Hello from Portugal! For those that do not know, Linfield has partnered with a school in Europe to offer a dual degree program that allows students to finish their bachelor’s degree while completing their master’s degree in Europe. The best part… it’s a master’s in wine, in Europe, and I have never been. Could it get any better?
The uniqueness with this program, on top of expediting your masters, is you get to study within at least four different countries. I am currently in my second week in Vila Real, Portugal at a University nicknamed UTAD. Next term will be Italy, the following: France, and then I get to choose where to do my thesis work. Throughout the semesters are study trips to different areas as well; for example this term I’ll be spending a week studying in Spain.
The set-up of this program is new and very exciting, but of course, with anything new comes opportunities for improvement. I have not started school yet, instead I had orientation for a week and now working in a wine cellar through an internship I was placed at through part of my schooling. Happy to say, I think I picked the right career path for me because I am truly loving the hard and labor intensive work.
I’ll actually start school in October and will write more personally and informative then, because I haven’t had any real down time yet, but for now I need to go taste wine with coworkers and prepare for work in the morning.
Sometimes I still have to pinch myself. I can’t believe I am actually living in Beijing.
I arrived in Beijing about two weeks ago. After a short flight from PDX to San Francisco, it was about thirteen hours to get to Beijing. On the flight, I sat by an incredibly friendly Chinese man who I conversed with in Chinese. I’ve only been studying Chinese for two years and overcoming my language insecurities was something that I really hoped I could do through this experience. I was surprised at how easily I slipped into conversational Chinese with a complete stranger, and even though my language skills are nowhere near perfect, I discovered that it doesn’t really matter. A desire to learn and a leap of faith, those things are universal, and I’ve learned that people appreciate you trying, even if you’re not a pro yet!
The first week came and went in a blink. After taking a written and oral placement exam, we were put into classes. I am currently in 311, with four other students from University of Denver. The program I’ve enrolled in with the China Studies Institute (CSI) at Peking University feels very familiar to Linfield in that the class sizes are small, each student gets personalized attention, and you are able build strong relationships inside and outside the classroom. Peking University, commonly called “Bei Da” (a shortened form of Beijing Daxue, the Chinese name 北京大学) is often referred to as “the Harvard of the East”. The university itself is massive, with around 40,000 students on its campus, however, our program is isolated in that only students enrolled in CSI attend our classes. Despite this, we still get plenty of time to interact with Chinese students since we live right on campus.
The program here is rigorous, but I think I’ve finally gotten used to my schedule. Monday through Thursday I have one-on-one sessions with two Chinese graduate students from 9:20-10:50 am, and after lunch I have a comprehensive class and oral/speaking class from 1:00-4:20pm. On Fridays we have biweekly tests or language practicums.
Oh, did I mention? All of us in the language immersion program have also pledged to speak only Chinese from Monday 12am to Friday at 12:30 pm. Call us crazy? 我同意 (I agree). On the upside, I definitely see the progress! My language skills, especially my listening comprehension skills, have improved immensely!
It hasn’t been all classroom time though, I’ve been able to explore the city every weekend. My favorite place to go is Wudaokou (五道口). This Beijing neighborhood is very popular among foreigners, also called “waiguoren” (外国人). There are tons of clubs, bars, and restaurants that cater towards, or are owned by foreigners. My friends and I are a fan of a restaurant called Pyro Pizza. It’s a pizza parlor in the heart of the neighborhood that is almost always packed. One of the owners, Josh, is from Las Vegas. He came to China with the simple goal of traveling around a bit, maybe seeing the sites and eating some authentic Chinese food, and he loved it so much that he’s been in Beijing ever since.
Besides this neighborhood, we’ve explored beautiful, cultural sites here with our program. The China Studies Institute plans excursions for us every weekend, and this weekend we are going to the Great Wall! We have already been to the Summer Palace (颐和园）and the Temple of Heaven (天坛公园). At the Temple of Heaven, we had an assignment to interview retired people exercising at the park.
Many of them were Beijing natives, and regularly come to the Temple of Heaven to practice tai chi, or use the equipment. After the Temple of Heaven, we went to Hong Qiao Market (红桥市场), which is a bartering market. Bartering could definitely qualify as a national sport here, and we were able to sharpen our skills with the shopkeepers for a couple hours.
It has been go, go, go, since I touched down in Beijing, and yet I feel as though my writing cannot properly convey my experience. Every day is a new experience. I’ve made the best of friends here with students from all over the country, and I can’t wait to see what other amazing opportunities are in store for me.
At 7 am after mid-terms week we finally got to leave for our mid-semester break! Juliet, Juliet’s flatmate Victoria, another girl from their complex and I were finally leaving for the north island for a week off of school. Our flight took about 2 hours to arrive in Auckland which we all slept through since we’ve been busy with mid-terms. When we got to Auckland we took a bus to our Air B&B to check into our room. Our room was in an apartment building and was really nice with a balcony that had views of the city. We then went to pizza for lunch and got groceries for the rest of our time in Auckland. The rest of the day was spent exploring the city and hanging out together.
The next day we went to black sand beaches and waterfalls. Our first stop was the Karekare beach and waterfalls. We walked along the beach for a while admiring the black sand then hiked to the waterfalls. The first waterfall had a little blue pool of water and continued to the next waterfall. The next waterfall was much bigger and beautiful. We were the only ones there for about 20 minutes so we got to enjoy the waterfall and the scenery without others. We then hiked back to the car and made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch with oranges, trail mix and salsa lime chips made in New Zealand.
The next stop was Piha Beach and Lion Rock. It was really windy at Piha but the sun came out and it was beautiful! We walked along the beach to Lion’s Rock and decided to hike up the rock to the top. However, to get to Lion’s Rock we had to cross an inlet of water that was really cold! We all rolled up our pants and removed our shoes to cross but Victoria wouldn’t cross since it was cold so Juliet carried her across the water on her back! The climb to the top was steep but the views were so worth it and we had great views of the black sand.
After Piha Beach, we went to Bethells Beach. We parked in the wrong car park and had to hike through sand dunes and thick brush to actually get to the beach. When we finally got to the beach it started raining and storming. We still walked to the other end of the beach looking for the cave that we were supposed to be able to walk through but realized it was high tide and we couldn’t reach the cave. We stayed long enough to see the sky turn pink and then went back to our Air B&B where we made breakfast burritos for dinner and played cards and watched a movie. For dessert, we went and got rolled ice cream. The ice cream shop also had crapes so I got a strawberry sugar crape with caramel rolled ice cream and whip cream on top!
The next morning we woke up early and drove to the Hobbiton movie set! One of the cheesy reasons I chose to study abroad in New Zealand was because of the Hobbit and Lord of The Rings movies being filmed here. Since they are some of my favorite movies the movie set was a must-see for me. The movie set wasn’t a let down either, it was so much fun!! We had an awesome tour guide who told us all about the filming techniques used and we only had 9 people in our tour giving us lots of time to look around and take pictures. This was a highlight of not only spring break but my whole study abroad experience so far! I would recommend everyone to visit Hobbiton even if you haven’t seen the movies because it is such a New Zealand tourist attraction.
That same day we also did a tour in the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. The best part of that tour was when we left it was dark outside so the cave walls were covered in glow worms! The next day of our trip we flew to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. In Wellington, we visited the zoo and saw a Kiwi bird, the national bird, and kangaroos. While there we also rode the Wellington cable car, walked along Cuba street, went shopping for souvenirs, and ate at a really nice Italian restaurant where I ordered a calzone that was so big and delicious! We stayed in a hostel while at Wellington which was not nearly as nice as our Air B&B. We got two rooms that had bunk beds and the bathrooms were pretty gross so we bought crocs to use as shower shoes.
Our final day of being on the north island we had to get up at 4 a.m. to go to the airport. We flew to Christchurch where we had a 12-hour layover until we flew back to Dunedin. In Christchurch, we went downtown to a coffee shop and explored the botanical gardens. We went back to the airport early and ate dinner there before finally flying back. It felt so nice to sleep in my own bed and sleep in the next morning. The last event our mid-semester break was on Sunday when Juliet ran a half-marathon! We all went to cheer her on at the finish line and then went out to get pizza afterward!
It has been a week and a half since being in France and I can already say it has been one of the best experiences. The trip here was long, but be prepared to hit the ground running. When picked up from the airport I was immediately immersed in the French language. Although drained, I was speaking to my host mom in French the whole way home.
The living dynamic in Aix is different from what I expected. I have three housemates and live with a retired couple. We are in a large two-story home with a bathroom the four of us share. I have found that every homestay is different. Some people live in small apartments in the city while others live in more of a suburb-like neighborhood. It is important is to come in with no expectations of the living conditions nor the relationship you will have with your homestay. Some have bonded easily with their homestay family while others have distant hosts. Stay open-minded and eventually you will be settled in. IAU is very accommodating and does the most to make sure the stay is comfortable. For example, all four of us living in the house are vegetarian and our homestay parents cook THE BEST food for our needs.
The early start program is the best way to get adjusted and make friends before school starts. IAU had many activities and practical french classes to help with cultural adjustment. There are also excursions to places such as a vineyard and the beach. This is a great time to make friends and get a taste for the variety of beauty that France has. During class, there are small trips to the market as well. There are food, clothes, and flower markets. I would highly recommend trying the cantaloupe and tomatoes. The produce in general is a lot better than what is in the U.S. and not badly priced. This week of orientation has also helped a lot with my navigation of the city. At first it seems overwhelming and all the streets are the same, but it becomes easy after the week. The early start participants grow close to each other very quickly and it is nice to have friends before school even starts. Early start was well worth it and I am glad Linfield required it.
On a Sunday we had free, my friends and I climbed up Mount Sainte-Victoire and swam in a lake. There were wild goats and beautiful scenery. It is something free and easy to do for the day. There are infinite trails and the scenery is amazing.
The best advice I can give for the first week in Aix is to be open-minded and willing to get out of your comfort zone. There is a lot of socialization and activities that are draining, but well worth it. I have already made great friends and have experienced so much that Aix and France have to offer. The French culture is different but in the best kind of way. Have no expectations, go with the flow and you are bound to have an Aix-citing week in Aix!
The first weeks in Vienna were spent playing tourist. We went to most of the major museums, which we got into free through a card we got from our institute. We also spent this time at the Austro-American Institute of Education working on our conversational German.
Now, we have a whole month dedicated to German grammar, along with our main Austrian history, politics, and culture courses. All the German has been in preparation for our placement test, which we will take in October at the University of Vienna. From there, we will be placed in appropriate level courses to continue our German language learning journey.
One of the perks of studying in Austria is its proximity to everything, it is in the center of Europe! The first trip we took as a group was a day trip to the nearby city of Bratislava, Slovakia. It was about a 1-hour bus ride, and it was amazing to see the difference 60 km east made.
When we got to Bratislava, the first obvious difference was the language, Slovak. I tried to order a latte and a chocolate větrník and somehow ended up ordering two of the pastry. But it was the best mistake of my life because they were delicious.
The most exciting thing about our trip was the traditional Slovakian food tour we had planned. It was a perfect mix of history and culture. We tried various dishes and drinks, although my favorite drink was Kofola, a cola-like drink now produced in the Czech Republic.
All the food was also amazing, but my favorites were bryndzové pirohy (pierogies stuffed with bryndza) and Kapustnica (cabbage soup).
Bratislava has definitely been added to our weekend getaway list, especially because of its close proximity. Up next we have a trip to Budapest and a study trip to Prague.
The first week of clases started off with an early 9 AM class. Although back at Linfield I’m used to afternoon classes, this 9 AM gave me the chance for an early enough start and a pretty relaxed schedule. Starting the week off with Law and Justice, my professor made a remark that really resonated with me.
“It is up to us to study the law, and then it is also up to us to determine if that law is just.”
As a political science major, I was interested in learning about law and justice, but studying abroad has given me a unique opportunity to learn about the laws in Korea, while living in Korea. This course also fueled my desire to go to Law School and continue my education. Overall, I’m really excited about not only that course but my other courses that I’m taking while I’m here. Those are, as mentioned Law and Justice, Korean 1, Philosophy of East Asian Literature, and International Relations of the Korean Peninsula.
After the first week of class, reality begun to hit! I was here, living, studying, eating, in a completely different continent, in a completely different culture. I was talking to a friend and she said that the newness wore off and she had begun to experience homesickness. Although, homesickness hasn’t hit me quite yet, I understood. The first week in Seoul, or what me and other kids called “Week Zero,” was almost like vacation. It was enough time for us to enjoy and explore the city. After this week though, there was a new found understanding. Being abroad doesn’t mean that we don’t have responsibilities, it just implies we can experience new adventures while maintaining accountability for our responsibilities.
This week, although all my friends and I were busy with classes, homework, and everything else that comes along with being a student we did find the time for Korean BBQ. All you can eat Korean BBQ is one of the many delicious meals that is great for big or small groups and is very filling.
This week also brought a lot of rain that reminded me of Oregon! But here, unfortunately, with a lot rain it’s also really humid. I’m not a huge fan. This Saturday there’s a typhoon in Korea, so the sports festival was cancelled. And students are advised to stay indoors, so this Saturday everyone designated as a homework and nap day.
It’s time for mid-terms at Otago and everyone is spending lots of time in the library! I had a foundations exam, a 2,000-word essay, and two 1,500-word essays. The exam was for my Maori 101 class and since there are so many students in that class they split the groups into 5 different test locations. My location was for students that had last names starting with A-B and had about 200 students. The exam had 45 multiple choice questions, and the questions were shown on a powerpoint presentation for 30 seconds each. You also had to bring your student ID to prove you were currently attending the University.
At a study break one day we went to a rugby game. The game was really fun even though I had no idea what the rules were! It was so impressive to watch them tackle each other without any padding and not get injured. The game was for a trophy between the Otago team and the Southland team. The stadium was pretty full and got really loud with the cheering! The atmosphere was very similar to a professional football game in the U.S.
The weekend before mid-terms my flatmates and some of our other friends went to Te Anau. We left Friday night and drove through a rainstorm to get there. It took about 3 and a half hours and then we checked into the Backpackers Lodge located right in front of the lake. We stayed up playing cards and listening to music before separating into our different rooms to sleep. The next morning we were supposed to go on a cruise through Milford Sound but it got canceled due to weather conditions. Instead, we went to Queenstown, which was beautiful! The drive there was amazing and worth the whole road trip. The road was winding through the mountains and along the river until you pulled into Queenstown where you were surrounded by mountain ranges.
When we got to Queenstown we went to a park along the water and made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. After that, we took a Gondola to the top of Queenstown and rode luges. Luges are similar to a one-person sled with wheels and brakes. It was beautiful to ride the luges down the hill and see the views of the city!
Before heading back to our hostel we got dinner at a really good restaurant in the K-mart parking lot. And when we got back to Te Anau we went to a gas station and got ice cream as dessert. The next morning we got up early and made breakfast in the kitchen before checking out and driving to the Kepler Track. We ended up only hiking for about two hours since it started snowing pretty hard. However, the forest became even more beautiful as it got covered in snow and was totally worth it!
After hiking we went to the grocery store to get more food for lunch and then made the road trip home. When we got back we bargained for who got to shower first and then we all went to bed early that night.
The thing that is getting me and others through mid-terms is knowing mid-semester break is coming! Juliet, some other friends and I are going to the North Island for some warmer weather hopefully!
The first week in Seoul was the perfect time to explore the city and get to know the area around us. One of the experiences that I enjoyed the most was taking in the city life. It really is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
Seeing the vibrancy of the city, the people, and the energy of it all was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I think the beauty of these moments is knowing that because it is so new to me I can take in the beauty of what may seem like mundane moment like this.
One of my other favorite experiences this week was when a group of us international students decided to try a Korean night club. We all went to a club that’s called NB2, and it was a lot of fun. All the local people that we ended up meeting were really nice and helpful when we had questions. And although the language barrier is hard to deal with, everyone no matter what loves to dance! And NB2 was a pretty great place for that.
We also decided to go shopping, and try restaurants near by and some classic Korean foods that were recommended to us by the locals. Overall my first week in Seoul was a lot of fun and exploration, and now I’m excited to start my classes & meet my classmates.
It has been over a week since our arrival in Austria and a lot has happened since then. The Austria program is a small but mighty (in good Linfield fashion) group, as there are only four of us in the program.
The flight to Vienna took us about 22 hours in total and the only hiccup was with Dane, who missed his connecting flight in Montreal. However, it ended up working out nicely because he got Vienna around the same time the other three of us did; Kara, Delanie, and myself.
In the beginning, the hardest thing to get used to was the 9 hours time change. They say it is always harder going west to east since your body essentially “loses time.”
But we were welcomed into Austria by spending a week in the beautiful Gastein Valley in the region of Salzburg. Most of our time was spent in the small town of Dorfgastein, where we stayed in a B&B and were introduced to a traditional Austrian breakfast every morning. By the end of the week, we all knew how to ask for “Kaffe, Schokolade oder Tee” (coffee, hot chocolate or tea) with our breakfast.
In the morning we had our conversation German classes, while the evenings were filled with traditional Austrian dishes, beer, and schnaps!
One of my favorite and most memorable parts of the trip was the hike on Fulseck, where we encountered killer cows. The mountain belonged to the cows and we did our best to stay away from the animals, though there was one cow that was fond of blocking the hiking trail and not letting people pass.
We also visited Krimml Falls, a waterfall of about 1,246 feet. One thing that is very different here from hiking areas in the U.S. is the placement of restaurants and cafes. Usually, in the U.S., they are at the bottom or beginning of a trail. But here in Austria, they usually are at the end of a trail or on other points of interest on the trail.
We then finished up our week in the city of Salzburg with a walking tour. The tour guide was very helpful in pointing out all the prominent “Sound of Music” locations; though this only made sense if you have watched the movie before. We also got a good view of Fortress Hohensalzburg.
On Sunday, a little over a week after our arrival, we were greeted at the train station in Vienna by our host families. It was nice to finally go home, rest, and get comfortable in a place we will call home for four months.
Hello and Welcome to the semester abroad at IAU (Institute for American Universities) College in Aix-en-Provence blog!! (What a mouthful, ha!) I would like to thank you in advance for following me on this journey – I am excited to share it with you!
Now, a quick (and what I deem a necessary) disclaimer:
I promise to keep these posts truthful, raw, and sincere so as to best capture and preserve this time in my life.
– Cassidy Robinson
The Countdown Begins!
We are officially 13 days away from the highly anticipated take-off date of August 30th! As you might imagine, there are a number of emotions running through me right now… Excitement, nervousness, gratitude, happiness, fear, sadness… with no one emotion reigning more powerful than another. I don’t think that I have ever felt this many mixed emotions before, and I especially did not expect that I would be SAD of all things! However, after some serious reflecting on myself and where I am at in life, the sadness makes sense.
I feel sad because I already know how much I will miss the people I love, the place I have come to call home, and the comfortable routine I have established. I will miss the ease of contacting my friends and family, and the familiarity of American culture. Most of all, I will miss the person I am now in this time and place because I know I will never be the same again. That said, I plan to hold on to the overwhelming happiness and peace that I have cultivated over this past year, and use it as a foundation to my growth while in France.
(For those of you who think that I shouldn’t be sad, you’re right! I shouldn’t be bummed out with this amazing opportunity at my fingertips… and just so you know, I truly am getting excited to travel to France to study WINE!!!! However, please understand that the sadness is just one facet of my emotions right now. Additionally, I would like to acknowledge the fact that it is only three and a half months away from home and I know everything that I will be leaving behind will still be here when I get back! Thank goodness!)
At this point in the pre-departure stage, I am most focused on getting all of my ducks in a row. That entails everything from traveling down to San Francisco to obtain my long-stay Visa, to inquiring about who my host family is and where they live in relation to the town center. A few other small things that I am working on is finding a debit or credit card that I can use while abroad that does not incur a foreign transaction fee, making sure that I have European adaptors, and that I have the appropriate clothes.
I am not sure if she will ever read this, but I would just like to give a shout out to the Linfield student traveling with me to IAU this fall… She has been so helpful in reminding me to do things, making suggestions on what to bring, and most of all, she has been so kind in making an effort to get me excited for this trip! I look forward to traveling with you, and am already grateful for your familiar face! Thank you!!!
That’s all for now, and hopefully the next time I write will be from a small, quaint cafe in the town center of Aix!