London Week 4

There seem to be a lot of similarities between British culture and American culture in the city. The way people dress, their interests in music, and other aspects of daily culture are much like those I see in people back home. It is interesting to see that there are so many similarities between people’s behaviors and interests here; before visiting a foreign country, I had overestimated the differences in culture and entertainment. That’s not to say the British exercise there interests in the exact same way that we do, but there are definitely recognizable patterns that show up in both places. For example, pop music that I have heard while at shopping is very similar to pop music back home, and sometimes the same artists we listen to in the states appear to be just as popular here, if not more so.
Something I have noticed about family dynamics here is that there don’t seem to be a lot of fathers out with their kids. I have definitely noticed more mothers out and about than fathers. I wonder if this is because a lot of households assume the more “traditional” working-father, stay-at-home mother dynamic. Perhaps I just haven’t been observant. However, it does seem that the majority of the fathers that I have seen out with their families seem to be of the younger generation, or older and more established in life. Something else I made a note of is that mothers and daughters can often be seen out in pairs. They also frequently hold hands as they walk – even the older daughters do not seem ashamed to be seen out with their mothers, and you can tell they respect and care for them deeply. This is an interesting contrast to a lot of girls in the U.S. It seems that many youths today are embarrassed to be with their mothers in this manner, and try to avoid people perceiving them as friends with their moms.I was happy to see these types of connections on display amidst such a bustling culture. This illustrates one major cultural theme I have noticed here: People still make it a point to make sure they maintain and nurture their family and social connections in a variety of ways despite their hectic and fast-paced lifestyles. I admire their commitment to nurturing their relationships, and their ability to relax and have fun without being overly obnoxious.

London- where has the time gone?

As I look back over the last three and a half weeks, I can’t believe all the thing i have done and how much I am not going to get to do on this trip. I have made some amazing new friends and i have gotten to know my old friends so much better. Here is one of my adventures with some of my new friends.

My friends from WOU and I took a weekend trip to Edinburgh during our visit. They wanted to climb up a hill, but, as I was having ankle issues and decided that the climb would not be the best idea. I chose to go wander around Edinburgh and as it started to rain I ducked into the National Museum of Scotland. What I found was amazing. It was the first time I really wished my kids were with me. They would have loved the museum as much as I did. The animals are the most awe inspiring thing I have seen since I got here. They were so huge and life like. One of my sons is in love with ocean animals and I could just hear him telling me all the facts about the giant squid that was hanging from the ceiling. Or telling me all the different kinds of sharks and whales there where in the rooms. There was a room with giant rocks of all different shapes and sizes. I could picture all my kids climbing in the giant geode and wanting to get their pictures taken. But as much as I enjoyed and was amazed by the animals and rocks my favorite part of the trip was the elevator ride I took. I ran into some of the other girls in my study abroad program in the museum and after chatting for a few minutes we decided we wanted to go see the roof  terrace before the museum closed. So we hoped into the very full elevator. There were 9 floors ranging from -1 all the way up to 7. We got on at the ground floor and we ended up stopping on every floor all the way up and each time we stopped the whole group would groan and make some kind of comment. We were all laughing and groaning about the stops by the time we got to the top. As the doors opened on the seventh floor we were told that the roof terrace was closed and we would all have to go back down. We didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. We all cheered when we got back down to the ground floor.

This experience is one that I will never forget and those girls are ones that I will keep in contact with for many years to come.

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Home Sweet Home!

After being away from the U.S for five weeks, I was wondering how it would feel like to approach my country of birth again. Arriving in the airport in Houston, TX was already an eye opener with regards to how busy things get in the airport. Everyone always seemed liked they were in a rush (though that is not a good example of U.S behavior that surprised me; Airports are usually very busy). I think what really took me aback was that I was back in a country where my native language was being spoken. I frequently had to rely on my Spanish in Mexico, so this new transition feels weird, but somewhat reassuring. I can understands conversations now like they were second nature, not like something I need to constantly keep my brain turned on for. It also felt good to be back at Portland and later in Hood River because I know the places and felt more comfortable in getting food more readily and just to take in the familiar sights as well. The idea of drinking water from the tap was a nice change of pace as well, in addition to not having to worry about sharing food with a large family, there always seems like there is more to go around now.

I can see the potential risk to being back here and having Spanish be not quite needed to the extent as it was in Mexico. However, I do live in a household where I can speak Spanish and many people from the neighborhood speak the language too, so I do not think I am too much in a risk. I am a little worried I will get too lax and end up forgetting to study. All my entertainment is here and I have my truck here so I can go anywhere and have a fun time. I reckon everyone usually has that problem when they are on vacation and at home.

The differences in the resources between the two countries were very different, but I think I have come to appreciate what both countries have to offer, especially my own country after being back for a few days now. If I had more funds, I would love to return to Mexico again, possibly see some new places. Until then, I will enjoy my time here with family and friends. After all, I could not imagine a life without them.

 

London: Week 3

Hi everyone!

Not to sound just like everyone else from the Harry Potter class, but the highlight of week 3 had to have been the Warner Brother’s Harry Potter Studio Tour. I have been a fan of the series since I was little and the tour was one of the coolest things I have experienced in a very long time. It was enlightening (and super entertaining) to go behind the scenes and see just how much effort was put into each and every entity of the films – from costume design, to special effects, and even just in the early development stages; there is so how in depth each aspect of filmmaking really is. I definitely have a new appreciation for everyone who is involved in anyway with production and films in general. Plus, who wouldn’t love an excuse to buy knee-high Hufflepuff socks?

Alexis

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Third Week in London!

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In the above image you can see the buildings in which were used as offices in the Ministry of Magic. This particular setting helped me see the amount of extremely fine detail that was put into the making of the films from its adaption of the novels. It went beyond the idea of basic material, and really outlined a 3D model of the imaginations that Rowling was trying to portray in her novels. I was awed mostly by this building because of the grandness it held in terms of size and color. When watching the films I had the impression that the buildings were merely green screen and they did an extremely good job molding it into reality. Obviously upon entering the Harry Potter tour you find that it was a real-life construction that took hours to make and was specially crafted as an effect for the film. Along with this idea that it allowed for furthering imaginations it showed a side to the organization of film making that truly stated the aim of the production. The director and following helpers were trying to create a real tangible world for the Harry Potter series and succeeded immensely.

PS The Harry Potter Tour was amazing!

Fueling My Inner Nerd, and Feeling a Bit Homesick

Dumbledore's GargoyleWeasley's Wizard WheezesPolice Horse- HampsteadGeorge Eliot's Grave- Highgate  Eagle and Child Pub- Group

 

I apologize for the sideways images; I could not get them to rotate this time around. From top to bottom: (1) Standing next to the entrance to Dumbledore’s Office! (2) Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes (3) A Police Horse: Hampstead (4) George Eliot’s Tombstone: Highgate Cemetery (5) Most of the Myth, Legend and Horror Class in the Eagle and Child Pub (where the Oxford Inklings would gather!)


 

As my adventure in London continues, I grow more thankful for this opportunity every day. This week has especially catered to my literature side, and my nerdy side! I have been to Coleridge’s home, the Keats House, Highgate Cemetery (resting place of such big names as George Eliot and Karl Marx), back to Oxford (and still have not seen all that it has to offer!), the Harry Potter Studio Tour, and the Sherlock Holmes Museum.

I could spend all day talking about the Harry Potter Studio Tour, so let me just say that it was better than I ever could have hoped for. I learned so much about the filming process; it really changed my perspective on the adaptation of books to film. It takes a lot more work than we think. For example, the Inferi, who only appear in the background of the films, took almost one year to create and use! On the other hand, I had an underwhelming experience at the Sherlock Holmes museum. For what there was to offer, the 15 pound price was quite high.

Although I had a ton of fun nerding out this week, the visit that really hit me was Highgate cemetery. Most of the gravestones are quite large, and the whole area is surrounded by trees and ivy, and small gravel paths break off of the large main path for access to the many graves. To be quite honest, as weird as it may seem, it was quite beautiful. Families really took the time to immortalize their loved ones with the elaborate gravestones, and this made the area seem to be more of a celebration of life than a dreary graveyard.  I am not used to such grandeur in a cemetery. In my family’s resting place, back in Oregon, there are no large protruding gravestones; they are all flat tombstones at the heads of the graves, and it is just a grass field with a few trees. As the plots in this cemetery are all taken, I think I’ll look for a more wild final resting place for myself (in the very distant future). It is so strange that traveling to the UK has given me a whole different perspective on death! Who would have thought?

Although I am having a fantastic experience, I am also growing a little more homesick every day. This did not hit me until this weekend, but it is really taking hold (probably because I am exhausted!) There is something about the little things that make me miss my life in Oregon. One such little thing is the friendliness that is so prevalent in our small university town. I have found myself to be a little less caring about smiling at everyone that I see, and saying excuse me for the hundredth time; this makes me kind of sad, as I pride myself on being friendly to others. I am also pining for fresh air, my own bed, and I am missing my roommate (sorry if I am embarrassing you Shannon ;).

But I only have one week left over here in the UK, so I am going to make the most of it! See you soon Oregon!

Pre-Departure: Abby Goes to Peru!

Hi everyone!

It’s time! Here marks the beginning of my study abroad trip to Peru! I can’t believe it! I am sitting in the Dallas Fort Worth International airport right now awaiting my international flight to Lima and it still doesn’t seem real. As I told my grandma last night, I don’t think it will hit me until I get there.

I’m not entirely sure what to expect. Granted, I have researched for hours in preparation. But no amount of research is comparable to experiencing something in real life. I think that my host culture will be surprising. Peruvian culture is much different than American culture, so there will be a lot of adjusting to do. I am expecting culture shock and I have brought information about what to do when that sets in. I think that once I get past it, I will more easily dive in and try my best to live like a local.

 

I am both very excited and very nervous to spend four and a half months abroad. I have been planning this trip for months and months (six maybe?) and now it’s real life. Wow. I’m excited to learn the language, material from my classes, street smarts, how to live in a big city and how to do so independently, but I am most excited to learn about myself. For all of you who love psychology, you could say I’m still in Erik Erikson’s “identity vs. confusion” stage, which essentially means that I am still trying to answer the question, “who am I?” Hopefully this trip will continue to point me in the right direction. I am also looking forward to seeing many parts of the country and tasting all of their yummy cuisine.

As for the nerves, I’m past airport security, so those have definitely decreased. One of the things I have learned so far on this trip is that airport security makes me feel a little anxious. I also got a crash course on the best way to board an airplane, how to not hit people with my bags, and I learned that backing up to an open overhead bin once yours is full is next to impossible. As for the nerves pertaining to being in a new country, I have a lot of them. The first is homesickness. I’ve never been away from my family for more than five weeks, so four and a half months will be a challenge. I grew up in the country and have been on public transit less than five times in my life, so I am nervous about getting around a city as huge as Lima, which is home to about nine million people. Not being fluent in Spanish is another concern, as I have only taken through the 100-level sequence at WOU. However, I seem to acquire it naturally and retain it fairly well, so I’ve got that on my side. The last big thing that I am nervous about is breaking out of my bubble. I have a bit of anxiety when it comes to social situations, so this is hopefully going to be a time of growth for me. I have been mentally preparing for months to go completely alone to a country where I know nobody and only know a fraction of the language, so hopefully my personal pep-talks will get through to my stubborn self and I will make friends, talk to people often, learn lots of social skills (and Spanish), and it will all be fabulous.

I think that despite all of my worries, I will find that I am well prepared. I have done countless hours of research and have had plenty of time to prepare. I was raised to be smart, cautious, and independent. I am a natural problem solver and have learned how to be very resourceful. I have my faith, which helps me to be positive and see the bright side of all situations. I have God by my side every step of the way to guide and protect me. I am grateful for all of these things and because of them I am prepared.

Finally, I am so thankful to everyone who has helped make this trip possible: WOU staff, CISabroad staff, my CISabroad advisor Brian, who has put up with my multitude of questions, my family, and so many others who have been my emotional support, listened to me talk on and on about my trip, and given me advice and warm wishes. I am so blessed to have each and every one of you in my life.

Until next time,

Abby

 

Here are some photos to represent what I am expecting:

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Intro: Abby Goes to Peru!

Here's a a sideways photo of my face!

Here’s a a sideways photo of my face!

Hello all!

My name is Abby and I will be spending fall semester in Lima, Peru. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to study abroad in Australia. I had dreams of seeing the Great Barrier Reef, seeing koalas and kangaroos, spending time on the beach, and swimming and scuba diving in the ocean. While I still wish to do these things some day, my more immediate plans changed when I transferred to WOU this past school year. I switched majors from pre-dental to education in the process of transferring, and somewhere along the way I rekindled my love for the Spanish language and decided to also pursue a Spanish Bilingual endorsement. I have always heard that immersion is the best way to learn a language, so I started looking at programs in countries whose main language is Spanish. I knew I wanted to travel for a full semester, so that narrowed my choices a little bit. I then started looking into the courses offered at the universities so that I could stay on track to graduate, and the best option for me turned out to be Peru. I’ve heard great things about the country and did quite a bit of research about it, and made my decision. By the beginning of April I had been accepted into my program, had created a Pinterest board with dozens of pins, and I was very dedicated to my Spanish courses. Here I am, almost four months later, about to finally embark on this big, crazy, exciting, once in a lifetime journey!

I have the highest hopes for all that I will learn and accomplish during my time abroad, and I can hardly wait for it all to begin.

-Abby

Day Before! Finale Coming!

With my program reaching its end. I definitely have no doubt in my mind that my feelings have changed since I have last left the U.S. I was overcome with many different emotions: the idea of being alone in a foreign place without any of my family close by, meeting new people for the first time, and being immersed in a whole new place where English is not the first language.

Now that I have been here for five weeks, I feel bad that I did not feel more excited about coming to Mexico because it is a great place to live with some great qualities to it. I honestly was nervous because I had no idea what to really expect. People are unpredictable, as such I try to avoid any conceptions before actually meeting someone or multiple people. At the very least, I imagined that my host family would be kind and help me feel accustomed. For the most part, I was right. I was blessed with a great host family who treated me well. I was hoping they would be a family I could talk and interact with when the time is right and this turned out to be the case. I did not see myself speaking with the locals too much since I am cautious around strangers, but I wanted to at least interact with some people, and I am glad I did in the end.

As for my feeling about returning, I am very excited to see my mother again and eventually my close friends as well. I feel as though, no matter where I am, I will always feel a sense of emptiness when I am not at home in Oregon. It is for that reason that I believe I could never live far from home, it would be too hard in my opinion. I do have mixed feelings though. I feel like just when I have really started to feel at home here, I already need to leave. I feel like I have developed a sense of place here, and it is ashame that I have to leave now when I am not so busy with homework and studying. It is funny, but I am filled with emotions just like in the beginning. The difference this time is that I am not nervous or scared of being Mexico, but actually a bit sad to leave. I believe all abroad programs are like this. One develops the sense of a second home and they must feel bad for having to leave it. It truly is funny how the world works at times.

 

Countdown to Finale! New Friend’s Help with Catch-up!

The time in Mexico continues to pass by, and by this time, I start seeing that my time has not been completely well-spent. My upbringing has made me pretty shy with regards to going out and getting others to accompany me to places. I believe my host mom recognizes that too and has urged me lately to get out and experience more of the culture of Mexico. I have been to a few places already, but I know there is more I can still do. Another student from the U.S has joined us in the household and he is more extroverted than myself. He is always on the move and ready to explore. I cannot help but feel kind of envious. Nevertheless, the other student has helped me to get out and explore more of the city and we have even walked my host mother’s dog who has not gotten a walk in many weeks. We observed some wonderful art done on the streets near the roads and the steady stream that may be would have more of a common sight in France due to its calm appearance and rather wide length as well.  The “Mural” art was another aspect that captured my attention as well. in addition to the museum relics and art, the murals are quite prevalent in Mexican culture, and I thought the ones I saw were really well done and showcased the artistic side of the culture quite well.    We ended up going to a park and some were actually set up a bit like exercise equipment outside. I am not sure if they were wholly intended for the younger kids who come with their parents, but it seemed to be perfect for the other student to comically do exercise of his own. I think it may have been designed for those who maybe cannot go to the gym due to costs. I know Mexico is a country where the people make the most of what they have, and this is just one of many examples of its better qualities.

Classes continue to enlighten me more about the culture here in Mexico in different ways. In addition  to the usual practice with writing and learning of tenses, We learned about the different legends that exist in Mexico and how they can come in different versions. We were tasked with creating our own version, and I took the opportunity to notice how broad the legends are. From volcanoes and lakes, they each hold their old ideas and lessons that are fascinating: the concept of love and how its beauty can remain eternal, and the importance of obedience for the well being of oneself and the family around them. These lessons hold great importance in life, and the fact that they can be told via  legends is all the more reason to appreciate their existence. We also ended up learning more about the nature of superstitions and how prevalent they are in the culture as well. Many people in Mexico believe in superstitions and sometimes resort to utilizing the services of supernatural mediums to turn their lives around when things do not go so well for them. It was an interesting category to discuss since most people in Mexico are of religious (mostly Catholic) faith. Much like with parties, it serves as a means of alleviating the harshness that work and other responsibilities can bring.

With the countdown towards returning already well underway. I believe this last week will be the most interesting of all of the weeks so far, as well the most stressful