By Ty Malcolm
Well... this is it! Last blog post! In about a week, I'll be returning to the States. Via Berlin and Chicago, I'll make it to Kansas City after around 15 hours in-transit. YIKES! I'll spend a week at home with the family before jetting off to Washington for the spring semester. I'm not too sad about leaving, because I plan to return for graduate school. Since this experience was such a success for me, I thought it would be good to sum up my experience in Vienna for anyone who's reading this on the GW Study Abroad website, trying to get an idea of what to expect.
For me, Vienna was the perfect mix of study vs free time. In my coursework, I got to visit the HQ of Siemens, and study under the Head of Finance for an international oil company. I picked up a lot of new skills in financial statistics, I improved my German, and I made a ton of new friends. We visited the touristy stuff, the trendy stuff, the "my friend's friend can get us on the list" stuff - from the farthest metro stop East to the farthest metro stop West. The support system for exchange students at the Vienna University of Business and Economics is huge, and students with no German ability can still navigate university life just fine. You receive a lot of pre-departure information from both abroad offices. That said... there are some things that you find out by trial and error! Here were some of mine:
Some things are a simple YES or NO...
EBN Buddy: No
Orientation Program: Yes
Pre-Semester German Course: Yes
Austrian Bank Account: Yes
Whereas other things are a bit more specific...
...continue reading "Summing It All Up"
Being abroad has been different from any other travel experience I’ve had; I am a student, and a tourist, and a traveler, and those multiple identities play a huge role in shaping your experience interacting with new people, cultures, and topographies. In Madurai, I very much felt like a student: I had a routine, was practicing the local language, and was not a part of the hoards of French tourists that I occasionally saw bopping around the Meenakshi Temple.
However, I was by no means an integrated part of the local community. Not being a tourist does not erase positionality or your status as an outsider, but it does mean that you might have the chance to get even a fraction closer to the heart of a community through occupying local spaces, engaging in dialogues you may not have as a tourist, and incorporating community routines into your own life.
In Sri Lanka, the first leg of my post-program travels, there was some feeling of familiarity. Signs had some Tamil writing, autos (or tuk tuks) were the same albeit a variety of colors, and the cuisine was not unfamiliar territory. While my friends and I participated in a number of explicitly tourist activities, I did not yet feel like a tourist. In Malaysia, the number of tourists we were surrounded by definitely increased, but I did not yet feel any particularly striking distance between the community of tourists and residents of Malaysia; there was in many ways a coexistence that I felt made my experience there ultimately more meaningful and educational in understanding and learning about a culture and community I had never even thought of before.
...continue reading "Adventures in Thailand: Being a Tourist"
The biggest challenge for me during my volunteer work was feeling like I fit in at my host organization, ImagiNation Afrika. Although it was run by an American and most of the other people who worked there spoke English, I felt like I should speak French, and most of the time I was really shy so I didn’t talk to people as much as I would have liked to looking back on it now with some 20/20 hindsight. I think I was especially self-conscious of my French-speaking abilities because many Americans are often not very nice to people who go to the US and don’t speak English very well. I doubt people here would have been equally as judgmental but I finally realized that that was the reason I felt so shy.
Things got better when I started working with the Americans at University of Michigan who are helping with the Men na Nekk multimedia project. Feeling like I had something that I was contributing to the organization (there wasn’t very much work to be done towards the beginning) and feeling like I had a reason to be there gave me a better sense of belonging.
Since the Men na Nekk project is still in its beginning stages and there aren’t any visible results yet, it’s hard to say that I feel particularly proud of any accomplishment so far. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep contact with some people at the organization and hear about how the final project turns out. Once I see ImagiNation Afrika start making a difference for real kids in the Casamance, then I’ll definitely feel proud that I was able to at least have a small part in that work.
...continue reading "Final Thoughts"
The last subject I wrote about was the challenges many countries would face now that Donald Trump is our President Elect. Developing countries especially will have a unique battle ahead as Mr. Trump has made it quite clear that his sole focus is on “Making America Great Again”. Despite this upsetting news my friends, family, and colleagues came together to fight for a great cause. Our fundraiser was very successful and the money we raised will go a long way for the refugees. The money that each individual donated will make all the difference in the life of a refugee who wants to pursue his education or even just make it another day with food on the table.
While I am proud we raised money I am even more proud of the fact that we brought something new to the table. P.A.R.I had never before held a fundraiser, which is pretty astounding considering it is a non-profit organization. P.A.R.I has always relied on private donors or the church to support its mission. While this is great, P.A.R.I is really straining to reach as many refugees as possible. By using contacts from the community, it is surprising to see how many people will come together under a great cause (even in a country that frowns upon homosexuality). Then again, compassion is something Senegal has in spades.
...continue reading "The End, but Not Really"
By Ty Malcolm
It's Sunday evening, and I'm back from our 4-day trip to Zell am See, a huge alpine tourist destination in central Austria. Nestled between Lake Zell and several 2000m peaks, this small town serves as a major base-camp for skiing and snowboarding, with taxis, shuttle buses, and cable-cars bringing visitors to their destinations.
Our hotel had a great location - around the corner from the bank, the grocery store, the bus stop, and a few bars.There was also sauna and a rental shop for ski equipment on-site, making our weekend very easy. Breakfast and dinner were included in the price of the trip, and the meals were served for 3 hours each, leaving us free to plan our days how we wanted. 3 people to a room kept things fun, and didn't feel cramped.
...continue reading "Ski Trip to Zell am See"
I've now begun my final two weeks in London, and seeing as though I'm stuck in the stress and pressure of finals week, it seems appropriate to think about what I'm looking forward to doing when I get home.
I'm looking forward to sinking my teeth into some classic New Jersey dishes like pork roll, egg and cheese on a fresh baked bagel and a warm slice of New York-style pizza. It'll also be nice to have some home cooked-meals and not have to worry about buying food or eating at the dining hall.
I'm looking forward to being able to watch the New York Giants play American football without having to stay up until 2 a.m. to watch the game.
I'm hoping to maybe see some snow over winter break.
I, of course, can't wait to spend Christmas and New Years with my family, sitting around the tree and opening presents on Christmas morning. I'm excited to see all my friends from back home who I haven't seen since the summer.
...continue reading "Thinking of home"
My post-program travel has officially commenced, and it’s already going by too quickly! After being in Madurai for so long (well it was really only 3 ½ months but it feels like a lifetime!) I definitely felt myself expecting the rest of my travels to mirror Madurai (maybe minus the salwar and plus some beaches), but thus far each of these new experiences have brought a new palette of delicious food, different cultures, and different colored autos (which in Sri Lanka are called tuk tuks).
My travel companions are two students from my program, which is sort of magical because before studying abroad we had never even heard of each other before! (and now, we find ourselves meandering the streets of Sri Lanka and Malaysia and trying endless new food items together—pretty neat!)
My first stop was Sri Lanka for 5 days, staying mostly in Mt. Lavinia (a beachside town about 20 minutes outside of Colombo) and Colombo (the capital of Sri Lanka). My fellow travelling companions and I also took a day trip to Galle, which was colonized by the Portuguese and is home to the Galle Fort, a very popular tourist destination featuring a lighthouse and colonial Portuguese architecture.
Along the way, we stopped at a turtle hatchery run by the Sri Lankan government with the intention of preserving the widely diverse sea turtle population as well as a mask and puppet museum featuring traditional Sri Lankan puppets and masks hailing from Kandy (often referred to as Sri Lanka’s cultural capital).
...continue reading "Adventures in south Asia: first stop Sri Lanka!"
By Ty Malcolm
That's right -- I'm talking about the Austrian one! In the Spring of 2016, Austrians attempted to elect their new Bundespräsident, without success. Here's how it happened:
April 2016: First Round
- Social Democratic Party SPÖ - Rudolf Hundstorfer*
- Austrian People's Party ÖVP - Andreas Khol*
- Freedom Party FPÖ - Norbert Hofer
- Independent - Alexander Van der Bellen
- Independent - Irmgard Griss
- Independent - Richard Lugner
I've marked the first two candidates with *, because they were the members of the two major parties currently in government in Austria. It makes sense that if your party is already in government, there's a good chance that people will vote for you. But here's how the results broke down:
- Hofer (35%)
- Van der Bellen (21%)
- Griss (19%)
Neither of the * candidates made it past the first round! So already, the election was shaping up to be interesting. The Austrian people simply weren't interested in continuing with the same parties they had, leading to a historic upset. Since no candidate got a majority, they had to do a run-off vote between the Top 2.
...continue reading "The OTHER 2016 Presidential Election"
With my time abroad coming to a close, I am able to reflect back on my semester in Madrid. I think I was extremely idealistic at the beginning of the semester, particularly in terms of my Spanish-speaking level. I have learned so much, and definitely have improved more in this semester than in the past 10 years of studying Spanish. With that being said, however, I do not think it is possible to be fluent in a language after only 4 months of complete immersion. Whenever I am speaking to a waiter or a store worker or even someone on the street, I start by warning them that Spanish is not my first language. I am a conversational level, and my host family tells me I am too hard on myself but I think I am just so anxious to be fluent!
...continue reading "2 More Weeks"
Prior to coming to Paris, I considered myself to be a very open minded individual. I saw myself as the lily-livered bleeding-heart liberal who was receptive to all thought processes and ideas. While I still believe this to a degree, throughout my time in Europe, I have been confronted with challenges that have tested this identity.
In some aspects, it has been strengthened. For example; the issue of race and ethnicity in France is widely different than what it is in the United States. Because of the varied pasts with race relations between the U.S. and France, there are some obvious differences that come with the territory. But after being taught by French professors on issues of race and immigration in France, after meeting and speaking with children and grand-children of Algerian, Moroccan, Tunisian immigrants, I now see that France is a place where race is rarely dealt with in a way which furthers the conversation to a more inclusive conclusion. I have seen only fractions of the reasons why French politicians such as Marine Le Pen (France’s answer to Donald Trump and Nigel Farage), have risen to power. I have become more thankful for the diversity around me in America, the diversity that has never stopped speaking up against injustice. I still see the United States as a country that has, throughout its history, impeded in the natural rights of people of all minorities. We’ve progressed, there’s no denying, but after the past few years where this issue is once again being pushed into our national discourse – it seems as if we are regressing to a time of divisiveness and hatred that we haven’t seen since it was codified as laws. Especially after this election. ...continue reading "Being Fiercely Latino Means A Lot More to me Now."