Week 4 London 2k15

Hello all,

Are you alright? Here in London that is another way to say “How are you?” and it is incredibly confusing. I have been here for a little over a month now and I still have not gotten used to this saying. Every time someone greets me in this way (which happens a lot) I usually stare at them for a while and then stumble to figure out what I am supposed to say. Do I say yes? Do I say I am good? I have asked people who use the expression and they tell me that either of those options are fine, but I still stutter. It is the one thing I am not sure I will ever get used to in the three months I am here.

On another note, I am feeling so much better. I have finally made friends! I am so happy. This past week went really well. Classes are still slow, but I am powering through. My favorite class is the one I am taking online through WOU because it actually keeps me somewhat busy.

On Saturday me and a few other internationals went to Windsor Castle. It was really beautiful and it was a lovely day so that made it even nicer. The weather has been wonderful since I have been here. It has only rained about 3 times in the entire past month. I am shocked, but not keeping my hopes up. It is starting to get colder and I am sure the rain will settle in soon.

I had plans to go to Brighton on Sunday, but the  tube was delayed and I missed my train. It was too expensive to by another ticket at the train station so I went home and went back to bed. It was quite upsetting and will hopefully be the first and last time that ever happens. Now I know to be REALLY early just in case. I was thankful it was only a day trip I missed and not a flight out of the country. That would have been much worse.

Overall, I am feeling much better and am looking forward to my first trip out of the country coming up here in a few weeks.

Cheers, Mackenzie


Windsor Castle


Friends!! (At Whiteland’s formal dinner)

Germany week 1-6(Introduction and Playing Catch up)

Hallo! Let me my introduce myself, my name is Josseline and I am studying in Konstanz, Germany located on the Bodensee. I actually started my adventure in September (Sorry! Sarah) but I didn’t realize how much I was going to get caught up in the moment. I guess once you get older it is harder to get used to a new routine. I found my second time in Germany ten times more difficult to adjust then it was just four years ago. However, just because it was hard to adjust did not mean I was not having the time of my life. My first week in Germany was probably already one of the most memorable I will ever have. The day before I departed for Germany, I remember looking at my countdown app on my phone and trying to maintain a normal heart rate, but the same thing can be said when I left the Airport in Stuttgart. So far this has been a recurring theme. It’s a difficult process not to romanticize the concept of studying abroad. I wanted it to be the most magical amazing adventure that I would have in my entire life, and so far it has felt that way.
Despite my accelerated heart rate I finally get to the youth hostel in Tübingen and its funny when you realize that the large group of strangers you met in May are going to be your new lifelong friends. By the end of my first night in Tübingen, I was proud that I knew the names of my entire group. The anxiety continues, as I do not know what to expect from the staff. I have met them before but it’s always different when you get to see them in action. I got to interact with Silvia and Sarah, and right off the bat they were so helpful and understanding that I felt like I was safe. When you are thousands of miles away from home in a country with bad Wi-Fi: this is important. Before you know it Monday arrives, and you prepare yourself to meet your new home for the next 11 months. There goes my heart rate again.
After settling into my new Wohnung the second week hits you and you begin to build a routine for yourself. One begins grocery shopping and trying to make plans with other people that you hardly know. It is overwhelming, but at the same time it’s a sensation of enlightenment. You are a United Nations meeting on an everyday basis. I have already met influential individuals that make me want to be a better person. These interaction have already made me question everything that I stand for and start being more compassionate towards people. I have to reevaluate all my political standing, morals, and emotions.
After the third week the only time my heart rate rises out of anxiety is when I have an exam in class. That reminds me: I have the coolest class in the entire intensive course. During this time I realize that Konstanz treats their international students well. They care, and they try to make your transition easy as possible. This is important especially with German bureaucracy. German Bureaucracy can be a novel on its own: I mean that literally and metaphorically. Week 4 has ended, and all I can say is that now my heart rate speeds up for school, interacting with my new friends, and whenever I have a successful conversation in German. I do believe now that this heart rate is actually excitement than anxiety and as I enter my first free week in October I make plans to go to Oktoberfest in Munich with my new friends. Currently I am on my last week of break before I begin attending normal classes at Konstanz University. Now that I was able to give a brief summary of my first month I do have journal entries that I will type up and let you guys know how I am currently doing and how I was doing in the beginning of September.

Lisa goes to Ireland week 4/5

I’ve struggled with the motivation to sit at my computer and write about the last couple weeks, simply because nothing terribly exciting has happened.

It’s persumed that you’re going to have so many crazy adventures and experiences while you’re abroad and some weeks just aren’t excting-some weeks are normal.

I feel like I’m settled in am finally “home”. I’ve learned how to take the bus on my own, how to use public transportation, where the best places are to get groceries, and most importantly, I’ve found my favorite pubs.

Classes are going well. I find that classes here are significantly easier than back home.  As an education major, the sole purpose for me to come to Ireland was to learn about their academic system and I feel like I’ve acheived that goal. The downside however to classes being so easy, is the lack of motivation I have to actually study.

I guess when I pictured myself studying abroad, I imagined that I’d have tons of friends, crazy stories, adventures, parties etc. I imagined it never being a dull moment and much to my surprise, that’s not the case. I’m an introvert learned extrovert who doesn’t drink. I enjoy my solitute and staying in on the weekends. Lately I’ve been torn between being in Ireland and wanting to go out and experience new things, but also wanting to stay in, in the comfort of my “home” and just relax. I don’t want to look back at my time here and have regrets because I didn’t do anything. I guess this experience just wasn’t how I pictured it.

Homesickness has also taken a bit of a toll on me. There have been so many changes back home and it’s hard not being there. I feel as though my life is changing, yet I’m half way around the world and there’e nothing I can do about it.  Though I’m thankful for this experience and am excited to be here, I’m equally excited to be home.

I wish I had more to report on, but that’s all for now.

Free Museum Sunday!

This week we learned that during the first Sunday of every month most museums have free entry! The downside to this is that the lines to get in are also very long, and it was raining like crazy, but we were determined! During the course of a Sunday I managed to see the David, the Uffizi Gallery, and the Boboli Gardens (all for free!). I must say that while the museums were an incredible experience, the gardens were my favorite. I didn’t realize how much I had started to miss Oregon’s fresh air and greenery! I got some lovely pictures at the gardens and intend to go back soon before it starts getting too cold. I also had a delicious dinner at my Italian family’s house, ate a delicious salad at the school restaurant, and had a weekly “family dinner night” with friends! Overall it was a very well rounded week, though I have so many more museums yet to see! Here are some pictures to sum up the week, I took so many pictures at the museums, so these are only a few from each location!

Ciao for now!



Second week of classes

Definitely not a great blogger!

It is currently the middle of the third week of classes but this blog post will be about the second week.

Finally got my time-table all sorted out and I am taking Linguistics, Philosophy of Religion and French. I think it will be an interesting but challenging term, particularly with linguistics and philosophy. I only have classes two days a week which is definitely different from academic life at WOU but I quite like it, just means you have more time for homework and studying. I also like not starting before 9am :)

As school work hadn’t really started coming yet, I had a good relaxing Thursday. Friday was one of flat mates birthdays and we went to the Westfield shopping centre then out to dinner followed of course by BOP, the event that happens every Friday on campus.

I also started kickboxing which is hard and very strenuous but will be so worth it! :)

More to come very soon as I was late with this post.


Ecuador Update: Week 2

Even though only a week has passed, it feels like at least 3. Every day is so jam-packed that it’s hard to remember everything that has happened. Unfortunately, the reason I finally have the time to blog about my experiences is because at the moment I’m in bed with a stomach bug. It could have been the food, but I’ve had it since Sunday morning.

Thursday we went around La Ronda where I took pictures of the amazing architecture. We toured churches, got food, and went Salsa dancing. Shakira would probably be disappointed in my moves, but we had a lot of fun. There’s something liberating about trying new things in a new country…especially when you know the people here will probably never see you again so it really doesn’t matter if you look stupid :)

laronda2   laronda4


Also, this is not an elephant ear people. This is a giant empanada with cheese on the inside and sugar on the outside. And yes, I had hot chocolate too.


This weekend we traveled north of Quito to Otavalo, Cochasqui, Ibarra, and Cotocachi. (I’m not promising that those are spelled right).

First we stopped in Cochasqui, where we got to chill with some alpaca’s and see pre-incan ruins. We also stood at the highest point in the middle of the world, so you could say we were slightly out of breath.

Our guide spoke only in Spanish (obviously) so I didn’t pick up everything he was saying. But the trip was well worth while and I enjoyed witnessing remnants of a history so long ago.



In Otavalo they have one of largest hand-crafts markets in South America. You can find everything from Alpaca fur scarves, blankets, and sweaters (alpacas are not harmed by the way), to jewelry, baked goods, pottery, instruments, paintings, etc.

It was here that I found out that I have a gift for haggling down prices in Spanish. I think this is due to me not understanding the majority of what they’re telling me, so I feel no pressure or guilt from requesting outrageously low prices. I also know I’ll be here a while, so I don’t feel pressured to buy anything that very moment because I know the opportunity will present itself again, and I have no problem walking away — which REALLY gets them to drop the price. :)


I ended up getting a handmade alpaca blanket for $11, a handmade alpaca sweater for $15, and a hand painted oil painting (just barely able to fit in my suitcase) for $25. I still have my eye on some painted bowls and a small vase that seems to be pretty common, but I’m holding out for a deal.

Otavalo also has an animal trade/market in the mornings, which I was able to go see. It wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, especially considering I JUST gave up vegetarianism (and plan on going back to that after I leave here), but it was a good experience to have.


It was not uncommon to see animals tightly packed in small spaces, often sitting on top of each other. Most people were walking around with bags of live chickens (multiple in just one bag that is tied off without holes). This was somewhat uncomfortable because you could hear them squak and see the bag move. We also saw live pigs dragged by their feet.

I had to remind myself that the factory “farms” in the US are just as bad, if not worse, as far as treatment. And from what I can tell, most of these animals grew up in a healthy/nicer environment then the one they were presently being sold in. I don’t consider this a negative experience, just a learning opportunity. It would be hard to treat an animal as your pet if it was your livelihood or your dinner.

Otavalo and the surrounding areas were a good reminder of the poverty that many people face in this country. It was a bit of a reality check after visiting the beautiful streets of La Ronda with cathedrals filled from head to toe with real gold.

While in Otavalo, we visited a rescued bird sanctuary. There were amazing species to look at, and tons of owls, which I loved. There was also a fantastic view of the mountains that you’re continually surrounded by if you live pretty much anywhere in Ecuador. The tall mountains and beautiful cloud cover are a constant occurrence.


Otavalo, Ecuador


Oh, and as we left there were some random cows in the road.



We also got to hike to a waterfall called the Cascada de Peguche. Here you could see lots of couples showing their affection (PDA is a much more common occurence here. These people just seem to be very passionate in general. I think its kinda cute). You could also crawl through tunnels made in the rocks (terrifying by the way) to little spots behind the waterfall that you wouldn’t be able to walk to.



Cascada de Peguche


A few miles away we got to visit a stone solar calendar and a small market with food and crafts. So here is a picture of me, and not of the calendar or the food or crafts. haha woops.


Yesterday, Monday the 5th, was the first day that we started work. I went to the preschool, Rebecca went to a women’s service clinic, and Lauren went to a dental office. (I’ll be going to the hospitals in 4 weeks)

While I was at the preschool there was some miscommunication with the teacher. As in, as soon as I got there she left me alone with the classroom of kids for the entire time. She didn’t even come back when class was over, and I had to send them off with people that I hope to goodness are their caregivers. Luckily, they had wifi so I could use a translator on my ipod if I needed to say something I was unsure of. The nice thing is, kids speak slower and have pretty simple sentences, so I understood them better than I do adults here. But if there was ever a time when I didn’t understand them, smiling and nodding did the trick. I think for the most part they were just telling me stories about siblings and pets :)

ninos 3(sorry she is upside down, for some reason the pictures of the kiddos wont all turn)






Being on the playground with these kids is terrifying. First, they all wear the same uniform and are the same height and skin tone. And I didn’t know all their names. So trying to keep track of everyone was exhausting. Especially when the playground is 3 levels from the school being built on a hill.


Second, the equipment on this playground I’m sure has long since been banned in the US. Old mary-go-rounds, rusty teeter-totters, wooden structures with nails sticking out. And third, the way they played almost gave me a heart attack. 3 students would lay on the slide while one up climbed over them (stepping on their backs) and another tried to slide down them (running into the one climbing up) and from what I can tell, the goal was to knock the other person OFF THE SLIDE. There’s no photo of this because I was too busy tearing my hair out.

When this kind of play was happening, I would look around to other students and teachers, who didn’t seem at all phased, or were doing the exact same thing. I made the decision to not step in, because I didn’t know if this was just a cultural difference. The US schools do tend to be extra paranoid, so maybe I’ve just been engrained like that. And maybe this kind of play is what creates the type of driving the adults seem to partake in here 😉

In the end, no one got hurt (not even a scratch–maybe we need to relax a little in the US), I shuffled them off to the bus or parents, and went on my way to Spanish class. After talking to my director about the teacher leaving, she called the lady and we got the situation straightened out. Today was MUCH better, but only for the hour that I was there…considering I slightly ruined the fun day by throwing up and having to go home…not sure how she explained that one.

Other things I’ve noticed:

-Money is not nearly as private of a matter here than it is in the US. It seems to be very casual to ask people what they make. I’m constantly asked by teachers or even cab drivers how much I’m paying to learn here. I just try and avoid the questions because I don’t want to put myself in a vulnerable position, seen as a wealthy American girl traveling alone in a foreign country. I’m sure they are just genuinely curious. However, the minimum wage here is like $1.50 an hour so I’m sure anything I told them would sound extravagant.

-Everyone is so relaxed. Like relaxed to the point that it gives me anxiety. Whenever I ask a question people laugh and go “tranquila” which basically means chill out. So I must come across very stressed. Haha but everyone is also very nice, warm, and welcoming. And if they don’t know an answer to your questions, they will try to find another way to help. (When I got sick out of town, the lady who managed the hostal we were staying in brought me a homemade electrolyte drink with lemon and sugar and salt and some other stuff. She even checked in on me. so sweet.

-All the advertisements are of white people. Most with light hair. Which I find to be just SO odd when literally no native here is remotely light skinned. It makes me sad that as humans we’re fixated on unreachable beauty standards. And it makes me even more sad that in a nation that is SO BEAUTIFUL, with gorgeous people, they’re constantly told through media that they need to idealize western culture/people and are pressured to be like them. Even the bathroom passes for the girls and boys in school had blonde-haired, blue-eyed children. I can’t imagine how it feels to be out-casted, even when you’re the majority!

That’s it for awhile, I’m going to try and sleep off this darn stomach bug. Chao from Ecuador!



Dublin, Ireland – Week 1: Why Can’t I Sleep Like a Normal Human?

From my first journal entry in Ireland:

“I could have talked about going to Ireland, dreamed about it, even planned it and backed out. But I didn’t just think about it or talk about it. I’m there (here), right now, and it’s scary and unbelievable and exhilarating and I’m doing it, and that’s the best part.”
My first week in Ireland was filled with tiny inconveniences, minor confusions, physical orientation, physical exhaustion, and luckily, no doubt or regrets about what I’m doing here. Nathaniel and I arrived late Saturday afternoon, September 12 and Sunday was for rehabilitation and relaxation, though we went with our roommate Zach to a shopping centre (of which there are many) to buy a few things like towels, for the apartment. We learned a few things on our short trip. We started to learn how to use the city bus transit with lots of help from the Dublin Bus app and realised just how necessary coin purses may be here since European currency involves a lot of coins. There are 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins, as well as 1 and 2 euro coins. So far, 2, 5, 10 and 20 cents all seem fairly useless, much like our U.S. penny. Malls seem very much the same as in the U.S. and nothing there struck me as overtly unusual or unique.
We did find an American 50’s style diner that we ate at (not very exotic for our first foreign meal I realise). There we heard only American music, and we came to find over the next week that American music is pretty much what you hear no matter where you go, mall, restaurant, pub, taxi, etc. Also, this diner, Eddie Rockets, is also not a single unique restaurant as I first suspected. They are everywhere, I’ve seen probably twenty in Dublin since.
We also got our first lesson in tipping in Ireland, which we hadn’t thought about yet, though I knew tipping practices varied in Europe. We left on our table what we’d consider at home to be a reasonable tip, but were surprised when the staff seemed so shocked by it and wondered whether we meant to leave so much money behind. We later looked up tip etiquette in Ireland online to see what was said about restaurant and taxi tipping. Neither is common, but rounding up taxi fare a euro or two will not usually be met with any argument.
Tipping instigated my first real cultural reflection about the U.S. and how it’s sad and strange that we have so many jobs where people rely on tips because their pay is not sufficient for their work. It’s just one of the many factors that result from “poverty-wages” in the U.S.
On Monday we toured Dublin with our program coordinator, John, and the other ten or so people studying at DCU from the U.S. through CIS abroad. He pointed out many of the good areas for shopping and dining, which bus stops we’ll use often, which areas are “sketchy” or “dodgy” at night and where we should “taxi in, taxi out,” (of which there are many, being a large city), and of course, all the neat places we should check out, the more touristy sites. This included The Guinness Storehouse (which we already, or rather Nathaniel already planned for us to visit), Trinity college, St. Stephens Green, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and more.
After our tour, which got me excited for exploring the city, we had our introduction at Dublin City University. Throughout the week they held some events to, much like New Student Week at WOU, get us acquainted with the campus, each other, and student life at DCU. Orientation was not rigorous and I didn’t end up meeting anyone new during the week, but I did start to get used to the campus, which is small and even more condensed than Westerns, but very modern, and it is only a five minute walk from our apartments, very handy.
During the week Nathaniel and I explored a bit, found some shopping centres, went to our first pub The Back Page and had our first pints of Guinness, watched The Visit at a movie theater close by, saw our first play “Vernon God Little” at the Mill theatre–the Irish/Texan accents were quite amusing– toured the Guinness storehouse and had our pints in the Gravity bar overlooking Dublin and it was beautiful.
Unfortunately, we didn’t do or see as much as we might have liked that first week, partly because we slept for most of it. It was difficult to get our bodies used to the time difference and caught up on the sleep we’d lost. Every day we’d plan to get up by a decent hour, maybe by 8 or 9am, but found it almost physically impossible to wake up earlier than 11. This is an aspect of traveling I’d considered before, but one that I never thought could be such a interference. Besides that, our power went off every night in our apartment which meant important navigational devices would not get charged and we’d have no hot water for showers, I waited to do laundry and then the laundry room was out of commission for the better part of a week, and then we learned that buses don’t always come when they are supposed to. Luckily those were the biggest issues we faced here, but at the same time we were dealing with some difficult news from home we got the day after we arrived, which I won’t discuss, but definitely made the start of our adventure more psychologically challenging.
Some things I learned from this first week were: making friends will be difficult and I’ll have to learn how to put myself out there more, I have to use the crosswalk signals because I don’t trust myself to look in the right direction for cars when crossing, there is no root beer in this country so I’ll have to do without for three months, Dublin is a city I think I could really like, despite not really liking cities ever, and classes and schoolwork are going to be hard to do because I only want to explore.
Ireland is new and different, but I’m fairly comfortable already and I’m so excited for my time here.


Streets of Dublin


The Spire on O’Connell street


First pint at The Back Page


The set of “Vernon God Little” at the Mill theatre


On DCU campus


At the Guinness storehouse, Nathaniel’s favorite place


In the Gravity bar overlooking Dublin from the Guinness storehouse



Week 3 London 2k15


I learned the origin of that term this past week. It is quite interesting- you should look it up!

Anyway, this weekend was really incredible. Yesterday we went to Bath and Stonehenge as a part of the social programme. Both places were AMAZING. I highly recommend Stonehenge if you ever come to the United Kingdom. It is so simply and yet so incredibly beautiful. Bath was very interesting as well, but in a different way. There is a place at Bath where you can drink the water- it is supposed to have magical properties. Personally, I thought it tasted awful, but that may also be due to the fact that it was hot.

One interesting thing I saw in Bath that I have not seen elsewhere is that most of the street performers were teenagers and children. There was one boy who looked about 12 years old who was doing tricks with his soccer ball. It made me wonder if the parents knew their kids were out doing this or if it was something they did on their own just to have some extra money. I was amazed at how much he had earned after just a few minutes. Emma (the social programme leader) said that usually the performers are closer to our age and that the performance often has to do with music. So I guess this boy and Bath was a rarity, but I still found it really cool.

It also shows how safe places are over here. There have only been a few times late at night, walking home alone, that I have even been remotely worried about safety. From what I have been told, most people around here feel the same way. Although there are obviously certain places which are best to avoid at night, crime is fairly low here. Which is even more surprising because I very rarely ever see cops driving or walking around.

I learn and experience something new every day and it is so exciting (well except today- it is 4pm and I am still in my pajamas).


P.S. I am still having a pretty hard time making friends. If anyone could give me some suggestions as to what they did that helped them, that would be greatly appreciated.



Drinking the “bath” water!


Week 2 London 2k15

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all having a wonderful time in your respective countries. This week has been tough for me. Things have calmed down and the homesickness has hit. It is not so much that I miss Monmouth itself, but I really miss the people. I have made friends here, but it is just so different because they know you are leaving. Another thing that makes it difficult is that everyone’s schedules are radically different. I only have class twice a week which means I have quite a bit of free time on my hands. I am a total extrovert who loves to have people around me so it is hard for me to sit in my room alone most days. My flat-mates are not very interested in hanging out with me.

I finally stepped out of my comfort zone this week and went to explore the city by myself. It was surprisingly nice, despite being alone. I went to Tate Modern and Tate Britain which are two (FREE) museums here in London. They were absolutely stunning. The only time I really wished I had another human to interact with was on the walk between the two museums. When I was looking at the artwork though I was totally immersed in my own world and did not need someone there. I plan to do this more often, rather than staying in my room, as I think it was actually quite good for me to be alone and be ok with it.

The classes here are really different from at home. You only have lecture once a week per class and it usually lasts about two hours. One of my modules (classes) has one lecturer for the first have and then another for the second. Neither of which are actually the person who runs the class. I still haven’t figured out why this is so I will come back to it when I have an answer. So then on top of lecture you have these things called tutorials which honestly I do not understand one bit. During the one I went to this week the man spent the entire hour talking at us about plagiarism. As a third year college student, it was quite hard to sit through. Overall, the classes are MUCH more independent than at home.

As I already said, you only get one two-hour lecture once a week. The rest of the week you are expected to complete readings and sort of “teach” yourself. The entire grade for the course is based on two essays and a final exam (different for me because I am only here for a term). I don’t know about you, but that would seriously stress me out. Especially since on the second day here they tell you that a 70% is probably the best mark you will ever receive. Obviously the students from here are used to the way it works and do not know any different, but it is definitely hard to go from one uni to a completely different one. Oh and did I mention my classes have 300+ students in them. If you already didn’t believe me when I said it was much different from WOU.

Another interesting thing about being a study abroad student- everyone here considers you a first year regardless of what you are back home. Sometimes it can be useful because people are much more understanding when you have silly questions. Other times though it can be frustrating because no one believes that you know what you are doing even though you have been at university for 1-3 years already. It feels like you have to start all over and completely reestablish yourself.

I apologize for my post being so much about academics, but it has been really difficult for me to adjust. I love school at home, but I am not so sure if I like it here yet. I guess we will have to see. I have only had each of my classes twice, so there is time for improvement. I promise to write a more exciting post next time!

Until then, cheers.



Tate Modern


Tate Britain


One month in Florence

I have officially spent a month in Florence and have about two and a half months left to go! Though I am still getting over a cold I caught two weeks ago, I am still enjoying myself. The highlight of this past weekend was being able to spend a day in Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest. I have always enjoyed the county fairs back home, so experiencing this was similar to a very, very large fair with tons of people. There were rides and more food stands than I could count! It did get cold, but it was a great opportunity to attend an iconic event and explore Munich a little bit. I also got to go on a ferris wheel for the first time, it is pretty neat that it was in Germany. I also joined something at my school called Italian family club, and was matched with a family! It is a really neat way to spend time with locals in Florence and learn more about the culture firsthand. I have already had dinner with them and plan to spend more time with them throughout the term! I am hoping this will also be a good opportunity to practice my Italian language skills. Hopefully I will have more to say about this next week as well. It is hard to believe that I first arrived here a month ago. While it feels like I have been here forever, somehow it also feels like I just got here. I have experienced so much and yet have so much more exploring left to do!

Ciao for now!