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/

Weeks 3 & 4: Abby Goes to Peru!

¡Buenos días familia y amigos!

Well, it has been interesting trying to survive without much internet connection the past week or so. Peru has terrible wifi, no matter where you go. The connection is never strong and there is certainly no reliability. To make it worse, there are thirteen other people living in my house to share the wifi with and thousands of other students at school to share the wifi with there. Then there’s the fact that a lot of students don’t have their own computers, so it is difficult finding an available desktop computer on campus. Anyways, I’m sorry that it has taken me so long to post again, now you know why.

Besides wifi issues and a few other minor things that I am struggling to adjust to, everything is going great! I am enjoying my classes and enjoying getting to know my housemates better, especially Liz, the girl from Brazil. I enjoy spending time with her because I like her personality but also because I HAVE TO speak Spanish with her. She doesn’t know much English and I know zero Portuguese, so Spanish is really the only way. This is helping me become more comfortable speaking the language.

The food is still very delicious. I prefer the days that our cook comes. She cooks for us most days and it is always delicious. I have been trying food in restaurants as well. I have long school days Tuesday and Thursday (11am-9pm) and it is not ideal to go home on my break, so I end up eating at school. There are a bunch of restaurants near campus. I am enjoying trying new places and dishes. Melissa and I have decided that from now on when we go to restaurants we’re going to start ordering dishes that we have no idea what they are. I don’t usually eat out often back home, maybe once a week, so I don’t really like eating out so much. There are healthy options at most restaurants, so it is mostly a money issue. However, I have to remind myself of the currency exchange. When I worry about spending nine soles on lunch I have to remember that I’m really only spending $2.75 and put that into perspective of how much I might spend on a meal in the states.

I am still really missing clean air. The entire trip to and from school is hardly bearable. I feel like I’m breathing in nothing but carbon emissions. I can feel the heaviness and thickness of the air with every breath. Even though it is cool out because it is winter, it doesn’t feel cool like it would back home. There isn’t that crispness. The air isn’t as bad away from the main roads, but I still feel like I haven’t smelled fresh air since I stepped into PDX almost a month ago. I went on a run at the park by my house yesterday and even just being amongst the trees and the grass it seemed fresher. Not fresh, but fresher.

This week we learned not to swallow ocean water. Melissa spent five days in the hospital this past week, likely from e. coli in the ocean. I can’t imagine how awful it must’ve been to be in a hospital bed for five days, not being allowed to eat and not being able to go to classes or go sightseeing. We went to visit her twice, which I think she enjoyed. She requested that I sing to her one of the days. I don’t usually sing on the spot, but when your friend is in a hospital bed you’ll do just about anything to help.

Speaking of singing, I auditioned for a music ensemble at school last week. And I got in!!! I am SO excited! It is a pop cover band, so we will be learning songs that are popular in the states. American music is VERY popular here. I was surprised to learn that. Anyways, this group will be performing around Lima in the evenings and finish up with a concert in December with lights and a stage and everything! I am also excited to be sharing music abroad again. My goal is to sing in every country I travel to. I have also enjoyed singing with one of the other students living with me who has a guitar (and is very talented at playing it). There is also a piano here, which I am very happy about. I played it yesterday for an hour or two and my host family requested that I play every night. It was a nice way to relax and enjoy the afternoon.

It is sunny today, for the third day in a row actually, which is very abnormal for a Lima winter. I am loving it though! Anyways, I’m going to sign out and go enjoy this sunshine while it lasts.

I hope everything is well back at home! Love and miss you all!

Ciao,

Abby

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This is the music room at school where I will be rehearsing with my band.

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This is the park next to my house.

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This is an upside down picture of me and Liz. (I can’t figure out how to rotate pictures, sorry!)

Returning Home

It was so weird to stand in the Texas airport and be surrounded by English speakers. I was standing in the line for panda express and just smiled. It felt so good but just so different. I was so excited that I turned to the man standing behind me in line and told him how excited I was to be speaking English. How embarrassing.

My parents and fiance were there when I arrived. It was so good to see there faces! It was also strange for the other WOU people to go to their families and realize we were no longer a group anymore. As we all stood with our families and waited for our bags, I suddenly felt so separated from the people I had been so close to for so many weeks. Switching back to normal felt so different and not normal. It was so good though.

My experience in Mexico was so huge and I did so many things that even now when people ask me how it was or what I did the most I can get out is that I studied Spanish and Education and stayed with a host family. There is so much to say that I just don’t know where to start. That is why I want to make a good old traditional scrapbook of Mexico and my other trips this summer. That way I can show what I did and kind of reflect on what I learned.
Sarah was definitely right about the carpet. All the homes and other buildings in Mexico were lined with tile, linoleum, or granite on the floors and sometimes walls too. It is so different to be in rooms with carpet and long, thick curtains. Noise doesn’t echo as much.

I really miss Spanish. I hadn’t spoken it since I came home from Mexico until this week (3 weeks). Two of my coworkers are native Spanish speakers and when I went back to work this week I got to speak. It was great to realize that I still have it. I was so worried I would loose my Spanish vocabulary. It was also really nice to see how impressed they were at how much my Spanish grew. One friend is from Mexico City, where I visited for a weekend, so it was nice to talk to him about it and remember my trip.

 

Welcome to America!

Oh my, am I glad to be home. I want to kiss the clean, clean floor and run and drink water from the sink just because I can. After hours of flights and waiting in airports I can fall into my amazingly comfortable bed. I don’t think the culture shock got any better throughout my trip, which is why being home is so welcome. I am glad to be back where the sky is clear and no one is using the sidewalk as a bathroom. But, aside from all of the negatives, I will definitely miss China, and do plan to go back. I think it was an amazing trip, definitely worth my time. I wish I could have done things a little differently. But I have no regrets! My teacher and classmates definitely made the trip interesting. Hopefully they had a great time just like I did.
Thanks for the fun time China!

Welcome to China!!

So I finally arrive in Beijing after missing two flights. Thanks united airlines. I met my group, yay! I’m so happy to see people I know! What a relief! After having spent way more time on planes than I want in a 24 hour period I am glad to arrive in Xiangtan and shower and relax. But I forgot that China isn’t like home. So much smoking everywhere! In the cabs in the restaurants. No matter what you feel like you’re either choking on cigarette smoke or smog. Then you have the people hacking and spitting snot on the ground right where you are walking. I got laughed at for being offended, talk about culture shock. Seeing children with the crotch area of their pants missing is so common, I was trying not to take photos but it’s just too funny. And then there’s the traffic. Wowza can these people drive. It doesn’t matter if there is a lane divider or not, wrong side of the road? It’s all good. Drive in two lanes at once? No problem. Feel like cutting off a bus while on a mo-ped? Go for it. Nothing seems to be illegal. Most cars don’t have seat belts in the back seat and when there’s this much traffic I doubt you’d need it. But surprisingly there were no accidents during the first couple days, but we were about 4 inches from hitting someone or having them hit us. Great breaks I guess. I do miss home at this point but I am so happy to finally be in China again. Even with the different cultural ideals I know that eventually I will get used to it.
More about China later,
Peace.

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Week 1

Well. I’ve described some of the culture differences so I’ll just jump into what we’ve done. We visited the paragon gardens. Amazing!! It started raining towards the top and it was gorgeous(just know I love rain). We got massages!! Omg they felt so amazing! I got the suction cups and they kind of hurt but in a good way. Then when it was over they gave us a sugar tea which I plan to buy and hoard for myself. It’s that good, definitely be jealous. But dang I am sore. I can’t even lay on my back. The bruises, oh wow. It’s not pretty. But I am glad I experienced it. Now the tai chi? I could do that more often. Even though I am the most uncoordinated person you’ll ever meet, it’s still a lot of fun and a great work out. Sitting in a horse squat stance for that long is “painful” but definitely worth it. Now I’m hoping I can describe the food once and then only talk about the amazing things I do physically. But I feel once is not enough. I am a vegetarian so I had some worries coming to China, but I can now tell you that was a waste. The veggies here? To die for. Want to learn to cook eggplant that melts in your mouth and tastes like heaven? Go to China. Bok choy isn’t just plain and boring it’s so good. I just can’t even. It’s just something you have to experience. The only thing you might want to get used to in this particular town is the spice. Whooey do they know how to put chili peppers in food. Most of the time the only thing left on the plates are the peppers, but I digress. Oh and also, when trying to buy water for the first time, I bought a giant jug of clear liquid, thinking this had to be water. Turns out it is alcohol. Party time! This has been an amazing first week to what I hope is an epic journey.
Happy in China,
Peace.

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Week 2

Let’s see… We went to a party to celebrate the tai chi center. Very posh. The snacks were yummy. Got to watch a traditional Chinese tea ceremony which was awesome. And the tea they made was delicious. We also learned some Tuina massage. It feels good but dang does it require strong hands, similar to the other massage we learned about, but definitely less bruises. We got to go to a traditional Chinese medicine doctor which was very interesting. I always am kind of suspicious of those but this guy was really knowledgable. Even though the hospital itself wasn’t the cleanest place. We learned about the meridians and different acupressure points from doctor Li and a visiting doctor as well. We went to another garden and were shown all different kind of plants that healed things. We saw things that helped with the smallest such as headaches and plants that are considered to have anti cancer benefits. The zoos. If you are an animal lover do not, and I repeat DO NOT visit the zoos. The conditions are horrible for every animal. It’s just awful. I wanted to cry at almost every cage. I am never going back until they fix it or at least improve the quality of life by 100 percent. But even with that negative part, overall, it was an amazing week. I’m so sad that the second week is already over. I’m just glad I got to experience so much. But it is travel time, lets do this!
Still roaming China,
Peace.

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Week 3

We are in Zhangjiajie and the hotel is amazing. Beyond actually. The breakfast, not so much. But more on that later. We went up the mountain everyday but the last one here. It’s very cool because this is the backdrop of Avatar, blue people not the air bender. The downside is almost every time we went up the mountain the photos looked almost the same. The only difference is the weather you see. Plus on the trip up to Tiananmen mountain it was really cloudy so the photos are not that great. Even though you are really high up it doesn’t feel like it because you can’t see that far below. But the bus ride down on that trip was amazing! On the last day we went to see the caves, which while very interesting, weren’t that different from caves I’ve visited in the U.S.. The biggest difference is these caves were massive. We went on a boat ride inside it, which is like wow. Okay so our plan was to be in Wudang Friday night.. Oh how plans change. Dr Flatt and Jessica got sick on the train, so bad they went to the hospital. Then almost everyone in the group got sick, including my amazing self. So we ended up in a random city for the night. I was lucky enough not to be in the hospital, unlike most of the group. I have an iron stomach and will. Yay me! Because of this delay we ended up in Wudang a day late and the plans were switched around a bit. But that goes into my fourth week, so…
That’s all folks,
Getting better in China,
Peace.

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Week 4 and extra bits…

Wudaaaaaaaang! Woot, more mountain climbing.. Oh wait just kidding got a headache and my stomach was wonky so I just rested a bunch. Maybe hiking later? Onto Xi’an! Walk around the city wall? Okie doke. That was super cool. Just look at this really interesting photo of more big cities that are considered small because, actually I have no clue why. Then I got to wander around the city a bit, always fun to get stared at like some freak of nature. Estely and I went to an amuzement park and rode a child coaster, a sling shot, and water bumper cars. I think the sling shot was the coolest but the water bumper cars were fun, especially when the kids kept ramming us. So I can’t remember if I explained these amusement parks yet or not. But anyways, they are just small parks inside legitimate parks that have roller coasters. There was also one in Xiangtan next to our hotel. Anyways they are basically empty and you have no lines and each ride is less than 10 dollars.which means essentially they are really awesome. But yeah, that was Xi’an city. So terracotta next. That was cool, even if it was the second time seeing it. The vastness of this room will just blow your mind. The statues are cool too, don’t worry. And the next day we left for chengsha on a bullet train no less. This thing was booking! Very cool. We only really visited the Tai Chi village here. No offense, but basically the worst part of the trip so far. It was quite boring, and the town it was in had like nothing. But we got our tai chi suits which look really snazzy, no joke. So that was a definite plus. Another train ride, overnight to Beijing. And already the day starts with the forbidden city, dun dun duuuun! Hot out, and crowded. If you know me at all, both of those make me very happy. Then the group went to the Summer Palace and the Great Wall. Neither of which I could attend because of stomach issues, again. Even though my last few days in China were in a hotel, I had a lot of fun. I can’t wait to be home. I feel gross, but I will be sad to leave. I think this trip was totally worth it. Although I still have trouble understanding why everyone here is okay with the smog and trash everywhere. It does not make sense why they would be okay with destroying the world in such a way.
Catch you on the flip side,
Peace.

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Pre-Departure for Ecuador!

It’s officially less than a month away! It’s hard to explain all the emotions running through me as I try to prepare for not only my first experience abroad, but also my first experience traveling by myself. I’m most of all excited, but get waves of anxiousness and fear, which is to be expected I guess.

I have had little interaction with Latin American customs and culture in my life, so I have very little knowledge on what to expect when entering Quito for the first time. I imagine it to be breath taking (literally, at 9500 sq ft). I’ve been told it’s colder than what you’d imagine, and relatively conservative compared to the culture on the coastal side of Ecuador. Everyone I talk to tells me to expect overwhelming kindness and interest in my arrival from the locals. I’ve also been warned about the lack of the concept of personal space– apparently in America we have odd social rules on space and touching to the majority of the world. I’ve heard it’s not uncommon for people to stroke your hair or have a hand on your shoulder while talking to you, even if they’re practically strangers. All these differences make me excited to actually live them in the moment for the first time. I’m already laughing at the shock I’ll inevitably feel the majority of the time. It will be humbling I’m sure.

I hope that after I acclimate to the climate, altitude, people, and culture, I’ll be able to fully participate in every-day Ecuadorian life. I want to completely take on the culture I’m living in — Everything from taking an afternoon break to eat an insanely large lunch while socializing with family, to celebrating El Dia De Los Muertos, to speaking in Spanish with the locals with ease. I’m also excited to do some exploring. I can’t wait to see the beautiful cathedrals, Inca cites, and natural wonders like the Cotopaxi volcano that just erupted.

I guess in a little over a month from now I’ll be able to tell you if those are realistic expectations or not. I guess while I’m anxiously awaiting my travel date, this will be it for now. I’m sure there will be much more to come once I’ve actually touched down in what I hope will feel like my home away from home.

 

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Pre-Departure Post to Lyon

I’ve been counting down the days for sometime now. It’s quite fascinating how when you are in the moment time can feel so slow, but now looking at it, I keep asking myself where has my summer gone? With only hours left in the states I am feeling a whirlwind of emotions. At times I am ecstatic, at times nervous and at other times sad. I’m not really sure how to describe it, but I guess, it’s all finally hitting me now. I am going to be living in France for 9 months. WOW.

I’m not going to lie, I have been daydreaming about how great France will be. With all the bread, cheese and wine. I’ve tried to learn as much as I can about my host culture before I leave. I am trying to minimize the culture shock (I’ll let you know how that turns out!) As I’ve discovered in my google searches, I expect the French to be very reserved, calm and passionate. A culture that ultimately loves the finer things in life. I expect them to wear nice clothes, eat good food and overall be very conscious of their quality of life.

The most concerning part of their culture is how reserved they are with strangers. This is what makes me the most anxious about going abroad. I hope to find new friends abroad that I can share my experiences in France with. I am sure all the other international students will be eager to make friends, but I also really want to make local friends. I believe this will be the only way to truly learn the culture and their way of life. Hopefully living in a house with all French students will give me a head start! Lets just hope for my sake this is the case!

But enough of that, it’s too late in the game for concerns or uncertainties. I’ll just have to go with the flow and hopefully adapt quickly to my new home in Lyon!

Till next time,

Au revoir!

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