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

Daily Life as an Irish Student

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

Life in Ireland, wow, it’s amazing.

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

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

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

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

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

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A Typical Week at Oxford: Monday – Thursday

Time October 27th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, England | No Comments by

Hi all,

So I’m finally getting into some sort of a schedule here even though each of my weeks has looked drastically different. When I was considering studying abroad, I wondered how my semester would look different than my typical semester at Hopkins. Below is a breakdown of what I would consider a “normal” week:

Monday

10:15 – 11:15 AM – Management Tutorial: I meet with my tutor for my tutorial on Strategic Management. Even though I’m a student at St. Catz, tutors can be based in any college. Even though sometimes that means I have a long walk, getting to see other colleges is really fun. We meet at Mansfield College to discuss the differences between a resource-based view and an industry-analysis. We also go over my essay (which I e-mailed yesterday) and he highlights my strengths as well as places I can improve.

11:30 – 12:30 PM – Lunch at Home: I go home and make a quick lunch. I’m lucky to have a mini-fridge in my room so I am able to keep some groceries on hand. My room is conveniently located right next door to my floor’s kitchen.

1:00 PM – 4:30 PM – Studying: There are so many libraries at Oxford. I’m pretty certain that if I visited a new one every time, I still wouldn’t see all of them. That being said I’ve had a lot of fun exploring the city by exploring various study spots. Normally back at Hopkins I do most of my work during the evenings, but here it seems most people work during the day and I’m beginning to understand why. The assumption is that everyone is free in the evenings so people get together for dinner, drinks, and all sorts of other events. I usually have large chunks of unstructured time, so I use it to read, write, and prepare for my tutorials.

7:00 – 8:00 PM – Hall Dinner: At St. Catz we’re lucky to have formal hall every night which means I can get a three-course meal for 4 pounds. You have to book your place before 1 PM that day and I usually meet up with some of my friends beforehand. You sit down at long tables, get served by waiters, and share sides family-style.

8:00 – ??? PM –  Drinks at the JCR: After dinner it’s pretty common to grab a drink at the JCR (stands for junior common room which is essentially the name for the student lounge including the college bar) where drinks are school subsidized (my parents thought this was absolutely absurd). It’s a great place to hangout with friends as well as meet new people.

Tuesday

8:00 – 9:00 AM – Breakfast at St. Catz: Our dining hall has a breakfast deal with 8 items for a little over 2 pounds. It’s much earlier than I like to wake up but it’s such a great deal that I force myself out of bed.

10:00 AM – 12:00PM – Staying Up to Date: Even though I’m abroad, it’s really important to stay up to date with things back home. I still consistently check my Hopkins e-mail because I have responsibilities. For example, I am a chair for JHUMUNC (basically I moderate a room full of high school delegates as they simulate a UN conference and pretend to solve world problems…it’s fun) and part of being a chair means overseeing two dais members (assistant chairs) as they write a background guide. I wrote my portion over the summer, but my committee got an additional member in the fall so I’m responsible for allocating work and reviewing what they write. Additionally, I make sure to stay up to date with logistical things such as course registration and trying to figure out my housing for when I return.

3:30 – 4:30 PM – Philosophy Tutorial: I meet with my primary tutor for my tutorial in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. This woman is so inspiring, so intelligent, and so unbelievably kind – every time I leave a tutorial I realize my cheeks hurt from smiling the entire hour. Compared to the U.S. system in which I attend 2-3 lectures a week where and the learning is spread out, here all the learning is condensed into one weekly meeting for an hour. Because it is one-on-one, the entire session is dedicated to your personal needs and you are expected to have completed a substantial amount of work prior to each meeting. You are assigned a substantial amount of reading and required to submit an 8-9 page essay the day prior. Unlike in the U.S. where sometimes it is possible to get away with not reading, here that is not the case. My tutor will ask me what I thought about each assigned text and since I’m the only one there, it’s not like I can hope someone else answers. Luckily for me, my tutor is amazing and she makes our meetings totally comfortable and relaxed.

Wednesday

10:00 – 11:00 AM – Recommended Lecture: As a third-year humanities student, I don’t have any required lectures. In fact the thing that is mandatory for me is attendance at tutorials and since they’re one-on-one meetings with my tutor, it would be very clear if I didn’t attend. However, my philosophy tutor recommended that I attend a specific lecture that correlates well to our text. Since I only have 2 hours of required learning a week, I had no hesitation to attending this lecture. In addition I’ve regularly been attending two other lectures simply out of interest (which is entirely recommended and common). I really like going to lectures because it helps provide structure to my otherwise largely unstructured weeks.

12:00 – 1:00 PM – Out for Lunch: There are TONS of restaurants in Oxford, so even though the dining hall can be really convenient, it is important to get out and explore the city – specifically the city’s food. I recently went to Thai House and ate some great thai food. Additionally, there are great small sandwich stops and the food trucks are almost always a good decision.

3:00 – 5:30 PM – Consulting Career Fair: Something that I didn’t even think about until I got here was utilizing Oxford’s career services. There are so many events happening from the very first day of classes. Because Oxford encompasses such a wide range of colleges, the resources are equally as broad. There are events every day ranging from resume critiques, networking events, career fairs (for every industry), and more. Furthermore, since Oxford is a prestigious university it attracts so many different companies and (at least at the consulting fair I went to) a majority of them have a strong U.S. presence or at least have U.S. offices.

Thursday

9:30 – 10:30 AM – For Fun Lecture: Something really cool about the learning culture here is the strong belief that if you want to learn, you will. This is evident in the fact that many lectures aren’t required, but also in the fact that most lectures are open to anyone who is interested in them. I have looked into lectures in fields of study that I have never even considered before. Additionally, since it is not required you can go some weeks, skip other weeks, add new ones, drop other ones and there are minimal rules except for one: if you decide to sit in on a lecture, you can’t leave half way through. It’s considered exceptionally rude. Just sit through the rest of it and don’t go next week!

12: 30 PM – Weekly Lunch with Jilliann: Jilliann also goes to Johns Hopkins and she is at Oxford (St. Anne’s). Even though we have a lot of mutual friends back at JHU, we’ve only really spent time together after we flew across the Atlantic. Now we have weekly lunch dates to reminisce about our absurdly long nights in the library and how huge Oxford is compared to Hopkins. It’s such a great way to feel connected to home when I’m so far away. She definitely helps the inevitable homesickness :)

2:00 -3:00 PM – Housekeeping: I was completely dumbfounded when I learned that our accommodation (dorms) comes with housekeeping. Once a week a very nice lady vacuums my room, cleans my bathroom, takes out my trash, and changes my bed linens (for my staircase it’s on Thursdays). I was so surprised that the very first time she knocked on my door and said “Housekeeping!”, I responded “…what?” Since then we’ve become friends, and I love not having to wash my sheets because laundry is expensive here! When I return back to my freshly clean room, I can’t help but feel guilted into doing my part. I tidy up my desk, go do my laundry, and wash the many empty cups of water that accumulated over the week.

6:30 – 8:00 PM – Dinner & Networking: As someone who is considering going to law school, I joined the Oxford Law Society. A large component of the organization is being able to attend all kinds of events held by law firms. Many of these events have dinner or drinks as a component of the evening (again the casual drinking culture is still so strange to me). It’s a great way to meet other students with similar interests, meet potential employers, and get a free meal. Win-Win-Win.

Obviously this isn’t a schedule in a strict sense because many of the things I did this week are one time events; however, I will likely attend similar events next week. In some ways the weeks are very stable. I don’t have midterms/exams, so my studying hours are relatively stable compared to back at Hopkins. On the other hand, everything else I do is completely flexible. Since this post is extremely long, I will make a separate post about a typical weekend: Friday – Sunday.

Until next time,

xx

Zaya

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Diary of a Picky Eater

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

What a week it has been! I have safely arrived in Merida, Mexico and my journey abroad has officially begun! Every day is a new adventure in this beautiful city. However, the food is even more an adventure. Before I left, my mom was worried that I would not be able to eat anything in Merida. My family and I have been vegetarian since I was three years old. On top of that, I am the pickiest eater alive. Before coming here, I hated quesadillas, a lot of vegetables, and trying things was usually out of the question. I would jokingly say, “I’m a visual eater.”  My mom was scared that not only I would die of malnutrition here, but also embarrass her in front of my host mom. I can’t tell you how many times she said to me before I left.

However, the food here has been wonderful! In the mornings, before I go to class at the university, my host mom gives me cut up fruit with cereal or a waffle. Papaya has been one of my favorite fruits to have in the morning because of its usual taste. Lunch and dinner are a completely different story. In the states, I usually don’t wake up for breakfast, but here I have to. Lunch isn’t ready until about 2 pm! I’ve been trying my hardest to shift to this schedule, because most of the time I don’t return home from the university till 2 pm anyways.

lunch

Lunch in Merida

 

As a vegetarian, I do eat fish for protein. My host mom is a great cook, so I have literally been in love with every single thing she has made me to eat. I especially look forward to lunch because the fish is so great! Soup is also a regular at lunch despite the humidity. I’m still getting used to how hot it is here!  Dinner is also not served until around 7:30-8:00 pm. While lunch is my biggest meal of the day,  dinner looks a little bit more like breakfast. Usually, I ask for yogurt and apples which has been my absolute favorite meal here. In the states, I absolutely hated quesadillas. I refused to eat any, even though they are a popular late night meal for students at my university after late night studying. However, my taste buds have done a complete 180 here in Merida. I could not ask for a better cook as a host mom. It’s great that I can already notice some growth in my character and I’ve only been abroad for a week! I’m also hoping to lose a few pounds after the freshman fifteen wasn’t so kind to me, but that’s another story. 😛

dinner

Dinner in Merida

 

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The Ultimate Macro-organism

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

Hola a todos.  I finally have found the time to sit down and write a blog post, and it’s amazing how overwhelmingly incredible this place is.  I’ve been pretty much going nonstop since my arrival, and between hanging out with my new family, orientation with IFSA-Butler, getting lost in the city, and checking out the boliche (club) scene, I’ve scarcely had time to sleep (which, apparently, is very normal for Porteños (locals).  No one sleeps here, and let me tell you that after coming off of a month of sedentary action, the struggle is REAL).  However, despite my limited z’s, I cannot even begin to describe how much I love this place already.  I’ve said this before, but I’d like to reiterate for the sake of this post: city life is pretty new to me.  Each day, I marvel at how many things there are to discover; new cafes, off-beat streets, hip stores, and bustling squares.  I could live here for 5 lifetimes and still never be able to take it all in.

Now, as some of you may know, I’m the son of two scientists and a pretty big science nerd myself.  So, it may not come as a surprise to many of you that when I finally took the time to sit down and brainstorm  and a process all of the thoughts that I’ve had since arriving, I came to the conclusion that Buenos Aires makes me think of multicellular life.  This city is a gargantuan, massively complicated macro-organism.

It has a circulatory system: My house is in near the city center, in a barrio called Almagro, but I might as well call in Corazón as it provides the vibrant pulse of energy that is carried throughout the city.  Las avenidas (Corrientes, Santa Fe, Córdoba) are the vessels; they carry the lifeblood that stems the beat of the barrio.  Upon these streets, cars rub shoulders with pedestrians who pay little heed to traffic signs, and bicyclists fill up all the remaining space.  Everywhere I look I see people running, walking, or haphazardly zooming around on motorcycles.  The buses run constantly, and the ground churns with the rumble of subways.  The energy of this organism cannot be curtailed into a slow-moving body.

It has a nervous system.  My house has a terraced roof with a porch that overlooks a few blocks, and from my perch on this rooftop island I can see 24 communication towers scattered across various tall buildings.  But cellular communication (consisting of companies called Movilstar, Personal, and Claro, to name a few) comprises only a few of the nerve endings.There are about 100 Wi-Fi networks (all password protected, of course) at any given point within the city, and if you’re out and about and looking for a conduit into cyberspace, you merely need to drop into a cafe, order an empanada, and jump onto the complimentary wifi.  However, the fastest and largest cluster of nerves is the people.  Many locals know this city (or at least their respective barrio) like they know fútbol (that is to say, that know a lot about it), and if you are lost or confused the friendly folks are very willing to step in to help.  The castellano (Argentinian type of Spanish) flows thick and fast and constantly; the streets are constantly buzzing with greetings, salutations, and interjections, as well as casual conversation.

It has a skeleton.  Buildings tall and short spring up haphazardly around me like bones in an elephant graveyard, yet the individual differences between each building does not stop at the sizes.  I look around and see stark white walls jostling for position next to dirty cinderblock; trees sprout up everywhere they possibly can, and a contiguous color scheme between buildings is a heretical idea.  Yet it is the very discontinuity of the individual bones that makes this skeleton so complete.  Viewed separately, sure, one may see chaos, but when I take a step back and view the skeleton as a whole, the incongruous pieces blend together into something complete.

Sorry for the text-heavy post, y’all, but hopefully my words can help you conjure up an image.  Next post, I promise, will be loaded with pretty pictures taken by yours truly.  Now, stay awesome, and thanks so much for reading.

Ciao,

Dylan

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Drinks with the Master

Time October 24th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Part of the Oxford experience is visiting the old haunts of Tolkein and Lewis; drinking warm beer in cold pubs that smell of wet leather and wood, and taking long walks through damp gardens full of bees and butterflies. Another part is doing work. That’s it. There are no fancy adjectives I can tack onto that, and certainly no butterflies. There’s just me, the books that I’ve scoured every one of Oxford’s accessible libraries to find, and that never-ending white page with the blinking cursor.

I say all of this not to entertain, but to remind myself of the hard parts so I’ll think twice lest I want to repeat the experience for graduate school. I know from experience that the long hours spent staring at a computer screen have a nasty habit of fading out of memory, while all night parties and busty British woman seem to do the opposite. Oxford is hard, difficult work, and… ah, who am I kidding? I love it here. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

The trick, I think, is figuring out how to balance the two 3,000 word essays I have each week with fun. I’ll take time to do the essays, to write about Yeats and the occult and the gyres and the significance of the metal bird in the poem, “Sailing to Byzantium,” but then I’ll go out and enjoy the country and the culture. If I lived to read, living would be called reading. It’s not. It’s called living.

Tonight I went to an invite-only event called “Drinks with the Master,” a sort of welcome ceremony for visiting students and incoming Freshmen. They had forgotten to make me one so I drew my own: “Kenneth Gould” it said under an artfully redesigned St. Catherine’s logo. Under that I wrote my major, “English.” It occurred to me after that people might think I was English, which I’m not, instead of thinking that I study English, which I do. However, I thought it was silly to ask for another nametag to replace the one that I had gotten as a replacement for another so I stopped overanalyzing the situation and just went inside.

At the door, a smartly dressed gentleman offered me a choice of white wine, red wine, or apple juice. I asked him which wine was better, to which he responded that he didn’t know, to which I responded why not, to which he responded that just because he had a British accent he was not an expert in the luxuries of high society. That was news to me. I took a white. Then a smartly dressed woman thrust a silver platter under my nose.

“Beef and ale or chicken and tarragon pie?” she asked, referring to the two varieties of mini puff pastry on the tray. I was going to ask her which was better, but then just took a beef and ale. I barely had time to look at it before the master showed up at the front of the room and commanded my undivided attention. This was the man in robes I had seen shouting Latin in the dining hall. Surely he had something interesting to say.

“Hello all,” he said. “Thank you for coming. As I was saying yesterday, this year’s Freshman class seems like the best in a long time. Thank you for coming. Goodnight.” Then he left, and his aides took my wine glass and ushered me outside. They seemed to consider taking my puff pastry as well, but in the end they let me keep it. I ate it thoughtfully. It is one thing to advocate that one take full advantage of life, but sometimes life has other plans.

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Settling into the Day to Day Life of Costa Rica

Time September 7th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

Now that I have gotten used to my classes and living with my family here in Heredia, it is time to write another post about my life here in Costa Rica.

I love my family here in Heredia. My parents, Alberto and Amalia, are older and retired, so usually, there is always someone here when I come home. There are two daughters as well. The younger one, Mariann, is 23 years old still lives here at home and will start working again this fall. The other one, Sophia, is married and has a one-and-a-half year old son, Isaac. Usually, Isaac is here a couple times a week, so I tend to think of him as a part of my immediate family.

mariann-y-yo

At the University, I am taking five classes: Plant Anatomy and Physiology, Fauna (a class devoted to the animals of Costa Rica and conservation), Advanced Spanish (through the IFSA-Butler Program), Social History of Costa Rica (also through the IFSA-Butler Program), and Culture and Development in Latin America. I am also taking soccer class for fun.

School has its ups and downs; I really enjoy my classes as a whole, but there are things that cause frustration too. For example, most of my classes only meet once a week for two hours or more and often it is often hard to pay attention in class for that long. Additionally, I feel as though my homework takes about three times longer than it should. Reading tends to be really slow going and I use my Spanish dictionary constantly. Another difficulty is the use of copy stores instead of the bookstore on campus. Specific copy places have materials for certain classes and sometimes locating the proper store can be difficult, since there are approximately three to four copy stores per block near the campus.

However, that being said, there are many things that I love about school. Mostly, I enjoy the small classes. I am from a very large state school, so the idea of a being able to get help directly from the professor during a class or a lab is strange to me. My lab in plant anatomy and physiology is only 16 people. And during the lab the first day, all the students were raising their hands and yelling, “Profe! Profe! No entiendo. Explícame.” (Professor, I don’t understand. Explain it to me.) And I kept thinking to myself, what the heck are they doing? You can’t just ask the professor for help. It doesn’t work like that. Unlike labs in the States, these tend to be really relaxed and I feel like I am learning a lot. Often times my labs in the States felt like a to-do list, not a fun hands-on activity.

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I have no idea if this is normal, but there have been three “marchas” or strikes—protests in Heredia or San Jose by students and faculty. These could also be termed “holidays”, because there are no classes. It is advised that exchange students avoid these demonstrations. I have walked by one or two of them and felt perfectly safe, but I do try to go around them if possible.

I have continued with the hobbies that I did in the states, such as, reading, running, sketching and so forth, but there are several other things that I enjoy doing the week or the weekend. I have already gone to two professional soccer games at the stadium near my home. I am also playing soccer at the university on the women’s soccer team. I very much enjoy going out with my “sister” and her friends too, as it is a fun way to practice my Spanish, meet new people, and experience the culture.

While I don’t really miss home, I think I am suffering a little bit from homesickness. Little things tend to bother me more. Long waits and lines, confusion during my classes, verbal blunders in Spanish, being stared at, whistles and other calls from men in the streets…all of these things seem to be slightly more aggravating than usual. I was told that it is typical for most students to start feeling homesick between weeks six and eight. We’ll see what the next few weeks are like.

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