Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Kristen G. - Oxford, England - Spring 2015

Hello CPP 250!
I’m Kristen and I’m at Oxford CMRS, residing in the beautiful St. Michael’s Hall (or St. Mike’s, as I’ve grown to call it. This building is DEFINITELY a Mike.) But wow! Time has flown by fast! I’ve had such an amazing time here in Oxford as a part of the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. The program is so great and all the people I’ve met within the program are generally interesting, intelligent, and
One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is to get involved in life here. That doesn’t necessarily mean joining clubs (although you definitely should), but just interacting with people. You get so much out of the experience by being social and making new friends. It’s hard not to get caught up in academics here, but always allow yourself time for fun and getting to know not only the people in your program, but the surrounding English.
Another piece of advice I have to give is to get out and explore! There is always something going on in Oxford. And there are also great places to get out in nature, namely walking along the Thames. So if you ever are missing the great outdoors, you can get a little of that here too. And don’t forget to travel! There are plenty of places to see and things to do here in England. Get out to London at least once! It’s a great city and loads of fun. Don’t be afraid to take the train, it’s about one million times faster than the buses and can sometimes only be a couple quid more.

So, basically, come to Oxford. So many great people and it’s all-around a challenging yet rewarding program.

Gina S. - Brisbane, Australia - Spring 2015

Hi everyone!  My name is Gina and I am studying abroad in Brisbane, Australia at the University of Queensland through ISA.  It’s been about a month down under and what a whirlwind it has been.  During my time so far I have been to rainforests, waterfalls, an amusement park, museums, zoos, held a koala, played with kangaroos, hiked in the mountains, went to the beach - typical Australian stuff and let me tell you the terrain and wildlife in Australia is unbelievable!
My first week here I had orientation with ISA where they had all this great stuff planned but unfortunately we were not able to do majority of it because there was a really bad cyclone.  The first five days all I saw was rain and spent most of my time in a hostel, not the most ideal situation.   A couple weeks later I went down to Cairns with ISA  for the second part of our orientation to go see the Great Barrier Reef and once again another cyclone hit and no one was allowed out on the water. Unfortunately my friends you can't control the weather. The reason I share these stories with you is because sometimes when people are planning to study abroad they envision everything is going to go perfect which is not likely but that DOES NOT mean it will make the experience any less amazing!  I am having the most incredible time in Australia because I am able to experience and see so many new things, don't dwell on things that may not have gone the way you hoped especially if it is out your control. And since I couldn't go to the reef it gives me another excuse to go back to Cairns with a bunch of my friends from school.  Do me a favor though and cross your fingers for me just in case.  Also I don’t want you to think the weather is typically like that in Australia I was just very unlucky, besides those two times the weather is pretty much sunny and beautiful all day. Queensland is the sunshine state of Australia. 
I am living on campus which is really nice because I don't have to worry about cooking my own meals (however I do miss home cooked food), it’s a ten minute walk to school, everyone gets their own room, and they even clean your sheets and vacuum your floor once a week!  The only downfall would be there is no air conditioning and it can get pretty hot here so most people gets fan but I don’t mind it.  Every month we have a traditional ceremony called Bara Khana where everyone dresses up and has a really nice dinner together. Everything is very traditional here and this year International House will be celebrating their 50th anniversary which makes it all the more special.  What is interesting though is the housing on campus are called colleges (International House = college) and their colleges are basically like America’s fraternities and sororities.  The first week at college is kind of like pledge week and then at the end of the week you go through something called brotherhood which is basically like an initiation.  This is where you become a “housie” which is a term of endearment for everyone who has ever lived at IH.  It was a very interesting process. There is also a student run executive board who run all kinds of events all the time.  What is so nice about IH is that there is such a variety of people here from all over the world as well as Australians and you find yourself having the most fascinating conversations.   It’s exciting to learn about different parts of the world from people who actually live there and see things through other people’s perspectives, it has been very eye-opening.  
Finally I want to leave you with a bit of advice.  The most overwhelming part of studying abroad is wanting to do everything and not being able to do it all for whatever reason: time, money, etc.  In the beginning I would ask all of my Australian friends what their favorite place or thing to do in Australia was and everyone said something different.  My list kept getting longer and longer and I soon realized there was no way I was going to be able to do it all.  Like Alice says you picked that place for a reason don’t spend all your time trying go elsewhere.  
Next you have to try and find a new balance and it takes a little time.  In the beginning I didn't want to say no to anything because I didn't want to miss out on any life changing experiences even though it feels that way but I’m telling you it’s not the end of the world.  Every single day there’s an opportunity for a new adventure so don’t worry if you miss a few things along the way. 
Also keep in mind while this is hard to come to terms with as well is that it’s not a vacation and it’s going to go much quicker than you realize.  What has helped me focus on how I want to spend my time is the reasons I am studying abroad. Your reasons and goals for studying abroad should reflect how you spend your time, take that assignment seriously.  Anyway let me know if you have any questions or concerns I would be more than happy to help.  I am so excited for the journey’s you are all going to embark on because I can promise you it will be unforgettable.  

Mary D. - London, England - Spring 2015

Hello, future study abroad students/other people who are reading this,

My name is Mary and I am currently studying at Queen Mary University in London for the spring semester.  I absolutely love it here.  My classes are amazing, my professors even more so.  I've met a number of amazing people as well.  Honestly, London is the best city and I simply adore it.  The people here are sarcastic and yet polite.  It's a wonderful combination.  

I do have to say though that the educational aspect has been the greatest thing so far.  I've been taught by people are leading figures in their fields and I've had opportunities I would have never had otherwise (like going into Westminster Palace to check out the Parliamentary Archives or the Imperial War Museum Archives).  

Traveling around Europe has also been a part of my life since getting here.  I've been to Berlin and Edinburgh so far but I have a trip to Barcelona coming up soon.  There are many more to planned and I simply cannot wait.

John L. - Sydney, Australia - Spring 2015

Australia is Amazing! I've been here in Sydney, Australia for just over month now and I've loved every minute of it so far. At first I was a little scared on what to expect from my study abroad experience. Once I started meeting people that are in the same ISA group with me, my scared feeling was gone. Everyone I've met here are super nice and some of them are going to be friends that I keep in touch with for the rest of my life. I still haven't made friends with an Australian yet because I mostly live with Americans and and other study abroad students from around the world.
Sydney is a gorgeous city with so much to do! I still haven't had one boring day yet here.Whether I'm going to the beach or going into the city to get lunch or have a drink or two with some friends there's never a dull moment. To anyone who is considering studying abroad at the University of Sydney, I'd say don't think twice about it and do it! It'll be the best decision you'll ever make in your life, I know it is for me at least.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Theresa K - Oxford, England - Spring 2015

Hello CPP 250! I'm Theresa and I'm studying here in Oxford, England with the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CMRS).
I imagined studying here in Oxford would resemble something like the Harry Potter films. Being an Oxford student reflects this, partly due to the fact that some bits of the films were shot around here. It is, however, still a college town, making Oxford a interesting combination of both old and new. Walk around Oxford and you'll get that feel. Old buildings that can predate the United States mixed with modern ones with solar panels.
Always make plans to explore because time is precious here. I don't know how the workload is at other institutions, but at Oxford, you're a student. Full-time. I have essentially four hours of class a week, but that doesn't include hours of reading and writing. My concept of time (and of the weekend especially) no longer works in days and weeks, but in stages of essay writing. The best part about it, too, the intensity of the work is the best though grueling part.
This is not to say that all of your time should be spent writing and reading. Remember The Shining. Everyone here knows how important it is to take a break. Budget your time and you'll be fine. Since you'd be a student with CMRS, you're an associate member of Keble College and of the University of Oxford as a whole. There are plenty of societies and sports and events to go to. Meetings are great placeholders so you can structure your week's workload and it's a fun way to kick back and relax if not with fellow CMRS students. I myself have been attending lectures around Oxford and have been able to listen to and interact with brilliant people speak. I've even joined Oxford's Astronomy and Space Society. There's something for everyone.
So come to Oxford. It's pretty awesome.

Marie S - Barcelona, Spain - Spring 2015

Hello CPP 250!
My name is Marie and I have been studying in Barcelona, Spain for a little over a month now through IES. It’s crazy to think that in only 3 short months I will already be leaving this beautiful city to return back to the states, time really flies when you are abroad. Use it wisely! 

Going abroad was the biggest decision I have made in my entire life, but I can honestly say it has been the best one yet. I definitely had some fears going into it because I have absolutely no sense of direction, have never taken public transportation alone, and have never been that long and far away from home. When I very first arrived, I did experience some jet-lag for about 2 weeks getting used to food, keeping myself hydrated, and sleep patterns. I went through culture shock and all I wanted to do was go back to my comfort, my familiarity, so I talked to everyone from home continuously online, but I continued to feel a huge sense of homesickness because everything here was still very new and different (do NOT worry everyone has different experiences).  It is my opinion and after experiencing it, the way to overcome this is to go out and see things like popular attractions or neighborhoods, learn about where you are living (you will find out it isn’t as different as you thought even with a language barrier), and talk to the locals or other people in your program. I found out a lot of people were going through the same exact thing as me!

 Being a whole month in now, I can strongly say I feel intensely more comfortable, understand my “daily routine”, and have an overall sense of what life is like living in Barcelona. I am in a homestay, my two roommates and I live with an older women in an adorable apartment that is just a 15 minute walk from the IES Center. It has been a great accommodation so far and my Spanish language skills are picking up rapidly, even with the Catalán language being present everywhere. Class-wise, there are only two things I am semi-struggling with: the 15 credit minimum (I have 3 classes a day), and that many of the classes here have no homework grades, therefore all of the points rely solely on your participation and exams, just participate and pay attention and you will be fine J IES does a great job with the Spanish-Placement exams because I feel I was placed in the perfect class for my language level. I also thought taking another class in Spanish and taking two of my classes at a local university (UAB) was going to be difficult, but it is certainly manageable! It is so nice that we do not have class on Friday because it has provided my friends and I plenty of opportunity to travel, experience the night life, and site-see! I am enjoying my time here in Barcelona, it is the most beautiful and safe city I have ever been. Please let me know of any questions you may have and good luck on preparing for your time abroad, wherever it may be!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Aditya S - Vienna, Austria - Spring 2015

Hey there! My name is Aditya Sharma and I am studying Music at IES Vienna (Spring ’15). I don’t even know where to begin my praise for this breath-taking city. From grand, majestic museums that house Picasso’s and Cezanne’s to a plethora of Opera houses and performance arenas that regularly stage musical works that are in the least, spectacular, Vienna is a sparkling oasis to the weary traveler; a freakishly beautiful dream that you pray never ends. I flew into the city on the 8th of January where I met 80 other students from all across the United States. Our hosts then drove us to a quaint, charming town called Mariazell (in the district of Styria) for a 3-day orientation where we were taken through the history of Vienna (which is quite fascinating) and spent a lot of time getting to know one another which I suppose was one of the primary objectives of the event.

I am writing this post after completing 2 weeks of class and absolutely love every second of my time here. What I would recommend is brushing up on your German (assuming you don’t speak the language like me) because it will make it a lot easier to find your way around the city, especially in the first few weeks. About Vienna itself, it is layered with history, its residents are very accommodating and reach out to you if you look a little lost. All in all, it’s been a great experience so far and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester has in store for me. Auf Wiedersehen!

John O - Barcelona, Spain - Spring 2015

So its been just about two months here in Barcelona and I couldn’t be more happy! I love literally everything here. I have two roommates and we are in homestay with the most amazing woman I have ever met. Every morning she makes us breakfast sandwiches with bread she made from scratch…yea, from scratch. She also has us orange juice that she squeezes every morning from oranges she grows in southern Spain…I hit the jack pot for house moms. IES has also been incredible! There facilities  are great and are so helpful to all of us here. I can only say great things about this place and I can’t wait for my next adventures!
P.S. Traveling is very easy and SO awesome.

Deanna J - Suva, Fiji - Spring 2015

Well, getting here was a pain in the butt (I’m talking over 48 hours at airports or on planes) but I was thrown into the amazing culture here immediately upon arrival. I was greeted by a trio singing a welcome song after getting off the plane, and ISA’s site manager gave me a warm hug and kiss on the cheek; there’s certainly a reason why Fiji has been dubbed as the friendliest nation. You can’t walk anywhere without a loud, “bula” and a wave from the people you walk past (even if they’re on the other side of the road on their porch). So the people here are wonderful, and so relaxed. The islanders have something called “Fiji time” where everyone just goes at a slower pace. While traveling on a different island our group went out to eat at a restaurant. We were the only people in there but it took a solid two hours to get our meals after ordering. Lateness is just very much a part of daily life here, which has been a huge change for me; it was definitely frustrating at first, but I adapted. And there’s so much beauty everywhere on the island. I’ve seen reefs, waterfalls, jungles, swimming holes, mountain tops, and so many other crazy things. But it's not all rainbows and butterflies (even though I’ve seen those too). Fiji is not America, so there are a lot of things that took some getting used to. The lack of readily-available internet anywhere you go, the lack of air conditioning, the way food is prepared/stored/eaten/etc., and the roaches/centipedes/millipedes that find their way into my flat all threw me for a loop. I think that pretty much no matter where you go things are gonna be different. But that’s sort of the point of going abroad, right? If you can move past how uncomfortable "different" can be, then you’ll be able to enjoy your experience so much more.

Sarah A - Oxford, England - Spring 2015

Greetings from Oxford, England. I’m Sarah and I am studying at the CMRS program in Oxford this semester. So the first thing that I noticed when I got here was that it was uncharacteristically sunny for the first few days (which many of the native Brits pointed out). The sun came out to greet us foreigners! Anyways, it has been amazing here. Oxford is so interesting because it’s just a bunch of cosmopolitan people thrown on top of a town that has been here since before the 1600s. So everywhere is an eclectic mix of posh, chic shops and malls but then you encounter a building like the Bodleian library (a large castle-like complex full of cobblestones and spires). Everything is so beautiful and green here, all covered in ivy and full of life. The best thing that I have found here is the Cornish Pasties (something that is akin to a beef stew inside a puff pastry). I would eat those every day if I had the opportunity (and the money).

Currently, we are working on our third week of classes. The program involved two tutorials and a seminar, which we started not long ago, and then a research course, which we will start in about a month. The tutorials involve quite a bit of reading and just as much writing but they are all on topics that the students want to discuss. Having a one-on-one class with the tutor is especially helpful because you can really get constructive criticism on your writing and ideas. The only issue is that there is so much writing and reading to do that occasionally, you won’t have enough time to travel. This program really tests your time management and organization skills simply because there is so much to do that you are forced to plan out your work. Honestly, it is a challenge but it is completely worth it. There’s so much that Oxford, and England, can offer a person.