Tag Archives: classes

Step #0 or Where to Start Before You Start Studying Abroad

from one to the other

Left: DU – Right: University of Newcastle

Hey there. My name’s Joshua Weigley and I’m a DU undergrad student studying abroad in my fourth year at the University of Newcastle, Australia. I chose this awesome Foundational program because I’m a beach kid at heart. But enough about me…

I don’t think anyone likes this step. If anyone does they’re likely the same people who enjoy taking frivolous strolls to the DMV and hanging out in a dentist’s waiting area. This is also the only step that will not translate well to other universities. Every study abroad office (if your school even has a devoted office for it) will have its own pedantic processes and paperwork. So my detailed experience with that won’t be the most helpful (unless you also go to DU, in which case let’s chat). But of course there are things everyone will have to do if they want to study at an international university:

Get your passport – like right now. I don’t care if you’re planning to study abroad over a year from now. Track down your birth certificate or social security card or both. Go get a crappy mug shot taken at Walgreens. I did this as my last step and it was awful and stressful and expensive. So do yourself a favor and pay a visit to your friendly neighborhood Department of State Office. And then after 6-8 weeks you can sit and relax with your fancy new blue cardstock book.

Find out how to start – this one sounds weird, but bare with me. I’ve been told that the process I had to go through was actually abnormally easy, and it still took more effort than I would have preferred. Do some research on your university’s website and see if they have any kind of study abroad office or department. Also try the International Studies Department. And then if the information you need like application deadlines, approved international universities, and scholarship options is not readily available, start sending some emails and ask way too many questions. Beyond that, you’ll find that a lot of responsibility is placed on you to make sure you attend required meetings and finish paperwork on your own. But don’t stress out about it too much. These programs are designed so that students actually use them and go abroad.

Pick a destination – the coolest part, but often the hardest. Narrow it down to three or four schools if you can. Scrawl endlessly on loose pieces of paper the pros and cons of each choice. Argue with yourself at 1 am about “where you best see yourself”. And then one day realize that you’re going to have the time of your life regardless of where you go. I chose the University of Newcastle after months of thinking I wanted to go somewhere else. Whatever exhaustive process you need, just choose and don’t look back.

If you want to see my posts right when they come out, check out “A __ Step Guide”

  • Joshua Weigley

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Filed under Advice, Australia/New Zealand, DUSA Bloggers, study abroad

5 Reasons Why Studying Abroad Makes You A Better Person

  1. You Forge Local Relationships

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

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

  1. Find Local Gems

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

A book fair came to Salamanca, which was a ton of fun to walk through

A book fair came to Salamanca, which was a ton of fun to walk through

  1. You live outside your comfort zone

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

  1. You learn street smarts AND book smarts

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

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

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

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

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

Taking in the beach in Tangier, Morocco

Taking in the beach in Tangier, Morocco

-Max Spiro, Study Abroad Assistant

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Filed under Advice, culture, Europe, How To's, Returnee, Spain, study abroad, World

I am NOT a Mzungu

Hamjambo!

Before I came to East Africa, I would have greeted you with “Jambo!” like in Mean Girls.  Now I know better – Jambo is a tourist greeting and is not proper Kiswahili.  The proper way is to say “Hujambo”, to which you respond “Sijambo”.  Or if you are greeting multiple people at once, like now, you use “Hamjambo”.  The more you know!

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The view from the beach only a 5 minute walk from where I live

So I’ve been living in Zanzibar for some time now, and it is finally starting to sink in that I’m really here and will be here for the next four months.  When it really sunk in though, was when I saw the stars.  The night sky in Zanzibar is absolutely stunning and has almost brought me to tears on more than one occasion.  I am living in a very dark part of the world, away from a lot of development, so the number of stars I can see is incredible since there’s very little light pollution.  And being in the southern hemisphere, the night sky looks different than it does at home.  When I finally had time to just look at the stars, that was when it really hit me that I’m actually in Africa and this beautiful island is mine to explore for four whole months.

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The moon (look really hard!  Just left of the palm) in Paje

Since I arrived here my days have been packed with intensive Kiswahili instruction (4 hours a day plus homework!), special lectures about the culture and expectations of the program, and water time.  After a few days in Stone Town, the main town on the west side of Zanzibar, we headed to Paje (pronounced pah-jay), a resort village on the east side of the island.  This was when I realized how small Zanzibar actually is – the drive from one side to another only took 45 minutes.  The beach at Paje is gorgeous and the tides are incredible.  Low tide can have you walking out over a mile until you see the ocean, and at night, you can see bio luminescent plankton washed up during low tide.

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These photos were taken 6 hours apart at high and low tide

While in Paje, we were assigned to visit a local village, about a five minute walk from our hotel, and my group’s personal assignment was to learn about local employment opportunities the locals have.  Using as much of the Kiswahili we had learned as possible, we walked right up to people and started asking.  One conversation we had really made me rethink the entire tourism industry.  We talked to a man not much older than us who worked for an excursion company (kitesurfing is very popular in Paje), and while he loves having tourists come and spend money, he isn’t the biggest fan of the new all-inclusive resorts that have been popping up on the island lately.  These resorts make their money by keeping guests at the resort.  The guests almost never leave and spend money in the community, and business has gone down in the past few years in the island.  He also made a good point about visitors going back home saying that they went to Zanzibar but they never talked to the locals or learned about the culture or did anything but stay at their hotel so did they really see Zanzibar?  All I know is, I’m going to think twice about booking an all-inclusive vacation in the future.

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We were able to see the poorer side of Paje, just a few minutes walk from our hotel.  It’s incredible the stark difference between the resorts surrounding this village.

On our last day in Paje, we rose before the sun to leave our hotel at 5:30am (which is 11:30 usiku in Swahili time) to head to Kizimkazi, about a 20 minute drive north.  We arrived at the beach as the sun was rising and piled into two wooden boats so as not to harm the creatures we were following.  As we headed to deeper water, we were told to be ready to jump in the water at any second in case there was a sighting so we all got our fins, mask, and snorkel ready (and in my case, my GoPro camera as well).  We heard a “GO GO GO” and we rushed into the surprisingly warm water and I stuck my camera in front of me so I didn’t miss anything.  After the bubbles cleared, I saw some dark figures swimming below me, so I followed their path, and before I knew it, I was swimming less than twenty feet away from a pod of bottlenose dolphins!  It was incredible to get that close to a wild dolphin and they were so peaceful and strong and just beautiful.  I didn’t even know that it was possible to swim with wild dolphins – I thought it was just a Discovery Cove thing.  I took plenty of footage, which you can check out below!

This was absolutely incredible.  The dolphins weren’t afraid of us, they were just hanging out with some small humans watching.

I had a truly African experience a few days ago.  We had an assignment to take what’s called a daladala to different places in Zanzibar and our project was at some old Arabic ruins next to the ocean.  Those were interesting and all, but the really interesting thing was the daladala ride.  Daladalas are basically open-air buses you can take for 300/= (about $0.18) but they pack you in more than sardines, so good luck if you’re even the least bit claustrophobic.  But people are more than happy to move over to accommodate someone else so they don’t have to crouch on the ground.  We ended up sitting in each other’s laps (good thing there were four of us).  Deciding to study Kiswahili on the daladala was actually a good idea because many of the people on the daladala wanted to help us out, especially when we were asked to pay twice.  The kindness of the Zanzibaris is without end, and I’m grateful to each and every one that has helped me in my short time in Zanzibar so far, and I’m sure I will owe them big time by the end of my time here.

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This is a daladala
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The inside of the daladala.  This was not even close to how packed we were on the way to the ruins.

And lastly, feel such a sense of belonging to this town and my group of sixteen.  We are recognized walking on the streets of Stone Town and asked how our Kiswahili language class is going and if we’ve learned anything new since we last saw each other.  And one specific experience was when I was at the site of the ruins.  I finally learned how to tie my khanga (a single piece of fabric you tie around your waist and wear as a skirt), and when I walked up to the beach bar, one of the women working there told me “You tie your khanga just like a Zanzibari!” and that was the moment that I realized that I’m no longer a mzungu.

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The long yellow skirt I’m wearing is a khanga

My first few weeks here have already been unforgettable, and I’m really coming to understand the meaning of “experiential learning”, and not just having lectures.  Stone Town is beautiful and has so much history, which I will be posting updates about regularly.

As always, thanks for reading,

Baadaye! (until later)

Kim, DUSA Blogger

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Filed under Africa, DUSA Bloggers, Travel, Video, World

The Scoop on the UK University Experience

With a large number of students heading from DU to study abroad in the UK this fall, here I write about my experiences studying in both the UK and the US academic systems.Studying in the UK will expose you to a number of differences in academic culture. Below, I’ve highlighted some of the most significant.

Generally you can expect to have fewer hours of class in the UK. In the UK many full time juniors or seniors might have just three or four hours of class time, compared to 15 hours at DU.

The time you spend in class will be much more lecture-based than at DU. Don’t be surprised to find little student participation in your classes in the UK. Often only the Professor will speak for the duration of the class. Instead, student participation is reserved for “tutorials”. Typically, these are one hour seminar/discussion sessions with the Professor, sometimes in their office with just five or six other students.

cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com

Photo Credit: cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com

Given this, there is a much greater focus on independent research outside of class and you will be expected to conduct your own research. In many cases this means picking your own books and articles to read from a list on the syllabus, rather than being assigned specific readings for each class as you are at DU.  This means that if assigned a particular essay, many students will answer it very differently based on the differing reading that they have done themselves based on their interests. To get strong grades, incorporating this individualized reading into your papers and exams will be important.

Generally, there will be fewer assessments than at DU. For many classes you might find that your assessment comprises either a single exam or a single paper, or perhaps an exam and paper due together at the end of the quarter/semester. Consequently, it is unlikely that there will be a participation grade, quizzes or midterms. Some students like the fact that they have less stress across the quarter, others don’t like that all their assignments may be concentrated at the end of the quarter.

Photo Credit: www.ed.ac.uk

Photo Credit: http://www.ed.ac.uk

This system means that there is more ambiguity and less structure in the UK system as a whole. The Professors will see you as more of a self-starter. Often, a Professor might never mention the assignments for that class and will instead expect you to read the syllabus, see what the assignment is and do it without guidance.

In the UK, particularly in England and Wales, most students only study for three years to earn their degree. The three year degree means that there is no common curriculum. In college, students only take classes in their major and therefore usually only from one department. Therefore, most students choose their College major whilst in High School at the age of 17. A DU Junior studying abroad should be aware that local students taking third year classes in the UK will most likely already have studied as many as ten classes in that major.

Photo Credit: blog.sfgate.com

Photo Credit: blog.sfgate.com

Given these differences, it will be important to adapt quickly by setting your own learning plan, making sure to meet with your Professors and by disciplining yourself to work throughout the term in order to disperse your workload rather than leaving all your work until the final weeks of the semester.

 

-Callum Forster, DU Study Abroad Peer Advisor

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Filed under Advice, Europe, How To's, UK/Ireland

Friendly Neighborhood English Spiderman!

Hello friends!

Everyday when traveling to campus, I see a group of people practicing Parkour near a local truck ramp. For those that don’t know, Parkour is the sport of freestyle running. Basically, you have athletic people making a playground of normally dangerous urban environments.  🙂  I had to get it on film!

UK education is different… less class time… fewer assessments… focus on independent work… TONS of reading. This is going to take some time to get use to.

Thanks for tuning in!

JZ

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Filed under UK/Ireland, Video