Meet Mairead a Political Science and Economics double major. She is a member of the women's soccer team and Kappa Delta Sorority. She was also the president of the class of 2018 this past semester when she was at Susquehanna. She is studying abroad in Amsterdam, the Netherlands at the University of Amsterdam through the CIEE Social Sciences Program this spring. We asked her a few questions and this is how she answered!
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Website: Adventures in Amsterdam
As an athlete, what are you doing to keep up your fitness? Explain your regimens.
One of the major things Amsterdam is known for is it’s biking. There are more bikes than people in Amsterdam. Therefore, my main mode of transportation has been biking. I bike to class everyday, to the grocery store, to friend’s apartments, etc. My apartment is also fairly far from the city center and all of my classes (3.5-4.8 miles depending on the location of my class that day). So I have been biking an average of 10 miles per day, which I absolutely love by the way. At the beginning it was very stressful and scary but after only being here for a month, I feel like a pro. I am even biking one handed like locals at times. This being said, this has been the majority of my cardio. There is also a gym in my apartment building so I have been able to keep up with our lifting routine. I heard all of my friends saying that they gained weight abroad, similar to the freshman 15, but because of all of my biking I think I have been losing weight! I eat all of the stroopwafels I want because I know I can bike it off later! The biking culture might be my favorite part about Amsterdam, and also makes it a suitable place for any student athletes!
What is your favorite food so far from your study away location? (include a picture if possible)
My favorite food has to be the stroopwafels. These are two very thin slices of baked dough with hot caramel in the middle. You can also get melted chocolate on half of them in some places. They cost around 2 Euro when they are made fresh. You can also get packages of them at almost any grocery store. I treat myself to them at least once per week. I wish we had them in America!
Meet Gregory Radcliffe. He' s a junior double major in German and Religious Studies with a passion for foreign language and culture, history, nature, and traveling. This spring he is returning to Germany for the second time to study in Freiburg im Breisgau. His first time to Germany was on an exchange back in high school when he was given the opportunity to live with a German family for three weeks in Nürnberg, Bavaria, which fueled his growing love for the German language and culture. This spring he is excited to deepen his knowledge of Germany and its language, explore Freiburg and the surrounding area, and enjoy a good book and a cup of coffee at a German café.
We asked him a few questions and this is how he answered.
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Fremder in Frieburg
1. How much/little have you been traveling while you have been away?
- I’ve only been in Germany for about two weeks now, but I feel like I have done quite a bit of traveling so far, though only to places around Freiburg. During the first weekend I was here, the other IES students and I went on a group trip to Switzerland, which is only about an hour away. We went hiking in the Alps and then traveled further on to the Swiss city of Luzern. I have also been into the Black Forest, which is right outside the city. So, I’ve mainly been to the areas around Freiburg and haven’t traveled to anywhere far away yet, but I don’t even know if I will travel much outside of the area where I’m staying. German public transportation is so good, and with a student Regiokarte I can travel throughout the region for free, so I hope to spend a lot of time exploring the region around Freiburg, as well as France and Switzerland, which are only about an hour away from Freiburg.
2. What is the strangest thing you have seen so far in your study away location?
- I arrived in Germany during the festival of Faschtnacht or Fasnet as it’s called in Badisch the dialect that’s spoken in Freiburg. I wouldn’t describe it as strange, but it was something that I had never experienced or seen before. The festival lasts several days and I would describe it as being like a second Halloween. A lot of people dress up in these big elaborate costumes that are really colourful and oftentimes somewhat creepy, but the festival is Pagan in origin, so the whole point of it is to dress up in scary costumes, make lots of noise, and scare away the winter spirits so that Spring can come. Rosenmontag is the height of the festival, and on that day there was a parade held in the city and several guilds and organizations in Freiburg from the surrounding area presented their costumes. In the evening there was a crazy party in the middle of the street while the public transportation was stilling running, where a marching band was playing music and people were dancing and singing. It was crazy but a lot of fun.
3. What is one thing that you will miss the most about your study away location?
This is very difficult for me to answer, because there are a lot of things that I will miss here, but I guess the one thing I will miss most is speaking German every day. Back home I don’t really have anyone I can speak German with, but here it’s everywhere, my friends and I all communicate through German, I can find and read all the books I want in German, all my classes are taught in it, and it’s just made me so happy to be around other German speakers all the time. I’m really going to miss that when I go back home, and I honestly think it will be pretty hard for me to go from using German as my primary language to it just being a language I use at home in my private life and for an hour during German class.
- Explain the transition from speaking mostly English to speaking mostly German. - How did you prepare? - How often is English spoken in Germany?
For me the transition to speaking primarily German was not very difficult. I expected it would take me a week or two to switch my brain into “German mode,” but honestly as soon as I landed in Germany, my brain seemed to switch immediately. I feel like this is probably because I had to talk to a lot of people to figure out where I was going and what trains I needed to take to get to Freiburg. I prepared myself for speaking primarily German, by studying a lot in my free time, reviewing grammar points and vocabulary, and then also by reading a lot of books in German and watching German YouTubers. At home before I left, I tried to create somewhat of a German space around me so that it wouldn’t be that difficult to switch over into German once I got there, and I feel like that helped me a lot.
During my first couple of weeks here, I honestly haven’t heard that much English spoken even though the majority of the people I spend my time with are American. My friends and I here all speak mainly in German to each other, and really only use English to clarify something or when we don’t know how to say something. I do speak English quite a bit at home though, because my only roommate right now is Japanese, and my Japanese is pretty rusty, so English is the easiest language to communicate with. Other than that I’ve only really heard English being spoken by a couple of people on the street, but oddly enough it still seems rare to me to hear English.
Meet Melissa Ballow a junior Creative Writing and Publishing & Editing double major with a pending minor in Theater. She is studying abroad in Athens, Greece during the Spring 2017 semester. At Susquehanna , she is involved with Hillel, GSA, WomenSpeak, and life guarding at the campus pool. She loves making any kind of art under the sun, singing, playing guitar, hiking, and swimming. And she's been running her own blog since 2012. We asked Melissa some questions and this is how she answered!
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Q: What’s it like being abroad in relation to being a part of the LGBTQ/Jewish communities? –
Having the identities that I do means I need to have an awareness of the political and religious climate of every location I visit. My rights as a minority individual – my right to pray as I choose, for one – may be compromised or ignored in any number of settings, and my safety is not a given even if the law is on my side. Beyond that, I find myself being aware of how other minorities in my vicinity are treated, be they persons of color, refugees, persons of a faith outside of Judaism or Christianity, or even my fellow American exchange students – and offering compassion and empathy when the need arises.
Q: Do you feel accepted? –
I find that I’m not asked many questions about my personal identity. I’m light-skinned, I don’t wear a Star of David, and I’m cisgendered (gender identity matches gender assigned at birth) – in other words, I fly under the radar unless I make a point to mention my assorted identities. That said, it is precisely because I pass so well as the norm that I can see discrimination towards me and my communities. While watching a Greek sitcom one afternoon with my host brother, for example, I wasn’t asked about how seeing a same-gender couple made me feel as a same-gender attracted individual … but I did note that the program didn’t shy away from offensive stereotyping and that the laugh track informed me that I was supposed to laugh at their behavior.
It seems that I’m not in danger of somebody hurting me so much as I am in danger of somebody misunderstanding me here. Because of Greek culture, something so deeply rooted both in ancient tradition and Christian revival, patriarchal thinking influences how gender and sexuality are treated, especially if a person does not neatly fit into a singular box. When I, in a gender and sexuality course, mentioned that I identify as “a member of the LGBTQ+ community”, my doctorate-holding professor applauded me as “an outspoken lesbian” – and you would have thought she, of all people, wouldn’t have made that assumption. The local drag show, which is accommodating for people of all genders and sexualities, is forced into the half-Avant Garde, half-red-light district of Sygrou-Fix because of the assumption that cross-dressing is meant to be obscene when the reality was a comedy show with dancing and lip-synching.
In terms of my Judaism, I am lost when it comes to Christian theology. I simply don’t know some of the holidays because they are more obscure and their services less frequently attended in the US. As such, it isn’t a shock that I’m excluded by that process by proxy. However, I’m finding increasingly that the ties to Judaism and its traditions are clearer here in the Mediterranean than they are at home, perhaps because the Jewish people’s origins are closer to here than the Anglo-Saxon world. This is particularly evident in the way we converse. The Jewish people and the Greeks are both a heady people, and will talk to anyone and everyone about anything and everything, which brings me great comfort in a place where one might be afraid that your language may not be understood at all. People care about each other and their wellbeing, as well as their minds, and so they bicker and laugh and commune. It makes me feel at home.
Q: Do you feel that you can find others in these communities easily around Athens? –
To give you an idea, when I first met my host family, they told me that I’m the first Jewish person they’ve ever met. 98% of Greece identifies as Greek Orthodox. The whole of Athens has one synagogue which requires visitors to notify the rabbi when planning to stop by. I’m honestly shocked that there’s a kosher delicatessen near my campus. Almost all of the Jews I’ve met so far have been fellow students; the sole exception was a Hassidic man picking up his luggage the day I landed here.
Meanwhile, the LGBTQ+ scene is exceptionally active in the city. There’s a couple of neighborhoods – Gazi and Sygrou-Fix come to mind – that are welcoming to non-straight, non-cis clientele, and a handful of organizations such as the Lesbian Group of Athens and Colour Youth offer resources to LGBTQ+ persons and their allies, such as discussion panels, personal counseling, and even legal support. Outside of those designated safe spaces, I’ve met a few same-gender couples holding hands while waiting for the metro, but not too many others.
The hardest part about becoming involved with these communities is that there aren’t always visual cues to a person’s identity. You cannot be sure of a person’s gender unless they tell you what it is, and sexuality is impossible to tell from a distance, even if both parties in a couple are of different genders. Many Jewish people do not wear head-coverings, tallit, or a Star of David on a regular basis. The only real way to get to know people who identify similarly to me is to either ask an individual how they identify and have a conversation or to frequent places that satisfy the needs of the community and jump into a conversation already taking place.
Q: What type of housing do you have (dorm, homestay, apartment)? What do you like about your living arrangements? Do you wish you had an opportunity for another one? Why? –
I live in a homestay with an amazing Athenian family of four. We eat together at least a few times a week, watch movies and local performances together, and practice speaking in each other’s native language. My housing arrangement is one of the nicest in the area: my family has a house rather than an apartment, a rarity in the city, and I have my own bedroom and bathroom. There’s also an adorable cat named Asprothodes who keeps me company while I do homework. The biggest downside? I’m in the suburbs of Athens, while my school’s campus is in one of the busiest districts of the city. I take two metros and a fifteen minute walk every day to get to school – or a taxi, when the metro workers are on strike. I typically spend 45 minutes or more commuting each way. Although it’s tiring to make the trek, I still think it’s worth being totally immersed in the culture of family life and the rhythm of navigating the city.
Q: What extracurricular (club, sports, volunteering, etc.) activities have you participated in while at your study away location? –
I’ve gone on a few hiking trips with other students, and I’m working on volunteering at a local university library. I also hope to make a visit to Colour Youth to get involved with the international LGBTQ+ scene, as well as the synagogue in town in preparation for Passover in April. The coolest and most regular activity I’ve been a part of has been a marble sculpting workshop held for three hours every Tuesday evening. The operator and his son are exceptionally kind and knowledgeable about their craft, and after the lesson we eat a light homemade dinner together. It’s hard on my arms and wrists, but I’m very excited to be learning about a totally foreign medium.
Q: What are some noticeable differences in culture that would differ from the United States? –
American cuisine defines itself by three things: 1) how much we can eat, 2) how fast we can eat it, and 3) how much junk we can cram into it. The Greeks have a far different approach. Food is important, and it’s important to have your fill of it, but it’s far more important to savor it and the company that you’re with. This principle guides every meal and coffee run you have in town. Your singular cappuccino might take only moments to drink, but if you’re sitting down with someone you might end up sipping at it and the complimentary water for upwards of an hour. God help you if you decide to order mezedes (appetizers) with friends, because you could spend your whole night out sitting and laughing over dinner. The owner of your local bakery might slip you some free cookies in exchange for an update on your classwork. Even street food is cooked with the utmost care and flavor, and exchanged with a genuine smile. Every interaction over food means something. Breaking bread together is a sign of trust, comfort, and mutual happiness. It’s more than a means to live – it is a choice and dedication to sharing a moment of life.
Q: Expand on an experience you’ve had. –
Athens has a large refugee population, many of whom are from Syria, Afghanistan, and other troubled countries. On my way home from my marble workshop, around 10 or so, I encountered a band of high-school aged refugee boys on my second metro. One of them was carrying a portable speaker, blasting Greek rap into the otherwise abandoned car. The others were dancing along to the music, a few of them practicing their pronunciation along with the music. I had only just started my third week of learning Greek, and didn’t know any of the many languages they could have known, be they Farsi, Arabic, or another Middle-Eastern tongue. I do, however, know how to beatbox. The boys went nuts when they realized I was joining in, clapping along and pulling off a few strings of their own beats. When I hastily said “Από την Αμερική, μιλάω αγγλικά” – “I’m from America, I speak English”, they tripped over their English to introduce themselves, only to switch back to singing and rapping and beatboxing the rest of the twenty-minute ride to my station. A few of us exchanged Facebook info so we could meet up again in town someday. We only barely understood each other, but we were delighted in our shared love of sound, valuing that connection enough to want to strengthen it more in the future. I don’t know that I ever understood that music could transcend languages so profoundly before then; I’m incredibly thankful for that moment.
Meet Alexis Bishop, a junior with a Political Science and Creative Writing double-major and an Honors minor. Her study abroad location for the Spring 2017 semester is the University of Stirling in Scotland. Mountains and bodies of water are two of her favorite things, both of which she cannot wait to find plenty of in her explorations and castle hunting.
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Love Always, Alexis Scotland
How does the education differ in your study away location from the US?
I came in with the perception that the education system would not be too difficult, especially considering my background with some of the more intensive Political Science and Honors program coursework I have had at SU. However, I found that the differences were, at first, hard to adjust to. I have three “modules” (that’s their word for class), each one meets for a lecture 1-2 times a week for one hour. A lecture is just that, the professor stands in a larger classroom hall and lecture. I was surprised to find that many students even skip the lectures because attendance is not mandated and everything is recorded. Each module also meets for seminars or tutorials once a week for an hour. These are smaller discussion groups to go over the materials of the class; they remind me more of what I have experienced at SU.
Overall, though, that means in-class time is significantly less than that at SU. It’s easy to think then that the education may be easier, but the thing is that there is a lot of out-of-class workload expectations. In each of my modules there are essential texts, then the recommended, then the optional. Each provided lists of two to three pages of books categorized this way. I have to say, it was daunting at first. Plus, each class only has two to three assignments. Like two papers, or one paper and a final exam. It’s a bit stressful knowing your grade rests on such a small variety of work.
So I wouldn’t say it’s easier. Not that it’s harder either. It’s just different. I catch myself longing for SU’s system, but I’m convinced it’s only because it’s what I know. It’s what I have breathed in for 20 years. We tend to attach ourselves to what we understand, what is comfortable. I’m learning to ask why. I’m learning to try, even when it makes me uneasy.
What is one thing that you will miss the most about your study away location?
Here, tea is coffee. Friends don’t get together to grab a coffee, but to sit with a warm cup of English Breakfast Tea swirled with milk and sugar; and, of course, paired with biscuits, chocolate, and gummies. For some this would be unideal, because coffee is air. But for me, this is perfect because it feeds so nicely into my tea obsession. My flat came stocked with a kettle, my club meetings finish with chatting while cuddling ceramic mugs, my church service here convenes with tea that pours straight out of the thermos pot—no tea bag needed! I tend to gravitate towards the more organic greens and peppermint options, skipping the sugar and milk—which, does raise a few eyebrows here—but I’ve found my love for the stuff has multiplied into 3-4 cups a day.
What type of housing do you have (dorm, homestay, apartment)? What do you like about your living arrangements? Do you wish you had an opportunity for another one? Why?
I live in an apartment complex called Alexander Courts on campus. Here, they would say it as living in a flat at the uni. I have my own room with a basic bed, drawer, desk, shelving and closet unit; it’s comparably smaller and older than what you would find at SU, but it’s definitely livable. Plus, the room comes with its own “wash-bin”; and I must say, you wouldn’t realize how much of a blessing it is to have a sink in your room until you’ve experienced it. I share a kitchen and seating area space, along with two toilets and showers, with five flatmates—randomly assigned, but all international students. At first, I wasn’t thrilled that my flat is about a 15-20 minute walk to the center of campus with the academic buildings, on-campus food markets, library, etc; but it’s become a favorite part of my day to walk past the Airthrey Castle, with the rugged Dumyat Hill in the background, down past the gorgeous loch in the center of the campus with the Wallace Monument in the near skyline. I also came in nervous to have to cook for myself, since there are no meal plans here. But it’s been really great to be able to have the food and ingredients I like, to eat when it is convenient for me, and to be able to experiment with new recipes. There’s a great second-hand shop right at the uni where past students have left behind pots, utensils, cookware, you name it really. It’s a cheap way to get what you need.
One thing I wonder about, though, is what it would be like to live in a homestay. Not studying a second language took that option off the table for me as I selected my location to study abroad. Meals would be provided and the comforts that come along with a home and family. But I’ve come to see that I am content with my living arrangements and the greater independence it has given me. It’s not perfect, but no arrangement ever will be.
As a creative writing major, are you taking any classes that will transfer back to SU for your major? If so, which classes.
Yes, I am! I am taking two English electives here- Writing & History and Writing & Identity- that will fulfill the 8 credit English elective requirement of the creative writing major.
What was the process for the classes to get approved?
The process was very simple. Since the University of Stirling is a SU program, there are a good amount of classes that are pre-approved from previous students that have been here. On that list, I noticed the Writing & History course (which also counts for the core requirement of Historical Perspectives). I then used the course catalog that Stirling sent to me to find other general English classes. I found one I was interested in, copied the information about the course, and emailed it to the head of the English department for approval. Then you simply take the form to the department and get it signed off!
Since in Scotland, have you had any inspiration for your writing? If so please explain.
I definitely have. This place is so beautiful, I cannot help but be inspired to capture it on a page. The castles, the loch with swans and ducks, the Wallace Monument in the distance…all on my 20 minute walk to class every morning! It gives me space to think. I also find that the accents here and the welcoming loving vibe of Scotts has put enchanting voices inside my head. When I think, I hear the thick rich accent. Having that has made me excited to write, to capture these people and their tongues in my work.
I find I am more in the process of daily journaling every night, to take notes and notice my feelings. I haven’t begun any pieces from the bits I have been picking up, but there is life in what I am experiencing and learning, which I am very excited to wrestle with language over soon enough.
Meet Douglas Webb, a Junior Economics and Business Global Management dual major at Susquehanna University. He is abroad in London, England with the Sigmund Weis School of Business for the Spring 2017 semester. While abroad he plans to travel throughout Europe and neighboring countries to engross himself in new cultures. We asked Douglass a few questions about his experience so far and this is how he answered!
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SWSB in London
What is your favorite food so far from your study away location? (include a picture if possible)
My favorite food so far is traditional Chinese noodles from Tai Tip Mein in the Elephant and Castle Shopping Center. The fried noodles are priced cheaply and served in massive portions which isn’t the standard in London. It’s always a ‘yes’ when I’m asked to join friends and a must eat if ever in the city.
How does the education differ in your study away location from the US?
The educational system is quite different than the United States. In primary school their educational system is similar to the U.S. in that all students learn a little about all subjects. However, as UK students’ progress through school they slowly choose classes and areas to specialize in. By the time they are at university they have narrowed their studies down to one subject, in rare cases two. There is an exception to this rule; Oxbridge students (those who are believed capable of attending Oxford or Cambridge) do not begin to specialize, in fact they are given even more material to learn. The idea is that these students who are capable of the work need to be well rounded in order to achieve their highest potential.
How much/little have you been traveling while you have been away?
I have traveled nearly every single weekend while abroad. I love the city of London and part of me wishes to deeply explore the city but given the ease of travel around the EU many friends and I have booked trips to various countries during our stay. The list I have and will be traveling to is: Italy, Sweden, Greece, France, Copenhagen, Slovenia, Spain, Ireland as well as other locations within the UK.
- Explain what it is like to travel with SU professors.
- Does this help you with connecting your study away experience with you major? If so , how?
- Explain your consulting project and the requirements for it.
Traveling with an SU Professor, in my opinion, is excellent. I am fortunate to be traveling with Katarina Keller, a professor I was already close with due to my Business and Economics dual major. While there has yet to be any incidents requiring her attention the knowledge that someone is close to advocate on my behalf is very reassuring.
Dr. Keller is an expert in her field and extremely knowledgeable. She has organized numerous trips to local and foreign companies to give real world experience on day to day activities as well as higher management responsibilities at each business. It priceless insight on the job market and continues to help me decide an appropriate career path post-graduation.
My consulting project is broken down into two parts. The twenty students are broken down into four groups, two groups to each part. My group and one more are responsible for marketing new and improved ways to increase tourism revenues and tourism levels in Minehead, a town in Western Somerset. The other group are responsible for convincing the National Heritage Rail Service to allow an improved coal train to travel along the existing rail line. When each part is connected, in a large part to the rail, they are also different. Minehead has the oldest average population in all of the UK and offers beautiful sights and numerous outdoor activities. This provides a challenge in keeping the natural beauty and serenity of the area while also attracting the younger generations.
Christina Joell is a junior Creative Writing major. She is studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain for the Spring 2017 semester . She cant wait can't wait to explore the city and learn more about the culture there, as well as travel to different countries in Europe! We asked her a few questions about her study abroad and here is how she answered!
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Keeping up with Barcelona !
4. How does the education differ in your study away location from the US?
The education is different in smaller ways. All of my classes are much smaller than my classes in the US. Normally, my classes can be between 10-30 students at Susquehanna. I thought my Creative Writing classes were small, but here my largest class only contains six people! My smallest class only has three (including me). The classes are longer, too. Each class is two hours long and the teachers rarely believe in letting out the class early. My classes are typically an hour long to an hour and a half in the US. There’s an occasional three-hour night class, but that is only once a week. I think the classes are long because the duration of the program is much shorter than normal. On Monday-Thursday, my class schedule is from 11-6pm MW or 11-4pm TTH. There is a 40-minute lunch break built into that time-frame. One thing that is different that I love is that there aren’t classes on Friday’s. It makes it very easy to travel for the weekend! For the teaching style, it is very similar to my classes in the US. The structural aspects are where differences are drawn.
5. What is one thing that you will miss the most about your study away location?
The endless amounts of possibilities. Traveling is easy, the city is huge and there’s so many things to do. At my home town (even in my university town), there’s a limited amount of activities to do and things to see before you have done everything you can in the area. I am close to the city of Philadelphia in my hometown, but it’s an hour train ride that I don’t always feel like taking. In Barcelona, I am in the city. Barcelona is such a huge, beautiful city with so much to do. There’s many monuments to visit, places to shop, restaurants to eat in – the varieties of each are endless. I know at home and sometimes at school I feel bored because there isn’t much that is different, but I don’t feel that way about Barcelona. It’s too hard to attempt to get through the whole city in three months – even a year seems a little short.
9. What type of housing do you have (dorm, homestay, apartment)? What do you like about your living arrangements? Do you wish you had an opportunity for another one? Why?
I am doing a homestay, and I absolutely love the living situation that I am in. Originally, I chose Barcelona partly because it was one of the only programs in Spain that didn’t require you to live in a homestay. I was planning on living in an apartment with other students who were going to be in the program (i.e. most likely American students). However, I realized the benefits to having a homestay (improved language skills, provided meals, and laundry done for you) and I changed my mind at the last minute. I love my living arrangement and I would not trade it if I had to do it again. My roommate and I became very lucky that we were given such a fun, energetic host mother. She doesn’t speak any English, which I thought would be a barrier, but it is not as bad as I expected it to be. Even when it’s hard to communicate, it’s never awkward. She is so incredibly welcoming and I feel at home here.
Explain your first thoughts upon arriving to Spain. Be as expansive as possible and be sure to use as much of your background as you feel comfortable with sharing. (i.e. What you’re used to at home and how it differs, ethnicity, religion, gender etc.)
My main two emotions while arriving to Spain were fear and excitement. I have never been away from my family and friends for this long, so I was nervous, but I was also excited for all that I was going to learn and experience and see. My trip is one of the shortest study abroad programs, but that only made me a feel a little more eased. I was still going to be in a different country where I barely (and mediocrely at that) spoke the native language. They also speak Catalan in Barcelona, and I thought that was going to be more of a challenge than it turned out to be. Everyone speaks Spanish. It was still a scary thought to think that I would be in a different country for three whole months. At school, I had the comfort of knowing that even though I was away from home, I would be able to drive home whenever I wanted. Or that my best friends were on campus to be there for me whenever I needed them. However, I wouldn’t have the luxury of coming home whenever I wanted while abroad, and that was a thought that was dawning on me. What if I hated my homestay? What if I became really homesick? What if I had an emergency and needed to go home? The thoughts flooded my mind.
At home, I am close to the city in Philadelphia, but I was nervous to have to take the metro (subway) here every day. The subways/trains at home aren’t always the safest place to be, especially at night. This is mainly because there’s not a lot of people and it can be dimly lit. Here, I feel more comfortable using the train system than I do at home. It’s not only because of the safety factor, but I genuinely believe that the metro/FGC (another train line) is easier to navigate than the railways near my house. At home, using a car is the norm. However, here it is much easier to take the metro or a bus to where you need to go because they go to almost every section of the city. At Susquehanna, you need a car to get wherever you want to go off campus. Here, I can go across the city easier.
I am an African-American female and I heard (I’m not sure where, or what prompted someone to tell me this) that in Spain, I might experience some discrimination or racism because of my race. That was not the case at all. In fact, I feel safer and more accepted here than I do back at home. People tend not to look at me or acknowledge me, unlike I have experienced in the United States. If they do, it’s because I’m blatantly American and speaking English to my friends in the street. I even had experienced people look at me smiling because I was speaking English because they could understand me, which lead to some conversations about where I was from and why I was in Barcelona. I luckily haven’t experienced anything alarming in two months being here.
One of my biggest fears was how long I was going to take to be accustomed here, or if it would happen at all. Amazingly, I adjusted fairly quickly. I think it had a lot to do with my host mom being so hospitable and my somewhat city knowledge from living near Philadelphia. This entire city welcomed me in and I am not ready to leave it.
Alan Codner is a Creative Writing and Spanish student studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain for the Spring 2017 semester. His likes include Star Wars, Nachos, and that feeling you get when you crack your back juuuust right. We asked Alan a few questions about his abroad experience and this is how he answered:
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Estoy en Barcelona
What extracurricular activities have you being doing Spain?
There is this wonderful website called Meetup that makes it very easy to find local groups and clubs. I go to life drawing sessions downtown every other week to practice art and meet new people . It’s not the most social activity, but it’s a calm and inviting environment. Also, there’s tea. On Mondays my friend Sam and I go to an Irish Pub to play Dungeons and Dragons and have a few drinks with a bunch of fun, nerdy European and South American guys. The Dungeon Master is American, but there are guys there from Poland, Germany, Brazil, and Italy. It’s a great time!
How much have you been travelling?
Approaching the halfway mark of my stay, I haven’t done as much independent travel as I wanted to. I’ve been on quite a few trips with my host program to other parts of Spain though. First, up North to tour the Salvador Dali museum, which was incredible and disorienting, as you can imagine. Then on a tour of the Codorniu cava vineyards to taste expensive sparkling wine and eat Calcots, a delicious local meal of grilled sweet onions. My only real international travel so far was a spur of the moment day trip to the tiny country in the mountains, Andorra. I went skiing in the Pyrenees and had a nice chat with some Brits on the ski lift. My friend Sam and I had plans to spend a weekend in Nice, France, but just before our trip Sam got appendicitis and we had to call it off. We might try again. As of writing this, I am on a trip to the northern Basque Country of Spain, and have plans to go to Rome at the start of March. Wish me luck!
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen?
I know I’ve already talked about this, but I just cannot get over how crazy the Correfoc is. Not only is it an insane mosh pit of gunpowder accompanied by intense drums, but it also happens all the time here! When I first heard about it I thought it had to be a single festival on an important holiday, but no, in the two months I’ve been here there have been three that I know of, and mostly just for neighborhood festivals and city celebrations. They’re exciting, dangerous, and loud. I’ve been to two so far, and if I go to a third, no joke, I may go deaf.
Meet Amrita Sood. She's a English Secondary Education major in her junior year. She is studying at NUI in Galway, Ireland for the spring 2017 semester! We asked her a few questions about her study abroad experiences and here's how she answered!
Don't forget to check out her blog!
Gals in Galway
1. ) Since you were involved with service on campus, explain what you are doing in Galway to help the community around you.
At Susquehanna I am very actively involved in community service work. Last semester I worked at the Center for Civic Engagement, while being on the executive board for Habitat for Humanity, as well as a brother in Alpha Phi Omega, the service fraternity. It is very odd to have so much free time on my hands this semester, and I miss having such an active role in the community, but I have found ways to fulfill my passion in Galway. NUIG has an amazing volunteer program called ALIVE, which connects students to various volunteering opportunities around Ireland, and even around the world. The program allows you to find ways to serve the community by finding the best match for each individual. Currently I have only participated in smaller volunteering options, as I have spent a lot of time travelling and exploring Ireland, but I am planning on being part of the volunteer team that helps set up and run the literary festival in April. ALIVE has many opportunities that range from a semester long obligation, to one time projects, with many of them relating to the education of younger children, and I hope to take advantage of that in the future. Unfortunately, it can be a long process for visiting students to get the proper clearances to work with children, so I have been unable to participate in these opportunities so far, but I am hoping that will change in the near future.
2.) What is your favorite food so far from your study away location? (include a picture if possible)It’s really hard to pick my favorite food, as there are so many options and they’re all delicious. If I had to pick one, I would have to say tea and scones. I know that that doesn’t sound very exotic or different from home, but tea is a big part of Irish culture. The best outings are when we go out for tea, my favorite being Cupan Tae, a little tea house. Usually one will have black tea with a little milk and a plain or raisin scone with jam and butter. While I’ve eaten a lot here, I don’t think anything will measure up to a simple cup of tea.
3.) What are some noticeable differences in culture that would differ from the United States?There are a few differences that I noticed right away, which surprised me, as I didn’t really think that there would be any major differences. The biggest one is really simple; the way people walk. In America we are conditioned to walk on the right side, whether it’s up stairs, on a sidewalk, or even in a store. Here everyone just walks wherever they please, which makes everything slightly more chaotic than necessary. Another thing that has really stood out to me is the number of things that students get discounts for. Almost everywhere we go there is a discount for college students, for clothes, meals, and trips. In America I have rarely come across student discounts unless it’s for a museum.
Another big difference can be found in the times that students go out. Many students go home for the weekend, so they go out during school nights. It’s not considered odd to go out every day of the week but Friday and the weekend. This was pretty shocking to me, and it’s still hard getting used to doing everything during the week, and just staying at home on the weekends.
The Irish way of talking is also pretty blunt, especially when compared to Americans. It’s not that they’re rude, they just enjoying teasing people and saying exactly what they mean. Even though they are very blunt in their manner of speech, Irish people tend to be very friendly overall.
4. ) How does the education differ in your study away location from the US?One very big difference that I’ve noticed is how much laxer college seems here. One reason for this is definitely because I am used to a smaller college, so attendance is a requirement. At NUIG, my lectures vary from smaller classes of around fifty students to ones that have around two hundred. That means that some of my classes don’t take attendance, even when it is obvious that many students aren’t present. In fact, it is normal to not attend lectures regularly, though students will keep up with the readings on their own. In addition to this, the semester itself is shorter, with only twelve weeks of classes, with seminars lasting only ten weeks. Not only is the semester shorter, but classes only meet for two hours a week. There is no set Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule that I am so used to, instead classes are scheduled randomly. For example, one of my English lectures meets from 5-6 on Monday, and 3-4 on Tuesday. This has been one of the oddest things to get used to, I still struggle to fully remember my schedule.
Breaks here are completely different than at Susquehanna. We get Easter Break, a week for Field Trips, and then a Study Week in April, one after the other. That means that we have close to three weeks without any classes right before finals. There are no other breaks within the semester like we have at SU, but the more open class schedule makes short breaks unnecessary. Many students go home every weekend, as most of their trips home only last a couple hours each way. So many students go home every weekend that there is a cloakroom open on Fridays for students to leave suitcases and bags while they have class. Many teachers extend due dates for a few weeks at a time, as they know that assignments tend to be given all at once. In this way the education system seems to focus more on the students’ wellbeing and stress levels than on a strict schedule, but the curriculum itself is still challenging.
Meet Kaitlyn. A a junior Biochemistry/Neuroscience double major. A sister of Alpha Delta Pi sorority and member of the Panhellenic Council here at SU. This spring, She is studying abroad in Nicosia, Cyprus. We asked her a few questions about her study abroad experiences and here's how she answered!
Don't forget to check out her blog!
Also, in Cyprus, I’ve noticed that it’s culturally normal to stare. In the US, we’re taught from a very young age that staring is rude, but here, it’s a cultural norm. I’ve learned that if someone is staring at us, it’s because there aren’t Americans in Cyprus usually, so they’re just curious. Usually I just smile at them and most times, they will smile back and maybe even strike up a conversation!
A third cultural difference between the US and Cyprus is definitely how much more Americans work. In our country, most people put in anywhere from 40-80 hours or more each week, and a lot of employees even work weekends and evenings. In Cyprus, a lot of businesses will be open at about 8-9 am, close at 12pm for lunch, and open again from maybe 3-7pm. Even the grocery store closes around 8pm throughout the week. On Sundays, almost everything in the city like restaurants, shops, and convenient stores are all closed, too. In the US, we definitely do not take as much time away from the workplace, but Cyprus definitely has that figured out to a tee!
So far, my experience at the University of Nicosia has been a lot different from my schooling at Susquehanna. First, it’s very common here for students to arrive very late to class. By that, I don’t mean a minute or two, but 15 or 20! The professors rarely begin lecturing by the time the class is scheduled to start. In my experiences at SU, it’s rude to arrive to class late and most people are in their seats ready to begin before the scheduled class time.
I have found a new appreciation for the education I have received in the US so far. In Cyprus, their coursework is definitely challenging and capable of producing excellent minds, but some of the students in my classes just demonstrate an overall lack of cognitive thinking. They are unable to follow the lecture and my classes are often halted for students to ask less than intelligent questions. I’m definitely learning a lot of patience and am starting to understand that they’re just not as far in their education as I am. I’m very appreciative of all of the work I’ve had to do in my US education that has taught be cognitive thinking skills and also just general information within my Neuroscience major and liberal arts education.
However, my professors are all very unique and I think I will take away a lot from my semester here. For example, my Cellular Neuroscience professor is a retired doctor from the UK so he has a lot of experience in the field and has a lot of unique facts and information to share with my class. My Introduction to Pathology professor is a thoracic surgeon and we spend most of class looking at CT scans and MRIs! It’s such a unique environment.
Overall, attending the University of Nicosia has provided me a really unique experience so far and it has put into perspective the rigor of my coursework at home. From now on, I will have a whole new appreciation for my education at SU!
With the Global Semesters program in Cyprus, they build in weekend excursions for us that take us to the most popular locations on the island! We will visit all of the major coastal cities, take a trip to the mountains, and visit all of the castles, churches, mosques, and the mosaics of Paphos, too. This trip has given me the opportunity to do a lot of traveling to get out of my comfort zone and see plenty of things I probably wouldn’t on my own.
What type of classes are you working on in relation to your major?
This semester, I’m taking a Cellular Neuroscience class that fulfills my biology elective credits. This particular class is challenging and I am learning a lot of new material like anatomy and biochemistry that I haven’t had before in my education to date. Plus, my professor is from the UK, so he has a unique way of teaching the material and explaining our coursework.
Other than that, I am not taking any classes for my major in any way. I was able to have a pretty liberal semester, so I wanted to take full advantage of that so I could do more traveling and exploring during my time abroad. However, if SU students from science majors across the board are interested in Cyprus, the University of Nicosia has plenty of options to pick from. They offer a wide range of courses from biology, biochemistry, chemistry, and even an anatomy and physiology course! It would be very easy for anyone in the Neuroscience major to study abroad here!
What is the difficulty? Do you feel challenged?
Classes in Cyprus are a lot different than that of the US. At Susquehanna, our professors understand what we are capable of and hold us to high standards, which I have appreciated thus far. In Cyprus, however, it has become apparent that their cognitive thinking processes and expectations are not nearly as rigorous. This is the case for all of my classes except Cellular Neuroscience. I have found this class to be challenging, as it is a lot of new information, but it’s nothing I can’t manage. Every day, I come home and go over my notes for just a little bit to reinforce what we learned in class. I believe this class will be very beneficial
Knowing that each student is on a case by case basis, are any of your science classes being transferred back to SU? If so, how many? What was the process and how difficult was it to get these classes approved?
My Cellular Neuroscience class is transferring back as a 300-level biology elective. To get this approved, it was not difficult. I was able to talk to Dr. Peeler in the biology department about the transfer by showing her a course outline. When she found the class to be sufficient for this credit, she approved the equivalency and I was able to transfer back the credits.
This semester the Office of Global programs brings in a new team of bloggers for the spring 2017 semester. The Bloggers will be documenting their experiences abroad and sharing them through their own personal formats. The bloggers are in very exciting locations this semester such as: Jerusalem,Freiburg, Nicosia,Amsterdam, and Hyderabad. One of the first things the bloggers did was create collages of where they were going, what they were excited about and what made them want to blog. This is a sneak peak to all of their adventures for the spring semester.