10151221654114417_1931392003_n 534582_525007824179103_1293993088_n 536548_10151271779475879_46586729_n 32383_10151221676354417_632995287_n.

But for now I just flip through all of the pictures and videos I took of all the beautiful places I visited and all the amazing people I met and hope I can travel again soon, even if it’s just across the country.

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“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”- Henry Miller ~ Some helpful tips for being abroad!

Time October 30th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

 

I know that for all of my posts so far I have talked about traveling, minor mishaps, spontaneous adventures…you know, all the fun stuff you do when you are abroad. But yes, I do have classes. And I do have essays and tests, and now and then yes, yes I do get homesick. Even when I am surrounded by palm trees, sunny warm days and am a fifteen-minute bike ride from three different beaches, I still can’t help but miss the comforts of home. I’ve only been here close to 4 months, but I honestly feel like I have been here my entire life. A lot of Australia seems like a new home to me now.

Yes, classes are different here. And although there isn’t much work (at least, compared to the tremendous amount of work I tend to get at home), they have challenges in their own ways. One of the main suggestions I can tell you is take classes when you’re abroad that you normally wouldn’t take at home and are unique to the area you are studying in. You’re probably never going to have the opportunity to gain that type of knowledge again. I am a biology/pre-med major, and this semester I am only taking one biology course (Biodiversity of Tropical Australia) and the rest of my courses meet general liberal arts requirements at my home university (Ecology & Australian Indigenous Cultures, Anthropology, and Human Rights and Social Issues). At home, I am used to being able to check my grades every week and see where I am at and how I need to do on last minute assignments and exams. However, here, I only have one week left of the semester and I still have no clue as to what my combined grade is in any of the four classes I am taking. Plus, the finals I have to take are worth close to fifty percent of the overall grade…yikes!

Our IFSA advisor joked with us before we came to Cairns that everyone tended to run a little…late. That is, being prompt wasn’t really that important. So, throughout the course of the semester, I have seen this first hand. The buses hardly EVER run on time. Normally, they are about five to ten minutes late. That is, if they decide to show up. Classes never start on time. If the professors aren’t late, about more than half the class always is. At home, it is frowned upon to walk in late on a class. Here, people walk in late all the time. Or just don’t come to class at all. My one professor here didn’t have mandatory attendance, so we literally had maybe five people in class every week. She would always simply say “Oh, they must have that stomach flu that’s going around” or “They must be enjoying the lovely weather outside.” Completely non-chalant haha.

At home, I’m used to having classes with everyone being around my age. Here, I have classes with people ranging from teenagers to people in their sixties. Also, people don’t wear shoes here. And it’s completely acceptable haha! But, in general, the people here that I have had class with have been extremely nice and helpful. The professors aren’t always as helpful. They grade really strict here. The grading system generally goes as follows: HD (high distinction), D (distinction), C (credit), P (pass) and F (fail). Hahaha way more different than the grading system I am used to at home! In most of my classes, the only tests I have are finals (and I have yet to find out how hard those actually are). But, I have had a lot of essays. And I have found that in some classes, it is very, very hard to get an HD. Australian writing is more simplistic than American writing (at least in the class setting here), so if you are used to using complex sentences then you need to be careful. Otherwise, if you work hard and put the time, effort, and research into all of your papers, you will be successful. However, you may feel you deserve a higher grade than you receive. I have observed that professors here have a tendency to not explain what they want you to do and expect something on an assignment that you wouldn’t have even thought of (which is very frustrating). It will be interesting at the end of the semester to see how Australian grades transfer to American grades.

So. Lets talk about homesickness. Yes, it does happen. And depending on the person, you’re going to have different levels of it. For me, I actually didn’t get severely homesick during the course of the trip. Sure, I have missed a lot of things. I miss my family and friends at home. I miss my dogs. I miss the fall weather that I love every year. I miss homecoming at my school, my sorority, and all the clubs I participate in. I miss familiar places. And driving. But….more importantly…FOOD. GOOD food. Because, in all reality, the dining hall is a hit or miss here. And I am kind of getting sick of supplementing my meals with ramen every night. I can’t tell you how ecstatic I am that I will be home for Thanksgiving! However, homesickness is very, very manageable. For me, it was very easy to get rid of. Sometimes, I would just go and workout for a few hours, or phone or skype a friend or family member for a bit. I think my biggest coping method was writing postcards to friends and family back home. Don’t get sucked into things that can spike homesickness though- spending hours on facebook seeing what everyone at home is up to is not the best thing to do, in addition to skyping people for hours on end during the day. You’re only abroad once, so make sure to live up every second of it!

Also, while we’re at it, let’s talk about good things to pack/bring with you. Looking back on it, I packed WAY too many nice clothes and not enough workout clothes. I am in workout clothes the majority of the time here. I only have classes three times a week, and besides that and going out, I literally am in shorts and t-shirts 24/7. Bring a long Ethernet cord if you’re used to doing homework in bed and don’t want to deal with the wifi going on and off every 5 minutes. Hats are a GREAT thing to bring- it gets super hot and chances are your scalp will get sunburnt if you are at the beach or pool all day. If you like to run or hike a lot, I would suggest bringing a head lamp. I know it sounds ridiculous, but a number of my friends have them here and we use them all the time. Plus, it gets ridiculously hot during the day, so running in the evening may be your best option. Pack a really nice water bottle and a great backpack because you will have those items with you the majority of the time. I basically live out of my backpack. A waterproof/shockproof camera is a good idea- I destroyed my camera within the first month of being here because it got a little wet on a trip. Also- don’t forget extra memory cards because you will be taking tons of pictures. I know my school told me not to bring my iphone abroad- if they tell you that don’t listen to it. I just shut off the data and use the wifi so I can text me friends and family, which is a lifesaver! If you have certain medicines or toiletries from home that you love- bring them! More than likely you can find them here, but they will be way more expensive. Plus, pack some things that remind you of home to put in your room. I packed a lot of pictures that I put on my wall, in addition to a pillow, blanket, and a huge stuffed dog from home. Some of the little things like that will mean the most to you in times you just want something from home. 

Lets also talk about the change in environment. Yes, it is gorgeous. Beaches, palm trees- it’s literally out of a magazine! But, there are also scorching hot days, torrential rain showers, and bugs…bugs everywhere! Sunscreen and bug spray will be two of your best friends. You will never be able to thank yourself enough for packing a great rain jacket and umbrella. Also, extra pairs of good flip flops is always a great thing because they tend to wear out fast. And just remember- never EVER leave food sitting around your room. Unless you want to be subjected to hundreds of fruit flies swarming around. Some of my friends have learned that the hard way.

Being abroad for a long period of time is a really great experience! You just have to recognize that it’s not going to be all smooth sailing, and you will have some stressful times. However, I am convinced that this has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. And you just have to remember that if you ever get stuck with something, you have a lot of people in your life who can help you.

Also! The highlights of this past week included:

My last biodiversity class consisted of a field trip into Cairns to the Red Ochre Grill. There, we sampled a bunch of different bush foods. My favorites were the kangaroo and crocodile meat, in addition to the pavlova dessert. 

We also had our farewell dinner with our IFSA advisor. We ate at the Cock n’ Bull, which gives HUGE portions of really amazing food! It’s crazy to think I only have 18 days left here. I will be posting soon on the roadtrip I took to Townsville this past weekend! Cheers :)

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The 2/3rds Review (a little late)

Time November 29th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, I just turned in an extremely difficult essay I spent all of last night editing for one of my modules…I don’t feel particularly confident about the score I will get, but I tried and that’s about all one can do. My head is spinning a little and I need to take a break, which means it’s time for a blog post. Therefore, I would very briefly like to comment on my experience abroad in general now that I am 2/3rds of the way through–more than, actually, since I’m writing this about 10 days later than I meant to!

In any case, I want to be completely honest about my experience and what it has been like, and a part of that is me admitting that for all the fun I’ve had and things I’ve learned, there were moments (well, okay, longer than mere ‘moments’; more like days) when I desperately missed my home university and felt completely beyond my comfort zone.

The first month was really hard for me; when my parents visited a month into my stay, I was so happy to see them, because at the time, all I could think was “I don’t really have friends”, “I miss Gettysburg”, “Why did I decide to do this again?” and other such thoughts. I haven’t written about this yet, really, because at the time, I felt just awful for even thinking those things–objectively, I knew I should be so grateful for having this experience at all, and I felt very guilty for not enjoying it more. The fact that I never really felt homesick after moving to a college 6.5 hours away from my home three years ago and was so incredibly excited to visit Wales allowed me to skim over the idea that I might had adjustment problems here . I (naively) expected to just love being abroad instantly, but it was much more challenging than I’d realized. Being in a different country (even one where you speak the language) with a different academic system in a city threw me much further out of my comfort zone than Gettysburg College ever did.

The most important point I would like to press, though, is that you just have to give it time, and furthermore that nothing helps one adjust more than completely throwing one’s self into something. I chose to become involved in some societies, and furthermore vowed that if I learned anything at all here, I would learn the Welsh language. It sounds simple, but setting that one simple goal of really doing well in my Welsh class (not just skating along to get by, as many do in language courses) changed everything for me.

I can say completely confidently that now, two months (and a week, now) into my program, my attitude and feelings towards this experience have gone completely the opposite way and I am absolutely in love with Cardiff; I no longer see the charm in the idea of returning to my home university, and the only thing I am thinking is “Don’t make me leave!”

Funny old world, isn’t it? One month you want nothing more than to go home, the next month you want nothing more than to stay and in spare moments somehow find yourself pondering ways in which you might soon secure a return visit to your adoptive country.

This, I think, is a pretty normal thing for Study Abroad students to feel, the initial excitement, the homesickness, and then finally settling in. I was just a bit arrogant and didn’t think I would experience all three.

I just wanted to make it clear that contrary to what my blog thus far may have suggested, it hasn’t been all butterflies and roses and frolics in the countryside since I arrived in Wales. But I adjusted and settled in and I feel more at home in this city than I ever have anywhere in the US …the unfortunate side of this change is, of course, that I am struck with despair at the idea that I will not be returning to Cardiff after being home for Christmas and the New Year.

So for the moment I’m just going to go on my merry way, doing my assessments in denial until it all comes crashing down about my ears two and a half weeks from now. :)

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