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

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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Replug: Technology in the ‘Raw Abroad’

Time May 12th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Unplugging is like using sunscreen: I know I should do it, I often don’t and maybe that’s why I’ll die of cancer.

Even though it is generally good advice, I tend to roll my eyes whenever someone tells me I spend too much time on my laptop. So earlier this month when Inside Higher Ed published “Digital Cocoons and the Raw Abroad,” a plea by two U.S. professors for study abroad students to unplug from their “digital helmet,” I rolled my eyes so hard I felt like I was thirteen again. Here’s an excerpt:

Today’s study abroad explorers may leave their home country but not leave home at all. Thanks to cheap international data plans and smartphones in their pockets, millennial Americans seldom say goodbye to familiar friends, family and online comforts as they set out to experience life in a different country. Can a digital native ever go native?

What does it take for a digital native like me to “go native” in Santiago? Well, considering how many of my Chilean friends also grew up glued to a Game Boy, I would have to plug in, Santiago-style.

“Don’t unplug. Replug.” Photos: Daniel Bergerson, 2016.

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Sarchí: The land of colorful oxcarts

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

About a month ago our Spanish classes visited the small town of Sarchí, known for its beautiful, hand-painted oxcarts. We toured the factory, where we painted little wheels in the same style and fashion as the professionals, whom we also watched at work.

We also went downtown to see the largest oxcart in the world, made in the same factory we visited.

This from Lonely Planet: “Costa Rica’s most famous crafts center, where artisans produce the ornately painted oxcarts and leather-and-wood furnishings for which the Central Valley is known. … It’s a tourist trap, but it’s a pretty one.”

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The whole group, plus our Spanish teachers and program associate in downtown Sarchi, at the biggest oxcart in the world.

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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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“There is no room for idleness.”

Time November 7th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It has been a pretty exciting week.

After a very lazy weekend and feeling like I needed to do something, since after all I do live in Ireland, one of my roommates and I decided to go on a tour of the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher. Even though we had to get up at 8 am on a Sunday and it was freezing outside (literally, it was 32F…) and of course, its western Ireland, it was raining! Regardless, it was actually a really good tour. Dublin Tour Company has deals for students so we’re able to buy one ticket and go on tours of Connemara and the Cliffs of Moher as often as we want, which is a deal, and the tour guides are always informed and entertaining.

Picture of a fairy ring- or as historians know them: ancient rings built by people as forms of protection. They built trenches around the ring and dug into the ground for safety from enemies and wind.

A portal tomb on top of a cairn: basically an ancient/Neolithic burial ground where bodies were normally cremated and buried, although this one had partial remains found in it. You can also see the rocky landscape of the Burren surrounding the tomb.

Me, in front of the Cliffs of Moher, aka those cliffs you see in Harry Potter, The Princess Bride, and a bunch of other music videos and movies. Also known as: the most breathtaking place ever.

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Then of course, there were was the US presidential election.

It was interesting viewing things from Ireland’s perspective, and Europe in general. People here love Obama. I mean LOVE. I’m used to being around politics and having involved debates over political ideals as an International Affairs major in Washington, DC, but you usually have a good mixture of opinions and a whole lot of passion when it comes to those debates. I’m not however being used to having people randomly ask me who I voted for or if I’m a Republican or Democrat as soon as they find out I’m American. Not that I mind exactly, I loved talking about politics with people who are somewhat removed from the debate (although the campaign and election were followed closely by the news here and as the US is such a big power people are invested in who wins, regardless of whether they’re US citizens or not). It was just overwhelming how much people love Obama in Europe and Ireland!

I’m taking a few political science classes at NUIG and I love them. One of them is a large lecture class on European Politics, but my professor really knows how to make things relatable to students, especially international students, and regularly brings up America as an example or as something to compare a case study. It’s kind of fascinating viewing how Europeans see us, especially since I always had this idea that Europeans thought all Americans were loud and fat and patriotic and a little stupid. Yes, they do think we’re loud (and that’s not really a stereotype because in general we actually just talk louder) and we are definitely very patriotic especially compared to many European countries, and maybe they think all of those other things but aren’t going to tell us. But they by no means hate us. They know a lot about us. They watch almost all of the same movies and television shows we watch, their news has a regular section on America, and they keep up with our current affairs much better than a lot of Americans do. If an Irish person came to America they would probably be much more culturally comfortable than any American is coming to Ireland because they just know more about us than we know about them.

In general Europeans tend to pay more attention to the political activity of other countries. This makes sense since they’re geographically close to several other nations that they constantly interact with and are part of the EU with and share currency and open borders. They also seem to know more about even South America or Eastern Europe or Asia’s political activities as well though. I’m a little biased since I’m around a lot of political science majors here, but it’s still pretty evident that most average Irish people are more internationally aware than most Americans. Maybe it’s because Ireland is a small country population and border wise and because they’re geographically and politically connected/reliant on more countries than the US is, but I wish more US citizens would take on this mindset of reading up on current affairs. It’s something I definitely plan on taking home with me and spreading!

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