Author Archives: DUAbroad

About DUAbroad

The University of Denver sends over 70% of its undergraduates on study abroad programs.

Avoiding Ignorant Stereotypes 101

language learning from sclanguagecenterdotcom

One of the most powerful lessons that I learned during my study abroad experience was the lesson of being the outsider.  I learned how it felt to be a foreigner and a minority.  I learned how it felt to live in a place where I didn’t understand how things worked, and I didn’t understand everything that was said to me.  And, since I have spent some time in those shoes, I feel like I achieved some empathy to the outsiders/foreigners/minorities that live in my own country.  In particular, here are some of my own personal tips on how to communicate with someone who is learning your language:

Speak slower, not louder.  Anyone who has any experience learning a language knows that a new language can sound all slurred together, and it’s often hard to tell where one word ends and another begins.  It is somewhat condescending and belittling to talk to someone as if they’re hard of hearing when they’re learning your language.  Also, don’t speak to them in baby-talk.

Go light on the sarcasm.  Humor is just one of those things that is impossible to directly translate and is often one of the most difficult things to learn in a new culture or language.  Realize that they may be frustrated that they can’t adequately do their own sense of humor justice in your language; and that their own personality isn’t fully complete in your culture.

Don’t ask them to speak for their entire nationality/race/gender/religion/insert-other-identity-here.  “You’re an American.  What do Americans think about ____?”

Consider that their conversational speed is different than yours.  Some cultures speak to each other very quickly, even interrupting others before they’re done speaking.  Other cultures have a few seconds of pause before responding.  Try to let them finish what they’re saying, even if they’re struggling to find the words, instead of trying to finish their sentence for them.

And lastly, be patient.  It is an enormous struggle to learn a new language.  It’s exhausting.  It’s exhilarating.  But I believe some of the best language-learning happens when you get a chance to have a long and meaningful conversation with a native speaker.

- Michelle Rembolt, OIE

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What does it mean to be a Global Citizen? A Reply.

In a previous blog, Tiffany challenged us to think about what it means to be a global citizen and how our identity might be impacted through experiences abroad.

Study abroad is an opportunity for DU’s students not simply to visit other countries but to experience, dig beneath the surface, and experience the subtleties and nuances of another culture first hand.  To be a global citizen is to be able to negotiate different cultures, to understand the subtleties of what contributes to different cultures and to understand your interactions between your identity in your home country and the country you are studying abroad in. Finally, a global citizen is someone who comes to appreciate culture shock, a natural process of cultural adjustment when you leave a culture you are used to and enter another.

The most important step to becoming a global citizen is to take your experiences from abroad and to apply them back here in your community. To do this means finding ways to share your experience back in the United States at school, in your classes, with your family and in your communities. If your experience abroad enables you to apply your appreciation and more nuanced understanding of another culture in the classroom, to help debate or to provide a nuance or analysis that only a firsthand experience of another culture could bring, then that will not only help you, but also others to become global citizens. The more immersive your experience, the greater the insight that you will be able to add.

With this, study abroad cannot only to give you a new understanding about yourself and your identity, but it should encourage you to be more questioning about your home culture upon your return. Parts of everyday life that you never questioned previously, such as the pace of life, the culture of individualism in the United States, or the role of public transport (not transportation!) may be just a few areas of life which come to challenge you. After this process of self-evaluation, it may well give you the encouragement to break out of your community and explore new cultures and traditions within the United States, whether it be through new activities, new friends or new places within America.

What will you add?

Callum Forster, Peer Advisor

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What does it mean to be a Global Citizen?

 

 

So you have a passport… now what?

Maybe you’ve seen Europe. Your family took a vacation to Australia when you were little. You have participated one of DU’s ISL trips. So you have visited abroad. You may be aware of the current problems affecting populations around the world. Does that make you a Global Citizen?

If not, what does it mean to actually become a Global Citizen?

Well, we think it is not as simple as just seeing another culture. We also don’t think it is as transformative as shedding your American identity in place of 100% immersion in that culture either.

Global Citizen is a buzzword that many universities have been using with their students. It begins with possessing a passport, visiting other countries, and learning about other cultures. But it can’t end there. The most important part of this Global Citizenship is the way you relate your own identity to your experiences abroad.  It is not enough to be aware of problems happening around the world. It is necessary for us, the new generation of global citizens, to also understand our role in the world that created these problems.

As you are beginning to truly prepare for your journey abroad, it is also a good time to begin thinking about your identity, and what features of your identity may define your experiences abroad. How are you expecting to interact with the culture around you? How are you expecting the host country to perceive you? And how might your identity, be it your gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or life experiences, affect these interactions abroad?

Sunset in Amman with some wonderful friends

These questions are important to ask yourself as you prepare for your journey, especially if you are travelling to a less traditional destination for study abroad. As you prepare to become a Global Citizen, it is important to manage your expectations. You cannot immerse yourself 100% to the point of ‘becoming’ a local, but you can consciously shape your experience by interacting with the local culture as much as your identity will allow. You can acknowledge the way that your identity shapes your experiences there. Finally, you can use this knowledge to gain an even larger understanding of the culture you have chosen to live in, and the way in which that culture interacts with the rest of the world.

“To travel is to take a journey into yourself”

Tiffany Wilk, Peer Advisor

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I Thought I Wasn’t Prejudiced

After living and working in another country I felt I had learned about a different culture. Especially after being abroad for the entirety of my junior year, I thought I identified with certain parts of the Chinese culture. Obviously, I am not Chinese and am by no means an expert on Chinese culture. Still, I had studied the language pretty intensively, had lived with a host family, traveled on my own and consumed copious amounts of Chinese food. Only after two months of being back did I begin to realize how being exposed and immersed in Chinese culture affected me.

Apart from thinking silverware was heavy and clunky compared to chopsticks, I also subconsciously thought I could identify various kinds of Asian ethnicities (Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc.). Let me explain.

You know how animals seem to have a sixth sense and can detect when there is danger? It may sound strange, but I swear there are people who have a sixth sense and can tell the difference between different nationalities (much like people here pick up on what regional area a person is from based on his/her characteristics). While in China I interacted with people from Japan, Singapore, and other southeastern Asian countries. After awhile I began to subconsciously identify the people I interacted with as belonging to certain nationalities. The funny thing was I had no idea about this until two months after I returned to the United States.

 

One day, while waiting for an appointment, my friend was looking up different doctors on her phone. She handed me her phone and asked me if the doctor she was looking at was possibly Chinese. I looked at the person and at the name, and it was definitely not a Chinese name. I shook my head, saying I did not think he was Chinese. Still, I continued looking at the doctor’s photo, my eyes going back between the name and the face. And then it clicked.

“He’s probably Vietnamese.” I told my friend. “He looks just like my friend so-and-so from Vietnam.”

“Oh, I was judging based on the name.” My friend responded, quickly taking her phone back. A few minutes later she said, “I looked up the name and it’s Vietnamese.”

Once we were back in her car, she told me the receptionist had given me a harsh look when I brazenly said the doctor looked Vietnamese. I was completely taken aback—I had just spent nine months living in a country where it was almost second nature to classify people based on their appearance. After hearing about the reaction my comment had gotten, I was immediately self-conscious. On one hand, I could see people of certain ethnic identities not appreciating me judging others based on looks. On the other hand, it was normal to me because I had just come from a country where that was normal—people would call me Russian or ask where in Germany I was from. Some people told me I was obviously American. I learned to roll with it. Once back in the States, however, I felt obligated to consciously realign my thinking. It was weird at first, but I have gradually shifted back to certain attitudes and behaviors that are more accepted in the United States.

When I think about this experience, it is almost embarrassing to think that people thought I was prejudiced. I considered myself operating as I had been trained to do abroad, in a different country and in a different culture. It became natural to begin to identify the people I saw with certain Asian countries. The interaction at the doctor’s office made me immediately conscious of how habits developed in other countries may not be very appropriate when I am in the US. Hopefully this awareness transfers to further travels and interactions with various people.

 

-Michelle Yeager, Peer Adviser.

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Tae Kwon Do and Study Abroad

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Hi study abroad friends, below are a few stories from my first study abroad experience in South Korea at Yonsei University in 2009 that I used in some scholarship essays. Enjoy!

“So what do you think?” Master Jang asks. I pause unsure of how to respond, “It’s not what I expected.” Then Master Jang gave me the best advice I had yet to receive since beginning my study abroad program in South Korea, “Keep an open mind.” Master Jang, the first seventh-degree black belt in Taekwondo I had ever met, was leading the International Yonsei Tae Kwon Do Club’s practice. After watching them for two hours shivering on a wooden bench in the gym, it was clear this was not what I had envisioned.

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That was Monday March 2, 2009—the first day of school; it is now one month into spring semester at Yonsei University where I am an exchange student. A year and a half ago I was a freshman eating cafeteria food with international students Yumi, Mi Seon, and Ning. Now I am the exchange student eating cafeteria food with other Korean and international students. Yumi, from Seoul, gave me a wonderful reception upon arrival to South Korea.

“Emilie!!” Someone is screaming my name, but I can’t see who it is in the crowd of people. “Ahhh!” another person screams. I stop in my sleepless stupor to locate where all the commotion is coming from. Finally Yumi and Mi Seon break through the crowd running in high heels (as much as heels would allow them) to greet me. Considering the two half-crying girls surrounding me in the airport an observer might think I was a long awaited traveler who had finally come home. But that was my first day in a foreign country, and the beginning of two semesters of studying abroad at Yonsei University.

Yumi introduced me to Yonsei University during my freshman year. I was having difficulties finding a suitable place to study abroad. None of the programs matched my requirements: an East Asian country—preferably South Korea, a university that offered classes taught in English, and a wide range of classes to ensure two semesters of productive study that would allow me to graduate on time.

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Yonsei was the perfect fit: it was in South Korea, it had numerous classes taught in English ranging from engineering to economics, it had a home-stay program, and the Korean Language Institute was top ranked in the world. I chose Yonsei, and by doing so I was creating my first alma mater. I had to transfer to a Yonsei partner-school in order to be eligible to study abroad there. The extra work it took to go to South Korea instead of a well-traveled destination has proven to be completely worthwhile. One example is a demonstration of the Korean martial art Tae Kwon Do I participated in.

Don’t flinch. I am sitting on the shoulders of a man I met an hour ago. There is a board in my hands, my eyes are squeezed shut, and a seventh-degree black belt standing below the board I’m holding—preparing to smash it to pieces. Smack—the board breaks right before my (closed) eyes. Studying abroad forces students into many interesting and challenging situations that give us a chance to grow, learn, and build our character. This year I know I will go through many unforeseen challenges—like when I unexpectedly found myself a part of demonstrating how to break Tae Kwon Do precision boards for a large visiting class of Japanese high school students.

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3 Things I Learned My First Week Abroad

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A Croatian Sunset, no Instagram needed

The first few days in a new place are really exciting. No matter how blandly something is painted or regular to the locals, for you, it seems everything you see is new and shiny. These feelings get magnified when abroad. Being immersed in culture for the first time, and for me on an entirely different continent, EVERYTHING WAS SO COOL. Here are a few of the lessons I learned in those first few days I was abroad.

1. You’re Not As Fluent As You Think You Are

I’ve been speaking Spanish since I was 5 years old, a total of 15 years. I attended bilingual Elementary and Middle Schools, finished AP Spanish in High School, spent a summer living in rural Nicaragua, and one of my majors is Spanish; needless to say, I thought I was super prepared to go abroad and speak entirely in Spanish.

Wrong. WRONG.

Melodrama aside, it was the little things that fell through the cracks. For example, what do you call shower gel in Spanish? I spent roughly 15 minutes in the soap and shower section of a Carrefour grocery store in Spain desperately trying to figure out if Crema de ducha, which literally translates to “shower cream”, was indeed shower gel and not a lotion you applied post-shower.

Crema de ducha is indeed shower gel, I luckily discovered, however hovering stupidly in the aisle for WAY too long taught me that no question is ever too silly, and having a sense of humor and embracing your idiosyncrasies is key to not getting too overwhelmed.

2. Change Matters

How many of you out there carry around spare change? What’s that? None of you do because it’s totally not worth it and is a waste of valuable pocket space? Fancy that, I thought the same thing!

Here in the States, I leave anything less than a dollar at home. Change is reserved for saving in a piggy bank, then exchanging for an Amazon Gift Card when you think you have enough. In the UK and the Eurozone, however, I found this to be far from the norm. Most restaurants and local shops deal exclusively in cash, and coins are worth up to 2 Euros or Pounds. Be prepared to have some heavy pants and purses, ladies and gentlemen.

What I was left with was, ironically, the small changes to your life always seem to be the most impactful.

3. Umbrellas are a real thing

Growing up and going to school in Colorado has many advantages: we are the fittest and most active State, host the smartest city in the U.S. (Boulder), and get 300 days of sun a year. There are mountains to climb, fields to frolic in, and most importantly NO RAIN. We vacillate between snow and sunshine, and as the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather in Colorado, wait 5 minutes.

Then I discovered how the real world worked.

An umbrella’s only role used to be taking up valuable space in the closet. Abroad, umbrellas are not the relics from when you lived “back on the East Coast” and it “rained” frequently. This became blatantly apparent when I was walking around Salamanca one afternoon with some friends and it started to drizzle. Like any good Coloradan, I said, “this will blow over.”

It didn’t.

One torrential downpour later, miserable and soaked from the waist down, thankfully I had the foresight to bring my raincoat along, I returned home, only to leave as soon as the rain subsided to buy myself a fancy new umbrella.

Well I guess these things are useful. Neat.

The moral of the story here is to be prepared for the small things in your life to change: you never noticed how much time you had at a supermarket checkout line in the States until you have a gruff German woman frustratingly urging you to hurry up packing your produce into your backpack.

Get ready for the time of your life.

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Max Spiro

Peer Advisor, Office of Internationalization

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Ignorance and Knowledge

You know how it is preached in the Study Abroad 101s to not be ignorant of your home country’s politics, current events, and whatnot? During my fall semester abroad, I was the person whose knowledge about U.S. current events was really not that extensive. You may be thinking what an ignorant, lazy study abroad student. Wrong! Culturally immersed study abroad student.

You see, my first semester abroad was intensive Chinese language immersion. The way I saw it, stopping my intake of everything U.S.-related would not do much harm (with the exception of the Presidential Debate). Granted, I stayed in contact with people back home, but other than whatever was on my Facebook news feed when I uploaded photos, not a lot of American news reached my ears. 

Why? I listened to Chinese music. I tried to read (with much difficulty) Chinese news sources. I listened to Chinese podcasts and spent 11 hours of my day in classrooms studying the language. I lived with a host family that spoke no English and had a Chinese news source as my browser homepage.

the voice of China

First semester my goal was to be immersed in the language. To me, the tradeoff of knowing less about U.S. happenings was worth the gains I made in my Chinese language and cultural knowledge. My second semester abroad I took a Chinese Media Studies class, during which I read an equal amount of Chinese and American news sources to compare the reporting styles and contents of the articles. 

Every student in my program was immersed on different levels. One student only hung out with Chinese students and watched Chinese dramas with them. Another student always spoke English after class, breaking the language pledge all students had signed at the start of the semester. Each student had his or her own level of cultural immersion. Like I said earlier, my knowledge on American art or business was not as vast as when I was in the U.S., but on the up side I was up to date on Chinese events and surrounding myself with Chinese helped me achieve a level of speaking confidence I was proud of.

Just as students can be not culturally immersed when they go abroad, it is entirely possible for students to be completely culturally immersed. Hopefully you are more immersed than not; learning about cultural norms and the vernacular of your host country is one of the best ways to become familiar with the history and pop culture of where you are studying. Of course, there will always be different levels of immersion; how much you engage is up to you. Just don’t be afraid to give up some things you would normally rely on in the States. Who knows, you may even bring some cooler traditions back home with you.

- Michelle Yeager, DUSA Peer Advisor

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Audriana’s blog: Bilbao, Spain

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Audriana studied at the Universidad de Deusto through ISA this semester, and as she is wrapping up her time in Bilbao, she is reflecting on what the experience has meant for her:

“For me, study abroad became a time to find myself and be the person that I always have been, but was limited by her surroundings.  I know I will leave Spain as a different woman than the one who arrived here four months early, and I can’t wait to face my life straight on when I return.  I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to study abroad, travel to many amazing places, and meet such incredible people.”

http://unviajeporlavida.wordpress.com

 

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Joie’s blog: Akita-Shi, Japan

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We had a hard time picking just one image to share from Joie’s blog – she’s got a great eye and some beautiful images.  She is studying at Akita International University.  Take a look and read more:

http://hellotothetwo.tumblr.com/

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Alisa’s blog: India

If you are considering the MSID program in India, be sure to read Alisa’s blog (http://alisabrown93.wordpress.com/), because she gives a really detailed account of the experiences that the program provides… and she’s got some great pictures, too!

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Jacquelyn’s blog: York, England

Jacquelyn is studying at the University of York, sharing some of her adventures with us, and gaining come confidence while doing so.

Nerd moment at the National Railway Station!

Nerd moment at the National Railway Station!

“Today, I traveled for the first time someplace completely on my own, without friends or family or even a guide telling me what to do. This was one of the scariest things possible for me because I have realized I seem to always depend on someone else being there to suffer with me if I do mess up. Well I proved to myself that I don’t need to depend on other people because I can do everything on my own or figure things out.”

medievaltomodern.wordpress.com

 

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Chelsea’s blog: Thailand

“About two weeks ago, I walked down the stairs to get my breakfast and a cup of instant coffee. My routine every morning. The thing that was different that morning was the set of twelve empty waterbottles, each of which contained a giant rhino beetle. Upon closer inspection, I realized they were very much alive. Nervously I asked my dad, “Kin a-ria?” Which roughly translates to “Are we going to eat that?” He laughed…. which really didn’t answer my question.”

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Read more about ISDSI Thailand from Chelsea:

 http://stillanoptimist.wordpress.com

 

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Katrin’s blog: Beijing, China

Click through Katrin’s blog for some amazing images from China, as well as great explanations of (real) Chinese food.  Katrin is wrapping up her CSI Language Immersion Program at Peking University this fall.

http://www.quaintrellessence.blogspot.hk

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Sophia’s blog: Dubrovnik, Croatia

Sophia is studying with API in Dubrovnik, Croatia this term and sharing her adventures here:

http://westcoasttowesteros.wordpress.com

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Anna’s blog – Cork, Ireland

Ever heard of crubeens?  You can find out what they are on Anna’s blog… she’s also got some Irish storytelling, and a checklist of her favorite hangouts in Cork!

http://www.annagauldin.wordpress.com

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Madiba

Thank you, Sonia, for sharing your post from this past July’s Mandela Day in South Africa.  What an incredible legacy he has left for our world, and we are so glad that you got to experience it first hand.  Read Sonia’s blog post here:  http://treasuresandtrunks.blogspot.com/2013/07/67-minutes.html

“I am honored to have spent Mandela day participating in such a great tradition. Though I am excited to continue my service over the next several months within this community, I am all the more excited to bring this legacy into my existence back home as well. This tradition is certainly a 67 minutes well-served, but it is even greater to know that it represents a legacy of equality, forgiveness, and strength that is very much in effect today.”

Mural put together made by Khayelitsha students.

Mural put together made by Khayelitsha students.

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Hayley’s blog: Torino, Italy

Hayley catalogs not only her travels, but also lessons in culture shock, Italian food (how can you study in Italy and not blog about the food?), and learning pazienza.  She is participating on the USAC Torino program.

http://hlzulkoski.wordpress.com/

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So much more

It may be five degrees here in Denver today (yep, I said FIVE), but we are living vicariously through this awesome video that DU student, Alicia Carter, just shared with us.  What an amazing semester you’ve had.

“August 15th I left Los Angeles, California and began my semester abroad in Mérida, México. Looking back, I’m not exactly sure what my expectations were for the experience, but what did happen, I know, was so much more.”

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Tiffany’s blog: Amman, Jordan

Tiffany is participating on the CIEE Jordan: Arabic Language and Culture program, and sharing her adventures with us at www.the-river-bend.blogspot.com

Wanna know how to not fit in on campus in Amman?

“Backpacks are for losers. On the university campus, the Americans are literally the ONLY students carrying backpacks. The rest of the girls here carry their purses, and maybe a notebook or two. The guys will carry their phones, cigarettes, and a notebook or a book or two. I asked my language partner at the beginning of the semester why no one had them, and she literally said because backpacks are not cool. Only elementary school students carry them here. Despite that, I continue to look like a dweeb every morning carrying my backpack through campus.”

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Tiffany’s blog: Amman, Jordon

Tiffany is in Amman right now, on the CIEE Jordan: Arabic Language and Culture program.

www.the-river-bend.blogspot.com

She’s got some great stories about her experiences this semester on her blog.  We also really love that she included this quote:

“Maybe you had to leave in order to really miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was.”  - Jodi Picoult

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