While abroad, my research included a wide variety of subjects, from behavioral studies of the endemic Red Colobus monkey to sea urchin biomass. My main focus for my Independent Study project was the water quality of small rivers located near a sugar cane plantation and processing factory. The project was not as easy as I expected it to be, I ran into many roadblocks from all sources. The factory was difficult to get in contact with, collection of samples took longer than expected, lab analysis was slow moving, but with patience and excellent advisors I was able to make connections with assistant managers, local drivers to take me to sites, and peers to help with the chemical analysis of the water samples. This project made me grow a lot as a student and researcher because I was testing my limits. Coming from an International Affairs background I was not used to data collection, nutrient analysis, and quantitative science. Zanzibar was such a place that even though my science background was limited individuals encouraged me to challenge myself and I gained a deep respect and understanding for hard science as I practiced it. The goal of my project was to get the ball rolling for the Mahonda town where the sugar cane is processed. I hope that students in the future will continue my study and make it more comprehensive. This will continue the research into the effects of the plantation and factory on the local community and environment. In this way my project has begun to help increase communication between the inhabitants of Mahonda and the industries located there. At this point I do not think any other type of study abroad program could have been better for me. Experiential learning and hands on work made my knowledge of the people and environment of Zanzibar much deeper. My semester with SIT (the School for International Training) was incredible and I hope to keep being curious and willing to get my hands dirty when I return to the States. My interest in water sheds and the roles of local communities is heightened and I foresee this type of volunteer work and research playing a large role in my future. My commitment to community, although increased by the huge volunteer community at The George Washington University, is heightened and I will bring back my renewed enthusiasm and passion for giving back to the GW community by encouraging others to get involved by sharing my stories.
One 45-minute drive to the Heathrow airport, two cups of coffee, and 8 hours flying gone by, I arrive in Newark, New Jersey on Wednesday morning for an interview I have on Friday. I could be wrong, but this isn’t what I had in mind when I pictured studying “abroad.” Two days later, on Friday night, I forget about the schoolwork I should be doing as I receive an offer for the internship I had interviewed for. With that, my stress level plummets, and I am now free to enjoy the next 6 months of my study abroad experience to the fullest.
This is all well and good, except it is now December 9th, and I can’t seem to remember where the last 2 and a half months have gone. With the amount of time I spent preparing for this interview and stressing about it as well, I was really taking away from the time I should have been spending enjoying London. But I cannot change the past—at least not yet—and I have only one goal for the rest of my time abroad now: enjoy it as much as possible. Luckily, I’ll have the chance to do this when I travel in two weeks time to Paris, Belgium, Berlin, and Dublin, where I will be sure to make up for lost fun over the past couple months. I suppose the main takeaway from this whole experience is that hard work does payoff, but that you cannot forget to enjoy the journey along the way. If that sounds cliché, it’s because my jetlag has me awake for the past 30 hours, but I digress.
If I have my timing right, I believe I have only another two blog posts left, which means that my next two posts will be extra interesting. The general theme throughout my blogs has been more of a take-it-as-it-comes approach as opposed to an overview of my travel experiences, or lack thereof, so I am shooting to make my next two posts more holistic in nature. It will be interesting to compile all of the things that I have learnt thus far into two concise posts. And, in addition, I will be able to write about what life in London is like without the added weight that my interview stress had put on me. I am truly looking forward to that. For now, this abbreviated post is all that my tired brain can write, but I hope it captured for you how study abroad can take random twists and turns that you do not ever expect before traveling—which in my case meant less “abroad” and more home than I expected.
Unfortunately, the clock is ticking down on my time in Rio de Janeiro. As of right now, I've got just under two weeks left in the cidade maravilhosa, which means that I've been spending a lot of time thinking: about the friendships I've made, about the experiences I've had, about how I've grown and changed as a person, generally just about a lot of sappy stuff.
But I've also realized one thing: short as it may be, two weeks is still precious, precious time, which means I shouldn't be wasting it thinking about the past or being nervous about the future. Instead, I should be trying to make the best out of the little time I have left.
So what's the best way to go about that? With a bucket list, obviously.
The idea of a bucket list might seem inherently depressing, but I've found that it will allow me to spend my last few weeks in Rio in the best way that I can. It's a comprehensive list of all the sights I still need to see, all the neighborhoods I still need to visit, all the cultural events I still need to attend. It's a list of all the touristy things I still need to do, all of the typically "Brazilian" things I still need to try out. And of course, it also includes things I still need to buy, all the food I still need to eat, and the (cheap) restaurants I still need to visit.
If it seems like a lot, it's because it is. But now, instead of feeling sad about my dwindling time, I'm excited and ready. I'm making goals for everyday: today I'll do this, tomorrow I'll try that. And now, instead of thinking about how much I'm gonna miss this city, I'm thinking about all the great things I'm going to do during my last two weeks.
See, it's important, when your study abroad time is coming to a close, to sit back and think about your experience as a whole. It can be easy, during this time, to feel sad. After all, you're gonna miss your friends. You're going to miss your host country, miss all the people you'e met. And it can be easy to get scared of what lies ahead: readjusting to American society, going back to school for the first time in months. And of course, it can also be easy to suddenly get excited to see the friends and family you've missed during your semester abroad.
But getting caught up in those feelings means that your last few days are not being spent to their fullest. And when you actually do leave, you'll think about everything that could've been.
A bucket list lets you have all of that on paper. But more than that, it gets your mind off of all the emotions you can be feeling towards the end of your semester. Instead of dwelling on the faraway past or the faraway future, you have concrete plans for the present, things to occupy your mind. Plus, even if you don't get to finish everything--and let's be real, it's almost impossible to do everything you want to do when you're studying abroad--you'll have less regrets when you finally hop on your plane back to America.
As for my bucket list, it includes such things as: buying a pair of havaianas, visiting secret beaches in Barra da Tijuca, seeing a play at the Teatro Municipal, visiting museums, and of course, going up Corcovado Mountain to see the world-famous Christ the Redeemer statue.
Yes, I saved the best for last. What's on yours?
TWEET: I made my bucket list. Are you ready to make yours? #GWU #GWAbroad
One of things that has come up a lot lately is how people will have a hard time understanding me when I get back to the US. This is because I’ve been talking like an Irish person for some time now and much of it is completely indecipherable to Americans.
The most important term to know in Ireland is the word “craic” (pronounced like ‘crack’). It basically means fun, but can be applied to a lot more situations. For example, the most common greeting in Galway is “Hiya, what’s the craic?” This really just means “Hey, what’s up?” In the evenings, you will hear kids saying to each other “Any craic?” to ask if they may be going out. Instead of saying that something was fun, Irish people will say that it was “great craic.” It can also be used to describe people. Someone who is exceptionally fun or easy-going might be told that are “the best craic ever.” It can also be used sarcastically. You might hear students on their way to the library say something like “I have to work on economics and all that craic.”
Irish people use a lot of adjectives that I would never imagine that I would use to describe anything, but alas, I have. The one that I noticed first was “grand.” Grand is used as a synonym for fine. So instead of saying “I’m fine,” people will say “I’m grand.” I noticed it first when I was trying to buy a cell phone and apologized to the guy working at the store for asking so many questions, to which he responded, “Oh, you’re grand.” What struck me about this was that it sends a message to people not from Ireland that something is better than it actually is, since we don’t drop the word “grand” for just anything. Another word that I’ve started using as an adjective is “class.” Class is probably the best adjective for anything. It trumps awesome and great and amazing and any other positive adjective you can think of. Someone would probably say, “That’s a class film.” When talking about a movie they like, or “He’s a class player.” when talking about someone who is good at rugby or another game. Or, if something really good happens and you tell someone about it, they might say, “That’s class.” Irish people also have a habit of saying "like" at the end of sentences so you might hear someone say "That's so class, like."
One of the funniest stories I have involving Irish slang is the one of how I learned about the word “deer.” The first day that I met my roommate, she was telling me about a place to eat on campus and said, “It can be deer, but it’s alright.” When I heard this I said, “I’m sorry, what?” “It can be deer,” she said, “but it’s not too bad.” “They use deer in the food?” I said. “No!” she said, “It’s just deer!” I told her that I didn’t know what she meant by that and she explained that deer simply meant expensive.
Learning Irish slang has probably been one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about being here. I’ve begun saying a lot of things naturally over time and don’t even notice them anymore. I think that this has made it a lot less awkward talking to Irish people for the first time and also allowed me to fit in better overall. I am interested to see the response I will get from other Americans if I say, “Where is the craic?” back in the US.
Irish slang is so class, like! #GWU #GWAbroad