Roots

I think I’ve always thought there was a fundamental difference between rooted people and the free birds of the world. One was boring and had no sense of adventure, and the other was the ideal, fluttering off wherever their heart desired and constantly investigating new corners of the world. They were diametric opposites. They had to be.

The massive York Minster cathedral in the center of town.

I’ve got that typical 20-something affliction of nomadism, of wanting to see and taste and feel as much of the world as I possibly can. I want to know for myself that the world is bigger than me, and I want to feel like a tiny dot on a map because if I don’t the main thing that occupies my world is my own big ego. Travel brings you down to size, makes you feel like a part of a whole, and that’s a pretty cool thing. So once the time came, I was eager to have my time to fly around the globe and get my feet on as many new grounds as possible.

Then I went on my exchange year to York, and I realized (again) how limiting this type of binaristic thinking is. Because by any standard, I am doing the “free bird” thing this year. I’ve spent two weeks at home since September of this past year, and won’t be home again until late June, and even then it will only be for a little while. I won’t be home for a long period of time until mid-August. My exchange year is fully 9 months, and after that I’ll spend another month in Arusha, Tanzania. So I feel a bit like that free spirited bird this year, London a 2-hour train ride away and the rest of mainland Europe a 2 hour flight.

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Helping to repaint a friend’s business with York friends. And trying not to cough too much from paint in the process!

But by some miracle, found myself able to put down strong roots in this goofy medieval town of York. I found friends here, good friends, friends who don’t hesitate to loan me an extra plate or an egg or a shoulder to lean on when I’m missing home. The community I found (and have helped to build on some level) here is a massive part of the fabric of my life abroad. So much so that England feels just like that-my life. Not an extended holiday. Not even study abroad anymore, honestly. My life. And it’s given me a new perspective on what I already knew in Colorado (but perhaps maybe didn’t realize as strongly as it’s been there my whole life)-that roots matter wherever you go. You can’t withstand any of the tough parts of your life without some roots to keep you standing. You can survive without any roots, sure. But do any of us really just want to live life surviving?

I want to thrive. I’m thriving in York. And I’m wondering if maybe there’s a little more balance to things than my black-and-white mind would have me believe. That it is possible to be well-traveled and well-rooted, and that those two things don’t have to cancel each other out.

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Sunset in York.

Sometimes, the best of both worlds is not a myth. Sometimes it just takes a bit of extra work to get there.

-Faith Lierheimer, DUSA blogger

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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

Look Up

So at some point in your study abroad experience, you’re  going to start missing home very very keenly. It’ll happen at a different time for everyone-for some of you it’ll be right from the get-go and then you’ll gradually settle in. For others, you’ll have an amazing first few weeks and then once the first month rolls around you’ll find yourself missing the smallest things about DU, Colorado, or wherever your home state may be. The point is, it’s going to happen at some point, and it’s nice to know you’re not alone. I started missing home a lot when there were more and more days like this:

(Rainy, cold, and brutally windy)

….than days like this:

(sunny and positively enchanting).

What started to get to me especially were the shortened days. And I don’t mean Colorado shortened days where the sun goes down a bit after dinnertime and everyone feels like going to bed a bit early. No, I mean 4 pm, the sun is out of here, and you’ve still got part of the afternoon and an entire evening to get through before it’s acceptable to go to bed. And then the sun doesn’t come up again until 7:15, but it won’t really seem like it because it’s usually so overcast in the mornings this time of year. That’s difficult to figure out how to deal with, especially since Colorado spoils you so hard with its 300+ sunny days per year and its reliably spectacular sunrises and sunsets.

So I’ve had to do some strategizing. The first thing was making further use of the light box that my friend who went on this exchange program last year gave me. I have it on whenever I’m in my room, especially when it’s dark, and the added (if simulated) natural light does a lot to boost my mood. The second thing was to beat the sun at its own game. If sunset was going to happen at 4 pm, then I am going to get up with the sun and soak up all the vitamin D I can while it’s around. That’s turned out to be a pretty good strategy, as it leads to morning walks around campus and around town where there’s this gorgeous mist that settles over everything and then slowly burns off as the sun rises.

This particular stretch of road is home to several horses. They like to sit near the gates and wait for friendly people to come by and pet them and feed them.

The third helpful thing in beating the winter-darkness blues has been to look up. And that may seem like a vague bit of advice. But when I walk places, I tend to look at my feet or the ground in front of me a lot. This is born partially out of habit, and partly because I have been known to be quite clumsy and can avoid tripping over things if I’m watching where those things are. This also means that I miss a lot. So I’ve started to very intentionally vary my gaze while I’m walking places-whether it’s up at the trees, straight ahead at the people passing by, or to the side to look at the charming Yorkshire houses-I’m doing my best to quit looking at the ground.

And it helps! I’ve started to notice little things that I love about York that I wouldn’t have noticed before. There’s little grannies all over the place in town that argue with one another in thick northern accents about where they should go shopping next. All the dog owners in York chastise their dogs for not walking fast enough, while the dogs themselves just stare adoringly at their owners without a care in the world, because York is a great place to be a dog. You can catch little gaggles of schoolchildren at the right time of day heading off to classes and chuckle at their matching uniforms and ties bouncing over their shoulders as they race each other to get to the playground.

In short, looking up helps to remind me that the things I love about York far outweigh the frustration that comes with rainy, short days. So when you end up missing home or getting caught up in the annoying things about your host city, remember it’s not permanent. Seasons change. Rainy days end. The sun will rise and set resolutely, regardless of how short its allotted time in the sky is. And in the meantime, there are delightful and quirky things to be found in your host city, it just takes a little searching.

York, for example, loves skeletons and ghost stories.

-Faith Lierheimer, DUSA blogger.

How to Survive Your First Week Abroad

Greetings fellow Pios!

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

Where’s Heathcliff?

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

Seaside sunrises are something else.

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

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

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

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

-Faith Lierheimer, DUSA Blogger

I just want to know where the trash bags are. I promise.

The view of the Ouse river running through central York on a sunny day.

York is such a charming city it’s almost paralyzing. Everything is built in that sweet old European style that if I were a different major I would have smart things to say about, but I’m not and I don’t, so I just will call it charming and sweet instead. The city is easy to navigate, has a lively nightlife and plenty to do during the day, and friendly bus drivers to boot. With enchanting views like this one and picturesque medieval walls surrounding the city, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, just about anything, apparently. So far in my stay at the U of York’s (or as the townies call it, the Uni) accommodations, most of my interactions with the reception staff have not gone very well. And this surprised me quite a bit because I consider myself to be a very polite and respectful person, always smiling and lightly self-deprecating to make other people feel comfortable, and the reception staff has also been very polite. But when I ask them things about normal Uni processes, things go a bit sour.

I was cooking some noodles in the kitchen last night and it occurred to me that the trash can was already completely full, even though orientation week hasn’t started yet, much less classes. So I went down to reception and asked if the cleaning staff took out the trash and replaced the bags or if that was up to the students. The reception staff raised their eyebrows and pursed their lips at me, as if my question was incredibly obvious and a stupid one to ask. I shrunk inwardly, feeling stupid. DU is a very nice school where the front desk supplies trash bags for dorms and the cleaning staff takes out the trash in the kitchens. I assumed something similar might happen at York.

Bad assumption.

The reception staff informed me somewhat coldly that students were responsible for taking out the trash, but they would supply replacement bags. I smiled and apologized probably too many times, trying to explain that things worked differently at different universities and I was just trying to understand their system, and not to demand that they take out the trash for me. They seemed to understand and I took my overanalyzing self back to the kitchen to take out the trash.

So what did I learn from this horribly awkward interaction? A few things.

  • Drop any and all assumptions about how this new place works.
  • Mentally prepare yourself for flexibility and the possibility of misunderstanding when operating in a completely different higher education system.
  • Adopt a friendly demeanor to help clear up any misunderstandings. Smiles vary in their frequency in different countries, but they can always help ease what would otherwise be a tense situation.

And in the meantime, don’t worry about the trash. Sometimes you’ve just got to take it out and then move on.

-Faith Lierheimer, DUSA Blogger

Doing scary things on purpose

The University of York is surrounded by city walls that will make for excellent walks during the day.

The realization that I’ll be going to study abroad at the University of York in England for an entire year come mid-September still hasn’t quite sunk in. Most of my prep work is done, but every now and then the gravity of an exchange year starts to hit me.

There are a couple of questions that have been running through my head regarding this whole thing, and I thought I’d answer myself here.

Aren’t you scared to go abroad for a whole year?

Of course I am. I’m equal parts terrified and jumping-up-and-down excited about the whole thing. I love to travel and would like to believe I do so quite well, but Colorado is my home and it will be very hard to only spend about six weeks in my home over the next year.

Won’t you miss your friends? Will they even be your friends when you get back?

Being who I am-a person who loves fiercely, hates rejection, and has lost several very close friends over the years-this is a real worry for me. But like always, the logical and emotional parts of my brain are messy housemates. Emotional me is crying that I’ll have an amazing time abroad and then come back with no friends. Logical me is remembering that one of my dearest friends from high school lives a couple of thousand miles away from me and yet he’s still my best friend. We don’t get to talk to each other near as often as we would like, but when you have a friendship as genuine and as sweet as that, it’s not easily broken. And I think I can say the same for my friends here at DU. We won’t get to talk nearly as often as we do now living together and seeing each other every day. But they are special enough to me that I won’t just drop them, and I know they won’t do that to me either.

You’ll be doing an awful lot of travelling alone. Doesn’t that scare you?

It absolutely does! But after spending a few weeks way outside my comfort zone in southern Kenya, I learned that big risks pay off  massive dividends. The payoff doesn’t negate any of the rough parts in the middle-loneliness, getting sick, missing home, wondering if I’ve made a huge mistake in a particularly dark moment. I felt all of those things in Kenya. But it was and remains a trip I hold close to my heart. And I’m ready for the bits where I travel alone. I won’t be completely alone, as I’ll be meeting up with friends in pretty much every place that I go to.  Taking intentional time alone and journaling and actually going and doing things (museums, hikes, that sort of thing) by myself help me to grow content with my own company and to get to know my own head. Those are vitally important, as again, I’m the one who has to live with that stuff on a daily basis.

The bottom line is that come fall, I will be embarking on a crazy scary year. But I’m doing it on purpose. Doing scary stuff on purpose is pretty good for you, I think. Keeps a girl on her toes.

-Faith Lierheimer, DUSA blogger

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

 

Debunking Reasons against Studying Abroad

As seen in Transitions Abroad Magazine September/October 2003

By Brian Harley

Where can I go to get to other places?” paraphrases a question that I once received from a student. The allure of education abroad, through study and travel (not necessarily in that order), surpassed my passé mantra of academic rigor, cultural entry points, and provisions for safety and security. Travel persuasion was not necessary. I could already imagine her standing before a world map, filling it with pushpins.

Other students need more assurance. The academic and personal leap of faith can be a process, not a plunge. Some students may feign having “just a few more questions”—ultimately indicating good old-fashioned hesitation. Study abroad advisers are in a unique position to help students see past needless constraints and encourage them to pursue their dreams. One can easily think of ten common concerns, which unanswered could prevent a student from having a transformative educational experience abroad. My “Top Ten Reasons Not to Consider Not Studying Abroad” reflect comments from real-live students as well as a condensed form of my answers, and resources that study abroad advisers should keep in mind.

Photo: Luke Harden, DU Student Studied in Spain
Photo: Luke Harden, DU Student
Studied in Spain

1. It will cost too much.

Students may be surprised! In many cases, students find that they pay no more to study abroad than to attend their home college for a semester or a year. Most state and federal financial aid transfers.

2. My grades will go down.

Students’ grades may stay the same. Despite the fear of a dropping GPA, many students return with the same GPA as when they left. If students study hard and keep up, their grades tend to show it (just like in the States). Advisors can help diminish this fear by citing some pre- and post-study abroad GPAs.

3. My courses won’t transfer.

If students plan ahead, courses will transfer. As soon as students arrive on campus the options should be described. At PurdueUniversity a letter was sent to over 7,000 first-year students before they arrived. The study abroad advisor should make sure that his or her advice agrees with the recommendations of the academic advisor. For example, courses should satisfy major, minor, or general studies credit requirements, not those few precious elective credits.

4. No university abroad will have the courses that I need taught in English.

Many study centers abroad have selected courses in most of the general academic disciplines. Urge students to look at course offerings both in English and in the language of the host country. Independent studies may be possible too, if arrangements are made in advance.

Lauren Rosenthal, DU Student Studied in Scotland
Photo: Lauren Rosenthal, DU Student
Studied in Scotland

5. I am an introvert.

Remind students that making a new home abroad for a semester or year is unnerving for everybody, and people who are naturally introverted may find themselves even more daunted after trying to make a conversation in a second language with new acquaintances. But they don’t have to be “the life of the party.” Introverts will learn language and culture just as well as extroverts, and they may grow in ways they never imagined.

6. I am a leader and my school cannot get along without me.

Great! These students can now become leaders overseas. Students’ concern that their school will “miss them” will eventually be far overshadowed by the experiences they will have. Students develop more self-confidence than they ever imagined and come home with even more mature leadership skills. But for that, they’ll truly “have to be there!”

7. I don’t know anybody who is going.

In many cases most students do not know the others in their group. But they all have one thing in common—willingness to risk the adventure of living and learning in a different country. Some have made life-long friends in the process.

Photo: Kaitlyn O'Sullivan, India
Photo: Kaitlyn O’Sullivan, DU Student
Studied in India

 

8. I have never done anything like this before.

Most people never do this. Emphasize to students that it is a tremendous privilege to be able to study abroad. On-site staff will help students to understand what they need to do to adjust to a completely new environment.

9. I don’t have very good reasons to study abroad.

There is not one single “litmus test” for study abroad. There are as many “good reasons” to study abroad as there are good programs. Students become international citizens. They learn a new cultural system and see their own from a new perspective. And, they build resumes and relationships while growing intellectually and culturally.

Photo: Kylee Swiggart, DU Student Studied in Chile
Photo: Kylee Swiggart, DU Student
Studied in Chile

 10. I do not know how to contact study abroad providers.

Study abroad advisers, providers, and other professional make it easy. Students can talk with on-campus study abroad advisers and other students who have studied abroad; surf the web; and read Transitions Abroad.

Study abroad advisers are uniquely positioned to view the transformation that comes from an overseas experience. Perhaps one of the chief constraints is the imagination of the student. Advisers are to be lauded for their challenging role as administrators, advocates, consultants, and, perhaps, detectives. Sometimes only after myths are debunked can students let their imagination wander overseas, followed by their body.

DR. BRIAN HARLEY, Director of Programs for Study Abroad at Purdue Univ. (www.studyabroad.purdue.edu). Contact him at bharley@purdue.edu.

32 Flavors: Study Abroad Indecision

I’ve always had difficulty making decisions. Even a trip to the Ben & Jerry’s counter leaves me conflicted, and I inevitably end up sampling most of the flavors as I hold up a line of drooling youngsters. So when faced with the far more permanent and daunting decision of where to go abroad, I was at a loss. I have an open mind, eclectic tastes, varied interests—how would I ever narrow it down to a single location in this vast, vast world of opportunities?

In a moment of strength, I left my dorm and set out to the International Office, hoping that by seeking professional help I would find myself closer to my decision.

Upon arriving I tiptoed into the basement and found myself face to face with a literal representation of the many alternatives. I’m sure they had seen many others like me, wide-eyed and eager, staring up at a wall of brightly colored fliers. But this array of options left me more confused than ever. I had thought I wanted the rich culture and café riddled streets of Europe, but oh, to learn the musical language of Portuguese in Brazil or experience the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. I took a step back, and collected my thoughts. “Camilla, let’s be practical. What do you really want and need out of this experience?”

I began to collect fliers that suited my interests and skill sets. I had recently made the switch from a Music major to an English major, and I reasoned that an English speaking country where I could immerse myself completely in a rich tradition of writers would be an unsurpassable opportunity. I perused the Australia fliers, but there were none of the creative writing opportunities that I had been hoping for, and that would veto the idea of outside travel. I was in the midst of taking a class about John Keats, an English romantic poet, and as my eyes fell on the UK fliers, it clicked. Oh my, England. What could possibly be more steeped in the English writing tradition? My mind flipped through the images I had catalogued of England: green rolling hills, rainy skies, cobblestoned London, men in silly hats, fashionable women, cliffy coasts. So there I had it. England it was. I perused the fliers for some sort of mention of creative writing, and my search was quickly narrowed to three locations: Lancaster in the north of England, Goldsmiths in London, and the University of Exeter in the south.

I allowed these places to sit with me for a few weeks, researching each school and the surrounding area, perusing a Google image search for each. All seemed so wonderful and interesting, so I decided to meet with the UK advisor.  He provided with more in-depth information on each of the programs and put me in contact with a student from the University of Exeter who was currently studying at DU. By this point I had narrowed it down to Goldsmiths or Exeter. Did I want the more urban city experience in a school that was known for their creative and non-traditional ways, or did I want to be along the coast, in a place of deeply rooted tradition and folklore?

If I could have chosen both, I would have. But after talking to Greg, the student from Exeter, I was sold. He loved the university; it was two hours from London, ten minutes from the coast. I liked the idea of being so close to the city center and not being swallowed up in a sea of people, as might be the case in a larger city setting. I imagined myself wandering along the green and cliffy coast, stopping to write, the ocean breeze whipping my hair haphazardly about my head. I imagined rushing into a local coffee shop to avoid the rain and spending hours reading the countless novels assigned to me for my English classes.

Perhaps I had created a romanticized version of my study abroad experience, but isn’t that was this experience offers? It offers the reality of a life that you might only dream of otherwise. It provides the opportunity to grow and change independently of DU or your family and to form new and life-changing relationships. It presents a unique learning experience in an unfamiliar educational environment. I giddily anticipate the transformation I will undergo during this period in my life. I see myself joining the student union, learning to navigate the extensive public transportation system, drinking tea and eating scones, and bashfully agreeing to share an umbrella with a debonair British boy (okay… I’m dreaming again.) Whatever is to come, I’m confident that the decision I made is the right one, and I am prepared (and determined) to make the most of it.

–Camilla Sterne, DUSA Blogger

Exeter, England – Probably the Best City in the World

I knew when I saw my hand shaking while giving my passport to the woman at the check in counter that my time abroad was going to change my life forever.  I had already visited England in 2001, but that was with my family.  This time I was going by myself.  I would have one layover and then when I arrived in London I would have to figure out the train system.  I had never taken a train except at Disneyland.  What was I supposed to do? These were just a few of the worries I had before I hugged my family and said my good-byes.  Of course I would have more on the plane, but first, I had to take that step and cross the threshold into the unknown.  I had to start study abroad.

Before I even left to study at the University of Exeter I had a major problem—I didn’t have a housing arrangement.  I had filled out the online forms and chosen the residence I wanted to stay in, but I remembered that I wasn’t supposed to pay the housing deposit.  However, there was a change in policies and I could not get a room assignment without that housing deposit.  For two days I was calling DU and the UK to figure out this problem.  Thankfully with some last minute paperwork sent to Exeter I was able to get a room, but I would not know where I was living until I arrived.

After a string of good luck during my travels I arrived at the University of Exeter.  Yes, I figured out the trains and yes, when I checked in at housing I did have a room.  I was in Lafrowda E212.  This room assignment would change my life forever.

I didn’t travel much during my time at Exeter.  I did one weekend trip to London and one weekend trip to Paris, but for the most part I explored the area around me.  I know that is very different than most other students, but I really didn’t want to leave.  I had the most amazing friends and the best part? Almost all of them were my flat mates in E2.  I would go out all the time to Arena (the student night club), have kitchen parties in the flat, and just explore the towns nearby.  The funny part is that most of these students were international, and most of them didn’t speak English as a first language.  Of course, I made plenty of English friends, but there was one person who really had a huge impact on my stay, a certain French boy living in E200.

I met Thomas on my second day in Exeter. I was a little blue sitting at the table eating lunch because I couldn’t get a hold of my parents and I thought it was weird that I was completely surrounded by French people, my other flat mates.  Then this guy walks into the kitchen.  My first thought was, “He’s cute.” And then he started to speak French, so I thought, “Shoot.” I had taken French in high school and at DU, but I didn’t want to study abroad in France so I thought this was the French department’s way of punishing me.  However, over the next three weeks I got to know the French speakers, especially the boy from Paris, and my appreciation of francophone culture went up.

We had other nationalities in the flat: German, Swiss, Spanish and Australian. However, the Frenchies were in the majority so everywhere you went you heard French.  I served as translator from time to time, but even I couldn’t understand everything.  Still, it gave me a chance to hang out with Thomas and we became closer.  After a few weeks it kind of became official: we were a couple. 

While, I know I said I didn’t want to travel because I wanted to spend time with all of my international friends, I can’t lie and say that it wasn’t also because of the French boyfriend. However, I got so much more out of my study abroad experience because I developed these relationships.  When I had to leave I was so devastated to say good-bye to this group of people who were really my family.  Everyone cried at my farewell party and they told me after I left it didn’t feel the same.  And to be honest, I didn’t feel the same.  I felt like my true life was there and I was determined that I wouldn’t lose touch with my international family.

I still keep in contact with these people and I have visited some of them.  The best part is I know that I have so many places to visit and so many people to see because I have lifelong friends all over the globe.

When I say study abroad changed my life I really do mean it.  I wouldn’t be typing this blog post in Paris where I’m now a graduate student earning my M.A. in History at the Université de Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne and living with Thomas after four and half years together if it hadn’t.  I understand if you might want to travel during your time abroad, and that’s perfectly fine. But let me give you some advice: don’t think this is the only time you’ll be abroad.  You will get a taste of what it’s like and you’ll want to do it again. I’m not the only one from DU living life as an expat.  You will learn that you are a citizen of the world and you can make any opportunity possible if you put your mind to it.  Get to know your fellow students and the place where you’ll be living.  I promise you’ll never regret it. And who knows? Maybe you’ll meet the love of your life. I know I did.

 

Amy Levy, DU Study Abroad Alum, University of Exeter‘07

10 Best Free Things To Do in the U.K./Ireland

In case you find yourself without anything to do and not really looking to spend a heap of cash, check out these awesome opportunities!

1)      Walk the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland—The Royal Mile is one of the city’s main streets and it’s also where you will find some of the best attractions such as St. Giles Cathedral, Mary King’s Close and it leads to Edinburgh Castle.

2)      Watch the Changing of the Guard in London, England—All things associated with the Royal Family are a huge attraction for tourists, but crowds flock to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace 11.30am daily during the summer and every other day during the winter.

3)      Enjoy a Free Concert at the Wales Millennium Center in Cardiff, Wales—The popular Wales Millennium Centre is regarded as one of the world’s most iconic arts and cultural venues, and is host to free concerts for all musical tastes from jazz to classical to choirs!

4)      Bask in the beauty at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, Ireland—Situated in the former Royal Hospital Kilmainham, the Irish Museum of Modern Art houses a glorious collection of modern art from Jack B. Yeats to Rebecca Horn, not to mention its own stunning grounds!

5)      Browse the Old English Market in Cork, Ireland—The Old English Market dates back to 1788 and as the name suggests, it’s a market! A walk around Cork’s English Market is a must to soak up the atmosphere, but you probably will end up spending some money as it can be hard to resist the food on offer!

6)      Visit Abbey Road in London, England—Re-enact the famous Beatles album cover, with a strut across Abbey Road and don’t forget to sign the wall in tribute to this famous pop group!

7)      Stroll through the Castle Gardens of Kilkenny Castle in Kilkenny, Ireland—A great thing to do on a sunny afternoon, the Castle Gardens offer beautiful rose gardens, large green spaces, walkways and a fun-filled playground for all ages!

8)      Soak in the magnificence at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, Scotland—This is Scotland’s premier museum and art gallery and admission is free!  With an impressive collection of over 200,000 items, including one of Europe’s great civic art collections and one of the finest collections of arms and armor in the world, you can spend a good few hours of your day here.

9)      Stop by St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast, Northern Ireland—This beautiful cathedral is home to Ireland’s largest Celtic Cross and has many mosaics and stained glass windows. Visit for free on weekdays from 10am to 4pm and for a short period before and after Sunday services.

10)   Drool over the gems in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, England—This area of Birmingham dates back over 250 years ago with over 200 historical buildings and is still home to many jewellery businesses today.

Hurry and get off the couch, you don’t want to miss any of these!!

— Kelsey Guyette, DUSA Peer Advisor

Teamwork, Baby!

Hello Hello!

Throughout this term, I got to work with a group of wonderful students from around the world to complete a communications project. We did a ton of secondary research, surveys, and interviews that ultimately translated into a 2500-word report and 15 minute presentation. Though group projects can sometimes be strenuous, I found this experience at KCL to be enlightening.

My teammates were definitely diverse… the ages ranged from 18 to 30… from Australia, Spain, South America, England, Africa, Japan, and America… cross-culturally bonding right here! I love them very much!

Here was our take on teamwork;-)

Enjoy,

JZ

I just fell in love with my host city.

Emily declared her love for York today, and then she proceeded to count the ways…

“…There are shetland ponies wandering around the hidden tangled fields on the outskirts of town, and little old ladies throw apples for them out of their shopping baskets. The streets have names like Swinegate, and High and Low Petergate, and Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate. There is a store called Joy, hidden somewhere where I haven’t been able to find it yet. There are ancient, lurching bookshops everywhere. Hagrid may pop out of the shadows at any given moment….”

=)  Enjoy every moment, Emily!

Welcome to London!

Hello everyone!

Thank you for tuning in to my first blog. As you just saw or will see, I have finally arrived in London, England to kick-off my study abroad adventure!

As of right now, I am suffering from jet lag really bad. Woke-up at 4pm this afternoon and missed out on two meals. Two whole meals… not a happy camper right now. Somehow, I must arrive on campus (King’s College) at 9am tomorrow. Note to future students: arrive a couple of days early because jet lag will be an issue!

I hope everyone enjoys this introductory video. Please leave comments, ideas, questions, ideas for the future!

Until next week,

JZ