Happy Month-a-versary!

Blogger: Natalie Wilhelm

Location: Cergy-Pontoise, France

Hello Valpo friends! In this blog post, I’m going to talk about the fact that it has been exactly one month since my flight landed at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. One month since I moved into my then very lonely-feeling apartment with little more than two suitcases, a backpack, and forty-eight hours of sleeplessness to my name. This may have been the craziest, busiest, most up and down month of my life so far.

And already, there is so much I could tell you. What do you want to hear? Do you want to hear about my first trip to Paris, when I bought a Nutella crepe for three euros and walked around the cobblestone streets, taking in the beauty of the city? Or the first public presidential candidate meeting I went to for my independent study, where a young man came up to Lauren and me crying and asking for a place to stay? Or maybe I should tell you about how, for some unknown reason, French women have taken to Ugg boots like fish to water, making me feel like I have been plunged back into eighth grade again? (Seriously, they’re everywhere. Sparkly ones, high-heeled ones, silver ones, brown ones, black ones. Ugh, France. Just stop.)

The point is, there are so many stories I could write about, and it’s only been a month. I feel like I’ve lived in France for ages already. At home, going to classes at Valpo every day and seeing my friends and doing homework, a month seems like nothing. But here, I feel like it’s a significant milestone. I only have four months, two weeks and one day until my flight leaves for Chicago O’Hare, and I’m feeling an almost desperate need to make every single one of those days count.

I think I’ve gotten a pretty good start on making my days count, though. Sure, I’ve spent one or two afternoons binge-watching Teen Wolf in my apartment. But I’ve also gone to Paris. I’ve visited the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and all the good touristy stuff that the city has to offer. I’ve studied at the Centre Pompidou, which has the coolest library I have ever seen. I’ve eaten at cafés by myself. I’ve also cried, overwhelmed with homesickness. I’ve bounced back and forth between feeling incredibly motivated to work on schoolwork and never wanting to read another page about the French political systems ever. again. All of that is a normal part of moving overseas for six months. I’ve just been taking it in stride and seizing every opportunity for adventure that comes my way.

One such adventure was definitely participating in the Women’s March on Paris, an extension of the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. There, I met French women who were part of different feminist activism groups, Canadian men with female dogs (“She’s a girl, too, so she gets to march today.”), and of course, young French women, all who were there to march in solidarity and support of women’s rights everywhere. It was truly a landmark in my life.

This roller coaster of a month has taught me something very important: you have to look at the big picture. Even at the end of a hard day, when you’re tired and miss your family and friends, you’re still abroad. When I collapse into bed, mentally exhausted from a six-hour long French class, I’m still in France. I’m doing something that many people may never get the opportunity to do. I didn’t let myself be limited by fear. Fear, in all of its many forms, is a great dream killer. It can invade you, without you even realizing it, and convince you to stop doing things. To stop pursuing your dreams, from leaving your comfort zone, from taking an opportunity that may come around only once in a lifetime, and change you in ways you never could have predicted. All you have to do is say, “I see you, fear. I acknowledge you. And I’m going to do this thing anyway.”

Given all that has happened in this first month, I can only imagine the stories, worries, adventures, challenges, and discoveries that are going to come my way before I step back onto a plane to head home. And I am resolving to welcome each and every single one with open arms.

A bientôt,

Natalie

The Importance of Community

Student Spotlight: Erin Brown

Program: San Jose, Costa Rica – Study Center

¿Qué es esto? (What is this?) This phrase has quickly become my “catchphrase” since arriving in Costa Rica two and a half weeks ago. Learning, living, and growing in a new culture and country has reminded me of my childhood. Here, I am experiencing everything for the first time. I am trying new foods. I am visiting new places. I am learning new facts about history.

Getting to know my neighborhood and community better by going to different events in town like the feria (farmer’s market).

The Feria – farmer’s market

I am experiencing new customs and sayings. Some days seem like they are filled with information overload. With so much to constantly take in, I often feel like there is so much that my brain can’t absorb.

I have always been an independent person and have liked being able to solve problems out on my own. Studying abroad has been a humbling experience in that regard, because I have to learn how to do little things that used to be insignificant to me all over again.

 I need to learn how to use the shower, how to take public transportation, and how to function in a different language. In all aspects of living right now, I feel like a child completely dependent on those around me. I’ve needed to learn how to ask for help. It has been through these experiences that I have come to see more clearly the definition of selfless love. In my confusion and in my doubts, my host family has been there to help me through all of it.

My host parents are patient, kind, and understanding when I am unsure of how to do something. They are willing to listen to the stories that I have to tell about the information I am learning in my new classes.

Host Family

Host Family

They are excited to share the culture of this beautiful country with me and all of its new and lively tastes, sights, and sounds.

In my search for independence in my first couple weeks of being in Costa Rica, I have been blessed with the gift of something even better… community. Intentional community is an essential part of the culture of Costa Rica. People intentionally sit down with one another once or twice a day to drink coffee and catch up on how each person is doing. They sit down with one another for meals and talk about how their day has gone. The men and women here do not run by a rigid time table like the United States that can be sometimes be constricting or limiting. They are intentional with one another and are more interested in knowing the person in front of them than knowing how many hours have passed by.

Drinking pipa de agua (coconut water) for the first time with my host dad.

Drinking pipa de agua (coconut water)

Instead of trying to figure out how to do things on my own, I have found a new sense of freedom through the community that surrounds me. I have made new friends and relationships that fill me with joy and love. If I have a question about something, I can freely go to my new friends and family and ask them for help. In the middle of all of the newness, my community has been a beautiful reminder that I am not alone and that I am loved and cared for. Romans 12:4-5 states, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” It has been a wonderful, beautiful, and liberating experience to interact with more of God’s children on this earth and come to know a little more clearly what the body of Christ represents… community, family, and love.

 

– Erin Brown

Definitely Not In Northwest Indiana Anymore

Blogger: Katie Karstensen

Program: Windhoek, Namibia

Lowell, Indiana → Chicago → Washington D.C. → Ghana → Johannesburg, South Africa

An early morning take off from Chicago to Washington D.C.

I’m constantly thankful that I’ve been instilled with a sense of adventure from a young age. I didn’t have the opportunity to travel outside of the Midwest before college, yet I was constantly outside hiking, attending camp, or even playing outside on my farm. Valparaiso University has granted me travel opportunities I am forever thankful for, and it is one of the reasons I decided to attend this school. I’ve known I wanted to study abroad since my freshman year and enjoyed the process of deciding where I wanted to go and which program would be the best fit for me. That process has led me to a semester in Southern Africa with a program through the Center for Global Education at Augsburg College, called Nation Building, Globalization and Decolonizing the Mind. For the next three and a half months, I will be exploring Southern Africa, learning about the history and its effects in this area, taking classes, and working at internship with Family of Hope Services in Windhoek, Namibia.

Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s House in Soweto

Our first few days in Johannesburg entailed getting a crash course in the history of South Africa, the role of Apartheid, and a focus in the role youth have played in the country’s history. We visited Nelson Mandela’s house, the U.S. Embassy, Apartheid Museum, the Hector Pieterson Memorial, and Regina Mundi. My first impression of Johannesburg were the vast amount of contrasts we encountered. During our driving tour, our group went through a rich subdivision, which had experienced white flight after Apartheid, and viewed large houses with extravagant gardens and maximum security. Then looking in the other direction across a field, there were a collection of tin shacks families were residing in.

In communication with local residents, South Africans know the United State’s political system in and out. In contrast, only one or two student in my group knew who the president of South Africa was, or that there are more than two political parties. The trend of finding contradictions has continued throughout my time here.

An exhibit from the Apartheid museum. Upon entering the museum, visitors were randomly given tickets saying “white” or “non-whites.” After receiving our ticket we had to enter in two different entrances according to our race.

June 16th Children’s Memorial, the route in which children marched and rioted in the streets. The accounts presented in the museum are from government records, due to government funding. The actual events of the day involved much more violence and blood from police officers towards students.

One of the stained glass windows at Regina Mundi, a church where the students involved in the June 16th march took refuge amidst the riot. Police shot at the walls of the church from the outside and banged their guns against the marble altar hard enough to chip off its edges to scare the students, but no students were shot within the walls of the church.

This particular window shows the image of a saint whose race appears to be white from the inside, and black from the outside.

 

Visiting the Union buildings with an overlook of Johannesburg

The first weekend in South Africa, our group was divided into pairs and hosted by families across the city of Johannesburg and Soweto. I stayed with a family where both parents worked for the police station, and had two children ages eight and fourteen. The family has been working with CGEE(Center for Global Education) for many years and welcomed my friend Emily and I into their homes as if we were their own children. Another difference I repeatedly notice is the lack of language education we have in the United States compared to other countries. Everyone I have met in this country speaks multiple languages including English, Afrikaans, French, German, Spanish, Xhosa, Damara Nama, and usually a few other African dialects. My host father speaks thirty languages and explains he needs to know them so he is able to communicate with everyone he comes in contact with through his criminal intelligence office. As we strolled through a market together, he bartered with five different women for vegetables and fruit, and after speaking to each told me which language they had been speaking in, all five speaking different native tongues and our father replying at ease to them.

Another favorite part of my homestay was the food. Food is generally a favorite part of my life, and cooking with my host mother and trying unfamiliar foods was a favorite part of my homestay as well. Every meal consisted of pop, a grain that is comparable to the texture of thick mashed potatoes. We ate with our hands and used pop to stick to our other foods and eat. I became an expert at making pop and chakalaka, a spicy vegetable mixture. While being in Southern Africa, I have also discovered my favorite tea. It is called Rooibos, a red tea that can be found in every household and restaurant here.

View from Top of Africa at the Carlton Center, the tallest building in Johannesburg

Dinner I helped to prepare at my homestay. On Sundays my host family has “seven colors meals.” They prepare a dish that consists of seven different colored foods, so may add foods like beets, carrots, squash, tomatoes, and other foods so they have a larger variety.

Finding Familiarity in Berlin

Blogger: Alyson Kneusel

Program: Reutlingen, Germany – Study Center

Hello all!

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Public Military Service

In the last week and a half, I have visited Berlin, Copenhagen, and Hamburg. I’ve experienced an astonishing assortment of museums, architecture, and history.  However, the most impactful experience I had was entirely accidental. When attempting to visit the ancient history museum in Berlin, our group of American students stumbled upon a public military funeral service occurring outside of the Berlin Cathedral Church (shown to the right). I was shocked how much this made me evaluate the relationship between Germany and America. Not only that, but the experience made me question my own role in that history as an American student studying abroad in Germany.

The Berlin Cathedral Church is a beautiful and well-known landmark of downtown Berlin. With its original construction dating back to 1465 and church bells whose sound echoes across the center of downtown Berlin, it is a powerful symbol of German and religious history.

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Altes Museum

However, most Americans would be more likely to recognize the infamous Altes Museum building which stands on the adjacent side of this main square. This building is shown in numerous textbooks of Nazi history because the Altes Museum was the site of a military march and speech for Adolf Hitler’s 50th birthday in 1939. I have always viewed this image as just a page in the text, not an event in a place that really existed with real buildings and real people. Standing there the other day, I was struck by the fact that just a mere 77 years ago, there would have been Nazi German soldiers standing in that very spot.

Not only was that a humbling experience, but to see the German military assembled for the funeral right next to the location from that picture 77 years in the future, I realized how many people I have to be thankful to for the fact that I (an American student of mixed Jewish and German descent) could be standing in the presence of the German military in that historic spot without fear for my own safety.

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Berlin Cathedral Church

Having grown up in a military community myself (living near MacDill air force base), I recognized how many aspects of the German military were not so different from our own in the United States. Watching them mourn their dead and hearing the military band play reminded me that even though our armies were once opposed one another, we are truly not so different. More than that, we hold many of the same values including those evident in the ceremony such as music, mourning the dead, respect for the military, and even the Christian ideals suggested by the location of the funeral outside the Berlin Cathedral Church.

I am not saying that I am thankful just to the Allied powers or just to the German military for this opportunity, but more that I am thankful for all the efforts which have been put in by all countries involved in rebuilding the relations between our nations. I was saddened to learn that this beautiful church I was viewing was in fact damaged by an Allied-forces bombing raid during World War II. As I continued through the rest of Berlin, Copenhagen and Hamburg, I saw more destruction from WWII in the cities. It became apparent to me that although the Allied powers prevailed in the war, no one really won. I’ve heard stories of all the civilians lost on both sides and saw the destruction of otherwise historical sites that had occurred during the war, and it was clear to me that such destruction can never be allowed to happen again.

I am not sure if I could have ever truly appreciated what was lost on both sides of the war if I had not had the opportunity to see this with my own eyes. For this reason, I understand how crucial it is our people experience different countries and cultures.  I fully encourage everyone, not just students and not just Americans, to travel to different countries. This not only allows us to appreciate our differences, but more importantly it teaches us to recognize what we share. I will not say that I think this will solve all the world’s problems and produce world peace, but this experience really makes me hopeful that through learning about each other and recognizing our similarities, we can take a big step towards a more peaceful future.

Until next time,

Alyson Kneusel

Hilltop Parks and Emotional Baguettes

Blogger: Natalie Wilhelm 

Program: Cergy-Pontoise, France

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View from Hilltop Park — Natalie Wilhelm

Voila, I have arrived! I am now safely set up in my own little apartment at the Université de Cergy-Pontoise, in – you guessed it! – Cergy, France! Madame Arrizabalaga, a director of international students here, picked me up from the airport. After she helped me with the paperwork to get into my room, she introduced me to some awesome French students. They helped me and Lauren (my fellow Valpo student) find the shopping mall and – most importantly – lunch. Now I just have some administrative things left to do before classes start on the 16th. Until then, it’s another week of vacation!

This is my second time coming to France, yet I still find the process of travel so fascinating. I woke up in my own bed on Thursday morning and went back to bed in a strange apartment in France on Friday night. I was up for almost 48 hours in a row since the plane hit a patch of turbulence that seemed to last forever and made it difficult to sleep. I don’t recommend staying up that long, unless you’re flying to your favorite foreign country. Then, I suppose, it’s worth it.

It’s also fascinating to me how difficult it is to sleep at night. Whenever I lay down to go to sleep, my brain decides to go on a tangent and think about all the things from home (Parents! Dog! Car! Favorite stores!). It’s also difficult because when it’s 3 am here, it’s only 8 pm at home. The first night here, I didn’t fall asleep until past 6 in the morning, and didn’t wake up until noon. But the second night was better, so I think I’ll be back on track soon.

It’s lovely outside here, even though it’s rainy and chilly. My apartment window opens onto a little soccer field. Behind that is a little playground built on top of a hill. I climbed up to the top of the hill, and I could see the rooftops of the other apartment buildings. It is seriously beautiful. It’s like all the buildings in France are built in this gorgeous architectural style that you would almost never find in the United States.

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View from window — Natalie Wilhelm

Another big difference is how much independence students have here. Everyone lives in different housing throughout the city; some are five minutes from campus, while others are forty minutes. We are expected to buy our own metro passes and groceries for whenever the campus cafes aren’t open. There are no RAs putting on programs, or RLCs coming through the hall just to check in. It’s like we’re actual adults. Yikes.

This kind of scared me at first, so I didn’t really leave my room much yesterday except to check out the hilltop park. But today, I decided to branch out a little and find the train station and some food by myself. Once outside, I followed the trail of people carrying baguettes and eventually found some shops that were open. A lot of shops close on Sundays for worship and rest. So I was very glad to see some stores still open!

I bought myself a baguette and other things to eat and walked back to my apartment. When I got that baguette home and looked at it sitting on my counter, I started crying a little. Before I came to France, I spent a lot of time wondering what it would be like to live here. If I would make new friends, if I would be able to communicate effectively, and just be able to handle living in a foreign country. Somehow, buying that baguette made me ridiculously happy. I actually went into a store and spoke French to the grumpy shopkeeper and bought myself food. I proved to myself that I can do this. I can make friends and live four thousand miles away from my parents and my school for six months – 168 days, exactly.

Even though it may seem like a simple thing, I was glad I decided to walk to the train station. After all, I can’t spend the whole six months sitting in my room, can I? Here’s to 165 more adventures!

A bientôt,

Natalie

How to Be Self-Sufficient in Someplace New (Answer: You Don’t)

Blogger: Kortney Cena

Program: San Jose, Costa Rica – Study Center

I didn’t realize how ‘gringa’ I was until I came to Costa Rica. It’s like how one never realizes they have an accent until they leave their native area. But it’s deeper than that: everyone has a cultural accent. My native culture has shaped how I think and how I see things so that I behave in a way that makes me distinctly United Statesian (aka gringa). For example, when I look back over the week, I realize that I was thinking in such a goal-oriented way when I first arrived. I may not have literally made a list of the things I wanted to accomplish while I was in Costa Rica, but I realize now that I subconsciously had expectations for myself during this semester. One thing that I really wanted to achieve before I left Costa Rica was an understanding of the language, culture, and area that would allow me to function self-sufficiently. I wanted to be able to take care of myself (by myself) and to interact with Costa Ricans, but not as a tourist who needed special treatment.

With this goal subconsciously in my mind, the first week here, I went about learning how to be self-sufficient. I made a small book to write down useful vocabulary as I learned it. I made a mental map of where all the important places were in the neighborhood. I took note of how people used the bus system, how they walked around the neighborhood, how they bought things at the market, how they say hello to each other at different times of the day. And I tried to remember everything. It has only been a week, but I have already decided to give that idea up. I know what you are probably thinking: “It’s only been a week; you shouldn’t give up after such a short time!” Well, I’m not ‘giving up’ the way you are thinking. Rather, I have learned something that has convinced me to stop trying to be self-sufficient.

kortney_1I have discovered that this desire to be self-sufficient or independent is a goal, or a mindset, that is fundamentally foreign to Costa Rican culture. In the United States, being successful is being able to support yourself, by yourself. Capable people do things for themselves and try not to be a burden to others by asking for help. By contrast, Costa Rica has what is called a ‘community culture’. The focus is always on relationships here. And helping others or being helped is a way for relationships to grow. I have found that the only way for me to function sufficiently in Costa Rica is to be reliant. This shift in view has allowed my host mom to show me her affection by cleaning my clothes for me when I had originally wanted to learn how to do my own laundry to avoid being her burden. It allows me to spend time talking to my host sister Ashley while she walks me to new places. People prefer to do things together here, and so I don’t have to learn everything. Even people I talk to who have been in Costa Rica for years say that they still need to rely on others for help all the time. Learning to think in a way that is community oriented rather than individually oriented is a multi-faceted task, and this is one of the ways the struggle has shown up for me.

So, I am trying to learn the Costa Rican cultural accent. It is contrary to my nature, it feels, but I have to stop thinking like a gringa, and startkortney_2 learning to let others help me. I need to practice focusing on the process of doing things with others rather than on the task itself. Already, I have seen wonderful relationships grow, and these are all you really need to function in a foreign land. I don’t need to know everything or be self-sufficient because I have so many kind people here who can, and more importantly, want to help. I may not know how to speak Spanish very well, I may be confused about the bus routes around San Jose, and I may not be able to accomplish every daily task that I could at home, but one thing is certain: I am able to function in Costa Rica.

— Kortney

 

Meet our Spring 2017 Bloggers!

alyson_kneuselBlogger: Alyson Kneusel

Location: Reutlingen, Germany

Alyson is a Chemistry and Biology double major with a Music minor and a Christ College associate! She is studying abroad at our study center in Reutlingen, Germany! She is excited to be a Valpo Abroad blogger because it will allow others to view her experiences in a more personal way! She can’t wait to share this incredible opportunity with all of you!


 

natalie_wilhelmBlogger: Natalie Wilhelm

Location: Cergy-Pontoise, France

Natalie is a French and International Relations double major studying abroad in Cergy-Pontoise this semester! Natalie has always been interested in blogging, so she can’t wait to incorporate two of her passions together: writing and traveling! Natalie is excited to share her adventures with her friends, family, and the Valpo community!


katie_karstensenBlogger: Katie Karstensen

Location: Windhoek, Namibia

Katie is an Elementary Education major with a Mathematics minor! Katie loves to travel and can’t wait to see where her semester in Namibia takes her. She is thrilled to share her adventures, thoughts, and challenges during her time abroad. Katie is looking forward to this major life endeavor and can’t wait to share what she learns from it!


kortney_cenaBlogger: Kortney Cena

Location: San Jose, Costa Rica

Kortney is a Global Service major with an Engineering minor and a Christ College associate! She loves how blogging allows her to think deeper and reflect on her experiences! Kortney hopes studying abroad will allow her to experience difference cultures and broaden her world view! She can’t wait to start blogging again and share her love of traveling with others!


abigail_littleBlogger: Abigail Little

Location: Newcastle, Australia

Abigail is an Actuarial Science major and is off to Australia for the semester! She hopes to inspire others to pursue the experience of studying abroad through her international  experiences. Abigail is very passionate about expressing herself through writing and can’t wait to share her story with all of you!


 

The End

Author: Maia Moore

Program: Hangzhou Study Center – China

Four months ago, I was sitting on an airplane wondering what the next few months would be like. This was the first time I had ever traveled alone. Well, technically, I wasn’t alone. I was traveling with a fellow classmate. However, it was a coincidence that we happened to be on the same flight. Before I left, I wrote a letter to myself about what I expected and what I hoped for the semester. I can’t recall what I actually put in the letter, but I’ll probably laugh when I read it.

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There are many things I feel right now. Excitement, sadness, a sense of loss, happiness, gratefulness, a feeling of “what now”. The end is finally here but it’s so bittersweet. I’ll never forget the day I got here (how can I? It was my 20th birthday!). I was so nervous, so unsure of myself. I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect.

I’ve changed in many ways. I probably won’t know the extent of the change for years to come, but I do recognize a few changes within myself. The most drastic change that I have noticed within myself is my newfound independence. Now, I have always been an independent person, I like to rely on myself before I rely on anyone else. I am used to living far from home and having to figure things out for myself. However, I am not afraid to ask for help if I need to.

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Living in Indiana with my family being in Alabama is very different from living in China while my family is in Alabama. When you are living in a different country, it’s not so easy to ask your family and friends for help because they are so far away. While in China, it was even more challenging because of the language and cultural barriers. The biggest challenge for me was going to Shanghai by myself. Like I said before, I am largely an independent person, but going to the one of the world’s largest city by yourself when you only speak half of the language is scary for most people.

Last year, I went to Chicago on my own to meet with a friend and I thought that was a big deal. I didn’t realize months later I would be undertaking the challenge of going to Shanghai on my own. I think that trip was a large testimony to how much I had adapted to challenges while abroad and how much more confident I had become in my own language skills.

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The memories I have here, I’ll cherish forever. Some were good, some were bad, but there will never be another time like this. Of course I’ll travel again and meet new people and have new adventures. But this adventure will always hold a special place in my heart. I feel sad, because while I had my highs and lows on this trip, I can honestly say this is one of the greatest experiences of my life. But I also am very happy because while this trip may be over, this is not the end. It’s a beginning of many more good times to come.

Buddhist Nunnery

Author: Maia Moore

Program: Hangzhou Study Center – China

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I had the privilege of visiting a Buddhist nunnery/university. We did many different activities at the nunnery. First, we took a tour of the compound. We saw many different temples. While at the temples, we saw people coming to pray to the different Buddhas. This was my first time visiting a Buddhist nunnery. Actually, it was my first time visiting a nunnery at all.

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For our second activity, we walked to the male part of the university. There, we participated in a 30 minute long chanting session. I wasn’t really sure what we were saying or what exactly what we were doing but it was interesting.

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One of the final things that we did was eat with the nuns and the monks. This experience was extremely interesting to me because we ate completely in silence while others came around and passed out the food (rice, a variety of vegetables, and soup). If you wanted a dish, you left your bowl to the edge of the table. If you didn’t want any, you moved the bowl closer to you.

This way of eating is entirely different from the typical way I have witnessed Chinese people dine. Typically, there are a great variety of dishes, that have lots of spices and there’s a lot of noise and everyone shares. At the nunnery, we were all silent, with small individual bowls and the food was very bland. It was very different. I’m glad that I was able to experience another side of Chinese culture while I was here.

Take a Sad Song and Make It Better

Author: Caroline Dienes

Program: Cambridge Study Center – England

What can I say? It’s bittersweet. My semester in Cambridge has come to an abrupt ending. My trips to Liverpool, Spain, Estonia, and many others seems like years go, but they all happened pretty recently in retrospect. The four people I have been living with for almost five months will now just be classmates and not roomies. A few relationships I created there ended in the phrase, “If you ever find yourself near Chicago, let me know.” I’m leaving the life I created in Cambridge.

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However, I left a very familiar life when I decided to study abroad for a semester. I left my family, my friends, my Valpo, my comfort zone. I let all the adventures that I could have had a Valpo slip by. I’ve been virtually absent from the lives of all my closest friends. They’ve learned to deal without me, which may seem like a harsh thing to say, but it was one of the most important things I had to remember before I started my journey.

I was told this interesting consequence of studying abroad and immediately got a little upset. I never really thought of that aspect of being away. Your friends learn to move on with their lives without you around. However, I had to remind myself that I was doing the same thing. I honestly thought I was going to be a wreck without my friends around, but I learned to live life without them as well. It’s something you need to accept if you decide to study abroad. Your friends will inevitably change while you are away, but so will you.

While you’re studying abroad, things change – whether you like it or not. I’ve noticed  changes in me, all of them improving my outlook on myself and things around me. I couldn’t be happier with the person I grew into with my time in Cambridge. Ever since I arrived in Cambridge, I became aware that I was laughing, smiling, and appreciating more. This is the Caroline I was trying to look for with my time abroad. New and unknown little qualities inside you rise to the surface when you go somewhere new and unknown for a few months.

All in all, a brand new edition of Caroline got off that plane at O’Hare while it was 6 degrees, a temperature I didn’t necessarily miss. I gained so much out of my time abroad, and I plan to put all that I gained to good use. It’s a little sad coming back and leaving the life I created in Cambridge, but I have an endless amount of memories, whether they’re in my head or physical things like pictures of videos. Here’s some final advice. Never delete any Snapchat videos you take while you study abroad. On certain occasions, they may just brighten up your day.

Stay Fresh,

Caroline

 

 

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