Episode 5: Prague!

Prague. Famous for Ice hockey and food. Just kidding its famous for more than those things, even though its food is absolutely amazing. Before we start talking about the infamous Prague lets discuss a much smaller city known as Olomouc. On our first day in the Czech Republic we visited Olomouc. Granted, this is not typically on the itinerary for this trip but Hermann had known of a former student of the AAIE that was working at the university there, so it was added. When we got there we had our first Czech meal and let me tell you something, it was DELICIOUS. Czech food is known for being very heavy, i.e. more carbs and sodium than any person should consume. But boy oh boy, it is delicious.

Later that day we visited the university and learned a little about it and where it came from. The university is called Palacky University and it is the second oldest university in the Czech Republic. It was established in 1573 and its medical school is one of the best in the Czech Republic!

That evening we went out for another delightful dinner!

Here is the older portion of Prague, located across the river!
Here is the older portion of Prague, located across the river!

The next morning we made our way to Prague. We arrived in early afternoon and headed to the hostel. Now if you plan on traveling in Europe alone, hostels are the way to go. You can chose to either be in a co-ed room ranging from all different people or just single gender. The highest bed number in most hostels are 6 beds. But the people that stay there are typically young college kids traveling and therefore you can make new friends from many different places! In Prague all 5 of us girls stayed in one room which was nice.

The first day we had an afternoon tour which lasted roughly five hours and we a large portion of the city including the Karls University and the Karls bridge. Both of these were established and built under Charles IV. Along the tour our tour guide showed us some great places to eat and drink.

The entrance to part of the Karls University in Prague!
The entrance to part of the Karls University in Prague!

The second day we headed up to the Prague Castle. An absolutely beautiful site to see. The tour again lasted about five hours, which after the first tour, was a little bit rough. However, it was enjoyable and totally worth it! Inside the castle is a beautiful church called St. Vitus Cathedral. Along with this, there is a very small street called Golden Lane. Here you can find very short houses. Yes short houses. They’re almost like the houses in the Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit!  Inside are tons of little shops, even ones where you can purchase beauty products made out of beer and wine (i.e lotion, shampoo etc.). Overall the whole area is a must see!

Here is St. Vitus, located inside the Prague Castle.
Here is St. Vitus, located inside the Prague Castle.

The next and last day we had another tour and  then were able to have free time in the city. Later that evening, three of us group members, Tommy, Ana and I, attended an ice hockey game while the others headed back to Vienna. Why ice hokey? Well ice hockey is very big in Prague and it was probably one of the coolest experiences ever. The local team in Prague, known as Sparta ,crushed the opposing team 4 to 1! I highly recommend going to any sports games while in Europe, the experience is something different for sure!

Ana, Thomas and I at a the Sparta ice hockey game!
Ana, Thomas and I at a the Sparta ice hockey game!

After the game the three of us made our way back to Vienna.

Prague is definitely a must see, but there is one thing I must warn you about. there are a lot of tourists. ALOT. But don’t let that stop you from seeing this beautiful city.

Melissa

This is a building from the area of Cubism architecture.
This is a building from the area of Cubism architecture.
This is a random corner building in Prague.
This is a random corner building in Prague.

 

Val Ball and Castle Hill

It has been a hot minute since I have written a blog post, but for good reason. To be honest not much has happened in the last three weeks. At least nothing too interesting to write about!

First of all, I am composing this blog post on Thursday October 25th, which means it is week thirteen. In translation, this is my last week of classes before exams. Tomorrow is my last class at JCU, ever…. It is absolutely crazy to think how time has past me with a blink of an eye. Over the past three weeks the only two significant things worth talking about are Val Ball and Castle Hill. The rest of my time I have been studying and writing papers. After everyone returned from lecture recess classes got more intense and required less time  relaxing on the beach and more time in the library studying.

Val Ball, which stands for Valedictorian Ball was October 6th. This is where our dorm, Uni Hall, celebrated all of the people (valedictorians) that are moving off Uni Hall next year. It is also used to recognize and award all of the RA’s and our Senior RA for their amazing work over the past year. This was a time for all of us to dress fancy and wear heels and celebrate. It was almost like prom. We picked our table group of ten people and we were served a two course meal, in addition to an open bar of champagne, wine and beer. Val Ball was such a fun experience because it reminded me of my high school prom experiences and it was fun to get dressed up and see everyone so well put together. After Val was over, all of us changed into regular going out outfits and went to town all together.

Dena and I at Val Ball
Dena and I at Val Ball
American friends all dressed up before heading to the Brewery in town where the event was held
American friends all dressed up before heading to the Brewery in town where the event was held

This past Tuesday Dena and I took a bus into town to climb Castle Hill. Castle Hill is a massive rock in the middle of Townsville. You can either climb or drive up it but it leads to a beautiful view of the city. Hundreds of people visit Castle Hill every day. It is a very popular place to get a great workout it considering it is a massive steep hill. Dena and I met up with Will, one of our friends we met in our hostel in Byron Bay. He stayed in Townsville for two days and we were glad we could meet up with him. Castle Hill is one of the main things to do in Townsville, so it was a “right of passage” to take Will up to the top (even though Dena and I hadn’t done it yet). Always, we went up around sunset and even though it was a bit of a difficult climb it was absolutely worth it. Unfortunately we didn’t get the best view of the sunset because of some clouds and the sun was almost already set but below is a photo from Google so you can get the idea of how beautiful it is.

Photo of Will, Dena and I at the top of Castle Hill
Photo of Will, Dena and I at the top of Castle Hill
Google Images photo of Castle hill
Google Images photo of Castle hill

Overall, even though these past few weeks have been pretty slow with school work, this upcoming week is SWOTVAC. SWOTVAC is the study week before exams. Most of us Americans tend to travel around this time. Dena and I are headed north up to Cairns and that’s what my next blog post will be about, until then…

Cheers!

Makenna

A new beginning in Quito, Ecuador

Since arriving in Quito my life has seemed to be such a world wind but I could not be happier. In the beginning, I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say the most nerve racking part about coming to Ecuador was when our group arrived in Quito and we had to go our own ways to meet our host families for the first time. These nerves didn’t last long at all after I was welcomed with a big hug from my host mom and a host brother who offered to take my bags for me. From the very moment I met my host family I knew right away that I was going to feel right at home. After my first night in Quito my family has had nothing but kind, caring and understanding attitudes that really helped take stress off me in the first couple weeks. I also think the fact that they remind me of my big and outgoing family back in the states is a bonus because it really makes me feel like part of the family.

Once our group had attended a long orientation and our classes started, we began to settle into our new life in the big Ecuadorian city of Quito. At first the routine of public transportation and full spanish immersion was a bit overwhelming. The staring eyes everywhere I went took a little while to get used to as well, especially when I was still trying to figure out my way around the city. Now that it has been a couple of weeks I would say that I am super confident in my routine here in Ecuador. A typical day for me includes classes Monday-Thursday usually finishing around 4:00pm. To get to and from my University in Cumbaya I take 3 buses each costing $0.25 and taking me about 1hr 15m. Luckily, I have since met an ecuadorian friend who lives nearby and can drive me sometimes which only takes 25-30 min to get to school, saving me time and money.

Ecuabuddies is one of the programs here to meet and interact with ecuadorian students. The Linfield group and I have had some fun times with ecuabuddies, especially the pickup fútbol games on wednesdays, but I still felt I was missing the raw immersion. One of my biggest fears about coming to Ecuador was not being able to immerse myself enough into the culture and the people here, but I have figured out a couple ways to branch out since then. First thing I did was take an extra art class that won’t count towards my Majors but allowed me to have a class with full ecuadorian students, unlike my other classes that were all for international students. Considering that I am not that shy of a person I also decided to join the salsa club on campus, allowing me to meet some really fun, interesting people and practices my already awesome dancing skills. Last, I just decided to just step out  of my comfort zone and try as much as I could.My decision to ask a girl I didn’t know for help with my computer has gained me a bunch of ecuadorian friends here in Ecuador and has really made my time here that much more amazing.

Although the first couple of weeks were time for us to settle into our new home, we still found time to do some pretty amazing things. Our program provided us with a trip to centre historico in Quito. I was excited because I knew that Quito was the first city to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so I knew it was going to be beautiful. Here we got to visit an indigenous museum, Basilica del Voto Nacional, plaza de la independencia and the fully plated gold church of San Francisco, Quito. The entire Linfield group also planned to visit Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world) together. First we stopped at the huge monument placed in 1736 by the French Geodesic Mission then we went to the current location 250 meters away in the rad Museo de sitio intiñan. I am not going to brag but I was the only one that could balance an egg on the equator. Next up was the Ecuador vs. Columbia soccer match. I am so glad I was able to have this experience. The energy was unlike any game I have ever been too I will probably go back to another, but next time learn the lyrics to the famous song they sing “Yo te diré.” Last I want to wrap up this post talking about my amazing experience taking the TeléferiQo and submitting the 4696m high Rucu Pichincha Volcano. I am not going to lie when I say that this hike was probably one of the hardest hikes I have ever done. It also probably didn’t help that I was not super adjusted to the high altitude of Quito yet but, I will say that this hike was 100% worth it. I love hiking back home in the states so, having the opportunity to hike such a beautiful new place and have a view of a volcano and Quito was a vision I won’t forget.

I can not believe the amazing time I am having here. I think that its been filled with such rich adventure that I never got the time to be homesick. I really believe that I am learning so much and growing as a person. I am so blessed to be able to have these experiences and I will not take them for granted. Although my time seems to be going by so fast, I am trying to embrace every part of it. If you want to continue with my crazy adventures in Ecuador, you can look forward to hearing about the beach, the amazon forest and the Galapagos islands! So until then…

Nos vemos y saludos,

Magdalena McGuire

 

 

Camping, Tramping, and Friends Part 1: The Catlins

Kia ora!

Now that I had gotten my first ever tramping experience over with, I was feeling very confident to plan one without the help of the tramping club. From the mid-semester break, I had also made the realization that I loved camping and wanted to go on more camping trips with friends.

The Catlins is an area about two hours south of Dunedin. Many people, especially surfers, travel there during the weekends because of its popular surf spots. Plus, with its close proximity to Otago, it was an easy trip to make. Me and three of my friends, Jen, Sam, and Ailisa, decided to plan a spontaneous girls trip to the Catlins. We loaded the car with our sleeping bags, tents, and most importantly, hummus, crackers, and chocolate, and set-off on our two-hour journey to the Catlins.

We arrived at Purakaunui, a popular camping spot in the Catlins, close to dark, and most of everyone there had already set up their tents and made their fires. Ailisa, who had camped there previously, showed us the perfect camping spot that was already equipped with a bench and fire pit, and high cliffs that shielded us from the wind. It was a clear sky, and the moon was bright enough that we could still see the waves and cliffs in the distance. Ailisa ventured off to look for more firewood, as we had only bought one bag of kindling, and the rest of us began making dinner. For dinner, we made bacon and pesto pasta topped with cheese. Though the bacon ended up more boiled than crisped, it was still a delicious meal and we were all very proud that we had not opted out for buying already-made food. We sat near the fire, eating our pesto pasta, sharing sweets, listening to music, and talking. We joked about how brave we were to go camping without a big group of people and laughed at the struggles we faced as girls peeing in the wilderness. When our conversations about life died down, we simply looked up at the stars and moon and then decided to head to bed.

Feeling like chefs!
Feeling like chefs!

Like any time I’ve gone camping, I’ve always tried to wake up for the sunrise. Keyword: “tried” because sometimes we’re all too tired or an alarm just doesn’t go off to wake us up. This was one of those times. However, we still awoke to the sun still low near the horizon. We walked along the beach then packed up our camping gear and headed out to explore the rest of the Catlins. As we were leaving, we could spot a group of five surfers running into the surf and more vans had pulled up to the beach to scope out the waves.

Missed the sunrise, but what a view!
Missed the sunrise, but what a view!
Walking along the beach we spotted a seal
Walking along the beach we spotted a seal

We spent the rest of the day exploring Purakaunui Falls, Curio Bay, and Nugget Point.

Purakaunui Falls
Purakaunui Falls
Curio Bay!
Curio Bay!
Nugget Point
Nugget Point

Overall, the Catlins is a beautiful destination in the South Island. I would suggest anyone who decides to study abroad at Otago to spend a weekend here, especially since it’s so close to home.

I’m loving it here in New Zealand!

Best,

Mehana

Mid-Semester Break (Part 2): Camping in Kaikoura

Kia ora!

After seeing the most pristine places along the west coast of the South Island, I felt eager to explore the rest of what the South Island had to offer. I was so excited to return home in Dunedin. It was the first time I realized that I could comfortably call Dunedin home and after being on a bus with fifty other people, sleeping in tents, and jumping from hostel to hostel, I could not wait to be in my own, comfortable, warm apartment. However, my eagerness to be home did not last long and I soon began planning a trip up to the northeast of the South Island to Kaikoura. That Friday, me and a friend I met on the tramping trip started our drive to Kaikoura. The seven-hour drive was accompanied by easy New Zealand tunes, views of sheep (you would not believe how many sheep are actually in New Zealand), and talks of how much we were enjoying our time in Dunedin.

Kaikoura is a town located up north from Dunedin where the beaches are scattered with seals, surfers, and paua shells. The town of Kaikoura is a unique one in that an earthquake had caused destruction to roads and other infrastructure in the area back in 2016. The earthquake was so huge that the construction of the roads is still going on today. What’s even more impressive is the seabed rose a few meters above sea level. Given this recent history, the drive there involved multiple construction stops along the way. Though, it gave us a chance to really see the effects of how this earthquake changed the landscape of this town.

Upon arrival, the sun was setting behind the clouds and our friends who we were to be meeting were gathering firewood for the night. After setting up our tent, my friend Miguel proudly showed me his bench that he had made over the past week that he had been there. In reality, it looked like a pile of rocks, but it worked as the perfect place to watch the waves and sit near the warm fire. As the sun went down, we sat around the fire cooking our meals for the evening and sharing drinks.

Miguel cooking a very nutritious meal of beans and potatoes
Miguel cooking a very nutritious meal of beans and potatoes

The next morning, I awoke to the sun shining through my tent and the sound of waves crashing along the shore. That day, my friend Mia and I did a walk along the Kaikoura coast, all while spotting seals along the way. We then decided to explore the town centre which was simply one strip of road filled with knick-knack shops, cafes, and OpShops. I took this time to search for gifts for my family back at home and even snagged a $2 book from an OpShop.

Kaikoura at sunrise
Kaikoura at sunrise
Through the mist, you could see the snow-capped mountains
Through the mist, you could see the snow-capped mountains

 

The Kaikoura coast walk
The Kaikoura coast walk

The rest of the two days that we were there, we simply sat, lay, and relaxed along the beach reading our books and watching the boys surf. It reminded me that it’s okay to not be constantly doing something when you’re abroad. After talking to other people about this subject, we all seemed to share the same feeling. Because we are abroad and have a limited time in the country that we are studying at, we were constantly feeling that we had to plan trips every moment we could. While spending those relaxing couple of days in Kaikoura, I realized that it was important to take a few days off of exploring and adventuring. During that weekend, I was able to finish the book I had bought and reflect upon my semester abroad thus far.

 

Best,

Mehana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best,

Mehana

 

At the midpoint

We fly back home to the U.S. in less than two months and coming to that realization in the last week has made me feel more internally conflicted than I ever thought was possible. Last spring when I sat in my study abroad orientation class and listened to my tutors tell me to cherish every second of the semester because if flies by in an instant, I didn’t understand the gravity of their sentiment. I can’t believe my experience here is over half way over.

On one hand, the thought of going back to the familiarity of home right in time for Christmas fills me with glee. I do miss my family and my friends and my house and Linfield and my dog a lot, after all.

The one thing about this new Chile study abroad program is that, since it’s Linfield’s first one, none of us really knew what to expect. Mel and I were told to pick up our visas in San Francisco and to wait for someone named Florencia to pick us up at the Santiago international airport upon our arrival. Other than that, we had no plans and no expectations.

Since then we’ve obviously figured a lot of stuff out, like our class schedules and how to maneuver around the city, but I can’t help but feel one step behind most of the time. This is probably mostly due to the language barrier, but nonetheless, I am excited to be back in a place where I, like, have a general idea of what’s going on most of the time. 

But leaving this beautiful place and the loving people in it is something I’m absolutely dreading. Everyone I’ve met here- my host parents, my physical education major friends, my tutors, my Basque and French extranjeros, my host brothers and their friends, my advisor Florencia and her family- have made this place home. A year ago I never thought I’d have a home in central Chile.

So how can I leave my home in seven and a half short weeks, just as my Spanish is starting to improve more rapidly and just as I’m becoming closer with my Chilean friends and family? I know I can’t avoid the inevitable, and I know I can’t up and leave everything I have and everything I’ve worked for in the U.S. But part of me doesn’t ever want to leave, so the fact that I have to scares me.

I am not even close to seeing all that this country and this continent have to offer, but I suppose the traveling I have done and the home that Chile’s created for me are invaluable, and something that will be a part of me for the rest of my life.

In my last two months I’ve decided to stress less and live more, because this journey is already half way behind me.

Nos vemos pronto,

Camille  

P.S. We have also still been traveling a bit. 🙂

 

Valparíso, Chile
Valparíso, Chile
Me on the classic piano steps in Valparíso, Chile
Me on the classic piano steps in Valparíso, Chile
Mel, happy in Valparaíso, Chile
Mel, happy in Valparaíso, Chile
Florencia, her daughter Catalina, and my host mom Claudia inside of the beautiful Vińamar
Florencia, her daughter Catalina, and my host mom Claudia inside of the beautiful Vińamar
Florencia, Mel and I at the Viñamar
One of the many fancy meals we ate that weekend
One of the many fancy meals we ate that weekend

 

Cape Town ep. 1

It’s hard to believe that I have been in Cape Town for a month, whaaaat? Time has passed faster than I thought possible and I have had plenty of experiences, both positive and challenging.

To be honest, the start of my experience was rough. I got on the plane feeling a bit congested (not the ideal way to start 22 hours of flying time) and when I landed in Johannesburg, one of my bags was missing. Later when I got settled in my flat, the power went out so my first night I showered in the dark and after my phone had died, laid in bed wondering what I’d gotten myself into.  To cap it off, my second day I felt the beginnings of a cold and spent the next 3 weeks sick with that virus and who knows how many others. I seem to have caught a break now after a bout of the flu and am expecting to return to the US with an incredibly fortified immune system. Besides being sick, there were the obvious adjustments I had to make, like handling a different $ system, new schedule, as well as adapting to co-habitating with 9 other people.

That being said, I have loved being here more than I thought possible. I have gotten to try great food, connected with people from all over, immersed myself in a new industry, and have seen incredible views. I had no idea South Africa was this beautiful and I’m loving every bit of what I have seen.  Here are some memorable snippets from the past month:

One of the events I attend is sometimes held at the EBS school in Cape Town, pictures here is one of their displays.
One of the events I attend is sometimes held at the EBS school in Cape Town, pictures here is one of their displays.
This is what my workstation at my internship site looks like. Once a week my supervisor runs the bar so we set up there.
This is what my workstation at my internship site looks like. Once a week my supervisor runs the bar so we set up there.
Here I am (far left) with 4 of my flatmates and 2 friends. We all intern at different places at that's one of the cool parts of living together!
Here I am (far left) with 4 of my flatmates and 2 friends. We all intern at different places at that’s one of the cool parts of living together!
View from the Haut Bay Beach which is a stretch located on a mountain, super cool.
View from the Haut Bay Beach which is a stretch located on a mountain, super cool.
Live band we got to see at the Haut Bay market
Live band we got to see at the Haut Bay market
Another Kalk Bay mountaintop view
Kalk Bay mountaintop view
One of the views from the top of the Kalk Bay mountains; the hike up was 1 hour of steep hills but totally worth it
Another view from the top of the Kalk Bay mountains; the hike up was 1 hour of steep hills but totally worth it
Can't resist including one of my meals, this spot is Cape Town's best vegan fast food
Can’t resist including one of my meals, this spot is Cape Town’s best vegan fast food
View from a rooftop event we attended
View from a rooftop event we attended

All in all, it’s been a memorable month and I am excited to see what’s next.  I’ll soon be assisting at our Oktoberfest event and starting planning for a street festival. See you in a few weeks!

-Camila

October 12th, 2018- 中間点 (Halfway Point)

Konnichiwa! It is hard to believe that I am at the halfway point of my time abroad in Japan. Being at the halfway point means I have experienced a lot! Recently, we have started our teaching assistant program at a nearby junior high school that is part of the Kanto Gakuin system. We assist a teacher in an English class and help the students learn English. On Tuesdays, we teach the high school grade 4 level class and on Thursdays we have a casual English lunch break in the English lounge where we talk with the students in English. After that, we help teach the junior high school grade 1 level class. To be quite honest, I wasn’t looking forward to be a TA for an English class at first because English was not one of my strong subjects in high school. Luckily, I reached out to some of my former high school teachers and they gave me strong words of encouragement to be patient and keep it simple. I especially need to have lots of patience because in the grade 4 class, some are not as interested in learning the English language. Some are sleeping, or talking to their friends. The grade 1 class on the other hand, are very energetic and interested in learning the subject. But at times, it can be hard to teach them since they are very noisy.

Now, this post will not be like the others because as much fun studying abroad seems, it will not look like a picture-perfect experience at times (and that’s OK). I will share those challenges that I (as well as others) have encountered during my time in Japan as they are considered learning experiences.

#1 The Language Barrier- this for me is the biggest challenge in Japan since the Japanese language is one of the most difficult languages in the world. In fact, the other Linfield students have said that the language barrier was the most difficult as well. Vanessa Kelly said that with the language barrier, you are “not able to say what you want to say.” Edna Poton mentioned that “it has stopped her from asking questions that she wanted to ask and continuing conversations. In Japan, there is more intricate vocabulary that catches us off guard at times.” I totally agree with both since they are mentioning similar points. In Japan, there are many levels of talking based on rank and statuses of people; ex. boss to his subordinates. Especially in Japan, you have to be very careful when speaking to someone higher than you because there is respectful language called keigo (honorific.) There are also different tense endings that are used when talking about past, present, and future. Even when speaking to friends/host family during a conversation, it is hard to continue the conversation especially when there is a word you don’t know the meaning of, yet you have so much to talk about. Often when I come across a word I don’t understand, most conversations are left open-ended.

And sometimes there are things I really want to talk about that I am able to in English, but many times I don’t know the meaning in Japanese, so I try my best to keep it simple. My perspective on the language barrier is that it is taking a while for me to get through. Sometimes, I feel intimidated when someone is talking to me in fluent Japanese, and I can’t understand a word at all. It also takes a lot of energy for me to speak the language especially there are times when I want to use English. If I am in an uncomfortable situation and someone is trying to help me, I completely shut down and unable to try to speak Japanese. Not a lot of people speak English in Japan, so it sounds very foreign to me and I have to fend for myself. Not only is there the language barrier in Japanese, there are also barriers from  other languages. There are many international students from other countries such as Russia, China, and Taiwan. The positive aspect is that it makes the study abroad experience more diverse, but there is also a negative aspect in my opinion. English may not be their first language, so the only way to communicate is to use Japanese, or somehow find a way to learn their native language. In a way, it creates a double language barrier As you read on, you will find that the language barrier can play a role in the other challenges that I talk about.

#2 Standing Out- This is another major challenge that I have noticed in Japan. In the country, a majority of the population is Japanese/Asian. Very few are either white, hafu, (half-Japanese), etc. and that includes mostly tourists. For the two other Linfield students in my group, they easily stand out due to their ethnicity with one being white and other Latino. In my case, it is a little different. Since I am Japanese, I have a Japanese last name and I look Japanese.  Therefore, people expect me to know Japanese. However, not being fluent and knowing little about the cultural habits makes me stand out as a 外国人(foreigner). There is a Japanese proverb that says, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” Japan is a group-oriented society meaning that everyone has to conform to the cultural norms. If one does not conform accidentally, Japanese people really notice, and act very emotional about it. That is why, I have to be careful when blending in with society so that they don’t know I am a 外国人.

#3 Typhoons- In my hometown of Hawaii, we have hurricane season but in Japan, there is typhoon season. The season lasts between May and October, with August and September being the peak season. During a typhoon, there are strong winds and heavy rain showers hitting Japan. Typhoons can impact many things including delays in the rail lines. There have been a few typhoons since arriving, and I remember experiencing one that hit close to my area. One night, I remember the room shaking in my homestay as the wind speeds were about 46 miles per hour, plus the power went out. I was feeling worried as the room kept shaking since this the first time I felt wind speeds at a very high level. Luckily, it happened close to my bedtime and I was safe after that. But it was a scary experience for me.

#4- Making Friends- I remember this point being mentioned by a former Linfield student that studied abroad in the same program. In Japan, people tend to be very shy so you have to make the move instead of them coming to you. I recently interviewed one of the KGU professors for my Japanese culture class, and he is also from Hawaii. He mentioned that in Japanese culture, they are more patient and willing to wait unlike the Hawaiian culture where they are more welcoming. In my case, it makes it really difficult when trying to do things during my free time and there are two reasons. One, is that I am an introverted person so I am shy as well. And two, there is that language barrier once again which makes me unable to say what I want to say to the Japanese students.

Crowded train
On a crowded train during our study tour back in September. (It gets worse on the way!)

#5- Transportation/Getting Around- For me, this has to be the second biggest challenge during my experience. In Japan, the rail systems are the most reliable form of transportation for everybody. I mentioned this a little bit in my first blog that the trains can get really crowded especially during rush hour. You will find many people such as businessmen/women and school students riding at the same time. At times, it can get so crowded that you feel like you are in a can of sardines. Before coming to Japan, I heard that there are some instances where the train station attendants have to push people to fit in the train, but I have not seen that yet. There are also times when there are no seats available that you have to stand during the whole ride, and it can make you feel dizzy. And, as part of the cultural norm, you have to give up your seat to elderly, disabled, or infant-carrying passengers. Unlike McMinnville, Yokohama is a really big city and it can be hard to get around especially if you don’t know where you are going. I unfortunately got lost a couple times trying to get around. The first time was when I was trying to get to my homestay from school by bus. It seems that I kept taking the wrong bus that were heading in the opposite direction of where I was going. I tried to ask the drivers as best as I can, but I couldn’t understand them. Up to a certain point, I gave up on the bus and took the train instead since it was more convenient. I realized soon after that I was at the wrong bus stop, and I was going by the bus number and not the destination of where it was going. Luckily, the International Center staff helped me the next day by showing me the correct bus stop, and I even wrote the destinations down so I don’t confuse them. The second time happened recently on last week Thursday. This time, it was involving the train. I was supposed to go to the Tokyo Stock Exchange for an economics field trip. What happened was I went to the correct platform that the station attendant told me to go, but what I did not realize is that there is more than one train using that platform regardless of what the sign says. So the platform said to Haneda Airport, but I was supposed to go on a train that was headed to Aoto and was the limited express to Tokyo. That resulted in a series of wrong directions, and I never ended up near Tokyo at all. Therefore, I missed the field trip which feels like missing a big opportunity to experience. After that, I felt humiliated, disappointed, upset, and a little bit traumatized. Especially since this was the second time I got lost, I felt like I let the KGU International Center, my classmates, and my professor down. I didn’t even want to go to class the next day or talk to anyone since I blew it! What also made this more complicated was my poor Japanese language speaking ability. Again, when someone is trying to explain directions to me, I just block it out because I don’t understand a single word (plus they don’t speak English). Now that fall break is approaching, I still feel anxious of getting lost again as that memory haunts me.

Because of these challenges I have encountered, Japan still feels like a foreign country to me. Most of the time, I listen to music just to ease my worries. I have also reached out to the KGU International Center, Linfield College IPO, and my host family for support. They all understand the challenges I have been going through. Most of the time, it feels like I am the only one still struggling to get used to Japan, and the others already gotten used to it. On the positive side, the food is really good and because Japan is so fascinating, I feel like I don’t want to go back home. Already, I have gotten an email about course registrations coming soon, and it will be hard to get back to reality once I come back in the spring.

I hope that people that want to study abroad in the future will take-away from this post that you will tend to make a lot mistakes, and that is ok. It will take a while to get used to a new country, just like how we had to get used to being on our own at the beginning of our college career. At times, we may have mixed feelings when dealing with unknown situations, especially when the cultural norms are different. If you ever need help, you can always ask someone, they are willing to guide you. At this point, I am not ready to give up on my journey, and neither should you. If I had offended anyone who is reading this post, I am very sorry. がんばって!(do your best!)

Me playing with host family dog
Since this post was not so happy, here is a photo of me playing with one of my host family’s dogs so you can all feel better.

ーアリッサ

 

The beginning of a great British adventure

We have been in England for three weeks, and it is just starting to hit me that I will be spending the next four months here – The University of Nottingham.

A lot can happen in three weeks when you’re acclimating to a new country and way of life so here are some highlights.

The first few days on campus were exclusively international students, which allowed me to meet others who were facing the hardships of not only starting classes but being significantly farther from home than usual. It was really great to meet people from around the world, although most of them were just beginning university not studying abroad. Friday included a pub crawl for international students at any of the universities here in Nottingham.

The next day was ‘fresher’s’ or freshmen move in day and the beginning of ‘fresher’s week’.  Unfortunately, I got sick right before I left home and although I had hoped to shake my cold by the time people showed up, I had not. This meant that I was not in a partying mood and instead of easily befriending those in my hall by going to all the club nights, I hid away in my room downing hot tea and watching Netflix.  

Luckily, I had a few Linfield students to hang out with during that week. We explored Nottingham City Centre and our new campus. Shopping and eating in cute cafés became the norm of our week. We even found a little garden on campus. Its quaint charm mesmerized us instantly and we spent hours lying in the grass and soaking up the sun, knowing full well that it could be one of the last nice days we’d see for a while.  

Covered bench in the Nottingham garden.

The campus garden is overflowing with beauty
The campus garden is overflowing with beauty

Even though I have been getting to know other students, ironically the people I am closest to are a few people from Linfield. Maybe it is because we were mostly all placed in the same hall or just that we understand each other’s struggles better than most, but four of us have created an easy friendship.

I’ve also met some other exchange students who introduced me to people that they had met, namely an Australian girl named Nalini. Now there is a group of exchange students that sit together at meals and go on random adventures. One of these adventures took place our second Saturday in Nottingham.

Our outing was to the Attenborough Nature Reserve, a beautiful lake surrounded by greenery, and only a short £1 bus ride away from campus. The reserve is everything that I would have expected from a lake in the English countryside. I’m not sure how many of us went, nearly 30 I’d guess. It has been nice getting to meet exchange students because they are in the same situation that I am, and are more mature than the 18-year olds just moving to uni (university) for the first time. It is also crazy that we, students from all over the world have been introduced at a University in Nottingham, England, and even though we aren’t studying the same things or from the same countries we are able to understand each other because we are all in the same boat, missing home but in awe of the opportunities that we have here.

The river at the Attenborough Nature Reserve
The river at the Attenborough Nature Reserve
Some of the exchange students that went to the nature reserve
Some of the exchange students that went to the nature reserve

This past weekend we took the train to London to explore.

Four of us Linfield kids headed to London after we finished classes on Friday afternoon for a weekend getaway. We booked the cheapest Airbnb we could find near London and let me tell ya, ‘you get what you pay for’ should’ve been our mantra for the weekend. The apartment was cramped and not very clean but at least we weren’t spending that much time hanging out in there. This and the £1 umbrellas we got from Poundland, England’s version of the dollar store, proved that sometimes it’s worth the splurge.

Our first day in London we went to see the sites: Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and The Tower of London/Tower Bridge. Halfway through the day it began raining and so we spent a good amount of time hiding out in a café instead of seeking out other tourist attractions like Big Ben and the London Eye. Even so, we made the best of the situation and even ended the night by finding a cool restaurant near our Airbnb. Here we got wood-fired pizzas and pints of mojitos, a good end to a long day.

Linfield students Sarah Reiner, Rilee Macaluso (me), Haylee Harris and Carmen Chasse at Buckingham Palace
Linfield students Sarah Reiner, Rilee Macaluso (me), Haylee Harris and Carmen Chasse at Buckingham Palace
Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey

On Sunday we headed to the London Natural History Museum, because, hey, it’s free and we are pinching pennies anywhere we can. Let me just start by saying that the museum is amazing! It’s huge- you could spend days in there and probably still miss parts of it. There are so many exhibits going on and so much to learn and see. So, we checked our luggage at the cloakroom and headed for the closest exhibit. From ancient birds, to Charles Darwin, to volcanoes and royal gems, this was by far my favorite place we visited all weekend.

The London Natural History Museum
The London Natural History Museum

Sadly, the weekend had to end and we headed back to Nottingham as late as rationally possible, soaking up as much of London as we could- don’t worry we’ll be back.

More adventures to come!

Cheers,
Rilee

Episode 4: A Typical Week of School

Although it may seem like it, its not all travel here in Vienna. During most of our time we are either studying or in class just like the rest of Linfield! My typical week of school consists of 4 classes Monday through Thursday and no matter what track you are  on, English or German, you’ll have a steady course load throughout the semester. Although the English and German track only have one class together, we both start our weeks on Monday. My Monday starts around 9am (which is a perfect time! (; ) with an Ethnic Diversity class. This class is pretty interesting because we get to go to different debates and discussions over current political issues in Vienna. After Ethnic Diversity I would typically have a german class, however I recently took my entrance exam to start German classes at the University of Wien. That means on October 11th I will have my first class at the University! It also means that on Mondays I am done with class at 11am and have the rest of the day to study and explore Wien!

On Tuesdays everyone has German at the University and then in the afternoon, both tracks have an Austrian Politics class together. This class is very interesting because it mostly covers Austria and its political actions from 1914 to present day. Giving us a lot of history to learn. After class I typically head home to do some homework and then maybe explore Vienna at night. Wednesdays on the other hand are by far my longest days. Now that my German classes are at the University on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I only have two classes Wednesday; my Ethnic Diversity class at 9am and my Austrian Cultural History Class, which ends at 5pm.  I know its  a bit long but I do have breaks in between! This history class, although very hard, is very interesting. This is because every Thursday we go on a tour of something new and historical in Vienna. In the beginning we went to a Roman museum were the left over architecture of Vindobona lies. Vindobona was an old Roman military camp located in central Vienna. What blew my mind was that underneath a city the size of Vienna (414.6 km²) lies the remains of architecture from Roman times which, lets just say, was a very very long time ago.

Michaela, Ana and Thomas during the Roman Museum tour.
Michaela, Ana and Thomas during the Roman Museum tour.
The group during the Roman Museum Tour!
The group during the Roman Museum Tour!

After our tours, we have our Austrian Politics class again. This ends around 4:30pm in which I’ll typically head home for some dinner. Now Fridays are the one of the best days for any student because… 

We have the day off!!

Typically we’ll spend this extra day by beginning our explorations of Europe early, sometimes however, we have school events and community services planned. Recently, on the 28th of September, we had an amazing community service opportunity. We ventured to a near-by village and help clean up and ready a Volksschule (or an elementary school) for their open house. We helped them set up chairs and clean windows and because school has already started we were able to meet some wonderful kiddos! We also met the Mayor of the town… no big deal or anything. (: This experience was a heartwarming one and seeing everything come together was amazing. The people we worked with were wonderful and I would absolutely go back and do it all again.

Ana getting ready to clean some windows!
Ana getting ready to clean some windows!
Verena and Michaela hard at work!
Verena and Michaela hard at work!
The whole group plus members of the crew we worked with during community service!
The whole group plus members of the crew we worked with during community service!

Studying abroad in Europe isn’t only about the adventures you are able to take, its also about the things you learn while you take them. I have had so many opportunities to see things in Vienna that I never thought I would see – all because of my history class. And I never would have been able to meet a such community so grateful for seven people to come help them with their school if it wasn’t for the Institute. Everything that I have done ties into this school, and it is an amazing opportunity that everyone should take.

Stay tuned to hear about our school trip to Prague!

Tschüss!

Melissa Rockow