I remember when I was going abroad that I wanted to be as “un-American” as possible. I wanted to blend in as well as to not offend any of the other cultures that I was going to be visiting.
So, I put together a list of American customs that can be considered rude in other cultures through some research and this Quora thread, I hope it is helpful, interesting, enlightening, and a little funny.
In Japan and South Korea tipping is seen as an insult.
2. Sitting in the back of a cab
In Australia, New Zealand, parts of Ireland, Scotland, and the Netherlands it is rude not to ride shotgun.
3. Throwing a thumbs-up
If you give a thumbs up in the Middle East, Latin America, Western Africa, Russia, or Greece, you are basically giving them the middle finger.
4. Laughing with your mouth open
If you laugh with your mouth open in Japan it is considered impolite.
5. Saying your from America, not the United States
If you say you’re from America while in South America, it is considered rude and that you don’t believe there should be another “America.”
6. Being fashionably late
In countries like Germany, not being on time is considered rude and a waste of your guests time.
7. Being on time
However, in South America, if you arrive on-time it is considered a sign of disrespect.
8. Using your left hand for actions
If you do anything in Africa, India, Sri Lanka, or the Middle East it is considered a sign of disrespect because they use their left hand for “bathroom duties.”
9. Opening a present immediately
In asian countries, if you open the gift immediately in front of the person who gave it to you it is considered greedy.
10. Wearing “athleisure” in public
Wearing leggings, sweatpants, baseball caps, or wrinkly clothes is a sign of sloppiness in Asian and European countries.
11. Showing the soles of your feet
In countries that are Arab, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist showing the soles of your feet is a sign of disrespect.
12. Drinking someone else’s alcohol
In Norway, when you go to a party it is rude to drink someone else’s alcohol. Only drink the alcohol that you brought personally.
13. Finishing your meal
If you finish your meal in China, the Philippines, Thailand, or Russia it tells the host that they didn’t provide you with enough food, and they will continue to provide more.
Settling into your housing abroad has the exact same feeling as settling into your dorm freshman year of college. All of a sudden you’re sitting alone on your bed and the realization hits you that you know absolutely no one in this huge new country you’ve decided to live in for six months. Of course, you may know a couple of DU students who have decided to live in the same country as you, but you know nothing of the city, how to get around, how to order food, how to get to class, and the realization hits you that you are absolutely helpless.
This was probably the scariest feeling of being abroad, I didn’t know the city of Dunedin in New Zealand. I felt like a lost puppy, absolutely dazzled and confused by my new surroundings, and the worst part was that I arrived two days early, so I was the first one to be in my flat and the first one from DU to be in Dunedin.
I spent the first two days wandering around Dunedin trying to figure out where the grocery store was and trying to buy food in the store without looking like a tourist. I messaged people from DU that I’d never really talked to before, who I knew were going to Dunedin, and asked them when they were arriving and that I’d love to get coffee with them.
These first two days of abroad were incredibly lonely and isolating but incredibly empowering. I had taken a 13 hour flight, managed to make it to my flat, lived alone for two days before anyone arrived, and I survived, and I knew that if I could survive that I could survive anything.
The rest of abroad was absolutely incredible and I made friends that I’ve visited and have visited me in the United States.
But the point is, the beginning of abroad is scary and new and daunting but everyone goes through it and everyone finds their ground and their bearings, just like freshman year of college. So no matter how nervous you are, remember, if you survived being dropped off at your dorm room freshman year not knowing the campus, the surroundings, or any people, you can survive abroad.
In New Zealand and Australia when you go to order coffee and you ask for the stereotypical drip coffee you are going to be looked at like you are a crazy person this is because they have different names for their coffee. So without further ado, here is a list of the coffee types in New Zealand and Australia and an explanation for all of them.
Caffè Americano You can make this type of coffee quite simply by adding hot water to a shot of espresso coffee.
Café Latte (or Café au lait)
A latte consists steamed (or scalded) milk and a single shot of coffee, you’ll occasionally encounter cafes that don’t understand the difference between this and a flat white.
The first is a shot of espresso, then a shot of steamed milk, and finally the barista adds a layer of frothed, foamy milk. This final layer can also be topped with chocolate shavings or powder.
To make an espresso, shoot boiling water under high pressure through finely ground up coffee beans and then pour into a tiny mug.
The most Aussie coffees available are the long black and the flat white – as both originated in Australia and New Zealand. For a flat white, the steamed milk from the bottom of the jug (which is usually not so frothy, but rather creamy) is poured over a shot of espresso.
Hot water is poured into a cup, and then two shots of espresso are poured into the water.
This type of coffee is brewed with whiskey, sugar, and a thick layer of cream on the top.
Macchiato (also known as a Piccolo Latte)
A shot of espresso which is then topped off with foamed milk dashed directly into the cup.
A vienna is made by adding two shots of particularly strong espresso together before whipped cream is added as a substitute for milk and sugar.
A ‘mocha’ is just a latte with added chocolate powder or syrup, as well as sometimes being topped with whipped cream.
A shot of espresso poured over a desert (usually ice cream)
Our spring break trip began at 6:00am on Sunday morning. We packed all 8 of our backpacking backpacks into the back of our van and drove 3.5 hours to Queenstown.
Once in Queenstown we explored the town, found our hostel, and enjoyed the evening at a local ice bar ( a bar where everything is made of ice and you have to wear special gloves and jackets) and a couple other fun dancing bars as well! That day me and the three others who decided not to bungee jump went and explored a ‘beach’ area in Queenstown, the ones who did bungee jump jumped off the highest bungee in the world!
The next morning we left around 7:00 am from Queenstown and embarked on the four hour drive to Milford Sound. Milford sound is in the Fiordland National Park and is a place where the ocean comes into a valley that was glacially carved. The mountains in this valley are beautiful and snowcapped at the top, and covered in rainforest and waterfalls as big as three times the height of Niagara falls at the bottom!
Four of us decided to do the Milford Sound boat cruise, which was absolutely amazing. The boat looked like an old wooden pirate ship and took us around the sound and under the waterfalls! After the boat cruise we met up with the three people who decided not to do the boat cruise at ‘The Chasm’ which is a rock formation where a waterfall goes in and out of rocks (there are parts where you can’t see the waterfall because there is a bridge of rock covering it).
While in the Chasm we all decided to do some ‘off-roading’ from the tourist approved track and ended up in this little valley where the waterfall ended. The water was crystal clear and you could drink from it, there were rainforest vines and trees hanging everywhere and in the distance was a snow-capped mountain. At the end of the day, we headed out of the Chasm to see the sunset at mirror lake, which is a lake that as you probably guessed, gives a perfect mirror image of the landscape. We then ended our day by driving to Te Anau and staying in a hostel before embarking on our three day backpacking trip through the Routeburn Track.
At 8:00am the next morning we set off for the Routeburn track, our van packed full with eight backpacking packs and eight people. The car was very heavily weighed down so it was a fun drive! We had to drive 3.5 hours to get there and we had a run-in with some sheep in the middle of the road. The sheep blocked our car for 15 minutes while being herded by two sheep dogs! We then finally made it to the base of the track and ate our bag of the PB&J’s we had made the night before at the hostel before setting out on our journey.
The first hour or two was hiking through jungle with a river to the left of us, at one point we stopped and refilled our water bottles in the river! There was one section of the hike that was only filled with giant ferns that looked straight out of Jurassic Park. After two hours of hiking we made it to the first hut and had a pit stop before continuing on to the second hut. The hike to the second hut was absolutely brutal, it was a steep grade the whole hour up, and I was at the back wheezing due to recently being sick. However, when we got to the the second hut we looked over the whole entire valley where the first hut was located and had a 48 person hut all to ourselves. We finished the night with wine and tin-foil meals of vegetables.
The next morning we woke up and explored the second hut which was surrounded by over seven waterfalls and glacier springs. We then hiked back down to the first hut and stayed the night there. We were completely alone this whole trip until around 8:30pm when a man showed up in the pitch dark in the middle of rainstorm to sleep in the hut with us. (The weather was absolutely perfect the whole trip except for rain on this day). The man had been climbing a glacier and had to leave due to gale force winds and decided to tramp the Routeburn to have a hut to stay in.
The next morning we woke up with the intention of hiking the Emerald track, however, on our car ride to get there we had to cross multiple streams in the middle of the road, and we could only make it through one because of the weight of the car, and we did not want to risk not being able to return if it happened to rain that night, so we decided to stay a a nearby hostel and explore this little lake town. The owners of the hostel were very nice and had two children and two puppies! They allowed us to walk the puppies around the lake and surrounding area (one golden and one sheep dog)! We finished the evening with a meal, drinks, and a movie before falling asleep.
Our final day was the next morning when we drove 5.5 hours back to Dunedin to end the spring break trip! Overall, it was an incredible time and it was so amazing to hike my first backpacking trip and see Milford Sound.
Introducing one of our lucky bloggers for the fall 2016, Thomas Enck will be sharing stories from his program in Salzburg, Austria and all over Europe! Enjoy!
T. Time: I
“May our travels carry us over many seas and to many shores, but may we never let them carry us from who we’re meant to be.”
It’s a strange feeling, having the sunset send you off at the beginning of a flight only to look forward to a warm greeting from the sunrise on the other side. These are the clichés that writers dream about; the ending of a chapter and the beginning of another, entering a new era, so on and so forth.
To tell you the truth I’m still a little peeved with the 5-hour delay that we had at the beginning this flight. And that’s what made the extended allegory possible in the first place.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the beginning of T. Time – a blog that will cover a small town, Colorado kid gallivanting throughout Europe for 4+ months with good friends new and old. But by no means is he the focal point of these tales.
Obligatory fair warning based on the name: if you were looking for a blog covering the Masters, or Golf, or Bubba Watson’s Oakley Jetpack (it’s a thing – Google it) you have, somewhat regrettably, come to the wrong place.
Currently your guide on this journey is nowhere near any of that. Rather, he is sitting in an Icelandair Jet which happens to be named after Hekla; a volcano that was thought to be the entrance to Hell in the Middle Ages. Charming name, I’m sure you’d agree. Just the plane you would want to fly you over the North Atlantic. That being said, the egregious delay, the temporary annoyance, not even the off-putting reference to the lair of Lucifer where able to match the unbridled curiosity, anticipation and yes, trepidation, of your metaphorical pilot – a man who has never set foot off the North American Continent.
The reason is fairly simple, and it is what we will cover over the next several months. Coming of age in the world in which we live into is an exceedingly difficult. Full of moments of paralyzing fear and insane bravery, insatiable love and inconsolable loss, destabilizing confusion and concrete certainty one after the other. We are expected to know who we are and step into the world fully formed before we ourselves know the answer to so many questions.
Thus we must learn, and to do so we must leap into the unknown. We must experience what life has to offer in the lessons taught by the circumstance around us. Maybe not in an aircraft named after Hell’s gates, but I digress.
I am not an incredible person by any means. In fact, I would say that I am average in most every aspect. But I would love to take you on this journey with me. Within the experiences that we have on a regular basis there is so much to learn.
It would be my pleasure if you would join me – metaphorically of course. The plane wasn’t delayed long enough for you to make it to D.I.A. after this was posted, even if it may have felt as such. The narratives to be told will be cut with humor and hilarity; pondering, questioning, and hopefully minimal pandering. All will be bursting with colorful characters and absurd and thought provoking accounts. Through these stories we can explore what it means to be young – be it literally or the young of heart – in a world that is so full of uncertainties. Dreams, ideals, aspirations and beliefs, all and more will be covered in due time through the medium of experience: across the entirety of Europe no less.
The honor would be mine to serve as your symbolic flight attendant on this journey. You, however, are the protagonist and primary traveler in your odyssey of self-discovery.
Should you choose to join, you have my word that our plane will not be delayed. In fact, we’re ahead of schedule. In addition, you can name the plane whatever you would like – Though may I humbly suggest something mellow, such as Basket of Puppies or Edelweiss. All you have to do is say the word and we’ll come roaring out of the dawn into the unknown.
Who knows. Maybe this daybreak it isn’t just a tired metaphor after all. It could truly be the start of something new; but there’s only one way to find out.
-Your meek conductor and Watchword Guide, T. R. E.
The moment when I realized that I was coming home from studying abroad, I had mixed feelings. I was thrilled to return to my hometown, however I had adjusted to living in Alexandria, Egypt. There was a significant change in my perspective about my host city from when I first arrived to when I left Alexandria.
When I arrived in my host city after a long 24 hour flight, I was super jetlagged and could barely function. The time was 1 AM and I had a four hour drive ahead of me from Cairo to the northern coast. On the way to the university residence halls, I couldn’t wait to get settled in a room and rest. Driving to my housing I was a bit surprised about my new surroundings. Looking back at that time I remember imagining the city to look a bit different.
I had pictured Alexandria to look like something from a travel brochure, a city mixed with the old and new that had endless beaches right next to the university campus. Driving through the city to the residence halls, I had encountered something very different. I do not know if my thoughts were due to the physical and mental state, but the city was very run down, garbage lined the streets, and the air carried a stench that I had never experienced before. When I arrive at my residence hall I was disappointed. The building looked dilapidated and could collapse at any minute. I remember asking the driver in Arabic, “Is this it? Are you sure?” and he replied, “Yes this is the correct address.” In addition, the housing for men was far from campus and the public beaches were not exactly the best places to go swimming.
The first couple weeks were quite the challenge. It was not easy adjusting to a new way of living. The calendar was different where classes were Sunday through Thursday. The food options were great, however this gave you constant diarrhea and you were always on the lookout for a nearby bathroom just in case. The other American students in the Critical Language Scholars (CLS) program were rude and unfriendly to the students in my program. Also, the humidity was unbearable and I felt like a walking puddle in a polo. I felt very unsettled and was I was missing everything back home.
After getting settled and starting classes, I began to adjust and got used to living in Alexandria. I created some fantastic friendships with my fellow program classmates and had some amazing adventures with them exploring the city and country. The teachers in my college were supportive in our academics and were always excited to show us the fascinating and bizarre pockets of Alexandria. Developing a daily routine was critical to feeling comfortable. I quickly grew to love the city and the country and it began to feel more like a second home.
When my program was approaching the end, I could not believe how quickly time had passed. Thinking about coming home gave me feelings of joy. I was excited to see my family, my boyfriend, and all my friends. My senior year in college was about to start and I couldn’t wait to get started. However thinking about leaving Alexandria left me a bit sad because I saw the city in a new light. The ambiance of the buildings, people, and lifestyle were different then when I first arrived. Somehow I felt that I may be leaving something special behind.
While you’re in a different country having an awesome time doing new things and meeting awesome people you think you’ll remember everything. But trust me, after being back home for a few months and restarting a routine in your ‘normal’ life, things tend to slip. You’ll definitely remember all of the awesome big things that you did- whether it’s traveling across the country or going to a concert or a fair- but you won’t be doing that on a daily basis. Some of the small stuff, the stuff that helped make your experience special and unique, will start to fade away.
Seriously, it’s the small things.
So my advice is to keep a journal of the cool things that you do and see abroad. Write a little something for all the cool people that you meet-if you’re horrible at names like me, you’ll probably forget a few once you’re back home and looking through all your awesome pictures. Put down the name of your favorite coffee shop and the name of the new crazy food that you tried-or your favorite empanada place.
If you don’t like writing much do it anyway! It doesn’t have to be a diary entry or a blog post if that’s not your style, but whatever you put, you’ll appreciate later. Study abroad is a pretty transformational experience and you’ll want to remember all of it-the good, and the bad.
I have now been back in the US longer than I was abroad in Argentina. First of all, this blows my mind. Secondly, I am starting to forget some of the smaller, seemingly unimportant, things that really made my time abroad awesome.
I kept a journal while I was abroad-for the record, it was my first time ever doing something like that- and I often felt like I didn’t have time or that it was a silly thing to do, but I really appreciate it now. I wrote down little snippets of my day or the things that really frustrated me. I wrote down my favorite restaurants, and some of the funny, uncomfortable, silly things that happened to me. Because of this I can look back and reminisce about the good times, and the challenges. It’s something to laugh at and to reflect on. It was totally worth it for me because there really is joy in the small things in life.
One thing I wish I had known before I studied abroad was that culture shock can happen to anyone, even if you think you are familiar with the culture.
The program that I participated in took me to Alexandria, Egypt where I completed an intensive third year Arabic language program. The faculty member in charge of the program and his program chaperons were very informative. They were helpful about how to navigate daily life in Egypt and what to be aware of in regards to cultural interactions. Although, there was one thing that was not covered, and that was how to deal with culture shock.
The stages of culture shock are:
Initial Euphoria/Honeymoon Stage
Irritation and Hostility/ The Negotiation Stage
Gradual Understanding/ The Adjustment Stage
Adaptation or Bi-culturalism/ The Mastery Stage
I definitely experienced each of these phases despite the fact I was already knew what to expect with the culture of the Middle East. Here are some suggestions of how to curb culture shock in each stage:
Learn as much about the culture as possible:
Whether or not you have familiarity with a culture, there is always more to learn and explore.
Ask study abroad coordinators for advice
If you have a study abroad coordinator that is very familiar with your program location, ask them questions about what to expect. They are a wealth of resources to prepare for housing, travel, and daily social interactions.
Write down what you love when you first arrive, and look back later
Journaling is always a good for the mind and soul. This is a good way to release stress and remember joyful events. Writing down positive experiences can help when you have rough days and need to remember what you love about your programs location.
Talk to other students about how you feel
If you have other students on your study abroad program, communicate with them about your experiences
Push yourself to make local friends
Do not isolate yourself and try to stay social. Reach out to local students and make new friends and connections. This will help you in becoming more familiar with your surroundings and feelings of loneliness.
Try to see things through host culture’s eye
If you disagree or do not appreciate something from your host culture, take a step back and look through their eyes. There is always a reason for culturalisms.
I was scheduled to leave for Salamanca, Spain in early September of 2013, but had one foot out the door in June.
Sitting in my parent’s house in Boulder, Colorado, I was itching to rediscover the freedom I so coveted while in college and excited to explore Spain and Western Europe, where I’d never been before. I had worked all summer, leaving all my worldly possessions strewn across the floor of my childhood room, knowing that those 3 months were just a stop gap to where I really wanted to be.
In my sagely, and immensely humble, 20 years on this planet, at that point, I’d learned if you got an itch, you’d better scratch it. And so I did just that, I scratched that study abroad itch and was consumed by the desire to leave. Instant gratification definitely got the best of me.
In all that scratching, though, left me without a few key pieces of information that would have been really valuable before leaving for my trip.
First, improvising will get you a long way, but some structure is both nice and necessary.
I arrived in Spain at around 8:30pm, with the last bus leaving for Salamanca from Madrid around 9:00pm. I thought it would be easy to simply walk off my flight, find the bus station, buy a ticket, and that would be that.
In short, I was profoundly, utterly, and horribly wrong. In Spain, you are supposed to buy your ticket well before you arrive, something I realized as the ticket office was closed and I watched my bus drive away. This, however, is where structure comes in. Knowing I didn’t have a lot of time to make my bus, I researched the departure times of trains leaving for Salamanca from Madrid. The last train left at 9:37 from Chamartín station in southern Madrid, which I decided was my last shot.
I ended up needing it. After realizing I missed my bus, I ran to a taxi. The old man driving the taxi was one of the most kind individuals I had ever met in my life. I explained my predicament to him, he flew to the station, then jumped out of his cab to walk me to the ticket counter and make sure I got on the right train. Having flexibility in a loose structure quickly became my mantra.
Secondly, arrange what you need for your extended trip, get rid of half of it, and bring an extra bag for your flight home.
In packing, especially, I found that I could have packed much more efficiently than I did, and I only brought one suitcase and a carry-on backpack. If you’re studying abroad for a few months, mine was a total of four, often times you’re going to span two seasons. This leaves you with a slight predicament, in the sense that there generally isn’t a one-size-fits wardrobe that you can wear throughout your entire trip. In my case, coming from Colorado, I expect 60-70 degree days to extend through October and the occasional day in November. Moreover, I thought, when the sun is out, it’s always warm, so I’ll need plenty of shorts.Spain is notorious for being hot and I thought I was in the clear.
Not only did I find that wearing shorts was largely looked down upon by Spaniards in autumn, it never was quite warm enough to warrant wearing them anyway. So they sat and took up valuable room in my suitcase. The same principles apply towards toiletries and other non-essentials, particularly in the developed world. No, your host country may not have your preferred body wash or shampoo from home, but they will have an equivalent. Don’t pack it, there are greater things at stake, and often times, you can find higher quality items to augment what you can’t bring, like the sweater, dress shirt, and pea coat that accompanied me home.
This brings me to the last packing point, bring an extra bag for your return. When I was gone, I missed birthdays, holidays, and all sorts of other occasions that require gifts. I had accumulated a few new things myself, and was gifted more, all of which added up, slowly but surely, to take up a lot more room. Having an extra, cloth duffle bag that I folded up into my original suitcase allowed me to fit everything coming home. That being said, this only works if you have one checked bag and one carry-on when you leave home. Most international flights allow for two checked bags, so take advantage of it when you really need it: on your return flight.
Finally, realize that your accent will forever be tainted by the guttural, Spanish version.
It doesn’t matter how much you resist. It doesn’t matter how much you practice. It doesn’t matter how many classes you take on your return with professors from Latin America. The Spanish accent sticks like a tongue to a flagpole on a blustery winter day.
Give into it. Learn that joder, with that scratchy “j”, is the most descriptive, utilitarian word in the Castilian dialect. Resign yourself to the bizarre existence of vosotros, and forgive yourself for the first time you say zapato as your tongue slithers its way through your front teeth.
And more than just resign yourself to it, practice and immerse yourself in a Spanish dialect that you’re not necessarily familiar with. Websites such as Matador Network have lists of Spanish idioms that are really useful. Watch a soccer match in Spanish, if not only to count the number of seconds the announcer screams “GOL!!!!”. Practice your vosotros. Watch a Spanish movie, there are a plethora of wonderful ones, my favorites being “Mar adentro”, “Hable con ella”, and “El laberinto del fauno”.
Joder tío, obviously, there are many more ways to prepare, but I hope this helps with a few aspects that may have slipped under the radar.
After months of planning, checking off things to do on DU passport, and having all of my final paper work completed, it was finally time to actually start getting ready to leave. Here’s the mental checklist I had to live, breathe and sleep with right before my departure:
Check in with SMART Traveler Program – Since this was my first time travelling alone, I had to make sure I took all the safety precautions!
Plane ticket confirmation – you know that uneasy, nervous feeling you get when you think you forgot to do something? This was me all the time, except I don’t know how many times I checked the date and time to make sure I didn’t miss my flight or booked it on the wrong date until the day I actually had to leave!
Money $$ – I created a Charles Schwab bank account to make sure that I saved some money abroad by avoiding transaction, withdrawal and conversion fees and I also had been saving up money from working at Olive Garden over the summer.
Communication – I wasn’t sure how effective my T-Mobile Simple Choice International plan was going to work but I decided to stick with it and cancel it later if it didn’t work. (Luckily it did, and I didn’t have to worry about connecting back home again!)
Pinterest! – I created numerous pin boards with food and places I wanted to check out while abroad. It made me excited and less nervous that the reality of being able to actually go to those places was a close reality.
Packing! – The task I procrastinated the most took me the longest time to complete! I packed clothes for all possible weather and later realized that I had no room to bring anything back! Packing to study abroad has to be one the most difficult things one could do the week of departure, and I don’t know how I did it but it happened!
I guess in terms of logistical stuff, making lists is my way of preparing for things. However, I think that in the larger scheme of things, there is no real way to prepare for studying abroad… and that’s totally okay! The wanderlust feeling that embodies you when you visit a brand new place and the roller coaster of emotions before, during and after adapting to a new culture are things that will hit you no matter how much you try to mentally prepare yourself; that’s what made my study abroad experience so memorable!
For the record, I don’t quite know what my next adventure will be yet, nor will I pretend to have everything under control when it comes. Study abroad definitely beat that tendency out of me. But I’m getting ahead of myself; let’s bring it back a bit.
For many people, including myself, I got to truly travel independently for the first time when I studied abroad. I’d visited out-of-state friends in college, gone on road trips with others, but there’s always an added dimension when “international” gets thrown into the mix. There are more logistics, more languages, and more complications if something goes wrong. Through a few moments of brilliance and many more epic missteps, I learned quite a bit about living and traveling abroad. So, here’s a quick list of tangible ways study abroad prepared me for my next aforementioned adventure:
I navigate a mean airport/bus terminal/metro station
I have spent a lot of time traveling, not in the sense that I have spent a lot of time abroad, which I thankfully have, but more that I’ve been exposed to some hellish layovers and travel days. Coming home from study abroad, I worked my way through four airports over two days of travel. It’s exhausting, and you shortly find that duty free looks the same just about everywhere, but I’ve found that I can navigate my way through almost any transportation hub, at this point. If I can’t, however, here’s a great segue into point 2…
There’s nothing that you can’t express, unless you’re too embarrassed to mime it
I first experienced complete and utter language confusion when I studied abroad. I was on a bus from Zadar to Split, Croatia, when an elderly, balding man with a significant amount of missing teeth looked right at me and said a sequence of words that my brain was unable to register. Not a word. Not a phrase. Nothing.
So I sat there, I smiled, I nodded, I placed my hands in my lap, and then stupidly stared ahead, blankly, at the colorful, speckled fabric on the back of the headrest in front of me. I’d never felt more useless in my life.
Slowly, though, I learned to appreciate the art of miming and apologetic shrugging. While I never condone complete ignorance, when your faculties fail you, a grateful, wordless plea and the choo-choo noise will point you in the right direction to most train stations. Thankfully, standardized bathroom signs have saved me from ever miming number 1 or number 2.
Proactively Google Map
Most smartphones have some sort of map feature, which come in handy quite often. What most people don’t realize is that when you use them, your route is saved in the phone until it either dies or you select another. So, when you’re heading out and don’t have Wi-Fi, map out the route to your destination while you still have Wi-Fi. It will help you get to where you need to go and will give you your starting location as a point of reference for when you need to go back. Please, however, take it with a grain of salt and make sure you’re going to the right place before you leave the warm, safe embrace of free internet.
Don’t lose your cool
There are some situations where Murphy’s Law always holds true, and one of them is definitely international travel. Somehow, something you’re expecting underwhelms. Now, this can occur in varying degrees along the lines of “Damn, I forgot to pack a lunch, guess I’ll have to settle for a sandwich at the airport!” or “I’m stranded in Marrakech, Morocco without a passport because it just got stolen.” Both occurred to while I was studying abroad, ironically on the same trip.
The key to surviving these situations is to either not lose your cool or have someone there with you who won’t lose their cool. My good friend Ian was with me in Morocco and was instrumental in helping me stay sane as I
became increasingly hangry searching downtown Marrakech for the right documents I would bring to the U.S. consulate. I, on the other hand, was unflappable in finding a wayward friend one of my first nights in Salamanca when her phone was dead. Flexibility, I’ve learned, is key to weathering both the little and large snafus that will happen along the way.
Now, as I plan ahead to an epic Patagonian backpacking trip, tramping across New Zealand’s rugged, Middle-Earthen terrain, or exploring the Colombian beaches, I know I have some excellent skills in my toolbox. Undoubtedly, something will go wrong, but, *knock on wood*, it won’t be that serious and I’ll know how to deal with it, or at least fake it until I make it.
Go abroad for a summer to learn a language? Or stay home and learn a language in a classroom? The answer here is pretty simple. I chose to leave the U.S., study a language, and use my Arabic language skills in everyday life and gain the experience of a lifetime.
I studied abroad at the University of Alexandria, Egypt in 2010 and chose this program because my major was in Middle East Studies – Arabic. This program was a language intensive and fulfilled my entire third year Arabic language coursework in 2 months. I was both nervous and excited to go to Egypt and take courses in the University of Alexandria. This experience was one that I will always treasure since I met some amazing people, saw some amazing places, and observed simmering political turmoil.
To be honest, when I decided to join this program and go to Egypt, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had a vision of what the experience could have been like, but having already studied the Middle East, I already new that the picture I had was not going to be accurate. When I arrived, it was nothing like I had expected. However, it became overtime everything I needed and helped me truly understand Middle East culture.
During this program I had the opportunity to live in the university residence hall with local students that were studying from across the country. Sunday through Thursday I was in the classroom practicing Arabic, and on the weekends (Friday and Saturday) I got to explore the city of Alexandria and the rest of the Egypt. While I was in this program I learned a lot about the cultural nuances in Egypt and the various perspectives regarding feminism, politics, and the role of religion in everyday life.
The experience that I will take with me is the political events that occurred leading up to the protests in Tahrir Square in 2011. I remember the media frenzy after Honsi Mubarak reauthorized the Emergency Laws, the death of Khalid Saiid in Alexandria by the police, and the political tension that was building towards the fall elections.
I chose this program because it fulfilled a language requirement; however looking back this program exceeded my expectations. This experience provided more than just language education, but a deeper understanding of the complex sociopolitical dynamics of Egypt.
It’s week 6 and most of us are finally seeing (or starting to) see the light at the end of the tunnel after the dark, sleepless nights of midterms swept over us. Surprisingly enough, this quarter has been really difficult for me. As if reverse culture shock wasn’t real enough, my academic life has spiraled a whole 360 as well.
Being abroad for the past semester was quite different then the pioneer lifestyle I was adjusted to. I went to the Pablo de Olavide University (UPO) in Sevilla, España and needless to say school was quite different over there. For starters, I was able to stack my classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, with a short cooking class on Tuesdays that ended about halfway through the semester. Coming back to DU, I was facing a schedule with four classes and two labs taking up all of my week, Mondays through Fridays; Fridays being my heavy days.
Homework was really slow, which I loved because it gave me a chance to relax and take random strolls through the plazas. The big projects I had to do were mostly in groups, so I would meet my classmates at different cafes until we found the one with the best Wi-Fi connection or the best tapas; which brings me to the topic of my favorite class: The tapas cooking class! Every week we created different dishes with different variations of the dish. For example, if the dish for the week was paella, between our four different groups in class, we made chicken paella, shrimp paella, pork, etc. We also made two different dishes each class, since in Spain they eat two different course, kind of like your appetizer and then your entree. At the end we would all try everyone’s dishes and eat together like a family. This was probably one of my favorite things I did in Spain because I was able to fully emerge myself in their culture in the kitchen and I loved trying all the different dishes and drinks!
Being back at DU has been a love hate relationship really. I have a busier schedule now and even though I feel more productive, it can be a bit overwhelming. Readjusting after a much more relaxed semester abroad has been a challenge, especially when I’m not taking a cooking class to de-stress, but at least I was able to get a taste of both academic worlds. Studying abroad taught me so much more than international finance and management, it taught me a different skill set; a new way to retain information in a different language, how to commute on the metro, how to make some delicious tortilla Española and how to enjoy all that life has to offer from a new-found perspective from across the world.
One of my favorite memories from studying abroad was the time that I snuck into a private beach for the Egyptian military. It was the middle of July and it was ridiculously hot in Alexandria. Luckily the city enjoys the cool breeze from the Mediterranean, however the humidity and congestion of the city make you feel like a walking puddle in a polo.
The public beaches in Alexandria are plentiful, yet they are very crowded and not the cleanest places. So one of my program chaperones wanted to take us to a more secluded beach in the Montaza Gardens and Palace. This place is stunning with lush gardens, a royal palace and hotel directly east of central Alexandria. The public beach there was crowded, and with a group of American students in a crowded beach, we garnered a lot of attention. So our chaperone had a friend who was in the military and had access to one of the private beaches in the gardens. This beach was strictly reserved for the military and their families. Our chaperone and his friend had to distract a security guard to check the few guests that he was allowed and then sneak the rest of us through a fence. Nobody noticed the additional Americans at the beach, however luckily there were enough locals for us to pass as other people’s guests.
The scenery at this beach was everything we wanted. Open space, privacy, and cleaner that most public beaches. This was our first beach day in our program and one of the few that we were able to have. In the picture above you can see part of the beach looking west along the Alexandrian coastline stretching for miles rimmed with endless apartment buildings. It was quite the luxury to go to the beach and enjoy clean waters, sands, and do some language study in the sun at an uncrowded beach.
Oh boy. You’re a returnee. You’ve just gotten home from abroad. Now, you’re responsible for validating your existence and entire experience in a 30-second-or-less recap where you attempt to explain a roller coaster of emotions, a sense of self-actualization, loneliness, elation, and tangible experiences. Good. Luck.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve learned the greatest deflecting tactic on the planet:
Acquaintance A: “How was your trip?”
Me: “It was amazing!!!”
For most people, that interaction will suffice. They’ve engaged you to a surface-level point where they’ve shown enough interest to maintain your relationship, but still remain depth-free, and while you’re stricken with guilt knowing you’re telling a minuscule portion of your experience, you are more than happy to avoid talking about your trip’s pit falls and focus on the amazing parts. Win-win.
Acquaintance A: “What made it so amazing? What did you do? Were there any difficult parts? ”
Once the second probe happens, you buckle down. They’re really interested. You’re not getting away scot free. Winter is coming.
You have to understand, I’m extroverted and still hate this part. I like to think of myself as articulate, but have an extremely difficult time encapsulating the holistic nature of a trip abroad. The peaks feed into the troughs, which then feed into the peaks, in an endless cycle that still affects me well after my return.
For example, during my study abroad program, I directly enrolled in the University of Salamanca, meaning I set up my own classes, lived with a host-family, and didn’t have an immediate support group of Americans I saw every day. I loved the freedom of this lifestyle, where I didn’t have to answer to anyone but myself, but simultaneously was driven crazy by the amount of time I spent alone. Working through the loneliness, on the flip side, remains a great point of pride for me, as I found my own inner strength and moral compass, but doesn’t take away from the fact that I was really lonely at times. In short, my experience was a double-edged sword, which was not always easy to explain. Returnee-ism reared its ugly head.
So, here’s my advice for dealing with returnee-ism:
First, accept the fact that these interactions are going to happen, and are going to happen whenever you come home from an exciting place. I just got home from attending two of my best friend’s wedding in Japan a month ago, and I dealt with the exact same questions I faced coming home from Spain.
Second, if the trip didn’t have a frustrating aspect, then you’re either remembering incorrectly or lying to yourself. Overall, my trip to Japan was one of the best of my life, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t low points. The longer you live somewhere, the more this is magnified. Even if you can’t explain the complete nature of a trip to someone else, be as truthful as possible. Gilding or demonizing your trips can discount what you learned from them.
Third, debrief. I went to Israel during December of 2014 and had an interesting experience, but one that was really frustrating as well. I wrote a blog on it, which really helped me put my trip in perspective. I’m in the process of writing one for Japan, and always travel with a journal. Find whatever mechanism is best for you to debrief, it’ll do you a lot of good.
Finally, internalize everything, and go out again. Each time I’ve traveled after my study abroad experience, either domestically or internationally, I applied what I learned before and gained new skills to boot.
You’ve packed your whole life and multiple seasons of clothes into a suitcase, bid farewell to your parents and once again to your childhood bedroom, stuffed your body in an airplane for an inhumanly long flight and finally you‘ve landed in a faraway place ready to begin what you’ll call for the rest of your life “my study abroad experience.” You’re confronted with a sea of differences; new culture, new friends, perhaps a new language and most likely a new set of laws concerning alcohol. While the rules don’t change when it comes to the risks of drinking, in order to get the most out of your time abroad, there are some things you should be weary of if you do choose to drink. If you do choose to drink while in your new “favorite country” that “you’re never ever leaving” be sure to keep the following tips on hand.
Some people will drink but not drinking is a viable option.
It’s never a problem to opt out, whether it’s because drinking isn’t for you, or because you’re just not feeling it that night. This is really just a general rule of thumb when you’re abroad but certainly applies to drinking: While it’s important to have new experiences while you’re abroad, to try new things, and to have fun, it is just as important to use your best judgement, and to make decisions that are right and fitting for YOU (you know yourself best!).
Just because the bar never stops serving doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop drinking.
You may find that other countries don’t stop serving alcohol at 2 a.m. as they do in the U.S. The longer you stay out drinking, the more dangerous drinking becomes. Be your own boss and decide what time is too late for you to keep drinking. Also, keep in mind that while the nightlife may be vibrant and alive, life also exists during the day. You don’t want to miss out on day adventures because you’re trying to catch up on sleep.
Just like the language and culture, the alcohol is different too.
Drinking is always risky business, but in other countries you should know that alcohol can be regulated in different ways and sometimes is more dangerous. For example, liquors like absinthe (a liquor more than two times as strong as average hard liquors in the U.S.), while illegal in the U.S., is legal and popular internationally. Don’t accept strange drinks and read labels if possible. Even beers can be deceiving in many foreign countries, some containing three times as much alcohol percentage than the average 4-5% American beer. If you are eager to try new things, chances are you will have the opportunity another time and can research and ask questions about this strange new alcohol the next day before you decide to try it.
Know what drinking past responsible limits means for your own body.
This may mean for you having no more than one drink but just because for your new cool friend from Chile or Italy, it means having less than five, by no means do you have to try and assimilate to this part of their culture. There’s no such thing as a language barrier when it comes to saying no to another drink that will put you over the edge. Simply shake your head and use hand motions or just learn how to say no, it can’t be that hard! If you don’t already know what responsible limit works for you, only have one drink and see how you feel. You may find drinking is not a responsible or comfortable choice for you at all.
Drinking without a plan is never a good idea but doing so in an unfamiliar setting can make for a disaster. Before taking a sip of alcohol, know where you plan to go, how you plan to get there, how much you want to drink of what, and most importantly HOW and WHEN you want to go home and then make a back-up plan! Write the details down if you need to (bus lines and times, cab service phone numbers, etc). If you take a bus to one place, by the time you are ready to leave the same bus may have stopped running until the morning and you may need enough money for a taxi.
Stay in control.
College students studying abroad across the world end up in hospitals all the time due to their decisions to drink irresponsibly and put themselves in situations where they don’t have fair judgement. Never drink so much that you are unable to make decisions you are uncomfortable or incapable of safely making while under the influence. Remember this: You can never blame the outcomes of your actions on the fact that you were drinking, you can only blame the outcomes on the fact that you chose to drink. That said, keep in mind whether or not choosing to push the limits of responsible drinking will put you out of control and if you’ll end up having to wonder if the outcomes of your actions would’ve been more favorable had you not been drinking.
Laws change but the rules don’t!
You may be able to drink if you’re not 21 or not get kicked out of the bar at 2:01am but the rules about staying safe when drinking don’t change when you cross the border. Here are a few fundamentals to remember when drinking in any location:
Eat! Eat a real full meal before drinking!
Drink! Drink WATER before you start drinking alcohol.
Water-Alcohol-Water! Drink water in between alcoholic beverages.
Pace yourself! The night is young but so are you and you’ll have plenty more time in life to drink in the future so take at least 30 minutes to 1 hour between each beverage.
Stick together! Friends who stick together, stay safe together! Don’t let your friends leave your sight or be afraid to suggest they stop drinking if you’re worried about their safety. Getting a friend water could never do harm, chances are you need some too.
Never take drinks from strangers! Only accept drinks you saw being made and never leave your drink unattended. Having your drink drugged while outside of the U.S. is even greater of a reality, don’t trust anyone with your drink and if you’re unsure it’s safe, don’t be afraid to pour it out!
The fun stops when you put yourself or others in danger.
Drinking past responsible limits or without taking proper precautions can turn a night of fun into a nightmare. Educate yourself on responsible drinking through these tips and be sure to put them into practice in real life. Stay away from situations where you’re more susceptible to crime and other risks. Keep in mind the stereotypes others may have of you because of your nationality, it unfortunately may be that you are an easy target for pickpocketing or other crimes. Never forget to be proactive and cautious of your surroundings when drinking. Always watch your back, and keep your belongings in front pockets and backpacks and purses close to your body. There’s one thing you can prevent from ruining even a day of your studies abroad and it’s an unfavorable experience with alcohol. Enjoy your time to the fullest while away from DU but enjoy it with your safety and wellbeing in mind!
Know how the culture treats alcohol.
Some cultures will add pressure to drink, even sometimes to drink in excess. However, always be culturally sensitive. While you may observe people appreciating and enjoying one or two glasses of wine, drinking in excess is not acceptable at all. You may even be in a country where alcohol is illegal or socially unaccepted. Do your research, ask locals, teachers and your host family if you have one about the norms surrounding alcohol if you do choose to drink. Remember you are an ambassador of not only the United States but also DU.
Of course post-abroad adjustment can be broken down into pre-determined stages! As you head out on the next great adventure, keep these 5 stages in mind to make re-adjustment smooth sailing:
1. Dazed and Confused
Why is it light out at midnight? Shouldn’t we be eating breakfast right now? No? It’s 4 pm? What? I slept for 14 hours? You don’t say…
So you’ve probably experienced jetlag. You have never experienced the post-abroad apocalypse that will herald your return. Not only are you coming off of 5 months of adventure and mischief, but you just traveled umpteen hours, probably said emotional good-byes and hellos to your families in their respective countries, and – oh, yeah – changed time zones. Even if it’s just one or two time zones, you won’t be operating at full power for at least 2 days or 18 hours of sleep, whichever comes first. Prepare to be a little kooky. There is no better remedy than sleep. And probably whatever food you’ve been massively missing while abroad (For me, it was cheese. Clearly I didn’t go to Europe). You’ve just got to ride it out. Or sleep it out, I guess.
Did I mention I just spent 5 months in Ecuador? Oh I did. Well did I tell you I climbed a volcano? Oh I did. Well did I show you my slideshow of 436 photos? Oh you already sat through it. Well did you get the highlight commentary? Oh you did. Well when I was in Ecuador…
So I studied abroad in Ecuador.
When you come off of the adventure high, you naturally want to share that with everyone you come in contact with. That’s fine. Your life was pretty cool for a few months and you just experienced something once-in-a-lifetime. Also fine. BUT YOU CANNOT TWIST EVERY CONVERSATION TO MENTION YOUR STUDY ABROAD. THE PEOPLE GET A LITTLE CRANKY.
Sorry to be so emphatic. Of course, it’s going to be a topic of conversation as most people you know want to hear about your trip. You will get really good at the highlight-reel speech. But post-abroad, you will certainly run across one of these chatterbox people, and you will most certainly be aware of every minute detail of their time abroad. You will be talking about Abstract Algebra or the new shampoo you just purchased and SOMEHOW it will connect to an experience in Spain, or traveling in Paris, or hiking the Great Wall in China, etc.
Don’t be that person.
3. Cultural Sensitivity
“Sheesh. Gustavo is, like, so culturally insensitive. I mean, he’s telling me about how he didn’t have running water the whole time he was abroad. Can you believe it? I’m just like; Dude, what can you even be complaining about? I didn’t even have water.”
Shockingly, your experiences make you a more enlightened person to various degrees. Who would have thought. Seeing how non-Americans live will be eye-opening for most people, and this can never be a bad thing, however, upon your return it is tantamount to remember that not everyone – even your friends who have also studied abroad – will have seen, felt, and experienced what you have. Their context is entirely different. Don’t write them off as culturally insensitive jerkwads, realize you too have blind spots. The hardships you experienced abroad are nothing to brag about – use them to inform what actions you take post-abroad.
What is even the point of this homework stuff? Why do grades even matter? It’s just one person’s subjective viewpoint that is largely not representative of the “real world” anyway!
This stage is crucial, heartbreaking, and almost universal.
There will be thrown books. There will be late assignments. There will be tears. The only solace is that as you are contemplating just giving up on the 50% of your homework you actually complete, every other study abroad returnee is right there with ya. After learning so much – largely outside of a classroom – 16 credit hours worth of class time just seems rather superfluous. Winter quarter can be a dark time.
Remember this as you sit in your café registering for classes while abroad – don’t overload. Simply getting to class on-time, and not Latin American “on-time” (ie: 10 minutes late) will be a struggle.
You’ve gotten a taste and now you’re addicted. To the getting lost and crowded buses. To the daily rain and astounding lack of edible cheese. To the street food out of tiny bags and terrifying traffic. To the solitude. To the language. To the adventure.
This stage doesn’t just end – you get to keep it the rest of your life. From here on out you will be questing for new travels and leaping at every opportunity to dash across the globe. You may have only studied abroad for months, but the effects last years.
To all those leaving in a matter of weeks or months – best of luck! All of the returnees – those of us in “stage 5” – would love to go with you.
Over the last two months students across the country have been completing their undergraduate and graduate degrees. As many students graduate and search for jobs, it is important to reflect on experiences in school and the skills acquired that are applicable to potential employment opportunities. Studying abroad is an experience that students acquire a wide range of skill that are useful to the job market. Here is a list of a few skills to consider that may be relevant to place on your resume:
Many employers today realize that they work and serve people with various mid-sets, beliefs, and expectations based on their cultural background. Students who go abroad and become aware of cultural differences and expectations, and learn to easily adjust their own cultural norms and expectations to be able to function with daily tasks in different settings. How people approach cultural differences affects how an organization operates within their policies, procedures, and how business is accomplished. Whether in an entry level or managerial position, this can be a helpful skill to avoid many misunderstandings, frustrations, or stress.
A skill that goes hand in hand with cultural adaptability is intercultural communication, or sometimes called cross-cultural communication. This is an important skill to have, especially if you are looking for employment that involves communicating to people from different cultures and languages. Intercultural communication is awareness of how people communicate and interact and the role of culture in communication. Studying abroad exposes students to the nuances of communication in a specific culture or country and how people receive information.
Learning a language abroad is a common objective for students and can be a part of their degree studies. Knowing another language can be helpful as a diverse skillset that can be applicable to communicating to people who may not use English as their first language.
Studying abroad exposes students to a degree of independence and the ability to navigate long processes and solve problems. This sense of self-reliance is a good source of confidence and can help in both professional and personal pursuits.
Today, the world is becoming more and more globalized, and students to spend more time abroad are able to gain a wider perspective of the world operates. The increase of global communication and technology exposes more organizations to people that vary in global perspectives. Global consciousness is applicable to your professional life and can help you and your organization develop a greater appreciation for global politics, economics, education, and societal issues.
Familiarity of a specific country or region is a useful skill to have for many employment opportunities. The knowledge acquired from study abroad exposes students to cultural and language skills that are unique to a region or country, whether or not that place is part of your academic focus.