A Guide to Australian English

“Excuse me, do you know where the baking soda is?” The store clerk looked puzzled for a second, but then looked at me, chuckled to himself and said, “Ah, yes. Do you mean bicarbonate soda?”

 

Turns out that there are quite a few differences between American English and Australian English, or at least enough differences to catch you off guard every once in a while.

 

Slang words and dialects are what differentiate regions and countries that use the same language. The English language is widely used throughout the world and is the official language of more than 50 countries. Every country and region that uses the English language sounds at least slightly different.

 

As for English in Australia, it is unique and varies throughout the country. It seems to have more similarities with English in the UK than English in the United States. Moreover, Australians love to abbreviate words.

 

I’ve been in Australia for about 2 months now and still get confused by certain words and phrases. So, here’s a list of the top ten words and phrases used Australia that I hear in conversation almost daily.

 

  1. Uni – “Are you a uni student?” Uni is short for university. Don’t get caught using the word college, because that is the word Australians use when talking about high school.
  2. I Reckon – “It’s been about 30 minutes, I reckon.” I reckon is used in place of the phrase I think. I actually haven’t heard anyone use the phrase I think.
  3. Heaps – “Thanks heaps!” Heaps means a lot.
  4. Rubbish – “Those food scraps are rubbish.” Rubbish is another way of saying trash. Trash and garbage are used from time to time, but rubbish is more common. All trash bins are labeled with the word rubbish.
  5. Biscuit – “Oreos are my favorite biscuit.” As you can guess, biscuit means cookie. Oh and Oreos used to be my favorite biscuit, until I came across Tim Tams here in Aussie.
  6. Aussie/Oz – “Have you spent much time in Aussie?” Australia is more commonly known as Aussie or Oz to the locals. Here in the state of Tasmania, locals say Tassie instead of Tasmania. Note: the “s” sounds like a “z”, hence why Oz is common.
  7. G’day – “G’day, mate!” G’day is used as a greeting in place of other words, like Hey! Howdy! Hello!
  8. Macca’s – “Let’s get a Big Mac from Maccas.” McDonald’s? Mickey D’s? Nope. They call it Macca’s here.
  9. Jumper – “It’s going to be cold today, don’t forget your jumper.” Jumper is used in place of the word sweatshirt or sweater. More recently, I’ve actually heard the word jumper used to describe a person’s jacket, as well.
  10. Arvo – “Let’s meet up at uni on Monday arvo.” Arvo is commonly used in place of the word afternoon. I had no idea what this word meant the first time someone said this to me.

 

There are heaps more words and phrases that I’ve come across in Aussie and there are even more that I haven’t encountered. Thus, I will continue to thumb through my Australian Slang book for the remainder of my time here.

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Career Skills From Study Abroad

Over the last two months students across the country have been completing their undergraduate and graduate degrees. As many students graduate and search for jobs, it is important to reflect on experiences in school and the skills acquired that are applicable to potential employment opportunities. Studying abroad is an experience that students acquire a wide range of skill that are useful to the job market. Here is a list of a few skills to consider that may be relevant to place on your resume:

Cultural Adaptability

Many employers today realize that they work and serve people with various mid-sets, beliefs, and expectations based on their cultural background. Students who go abroad and become aware of cultural differences and expectations, and learn to easily adjust their own cultural norms and expectations to be able to function with daily tasks in different settings. How people approach cultural differences affects how an organization operates within their policies, procedures, and how business is accomplished. Whether in an entry level or managerial position, this can be a helpful skill to avoid many misunderstandings, frustrations, or stress.

Intercultural Communication

A skill that goes hand in hand with cultural adaptability is intercultural communication, or sometimes called cross-cultural communication. This is an important skill to have, especially if you are looking for employment that involves communicating to people from different cultures and languages. Intercultural communication is awareness of how people communicate and interact and the role of culture in communication. Studying abroad exposes students to the nuances of communication in a specific culture or country and how people receive information.

Language Skills

Learning a language abroad is a common objective for students and can be a part of their degree studies. Knowing another language can be helpful as a diverse skillset that can be applicable to communicating to people who may not use English as their first language.

Independence/Self-reliance

Studying abroad exposes students to a degree of independence and the ability to navigate long processes and solve problems. This sense of self-reliance is a good source of confidence and can help in both professional and personal pursuits.

Global Consciousness

Today, the world is becoming more and more globalized, and students to spend more time abroad are able to gain a wider perspective of the world operates. The increase of global communication and technology exposes more organizations to people that vary in global perspectives. Global consciousness is applicable to your professional life and can help you and your organization develop a greater appreciation for global politics, economics, education, and societal issues.

Country/Regional Skills 

Familiarity of a specific country or region is a useful skill to have for many employment opportunities. The knowledge acquired from study abroad exposes students to cultural and language skills that are unique to a region or country, whether or not that place is part of your academic focus.

Kiswaspanglish?

Hamjambo!

Having been living in Zanzibar for over a month now, I’m starting to really use the language and learn a lot more about the Muslim culture here.  But I still constantly screw up with Kiswahili, hence the title of this post.  I guess I’m sort of tri-lingual now with English, Spanish, and Kiswhaili, so it would make sense that I get the three confused sometimes.  It’s been difficult learning the language, especially since I haven’t been truly introduced to a new language since I was about seven years old.

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Luckily I don’t need the language to see the fish!

Probably the most fun we’ve had with Kiswahili are the mistakes we’ve made.  In my Kiswahili oral exam, I spoke a full sentence of Spanish to my mwalimu (teacher) before I realized I wasn’t in either English or Kiswahili.  I gasped, covered my mouth, and apologized over and over again.  My mwalimu thought it was absolutely hilarious, and I still passed, so that’s a good thing!  I’ve made many other not-so-great mistakes though, and so have the rest of the wanafunzi.  See below:

Trying to say: I’ve had a good day (responding to a greeting)
Actually said: Banana

Trying to say: I’m drinking coffee
Actually said: I’m taking a poop

Trying to say: Brush your teeth before you go to bed
Actually said: Brush your teeth before sex

Friend trying to say: Hold him back
Friend actually said: Grab his butt

Friend understood: My husband is doing laundry
What was actually said: My husband is dead

Whoops!

I love the strong emphasis on language learning with my program, it really allows so much more to open up to you versus just relying on someone else to speak English, which is completely possible in Stone Town, but I feel so much like a tourist that I want to use Kiswahili whenever I can.  People tend to really open up to you when they see that you’re really trying to learn the language.  Combine that with dressing appropriately (long skirt or pants, loose-fitting, shoulders covered), and conversations will carry on until the sun sets.  That’s definitely a defining part of Zanzibari culture, always taking the time to greet people.  This is what is meant by “pole pole” culture (pronounced pol-ay.  In Kiswahili, all letters are pronounced).  Learning more about culture leads to religion, which has huge influences on the daily lives of the Zanzibaris.  Muslim culture is not as well known in America, so I thought I’d break a bit of it down.

Clothing: 

One of the first cultural differences I noticed getting off the plane in Zanzibar was all the headscarves that women wear.  The only time I saw someone’s hair in public was if she was white (aka not Zanzibari).  Women are generally covered from neckline to ankles in loose-fitting clothing with a headscarf to top it all off.  Depending on how religious the woman is, she will either just wear her headscarf when she leaves the house or she will add a baibui to it, which is the face covering with a slit for her eyes (just don’t call it a buibui, that’s a spider, and side note: the spiders in Zanzibar are MASSIVE OH MY GOD).

When women leave the house, many wear a black overcoat, so walking around outside, you wouldn’t think that these women have much style or care too much about what they wear.  But once you’re inside a home or office, everything changes.  The baibui comes off, the overcoat comes off, and the most beautiful, colorful, fun fabrics are revealed.  Women have such an amazing choice of fabric in Zanzibar – I recently had my first experience at the market which if I were to describe it in one word, that word would be “balaa”.  Go look that one up.  But that’s a story for another day.

Anyway, I love the fabric choices women can have here – and women are very proud of their clothes (I mean, I would be too).  They’re also very loose-fitting and flowy, one part because women aren’t supposed to show the shape of their bodies, and one part because it’s too effing hot in Africa to wear tight clothes.  Your body is only for your husband, and he’s the only one who needs to see it.  And by covering most of your body, you also protect yourself from the harsh African sun.  Some of the wanafunzi (students) have taken to wearing them in public, and we’ve gotten comments on how beautiful we look, another indicator of how much headscarves are respected here.  And I kind of like the look on me too…

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Prayer: 

I consider myself lucky that I’m not studying abroad in Saudi Arabia, where the call to prayer is so loud it wakes you up at 5:30 am every day to make sure you don’t miss your morning prayers.  In Stone Town, I usually hear the call to prayer while I’m awake, but it’s not so loud that it would disturb any non-Muslim.  My new favorite study spot is this rooftop bar that overlooks the ocean, and the call to prayer is a bit louder there since the tower is about 200 feet away from the bar.  But the sunset over the ocean is totally worth it.

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Yup.  I win for best study spot, sorry Colorado

Hajj:

Last week I was able to see the beginning of a big part of Islam – making the hajj.  The hajj is something that every Muslim must do if he or she is financially and physically able, and that is to make a pilgrimage to Mecca.  The trip is full of religious understanding  and Muslims are considered very pure when they return.  Our group of wanafunzi visited a director of our program who left for hajj a few days later.  She invited us all to her home and we presented her with a new headscarf she can wear on her journey.  While excited, she knows that there is a small chance she will never come back from hajj.  Every year, with the massive crowds at Mecca, people, especially smaller people, are trampled to death, and it is recommended that before making hajj you get your affairs in order just in case something were to happen.  When she told me this, I thought about how morbid it was and why anyone would want to risk a terrible death in the name of Islam.  Then I caught myself.  This same kind of thing happens at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican when a new pope is elected.  This same thing happens every year at Walmart during Black Friday, a “holiday” that celebrates the accumulation of material goods.  I later was very upset with myself for mentally criticizing someone’s way of life before thinking about how my culture views similar things.

Food:

The only part of Islam I’m not the biggest fan of is the restriction on eating or drinking things that are considered “dirty”.  This includes consuming alcohol or drugs as well as consuming pork.  And with the population of Zanzibar being more than 99% Muslim, pork is a rarity on the island.  So yes, I sincerely miss pulled pork, pork in the crockpot, pork on the grill, and I definitely miss bacon.

Also, y’all seemed to like my dolphin video, so here’s another video of our group of wanafunzi painting the side wall of one of our accommodations in Mangapwani, Zanzibar.  Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bq0BbxG89gA

Asante sana kwa kusoma!

(Thanks for reading!)

Kim, DUSA Blogger

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

Avoiding Ignorant Stereotypes 101

language learning from sclanguagecenterdotcom

One of the most powerful lessons that I learned during my study abroad experience was the lesson of being the outsider.  I learned how it felt to be a foreigner and a minority.  I learned how it felt to live in a place where I didn’t understand how things worked, and I didn’t understand everything that was said to me.  And, since I have spent some time in those shoes, I feel like I achieved some empathy to the outsiders/foreigners/minorities that live in my own country.  In particular, here are some of my own personal tips on how to communicate with someone who is learning your language:

Speak slower, not louder.  Anyone who has any experience learning a language knows that a new language can sound all slurred together, and it’s often hard to tell where one word ends and another begins.  It is somewhat condescending and belittling to talk to someone as if they’re hard of hearing when they’re learning your language.  Also, don’t speak to them in baby-talk.

Go light on the sarcasm.  Humor is just one of those things that is impossible to directly translate and is often one of the most difficult things to learn in a new culture or language.  Realize that they may be frustrated that they can’t adequately do their own sense of humor justice in your language; and that their own personality isn’t fully complete in your culture.

Don’t ask them to speak for their entire nationality/race/gender/religion/insert-other-identity-here.  “You’re an American.  What do Americans think about ____?”

Consider that their conversational speed is different than yours.  Some cultures speak to each other very quickly, even interrupting others before they’re done speaking.  Other cultures have a few seconds of pause before responding.  Try to let them finish what they’re saying, even if they’re struggling to find the words, instead of trying to finish their sentence for them.

And lastly, be patient.  It is an enormous struggle to learn a new language.  It’s exhausting.  It’s exhilarating.  But I believe some of the best language-learning happens when you get a chance to have a long and meaningful conversation with a native speaker.

– Michelle Rembolt, OIE

DU Students in Torino, Italy – University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC)

We have just received an update from Torino and we are pleased to say that our DU students are settling in and are excited to spend the rest of the quarter in Italy. Their program, USAC, sent over some pictures so that we could share their excitement.

USAC: University Studies Abroad Consortium provides students with the opportunity to intensively study Italian language and also take classes in English, primarily in business, art, and Italian studies. USAC provides on-site support throughout the academic term, including orientation, excursions, social and cultural activities, and housing.

Arrival Day!

Kyle Svec arriving at Torino Airport

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Michael Podshadley (left) and Alessandro Ballard (right with red backpack) at airport pick up.

Good Eats!

On arrival night, students were served Foccaccia, salad and Coke before the pizza dinner. Our DU students are meeting students from other schools and socializing as soon as they arrive.

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Hayley Zulkoski (left) and Alyssa Baker (right)

Here are our students having Torino’s specialty coffee/chocolate drink called Bicerin. USAC took all students on a field trip to the Bicerin Café which is the oldest café in Torino, founded in 1763.

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(Left to Right) Ciera Shell, Hayley Zulkoski and Christina Criniti

Internships!

Students are already involved in internships as well. Victoria Stevenson from DU is a teacher’s assistant at a local bilingual school, Saint Denis School.

Victoria Stevenson pictured above.

To learn more about the USAC Torino program click here!

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.

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

The “studying abroad” in study abroad

“Am I going to fail my classes abroad?”  “Are my grades from abroad going to transfer back?”  “How could I possibly take a history class in a foreign language?”  It’s normal to have a fair amount of anxiety about being a student in another country.  Here are some tips and things to keep in mind!  

Expect a different academic environment and experience.  Don’t make assumptions that things will be like your college courses at home.  When in doubt, ask questions!  Reach out for tutoring, if needed.  While you can’t control the new academic environment, you can control how hard you try.  Typically (and generally), good students at home make good students abroad.

Don’t fall for the “my-classes-are-so-easy-because-I-don’t-have-homework” syndrome.  In many other countries, courses do not include such a plethora of opportunities to earn your grade like in the US; such as quizes, homework assignments, papers, and group projects.  Instead, your grade may be determined by only one final exam and/or one paper.  So just because you don’t have a homework assignment each week, you should be doing your readings and learning the content as you go, on your own.  Many a study abroad student has learned this the hard way when final exam time comes around!  And hey, it’s kinda like practice for graduate school….

Grading may be different.  You’ve heard of “grade inflation, ” right?  It turns out that compared to many other countries, the US of A really does have a severe case of it.  In many other countries, most students are “average,” by definition.  Often, the perception in the U.S. is that you start out the class with an “A,” and you lose points if you don’t fulfill requirements of the course.  In many other countries, the philosophy is more that you start out with an “F,” and have to earn your way up from there.  Top grades are truly only given to students who go far above and beyond the norm.  And in some countries, the grading is entirely on a curve, meaning that you’ll be graded solely on how you compare with your classmates.

Figure out who your classmates will be.

  • If you’re studying in a foreign language, but taking classes only with other international students like yourself, keep in mind that the professor (and the course) is very aware that you are learning the language.  Don’t be intimidated to take classes in a foreign language — they will be targeted for students are your particular language level.
  • If you’re taking classes with local students, you will be subject to the local way of teaching and learning.  Be sure to reach out to your classmates to get suggestions on how they study and prepare for exams.

But even keeping all of those things in mind, don’t over-generalize.  You may get some suggestions and generalizations from students who have gone on your program before, but it’s also important to consider two things:

  1. Every student is different.  Your perception of your academic experience will vary from the other students in the exact same class.
  2.  Every professor is different.  Just like at home,  the person teaching your course will profoundly affect the course content, structure, and difficulty.

So try NOT to fall into the trap of believing or making broad general statements about studying in your host country.

What classroom experiences did you have studying abroad?  What did you gain from learning in a new academic environment?  Did you find yourself making broad generalizations about academics in your country when you came home?

Why Translation Matters

When I travel, I spare no expense when it comes to food. I’m a huge food geek, and am one of those people that believes that you can learn an incredible amount about a culture by trying all of their food. I’m like a younger, female version of Anthony Bourdain.  I’m willing to try anything once and usually twice if I don’t become violently ill afterwards. So, during my first study abroad experience in Dijon, France, I went with an empty stomach and a full wallet, prepared to become one with pâté, baguettes and champagne.

One day at lunch, my classmates and I decided to go to a restaurant with actual napkins and water glasses. Typically, we’d go to the cafeteria at Monoprix, or the crepes stand down the street, but the month was winding down, and we wanted to go out with a bang. Our professor had recommended this place to us, so away we went.

Now typically, French restaurants don’t give you a menu with a huge list of options that you can order. They have two or three things written on a chalk board, and that’s what you can choose from. Obviously, if you’re in a tourist trap, it’ll be more Americanized, but Dijon was still very much a French city. So our options that day were steak-frites and something called boeuf roubignoles. Steak-frites is a standard component of all American classroom French lessons on restaurants. It’s a steak, with fries; very appealing to Americans, and a fairly safe choice. Of the 12 of us, 11 ordered steak-frites. Guess who was the one who didn’t? Yup, yours truly. I knew what steak-frites was. I had eaten steak and fries growing up, so why would I order it while I was in the Mecca of food? I knew that ‘boeuf’ meant beef, and I loved beef, so I figured whatever ‘roubignoles’ meant would be delicious.

They brought out pâté and bread for an appetizer (wild boar pâté …amazing) and we happily chowed down. I was looking around the restaurant at what other people were eating, hoping to get a glance of my roubignoles. The plates that didn’t have steak-frites were covered in a stew-like substance, with brown broth and veggies, and these very strange looking little round balls of meat. It didn’t look like any part of a cow that I had ever seen, but whatever. I was here to experience France.

Our meals came, and everyone dug in. I tentatively tried my meal, and was not pleased. The texture was very strange and the flavor was not reminiscent of beef. I had a few more bites to see if it got better, and it didn’t, so I resigned myself to pâté and baguette for the rest of the meal (I know…tough break). I was disappointed, because I saw fellow diners digging into the same meal and seeming to love it. I guess it just wasn’t something my American taste buds were on board with.

It wasn’t until two years later, as I was writing an essay for another study abroad application, that I finally looked up what ‘roubignoles’ meant. Let’s just say that they are the reproductive organs of male calves. It had been years, but I still felt a little nauseated (though comforted by the fact that I hadn’t enjoyed them).

Do I regret it? No. Do I wish that I had gone with the pack and ordered steak-frites that day? No, I do not. While it was an error in translation that got me to try it (highly unlikely I would’ve ordered it if I had known what it meant), it was an experience that made my study abroad experience that much more unique. So while you may not seek out roubignoles if you find yourself in France, it’s really important that you take advantage of all possible opportunities. Seeking out McDonalds or KFC in whatever country you’re in is going to limit your understanding of the culture and the community that you’re living in. Don’t order what you know is ‘safe’ on the menu; try something new. Just maybe remember to carry a pocket dictionary.

– Kat Cosgrove, DUSA Peer Advisor

Taking on Study Abroad: The Language Barrier

Whether you are going to an English-speaking country or not, the change in language will affect both your communication with and perception of the people in your country.

Even if you have been studying the language for a year or more, this does not ensure that you will be up to par when trying to communicate in your host country. For example, I had been studying Chinese for three years, but when I did a summer exchange program in China, I was unable to speak any Chinese during the first week—I was simply shocked dumb. Luckily, I was able to communicate better as the program continued. Embracing the language of my host country undoubtedly allowed me to have a richer, more personable experience. Even if you are studying in an English-speaking country or doing a program that does not have a foreign language requirement, take it upon yourself to become embraced in the language—it will be different! Here are a few simple but effective tips:

Language learning is not difficult, it just takes time. Attitude, rather than aptitude, determines success.

  • Download free podcasts to your iPod. (French language lessons, Australian news stations, etc.) Listen to them while working out, chilling at home, or even driving in your car.
  • Learn and listen first, then speak.

An incredible blog on with infinite resources on language: The Linguist on Language – Having Fun Learning Languages. Also, here is another article about study abroad in general: NAFSA | Press Room | American Public: International Education is Key to Preparing Next Generation.

There are a lot of students who study abroad in English-speaking countries or countries where English is readily spoken. While this may be a comfort, check out these perspectives on foreign languages:

The European Union is built around the free movement of its citizens, capital and services. The citizen with good language skills is better able to take advantage of the freedom to work or study in another member state (Commission of the European Communities, 2003: 9)

For the English-speaking countries themselves, the emergence of English as an international lingua franca is not an unmixed blessing. For Britain especially, it masks the effects of the loss of imperial dominance, encourages complacency and perpetuates a sense of superiority as a result of a position in unequal international communication based simply on linguistic advantage but no longer corresponding to the realities of political and economic relations (Trim, 1999: 12)

And some final food for thought…

International and foreign language education is a break with the focus on our own society in order to find new perspectives which allow us to be critical of our assumptions (Byram, 2002: 47)

This may seem like common sense, but language is an incredible tool that you should take full advantage of. You are going abroad to GET AWAY from America, to learn things that you cannot learn here. Language is only the beginning, so make sure to invest time and energy into this aspect of study abroad. Push yourself to achieve more! I know you can.

American Students Studying Abroad Pushed Out Of Comfort Zone ‘Bubbles’

– Michelle Yeager, Student Staff at the Office of International Education

image: projectrollingstones.com

 

Why Can’t I Just Speak ENGLISH?!

If you’re studying abroad in a non-English speaking country, or even if you are, you may find yourself, at some point, saying why can’t I just speak English—American English that is?! Well, don’t get fed up, you can work through it, reminding yourself that it will pay off in the long run. Here are some pointers: 

1)      Grab a local: Even though it may be tempting to hang around with your Anglophone friends, the urge to speak English may be greater than your weakened will power! Don’t do it! Find your local buddies to pal around with!

2)      Pick up a new book: When I was in Russia, I used to get so angry with the Russian language in general and just wanted a break. I’d pick up my copy of Eat, Pray, Love and go to town. After about 2 weeks, I felt so guilty for reading in English, knowing that 10 minutes of English was costing me about an hour of Russian. I proceeded to check out a local Russian book store and picked me up some Pushkin and Bulgakov. How accomplished I felt, when sifting through that rich Russian prose!

3)      Walk outside: The simple act of stepping outdoors puts you into the foreign atmosphere with the language you are rebelling against, floating all around you. Walking through a market, a store, a gallery, a park, all will allow you to listen and soak in the language you currently loathe. You may not need to speak it, but at least you are getting some exposure!

4)      Get some rest: I was amazed by how absolutely exhausted I was from all the concentration on listening and then sentence formation and production! Whew! It was all I could do by the end of the day to smile and nod. When you are overcome by language exhaustion, simply lie down and sleep a while. The situation will appear infinitely better upon waking.

5)      Flip on the TV: Turn on the TV, watch a movie in your dueling language or even snag a newspaper at the local stand, even this passive exposure is causing your gears to turn and your brain to learn.

Even though each day may seem like a linguistic eternity, I promise it will get easier! Then by the time you come home, you will have gained so much confidence in your speaking ability, not to mention the sense of accomplishment you will have for not caving into the intense urges to revert back to your mother tongue. Take a deep breath and tough it out—you can do it!

–Kelsey Guyette, DUSA Peer Advisor

Lost in Translations

Through my travels I have found that it is often frustrating and difficult to be in a country where you don’t speak the language. However, I have learned that if I master 4 key phrases in the local language than I have much better success interacting with local people and navigating around a city or country. If you learn these simple phrases before visiting I can assure you your travels will be much easier and people will be more helpful!

1.      Hello

2.      Please

3.      Thank you

4.      Where is the bathroom?

Continue reading “Lost in Translations”