La Ciotat, France

La Ciotat 

La Ciotat, the birthplace of moving picture cinema… and Bocci Ball. On my second week here we took a group excursion with the entire school to the wonderful coastal not-so-sleepy retirement village of La Ciotat. Upon first sight, we thought La Ciotat appeared like a small beautiful city by the sea, but seemingly un-busy. With more young people opting to live in the big cities, France’s rural populations like La Ciotat are aging. However, when we arrived that morning at ten we found the city to be a veritable hub of activity. There were people swimming across the bay right past several large group water aerobic classes. On the boardwalk, there were all ages of electric scooters, bikes, and joggers making their way home from the market with groceries hung on each handlebar. And yes, there was an entire park filled with organized Bocci ballplayers. 

As we traversed the town, our guides pointed out several important places like the Eden Theater, where the Lumiere brothers showed the first-ever moving picture of a train entering the La Ciotat station. Having shown the first film ever to an audience means we saw the first and oldest movie theater in the world. Next, we saw the routine morning market and stopped by to get some lunch materials such as baguettes, cheeses, and fresh produce. 

The beach we swam at in La Ciotat. Calanque and Parc du Mugel (France)
The beach we swam at in La Ciotat. Calanque and Parc du Mugel (France)

After the market, we went up the coast a short way by bus and hiked out to this rocky beachfront. Although lacking in sandy beaches to lay on, it made up for it with several tall rock out-croppings to dive off. As someone from the rainy, freezing north-west coast jumping into relatively warm-salty crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean was almost as shocking as jumping into the 50 F (10 C) waters back in Oregon. The sea was so calm that we could see down to all the reflective gray fish swimming just meters below us. We spent our time cheering each other on as we dove from cliffs and exploring the inlet. 

 I am embarrassed to say that our very apparent American enthusiasm must have unfortunately overpowered the other more reserved French beach-goers where we swam that day. This is the case with almost anywhere we go as a large group, especially because many of the students don’t speak much French. The stark contrast of American English being spoken enthusiastically between one another is quite harsh on the ears when compared to the subtle tones of most French conversationalists.

It is not just the language though, during orientation we were told that the French are often less reserved in certain public settings where other countries’ social conventions would have them be more outgoing. Although, it is important to remember this distinction is only a generalized observation and not the rule. It is all part of the cultural exchange experience, where we gain perspective of our place in the world while understanding someone else’s. 

G

View of city La Ciotat from le Sémaphore du Bec de l'Aigle lookout point (France)
View of city La Ciotat from le Sémaphore du Bec de l’Aigle lookout point (France)                                                                                                                                                                                      On our way, our bus driver took us on a scenic route out of town up a winding road that led to a beautiful lookout where we could see several towns, beautiful mountains, and the horizon of the Mediterranean. 

Grace

 

 

 

“Locally Sourced” in the US Has Nothing on Austria

This week we’re going to do a very minor deep dive on a very special tradition over here in Austria that my colleagues and I had the special privilege of both witnessing and simply touring; a farm (Bauernhof). But farming is not so similar to the way we do it back home, where on average one of our typical farms encompasses roughly 444 acres, Austrian farms average maybe 55. The size and function of the farming caters to the luscious mountain sides we romanticize, the Bergbauernhof. This style of farming is placed on steep slopes that run into the mountains. But more fascinating is that of the Alm.

The alm is an area further up in the mountains that is mostly for hosting the livestock between May and September. As fall begins to set in; the families and others helping on the Bergbauernhof herd the animals back to the farm at the base. This is an incredible sight to see. Folks wearing traditional Trachten running alongside a herd of sheep or, if you’re lucky, cows. When they get all animals home, they hold festivities to celebrate both the survival of the animals and a good year. The ‘lucky’ reason I mentioned above, in light of the cows, is that they in particular wear a celebratory collar with a large bell at the end. This is where the Sound of Music actually (kind of) got Austria right: the hills are in fact alive with music. 

Cow with Traditional Collar and Bell
One of the cows that had just returned from the alm post-Almabtrieb (literally means: Alm down herd)
Farmers Herding Sheep Down from the Alm and back to the farm
A herd of sheep on their Almabtrieb that actually blocked off the road we were trying to drive up.

Festivities aside, another differing factor here is that of the care which goes into the production of everything that comes out of these farms. Austria’s regulations on food are actually quite strict but ensure the greatest quality. They produce meats, cheeses, eggs, schnapps, you name it; and with the official “AMA” stamp on the produce, you can literally trace an egg back to the coup it came from! The Bergbauernhof is also a strong attraction for tourism. Keep that in mind if you ever find yourself out here. After eating some of this food, you WILL NOT regret it.

Nicole and Chris with a hen on a Bauernhof
One of the many hens at Schmaranz posing for a quick photo shoot.
Eggs
Eggs with the codes one can use to trace where they came from.
Hermann with some eggs
AAIE Director, Hermann Weissgärber holding up a carton of eggs from Schmaranz, a Bauernhof we visited in the Gastein Valley.

Nights to Remeber

I officially moved into my term accommodation (housing) on September 15th, and every night since then has been filled with memories.

I have made new friends from all around the UK and some even around the world! Before Freshers and Induction Week started, a group of us from my hall decided to explore the Nottingham City Centre together. We had a blast hanging out and getting to know each other, even though we did get lost a few times because none of us are good with directions. After we explored the city centre, we noticed there was a mini golf course a tram stop right before ours. We decided to get off early and check it out. Turns out, we all suck at it but had fun doing it. Since then I have spent every night hanging out with people.

The Alchemist, a restaurant and cocktail bar. Gothic architecture with exposed brick.
The Alchemist, a restaurant and cocktail bar. The Alchemist brings the mythical and mysterious aspects of Nottingham to life through its creative cocktails and its darkly delicious dining.

These nights have been filled with exciting adventures exploring the city we are surrounded by. The first night of Freshers, they did a themed club night at Rock City, a popular club in the city centre. The theme that night was beach, and luckily as an Oregonian, I am always prepared for a beached themed event. I went with a couple of friends and we had a blast listening and dancing to music and just hanging out. 

After a fun time dancing, my friends and I caught a bus home. (Left to right: David, Jasmine, Tanner, Rory)
After a fun time dancing, my friends and I caught a bus home. (Left to right: David, Jasmine, Tanner, Rory)

Throughout that week there were various welcome fairs happening, and we went to each and every one of them. Following those fairs, there were events like movie nights and bingo hosted by the ResX team and the Student Union. These events lasted for two weeks, but the fun didn’t stop there.

Video of the Trent Building courtyard. The Trent Building is an academic building primarily used for the arts and social sciences.

Just last weekend a group of us who went mini golfing before and some other friends, went to an 18+ indoor mini golf course! We had a blast sipping on cocktails and beating each other on different holes. My personal favorite was the Mechanic themed hole where you had to get your golf ball through three consecutive loop-a-loops. By the end of the night, we were all laughing as we tried to fit all of us onto a throne made of golf clubs.

A night of mini golfing comes to end with 4 friends piling up on a golden throne made of golf clubs. (Left to right: Rory, Charlie, Tanner, Yoshi)

I can’t say I haven’t had a fun and exciting experience so far, and definitely can’t say it will stop. A couple of us are going to a drag show during reading week, a group of us are planning a road trip to Brighton, and finally we are planning on weekly movie nights watching classic titles (Like the Pitch Perfect trilogy). 

– Tanner Coulter

Grateful in Alicante, Spain

Gratitude.

On a windy afternoon, as I stroll along on the sand of Alicante’s Playa de San Juan, I can’t help but reflect on this past year and a half.  Lockdown-inducing pandemic? Check. Study abroad cancelled not once, but twice? Check. Natural disasters? Check. Political and social turmoil? As long as humans are around, absolutely.

Yet, in this moment I feel grateful. Many other feelings–contentment, sadness, joy, and anger–from this past year arise but gratitude is the one that sits at the forefront of my thoughts.

Showing the author at the beach with some other American students. They are standing on the sand with the sea and some people behind them.
At the Postiguet beach in Alicante with some other American students. This beach was a bit crowded but if you take the tram for 15 minutes you can get to the San Juan beach, which is much more quiet and picturesque.

Until I landed at the Madrid airport, I doubted whether I’d be able to study abroad this semester. During our five hour layover in Madrid, my Linfield peers and I breathed a sigh of relief not only because we knew for sure that we were going to study abroad but also because we got off that darn 11 hour flight.

Ahh, but gratitude! Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. I must return to you, Gratitude! Otherwise, the people reading might get bored.

So let me tell you about what I’m grateful for here in Alicante. First of all, a wonderful host family. My host mother and her adult son, both of whom immigrated to Spain from Argentina about twenty years ago, are very kind and helpful. On Sundays, my host mother’s daughter, son-in-law, grandson, and their fluffy dog come visit. Last Sunday, we celebrated the quinceañera of one of their relatives in Argentina by filming a video in which we had music, balloons, and a special appearance by the grandson dressed as Harry Potter. It was so much fun!

Another thing I´m grateful for: delicious food. As a vegetarian, I was a bit worried about my options but my host family has been very accommodating. Honest communication is key! Telling your host family what foods you like and don´t like is essential, but it´s also important to try new foods. Here I´ve fallen in love with tortillas de patata, which more closely resemble potato sponge cake than the tortillas we eat in the Americas. My host brother says that tortillas de patata are a hot topic of debate among Spaniards, as about half of them prefer their tortillas with onion while the other half go “sin cebolla.” Personally, I like both so hopefully I can broker some peace while I´m here and add that to my resume.

There´s also a lot to do and explore here. Last week, we climbed the castle of Santa Barbara, which sits on a hill overlooking the city of Alicante. Built by Muslims in the 9th century, the castle of Santa Barbara has undergone a series of damages and renovations. On some of the walls, you can even see cannonballs wedged into the stone! Sadly, some of the modern aspects of the castle include satellite antennas, which provide signal to Alicante´s residents from atop the castle. Nonetheless, the view from the castle is spectacular and worth a photoshoot if you find yourself in Alicante.

View from atop the castle of Santa Barbara in Alicante, Spain at sunset. Captures  the sun setting amid clouds.
View from atop the castle of Santa Barbara in Alicante, Spain.

All of these events bring me back to gratitude. I´m so grateful to be able to study abroad this semester (and to be able to swim in ocean waters that won´t give me hypothermia!).

Hasta la próxima (until next time),

David Magnello

 

Into The Woods

The waning September month has been marked, for me, by adventures into the Norwegian outdoors, most notably by trips that scream “NORWEGIAN CULTURE”. One of the first things I learned about Norway is the popularity of cabins— second homes, not too fancy, out in the woods that people can escape to. My class took an overnight trip to one to explore storytelling and folklore in a classic setting: around the campfire. A mere five mile trek up the hills through well-traveled trails brought us to a two story cabin, with a well and outdoor bathroom to complete. Just nearby, a designated fire pit sat, waiting for us to use. But outside of our academic goals, this trip taught me a lot about Norwegian culture in connection to nature. For example, all people have the right to hike, explore, and camp on uncultivated Norwegian land, even private land (with few exceptions and regulations). It is through this belief and law that the world opens up to hikers, not needing to worry about trespassing or camping outside of official camping grounds. Additionally, in exploring a forest that had been lived in for centuries by Norwegian and Sami people, it was important for us to learn how the land was used and how folklore arose. We stopped at every new tree to identify it and learn what it was used— building houses, chairs, for instruments? And each rock formation or cliff side was carefully analyzed— could we see trolls (the most notable and classic Norwegian folk creature) in the rocky shapes?

Through this, even in a short time period, we developed a conversation with the woods around us. The same way we spoke fairy tales from our native countries around the fire, the forest spoke back to us.

A large wooden cabin with two students sitting on the porch.
Norwegian outdoors
A view of a sunny hiking path surrounded by green trees
Oslo Climbing Park

Next, my exploration of the Norwegian outdoors took me to Oslo Climbing Park, a vast collection of ropes courses and zip lines far up in the trees, with several of my classmates. We made it just in time for one of the last good days of the season. While it was a tad rainy, and our hands felt frostbitten as we walked ourselves across wooden planks, these next few weeks are the last time to walk these courses for the next several months. In October, the park will become a winter park, where they plan for the ropes courses to be unusable, but snow to fall freely, and park-goers can enjoy a variety of snow sports like skiing and snowboarding.

For me, this trip was about facing my fears:  for a long time, I was scared of heights and had to give up ropes courses and zip lines at a job I loved. When I stepped onto the first platform, what drove me to take the next step was the idea that I hadn’t come here, to Norway or to this climbing park, to let a childhood fear stand in my way of something I knew would be really fun and exciting. The first ropes course made the world open up to me, knowing I was making the most of my time abroad and taking chances I might not otherwise. It would be easy for me to have stepped back, told my friends I would find something else to do, but now I’ll always look back on that trip as the time I faced my fears.

The view from the top of a ropes course, with a student on the platform across the obstacle
View from the top of a ropes course.

Cady West

First Impressions Simply Abroad

Over the course of two weeks, I have been wondering what to write my first blog post about. Should I do a quick deep dive on agriculture? An excerpt on moving in with a host family? The night life that is so popular here in Austria? The Austrio-American Institute itself? We can tackle these in the weeks to come. But as I have struggled with deciding how to introduce this, I have noticed myself adapting in certain ways to the etiquette and cultural norms around me and I feel as though this would be worthwhile information to anybody thinking about studying abroad.

Before you decide to make the, truly, life-changing decision to take that leap of faith for a month, semester and/or year; take the time to look at how you carry yourself at home. Now compare that to how you carry yourself around your superiors; whether that be in an academic sense or a work environment. There are different means in which we choose to present ourselves and our behavior. This will only be amplified moving into a genuinely foreign land. Practices are different. But as a student abroad; you are inherently expected to try and blend in.

Now the question may arise; where is he going with this? Something as simple as good table manners can be the beginning to blending in with your environment. Over here in Austria, dinners are much more different than at home. It is not just a meal. It is a time to converse. A pause on the day to just talk.

9 people eating pizza
Our study abroad group in Austria enjoying pizza with some of the AAIE folks.

Sure, each household has their own expectations. But here, those differences can separate you entirely. Head/elbows on the dinner table? No go. Feet on the empty chair across from you? Big no go. The honor system does not just apply to the public transit here, it is much more deeply embedded. My overall point is that understanding what the new people around you subconsciously expect will help you so much! 

Dmitri Sofranko

The Start Of A New Semester

As my first week of classes comes to a close. I already know this semester will be unlike any semester I have had before. For one, I only have a single class at OsloMet, called “Fairytales and Creativity”, and we meet for several hours every day. Second, every day we have different teachers and different classrooms, depending on what topics we are covering that day. Spending so much time focused on one subject— telling stories— allows us to explore an endless amount of mediums for storytelling (music, acting, radio, stop-motion animation, to name a few examples) as well as different subjects regarding storytelling (heroes, monsters, the dynamics between storyteller and audience).

If we are focused on storytelling and group activities, we might occupy a drama classroom. For lectures, a wide auditorium. For the day we spent six hours learning about telling stories utilizing music, we occupied one of the music rooms (rooms that are open to all students, even after hours). My favorite part of the school day, however, is the thirty-to-forty minute lunch break we get, in which my classmates and I swarm the dining hall for coffee and then dutifully turn our our faces to the sun while we sit outdoors, eating packed lunches like we’re children again, and comparing our different lives in different countries.

Two students holding drums in a music classroomA line of students holding drums in a music classroom

But, in addition to school, my classmates and I have found a variety of other things to do in Oslo for the hours we are not acting out fairy tales. Hiking, including urban hiking like city tours, are a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and international students who do not know anyone in the city are always looking for something social to do. This means exploring every bakery within walking distance (of which there are many), or taking a boat out to one of the many nearby islands for a relaxing day on the water.

One thing I’ve learned is that Norwegians spend as much time as possible outside— taking a quick walk or going to the grocery store means passing an endless series of parks, full of joggers, athletes and kids running around. It’s refreshing to see, mostly because I know these areas will quiet down once the weather turns cold. For now, though, I love taking in a city that is so beautiful and so alive.

The sunset view from a rocky beach on Hovedøya, an island right off Oslo
The sunset view from a rocky beach on Hovedøya, an island right off Oslo

 

The Journey Begins

Hello! My name is Tanner and I just arrived at the University of Nottingham!

The journey here started a couple years ago when I decided to attend Linfield College for my higher education. Whilst applying, I learned about their study abroad programs and immediately knew I would study abroad. I eventually applied for the England program and was accepted!

After filling out paperwork and waiting for the day to come, on Wednesday September 1st I arrived at Portland International Airport (PDX) with my family and best friend. After saying goodbye and going through security, it hit me, I am going to England for 5 months! Fun fact, while waiting at my gate I met someone who knew a professor at Linfield!

Tanner Coulter sitting at PDX airport with the caption "Made it!!!"
A Snapchat of myself waiting at my gate waiting for my flight to board.

Eventually the time came to board the airplane. I got to my seat, excited as ever to fly. This was my first time flying alone and my second time flying internationally.

Over the course of approximately 3hrs, we went from PDX to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)! By the time we unloaded the plane, I had roughly a hour and a half to find my next gate, get food, and use the restroom. Luckily the person who sat next to me on the plane, helped me figure out the speed rail system to get to my next gate. Got everything done and I made it on time with 30 minutes to spare. When boarding this plane, I was still starstruck that I was going to be studying in England for this next term; I stayed that way till I landed at Heathrow Airport (LHR).

Landing at LHR gave me an adrenaline rush as I was excited to be in England! Going from the arrival gate to the arrival hall took sometime but was a smooth process. Afterwards, I got a iced cappuccino and waited for my taxi to arrive. Once arrived, we got my bags loaded and  were off to The University of Nottingham.

While writing this, I am currently wrapped up in my blanket eating breakfast in my temporary accommodations (housing)  at 6am. I am excited to say my few year journey to get here has ended and my 5 month journey of being here has started! I can’t wait to share everything I have done, learned, and experienced.

Tanner's family the night before his first flight
My family and I celebrating my last night in the United States. Not pictured is the cheesecake and Crumbl Cookies we had😁

Follow your nose, not your map

A little

Much to my surprise, it appears I have not gained weight since my last post. This completely disapproves the old wives’ tale of “you are what you eat”. At this point I should be a bowl of rice or noodles if that were true. I cannot stress enough that the almost absurd quantity of restaurants is my paradise. With such low cost to eat, I find myself saying “eh, I bet you I could squeeze in another bowl of noodles or two”. As that phrase was coming out of my mouth a few days ago walking down a popular food street, I stopped dead in my tracks. I noticed a tall cage that was meant for the one animal that can send me from 0 to 100 at the snap of a fingers. My fear of this animal makes me feel a little more like Indiana Jones. That’s right. Snakes.

Apparently, the restaurant doesn’t mess around with their “Snake Soup”. From a FAR distance away, it looked roughly 6 feet in length and as thick as an average person’s wrist. I’m not sure who was more startled, me from seeing the snake, or my friends from hearing the shriek come out of me. Usually I slowly pass restaurants so I can attempt to imagine what kind of amazing things are happening in the kitchen. Not this time. I got in the starting line position like I was ready for a track race, did the arm stretch like Michael Phelps, and SPRINTED by the snake’s cage faster than you can say “CRIKEY”.

I can’t even begin to describe the amount of noodles I had to ingest in order to recover from that traumatic experience ;). Maybe I just used it as an excuse to get food at midnight after already eating two dinners.

I use an example like that to show such differences in the norms at home vs. across the big pond. Hong Kong is arguably as advanced if not more than America. Thus, there are times where it feels as though I am right at home. However, there are extreme exceptions to this that fall on both ends of the economic spectrum. A difference of two blocks can mean walking in what feels like a third world country, to passing Gucci, Rolex, and Versace retailers. Despite such social class differences, it’s so refreshing to see all the smiles on the faces of those that seem less fortunate. How interesting is that? Going back to the old wives’ tale theme, “money can’t buy you happiness” is on full display in Hong Kong. It’s so common to see someone in a three-piece suit walking up to their $150,000 car with a smug or angry look on their face. Turning your head, you can see someone grinning ear-to-ear showing what little teeth they still have left. That smile shines brighter than the flashing lights of the city. Really puts things into perspective.

Until next time,

Jake

An Introduction to

Falling deeper in love with noodles

Sitting in a very American coffee shop while I write this entry makes me reminisce of my long hours spent in Starbucks attempting to study, but mostly socializing.

I had been planning this study abroad since the fall of 2015. Thus, it felt as though it could not have been further away. I always talked about it as if it may never come. Even in the short days prior to my departure, I still felt numb to the reality that I was soon going to leave the best earth (Oregon), wind (Oregon air), and water (wanted to pay homage to a favorite band of mine even though I substituted “water” for “fire”).

Flying across the world by yourself can be a relatively daunting undertaking. If it weren’t for modern technology and a little experience traveling, who knows which country I would be writing this entry from.

A little flight delay during my connection in Vancouver due to a medical emergency set me back a few hours. That can stress one out… Especially when they are stuck on a plane without cell service, meaning they are unable to reach out to those picking them up in 14 hours. Once seated, I watched as what seemed like 99% of the passengers were locating their respective seat numbers and attempting to settle in for the long haul. I became extremely optimistic as the rest of my row remained vacant. One of the final passengers to board the plane was carrying the one thing you do not want to see when your row is one of the only open ones left on the aircraft. A baby. I said a little prayer hoping that they would kindly pass me. I think you know where this is going… Yes. They motioned that the two seats next to me where indeed theirs. I then spent the next 14 hours watching various movies offered on the plane/getting woken up every time I would get close to sleeping (without fail). If there is one thing that can really make someone’s mood take a nose dive, it is sleep deprivation. This made the already long flight seem a little longer. Nothing a little Justin Timberlake can’t fix, right?

Arriving a little late to the airport meant we were unable to stop at Ikea for basic necessities like sheets, pillows, and towels, which I of course, brought none of. I was too concerned with bringing shoes. I was kicking myself, almost literally as I spent a chilled night flutter kicking attempting to keep warm. I kept hearing my family’s voices saying, “Are you sure you don’t need those?”. If you’ve never heard the phrase “mother knows best” … you may want to familiarize yourself with it.

The following days were spent at various orientations and tours of the city. I am quite confident that I heard upwards of 30 people tell me “don’t be stupid” in 30 different ways. That just about sums up the orientation J. The tour is when things started to get interesting. Driving around Hong Kong in 3 buses is not the most stylish means of transportation. Especially because of the cars that are frequently driven in this country. I wouldn’t be surprised if Elon Musk made his entire fortune off Hong Kong residents. There are more Teslas than Toyotas.

We visited a temple, a market (that had amazing noodles), and Victoria Peak. As cool as these places were, they were relatively anticlimactic in comparison to the journey down from Victoria Peak.

Driving in Hong Kong looks a lot like the old arcade game Galaga. Cars slicing and dicing, somehow not hitting one another. It’s chaos. As we were driving down the hill from the peak, we rear ended another bus. It was a relatively decent impact, causing a few bumps and bruises. If I could look at one face for the rest of my life, it would be my tour guide’s face just after we crashed. I have never seen someone’s eyes get so big before. Anyone who knows me, understands I struggle with laughing at the least appropriate times. This was no exception. I almost fell out of my chair, and that wasn’t even because of the crash. My feeling soon changed as we waited for close to 2 hours for another bus to pick us up. I was banking on the bus coming much quicker. My arsenal of jokes ran dry after about 20 minutes… I had to bring out the dad jokes as a last resort (e.g. “what do you call a guy with a rubber toe? Roberto).

At that point, it could only go up from there right? It most definitely has! I have made friends from all over the world. My Scottish accent now sounds like I came straight out of Edinburgh. We have traveled far and wide in search of the best noodles Hong Kong has to offer, and boy have we found them.

I now have a week of classes under my belt, though it seems like much longer. The lectures are 3 hours long here. Getting hungry an hour in can come close to killing someone. Imagining the next food adventure is the only thing that pulls me through. Look forward to updates in the coming week! Got some big adventures coming up this weekend!

Cheers,

Jake