Valuable lessons I am grateful to have learned from studying abroad.

Not having an unlimited amount of money has made for some of the best stories.

While traveling abroad, I was already loads of money in debt from college. I definitely had a budget, but still wanted to do and see everything. But some of the fondest memories I have are being an in-debt college student travelling for as cheap as possible. The memories of trekking to a farther airport for the cheapest flight, and meeting the men’s professional volleyball team in Croatia.  The nights hanging out with random people that shared rooms with me in hostels. I could go on forever.

I am much more independent than I give myself credit for.

There are times that I get lost travelling downtown Denver. When lost, I can easily use the GPS on my iPhone and find my way home. This requires no contact with anyone else, or public transportation because I own a car. Yet, I traveled all around Europe by foot, bike, train, bus, and plane with no GPS. When I was lost I would interact with people and ask questions. Because of these interactions, I found more useful ways to find the places I was searching for and received tips for great local spots on the way. I did all this without any technology, without any friends or family on speed dial… I did this by myself.

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I have been neglecting my own backyard.

Studying abroad has shown me that the world has so much to offer. I learned that Europe is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I was able to gain an appreciation for art and history. I made sure to get to know my city (Maastricht, Netherlands) as best as I could. When I returned to the U.S., I realized that I do not know my OWN city that well. I have lived in Colorado my entire life and I have never put as much effort into exploring and learning about my own home. Luckily, this is something that can be fixed.

And of course, there are fascinating people all over the world. Some of them may even become lifelong friends.

-Dylan, DU Abroad Peer Advisor

Buying Guide: Host Family Gifts

If you are going abroad and will live with a host family before, you should know that it is nice to bring gifts to whomever you plan to stay with. However, this rule can also be extended to whomever is going to be helping you a lot when you are abroad. For example, I had what is called a Danish Visiting Family, which was a family that
helped me a lot when I was abroad, and I would hang out with them and cook meals with them at least once a week, but I did not live with them. Even if you are just going to live with a roommate or two, it is polite to bring them a gift.
If you are having any trouble figuring out gifts to bring, here are some ideas:

  • Celestial Seasonings tea gift basket (this is what I brought my visiting family, but since Celestial Seasonings is become accessible in so many places, make sure that you are not going somewhere where it is easy to buy. Denver or Boulder tote bags (or tote bags from wherever you live) BBQ sauce (at least in Denmark, everyone seemed to think that BBQ just meant grilling and nobody had any concept of BBQ sauce, so when my parents came to visit I had them bring some BBQ sauce to give to my visiting family)celestial seasonings
  • Baseball caps or sports jerseys from wherever you are fromrockies jersey
  • Food mixes. For whatever reason a lot of people from other countries seem intrigued by all of our brownie mixes and pancake mixes (or perhaps are just interested in the convenience of it). Other food mixes like mixes for bean soup or anything like that would also make good gifts—especially if they are locally made.
  • Chocolate. Especially if you can get chocolate or candy from a local factory.You can rarely go wrong with getting chocolate, but just make sure that it is wrapped up well so that nothing melts in your suitcase!hammonds candy
  • Locally made soaps or perfumes. This gift is of course better for women.
  • Native American crafts or jewelry.
  • Any other food item that is special to where you live such as salt water taffy if you are from the coast.
  • Any other non food item such as clothing or jewelry or decorations that is somehow representative of where you are from also makes a good gift.

And always bring photos of yourself, your family, your friends, and where you live (including postcards)! It is nice to be able to show your family where you live!

*Blogger’s note: Think ahead- you may be placed with a family with small children, grandparents, extended family members, and people not listed on your housing assignment. Bring a few extra little items just in case. Postcards are easy, cheap, and a great way to share a bit of your home with your host family!

-Rosa Calabrese, DU Study Abroad Peer Advisor

Just Go with it: Adventures in Senegal

Every day is an adventure in Senegal. Nothing is certain, but somehow everything turns out right in the end. With a little help and a lot of trust, anything is possible. But you’ve got to roll with the punches, make fast friends, and hold on tight to your confidence.

Here is a typical itinerary for a day trip from Ndangalma to Toubacouta:

  1. Start shortly after sunrise. Get on the back of your host father’s or brother’s or neighbor’s motorbike. Ride to the main road as the moto bucks over the potholes and rocks in the unpaved road. (15 minutes)sunrise SN
  2. Arrive at the main road. Wait for the bus. Tune out while your host father/brother/neighbor strikes up a conversation with a stranger. (20 minutes)
  3. When the bus arrives, find a seat and try not to hit anyone with your bag. The stranger will sit next to you. Try to be comfortable and not freaked out.
  4. Don’t bother trying to get fresh air from outside. Your own bus is spewing blue exhaust. (1 hour)pikine kaar
  5. Arrive in Djourbel. The stranger exits the bus with you, and directs you to another stranger, who is apparently now in charge of watching over you, as the last one was. Realize belatedly that you should thank him for accompanying you. He helps you find a taxi, which you will share with a woman who clearly knows what’s going on but isn’t telling you.
  6. Note the taxi’s air freshener. Realize that you had actually already passed the garage on the bus route but no one told you. (30 minutes) Pay for the woman who shared the cab with you. Remain confused as to who she is. Thank the taxi driver.air freshener
  7. Find a sept-place (a beat up old station wagon with seven seats) and negotiate a price. (10 minutes)
  8. Wait for the sept-place to fill up with large women in flowing boubous and old men with coughs. (1 hour)
  9.  Realize that you got the worst seat in the car: your head hits the window at every bump in the road. The roads are nothing but bumps. The man next to you is trying to stretch his long legs and arms, ignoring you completely. Go to your happy place. Give up after a particularly strong jolt leaves your face print on the window. Try to fall asleep. (30 minutes)
  10. Wake up disoriented with a piercing headache. Try to figure out if you’re still going in the right direction. Use broken Wolof to ask the driver, who just laughs and winks. ( 4 hours)
  11. Arrive at garage in Kaolack. Exit the sept-place only to be swept into the arms of a handsome moto driver who tells you that you are at the wrong garage. Nothing is going according to plan. (3.5 seconds)
  12. Somehow he convinces you to let him drive you to the correct garage. Pay him 500FCFA, climb awkwardly onto the back of his moto (you’ve been in an ankle-length wrap skirt this entire time), and hope for the best. (1 minute)
  13. He is a horrible driver. Hold onto his waist for dear life and bury your face in his back. You are paralyzed, muttering, “bad, bad, bad” under your breath as he turns his head and waves to a friend. The moto bucks as a speeding Renault rushes past. Feel embarrassed because you had to hike up your skirt and your knees are showing. (20 excruciating minutes)
  14. Actually arrive at the garage even though you believed he was planning to take you somewhere for tea. Thank him, and decline his marriage proposal.
  15. Fight through a crowd of vendors to reach a car bound for Toubacouta. Negotiate for a new sept-place. Realize too late that you have once again been relegated to the crappy scrunched seat in the back. Consider crying. (15 minutes)
  16. The sept-place has made great progress down a smooth stretch of road. Your car stops to help a similar vehicle which won’t start. Smoke is pouring from under the hood. Your driver finally gives up and continues the drive. (30 minutes)
  17. Hit the worst stretch of road yet. Stare at the ground, visible through the hole in the floor by your left foot. Contemplate walking the rest of the way. Fall asleep instead. (1 hour)moto
  18. Wake up because the woman next to you is shaking you on the shoulder and saying toubab over and over. Get up! It’s your stop. The other six passengers wait patiently for you to get oriented, only grumbling a little as you clumsily climb around them out of the car. (5 minutes)
  19. Walk aimlessly around the town until your friend gets off work. Eat chocolate mousse, laugh about your day, and stretch your cramped muscles. Prepare for a relaxing weekend.
  20. The sunset over the river serves as a reminder for why you took the trip in the first place.baobab

In a way, this trip was representative of my entire semester in Senegal. I was usually confused to some degree, I was always a little tired, often uncomfortable, and never fully in control. I had to rely on good luck, the kindness of strangers, and my own ingenuity. That combination makes even the smallest things an adventure.

Mollie Doerner- DU Study Abroad Peer Advisor

Katherine’s Blog: Valparaiso, Chile

Our DU students studying in the southern hemisphere are already starting their “fall semester” — Katherine will be blogging during her time with the ISA program in Chile.  Check out her adventures here:

http://ktadventurestochile.tumblr.com/

Introducing our 2012 DUSA Student Bloggers!

We are pleased to introduce you to this year’s official DUSA bloggers!  They’ll be posting all about their experiences and (mis?)adventures during their study abroad programs this year.  Without further ado, here they are!

Emily

Emily is a Junior at DU majoring in Journalism and International Studies with a minor in Spanish. This fall she will be studying abroad in lovely España. Kicking off with a month in the northern coastal city of Santander studying with students and faculty from the DU Spanish department, Emily will move on to live, work, and play for the next semester in the capital of Basque country – Bilbao!

Sarah

Sarah is a junior at the University of Denver.  As a mathematics major/ theatre minor she plans to change the world through Calculus and emotion.  “Math may not teach us how to add happiness or our life or how to subtract pain. However, it does teach us that every problem has a solution.”  She is studying abroad in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

Cheyenne 

Cheyenne is an overly involved DU student possessing a weird obsession with theatre, the media, alternative jams, and carbohydrates. A double major in Theatre and Strategic Communications, Cheyenne is thrilled to be exploring the incredible city of Rome through food and photography.

Quincy

Quincy Snowdon is a rising junior who will be studying in Salamanca, Spain this coming school year. While at DU, he enjoys running all over Denver, being an amateur gastronomist and listening to any and every kind of music you can manage to put on an iPod. In Spain he plans on traveling constantly, eating paella to his heart’s content and doing all of the activities he enjoys doing at DU.

Camilla

Camilla is a curious, imaginative writer and jazz singer.  She is a lover of eclectic fashion, freckles, chai tea, the blues, and moon-gazing.  Camilla will be studying abroad in Exeter, England.