Wednesday, October 16, 2013

British Studies Summer 2013

by Ally DeMass, British Studies in the United Kingdom

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

            I was so chuffed (British slang for happy) to get to London that I did not sleep one second on the plane. I think I had too much adrenaline to be tired because even when we got to Heathrow Airport a day later I was ready to go! Take this advice— do not go to sleep once you get to London. Stay awake that entire first day and you will sleep like a baby, therefore becoming perfectly equipped to the time change. Hey it worked like a charm for me! Trust me too that there are literally coffee shops and stands on every block. Here comes another tip... be prepared to take the Tube. Have you ever been on the Trax during a game day for the U? Imagine that packed cart full of crazy hooligans but multiply it by 10,000. The Tube is the mass transit and most popular means of travel throughout London. Everyone is packed in so tight you literally are hugging the person next to you (but of course it’s a great experience and I miss it everyday). If you are going to take the Tube to your campus from the airport, all I have to say is good luck. There is no such thing as lifts (elevators) in the stations and you have to change platforms quite a bit, which means you are lugging your luggage up and down flights of crowded stairs and it’s a little stressful. Make sure you can physically carry your luggage because if it’s too heavy... you’re on your own. Now of course you will also use those infamous double decker buses during your stay in London. They are even more adorable than the movies have showed them, so make sure you get a seat up top and in the front. (But you are not allowed to stand up or else you get yelled at!) Taxis can be very expensive and may not accept cash, plus they are so small I do not even recommend trying to take one. Use the Tube.

Tacky Tourism

            Obviously you have to go out in the city and see everything that it has to offer, but I promise that you don’t enough time in the world to see everything. So take your time in planning and try to find student tours. In one day I was able to see Windsor, Bath, and Stonehenge. If I had tried to take trains to these places by myself it would have taken days and many panic attacks. Student tours are actually pretty cheap and they are led by people who know what they are talking about. When you are walking around the parts of the city and see the phone booths... be warned. They are full of prostitution ads and smell like urine. So if you want that picture be quick! When you go to main attractions like the Tower of London or Westminster Abbey, selfie pictures don’t allow you to capture all of the shot even though they are convenient. And of course not everybody speaks English, but most visitors know the universal language of picture taking: offer to take their camera, tell them to smile and count to 3, and then show them the picture. In return, they will be kind enough to return the favor (and maybe you will even make friends). I am the pickiest person when it comes to eating, and don’t get me wrong I love food, but I was kind of skeptical on trying new things. However, I absolutely loved Fish N Chips! We also tried tea and biscuits, haggis, and blood pudding. It is quite the experience so you have to try everything no matter what at least once.

Learning London Life

            There is no doubt about it— London is the most exciting city in the world (especially in comparison to Salt Lake City). As a first time student studying abroad I could not have been more thrilled to be accepted into the U of U British Studies summer program. Not only did we stay in the center of London at Regent’s College, which is a “uni” inside of Regent’s Park, but we also had long weekends to go wherever we wanted to! Granted that I am a student, I couldn’t afford to go mainland Europe, but I was able to tour around the UK and I am so grateful for it. You will have the time of your life and miss it every single day, so make sure you live it to the fullest. Cheers!

 Locations of Site Visitors

Monday, October 14, 2013

Traveling Europe

 by: Carina Hahn, Exchange in Grenoble, France

Having the opportunity to study abroad this summer made me realize how many great opportunities we have at the U. We can go anywhere in this world. I chose to go to France to keep building on my French ability, and I definitely did. I spent one week in Paris, then 5 weeks in Grenoble. After my program in France, I traveled to 8 other countries in Europe. I went to Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Germany, Slovakia, Austria, The Czech Republic, and Switzerland. With so much traveling and so many new experiences, I learned a lot from my time abroad.

Before Europe, I never had to navigate a metro system. As soon as I got to Paris I had to figure that out really fast. Then when I was switching cities every few days while traveling, I had to quickly learn new transportation systems. The hardest part was that as soon as I left France, I no longer always spoke the language. Even though it was a challenge, I was able to get around successfully. I now miss the convenience of European transportation. It was nice when trains came every 3-4 minutes.

Trying new things:
When you are in a different culture, there is sometimes no other option than diving right in and doing everything like a native. I had not had a lot of exposure to different cultural foods in the US. I made sure I tried everything I could while I was in Europe. I tried coffee, Indian food, Moroccan food, lots of different kinds of cheeses, and so much more. The strangest thing was probably eating rabbit. It tasted good but it was strange to be eating meat off of such small bones.

I never realized how different European culture was in all of the different countries until I was actually there experiencing it. I learned that the differences are not the wrong way to do things, they are just different. It was really hard for me to get used to some of the cultural differences with eating. The French do not snack, so it took my body several weeks to adjust to that, but eventually I was not hungry anymore between meals. I struggled learning how to use a fork in my left hand, but now I’m glad I have that skill. One of my favorites was that they ate yogurt for dessert. It was so refreshing, and I want to keep having yogurt for dessert.

Before I left, I knew it was going to be a learning experience and that is exactly what it was. Studying abroad gives you class credits, but that’s not what you remember from your experience. The things you learn outside of the classroom teach you the most. It is important to get out there and experience the world to get the most out of your education. And I would suggest doing it while you are in college to take advantage of all of the great student discounts in Europe!

Locations of Site Visitors

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hiking in the Dominican Republic

By: Kathy Tran, Intensive Spanish Language in the Dominican Republic

I was very fortunate to study Spanish in the Dominican Republic this past summer. At first, I was afraid to go on the study abroad because it was going to be my first time leaving the states and I didn’t know much Spanish. Despite these earlier fears, I made it through the many ups and downs of the 5-week experience and in the end, I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to study abroad, to have such an amazing director, teacher, and classmates, as well as the best host family.
Through the experience, I have learned not only Spanish, but about the Dominican culture. I have discovered myself and learned more about the world and life.
One of my favorite experiences was going on a hike to El Mogote in Jarabacoa. Growing up in Utah, I’ve always enjoyed hiking, camping, and always being in nature. And weeks spent in the Santo Domingo left me feeling disconnected with nature as I would spend everyday walking through congested roads, polluted streets, and the busy city life.
The hike was an opportunity to get out of the city and into the Dominican Republic nature. And it was also an opportunity to be with Dominicans and learn a lot from them.
Two other students from the study abroad and I  joined a big group of high school, college students, and leaders from Partners of the Americas. We hiked up El Mogote and camped at the peak for a night.
The hike up was so difficult! I really was not expecting such a difficult hike, but it steep and long. It took us 3 hours to get to the top. I was exhausted way before someone told us that we were only halfway there. I wasn’t prepared for such a difficult hike because it was a hike for young students, so I didn't think it would be as intense. When we got to the top, I was just so happy. I really thought Utah hikes were tough, but Dominicans are extremely tough and they didn't complain one bit through it all. Throughout the hike, I had incredible conversations with these amazing Dominicans about life and views on certain things. I learned so much from them and I was so grateful to have learned Spanish to be able to communicate with them. They opened my eyes to the third-world nation and their differing lifestyles. I realized my privileges that I have in the U.S. and we all became close as we shared our differences and struggles. 
When we got to the top of El Mogote, we were welcomed with a spectacular view and cold temperatures. It was a different side of the Dominican Republic to experience--no more hot, humid heat and beaches. By the time we set up our camp and ate dinner, it was dark. Before we slept, we enjoyed great Dominican music and dancing! One of the students brought his guitar, so amazing voices and such joyful spirits serenaded us all. They even wrote a song just for each of us and told us amazing stories. 
When we woke up, we cleaned up the camp and hiked down. Eventually, everyone got down and we were all so very happy and hungry at the end of it. We then got a guagua towards town and we ate a lot of good food at the restaurant. We ate the typical Dominican diet of rice, beans, meat, yucca, mangu, Presidente, and egg salad. We also had some dulce de leche for desert. It was such a delicious lunch and it was well-deserved after two long days of hiking. We then topped it off with a swim/bathe in the Parque del Norte river. It was so much fun. At the end of the trip, it was sad to say goodbye to all of them because the tough hike had made us become such close friends as we all struggled to reach the same destination. We had amazing conversations as we braced the cold weather at the peak. And after all of that, we all celebrated together and had a good time.
I came to the Dominican Republic to learn the language and the culture, but in the end, I ended up with a family and a new global and open way of seeing and living.

Monday, September 16, 2013

La Ruta De Las Xanas

By: Michael Sharifi, Intensive Spanish Language in Oviedo, Spain

Not much of a city boy, so when offered the opportunity on my day off to go for a Sunday hike the question became a day of absolution. I felt indifferent to my time Spain and by the third week my routine in Utah became a distant memory. The language switched from English to Spanish, my suburbia home into an apartment building, and my fifteen-inch pillow top Beautyrest scaled down to a four-inch IKEA mattress, as did my shower to the size of a small closet. My diet adapted to the local cuisine; artisan breads, a cheese wheel that sat on the counter, and vino tinto from a northern region of Spain. A passion for Spanish wine lingers around Rioja in fact the University of La Rioja was the first campus to offer a Bachelor of Oenology, traditional winemaking.

I ate giant calamari rings with lemon and drank Sidra shots to wash it down, a local cider served in a waterfall affect that stimulates the ingredients for a quick single swig. To live Spain was to eat its food. I watched two tiny elderly ladies on no noteworthy afternoon eat a stacked plate of fried chicken, bread, cheese, two bottles of sidra, a plate of Jamón, desert and Crème De Mint liquor served as a bookend. At the same time I watched my friend across the table drink an entire picture of sangria.

At the peak of our hike stood a restaurant in a village, only a handful of houses in the mountains, our destination for lunch and rumors of a seven-course meal. We met early in the morning at the parade de autobús close to the mall. On our way to the bus Maddy and I stopped at a popular new restaurant Venti-Seis Grado and grabbed breakfast and some snacks for the hike. A few acquaintances requested directions to Venti-Seis Grado upon eyesight of our food. Stragglers showed up wearing disco teca clothes from a night of debauchery. Our University of Utah instructor Tim brought his chef as our hiking guide. Almost every night Tim ate at his restaurant located in the old part of Oviedo, so Felix for all purposes was his chef. I visited Felix’s restaurant and returned after tasting his cooking. On my fist visit I sat at the bar nursing a San Miguel when his wife came in with a bag of fresh herbs and some flowers from her garden, she gave Maddy a rose and me a handful of basil scent from her fingers. “Bueno, no.” The menu listed an international cuisine from the Morocco, Spain, and France, a delight of magical flavors and textures, unique to the surrounding restaurants.

The couple Euros for the bus took us through the winding hills, south of Oviedo, past small towns, and mountain villages. The bus window framed picturesque murals of green hillsides and red roof cottages. The driver raced on the narrow road, as I held tight to the railing, my body weaved back and forth with the road. My eyes attempted desperately to capture the passing scenes and soak in the color of light into memory.

Just another stop some twenty miles along the road, an odd number of us casually stepped off the bus. We took a path for the next leg of our journey that covered a forgotten railroad. Pace and conversation divided us into smaller groups. I fell behind taking pictures while Felix led us in both age and speed. I caught up to the group at La Ruta De Las Xanas trailhead where I place my camera on a timer for a group photo.

I kept stride with Tim on the trail. He oozed a plethora of Spanish history. I knew Oviedo was once the original capital for Spain but I did not know Asturia at one time stood as the last remaining borders of Spain. Only 4,094 sq. miles, about the size of Salt Lake City to Midway, remained of Spain in 722. Tim theorized, if Pelayo lost the war then Santa Clara, La Pinta, La Santa Maria never pass the American waters and Spanish, the forth most popular language, dies at the foot of the conquered. But the Spanish did win and a statue of the King Pelayo, who defeated the Moors, stands tall next to a special cathedral in the mountains called Covadonga and the wood cross Pelayo carried into battle sits behind locked gates in the Cathedral of San Salvador, Oviedo wrapped in gold and embedded with jewels.

We stepped out of the trees into a clear vision of the church above on the hillside. Just over the ridge we find the small village and the lone restaurant. Multiple plates of food were set on the long table. Thirteen of us sat around the table in a remote village high in the Asturian Mountains sharing bread. Sobermesa defines this moment in time when friends eat, drink and converse with equal importance.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Remind me, where am I again?...Oh right, I’m in Italy!

Locations of Site Visitors

At times we live our lives at the pace of a constant run. A constant running from obligation to obligation only ever squeezing in a bit of time for family, friends and occasional hobby. On a study abroad most of that goes away. You don’t have to worry about work, school (in a traditional sense), or any of your normal baggage. It’s all left thousands of miles away, and you have only two real obligations: learning the language, and fully investing in the experience of your time abroad. For me it was the first time in a very long time that I have any free time to truly experience the moment at hand. I had to constantly remind myself of where I was, and what I had the opportunity to experience. I was in Italy, and once I could wrap my head around what that meant I was reminded to how truly amazing that was.

Remember the place:
I found myself constantly amazed when I considered the history of the place I was fortunate to spend five weeks of my summer. Sitting in the Piazza del Campo in Siena you become a where of all that has happened there. From the Palio that takes place every year, or generations of people that have become permeate fixtures reclining on its floor, you are made aware of all that’s surrounding facades have seen. The best part is that in some small way your presence make you a part of all that.

Remember the people:
When on a study abroad you are placed into a microcosm of the world that is already turning on its own little axis. This is a world full of its own people with their own stories, lives and customs, and your lucky enough to enter that (even if only for a small amount of time). It becomes a good practice to remind yourself that there are people that live their lives there everyday, and where it may not be your reality, it’s theirs.

Most of all, just remember:
Remember you time aboard. Take time to write things down, to transcribe your memories and add them to your own life story. You may not make a large mark on the city you temporarily call home, but that city will make a large mark on the history of your life.

Memories make up our personal histories, and the opportunity of a study aboard gives you the chance to add a whole new heap of things that should be remember to yours. Many places, like Siena, are so full of life and history you can help but honor the importance of it all, but don’t forget to take the time a reflect on the little stories that make up your personal history. And even once your homes take the time to remind yourself, “I was in Italy! And it was pretty amazing.” 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Alicante, Spain and the Reluctant Traveler

By: Carol Beeton

Summertime in Spain was everything I’d hoped…and everything I’d feared.

Still, it was worth it!

I am a junior high school ESL teacher getting additional training here at the University of Utah. Knowing I would be a better teacher if my Spanish skills were a little stronger, I’d been looking for the chance to spend time in a Spanish-speaking country – a real immersion experience.

Plus, I’ve dreamed of living in Spain for as long as I can remember. There’s something about the idea of castles in Spain that has always caught my imagination.

But there were concerns. I’ll be fifty next year, and didn’t know if I really wanted to spend the summer with college students. Another problem was my health issues: trouble with my eyes, feet, and heart, and real trouble tolerating temperature extremes. I knew summertime would be hot in Spain.

But after waffling for several years about this, I crossed my fingers and took the plunge.

So, what was it like?

Well, most of the things I worried about came true. Even with “European” walking shoes, my feet were killing me most of the time during the first two weeks. Then, somehow I adapted.  The heat was not completely unbearable, but I found out what it felt like to be drenched 24 hours a day.  I felt dirty all the time, especially my feet. I had a heat rash on my legs for most of the trip.  

So why was it worth it? 

Because troublesome things I’d worried about seemed minor compared to the grandeur of the Spanish experience. Spain was exactly the way I’d hoped it would be -- even better, in fact.

Alicante is a pretty little college town on the southern coast of the country, with a traditional Spanish lifestyle; not the fast pace or cosmopolitan atmosphere you would find in places like Barcelona or Madrid. The town and its people are the real thing, genuine Spaniards. 

My professors at the Universidad Alicante were superb, and our classes were excellent, some of the best university classes I’ve attended.  

And it was only a ten-minute walk to the Mediterranean, which made for some long, lazy afternoons after class.  

The first two weeks I stayed with three college-age kids. They were animated and lively, but after two weeks a homestay became available and I was able to enjoy that experience as well.

The townspeople were friendly, obliging and encouraging.  And more than that, they were just cute!  All I had to say was that “I didn’t know a lot of Spanish”, and they bent over backwards trying to give me directions or make conversation with me, helping me practice my Spanish skills.

On the long sultry bus ride home from school, ladies sitting next to me would pull out little fans and start fanning themselves. If I turned and said, “Thanks for fanning me,” they would laugh and begin fanning me, too.  I said that twice, and then stopped because I didn’t want them to feel like they had to be my ventilation system.

Alicante had kind of a dual dress code. There was a lot of attire that was somewhat scanty; you just didn’t want to have anything touching your skin, even clothes.  On the other hand, townspeople dressed up when they went out. Even little old ladies did their hair & makeup & wore little dresses, especially when they went out for the evening.

Following afternoon siesta and dinner, many townspeople would take the traditional “paseo” or leisurely walk around town. You’d see old men and women with their arms linked, strolling around, nodding hellos, or groups of two or three women, meandering around and chatting.  They never seemed to tire of this activity--and it was utterly charming.  You saw a lot of families on the streets, too.

While in Spain, I attended the LDS church in Alicante, and again was met with warm welcome and offers of help. I have never been kissed so many times in my life, especially by strangers. They were so sweet.

While in Spain I got to visit Barcelona and Granada, and saw almost enough castles to satisfy me.  Moreover, overlooking the city of Alicante was a real fortress that we got to explore: Santa Barbara Castle.  I found it rather primitive, but it was perfectly thrilling to live in the very shadow of such romantic history.  
So, here are parting thoughts/advice:  If you suspect something’s going to be a problem, it probably is. Make up your mind beforehand whether or not you can stand it, and proceed accordingly.  

And if you decide to go, don’t be afraid to talk to people, because that’s the best part!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Magic Coral: New Sights and New Perspectives in Fiji

By: Cameo Burton, Sustainable Tourism in Fiji

Locations of Site VisitorsI have always been passionate about traveling, hence my major in PRT - Sustainable Tourism Management.  When I discovered there was a study abroad program in my field and it went to Fiji, it became a no brainer to me.  What I learned and discovered while I was there became a priceless experience.

There is so much more to Fiji then beaches and palm trees; that was my first thought when I thought of the country.  In the three weeks I spent there I may have spent one or two full days on the beach.  In the highlands you find many villages and beautiful rivers.  We spent two days on different rivers, and another day kayaking through the mangroves.  What a beautiful sight it was.

On this trip I also got certified in diving.  I went on many dives including a shark dive.  Honestly I think the shark dive was the most boring, as all you do is sit there and watch the sharks swim in front of you.  I loved the other dives we went on, including the ones to get certified.  Thinking about the Earth you learn in elementary school that the Earth is covered with about 70% water.  I realized on this trip how much amazing beauty we are missing out on, all because it lies beneath the water. 

It was fun to swim through the schools of fish that were everywhere.  The coral is so bright and colorful in some areas.  I recommend staying closer to the dive masters as they are the experts of what can be found in that area, and will point out some pretty cool stuff.  One example is what I call, “magic coral.”  As you would touch the coral it would instantly go white as a defense mechanism.  White coral is usually dead or dying coral. It was amazing to watch.

Fijians are always so happy, and friendly.  Everyone you pass by will wave and call out “Bula!” (Meaning hello, goodbye, cheers)  This happens if you are walking or driving past.  They made it so easy to love them and this beautiful country you are in.

I learned a lot about sustainable tourism, the dying population of sharks in Fiji and surrounding areas, marine life in general, and even more importantly myself.  It was an experience I will never forget and will be telling others about for the rest of my life.  I highly recommend this trip to everyone.