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Hoos Abroad is a blog featuring UVA students who are studying abroad and sharing their experiences with international education and cultural immersion.

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Learn more about UVA education abroad and opportunities to study abroad at educationabroad.virginia.edu

Recent Posts

Intern Highlight: Hannah Boehlert

Hannah Boehlert is an intern with the Education Abroad team at the International Studies Office here at UVA. Last spring semester, she studied on the UVA in Valencia program to finish our her 2nd year, on which she has shared a brief reflection!

From my study abroad experience, I really learned a lot about myself. This sounds extremely cliché, but this is one of the first times of my life where after a certain experience, I can pinpoint specific things that I really developed, or things that I discovered about myself that I never knew. For example, I love spending time with friends, but study abroad really taught me how much I value and need alone time. I like being pushed out of my comfort zone, but I usually won’t do it myself, so I value having friends who are a bit more adventurous than me! I’m more of a night owl than a morning person, I’m more of a leader than a follower, and I’m not at all go-with-the-flow. These may seem like minor discoveries, but they have already begun to shape how I’m living my last two years at UVA. I’ve been inspired to meet friends, take the lead on projects, and join new clubs — all of which I know wouldn’t have happened without my four months in Valencia.

I really didn’t feel too sad during my first few weeks back in the U.S. I had missed my friends and family a lot, so I was enjoying my time with them and the freedom/relaxed nature of summer. It wasn’t until the summer students arrived in Valencia that I started to feel sentimental and sad. I typed up a huge list of advice and recommendations for two friends studying there, and I went through my photos of the whole semester, and then my nostalgia set in. I’m still happy to be home with my family and friends, but I am now able to realize how much my study abroad experience meant to me. I still get a bit wistful whenever I see photos of the students who are now in Valencia, but I’ve overcome these feelings by interning in the ISO. It’s really been great to encourage students to have the same incredible experiences that I did! I love putting my passion about Valencia by answering questions from prospective students and helping them along their study abroad journey.

Intern Highlight: Alicia Zheng

Alicia Zheng is an intern with the Education Abroad team at the International Studies Office here at UVA. Last spring semester, she studied with DIS Copenhagen in Denmark. Read some of her thoughts below on what she learned while abroad and what it was like for her after she returned to the states and UVA.

One of the best things about returning from studying abroad was seeing how my new habits from living in Copenhagen fit into my life at UVa and at home. I picked up some healthier habits, like eating the right food to fuel my renewed love for exercise. I also think that the culture encouraged me to be more honest and self-reflective. What are my personal goals, regardless of what people around me are striving to achieve? What do I think will help me achieve happiness, despite what others are expecting of me? Overall, I’m deeply grateful for the experience I had and can’t wait to visit Copenhagen again.

It wasn’t too bad coming back from Denmark to the US. I’ve done quite a bit of travelling with my family before, so reverse culture shock isn’t a new experience to me. However, since I studied abroad in the spring, coming back to UVa after 8 months away was pretty difficult to adjust back to. My host country felt much more reserved and relaxed compared to the hectic, stressful environment at UVa. It was strange to constantly have to be around a lot of different people again. My free time was lessened by a tenfold. I was exhausted by just having to interact with so many people for the first few weeks. I found that, even now, taking a day or two completely to myself is absolutely necessary for my own benefit. It’s okay to take a little time to recharge every once in a while – personally, it keeps me sane.

Exploring Amsterdam

Anh-Thu Vo is a 4th year Global Security & Justice and African & African American Studies double major. She studied last fall semester at the University of Amsterdam and learned a lot about its culture and history during her time there. Take a look at some of the photos she has shared!

This is a street in Haarlem located very close to the Haarlem train station. This walk way is quite unique because of the colors. Typically, Dutch sidewalks are made of cobble stone and various shades of brown and red. In this case the side walk is painted the colors of the rainbow bring color even on the rainiest of days.

This is a photo of Gouda cheese in a cheese shop in Amsterdam. Gouda cheese is the most popular cheese within the Netherlands. Although the name of the cheese is Gouda, the cheese is actually not produced in this city but in the surrounding area. It is called Gouda because this cheese was traditionally sold in the market in Gouda.

This photo is taken in the Johan Cruijff ArenA. Johan Cruijff ArenA is home to AFC Ajax, Amsterdam’s soccer team. This is the largest stadium in the Netherlands. Not only is it home to AFC Ajax, this arena is also home to the Dutch national soccer team. Furthermore, this arena is transformed during the off season into a concert venue where many artist have performed.

Within Zaandam [a city right by Amsterdam], you can find Zaanse Schans which looks like a 18th and 19th century Dutch town. There are historic windmills here.

This is a photo of raw herring (right) and smoked eel (left). One of the most famous Dutch dishes is raw herring. Dutch often complement the raw herring with pickles and onions. Smoked eel is a specialty in Volendam, which is where this photo was taken.

This is a photo of Muiden Castle in Muiderslot, which is a 15 minute drive from Amsterdam. This castle was built in the 13th century by Count Floris V and was along the trade route between Utrecht and Amsterdam. One of the most notable owners of Muiden was P.C. Hooft, one of the most important Dutch scholars.

This is a photo of the front of Oudemanhuispoort, which is the old law faculty at the University of Amsterdam. In the center of the courtyard is the bust of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, law, and justice.

This is a photo of the metro in Amsterdam. In the Netherlands, all Dutch students can travel by public transit for free while they are in school. Despite this fact, many students that live within biking distance still travel by bike.

This is a photo of my bike in Amsterdam. Biking is the primary mode of transit in Amsterdam. There are more bikes in the city than people.

This is a night photo of a canal near Negen Straatjes, which is a boutique shopping area in Western Amsterdam.

 

Chinese New Year Festivities

Renae Laurice Meana is a 3rd year Global Studies major studying at Yale-NUS College in Singapore this semester. As many of you know, Chinese New Year was a few weeks ago. As we begin the Year of the Pig, read what Renae experienced in Singapore to learn more about some of the holiday traditions around the world!

It’s the beginning of February, which means it’s holiday season in Singapore. Chinese Singaporeans are the largest ethnic group, accounting for almost ¾ of the total Singaporean population. Although the holidays may be considered over in the U.S., it feels as if it’s just beginning here. I can feel it and see it all around me.

Outside of MRT stations there are stands selling so many Chinese New Year related items. With Chinese music playing in the background of the stalls, there are red and gold decorations being sold alongside cute plush pigs since it is the year of the pig. Malls are decorated with displays of red lanterns, pigs, tangerines, and oranges (as this fruit signifies wealth and luck for the upcoming year). Booths selling goodies such as dried fruits and traditional cookies are found everywhere in the mall. At most malls, there are huge displays with all the different fortunes and predictions for the upcoming year for you, based on the year you were born. The fortunes include predictions on your health, career, love life, financial state, and more. It’s actually pretty funny how in depth they can be. For example, one of my roommates’ fortunes predicted pretty bad luck for a majority of the categories, but it did say she would find her life partner this year. The actual accuracy and validity of these fortunes is debatable. My roommates and I love reading them and seeing how they differ from mall to mall. Even the big transnational brands in the mall are targeting shoppers during the holiday season. Walking into H&M, all the advertisements feature Chinese models wearing red dresses, tops, sweaters, and suits. Beyond the shopping mall, what I love to scout out are the fast food chains and their special menu items for the New Year. McDonald’s has prosperity burgers and prosperity punch while KFC and Burger King sell New Year’s bundle meals.

Chinese New Year almost feels equivalent to Thanksgiving back in the U.S. I was able to enjoy a five-day weekend since my classes were cancelled on Monday for New Year’s Eve and Tuesday and Wednesday were considered public holidays in Singapore for the celebrations. The campus felt quite emptier, as most Singaporean students went back home to celebrate the holiday with their family. Only one dining hall was open to accommodate international students who would be staying on campus during the holiday. Speaking to some local students, many of them are exhausted from the festivities. For Chinese Singaporeans, Chinese New Year means visiting the houses of all their relatives, no matter how distant. However, what was really nice was that Yale-NUS’s president and his wife opened up their house for a Chinese New Year celebration for students that were on campus. It was a very welcoming event with a beautifully laid out table with many Chinese New Year treats and desserts. It was a really thoughtful event and a great way for international students to engage in the celebrations.

An incredible and unforgettable event that I went to with my suite was the Lunar New Year celebrations next to Marina Bay Sands. Being within a crowd of red and seeing the vibrancy of the celebrations with the music, food, and dance in the background was electric. Many families and couples were out and about to celebrate. There were so many beautiful lanterns that glowed throughout the night. Fireworks are actually illegal in Singapore so you won’t find individual households setting them off. However, the firework show put on by the Singaporean government made up for it. I have seen so many images and have watched live television broadcasts of fireworks shows during the New Year, but seeing it in person was an incredible experience.

It’s a couple weeks later and the celebrations are still going on strong. I am so glad to be in Singapore during such a festive time. The city is decorated beautifully in celebration of the New Year to bring in prosperity for the coming year. It truly feels as if the holiday season never really stopped after leaving the U.S.

Food Customs in Italy

Ariana Piacquadio is a 3rd year Italian and Global Environment and Sustainability double major. This spring 2019 semester, she is studying in Italy on the UVA in Italy: Siena program. Now that she has settled into her life in Italy, read what she has noticed and learned about food culture there.

A view of Siena, Italy from the top of the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo

There’s a reason Italy is famous for its food. Granted, it’s a bit of a stereotype to say that all Italians know how to cook and that all Italian food is amazing. However, I think I’ve eaten better food here in the past three weeks than I’ve had in my life, so maybe there’s something to it.

The standard Italian breakfast varies slightly depending on the region you live in. Here in Tuscany, most of my friends and I have experienced small and sweet breakfasts. Generally, you won’t be eating eggs or avocado toast to start your day in Italy. Most mornings, my lovely host mom leaves me cereal, Nutella, these toasted bread crackers that are kind of like big, unflavored croutons, and of course espresso. When I walk to school, I see crowded bars full of people eating pastries and coffee on their way to work. Apparently, it’s not entirely out of place order a glass of white wine with breakfast, as I witnessed someone do this just the other day.

Lunch is harder for me to pin down because I usually have to grab something quick between classes. I’m still not sure exactly what is customary. For me, I either eat focaccia from the Panificio close by, or a mix of cooked vegetables and bread from a local grocery store our group has nicknamed “fake whole foods”. If you go to a restaurant, most don’t serve lunch until 12:30 at the earliest.

My meal of trofie con pesto at Caposantachiara Ristorante in Genova, Italy

Finally, there’s dinner, which usually begins around 8:00 p.m. here. Back in the states, I’m used to a single, large meal, but Italians do this differently. The dinner begins with aperitivo, an appetizer. When I eat with my host family, we always skip this part of the meal, but I’ve noticed in restaurants that they’re very common. Next follows i primi piatti, which in my experience is almost always pasta or soup. My host mom waits until I finish this to bring out the next part of the meal, i secondi piatti. This is usually some kind of meat, but my host family is vegetarian like me so most nights we have a vegetable dish. The meal ends with dolci e caffe when I eat in a restaurant, but at home we eat fruit. Also at the restaurants, it’s very common to order a liter or two of red wine (unless you’re eating fish, in that case you drink white wine). Wine is a huge staple of the meal and living in the Chianti region makes it very easy for me to get on board with this custom.

Good food is one of the first things people associate with Italy and while there are so many layers to this place, it’s true that food is a huge part of the culture. I’m still learning the many nuances of the customs here and how they vary in every region. I feel lucky to live with a host family, where it’s easier for me to see how daily Tuscan families eat and live.

First Month in Valencia

Sarah Wartel is a 2nd year pre-Commerce student studying on the UVA in Valencia: Business program this semester. Though she has only been there for a little more than a month, she has already taken several intriguing photos in order to share what she has been seeing and learning on her education abroad experience so far.

This photo was taken Calle Colón in the commercial center of the city. Many orange trees line the streets of Valencia. The city is famous for producing oranges. (However, I would not recommend eating them directly from the tree as they are nearly inedible.)

This photo was taken in la Playa Malvarrosa. This beach is a 15-minute bus ride from the city center and is located in a fairly urban area. Many locals come to the beach to relax or exercise on the weekends. Valencia has a fairly mild climate, averaging around 60 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. The people call it La Ciudad de Calor or “the City of Heat.”

This is a picture of the lobby of the apartment building of my host family. Almost everyone who lives in the city of Valencia, live in apartments like these. The buildings are narrow and tall and most people, even families, live in fairly small apartments. Very few have a large terrace.

The picture is of a butcher’s shop near the city center. Ham is one of, if not the most, popular foods in Spain. The country is famous around the world for its Iberian hams. It is very normal for people to buy the entire hams at grocery stores and local butcher stores. Sliced ham is on almost every food, especially “bocadillos” which are sandwiches with usually with thick bread and sliced meat.

The Mercado del Colon is a market located near the city center with many small cafés located on the upper level and restaurants below. Many people come to cafés before lunch for an “almuerzo” and after lunch for a “merienda.” Because there is so much time between meals, Spanish people often have a coffee or a pastry at a café to suppress their appetite until mealtime. Also, these “snacks” are a means of socializing and people will spend hours talking over coffee.

This photo was taken in my room in my host family’s apartment. Above my bed is a religious depiction of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. Spain is predominately Catholic dating back to Roman Catholicism and the Spanish Inquisition. Many of the people are still devout Catholics.

This photo, taken in a former church in the town of Xàtiva, depicts giant statues of Spanish historical figures. These figures, including a Moor and Isabella and Ferdinand, are put on stilts and people carry them in a parade during festivals in Xàtiva.

Taken on Calle Colón, near the city center, this photo features the Plaza de Toros de Valencia, a bullring. It was built between 1850 and 1859 and is inspired by Roman architecture. Bullfighting is a somewhat controversial tradition in Spain that still takes place today.

The above photo was taken in an area a little outside the center of the city. The areas surrounding the center are much less picturesque. Street art is very popular in these areas as depicted in this colorful skate park.

Semester at Sea: Photos from Around the World

Kalea Obermeyer, a 3rd year majoring in Youth and Social Innovation, studied this past fall semester on the Semester at Sea program. She went to several countries on various continents, enabling her to learn about different cultures and corners of the world. She took many pictures along the way!

East Side Gallery, Berlin, Germany. I took this photo of one of the more famed paintings on the recreation of the Berlin Wall. The East Side Gallery attempts to model the intense contrast on either side of the Berlin Wall when a divided Germany fought for common ground. The painted side of the wall was a means to communicate liberty and freedom of speech against the east side of communism and oppression.

Tema, Ghana. This photo of a casket was taken to show how differently Ghanaian funerals are conducted compared to the United States. In Ghana, a funeral isn’t so much a mourning ceremony as it is a celebration of someone’s life and an embodiment of the joy the deceased person carried in life. Mourners will often wear black or red to a funeral (white if they’re an elder and revered in the community), and rather than have just the family attend, the entire community will. The more people at someone’s funeral, the more they’re said to have brought positive change and impact to the community.

Nzulezu Stilt Village, Ghana. This is a photo of me (front) and the rest of my tour group kayaking up the Nzulezu River on our way back from the Nzulezu Stilt Village. Steven, our tour guide at the front of the kayak, was able to tell us all about how the village weathers storms, gets fresh water from non-profits and tour groups like ourselves, and makes the most of minimal resources to raise families and educate their children. I had the great fortune of seeing the local village children perform a cultural dance and hear from their head council member about their wonderful community.

 

This photo was taken while on a tour in Spain, nestled between hidden valleys and hiking trails. My tour guide moved to Spain 20 years ago from Canada to follow his dream of working in hospitality and giving back to the local community. He chose to be a tour guide because after realizing his passion for the outdoors in Canada, he wanted to challenge himself to start a business in a completely different country. His biggest piece of advice? “Find what makes you most happy and turn your passion into a job.”

Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur, India. Monkeys could be found on every corner in Jaipur, even atop fort towers such as this one here at Nahargarh Fort. Nahargarh Fort overlooks the entirety of Jaipur, with bustling streets and homes far beneath the hilltop.

Kathakali Show, Kochi, India. In Kathakali shows, performers use facial expressions and hand movements to communicate different emotions rather than elaborate dance moves. The makeup used during these shows helps elaborate the smiles, frowns, and eye movements of the performance.

Mauritius’s coral reefs are some of the most magnificent in the world. However, they face impending endangerment because of the oxybenzone found in sunscreen. Whether locals or tourists use sunscreen in the ocean, or have it wash off their body in the shower, the chemicals find their way back to the sea and damage existing coral reefs. Now countries are taking a firmer stand to curb reef pollution.

Fairy Glen Game Reserve, South Africa. Fairy Glen is home to the “Big Five” animals (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and African buffalo), all kept on the reservation to evade harms way from poachers. Poachers in South Africa have decimated rhino and African elephant numbers in search of their ivory tusks. The rhino in this picture here is unfortunately a surviving victim.

V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa. Now a bustling waterfront mall and tourist attraction, the V&A Waterfront is partially stationed on land formerly known as District 6. District 6 was a community primarily of people of color forced to relocate during Apartheid.

Jinshanling, Great Wall of China, Beijing, China. We hiked 6 miles of the Great Wall in 4 hours. In the early morning, we were able to see the sun rise in a pink haze above the valleys surrounding the wall. The fog never dissipated as the hours drew on, but the view remained remarkable.

Osaka, Japan. Streets like this can be found throughout cities like Osaka and Tokyo, with advertisement for local foods, barber shops, toy stores, and more nestled in the alleyways of busy district corridors. This photo was taken right outside the hostel of where my group and I stayed for the duration of our time in Osaka.

 

 

Barcelona: Pre-Departure Thoughts

Julia Hohenstein is a 3rd year in the Commerce School with a double major in statistics. This semester, she is studying on the UVA Commerce: Third Year Core: ESADE Barcelona program. Read her thoughts on starting her semester abroad and some of her goals so far!

My name is Julia Hohenstein, and I am a third year in McIntire studying IT within the McIntire school and statistics within the College. I am from a small beach town, Brielle, New Jersey about an hour south of New York City. At UVA, I am heavily involved with community service through Madison House and have also attended two Alternative Spring Break trips (one in Portland, Oregon and one in Death Valley, California). I love hiking, trying new restaurants, and going to concerts. I’m hoping to do all of the above and more in the coming semester, when I am lucky enough to study abroad in Barcelona, Spain.

Through the Comm school, I will be an exchange student at ESADE Business School. There are only three of us from UVA in the Comm program, so it is going to be interesting moving to a new city hardly knowing anyone. I have visited Europe a few times before (France and Ireland), but have never been to Spain, so I don’t know too much about what to expect. Everyone keeps warning me that Barcelona is infamous for pickpocketing, but they balance out this negative with raving reviews of the food, culture, and beauty in the city.

I have wanted to study abroad in Spain ever since I was in high school, so getting accepted into the program really was a dream come true. I studied Spanish up until college, and while I would not consider myself fluent I am pretty confident in my abilities. I think I will be able to get around and speak minimally, which will make the transition so much easier. I am really looking forward to improving my comprehension and speaking skills.

The opportunity to in study and live in another country like this offers so much more than just language comprehension. Of course, I am excited to travel. The ease of travel between major European cities is still baffling to me, and I plan to take full advantage of it. However, I am also so excited to immerse myself in the Spanish and Catalan culture. I will be living in Barcelona at such an interesting time in history given the Catalonian independence movement of the last year and a half. Though I cannot speak Catalan, I hope to pick up on cultural practices and even some vocabulary.

I am really excited for the food and the energy of the city. I have heard nothing but great things about paella, and I love the idea of tapas (small plates meant to share). I’m fully ready to spend way too much money trying loads them. I am curious what the night life is going to be like, and if it will really be as late as people say. Spaniards eat dinner super late compared to the States and often stay out at bars or clubs until daylight. I am not used to this at all, so it will be an adjustment to start eating dinner around 10pm despite having classes early the next day. But for now, just going to take it one step at a time. And that first involves successfully navigating the airport, finding the AirBnB we booked, and getting over jet lag. One step at a time.

Student Testimonial: Valencia Engineering

Katherine Weinschenk, a 2nd year majoring in computer science in the engineering school, studied last fall on the UVA in Valencia: Engineering program. Check out this video she created to see some of the memories she made during her semester abroad!

Longing for Lyon

Third-year English major Anne Whitney spent last summer on the UVA in Lyon program in Lyon, France. Read how a trip to Paris made her realize how familiar she had become with her host city.

 

This past weekend I met one of my high-school friends in Paris for a day trip, and on that trip, I discovered many differences between Paris and Lyon. It was my first time in Paris, and there was a definite shock of being there among so many tourists after living my authentic French experience in Lyon! Of course, Grace and I tried to fit in as many touristy excursions as possible since it was the first time in Paris for both of us, but even so I was surprised at how different the two cities are.

First of all, I truly realized how comfortable I was in French cities and especially with my routine in Lyon. I knew where most things were, where to go and where not to go, and didn’t brush up against many other Americans. However, in Paris, it was to be expected that I wouldn’t know exactly where to go to lunch to not be subjected to a tourist trap, but I did not expect to hear as much English as I did. I guess that was just naiveté on my part, but I heard more English than French! It was then that I realized that Paris is much more of an international city than a French city – though I’m not sure a French person, especially a native Parisian, would want to hear me say that.

I also realized the clout that Sciences-Po has among the French. Grace and I went into three museums, and in all of them she got in for free because of her six-month student visa for her studies at the London School of Economics; I didn’t have a similar visa for France, but every time I told the worker that I studied at Sciences-Po Lyon, I received a hearty congratulations. I then felt kind of like a poseur since I didn’t put in the same amount of work to get there that French university students did – I didn’t take the exams, the extra preparatory classes in the last two years of high school, and I wasn’t French. I still appreciated the name-recognition though!

The sensory input in Paris is also much different than in Lyon. In Lyon, I was used to getting whiffs of the sewer, of cigarette smoke, of body odor, but also of the boulangeries and restaurants. In Paris, there aren’t as many smells! Not as many people smoked, since there were so many tourists, particularly American, and I guess the bustle of city life covered up the other smells that became interwoven in my daily life in Lyon. It seemed a little more sterile – and I missed Lyon! Paris was beautiful, of course, and the museums and culture were amazing, but that night I was glad to be back in Lyon with my friends and the myriad of smells.

Italian Summer Memories: Contrada Festival

As we head into winter break let’s take a look back to summer! Christopher Fitzpatrick is a third-year mechanical engineering major who spent his 2018 summer on the UVA in Italy: Siena program. Read below how his experience of a contrada festival took him back to childhood memories of home.

 

When I was growing up, I lived on a cul-de-sac in a suburban neighborhood. Families with children lived in every house on my street, so Razor-scooter races and wiffleball matches occupied most afternoons and weekends throughout the summer. Every August, the neighborhood would host a block party. Fathers would wheel their grills to one family’s driveway while us children would squeal around in another family’s backyard and spray each other with water guns. The late afternoons would always consist of a main event—one year it was homemade mini golf course, another year it was a family-versus-family obstacle course—and evenings would always begin with a barbecue under a rented tent. Over time, people would age, families would move away, and the block parties would end for good, but I am still nostalgic of those memories.

Those memories unexpectedly surfaced last night. After three of my friends and I cooked pasta in their apartment, we were invited to join some other study-abroad students for our friend’s birthday celebration at the overwatch—a park we named for its incredible view of the Siena skyline. On our walk over, we were greeted by something that looked like a block party; fathers drank beer as they grilled various meats, small children ran around and screamed (quite loudly), adolescents hung out in cliques, and an entire neighborhood ate a massive dinner together under a graduation-party-style tent. We found a contrada festival.

My Italian roommates have explained contrada festivals to me before. Siena contrade—or neighborhoods—host massive block parties every summer around the time of the Palio di Siena—a famous horse race that takes place in the center of the city. Temporary performance stages, hired gelato vendors, games that in one way or another relate to the Palio, and excited chattering facilitate an atmosphere of tradition and community. These events further indicate the Siena population’s pride toward their contrade. I have woken up in the middle of the night several times to contrade rallies and their sounds of melodic hollering and drum-beating, and flags of each of the 17 contrade now fly along most of the city streets. In the Piazza del Campo—the city center—fences are already put in place for the race, and everyone sounds just a little more excited. Siena may be a “small” city, but it is overflowing in tradition, pride, and culture. The Palio is approaching, and it is palpable in the air.

 

Student Testimonial: Peru

Third-year government major Jacob Weitzman is spending the Fall 2018 semester studying in Cuzco, Peru, on SIT’s Indigenous Peoples and Globalization program. Take a few minutes to watch the video he created to see a bit of what he’s been doing so far!

 

 

Impressions of Edinburgh

Sabrina Stenberg is a third-year chemical engineering major currently studying in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh for the 2018-19 school year. Take a look at some of her pictures so far, taken in September and October! Stay tuned for more pictures from Sabrina later on as she continues her education abroad experience.

JK Rowling started and finished writing Harry Potter in Edinburgh, so there are Harry Potter shops on almost every main street. This one represents multiple fandoms!

Edinburgh Castle is situated on an easily defensible hilltop. This view is from Grassmarket.

The docks of Leith at sunset, next to the mall Ocean Terminal. One can look at boats and shop!

The National Museum of Scotland is Dolly the Sheep’s final resting place. The University of Edinburgh was heavily involved in the cloning of Dolly!

George Square Gardens is a beautiful getaway in the heart of central campus.

One of the old golf courses in St Andrews, which claims to be the “Home of Golf.” This is one of the courses where the British Open can be held!

Cross Kirk in the Scottish village Peebles is one of many church ruins in Scotland. Castle and church ruins hunting is a fun hobby!

Although I visited Loch Ness on a rainy day, I preferred it because it had a moody, mysterious atmosphere due to fog and mist. Is that you, Nessie?

Rose Street is a pedestrian-only street in the New Town of Edinburgh. It is the location of many fine restaurants and shops like L’Occitane en Provence.

Although I live about four miles away from my engineering classes, I enjoy living in close proximity to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (they don’t say “botanical gardens” here). It is a huge complex that is great for strolls and photography.

Japan: Commuting and Conversing

Marguerite Franklin is currently a 3rd year Japanese and biology major who studied at KCP International Japanese Language School in Tokyo this past summer. Though her time in Japan was short, she learned a lot and had a great experience, which you can read snippets of below!

Commuting in Tokyo

One thing I of course knew before going to Tokyo was the intensity of commutes on the trains. I have quite a few factors going against me: first, being a city, people rarely idle and are always on the move to their destinations. Secondly, Tokyo is an absolutely massive city. And finally, the station that I have to pass through is the busiest station in said city, seeing over a million people a day on average. With all of this in mind, it is not difficult to imagine that the cars of the trains get packed rather quickly. Even knowing all this, I was still unprepared for the complete absence of personal space that was shared with fellow commuters.

It was easy to become self-conscious on the train. No matter how much I may have tried, sometimes I would end up knocking into someone’s side or stepping on their shoes. I felt like I was sticking out like a sore thumb due to my own clumsiness and wondered whether it was possible to ever become acclimated to such an embarrassing predicament. Yet here I am, a week in and I already view my time on the train as a rather fascinating event that I no longer worry about. But what changed in my short time here?

I think I became a lot less nervous when I stepped back and reminded myself that all of the people around me are indeed strangers. I know nothing about them and they know nothing about me, whatever ideas about me that they may hold in their heads are unlikely to be conveyed to me. Observing others, I noticed people nearly falling from paying more attention to their phones than the train coming to a halt, people dropping their phones, and several other incidents where no one batted an eye. I realized how much I overestimated my own importance, it was a small reality check of sorts. Moving forward, I will remind myself that I will always be my greatest critic.

An Unexpected Conversation

As the weeks have passed, I have become so used to my commute to and from school that I unfortunately developed the tendency to somewhat zone out. I pass certain landmarks, such as the McDonald’s by the station entrance, or the Shinto shrine to keep myself on the proper course. However, I am otherwise more focused on the music playing on my phone. I guess you could say I have fallen into a state that has taken my surroundings for granite. Today, however, was different.

I pass the small lot that usually has stray cats, but this time there is no one around and I feel a bit more bold than usual. So I approach a black cat sheepishly, hoping that I would not end up with some scratches. I am pleasantly surprised not only when it meows and rubs against me, but another tabby cat joins us. As I enjoy my impromptu therapy session petting the cats, an older woman comes out commenting how cute they are. The introvert in me instinctively wants to excuse myself and prevent an extended conversation, but the more responsible side of my psyche reminds me that I have little time and want to make the most out of what I have left.

For the vast majority of our talk, I could properly understand what was being said. I will admit that there were times when I had to kind of nod along or just outright say “I don’t understand”, but the woman was very patient and kind. Before I knew it, we talked about common topics like where I am from, to more personal topics such as politics. Before I knew it, a whole hour had passed. Even though it put my whole schedule for doing homework off, I was grateful to be able to get an extended one-on-one practice with my conversational skills. I only have a little over a week left and I am still able to find new things to enjoy even during my regular routine; I’m definitely going to miss Japan, but I know I’ll be back soon.

A Summer in South Korea

Minsi Sun, a linguistics major, finished out her 2nd year this past summer at Yonsei International Summer School in South Korea. During her experience she took many photos to share what she saw and learned there, so keep scrolling to learn more about it!

Taken in a Buddhist temple in Gangwon province. In the picture I am making a wish by writing on the tile, following one of the Buddhist traditions.

Taken outside of an intestine store in Sinchon. Like many other Asian countries, Korean people enjoy eating the inside of animals, and the intestines are popular choices. I personally think they are too oily.

Taken at the entrance to an old train station. The sign reads “To Pyeongyang”, which is the capital of North Korea. People were able to take a train to North Korea before but not anymore.

Taken in a fusional Korean restaurant in Seoul. The traditional lamp has both Korean and Chinese characters on them, a common way of writing before modern time. Before the 15th century, Korea used Chinese characters for their writing system before the invention of Hangul.

Taken at a famous restaurant for soybean paste noodles. The dish actually came from China, but now the Korean version is far more famous. They taste quite different, though.

Taken at the palace from Silla Period in Gyeongju. I was amazed by how the side was well preserved and how pretty it is at night.

Taken at the MBC (Culture Broadcasting Company) theme park in Seoul. Interesting pictures can be taken with famous dramas and entertainment shows. What a good way for people to experience K-pop!

Taken at the Incheon International Airport. Staff members would dress up like the royal family and parade around the airport. It is such a good way of exporting their culture.

Taking pictures in the traditional Korean clothing—Hanbok in the royal palace Gyeongbokgong in Seoul. If you go into the palace wearing Hanbok, the entrance fee is waived. All kinds of tourists wear colorful Hanbok on the street, and it is such a good way to promote the traditional costume.

Sweden: An Ode to Fika and The Final Presentation

Camryn Burley is a systems engineering major who studied on the UVA in Sweden: Global Sustainability Consulting program this past summer. During her time there, she worked on a consulting project at Garaget, which she describes as “a unique public library in Malmö that responds to the needs of its users and offers spaces for reading, studying, coffee, creating, and much more.” Keep reading to see some of what she learned from her experience abroad.

Ode to Fika

Fika is a Swedish tradition of a coffee break with pastries or cookies. It is a very social practice and most workplaces have at least one fika, sometimes two fika or more, per day. We were introduced to fika on the first full day in Sweden, and I loved the concept and how I felt during and after the fika.

fika is the rich
brown of coffee that matches
the wooden table
marked by rings of both
tree growth and
drips from the many mugs
set upon it each day

fika is the feel of
smooth ceramic
under my palms
and soft pastry crumbling
under my fingers
as I pull off the next bite

fika is the smell of the fresh brew
entering my lungs, sweet
and sharp,
rising with the steam from cups
that comes in tendrils
not unlike the ivy crawling
the bricked buildings
and brushing cobblestone paths
outsidefika is my spirits feeling as light as the vapor
as I smile at my neighbor
with cinnamon-smeared lips,
icing still melting on my tonguefika is warming our hands with mugs,
stomachs with tea,
and hearts with conversation

The Final Presentation

I had not thought that the final presentation part of this program would be very different than any other presentation I’ve given before, but I had not considered how a foreign audience would change things. We had a briefing about how best to deliver our final presentation to explain the work we had done for the past three weeks to our client. We were told to avoid idioms and speak slowly, in addition to keeping our presentations short by including only relevant content and elaborating where necessary in the report we delivered to them. It struck me, while planning the presentation and then delivering it, how important clear communication between parties that speak different languages is. Though all of the clients for this program spoke English, it was not their first language, and there were also varying degrees of comfort with speaking English. The presentation is something that I will definitely take away from this program and think about long after. I am more confident that, in the future, I could communicate with a foreign client through presentation, conversation, email, etc., because I have now actually been able to interact with a group of people from a different country than myself in a professional setting. I also think that giving a presentation to an international audience will help me with any future presentation I might give, as I know better how to use clear and concise language that a wide range of people will understand.

I feel like I’ve come a long way in my knowledge of international cultures and especially business relationships. I hadn’t thought of all of the complexities that would come up, such as giving presentations, but I now have experience with many of those situations. Another learning point for me in regard to international relationships is that I learned that Swedish people tend to be more direct in giving feedback; if they do not think something will work, they will say so without beating around the bush. This took some getting used to, but eventually I was happy that they would say what was on their minds instead of us trying to decipher their feelings about our designs. I am also glad to have had the chance to learn about Swedish culture through working with our client, Garaget, where all of the staff were very welcoming and answered many questions we had about Sweden. By the end, we had a strong professional and personal relationship with two of employees in higher management positions. It was really great to talk to them about their travels in the US and other places at the fika after our presentation. I am continually grateful to have had the opportunity to learn more about Sweden and its culture in ways that I could not have just by visiting as a tourist.

Making Connections in Rome

Shivani Dimri is a History and Environmental Sciences major who spent spring of her third year on the IES: Rome program. Read her pre-departure reflection here (https://hoosabroad.wordpress.com/2018/08/31/rome-pre-departure-reflection/) and keep reading below to see some of what she did while in Rome last spring.

I stepped out of my comfort zone and in my attempt to make deeper connections with Italians and other people living in Rome, I did some research online and found an organization called Romaltruista (Altruistic Rome). One of the programs of this organization is Benvenuti a Cena (Welcome to Dinner). It’s a eventful that pairs a small group of Italians and foreign residents of Rome together for a potluck dinner in an Italian host’s house and an opportunity to speak with people you wouldn’t otherwise meet. I made an Indian rice pudding dish to share, and had a chance to speak with people from Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, Kurdistan, and Mali. Although we came from such different backgrounds, we realized we had common interests–travel and learning languages. Also, that evening, a journalist and a camera crew from an Italian news channel came to cover Benvenuti a Cena. I haven’t seen the segment yet, but there’s a chance there’s an Italian news clip with me speaking in it! I’m nervous, but I’m proud of myself for pushing myself out of my comfort zone and more importantly, being part of an effort to showcase this organization’s important initiative to bring Italians and foreigners moving to Italy together.

My immigration and integration politics class visited a refugee center called the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center. We met the staff and refugees who visit the center to socialize, gather supplies, take language lessons and more. When we reflected upon the experience as a class, there was actually a lot of conflict about whether or not the visit was a positive experience for all parties involved. My two friends and I (who speak more Italian than the rest of my classmates) had a fun time connecting with the folks at JNRC, especially when we dropped into a German language class that was finishing up. It might have been more overwhelming if there was a large class, but we got to chat with the German teacher, a man from Bangladesh, and a man from Senegal, talking about and bouncing between languages like English and Italian, and also French and Spanish. It was meaningful because we could all connect over our interests in languages and our multicultural backgrounds. Other students in the class said that they felt like they were intruding and that they did not want to disturb the guests of the refugee center. Well, I also felt uncomfortable (as I am in any situation where I don’t know anyone) until I found common ground in a small group setting! Maybe they did not yet find a common interest or maybe they faced language barriers that made it hard to break through in our short visit. Regardless, our professor told us that being uncomfortable is part of the experience and that the JNRC and other refugee centers opening up their doors to those interested in seeing is better for refugees in the long run, spreading awareness and making the public empathetic.

Besides these activities, I have had the opportunity to do a lot of other things through my classes and on my own! I also visited a section of Rome with beautiful street art for my Italian class and went to the Foro Italico (formerly the Foro Mussolini, or the Forum of Mussolini) for my Italian Fascist history class. I went to a food truck festival with some study abroad friends and the old roommate of a friend who was visiting Rome for the weekend, and then woke up early to see the Vatican museums on the last Sunday of the month (the free entry day!) and saw the Pope speed by in a car in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica on Palm Sunday. Easter weekend was my spring break, and I took the opportunity to visit my relatives in Manchester, England. One day we woke up early and made the four hour drive to London, and one afternoon I saw downtown Manchester. One day my aunt had a bunch of her family friends over and their kids in their teens and twenties were all so kind and welcoming to me as we sit around, talked, and ate. I went grocery shopping and clothes shopping, and even though that doesn’t sound the most exciting or glamorous, but it was a great break to relax and catch up with family. In England, I thought, how will I adjust to Italy again? And now that I’m writing this update between classes back in Rome at the IES Abroad center, I’m thinking, how will I adjust to home again?

Pictures in Singapore

Dorothy Wang, a computer science major, studied this past spring semester during her 3rd year on the UVA Exchange: National University of Singapore program. She spent some of her time taking photos through which to share her experience, so take a look at them below!

People enjoying a nice break from the rain in the Chinese Gardens.

Silosa Beach at Sentosa Island, the southernmost point of the continental Asia.

The tallest indoor waterfall in the world at 38 meters (Cloud Forest, Gardens by the Bay)

Biking around Marina Barrage, Singapore’s 15th reservoir.

Lotus flowers outside Singapore’s lotus-shaped ArtScience Museum.

Singapore adds life to the concrete jungle that it is with colorful buildings and murals – this particular example is in Holland Village.

Late night dim sum

A bird owner taking down his cages from a morning at the Kebun Baru Bird Corner

Glimpses of the Netherlands

Seena Honarvar studied in Rotterdam, Netherlands last spring semester as a 3rd year studying economics and commerce. He enjoyed having new cultural experiences abroad and took many pictures along the way. Keep scrolling to see some of what he has shared!

 

 

The second lecture: Strategic Management

The famous cube houses in Rotterdam city center!

Primary government building in Rotterdam.

Interior of a crafty thrift shop in Rotterdam

First flakes of snow in Kralingen!

New age Rotterdam apartment complexes, built after World War 2 bombings.

Tribute statue to Jacobus Henricus Van’t Hoff, Dutch chemist

Iconic Rotterdam Markthall from inside

Old style Dutch windmill by Kralingen Lake

UVA in Lyon: My Progression in French

Brielle Entzminger is a Media Studies major who studied in Lyon, France during the Spring 2018 semester of her 3rd year. She was provided with many opportunities to practice her French language skills over the course of her semester. Keep reading to see how she took them on!

“When you come back, you’ll be practically fluent!” Countless people told me this when I told them I was studying abroad in Lyon. I would not only be taking classes in French with French students but also living with a French host family for an entire semester. It makes sense – 5 months of immersion in another language should make you practically fluent, right?

While I would like to think that that is true, my experiences in France so far prove otherwise. I have been in Lyon for almost 3 months now, yet I do not feel anywhere close to being fluent, and I doubt that I will be fluent by the time I leave in May. It is still very difficult to follow conversations between French people, completely comprehend a French movie, and to understand the professors who teach non-international student classes (classes with mostly French students), for example. No matter how hard I concentrate, I can only understand part of the conversation, movie, etc., unless the speakers are not talking too fast.

I have come to realize that becoming fluent in just five months is an unrealistic goal, especially considering my life here. I do take almost all of my class in French and must listen, take notes, and speak in French during those classes. I also speak to my host mother in French and must use French during my day-to-day activities, such as ordering food. However, many of my friends are other American students, meaning that, for the most part, we are communicating in English. I am still exposed to English on a daily basis, from music to social media, also. In short, I am not completely immersed in French.

Other international students have expressed similar feelings to me. A girl who I worked on a group project with has been studying in Lyon since last semester, for example. I asked her if she thinks her French has improved and she said that, honestly, she does not think that it has. While she is now used to listening to and comprehending French in and outside of class, she does not feel that her speaking skills have gotten much better. Many of her roommates and friends (other international students) communicate in English rather than French, so she does not have to speak French all of the time. She too is not completely immersed.

With this, I now no longer hold the goal of becoming fluent above my head. It would take several semesters, perhaps even an entire bachelor’s degree (four years), as well as further immersion (i.e. no use of English), to truly become fluent while studying in France. Instead, I am considering the smaller ways I have progressed in French since January. While reading and writing have never been very difficult for me, I have certainly improved in my comprehension; while in January, I did not even understand when a cashier asked me if I wanted my food “for here” or “to go,” I can now order and ask questions at restaurants with little problem. I can also understand almost all of my professors (excluding my media professor who speaks way too fast). I admit that I do not understand everything the French people say around me at school, on the street, etc. but, if I am paying attention, I can understand what they are talking about.

As for my speaking skills, I now feel a bit more confident when speaking French during my classes, to French people, and with my friends. I have already had to do a total of four exposés (oral presentations) this semester, along with French students and other international students. The presentations were very intimidating, especially the ones in my media class that I have the most trouble understanding; nonetheless, I was quite proud of myself for getting through them.

I also feel happy every time I am able to have a successful conversation with a French person, meaning that I understood them, he or she understood me, and he or she did not switch to English once he or she realized I was not French. Having a successful conversation in French can still be hard, especially with French people who know English and want to ‘practice’ with me, but I have become better at having them.

Finally, I have come to enjoy practicing French with my friends who are also learning French. It helps me to not only realize which words and phrases I do not yet know in French but also helps me to further integrate French into my daily life. While we certainly do not practice French enough with each other, I like it when we do and plan to do it more often.

Perhaps one of my most memorable French milestones occurred just a little over one week ago. As part of the Lyon study abroad program, us UVA students were invited to take a cooking class. The class was a French woman’s house and was entirely in French. While it was difficult at first to understand the written recipes the woman gave us, she was very friendly and helpful, making sure we cooked everything correctly. It was quite easy to understand her and ask her questions, and she complimented our French skills throughout the class. As we dug into our delicious meal of quiche, chicken with vegetables, and chocolate cake, I smiled to myself – we had successfully completed a French cooking class.

My progression in French has ultimately reassured me that fluency is possible. It simply takes a lot of practice and time – way more than one semester in France. It also depends on the person. While some people can quickly grasp new languages (especially if they already know more than one language), for others it takes years. A Polish girl I met, for example, told me she did not feel fluent in English until she was seventeen or eighteen, and she started studying it when she was in elementary school. As I spend my remaining time, I will try my hardest to appreciate the different ways I progress in French; no matter how small they are, they bring me one step closer to truly mastering a second language.

Japan: Weekend Homestay

Leah Corbett, a 4th year Japanese major, spent the spring semester studying on the JF Oberlin University: Reconnaissance Japan Program in Tokyo. Read about her homestay experience below, check our her own blog at https://leahandjapan.wordpress.com/, and watch her “daily snapshot” video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLN6dASZnU4.

This past weekend, I did a two-day, one-night homestay. I and another student from India, Gopi, stayed at the home of a woman, Takahashi-san, who works at Oberlin. I remember when I first signed up to do a homestay through Oberlin’s Office of International Programs, the vision that automatically came to my mind was staying with a nuclear family – I think that’s the typical vision – so I was a little surprised when I got the notification that I would be staying with one person. However, I think it brings up an important point, which is that not everyone lives in that style of household. I think it turned out to be an enjoyable experience for all three of us!

We met up on Saturday morning, and then went shopping for food. Gopi and I are both vegetarian, and Takahashi-san was very thoughtful in making sure we would have a good choice of food during our time with her. We even stopped by a Japanese sweets store and picked out something for each of us.

This is a flower made of sweet bean paste which I got at the sweets shop. It was almost too pretty to eat.

Once we got settled in at her place, Takahashi-san began preparing ingredients for making vegetable sushi rolls. Since I’ve been in Japan, I have not yet been able to eat any kind of sushi here because veggie rolls aren’t a normal thing that is sold here, like they sometimes are in the U.S., so I was excited to be able to eat some and experiment with fillings. She cut the nori (seaweed) into smaller sections so we could make lots of individual rolls with different ingredients.

If you look closely, there are two tiny dollops of wasabi in this roll. I was scared of trying any more than that.

Later that day, we went to a piano performance, which Gopi had been invited to. It was rainy and we had to take the train a little ways to get there, but it was relaxing and a nice evening excursion for us.

The next day for a midday snack, Gopi showed us how to make chapati, a type of flatbread from India. We ate it along with a mango pickle which she brought with her to Japan.

All in all, it was a cool experience because there was cultural exchange going more than one way, with us eating both Japanese and Indian food during our time there. It was an enriching experience which especially demonstrated just how important food is in the varying cultures in the world. I’m glad I decided to try out a homestay!

Interning and Commuting in Shanghai

Let’s turn to Elizabeth Chung, an economics major who studied during the Spring 2018 semester on the UVA in Shanghai: Fudan University program as a 2nd year. Read about her experience as an intern in addition to her classes below!

While in Shanghai, in addition to attending a full course load, I have also been interning two days a week. The company is called Knudsen&Co, and they are a foreign-invested company based in Shanghai that consults on foreign companies hoping to join the Chinese market. Every Thursday and Friday, I hop on the Shanghai metro during the crazy rush hour and get smooshed into a train cart. The metro during rush hour is really something else. While the trains run frequently, it is just a fact that too many people need to use the trains. People line up for the trains, and once the train doors open, people all push and push into the train carts. I have been shoved a handful of times. While seemingly rude, it is just the fact that people need to get to where they need to go, and if they want to get there on time, they have to push to make it onto the train.

Once I have made the 45-minute commute, I take the elevator to the 34th floor, the top floor, to get to my office. The CEO is a Danish woman and is simply incredible. She has lived in Shanghai for over 10 years and has been enormously successful with her business. My day to day work is based on whatever my colleagues need help with, whether that be research on recent regulations or working on social media, it really depends on what the current projects are and their priority. This is their busy season, so they have a lot of clients who are working on a variety of different projects. As one of their multiple interns, I am there to help where I can. However, I am also working on a specific project for a new client where I am researching and drafting a government strategies report. My majors are economics and foreign affairs, and I am really interested in how economic analysis affect policy. With this project, I am researching how government policy is affecting and can affect a business plan or proposition. So, it has been really interesting to see how the inverse of what I am interested in works.

A big part of my research includes learning about obesity in China, where I learned is a major problem in the country. After the United States, China is the most obese country in the world and rapidly catching up to the U. S. Because of this major problem, China has made multiple major policy shifts towards making health a priority when making future policy. I have really been enjoying delving into a specific topic, where I can simultaneously learn about the policy implications for a business and learn about the Chinese development and how that has culminated in serious health issues. In addition to economic policy, I am also interested in development, so gaining knowledge about how Chinese development has progressed for this report has been fascinating for me. Also because Knudsen&Co is a small business, I have been exposed to how a small business can create roots in a foreign country as well as the grit and hard work that is necessary to survive and thrive.

The fast pace of a small business also brings new energy into the office, and allows me to really be involved in the work that they do, allowing me to learn a lot about business, especially international business. Working 8-hour days twice a week when I have other courses and trying to explore a new country and city have been tiring, and I don’t always get to go out when my friends do, but it has been an incredible experience so far. I definitely have to manage my time more than my friends who are not interning do, but I do feel more like a local when I am on the metro when they are, and working the 9-5. It is the study and interning abroad that has enabled me to have these experiences that I am grateful to be receiving.

UVA in Valencia: Snapshots of Spain

Christine Logan, a double major in Computer Science and Spanish, studied on the UVA in Valencia program this past spring semester as a 3rd year before graduating early. Check out some of the photos she took in and around Valencia during her time there!

 

 

Sunset from Valencia in the City of Arts and Sciences

Spanish flags hanging outside a building in Madrid

View of Bocairent

Statue in a park during a women’s rights march in Valencia

Panorama of Port Suplaya in Valencia

Soccer game at Mestalla Stadium in Valencia

Homemade traditional Valencian paella

Carrer de la Pau in Valencia

A view of the interior of the Mercat Central in Valencia

Dragon statue at a kid’s playgroudnext to the beach in Peñíscola

Experiences in Milan

As we continue to look back at experiences students had last spring, let’s turn to Linjiang Han, a Commerce major who studied in Milan, Italy on the UVA Commerce: Third Year Core: Universita Bocconi program to finish off her third year. In this post, she writes about her thoughts from during her second month in Italy!

One of my biggest challenges since coming to Italy is the use of clothes drying racks instead of dryers. I asked around and realized other European countries also use drying racks. When I lived in the United States, I used to wash my clothes once every two or three weeks. After coming here, I must wash my clothes every week because of the lag time for my clothes to dry as well as the small size of the washing machine.

Another difference is that the grocery stores and product container sizes can be much smaller than they are in the United States. I find this to be a fact that is rooted in culture and not likely to change. In the stores, there is also not as many selections as I am used to and prices can be higher due to the cost of living in Milan and the euro-to-dollar exchange rate. I try to save on expenses by finding less expensive restaurants and places to buy food in bulk.
Not only are the grocery store prices high, but also restaurant prices. While you do not tip in Italy, there are sitting fees that are essentially mandatory tips. These sitting fees are generally €2.50. Once, I thought I should save money and ate a small meal that was €4.50 only to realize the sitting fee costed over 55% of what I ate. To get around this problem, especially when I’m traveling and prices can sometimes be exorbitant in the first place, I will eat at cafes or small establishments where there is no sitting fee. However, when it comes to eating authentic Italian food, especially ones specific to a region, I am willing to pay more money for it. In the following photographs are some of the local foods I’ve eaten: Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia (Squid Ink Pasta) from Venice and Polenta e Osèi (Polenta Cake) from Bergamo.
Related to food, another challenge I encountered when I came to Milan was the late dinner time because of aperitivo. Since then, I have fully adjusted by to it by eating lunch at a later time or eating a snack around lunch time. After coming to Milan, I have realized that not only is my body affected by meal times, but that many Italian businesses tend to take a lunch break. Even at the university’s help desk, there is a three-hour window in the middle of the day when it is closed. Therefore, I am now accustomed to checking hours of operation if I want to go someplace close to lunch time.

Additionally, everyone places great efforts in sorting out trash in Italy. For example, we have five different trash bins in my apartment with one each for plastic, paper, glass, organic waste, and miscellaneous. In addition, personal bathroom trash must be taken out by each occupant that day. I was not used to taking out the trash every day, so it was an initial challenge to remember every day.

I have been exploring Milan by going to different neighborhoods/bureaus of the city. When I went to the northwest part of the city, I was surprised to find a Chinatown. I later asked around and discovered there is a large Chinese population in Milan. After my realization, I asked some Chinese speaking locals about their immigration and was informed they immigrated to Italy when the economy in the country was good and particularly because they already had friends in Milan. This really resonated with me because I immigrated to the U.S. from China. Beside is a picture I took when the Chinese New Year was approaching and I saw there was a lot of decorations in Chinatown. On Chinese New Year, there were so many Chinese gathered that could cause someone to think they were not in Italy anymore.

Unfortunately, I have had more practice speaking Chinese than Italian since I came to Italy. My Italian is very poor and I also cannot roll my r’s. Some Italians assume I cannot speak Italian because I am Asian and they are correct in this case. Once or twice, people have greeted me with “konnichiwa” or “nihao.” The most Italian I have used is to order food to the lunch lady or the basic phrases such as “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” However, I shall endeavor to learn more Italian while I also explore more of Milan.

My exploration of Milan includes going to its different museums. From my visits, I learned a lot about the history of the city I’m currently studying abroad in.  For example, in Milan, there is one central canal with many restaurants known as Navigli. However, in one of the museums, I learned Milan was once more like Venice with many canals but, due to industrialization, most of the old canals were covered over by concrete and Navigli now remains the only main canal in Milan. While I thought this was rather tragic, I am glad Navigli is still around as I often go there for aperitivo and enjoy the view (seen on the left). I believe that anyone who lives in Milan must have seen this beautiful view as they pass by Navigli.

Through walking around Milan and sometimes taking spontaneous routes and detours, I am becoming more attuned to the pulse of the city. I believe by the end of my experience, I will feel like a real local rather than just a student who attends one of its universities.

A big part of my goal for coming to Italy was not just getting to know Milan, as I wrote about in my last blog, but the country itself. By going to other Italian cities besides Milan, I have been able to see the part of Italy that’s less business-focused. In smaller towns like Bergamo, an hour away from Milan, the pace of life is slower, though definitely not lackadaisical, in which Italians take time to eat meals or sit in a gorgeous park to read. On the other hand, in cities like Venice where tourists outpopulate the locals, many of the locals I find are around retirement age and often keep to themselves.

I believe I am learning more about Italy, not only through a third-person point of view of traveling, but also interacting with local Italians wherever I go. In Venice, I talked to a local who actually spoke Chinese to me, a huge indication of the number of Chinese tourists who visit the city, and we discussed the city itself. He told me about the pollution of the canals that is not only caused by tourists, which I had previously assumed, but mostly because of the wastes from nearby plastic factories. When I brought up how the U.S. would usually fine such companies to clean up the waste, he replied that the red tape of the system means that these factories wouldn’t really be fined. I found this topic really fascinating because I don’t think I would have researched something like this before going to Venice and I got to see Venice beyond all the touristy canals and through the lens of a local.

Currently I have traveled to six different Italian northern cities, most of which are close to Milan. My travels have provided me the opportunity to practice Italian. Since Bocconi is an international school and my classes are all in the English, I don’t meet many Italians at school. When I go to stores and shops, I use very basic Italian phrases such as “how much.” Through my travels, I seek to gain a better understanding of the Italian lifestyle and culture that are shaped by the country’s history and geographical location. Later this semester, I hope to visit more Italian places, both cities and small towns, in my efforts to become more educated about the country I am living in.

Scenes from Israel

Rachel Fidlow is currently a third year who studied in Israel at Ben-Gurion University this past spring semester. Check out some of her stunning photos from her time there!

Rome: Pre-Departure Reflection

As students prepare to start fall semester abroad, we look back at the experiences of those who studied abroad last spring. Shivani Dimri is a History and Environmental Sciences major who spent spring of her third year on the IES: Rome program. Read her pre-departure reflections below, and stay tuned for more posts detailing her semester in Italy.

 

Warning: My thoughts keep zigzagging between English and Italian, making it that much harder to express my feelings about moving to Rome for the spring.

My name is Shivani. It’s an Indian name, but it has the same pronunciation in Italian. I am from Falls Church, Virginia and I’m a third year double majoring in history and environmental sciences. Let me tell you, I have been looking forward to study abroad since I started college, and I’m so excited that I’ll be departing for Rome at the end of January. I’m eager to improve my Italian, meet new people, and experience new cultures in Italy.

So…why Italy?

Arguably, the Italian language has defined my college experience more than anything. If you know me, you probably already know that I started taking Italian in my first year at UVa simply to fulfill the College’s foreign language requirement. Yet, I thought to myself, if I’m going to spend four semesters studying a language, I want to do it well. I want to actually be able to speak the language and retain this knowledge. With a positive attitude, I found that I really enjoyed Italian and had a knack for it, reading books and watching videos and finding any possible opportunity to speak it. By my second year taking Italian, I gained something that I didn’t expect to come from learning a second language: a new voice.

I know it sounds strange, but hear me out. Sometimes I’m afraid to speak in front of people I’m not already close with because I don’t want to seem stupid. Sound familiar, my fellow introverts? In a way, I have more confidence speaking Italian because it’s easier for me to assure my brain that it’s okay if the words don’t exactly come out right. It’s always okay to make mistakes, but my brain feels like I have more of a pass when it comes to Italian because I’m clearly not a native speaker. I started learning when I was eighteen years old!

With that being said, I look forward to speaking Italian in Rome with my host family, with my peers, and with anyone else I meet in the city! But of course, there’s more to my desire to go to Italy than learning the language and understanding my identity.

There’s history. My History Distinguished Majors Program thesis is on Italian imperialism in East Africa. The classes I’ll be taking at IES about modern and ancient Italian history fit right into my interests and Rome is the perfect place to take field trips related to what I’m learning.

There’s culture. As an Asian American student, I’m curious about the lived experiences of immigrants, minorities, and expats in Rome. I look forward to learning about their contributions to Roman culture through my coursework and when I’m out and about.

Oh, and I guess there’s food, too?

As a double major and DMP student, it’s taken a lot of planning and some challenging course loads over the last five semesters…but it’s all paying off because now I have the privilege to spend over three months in Italy! I leave for Rome on January 28th. My longer-than-usual winter break has been giving me time to relax at home…and pack, mine the internet for travel tips, and call upon Teresa (my friend and former UVa in Siena student) for advice. Now I just can’t wait for my adventure to begin!

Japan: The Halfway Point

It may be the middle of summer in Cville, but Leah Corbett, a rising 4th year Japanese major, is still finishing up her 3rd year spring semester studying on the JF Oberlin University: Reconnaissance Japan Program in Tokyo. Read her thoughts from halfway through her semester below, check our her own blog at https://leahandjapan.wordpress.com/, and watch her “daily snapshot” video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLN6dASZnU4.

 

I am almost halfway through my semester in Japan already! Looking back, I’m realizing how far I’ve come since I first arrived here. There was a lot of adjustment, though I didn’t notice it at the time. There were a lot of smaller things that I had to get used to.

For instance, the cars driving on the left side of the road was hard to get used to, and I still sometimes get momentarily turned around by it. Crossing the road without walk signals took extra thinking at first, because I had to double check that the coast was clear. Or, when a car stopped to let me cross, I would nod and wave at the front left seat of the car as I always do, but then realize afterwards that I had accidentally thanked the person in the passenger seat for stopping for me instead of the driver.

Another thing is that Japan is very environmentally conscious, which I think it great! But the annoying thing about it is that there are rarely hand towels or dryers in the bathrooms, so I have to shake out my hands and wipe them on my jeans or shirt. Some students carry hand towels with them for this reason, though I decided that’s not absolutely necessary for me.

For a while after I arrived, I felt very self-conscious when walking around in public. Since Japan is a homogeneous society, I felt like I stick out a lot. One of my first days here, a friendly Japanese man said “hello” to me in English when I walked by, which made me think even more about how not-Japanese I look. The longer I’m here, though, the more I realize it’s not a big deal to Japanese people, especially since there are a lot of foreign students around campus and in Fuchinobe, which is where the international dorms are.

Before I went abroad, I saw a graph on several occasions explaining the cultural adjustment timeline/curve. Right after you first arrive, there’s a honeymoon phase where you’re so excited about everything. Then at some point later the graph drops, which is when various frustrations start to take hold and the initial excitement wears off; the graph goes back up once you’ve more fully adjusted to the environment. There may be more than one drop in the curve.

(Here’s a simple example of the cultural adjustment curve. And yes, I made this in MS Paint.)

I think that right now, I’m in one of those valleys. Midterm season is upon me, and because I and my friends have been so busy I haven’t take much time to go sightsee or hang out much lately outside of school days (though I do have some plans for the upcoming weekend). Life is starting to feel more normal and my weekly schedule is fairly regular, but my subconscious is telling me I should still feel constant excitement and that I’m supposed to have an amazing day every day. When going abroad for an extended period of time, though, I’m realizing that’s not a realistic expectation. Yes, overall I’ve had a good time so far, but it’s okay to have mediocre days, and those don’t take away from the experience as a whole.

Once midterms have died down and once I settle even more into life here, I know my feelings will once again change. I thought that adjustment would happen for a while and then it would be static, but it’s more ongoing than I had previously thought, and I’m curious to see how I will react during my remaining time here.

 

St. Kitts and Nevis: Pre-Departure & First Reflections

Shadelle Gregory is a Global Public Health major who just completed her third year. She spent the last two weeks participating in UVA in St. Kitts and Nevis: Public Health Sciences, an intensive short-term program led by Prof. Jeanita Richardson. Read her pre-departure thoughts and reflections below.

Pre-Departure

I was always the girl who did not fit quite in with my family or classmates. I was labeled as “different” for the types of clothes I wore, the way I spoke, and for the types of food I ate (or did not eat). However, after arriving at the University of Virginia in 2015, I began to let go of my insecurities and embrace my differences. I realized that is was okay to be the “odd girl” or the person who does not “fit in” with the majority. These personal characteristics has allowed me to transcend my perceived mental and physical capacities and has granted me the privilege to fully appreciate the person that I have become. Embracing change and diverse environments and people are pivotal in my journey of self growth. I hope to take the experiences I have embodied here at the University of Virginia with me as I begin my adventures in St. Kitts and Nevis. I am currently majoring in Global Public Health where I have studied the social determinants of health and how health care systems function differently in all parts of the world. I will be able to experience the cause and effects of these ideals first hand while abroad.

An important question that needs to be asked throughout this experience is how does the health system structure/services in St. Kitts and Nevis affect the social determinants of health and vice versa? Moreover, how does it compare with health care systems in America? I have a deep passion for social justice and public health, so I am always eager to enhance my knowledge about the parallels between these two concepts. The curriculum for this course will be eye opening and fulfilling because I will able to study my passion outside of the states, which allows me to fully encompass the GPH major. I am most excited about experiencing a different culture outside of America, as this will be my first time traveling abroad. St. Kitts and Nevis is known for their amazing food (and large food portions). I am a lover of food and I am excited to try the varieties of food St. Kitts and Nevis has to offer. However, it is this very fact that contributes to their high obesity rates. I do hope to have a newfound appreciation for their culture when this experience is over. St. Kitts and Nevis are two different islands, so I am interested to see the differences and similarities between the two.

To be bluntly honest, I am nervous to go abroad for multiple reasons. A key reason is that I have never traveled abroad. The airport aspect of traveling is a little frightening due to my lack of traveling experience. Secondly, I want to make sure that I am culturally conscious of my actions so that the locals will be receptive to me. I am entering their home and do not want to overstep my position as a visitor. I am the first person in my immediate family to travel abroad, so I am overwhelmed and overjoyed to share this experience with them and for myself. It is a strange yet amazing feeling to watch your dreams come true. I am beyond grateful that I am able to embark on this journey and continue on this path of self-growth. Traveling has been a dream of mine forever, and I am ecstatic to begin this journey in St. Kitts and Nevis while taking a class for something that I am so deeply passionate about.

First Reflections

The people. The food. The land. The scenery. The homes. The simplicity of life. Island time. Abundance of brown colored people. The locals are so humble and proud of this beautiful island and have been excited to be part of my journey (unforseen to them). It makes me question (even more) why Americans are not this friendly. I have been soaking in the beauty of the island, but I wake up every morning and still cannot believe that I am here. On our first day of class, we were given a tour of the island by our driver, Robert. He is so knowledgeable about the land and history of St. Kitts. Within St. Kitts, there are small villages, all of which has access to a health clinic nearby. The homes sit right by the beach, in between small revenes, close to small shops, and surrounded by greenery. There were people riding goats, walking with their children, and simply sitting on the porch. In a country whose economy is mostly driven by tourism, Kittians run of island time. Interactions with Kittians have varied based on where I have been around the island. Locals are more hesitant to speak and smile, but those who were taxi drivers or workers at the Marriott were more friendly. Those in the tourism business are more friendly as this is their job. I understand their skepticism of Americans, and especially white people.

One of the most important aspects of this trip so for is my experience as the majority race of the country. St. Kitts and Nevis is predominately black, which is the complete opposite of the composition of America. It’s an overwhelming feeling to not be the minority of the country and to fit in at every place that I go. In America, I am the sore thumb that sticks out or one of the very few (if not the only) black student in my classes at UVa. However, when the group and I travel to different places, Kittians stare at us because we clearly are not from the island and because of the white students in our group. In America, I am used to getting stares or whispers, but it was something different about the stares we got here in St. Kitts. During a visit to Ross University, the veterinary medicine school on the island, I was shocked at the lack of colored people on the campus in a majority black island. They are separated from local Kittians, and they have better equipment and resources than the local hospital, health centers, and schools. They do not engage with the community and do not advocate for a community model of health, which is extremely important in all aspects of health. Having attended UVa, I understand what it is like to be one of the few people of color in a classroom or out in a social setting, but this experience was worse for me. I was so shocked to hear about students from different countries who came to this island and have no interaction or cultural perceptions of the place they would be living and studying. Understanding the social determinants of health is vital to helping a community better their health. The local hospital and health centers around the island emphasis a community based model. The Kittian nurses and health workers had limited resources, but do the best job they can. To have visited the local health centers and know they lack modern medical technology, it is heartbreaking to know about the equipement, power, and resources Ross University has that they do not offer or share with the community. Kittians perception of white people are tainted by their interactions with white people who attend Ross and those from America. It’s been interesting to see how race and racism functions on the island that is run by people of color. It never disappears and it reinforces that race is a social construct and is tied to health.

Public Health is more than just one’s well-being and visits to the hospital. This trip so far has highlighted even more the need to address the social determinants of health and a community based model in order to efficiently, culturally, and effectively improve the health of a population.

 

Classes Begin: School in Shanghai, Negotiation Tactics, and a Trip to the Market

Julia Thompson is a 3rd year currently studying abroad with UVA in Shanghai: Fudan University. She is a student in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. Check out her experience so far!

 

Classes have finally begun — almost two months after UVA’s first week of classes. Normally, class sign-ups take place months before the first day of class. However, due to our unique position as international Fudan students (rather than local Chinese Fudan students or international exchange students), our class registration took place on the same day that classes began. Fortunately, my class schedule did not include any Monday classes; I had some roommates who registered for classes then immediately raced out the door to attend the class they had just registered for.

The enrollment process went much smoother than I anticipated. In addition to a Chinese language class, I registered for Chinese Society: Past and Present, Energy & the Environment, Political Culture & Public Opinion in Contemporary China, and Conflict Resolution & International Negotiation. During this first week, two professors noted their dislike for the BBC — I wonder if this is a coincidence or if this sentiment is common among Chinese citizens. A more definitive similarity across classes was the mention of Donald Trump (shocker) and consequent stares at the Americans (us). Embarrassing!

The mix of students in each class varied—one had exclusively international students while the others generally had a mix of both international and Chinese students. In Chinese Society: Past and Present, our professor recommended Chinese students not take the class; on the other hand, my roommates were asked to leave an International Business class because, according to the professor, the class was for those who wanted to improve their English. From these experience, there seemed to be a division of Chinese and international students, so I expected the Political Culture & Public Opinion class to consist of just international students; but to my surprise, when I walked into the classroom, the majority of students were Chinese students who knew little, but wanted to learn more about, their peers’ political opinions.

The Fudan campus is large, but the main campus is just a 15 minute walk from our apartment. One of the main buildings at Fudan University—Guanghua tower—includes classrooms, offices and cafes. The steps leading up to Guanghua tower remind me of the Rotunda or the MET steps; but here, entrance through the front doors is reserved for important figures, and students must enter through the side doors.

Another difference between China and the States that has been consistently apparent is bargaining. In the States, bargaining does not often occur between a customer and business with established prices. However, in Shanghai, bargaining is everywhere—not only at shops, but also at the gym! Normally, I enjoy running outdoors but the crowded streets, busy intersections (cars, mopeds, and bikes will NOT stop for you; at best, they slow to a roll), and poor air quality do not make for an ideal jogging situation. So, my roommates and I went looking for a gym. The process to establish the price for our four month membership included a lengthy back and forth—I need to brush up on my negotiation tactics. Maybe my International Negotiation class can give me a few tips.

One place in Shanghai where bargaining does not take place is the local Walmart. Over the past two weeks, I have probably been about ten times: to stock up on drinkable yogurt, get my fill of Chinese crackers, and get a toothbrush after I dropped mine down the drain. Walmart is just one of several stores where you can buy produce. Our Chinese roommate, Karen, took us to the produce market where my friend bought a GIANT bag of bak choy for 7 kuai (just over 1 USD). This Shanghai produce market was different from a typical grocery store or farmers market in the United States, but were very similar to the Chinese markets I’ve been to in San Francisco. After the trip to the market, Karen and Rosanne cooked dinner for everyone: rice, tomatoes and egg, chicken wings, and vegetables!

Cultural Snapshot: the Razor Scooter

Lillian Harris is a 3rd year majoring in Art History who studied abroad with UVA in Lyon in the fall of 2017. Check out some of her cultural observations  below.

One of the first things that struck me as funny when I arrived in Lyon –  and something I don’t even notice now – is the way people get around here, that is, how people physically get from one place to another: from home to work, from school to soccer practice, from the nightclub to back home. While I expected the preferred mode of transportation to be the bike, or maybe even the Vespa, I’ve found that it’s the Razor Scooter that rules the city streets as the most overwhelmingly popular ride in Lyon.

I used to have a razor scooter when I was younger; my childhood memories are punctuated with bruised ankles and skinned knees from scooting down the driveway at top speeds and attempting bunny hops over the cracks in the sidewalk.

I hopped back on my scooter in high school, when some of the seniors created a Scooter Club. It started out as a joke, but as more and more kids dug out their razors from the back of their garages, the Club became pretty legit. Members rode their razors to and from class and even held scooter rallies at recess.

So it’s funny that this scooter motif keeps reappearing in my life. First in my childhood play dates, then as an ironic joke in high school, and now it’s followed me all the way to France.

Since I’ve become so well re-acquainted with this mode of transportation in my time abroad, I’ve compiled a list of 6 things you should know about the rich scooter culture in Lyon. “Rules of the Road,” if you will. Here they are:

  1. Not just for kids
    • This is the first aspect of scooter culture that I noticed in Lyon. While I had always thought of the Razor Scooter as a child’s plaything, it turns out that scooters are a very efficient mode of transportation used on a daily basis by adults and kids alike in Lyon. I am constantly taken aback when I see a grown man in a suit and carrying a briefcase scooting down the sidewalk on his way to work.
  1. Bikes on road, scooters on sidewalk
    • This is arguably the most important rule of scooting etiquette. Bikes, since they have thick, rubber wheels that are able to conquer the cobble stoned-streets of Vieux Lyon, should always be on the road; most of the roads in Lyon have bike lanes, so sticking to this rule should not be difficult. Scooters, on the other hand, have small, hard, plastic wheels, and do not do well with bumps. So scooters are allowed on the smooth sidewalks. Whether you’re on a bike or a scooter, it is important to stay in your lane.
  2. Scooters have the right-of-way
    • Forget yielding for pedestrians; scooters, as the dominant, speedy form of transportation, have the right-of-way on sidewalks. All walkers should move out of the way for scooters to come through. After all, there is nothing more frustrating than having to decelerate and lose momentum to dodge slow walkers.
  3. Pimp my ride
    • The Lyonnais take pride in their scooters, and do not hesitate to trick them out. For the adults, this might include a little hook to hang a purse, or an added platform on the back for a child to stand and ride with his parent. For the kids, common accessories include decals, detachable bags, and fashion helmets, of course.
  4. Pop a wheelie
    • Scooting is so popular in Lyon that it has become not just a mode of transportation but also a sport. There are many skate parks in Lyon, and one of my favorite activities is going to the quai at Guillotière and watching grown men do tricks on scooters. Think: wheelies, 180s – heck, I even saw someone do a backflip just the other day. It’s really impressive to see all the tricks one can do with the simple Razor.
  5. Paradoxical French efficiency
    • A major change from my life at UVA that I’ve experienced here in Lyon is the whole idea of time. Everything in France takes a little longer than it does in the US. For example, it is considered rude to show up on time to a dinner party, and also, you can count on courses at the university starting at least 10 minutes late. So it’s so funny to me that the French buy so wholeheartedly into this uber efficient mode of transportation, the Razor Scooter, despite a general lack of concern for the need to rush.

It’s interesting to note the differences in daily life in different places: the way we eat, the way we talk, the way we get around. These are the nuances of the way of living that really define a culture and set it apart from others. The use of the Razor Scooter I’ve found in Lyon is just one facet of its culture that makes it totally unique.

They say that instead of focusing on the destination, one should enjoy the journey; in Lyon, I’m taking my sweet time on my Razor Scooter.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Eleanor Langford is a 3rd year Psychology major studying abroad with The Education Abroad Network (TEAN) in Chiang Mai, Thailand this spring. Check out some of her photos below!

“Staying at the Temple”: The act of “making merit” is a common and important part of Thai Buddhist’s life. There are many ways to make merit, including going to a temple. At the temple, one can purchase small bells with plaques to inscribe one’s name on. These bells are then hung around the temple, with the idea that your presence there can be maintained after you leave, and the merit gaining will likewise continue.

 

“Reverence not Worship”: For the outsider, it often appears as though monks and laypeople are worshiping the Buddha, as they prostrate themselves and make offerings in front of the ornate statues. However, these gestures are done to make merit and to arouse a sense of awe and respect that rids oneself of arrogance and egotism, allowing a better reception the Dhamma (teaching of the Buddha).

“Monk Offering”: Monks and the laypeople of the community can be thought of as livingin a symbiotic relationship. Monks cannot handle money and must beg for their food. The community is therefore responsible for feeding them. Giving an offering to a monk “makes merit” and therefore benefits those giving the offering. Here, you see people lined up with their offering bowls, prepared to give the monks an assortment of food.

“Kitchen in Ban Sri Kun”: Meals are an important part of Thai life, and this can be exemplified through the relative size of the kitchen in most village homes. This kitchen in this home in Ban Sri Khun village was by far the biggest room in the house.

“Dinner Table”: In rural areas, Thais will eat family style on a mat.

“Hill Tribe”: This woman is from the Karen Hill Tribe in northern Thailand. There are many different Hill Tribes living in Thailand, all of whom are without citizenship to any country.

“Rice Farming”: For many Northern Thai villagers, rice farming is a time consuming but reliable and common livelihood, as rice is an important component of most Thai food.

“Rice is a Staple”: Rice is a major staple of Thai food, and accompanies most meals in some form; hence, the large quantities of it sold at most markets.

 Stockholm, Sweden

Emma Bergon is a 3rd year studying with DIS in Stockholm, Sweden on a

Psychology program this spring. Check out some of her photos below!

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A rare sunny say in Stockholm, although the water is still icy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cobblestone, windy streets of Galma Stan (Old Town)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ice skating on the local lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watching my host brother’s soccer game, Swedes love their soccer!

Fika time! (Fika is a term in Sweden that approximately

means “to have coffee”) My favorite place to enjoy the Swedish tradition

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Fika in Småland

 

An exhibit called “Nordic Light” at Nordiska Museet

(A museum dedicated to the cultural history and ethnography of Sweden)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The artwork at Tensta station: Stockholm is famous for its metro station artwork

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A rare sunny day in Stockholm

 

The Sevier Cough

Blaise Sevier is a 2nd year who studied abroad last semester on exchange at Hitotsubashi University  in Japan. She and three other UVA students ran a blog about their experience, See her original post at  https://runningjapan.squarespace.com/wheels-up-dc/2017/10/31/the-sevier-cough-blaise

I’ve been sick with the “Sevier Cough.” It’s not just any cough, but a family hack where my whole chest vibrates with force and I find myself gasping for breath.

Dramatic? Yes. Harmful? No.

The “Sevier Cough” is a family plague that hits my sisters and I right around when the leaves change and the air gets a bit cooler – my mom says it’s a seasonal asthma and always sends us to school.

Here in Japan – my cough has become a somewhat of a cultural phenomenon. On the metro, in the grocery store, walking to class, I find myself getting over a coughing fit, clearing my throat and receiving the death stare from my fellow Hitotsubashi peers, grocery-goers, and metro riders. It don’t blame them. It’s gross!

But it’s a cough that I have and can’t quite control.

For the past few weeks, I have maintained this blasé attitude about my cough. I pushed passed the smirks, glares, and uncomfortable metro shifts. I was just sick, they were just hypercritical – and I didn’t want to wear a…. mask.

 

 My inital reaction to wearing a mask

Masks in Japan are one of the most common accessory for any woman, man, grandmother, grandfather, and/or child to wear. It is a white cloth that covers the nose and mouth and prevents germs from spreading. It’s practical and considerate when you are crammed on the metro with hundreds of people every day. But until now, I didn’t think *I* needed to wear a mask.

The thought struck me when I was in my Global Network class and we were talking about the effects of colonialism. We discussed several examples on how European settlers rarely conformed to native practices – even if the practice, ideology, method was practical, was for the betterment of the people, or just made sense.

Take for example the Calvinists that landed on the Hawaiian Island in 1893. I learned that they refused to change the way that they dressed. Instead of adapting their wardrobe to a subtropical climate, the Calvinists continued to wear often thick, long cotton pants and dresses.

Gosh, that sounds hot.

Although this is an ingenuous example, it demonstrates settlers’ reluctance to conform to the practical norms of the region. Why wouldn’t they just throw on some linen?

But before I move forward, I want to make a few things clear 1). I am not comparing the Japanese culture to the native people in Hawaii rather, I am comparing my thoughtless act of not wearing a mask in public (which is practical and thoughtful thing to do in busy public spaces) to the settlers’ dismissal of Hawaiian’s traditions and norms.

I was wrong about not wearing a mask in public. What gives me the right to expose other people to my germs, when they are taking precautions to not get me sick. If my fellow community members are considerate – why do I think that I have the privilege to not wear the mask and not be?

 

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I think the answer lies in the fact that I wasn’t being self-critical – I wasn’t acknowledging that I was part of the community and that I was somehow different because I was a “gaijin” or non-Japanese and could get away with breaking social norms.

It’s a crutch that I think many individuals abroad rely on – and something I want to recognize and change.

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Preparing For Takeoff

Leah Corbett is a 3rd year student studying Japanese. This semester she will be on the JF Oberlin University: Reconnaissance Japan Program in Tokyo. Check out her thoughts on starting her semester below!

 

I am less than a week away from my departure date to Japan for a full semester abroad. It would be an understatement to say that I’m nervous. I have never been out of the country before, or travelled anywhere near this far away, let alone by myself. I’ve wanted to study in Japan for years, but it was always a far-off dream. That dream got a little closer when I finally finished my application, but I had to wait. I was ecstatic when I received my acceptance letter! After I took the necessary steps such as ordering plane tickets, I then had to wait some more. I’ve been waiting for so long, and now I’m almost done doing so. While I’m pretty much ready in terms of knowing what to pack and what I need to do, I’m realizing I’m not mentally prepared.

I thought I was mentally prepared for most of my time waiting. One summer as a high school student, I attended a three-week-long Japanese language academy, which was the first time I’d been away from family for an extended period of time, so I was naturally nervous beforehand. It turned out to be an amazing experience! The next summer, I went to a week-long program at NASA Langley Research Center, and I had nowhere near as many nerves going into that. When I left for my first year of college, I felt like those experiences had helped me prepare for it, which they did. I adjusted to college life fairly quickly and have enjoyed it, so I figured a trip abroad wouldn’t be too nerve-wracking.

But here’s the catch (which I didn’t think about until very recently): I’ve lived in Virginia my entire life, and all of those times I’ve been away from home, I was still in Virginia. My home is a 40-minute drive away from UVA. That’s way closer than a lot of my classmates are from. While I’ve been on my own at college, I’ve always had my family nearby as a safety net, and I’m not going to have that in Japan.

In a way, I feel like I’m back where I started when I was preparing for that language academy five years ago. I can still use what I learned from that experience, which is knowing that being nervous is normal, and that it in no way means I won’t have a great time. I’ve wanted to do this for so long, and being a Japanese language and literature major, I know it will enrich my knowledge of the culture beyond what I can learn in a classroom. Having so many friends and family rooting for me helps me to realize my potential and try to be as proud of myself as they are of me, which pushes me forward.

 

Language Immersion and Speech Pathology

Melanie Turner is a 3rd year studying in Spain through UVA in Valencia for spring 2018. See her thoughts on how her time abroad has influenced her experience in her major!

At UVA, I study Speech Pathology in addition to Spanish. Throughout my time in Valencia, I’ve realized that my experience as a second language-learner might mimic the experience of people with communication disorders. In the same way that patients with Broca’s Aphasia struggle to explain their thoughts fluently, I sometimes find myself grasping hopelessly for words to express my ideas. Like stutterers, who might initially hesitate to speak up among strangers, I sometimes become timid among native Spaniards. Similarly to some people with a voice disorders, my inability to speak English sometimes makes me feel like I’ve lost a piece of my identity. While I certainly do not understand what it’s like to have these communication disorders, I do believe that my time in Spain has shaped how I view speech therapy. As I approach the halfway point of my semester abroad, I thought I’d share here are 7 things I’ve learned about speech pathology through language immersion:

1. Patience is crucial: When I first arrived in Spain, I was discouraged by my inability to speak fluently. In English, I enjoy finding the best word to explain my ideas, and in Spanish I frequently resort to the same limited vocabulary. I expected to see rapid progress within the first few weeks, but even after two months, it is still sometimes difficult for me to pinpoint exactly how I have improved. At times when I feel like I can’t see results, it’s easy to want to give up. In the same way, a speech pathology patient who
progresses slowly might become frustrated and want to halt therapy sessions, and a speech pathologist might lose heart when therapy goals are not reached. My language immersion experience has taught me that I should set ambitious but realistic goals, and that I should be patient to see these objectives realized.

2. Encouragement is key: When I feel frustrated by slow progress, I greatly appreciate verbal encouragement. I remember almost every time someone has specifically complimented my Spanish skills: When I first arrived, my host family’s daughter applauded my accent. When I visited with a pastor of a local church, he told me that my Spanish was advanced. When I went to a café with some of the youth from that church, they commented on how I spoke Spanish fluently. Just last night at dinner, my host parents mentioned that my level has improved since arriving. All of these comments remind me that language immersion is worthwhile, and they motivate me to keep trying. As a future speech pathologist, I hope I can remember how much these sporadic affirmations meant to me and provide the same kind of feedback to my clients.

3. Improvement is NOT passive: Another myth I believed before coming to Spain was
that just by being here I would become fluent. Certainly, being surrounded by the language solidifies certain skills, especially aural comprehension. However, language mastery does not happen without an intentional effort. If I want a word to become part of my vernacular, I have to consciously incorporate it into conversation. If I want to sound like a native, I have to speak to natives. If I want to learn new manners of expression, I have to study them. The same is true in speech pathology: clients have to do their homework if they want to improve, and clinicians have to put forth effort to plan the most appropriate and effective evidence-based practices. Improvement is possible, but it is an active process.

4. Language difficulties have a social dimension: Those who know me know that I am rather introverted. Small talk is exhausting for me, and back-to-back social interactions can wear me out. This poses a unique challenge for language immersion, which is inherently social. When I first arrived, all of the “getting to know you” conversations were taxing, and even now, there are some times when I choose not to add to conversations because expressing my thoughts in Spanish feels tiring. I imagine that people with communication disorders have similar experiences. Remaining silent might feel easier than mustering up the strength to communicate an idea, especially for introverts with speech/language challenges. Nevertheless, just as I would never improve my Spanish if I never spoke, these patients would never advance if they didn’t attempt to communicate. If I ever work with clients who share my tendency towards introversion, I hope I can affirm all the wonderful parts of being an introvert (for there are many!) while also encouraging them to step outside of their comfort zone for the sake of their
speech/language skills.

5. Correction is appreciated: One thing that I greatly appreciate when I am conversing with native speakers is correction. This past week, a friend from church invited me to her apartment for brunch with some other girls from church. One of these ladies has a degree in music education, and during our conversation, there were several times when she corrected my Spanish. When I thanked her, she laughed and apologized, saying that her tendency to correct is her “teacher’s flaw.” However, I insisted that my thanks were genuine; I would never improve if I were not told what I was doing wrong. While I recognize that if I were corrected all the time I would probably become disheartened, I also need to remember that most of the time, I desire this kind of instruction. In the same way, speech pathology clients – who want to improve their speech/language/voice just as much as I want to improve my Spanish – will probably welcome constructive feedback.

6. The process is never “finished”: Ever since I started taking Spanish classes in middle school, I imagined that studying abroad would be the culmination of language learning. After a semester in a Spanish-speaking country, I would finally be able to call myself “fluent.” Since arriving, I have realized how wrong this assumption was. Even my English is not completely “fluent” – in my translation class, we literally dedicated a class period to learning English idioms! I may never feel completely comfortable calling myself “fluent” in Spanish, but that is to be expected: language is a skill that I will improve throughout my whole life. Similarly, a person with a communication disorder may never be totally rid of the problem; for example, a stutterer may develop tactics to deal with stuttering without actually eliminating the root problem. Nevertheless, the lack of a clear ending point should not discourage the process.

7. The process is REWARDING: The aforementioned points may make both language learning and speech pathology seem overwhelmingly difficult; however, there is also incredible joy that comes with each of these processes! While some days progress feels slow, other days I find myself jumping up and down when I correctly use a Spanish idiom, audibly cheering myself on when I recollect new vocabulary words, or smiling broadly when I formulate sentences using tricky grammatical tenses. Furthermore, as I
learn a new language, the doors open to establish relationships that otherwise would not have been possible. While this is slightly different than what people with communication disorders experience, successful speech therapy can also open or reopen doors to new and/or old friendships, and even small steps towards an end goal can be thrilling. I am incredibly grateful for the gift of the Spanish language and for the opportunity to practice it, and I look forward to practicing a profession that is also highly gratifying. Although not everyone is a speech pathologist, I hope this blog shed some light on the
broad advantages of language immersion programs. Feel free to share any additional
thoughts about language immersion in the comments below!

Until next time,
Melanie 🙂

Tokyo, Japan

Rachel White is a 3rd year studying Foreign Affairs at Waseda University in Tokyo for the 2017-2018 school year. Check out some photos from her first semester below!

Lake near Mt. Fuji2
Mt. Fuji can be seen from this lake in Shizuoka Prefecture. Mt. Fuji is Japan’s tallest volcano and symbolizes Japan. Because my exchange university is in Tokyo, natural
scenery like this is not very common. Also, I thought it was interesting that some people live on that island because they would have to commute by boat to get groceries.
Fried Oysters at Hiroshima
Fried Oysters at Hiroshima: Hiroshima is known for having fresh oysters around fall, so this is a common dish sold there.
International Exchange Halloween Party
International Exchange Halloween Party: I joined an international exchange group at Waseda, and was able to meet a lot of other exchange students and Japanese students. The international exchange group is connected to other universities as well, so I am able to meet people from other parts of Tokyo. Halloween was not a common holiday celebrated in Japan, but has recently become very popular.
Torii Shrine at Miyajima
Tori Shrine: This is the most notable landmark at Miyajima, an island near Hiroshima. During high-tide, water covers the bottom of the pillars. However, during low-tide people are able to walk up to the shrine.
Red Spider Lily field in Saitama (1)
Red Spider Lily: This flower was once believed to be a flower sent from the heavens, and is a very popular plant during the fall.
View from Odaiba
This is a view of part of Tokyo from Odaiba. Odaiba is a man-made island in Tokyo and is a very popular tourist spot. This area will host the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, so they are currently constructing more buildings in preparation.
Odango at Mt. Takao
Odango at Mt. Takao. Odango is a traditional Japanese food, and can be served either sweet or salty. The one picture on the left is mochi with a layer of soy sauce type sauce that is grilled. The one on the right has a layer of “azuki” or “red bean.”
tokyo station
In 1914, Tokyo Station was built and was known for its red-brick
appearance. It became damaged in WWII, and recently was renovated back to what it looked like in 1914. Many Japanese businessmen use this station because of the various company buildings surrounding the station.
Mitama Festival
Mitama Festival is one of Japan’s biggest Obon festivals, and it celebrates the lives of the dead. The festival is held at Yasukuni Shrine, which is a Shinto shrine that commemorates those who fought for Japan. However, it is controversial in the Asia-Pacific region because it also commemorates class A war criminals. Mitama Festival: Although the festival is located in a controversial location, the festival attracts tourists because of the 30,000 lanterns on display. There are also traditional Japanese performances.

 

Where I’m From and Why I’m Here

Katherine Poore is a Third Year English and French major, who studied in the UVA Exchange: University of Edinburgh program in Fall 2017. She has her own blog where this post was originally posted. Check out the link and post below!

wanderingthroughwilderness.wordpress.com

I write this to you all fresh from an eight (!) day journey with my friend Anna Lee, where we hopped from Marseille to Aix-en-Provence, France to Florence and then on to Rome, Italy,before heading back here to face the end of our semester abroad, brave final exams, and soak up the remainder of our time across the pond.I spent my Thanksgiving going to French class and then hopping on a plane to Prague, Czech Republic, before tuning in via FaceTime to say hello to family at 1 am, when Thanksgiving was already, technically, over for me. Two days later, I took a train to Vienna and spent a whopping 24 hours there, exploring Christmas markets, touring Schonbrunn Palace, and going to a Mozart performance that was so surreal I can’t put it into words. **

Over the course of these trips, I’ve stayed in many a hostel or Airbnb and run into Americans, Italians, Slovakians, South Africans, Australians, Chinese, the French, Brits, and a number of other nationalities. Some of them are doing the same thing as me—taking a weekend, going on a trip while they’re already on the continent and airfare is cheap. Some of them are there for work. Some are there for personal journeys, or school, or they’re just trying to stay over here and travel until their Visa runs out and they have to go home. Everyone’s exact narrative varies, although some are similar enough, but we’ve all got one thing in common: we’re not from here, but we are here.

And this, if I had to compile a list of personal FAQs from this semester abroad, would be one of the chief questions posed to me: Where are you from? Why are you here? (or, sometimes, why Edinburgh? or Why not France ? or any of that question’s grammatical variants). Of course, there are others: What are you studying, what year are you, how are you finding it here,and soon and so forth. But it’s these two—where from, and why here—that linger with me a little longer than the rest.

I’d say it’s because they don’t have clear-cut answers, but they do (Tuscaloosa, Alabama,and It just worked out better this way). Invariably, there are more complicated answers; I could launch into my backstory (born in North Carolina, a short stint in Alexander City, then Tuscaloosa, and now Charlottesville, Virginia), or I could—and sometimes do—recount the fraught saga of my hopes to study in Lyon, France or London, England, summing it up with the conclusion that God had different ideas than I did, and now here I am, in Edinburgh, Scotland, spending too much money on coffee, hiking up Drummond Street every morning, and somehow ending up at Christmas markets when I should really just be studying.

So it’s hard to pinpoint why I think about these questions so much, when it’d be easy enough to not think about them. I’m here because I’m here. I’m from the States. Which one,you ask? Alabama—yes, the one with Forrest Gump and that one Lynyrd Skynyrd song. Do you know much about football, the American kind?

But perhaps there’s something more to these questions, besides the potential complexity of an answer. These questions trace a journey, from point A (where I’m from) to point B (where I am now). They ask for a story, a narrative of movement from one place to another, that is rarely as straightforward as the words used to ask for it.

But I’m all about journeys, and trying to uncover why they happened, what I’m supposed to learn, and who I was when I started compared to who I am now. And this where-and-why only asks about the journey of before, of how I got here and not what has happened since. The sequel to these questions, the How has this changed you? hasn’t been asked yet, mainly because I’m not finished with my time here and so cannot yet fully employ that simultaneous gift and curse of retrospection to examine what has been good and what has been bad or strange or funny or hard.

That being said, I think it’s interesting at this point, before these next two weeks are up and I’m on a flight back stateside, to think (briefly) about how I got here, and what I wanted, and where I came from.

In the most literal sense, I came from the Providence, Rhode Island T.F. Green Airport,on a ridiculously cheap Norwegian Air flight. Before that, it was the Atlanta airport, and then, of course, my home in Tuscaloosa.

But what I really came from was a long,beautiful summer in the Blue Ridge mountains,where I’d returned to a summer camp I’d called home so many years ago as a lonely, quiet middle-schooler. Before that, it had been an anxiety-riddled semester of existential questions,flourishing friendships that challenged how I look at love, and personal doubt. I came here from a place of trying to prove something, of wanting to see more, of wishing to test my limits and revel in another tiny corner of this world the Lord created for us. I wanted to get away, because that’s when I think best,and that’s when I can see myself, and the people and places I’ve left,more clearly. I wanted a reprieve from the wonderful and loving, but also physically and emotionally taxing, world of UVA, with its over-busy lifestyle and obsessive comparing of hours slept during the night.

I wanted to keep moving, because it’s something I’m good at, and something I like, and mobility—and the chance to see more of the world—has an allure I just can’t ever seem to shake.I wanted to rec-contextualize myself again, to get another angle for the exploration of what and who I am.I wanted to take the tiny, tattered fabric of my life and sew it someplace new on the tapestry of the world, to see how I fit into a new part of the pattern.

I recognize that, ostensibly, this is all emblematically youthful, romantic, naïve, and probably grandiose—that these are big words that are difficult to translate into everyday life—but youthful questions are important questions,if only because they are big and difficult to translate.I’m not trying to paint myself as some deep thinker here, as some tortured artist or restless soul that tosses and turns at night while grappling with the deep, dark question of humanity, or who traverses the world without ever looking back or missing her mom.I wouldn’t call myself any of these things, because they’re tropes, and they’re not real, and I don’t think the questions I’m asking are terribly unique ones.I am one of hundreds of thousands of college women who decided to skip town to spend a semester in Europe, and I’m probably not the only one who came for these reasons.

But I think that’s a more honest answer for where I came from, and also why I’m here: I came from a place of questions and uncertainty and restlessness,and I’m here so I can take a better, different look at these questions, so I can experience someplace new, and so I might burst the bounds of my own localized understanding of the world and see the different parts of the world’s pattern, whether I fit in to them or not.

Next time I post, I’ll be back in the States, feeling the numb sort of whiplash that comes with the quick, unceremonious uprooting of life from one lifestyle, community, and place to another. There will be a lot I’ll want to say, and a lot I won’t know how to express, but if there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that I won’t have answered these questions. I’ll probably keep seeking, and moving, and wondering, and sewing my fabric into new places on the tapestry. Sometimes it will fit, and sometimes it won’t, but at least I’ve seen a new part of the pattern.

**For those of you wondering: yes, I have still managed to make it to class, and school does exist, and I am doing it!

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