It's a strange thing watching momentous events in your home country on the "international news." Especially when what happened in itself is so bewildering and distressing. Hearing the reaction of foreign media talking about a potential strongman taking power and a massive protest movement mobilizing in response, you could close your eyes and easily think it was in some far flung corner of the world. I'd heard talk like that on the news many times, but never about America, never about home.
I'm talking of course about the presidential election. I stayed up until dawn watching the results in London and, then since I was on fall break, headed to Amsterdam to spend a couple of days away. Of course my tour group of American study abroad students wanted to talk about what happened and my Dutch tour guide wondered "why Americans always do things that are irrational." One unexpected thing about studying abroad, not only do you learn more about other countries, but you learn more about your own.
...continue reading "Fear and fun in Amsterdam"
By Ty Malcolm
"Oh, you're going abroad in the fall! So... you're going to miss the election?"
Last spring, when I got confirmation that I would be going to Vienna through FOFAC, this was a response I kept getting. Not an unusual question to receive from GW students - we live blocks from the White House, we walk the monuments, we work on the Hill. For students as politically active as those at GW, an election year is special. I didn't have really have an answer ready.
"Well...yeah, I guess?"
My original entry point for the EU was actually Germany, where I had a short layover before Vienna. The expandable hallway from the plane to the airport terminal had a TV, and I don't think I will ever forget: the first thing I saw upon entering Europe for my semester abroad was a scowling Donald Trump on a flatscreen TV. This was just the beginning of my expat American election experience, and with the Europeans' fascination for it.
...continue reading "My Election Experience Abroad"
I am about to hit the three month mark on my study abroad experience and I can safely say that I have become a better person because of it. At GW, as great as it is, one can feel like a plankton in the entire Atlantic ocean; simply being in a smaller group has allowed me to expand the exploration of my identity. Even before coming to Paris I knew that I was adventurous; a cautious risk-taker, a pragmatist-- these thoughts have been reinforced by my community through the challenges/opportunities that have been presented to me. For example, every other weekend, some friends and I open a map of Europe and randomly point to a city which we will then proceed to jump on train to with our EURail pass. This method of travelling has taken me to day-trips in Berlin, a weekend in Poland and a week in Venice. This, of course, is done during days where classes are not held.
...continue reading "3 Months In"
I place a lot of my cultural roots in food. It is how I feel connected to my family and my heritage but also how I can learn about a new culture. I am half Sierra Leonean and half Irish and mealtime is extremely important in both cultures. Sitting down and having meals is one of the best times to learn about someone else’s triumphs and struggles. My host family sits down for dinner as a family every night at 10pm. I note the time because of how late Spaniards eat dinner. That timing of meals has definitely been something to get used to but it also helps you understand the set up of Spanish culture. Lunch is late, around 2 or 3pm and followed by a siesta. Lunch is the largest meal of the day, usually a meat and vegetable dish. After siesta, people go back to work and after work might get tapas or something small to eat then return home by 10pm for dinner which is a much lighter meal. I love the Spanish eating culture and hopefully I can continue it when I get back to the US. ...continue reading "Culture Through Food"
One of my favorite past times this semester has been watching Tamil television with my ammaa. While I do not know nearly enough Tamil to understand key plot points or jokes in any of the movies we watch, my host mom is extremely patient and utilizes transitional scenes and commercial breaks to explain what’s going on. I find that action movies in particular are incredibly hard to follow, not only because I can only understand maybe one out of every fiftieth word (and that word is usually “go”, “I”, or “like”), but there is so much happening!
One minute the hero is running from a car explosion, and the next minute he’s leading a highly choreographed dance number on top of a snowy mountain with his intended love interest. Then, before I can even figure out where this snowy mountain top is in relation to the rest of the film’s landscape, there’s been a violent altercation with the main villain followed by victory on the part of the hero and a tender embrace with his lady love.
...continue reading "Watching Tamil Movies with Ammaa"
By Ty Malcolm
When you ask people for the business capital of the world, several answers are very popular: New York, London, maybe Tokyo... Vienna is not usually on the list. But there are several large multinational corporations that (despite less-than-ideal tax conditions) call Austria home. One of the largest is an international oil and gas company named OMV. In one way or another, OMV sponsors almost everything in Vienna - even the famous Vienna Philharmonic. (Thanks to OMV, opera-enthusiasts can stream performances live.) OMV also has several literature collections, lecture halls, and workrooms on our campus. One of my courses, International Energy Strategies, is taught by a professor working in the financial office of OMV. Because of this tight connection with Vienna and the University of Economics, I thought it was worth giving an overview of the company, and the course they offer on campus.
...continue reading "Only at WU: An Energy Education"
By Ty Malcolm
No traveling this weekend! I have to stay in town and work on a midterm presentation. Hoping to head to Paris in 2 weeks, then Berlin the weekend after! In the meantime... Here are some of the apps and websites I've found most useful while abroad:
This is the app that the Viennese love to hate! It's the dedicated app for Vienna's U-Bahn (subway) and Straßenbahn (tram) systems. (Google Maps won't cut it here in Vienna!) The tram system is where it is especially useful - while many people know the subway by heart, few take the time to remember the tram routes criss-crossing the city. Often, you can accomplish with one tram the same journey that might take 2 or 3 different subway transfers. It has all the timetables integrated, so you'll rarely spend time waiting on a train. My only complaint is that it's not the easiest app to use as a novice. If you like to walk, or if you know your destination, don't use it... but if you're going someplace new, it's worth a look to see if a tram will cut your commute in half.
Enough. No more trying to text someone with your new Austrian number. "Stop resisting!" and go download WhatsApp. It's better than iMessage, it's better than Facebook Messenger. Seriously, I'm dreading the thought of going back to the United States and someone texting me... YIKES. Drake uses WhatsApp when he's abroad, be like Drake. Your UK tings will appreciate it.
...continue reading "Life Pro-Tip: Download the App"
Diwali season has descended upon Madurai and your uncoordinated American is back to report on her forays into the exuberant, powerful, absolutely astonishing world of Tamil and Bollywood dancing. For a little context, Diwali holds different meanings across the different states in India. Commonly known as the festival of lights, Diwali in south India is a celebration of the vanquishing of demons (how cool is that?!). The studio where I and other SITA students take dance class hosted its own Diwali celebration on Tuesday, and they invited us to partake in the festivities and perform the dance we have been working on (much to our surprise, our dance instructor had full confidence that we were ready to perform in front of an audience of talented dancers).
The studio had been decorated with a multitude of pastel balloons, sparkly fabrics, and a beautiful kolam in the reception area surrounded by little flames and flowers. We were offered coffee with cardamom, milk sweets, chocolate cake, and samosas. Sweets are a big part of Diwali festivities! We were the first to perform our dance, and made it through the whole number with enthusiasm and minimal errors (at least that’s how it felt; perhaps our dance instructor would beg to differ).
...continue reading "Diwali, Dancing, and Soan Papdi"
One of the things that I fear will happen the longer I stay here is that it will all start to feel routine. Waking up, going to class, reading at the library, eating dinner at the dining hall, going to sleep and waking up the next day and doing it all over again. There's a danger for me that after a while I won't recognize that I'm some place special, I won't appreciate that I'm in the midst of an experience that I've been looking forward to for years.
Some people would say that's natural, that living in a place (even for only a few months) will take away that special newness when you first arrive, but after a while you get a know a place intimately, as a kind of home and not just a tourist destination. I think there's truth to that, but still I don't want to wake up thinking the city and this experience has somehow turned ordinary.
...continue reading "My Favorite Walk in London"
With only six weeks left here in Senegal, I am awestruck by how fast time has passed. Still, there are points where time seems to completely stop which I attribute to the fact that doing things quickly is not the Senegalese way. This doesn’t mean that productivity does not exist. At my internship, my colleagues take a two-hour lunch break to eat, relax, and pray. At first, I thought that we were wasting time considering how many refugees came seeking help and were waiting on us. After sitting in on interviews I saw how thorough my colleagues were. They made the refugees feel safe and comfortable while discerning to what extent we were able to help. As I signed in the refugees to the center everyone would take the time to ask me how I was doing. Even more amazing? They genuinely want to know.
As my French is progressing I am able to communicate more with my coworkers, but also with the refugees. I have heard horrendous stories of torture and abuse, but I have also witnessed the lengths people go to survive in a society that turned its back on them. During home visits, we assess the living situation. Nine times out ten the refugees are living in cramped and unsafe conditions. The buildings are badly built and as many as three people may have to share one bed. Seeing these things every week has humbled me to no end because it has reminded me that people all over the world don’t have access to basic needs. When I find myself missing home or even the simplest luxury that I may not have in Dakar, I remind myself the unbelievable fortune I have just to have the opportunity to study abroad.
...continue reading "Keeping It Real In Dakar"