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

The Last Few Weeks

Time May 3rd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

The last few weeks of studying abroad consists of a whirlwind of emotions. From the happiness of thinking ahead to the warm embraces of my friends and family, to the sadness of thinking of leaving my best friends here and leaving the beautiful scenery of Ireland, I can’t seem to keep my mind straight.

But, with the days down into single digits, I’m just trying to cherish every moment I have. Within the last few weeks I have taken two day-trips in Ireland, spent lots of time studying, and been with all of the people I am going to be sad to leave.

Here’s a look at my day trips to the Aran Islands (Inis Oírr), and my day trip to Letterkenny, County Donegal with dinner in Derry, Northern Ireland, my studies, and some smiling faces :) Read More »

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Academics Away from America

Time February 2nd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

Academics Abroad: The reason why you chose the country/program you chose. The most important thing about studying abroad, the studying! And yes, I still focus on school while I’m abroad having fun, but going through IFSA-Butler made it so much easier.

Prior to leaving: I had no idea where to go. I knew I had to make sure I would still graduate on time, since I had not planned to go abroad (again). I knew I had two psychology classes and statistics that I needed specifically, and two electives. I made many phone calls and emails to the IFSA staff once I had chosen Ireland, wondering how many classes Irish students take (typically 6, or a lightened course load of 5). I knew I needed Tulsa to approve the classes before I left. I had Tulsa approve 8 classes with the help of the IFSA staff and their syllabus bank, and contacting a professor as statistics can have prerequisites and as a sophomore I was planning on taking the senior-level cognitive psychology class! Ah! Luckily they had previous students take the psychology classes that had passed the class. Statistics was still in the air, but we would see when I got here.

While here: I got to meet the other 15 IFSA students here. Luckily, I had students in both of my psych classes, and one of my electives, Celtic Mythology! As I went to my first sociology lecture, I realized it wasn’t for me, but here at NUIG there is a two-week add/drop period. I contacted Ashley, the IFSA rep, and asked for help to switch into Celtic Archeology, another elective class that had many IFSA students in it. She easily helped me and I emailed the international office here to get a course outline, to email back to Tulsa! And within a few days Tulsa had approved it too, yay! The only thing left in the air was statistics, so I waited after the first lecture to introduce myself to the professor, who was incredibly kind. He said that last semester half of his class got high honors (basically an A) and he wanted to help me achieve that. His office was open Monday – Wednesday for tea and help, gave me two class representatives to ask, and the campus resources and the hours that they have statistics tutors. I knew I could succeed in such a positive environment (he also passes around candy each class, so that was a perk). After the two-week add/drop period, we had to register online to get Blackboard and register with IFSA. Ashley came to campus to help us through the process – wow! Read More »

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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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The Quest to Find the Best Cafe in Dublin

Time October 10th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Ireland | No Comments by

Attempting to find the perfect cafe with

  1. Good (cheap) coffee
  2. Wifi
  3. Ample seating

Right now (for studying purposes), KC Peaches is in the lead because they have great wifi and tons of table space for studying.

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I Keep Forgetting I Need to Study During Study Abroad!

Time April 29th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

My goodness these blog posts are long overdue! It is so easy to lose track of time over here. Since Ireland is technically an island, I think it’s acceptable to say that I’m permanently “on island time.” 😉  It has already been three weeks since spring break and wow has it been a busy three weeks. School-wise, this semester has been the least stressful out of all of my time in college. The courses work a bit differently here than they do back home. We have lectures once or twice a week for each class, with an additional hour-long tutorial, where the class is split into smaller groups to discuss the week’s material. That being said, I’m only in classes three days a week and I have Mondays and Fridays free. By the time Saturday rolls around, I usually forget what day it is because my schedule is so wacky!

picnic Picnic in the Botanic Gardens after class

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I don’t like being the dumb kid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It usually doesn’t work.

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

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

I don’t like it.

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

I don’t like being the gringo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I enjoy being in the know.

I don’t enjoy being clueless.

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

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

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

Maybe my tuition isn’t being wasted after all.

Here’s to hoping finals go better than midterms.

***

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

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What’s the Welsh for “veni, vidi, vici”?!

Time November 17th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

…Or is that premature of me to ask? Despite the fact that I have a million essays and assignments to be working on, I am currently floating upon a cloud of happy, triumphant energy. Why, you might ask?

 

Because I just finished my first Welsh exam! Now, I could be wrong here, but I think I did quite well on it! My hours of studying, despite the fact that I devoted my Reading Days to it, totally paid off. Or so I think. A lot of other members of my class were not feeling very confident after the test, thought it was difficult, or were very ambivalent about the whole thing, but I found it to be quite straightforward.

 

Then again, with Welsh it’s always the little details that seem to trip one up.

 

In addition to my fantastic feeling about the Welsh exam, I also got my first Welsh written assignment back and got at 66 on it! Now before you Americans gasp in horrified astonishment at that rather deplorable sounding grade, I should point out that in the Welsh department everything we turn in is marked out of 70, which puts my grade at ~94%! HURRAH!

 

Okay, I think I’ve bragged enough. I don’t mean to sound pompous, I’ve just been working really hard and am very excited.

 

Moving on, I’ll take a step in reverse back to the rest of Reading Week! In my last post I discussed my trip to the Wye Valley. On Wednesday, I spent the morning studying and then spent my afternoon in the stables having a lesson with my riding group in the Cardiff Uni Equestrian Club. It was a pretty miserable day and we had to walk the mile and a half to the stables in the pouring rain, but everyone in the club is pretty nice and friendly, so I had a good time anyway. I rode a 5 year-old Cobb mare in the lesson–she is still rather “green” and didn’t really understand what I was asking her all the time, so it was challenging ride!

 

I wish I were able to take pictures. The problem is that there have been thefts at the stables and I don’t have anywhere safe to put my camera whilst I ride.

 

Thursday and Friday were fairly uneventful days primarily spent studying.

 

Saturday was another great day. In the morning, I met my fellow IFSA Butler Cardiff Uni student, Sarah, to study Welsh! Because we were meeting pretty early, we decided that a breakfast of crepes was definitely in order if we were to get any work done. ;]

 

The place we went is called “The Pancake House” (located in the Old Brewery Quarter, if you are someone planning to visit Cardiff!), and it was absolutely fantastic. I chose the deliciously decadent Nutella & banana crepe:

 

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I feel as though it is necessary for me to mention that we DID in fact get some good Welsh practice in during the hour and a half we spent sitting outside!

 

It had been quite sunny and warm when we arrived at the Pancake House, but after we’d been sitting outside for a while it became very cold and a bit overcast, so we re-located to the warm interior of a nearby Costa and drank glasses of cocoa as we drilled Welsh vocabulary. A lovely morning, all in all! It was also fun to be in City Centre at that time; the Christmas markets have all been set up, stall upon stall of food, hot drinks, Welsh crafts, and other items, and it seemed like the whole world was out and about shopping!

 

After our Welsh study, I headed back to my apartment to do some reading for another class and, you guessed it, study more Welsh, before heading to a pub down the street for dinner with some flatmates.

 

And then I studied MORE!

 

Sunday was similarly great, but in an entirely different way. From 11am-6pm I was off on a hack with the Equestrian Club in the mountains of the Brecon Beacons! We were so lucky that the weather was great–sunny and not too cold. Cantering through Welsh fields on Welsh hills above the most beautiful Welsh valley on a scruffy Welsh horse (named Jaffa Cake!), riding past tiny farms and through twisted hedgerows made me feel absolutely as though I was on a film set or in a fairytale! At the bottom of the valley was a beautiful lake, and as it got closer to 4pm, we could see the sun starting to drift down and set behind the mountains behind the lake.

 

I wish so much that I could have taken some photos, but for safety reasons we weren’t allowed to carrying ANYTHING in our pockets and had to turn our cameras in at the office. :(

 

Though I will say, the one advantage to not having access to a camera is that you can’t be distracted by it, fumbling around trying to get a good shot. You can just focus on enjoying yourself and really experiencing the scenery, and I know I’ll remember that ride for the rest of my life.

 

Monday and Tuesday were a blur of lectures, researching for papers, meetings with professors, and studying for Welsh. I will say, I am becoming quite academically stressed. But I’m trying to stay positive!

 

On Wednesday, my Material Evidence for Ancient Historians class had a seminar on Ancient Greek Numismatics (coins!) in the National Museum, right down the street from the University. The museum is really great, and free for students! I definitely want to go back someday when I have more time to poke around on my own.

 

Anyway, I found the seminar extremely challenging and am somewhat dreading the essay I need to write on it this weekend, HOWEVER, during the seminar we were actually allowed to handle the artifacts and I must say it was pretty darn amazing to be holding such old coins that some ancient Greeks had ACTUALLY handled and used.

 

Here are just a few of the coins we looked at:

 

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And here we are, Thursday evening, and you’ve already heard all about my double-Welsh class today ;]

 

What am I off to do now? Study even more for tomorrow morning’s Welsh class! There isn’t much time to take a breather when you want to stay on top of a new language, BUT I am in love with Welsh, so I can’t say I mind.

 

Coming Up this Weekend:  The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with the Tea Party Society! “Frocks and Hats Required.” Should be a good time, though of course I have heaps of homework and reading to get through! C’est la vie.

 

Until then!

 

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