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By conniezhanger

In what ways has your host community supported your identity? In what ways has your host community challenged or altered how you identify yourself? Please share examples of conversations, photographs or situations that can bring your entry to life.

Living abroad really affects you. I’ve come to appreciate many of the American luxuries that I cannot find in my host country of Germany, such as free public restrooms or free tap water in restaurants. At the same time, there are many things in Germany that I appreciate, such as the focus on recycling and timeliness.  One of the best things about my study abroad is that it is also a multi-country EU program, so I am able to travel to many places. We have had field trips to Brussels, Paris, Prague, Berlin, Athens, Bucharest, and Budapest. ...continue reading "How my European Community Effects Me"

By kennatim

The academic culture here at Dublin City University is remarkably different than at GW. What the difference boils down to is an emphasis on independence. Long texts are simply assigned at the beginning of the semester for reading over the course. There is not much class time during the week and when there is, classes are often near empty. There are no pop quizzes, no assigned readings, minimal presentations, and very infrequent class discussion.

I can handle all of that, but my least favorite new academic component is that the professors here are much less approachable than at home. Fortunately, our staff here at my program, CIEE have been wonderful at bridging that gap.

What the entire semester comes down to is that final paper or final exam. That gives me the chills just writing it. But it seems Irish students are less competitive when it comes to grades. That must be why they can actually withstand eight semesters of waiting for four months to see if you actually understand the material or not. The system has its pros: helping students to become independent, allowing them to explore parts of a subject they might be interested in rather than making certain sections compulsory, and really drawing a line between the go-getters and the slackers. I personally enjoy my American experience, with a more in-depth, hands-on approach. The classes I have done the best in include very active professors and courses that involve frequent quizzing and testing to keep you on your toes. I never thought I would say that I wish I had more tests and quizzes, but they say studying in Europe is all about finding your true self, so here we stand.

While I cannot say I have really enjoyed the differences between Irish and American college education, I have chalked it up as a “cultural learning experience.” It will definitely help me in my approach to unconventional learning in the future. And it has definitely led me to truly appreciate how lucky I am to attend such an amazing university with a system I am so familiar with.

View of the entire premiere set up at the Tower of London
View of the entire premiere set up at the Tower of London

This past weekend, I traveled to London to visit two of my best friends. Being with my people, and not to mention in one of the best cities in the world was amazing, to say the least. We had a weekend filled with laughs, adventures, and memories that will last us a lifetime. One of the craziest things that happened to me while in London was something that began with a simple visit to the Tower of London. After a long day at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour for the making of the Harry Potter films (if you’re not jealous at this point, I may need to check your pulse), we decided to take an evening stroll along the Thames. After stopping at the London Bridge, we hung a quick left and ended up at the Tower of London. Since it was 17 pounds just to get in (around $25), we decided to just walk around and enjoy the beauty from the outside. What can I say? I’m a tourist on a budget! As we approached the tube station to get home, we passed a car with a Game of Thrones decal, and a bunch of tents. At the time, I thought this setup was nothing more than a raffle or publicity event for the show. So, we were on our way.

Red Carpet Area

About half an hour later, however, my friend received a text from someone she knew talking about the Game of Thrones premiere that night. At that point, the instinctual GoT fan living inside of me knew that we had to go back. Lo and behold, only an hour later, the red carpet for the new season premiere was in full swing. And let me tell you, HBO went all out for this one. There were bonfires set up everywhere, and a giant projector that was showing animations of dragons and interviews that were going on inside the tower. Let’s not forget all of this is taking place on the lawn of an ancient fortress. All of it was 100% Game of Thrones.

We spent about an hour at the premiere, catching glimpses of whomever showed up next (Lena Headey, Kit Harington, Sophie Turner, Alfie Allen, and even Charles Dance), watching the live interviews, and being shocked by how overwhelming the red carpet actually seems. After a while, we got cold, tired and hungry, and decided to grab something to eat. But, I can honestly say that showing up to the Game of Thrones season premiere was one of the coolest, most spur-of-the-moment things I have done. That’s what I really love about traveling—you never really know what you are going to come across on any given journey. Whether it was a talked-about premiere, a trip to Windsor while the Queen was actually in residence, or teatime with the most hilarious storeowner I have ever met, London was full of surprises that I’m sure I will carry with me for a lifetime.

KUBA buddy learning how to make dressing

Annyeonghaseyo (Hello)! Week 3 and I am already starting to feel like a local. Sure my Korean speaking skills are still nonexistent and I blatantly stand out of the crowd, but I have made some excellent friends here. The lady at the convenience store I frequently visit has now started to say hello to me.

The workload has increased for my major specific courses so I now find myself going to school and then hanging out for three hours after and then doing homework into the night. My friends and I have been going out to many dinner places around Anam. One of my favorite places is this authentic Korean restaurant where there is no English menu. It is right next to the Hana Square campus and their Kimchee is delicious and comes in big servings. Thus far, my favorite foods here have been octopus on a stick, pickled kimchee radishes, and family style Korean BBQ. Every meal you eat here is essentially family style. The dishes are big and you can get two dishes for a table of 6 people. The price for these dishes is cheap too and comes out to 10,000 won ($9) a person and at minimum 3,000 won ($2.50) a person.

Painting in the Korean Church

This past weekend I joined my roommate Alissa at Korean church. Never having gone to a church this would have been an interesting experience for me even if I wasn’t in Korea. The church is located in the shopping district of Myeongdong and holds mass in English. The priest there was from Ireland. When we walked in there were maybe 50 rows of pews and beautiful stain glass windows going down the sides. We sat near the front left, next to Korean women who attended mass in lacey white head covers. The service went on fully in English and it was very interesting to see the native Korean speakers get into the English versions of the Bible. The only noticeably Korean part of the church, other than the people, was one painting on the wall of Korean religious scholars. It was very interesting to see this type of depiction.

Lotus flower at Buddhism Expo

On the topic of religion, this past Saturday I went to the Seoul Buddhism Expo with my KUBA group. The metro ride took 40 minutes and we had to stand the whole way but when we arrived it was worth it. The first area my KUBA buddy and I went to was the traditional Buddhist food section. There we were taught how to make traditional dressing and then how to grind up soy beans for tofu. There were also many Buddhist monks there. Men and women had their heads shaved and wore long gray robes. Everyone was friendly and it was interesting to see them. After this, we went on to make lotus flowers out of long straws and crinkly paper. It was quiet the ordeal and a Korean woman who ran the craft stand would constantly watch over us international students. After the Buddhism Expo the KUBA group went out to Korean BBQ. It was delicious as always, cooking right in front of you. The KUBA buddies at our table decided that this outing calls for Soju shots and so we started up at dinner. I am still baffled at the “work hard, play hard” attitude of the Koreans, but I must say, that I have really gotten into it.

To sum up my Korean experience so far: I am having the time of my life and I cannot wait to experience the weeks ahead! Annyeoungkyeseyo (Goodbye)!

While Australia has not challenged my identity as a white male, it has supported my identity by helping me learn about other identities and gender barriers. I am currently enrolled in a course called Gender Communication, which explores not only the societal effects on the differences between gender but also on queer and non-binary genders such as lesbian, transexual, and gender fluid (individuals who are sometimes attracted to males and sometimes attracted to females). The class teaches how to society unfairly treats discriminates against these individuals, and by taking the class I have learned how to contribute to safer environments for all. The same class has also discussed the differences between male and female communication techniques, and it has taught me how to more effectively mediate and resolve conflict with both male. female, and diverse gender groups. By learning how about non-binary genders and gender communication, I feel that my identity has not only been supported but that I have also become better member of society. ...continue reading "A Course on Identity"

By Adaeze

One thing I miss about Gelbucks at GW is the ability to be who you want to be. Starbucks is known for being notoriously bad at names, and if you tell them your name is Bob, then your name is Bob. If you tell them your name is Jill, your name is Jill. In France, if you tell them you identify as one thing, they might correct you and tell you what you actually should identify with.

My host community has supported my identity as an American for sure. Contrary to all the false belief about how Parisians are rude and hate Americans, every French person that I’ve met has been nothing but nice and encouraging. They actually love it when I tell them that I’m American. This is kind of comforting because when I got here, I wasn’t sure how to represent myself. ...continue reading "To Be or Not to Be … Me?"

By kaandle

German food is a difficult thing to define. Some will argue that since Germany officially became a state in 1851 and its history prior to that consisted of tribal territories and was included in various empires' borders, food unique to Germany does not actually exist.  Add to that the buzzing metropolis that is Berlin and suddenly finding traditional german food is a difficult task.

That being said, here are five of my favorite eats as of yet:


This is essentially a round, grilled piece of beef that falls somewhere between a hamburger and a meatball. It's deliciousness has yet to fail me - ranging from specialty flee market food trucks to prepared sandwich sections in grocery stores (yes, it comes in sandwich form too), frikadeller is always top notch.


Imagine mac&cheese made with gnocchi pasta.  Clearly a match made in heaven. If you find yourself in Berlin and craving some spätzel, go to Clärchens Ballhaus.  Not only does your cheesy dish come with apple sauce and fried onions (sounds weird - just go with it) but you can also get a style-specific dance lesson with your meal.

Bavarian Mac&Cheese 

You're probably thinking this will be redundant since I just described spätzel as mac&cheese-like, but that would be incorrect. Markethalle Neun, essentially a warehouse packed with awesome food stands, sells a Bavarian Mac&cheese that will make you never want to eat anything else ever again.  I have not been to Bavaria, but this dish in itself is close to convincing me to take the five hour bus ride just to eat it in its natural habitat.


Here we have a non-German food item making the list.  Berlin has a large Turkish population and as a result large amounts of döner.  I'm pretty confident in guesstimating that every other street has at least one döner stand.  And it's a good, cheap, filling eat.  Personally, I opt for the falafel döner over more traditional veal or chicken.  Fair warning: your breath will smell strongly of garlic and onions once you're done.


Basically a higher quality hotdog.  What are Germans known for? 1. Meet 2. Beer 3. Cars (a bit irrelevant, but still very true)  Put your faith in their meet expertise and buy the inexplicably cheap bratwurst off the street and enjoy.


By mluevano17

In many ways, the classes that I am taking at SOAS have both supported and challenged my identity. I chose to take Politics of Gender, which has been my first experience in a class that studies gender. This class exposed me to many different ways of thinking about gender, not only through feminist thought but also the different ways in which the LGBTQ community and even masculinity has been studied all over the world. This class helped to reaffirm my identity as a feminist, but also evolve that identity into one that examines gender not specifically in the female sense but also in the ways in which everyone is affected by ideas and prejudices about gender. ...continue reading "Evolving Identities"

By practiceyogadistrict

A friend from home asked me last week what my favorite thing that happened to me was that week. Here is how I answered her:

At 10:30pm I returned home from dinner out with friends at a restaurant in downtown Khon Kaen. A few minutes after I had stepped through the door, my roommate Kim strolls into the room. She had just returned from a ceremony where the first years in her faculty received their special faculty belt buckles for their uniforms. She immediately started changing out of her very formal uniform into her usual jeans and T-shirt, then asked me if I wanted to go get milk with her and her friends. First I was confused by what she meant by going to get ‘milk’ thinking maybe it was slang for beer or something. It’s not. She meant milk. Though it had been an extremely long day and I was neuwai maak (very tired), I decided to go.

I hopped on the back of her moto-sci (motorcycle), and we drove through the humid night to a very hipster café. It met all of my standards of what necessitates a cool café—raw brick walls, spiral staircase up to the second floor/loft, a comfy couch, random art, and a guitar. Turns out, asking someone to go to milk with you is the same as asking someone to go to coffee, except in Thailand many of the drinks that you order at a café are some form of sweet milk. Kim’s friend arrived shortly after we did. We had ordered one of the best Thai desserts, a crepe cake (layers of crepe and cream, ours had banana in it too). Kim proudly introduced me as her American roommate, and forced me to speak Thai to her friend, and forced her friend to speak English to me. I discovered halfway through our conversation that I was the first farrang (foreigner) he had ever spoken English with besides his farrang professors. What a separate world this is.

Around midnight as Kim and I were on our way home singing Beatles at the top of our lungs, Kim declared we were going to Karaoke. I thought maybe she meant we should go to Karaoke another night, but she meant right then. We pulled up to a building that looked a bit like a renovated motel with a bright sign that declared that we were at the karaoke ‘place’. I say place because I naturally was expecting a karaoke bar, the logical place to sing karaoke. But this was Thai-style karaoke. Any group of people, small or large, that wants to sing karaoke rents a room for an hour, equipped with the appropriate number of microphones, a large speaker, and a flat screen TV for the lyrics and background music video. There I was with my roommate, one room, two microphones, too much Adam Levine, a bit of Adele, for one full hour. It’s these sorts of small, slightly strange experiences that I hope to not forget when I return to the states.

By Ashlyn

I'm a bit more than halfway through my semester here in Denmark, and I feel as though I have adjusted fairly well to my home here in the city. Though I do miss my friends, family and boyfriend back in the United States, I am not hit with frequent pangs of full-on homesickness like I was at the beginning of my time abroad. There are some big differences between missing home and being homesick -- the homesick feeling is definitely much more intense and depressing. Sometimes it becomes all you can think about.

I experienced the brunt of my homesick feelings in the first quarter of my time in Copenhagen, but as time passed and I began to experience new and exciting things, those feelings faded into the background. For anyone interested in studying abroad in the future, or just being away from home for a long time, there are a few things that you can do to help cope with your homesickness.

Get out of the house. Any time you're feeling down, the urge to stay indoors and cuddle up with Netflix is usually strong. Resist the urge. The more you force yourself to go out, the more you set yourself up to have positive experiences in your new environment -- whether that means seeing a neat exhibit at a local museum, meeting a new friend in your host country, or just getting to take in some sunshine. The more positive experiences you have abroad, the better you'll begin to feel, and the less time you'll have to dwell on your homesickness.

Find some pals. Going abroad can be a very alienating experience. It moves you away from your friends and family -- and from the familiarity of your home university or hometown. But, luckily, going abroad sets up a good opportunity to make some new friends. All abroad students already have something in common with one another -- talk to people, learn more about them and where they're from, and try to form some connections. Building a good support group abroad is important.

Don't hang on your phone. Or your tablet, or your laptop, or any other electronic device. Step away. Put it down. The more you make yourself completely available at all times to your friends and family back home, the less you make yourself available to the opportunities and people who surround you while abroad. If you talk constantly to your parents, friends, or boyfriend, you won't be paying attention as well to the world around you. Also, the more you keep in frequent touch with people, the more you will miss them. It may seem counter-intutitve to what your homesick heart is telling you, but the best thing that you can do for homesickness is to spend some time away from your electronics and from the influence of the folks back home.