Excursion to Giverny and Rouen

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Four weekends of the Paris program are dedicated to excursions, where the group leaves the city and heads somewhere new to learn about the culture and history of the country and region.

This past weekend, the Temple group packed itself into a coach bus to head out to two amazing sites outside of Paris: Rouen and Giverny. I had heard of Giverny before this excursion, being the art nerd that I am, and was extremely excited to hear that we would get to visit the house and garden (and water lilies!) of Claude Monet, the impressionist painter; but had never known anything about Rouen until looking it up the day before leaving. My excitement to visit increased ten-fold when I learned that not only is it home to the cathedral that Monet famously painted over and over to study the light and atmosphere, but also the location of Joan of Arc’s trial and consequent death.

Monet’s garden and home were everything that I had dreamed of and more. They are so peaceful and stunning, despite the crowds that you’ll find there on a beautiful day. Monet’s infatuation with painting the scene made sense to me once I saw the way the light and color played off the water, the intense colors of the flowers, and the lushness of the greenery.

Rouen also surpassed my expectations, with its dazzlingly ornate cathedral and its sweet, tiny streets. We went to a museum dedicated to Joan of Arc and watched a multimedia exposition on her life and the debate surrounding her death. I had no idea how controversial she was and nor how tough she was (she was shot in battle twice!).

Overall, the excursion was absolutely eye- and mind-opening and definitely has me looking forward to our next!

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A wonderful view of the pond at Monet’s Gardens

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Temple students and their Program Director standing under a beautiful archway in Monet’s Gardens

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Monet’s atelier full of impressionist paintings

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Temple students walking through the garden in front of Monet’s house

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Flowers in front of Monet’s water lily pond

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Temple students enjoying the view on their walk towards the Cathedral

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A view of Rouen Cathedral’s famous spire

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Rouen Cathedral’s intensely ornate Gothic style is almost dizzying to look at up close

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Temple students exploring the beautiful chapel attached to the Joan of Arc Museum

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One of the adorable shop-lined streets leading up to Rouen Cathedral

Expanding My Horizons

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You think that when you go study abroad to a new country you’ll be completely lost. You think that you will be limited as to how many monuments you’ll see because you’re a tourist. All of that is completely untrue. Why?

Well first, your classmates are either just as clueless or have been abroad before and can help you with tips to get around! Last week was my first week of excavating EVER (I know right? I’m an anthropology major). It is really hard work. In Artena, Italy, I learned how to pickaxe, shovel, wheel barrow, scrape ruins, and to ALWAYS keep the sunscreen handy. Yes, I sweated a lot. Yeah, I was sore the whole week. But the feeling of being able to bring ruins back to life is addicting. It gives me a sense of purpose. There’s this girl in our small  group of 5 who has done this Artena Excavation program before and has come back a 2nd year because she loved it so much. She helped the rest of us by giving us great advice such as the correct posture to pickaxe so that your back doesn’t hurt or what places are good to eat at around Artena.

Second, you can explore by yourself and not get lost in Italy. Mostly everyone speaks English at least a little bit. This past weekend, my group and I went to Rome by train, which is about 40 minutes away. All I have to say is: WOW. Anyone would be able to enjoy that city. Because I’m a total nerd of an archaeologist, I explored at least 12 monuments in one day by foot, spanning across half of Rome, including the Coliseum and the Roman Forum. On Sunday I went to Vatican City to see the Pope and to hear his blessing, which was an amazing experience! Whether you’re religious or not, it’s truly something you should see. Afterwards, we ventured into St. Peter’s Basilica, where Michelangelo’s Pieta is housed. What a beautiful church full of history! But beware, don’t wear shorts or tank tops or they won’t let you in! This was a moment of my life when I reflected on how cultures can be very different from ours but you must respect them. In this case it would pertain to Italian Catholics.

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Roman Forum

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Gelato

 

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Coliseum

Not into ruins? That’s okay. The food is also amazing in both Rome and Artena. Italians eat appetizers, the first course of pasta, the second course of meat, and dessert. The hotel in Artena feeds me well, not to mention they have white wine and cappuccinos. Yum!

But let’s get back to archaeology, shall we? I have been working with French archaeologists this week. We have been digging a trench next to an ancient wall so that we can see where it leads and to be able to see the layers of dirt in order to date the wall and the artifacts that were found. So far, I found lots of pot shards and a few small bones! I don’t know what bones they are but it was such an awesome find. I feel much more comfortable about digging and I have been improving my French, which is very important for my future career as an archaeologist. I can’t wait to see what is in store for me next week! Ciao!

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five ways to enjoy your first five days

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Everyone reacts to studying abroad differently, especially during the crucial first days. While some can jump right in at full-speed, invincible in the face of jet lag, culture shock, language barriers, and new surroundings; others need some time to get comfortable. I am of the second sort.

My first five days have been a nonstop whirlwind of amazing sightseeing, great (and inexpensive!) food, miles and miles of walking tours, and challenging french classes and lectures. While I have already done more wonderful things than I previously thought humanly possible in only five days, I have also felt exhausted, sick, overwhelmed, and a little homesick at the end of the day.

Feeling a little weird at the start is totally normal, but here are five ways to make sure your first days studying abroad are as un-weird as possible:

  • Remember socks

Forgetting to pack essentials for your comfort (like I forgot all of my socks) can really put a damper on your first days in your host country and distract you from the fun you could be having. It is important to make a list of everything you need to feel comfortable during the day and to triple check that list and your luggage before you leave so that all of your energy can go towards better things like scoping out the best panini stands and navigating the Champs-Élysées.

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Temple students at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

  • Be social

Studying abroad is a lot like one big team-building exercise, except for the fact that it isn’t justifiably hated by everyone except camp counselors. Once you try to buy a complicated metro pass in a foreign country with someone, you are destined to become fast friends. This study abroad camaraderie takes work to foster though, so make sure you are spending as much time with your group as possible, even if you aren’t psyched about the activity. The first few days are key for bonding and you won’t want to miss out on the amazing memories, support, and laughs you can get from your study abroad friends.

  • Get lost

The best way to get comfortable in a place is to get uncomfortable in it. Pop a map in your back pocket, or roughly plan out a route ahead of time, grab your new friends, and explore your neighborhood! This will help you get connected to your surroundings and your peers (which is the best way to prevent homesickness) and will also be helpful for finding hidden sightseeing gems the best (read: cheapest) shops and food around.

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Shakespeare & Company, a famous Parisian bookstore with a long history

  • Cross something off of your list

If you have a “bucket list” for your experience abroad, don’t procrastinate! It’s easy to tell ourselves “the Eiffel Tower will be there tomorrow, there’s no rush” only to find that time has flown by and we are 48 hours from boarding our flight and only saw the tower once out of a taxi window. So text those wonderful new friends, pull out that metro pass you worked so hard to get, and check off something new right away!

  • Give yourself time

Lastly, remember that studying abroad is a never-ending transition from one way of life to another and that the beginning is one part of that transition that can be especially rough. If you are feeling overwhelmed, decide to give yourself a week to feel wonky and lost, then check in again after seven days. Luckily for us humans, adaptability is our thing, so you should be feeling ten times more equipped to handle your new life once you have given yourself ample time to get used to it. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out to people that you trust for support and guidance.

 

Leaving Jamaica

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I logged into Facebook to post a status. It reads: “Leaving Jamaica tomorrow…already feel homesick for 2 places.” This bittersweet feeling left me very confused. How could I feel so torn between two places? I wanted to go home and fall into the same old routines but on the other hand I felt as though I just started a life out here in Jamaica. After I posted this status I refreshed my news feed and saw a quote that really stuck out to me. It said, “Two things define you: Your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything.”

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My favorite community members from Yallahs!

As the days went on, I identified more and more with the community members. I placed myself in the shoes of those I met and thought deeply about what it meant to live a day in their life:

On Sunday, I am a long time church goer, singing and rejoicing during devotion, despite what tribulations may be going on in my life.

On Monday, I am a 2nd grader, on my way to school. Right before I left I traced lines on my blank pieces of paper so I would be ready for my favorite subject: Writing. I was not fed breakfast, so I left extra early to attend The Breakfast Program. My school may have limited resources, but I make the most of what we have and I value my education so I can go to University and travel the world  one day.

The next day, Tuesday, I am a primary school teacher of 20 years. I have seen it all: from aspiring athletes and university students, to boys and girls who grow up too fast or fall into the wrong crowd.

Likewise, on Wednesday, I am a high school teacher. I have seen star students that pass their end-of-the-year exams and other success stories, to young men who drop out of school to work early or join a gang and young girls who get pregnant or rely on fleeting relationships to get through day-to-day life.

Thursday, I am a farmer and I take great pride in knowing I sustain the Earth and provide food for my community. I take my crops up to the the farmer’s market and make a living that way.

Friday, I am a taxi driver. Taxis are the main source of public transportation. I have met many people this way and you can find me waving and honking my horn at my pedestrians, as I have probably met them at least once in this small town. As of now I am on strike, because the road conditions are deplorable and we have decided to stop all operations until there are concrete road repair plans set in stone.

Saturday, I am back in my own shoes and I ask myself, in relation to my being in Jamaica, who am I?

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Last walk along my backyard beach.

 

This is where the quote I mentioned earlier comes 13450804_890497817745414_3499463659682287368_nto mind: “Two things define you: Your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything.” As I return the U.S. a lot of people ask me how my study abroad experience was. I often do not know where to begin but I always start with, “It was a beautiful and humbling experience.” I was always modest growing up. I counted my blessings. I grew up in a middle-class suburban neighborhood with my average nuclear family. My immediate environment offered places to eat, shop, play, relax, and so on. I had of all my basic needs met and more. Deep down I knew I had everything but there
were moments when I took my life and its luxuries for granted. In contrast, I spent a lot of

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Last day with my students.

time with children in Yallahs, Jamaica and I compared my upbringing to theirs. Yallahs is known as the “forgotten parish” and it shows. The roads are bumpy and rocky, buildings and houses could use better infrastructure, there is no grocery store in town, schools do not have a fair student:teacher ratio, family involvement is low, and there are not many extracurricular activities for children to get involved in. Even I found these conditions frustrating and it certainly tested my patience. Yet, many children strive to succeed despite their odds of failing. I applaud them for their courage. They may be younger than me but I feel wiser from just knowing them. Their faces, names, and their life stories are ingrained in my memory and I will carry them everywhere I go. Until next time, Jamaica – you will always have a piece of my heart!
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Artena Excavation Adventures

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Artena Excavation Adventures

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? My fiancé drove me 2 hours to JFK airport, trying to keep up with the flow of New York. When we arrived, the airport looked like a glimmering city of cars, planes, and bustling people. Everyone seemed to know where they were going except me. Once I found the terminal number on my itinerary, I was able to enter the correct terminal, which is an entire building. Keep in mind, this was my first time flying: What an experience! After I entered, I checked in, where I received my boarding pass. At the same station, I also checked my baggage. Afterwards, it was time to say goodbye to my fiancé because only people with passports who are flying were able to pass through to the security check-in. It was heartbreaking, but I know we will be very happy to see each other when I get back next month. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, right? After our goodbyes, I proceeded to the security checkpoint, in which the line was wrapped around the entire 2nd floor of JFK airport terminal 8! Though, I was surprised that this line only took about 10 minutes. Aside from being a bit lost, the lines went very fast. Once my passport was scanned, I followed the signs for my correct gate. I was flabbergasted! There were strings of fancy shops filled with travel essentials and bars. It was like walking down Hollywood Blvd. I didn’t mind waiting the hour until my flight because of how awestruck I was by this airport.

13567218_2034575560101602_3632373885346510033_nAfter I boarded the plane and the engine turned on, rattling the seats, my anxiety set in. Unfortunately there was a 2 hour delay because of a storm. Luckily I had a layover in Germany for 4 hours anyway, so the delay only cut down on my time spent waiting in the German airport. Once we were in the air, it took 7 hours to reach Berlin. After a few hours, I was used to the high altitude.  Once I arrived in Berlin and my passport was stamped, I bought myself a coffee in euros (yay, I got to use euros for the first time!). Then it was time to get on the plane to Rome. This plane was much smaller and I had the opportunity to sit in the window seat, which was worth it. Best view ever.13592380_2034575616768263_1443198264929059696_n

I finally landed in Rome after around 2 hours in the air. I then followed the hoard of people to the baggage claim, where I waited 20 minutes for my luggage to be spewed onto the luggage belt. I then exited my terminal and standing right there in the crowd was my professor. The excitement ran through my bones like a winter chill. Through 10 hours of flying, I was here. In Rome. Finally. This is what I have been waiting for my whole life.

My professor drove me through the twisty roads of the Italian countryside to the hotel in Artena, 40 miles outside of Rome. The hotel is beautiful! It is lodged very high on the mountain where Artena lies. There’s a terrace connected to every room. The view of all the orange roofs of the villas and the mountains is certainly one of a kind. After settling in for the weekend, we embarked on the 5 minute journey from the hotel to the excavation site (seriously, only 5 minutes). Parts of the site are 4,000 years old. 13537675_2035664209992737_478611251027451719_nWhen we arrived, we weeded the land and peeled off the tarps covering the excavated land from last year. Then the real work began. With my 100 SPF sunscreen, bug spray, my dorky hat, and a very sharp tool, I weeded the land for about 4 hours. Today was the first day of the excavation and I am excited to begin digging. I already lightly uncovered a red pot, which I cannot take out of the dirt until we are done weeding the site. And so my real journey begins: The true learning experience of a future archaeologist.

 

Starting Fresh

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The most exciting part of preparing to leave for Artena, Italy on my excavation is realizing that this month long excursion will leave me feeling fresh: Fresh full of life and adventure. As time gets closer to departure, which is now only a week away, the excitement is growing. I’ve lived in cities all my life, so I am absolutely THRILLED to stay in a small town in Italy. And let me tell you, it’s also been extremely fun to prepare for my trip.

Preparing is an adventure in itself. I got to buy items I never would’ve normally bought, like steel-toed boots, sunscreen for my face, a dorky hat, and any clothes that aren’t black for that matter. I got to buy these items knowing I was going to be achieving my life goal of participating in an excavation. I know this program will change my life and perspective, and that is so utterly refreshing. I went shopping with my cousin for all the necessities, like shampoo, hair ties, and pants that archaeologists wear (which I only guessed because I have no idea). I also happen to love packing….. just not the unpacking part….. but I put on some music, jammed out, grabbed what I thought I’d need, and started packing. The little fun things truly make life awesome!

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I also got the opportunity to get my passport for the very first time, which was much simpler than I thought it would be! All I needed to do was contact a post office that took photos for passports. I then needed to print out a form, fill it out, and bring it with me, as well as proper documentation. Then I got my photo taken at the office and received my passport in as little as 4 weeks. Easy, right?

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Though the little things like shopping and packing were fun, I must say: the support I got from everyone was truly inspiring and heartwarming. I had a fundraiser event at my job, where I raised a lot of money for my program; thanks to all my friends who donated. I also had a going away party with family, and I also got more support than I could ever ask for. They all chipped in to get a gift bag full of essentials for my trip. I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be able to afford to study abroad, but everyone should realize that there will be people around you that are willing to help you. You may be surprised!

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I am ready to embark on my journey! Pictures and experiences shall be shared accordingly. Let’s see where this adventure takes me!

Here We Go Again: Finding My Way Back to France

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Madeline ClugstonWhile I’ve always hoped to get back to France after leaving her in 2013 when my exchange year was up, it never truly felt like it would happen. I squeezed hands and kissed cheeks as I left, promising je reviendrai bientôt, I’ll be back soon, but had no idea when, or even if, that moment would come.

Since that year in Toulouse, I’ve hung my memories from my time abroad safely, but heavily, in my heart, wrapped in the promise of my return. I’ve completed high school and two years of college at Temple University. I’ve declared one of my majors as French, but my fluency has decreased drastically. I’ve taken on a wonderful student job that not-so-wonderfully prevents me from studying abroad during the school year and during a few weeks in the summer.

While I’m happy and proud of where I’ve gotten since leaving France, as of last year, I had pretty much accepted that this would not be the point in my life when I got to return.

BUT – this is not a sad story, as you may have guessed from the title of this post. My luck changed when I was recruited for a scholarship last spring that made studying abroad as an undergrad financially possible. With the help of some amazing professors in the French department, the flexibility of my boss, and (as always) the encouragement of my mom (thanks you guys!), I have finagled my schedule to make living abroad for six weeks in Paris this summer a beautiful, wonderful, heart-swelling reality. I forgot how amazing it feels to stand at the edge of such a big adventure.

I also forgot how much it can suck having to prepare for one. Passport applications are never fun; packing is a kinda-exciting, mostly-exhausting endeavor; and getting ready to say goodbye to my family, boyfriend, and friends is always hard.

Luckily, this time around, I don’t have to apply for a student visa or take any extra precautions that I had to back when I was a minor. I don’t have to practice packing a year into only two suitcases over and over again. I don’t have to mentally prepare myself for longer, scarier goodbyes.

Most importantly, this time around, I know for a fact that any amount of effort it takes to study abroad is completely worth it. The feeling of stepping off an airplane erases the annoyance of filling out form after form. Getting to unpack your suitcases in a new country makes up for the struggle you went through to jam everything into them. The new friends and family you make abroad don’t make you forget your loved ones back home, but they can teach you to make a new home wherever you are.

Whenever I want to groan at the hours of paperwork I have ahead of me, I try to remember how lucky I am to have the opportunity to fill these papers out and how quickly I’ll forget about the hours I spent doing them once I set foot in Paris.

“Jamaica, no problem” Or is there?

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Aerial view of Ocho Rios, Jamaica. I took this amazing shot from the window view of a restaurant!

I spent my last weekend in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. This is a popular tourist town in Jamaica and I definitely sensed that when I arrived. Things were sold in U.S. dollars, not Jamaican. The roads were smooth, not rocky. Most of the people were of fairer complection, not dark. There were man made attractions, not natural landmarks. I felt as though the language barrier was weaker because Jamaicans did not bother speaking in Patois. The music sounded Americanized and it was not the authentic reggae and dancehall that I have grown to love. These contrasts remind me of the initial reactions I received when I announced that I would be studying abroad in Jamaica. Friends, family, and colleagues would tell me how lucky I was to be studying in an oasis-like environment. They must have pictured an environment like Ocho Rios. In reality I have been staying in Yallahs, St. Thomas, otherwise known as “the forgotten parish.” Tourists do not come here and the town is very impoverished. When I went to Ocho Rios I may have been behaving like a tourist, but I felt like a Jamaican.

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Dunn’s River Falls is my favorite waterfall in Jamaica!

On my second day at Ocho Rios I woke up and went to Dunn’s River Falls. Unlike most tourists, I decided to walk to my destination. Along the way I spoke to a few local Jamaicans. A lot of local residents asked me where I was from, yet I felt more inclined to tell them that I’ve been staying in Yallahs, rather than my actual home. The next question was always, “Oh, are you a missionary?” I explained that I was studying abroad and participating in service learning. Many times I was met with a fist punch followed by, “Respect.” It felt nice to be recognized as a part of the community. I did not want to come off as a tourist.

After I hiked up a 180 feet tall waterfall, I headed over to Mystic Mountain, a tourist attraction. At first they wanted to charge me the visitor charge, but I eventually got the local price by providing proof of my work in Yallahs and Kingston. I rode across Ocho Rios in a chair lift, bobsledded, and zip lined. By the end of the day I was exhausted and asked my friend if we could stop at a jerk stand to grab some food. She reminded me that this was not Yallahs, and that would most likely not be available. Instead, we went to eat at the restaurant that the tourist attraction offered. 13417536_887353141393215_3292672509025117279_n.jpgWhen I went out to eat, the most popular meal featured was a cheeseburger and fries, not curry goat or jerk chicken. I looked around me and noticed that many of the people did not look like Jamaicans. Even the architecture and layout of the restaurant did not look like a typical Jamaican building. I looked down at my burger and wondered if this was shipped from Miami. Instead of blindly enjoying a meal like any regular person, I turned to my friend and expressed how strange it felt to be a tourist. There was a cognitive dissonance in my head and it sparked a very interesting conversation. There is a popular saying in Jamaica: “Jamaica, no problem.” Many people think of Jamaica as a getaway…Come here to relax, leave your problems at home. I asked my friend to recall the documentary, Life in Debt, that we watched a few weeks ago in class. I told her that our current experience at the restaurant felt a lot like the opening of the film.

The movie begins with the arrival of a group of white vacationers and a voiceover explaining Jamaica’s economic woes. En route to Montego Bay, their frolics at the beach and around the hotel swimming pool will appear throughout the film as an ironic contrast to the economic realities of the “other Jamaica”, a country suffering from a 40 year International Monetary Fund (IMF) austerity regime and multinational domination of the traditional self-sustaining, largely agricultural economy. As I began to understand the post-colonial landscape outlined so far, a scene came on that has stayed in my thoughts ever since. Former Prime Minister Michael Manley in a post-independence speech condemned the IMF stating that “the Jamaican government will not accept anybody, anywhere in the world telling us what to do in our own country. Above all, we’re not for sale.”

Increased unemployment, sweeping corruption, higher illiteracy, incjamaica-no-problem-186x186.pngreased violence, prohibitive food costs, dilapidated hospitals, increased disparity between rich and poor characterize only part of the present day economic crisis. Life & Debt is a tribute to the people who defy the odds of survival. It aims to inform audiences in the U.S. of the impact these policies have on our neighbors abroad. So I ask “Jamaica, no problem”…or is there? I, alone, cannot fix the multitude of issues. However, 15 years of Temple University students studying abroad here has certainly left it’s mark.

How to boost your study abroad experience

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Studying abroad is truly a little life of its own on the bigger picture of one’s path. It teaches you things you otherwise would have never come to or even thought of, the main one being how small we all are in this big world, but how we can grow to be important by sacrifice, curiosity, hard work and open mindedness. Coming to Zagreb, I piled up a whole list of the things I was looking forward to and expecting to happen. Half of my expectations about friends, speaking the language, traveling, set way too high to begin with, were not met – but that’s for the best. It is simply impossible to get too much done in just a semester, so I learned to prioritize and plan my time better. Now that my program is long over, I can reflect on my time in Croatia in an organized manner.

I have greatly improved my Croatian, and not only can I talk about daily routine things; but even communicate in a sophisticated way in the business environment; thanks to the many professional development events provided by ZSEM. I have not visited all the places I wanted to, due to personal reasons/health, but I am extremely grateful for the trips inside and outside of Croatia that I was lucky to make with my friends. As any study abroad, mine is over; it has flown by so fast and I was so unprepared to leave the town I am happy to call my European home now. So long, Zagreb, see you in August, when I will be coming to visit my friends once again! And I am certain I will be coming back again and again over the span of my life, finding new corners and unexplored little streets, hidden secret spots and new restaurants. Now, I am off in Paris, doing an internship at a reputable modeling agency, as I could not miss out on the offer while having no work to do in Zagreb; I am extremely excited and ready for it, as well as for my next study abroad adventure – a semester in Tokyo, Japan, at Temple University Japan Campus.

 

As a finishing (or an almost finishing😉 ) point of my blogging duty, I have compiled a short guide to how to get the most out of YOUR study abroad experience, based on my own observations, mistakes and lessons learned.

  1. Spend every moment you can outside. You heard me. It’s okay to stay in from time to time when you really need to, but it is only possible to get the most out of your time abroad by exploring in and outside in your new hometown.
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    Me & Luba doing a little scavenger hunt thing around town!

    I know it always seems like these 4-5 months are an eternity and you will have enough time to do everything, but trust me, they fly by extremely fast. Which leads to my next point:

  2. Don’t postpone. If you dreamed to go to the theater to see that one performance, go and buy tickets for the nearest evening you are available and free from your student duties. Always wanted to do a tour of a palace/castle? Go for it! If you think you will have time later – you won’t, and no one wants to finish their study abroad regretting not having experienced something they came there for.

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    Us watching Mamma MIA! at the middle of May – in Croatian! What an amazing experience:) Although I didn’t get every single word, it was amazing to see how much more I could understand after all this time spent in the country.

  3. Befriend the local residents. Sticking around the study abroad students all the time might feel more relaxing (less language barrier, same interests and background etc.), but you will only truly get to know the culture by hanging out with the people who are from your program location. Go to the events organized by your university; research some networking/mingling events around town, talk to your classmates after all! Your language skills will increase greatly, and, after all, who if not the local people know all the best spots of the city?
  4. Limit the time devoted to your family/friends back home. I know this might sound harsh coming from me, but you’ll thank me later. It is important to stay in touch with family, but by texting your best friend every day or calling your mom every evening, you’re missing out on all the great things you could be doing in a foreign country.
  5. Prepare to make important decisions on your own, sometimes – quickly. While Temple study abroad staff is always happy to help you, as well as your on-site coordinators and parents, learn to be independent in everything non-life threatening (in the latter case; contact your coordinator immediately!). Figuring out accommodation and transportation, maps, opportunities for self-development: managing to do it by yourself would be a great help if traveling.
  6. Slow down on traveling. This is especially important for those going to Europe, where you’re in a new country within 2 hours of driving. Living like a local in your program destination  is important, otherwise it would be a touristic, not a study abroad experience. Moreover, making a new trip every weekend in hopes to see everything is a pathway to seeing nothing. You need time to take it in truly, so slow down and plan wisely.
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    Milan, Italy, over the spring break.

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    Although I had a great time traveling to other countries over the break, I spent almost all of my program time in Croatia (which is considered to be a small country) & still haven’t seen everything! So if you’re away in huge places like France or Germany, don’t assume that ‘you will see it all’ in 2 weekends!

  7. Research, research, research – and ask around.  Virtually the only way to find new sites, museums and restaurants for your bucket list, and it pays off.
  8. Get involved & actually STUDY. A lot of students mistakenly assume that their study abroad is all about having fun, partying and careless way of living. A secret revealed: it’s not. If you party every night, you will hate your days there. Not taking advantage of your foreign professors, volunteer and professional opportunities while at a university not only might lead to bad/non-passing grades, but it is also a way to miss out on experiencing a new culture in a whole other way; and for those who are concerned with this – not boosting your resume once again.

 

 

International College Student For a Week

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For the past month I’ve been living and learning at Carleva Bay Villa, a quaint beach house. Although it is lovely in it’s own unique way, I have been yearning to go back to my city roots (shout out to Temple University and Philly!). Good thing a week at the University of West Indies (UWI) was included in this program. Living in Kingston was a change of pace I could not experience in Yallahs. Kingston is fast and full of city fun whereas Yallahs is slow and full of genuine hospitality.

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Temple University visits the University of The West Indies.

My bus pulled into the Office of International Student Affairs. There is a similar office at Temple University and I would always look at it from the outside looking in. When I saw international students, I’d feel curious and intrigued by their presence – but these thoughts were fleeting. I never thought as deeply enough to understand the multi-dimensional process an international student goes through while abroad, until I became one. So far, it is a challenging yet rewarding and beautiful experience.13319721_880471878748008_5273261450650456560_n

The first thing I had to do was get a UWI I.D. I smiled for the photographer and this smile stayed on my face throughout the week. I compared my UWI I.D. to my TU I.D. and reminisced on the 3 years in between. I remembered learning about the Jamaica summer study abroad program and the Vira I. Heinz Scholarship Program my second semester as a Freshman. Back then, I made it my long term goal to be accepted into both programs, and here I am.

After getting my I.D., I attended lectures and had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Michael Witter, Elizabeth Ward, and Yolanda Paul. On Wednesday I met Dr. Witter. He is one of the Caribbean’s best experts on the political economy. His lecture was about globalization and I learned that Jamaica and the Caribbean were at the very beginning of the global economy. Before the Caribbean was colonized and made into producers of sugar using slave labor, there was no global economy. The next day I met Mrs. Ward. She is the Chairman of the Board at The Violence Prevention Alliance. Mrs. Ward takes a unique stance in Public Health by focusing on the third leading cause of death in Jamaica: Violence. She started youth programs throughout Jamaica so I asked her advice on what I could implement at my pro-social skills group. Lastly, I met Professor Paul on Friday. She spoke about gender issues in Jamaica and brought her colleague, Laurel, a male-to-female transgendered woman. It was very hard for me to hear what it is like to be transgendered in Jamaica. In short, the transgendered community is in hiding because of the burden that comes along with being transgendered. I asked her, “Why don’t you move to another country that is more supporting of the LGBT community?” She responded, “Because my work here is not done and I need to keep fighting for my rights.” Hearing all these lectures gave me a better understanding of the economic, social, and political areas of Jamaica.

Through these lectures, I experienced glimpses of what it is like to be a student at UWI. So what does a typical UWI college student’s social life look like? In order to get the real experience, I asked other UWI students for suggestions. To summarize my fun filled week, I danced to reggae and dancehall, ate ice cream at the first female Jamaican millionaire’s mansion (Devon House), bought souvenirs at the craft market, walked amongst national hero monuments, toured Bob Marley’s house, drank refreshing margaritas and ate lobster overlooking cerulean blue waters, and jet-skied to Lime Cay Island.

 

Overall, I had an unforgettable experience. I met so many Jamaicans that enriched my study abroad experience. I may be a proud TU student, but UWI has a piece of my heart now.