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.

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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
outside

fika is my spirits feeling as light as the vapor
as I smile at my neighbor
with cinnamon-smeared lips,
icing still melting on my tongue

fika 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.

Semester in Australia: First Two Months

Martha Sheridan is a Systems Engineering major who spent this past spring semester studying on exchange at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Take a look at photos from the first two months of her time abroad. 

 

Taken on the coastal walk from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach at sunrise. I was still extremely jet lagged and unable to sleep in, so I took advantage of being up early by walking down to a good view. I took this picture so I could remember the experience.

Taken from a ferry to Manly Beach. This is a view of the Sydney Opera House and the city behind it. During an annual outdoor lighting festival called Vivid Sydney the opera house is lit up with beautiful designs and colors.

Taken on a hike in the Blue Mountains. The rock formation to the left of the picture is known as The Three Sisters. An Aboriginal legend says that three sisters fell in love with three brothers from another tribe, but law forbade them from marrying. The brothers used force to capture the sisters, and to protect them from the danger a witchdoctor turned them to stone.

Taken at Featherdale Wildlife Reserve. This is a picture of Chloe the Koala who came close and nicely posed for a picture for me.

An alleyway off of Hosier Lane in Melbourne

The Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road. Fun fact, there aren’t actually twelve, and it was named that during a time of religious revival to attract tourists.

Brighton Beach Boxes

Settling into life in Hong Kong

Orian Churney is a 3rd year electrical engineer currently studying abroad in Hong Kong! Check out how he is settling into life as an exchange student there.

My time at HKUST is going pretty well. The classes are pretty similar to the ones in America, with both lectures and homework assignments. The library is pretty nice; there are a lot of places to study both in groups and by yourself. One thing that’s different than my home university is that essentially you have to take the elevator most of the time. To get to the main academic concourse, I have to take two elevators that each go up 10 floors, and after that most of my classes were somewhere on the second, fourth, or fifth floors. I had to get really used to taking elevators and some of the etiquette that the local students had about getting on and off elevators. But overall, it isn’t too hard, and I can get to most of my classes in around 15 to 20 minutes.

There are also some other interesting things that I have gotten used to over the first month of being here. I’m starting to get used to walking around with a lot of people around me, which is somewhat different than being able to drive around by yourself all of the time. The transportation around the city is pretty nice, as well. It’s a lot easier to get around when you don’t have to pay attention to directions while driving, and you just need to make sure which train to go on and which stop to get off at. The novelty of taking the train might wear off at some point, but for me it’s still pretty interesting to be able to easily travel around. It’s also interesting how much walking that you can do in large cities. At my hometown, if I wanted to go to the grocery store nearby, I would probably take my car, but over here everything is close by, so it’s a lot easier to just walk and take the metro. I don’t think many people even need to own a car, because of the public transportation.

One thing that is a pretty big change from my usual habits is that I now take notes on loose-leaf paper instead of in notebooks. This might not seem like a big difference, but I usually take a lot of notes in class, and now I have a bunch of paper in random folders. The folders are different too: instead of having two pockets arranged like a book, many folders just have one big pocket like a slide paper. I think many students took notes using electronic devices like a tablet, though. My professors post lecture slides online, which are pretty useful for studying, also. In general, my classes are going well.

A glimpse of Guatemala

Sandy Hoang is a 1st year student in the College of Arts and Sciences studying abroad on the UVA in Guatemala: Engineering Public Health program. Check out some of her beautiful pictures of Guatemala and thoughtful reflections that go with them!

A Mayan woman carrying firewood on her head makes the difficult hike through the hilly plantation with her son. In the rural indigenous villages, it is the woman’s duty to collect and carry the firewood to her home, where she uses the wood to cook. Work in Guatemala is often gender-divided, with women working at home and men working on the fincas, or plantations.

A Mayan woman carrying firewood on her head makes the difficult hike through the hilly plantation with her son. In the rural indigenous villages, it is the woman’s duty to collect and carry the firewood to her home, where she uses the wood to cook. Work in Guatemala is often gender-divided, with women working at home and men working on the fincas, or plantations.

In the market, women display and sell their traje weavings. Traje is woven using traditional methods taught in Mayan culture for hundreds of years. With creative and meticulous detail from the weaver, traje is considered a powerful art in Guatemala. Each traje takes around two months to finish and each village has a unique traje design.

In the market, women display and sell their traje weavings. Traje is woven using traditional methods taught in Mayan culture for hundreds of years. With creative and meticulous detail from the weaver, traje is considered a powerful art in Guatemala. Each traje takes around two months to finish and each village has a unique traje design.

Washing clothes in the lake is not only a burden because of a walk, especially with the weight of wet clothes, but it also damages the lake because of the detergents and bleach that are used in the process. These pilas offer an environmentally and personally safe alternative to washing clothes in the lake, and was created by the San Lucas Toliman Mission as a way to improve the health of women.

Washing clothes in the lake is not only a burden because of a walk, especially with the weight of wet clothes, but it also damages the lake because of the detergents and bleach that are used in the process. These pilas offer an environmentally and personally safe alternative to washing clothes in the lake, and was created by the San Lucas Toliman Mission as a way to improve the health of women.

Before the Spanish conquest in the sixteenth century, Mayans lived in tight-knit communities. These ruins cue back to the grand architecture of this time, where hundreds of people would live in each square of land. The communities would often feud against each other and cautions were taken to prevent sabotage. These seemingly ancient communities persisted up until the sixteenth century and show how important Mayan identity still is in Guatemalan culture.

Before the Spanish conquest in the sixteenth century, Mayans lived in tight-knit communities. These ruins cue back to the grand architecture of this time, where hundreds of people would live in each square of land. The communities would often feud against each other and cautions were taken to prevent sabotage. These seemingly ancient communities persisted up until the sixteenth century and show how important Mayan identity still is in Guatemalan culture.

Many men and women gather in the center of Xela to buy fruits and vegetables grown by their neighbors. With rich soil and ideal weather, agriculture happily continues to be a huge source of  income in Guatemala. I was immediately reminded of the issue between the US and Guatemala during the United Fruit Company crisis in the early 1950s, when the US exploited Guatemalan  land and government for the growth of the US-owned fruit business in Guatemala. Guatemala is  a land filled with agricultural potential, as well as agricultural exploitation.

Many men and women gather in the center of Xela to buy fruits and vegetables grown by their neighbors. With rich soil and ideal weather, agriculture happily continues to be a huge source of income in Guatemala. I was immediately reminded of the issue between the US and Guatemala during the United Fruit Company crisis in the early 1950s, when the US exploited Guatemalan land and government for the growth of the US-owned fruit business in Guatemala. Guatemala is a land filled with agricultural potential, as well as agricultural exploitation.

At the crater of Volcano Chikabal is a sacred lagoon, where Mayans offer flowers and prayers to the god of the rain for better crops. While I was there, I also stumbled upon a Mayan ritual, which consisted of chants from the Mayans and a large fire. I was surprised at the persistence of Mayan culture and identity despite Western influences from the Spaniards and the US.

At the crater of Volcano Chikabal is a sacred lagoon, where Mayans offer flowers and prayers to the god of the rain for better crops. While I was there, I also stumbled upon a Mayan ritual, which consisted of chants from the Mayans and a large fire. I was surprised at the persistence of Mayan culture and identity despite Western influences from the Spaniards and the US.

This manually-operated hydroelectric plant offers a modest number of megawatts for a portion of the villages in the outskirts of Xela. Although the supervisor of the plant has requested to the municipality of Xela the use of automated machines to power the plant, the government denied his offer in favor of more jobs, since the cost of automated machines far exceeds the cost of workers. Before seeing the plant, I expected to see a large Hoover dam, and was surprised to see how small the plant actually was.

This manually-operated hydroelectric plant offers a modest number of megawatts for a portion of the villages in the outskirts of Xela. Although the supervisor of the plant has requested to the municipality of Xela the use of automated machines to power the plant, the government denied his offer in favor of more jobs, since the cost of automated machines far exceeds the cost of workers. Before seeing the plant, I expected to see a large Hoover dam, and was surprised to see how small the plant actually was.

Unlike in USA cemeteries, Guatemalan graves are above ground because of the high water levels underground due to the rainy season and the lake. Death in Guatemala is viewed not with so much solemnity as in the US, but, rather, with a sort of celebration of their passed ancestors and their reunion with Christ. The bright colors and the detailed architecture attest to this attitude with the dead.

Unlike in USA cemeteries, Guatemalan graves are above ground because of the high water levels underground due to the rainy season and the lake. Death in Guatemala is viewed not with so much solemnity as in the US, but, rather, with a sort of celebration of their passed ancestors and their reunion with Christ. The bright colors and the detailed architecture attest to this attitude with the dead.

Lake Atitlan, surrounded by three large volcanoes, is the home of many indigenous villages such as San Martin, San Lucas Toliman, and Santiago. The lake is a source of drinking water,  bathing water, and washing water. Over the years, the lake has been a popular visit for tourists,  and the indigenous population has adapted to this interest with markets and stores that has  transformed the lives of the Mayans. Increasing pollution of the lake has also created problems in  the indigenous health, and many NGOs have tried to combat this solution.

Lake Atitlan, surrounded by three large volcanoes, is the home of many indigenous villages such as San Martin, San Lucas Toliman, and Santiago. The lake is a source of drinking water, bathing water, and washing water. Over the years, the lake has been a popular visit for tourists, and the indigenous population has adapted to this interest with markets and stores that has transformed the lives of the Mayans. Increasing pollution of the lake has also created problems in the indigenous health, and many NGOs have tried to combat this solution.