Go to the International Orientation!

I am three weeks into my program at UOttawa and things are going mostly well. I am inundated with work and being an English major means the majority of my work is reading large portions of several books at a time. I am exhausted, but my body clock is adjusting to the two hour difference, which is nice. I am also settling into my dorm and getting to know my surroundings. I meant to write this post a few weeks ago, but I had to hit the ground running when my classes started. But now, I have some time, so let’s do this!

I attended my International Orientation for all incoming exchange students about two weeks ago. It was mandatory for me to sit through the five hour presentation; however, my time was rewarded with a UOttawa reusable bag and a Subway sandwich, which I was totally fine with! I was wondering why they scheduled the entire morning for this presentation. What exactly did we need to know that takes five hours to describe? Well, it’s actually more than a few things. In fact, the International Office talked to us about a ton of things.

Before the presentation started, all of the incoming exchange students (including myself) packed into a 200, maybe 250, seat lecture room. The diversity of exchange students around the room was impressive, more than I had seen at DU. There were students from all over Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Sweden, Germany, Japan, China, South Africa, Ghana, Ivory Coast . . so many countries that are so different from the States. It was so cool to see! The International Office introduced themselves and gave us their contact information since they are all of our lifelines while we’re here. They talked about the school, gave us a campus map, and discussed registration details. We then had special speakers come in and talk about the Writing Center, Health Services, and the Fitness Center. It was nice that they showed us all these resources from the get-go.

Finally, they discussed the importance of plagiarism prevention and student-professor relationships, which was interesting to me that they purposely discussed these things. In terms of the plagiarism, I am not certain if other universities around the world do not emphasize citing sources or if they do it at all, because they showed us everything from how to cite sources and how to determine if sources need to be cited. Maybe some students needed a reminder to cite their sources in their work or maybe some students were learning for the first time. It’s interesting that the International Office emphasized a whole section of their presentation to academic fraud, but unfortunately they did say that at least one incoming exchange student is accused of academic fraud per year at UOttawa. DU makes a big deal of academic fraud and citing sources, so it was nothing new to me.

The other fascinating topic was student-professor relationships. The speaker, whose name escapes me right now, was saying that the American, Canadian, and Australian university systems are fairly similar and that students from these specifics countries would have little difficulty assimilating to the academic schematics of the lectures, discussion groups, etc., of UOttawa. Though, students from other countries, such as the Netherlands, may have some difficulty with the “new” look of academics in Canada. The speaker went on to say that here the professor isn’t viewed as “a god” (her words) and that the student-professor relationship is still formal in nature, but way less so than in countries where professors are viewed with higher authority. While this isn’t a problem, Swedish or Danish students may have trouble with the casual nature of the lectures and discussions. They may not realize that they are actually allowed to ask questions or go to  office hours to have a conversation with their prof. It is most definitely a cultural shift for those students. In my case, the concepts of office hours, lectures, and discussions aren’t as dramatic to me because DU operates in the exact same fashion. I am grateful in that sense that the adjustment to the academic system in Canada hasn’t been a hassle. Knowing how college classes operate here already allows me to dive into my work a lot faster than I would if I went something completely exotic. But if you’re up for that challenge, by all means do it!

Although the presentation was a little long for me, I’m ultimately glad I went. The speakers cleared up some concerns I had about various things and I became more confident in my new surroundings. The International Office said to email them if we had any questions at all, even if they didn’t pertain to International Office issues. For example, I emailed them about how to ship items back to my home and they helped me right away. There is a certain amount of autonomy that comes with this program and it certainly isn’t for people that aren’t confident being independent or doing things on their own.

But, the International Office will help if you ask them, which is a tip for anyone studying abroad anywhere: asking for help never hurts. Till next time!

 

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The End of an Era

I returned to Denver from Milan about 5 days ago and the question I have heard the most from people is, “Aren’t you so glad to be home?” Honestly? No. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to see my friends and family and the mountains, but living in Italy was the experience of a lifetime and I am not ready for it to be over.

The last four months have been the wildest of my life. The amount of change and growth I experienced is unlike any other and I could not be more grateful for the blessing and experience to study abroad. I learned so much about myself and about the world around me, and I want to continue exploring those things.

When you move to a new country alone, you are forced to become an independent human being. You figure out how to survive like everyone else, and you figure out how to do it well. You learn, grow, change, make mistakes, fall down, and stand up again. I feel as though I changed and grew more in the last four months than I did in all of 2014 and 2015 combined. Looking back now, I would say I learned more from experiences than I did at my actual university- and to me, that’s okay. The lessons you learn abroad really can’t be taught in a classroom and they are invaluable.

A dear friend asked me to share a story about my experience abroad which explains my learning and growth, but the truth is I don’t have one specific story which explains such. There was no “Ah hah” moment, and there was no one specific time where I thought to myself, “Wow I just learned an invaluable life lesson which I can later apply in the real world”. No. The real truth: it is something which happens over time, and one day you wake up and realize you are a whole new person. It’s the experience as a whole which shapes and molds you for the rest of your life.

My growth has been for the better, and I am excited to start a new chapter of my life as a better, more confident and independent version of my old self. I see myself taking these new traits with me everywhere I go in life. From an interview, to a new job, to just being around the people that make me happy, I am a new me and that will never change.

So, to Milano, to the people I met abroad, and to the big, small, crazy, and not-so-crazy experiences I say thank you. Thank you for changing me forever and equipping me with the skills, independence, and confidence to face every new experience and challenge head-on, and to conquer the world, because as I have learned the world is my oyster.

It’s the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one.

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A wise friend once said to me, “You will return home and realize that everything around you has stayed the same, and you are the one who has changed.”

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.

 

Managing Great Expectations, A Tale of Two (or more) Cities

One of the most coveted parts of studying abroad is travel: whether it’s mountaineering, jungles, beaches, ancient cities, or just the tiny winding streets of a bustling metropolis, everyone manages to find new places to explore. What we forget in all our ideas of travel is the how component: finances, traveling companions, or accommodations. For me, how is transportation. Trains, planes, and buses (I know, I really wanted to put automobiles there for the pop-culture reference as well), all seem to offer something different. Trains offer extensive passes that make using vast rail networks affordable and fun to use. For planes, there is the convenience of quick and immediate travel. Then for the truly adventurous souls there are the long bus rides through the countryside that offers eclectic crowds and cheap fares. For me, I chose the former, trains. And it was trains that have truly shaken me to core on what it means to be flexible.

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In the past few weeks I have learned that there are few certainties in traveling. Recently I traveled on a train home from Munich, Germany and a train (partway) to Nice, France. And what do Bavaria and the French Riviera have in common, you might ask? My misfortune.

While traveling home from Oktoberfest my train managed to breakdown at the station in Munich, its replacement arrived 30 minutes later… The time between trains at my connection in Cologne? 25 minutes… After realizing that was the only train back to Brussels that day, I managed to take 4 subsequent evening trains around rural Germany and Belgium to finally catch a midnight train back “home.” After two weeks to recover I boarded another train to Paris, with a connection to Nice, which just happened to coincide with rail strikes and the worst floods the French Riviera has had in decades. Courtesy of an unexpected 20 minute stop in the French countryside, my train arrived late at Gare de Nord in Paris and I was unable to make it to Gare de Lyon in time to catch the last train to Nice. Unfortunately there were no options around France to make it to Nice: Nice is conveniently a small town in Southern France that is hard to get to, was hit by floods and slowly reopened, and railroad strikes simultaneously plagued France and Northern Europe. While I laugh now at these experiences, I definitely took at least a few months off my life.

Flexibility. The buzzword of parenting, the guiding light of the workplace, and the universal doctrine of expats. It is the greatest mind game one can play (aside from doing planks and minesweeper).How far can you push your mind before it breaks. As a guy who loves a plan and back-up plans I struggle with the term flexibility. Prior to coming abroad, flexibility to me was the ability to change the plan to the back up plan on the fly. What I have learned, however, is that flexibility is not simply being able to change the plan but being able to accommodate for the “oh sh**” moments. It’s all about taking a deep breath, accepting that life isn’t in your favor at the moment and pushing forward.

Even Yoda had some “oh sh**” moments, he never really saw the whole Darth Vader thing coming…  Flexibility is saying, you know what, I may be stuck in rural Germany but there’s a McDonald’s and I’ll be ok. Flexibility is the combination of gratitude, a calm demeanor, and the ability to simply make something out of nothing. Of course you’re going to have your buttons pushed traveling, its uncomfortable to have to compartmentalize what you believe is necessary to enjoy your time somewhere, then be treated like cattle under the false pretense that you’re an explorer commandeering your method of transport, only to find out you will be late, tired, and unprepared. The thing is, nobody is prepared for all the ways travel plans can go wrong, but they should be prepared for how to make everything go right.

Life throws us curveballs and new environments, and we teach ourselves something new. There is always a new person to meet, an emotion to feel, and travel makes that possible. To those studying abroad: everyday you find out what you don’t know, but the shock is never supposed to eliminate what you already know. In Brussels, I am always on my toes. Whether it is a professor failing 30 out of 33 students on the midterm exam, the city being locked down for raids to find terrorists, getting stuck two towns away from home when the metro shuts down, or simply trying to figure out how to make a 20 euro bill turn into 9 euros worth of .50 cent coins. Breath, do your Zen thing and move on with it.

Traveling is a constantly evolving practice that lets humans live the nomadic adventure that we crave. Yogis, fruit leather, and Gumby are all flexible. But then again, they never missed the last train to Brussels from Cologne on a Sunday evening.

 

Ciao Bella

Hello readers! This is an exciting time.. all the DU students are either heading off or have officially landed in a foreign country for several months to study, and completely immerse themselves in a new (or perhaps not so new) culture. GO US! I could not be more proud of all of the students embarking on this amazing adventure. Even though I am in another country, I am proud and blessed to be a Pio.

Me, Myself, and I

My name is Jordan Mendicino and I am a third year Marketing major, Entrepreneurship minor at DU, currently studying abroad in Milano, Italia at Universitá Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. I am a fitness, fashion, and business enthusiast and I am constantly searching for ways to combine all three. In my free time I love to do anything outside, as long as the weather is warm, and I love to be surrounded by the people that are most important to me. Although I am a Colorado native, I don’t ski or snowboard and I would rather spend my days on the beach! I hate the snow and I hate being cold. Red Rocks is my favorite place on earth, and I think I would die if music didn’t exist.

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Why

I chose to study abroad in Italy because I have deep roots here, and I knew that I would feel right at home. Also, Cattolica is an amazing school- it is the largest Catholic university in the world and offers an array of diverse classes for international students. I have signed up to take classes in both fashion and entrepreneurship, both fulfilling my desire to learn something new and work on classes for my minor. Although I took Italian for a year at DU, I am taking more language courses here in Italia. I would love to be fluent by the time I depart in December. It’s a beautiful language, and I would love to add it to my language arsenal, next to English and Spanish.

What’s Next

I will be studying and exploring and adventuring for the next 15 weeks, so keep an eye out for more posts about my feelings, thoughts, and reactions during this wild ride we call study abroad.

Ciao!

Over the Atlantic and through the Tourists to the Netherlands I Go…

Hey!

My name is Cassandra Gray, I’m going to be a senior at the University of Denver. I’m majoring in Management and I have minors in Biology and Chemistry. While I am studying abroad in Maastricht, Netherlands with the CES program, I will be only taking Management classes. I choose this location because it allowed me to only take Management classes and 4 classes transfers back as 5! So I am able to take all of my major electives abroad. I am very excited to be studying abroad! So I hope you enjoy my videos! If you have any questions – Feel free to leave me a comment.

Lessons Learned From First Term

My first term at the University of York is drawing to a close, and as I prepare to head home for Christmas and New Year’s, I’ve put together some things I’ve learned about living as an American in England after my first chunk of my exchange year.

  1. Yorkshire is a county full of immense local pride. Nothing quite brings that to your attention like standing in a crowd of locals at a concert who are all chanting “York-shire! York-shire!” Nothing quite makes you feel as viscerally at home than joining in that chant and having it swell to the point where you can feel it resonate in your chest.
An American and a German at a British rock concert.
  • Nothing teaches you humility like trying to learn all the ins and outs of life in North Yorkshire. Most of the locals have been happy to explain everything to me from how FIFA works, to how a football team makes the world cup, to why people care so much about football in the first place, to what on earth a “brolly” is (Hint: it’s an umbrella). Sometimes you can pick up on cultural nuances via context clues, but sometimes you can’t. And that’s fine! Plucking up the courage to ask what may be a pretty obvious question is an exercise in humility that everyone needs eventually. And it opens up an opportunity for locals to demonstrate kindness and patience towards you. Which, more often than not, they are happy to do.
  • England and America are two countries divided by a common language. Should you choose to go abroad anywhere in the UK, don’t underestimate the differences in these dialects and the cultural differences they bring. You’ll inevitably slip up at some point and say something embarrassing. It’s alright. It’ll happen. But the key to managing a new culture (even one that may not seem that different than home), is always listening. Go and spend time with just local people for awhile (as in actively seek out local company rather than just hanging out with other international students. You already know how to relate to Americans, it’s not going to challenge you to relate to them in another country) and just listen to the conversation before jumping in. English folks have very different methods of making friends than Americans, and you can really only learn this on the job.
A very British Christmas: Love Actually, wine, and Christmas crackers!
  • A political discussion is going to eventually come up. At some point, it’s likely that whomever you’re talking to will criticize something about America. You may or may not agree with said criticism. Whatever your opinion, wait before jumping to defend your home country. Probe a little. Ask more questions. Figure out what is influencing this person to think the way that they do. Then add your own opinion to the mix. Not only does this make for a more fruitful exchange, it sends a more positive message about Americans in general-that they’re politically aware and willing to try to see issues on a global scale, rather than just a countrywide one. And do keep in mind that every country in the world has serious issues and has made serious mistakes. Admitting to and expressing shame or sorrow over mistakes our nation has made doesn’t make you unpatriotic. It makes you honest.
Exploring the northern reaches of Britain in Edinburgh.
  • And finally, on a lighter note, give yourself permission to be silly. Everyone’s got a goofy side, and it often gives others permission to unleash their goofiness when they see yours. Even if (in my case) that means screeching your way through a karaoke rendition of the Time Warp. People will wonder how many drinks it took for you to pull off that entire dance and all the spoken bits (the answer, surprisingly, as zero. The karaoke bar in question was really expensive). But then they’ll quit wondering and dance the Time Warp with you in the haze of the fake smoke machine and leave breathless and grinning. And it’s moments like those, in addition to the more serious ones, where international bridges are built and some special friendships are formed, when people don’t feel the need to choose between silliness and seriousness. Both are integral parts of being human, I think.

It’s been a fantastic first term. For those of you heading back to the States for good, don’t let your experience fade. Write about it and preserve it. For those of you staying abroad for the whole year-we’re just getting started. Let’s make it count.

-Faith Lierheimer, DUSA blogger

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/

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Justine’s Blog: Bilbao, Spain

Justine is studying at the University of Deusto in Bilbao, Spain and blogging bilingually (in English and Spanish). Practice your Spanish and read up on her awesome experiences!

http://www.justinehenderson.com/esp/

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Kristen’s Blog: Arusha, Tanzania

Take a look at Kristen’s blog as she studies abroad in Arusha, Tanzania. Aside from being fantastically written and interesting, her blog is named after a Toto song and her background theme is the Lion King. All in all, those three aspects make up an irresistible package and we’d love to share it with you!

http://iblessedtherains.blogspot.com/

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A Wedding Fundraiser!

Jacques’ Blog: Glasgow, Scotland

Check out what Jacques, one of our students is, doing studying at the University Glasgow in Scotland. We feel that this picture of his friend sums it up pretty well, but check out his blog for more details!

http://www.jacquesgerber.blogspot.com/

 

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I Thought I Wasn’t Prejudiced

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

-Michelle Yeager, Peer Adviser.

Tae Kwon Do and Study Abroad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Audriana’s blog: Bilbao, Spain

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

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

http://unviajeporlavida.wordpress.com

 

Jacquelyn’s blog: York, England

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

Nerd moment at the National Railway Station!
Nerd moment at the National Railway Station!

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

medievaltomodern.wordpress.com

 

Chelsea’s blog: Thailand

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

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Read more about ISDSI Thailand from Chelsea:

 http://stillanoptimist.wordpress.com