My first week in London has been a bit of a roller coaster ride. It has been a whirlwind of new and unique experiences. Each day almost feels like a week in itself.
First of all, if you're planning to study abroad in the U.K., I'd highly recommend not coming through Ireland. I did because it was a cheaper fare, but it was a mistake. If you come through Ireland, you don't go through immigration upon arrival in the U.K. which means I wasn't able to get my student visa on arrival as I planned.
It wasn't a pleasant experience landing alone in a foreign country for the first time and having customer service at the airport tell you that they "don't have a clue" how you could get a visa that you need to enroll at your new University in three days.
Luckily, after consulting with GW England staff I was able to get the visa, but only after taking a last minute EuroStar train to Paris and then returning to London the same day so I could reenter the U.K. and get the visa, the night before I had to officially enroll at UCL. I know, you don't feel bad for me that I "had" to go to Paris and truth be told the city was magical... during the 90 minutes I spent there.
...continue reading "A Whirlwind First Week"
By Ty Malcolm
In my last blog post, I gave some good options for cheap food in Vienna. But as you might expect from a onetime imperial capital, experiencing Vienna in all its glory has always required a lot of Thaler (1800's), Schillings (1900's), and in 2016, Euros.
One easy possibility for a cheap excursion from Vienna is the Slovakian capital of Bratislava.
Also located along the Danube River, Bratislava is the largest city in Slovakia. It has around 450,000 inhabitants, and although it is only 60 miles away it has a much more eastern European feel compared to Vienna.
...continue reading "How-To: 24 Hours in Slovakia"
Greetings from Dakar,
I have quickly realized that my favorite experience here is and will continue to be my internship at P.A.R.I. For those of you who did not read my first blog, P.A.R.I is a non-profit organization that helps immigrants and refugees gain access to healthcare, housing, micro-loans, and more. Most refugees have fled the Gambia because they get killed for their sexual orientation.
Upon arriving on my first day I felt very nervous. Looking around I realized that P.A.R.I was a Catholic organization that worked closely with the Vatican. I felt they might judge me for not practicing despite being baptized catholic. When we began the day by sitting down to prayer I panicked. I did not even know the prayers in English, much less in French!
Was I supposed to pretend to pray? Close my eyes? Oh my God I do not even know how to do the sign of the Cross. Jesus, I just said the Lord’s name in vain. Help.
...continue reading "United Through Our Differences"
By Ty Malcolm
In a country where drink refills cost money and you don't have a meal plan, sometimes it seems daunting, trying to budget for food. If you aren't cooking for yourself, here's where to eat in Vienna when you're on a budget! For reference: for every €10 you throw in 2016, you are paying between $11 and $12.
DER WIENER DEEWAN
This has to be #1 on the cheap eats list, because it's free. Well... almost. You pay whatever you want! At this Pakistani buffet restaurant in the 9th district, only drinks have a set price. The food consists of several chicken, beef, and vegetarian options to put on rice or bread. You can go back for as many plates as you want! Since I usually order a drink besides water, I hand over a €10 bill and just say "Danke" (German for "thanks," but Austrian code for "I don't need any change back"). But in theory, you could drink water and eat the buffet and pay €2 or €3. But the food is so good, and the staff is so friendly, you won't want to short-change anyone! Great area downstairs if you have a large group. ...continue reading "Top 5 Cheap Eats in Vienna"
One of my favorite parts about my study abroad experience thus far has been living with my host family. I have found them to be one of the greatest sources of comfort and support when I encounter a touch of culture shock and general uncertainty in my day to day lifestyle. My family has been hosting students for over ten years and has seen the kinds of challenges students encounter while living in Madurai and as such have become old hats at helping students adjust accordingly.
We are encouraged to call our host family members by Tamil kinship terms (ammaa for mother and appaa for father, etc.). In the Tamil language, using kinship terms to refer to others even if they are not biologically related to you is often a sign of respect or affection. For example, children may refer to older women they look up to or know well as aunty and people may refer to men outside of their family who they respect as tampi (younger brother).
...continue reading "Finding Support in Your Host Family"
My first few hours in London have been a whirlwind. It's a unique experience landing, for the first time, an ocean away from home on a completely different continent with about 40 minutes of sleep under your belt.
Everything should be, and truly was exciting from riding the train past the post-card worthy thatched roof houses in the English countryside and riding The Underground for the first time to eating my first meal of fish and chips.
...continue reading "First impressions"
I feel like I'm settling in well at ImagiNation Afrika. A great group of people work there and I've really enjoyed starting to get to know them! The organization just ended their summer session summer camps, and for the past several weeks, they’ve been closed in order to transition to the fall trimester. Each trimester has a theme; this one is all about transportation.
I’ve been helping where I can during the transition, painting big posters of cars and trucks and trying to think of ideas for new play area designs for the kids. I’ve been working mostly on creating a “message house” for the organization, which is basically a clear way of stating three key messages to go along with a blanket statement, which are then supported by evidence. The blanket statement in this case is “play is the best way for children to learn”. I’ve been doing a lot of research into how play affects brain development and learning, and the three key points I come up with will then be incorporated into brochures and pamphlets for donors to learn more about the organization.
...continue reading "Settling In"
In my program, my coursework is centered largely on anthropological theory and concepts with a decent amount of overlapping sociological themes. One of my favorite classes I am taking this semester is a sociology/women’s studies course entitled Gender, Caste, and Politics. The course is taught by Professor Tiphagne, an incredible professor from Lady Doak College, the largest all-women’s college in Madurai.
Professor Tiphagne is a wealth of knowledge about how sociological phenomenon play out in India’s caste system and how these broader concepts are intrinsically tied to and greatly influence definitions of gender in society. Professor Tiphagne’s lectures and discussion of the coursework was not unfamiliar to me; my sociology classes are continually taught by professors engaging with coursework with an intersectional framework.
...continue reading "Studying Sociology in Madurai"
This time next week I will finally be in London. I will finally be able to use this space to write about my actual study abroad experience (instead of speculating about what it will be like or writing about my dull preparation.) Next week, I will finally be able to offer impressions of England, my thoughts on traveling alone thousands of miles across an ocean and what's it has been like to live in a foreign country (at least for a night or two).
But at this point it's all still theoretical, almost imaginary. Big Ben, Tower Bridge, UCL, my soon-to-be dorm room, all still seem like another world, a world that I've always wanted to visit, but that still feels inaccessible in a certain way.
...continue reading "The Waiting Game"
As part of my program, students are encouraged to take an “Expressive Cultures” class in addition to their regular coursework. There are a variety of classes offered, ranging from lessons on the Veena (Indian guitar), Henna art, Silambam (Indian stick fighting), to classes on Indian cooking and yoga. I like the idea of integrating classes like this into my experience abroad because it really allows for me to engage with some of the broader cultural concepts I am learning about in my academic coursework. I also think the act of attending these classes pushes you to be more present rather than constantly being occupied by concerns regarding upcoming assignments and just generally being too preoccupied with future tasks.
For my Expressive Cultures class, I have elected to take a beginner’s Bollywood Dance class. Naturally I shy away from activities that require me to have any sense of rhythm or strategic coordination of my arms and legs. Typically, my favorite (and only) kind of dancing may affectionately be described as “enthusiastic” (or more accurately enthusiastically spastic).
...continue reading "The Adventures of an Uncoordinated American in a Bollywood Dance Class"