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By sdemetry

Hello again GW!

I am writing once again from an airport terminal- but this time I am on my way back to schoolwork and reality: vacation has ceased.

Surprisingly, my internship was put on hold after a long discussion with my supervisor the day before I Left. We both agreed that whatever work I was putting in 'on the road' would not be my best, and it would also take away from the limited time that I had with my parents.

I could not be happier with that decisions. After 3 weeks of living out of a car, whirlwind days of touring and hotels, I am certain that it was the right one. Playing tour guide was stressful enough- I definitely didn't need any more work added in.

I return on Monday, and I am expecting a fair amount of work to accompany the start of my second semester. Before I left, emails were sent out to a few international coordinators asking for information by the time I returned, and with that information I will be developing a new library of Country Profile Reports for TNC.

Though I have been checking my emails regularly, I haven't received any of that information yet, so it will be interesting to see how my first week back unfolds.

Until then I don't have too much more to share. The biggest thing I have learned thus far is not to stretch yourself too thin while you're abroad. Enjoy your internships and classes, but make sure you leave yourself time to enjoy the fun parts as well.

Bis bald!


By christinatometchko

Boy, does time fly! As of today, I have exactly three weeks left in Barcelona, and just two more weeks of volunteering at the Pare Poveda School. I've had so much fun getting to know the kids in Isabel's 6A English class and can hardly believe that my time spent volunteering is already coming to an end. I've had a very different experience volunteering than I originally expected, but it has been amazing nonetheless.

When I signed up to volunteer at the Pare Poveda School, I thought that I'd be working in a classroom with younger students (think cute preschool aged kids) who had very minimal exposure to the English language. I expected to sing the ABC's with them, teach them about colors and animals, and do fun arts and crafts activities.

Imagine my surprise when I showed up for my first day of volunteering and was greeted not by a group of wide-eyed preschoolers, but rather by a class of talkative, energetic preteenagers. I did a double take when I first walked into the classroom and immediately wondered if the school had made a mistake. Maybe they didn't need me to help teach English. Maybe the teacher just needed some extra help organizing book shelves and photocopying papers.  I was debating whether I should walk back to the front desk and double check if I was in the right room when Isabel greeted me at the door and introduced me to the class as their new teacher.

As the students continued to work on an assignment, Isabel pulled me aside and explained the lesson plan for the day. She told me that we would be learning about the water cycle, showed me the corresponding pages in the textbook and workbook, and split the class into two groups-- one for me to teach and the other for her to teach. Not only was I going to be teaching English, but I was also given the difficult task of explaining a somewhat complex concept that majority of the students didn't fully understand in Spanish, yet alone a foreign language. The fact that I was going to be flying solo without any help from a certified teacher only added to my nerves.

After a few seconds of panic I took a deep breath, told myself to relax, and got to work. Believe it or not, the lesson went fairly well. The students paid attention while I talked, actively participated in the discussion, and were eager to answer all of my questions. Each of my sessions at the Pare Poveda school have continued along the same path, and I'd like to think that they've all been pretty successful! While volunteering in a sixth grade class isn't how I anticipated spending my time volunteering in a Spanish elementary shcool, it has been such an eye-opening and rewarding experience and I'm so thankful I was able to expand out of my comfort zone and had the opportunity to work with these amazing and intelligent students!


By zamorse

Israelis take you much more serious when you speak Hebrew to them. Most of them speak English, and most pretty fluently, but when you speak in Hebrew to them, they not only understand you better, they take you more seriously. At a restaurant when ordering food, on the bus asking for directions, at a store looking to buy something---the difference between English and Hebrew is surprising.

There's a whole sort of stigma and stereotype when it comes to speaking English. Sometimes I have to be really pushy and say, "I don't speak English, talk to me in Hebrew" to maybe get a cheaper deal at a store, or for an Israeli to feel more comfortable telling me what/how to do something.

For example, on Friday I took the bus down from Haifa to a town a little north of Tel Aviv called Ra'anana, famous in Israel for being home to many Americans. I got on the bus, and the bus driver asked me where I wanted to go (in Hebrew). I told him that I wanted to go to Ra'anana (with an American accent) and he told me that it was 25 sheckles, in English. Now that he knew I was American, he spoke to me on a whole different level. He didn't cheat me, and it wasn't anymore expensive than it normally was, but because he knew that I was American, I felt like our conversation was on a different level.

And I find that it's very hard to talk to Israelis my age. They speak so quickly and with so much slang that it's often very hard to understand them, plus they all speak English pretty well. But, I volunteer at a Holocaust survivors center, and I find that it's very easy to speak to the elderly because they don't know English and they speak very slowly. It's also easy to speak to my Hebrew professor, of course.

I've been working on trying to speak Hebrew with more of an Israeli accent, but it's really hard. I'm starting to think that speaking Hebrew with more of an Israeli accent is more important than knowing vocab. I have two more months here, so we'll see.

By lizzhart

Its finally come for project time over here in Thailand. After months of extensive class time, less than minimal free/travel time, and only short homestays, the program is just starting to become enjoyable. Last week we submitted our research proposals. My groups project will be in Gai Na and will center on municipal solid waste management.

Last week we did our first round of primary research in Ban Samran Gai Na, a rural community just outside Khon Kaen. The community receives a municipal trash service, which is supposed to come 3 times a week to collect trash. The service costs just 20 baht a month (less than $1) and seems like an ideal waste system. However, the trash pick up is highly unreliable with interviewees stating it comes anywhere from every day to once every two weeks. The service also supposedly doesn't pick up foliage and yard waste so villagers are left to burn these forms of waste, which poses health concerns, especially when they include a plastic bag or two. Additionally, the waste bins are constantly overflowing, and some of it isn't bagged, which invites animals and vermin to the area.

Though we are still continuing our research with more homestays and data collection, we are starting to think about what interventions might be appropriate to help this community. Today we are meeting with the municipality to talk about problems the community is having and get their side on the collection time issue. Then we will be interviewing more villagers with a focus group to get some feedback on how they would like the situation improved. Hopefully we can come to some conclusion on an intervention that might address bin size and number or alternatives to burning waste that wont be excepted by the municipality.

Though I'm excited to finally do a project to help Ban Samran Gai Na, its also disappointing that it took this long in the program for us to take action. Most of the semester was spent studying Thailand's healthcare system with a lot of class time and no real time to explore Thailand and understand it from a different lens. The second course allowed us to spend more time in the communities getting to understand issues from a villager perspective and learn research tools. Now in just the last 3 weeks we are spending 2 weeks researching for a project and then have only 1 week to design and implement one. It feels like a rushed job. I am happy that now have some experience with semi-structured interviews, developing questionnaires, and facilitating focus groups. These are important skills for future projects to help future communities.

However, as far as this program and this experiences, maybe the intentions were there but the program design could use a lot of improvement.

By billienkatz

This post marks my last weekend in Barcelona, my last blog post while I can say that I am studying abroad, and the last moments where I can experience and not just reflect. As of Thursday I am boarding a flight headed towards JFK and I cannot even begin to grapple with how quickly this semester has flown by. There isn't a single bone in my body that is ready to part with this city, and I'm also really unsure of what I'm going to encounter when I return home.

Every trip back home is normally the same, nothing every changes. This time however, there has been one large shift: I have changed. Yes, some of it is external. I dress slightly differently, my skin has seen more sun than normal, and I am in desperate need of a haircut; however, it extends much further than what people are able to see when they look at me. The changes are internal, and operate how I have lived every day of the past four months.

Most importantly, however, is the milestone that I have now completed: studying abroad. Study abroad, especially at a school like GW, is a right of passage through your four years at school. It was something I constantly looked forward to, and I noticed how empty campus seems at times when you return back after winter break and a large portion of that year's junior class is missing. This semester, I was part of that missing class. I not only embarked on a journey that led me to IES in Barcelona, Spain, but I have now finished taking my finals and am left with making sure my bags are under 51 pounds and remembering to print out my boarding pass.

I've promised myself that I'm making one more trip to La Boqueria, having one more dinner at my favorite restaurant around the corner from my apartment, and the most important thing, making a pact with my close knit group of friends I've formed here, that we will all be back in Barcelona, together, in the near future. The idea of putting this experience behind me is terrifying and I'm nearly ready to give it up, but I am ready to relinquish this power, the power of experiencing an alternative way of life at the age of 20/21, to another group of students.

Barcelona has stolen my heart, and I am positive that I will be back; however, it will never again be in the context of studying abroad. As of my final post next week, studying abroad, will have turned into studied's crazy how much meaning the change in tense evokes.

Hasta luego Barcelona