Author Archives: DUAbroad

About DUAbroad

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

Combating the Wanderlust

I have been back from abroad for 6 and a half months and I’m itchy. Rather, I’m not itchy, but itching: itching for an adventure. I had the incredible privilege to visit 8 countries while I was abroad: Spain, England, Ireland, Croatia, Belgium, Germany, Morocco, and Norway. I spent a weekend exploring the nooks and crannies of the Medina in Marrakech. I stayed in the home of a Catalonian named Sergio, who graciously opened the door for me at 6:30am when I had forgotten my keys. I stayed in the Roman emperor’s palace in Split, Croatia where I casually jumped off cliffs in my spare time.

Coming home, however, was just as exciting. I had missed my friends, and readjusting to the life of a college upperclassman in the U.S. was it’s own adventure. I was living off campus for the first time in my own house, began to explore Denver, and had plenty of schoolwork to keep me occupied. My lust for adventure and travel lay dormant.

But when it came back, oh did it come back with a vengeance. This summer, I’ve had the pleasure to continue working at DU’s Study Abroad office. Most recently, I have been updating our database on all 176 programs we offer and mapping the location of each one. This, however, comes at the price of wanderlust. As I’ve been perusing websites, reading syllabi, and looking at program cities on Google Maps, it seems every other thought is: how much would a plane ticket to (blank) cost?

Me after the Barcelona, Real Madrid match in Barcelona

Me after the Barcelona, Real Madrid match in Barcelona

So, for all you fellow returnees out there, my best advice for you is to make a bucket list of activities to quench your thirst for adventure. Here are a couple suggestions that I’ve taken to heart:

  1. Go outside! Colorado has 53 peaks over 14,000 feet (4.3km) in the air and fantastic camping for all levels of outdoorsmen/women. Take advantage of them and explore.
  2. Obtain a skill. This can range from learning how to cook to getting scuba certified or obtaining your motorcycle license. It’ll open doors in the future.
  3. Go on a road trip. A lot of times we forget just how incredible the United States is compared to the excitement from abroad. Assemble a crew and drive somewhere you’ve never been.
  4. Foodies of the world, unite! Denver has a plethora of awesome international restaurants, with delicious Indian, Moroccan, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, and Japanese options that are relatively inexpensive. Try food from around the world.
  5. WATCH THE WORLD CUP. The world is competing in the World’s Game until July 13th. Cheer on your native or adoptive country in homage to your time abroad.
  6. Read a book. They say the greatest part of reading is that you can travel 1000 miles without taking a single step. For those of us who enjoy extracurricular reading, but never seem to have the time to do it, carve a chunk out of your Netflix time to read.

In the end it may not be the same as abroad, but at least it will keep you occupied. Best of luck on your next adventure!

-Max Spiro, Peer Advisor

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7 Tips For Study Abroad 7 Years Later

Today we have a guest blog post from a DU study abroad alumn.  Patrick Dichter studied at Aix-Marseille Université in southern France through ISEP. He graduated in 2009, majoring in International Business with minors in French and Finance. Patrick went on to complete his MBA at DU in 2010 and has worked for an online marketing startup before launching his own business, The Passport Protector LLC. 

I feel old. Seven years have already flown by since I studied abroad during my junior year at University of Denver. In my mind, it feels like yesterday that I got lost arrived on campus in Aix-en-Provence, France.

Now my journey has come full circle – the chance to share some ‘wisdom’ and a business I’ve launched because of that important semester. So here we go….7 Tips for Study Abroad 7 Years Later:

1. Soak up Every Single Second

The summer before I left my aunt sent me an email saying, ‘what I wouldn’t give to sit in a French café and do nothing but read for hours on end.’ Weird, I thought. But now I understand how time just seems to stop in those cafes yet real life is too busy for a 30-minute lunch.

2. Step outside your comfort zone. Then take two more steps.

The best times I had were the adventures that made me a bit nervous. And I can’t remember a single Skype session with friends from home, nor do I wish I’d spent more time using wifi. Get off your computer and into the world.

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3. Buy a local flag.

I can’t take credit for this idea, but it’s priceless. Buy a flag from your city or local soccer club to have all your friends from your program sign. Last night of the semester, everyone can jot down a note or memory.

4. Follow your heart.

Americans tend to be very logical or follow the rules. Your semester abroad is a great time to live it up and roam free. Buy that plane ticket to Morocco. Stay out late. Squeeze in one more excursion. Besides, spring semester you’re one year away from graduation.

5. Lean into the language.

If English isn’t the primary language in your city, don’t fight it and lean into it. It’s hard when you can’t read everything or keep up and express yourself. But the sooner you embrace the challenge, the easier it’ll become. Make a note to write down words you don’t know; try the native language first with locals, not English; focus on progress, not perfection.

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6. Appreciate student living abroad.

So your dorm room might be small and your budget is never big enough? There’s a huge difference between living in a city for months and all the graces that come with being a student, versus every other time you’ll travel. The next time, you’ll be rushed to cram everything into 2 weeks. Or you’ll have work emails to answer. Or you won’t know the city like a local. Or you’ll be too old for late nights and too accustomed to the finer things like nice hotels.

7. Take care of your passport with The Passport Protector!

I tried to return to Europe last summer for a two week trip. But as I was boarding the plane, I got stopped by a gate agent because of ‘wear and tear’ on my passport. It was up to date and in decent shape. Unfortunately the airline said they could get fined and I didn’t have any control in the matter. So we lost 4 days and $2500 for me to replace my passport. Thus I came up with a new product – The Passport Protector. It’s a hardcore case with innovative minimal design. Waterproof, impact resistant, and won’t get lost. Plus for every one sold we donate a portion to study abroad scholarships. Check out our crowdfunding campaign to buy one and spread the word: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-passport-protector/x/7035073

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Staying Connected Abroad

Taking a smart phone overseas and using local Wi-Fi on campus or in coffee shops can often be the most effective way of keeping in touch with friends and family back home. Make sure to keep your phone on airplane mode to avoid any additional charges from overseas use.

Here are some apps to help ease communication:

  • Skype enables you to video call or instant message from computer to computer or from your smart phone for free. You can also use Skype to make reduced rate phone calls to a phone back in the U.S.
  • Viber allows you to call mobile to mobile for free, as long as each phone has internet access, either through Wi-Fi or 3G. You can also send free international text messages. The app integrates your address book, showing you which of your contacts already has Viber.
  • WhatsApp – An instant messaging app that is free for the first year of use and 99 cents per year after. It allows you to text message people anywhere in the world for free, and allows you to share photos rapidly. WhatsApp uses the phone numbers in your address book to show friends and family with WhatsApp automatically. It also has a neat group chat feature too.
  • iMessage – the default texting on iPhones works through Wi-Fi just like other apps. Text your contacts in the same way as you do back in the U.S. As with iMessage, Facetime will also enable you to video chat internationally as long as you have Wi-Fi access. However, be forewarned that iPhones are not as popular overseas as they are here in the U.S. Make sure you download a separate app!
  • Touchnote – Allows you to create postcards on your phone, combining a photo and text, before printing it and sending it to any address in the world for $1.99 per postcard.

Finally, if you’re in a Wi-Fi spot and looking for other places for using Wi-Fi, the app Free Wi-Fi Finder works around the world to keep you connected for free. It maps free Wi-Fi access close to you.

-Callum Forster, Peer Advisor

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Becoming a flexible person through Study Abroad

People spend a lot of time talking about how study abroad will open your worldview and help you appreciate other cultures—this is ABSOLUTELY true and something we at the OIE hope you all get from this experience.  People also talk a great deal about how study abroad can strengthen your resume and make you a stronger candidate for jobs—something I know this blog will be discussing in the coming weeks as well.

However, I want to also bring some attention to the fact that study abroad can help with something else—it can be one more exercise in becoming a more flexible person and help you to adjust to any new scenario that comes your way.

I studied abroad twice as an undergrad—once in the UK and once in Chile—and both experiences certainly helped me with that process.  While I come from an immigrant Latino family and have spent a lot of time in Latin America visiting family, Chile was a new experience for me, as was the UK.  The fact that I had to figure out how to adjust to life in a completely new environment—and do it on my own—helped me develop my ability to be flexible as a human being.

Stephanie picture 1

Me on Easter Island June 2007

Figuring out where to go for goods or information; learning to observe what is going on around me to get a better sense of the big picture; paying careful attention to make sure the person I’m talking to is actually understanding what I am trying to communicate; learning to live without daily luxuries I couldn’t bring with me or couldn’t justify buying for such a short period of time: these are all skills that have served me incredibly well, both in my personal and professional life.

Personally, being open to big moves to new places and taking advantage of international opportunities that have come my way is something I definitely came to appreciate through study abroad.  I have moved around the US several times to start new jobs and in each case have been able to look at the move as an adventure, and have been able to design a mini-strategy for myself to help make each new city home, much like I did in the UK and Chile.

Professionally, my ability to observe what is going on around me has also come in handy.  Starting a new job is always an exercise in coming in to a new “culture” and using the same skills I developed when adjusting to a new community abroad has helped make my transitions into each new job as seamless as possible and helped me manage the unavoidable confusion and stress that comes with being the new person and being unsure of what you’re doing.

My internship placement in Nicaragua summer 2011

My internship placement in Nicaragua summer 2011

In both of these scenarios the main skill set is the same—being FLEXIBLE and comfortable with not knowing everything that is going on.  While study abroad won’t be solely responsible for helping you develop these, it is one more experience to help hone these skills—skills you’ll be able to take in every new opportunity or situation that comes into your life.

Me ending my last job, which had me touring the US raising awareness of international human rights. Out last big even in Washington DC 2013

Me ending my last job, which had me touring the US raising awareness of international human rights. Out last big even in Washington DC 2013

-Stephanie Roberts, OIE Advisor

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Readjusting Post-Study Abroad

A few weeks ago was my birthday. Things were going wonderfully, and then I received this text from my friend:

“Happy birthday, my dearest! And to think we left Beijing one year ago today.”

I read it and was dumbstruck. I clearly remembered my birthday one year ago, when my friends and I caught a cab to the Beijing Capital International Airport. It was early, barely 6:30 am. I was ready to return to the U.S., but I also wanted more time in this historical yet modern city. Although I wasn’t flying directly home (there was a detour to Hong Kong), it was the day I left my school, program, and friends from abroad.

Only now, one year later, am I beginning to see how my study abroad affected me when I returned to the States. Initially, all I could comprehend were the immediate things—how clean Colorado’s air is, how much more natural it was to use chopsticks and how clunky silverware seemed. My first quarter back at DU was overwhelming; academics, work, and relationships were different than I expected. As weird as it may sound, I yearned to study Chinese all day and eat sumptuous Beijing cuisine. Yet I had to focus on my final year of undergrad in Denver. It was intense. Things that seemed trivial to me were actually part of a large readjustment process I didn’t realize was happening.

For example…when I initially started drinking coffee again it was like drinking an energy drink. Even coffee overwhelmed me! I mediated this by ordering a tea tumbler off Amazon so I could drink the loose-leaf tea I had brought back from China.  Coffee gets me too caffeinated; I prefer to drink it slowly with friends now.

Readjusting Post Study Abroad_Michelle blog

Also, there were many times post-China I felt silly or disjointed while speaking. I’d pause or not be able to describe something as prolifically as I wanted to—the Chinese word was more immediate to me than the English word. There were three distinct times when I forgot “student” in English. There are countless times when my tongue has been tied.

Ultimately, two things have helped me readjust post-study abroad: 1) getting a routine and 2) working on communication.

This quarter has been my most stable quarter since being back. My routine is also the most stable now since being back, and I love it. A stable routine is one of the most grounding things I have experienced post-study abroad. Also, communication may seem simple, but after returning from another culture, changes in communication styles is undoubtedly one of the most important things to pay attention to.

Not everything ends just because you and your friends are getting on different flights with different destinations, but change is inevitable. Perhaps you won’t notice the change right away. Still, I recommend focusing on communication and establishing a routine—especially if you are gone for a longer amount of time.

Michelle Yeager, Peer Advisor

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Where’s The World’s Fair?

I have a question, have you ever heard of the world’s fair or the world expo?

There was a time

When the world came together

To celebrate humanity

Art and technology

And the future

The dirty little secret?

There still is.

 

(From Where’s The Fair? Trailer- Documentary directed by Jeffrey Ford)

Why do I ask? Because I worked there! It was an amazing summer internship as one of 40 Student Ambassador’s at the USA Pavilion for the 2012 World Expo in Yeosu, South Korea.  It’s quite a neat story that I’ll tell you more about in an upcoming blog post.

Where's the fair blog

I haven’t watched Where’s the Fair? yet, and don’t know if I can agree that it’s a dirtly little secret, but I definitely feel like the general American populace has been left in out of the loop.  The World’s Fair exists! It just changed names and is now referred to as the World Expo. I was surprised and excited when I learned these events have continued to operate every 2-3 years at 3-6 months at a time.

So what happened? Why aren’t they publicized like other world events like the Olympics? Why doesn’t the US host them anymore?  Well, I’ll share a little insight that I’ve gained through working at the USA Pavilion.

Firstly, legislation prohibits the use of US taxpayer money for US participation in World Expos.  All other nations participate through either a combination of government funds and corporate sponsorship, or rely solely on government funding.  For over a decade, USA Pavilions have relied on corporate funding.

Secondly, each expo’s USA Pavilion is a non-profit entity created for that specific year’s expo, and then the non-profit dismantles.  US participation in World Expos is the product of a public partnership with the newly founded non-profit funded by corporate sponsors.

The next World Expo is taking place in Milan, Italy in 2015; after that we’ve got Expo Astana 2017 and Expo Dubai 2020. So, for any students who speak Italian, Russian, Kazahk, or Arabic, OR students who want to be a part of an international event, check to see if you can work at one of the upcoming expos or for the USA Pavilion!  Milan’s theme is Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life—food!  The US announced its participation in Expo Milan in March, 2014.  The reason it is announced so late, unlike other countries who confirm their participation in future expos before the current one is completed, is because of the funding issue.  Because funding isn’t guaranteed, neither is our participation.  Instead of concentrating efforts on planning and refining the design, operations, and experience that the Pavilion, valuable time is lost in order to raise the money necessary to run the pavilion.

World expo World expo 2

Finally, the US is no longer a member of the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE), therefore it does not get a vote in determining which country will host a future expo.  Until the US pays dues and is reinstated as an active member it is unlikely that another World Expo will be held here.

Overall expos are great opportunities to show off new developments in technology, knowledge sharing, and celebration of culture. I hope that Americans become more aware of this event, begin to take part in it, and maybe even push for the US to rejoin the BIE so we can host once again.

Fair blog

 

Emilie, Peer Advisor

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Making the Best of Things Abroad

 

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As you are preparing for your time abroad, surely you are starting to think of some things you are nervous about. That’s definitely normal – even good. Your time abroad will bring brand new experiences for you, and some days will get tough.

That being said, there are a few things that are certain to make your time abroad the best it can be:

Don’t Freak Out When Things Go Wrong

One thing that we actually can guarantee you is that things will go wrong.

All. The. Time.

You are travelling to a new place, maybe many new places. You are going to be in a new city with a new culture. Many things about daily life will simply be different. When you are making plans to explore the city, plans for a weekend trip, anything you might want to do – remember that it may not end up going the way you planned. If you are a person who prefers to have every hour of your day planned out perfectly – get ready for a change. You might think you are going to the premier of a hot new movie – and it turns out to be in a tiny café that is impossible to find, screening an indie film against a brick wall with only 3 people watching. You might get lost on the way there and never make it. What’s the best way to cope with these situations?

We think you need to:

Laugh at Yourself

So what do you do when your plans get messed up, you get on the wrong bus and are hopelessly lost, anything or everything goes wrong during the course of the day? You just have to laugh at yourself. I didn’t make it through a single day abroad without messing at least one thing up. I once ordered carrot juice on accident because I didn’t know the Arabic word for carrot, I thought it was strawberry. I would get laughed at by cab drivers when my broken Arabic wasn’t quite good enough for the directions I needed to give. I would go to an event and not be able to catch a cab home to save my life.

The thing about being abroad is that you will stick out. You will be the different one in the crowd, no matter what. And when you aren’t familiar with the culture, the streets, the language, you will make mistakes. And that’s okay! Learning from your mistakes, and especially learning to laugh at them, is a part of the study abroad process. So try not to take yourself too seriously – it’s much more fun that way.

Say YES

This advice comes with an important caveat – only say yes to something if it is SAFE and LEGAL to do.

YOU WILL NOT SAY YES TO SOMETHING ILLEGAL

Now, saying yes is simply a suggestion to try new things, and make the most of different opportunities. At certain points, study abroad might be really really really hard. You might want to fall into a routine of things that are familiar – eat at McDonald’s more than is normal, or find a piece of home. We think this is a perfectly fine thing to do, as long as it doesn’t become your routine while abroad. Being in a new country is the perfect time to say YES to all sorts of different possibilities that come your way. Maybe a last second excursion, maybe a weekend trip, maybe a concert or festival happening. So once you get abroad, try to make the most of each opportunity you get!

Most of all, make sure to HAVE FUN.

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Tiffany – Peer Advisor

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6 Things I Learned to Love in Spain

You greet that Spanish lady, Barry O!

  1. Two Kisses: a Spanish greeting includes two kisses beginning on the left side then the right. However, these are not real kisses. You either lightly touch each other’s cheeks together or kiss the air (no lips touching cheeks action).
  2. Small Bubbles: space in general is limited in Europe so it makes sense personal space is not as big as it is in the U.S. This was awfully awkward at first but then I found it very efficient; there is a lot less yelling.
  3. Walking: in Spain walking somewhere mean actually going walking speed, not that shuffle awkward thing that Americans do because they are in a hurry. I learned to take the time to greet people, enjoy the weather and take a few minutes to myself.
  4.  Late, Always Late: the concept of time is very different around the world. I had to get used to the fact that my professor or friends may be late and they wouldn’t even apologize for it. This was probably because they were walking slowly (see number 4) or because time is respected differently in Spain.
  5. Manzanilla Tea: chamomile tea is just as common as coffee in Salamanca. This was wonderful for me because people in the U.S.  look at me funny when I say I hate coffee. In Spain, I was able to participate in the cultural norms without having to drink any coffee.
  6. No Tipping: camareros are paid better than they are in the U.S. so nobody needs to tip. You are welcome to give a small tip if you are super impressed, and small only means a couple euros.
Coffee OR Tea

Coffee OR Tea

Going to another country and learning the nitty-gritty details about the culture can be exciting and fun but it can also be very difficult right around the time homesickness hits. The important thing to remember is that these things don’t have to be better or worse than home, they can just be different. As soon as we stop comparing our experiences abroad to home we can enjoy them a lot more. Although all of these things seemed odd at first, now they are what I miss most about Spain.

Adrianna Romero, Peer Advisor

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Missing Pets While Abroad- Missing my cat, missing my dog, and discovering missing barking

An easy thing that comes to mind when people ask me if I miss home is my pets.  Missing them is just as applicable when I’m here in Denver studying, as it was when I was in Seoul studying abroad. I miss playing in the deep Minnesota snow with my dogs, making snowmonsters that Monte attacks and destroys—tearing down what took 10-15 minutes to make in less than 10 seconds.  I miss our cats that climb up into my lap to be petted.  And I miss discovering baby kittens on our farm.

I learned that in South Korea, most Koreans prefer dogs to cats and see cats as a dirtier animal.  Do people prefer cats or dogs in the country you visited?

One of the highlights of my time in Korea was spending a few weekends at my friend’s home, with her super cute small white terrier.

This is Nana. She looks cuter with hair.

This is Nana. She looks cuter with hair.

That is when I learned that it is common for owners in Korea to de-bark their dogs.  I was shocked. I didn’t know the procedure even existed. Well, it does. And people in the United States practice it too; it’s just not widely advertised by veterinarians who practice debarking.

If you want to learn more, check out the 2010 New York Times article by Sam Dolnick titled Heel. Sit. Whisper. Good Dog.

Colorado appears to be full of dog-lovers, and I expect most Coloradans who read this will instantly object. But after looking into the procedure of de-vocalization, it doesn’t bother me very much.  It is a procedure done for humans’ convenience; it seems comparable to de-clawing cats.  Additionally, dogs recover quickly, and it doesn’t turn them into unhappy pets.

The procedure has been has been done for decades and animals can generally still make wheezing or squeaking noises.  There isn’t data available to tell us how many dogs have been devocalized, but experts say that it is most common in private homes, dogs who compete in show circuits, and in drug dealers’ attack dogs.

On the other hand, I doubt I’d ever do that to my own pet in my lifetime.  Devocalization is banned in New Jersey except for medical reasons, in Ohio it can only be done on nonviolent dogs, and is banned in European countries as well (Dolnick, 2010).

What do you think? Would you ever de-bark your dog, like they do in other parts of the world? Have you ever de-clawed your cat? Have you met a de-barked dog? Was it happy?

-Emilie, Peer Advisor

 

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Culture Shock and the Greatest Graphic Ever

Culture Shock may be the most blandly defined word ever. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary calls it “a feeling of confusion, doubt, or nervousness caused by being in a place (such as a foreign country) that is very different from what you are used to.”

Blah blah blah, bored bored bored. Enough already.

It is truly astounding that a definition can fall so short. True culture shock is elation and terror, excitement and frustration, adventure and nostalgia. While these pairs seem to be in conflict with each other, in reality, they act in perfect harmony, albeit one might be acting a bit more strongly than the other. Let me explain.

Goofing around the Royal Palace of Madrid

Goofing around the Royal Palace of Madrid

Truly being in a new culture, for me, comes down to an internal battle between adventure and nostalgia, as I mentioned before. While traveling, carpe diem (YOLO for all you hooligans out there) seems to rule my psyche. I want to see everything, do everything, and experience every little facet that will imbue the place to me. For example, when I was in London this past September, my travel partner and I decided to walk from our hostel near King’s Cross to London’s Natural History Museum (our route).

Had we walked straight there, it would have been 7 miles. All of our detouring and site-seeing probably brought us up to 9. We talked in British accents, took pictures, ate lunch in St. James Park, and tried to grasp the fact that we were thousands of miles away from home. We turned our excitement up to 11, culture shock was staring me straight in the face, and life couldn’t have been sweeter.

That’s the upside to culture shock: it can be riveting and awesome, new and shiny.

Then there’s the flipside: the nostalgia of everything you left behind.  Whether it’s friends, a significant other, a physical location, or your family, you made sacrifices to “live the dream”, so to speak. At first, you’re too caught up in the moment to realize this; while every cloud has a silver lining, every warm, sunny day gives you a higher chance of contracting melanoma. Wow that was incredibly insensitive. I’m going to rephrase, hyperbole and melodrama aside.

The point I’m (so offensively) trying to make is that culture shock is a double-edged sword. Going abroad is a fantastic journey that can come at personal sacrifice. That being said, I believe the benefits outweigh the shortcomings tenfold. No, everything will not be just as you left it, but that can be a blessing in disguise and the relationships that really matter will deepen.

Culture Shock: Jump In

Culture Shock: Jump In

Now, the greatest graphic ever. You will forget just about everything the Study Abroad Office tells you before you go abroad. We do our best, but the reality of the situation is that a lot of information falls through the cracks. The one piece that will remain with you when you come home from your grand adventure is the graphic below:

 

GREATEST POWERPOINT SLIDE EVERRRRR

GREATEST POWERPOINT SLIDE EVERRRRR

This is you over time. As you slowly assimilate into your host-country’s culture, there will be ups and downs. Always remember, though, that no matter how low you go, if you keep working hard, the next euphoric moment is right around the corner.

Max Spiro, Peer Advisor

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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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