It’s the small things…

One of my biggest tips for anyone going abroad…

Write things down!

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.

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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.

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How Study Abroad Prepared Me for My Next Adventure

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:

  1. 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…

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I got so good at Ryan Air

 

  1. 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.

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Thankfully, no miming require in Barcelona
  1. 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.

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Also know how to read a real, paper map
  1. 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.

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I want to go to there

 

 

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.

-Max Spiro, Graduate Study Abroad Assistant

Coping with Returnee-ism

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.

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I visited the Miyajima Shrine in Japan, which was actually amazing

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.

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The positive, amazing hike side of my double-edged trip to British Colombia      (negative side not pictured)

So, here’s my advice for dealing with returnee-ism:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

-Max Spiro, Graduate Study Abroad Assistant

 

ESTOY SUDANDO: I.am.sweating.

Ever wanted to study abroad in the Dominican Republic? Unsure what to except? Well, you’ve come to the right place. My name is Becca Blaustein and I came to Santiago, the second largest city on the island, completely clueless. If you don’t want to make the same mistake as me, I urge you to keep reading.

A little about me: I just started my Junior Year at DU studying Art, Spanish, and Education. In my free time I enjoy, relaxing, drawing, and being outdoors. I’ve traveled to other countries for vacation but beware, there’s a huge difference between “vacationing in” and “living in” another country.

I’ve been in the Dominican Republic for 3 weeks now and it is a miracle I’m still alive. With 70-100% humidity daily, you’d think we’d be experiencing torrential downpours. The truth is, it hasn’t rained here in over 6 months and the temperature doesn’t drop below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Like I said, it is a miracle I’m still alive. Along with the heat, it is not common here for girls to wear shorts. Yes ladies, that means jeans, skirts, dresses and pants every single day, no matter how cute the new high-waisted jean shorts you just bought are. No matter how sweaty you are. (Unless you don’t mind sticking out more than you already do).

8 things I’ve learned about Dominican culture thus far:

1. Dominicans don’t sweat. Period. 99.9% of the people wear jeans to school every single day. They do so without breaking a sweat, not a single droplet. I tried wearing jeans today for the first time. Here is my advice: Don’t do it.

2. If you’re white, you will be stared at. If you have blonde hair, you will be stared at. If you’re white AND have blonde hair, never expect NOT to be stared at. In the United States, we have something called “a comfort level.” This concept might be foreign to some, but this cultural norm exists when someones behavior exceeds what you feel comfortable with. In return you get mad or offended. OR if you feel something becoming uncomfortable, you immediately find a way to stop it. For example, staring. Most people know when it is not appropriate to stare and know when to stop staring. When you are walking towards someone on the street in the U.S., there comes a point when you look away from the person because you no longer feel comfortable making eye contact or looking at them. This concept doesn’t apply here in the Dominican Republic. Wherever you go, people will stare at you, continue to stare at you and not stop staring at you until you are out of sight. You will lose the starting contest every time. Every. Single. Time. Without fail.

3. This one is called TSSSSSSTTTT “Hello Beautiful,” “Wowww rubia,” y “Ay mamiii.” This is what some people might call “catcalling.”In the DR though these comments are more widely considered compliments. Starting from childhood most boys are trained to compliment or show interest in women as they walk by on the street. Yes, at times commentary can be crude or vulgar, which no woman likes, but mostly these “compliments” are culturally accepted. Something to keep in mind though, as an american female aka, a very small minority on this island, the commentary does happen much more frequent then per say to your average Dominican woman. Boys, not so much a concern for you.

4. Here tigres are a different kind of animal AKA SANKI PANKIS. Quick summary: these dominicans may be charming, they might even be good looking but they just want sex, your money, or marriage…..so they can get a visa to the U.S.A. aka “the land of opportunities.” Boys, yes this is a concern for you too.

5. The majority of Taxi drivers think you are stupid solely because you are a U.S American. Don’t ask them how much a ride costs, don’t ask them their favorite bar, and DON’T get in one off the street. Concho and Taxi drivers will often try to overcharge you because they think you’re rich, dumb and a tourist. True story: some friends asked a driver to take them to his favorite bar because the driver didn’t know where the bar they want to go to was located. The driver drove them 10 minutes and stopped at a bar. This “drive” consisted of going around the block a few times, and then stopping a few buildings down from where they were originally picked up. He tried to charge them double the cost of a normal taxi ride. They laughed and gave him what the ride should have cost and left the car. Another note, street taxi drivers may try to lock you in their car, only call for one from a company you know and trust.

6. Despite the rumors, dominicans DO like to party. On any given night the discotecas and bars can be found full of people. Wednesdays, ladies drink for free. On the weekends you cannot enter a discoteca unless you are WELL dressed: button ups, heels or nice sandals, dresses, dress shoes. Apparently, no nose rings. No gages. They also go out realllyyyyy late, night life doesn’t start until 11. Somehow I’ve recently converted into an early bird bedtimer so lets just say I haven’t been super involved in the night life.

7. Never believe anything the restaurant and bar owners say when you walk down Playa Sosúa. They all have the best prices. They all have the best food. They all have been saving a table JUST for you. They will try to entice you with free wifi, no tax, and free beach chairs. Most of them have free wifi and none of them have tax (here its included in the prices) BUT be careful with the beach chairs. I repeat be careful with the beach chairs. Not everyone offers a chair for free with your meal. They may make it seem like you get one for free but make sure to double check or else you will end up with an umbrella but no chairs to lay under the umbrella. Side note: the beaches are BEAUTIFUL. Clear, warm (and very salty) water; white sand; lots of fish. Try to spend as much time at the beach as possible but WEAR SUNSCREEN. Dominican sun is HOT. (proof in the sunburns, aka as a non-sunscreen wearer, not worth it.)

8. “¿Cómo tu ta?” aka what did you just say? So there’s spanish right, and then theres dominican. Whatever you thought you knew about spanish before you came to the DR is wrong. Just kidding, but you might feel that way at first. Dominican accents are really strong. They like to cut off the ends and beginning of words and make up words and speak spanglish and add tus. Dominicans hate S’s. Its really fun. But don’t worry, you’ll catch on and get the hang of it. This one I gave you means, “¿Cómo estás?”

And soooo, the list most definitely does and will go on but I do not want to bore you too much more. In the next 3 months, 1 week and 2 days (but who’s counting) I will continue to become immersed in and learn about the culture here in the Dominican Republic. Although a lot of it is different from what I am used to, I find comfort in the things that remain the same across cultures; the love for family and friends, the lighthearted jokes and the kind gestures. A small smile goes a long way. The list I have made is not meant to scare you or concern you but only meant to inform you; to rid of any preconceived notions or expectations you may, or may not, have. These are important lessons I have learned and they address the realities of entering another culture and country completely new and different from your own. The DR, along with any other country in the world, does not have the same history, values, government or culture as the U.S.; something easy to forget when you have only vacationed in another country and not actually had the opportunity to live there. I am thankful for this opportunity to learn, grow and understand.

5 Things To Do When You Get Homesick

Studying abroad is a time of sheer excitement. You have left your home and everything comfortable and familiar, and you have completely submerged yourself into something new and exciting. And for a while, everything is great. You are having the time of your life, and it seems as though nothing can hold you back. Then suddenly, BAM. It hits you. You realize you are living in a foreign country, alone, and it’s not all that exciting anymore. You miss home more than anything and you are almost ready to go back, all the new is suddenly too much to handle. This slum is rough, and for some it lasts weeks, and other it lasts just a few days. Here is a list of a few things that you can do to pull yourself out of this nasty slum, and get back to enjoying your study abroad experience.

1. Call Mom and Dad

I know you are an adult now and you are living in a foreign country and you are doing it all on your own, but it is absolutely okay to call your parents and let them know you miss them. They will love to hear you love and miss them, and chances are just the sound of their voice will make you feel better. Plus, as much as I hate to admit it, parents always give the best advice when you’re down. They have this strange power to know exactly what to say to lift your spirits.

Jordan and her family
Jordan and her family

2. Look at pictures

Scroll through the photo library on your phone or computer and look at some old photos. It will be nice to see some familiar faces of people you love, and chances are recalling some happy memories will make you smile.

3. Listen to your favorite song

Music is a magical thing. Nothing has the power to change your mood faster than a great song. Throw on some headphones, or plug in a speaker and blast your favorite song. It will make you smile and lift your spirits before the chorus, and you will definitely feel inspired and ready to take on the rest of your study abroad experience. Pro tip: Spotify premium is only $4.99 a month for students and lets you listen to all your favorite songs, even when you don’t have access to the internet. Best $4.99 I’ve ever spent.

4.Remember it’s not permanent

I recently got some great advice from a friend about dealing with homesickness. She reminded me that nothing is permanent. Sometimes, it is comforting to remember that YOU ARE NOT STUCK HERE. You can purchase a plane ticket and be home in 24 hours. Mind you, I’m not saying you should actually purchase the ticket and leave. In fact, you should absolutely stay and work through your feelings and figure it out. But, it is comforting to know in the back of your mind, that you are not stuck here forever.

5. Spend time with friends

Finally, spend some time with your new abroad friends. They are your own little family, and with them you will create your home away from home. Surround yourself with great people and positive vibes, and you won’t be down for long.

John Lennon says it best.
John Lennon says it best.
Your friends abroad truly become your family.
Your friends abroad truly become your family.

The 5 Stages of Post-Abroad Metamorphosis, Contemplation, and General Tears

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.

2. Articulation

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.

4. Relativity

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.

5. Wanderlust

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.

– Maddie Doering, MSID Ecuador 2014

Maddie Doering

My Top 4 Tips

I’m back, sadly. I’ve made it through The Study Abroad Experience in more or less one piece and, of course, infinitely wiser. Reflecting on my time abroad and all I wish I would have known preparing for the trip of a lifetime, I’ve come up with a few tips and tricks to keep in mind as you set out on your grand adventure:

  • Travel clinics are your friend!
    Seriously. Your regular doctor is great, but travel clinics are specifically equipped with all the vaccines and info you  need before heading abroad that most physicians won’t know off the top of their head. For instance, Ecuador doesn’t require any special vaccine and malaria medication is more or less optional, but if you travel outside of Ecuador and want to return – for instance, after a quick long weekend jaunt to Machu Picchu in Peru – it requires proof of the Yellow Fever vaccine to re-cross the border. It’s usually quicker and travel clinics keep the more offbeat vaccines regularly instock. Each county should have their own, so find the one closest to you!
  • Chips for all!
    Traveling to Latin America I just rather assumed my cell phone wouldn’t work except as a rather shiny music player. I’d rather forgotten that you can replace the chip in your phone so it functions on a pay-as-you-go basis in whatever country. I would have much rather used my regular phone I’m used to rather than the junky little thing I bought to contact my Ecuadorian friends and family.
  • Smiley face for FaceTime
    Not everyone has Apple products, but if you do, utilize the FaceTime! For whatever reason, FaceTime works so much better than Skype in Latin America. I got kicked off regardless, but maybe 1 time a call with FaceTime as opposed to 10 times a call with Skype.
  • Reading, rollerblading, and music
    Just a few of my hobbies. While you are trying to pack as much stuff into that suitcase and still keep it under the 50lb limit, don’t forget to throw in whatever it is you like to do in your free time. When you’re missing home or everything around you seems strange, having that consistent activity will keep your world from seeming too overwhelming. For me, it was my bracelet making kit. And then I was able to make bracelets for all my new friends and family, win-win. So pack those books, musical instruments, sketchbooks, knitting needles, bike gear – whatever!

Now I’m sure everyone has their own list of priorities, but for me these were the top 4. Health, communication, and free time. But regardless, you’ll figure it out when you get there. So you don’t have a raincoat or closed-toed shoes and it rains everyday. You’ll buy a raincoat. Or use a snazzy trash bag. So go with the flow and boldly go, adventurers! Have the time of your life.

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– Madeline Doering, DUSA Blogger

Let’s Go Home

I put off packing. Again.
The interminable blue hulk I casually drag behind me as my suitcase stood empty for days awaiting either all my clothing or Abril and Sol, my host hermanitas. Actually, Sol in my backpack, Abril, Pao and Alex – the rest of my host family – in the suitcase. ‘Tis perfect.

Am I leaving? I’ve heard mutterings of this thing they call “the final thesis presentation” and “going home”, but I’m sure that doesn’t apply to me. I have family here.

I’ve had a lot of time to think lately – as I sit and grapple with financial Spanish lingo at my internship, as I panic yet still don’t write my monografia, as I tune out during conversations because its 1am and my maximum Spanish time is 18  hours and how many more hours can we possibly hang out in Cielito Lindo, the bar/restaurant my host family owns – and I’ve most certainly come a long way.

I find myself being very happy as I walk to work or smooch Abril – probably because of all the vitamin D I’ve been getting 😉 I do have my own personal little Sol.

My own personal little Sol and Abril
My own personal little Sol and Abril

There’s something very beautiful about finding normalcy abroad. About accidentally saying “let’s go home” instead of “back to the house”. About a squeaky little voice calling for her Maddie-line to “ven aqui!”. I want very much to go home – but I don’t want to go home.

After living here for 5 months, I don’t really see how people can travel places for only two, three weeks at a time. I don’t see how I’ll be able to do it in the future. There’s no time to build a routine, find the fastest way home because you’ve literally walked every possible route, find your ice cream shop where they start only charging you 75cents instead of the very steep 80 “because you’re so sweet”. Where is the living?

It hasn’t even been 4 full weeks, but I’ve again found a home while surviving abroad. When you think about how little time 1 1/2 months is in the grand scheme (my total time here in Ibarra) – barely over half a DU quarter – but somehow it has been enough. My name has been changed to Maddie-line Munoz (because I’m part of the family),

Abril insists I greet “Papito Alex” when he calls on the phone at night (while my host mom dies laughing in the background), and I’ve figured out how to make my bed in 21 seconds flat.

I haven’t jumped off any more bridges lately, but I’d prefer these weeks of princess dolls, slobbery kisses, and endless Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. This weird little pentagonal room with the crisp white door, dark purple curtains, and my Crayola Halloween sheets will be missed. Most likely because of the two little girls who barge in demanding to snuggle and view Scooby Doo (well one demands, the other just shouts HOLA!).

The goodbyes are fast approaching. It’s nice when they ask me when I next have vacation or make plans for the 20th of June when all the city dances the night away with the indigenous communities for Inti Rymi and we just have to go. And when they ask me that, I don’t smile and nod because it’s polite. I plot and I plan and I try to think of some way to trick DU into sending me back “to study”. I think I can swing it. As my host mom says though, “It’s decided, you’re not leaving. We haven’t made pie yet.” Well, in that case.

I never expected to find a home while abroad, but it is this part of the experience I will forever treasure the most. This goodbye was the hardest I’ve ever experience – harder even than when I originally left my US family and friends back in August because this time there’s no ticket with a set date and time telling me when, to the minute, I will arrive home.

I never expected to have a reason to return. And now that I do, I am so grateful Ecuador chose me and I found the third half of my family. Voy a extrañarte, Ecuador.

The Muñoz Family 2014
The Muñoz Family 2014

– Madeline Doering – DUSA Blogger
December, 2014

Aly’s Blog: Cochabamba, Bolivia

Beautifully written and a fascinating read, check out what Aly, one of our students, is doing as she studies abroad in Bolivia. Her latest post is on ice cream, as a quick teaser.

http://de-pompingthecircumstance.blogspot.com/

PL-048-Bolivia-Kevorkian

How to Get Sick: A User’s Guide

The stomach of steel is a myth.

Sorry to break it to ya, especially you “tough as nails” folk, but ABROAD WILL TAKE YOU DOWN. It’s really a question of when rather than if.

But I – No.  I haven’t – No.  I’m tougher – Still no.

They lay it right out there during orientation – you will get sick. It’s far better to accept it, acknowledge it, and move on. Chalk it up to just another study abroad experience. Strange food, strange cooking, stress – your immune system just ain’t up for it for 4 months. So take heed of a few tips from those of us who have already lost the battle:


Give it a week before you go all “Bizarre Foods Study Abroad Edition”

I’m all for being adventurous – it’s study abroad after all – but let your system become accustomed a bit before you eat the worms.

No matter what country you travel to, there’s going to be something awesome and ethnic and cultural to eat. It might be cuy (guinea pig), it might be alpaca, it might be real live octopus, but chances are day two isn’t going to be the only time or the best time to try it. And farther down the line, it might not make you want to throw up, either. 😉

Aimee Schneider, MSID Ecuador 2014, considers her worm carefully before taking the first bite. There are all types of learning while abroad - even learning to eat worms!
The audacious Aimee Schneider, MSID Ecuador 2014, considers her worm carefully before taking the first bite. There are all types of learning while abroad – even learning to eat worms
The daring Emma Kaplan, MSID Ecuador 2014, tosses one back - one worm that is - while studying in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
The daring Emma Kaplan, MSID Ecuador 2014, tosses one back – one worm that is – while studying in the Ecuadorian Amazon


Gettin’ Some Air

 While we come from a mile high, that sneaky altitude can still get ya. Some cities – such as Quito in Ecuador and La Paz in Bolivia – lie high up in the mountains (in the case of Quito and La Paz, in the Andes) where the altitude is almost double that of Denver. It certainly is an advantage to come from Rocky Mountain High where the sky is clear and the air is thin, but be prepared. My new friend Brenna had a horrible stomach ache the entire first week we were in Quito, which she attributed to nerves and new food. After taking every type of medication she had brought with her and several our host families had recommended, it finally occurred to her that going from Minnesota land of the flat to Quito at over 9,000 ft might have had some affect. After taking her altitude meds and drinking a lake full of water, no sign of the stomach ache since.

Take that 14ers! 9000ft weren't enough for us, we needed even higher altitude. Volcano Pichincha in Quito, Ecuador. (Maddie Doering, Aimee Schneider, Emma Kaplan - MSID Ecuador 2014)
Take that 14ers! 9000ft weren’t enough for us, we needed even higher altitude. Volcano Pichincha in Quito, Ecuador. (Maddie Doering, Aimee Schneider, Emma Kaplan – MSID Ecuador 2014)
Brenna and myself climbing Cotopaxi
Brenna and myself climbing Cotopaxi

The Thirst for Adventure

 Water. To drink or not to drink, that is the question.

In this case, do as the locals do. If they’re not drinking tap water, odds are you probably shouldn’t be either. If you’re really worried, however, or just don’t want to constantly be buying bottles of water, definitely look into safe water techniques. Chlorine tablets, iodine drops, and even UV lights that kill bacteria in water are all great options.

Look how refreshing that water looks! - MSID Ecuador 2014
Look how refreshing that water looks! – MSID Ecuador 2014

Going Native

Getting sick is all part of the experience, as is getting better. So as you want to heave your cookies, just think about what a wonderful experience this is to discover more about the local culture. When I got sick, my host mom made more tea than I thought I could possibly contain. I practically floated for two days. But I got to see how she made it all directly from the actual plant (no tea bags here!) and I did end up feeling better. I also got to experience “limpio de huevo” – the egg cleaning – technique to get rid of all my bad energy. She essentially rubbed an egg all over me then cracked it in water. Where the white floated to the surface was where my “energia negativa” was contained. So really, I’m just holistically a more well person right now.

egg doctor


So friends. Get sick and get some culture. Hopefully these tips will help you so that while you may lose the battle, you can win the war. Happy travels!

-Madeline Doering – DUSA Blogger


Where. Are. The Kleenexes?!

I, the illustrious and often confused Madeline Doering, have been under the Southern Skies now for over a month – a month and one week, to be exact – and by golly it’s all starting to come together. While living with a host family that speaks 0 English has been prodigious para mis habilidades lingüísticas, in a world of Spanish, I find myself talking to myself in increasingly frequent doses – and whether that’s good or weird (it’s weird, I  know), at least I understand what I’m saying – sometimes with a pretty snazzy Spanish accent even. Here are a few choice mutterings:

  • Where. Are. The Kleenexes?!

    Seriously, does no one blow their nose ever down here?
    I’ve noticed that where we typically compost and recycle as a luxury, and while widespread in Colorado, much of the United States remains criminally in the dark about the basic necessities regarding earth-friendliness and la Pachamama.don't pick flowers Here in Ecuador the Green Campaign is much stronger and much more of a habit – out of necessity rather than choice. There is always an Organicó next to the Basura, signs stating “sólo necesita un poco!” in the bathrooms (where sometimes you must supply your own paper), and no such thing as air conditioning or central heat. giant leaf 2So maybe it should come as no shock that something so wasteful as kleenex quite literally doesn’t exist – I’ve looked in stores, there isn’t any. But, I HAVEN’T SEEN ANYONE EVEN SNEEZE. What is the secret to this madness? And how can I too learn the ways?

 

 

 

 

  • I am not a cat, nor will I be eating one as a hamburger!

    Hamburgesas del Gato. WHAT? I don’t know what you all do here in Costaguatamexi-Ecuador, but back in America we do not eat cats.
    When we passed the Hamburguesas del Gato while going to “the bank” (I’ve learned “the bank” actually translates to 3+ hours of errands, one does not simply go to the bank) and I told my host sister Rosita that in no uncertain terms would I be eating a cat, she descended into a pile of giggles. No Maddie, gatos are people with blue or green eyes, sheesh. It’s basically hamburgers in the style of Europeans/Americans. Ridiculous. Hey, you people eat cuy (guinea pigs) down here, cats are just one step up. Meow.

  • Lets kiss then hug then kiss again. Then let’s do it again in 10 minutes when I leave.

    Saludos son muy importante around here. A mere, “What’s up?” or, the epitome of cool – the nod – will not suffice. I think when he saw my reaction, my Professor, Ismael, took pity and let me know it wasn’t a greeting requirement to kiss everyone, but hey, I’m lucky it’s not the double kiss in Spain or the – uck – triple kiss in France. ARMS LENGTH DISTANCE AT ALL TIMES, PEOPLE. Gracias.
    At this point, I’ve kissed and been kissed by more people than I care to ever admit. Ever.

  • No, I do not want mayonnaise on my carrots or my salad or my peas, why thank you. Actually, just keep the peas entirely.

    One does not simply put mayonnaise on everything! Especially vegetables! (yes potato salad, blah, blah, yuck) They make a big deal about everything being super natural around here – far fresher and more natural than in los Estados Unidos, por supuesto – but isn’t that slightly ruined WHEN YOU PUT GLOBS OF SLOPPY, GLOOPY MAYONNAISE ON TOP??????????????????? And peas. I actually just don’t like peas. I’m sure they’re very fresh and natural, though.

    El Mercado
    El Mercado

    photo 3 - Copy (2)

  • I’m going to eat it on one of these floors imminently, I just know it.

    Every surface is smooth and shiny – they really know their right angles down here. But for those of us that can, at times, trip over their own feet, this can portend imminent catastrophe. Skirt over head. It’s going to happen.

  • Am I the only person here who doesn’t know anything about soccer?

    Yes? Alrighty then.

  • In the event of a Godzilla attack, please proceed calmly and orderly to the nearest park.
    It will never find me in the park! - Actually, it's an artist's depiction of an earthquake, and the park is a safe place in the city.
    It will never find me in the park! – Actually, it’s an artist’s depiction of an earthquake, and the park is a safe place in the city.


    It’s the harbinger of DOOOOOOOOOOOM!
    Yeah, I don’t know.

Well. Perhaps talking to myself is not entirely healthy for my sanity. But I’m amused.

What it all boils down to, mis chicos, is it’s always an adventure and there is always something to laugh at if you just look. Maybe in the darkest times you’ll have to squint your eyes a bit – wipe away a few tears even – but there’s a silver lining, there really is. Buen viaje mis amigos!

colorful selfie

– Madeline Doering, DUSA Blogger

The Wall

You head east.

Yep, you break that sacred, unspoken Coloradoan rule and turn your back on the mountains. They’ll forgive you- eventually. You head past the supposedly haunted Mary Reed and the ever illustrious UHall, dash across University Blvd with the sorority sistahs and assorted other Greek and (non-Greek)-life bros making their trek home to Josephine St., and scurry the final block. Inside, you blow on your frost-tinged fingertips; the bright sunshine, while irritatingly blinding, not quite up to doing battle with the potent partnership of a bracing November air and breeze whose bite is slightly more than playful. You’ve almost made it.

So down the stairs you go.

And there it is. In the slight maze that is the I- house, sequestered in the basement – though almost every DU student will make the pilgrimage- is The Wall.

Have you not seen The Wall? Well what are you waiting for?! An invitation? An introduction? Please.

Covered in paper, countries you forgot existed alongside those you’ve always dreamed of visiting are represented. It stands, a memorial to adventure – both those already had and those yet to come. Oh holy Hades, how are you going to choose?

One could throw darts. One could meticulously read every minute detail on every sheet, do extra research, and draft elaborate pro/con pie graphs. One might be better off with the darts. You could turn to the Travel Channel and announce to your friends you will be traveling to whatever country first appears – only to have a show about alligator rastlin’ in the Florida Everglades helpfully and gracefully segue from commercial. Perhaps not. If only you could study abroad everywhere at once – but that might defeat the purpose.

If like me you’ve dreamed of the Southern hemisphere stars twinkling above you, finding Mt. Olympus, and kissing the Blarney stone, you’re about to find yourself at a bit of a crossroads. For me, the best decision is the one that has a little bit of fate thrown in. I managed to narrow down my choices to two. By weeding out places I would have other opportunities to visit and coming to the conclusion that what I was looking for was A Different study abroad experience, my dilemma became centered around Germany and Ecuador. But from there I couldn’t choose. So I submitted both applications not in any particular order, and waited for the study abroad office’s decision. Ecuador, here I am.

Maddie, at a Crossroads
Maddie, at a Crossroads

We easily forget that at DU the question is not usually if you are study abroad, but where. I was sitting in class when I was struck by the rather late-coming realization that the 30 people surrounding me would none be in the U.S. come fall. I will have friends in Bolivia, Mongolia, South Africa, China, Belgium, and more. Whatever your decision and however you choose to make it, what will be, will be. Few have returned with anything but silly grins splitting their faces, secret adventures in their hearts, and a vow to go again.

And now I stand in the 2nd highest capital city in the world, the equator just to my north, and 4 ½ months between me and Denver, Colorado. All those inspirational travel posters make so much sense now.

Adventure awaits! Westward (or Southward) ‘Ho! Hasta la vista, baybay!

Maddie Doering, DUSA blogger

Quito, Ecuador – MSID Ecuador

 

Combating the Wanderlust

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

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

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

Me after the Barcelona, Real Madrid match in Barcelona
Me after the Barcelona, Real Madrid match in Barcelona

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

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

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

-Max Spiro, Peer Advisor

Staying Connected Abroad

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

Here are some apps to help ease communication:

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

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

-Callum Forster, Peer Advisor

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will you add?

Callum Forster, Peer Advisor

3 Things I Learned My First Week Abroad

2013-09-17 19.25.04
A Croatian Sunset, no Instagram needed

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

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

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

Wrong. WRONG.

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

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

2. Change Matters

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

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

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

3. Umbrellas are a real thing

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

Then I discovered how the real world worked.

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

It didn’t.

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

Well I guess these things are useful. Neat.

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

Get ready for the time of your life.

2013-10-25 08.06.49

Max Spiro

Peer Advisor, Office of Internationalization

So much more

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

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