Introspection of Self

My name is Logan Cayton. Currently a student at Emporia State University, I am writing this blog not only to fulfill class requirements but to also share my journey studying abroad in Indonesia. Studying abroad seemed liked an opportunity to allow myself to see the bigger picture. Already in my 3 weeks of being I have met and made connections with countless people who have showed me a different point of view. Making connections is one of the most valuable things though as I have already met some people who could potential get me where I want to be in my career.

Being taken out of your comfort zone makes you grow. You have no choice. In the streets of Jakarta I see something new everyday and I learn something new everyday. Whether it be a new word in Bahasa (The national language of Indonesia) or finding out that maybe eating food on the street your first week maybe isn’t such a wise idea.

As for why I chose Indonesia; I wanted to be surprised. Most western countries, although slightly differing cultures, share much of the same ideals. I found this out quickly while desperately searching for a roll of toilet paper, when it was already too late. But the values  and practice which many of the people display are much different than the  “western way.”  Located in Jakarta, the nation’s capital and largest metropolis. It is home to over 8 million people. With that comes an amazing array of cultures, languages and religions. The majority of the inhabitants affiliate themselves with the Islamic faith. This is evident as a mosque can almost be found around every other corner. Muslims pray five time a day, so be prepared to wake up from the call for prayer around 4:20 every morning for the first week. As the nation is run with the ideals of the Muslim this can present some adjustments for an American.

The dorms I live in are seperated by gender and no one is allowed to have guests in their room. Technically, by Indonesian law no man or woman allowed to live in the same house or have sex without being married. This law is mostly situational though and a Bule (slang for white people) should not be too worried about hooking up but should take it into account.

Although alcohol is by no means outlawed here and while many people drink, the price and availability is inferior to that in western cultures. A high tax makes it quite expensive for Indonesian standards and it is hard to find liquor stores. There are surprisingly a good amount bars and nightclubs in Jakarta with a good nightlife, if you happen to be into that.  While booze is tolerated here drugs are strictly prohibited. Indonesia is a very corrupt country just like any other country but here the police can be paid for almost anything. If you get caught driving without license, you can pay them off. Almost any crime you can think of has a price tag and it is the reason many men go into the police force here. Everything except for drugs. That can be punishable by the death penalty.

Many of the rights and freedoms we take for granted in America are not enjoyed here. For instance, a 2008 government act made it illegal for anyone to express views that the government might see as opposing their views. You do not have the right to as much free speech although in 1998 a speech and press act was passed my professor for journalism class happens to be one of the top editors for  a magazine which speaks the truth about the corruption so prevalent here.

While on a welcome trip to the Thousand Islands, a chain of islands north of Jakarta, we had a party that night after a day of snorkeling and exploring the many islands. While we were drinking and dancing the people whom we rented the home from had not informed the local police that we this would be going on. So when the police arrived and saw a bunch of foreigners, they were concerned there were drugs involved. They were most likely just trying to get money but whatever. We were then informed that the police would search through all our things. Everyone looked at each other as if this was some kind of joke. How could they have the right to go through our things without proper cause? Because you have no freedoms. They only ended up searching the locals we were with and it all worked out but the culture difference was felt by everyone that night.

By: Logan Cayton, From Jakarta With Love

Wee bit of Northern Ireland

Before coming to Northern Ireland I wasn’t sure what it would be like here. I knew that there was a separation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; however, I wasn’t sure how that effected the culture and the people. I found that the people of Northern Ireland are friendly and welcoming, happy to answer any questions. Especially to Americans they seem very interested in the reason for why I’m here and where I am from. Most call me Dorthy or some reference to The Wizard of Oz.giants causeway

They have a nice sense of style, always dressed to impress. One thing that I quickly noticed was that going to class and even to the store girls would do their makeup really nice, hair is done well and everyone is always in nice clothes. I have learned to adjust my sense of style and spent more time getting ready in the morning. Also with the drinking age being younger people go out younger and even go out to the bar or club drinking underage. To me that is such a crazy idea to wrap my head around because when I was in high school I wasn’t concerned with going to the club and drinking, I was excited about what new movie was coming out on Redbox for that week. Having the younger age and the fact that drinking is such a part of the Irish culture in general, I had to adjust the way I thought about why people drink and come to understand that it is part of it; knowing that not everyone here drinks but it is a part of them.

i am a rock

The point of Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland, it all spurs from the separation of religion and people that are loyal to the UK and those who are loyal to Ireland. About 30 years ago, in Belfast actually, there was “The Troubles” this was a huge fight that went on between the Protestants and the Catholics over Ireland being its own country and having independence from England. It ended in the 90’s a peace wall was built and they have made huge leaps forward proving their resilience. The program that I volunteer with takes groups of people from different areas of Belfast and helps to promote cross community integration. These people that I work with are 15-23 years old and most of them claim a religion and are aware of what happened before they were born yet they aren’t bothered by it, they don’t hate the other religion and start fights with them like their parents would have. I have talked with them about this a lot because being from America where religion is a choice and for some parts of the country it effects the way of life but not enough to bomb or fight with another area like it was here. We talk about how our views are different because of our back ground but we look to the future with the same hope in mind. peace wall

I found it easy to relate to people here because our cultures are so similar. We talk about sports, soccer mostly or for them football, because I grew up playing it and here you either love soccer or rugby. I have learned a lot about rugby; yet, I think it will be just like American football to me because I know when they score but other than that I’m lost. Family dynamics here are the same as at home so talking with people here about growing up its easily relatable. However, the divorce rate here is not near as high as it in the States, explaining to people that my family is a combined family and a lot of my friends have combined families too isn’t as heard of here.

With our cultures being really similar we have a lot of the same core values about what is good and bad. Within the family dynamics and religion people are more traditional with it being two parents and children, the gender of the parents isn’t as much discussed here as it is in America. Religion does influence them yet it doesn’t entirely control how them. Economically, they are a part of the United Kingdom, they use the Sterling Pound, which is stronger than the dollar. However, Northern Ireland has no elected head officials running the country, they stepped down in early March and it has been “up in the air” since. To an American that seems unreal, yet for this small country they are taking their time finding someone to fill the positions. I think the education system here is great, they encourage the gap year and once in university they have a placement year where it is expected you go out to a job in the field of study and work in, like a longer term internship. The schooling here I found was more practical learning and what we learned we had to apply to an end of the year project. It has helped me to learn a different side of Marketing and how to properly apply it to something I’ll be doing in the real world. The history here dates much further back than our government in America and they have such an interesting culture, whether it be who was here to settle it first or the Celtic language. Their castles and religion even before Protestants or Catholics settling the area. Everyone here is proud of that part of their history whether they claim to be either of the two main religions, they are unique and they are Irish.

Joslyn Barton

carrick history

Introspection to Self

group on cave hill

“Been around the world, don’t speak the language”

Luckily for me Marketing- and English- is a language that nearly everyone can speak.

I am a marketing student currently studying Marketing at Ulster University in Northern Ireland. Born and raised between Kansas and Kentucky I experienced different ways of life within our own country. Always wanting to see more, and getting a taste of it starting the summer before my senior year in high school with a couple different trips out of the country. First was an EF tour trip to Costa Rica with some peers and for a science credit in school; the other was a leisure trip to visit my family in France, while there we traveled a bit around the country. Returning home at the end of the summer I knew I was one of those you hear that “got bit by the travel bug.” Five years later I was able to travel again outside of the country, I went to Kenya where I worked at a children’s home. That trip opened my eyes more than my two previous ones had, it might have been maturity or it could have been I saw more than the tour buses and vacation spots show you. Shortly after that I decided to go back to school for something that I could make a difference with; I feel I can do that in my own way with marketing. One of my goals with completing college is to study abroad, so here I am achieving one of my biggest goals.

Like I had said before the trips I had done while in high school drove me to want to explore more. My aunt that I had gone and visited on the trip to France is one of my main influencers as well, she had studied abroad while she was in school at KU. She ended up falling in love with a man and the culture, after her graduation she moved to France and they started their family. Granted I am not planning on moving back to Northern Ireland after school, I do want the same kind of fun and adventures as she has shared with me. I found that taking advantage of the study abroad program would be my best way to explore more, and see the things that I had saved in a Pinterest folder.

One of the most asked questions I get while talking with a local is “Why here? / Why Belfast?” I have came to just say, it just happened that way. Which granted it did, but that is the easiest possible way to put it, because there were literally thousands of options. I have learned to break my process down to a couple easy steps of how I chose Belfast, Northern Ireland. First was I explore my program options, there are so many organizations that are for students wanting to study abroad, so finding my perfect fit was key. I went with ISEP exchange, which was fairly easy and painless process, all the information that the school needed they needed also. I pay the same fees as I would if I were to be living on campus and attending school at ESU, and was given a food stipend as well. Second step was to find an English-speaking country, which I narrowed down to going to Australia, South Africa, or the UK or Ireland. The next step was I wanted somewhere that would be easy to travel or have friends and family come to visit me. Australia and South Africa were dropped out of the running then, leaving the UK and Ireland. The last step in deciding was, the school needed a great Marketing program that ISEP exchange offered. I only applied to two schools, my number one pick being Ulster, and then was accepted!

There is so much to look forward to when studying abroad, I was read so many blogs, listened to dozens of podcasts, and talked with students that had studied abroad or students that were at ESU studying abroad. Still with all this feedback I was not sure of how my experience would be. I know that I wanted to have that ideal “study abroad experience,” I wanted to travel on the weekends exploring different areas around me or different countries. I wanted to meet people from all over the world and hear their stories and what their thoughts on current events and life was. While in school I wanted to learn a different approach on Marketing and how to apply it differently. I also wanted to do great thinks while studying abroad that would look great on my resume, whether it be presenting a new idea or volunteering for an organization.

Overall, not knowing what to expect was one of my biggest fears. Not knowing what to do or if I was studying the material right or understanding everything the same as everyone else was my biggest fears. I was used to the way we learn things in America and I had heard it was a different here as to it was more self-taught. Which I was not sure if I was self-teaching myself correctly on material I never knew before. I wasn’t sure if I were going to fail terribly on the projects and the one exam I would have all semester. Something else that I was unsure on was money; not knowing how much to bring with me to last six months. Being able to live on a budget while trying to get the most of this once in a life time experience.

The challenges I have faced and how I figured out how to make the best of them seem pretty insignificant but have been some curve balls. Not packing enough was my main thing, I brought a medium sized luggage and a smaller carryon bag full of clothes. This seems like a lot, however my sweaters, jackets, and shoes took up a lot of that space. I was going off of blogs and what Pinterest said I would need for Ireland. I wish I would have brought more tops that were more versatile and what I could wear while traveling. I did do a lot of shopping the first month for things that I could wear under my sweaters. Another challenge was getting around, using public transportation or taxis when wanting to go somewhere further than my feet can handle taking me. having a car is such a large part of our lives in America, most people are driving by the time are 17, some here go until after college to get their license. Using public transportation like a bus or train is a great way to get around, the only drawback is its time consuming and they run on time tables. Taking a taxi is a lot quicker of a service yet it cost sometimes over four times as much. Both taxi and the bus services you need cash for the trip; trains are able to take cards. This moves me on to my final challenge, which involves money. Foreign transaction fees, ATM charges, and the exchange rate all effect how long my money was going to last me. Taking a larger amount of cash out at a time is easy and less fees are involved. A lot of places here only accept cash so having it on hand is necessary. As well as having the physical cash in hand helps me to budget better because I see it being spent as opposed to a swipe of a card.

Joslyn Barton

Che Guevara and Learning to be Late

The culture of Puerto Rico is a really interesting thing. Every time they meet each other, all the men must kiss all the women on the cheek which sometimes can take quite a bit of time. I do it from time to time but usually with a group I just sit down and when people look at me like I forgot something, I just say that I don’t have time for all that acrobatic kissing around an entire table full of people with all the stretching and spinning. It’s not easy. But to be honest, I find the Puerto Rican culture to be incredible. There is an air of relaxation in everything we do (My foreign friends and I refer to this as “Puerto Rican time”). Let me paint you a picture of Puerto Rican time. One of the first nights, all of the study abroad students from other countries got together for pizza. It was hosted by Puerto Ricans and “started at 7.” I got there at about 7:10 and chatted with some of the other study abroad students and at 8:00, the Puerto Ricans started showing up. I think the event ended up starting at around 8:30. Yeah, it’s that bad all the time.

Also I think Puerto Ricans, or at least the students, are very academically impressive. The vast majority of them are bilingual or trilingual and often speak English as well as I do (I usually try to avoid English at all costs however). They are also startlingly well-informed about politics and world events. I think this stems from their many diverse influences, which, as The Cultural Iceberg theory states, directly affects how a culture is shown. I did a lot of reading and it has led to some awesome political conversations with some of them (as well as quite a lengthy argument about Che Guevara). When I got here, I really didn’t know much about Puerto Rican history or the economic situation here (which is not good) so I decided to start reading on it. I have read 2 books about the History of Puerto Rico and it has really helped me to dig into some awesome conversations about people with the real undertones of Puerto Rican life.

Puerto Ricans are indignant. They want change. Puerto Rico has been taken advantage of by both Spain and then later the United States but they’re not in agreement about the solution they should take. Many Puerto Ricans want to be independent and just as many want to be a state of the US. I think all of this contributes to a very interesting and very developed culture that I enjoy very much interacting with. To be able to interact with it better, I think it was important to read up a bit on politics, try not to get discouraged with the weird slang, and take 78% more time to do absolutely everything.

Judiah Hawley

Tropical Island Was not a Bad Second Choice

My name is Judiah Hawley, I had always had friends that had studied abroad but I didn’t think that I could ever do it. I had always viewed studying abroad as this kind of ‘off in the distance’ thing that only a certain few people in the world ever got to experience. I had a perception that for some reason it was unattainable. Then I asked myself why I thought that. I couldn’t answer the question. I think the only thing standing between people and taking that leap and doing something uncomfortable is just doing it. I decided to come here to Puerto Rico for the semester to test out my fledgling theory. I chose Puerto Rico for a shamefully simple reason…. I didn’t turn in my ISEP application in in time to go to Ecuador or Peru and through NSE (which had a later deadline), Puerto Rico was the only place that spoke Spanish (yes, irresponsible I know) but I didn’t think that kicking it on a tropical island wouldn’t be terrible for a semester either.

I honestly didn’t have too many expectations about how my time on the island was going to go but I had a few things in mind. The main thing I wanted to do here was just speak Spanish as much as humanly possible. I also wanted to find a decent group of friends so I could come back and have a place to stay in Puerto Rico if I wanted to. I found much more that that. I now have a group of friends from the PR and from all over the world and we’re already making plans to visit each other.

When I got here, I was obviously a bit nervous about living my life almost all in Spanish. I spoke decent Spanish when I got here, but I knew I was lacking quite a bit before I was fluent by anybody’s standards. This semester, I took all Spanish classes. This was quite the challenge because there has been a time or two when I was just there in class or hanging out with some friends with absolutely no clue what was going on around me (I suspect that Puerto Ricans have an ongoing, ever-increasing contest on who can talk the fastest) but most of the time I managed well enough.

The Puerto Rican slang here also has thrown me for a loop here. They call an orange a china, cut about half of the letters out of their words, and pronounce almost all r’s as l’s or some odd throat growling noise straight from a low-budget horror movie which yes, has led me to confuse quite a few words. All of these things made it, at least at times, a bit tricky but I survived. Other than the language, and the fact that my university has been on strike for a month (yeah not a joke), I haven’t run into many challenges at all. Everybody here is really open and warm and incredibly available to help others. I probably asked direction here more than I didn’t but I never ran into somebody that wasn’t happy to help. I think the best way to cope with the challenges of being in an unfamiliar place is to just ask questions. Every question I had about Spanish, I asked somebody; every time I got lost, I asked somebody and every time I didn’t know what I was doing, you guessed it, I asked somebody. I have a few photos, a lot of memories, a few extra pounds from the empanadas, pinchos, and bacaladitos and a giant, intimidating list of words that is probably too long to be learnable in this lifetime. More importantly though, I met a great group of friends that I’ll be visiting as soon as I save up money to travel again

Germany: Orderly and Efficient

Coming to Germany I didn’t have too many preconceived notions of German Culture, but I did have some: Beer, Sauerkraut and Bratwurst, Heidi Klum, and WWII. Beyond this, really had no idea what I was getting into. While some of these ideas have remained somewhat accurate, there is so much more to Germany. First off, yes. The Germans love their beer. Its more than a love, they are proud that Germany can claim to have the best beer in the world. If you walk into a pub, brewery, or a restaurant there is a beauty and an appreciation behind their beer selection. Beer gardens are very popular throughout Germany and seen as a nice way to relax and appreciate the outdoors. While Germans are not actually keen on sauerkraut, Bratwurst and Curry is very popular. And like sauerkraut, I think I love Heidi Klum more than anyone else here. One of the more interesting aspects of living in Germany is seeing how the people have more forward from WWII and the Holocaust. Unlike many other cultures, Germany for the most part does not turn away from their past mistakes, but face them and learn from them. In my conversations with people from Germany they speak of making a deliberate attempt to be more inclusive and aware of other cultures. Especially when dealing with current refugees, many Germans strive to make room within their country. Walking through towns you can always find ‘refugees welcome’ posters and other inclusive signs.

Even beyond my expectations, German culture continues to grasp my attention. The best word to describe it is efficient. Everything has a purpose so that life can run smoothly. People are expected to always be punctual and follow the rules. If you are at a cross walk in the middle of the night with no cars in sight and there is a red man, Germans will wait until it turns green. There is a deep understanding that rules are put into place for a reason, and because of this they must be honored. Even the country’s energy is efficient, mostly run on environmentally friendly resources. People work hard at their jobs, and equally value the time they have to relax. Germany is a very sensible country.

One aspect that has felt distant from my home culture has been the sense of responsibility, especially as a student. While I am very independent at home, there is always a sense of guidance on what I should be doing in every aspect of life. My teachers are very direct, my boss is very direct, and I usually understand my responsibilities because someone else has presented them to me. In Germany, however, there is a large push towards ‘figure it out yourself’. Another aspect that has been difficult is the bluntness of the culture. Germans do not shy away from asking personal questions or being very direct. Although it is often considered rude in the United States to ask a person you do not know well their political views, I can almost guarantee that every new person I meet will ask my political stance. This has been true for all different age groups and social dynamics.

With these cultural differences I have had to make some changes in how I normally operate. I hold myself more accountable and double check everything: have I purchased all the correct insurances, am I enrolled in the correct classes, do I have all the permits to live here, ect. While I have mostly come to appreciate the straight forward notion of the Germans, I tend to hold on to keeping things I consider personal to myself. While I have been deep connects with people and often discuss difficult and important topics, I tend to dismiss strangers who pry too far.

While there are notable differences in culture, overall I feel the German culture is quite similar to the United States. They are both very modern cultures and hold similar values. Both countries have large populations of Christianity and celebrate similar holidays, such as Easter and Christmas. You can find McDonalds or Burger King around most every corner.

One core value in Germany is order. You can see this in their everyday life from their strict punctuality to how they organize their time. It is important to work hard in order to play hard. Everything is very organized in order to be efficient and use time wisely. Order can be translated into an appreciation for time.

By: Korin Koch

The Experiences of a Life Time

Hello! My name is Korin Koch and I am currently a junior at Emporia State University. Looking back at my decision to enroll at ESU three years ago came down to a sheet of paper with a hastily drawn out table showing 5-6 universities. My brain needed charts and multiple pro/con lists to make any big decision. With every new addition to my list I kept coming back to Emporia State University. The class size was perfect for my hands on learning style, it is one of the top Teachers Schools in the nation, and the tipping factor was its low tuition rates and plentiful scholarships. This was key for me because I knew before I graduated high school that I wanted to travel, and studying abroad during my time at College would be one of the most accessible ways to do so.

I spent my first two years adjusting to college and making connections with my fellow students and with campus life. I got involved with the choir and spent my sophomore year as a resident assistant. Around this time I stated to look into my options to study abroad. The International Office at ESU led me to the ISEP student exchange program and I began the process of applying. I had my heart set for New Zealand, along with this I requested four other host countries. Unfortunately I was not accepted into any. My mind was spinning with panic and I began to search for any Universities that still had open positions. I went to the International Office the next day with a list of possibilities, and Bielefeld, Germany was at the top. After many emails and pleas Bielefeld University confirmed my acceptance into their program.


At the time I knew very little about Germany and had no idea that I would come to love this country and their culture. I knew studying abroad and traveling would be a life altering experience but boy was I unaware at how different my life would be abroad.  I was hoping to travel to places I had only dreamed of and take in how big and wondrous our world can be. I was also eager to experience cultures that are different from my own. With there being so many stereotypes and expectations of different cultures I wanted to know for myself was it was really like. I hoped to grow in my knowledge and compassion for others, as well as studying from a perspective and system I was not used to.

While I sound like the most enthusiastic person to leave to USA, I was a complete wreck on the flight and months leading up to my departure. I didn’t know how many people would speak English, if I would be able to pick up German, would I be able to communicate with my roommates, and how would I find my way around when I’ve been living in a town where everything is only five minutes away! My mind went on and on. I felt secure that I would do well in my studies, but I wanted to embrace the social settings and I really worried I would be unable to.


While there have been a few bumps in the road, I am happy to so none of my fears ever manifested. I was overwhelmed by the amount of people that spoke English, and even more overwhelmed by how welcoming German people have been and by how eager exchange students are to make friendships. The most difficult part so far has been feelings of homesickness. I loved my life back in Emporia and the days leading up to my flight were very difficult. I thought, ‘why am I doing this! Everything is perfect here, why do I need to search for something else!’ But soon after I landed I found the answer to this. I want more. There is so much in the world to do and see and it would be so easy to stay comfortable, but that isn’t the way to grow. To really take in how much life has to offer. So while it’s difficult, because some days I just want to lay in MY bed in MY home, I just have to remember that I’m only trading in a bit of comfort for the experiences of a lifetime.


By: Korin Koch

Study Abroad Transformation

When I came to Guanajuato, I had the goals of improving my Spanish, learning about Mexican culture, becoming more independent, and making new friends. While I have achieved all of these goals to an extent, there are some that I could have tried harder to fulfill completely.

My number one goal, improving my Spanish, has definitely been met. This experience has helped me to learn Spanish in a way that I could never have learned it just in the classroom. As for culture, I had a basic understanding of Mexican culture before coming here. However actually living here has given me first-hand experience. Traveling by myself to a foreign country has definitely forced me to become more independent. However, I have not made as many friends as I had hoped to. I have made some wonderful friends whom I will miss. But, I wish I had put myself out there more to make even more friendships. This is one of the struggles of being more of an introvert than an extrovert.

I am proud to say that a culture gap was not one of the reasons why I did not make as many friends as I hoped to. Cultural differences have not proven to be a huge obstacle for me here in Mexico. Of course the culture is different, but I have been able to adapt easily. Sometimes cultural differences are interesting, such as the different cultural holidays, and sometimes they can be annoying, such as a general lack of punctuality. Luckily, I have not encountered anything during my time abroad that was insurmountable.

As I have said, this experience definitely helped me to grow as a person and to change my ideas and attitudes. I went to Mexico for the first time for nine days in the summer of 2015. Before this experience, I thought that Mexico was a dangerous place full of drug cartels and violence. That nine day experience is what helped me begin to see Mexico in a different light and actually contributed to my decision to study abroad here. My almost five month experience here has further helped me to realize that many people in the US have misconceptions about Mexico. This thought made me wonder how many other countries we as US citizens have misconceptions about. I have begun to realize that many of my ideas about other countries are probably wrong. Therefore, this experience has helped me to realize that I cannot truly know about another country without visiting it and that before judging, I should at least do some of my own research before accepting what I hear from others. Also, this experience has helped me start to think of the world in a different way. La Universidad de Guanajuato receives many international students each semester. Therefore, I have met Germans, Koreans, Japanese people, Brazilians, Spaniards, Mexicans (obviously), and people of other nationalities as well. Something that somewhat surprised me is that I have seen more similarities than differences between us. And while we all have our own cultures that we should be proud of, I have started to see the world in a more global way. I may be an American citizen, but I am also a global citizen.

I wish that every college student could have this experience because I think it would help a lot more people start to think in a global way. However, I realize that study abroad is not feasible for many students. Some students have sick parents or other family that they cannot or are afraid to leave. Different students have different reasons for not studying abroad. I just wish that students would realize that it is probably not as expensive as they think it is. There are a few additional fees plus the plane tickets that do raise the price, however there are many scholarships and grants that help students study abroad. I, for example, received $1,000 from Emporia State University to help fund my journey. This travel grant alone covered almost all of my additional expenses.So if you want to study abroad, please don’t let finances stop you from at least exploring all of your options. There’s a chance that it is feasible with financial aid.

Financial issues as well as homesickness (that can sometimes be so bad we wonder why we are doing this to ourselves) are reasons why some people decide not to study abroad. However I think that anyone, including myself, who has studied abroad agrees that the positives outweigh the negatives. One of the biggest benefits other than growing as a person is the advantage that study abroad can give you in the job market. For me specifically, study abroad was basically necessary. I want to be a Spanish teacher, which means that I need to be able to read, write, speak, and understand spoken Spanish. This experience has helped me hone these skills. It has also given me the ability to teach my students about Mexican culture through first-hand experience.

In the end, I would not trade this experience, even though it has been a roller coaster of emotions. If I had to write one sentence to describe how my study abroad experience has changed me, I would say: I am thankful for study abroad because it has made me a more open-minded person and has given me the tools I need to be a successful Spanish teacher.

-Shannon Barclift, BSE Spanish

Blog 5: Discovering the Transformation and looking to the Future

It’s been three months since my arrival in Germany. It is impossible to avoid the cliche of saying how much I’ve grown in such a short time. I remember very clearly my first days in Hannover. I was too nervous to attempt speaking German and now am completely comfortable to verbally stumble through the sentences. I couldn’t navigate a train station and now can get to a platform blindfolded. I was nervous to interact with natives and now have many great friends and make more every day. I could barely survive on my own. This list could be much longer. My only regret with this experience is that I didn’t do it sooner.

Before arrival, I had a mental list of goals that I intended to accomplish. Some have been checked with a “✓” and some, unfortunately or not, with an “X.” Here’s the shortlist:

Achieve a “B1” score in the German language: ✓
Read “Faust” by Goethe in German: X
Ride in a super fast ICE train: ✓
Take a road trip on the Autobahn around Germany: X
Experience Oktoberfest: ✓
See a German National team soccer match: ✓

There are of course many more. The most important thing I wanted to do was have a group of friends from all over the world who share a general mind-set similar to mine, who can help me grow and who are willing to build experiences with me. The outcome of this goal was something I could never have predicted. I can hardly begin to express how much the people I have met fulfilled this criteria. My friends that I have made here, particularly the other international students, have inarguably changed my life forever. The friends I have made come from all over Europe and other parts of the world; Germany, Spain, Belgium, Italy, France, the British Isles, North and South America, Asia, almost everywhere in the world. They have made my experience everything that it is. I noticed that the international students at my high school and college were close and that really made me want to be part of an international group; best decision I have ever made. I love each of my new friends immeasurably and will have a very hard time leaving in just over a month.

Being exposed to so many different people, languages and cultures has helped me gain a perspective on the world otherwise unattainable.

A huge goal of mine in going abroad, as I have written about in previous blogs, was to continue finding my identity. There’s the common advice to “get out of your comfort zone.” It is by doing this and getting as far away from myself that I was actually able to find myself and get closer to this elusive idea of identity. I’m starting to think that identity isn’t something one can actually obtain, but something that is continuously evolved by a pursuit of itself; a paradox if there ever was one.

Change is sometimes hard to notice in the first person point of view. I’m interested and nervous to return to the U.S. and see how much has changed and how my preexisting relationships have changed. I hold my friends from my home university and my hometown very closely and am admittedly worried that I’ll have changed too much for them. I’ve read about and talked to many former international students who tell how the return home is difficult because of how much has changed, in you and in your preexisting friends, over the course of your absence. Knowing about this before leaving, I tried to take a preemptive approach and keep in contact with my friends as much as I can, but a text or call can only go so far.

Coming into this, I didn’t think Germany would be too different from the U.S.. Of course, if you’ve read my previous blogs, you’ll know how wrong I was. I think I’ve managed to have adjusted to this fairly well and close the cultural gaps mostly completely. This sets me up for another factor I was warned about, “reverse culture shock;” experiencing yet another round of shock upon return. I’m interested to see how that goes.

I’ll conclude this blog with a few final words on the experience as a whole. Firstly, I want to give one last “I love you guys” to my new friends. I wish I could adequately express my gratitude for your friendship. Secondly, though I had to make sacrifices for going abroad, namely friendships, athletics, etc., I would do it again without hesitation. Lastly, if you’re reading this and have an opportunity to go abroad for an immersive experience, take every action to make it happen. I would say that it is vital to your growth as a person. At the end of the day, what is more important than growing yourself and building experiences and relationships? You take nothing to the deathbed but your integrity, memories, and the comfort of your relationships.

-Chase, Germany

Halfway Done

For the last week, I have been talking with fellow exchange students that are finishing their time abroad. I am not the only one in my group who will be here for a second semester, but we are definitely the minority. They are all sad to be leaving, but excited about going home. I find myself experiencing a second wave of homesickness at the reality that I will not be home for a while longer. I am lucky in that my family will be able to visit me here in Ireland for Christmas, but still I miss my friends, my dog. I miss my bed, and my favorite restaurants. Simultaneously, I am glad that I have more time here. As much exploring as I’ve done, I still have not seen everything in Ireland I want to see. Of course, time and money limit how much I can do in so little time. But I will renew my efforts next semester. I have gotten to know a lot of people on campus, but was not able to meet many people beyond that – partially due to my campus location. Again, I will focus on getting off campus more next semester. I feel that I have a much better understanding of Irish culture now, but there is definitely more to learn.

Personally, this experience has been amazing. I have been experiencing the firsts of living on my own and of living in another country. Beginning with the application process and now being here – I am confident in my own ability to plan and execute whatever I want to happen. It has also fascinating to learn more about the US from a foreign perspective. That combined with the knowledge I have gained of Irish government has given me a lot to think about regarding my own government.

My advice for students studying abroad would be to plan as well as you can (especially before you go) and not to panic when those plans get thrown out the window. Part of the experience is going with the flow and you will have an amazing experience regardless. Be as social as you can. Ask lots of questions and be ready to answer them yourself.

As I mentioned in my introduction, the careers I am considering (Sociological Researcher and Cultural Anthropologist) both require the ability to recognize and understand culture. This practical experience will be an incredible benefit. I have experience living and traveling alone. I have been exposed to many ideas and opinions that I would not have encountered in America. Because of study abroad I am more confident, more understanding and overall more well-rounded. I cannot wait to find out what else is in store for my second semester of study abroad.

-Evie, United Kingdom

Sep 23 2016 - Rope Bridge.jpg
From my first trip to the most beautiful places in NI, Carrick-a-Rede.