During the month of November, I would normally celebrate Thanksgiving with my family by having a big feast, but this year was different. I actually didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Instead I celebrated Guy Fawkes Night, also referred as Bonfire Night. It is a night to remember the failed attempt of the assignation of King James I, also known as the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The night is celebrated with fireworks and giant bonfires.
November 28th marked the first day of snow in Nottingham. It was a great experience as everyone ran out of their rooms to go play in it. Just like Oregon, it does’t happen often. (Last picture, left to right: Tanner Coulter, Maike Rößler, Bel Florence)
Christmas is my families favorite holiday out of the year. Normally I spend a few days before Christmas baking cookies, cooking different appetizers, and spending time with my family watching movies. This year it’s a bit different. I will be heading to my friend Charlie’s home to celebrate with his family. I am not sure how everything will work, but I am looking forward to it.
Starting the new year before my friends and family is a bit strange. I will be traveling from Charlie’s to my friend Jame’s house to celebrate with him and his friends. I am looking forward to see how England traditions and US traditions differ in how we celebrate the new year. I am also excited to explore the town of Essex, the birthplace of two of my favorite Harry Potter Actors, Rupert Grint and Maggie Smith.
I am looking forward to spending the holidays in England and to see how they differ from the US!
The realization that I have only a few weeks left in Norway has hit me hard. Everywhere I look, I feel like I see aspects of my life in Norway that I’ll miss. Cultural quirks, observations, routines. Some of them are as follows:
The corner of the grocery store dedicated to taco supplies. Tortillas, shells, sauce, with meat and cheese in easy reach. Norwegians are one of the largest consumers of tacos in the world, and this has bled into the layout of many grocery stores.
Speaking of grocery stores and tortillas, lomper. Lomper is a Norwegian-style tortilla, made from potato and flour. It’s a bit thinner and more flexible than typical tortillas, and has an almost velvety feeling when you touch it. They’re versatile and delicious, and I’m already trying to think how I can get them in the United States.
The dedication to personal space on public transport. As someone who is selfish with the room I take up on public transportation, I feel right at home on a bus in Oslo, where people would rather stand than fill up the empty seat next to someone else. The few times someone has sat down directly next to me, despite other options, I was shocked and felt the side-eyes from those standing around me.
The deep love of bundling up. “Cozy”, as a concept, is imbued in Norwegian culture. My personal theory is that no matter the temperature, Norwegians want to feel warm and cozy. As a cold weather lover, I tend to wear just enough layers that I do not freeze. Yet, Norwegians can always be seen in several layers, pulling out their scarves and gloves long before the temperature truly calls for it.
And my favorite, the greeting of “hei hei” (hey hey). When I first started hearing cashiers in grocery stores, Norwegian students I met, and anyone else I encountered start with “hei hei”, I was almost confused because of how childish it sounded. In the United States, I don’t know anyone who would greet someone else with “hi hi” as opposed to just “hi” of “hey”. Except, now I love it. I feel like I’ve entered into an inside joke when I reply in the same manner at the store checkout. I already know I’ll repeat it until annoyance once my semester here is over, even if just to remember the small ritual.
Things have been moving very quickly in Spain. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve realized that I only have one month left here and a lot of things I still want to do. So, I’m going to keep this post short.
So what’s happened this last month? Well, let’s start with my finger. A little over a month ago, I was on a class field trip for my Tourism and Food Culture class. We were at a local restaurant and had just finished making traditional Spanish tapas. As we were enjoying our delicious creations, the classmate sitting next to me wanted some water, so I grabbed the jug to pour her some. When I turned to put the jug in front of me, it collided with my wine glass, which shattered on impact.
I don’t know exactly how the glass cut my finger, but either way it was a messy situation. Initially, I didn’t realize that I’d been cut. It was only when one of the chefs asked if I’d been cut that I looked down at my bloody finger. Quietly and quickly, I rushed to the bathroom to avoid a scene.
The restaurant employees tended to my finger very well, helping me cover up the wound and giving me sweets to prevent dizziness. But after about 15 minutes in the bathroom, they told me I’d have to go to a medical clinic nearby to get stitches.
Thankfully, there was a clinic just down the block where I was able to receive emergency services. I had a really cool Cuban doctor and while he stitched my finger up, we talked about our countries. Also, it was funny to see him giving instructions to a young medical student, who was having trouble opening the packaged materials for the procedure. The procedure was very quick: anesthetic, four stitches, pay, fill out the claim form online, and get reimbursed fully by the insurance company (included in my study abroad program). So, despite the brief but intense burning pain of the anesthetic, it was quite an enriching cultural experience.
On a less gruesome note, I’ve been doing lots of traveling nearby. Just in the last few weeks, I’ve been to Villajoyosa, the island of Tabarca, Torrevieja, Santa Pola, and Alcoi. Among my favorites to visit was Villajoyosa, a precious coastal town of about 30,000 people with colorful buildings and a laid back beach vibe. I also really enjoyed hiking in the mountains of Alcoi with my Japanese flatmate. Last weekend, we spent over four hours soaking in the views and wildlife. The next day, I went with an American friend to Santa Pola, a coastal town full of foreigners and retirees. There, we visited some saltwater lakes, where we saw WILD FLAMINGOS! Although we had to walk through brush and play frogger on a busy highway, the flamingos were well worth the pain.
One of the most special parts about studying abroad is being able to spend a long period of time in a foreign community. With time and effort, you start to become part of the community and make meaningful friendships with the local people. I think that short trips, like the ones I’ve done these past few weeks, are really great for experiencing new things and interacting with your local host community. Oftentimes, you can gain really interesting cultural insights and see many fascinating things nearby. Plus, with local travel you’ll save lots of money, time, and energy!
With that being said, I’d also encourage future study abroad students to do the occasional long-distance trip. Local travel is great, but to get a more complete picture of your host country’s landscape, culture, and history, I think it’s important to spend a weekend or two in other areas.
It’s a bit late here and I’m tired, so I’ll sign off for now.
One of the amazing aspects of studying abroad is the ability to travel wherever. Even in these dark times of the pandemic, so long as the appropriate precautions are taken, traveling is heavily encouraged! I have had the special privilege to travel several times since my stay out here has begun and it has led me to understanding so much of the rich and diverse culture that is right around the corner here! I mean, travel in any direction and things start to change. I have been to the Czech Republic, Poland and I even found myself in Bulgaria! I emphasize the word privilege because these countries and the cities and/or small towns I have found myself in, have opened my eyes not only to the general culture but also, the family values, religious values, burial traditions, and so much more!
My first excursion, if you will, was to Prague in the beginning of the semester. It was only 6 hours away by train and once a part of the Austrio-Hungarian empire, but my goodness how quickly things can change. One of my colleagues quickly made the side remark that people were already starting to dress more alternatively here. The Bohemian tradition still runs very deep and within five minutes of getting off the train it was explicit. The history here ran twice as deep. From Old Town to the Jewish Quarter and all the way up to the Prague Castle – this city, like many others, holds a plethora of stories to tell.
My second excursion was to Bulgaria over my fall break. Another one of my colleagues and Linfield student has family there and we had the treat of being able to stay with them. Two hours outside of the city of Sophia, there is located the small town of Troyan. It is filled with tiny, quaint farms that are blocked side by side with little romantic courtyards filling the middle. Here I grew a stronger understanding of the Orthodox Church and how that really aids in creating the fundamentals of the family structure here. This is something I will cherish.
We were able to see one of the oldest monasteries in Bulgaria, learn some of the brutal history behind religious wars and struggle and see some of the old remnants of the Eastern block from the late portion of the 20th century.
Third, was my recent trip to Poland. Much like Troyan, the signs of the Eastern block can still be seen. However, we spent the majority of our time in Krakow, a prospering city that mostly went untouched by the fabled War. This trip was primarily centered around the Jewish population and included a very hard, yet very needed, trip to Auschwitz. We also had the lovely opportunity to attend traditional Polish music performances. (Which if you have never listened to it- DO IT -RIGHT NOW. You can thank me later.)
Traveling here is vastly different to the United States. Sure, you may get some different aspects of our own culture as you go state-to-state or town-to-town, but it all varies so quickly out here it truly can make your head spin.