What Brought Me Here:
Study Abroad is something that I’ve always seen as a necessity, rather than an option. My allegiance to this experience was evident as early as high school when I narrowed down which colleges to apply to based on which administrations had the most support for study abroad.
After years of fantasizing about this experience, I’ve made it to in Paris, France through the IES Business and International Affairs program. I have always been attracted to French culture and language. I started studying French seriously in Middle School and completed a cultural exchange in Marseille when I was sixteen. My time in Marseille was a magical bildungsroman moment. In those two weeks, I discovered who I wanted to be, and what I wanted to do with my life. I realized I was an adventurous, extroverted spirit, that I reveled in challenge, and that I found fulfillment in culture. Don’t you just love that word? Culture. In summary, I realized there was more out there in the world for me. I knew my time in France wasn’t done. From the moment I left France in 2013, I knew I’d be back in Paris in a few years for study abroad.
...continue reading "Old Dreams, New Adventures"
This is a question I have received A LOT since making the decision to study abroad in Dakar, especially within the last couple of weeks as I prepared for my departure. I have noticed that the answer I give to this question varies depending on who is asking. My close friends and family tended to ask why I chose to study abroad in Senegal with genuine curiosity. They wanted to learn more about what went into making this decision, and to hear about the kind of experiences that I could have.
HOWEVER, the majority of reactions I received usually followed the same predictable dialogue consisting of, “Where is that?” to which I would say “West Africa,” which usually produced a contemptuous tone when they would proceed to ask, “why??” coupled with a face that bordered somewhere between confusion, judgment, shock, and distaste, along with the occasional offensive comment.
While most reactions were not that extreme, a common thread and I think the worst part of these interactions has been seeing the immediate reactionary facial expressions to the word, “Africa”. My friends at GW were pretty much all so supportive and inquisitive, that when I came home for winter break the blatant racism that I sometimes saw from my coworkers and complete strangers directed towards an entire continent was shocking. I hope to be able to know how to react better to these comments upon my return.
...continue reading "So why Senegal??"
I've been bouncing around Cape Town, South Africa for four days as of now. The first week of my SIT program is an orientation. On the first day the academic director, Stewart, actually dropped us off at a random place in the city and told us to find our assigned destination. My group was assigned the Greenpoint Stadium--the stadium that was built for the World Cup in 2010. We walked MILES to find our way there and introduced ourselves to the public transportation system in Cape Town.
When we got there, we noticed a very large crowd. There was a day-long performance competition going on to celebrate the freedom of the slaves. My small group bought a ticket for 60 rand each and had so much fun listening to the music and watching the performances. This first day was hectic so I was excited to be able to relax at Bloudenberg Strand (strand means "beach" in Afrikaans) and Buffelsfontein the next day.
I can't even begin to explain the beauty that was Buffelsfontein. We learned that this word means "Buffalo Fountain" in Afrikaans. Buffelsfontein is a wildlife reserve that we spent three nights on. My entire cohort of 24 people stayed in a home with glass windows that allowed us to see the animals roam the reserve around us. I woke up to the cutest family of zebras outside my window in the morning!
...continue reading "Wildebeests, Rhinos, Giraffes, OH MY"
It has now been exactly one week since I arrived in Senegal, but it has been one of the longest weeks of my life. I think I was still in denial that I was studying abroad until leaving the airport in Dakar, but it has been a whirlwind since then. A few CIEE staff members were waiting for us after we got our luggage, and we took a small bus/van to immediately drop us off at our respective homestays.
The three neighborhoods in Dakar where CIEE students are placed are Ouakam (where I live), Mermoz, and Sacre-Cœur 3. Ouakam is the only neighborhood that requires using public transport to go to the study center. When I originally found this out, I was a bit apprehensive considering I still go the wrong way on the DC metro or completely miss my stop when I don’t pay enough attention. After having taken the bus for a week now, I realize that the 30 minute commute has helped me to better orient myself and get to know the other 10 students who live in Ouakam.
Originally when I got off of the bus, it seemed a little abrupt going straight to my homestay from the airport, especially since I was one of the first to be dropped off. When we arrived my host brother was waiting for me and he drove me back to the house. It was a fast drive, but on the way he asked me a couple of questions (still have no clue what he was saying) and when I gave him the deer in headlights face that my whole family is probably used to at this point, he said, “Don’t you speak French???” My comprehension has improved a good amount since then, so I think I just needed time to adjust to the Senegalese accent as well as how quickly they speak.
...continue reading ""Don’t you speak French???""
Five months ago, I packed my whole life into two suitcases and boarded a flight to London to take part in a year-long exchange program at the London School of Economics. I had chosen the program because I wanted to really immerse myself in a new school system, and I was excited to take part in all that London had to offer. But when I first landed in London, I first realized what a big commitment I had made: the metro was the “Tube”, I could barely understand the accents, and why did everyone keep asking “You OK?” (turns out, that’s British for “how are you?”).
But I quickly fell in love with London through far too many afternoon teas, lots of palaces, and walks along the Thames River. It was an interesting time to be in London – in the wake of Brexit, much of London seemed to be confused as to how Britain could have voted to leave the EU. A lot of my coursework focused on European governments and EU politics, and I learned that free migration was the biggest threat for many who voted to leave. I was dismayed by the fearful rhetoric towards minorities, not just in Britain, but also in the lead-up to the U.S. election and across the European continent.
...continue reading "Studying Abroad and Social Entrepreneurship"
The week is finally here. What was once “Oh, I’m going to Russia in February” has turned to “I’m going to Russia on Thursday”. And although I still don’t speak Russian or know anything about my host family, I could not be more excited to go abroad.
The nerves, of course, are inevitable. There are a lot of unknowns about my semester in Russia and not knowing how to prepare for these can be frustrating for me. Yet I’ve come to the conclusion that as much as I would love to have everything figured out and know exactly what I’m doing, I just simply cannot. I can read my program’s handbook forwards and backwards (which I have done), but there are bound to be many things about my semester that will be out of my control. Coming to terms with this has been a little tough, as I am one who likes to be grossly prepared for everything. But I have turned those nerves of the unknown into feelings of excitement for the challenges that lay ahead.
I am looking forward to all of it- the adventures, the obstacles, and everything I will learn in the process. I am excited to meet my host family, adapt to the cultural differences, and fully immerse myself in the Russian way of life. I’m eager to meet Russian students and hear their views on things like politics and international issues, and I am eager to learn enough Russian vocabulary that I can then contribute to the conversation with views of my own. Things are going to be pretty different over there. But instead of letting that scare me, I am allowing it to excite me. Taking this perspective has made the preparation process much more relaxing and fun.
...continue reading "Let the Countdown Begin"
Welcome back! I've been in Amman for just about a week now and things are going swimmingly. I never truly expected the Arabic spoken here to be so vastly different than what I've learned in class but alas - here I am trying to understand someone asking me if I ate breakfast and I'm responding with "No, I didn't read the newspaper this morning". Arabic is tough.
I thought I could take some time to talk about traditional Jordanian food. Coming to Jordan, all anyone had told me was to prepare myself for shawarma and falafel - totally true. Some of the most famous restaurants in Amman are just shawarma booths on the side of the road. But, there is so much more to Jordanian food than just hummus and falafel.
We'll start with pita - the staple to Jordanian cuisine. In Egypt, pita is so integral to every dish that the word in Egyptian dialect for pita is "life". While the Jordanians don't take up this spoken servitude towards the staple, I haven't had a meal without it. Pita is used as the medium through which you eat everything else - potato salad? Pita. Hummus? Pitta. Ground beef? Pita. In eating all of these dishes you'll tear off a piece of your pita, dish the pita into the central dish (being sure to only take from your side of the dish) and wala - you're eating just like a Jordanian.
Ask any Jordanian what some traditional Jordanian dishes are and you might be in for a long talk about pan Arabism and how traditional Jordanian dishes don't actually exist. But some of the favorites here are:
...continue reading "Traditional Foods"
I am studying with DIS- Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. I have been studying here since August, but by October I loved it so much that I decided to stay. I went home for winter break and have now been back for about two weeks. I am still adjusting to returning and having to make new friends all over again since most of the friends I met last semester were only here for the fall.
At first being abroad was a pretty lonely experience, even though I made new friends right away, it was hard to be so far from my family and friends who I had known for longer than a week. I felt a lot more comfortable and connected to Copenhagen when I began to meet and hangout with Danes. I went to improv comedy workshops at the Improv Comedy Copenhagen (ICC) Theater and I’ve made great friends from there.
The ICC Theater and Café is a café by day and an improv training center, and theater for shows by night. The café and shows are volunteer run from making coffee, to selling tickets and operating the lights, etc. I am volunteering with them by photographing/filming the shows, as well as working at the café during the day. The purchases from the café go to the costs of maintaining a theater space.
...continue reading "Study Abroad Round Two"
I made a German friend this week.
A week and a half into my study abroad experience I have finally made my first non-American friend. I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed because it took so long, but I’m happy it happened. Since most of my classes are with 1 to 3 of the other kids in my GW Madrid program, its very hard to meet other students. However, that all changed this week when I had a meeting for the law school. After the orientation, all the students were marched down to the basement, where in an aggressive, yet effective maneuver, we were all locked in the basement and forced to socialize and eat stale h'orderves.
...continue reading "On Opposite Charges and German Friends"
When telling people about my study abroad plans, without fail, someone would always say, "Make sure you tell them you're from Canada."
I nodded and laughed but dismissed the thought in my mind.
But when strolling through the Athenian streets or trying to purchase something from the grocery store or even attempting to read a sign- I feel like a huge burden. I'm learning a little Greek- just the basics. But let's be real for a second...how annoying would it be for some random tourist coming into your shop not speaking your language, not familiar with your money expecting service?
This experience is all the more reason to fully immerse myself in Greece. I want to learn the language and the culture. I want to stop being a tourist.
On Tuesday night I learned how to say 'what's your name?' For those curious, it's 'Πώς σας λένε;' pronounced pos se lene. I decided to try it out on the grocer who lives down the street from me. I spoke English with my friend as we entered but when we got to the cash register I tried to speak Greek. The complete visible difference in the man's face was incredible. He perked up; he smiled. He served us with a totally different attitude than when we entered the store.
...continue reading "I’m from….Canada?"