8 Things You Learn From Staying in London

1. There is no such thing as personal space.

A thing I noticed while in London is that people don’t really have their own space bubble. Most places you go such as the tube you will be crammed close to people not caring about your personal space.

2. Beauty is everywhere.

Literally everywhere you look there is beauty. Whether it be a park or a part of history, every single thing in London is beautiful. 

4. Restaurants work a bit different.

Almost every restaurant we went to while in London had a bar inside it. Now we didn’t know at first but quickly found out that you order not only drinks from the bars but also your meals. You go up to the bar and order and pay for your food there and then they bring it out to your table. I think this is a cool way but personally I like being lazy and having the waiter/waitress come to me. 

5. People get drinks after work.

One thing I loved about the London social scene was that people go out with friends to grab a drink after work. People will be outside all pubs enjoying a beer almost everyday around the 5pm. I think we should bring this norm to America personally. 

6. It’s more expensive.

London is a very expensive town and we knew this before going but it really doesn’t hit until your paying $14 American dollars for a meal that seems cheap in pounds. The conversion rates reall get ya. But honestly every extra dollar is worth it because I mean you’re in London! 

7. Water.

Water is very different in the UK. A popular thing is sparkling water. At restaurants you have to ask specifically for tap or still water if you want it, and most of the time they will look at you like you’re crazy. Also if you want ice be sure to ask for it because most places don’t give you ice in your water!

8.  Museums and Churches.

In London it’s kind of funny because you pay to see the churches but most museums are free to enter. That’s almost completely opposite from America. However, paying entry for those churches are 100% worth it. 

Although many of these things are different, they are all the small parts that add to your trip. London was amazing and I can’t wait to go back! 

Hello from Finland!

It has been several days since my last post and a lot of stuff has happened since then. To begin with, a group of friends and I traveled to Tampere over the weekend between Week 2 and Week 3. Kayna, Ashley, Erin, and I took a train on Friday from Jyvaskyla to Tampere. We then walked a the few blocks to our hostel called the Dream Hostel and Hotel. It seemed like it very far away, but only because we zig-zagged through the streets. It really was only around the corner. On Saturday, we then took the bus to the big observation tower. It is the second tallest observation tower in the Nordic area. It is located on the coast of the Baltic Sea so in one direction you can see the water and in the other directions you can see the city. The weather was beautiful and clear when we went so we were able to see for miles. The observation tower is also located in the middle of an amusement park. After lunch in the park, we wandered around looking at all the rides. We ended up paying to ride one roller coaster called The Tornado because it looked like the most fun. We were right. It had so many twists, turns, and loop-de-doops, we were screaming through the whole ride. We then found an area within in the amusement park called Angry Bird Land. Since Finland was the country that created the Angry Birds, it seems only right that they have a portion of the land dedicated to it. We had several photo shoots with all of the characters throughout the park. Later, as we were walking back to our hostel, we found a small chocolate shop. Everything smelled so good! I wanted to buy one of everything, but I knew that was a bit excessive. Instead, I bought twelve individual ones. (See image) They were all delicious!

The next morning, we checked out of the hostel and walked to the museum center. For this area, we paid one price and were then able to see multiple exhibits. My favorite one was the game museum. There was a massive collection of video games, arcade games, and board games throughout history and visitors are able to play the majority of them. There was also this wall of gaming systems throughout history up until about 2015. I was surprised how many of the various systems I had seen or played throughout my lifetime. There was another portion of the museum that was dedicated to rocks and minerals. Many of these minerals were various types of stones that we use as gems such as Amber, Amythest, and Diamonds. All of them were beautiful. There was one area that had huge stones where a portion was cut away so visitors can see the Amythest inside. I enjoyed this since my birthday is in February and Amythest is my birth stone. My group then traveled, by train, back to Jyvaskyla.

Early Monday morning, my roommate, Ashley, and I traveled by double-decker bus to Helsinki. Since neither of us had a class during the third week, we decided to do some traveling. In Helsinki, we went to Linnanmaki Amusement Park, got the all-access wristbands, and rode all the rides available (some were ridden multiple times.) Despite the sprinkling throughout the day, we had tons of fun. By the end of the day, our voices were a bit hoarse from all of the screaming we had done on the rides. We then began our walk to our hostel we were staying in for the night. The rain began to come down a bit harder, which made the walk seem dreadful. It didn’t help that we were relying on free wifi from the surrounding buildings for directions. Needless to say, we got incredibly lost. After about an hour and a half of using spotty directions and getting soaking wet, we found the hostel. Thankfully, we both had traveled only with what we could carry in our backpacks so we weren’t dragging any luggage behind us. That evening we research and planned our route for the next day to get to the harbor and our ferry. Tuesday morning, we woke up very early and traveled to our ferry destination. The rain had passed and the traveling was much nicer and easier. We then got on the ferry, which was a giant ship, and travelled to Tallinn, Estonia. It may have been the fact that it wasn’t raining or that we were well rested, but everything seemed bright, beautiful, and happy. The area that Ashley and I explored was the old-city town. Our favorite part was one cathedral that we were admiring from the outside to then realize not only could you go inside, but you can climb the 60 meter, stone, spiral-staircase toward the top of the steeple. It took a long time to climb, since people were attempting  to also climb down. We eventually climbed the 260 stair spiral to witness the scenic views. It was well worth the effort to climb becuase the views were breath-taking. The rest of the city was beautiful and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit. Our travel back to Finland was on a cruise ship, which was lots of fun. We then travelled that evening from Hesinki to Jyvaskyla arriving in Jyvaskyla at about 3:15 am. Needless to say, the 45 minute walk back to the dorms felt like a marathon. 

On Wednesday, the activity suggested by the International tutors was to go see the Finnish National Ballet company perform som of their numbers. Seating was not enough for everyone that was there, but thankfully I had arrived early enough to save some seats for my friends and I. The ballet was amazing with numbers from ballets such as Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and Sleeping Beauty. There were also some modern numbers that didn’t quite make much sense, but they were still interesting to watch. Since, then there has been a lot of down time just hanging out with friends, gathering souvenirs for family and friends back home, and working on assignments for previous courses. Now into class of Week 4. This course has been about learning and teaching about diversity, which has been interesting, but also somewhat repetitive. Only a few more days left, then it’s time to head home. There will probably be one more post after this one and then my Finland adventure will be over.

Until next time,

Robin Gassen

Understanding American Culture

Understanding American Culture – From Jakarta With Love

The influence of western culture is prevalent in Indonesia; Jakarta more specifically. Hundreds of malls filled with western stores such as Louis Vutton, Nike and H&M. The advertisements showing typical pretentious stock photos of happy white families which we are accustomed to in the states. You can hear “Closer” (for the millionth time) by the American duo, The Chainsmokers, playing throughout the mall. While you are walking you can’t help notice the eyes which gawk and stare at you as if are some kind of alien. Bule, Indonesian-slang for a western-looking person,  is often shouted out at you.

I was not fully aware of the scope of American influence before I came to Jakarta. American culture can be found in many aspects of everyday life that you may not realize. From language to the rise of popular American west coast- urban street brands such as, Vans and Thrasher.

I considered the United States to have a good reputation globally. I thought we would be perceived as intelligent and forward-thinking. The stereo-types I hear about America are mixed. People consider the citizens good people but often times view the government as controlling and out to ruin the world. When meeting new people, the first question that is often asked is, “Did you vote for Trump?” I must choose my words wisely when answering this question and try to educate them as cordially as possible on the messy politics of America.

But for the most part the stereotypes which are though about America are often taken from movies and television. Which is a idealistic view of American people and their beliefs. White people are often put on a pedestal as in movies they are seen as the most beautiful. The girls get a romanticized view of what American men as some how a superior race of human beings. Which is bull****.

By: Logan Cayton, From Jakarta With Love


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


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

One Step Further

Name: Moaz Al Nouri

Year of Studying Abroad: Sophomore

Degree/Major: Economics and Business

Country visited: France

Moaz - La Rochelle4
Why did you choose to participate in study abroad?

Being an international student in the United States gives me a whole bunch of opportunities that are not given to me back home, opportunities that I only understood their benefit by experiencing them one by one. It has also shown me the advantage of studying abroad, being in the middle of students from all over the world. Students who speak languages I don’t understand and follow beliefs I didn’t even know about,
yet were open to share their cultures and learn about mine.
They might look different, but they all think similarly.
So I thought to myself why not take it a step further where I push my limits a bit more. Go explore another country, live a new experience, practice another language, and minimize my comfort zone as much I could. To learn more and see the world better.
So I got on the first plane and went to France…not really! It was not that easy, it took me very long time, I visited the International Office uncountable times, sent the university in France many emails, and even had to go to Chicago for a visa appointment. That didn’t discourage me, though, not even a bit. I was so determined that I wanted to study abroad in France that I kept trying as much as I could, which I am so thankful for now.

What were your expectations for the country?

I visited Europe before, so I kind of had an idea of what to expect. Yet, I went with the stereotypes and thought that the people in France wouldn’t speak English and would expect me to communicate with them in French and that they would not be so friendly. Little did I know! In the city of my university, everyone spoke good English.
I was able to practice my French there but whenever I was short on words, they immediately shifted to English.
Also, people were surprisingly nice! I remember a stranger came to help me hold my luggage up the stairs leaving the metro station, and another directed me to the right place without my asking. Maybe in Paris where many tourists go, you’d find locals who get sick of being asked “where is the Eiffel Tour” and just ignore the question,
which might be understandable, but my experience with the people there was just great.
One more stereotype I went with was that they’d have really good food and desserts, which was quite accurate and fulfilled my expectations!

Moaz - France 2

Something special about the course you had?

From the social side, I liked the fact that I made many friends who were also studying abroad there. They came from Canada, Austrailia, and the U.S., some were actually from Kansas, too. We did not only work in groups on our projects together but we also had the chance to tour the city, hang out, and go on company visits. It gave me a chance to learn about Australia and Canada, even though I was in France.

Moaz - La Rochelle

From the academics side, I learned a lot about international business. We had professors from different countries, including my own, to my surprise! I also got to create a company and do its profile, budget, and benchmark, which was really cool!

Moaz - La Rochelle2

Have you had the chance to travel around?

I was so excited to visit Europe again, so I didn’t want to go to France without visiting its neighboring countries. For that, I planned a trip around 10 European cities that I have not visited before. I booked tickets on airplanes, buses, and trains. It was kind of intimidating at first, especially that I was going to be traveling alone from each city to another, but I didn’t let that stop me. I took it as a challenge. I thought of my friends and family members who live in Europe that I would reunite with, and I also bought myself a selfie stick, you know, for documenting my trip, and here are the results:

La Rochelle, France

Paris, France

Moaz - France

Rome, Italy

Moaz - Rome4

Pisa, Italy

Moaz - Pisa2

Florence, Italy

Vatican City

Moaz - Vatican City2

Budapest, Hungary

Moaz - Budpest

Vienna, Austria

Moaz - Vienna2

Prague, Czech Republic

Moaz - Prague3

Berlin, Germany

Moaz - Berlin2

Who knew you’d find your happy place away from everyone you know, in the middle of a foreign country that doesn’t speak what you apprehend?

Summer 2015
Moaz Al Nouri



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

I feel like a Tusconan!

Some of my goals for this semester were to make lifetime friends in another area of the United States, learn more about the cultural differences between Kansas and Arizona, experience learning in a larger classroom setting, and to just have fun. I definitely accomplished all of these goals. I will admit that it did take me a while to step out of my shell and interact with more than just one or two people. After I put in the effort to make the most out of my time here, it was amazing. I started going to various events in Tucson, museums, school events, etc. My only regret with this is that I wished I would have jumped in sooner. I definitely feel like I missed out on some of the exciting stuff at the beginning of the year. But, I still have next semester! I am more than ready to dive back in and immerse myself into everything. My main goal for next semester is to just do more with sightseeing and be more involved on campus. I want to go visit other parts of Arizona and find other cultures and landmarks. I want to join all of the little clubs that are advertised at the club fair. I want to do more.

Overall, there really weren’t any cultural gaps that I had to try and close. Staying in the United States eliminated the issue of a language barrier or major cultural barriers. Instead, I had to focus on quickly adjusting to a completely different lifestyle. It was a change moving from a town with 25,000 people to a city with over 500,000 people and an even bigger change going to a school with over 40,000 people. My smallest class this semester had 95 people in it, which is bigger than any class I ever took at Emporia. I was even in a class with 580 people in it, which put me at the challenge of finding a decent seat in a large lecture hall. This was only one of my minor challenges.

I really didn’t think that living in a different part of the U.S would change any of my opinions and attitudes that much, but it definitely has. I used to have the constant urge to move as far away from home as possible. Now, I understand more of what that is like. I didn’t think I would miss home that much, but I do. I love being in Tucson, but it definitely made me realize how much I loved having my family just a few hours away. One of my other thoughts that changed is that people who live in bigger cities aren’t always nice. The people here are not as friendly as Kansans, but I have met some of the sweetest people at random restaurants and stores. It mostly just helped me remember that people are people, no matter where you are.

Before studying abroad, I think every college student should know before studying abroad is that your time will only be as good as you make it. I remember being told this at the study abroad meeting in Emporia, but I kind of just brushed it off. Like I said before, when I started going to all of the events and sights my experience got so much better. So, instead of taking a nap or just hanging out in your room when you have a chance, get out there and do everything. If you don’t, you will regret it.

My study abroad experience will help me in my future career because I now have the experience of moving somewhere completely different and starting over in a sense. I moved to a school that is 18 hours from home. I had no friends. I knew none of my classmates or professors, and didn’t really know what is was going to be like learning in such a big environment. So, I can now apply this toward my future career because I proved to myself that new and different can be a good thing. Honestly, it can be one of the best experiences you’ll ever have.

How has my study abroad experience changed me?

Studying abroad made me realize that I want to travel and experience more in this world!

-Madison, Arizona

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.