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By kennatim

Looking back, the biggest shock when I arrived in Ireland was how American I realized I was. I have been fortunate enough to travel overseas prior to this trip, but to become a resident of another country was not an easy task. The change forced me to realize how much I relied and focused on American culture and way of life. I hunted for Oreos in numerous supermarkets, wore my backwards hats, and overly embraced my foreignness. Now my room here at DCU is filled with an American flag, an American flag towel, American flag backpack, American flag flip flops, and an American flag duvet cover with a matching American flag pillowcase.

While I have continued to embrace my home culture and individualism, I have slowly embraced a more European way of life and made sure to try new things. At the very minimum, I have evolved from my over-the-top American flag shopping spree. Throughout our time in Ireland and our travels to other cities, we have frequently used the adjective “euro.” My wardrobe is now a little more “euro” after buying a couple pieces of clothing at a local store. I am a little more euro in that I can now look the right way when crossing a street. I say “sorry” instead of excuse me, which is an easy way for Irish to spot foreigners.

When I was in Brussels, I visited European Parliament, and on nights out I made friends from Austria to Egypt. In Scotland we visited a local food market and I made sure to try as many local fares as I could (but I could not bring myself to eat haggis.) In Paris, I became an expert on the sprawling Paris metro system. This time I was a bit more adventurous when I tried roasted duck and absolutely loved it. We drank wine and ate croissants and crepes in every corner of the city.

I am so glad I have been evolving into someone more comfortable with a culture, attitude, and home that is not my own. It has been great to get to mainland Europe as well to compare/contrast not just the U.S. and Ireland, but the U.S., Ireland, Scotland, France, Belgium, etc. I have a few trips left and about a month in Dublin. I will be leaving behind so much but come back a person with a better level of cultural understanding. The transition back might not be easy but I will make it through. Even if that means covering everything in my room with an Irish flag.


Segway stop at the Temple of Debod!

This week, one of my dearest friends came to visit me in Madrid and of course the pressure was on to show her the time of her life. I wanted desperately for her to fall in love with Madrid, just like I had. The days leading up to Rita’s arrival, I kept making mental notes of things to go see, and places to eat. I soon realized that I hadn't even visited half of the things on my list. I then got to thinking that maybe, as students studying abroad, too much pressure is placed on us to “blend in,” and try our best to achieve the “local experience.” But, how are we truly supposed to learn about a country, if we don’t experience the touristic sites it is famous for? Still, to this day, there are famous spots in Madrid that I have yet to visit—the so called “tourist traps.”

The Gasparini room in the Royal Palace of Madrid

At this point, I was feeling like I missed out on the tourist experience, simply because I felt it wasn't the “cultural” thing to do. So, what was there to do but book a Segway tour? On a glorious Thursday afternoon, Rita and I hopped on and mastered the Segway. We had a wonderful tour guide named Alex, who led us on our brave and courageous conquest of all things “tourist” in Madrid. We went to spots like the Temple of Debod, an Egyptian temple that was deconstructed and then gifted to Spain as a thank-you for Spanish aid after the construction of the Aswan High Dam posed a threat to precious historical monuments, and the spot where the body of Miguel de Cervantes was uncovered after 400 years. Even though by the end of it, the backs of my knees were locked up and my feet were aching, riding around Madrid on a Segway was one of the coolest things I have ever done. Of course, we got the occasional “Oh, you tourists,” glares, but we were having too much fun to care. It's sad to think I may have not had my Segway experience all because I was too afraid of seeming like a tourist in my host country.

Even after our tour, I found myself visiting places with Rita that I, too, had never been to. We toured the inside of the Royal Palace of Madrid, which was surprisingly comparable to the lavish style of Versailles. My favorite part of the palace was the Gasparini Room where King Carlos III dressed and greeted guests. In this room, porcelain vines and flowers clung to every wall—even the ceiling. Rita and I also made a stop at the supposed best place for “chocolate con churros” in Madrid. I had never been here, because I was told “other places were better,” but experiencing such a landmark for myself was definitely a worthwhile experience.

Maybe I got too carried away with myself, or maybe too much pressure was placed upon me to have an authentic Madrileño experience. Whichever the case, I should have tried harder to find a balance between local and tourist. Why did I really care if people thought of me as a tourist? What is so bad about visiting a foreign country and wanting to see and learn about its famous sites? This is a question that is rarely addressed in the study abroad community, but most definitely should be. I think it would spark an interesting, yet thought-provoking debate.

Rowing boats in Retiro Park, like a typical tourist.


By jdippel529

This past weekend, I went to Amsterdam along with a couple of the students from my program. Long story short, I loved it. The people, the food, the architecture, and the museums were all wonderful. I think its safe to say that the Dutch culture captured my heart. The most memorable part of the trip, however, was seeing the Anne Frank House.

I first learned of Anne’s story in middle school, when we were assigned to read The Diary of a Young Girl. From then on, the story of Anne Frank and her years hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust had become a part of history for me. I felt a connection to Anne because she was this young, teenage girl who was able to create this incredible empathy inside of me even long after she was gone. Never, until I came to her museum in Amsterdam, did it really occur to me that she had this effect on people of all genders, ages and places of the world.

Most of my time abroad has consisted of learning and adapting to differences in culture, but at the Anne Frank House I experienced something entirely different. People from all countries and walks of life had come to this very place in Amsterdam to pay tribute and learn more about Anne. Even the audio tour guides came in about 20 different languages. As you walk through the house, however, all of these differences suddenly fade. When you reach the room Anne shared with Fritz Pfeffer, for example, the color of your skin, the language you are speaking, doesn’t matter. All that matters is the eerie presence of Anne and her work; work that ended up shedding a light upon the lives of Jews during the Holocaust. It is hard to ignore the greatness in that room. That feeling of a common journey most definitely contributes to the overall power and experience of the Anne Frank house.

There is this one point in time, when you are leaving the annex, in which you come to a display with Anne Frank’s first and original diary. That simple red and white-checkered diary of a 15-year-old girl is what brought a whole world of cultures together in one, little house. To me, that is an extremely rare and remarkable power we don’t see often enough.

By Ashlyn

The Danish word of the day is hygge.

The definition of the word is ???

If you haven’t been to Denmark then it’s likely that you have never encountered the fascinating concept of “hygge.” Pronounced HOO-geh, hygge is a word that defies description for many Danes. We Americans may approximate its meaning as “cozy,” but there is no real authentic English word that encapsulates all of the subtle nuances that hygge implies.

Hygge, unlike coziness, is not just a state of being but a mindset. It is an emotion of sorts. It is coming in from the cold and warming up next to the fire with a drink and a blanket wrapped around you. It’s a rich homemade dinner with your closest friends, with little candles decorating the table and your favorite mix tape playing in the background. It’s snuggling up on the couch watching Netflix with your boyfriend until you fall asleep.

But hygge does not only exist in wintertime. Eating ice cream in summer with your little sister could be hygge. Or building a sandcastle on the beach and then having a picnic. Or going berry-picking. Or baking a big pie and then sharing a slice with friends. The feeling comes over you and you’re hit with it suddenly (or it creeps up over you before you know what’s happening) and when it does, you know you’ve caught the hygge.

Interestingly, though, the Danes are just as ready to forcefully create a sense of hygge as to allow it to happen naturally. Many cafes, restaurants and bars have signs outside advertising a “hyggelig” (HOO-ga-lee) atmosphere. Whole shop sections are dedicated to objects meant to evoke hygge in the home. Danes string lights, light candles, burn incense, cover areas with plush blankets and cushions – anything to increase the hygge-osity of the space. Hygge is something to continually strive for.

Hygge came upon me for the first time in Denmark exactly one week from the day I touched down in Copenhagen. It had been a long, cold afternoon, with plenty of rain outside. I was buried under about six layers of blankets, slowly working my way through a mound of homework with a few other girls from our dorm. Eventually, someone brought up the idea to make a communal dinner. None of us were too invested in our work, so we put off our readings and papers in favor of raiding our cabinets in search of ingredients.

Eventually we had a pot of chicken stew going on the stove, with fresh biscuits baking away in the oven below. Stir, season, chop, mix – each of us seated with her own task to help the assembly of the meal go smoothly. A suggestion here, a sprinkle of salt there. The meal finished, we lit candles and dimmed the kitchen lights, folded our napkins fancily and laid out the “good” bowls and silverware. “To us!” we cheered, raising our glasses full of lemon water or milk. “Skål!” And then we tucked in to the food – maybe a bit under-seasoned, maybe a bit sloppily presented, but undoubtedly the most filling and satisfying dish I’ve eaten during my time abroad thus far.

Perhaps that was due to the stick and a half of butter we used to make the biscuits. Me, I’d like to think it was the hygge.

By jdippel529

Spain is a culture rich in history, language, wine, and more importantly, food. Sitting down for a meal is one of Spain’s defining cultural experiences. People gather with friends, family, and co-workers everyday, hours on end, to enjoy each and every one of their meals. That is why it is pretty hard not to fall in love with all of the amazing food Spain has to offer. Although I have only been in Madrid for 3 weeks, there are dozens of dishes that I know I will go back to America sorely missing. But for now, here are my top 5 favorite Spanish foods:


  1.    Paella – My all-time favorite. Although Paella is traditionally a Valencian dish, you can still find it just about anywhere in Madrid. It is a rice dish typically served with seafood and peppers, but I’ve also had it with chicken. Once its served, you can’t forget your squeeze of lemon on top. All in all, paella is an explosion of flavors you simply won’t be able to resist.
  2. Croquetas – Croquetas are small, fried, bread-crumbed rolls usually containing mashed potatoes and/or basically any type of ground meat. Warm, fried, and cheesy—croquetas, in my opinion, are the best comfort snack Spain has to offer.
  3. Patatas Bravas – This is another one of my go-to tapas dishes. Patatas bravas are diced potatoes fried in oil and then served with a spicy tomato sauce. They are basically hash browns 2.0
  4. Pan – Bread! Any Spanish meal is simply incomplete without a heaping portion of bread on the side. I thought I was a bread lover back in the States, but I knew nothing about real bread until I arrived in Madrid. This is the kind of bread made for Kings (and Queens).
  5. Tortilla – Spanish tortilla is nothing like Mexican tortilla. Instead, it is really an omelette. It consists of egg, potatoes and fried vegetable oil, and usually takes on the shape of a cake. Although you may think of breakfast when you think of eggs, this dish can be served at any and every Spanish meal. It’s great that tortilla is one of the most common dishes in Spain, since it is a food you will definitely begin to develop a craving for.


For me, the hardest thing about adjusting to life in Spain has been overcoming the language barrier. But, food is universal. My strongest and most confident immersion into the Spanish culture has most definitely been through its amazing dishes. With my host mom, especially, I find that we don’t have to say a word to agree on how delicious our dinner is. That’s the beautiful thing about this country, it can teach you so much through something as simple as food.

By makenadingwell

image (9)Growing up in England, thanksgiving was never a big holiday. Although I’ve lived in the U.S. for years now, I’ve given the holiday little thought every year, and even went to Canada to eat curry and nachos with my friends last year instead of binging on turkey. However, after spending the day with Americans abroad and hearing frequent nostalgic mentions of family traditions, I’ve come to realize how important and seemingly irreplaceable cuisine can be in respective cultural customs.

In Spain, there are many gastronomical habits that both follow and oppose stereotypes, solely judging from my homestay meals. There is a very generous amount of ham in meals, but I had no clue Spain consumed the largest quantity of fish per person in Europe. People occasionally drink sangria, but there’s much more beer and wine and even vermouth. Chorizo is popular, but morcilla (blood sausage) is sometimes better. My host mom hates gazpacho, loves lentil soup, and snacks on sunflower seeds while watching movies. I have paella often, but my favorite is black squid paella, which as it sounds, is dark, tangy, and can include a variety of calamari.image (10)

In reality, the most common and easy to make Spanish dish is the Spanish tortilla, which is actually a thick omelette with potato, and is not something you can wrap a burrito in. This was particularly confusing the first week since a French tortilla is a plain omelette. And while most of us miss peanut butter, I have found that plenty of nut-centric desserts that pop up around Christmas are festive alternatives. One named turrón, which is made of honey, almonds, and other nuts, tastes like condensed peanut or almond butter and can be found in large bricks everywhere. Lastly, while churros certainly aren’t an everyday staple, when Spaniards go out until the morning hours and the famous churros place in the center of Madrid is open 24hrs, grabbing a few with friends is an inevitable final activity.

Of course there are plenty examples of American culinary influence all over Spain. Besides the scattered assortment of Starbucks and KFC stores, there are many twists within them too. The “Dunkin’ Coffee” shops (that's right, coffee before donuts) serve pastries as well as tomatoes on toast (so Catalan) and Serrano ham. McDonalds also offers gazpacho and cherry tomatoes.

image (11)Thanksgiving dinner was again an opportunity to for a Spanish interpretation of an American practice. We started with tapas, like croquetas and spring rolls, and finally received a healthy portion of turkey, with stuffing, gravy, mashed butternut squash, and a chestnut puree. The most controversial part was the accidental heating of the cranberry sauce, however the experience was a flawlessly Spanish thanksgiving. After pumpkin pie and tiramisu and plenty of wine, our program leaders left us to dance to the live music with the local Spaniards before hurrying back to our home stays.

To be honest this year I went to two thanksgiving celebrations. I attended GW Madrid’s swanky, intimate restaurant dinner and a friend’s program’s much larger, potluck style dinner the next night in France. However it was pretty clear at the second that the company of the “GW Madrid” family, and the indescribable Spanish flair incorporated in all our experiences, are incomparable to any other and I am thankful and very full.image (12)

By anuhyabobba

The size of Buenos Aires is hard to fully grasp, but here is what I like to do the most in this enormous town:

1) Cafes on cafes - The coffee culture here is incomparable, and that is something I truly love about Buenos Aires. The lack of to-go coffee places makes for some amazing cafes where you can sit down and have a nice cup of espresso with an assortment of pastries. Havanna is a cafe chain here that I enjoy, and their coffee and alfajores are on point.

2) Weekend fairs - There are numerous fairs that happen throughout the city on Saturday and Sunday: Recoleta, San Telmo, Palermo, and La Boca to name a few. Booths are set up selling artwork, jewelry, and more. I make a day out of it, especially if I am moving past my own neighborhood of Recoleta. The street food sold amidst the fair is delicious, and you can find beautiful items for cheap prices if you take the time to.

3) Sunsets on parks and plazas - Buenos Aires has many parks and plazas. Grabbing a blanket and sipping on some mate as the sun sets in Plaza San Martin brings so much peace to me. During the weekends, everyone does the same. You can see teenagers strumming on their guitars or old couples walking by you hand in hand. It is the perfect way to relax after a hectic day or week.

4) Restaurant searching - More often than not, my friends and I here set a time for dinner on the weekends. That is usually how far the planning goes, because we walk into the first restaurant that looks promising. This definitely could go poorly, but it actually has made for some fun adventures. It acts as a way of us getting to know our surroundings that much more, and we have found some amazing places to eat that we now return to when time permits. For example, we once ran into this cheap taco place called La Fábrica del Taco. Their 30 peso tacos were delicious, and it was so lively in there -- making for a perfect night.

5) Ice cream - I cannot even begin to describe how delicious the ice cream is here. Late night or evening walks to ice cream shops like Freddo or Volta is by far one of my most favorite things to do. Indulging in the best dulce de leche ice cream is a solid cure for homesickness or to just finish off a lovely day. The McFlurrys here are also heavenly. The Milka McFlurry is essentially dulce de leche ice cream with Milka chocolate chunks and chocolate syrup drizzled on. Exploring the many ice cream places Buenos Aires has to offer is an activity on its own.

By anishag22

Today, my American friends and I are embarking on an undeniably English dining experience: fish and chips. The irony about this is that we have been living in England for four months now and still haven't tried the British delicacy, mostly because none of us are especially crazy about fish. But alas, we feel it is the right thing to do, because let's face it - how could we get on a plane to America without that experience?

One thing my friends and I have learned to love is tea. In fact, you could say it's our acquired obsession. Tea time in England is absolutely lovely because of the way it's served and the customs that guide it. I love being served a whole pot of tea with a side of cream. I pour my teacup about 4/5 of the way with tea and leave room for just a spot of cream at the top. What's more, I adore the relaxed atmosphere of all the tea rooms and cafes. Having tea is a sit down experience in England: tea to-go isn't really a thing here. It's all about taking a break during the day to relax, reflect and of course enjoy some English Breakfast or Darjeeling (my favorites!). It doesn't matter if you have your tea alone or with friends. If I'm alone, I like to read the Bristol student newspaper, but other times I just do nothing at all. That's the beauty of Europe: Europeans really know how to enjoy life. The English are hard workers, but they know the meaning of having a balance.

Tea time has helped me to savor the little moments in my study abroad experience. I've realized that I am happiest when I'm here in Bristol with my friends, just quietly absorbing the culture around me.

If there's one tradition I know I'll be carrying back to America with me, it's tea time.


Until next time -

Xx, Anisha

By juliaraewagner

During this past year abroad, I've had to navigate a solid lifetime's worth of awkward conversations with host families as well as other people who I've met regarding my perceptions of their countries. When this question rolls into conversation, I usually respond with some iteration of the following:

"Oh I just love the people here in [insert country name here]. And the [insert popular national dish here] is so great too!"

It's not for lack of wonderful things in each country that propels me to give this bland response; it's just that developing an understanding for a place takes a lot of time and reflection. I was talking to my homestay brother the other day, however, and he called me out on my typical PC response, saying, "No, really. Why do you even like it here in Buenos Aires?"

I stuttered for a moment, collecting my thoughts. I had never really been forced to articulate what I find so magical about this city, but I'm glad that my host brother prodded me. The following was my response:

"I love the way that every woman here whether 16 or 76 commits to wearing platform shoes because she is not afraid of expressing herself.

I love the pink light that shines on the city in the late afternoon and how it makes the buildings pop in contrast with one another.

I love that while the city is always bustling, people always take enough time to  sit down in a cafe to drink their cup of coffee, rather than carrying it out into the street.

I love how everyone grows gardens on their balconies.

I love how people will take their 3 year olds out to dinner at midnight.

I love how people protest in the streets every single day, if for no other reason than just because they have the political freedom to do so.

I love how graffiti is legal and how every spare wall is painted with a beautiful mural.

I love that, if you look hard enough, you can find an immigrant from almost any country in the world.

I love that the city is devoted to its artists and even subsidizes many cultural events, making them easily accessible with my student budget.

I love that of all the traditions that they've stolen from their Italian immigrant population, they've really managed to get gelato right.

I love that everyone from the Pope to the President addresses people with the word 'che'."

If it had been any other person, I think my response would have been too much information, but as an Argentine, my host brother had a poetic appreciation for it. He smiled and said, "that's the answer I was looking for."

After this yearlong adventure, I am booked to return home in exactly one week from today. In addition to a suitcase full of souvenirs, an SD card of photos, and a year's worth of memories, I hope to carry with me the small beauties of Buenos Aires. I only hope that I can integrate their obsession for art, their staunch insistence for expression, and their appreciation for taking time for small moments of the day.


By Dominique Bonessi

Women arrive fully covered and once inside another part of their personality is revealed as they uncloak themselves.  The amenities and gym at Aspire Health and Wellness not only act as a place to relax and exercise, but it also an escape for women—well it certainly is an escape for me.

Turkish Bath

In previous blog posts I have mentioned interactions between men and women as being very minimal.  At the gym women can relax, take off their hijab, and be comfortable in their environment.  As an American experiencing an all-women’s gym for the very first time—after a week—I have learned so much about Jordanian women’s fitness, body image, and self-care.

Let me begin by saying that the culture of division between men and women has—in a way—affected women’s views towards fitness and exercise.  The gym is only a small—very small—part of the other amenities like steam room, spa, beauty salon, pool, and Turkish bath (which I am hoping to try out).  Most of the gym equipment is cardio machines and there is very little in the way of free weights, weight machines, and benches.  For being a small gym this is understandable, but again—as an American—I am so used to the idea of large weight area, cardio machines, and several weight machines.  While at the gym I’ve noticed that women tend to stick to the cardio machines, and when I started working out—with the little weights they had--I got stared at as if I were doing something out of the ordinary.  Truthfully, there is not a culture of fitness and exercise for women, but slowly this trend is changing.

At Reclaiming Childhood, the program I volunteer at twice a week, girls learn about exercise, sports, healthy living, teamwork, and leadership.  This program was started by two American girls and it really speaks to the fact that many women don’t consider exercise.  A number of the girls in the program are either overweight or obese, and this program may be the only time of the week they have to get out and move.  However, that is not to say they are not concerned with self-care and body image.

Women in Jordan are gorgeous, they have excellent fashion sense, they know how to apply makeup like pros, and they take the time to pamper themselves.  This is one thing many American women should consider taking more time for themselves even with busy schedules.  Although it may be fair to say that many American women would say they do treat themselves, and that going to the gym on a daily or weekly basis is their method of self-care.

So maybe self-care and body image can take two forms exercise-fitness, and relaxation-rejuvenation.   I will say I am happy to come from a culture where exercise and fitness are seen as essential for a healthy lifestyle, but at the same time I could probably work on my self-relaxation and rejuvenation—now where is that Turkish bath!