13 days Until Departure- What’s Left to Do

I fondly remember the Global Reveal day back on February 17th, 2017. I had a good idea of which program I was going to be nominated for, but either of my selections, UOttawa or Lancaster, would have been satisfactory. Upon opening the envelope, a red leather baggage tag with the DU logo engraved on the front held my study abroad destiny, which ended up being UOttawa. I was elated and from that point on, I started to prepare for my departure.

University-of-Ottawa

From February 17th to today (August 20th, 2017), 184 days have come and gone. The amount of preparation so far has been immense, from registering for classes to finding on campus housing. Although the majority of the tough preparation is over, there are still things to do in these short 13 days.

Start organizing and packing: I created an “Ottawa box” in which I set aside various items I knew for sure I wanted to bring with me abroad. These were winter sweaters, coats, boots, school supplies, and other things along that line. Instead of scavenging through my winter clothes in the basement, keeping them in my box saves me a ton of time. I plan on bringing a carry-on suitcase and large suitcase with me, no more and no less than that. Would one suitcase be ideal? Yes. Is it practical? Nope. I had to buy some of the books for my classes ahead of time, which adds some weight to the case. I would like to avoid having to pay extra for a heavy suitcase, so I spread out my belongings between two cases. I am extremely lucky that my mother is coming with me to Ottawa to “drop me off” and visit the city, so she can help with some of the belongings too. I just need to organize my belongings in a way that is practical and “weight-conscious”. As of now, there is a heap of belongings in both cases. It will be packed eventually, but some stuff in my life right now is keeping my schedule a tad busy. I’ll talk about my packing and organizing more in a later post.

Creating Communication Plans: I am leaving my family, dog, best friends, and boyfriend behind in Colorado for four months. This makes my stomach turn a bit, since four months seems like a long time. However, in the grand scheme of things, four months isn’t the longest time away. That said, I am setting up communication plans with all my loved ones. My phone carrier, Verizon, isn’t changing my communication plan because I am still living on the North American continent, a definite perk for me. My friends and I have Skype, so we plan on communicating via that media as well. I’ll need to schedule time to talk with my family, friends, and boyfriend, whether it means waiting until the weekend or finding some downtime in between classes. We’ll make it work and I plan on being “present” at my home while I’m physically away.

Settling DU matters and plans before departure: I changed my English major and dropped one of my minors over the summer. These forms needed to be turned in before I left in September. I also sent in some course approvals request for my English classes that could count for major requirements. For me, doing this all ahead of time before you leave is easier than trying to deal with everything abroad.

Talking with the Roommates: I’m living in a four bedroom apartment on the UOttawa campus and had the pleasure of finding out who my roommates were just this past week. One is from England, the second from Germany, and the third from South Korea. All those people that told me Ottawa wasn’t an exotic study abroad location may be biting their tongue now. I have the opportunity to befriend and network with girls from Europe and Asia through cross-cultural connections and various global perspectives. How cool is that? All of us set up a group chat on Facebook for questions, comments, and just getting to know one another before we live together for four months.

Depart to Ottawa: Finally, we have to actually reach Ottawa. September 2nd is the golden day in which I’ll connect from Denver to Chicago, then Chicago to Ottawa. I can’t wait any longer for this day to come.

airplane

Next time I write, I will be in Ottawa, staying at the Swiss Hotel waiting to move in to my dorm. Until then. . . I’ll be packing, communicating, creating, and departing. 13 days! I am so excited!

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13 American Customs that Offend People Abroad

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.

1. Tipping

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.

How to Survive the First Days of Study Abroad

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.

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Group of Friends Hiking in Abel Tasman 2017

-Amanda Roesser Study Abroad Assistant 

Types of Coffee in New Zealand/Australia

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.

Cappuccino

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 toppStarbucks_Flat_White_1-1.jpged with chocolate shavings or powder.

Espresso

To make an espresso, shoot boiling water under high pressure through finely ground up coffee beans and then pour into a tiny mug.

Flat White

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.

Long Black

Hot water is poured into a cup, and then two shots of espresso are poured into the water.

Irish Coffee

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.

Vienna

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.

Mochachino

A ‘mocha’ is just a latte with added chocolate powder or syrup, as well as sometimes being topped with whipped cream.

Affogato

A shot of espresso poured over a desert (usually ice cream)

How I Chose My Study Abroad Program

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.

– Eric Boscan, Graduate Study Abroad Assistant

How To: Make Tortilla de Patata

I do not like eggs. I’m not sure what it is about them, but it is just a no go. I can’t smell them, I can’t clean my roommates’ dirty saucepans with little burnt egg crisps, and I cannot crack them. While I can muster the courage to eat baked goods like brownies, cakes, and cookies, even French toast is too egg-y for my taste buds.

However, in Spain, I have found the perfect egg dish: Tortilla de Patata. It is kind of like a Spanish omelet. All of the locals eat tortilla de patata. It is common for both dinner or as a pinxto (which is like the Basque country version of tapas, made as a single serving). We learned how to make Tortilla de Patata in my Spanish Gastronomy class, so, I decided to include the recipe so everyone can try typical Spanish cuisine! Food is culture, am I right? Note that the ingredients are for 12 people, so change the ingredients depending on how many people you are cooking for.

 

Tortilla de Patata

tortilla de patata
photo by Katherine Gibson

Ingredients:

Serves 12 People

  • 6 kg potatoes
  • 1.5 L olive oil
  • 24 eggs
  • Salt

 

Instructions:

To start, peel the potatoes and put them in a bowl of water. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan on the stovetop. Then, cut the potatoes (in a uniform size) and put them in the frying pan, once the oil is hot. Add salt on top of the potatoes and fry them. Make sure to stir the potatoes until they are browned and cooked through. When the potatoes are golden brown, use a slotted spoon to remove the potatoes from the pot.

Put two generous spoons of the potatoes into a bowl. Then, crack two eggs into the potatoes and add salt. Mix these things together with a fork. Next, put a little of the leftover olive oil in a new, hot frying pan. Add the egg and potato mixture from the bowl. After about 2 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and flip the tortilla using a plate. Cook the other side a little more (for 30 seconds or so). Remove the tortilla de patata from the pan. Repeat this process until all of the tortillas are made!

Enjoy!

 

The Adventures of Grocery Shopping Abroad

There is nothing like figuring out how to shop at the grocery store abroad- especially when you are in non-english speaking country. When shopping in Italy you have two options: go to several different specialty shops around the city to find what you need, or brave the supermarket.

I chose to brave the supermarket because let’s face it, who has time to go to three, four, or even five shops to get food for the week? Not me!

The supermarket in Italy has been an adventure every single time I set foot on the dirty grocery store linoleum. The food is so different than anything I am used to at home in Colorado, and most of it is in a different language. I speak Italian pretty well, but there are so many words in the supermarket that I don’t understand-they don’t really teach that stuff in the classroom. And to top off the words I don’t understand, there are tons of foods I have never seen in a grocery store at home. I usually end up buying and trying something new every week.

And the rules! There are so many rules at the Italian supermarket. For example, when you pick up fresh produce at the supermarket you are supposed to wear a plastic glove. I learned that one the hard way. One of my first times in the supermarket I picked up a zucchini without a glove on and had an old man slap the vegetable out of my hand, start screaming at me in Italian, and then shove plastic gloves in my face! I stood there stunned and actually just left the store. I needed to regroup and try again another day.

Also, at the supermarket when you buy fresh produce, you have to put it on the electronic scale and print a sticker with a bar code on it. I once took all my stickerless produce to check out and was thoroughly embarrassed when I held up the entire line because I had to go back and get all the stickers for my produce.

Please, learn from my mistakes! To help you out next time you find yourself wandering the aisles of an Italian supermarket, I have put together a list of helpful tips.

  1. Leave yourself plenty of time. The supermarket is always an adventure, and usually a time consuming one, especially your first few visits. Leave yourself plenty of time each visit to get acquainted with the supermarket and get what you need.
  2. Know where the gloves are. Take my zucchini horror story to heart and learn where the plastic gloves are. They are usually on a tray on top of the plastic bags you use to carry your produce.
  3. Bring shopping bags. In Italy, you are charged for every plastic bag you use, if you don’t bring your own reusable bag. So bring a big purse, backpack, or reusable shopping bag with you to the store. Plus its easier to walk through the city with your groceries with a durable bag rather than a few plastic bags.
  4. Put stickers on your produce. Don’t hold up the entire check-out line, like I did! When you get your produce, place it on the electronic scale, press the button with the picture of the produce you have, grab the printed sticker, and throw it on the plastic bag. It’s pretty simple, and it will ensure you can scan the produce later when you are ready to check out!
  5. Bag your items yourself. At the supermarket in Italy, even when you are at the regular cash register, you have to bag your own items. The cashier will not do it for you, they will not help you, and there is no bag boy. When I am placing all my items on the belt, I try to organize them so I can easily put them in the bag after the cashier scans them. I also try to bag my stuff up as the cashier scans it so I can pay and immediately leave.

Shopping at the supermarket can be somewhat stressful and it is definitely always an adventure! Just remember to relax and laugh at yourself when you mess up.

Good luck!

 

Dealing with Different Teaching Styles

As students at the University of Denver, we are rather used to a certain teaching style and being held to the highest of standards. Coming abroad, I have quickly learned not every school is like that, and it has taken quite some time for me to adjust.

I can remember a time when I was completely in awe at how relaxed abroad professors are. I was sitting in class taking notes on a lecture, and another student stopped the professor to ask her a question. Before she began to answer, I asked her to flip back to the previous slide. She looked at me and said “Don’t worry about taking notes in class, I will post the slides online.” I was amazed! I’ve never had a professor encourage myself and the class to NOT take notes. What?! I know I don’t learn anything if I just sit there and listen, because in reality I’m not engaged and I’m not listening at all! So I continued on taking notes, and I will continue to do so- because that is what’s best for MY learning.

When you find yourself abroad, and in a classroom setting that you are not used to, I have compiled a list of my best tips to help you through.

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1. Avoid taking your computer to class. We all know how easy it is to get distracted in the classroom when you have your laptop wide open, especially when your teacher barely speaks English and doesn’t really care if you are engaged or not. Instead, try to bring a notebook and pen and take notes the old fashion way. Really focus on engaging and listening to what your professor has to say.

2. Ask questions. Sometimes, it can be rather hard to understand the professor, both for language barrier reasons and because sometimes they really just don’t make sense. Engage, ask questions, and make sure you know what they are trying to convey to you.

3. Go to class. I know. You’re abroad. All you want to do is relax and travel and enjoy whatever beautiful city you are in. Trust me, I know. I all too often find myself sitting in a classroom thinking that it is just a sin to be spending so much of my time in class when there is a beautiful city around me just waiting to be explored and experienced. But let’s not forget- this is STUDY abroad. Get to class! You never know what kind of important information you could miss when you are in class.

4. Don’t let yourself get behind. I have learned that here abroad, there isn’t much in the grade book. Your grade is essentially attendance and your performance on a project or tests. Staying on top of your work is crucial to getting that passing grade you want and need. Do your work and do not, whatever you do, let yourself get behind.

5. Write it down. Because assignments are so rare, it can be easy to let them slip through the cracks and forget about them all together. When you are assigned something, be sure to write down what you have to do, and when it is due. This will help you to remember to get it done, and it will be one more small thing to help boost your grade.

 

Being in a new and unusual learning atmosphere is strange and often times stressful, but with a few tips and tricks, I’m confident you will triumph with passing grades.

 

5 Reasons Why Studying Abroad Makes You A Better Person

  1. You Forge Local Relationships

Oh, María. That’s how I start many of my stories about my Spanish host mother. María was the best. She was a chubby, 68, year-old Salamanca native who had hosted students for 30 years, and made my study abroad experience 100 times better. We would huddle around my computer to watch Barcelona soccer matches, she would cook me paella every Sunday, and we would spend dinnertime joking around, watching terrible Spanish television, and talking about our days. When I would come home for a midnight snack, which was more like a 5-6am snack, María started calling me “The Ghost” and asking if “The Ghost” had visited the night before to raid our refrigerator.

Something wonderful about study abroad is that you have time to develop local relationships, whether they’re with your host family, roommate/flat-mate, or other students. No person I met on a weekend or week-long trip has ever impacted me as much as María did with her kindness and fun home atmosphere. She taught me to be more blunt and reinforced me to shamelessly laugh at myself, whenever possible.

  1. Find Local Gems

Let’s just say Trip Advisor only goes so far. Yes, it will give you the best restaurants, destinations, etc., but sometimes you don’t want the “best” experience, you want a genuine one. My favorite spots in Salamanca were the ones I made my own, like the coffee shop I would go to after class to chat with Beatriz, who would give my friend Ian and I advice, or the Erasmus Bar where my team and I would play trivia every Wednesday (we won thrice, I might add). None of those places would make a website because they were unspectacular at face value, until you made a memory in them.

A book fair came to Salamanca, which was a ton of fun to walk through
A book fair came to Salamanca, which was a ton of fun to walk through
  1. You live outside your comfort zone

Some say that growth comes from discomfort, which I agree with 100%. Growing as a person means exposing yourself to new experiences, feelings, and situations that lie outside of the status quo. The wonderful thing about study abroad is that you are uncomfortable all the time, so by default you’re growing all the time. Whether you’re navigating a new country in a new language, battling your way through classes, meeting new people, missing old people, or finding your niche in your new home, study abroad is difficult at times, and it SHOULD BE. If everything has a shiny exterior and you never come across a meaningful challenge, you miss the depth that leads to growth. There was one weekend, pretty early into my study abroad experience, where the eight people I knew were out of town, and I almost went Jack Nicholson-style The Shining on everyone due to cabin fever. That experience prompted me to be more proactive, but also helped me learn how to be alone and made me a better person.

  1. You learn street smarts AND book smarts

First of all, when you’re studying abroad, you’re ideally doing some studying. Wow, novel concept here, I know.

While I was in Spain, I took Portuguese classes, a class on the history of the Jews in Spain, a class on Spanish literature, and the History of Philosophy, of which I learned a lot, to the point where I still have trouble calling philosophers by their English names. Aristotle or Aristoteles? I don’t know either…

But, moreover, you also learn street smarts. You learn the skills necessary to navigate uncomfortable situations (cough, exactly what I mentioned in the last reason, cough). I had my passport stolen my first night in Morocco, which makes most problems a cakewalk when I face them now. At least I’m not in a foreign country and speak none of the national languages desperately trying to find a way home…

  1. You have the opportunity to travel and live in the world.

Now, in case you were worried, I’m not advocating for a study abroad trip with no travel when I mentioned finding local gems and forging local relationships. I had a blast visiting other places in Europe while I was abroad and have many friends whose travel stories are mind-blowing. What I am advocating for is for you to soak it up when you’re out there. This is usually a once in a lifetime opportunity, make sure you leave a different person than when you entered.

Taking in the beach in Tangier, Morocco
Taking in the beach in Tangier, Morocco

-Max Spiro, Study Abroad Assistant

Gamification! (of study abroad?)

I like games. A lot. I grew up watching my older brothers play video games and I got in on the action with Mario, Zelda, Final Fantasy, Command and Conquer, Age of Empires (we had our own LAN sibling games), Starcraft, and Super Smash Brothers. Nowadays I don’t have a TV, and don’t have a lot of time or money as a student. However, I do have my laptop and the internet; which in my case, translates into playing League of Legends.

Emilie Game1

Favorite Role: Support

Rank: Bronze II

Ward Score: 2391

Most played Champs: Leona, Nami, Thresh

If I was a Champion I would be: Annie- small and super cute. (I even named my teddy bear Tibbers)

So, I like games, but I also like study abroad. A lot. Where do games and study abroad intersect?

What is the biggest barrier to students studying abroad?

The most common answer is finances, but some would argue otherwise. Isn’t the biggest barrier to students the overwhelming feeling they get when the first thing people ask is “where do you want to study abroad?” It is paralyzing to students when especially when they have absolutely no idea. There are thousands of program options to choose from, most don’t know how to even start researching programs, let alone have a program chosen already. ProjectTravel is using game design and gamification to make study abroad more accessible to students.

What is gamification?

Gamification is using game elements and game design to solve problems and engage people. The three basic elements of game design are: onboarding, engagement and progression loops, and rewards; and overall gamification makes it impossible for people to fail.

  • Onboarding-Games include guides, feedback, limited options, and limited obstacles. Emilie Game2
  • Engagement & Progression Loops– our brains love challenges and feedback.
  • Rewards-Compared to extrinsic rewards, intrinsic rewards have longer pay-offs.Emilie Game3

 

Overcoming the Overwhelming Feeling

Instead of starting with a question that belongs in level 10, challenger mode, “where do you want to study abroad,” why not start back at level 1, easy mode: tell me a little about yourself, where you’ve traveled, and what you are studying? ProjectTravel takes it a step further, using game design to limit options, making it easy for student to click their answers instead of having to type in responses. Obstacles are also limited, as ProjectTravel only shows certain information and questions to students that must be completed before they can move on to the next level. Below is a sample of what is asked of students in level 1.

Emilie Game4

We can see multiple examples of game design: feedback through the status bar, rewards, limited options and obstacles. The expectations and information required from students is very clear and understandable, and limited so that students are not overwhelmed from the beginning. After completing Level 1, students are rewarded with a badge and will gain access to a slightly more difficult level.

The majority of students when asked, say that they are interested in studying abroad. According to the Open Doors Report, only 1% of American students actually study abroad. ProjectTravel argues that students are currently so unaware of study abroad programs that they don’t have the opportunity to make a choice. What is the role of the study abroad office? Is the study abroad office responsible for marketing programs to all interested students? If your answer is yes, then perhaps gamification of the study abroad application process is the new best tool to reach out to this generation of students.

– Emilie, Study Abroad Assistant

Maximizing Your Happiness Abroad

I recently read a fascinating article on how to maximize your happiness (You can click here for the article). Essentially, the article reports that scientists have found the quest for happiness comes through experience, rather than material gains. In essence, we are happier when we DO more rather than OWN more.

Now, how does this relate to study abroad?

Max Munich
Visiting Munich, Germany, where my high school friend was studying for the year

Studying and living abroad is an incredible experience by itself, and an investment worth making. Studies have shown that study abroad returnees report having higher confidence, experience better job placement, gained career interest from the experience, and much more (see one of many reports here). So, naturally, my first bit of advice for budgeting is to budget to study abroad, if you haven’t already. I highly doubt you’ll regret the experience.

So now you’re abroad. How do you make sure that your money is going to good use? Naturally, all college students have different budgets. Some can afford to live lavishly, others have to conserve their money very tightly. For those who are watching their purse strings a little more closely, here are a couple pointers that I found that really enriched my study abroad experience.

  1. BILLY MAYS HERE, I WANT TO MAKE SURE YOU GET SAVINGS, SAVINGS, SAVINGS!!!

I’m so sorry, I couldn’t help the infomercial joke. But seriously, know your exchange rate before you leave home and how much you can or want to spend. Cost of living could significantly increase or decrease abroad, so save everything you can before you go. I worked 3 part-time jobs the summer before I went abroad to help pay for it. Believe me, you’ll want every penny, and you can always do whatever you “missed out” on when you come home.

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Can you see the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona when you’re in Denver? No, no you can’t.
  1. Plan a list of adventures you would like to do during your time abroad

Anticipating and planning adventures is probably one of the most exciting things on the planet. Seriously, I have published a list of all the things I want to do in my life online (my bucket list), because I have way too much fun with this stuff. Know what you might want to do while you’re living abroad, whether that be backpacking Patagonia, attending a England-New Zealand rugby match at Wembley Stadium in London, going on a SCUBA diving trip along the Great Barrier Reef, walking the Camino de Santiago, or hiking Mount Kilimanjaro (I have friends who did all of these things). They knew they wanted to DO something special while they were abroad, and budgeted accordingly.

I planned to visit a Norwegian friend over Christmas before I left for abroad and got to explore the fjords
I planned to visit a Norwegian friend over Christmas before I left for abroad and got to explore the fjords
  1. Find atypical adventures

What I mean by this is that hopefully, at some point in your life, you’ll have the opportunity to be a tourist. When will you have the opportunity to LIVE abroad and have access to the little-known nooks and crannies of your continent? For me, this meant when I traveled, I wanted to go to atypical places. So, rather than see the Eiffel Tower and taking a picture of my finger touching the top of the Louvre’s pyramid in Paris, *cough* boring and cliché *cough*, I went to Croatia, cliff jumped in the Adriatic Sea, shared a 50cc scooter with my friend and travel buddy, Garret, and visited the UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site Plitvice National Park. I DID something out of the ordinary, and it was the best traveling I did abroad.

It actually is that breathtakingly beautiful
Plitvice actually is that breathtakingly beautiful
  1. Have an it’s-time-for-a-ridiculous-unforeseen-adventure fund

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that good things just happen around you. My friends and family call it “Spiro Luck”, because I have the uncanny ability to get a good break when I need it most. Many people refuse to play games with me anymore because of “Spiro Luck”, and perhaps my penchant for excessively celebrating after winning…

Back to my point, one of the things I found when I was abroad was that opportunities presented themselves, so plan for the unexpected. One of the craziest experiences I had while abroad was that I got to attend the Clasico, the biannual soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona in Barcelona. I planned to be in the city for the match and to experience the atmosphere, but getting tickets were nigh impossible. That was until a miracle happened. A member of my travel group was accidentally given two tickets instead of one, and I got to go with him for a half-priced, nose-bleed ticket. Without having my it’s-time-for-a-ridiculous-unforeseen-adventure fund, I couldn’t have gone. Being at that game, where the glorious Barcelona won 2-1, was one of the most incredible experiences I had abroad. I still have to pinch myself to remember that it was real. Remember to have a little something to draw on if there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You won’t regret DOING it.

Me after the Barcelona, Real Madrid match in Barcelona
Me after the Barcelona, Real Madrid match in Barcelona
  1. Find local adventures that are free, or at least cheap

Some of my best memories from studying abroad are those that didn’t cost me a dime. In my first week in Salamanca, Spain, I joined the local Ultimate Frisbee team, where I met many of my local friends from abroad, and had a fantastic, fun time practicing every Tuesday and Thursday. I played pick-up soccer every weekend and explored the culture of Salamanca. I jammed with a three good friends on the steps of the cathedral in Salamanca and got a crowd of other students to listen. I took the bus into Madrid and spent the day visiting the modern art museum, then walked around the city for hours. I took the train to Toledo for a day, just because I could. While not as eye-popping as the travel stories, they were the ones that truly defined my study abroad experience. What I DID was worth spending money on, unquestionably, and I didn’t need to always break the bank to make a lasting memory.

Goofing around the Royal Palace of Madrid, all for the price of a bus ticket
Goofing around the Royal Palace of Madrid, all for the price of a bus ticket

-Max Spiro, Study Abroad Assitant

A Returnee’s Guide to Surviving Reverse Culture Shock

Being on my own for so long made me forget what it was like to be surrounded by my loved ones all the time. When I finally did come back home to my loved ones, it seemed so different. It is not because I was sad that I was home, but rather I wanted to be left alone because that was how I lived and grew as a person for the last 4 months in a country unlike the United States in almost every way. Reverse culture shock is real, and for me, it was hard to handle on my own.

Nicole Blog 1

I studied abroad in Beijing, China at Peking University for four months in the Fall of 2014. It was the best and the most challenging experience of my life, but it was more than worth it in every aspect. The culture, the language, and the food were like nothing we experience here in America; its like China was a whole new world just waiting to be discovered.

After being home for 2 months now, I have found some things to help the transition back to life both in America but also here at the University of Denver.

Take Time to Reflect:

It already seems as though my time abroad was a dream, if it were not for the reminder of all the great pictures that I took. Spend some time reflecting on your own about your experience, especially considering what you learned from it. Take this time to relive the memories, go through all your pictures, and contemplate how you felt about the overall experience. This helped me better understand what differences I appreciated about China, and the specific parts of my journey that really mattered to me; maybe it will help you in even more ways!

Find Your 2 Minute Short Story:

You will be asked by almost everyone (family, friends, Facebook followers, random neighbors, old co-workers, distant relatives, even dogs if they could talk) how your time abroad was and what your favorite memories were. I had to answer this question so many times it started to just become routine. Many times, the questions were just in passing so I picked a couple cool experiences and a few difficult ones to tell people about that really summed up my trip. Finding your study abroad short story will save you time, and brain power; it allows you to tell your story on your own terms, so enjoy!

Nicole Blog 2

Stay Connected with Your Friends from Abroad:

It is easy to fall out of contact with people, especially when you live in different states, and even different countries. Making the effort to chat and catch up with friends from abroad is very rewarding. Sometimes I just needed to chat with Lily because she was a part of the story about getting lost in the mountains in Southern China and finding our, or understand the hardship of being abroad as well as coming back home. They can be the greatest resource for you, as well as the best life-long friend. Getting back in touch with your friends from home and DU is equally important! Be sure to surround yourself with people who love you, care about you, and understand you

Find a New Routine to Help You readjust:

Sometimes familiar can be helpful when trying to adjust back to life at DU. Having a familiar routine that fits your desires and needs makes things seem a bit more normal. This can be going back to activities you did before you went abroad as well as joining new groups based off your experience abroad. Coming back onto campus, I continuing my work with the debate team for a sense of familiarity while also joining a sustainability group on campus to advocate for better environmental efforts on campus; I never want the city to be as polluted as Beijing was.

Nicole Blog 3

Tread Water, Don’t Dive into the Deep End:

Instead of jumping in and joining a bunch of clubs, taking a full course load, and finding a job; try to ease your transition back to life in the U.S. by making a little bit easier schedule. Take three class for winter quarter, be a member of a club rather than the leader of it, or work less hours at a part time job. The transition back is not easy, so make some time for yourself and enjoy being back!

-Nicole, Study Abroad Assistant

 

How Study Abroad Can Help Your Professional Development

How do you handle pressure?

How do you handle conflict?

Tell me how you handled a difficult situation.

Tell me about a time when you faced some adversity in your life and how you overcame it.

 

Study abroad- while we returnees tend to focus on the amazingness of our experiences abroad, it is hard to imagine a study abroad experience without some sort of adversity, difficult situation, conflict or pressure. This adversity is meant to be capitalized upon. Use your experience to prove to employers that you are resilient and you have what they need.

 

Are you a leader or a follower?

Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of.

Give me one example of when you’ve used your problem-solving skills.

Tell me about a time you made a mistake.

Tell me about a time you failed, what you learned from it, and how you would act differently if you encountered something similar again.

 

Let’s imagine you are one of three candidates in a final round of interviewing, all with similar qualifications, skills, and background. Except for one thing: you studied abroad.  Are you prepared to convince the interviewer of the value added you can bring to their company because of your study abroad experience?

Or let’s imagine you and the other candidates all have same qualifications and all studied abroad. Can you make yourself stand out in a crowd with a study abroad experience that shows a combination of desirable skills? Most of us are probably thinking, no, not yet, I couldn’t do that in this very moment.

The thing about professional development—preparing documents required for job applications and job searching in general—is that it is a process of research, reflection, and improvement. We research positions and required qualifications, we match our skillsets with the job descriptions’ vocabulary, and we practice aloud our rationale of how we match the position.

It is often easy with study abroad experiences to follow the STAR method- Situation, Task, Action, Result; proving your skills through a story. Go back to the list of questions; did any of them resonate with you and of one of your study abroad experiences? Try to set up your story in the STAR method to demonstrate skills like flexibility, active listening, ability to work with people different than yourself, solving problems, critical thinking, and managing conflict.

By using your study abroad experiences in interviews you are displaying maturity through the reflection it took to draw out those skills. It is also a great topic that creates an opening for more conversation. Use your study abroad stories to help you land your next job.

Finally, look for the annual Lessons From Abroad—Study Abroad Returnee Conference in your region to learn how to improve your resume writing and interviewing skills. You will also have the opportunity to network with professionals who have internationally-focused positions and learn how to work, teach, or volunteer abroad after graduation.  http://www.lessonsfromabroad.org/

LFA

Completely Unprepared

So you want to climb the Roof of Africa…

This is the true story of how a group of six extremely unprepared wanafunzi (students) managed to *spoiler alert* summit Mt. Kilimanjaro.

A step-by-step guide

  1. Go to a full moon party on a sandbank off the coast of Stone Town, Zanzibar the night before you are supposed to head to Moshi.  Trust me, you’ll feel great the next morning!

    And go SCUBA diving before the party!
  2. Actually wake up on time to catch your 7:00am ferry
  3. Realize that you still need to pack before you leave for the ferry terminal
  4. Get to the ferry in just enough time, thankful you bought your ticket yesterday
  5. After arriving in Dar es Salaam, talk your way into reducing the cost of a taxi to 20,000/= (Tanzanian shillings) to the bus station, arguing that it’s only a few miles away and that you could walk there
  6. Ride in the taxi for a half hour, realize you could NOT have walked there
  7. Arrive at the “bus terminal”, a sandlot with a bunch of buses and find one that is heading to Moshi, Tanzania
  8. Realize the bus you will be on for the next 12 hours has no bathroom and no air conditioning
  9. Listen to 12 hours of loud Tanzanian music videos and violent movies
  10. Text the Kilimanjaro climbing company you are trekking with that you will arrive in Moshi within the next hour
  11. Get a text back telling you that you weren’t supposed to go to Moshi, the office is in Arusha
  12. Thank your respective god that your bus is also going to Arusha
  13. Arrive in Arusha at 11pm and meet a guy with a sign and a bus with your name on it
  14. Get chipsy mayai (fries and eggs) at the one restaurant in Arusha since you haven’t eaten all day.  Apparently, it’s “the place to be!”

    No really, it says so right on the building
  15. Pass out upon arriving at the company’s office, luckily they have some beds you can sleep on for free!
  16. Wake up the next day, hang out at the office, then grab a daladala (public transport) to a local rental place because you have no hiking gear.  You’ve been living in Zanzibar for four months, what use would you have for warm clothes?

    The warmest thing I needed before was my black rash guard for swimming
  17. Realize that Arusha is a lot colder than Zanzibar and that you are extremely unprepared for this climb since you are cold before you even start
  18. Head back to the office for lunch, accidentally eat all the food that was prepared for the whole staff because you thought it was just for the six of you.  Zanzibari portions all around!
  19. Notice a large group of people outside the office
  20. Ask who they are
  21. Be told that those 21 people are your porters up the mountain.  They’re going to carry all of your stuff.  Why 21 porters are needed is still a mystery to me.
  22. Next day: leave at 8am to head to Kilimanjaro National Park.  It takes over three hours since you need to stop and let all the porters grab breakfast
  23. Arrive at the mountain, woo!  All the stress is over with!
  24. Haha, NOPE.
  25. Be told that your residence permits aren’t valid in the park since they’re stamped into your passport and you could easily forge a stamp (okay?).  You owe at least another $1300 in park fees
  26. Argue with park employees for an hour about how you ARE a resident
  27. Call your study abroad program’s academic director (who is supposed to be free of you by now – the program ended days ago) and ask for a HUGE favor – to have a different copy of your residence permit sent to Kilimanjaro.  Now.
  28. She tells you that today is a public holiday and that the immigration office that has the permits is closed
  29. Luckily, the park will let you start the climb, and informs you that you need to be willing to pay that extra money when you get back down the mountain if your permit doesn’t come through
  30. Start the climb, three hours later than scheduled

    Our “before” picture at the base of Kili
  31. Make it through a beautiful forest hike and emerge at the first hut of your stay: Mandara
  32. Sign in with your name and occupation…

    I am a tryer of new things, traveling with two explorers, an aspiring witch doctor, a pirate, and a prophet
  33. Pass out on your bed still kinda stressing over the last few days, but no worry, you’re on the mountain now, everything else can wait for five days!
  34. Wake up early the next morning (Day 2 of the climb) for tea and to start hiking.  You come out of the forest and into smaller shrubbery, but still very green.  The second hut, and your home for the next two days: Horombo

    The view from Horombo – beautiful above the clouds!
  35. Wake up even earlier the next morning (Day 3) to watch the sun rise while sitting above the clouds.  Absolutely breathtaking!
  36. Take a small hike, but ascend 1,000 feet, to Zebra Rock to help with acclimatization.  Come back to Horombo for the night to watch the sunset, equally as breathtaking

    Zebra Rock – aptly named. The colors are this way from a lot of mineral deposits that drip down the rock
  37. Start hiking early (Day 4) to reach Kibo Hut by the early afternoon.  Not as homey as the other two huts, but you’re not allowed to stay the night there.  Unpack your sleeping bag and try to get as much rest as possible before wake up at 11:30pm.
  38. Yeah, PM
  39. Have a very light “breakfast” and don all the clothes you brought, including your “If you can’t climb it, drink it” Kilimanjaro beer shirt
  40. Start your summit attempt at 12:30am, totally in the dark
  41. Cry a little bit at how beautiful the stars are up this high (about 16,000 feet above sea level, take that Colorado!)
  42. Are told that the hike to the summit will take 4-5 hours
  43. Take 8 hours to reach the summit, barely breathing
  44. Get severe altitude sickness (headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness), but stay up there long enough for the whole group to take a picture
  45. Congratulate yourself because YOU JUST CLIMBED MT. KILIMANJARO, ONE OF THE SEVEN SUMMITS AND THE TALLEST MOUNTAIN IN AFRICA.

    I take your ’14er and raise you 5,000 feet to 19,341 feet above sea level
  46. Go get a Kilimanjaro beer to celebrate.
  47. And have your residence permits work, so you didn’t have to pay more

Asante sana kwa kusoma!

Kim, DUSA Blogger

How to Survive Your First Week Abroad

Greetings fellow Pios!

I have successfully completed an entire week of classes at the University of York, which means that I have finished my third week abroad when factoring in my pre-class time here in England. The past three weeks have been eventful, complete with me discovering misty, Charlotte Bronte-esque fields around campus:

Where’s Heathcliff?

And even venturing off campus, out of the city and up to the seaside to find the sun that can be quite elusive sometimes in York:

Seaside sunrises are something else.

As it would seem I am somewhat “settled in” now, I have compiled a list of protips and anecdotes that have aided in the settling process for your reading pleasure.

Faith’s Settling in Protips-or, How to Not Make a Complete Fool of Yourself While Studying Abroad. 

  • In your Study Abroad 101 sessions and regional sessions, the DUSA staff will tell you over and over again that you will need to learn self-advocacy while abroad, even more so than while you are at DU. Take that seriously, because it’s so true. Here at York Uni, they won’t chase you down to make sure you’ve registered your visa or registered for classes or are even in the proper department. They’ll just conclude that you’re not a full-time student if you don’t handle those things yourself, and you will have to deal with immigration services in an unpleasant way. (Now, that’s not to say that the University of York doesn’t have any student support services. They have a very well-developed student welfare system, but it handles personal matters and not academic ones).
  • Fall asleep in your first formal class. Be really embarrassed about it because you were in the front row and your prof totally saw you dozing. Then let it go, because it happens to the best of us, and sometimes the quickest lessons are learned by humiliation.
  • Realize that there are very few contact hours in England (especially in York) universities when compared to the States. Plan out your own study hours carefully so you don’t get screwed over, and then look for a volunteer position or even a part-time job to fill the downtime. It’s a great way to get connected with the community and meet people outside the Uni.
  • See if your school has an International Student’s Association. They may have a very active one like at York that plans day trips nearly every weekend of the term. Go on a few of these, even if you barely know the people there. Connecting with other internationals has been hugely beneficial to me as they are well aware of any difficulties I’m having getting used to English life.
Exploring Cambridge, England with a fellow international student from Germany!
  • Step outside your comfort zone a bit when it comes to socialization. Don’t do things that are contrary to your personality or convictions, but if you’re not a huge late night person, push yourself and try going to a pub night once a week. So far, I’ve found that pubs in York are an excellent way to get to know your new friends and classmates. Typically, they are not very noisy and have a warm, homey atmosphere that facilitates get-to-know-you moments. Trying out different pubs in your area is also a great way to get to know the city.

Every study abroad experience is going to be different and is going to require different levels and forms of personal growth. But I would venture to say that the concepts of learning to stand up for yourself and advocate for yourself, trying new things socially and academically, and making friends in groups you wouldn’t have even considered previously are fairly universal.

-Faith Lierheimer, DUSA Blogger

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

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

Managing Expectations

expectations

Studying abroad is an exciting experience; to say the least. Every fall quarter, hundreds of DU students begin researching all of the great opportunities that the university has to offer through DU Partner Programs. There are programs everywhere from Canada and the UK, to Ghana and India, and everything in between. Once students pick their locations, they begin the long process of applying and preparing to spend a semester abroad. In all of the excitement and busy work, sometimes students forget to manage their expectations.

Here are a few tips on how to overcome the potential challenges that come with being abroad:

Picking a Program:

  • Keep in mind that you will call this country “home” for a few months, please pick a program carefully.
  • Consider the amenities  the country does or does not offer. For example, some countries are not as lucky enough to have hot showers or even constant running water. This can seem trivial now, but it is the small nagging problems that tear away at us when away from home.
  • Wifi is something that is catching on as more countries become more developed but it will probably not be the same in most countries.

Before Departure:

  • Products that are legal in other countries are different to those that are legal in the U.S. If you know that you may be allergic to some or that you prefer some U.S. products, consider taking them from here.
  • Pack small comforts for a “rainy day” like your favorite chocolate bar or pictures of friends. It is acceptable and normal to miss home.
  • Make a list of challenges and how you might overcome them. For instance, “I know that there will not be any Wifi in my home, I will get through this by reading a book for fun, or writing in a journal that I can later show my loved ones.”

While Abroad:

  • Try to get used to the idea that your host country is not worse or better in than the U.S. it is simply different.
  • If you find that you are only noticing the negative aspects of the country, make a quick list of five things you really enjoy about your host country.
  • If you feel like coming home because of the poor living conditions, consider the experiences you can have there that are not available in the U.S.
  • Remember that you have to adapt to the host country and their language, not the other way around.

Upon Return:

  • It is acceptable to appreciate the luxuries (like electricity) as soon as you are back, but also keep in mind the things you learned abroad,

In general, challenges abroad are different based on the country and the individual experiences of the student. Before considering coming home think about the opportunities that the countries abroad have to offer, and remember how lucky U.S. and DU students are to travel abroad. When you are faced with a challenge that you cannot change, take a step back and try to change your outlook on the problem.

Being abroad is difficult in many ways, but it is also a wonderful experience that we should try to get the most out of. If we manage our experiences before we leave, overcoming challenges while aboard will be much easier.

— Adrianna Romero, DUSA Peer Advisor

Down with the Sickness?

Background information: I have a horribly lacking immune system, so here are some words on how to cope when really feeling ill in another country.

The first time I started feeling sick (yeah, I have been sick multiple times… leave me alone) I kept pushing myself to do more things over the weekend and accomplish everything on my list instead of taking a break to feel better. Pro-tip: if you don’t rest, it will get worse. The minute you really start feeling like that stomach ache is getting suspicious or whatnot, park yourself down, start drinking more than the usual amount of water, and only do as much as you feel you can. The main mistake that people make while studying abroad is pushing themselves too far, or pretending they aren’t sick so that they can have more fun on the weekends. This means that you will miss classes and ultimately have more work to do for the next weekend. Rest while you can, and recover quickly. (also the usual LIQUIDS tip that everyone has… lots of liquids.)

So as for the practical packing tips- what medication should you bring, and what should you expect abroad?

World-Travel-Packing-Tips-–-Tim-Ferriss

In my personal experience in Hungary you can expect the same types of medications as are in the US, but the issue of translations can certainly get in the way. For the sake of fewer worries (and not having to make trips to the store while actually sick) here are a few absolute basics that will be handy in case of any emergencies:

  • Dayquil/Nyquil (help with congestion, sleep and basic cold symptoms. Have plenty with you- the Common cold is the most Common issue)
  • Ibuprofen  or Advil (for basically any other pain-related issue)
  • Pepto Bismol (for any basic stomach issue)
  • Benadryl  (can help with sleep but also any allergic reactions you may have- if you are not prone to allergies then don’t worry about it as much, but it can still be great as a backup)
  • Immodium (“gut glue” anti-diarrhea)

…and any other medication suited to your particular needs. I brought along melatonin sleep aid for the first day or so as well as for travel issues.

As for doctors’ appointments abroad, I can only really tell you about my friend’s experiences in Hungary. Medication is cheap, and the doctors are kind. But you do have to have a translator along, someone you can trust. Usually there is someone in your schools adviser department who will be willing. Prices vary, but for one friend she got three different prescriptions for thirty dollars, and another friend had a much more serious doctor’s appointment for only 60 dollars. Hopefully you will never have to worry about this, but before you go to whichever country you are planning on, it is nice to ask your advisers about medical facilities to get a good idea of backup systems once you do get to the country.

For things like cuts and scratches (just to help with the easiest medical kit for abroad) I just brought medical tape. It works better than blister bandages and if you put a bit of gauze or fabric underneath it then it is an instant Band-Aid. Blister bandages don’t allow the wound to breathe and heal itself, and any time you remove a blister Band-Aid often times the skin goes with it. That’s why medical tape is optimal because it can breathe and it won’t necessarily remove skin with every replacement. Neosporin is also useful for these things.

OK so If I were to sum up the best first aid kit to take with you while traveling this is what it would be:

  • health
  • Dayquil/Nyquil
  • Ibuprofen
  • pepto bismol
  • Benadryl
  • Imodium
  • Sports Tape
  • Neosporin
  • Hand sanitizer
  • sunscreen/aloe
  • insect repellent (Depending where you are)
  • hydrocortisone
  • lozenges
  • any of your own personal medications
  • handkerchief

I know the last one is really odd but when I traveled in Japan it became a religion for me. It is always a good backup when bathrooms don’t have hand towels, or if someone gets a bloody nose or needs a quick injury fix. They may seem old-fashioned, but honestly they take up little to no space and you will be surprised how often you use it if you are willing.

I hope this list is helpful for you, leave comments if you think of any other useful items to have in your “snake bite kit,” as my mother calls it. You can also find lists like this online, lots of medical websites have suggestions, mine is just the dumbed-down version of what already exists.

Honestly I hope none of you will have to deal with being sick or ill abroad- but it is always good to have a backup.

-Miranda Blank, studying abroad in Budapest, Hungary – fall 2013

To SIM, or not to SIM?

Back at home I am used to texting all the time, and I am sure many of you understand the feeling. We text about where to meet friends, what people are doing throughout the day and (lord knows) to check facebook. But when you are traveling it is a bit tougher to figure out what to do on a tight budget, so hopefully I can clarify a few things about how to handle cell phones abroad.

First and foremost call your cell phone provider and ask them about their policies. I wouldn’t check their website, because you will get your answers much faster just by talking to a representative. Plus I found that you can find conflicting information on their website if you don’t properly understand it.

For example I use T-Mobile and they told me that with unlimited texts it only costs me 20 cents to send texts and they are still free to receive abroad. Without that plan it would cost me 50 cents to send and 20 to receive. Not great with the unlimited costs, but still reasonable. Even with this system, phone calls are expensive and generally not worth it. Especially if you plan on calling people in the country where you are traveling, it is a good idea to look at other options.

Your other options are to get a prepaid phone, or a SIM card you can put in your phone.  Both of these are available at local phone stores, in our case it was T-mobile.

The important thing to note about SIM cards is that your phone MUST be unlocked for you to replace your SIM card with another.  Again, when you call your provider they can tell you how to do that- for my phone they gave me an input code that I could use to unlock it once I put in a new SIM card.  I believe the system is the same for all providers, but when you call you can ask!

SIM cards are prepaid, so it means you purchase the SIM you can upload more minutes on ATMs around the country. It is incredibly easy, and the option shows up on ATMs automatically.

I found a website that mentions you can use the SIM cards again when you travel, but that has to be to the same country within a year. This might also be depending on the SIM card, but it seems to me that this is a fairly broad rule. I didn’t purchase a SIM card myself, but apparently they are a bit more expensive than just buying the phone, about 17 dollars.

As for burner phones, in Hungary they only cost approximately 10 dollars. This also started me off with 600 Forints on the phone for texts and calls, which is about 3 dollars at 17 cents per text. They are incredibly simple and you should only really use them to text and tell time, but they get the job done. I went with this option mainly for simplicity sake, so I can have my normal phone that my family knows the number of in case they really need to contact me quick.

Enjoy my terrible picture! This is my phone for abroad, now I just need to remember how to text with this...
Enjoy the terrible picture of my 10 dollar phone! I just haven’t texted on a keypad like this since 9th grade…

These phones will text you the balance on your phone after you go under a certain amount, and then you can, again, replenish it at an ATM.

Both SIM cards and prepaid phones come with an international number, so if your family wants to call I would save it for skype, or they will have to pay the international fees.  The international number you always begin with + and then the country code. In my case it is 36. So for example, my phone number in Hungary would be +(36) (12) 345-6789. A completely made up number, but the area code is 12 in my example. If you don’t add the plus at the beginning of the number (typed in the phone like this: +36123456789 ) then your calls or texts won’t go through and the phone will charge you for every attempt at sending. (I learned this the hard way)

As for Data plans, I would really not recommend it. Especially if you are thinking of getting a prepaid phone just leave your phone off. If you are willing to use wireless then please make sure that your data plan is off so you won’t be charged exorbitant amounts. Most coffee shops have wireless anyway, so it wouldn’t be too difficult to go without a data plan.

Seriously though if you think that a data plan is that necessary while you are studying abroad you have bigger problems. It is such an amazing experience with so many things to do and see, that if you spend all of your time on your cell phone than you are really missing out, folks! You can post pictures when you get home, and tweet about it later. Live in the moment!!

As a final note, cell phones should really be emergency only. Even in Hungary it costs me 17 cents to send a text message, free to receive. It isn’t that much better than the T-mobile plan, (mainly because my prepaid phone is produced by T-mobile) and so it should really be used sparingly, to find your friends or make a call if you get lost. Otherwise use it to tell time when to meet back at a certain place. I have managed just fine so far with no cell phone at all, I mainly have it as a backup for comfort’s sake.

For more information I found that these sites were really helpful, and they have information for other providers as well:

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/TECH/05/27/cell.phones.overseas/

This website also has the different service providers rates listed, so it can be a quick way for you to find out how much you will be charged.

http://www.independenttraveler.com/travel-tips/stay-connected/international-cell-phone-guide

This is the system how the students in my group purchased SIM cards, so you can see the guidelines here:

http://www.t-mobile.hu/english/all_plans/domino_sim/domino_sim_card

Comment if you have any questions or comments, and I will do my best to help!

And for more information about my personal experiences and stories, check out my blog at https://mirandablank.wordpress.com/