Arrival

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After almost 24 hours of travel, I’ve finally arrived in Prague. It’s my second full day here, and it feels like it’s been weeks!

My flight was about 7 hours to Lisbon, Portugal, where I had an 8 hour layover, followed by another 4 (ish) hour flight to Prague.

Notes on long travel:

–Pump  your legs and change positions as much as possible while flying. Your lower legs can easily swell and become uncomfortable, especially on very long flights, and the best way to combat this is movement.

–Drink plenty of water. Another way to help keep your body as balanced and comfortable as possible is by staying hydrated. It is imperative for your in-flight comfort, as well as for post-flight walking and baggage collection; you’ll feel less exhausted the better you take care of your body.

–Try to sleep on the plane. It can be tempting to just watch movies the entire flight, but overseas flights usually take off at night, and you’ll be arriving to your destination or layover airport in your internal middle of the night. It’s nearly impossible for me to take my own advice here, as I have never been able to actually fall completely asleep on a plane, but even resting your eyes and body can help keep your internal clock as regular as possible in anticipation of your time adjustment.

 

After moving into my apartment (lugging what felt like hundreds of pounds of luggage up winding stairs, with some gracious help from new neighbors), getting everything settled, meeting my new roommates, and trying to adjust myself to the time difference, even just the first few hours alone were surreal and dream-like.

That night, we had a group dinner/Prague-walk. After getting to know the people in my building  for the first time, we headed down to the restaurant below our apartments (which is apparently famous for housing the largest beer selection in the Czech Republic…!) to hang out before walking through old town to our dinner. It was a great and convenient way to experience Czech culture for the first time.

After the meal, where we got to meet students from the other buildings as well as get to know our advisors, all 85 of us walked through Prague at night, seeing old town square and the astronomical tower (fairy tale…completely) and Wenceslas Square, which is in the new town of Prague.

Today was our first day of our two week language-intensive course. We were lead through the commute to school on the metro, went to our school building for a quick tour, then went to the more main part of Charles University, where we’re technically studying, for an orientation and lunch. The area surrounding the school is hilly, so the walk from building to building was beautiful (if VERY icy).

Two busy days post-traveling was exhausting, but exciting and fun; we’ve really been thrown into the study abroad experience.

P.S.

The photo attached is from my first stroll around old town during the day. Although it was cloudy, and the cinematography student in me is still internally crying about the quality of cloudy-day photos, Prague’s well renowned beauty lives up to the hype. prague.JPG

 

 

Montpellier

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Montpellier

Currently, I am finishing my orientation here at IEP Lyon. We began on the 3 January and finish the 13 January. Most days were filled with oral, writing, and technical French classes and also instruction time on how to write French dissertation papers. But what do you do to stay sane while being in classrooms from 9-6 most days? Well, my friends, in a large cosmopolitan city like Lyon, where you can easily take the Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV), there are plenty things to do.

This past weekend, I experienced France in full force. On Saturday morning I arrived at Gare Part Dieu, the central hub of transportation services in the city, at 8:40 in the morning to catch a TGV for 9:10 to Montpellier. The train to Montpellier was a little over two hours, traveling south. In the morning, we took a tour of the city. It was originally inhabited during the Middle Ages and as France’s 8th largest city, is now a great destination for those looking for a nice weekend getaway. After our tour, we walked around the city. My group headed to Jardin du Champs de Mars, a quaint park with a pond, but then we realized there was a building right next to it (Palais des Congrès) with a terrace on the roof. We saw a lot of people on the rooftop and decided to head up. The views of the city did not disappoint. You could practically see the whole city!

After this, we bought a galette des rois, a special cake made for Epiphany. Within each cake is a small prize and whoever gets the piece with this prize is crowned le rois (the king) or la reine (the queen). Since I was the one to cut the cake on the train back, I decided it was only right to take the prize and crown for myself.

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the view from the Palais des Congès

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me standing in front of the Porte de Peyrou

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Parc du Peyrou

Lyon: La capitale gastronomique du monde

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Lyon: La capitale gastronomique du monde

Hi, my name is Cian! I am a current junior at Temple. I am a Global Studies major and a French minor. This semester I am studying through Temple’s exchange program with Sciences Po-Lyon in France’s third largest city — Lyon! Ah a semester abroad in France — a young Francophile’s dream. Please follow me in my journey as I live and learn in a foreign city and live the Francophile dream!

These upcoming six months I will spend in Lyon will be a transformative and eye-opening time for me. Each day I will learn more fully the geopolitical viewpoints and the daily life of the average French citizen. At Sciences Po-Lyon, I will gain fluency in the French language and have cultural immersion, while gaining insight into international relations, European politics, and European history. This program will allow me to get more outside of my comfort zone and allow me to understand what it is like to live in a country which is not my own. The experiences and learning opportunities are endless!

This past fall semester, I have been up late at night thinking about the many trips I can take on my weeks off while I am abroad. I have also been planning a possible trip during for an extra week in Central and Eastern Europe after classes are over. I dream of taking the Eurorail to Spain for a week and visiting Barcelona and Madrid. I plan on meeting my mom and brother in Paris over my spring break and showing them the City of Lights and then making our way down to the City of World Gastronomy (Lyon). I am very excited to show them what an average day in Lyon would entail and the experiences I would enjoy. I imagine taking day trips to the French Riviera, Annecy, Geneva, Provence, and Chamonix. I would like to take the train to visit my high school exchange student from Mulhouse and then continuing my trip to visit a friend from high school in Hanover, Germany. I have a friend from Temple who studies at the University of Edinburgh this year and we are currently making plans to visit each other. I hope she can show me the idyllic Scottish landscape, show me the best bar crawls, and how she finds a home in her adopted city. When she comes to Lyon, we plan on skiing the French Alps. This will be extremely interesting due to the fact that I am a horrible skier, but should be enjoyable nonetheless. After my semester, I am planning on taking an extensive tour of Central and Eastern Europe, where I’ll visit Geneva, Lucerne, Zurich, Munich, Salzburg, Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Trieste, Venice, Milan, and Turin. Now that I am here, I can finally turn my planning into a reality!

Please continue to view my blogs to experience my foreign adventures as I live and learn in a foreign city and live the Francophile dream!

Study Abroad: The Very Beginning

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Since I started my college search in high school, I’ve known I would study abroad. I’ve looked forward to forging an entirely new, adventurous life, embarking on an adventure of self-reliance and travel, more than anything.
Since I’ve started officially narrowing down programs, the reality of my upcoming adventure and the logistical gymnastics to make it happen has been thrilling, challenging, blissful, terrifying, exciting, stressful, and promising.

The first greatest lessons of this process thus far: listen to yourself.
For years, I wanted to go to Spain; I studied the language to an almost fluent level in high school, and wanted to maintain it by studying there, since I was unable to take it on as a minor.  But, after really listening to my inner voice and allowing the nagging, subconscious hesitancies to come into clear view, I admitted to myself that if not for the language, I would not choose to live in Spain. I separated myself from that long anticipated, assumed plan. I broadened my possibilities, and allowed my intuition to pull me to a place that I wanted to make home for half of a year.

After I made this decision, my sister convinced me to pursue Paris, where she would be studying at the same time. The idea of living in the heart of France, a world capital, with my sister just across the city, was thrilling. I poured all my energy into finding the perfect program for me, and completely set my heart on finding one–

Lesson number two: Be flexible.

I couldn’t. No matter where I looked, the hours I spent, the people I spoke to, there simply was not a program that was doable for me (and believe me, I fought this fact. Hard.). After feeling crushed and defeated, again, my decision compromised and my seemingly solid and definite plans destroyed, I had to dust myself off, again, get up, again, clear my mind, again, and follow my gut.
I thought I would feel bitter and disillusioned, but (and let me really drive this home), I have never felt more free, excited, and independent. I thought I had felt all the anticipation and eagerness I could, but realizing that I now had a completely clean slate, beholden to no language and no person, I could literally just scroll through cities, point to one, and say yes.

I highly recommend emulating the way I approached this step: I found a program that fit all of my financial and academic needs first, and then chose a city they offered (the list was extensive), instead of getting my heart set on a city and not being able to find a program there. I narrowed it down to three, listened to my gut, talked to my family (and listened to their intuition, as well; they knew which city was the most “me”), and settled, to my complete delight, on Prague, Czech Republic.

The logistical process of applying and fulfilling all requirements is essential, and requires almost all of your focus and dedication. It cannot be neglected or procrastinated. But, if you can manage that in a responsible way, you and your goals are the most important part of this process. Do not forget to listen to yourself, your wants, and your intuition. You are making a home; choose one that lights you up.

Katrina Salamon

Agridulce🌾

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Agridulce🌾

I remember crying on the night before my flight to Spain— thinking about how much I would miss my family, how anxious I was about taking the plane, and adjusting to a new environment. I also remember feeling confident when I woke up the next morning— remembering that I had already been there before and feeling like adjusting would not be so bad. I excitedly turned around as I saw my family disappear behind me— fading into small dots.

These past couple of months have been nothing short of interesting and surprising. I have struggled with loneliness, academics that failed to challenge me, and losing/forgetting so many personal belongings in many places across Madrid. I have also met some lovely and beautiful friends that have inspired me to keep on pushing through when things got hard, and reminding me to have fun.

There are many reasons I could stay angry at Spain. I could be angry that when I walk into the metro, there are people always talking about me audibly—insulting me and blatantly staring. I could stay angry that people bump me on the street and refuse to apologize or ask me to move before they push me. I could forever hate the food that isn’t as good my mom cooks, that lunch is at 3 pm, and that I feel out of place almost everywhere I go. But those things don’t even leave a dent on the things I have learned and seen here in Spain.

I have seen beautiful, kind souls take interest in my knitting on the metro. I have been able to have close relationships with the program officials of my program. I have seen beautifully different countries on weekends and have made friends I will keep forever. I have almost perfected my Spanish grammar and speaking, and have grown more confident in myself as a person.

In Spain, they say that there are never any goodbyes; only see you laters. When I came to Spain, 4 years ago—when I thought that I knew everything about living in this country— I thought I would possibly come back.

I don’t know when my story with Spain will ever finish being written. I don’t know if one day down the road, I could find myself living here. I don’t know when I will see my lovely friends from Madrid again, or the friends I made from Morocco, Sweden, France, New Orleans, Madrid, Mexico, and so many other places around the world! And I wish I did know because these people have formed my experience outside of my program when the program wasn’t enough. These people have made me happy and formed a home for me in a city that has yet to become home to me.

What I do know, however, is that although the day I come back is unknown, I will come back. I will come back and I will see this beautiful country and see the friends I have made and cherished again. Spain, although flawed—as every country is— is easy to miss if you blink. It’s easy to write these people and their customs off, but when you don’t and you see what’s underneath them, you’re confronted with a people with pride, honor, and history that have made myself a part of hope I never get erased from.

Now that the program is over, I am trying to not rush myself, but I am excited to see my family and friends again— hold them, and start a new exciting adventure back in Philadelphia, pero aunque necesito revolver a mi hogar, mi alma quedara en España para siempre. 

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Spanish Friendsgiving & #NODAPL

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Spanish Friendsgiving & #NODAPL

When I was in elementary school, I remember using my hand to cut out a turkey and decorate it with fake feathers. I was told that Columbus sailed the ocean in 1492 to “America” and made friends with the “Indians.” After they had shared different goods with each other, they all sat down to enjoy a meal together and share their culture and that is why we celebrate Thanksgiving.

The United States education system has to stop teaching our children that narrative.

My study abroad experience has been amazing, but also challenging. This country, though  incredibly beautiful, intricate is completely different that what I have experienced. It’s rich, new, and exciting, but there’s an overall comfort that most Spaniards feel with their gross and apparent pride in their history of colonisation. And it bothers me that to this day, we are celebrating the displacement and murder of millions of native people. On the day of Thanksgiving, there were literal army corps at Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, pouring chemicals on the native people, taking them to jail for protesting, flying in no fly zones, spraying high pressure water on people in the cold, and many more horrid things.

It’s crazy for me to be here, in the country where it all started and watching the same behaviours being repeated here and in the U.S. right now. So I really took action this year, agreeing with my friends to donate money to the Standing Rock fund, encouraging others to, and not celebrating Thanksgiving. Instead, we decided to host a dinner with our Spanish friends, cook American vegetarian food for them, and talk about what our best moments of friendship were.

This, I think was a better way to celebrate, at least for myself and for my  friends. I missed cooking and having moments like those to just stop, chat, and eat. We also talked a lot about politics and making sure that we are trying to be as ethical as we can, and listen to others.

I was able to FaceTime my family in the morning and remember their warmth. There are things and days like this that I can hold close my heart for warmth in hard times. I feel blessed to be able to have friends who support me, understand me, and believe in my narratives. My Spanish friends have known me now for 4 years and I cannot believe I am going to leave them again, so soon. I am thankful for friends that put value in relationships, who help support you, and who will eat your mashed potatoes  they have never tried them before. The end is near, everyday, but I will never forget this trip, my friends, and always being there to stand up for what is right and just for everyone.

It’s really beginning to hit me as we sat at that table that I am leaving and these last moments we create together until the next time. And I know there will be a next time.

National Museum Of Korea

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The weather in Korea has finally reached what feels like winter and we’re just getting started with December. This week marks the last week of classes and everyone is getting into study mode as they prepare for finals.

Knowing very well that I’m gonna be head buried under the books, I spent my weekend prior de-stressing as much as I could. So a couple of friends and myself headed over to the National Museum of Korea to explore and take a quick break from our studies.

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It is the largest museum in South Korea and it houses various cultural assets dating back to many years of history, from ancient times all the way to modern era. In addition to galleries with a wide array of national and international pieces, the National Museum of Korea is the stage for a number of cultural activities related to collection, preservation, research and analysis, social training, academic publications, intercultural exchange programs, concerts, and more.

Visitors of all ages get the opportunity to participate in a number of educational events and quality cultural programs. For those who prefer to tour at a leisurely pace, the museum grounds have a number of environmentally friendly spaces and rest areas.

It’s free admission for all visitors and it’s very common to see families spending the day there with their children, teaching them the history behind their culture, country and their identity. Specifically, on the day that we went, we ran into numerous tourist groups visiting Korea for vacation and also students from local middle schools on a field trip.

As soon as you walk in, you can head over to the help desk for information and also pamphlets and guides to help get you through the museum. The galleries are divided into periods and themes. On the first floor, you’ll find galleries starting from the Prehistoric & Ancient history and eventually leading up to the Medieval and Early Modern era. Then the second and third floors house donated works, calligraphy & paintings, Asian art and sculptures & crafts.

Considering the size of the museum, we only got to explore level one and all of its galleries. Starting from the prehistoric era, we got to learn the origin of Korean culture and follow its development from ancient times to the Unified Silla period to the Balhae Kingdom. Around 7500 artifacts from the Paleolithic Period to the North-South States Period are displayed in the 11 exhibition rooms. Then moving on to the Medieval and Early Modern History Gallery, we were able to view different cultural artifacts from the Goryeo and Joseon Dynasty, arranged by time period. Around 1,900 words were displayed in Goryeo Dynasty I – II – III and Joseon Dynasty I – II – III – IV – V.

Walking through the different exhibits really helped put Korea into perspective as a country and how far its people and culture has come today. The way the galleries and exhibits were set up really helps bring you along through a historic timeline and gave insight to how life was back then.

Indeed, this little trip to the museum proved to be another success and learning experience. But now that finals week is right around the corner, it’s time for coffee and sleepless nights!

What Gilmore Girls Has Done For Me Abroad

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What Gilmore Girls Has Done For Me Abroad

It’s always difficult to find a place where you feel you belong abroad. As I expressed in my earlier posts, that was hard for me to find— especially in the beginning. Nothing feels the same no matter how hard you try. But somehow, I have been finding it through weeks and hours of watching the hit TV series, Gilmore Girls.

I remember watching Gilmore Girls when I was younger with my aunt and cousin. Their relationship reminded me, and still reminds me of Rory and Lorelei’s , but I was young and I barely remembered the show. I tried watching it a couple of years ago, but I could never find the energy to. Somehow, I happened to find the energy here because I craved something that made me feel at home. Somehow, books and school and friends couldn’t fulfill that hole for me here. So, I turned to what I had known since I was young— Gilmore Girls.

As a person who is extremely close to their family, I’ve found that no other person I’ve met studying abroad has felt the same disconnect from their roots. They talk to their family every once in a while, but as formalities. If I go a week without talking to each member of my family and sending them a post card, I feel extremely heavy. Coming from an immigrant family, blood has always been like a thick syrup that bonds us all together. My parents never let me forget that. My mom has told me stories since I was a kid about family being there for her when no one or nothing else was.

My relationship definitely isn’t as close as Rory and Lorelei’s. For that, I am actually grateful. I don’t think their relationship would actually work that  well in real life. I like the delineation between my mother and I. And I am thankful for it, but Gilmore Girls has helped me connect to my family when the time difference is too much sometimes, when I need a hug from my mom, when I miss smelling the candles my mother lights near the windows in the fall, and when I miss lying on the rug with my dog in the living room.

When I’m watching sometimes, I wonder why I had never been so obsessed with this show before. The women take center stage as Rory and Lorelei deal with failed relationships, school, discomfort, and moving through the world together. They sing songs and go to concerts together and deeply understand each other in ways that no one else can. Their family is built on a community of people that function with them, moving through trauma together, and shopping for way too many things as a means of self-care. No one understands anyone the way family does and when I watch Gilmore Girls— watching that between Rory and her mother makes me remember what I have at home and that I couldn’t survive without it.

Gilmore Girls and Stars Hollow, although fictional, have taken a real place in my heart for which I’ll never forget.

Food Culture in South Korea

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When you’re traveling to a new and different country, you have the opportunity to try new things and gain new experiences. But sometimes, the best experiences always relate back to food.

Food is a universal asset that every human can relate to; we need food to survive, it’s just as simple as that. But food also represents a culture and the people of a country as a whole. There’s history behind every dish and flavor but we sometimes take it for granted simply due to that fact that we just don’t know. And when you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to explore and learn.

In South Korea, the abundance of food at cheap and reasonable prices will keep your bank account and wallet happy. After living here for a few months, I can see why a lot of people choose to dine out or grab a quick bite at one of the street stalls. I’m not joking when I say this, but groceries in Seoul can get a bit expensive. A friend of mine back home who is from South Korea warned me about the cost of groceries because I told her that I didn’t plan to eat out much and would rather opt to cook my own meals.

And boy was I wrong. I spent about $100+ or so on groceries a month that would only last me a short while if I planned to cook food every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the end, it started to add up. But don’t be alarmed; not everything here is expensive. For the most part, if you’re into eating a lot of fruits and meats, then it will add up. But if you’re more of a simple chicken salad type of person, then you’re more than fine!

Aside from groceries, Seoul is literally packed with restaurants where you can have a whole meal for less than $10. Plus, all the prices on the menu already include the tax and THERE IS NO TIPPING IN SOUTH KOREA. Why? Because everything is so fast paced here, Koreans believe that you should eat and be on your way all while still getting the same high-quality customer service that you deserve, just like every other customer walking through the door.

If you’re in the mood to eat Korean style BBQ, Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, American, Italian, Desserts or simply want a burger from McDonald’s, expect great service with really nice people. When you’re eating out with a big group, remember to be polite and try not to be too loud. You can get unwanted attention that way. But it’s always better to enjoy new food together with people and create memories and experiences.

Food brings different cultures together, and even though we may not realize it until we’re actually sitting there staring at our empty plates, it’s a great way to meet new people and learn something new about yourself or the history behind one of your favorite dishes! Until then, always have a open and welcoming mind and tummy!

Finalmente

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Finalmente

It’s occurring to me that the program Is nearing its end. As I write this, I believe only 2 weeks of class remain. I had a breakthrough this week and am finally feeling like I have grasped some sense of reality and have been able to go places without always looking for directions. I have found things and places and people to spend time with when I feel lonesome, but have learned to reserve my alone time to a reasonable amount of time.

I have just learned through the weeks that writing post cards to my pals and family makes me feel really at ease even when I am extremely stressed. I love seeing things in different places and thinking of how one of my family members would be amazed by being there. The other day, I stood on a street corner and closed my eyes. I imagined 17th & Walnut Street perfectly like I was standing right there and walking to Rittenhouse square. I wonder what stores have closed down and which ones have become incredibly popular. Using that felt like a means of coping because I thought about how I will be able to see that scene once again and feel completely in my element. I have been knitting again which has allowed me to be able to stay warm since I lost my scarf, but also have found a lot of comfort from it.

My tutoring sessions have been helping with my Complu class immensely and I am deeply submerged in speaking Spanish almost all day. I can see the progression of my tolerance for speaking Spanish even when I am extremely tired or upset, it is nice that I am able to wake up and immediately engage in a conversation in Spanish and even be extremely sleepy and also begins and finish a coherent conversation. Coming off of last week, I wasn’t the most excited to still be so far away from my friends and family that I feel need me.

I was able to join my friend from middle school, Gomian, for her 21st birthday in Paris, France. There, I was also able to see my Temple friend, Christopher.

I was able to find strength and healing by seeing friends who were also going to be affected by the president elect and who had kind words to share. Paris was beautiful, but I really feel like I am taking advantage of the things that I see in Madrid. I have been trying to go to an art museum at least once a week until I leave because they are phenomenal and full of so much life.

Finally, obviously, when the program is ending— I’m actually encountering what I have wanted this whole time. I am finally finding out how to not be bothered by the things that used to bother me and am still being determined and hard-working at soaking up the cultural experience as much as I can. I don’t know if I could have said these things to myself earlier, although I wish I could have, but finally I have a sense of relief and that feels lovely.