Welcome to WOU’s Photoblog for Students Abroad!

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I’m pleased to introduce you to WOU’s photoblog for students who are studying or interning abroad.  I  invite you to follow our students on their journeys from pre-departure preparation through the return home.

Photoblogging is a wonderful way for students to share what they are learning, observing, and discovering in their new environments.  Enjoy the journey with them!

WOU’s photoblog is modeled on the Australian “Bringing the Learning Home” project developed by Jan Gothard, Greg Downey, Tonia Gray, and Linda Butcher, and with their permission, utilizes some of the materials from that project.  http://ozstudentsabroad.com/

Querétaro, Week 4

The bulk of my fourth week here in Querétaro has been largely focused on classes, and I didn’t have much time for anything else until the weekend, when I went to Guanajuato with a few other students. Since passing the half-way point of this study abroad session, I’ve felt as though I am running out of time to experience as many things as possible, and I am very glad I chose to go on one last excursion on my final weekend here. The downside to all the classwork during the week and going out of town on the weekend is that I hardly had any time to spend with my host family or around Querétaro, which I hope I can make up for during my last week here before I return to the U.S..

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Guanajuato was one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. They have very much embodied the tourist culture, but aside from all the vendors and attractions, the city itself is amazing with such a wide variety of colorful buildings and architecture. It was very different from being in Querétaro; there were many tourists other than ourselves, and it was interesting to hear such a broad mix of languages, including a lot of English. The people there were also a lot more friendly than those from my experiences in Querétaro, likely because they are more used to tourists stumbling over their Spanish.

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That night in Guanajuato was the first opportunity I’ve had to stay in a hostel, something I’ve been eager to experience for a while. It was the last one available when our resident director made the bookings, and there was probably a reason for that. I am definitely grateful to have had the experience, but from what she said, it is certainly not representative of the majority of hostels. The beds only had one thin blanket and no pillow cases, there were no curtains over the windows, one of our doors wouldn’t close, and the walls had been painted that same day so the paint was wet and the fumes were strong. Everything was tolerable for the price, however, except for the bathroom; aside from having no hand soap, which was expected, there was a red liquid continuously dripping through the ceiling above the shower, forming a large dark red stain on the floor and puddling around the shower drain. It looked exactly like a scene from a horror movie, and the staff member on duty that night had no idea what it was. Consequently, none of us were brave enough to shower there. All in all, it was a very unique experience, and one which I am grateful for but would not like to repeat under the same conditions.

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The next day in Guanajuato, we hiked up through a very steep part of the city to the Pipila, a giant statue above the city. It was mildly exhausting, but completely worth it when we reached the top; the view was absolutely spectacular, and we could see the entire city in all its many colors. It was amazing to be able to look so far out and see generally where we had started, which at that point seemed so far away.

Overall, in spite of the homework, I believe I was able to make the most of this second-to-last week by going to Guanajuato and experiencing a new part of Mexico. I look forward to tackling finals week and getting to see my family when I return home in less than a week now.

Arrival!!

I have finally settled in China and have been in xiangton for a couple days now and wow talk about a culture shock!

The first thing that really caught my eye was the traffic rules here. What surprised me is that there are none! Driving in your lane is just a suggestion. The average person is swerving between multiple lanes or driving just on the dividing line itself. You don’t wear seatbelts, don’t normally use your blinker and… Honk at EVERYTHING you see. Which is just crazy to me, but it’s normal to them. Back home if someone honks at you there tends to be some anger on the road of yelling at each other or flipping people off through your window.  But here, no one even reacts. It’s so interesting that that’s their norm. Along with that, when the cross walk shows the green man for you to walk, cars are still driving.. So you risk getting hit everytime you walk the street.

Another interesting thing I noticed here is at the dinner table there are no drinking rules. No rules of showing your i.d. to be served alcohol or anything. So kids can be drinking alcohol with the adults. Also, smoking cigarets indoors is allowed at the dinner table. And, remember the saying “no shirt, no shoes, no service?”. Well you can foimage imagerget that. Because men don’t always wear shirts in the restaurant here either.

This experience has already been truly amazing. I love that I am expierencing such a culture shock, it makes me feel like I’m truly taking in China. And it’s very interesting to be able to look at their norms. And compare them with ours. I am looking forward to many more fun expierences to come!

 

 

 

London Week 2

Visiting London and the surrounding area of the United Kingdom has provided me with a sense of a vastly different culture, or I should say a sense of cultures. The diversity found in the city is greater than I have seen in any other place. Before coming to Britain, the greatest real-life example of diversity I had found was on-campus at WOU. I have heard more unique languages spoken aloud in the last two weeks than I had previously heard in the entirety of my experiences. The city here reminds me a lot of the big cities back home. However, there is a much greater sense of community here than I pick up in big cities of the U.S. Perhaps this is due to the close proximity of everyone in town. People of all races and classes appear to travel on the same path everyday. The trains and tube are always packed with all kinds of interesting folks that do not seem to mind being so close to everyone else around them, and it does not seem that anyone is deterred by the thought of using public transportation either. At home, the public transportation has certain negative connotations, whereas here public transport is just a part of the routine. The public transportation system also seems to be fairly well maintained compared to the systems I have seen back home.
Another aspect of the culture that lends to the sense of community here is the tradition of the pubs. No matter where you go, you are bound to find an assortment of these establishments. The pubs are always bustling during lunchtime, and especially after work hours. It seems that people here do not see alcohol as a negative influence as we do in the states. The people here are used to just grabbing a beer with their colleagues during the day, or after work without thinking twice about it. In the U.S. society in general has a very different attitude towards alcohol; alcohol is a forbidden fruit and people who drink may be judged for their choices. I think this attitude breeds the issue of young people feeling the need to drink to excess. The bars in America are often filled with people who are making a scene and taking things too far. In contrast, I’ve noticed that people here are more apt to go to the pub for socializing with friends and family; pubs are less about the actual drinking and more about the community aspect here. Of course there will always be a bit of mischief associated with overconsumption anywhere, but it doesn’t seem to be a major issue.
A final note on pubs: I was very encouraged when my friends and I were in a local pub and we noticed that not a single person there was on their phone. This was quite a novelty because back in the states, it’s almost a guarantee that half of the people in a restaurant or other public place will be staring at their phones at any given moment. It was refreshing to see that people were very present in the moment and not concerned with whatever social media had to offer.

Second Week in London!

Hello all!

I have learned many new items following British culture in my mere two weeks of attendance,you can see a different in speech and the written word all around the city in its people and signs. For example they use alternative words for insults, clothing, and phrasing such as knickers for panties. It is interesting to see the contrast in language as both the British and Americans speech English, however use different words for different meanings. You can see the roots of the linguistics’ and at what point the two split in history; it is more apparent being within the city.

British culture additionally has scenery of different that provides to its surrounding culture. The buildings in many of the neighborhoods, even though some are new and involve more modern looks, hold the structure of its original design. Some even have the old stones in which they were originally built as well. It gives London a sense of timelessness as some portion seems to have been stopped in the 18th century, or even earlier. This is additionally seen in the British Museum and the artifacts that it holds. There are many pieces, not only from the Kingdom, but from all over the world that attribute to the culture and it’s since of timelessness and maintain an aura of medieval. The collection of artifacts plays into the intelligence of the people within the city as well. The British seem to value intelligence in the early years of its community. Museums are maintained and multiplied throughout the kingdom, and schools are required to send their students to their grounds. To this point it would seem that the British schooling system is substantially different, and clearly more defined.  Most general courses are accomplished in the early stages of school, and upon entering college fine focus their skills for future career. Schools in the area are of a higher degree, and are generally in the Ivy League range. The college courses do not contain lectures required for a grade or graduation, as grades are no longer distributed and examinations lasting many days determine whether a degree is given.  I find the system of the schooling for the British the most interesting, and would like the Americans to adopt the system. It is a strong portion of the British culture and the types of individuals it produces to the outside world.

The last item of the British culture that was intriguing was their view on alcohol. It is not forbidden to the younger portions of the community as all ages are allowed in at all times. It is also considered normal to go to the pub after work for a drink, or have a drink during dinner. In the British culture drinking is a social item of interest, not a method of becoming obnoxious as is “normal” in American society. Many things in British culture that are forbidden in American culture are made differently because they do not adhere to obnoxious behavior or try to “hide” like to younger generation. You can assume that the idea of adulthood is made known early on. Overall there are many items of interest that make up the British Culture that have shaped my perspective, however the journey continues in its quest to further my knowledge!

 

Week 3 in Spain

Hola!

I am starting to feel like a month in Barcelona is the perfect amount of time! You can see all of the gorgeous sites, you can enjoy the weather, but just when you start to get homesick, you only have 5 days left! Luckily for me, I get to stay a few extra days because my parents decided to come visit spain as well. So even though I will be traveling en extra two and a half weeks in Europe, at least it will be with people I’m familiar with.

I made an effort to visit the beach more, and its so worth it. The water is warm but refreshing, the sun is hot, but there is a constant breeze too cool you off. I really like the fact that not once haveI felt nervous or uncomfortable here, either traveling by myself or in groups. I can’t believe I was so worried about safety!

Im also coming to the realization that I have to ay goodbye to some really awesome people… My Aussie roommates are hilarious and so easy to get along with, and with my two west coast friends I feel like we have known each other forever! And another girl from Ohio is one of the sweetest yet craziest people I know! Goodbyes are always hard, but not knowing when I will see these people again is tough.

On the bright side, I real have enjoyed my cross-cultural psych class. The teacher is very laid back, and discussions are very much directed by us students. It is one of the first psych classes that I truly wake up excited to go to!

Anyways, it is bitter-sweet that I am in my last week of the program, but I anticipate that it will be one of the most memorable things I do in life <3

Adios! Chao!

London week 2

So, I have finished my second week here in London. It has had its ups and down. On the plus side I got to travel to Scotland this last weekend and I got to see the beauty that it holds. I finally got to ride on a open air double-decker bus. I took a tour of Scotland while sitting on the top of the bus. It was really nice not to have to take pictures through a window.

I climbed a hill called The Tor. it is a 518 foot hill and the climb is almost vertical, but I made it to the top and the view was well worth the climb.

I have made some really great new friends, many of whom I am already Facebook friends with. they are the kind of people that I know I will keep in touch with for a very long time.

On the down side, I learned that even with all its benefits, the train transportation isn’t always the best. I was stuck on the train for an extra 2 1/2 hours on my way back from Scotland due to electrical problems. 2 1/2 hours is a long time when you can’t really get up to move, there are screaming kids, and no bathrooms. But I made it back in one piece. Then, while changing lines on the tube some one stole my plug adapter out of my back-pack. they aren’t kidding when they say watch your stuff carefully on the platform.

All in all it has been a great trip. I have learned a lot and see a lot and I still have two more weeks to go!

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The End, and the Beginning, of Another Amazing Week

Before I start throwing out all the words, here are some visuals to help describe my adventures for the last week!

British Museum- Armor  Platform 9 and 3-4 Vegetarian English Breakfast- Glastonbury  Arthur and GuinevereGlastonbury Tor- Group  Bagpiper

Hot Sass in Scotland Scotland- A View from Above

 

From left to right, and up to down. (1) Armor from the period of Roman Britain (what the Hobbits may have had in their collection, and what Arthur and Lancelot would have worn: British Museum, London. (2) Headed to Hogwarts, at platform 9 and 3/4: King’s Cross Station. (3) The Traditional English Breakfast, with Vegetarian Sausage: Glastonbury. (4) The (supposed) original tomb of the legendary Arthur and Guinevere: Glastonbury Abbey. (5) A group selfie, with Glastonbury in the background: Glastonbury Tor. (6) A bagpiper: Edinburgh, Scotland. (7) Glorious Hot Sauce: Edinburgh: Scotland. (8) The view from above: Edinburgh: Scotland.


After a little over two full weeks in London, I am feeling pretty run down, and starting to get a bit homesick. But even though it has been overwhelming, I am having the time of my life.The trips never end! With two classes, I am going on about three to four excursions per week. This last week, I went to the British museum (3 times!), the British Library, Glastonbury (the first burial site of the legendary Arthur and Guinevere), Lacock (a village where some Harry Potter scenes were filmed), and Scotland (a personal trip). I didn’t think that it was possible, but I had even more fun this week than I did last week. I was able to admire many items and locations that inspired my inner (or outer, it is obvious) English nerd.

One of my the fun locations for this last week was the British Museum, three times. Now, this may seem like overkill, but I still have not seen everything that that museum has to offer! It is the biggest building I have ever been in, and more items stored than would fit in our university. Someone could go there every day of the week, and still not feel as though they had seen everything, not to mention they change the exhibits often. You would think that such an awesome museum would be expensive, but entrance was free! Of course, I still had to buy some books at the gift shop, since I didn’t have to spend money on admission. 😉 I also bought some books at the British Library, which was the most amazing archival/English experience that I have ever had. Our class explored the treasures room, which includes such original documents as Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (My absolute favorite novel) and Beowulf, written in Old English (My favorite Epic).

Glastonbury was absolutely beautiful. I got to see the ruins of the Glastonbury Abbey, as well as the tomb that the legendary Arthur and Guinevere would have been buried in (of course, this is all legend). And I also got to climb up to the Tor, in which one can see to “the ends of the earth.” I am not exaggerating when I say that this was the most beautiful view that I have ever laid eyes upon; I felt like I was on top of the world: it actually inspired some tears.

Lacock was a cute little village, which is apparently a prime filming spot, as there was filming going on during our visit. This cut off our access to the Harry Potter film sites that we had come to see, but it was still fun to explore pieces of the little village. I had some delicious dark chocolate, and took a picture as an English prisoner.

Scotland was my favorite trip. Although Edinburgh is also metropolitan, it was much quieter and less crowded than London. Also, residents have worked very hard to protect the look of the city; new construction has to fit in with the old buildings. This makes it very fun to visit, as you really get the feel of a complete city, rather than the parts and pieces that arise in London. I also appreciated Scotland because the people there were much nicer; they smiled at us, an occurrence that is rare in London. I was also able to hear multiple Scottish accents; it is easy to tell which accents come from a “higher” class. Hearing the “lower” class accents made me feel like a fit in a little more, since I always feel like I am mumbling in London; I couldn’t understand the “lower” accents that ran together. Now I know how Londoners feel when I talk to them; I should get a cone installed on my neck…

I am still discovering cultural differences, every single day. One of these was quite shocking. This last weekend, I decided to chop all my hair off in Scotland, (don’t worry, I have been planning on doing this for forever,) but I could not find a barber shop that would serve me. Apparently, even with a short cut, barbers only cut male hair in Scotland. When I did find an actual hair salon, a woman, not a man, had to cut my hair. This was pretty surprising to me, as it is not like this in Oregon. I felt a little bit oppressed, even though I know that this was not the intent.

Even though I am feeling a tad homesick, since I never have time to sit down and just relax, I can’t picture living in the states for the rest of my life. As I stated in my last post, I am seriously considering graduate school in the United Kingdom. And even if this does not happen, I will definitely be coming back to visit even more places next year, such as Ireland and Paris.

Finally Home

It feels really good to be home to be honest. I missed my family and friends, so it’s nice to see them again. However, there also has been some adjusting that I am currently doing. First off, I had to stay in a hotel an extra day after the rest of the group left Ireland as I had arranged my flight to leave a day later. It was quite unusual for me to be on my own like that. However, I still had a great time as I visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity College, and other sites in Dublin. Fortunately, I made it back to the states without any trouble. Another struggle adjusting to life back home is the time zone difference. The difference between Oregon and Ireland is eight hours, so that is a big difference. I think I’ve adjusted now at this point, but it took quite a few days. I would wake up really early and still feel exhausted at the end of the day. I’ve also struggled getting used to not having to do something everyday. It’s quite a bit more boring here than in Ireland. I’m so used to everything here, so I find it a lot less interesting here in Monmouth. Finally, I’m getting used to remembering to do more homework. I have an essay to write before the end of August. I need to write it soon so that I don’t forget all the details from my trip. Thankfully, I have photographic proof of what I did, so that’ll help. I loved that I was able to do this, and I hope to someday go back to Ireland someday.

US vs. UK Round 3

This update will take place as a rambling of sorts, as it is more of a focus on cultural differences noted during my three weeks in the UK thus far. For those of you who crave a little structure, the general layout will be as follows: language barriers and jargon, smoking, food quality, Edinburgh differences.

English is English, no matter where you English – this is certainly not the case. Even within the States, one catches different pronunciation of words or the dropping of some (as in AAVE, or African American Vernacular English). Having taken Linguistics classes on the matter previously, I knew that in the UK, words would be different, but they would also drop the article ‘the’. This can be found in speakers saying “You go to University?” or another example, “I have to go to Hospital”. For my own personal enjoyment, I have been keeping a list of items that have occurred in the UK, along with their US exchange. Below, I have posted a few of those items from my list:
Garbage — Rubbish
Elevator — Lift
Bathroom — Toilet
Sidewalk — Footpath
Thief — Tea Leaf (derogatory/insult)

Smoking. Smoking everywhere. On the streets, outside every door, in and out of the pub, wafting in the entrances to anywhere you go, clinging to the clothes of some chap bustling in front of you on the tube . . .smoke. This is something I had never really thought about when I pictured London. Instead, it is almost overwhelming to see how many people smoke here. Men and women equally, and of all ages, as well. One thing that I have noticed with this, however, is that most of their packs of cigarettes have ads on them showing pictures of blackened lungs or hold facts regarding secondhand smoke, etc. These are scattered about the sidewalks and filling the nearby rubbish bins, but a public message nonetheless.

At first, I was slightly apprehensive about the food in the UK – those I spoke to had mixed reviews, but it was always either love or hate. I had a 50-50 chance of either loving or hating the food I was about to have to experience for a month. On top of that, being a vegan worried me. In the states, especially those on the West Coast, we have a very ‘hippie’ way of handling what goes into our bodies. This was something I was used to having, a privilege if you will.

However, all of the food that I have eaten so far has been wonderful. The expiration dates come sooner, suggesting less preservatives, and everything I have tasted has been fresh and well-prepared. Even finding vegetarian options has been easy (most places have it clearly labeled – grocery stores and pubs alike). One thing I had noticed was that things labeled vegetarian still included egg. For some this may have been confusing, as some still partake in eggs as vegetarians, while others do not.

Another thing that I have noticed, and was noting with a friend today about, was that their sweets are delicious because they are not overwhelmingly sugary. If they are a treat, such as a cookie or even a chocolate bar, it is not terribly full of sugar – it is made with more whole ingredients to balance it out. The two of us discussed how back in the States, we were not apt to eat as many treats or were more picky about what we ate because of the content of sugary sweetness in them – yet here we had not had that trouble so far. An interesting thought, that is for sure.

Lastly, I had the pleasure of spending this last weekend in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was definitely a place I wished I had made more time for. This would be an area that I could spend months in and never grow tired of. Just a few hours north, and what a difference! First, it was an atmosphere I was more comfortable with, since I come from the Pacific Northwest. I was happy to see greenery, and have an overcast sky over my head at most hours of the day. Second, the people were more varied in styles and expression than London. In London, one sees most people in business attire. Meaning dress shoes, blouses and suits, skirts and slacks, and so forth. In Edinburgh, there were people of all shapes, sizes, hairstyles, and the like, making our little group feel more comfortable without standing out like sore thumbs.

Speaking of the people in Edinburgh. . .they were always pleasant. They were less standoffish as those in London. They smiled warmly, greeted us with ‘good morning’ and such as we passed, and always were happy to hold up conversations during transactions. It was an interesting contrast to those we had been interacting with thus far.

For now, I believe that is all in regards to London, but surely there will be more coming in with each passing day.

Week 2 & 3 Zamora

I have been so busy that I forget I need to post every week. My second week in my program we spend  doing a workshop with local people who perform traditional dances. I learned about the culture and what parts of Spain each dance comes from. We learned to play a few of the instruments and some of my classmates even tried on the traditional clothes. The dances were fun to learn and it gave me a taste of how people celebrate certain events with dance.

My classmates and I also took a trip up to Gijon, Spain for the weekend. We went to enjoy the beach and to visit another part of Spain. I fell in love with this area. I was beautiful and had a lot of history. The weather was a nice change too.

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The third week we had two excursions to Pereruela and Toro. In Pereruela we visited a pottery workshop. I got to see from the mixing of the material to making different types of pots, pans, and ovens. I also got a chance to try and make my own dish, which turned to to look more like a donut. In Toro we visited a old convent and a winery.

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My Spanish has been improving. I can now communicate my basic needs and am able to get by. I love that I am force to put my Spanish vocabulary to use. I am great at ordering un café con leche, and whatever needs I need at the store. I still have the feeling that I am not here in Spain. Maybe it will hit me once I return back home. I feel comfortable here and know my surrounding really well. I have made some great friends and they help me feel at home here. My one goal is to hope that I will continue to speak Spanish back in the states.