Pre trip.. Pre flight.. Anxiety!

Less than three days until I am in China, well at least I hope I am counting right. Anyways.. I am so very excited! I cannot wait to arrive and be swamped by the new culture. I am definitely apprehensive about the warm weather and humidity, I’m more a cold person. I have heard so many stereotypes..
Like the smog will be choking you and
the traffic will last all day. Most of the time I hear you drive forever to get nowhere.
I think I will be fine though, because of how awesome my TCM class will be. I think I will have a ton of fun because I am going into this so excited. I plan to wake up every day and look at all the great things I will be experiencing. No negative thoughts whatsoever. Well, at least I can hope, right?
Anyway.. Until I’m in China,

In Galway, But Didn’t Find Any Galway Girls

For the past four days, I have spent my time in Galway, which is on the other side of Ireland! The bus ride  was quite the experience. We stayed in Corrib Village, which were student accommodations. In other words, it was a bit spartan. Nevertheless, I was in Galway! For my Literature group, we went to Clonalis House & Estate, which belong to the O’Conor family, who were descended from the High Kings of Ireland. This house tour was a bit shorter than others, as the family still lived in the house. Nevertheless, it was interesting to explore a house of wealth. It also reminds me of how I probably will never reach that level of wealth. The estate itself was beautiful, and I would’ve loved to explore it even more. However, it was raining and I really didn’t have proper shoes for that.


The next day, we went to the Aran Islands, specifically Inis Mor. The ferry ride over was a nightmare! The seas were choppy, so the boat kept going up and down. It also rocked back and forth. The sad thing is that this lasted for 45 minutes. When we finally got off, it was almost like we were in a different world. Inis Mor only has around 800 people, so it was sparsely populated. Also, a good portion of the population fluently spoke Gaelic, so there were quite a few things that were in Gaelic. We climbed to Dun Aonghusa, an ancient fort above the village. The wind was so strong up there that I thought I was going to fall off! I checked out a few shops and then we had to endure another ferry ride back. Thankfully, this one was a lot calmer. Afterwards, we got food and called it a day.IMG_8709IMG_8726IMG_8727

Our only main trip for the next day was visiting Coole Park, which was gorgeous. It belonged to Lady Gregory, who helped established Irish theatre. Because of her, the Abbey Theatre exists. She also helped finance W.B. Yates, showing just how important she was. One interesting sight in the park was a signature tree where she had her famous guests carve their names into the bark. Of course, I should’ve done that knowing just how important I am (this is all in humor), but there was a guard around the tree. Another beautiful sight was seeing a river that goes underground. The grass so green and the location was so serene. I would love to have stayed here for a few hours.IMG_8747 IMG_8756 IMG_8760

On the last day in Galway, it was a free day. Some people were going to go horseback riding, but I decided to stay behind and do some shopping. I bought an Irish flute, which i am very excited about. I can’t wait to play it and annoy those around me with it. I also bought a few more souvenirs for friends. For lunch, we went to a pub where they were showing a game of Gaelic football. Honestly, it was way more exciting than American football and probably makes more sense. Overall, I enjoyed my time in Galway and I would definitely come back. When we headed out, we stopped at Strokestown Park. It was very similar to other big houses, so I don’t have much to say. I am currently in Dublin, and I will fly home on Wednesday. Wish me luck!


London: Week One

20150716_101905 Archery at Warwick

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Pictures, from left to right:(1) Oxford, Christ’s Church College (2) Archery at Warwick Castle (3) The famed red telephone booths (4) Stonehenge (5) Warwick Castle


Week one of my adventures came to a close yesterday. I say one one week, but it feels as though I have done more in this one week than I have in my lifetime! I have been all over London, and even ventured beyond it. Outside of London, I have visited: Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford, Salisbury and Stonehenge. I have also traveled to various sites in London, using the underground rail system. I even went on a London Plague Tour! (Check it out)

Before I came to London, I was not expecting that much would be very different, other than the accent and people driving on the opposite side of the road. However, much more has surprised me; I am definitely in a foreign country. One of the first differences that I noticed is that everyone here dresses very nicely. The men wear suits and women wear slacks, skirts or dresses. It is not common to see people dressed in jeans and t-shirts; even some of the grocery store employees wear suits. I really like this professional attitude, however it makes me feel kind of out of place with my jeans and backpack. I wish that I would have packed some more nice clothes.

Another difference that I have noticed is the portion sizes and the expiration dates on the food here. In the United Kingdom, a lot of the chemicals that we use in our food in America are banned. This means that the food here is smaller and expires quicker, and tastes 10 times better! The portions are also the perfect size for one person; I can shop for food without worrying that everything will go bad before I get to eat it. This, along with the fact that people walk everywhere, means that people here are a lot more fit: I have already lost weight in my first week here!

Another cultural difference is that to-go boxes are not really used here; occasionally a restaurant will have a sign saying that they have “take-away”, but most often, it isn’t an option (unless you wrap things up and stuff them in your backpack). And when you go to a restaurant, you order at the counter, not from the table. As with “take-away,” there are many different words used here for everyday things. “Toilets” or “Loo” is used in place of restroom, “rubbish” for garbage, “footpath” for sidewalk, “tube” for the underground trains, and “lift” for elevator are a few of the differences that I have noticed. It also not at all uncommon to hear different languages while you are walking down the street. It is great fun to listen for new words and different languages.

When thinking about language, I feel very self-conscious about my accent. In comparison to the accent here, it sounds like Americans are mumbling all the time. We don’t enunciate in the same way that they do, and this is apparent when service personnel have to keep asking you what you are saying. This has caused me to think more about how clear I am when I am speaking; I think this will serve me well, even back in the states.

I am having such a wonderful time here. Although I have not been getting enough sleep, in order to get all of my homework done, this is better than I ever could have imagined it to be. I love it here so much that I think I might come back for my graduate degree. Until then, I am going to enjoy my time while it lasts.


-Jo Braasch

London- week 1 Jenny Hibbard

I just finished my first week in London and I can’t believe how much I have already see and done. I have now seen a real castle. This week one of our filed trips was to Warwick Castle. It is build on the sight of the original castle, though it is much more modern and well built. Inside the castle is a display of life in the castle through the ages. You get to see suit of armor and other weapons as well as pianos and decorative chandlers. You can also visit the dungeon and climb on of the towers to get a birds eye view of the castle and its grounds.


Rapid Passing and New Encounters!

With another week gone by, I feel myself getting more comfortable with life here in Mexico. Of course now, right before my very eyes, I only have two weeks left. Even still, I have had plenty of chances to see a few new things and try some new things out.

One of the first things that caught my attention (for me anyway, since this is the first time I have actually put this service to use in a while), was the cab system here in Mexico. I never took a taxi before, not even in the United States. It was a good experience to see how the atmosphere would feel like. It was kind of small (especially for me), but it was managable. It also gave me an oppotunity to see how busy the streets usually are. i believed I may have mentioned it already, but streets in Mexico are usually pretty busy, at least those in the city. I could see myself making the relation to a more busy city area like Portland or Salem. The atmosphere is not too different, but things tend to be more close together, rather than more spacious. It made me wonder how tricky the parking must be. The less spacious feel is also reflected in the driving. Everyone seems so close together, I frequently worry a collision will occur, but many of the people here know how drive quite well in these situations. It also makes me think about the history of the designs and what their purpose was for making the stores and houses the way they are. Plus, there is also the question of the requirements for driving and how much more demanding they must be compared to the U.S. The taxi experience also leads to the my experience in a busy mall-like complex in Mexico.

A friend and I went to this mall in Mexico, and I was taken aback by its own similarities, as well as differences to the malls we have here. It was interesting that we discovered a fairly large parking lot area down in the bottom, it looked a lot like the ones that I usually see at the airport and other large complexes with lots of people either visiting or working. Upon actually visiting the inside, the appearance was uncanny. Plenty of food courts, game/book stores, and even a cinema too. We went to the cinema to watch the movie “Minions” and it was my first experience watching a feature length film in a theater in a different country. Since the movie was from America, I was kind of expecting the movie to be in English with subtitles in Spanish (I believe some movies released in other countries are like that), but the movie actually was dubbed in Spanish, which I think was better for the experience in the long run. The theater and the counter were organized in a similar way, though I think we were placed in specific before actually entering, however where we sat was still our choice,  I think this helps to control the sittings in the movie theater, and I think it is great for people to see if there are any good seats available, if not, then I am sure people would just choose not to go in the first place.  The rest of the places had some good food, though I d would not quite say it fit the typical Mexican style, it seemed a little more American. Though perhaps malls are usually good at attracting the tourists. Thankfully going back home was not too bad, in fact the taxi driver usually charge fifty pesos, which is roughly the equivalent to a little over three dollars.

Speaking of home, we actually had a visitor from the Peace corps visit our place and he was apparently living in the same place I was living in the past. His experience in Spanish was impressive; I could almost mistake him for a native speaker, even though he is an American. He studied abroad himself in Spain for five months and has been living in Mexico for two years. It really makes me think about the difference in experience between me and him. I have been exposed to Spanish practically my whole life, but John, the young man from the Peace corps has this natural flow to him that helps to really blend in. I was honestly a bit jealous. However, he has been using his Spanish for years, I am only here for five weeks, and I will keep practicing myself. If there is anything I have discovered, it would be that I need to continue practicing, because as a soon-to-be Spanish teacher, I need to be better. Maybe I will follow John’s lead and live abroad somewhere for a few years to improve my own language. Only the future knows for sure.



Week 1 Zamora

The first week in Spain was not as stressful as I thought it would be. I have a great host family, who make me feel comfortable and I already feel like I am one of the family members. During the first week I found out that I have to walk 45 minutes just to get to class. The first day was horrible! I am use to running at least two to three times a week and now I am using all the walking I have to do here as my exercise. Besides the lots of walking, the heat is crazy. It feels like the sun is just shining all its heat right on you. When people walk here you can see them all just wanting to walk in the sombra (shade). The language barrier is still there. I try to communicate as best I can and most everyone understands what I am still learning and are very patient. I feel like I am a 2 year old trying to speak! The food here is very different then back home and compared to the Mexican food that my family makes. I was having trouble getting used to the food. I was not eating to much. At the time I was hoping that it would change and get better.

We had our first excursion to Braganza, Portugal. It was a very beautiful town with a lot of great history. We saw a old castle, churches, went to a museum about masks used during festivals, and drank wine with locals! That was my favorite part. People seem to like people from America and want to know more about you and where you come from.

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I also got to see bull fighting, which I will never do again. I went to see it just for the experience. It was very sad to know and then see that the bulls are killed at the end. I could not handle it that I had to leave half way though it. I will admit thatI cried like a baby when I saw the finally blow to the bull that killed it. It is so sad to see a animal die in that way and then with the crowd cheering just made it worse. I believe in keeping traditions, but I will never be apart of this one.

I was missing my family and friends a lot. It did not seem like I was in Spain. I wanted the program to go by faster. I am enjoying my time and keeping myself busy.

(A few weeks late for this post)

Week 1 Excursions

Today we visited King’s Cross and St. Pancras train stations. Both of these stations are important buildings historically in London. However, I found them particularly interesting places because of their connections to the Harry Potter film series. The book tells us that Hogwarts students travel from London via the Hogwarts Express leaving King’s Cross station. However, we learned today that the movies actually depict St. Pancras as King’s Cross – probably for style and the rich history behind its construction.


Clock tower – St. Pancras Station                     King’s Cross Station


Oxford is a town  that is home to one of the oldest working universities in Europe; it is made up of 38 individual colleges. Some of the most famous artists, writers, scientists, and other scholars were patrons of the school (including writers like C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien). It was really amazing to see the location up close and personal, and to imagine how it served as inspiration to these brilliant minds.


Christ Church College – Oxford University

First Week in London!

Life across the pond has been an adventure in the least! One of the most exciting of adventures was our class trip to Warwick Castle.

The Castle of Warwick showed the continuous nature of evolution in the realm of castle living, and lifestyle. It had the ability to capture an array of various time periods, from the Medieval Ages to the 18th century. The castle housed multiple areas of what would have been common rooms, equipment, clothing, and furniture of the Medieval Ages. For example you are able to see the stables with the horse adorned in armor for battle. Additionally you are able to see that fireplaces and the use of candles are about to give light to clothing makers, and other people of the house. You are also able to see buckets for washing clothes.

Further into the house you see an upgraded version of the household containing portraits, armor, weapons, glass cups and sliver utensils. Still at this point you are able to see candles on tables, walls, and chandlers as a means for light. The walls are adorn with silk tapestry, and the ceilings are decorated in fine carvings. At this point the portraits have frames of gold that are artfully done, as well as grand fireplaces. In this version as well you can see the craftsmanship in the wooden walls, and pillars. Tubs were used within the rooms, as servants stood to pour water in them for the masters of the house.

Following along to the opposite end of the house brings you to more modern lights with the use of lamps. With this also brought the evolution of musical devices as a piano was placed in the home as well. Other rooms included a variety of books, and different cakes among groups of people enjoying a hand of cards. The bathrooms were in separate rooms and included a tub that could produce water on its own. The hall ways were decorated with smaller film created photo’s in black and white, with inclusion of war medals and other such important objects. The walls were of solid paper, thin with a printed view of floral.

P.S: I learned that the streets of London are named purposefully from the originally city gates. Some names even originated from times of the black plague.

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Week 2 in Spain

I never want to leave!!!!

This second week here in Barcelona has been just as incredible and exciting as the first, and I am finally getting the hang of things! Throughout the week I did a lot more sight seeing, going to famous Gaudi buildings, old bull fighting rings, gorgeous parks, etc. I love how simple the metro system is, and also how extensive. It can get you within blocks of so many places and the trains run every 5 or so minutes, so the wait is minimal.

I am becoming much more aware of the political dilemma here, in regards to the split between Catalonia and the rest of spain. This became more apparent after discussing the issue with my class. The demand for a separate democratic country is rising with intensity, and the evidence is everywhere. The spanish flag, which as we know, yields red and yellow stripes. But the catalonia flag is flown just as much (if not more) from office buildings and private terraces. In fact, as you walk by the official buildings controlled by the government and local mayor, you can see these flags flown just beside them, as if to make quite a bold and powerful statement seeing as if the flag is not officially recognized











. It contains the red and yellow stripes, but it also has a blue triangle-like section with a single white star in the middle (of which the significance I am unaware).

What I have come to love the most about this country is its welcoming vibes. I have now been to 3 different cities, Barcelona, Valencia, and just recently Sitges. Though they each differ quite dramatically, they are all so comfortable and accessible. I am not used to city life at all, and the dense population is much different than what I am used to.  But nevertheless I am continuously stunned at how quickly I fall in love with each new street or town square I come across. This is truly a beautiful place <3

On our day trip to Sitges, the program took us on an awesome Cava tour (which is basically spanish champagne), where we had an extensive tour of where, how, and when the make it, the history behind  it, and the specific taste it has. It was so delicious I ended up buying 2 bottles afterwards, and now have no idea how to get it home!!! Afterwards we went to the beach (which was much cleaner than Barcelona) and had a nice lunch and enjoyed the sun. It was a much needed break from the busy city.

Another thing I am super grateful for is the friends that I have gained in such a short amount of time. The two Aussies that I live with tend to stick to themselves, but my other roommate Amelia (from Seattle!) and I get along great. I can definitely see us continuing our friendship once back in the states. I have also grown fond of another west coastie named Bri who happens to be from Vancouver, which is only about a 2 hour drive from my hometown. She is always down to have fun and let loose! We also hang out with Rachelle, who’s from Ohio. She backpacked through Europe before arriving in spain, and plans to do more after the program is over! She is already planning on a road trip to the west coast to visit us next summer, and I really hope she follows through!

I still can’t comprehend that I am at the halfway mark, of my stay, but I am not letting myself get disappointed yet. This has been one of the best decisions of my life.

returning home.

Returning home was such a relief.  When I first showed up in Italy everything just felt very chaotic and rushed,  traffic was crazy, people trying to sell stuff.  Compared to America it was just walk right to my car without bumping into people, driving was normal again. It was nice.

The airports in America I feel are way more nice and helpful. I had a problem when returning and they helped solve the problem right away.  Compared to Italy I had a hard time with some workers they were really rude  just because I didn’t speak Italian,  then I had two Italian boys try the same request for me and they helped them no problem (it was not a language barrier thing.)

I was super tired when I got to Italy I fell asleep and slept in the next day for like 13 hours.  When I got back to America I was surprisingly not as tired as I thought I would be, I tried to stay up for 24 hours so when I went to sleep here I could get back on a normal sleep schedule.   That really helped with the jet lag.