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By billienkatz

Before embarking on the study abroad journey, I was bombarded by people (both friends, family and professors) who said it would be a major lesson in independence. This was almost insulting at times because I view myself as an independent person to begin with. Over the course of the past few weeks, especially since I really started jet setting around Europe, I've started o understand what everyone was talking about.

There is a sense of adaptability, resiliency, and go-with-the-flow attitude that is necessary while studying abroad, and in turn this manifests itself into a new form of independence. For the first time in my life I've been navigating myself around foreign cities where I don't speak the language and have limited access to WiFi and can only occasionally rely on google maps. For example, this past weekend I took advantage of having a Thursday off of school and took a five day trip to Rome and Florence. I was flying round trip in and out of Rome, and faced with taking the train from Rome to Florence and back again. I had already taken the train in Spain and had expected the process to be flawless and easy; however, as you can probably assume it was not.

First, I speak no Italian and despite what I thought before arriving, it really isn't recognizably similar to Spanish. Then, once I couldn't figure out the lines at the ticket office and weird number calling system (I had number A312 and they were called N4 and R109) I decided to give it a go at the ticket kiosk, which didn't work either. I don't have the chip in my debit card that all the European machines read, so my transaction was unable to be completed.

I should also mention that it was now approximately 2:23 and I had to get on the  2:31 train that was the last one going from Rome to Florence until the next morning. Low and behold, and only after  being forced to tip the man who helped me figure it out,  I was en-route to Florence. While this obviously isn't my most applicable example, its what has happened the most recently.

Overall, what I'm trying to get across is that everyone was right, being abroad does teach you an entirely new sense of independence that Ive never had to utilize before. In addition, in the process I have learned a lot about myself and how I approach and react to certain situations. For example, I have learned that I really value traveling with my parents and utilizing curbside check in, and that the world doesn't stop turning if I have to wear the pants and sweater multiple times in a row because my trip destination was colder than expected and I can only fit so much in a RyanAir approved carry on bag. Finally, I have learned that there is always room to grow as a person and learn more about yourself, and for me this has been my most powerful realization.

By zamorse

Once a week on Monday afternoons my friend Maya and I take a bus to a Holocaust Survivors Center in Haifa to volunteer. The Holocaust, or the Shoah in Hebrew, is a sensitive topic in Israel and there are only a few thousand still alive, both in Israel, the United States, and around the world. The State of Israel was founded in 1948 in the aftermath of WWII, and the Holocaust was one of the driving forces in creating the country. Thus, the government of Israel goes to great lengths to protect and care for its Holocaust survivors.

That background sets the state for the kind of experience I have every week. The survivors have an entire community within a neighborhood in Haifa just for them, including a community center, doctors office, apartments, and a dining room. Volunteers like myself come all the time everyday to help care for them. My job every week is to help prepare dinner in the kitchen, and then eat dinner with the survivors at the dinner table.

It's not a very hard job, which allows me to spend a lot of time with them every week. Another great thing about the center is that most of them never learned English and they speak Hebrew really slowly, so it's a great chance for me to get to practice my Hebrew (since most Israelis speak to you in English once they know you're American). Most importantly though, it's a great chance to hear their stories. There aren't that many Holocaust survivors left, and it's really important for me as a Jew, but also as a human being, to hear their stories before they are all gone.


By Dominique Bonessi

A recent Facebook post of mine went something like this:

“Thank you Amman drivers for giving me my first experience of being drenched by an oncoming car and the rain water from the huge puddles that appear from flooding due to a lack of a pipe drainage system.

Its never happened in NYC or DC but Amman you never cease to surprise me lol”

Last week it rained in the desert. When I say it rained I mean every single day there was a heavy dosage of water added to the flooding that was already taking place on the streets of Amman.  Apparently it is the rainy season according to The Jordan Times, and the rain we had only made up 64% of rain totals from last year; meaning, this rain is not enough to carry the country through the summer without drought.

Jordan, as a country with mostly desert, relies on its dams and rivers to supply water to the 4 million people that live in Amman alone.  Unfortunately, the rivers and bodies of waters surrounding Jordan are shared with other countries like Israel that also take from the same water resources.  So as any environmentalist knows this means a tragedy of the commons for water resources in Jordan.

Water is precious, I know as Americans we hear that all the time, and yet it hadn't really struck me until I came to Jordan.  Daily life runs on the amount of water available to people.  My host family has a water tank that is filled every week.  When I wake up in the morning I am constantly reminded of this in my attempt to take a shower. There are two switches in the room that must be turned on in order to heat up the water.  Once those are on, there is a process of waiting from 15 minutes to an hour.  Most of the time I am impatient or I need to get ready for school so I hop in when the dial on the tank is a quarter full.  Warm water in the shower will then only last about 5 minutes—if I’m lucky.  I have learned to keep my showering time to a minimum.

Before I head off to school most of the time, I fill up my one liter water bottle from a water cooler in my room.  The cooler will be our potable water for a little less than a week.  Once that potable water runs out we will have to refill with another water cooler.

Water has a rocky future, not just in Jordan but on the entire planet.  Some strategies that are widely considered are desalinization of water in Jordan from the Suez and Mediterranean.  But these ideas are far from coming to fruition.

For now I am left with  quick showers, purified water, and long rainy days.


By msotomayor12

I wrote this article in Terminal 3 of Charles de Gaulle with a feeling of nostalgia and relief to be leaving Paris. It’s the first time I've felt this way leaving the City of Lights and I think I know why. For starters my high-school level French is almost non-existent, making it more difficult than ever to communicate with the already reserved Parisians. While awkward conversations build thicker skin, knowing that you can’t express your sentiments makes me quite hesitant, which isn’t my personality at all.

Another first was traveling alone with my brother. Man, does that make any situation fun and lively. Even though he is 17, I still act like the protective older sister; a feeling I’ve come to realize will never cease. For this reason, I was constantly on alert looking out for him more than I was for myself. I naturally went along with what he wanted to do since he always finds cool places to visit. At this point it’s in my instinct to do so. Thankfully his interests didn’t take us to the touristy parts of the city, which made me see Paris in a different light.

And although we walked around a majority of the city meeting up with friends along the way, I felt as if something was missing. I think the best way to explain this is by sharing artist David Douard’s way of understanding the world. His exposition in the Palais de Tokyo, Mo’Swallow, shows random pieces of everyday tools and resources (water, plaster, cages, lights, etc.) and mixes them together to produce “art” (I put this in quotes because many people would think his art looks more like garbage pieced together). The whole point of the exhibition was to prove that everyone’s understanding of the sculptures would be completely unique because we all live in our own “pseudo-environments.” While languages connect people, each individual can interpret the meaning of a word differently based on the experiences they associate with it. By communicate our interpretations of things we, in turn, define the use of it until it is accepted by all. In other words, things could have a different purpose if we defined it another way.

Philosophical right?

This could explain why I feel so different about Paris this time around. To clarify, the way I see Paris is how I see New York. They are two cities that are aesthetically beautiful because the buildings are almost exactly the same. That creates a perfect order, but the people in it make it quite chaotic. The people define it, which takes away from the beauty and calm that is constantly present if you look away from the streets. I think this is why I’m nostalgic and intrigued by both cities—there’s something more to it, but I haven’t found it yet. That is why I prefer to leave and stay nostalgic about Paris because if I were to stay, my romanticized vision and intrigue of the city would definitely disappear.

By anishag22

The last three consecutive weekends, I have left Bristol to take weekend trips: First Paris, then Wales, then Berlin. This weekend I have finally been able to relax a little and enjoy all that this wonderful city has to offer. One Bristol student recently created a stunning time-lapse of main attractions  in the city, and watching it made me realize how much I have grown to love my new home in Bristol.

As I'm now about halfway through this study abroad adventure, I feel as though I can give some useful advice to prospective study abroad students. My advice is this: Find a balance between traveling and taking the time to explore what's right around you in your own city. At this moment, I feel like I've found the perfect balance, but I know that if I had taken any more weekend trips, I would have felt like I was missing out on experiencing Bristol. One of my best friends who studied abroad in Florence last semester gave me some great advice before I left. She told me to stay put in Bristol for the first month, because that's when genuine friendships are built - It's the time for you to establish a connection to your new home.

I took her advice, and couldn't be happier that I did. Looking back, I've realized that in my first month I made friendships that have been a defining part of my study abroad experience. I had so much fun just exploring Bristol and following my flatmates around to all the best spots in town - after all, what better way is there to assimilate than to do as the locals do?

Your time abroad is precious, so I can only recommend that students make the most of it however they feel is right. But if I've learned anything from the past few months here, it's that finding the right balance between travel and local exploration makes for a fulfilling and amazing time abroad!


Until next time-

Xx, Anisha

By catrionaschwartz

Although I came to Italy a complete beginner, over the past few weeks I’ve able to learn a decent amount of Italian. More often than not I will start a conversation with a local in Italian, and finish it in English, but considering the number of people that speak English here, and the fact that I’ve only taken Italian for a couple of weeks—it isn't too surprising.

There have been a couple little quirks I've learned about the language over the weeks including to pieces of slang that are fun and tell you something about the country. The first is ‘pronto,’ which means ‘ready’ in Italian and is how many people answer the phone here. The origin of the usage is from when all calls had to go through an operator. The operator would ask you if you were ready for them to transfer the call, and you would reply ‘Pronto.’ While Italy isn’t technologically behind, I feel like technology has infiltrated less aspects of daily life in Italy than in the US, and this somewhat antiquated phrase goes along with that idea.

Another fun one is the phrase in bocco al lupo, meaning in the mouth of the wolf. This phrase is basically the Italian equivalent of break a leg! As my Italian teacher said, all Italians are superstitious, even if they say they aren’t. The phrase is meant to avoid jinxing someone by wishing them luck. The proper response is, ‘crepi,’ or ‘crepi il lupo,’ which means: I hope it (the wolf) dies. Considering Rome’s founding story involves a pair of baby twins being suckled by a she-wolf this phrase rings true to Italian culture to me.

This last one isn't a phrase so much as an etymological note. Every day, along with ‘si’ and ‘grazie,’ the word I probably use most is Ciao. Who would've thought though that the origin of this sweet greeting is actually, ‘I am your slave,’ from old Venetian Italian. Apparently such a greeting was so common, the phrase blurred together and came to mean hello. First of all that says a lot about the Roman Empire and Venetian Empire. Second of all, how funny is it to think that everyone walking around, going to the local bar (which is what coffee shops are called here) and saying Ciao, and it actually meaning ‘I am your slave! Good morning!’

Basically Italian is turning out to be pretty fun.

By zamorse

When the State of Israel was founded in 1948, David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, granted the ultra-orthodox Jews living in the new state an exemption from serving in the army so that they could focus on prayer and studying the bible (Torah). At the time, this amounted to only about 400 army-age men each year.

Nowadays, the ultra-orthodox population of Israel has exploded, representing around 10% of the population today. About a quarter of the country's kindergartners are ultra-orthodox.

The fact the the ultra-orthodox don't serve in the army, study at religious seminaries instead of working, and live off welfare from the state has understandably upset the secular majority in the country. To them, they are paying extra taxes and contributing to Israeli society by serving in the army, but it's not fair that the ultra-orthodox don't have to.

Recently, this issue has come to a boiling point in Israeli society. The Knesset (Parliament) passed a law last week mandating that every ultra-orthodox male, except for the exceptionally gifted, will have to serve in the army starting in three years. This would amount to tens of thousands of ultra-orthodox males joining the army every year, compared to the 400 as originally exempted by Ben-Gurion.

This caused an uproar in the ultra-orthodox community, even before the bill was passed. Mass protests erupted around the country in the ultra-orthodox communities. An estimated 500,000 ultra-orthodox Jews literally shut down Jerusalem during one of the protests, for instance. They blocked the main way out of Jerusalem and some friends of mine had trouble getting out of the city back to Haifa for classes the next day.

Now the question becomes, what happens from here on? The ultra-orthodox leaders have called on their community to resist the draft when that day comes. If that happens, tens of thousand of ultra-orthodox males will be considered "draft dodgers" and will go to jail. And then chaos will ensue.

This issue will only become more interesting as the first draft approaches...

By Dominique Bonessi

Women arrive fully covered and once inside another part of their personality is revealed as they uncloak themselves.  The amenities and gym at Aspire Health and Wellness not only act as a place to relax and exercise, but it also an escape for women—well it certainly is an escape for me.

Turkish Bath

In previous blog posts I have mentioned interactions between men and women as being very minimal.  At the gym women can relax, take off their hijab, and be comfortable in their environment.  As an American experiencing an all-women’s gym for the very first time—after a week—I have learned so much about Jordanian women’s fitness, body image, and self-care.

Let me begin by saying that the culture of division between men and women has—in a way—affected women’s views towards fitness and exercise.  The gym is only a small—very small—part of the other amenities like steam room, spa, beauty salon, pool, and Turkish bath (which I am hoping to try out).  Most of the gym equipment is cardio machines and there is very little in the way of free weights, weight machines, and benches.  For being a small gym this is understandable, but again—as an American—I am so used to the idea of large weight area, cardio machines, and several weight machines.  While at the gym I’ve noticed that women tend to stick to the cardio machines, and when I started working out—with the little weights they had--I got stared at as if I were doing something out of the ordinary.  Truthfully, there is not a culture of fitness and exercise for women, but slowly this trend is changing.

At Reclaiming Childhood, the program I volunteer at twice a week, girls learn about exercise, sports, healthy living, teamwork, and leadership.  This program was started by two American girls and it really speaks to the fact that many women don’t consider exercise.  A number of the girls in the program are either overweight or obese, and this program may be the only time of the week they have to get out and move.  However, that is not to say they are not concerned with self-care and body image.

Women in Jordan are gorgeous, they have excellent fashion sense, they know how to apply makeup like pros, and they take the time to pamper themselves.  This is one thing many American women should consider taking more time for themselves even with busy schedules.  Although it may be fair to say that many American women would say they do treat themselves, and that going to the gym on a daily or weekly basis is their method of self-care.

So maybe self-care and body image can take two forms exercise-fitness, and relaxation-rejuvenation.   I will say I am happy to come from a culture where exercise and fitness are seen as essential for a healthy lifestyle, but at the same time I could probably work on my self-relaxation and rejuvenation—now where is that Turkish bath!

By juliaraewagner

Our latest project has been to create a case study about the rural to urban migration patterns occurring here in Senegal, so this past weekend, we hopped on a bus to a small village within Toubacouta, located next to the Gambian River delta just north of The Gambia. It took 7 hours, 4 pit stops, about a hundred potholes, and one flat tire, but we finally made it to a welcoming group of drumming villagers who were very excited to host students for the weekend.

I was introduced to my home-stay mom, Awa, in the dark because we arrived well into the night and the village had no electricity. We were lucky to have a full moon as I helped her cook dinner under the night sky. After initial introductions, I ran out of Wolof phrases, so we mostly smiled and sat in silence as she directed her niece and daughter around kitchen. I shredded lettuce as Awa and the girls grilled some onions in a pot over the fire. They found it funny that I was so infatuated with the baby goats that were hopping about the outdoor kitchen space. After dinner, we sat under the stars and listened to the radio. Then my host mom ushered me to bed, where I fell asleep next to my new host sister, Oli. 

I woke up the next morning to a small stampede of farm animals being herded through the bedroom into the front yard. I had to laugh as I mused about how absurdly different this way of life was than my own. The differences were stark as everything from manner of dress, to gender roles, to simple body language was jumbled across cultural lines. My friends and I definitely had some interesting efforts when trying to explain basic needs, like going to the bathroom. For example, the villagers have separate toilets for #1 and #2. I was happy to walk around with my host sister because she usually deflected any random questions people asked me in Wolof. When she wasn't around, I would just revert to dancing as a means to connect with people with whom I didn't share a common language.

By anishag22

As I sit at my computer typing this blog post, I can't help but feel shocked when I look at the date. Seriously though, when did it get to be March? Let alone mid-March? Have I really been in England for 2 months now?

Time is flying by so much faster here than it does back home. This weekend I'm headed to Berlin, though it will be my last weekend trip for awhile, which is in a way relieving because all of this  back and forth from Bristol has been a little stressful. In just two weeks, I'll be headed off on the adventure of a lifetime: one month of nonstop travel with my parents and then my best friend. It's surreal that I'll be going to Ireland, Scotland, France, Italy, the Czech Republic and finally Austria in the span of 30 days - I feel so lucky to have this opportunity (Big thanks to UK higher ed for the month-long "Easter Break!")

My realization of how quickly time is passing has helped me to remember to try to enjoy every second of this experience. At this point, I'm feeling  well-adjusted and acclimated to Bristol. The culture shock has worn off, and what's left of any 'homesickness' only creeps in when, for example, someone explicitly mentions California.

I still distinctly remember one day about 2 months ago now when my American friends and I were sitting in the local Bristol Starbucks, silently sipping our drinks. We were about 3 days in to our Bristol experience, and we were hating it. Starbucks was our safe haven of familiarity, but even there we didn't feel wholly comfortable. We were all simply too put off by cultural difference to let anything 'new' in. My friends and I look back at that time now and laugh, and it's great to see how far we've come. I am about as integrated as I could possibly be with my 10 English flatmates and I have even started incorporating a few British slang terms into my daily vocabulary!

When I was in Paris two weeks ago, I saw how different it was for my friend who is living with other Americans within her program. Although she obviously faces a language difference that I don't, I think that her experience would be so much richer had she been able to live with French students. I whole-heartily recommend any students considering studying abroad who are reading this to think about fully integrating yourself by stepping outside your comfort zone and choosing to live with non-Americans. My decision to do so has truly been one of the highlights of my study abroad experience thus far!

Until next time-

Xx, Anisha