Reasons to Study Abroad

Dining

While the dining habits are not too different from the US, it was one of my favorite things about my time abroad. To start off my day, I would typically just have toast and coffee. But, lunch was interesting; this was my biggest meal of the day and took place around 2 in the afternoon. Lunch was typically prepared by the grandmother/mother and they would prepare enough for their entire immediate family. I appreciated this so much, because for just an hour a day they got to enjoy the company of their family. And obviously after eating this huge lunch I would not want another big meal. So, dinner typically consisted of tapas, which is a shareable appetizer, and this was eaten around 10 at night. In addition, some helpful tips I would like to mention is that bread was served with almost every meal and it was used to get all the little bits of food on my fork and I used a fork and knife for almost everything that I ate.

Walking

At first this may not seem very appealing, but it allows you to really get to know your city. It gave me the opportunity to explore, get lost, hid from the sun, meet new people, and find new places. Sevilla is a big city in Spain, but a small city compared to Louisville, so I could walk everywhere. Not only did this allow me to burn off all those extra calories from the sangria, but it played a huge role in my love for Sevilla. And It is the reason I now call Sevilla my second home.

Friends

People have friends from all the different chapters in their lives. I have friends from home, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, sports, work, etc. And there is study abroad friends too. Meeting new people who are doing the same new thing you are doing is very comforting. They do not know what is going on either. You will struggle together. You will learn together. But, most importantly, you will succeed together. I meet students from all over the US and I am lucky to call some of them my friends. They were there to help me communicate, they were there when I did not want to go shopping alone, they were there when I wanted someone to eat gelato with, and I know they will be there if we ever cross paths again in the future.

Family

When you study abroad your destination will be like a second home. It needs to feel like a home away from home and the only thing that will be this is family. Never forget about the people that love you back home, but you need that same loving support abroad too. While abroad, my family consisted of my home-stay mom, my roommate, and a few of my classmates. But, families abroad can come from anywhere. They could be a program leader, a professor, a classmate, a roommate, a waiter, a member of a home-stay family, etc.

Things To Know Before You GO

38 days, 10 cities, 4 countries, 2 continents, and 1 trip of a life time, this is the opportunity the University of Louisville College of Business gave me. And now I am going to give back by giving my advice to the future students who wish to study abroad.

Before you go abroad you have to make sure you are able to go abroad. By this I mean fill out all the forms, send out all your emails, pay all the fees, get all the immunizations, and ask all those questions that keep popping up in your head. I think the worst part for me was the anticipation leading up to my departure date. Yes, this means after you completed all those annoying requirements you still have to wait for the date printed on that costly plane ticket. But, you can use this to your advantage. Take the time to brush up or learn the native language of the country or countries you will be living in or visiting. And, if you are feeling brave you could even start packing or at least making of list of everything you plan to pack, that way when the time finally arrives you do will not forget anything you meant to bring. Also, this is the 21st century, you are going to want to take pictures and virtually communicate with your new family and friends so make sure you have memory on your phone/ camera. And personally, I would recommend that you have some kind of international plan (I saw students who were solely relying on WIFI and it looked frustrating). And speaking of new friends and family know that they exist. You will make friends. There will be other students going through exactly what you are going through. If you are having a hard time or just need someone lean on them because more likely than not, they need someone to lean on too. And you will have a family, it may be very non-traditional, but you will have one. Families abroad can consist of an assortment of people; they could consist of program leaders, professors, classmates, roommates, waiters, members of a homestay family, you name it. If they live in your new home away from home they could be a part of your new family. And before you go make sure you have a way to remain in contact with your new friends and family; friend them on Facebook, follow them on Instagram, send them pictures via Snapchat, or tweet them on Twitter. You can use whichever social media platform or platforms you like best, but definitely use them. And last but not least, know that “over there” where ever that may be is not so different than “over here”.  You will live, you will make friends, you will go shopping, you will go out to eat, you will go out for drinks, you will get into a routine, and you will never truly be alone.

I wish you good luck on your future endeavors and remember the world is too big to stay in one place.

 

Morocking into the Fall

My name is Claire Gothard and I’m a junior Economics and Political Science major at UofL. I’m spending this fall semester in Morocco to work on my Arabic language skills and immerse myself into new experience. A little background on me, I’ve traveled to Morocco twice before to learn Arabic. Both of those visits were for about a month and I was living in Rabat, the capital city. Rabat is an international city, full of diplomats and other foreign workers. This semester, I am spending three months in the smaller, more traditional city of Meknes. In this entry, I’ll tell y’all a little about a couple of the many cities in Morocco.

This time, I am exploring the country with a group of amazing students from all across the States. My program through ISA has set up so many amazing opportunities for me to bond with both my fellow students, but also some local students. We all have varying levels of the languages spoken here: French, Modern Standard Arabic, and Darija (the Moroccan dialect). Navigating in each city is a trial of its own!

We started the journey in Casablanca, the New York City of Morocco. It’s big, loud, and industrial. It’s home to not only the largest mosque in Africa, but also the largest shopping mall (2 million square feet). The hallmark event of our short visit was a tour of the Hassan II Mosque. Typically, non-Muslims are not  allowed inside of mosques, especially during prayer time. We were lucky to be able to walk around the inside of the monumental building. Our group had time to explore the magnificent mosaics then hear a presentation on the internal décor and structure.

Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca

In front of an outdoor fountain at Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca

After being impressed by the enormity of Casablanca, we took a long bus ride to the red city, Marrakech. As the largest tourist destination in the country, Marrakech is full of both Western amenities (Starbucks and McDonalds) and traditional vibes. The red city, called such due to the red clay buildings, is most famous for the large square Jemaa el-Fna that is the entrance to the souq, the outdoor maze-like market. A group of us spent our first evening getting lost (purposefully and not-so-purposefully) in the never-ending alleys and corridors of the Marrakechi souq. We eventually ended up at a rooftop café with a gorgeous view of the souq. We ate traditional Moroccan tagine (stew) and mint tea. After those amazing, but all too short, adventures, we started the long journey to Meknes. I’ll save the wonderful descriptions of my home city for another time.

Jemaa al-Fna, Marrakechi square full of juice stands, snake charmers, and other vendors.

Governor’s Palace in Marrakech

Morocco is constantly surprising me – it’s an entirely new experience each time. Yesterday, I completed my first full month here. Time has honestly flown by! And while I can’t wait for all of the adventures to come, I don’t want them to go by too quickly. Until next time!

Take the Solo Trip

I’m Morgan a senior economics major at the University of Louisville and had the chance to spend my Spring 2016 semester in Bordeaux, France. I was abroad for 5 months with one of my closest friends from Louisville attending school in Spain. This was my first major trip that I had embarked on ‘alone’ or without someone that I know booking a plane ticket with me. Of course you do get a little nervous and come up with all the irrational ‘what-if’ scenarios, but once you take the plunge and go ahead on your own journey it is worth it a million times over.

I got to Bordeaux and was getting aquatinted with all of the study abroad students and making friends, we planned random weekend trips and scheduled our school breaks together, so I was rarely alone in my actual travels. Until my roommate decided to leave 4 months early and I found myself then living alone in a foreign city. Shortly after that small crisis, I realized that my visa for my stay in Europe was actually invalid due to inaccurate dates that were placed on it. (People take it from me, triple check that thing before hopping on a plane.) After a solid two weeks of feeling like I had maybe made a mistake in thinking I could conquer this entire semester abroad on my own, I regained the confidence I needed when I decided to venture to Madrid by myself.

I had to travel out to Madrid to get my visa validated by a French consulate outside of France, so I booked a round trip bus ticket and found myself heading south of Bordeaux during a much needed long weekend. At first I tried to get friends on my study abroad to join me and ease this fear that I would be lonely, but everyone had already booked other trips and this was my only free weekend so I decided to do it alone. I wasn’t just going to travel to Madrid for paperwork though; I was going to enjoy getting to know the Spanish way of life.

I spent four days in Madrid by myself, walking around the city, making friends at hostels, eating lunch alone, getting tapas with new found friends and exploring all the sites that Madrid had to offer. I imagined that my weekend would be spent walking around alone and me constantly staring at my phone to avoid the fact that it was just me at the dinner table, but what I found was making friends is so much easier than you would ever imagine and travelling alone is even enjoyable. I made friends where I was staying and most of them were also travelling alone, so it was nice to have companionship for a night out and people to grab brunch with in the daylight hours. It was also nice, however, to go walk around the city by myself and have coffee at a café without staring at my phone the whole time and soaking up the experience around me.

At least once during your study abroad adventure you’ll find that all of your newfound friends are busy one weekend, or are venturing out to places you might not be super interested in, and I highly recommend you take that time to go explore somewhere new on your own, even if it’s just a short train or bus ride away.

First Post from Germany!

Hello everyone,

This is Todd Sheets writing from Heilbronn, Germany. This is my first time posting to the blog and I’m happy to say that everything is going great! I have had an amazing first few weeks in Germany with a ton of great experiences. I keep a full log of exciting things that I do on my YouTube channel (link below). But for today, I would like to share one experience that I felt was moving and made me realize how fun studying abroad is going to be.

When I first arrived in Germany I did as most do and got situated in the city. Moved in to my apartment, looked for local grocery stores, and of course got some local food! Soon after I got in contact with an old friend named Christoph. Christoph was a exchange student at my high school for a year to learn English, and he was nice enough to invite me to his home and to meet his family. I traveled to a small town in Germany to meet up with Christoph, and when I arrived I was greeted by him and his family and a home-cooked meal. This is when I felt that I had truly been immersed in a new culture. Eating the food and hearing the German language was a really enlightening experience and cleared me of any doubts I had about study abroad. I think it is important for anyone studying abroad to reach out to the local culture and experience something new. And if you are reading this and thinking about studying abroad in the near future, I can’t urge you enough to do it!

That’s all for this first post. Feel free to follow my YouTube if you would like to see more about my travels and also my Instagram for the same thing. Links below.

YouTube

Instagram: _tsheets

5 Reasons You Should Study in Bordeaux, France

I am Morgan a senior economics major here at the University of Louisville. In Spring 2016 I had the chance to study abroad in Bordeaux, France and had the time of my life. I will save you the ‘my entire life changed’ story because that’s not what happened. I will say that it was a blast and being in Europe for 5 months before starting my senior year, and was one of the greatest experiences in my college career. So here are the top five reasons that you need should seriously consider studying in Bordeaux for the semester.

  1. The business school in Bordeaux is ideally built for juniors or seniors to get masters classes while still in undergraduate studies; it gives a very intriguing perspective on classes that you may see in an MBA setting. That does not necessarily mean that the classes are infinite times harder, but they can be challenging. The class schedule is also unique for the masters program because each class is a month long, meaning you can focus on one or two studies at a time. One last note on the classes are unlike anything you can take at UofL including sustainable marketing, economics of real estate, and my personal favorite wine marketing.
  2. City living was honestly one of the best parts of being in Bordeaux and the housing options were beautiful. While the school doesn’t have the traditional on-campus housing options and you can still do the homestay with a French family. However, what I did, and what I would do again, was find someone in the program to live with (via Facebook) and stay more in the city center. This not only gave me a good chance to get to know people that I was studying abroad with, but I also got to actually fulfill my dreams of living in a city by myself and exploring something new everyday; my new experiences were endless including restaurants, wine bars, coffee shops, boutiques, the new neighborhoods, and the different public gardens. This was a unique experience to studying in Bordeaux because most programs require some kind of homestay or on-campus housing.
  3. The French lifestyle is THE best honestly on any given day you will see everyone outside enjoying the beautiful waterfront area and all the indoor/outdoor restaurants. Especially in Bordeaux you can see how leisurely life in France is. Even on days that you seem to have run out of entertainment or items to keep you occupied, or you just want a day without stress; you can embark on ‘getting cultured’ and soaking up the ease of the French lifestyle.
  4. The access to travel not only in France but also to other countries is super easy. Bordeaux has there own train station and airport, and they are working on an even faster train to Paris (seriously less than three hours) for even more accessible and cheaper travel! Some of my favorite places to go were Marseille, Nice, Paris, Dublin, Ireland, and Marrakech, Morocco.
  5. You didn’t think I wouldn’t mention wine, did you? Part of the French leisurely lifestyle is enjoying all of the culture that Bordeaux has to offer. Bordeaux is one of the largest wine exports in France and its largest economic product surrounds so much of the culture. You will see people enjoying glasses of red during lunch and people carrying bottles of wine around the city. I would definitely suggest visiting chateaus and vineyards to really soak up the experience.

Oaxaca, tienes mi corazón

The 5 Things I miss the most about Oaxaca, Mexico

  1. My host parents, Hector and Leo.

Within the first week of my program, I knew that leaving my host parents would be the hardest part of my journey. I instantly fell in love with their soft-hearted and warm personalities. Every day when I came home from school or any activity, I would look forward to sharing the daily gossip (or “chisme”) with them and staying at the table for hours on end. Our meals together are what I miss the most- this is where I saw my abilities in Spanish really taking off. We would gossip about my Oaxacan “boyfriends,” our lives back home, and the interesting encounters of some of our other group members. My host family always told me that, when I’m staying with them, it’s like I am one of their own. They are what really made Oaxaca feel like home. I am so grateful to be a part of their family, even if just for a little while.

  1. Using Spanish anywhere, anytime

Obviously there are Spanish speakers here in the U.S., but it is nothing compared to the exposure of Spanish that I received in Mexico. I loved finally getting to immerse myself in the language and culture of the people that I have spent many years of my life studying. I have noticed that I have to consciously prevent myself from speaking full sentences in Spanish to my friends, or accidentally using a Spanish word to describe something in normal conversation. While taking notes in class, I’m often tempted to use Spanish words in the middle of my sentences. These are things that have never happened to me before, but I love them because it means that my fluency is increasing and that Spanish is becoming a bigger part of my life. In addition, the quirky little colloquial phrases were my favorite thing to learn, and it was even funnier to watch the shock and the reactions of the locals when we used them! I love teaching my friends here new phrases and using them around native speakers here in the U.S.

  1. The happiness

I can’t believe the best summer of my life has come to a close. Being in Mexico was the happiest I have ever been. The constant joy and energy of the culture in Mexico is amazing, and excitement fills the people’s hearts. I love how everyone seems to be in a good mood all the time, and everyone is always so light-hearted. Everyone is constantly joking around, dancing, and laughing with their friends. The vibrancy of the people is something I will deeply miss and keep in my heart forever.

  1. My Sol-Mates

I studied in Mexico through a program called Sol Education Abroad, and the people that shared this journey with me are called my “Sol-Mates.” Through this program, I now have friends all over the country, and even a friend from Canada. My Sol Mates and I experienced so much together: we got to explore the world together, try new foods, and laugh at each other along the way. I love that I found other people who share my same love and appreciation for Spanish language and culture, and I loved being “Los extranjeros” (the foreigners) together.

  1. The culture

I visited a Mexico that is more beautiful than any of the resorts that most people from the U.S. know. Oaxaca has 16 indigenous groups, making it one of the most diverse states in Mexico. Even better, I was in Oaxaca during the entire month of July, the month of the Guelaguetza. Throughout the month there were tons of cultural events, such as parandas (small parades) and food festivals. Oaxaca is also known for its unique cuisine, and this is something I will take with me as well. I already miss the moles, quesillo, tamales, and, most importantly, eating tortillas and beans with every meal. There are certain things that I discovered in Mexico that I will be looking for here in the grocery store, and recipes that I look forward to re-creating.

All in all, Mexico will have my heart forever. And I am already planning my next trip back.

Things I Miss About Edinburgh

Since I have come home from studying abroad, there are many things that I really miss about being in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Something I really miss about being in Scotland is not having a car.  In Edinburgh, many people do not have a car.  They just walk, bike, or take the bus for transportation.  I walked everywhere and it was really nice.  I only took the bus around 10 times the whole semester and it was to go to a nearby city or area that was just too far to walk.  My flat was in a great location, so I was pretty close to a lot of things in the city.  I do not know exactly how much I was walking, but it was several miles every day at the least.  In the week since I have returned to the US, I have really missed being able to walk everywhere I want to go.  I have decided that to incorporate walking into my life in the US, I will go for a walk every day.  Instead of walking for transportation, it will mainly just be for a relaxing activity.

One thing that I miss seeing is the pretty architecture in Scotland.  Edinburgh is such a beautiful city filled with really old and nice buildings.  They are much different than the buildings in America.  Instead of each house or business being its own stand-alone building with a yard or parking lot area, the buildings are connected to each other.  All the buildings in one block will be connected to each other.  Edinburgh is split into the Old and New Towns.  Buildings in the New Town are about 200 years old, and ones in the Old Town are from much earlier.  The oldest building in Edinburgh is Saint Margaret’s Chapel within Edinburgh Castle.  It is from the 1100s and is the only building in the castle that has not been destroyed.  Throughout the Old Town, there are many small alleyways called “closes”. They connect the upper and lower parts of town and are very cool to walk through.  It is really awesome to be surrounded by such beautiful and historic buildings.  I will try to appreciate all the architecture that is around me in the US.  I will really look around and notice the details that have gone into some buildings.

Something else I miss is being close to so many cool European places.  There was a train station about a 10-minute walk from my flat.  A bus station was about a 15-minute walk away.  Edinburgh Airport was about a 30-minute bus ride away.  I could easily travel anywhere I wanted to go.  There were several times I took a train or a bus to another city for a nice day trip.  I took a night bus to London a few times as well.  I could also go outside of the UK pretty easily.  I was able to travel to Portugal and Spain for my spring break.  I also spent St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, which I have always wanted to do.  It was awesome!  Since I have returned to America, I really miss being a bus/train/short plane from so many cool European places.

Scotland had a lot of food that I miss now.  The UK is pretty well known for having fish and chips, and they did not disappoint!  I love fish, so I was excited to eat a lot of it.  There are small take-away restaurants called chippies that have pretty good fish and chips.  In Scotland, I tried a lot of food that is different from what I usually eat here in America.  Of course, I had heard about Scottish haggis.  The things I heard about it did not make it sound too good, but I knew I would at least try it while I was there.  I was really surprised by how good it was!  It was not gross at all.  It really just tastes like meat.  I think it might be better if you do not google what it is made of before you eat it, but I definitely recommend trying it either way.  Scotland has a lot of different types of food.  I had a lot of really delicious Indian food, which I did not expect to get in Scotland.  I really liked the food I got to try while studying abroad.  It probably has made me want to try more different types of food since I have come back to America.

Something that I really miss are the great people I got to meet in Edinburgh.  The University had several events to encourage international students to meet each other.  I think we were all kind of nervous about meeting people and making friends, but it was actually really easy!  I met so many cool people and made friends from every continent except Antarctica. I also met many people from the UK, and Scotland specifically from my classes and the clubs I joined.  It was really sad to have to say goodbye to all my new friends.  However, I have been keeping in touch with a lot of them since I have come back to America.  I still talk to many of them every day.  I have made plans to visit several people.

There are so many things about my time in Edinburgh that I will miss.  I am so happy I got the chance to study abroad.  I learned so much about myself and the world.  Edinburgh is my favorite place I have ever been.  I will definitely go back again soon!

Hello from Prague!

So I wrote this two weeks ago (ish) and forgot to post it so it’s a little behind but still relevant. Here we go!

I can’t believe it’s already August and I’m going home in less than 48 hours. It’s been an incredible summer and I still can’t believe it’s been nine weeks already. Prague is beautiful and I’m so in love with this city that I don’t really want to leave.

My first week here I was honestly kind of afraid I had made a huge mistake. In orientation they talked about the honeymoon period where everything is amazing and then the low where you might start thinking this was a bad idea and compare your temporary home unfavorably to home in the states. I pretty much skipped the honeymoon period and jumped right into freaking out about the new language, the culture, how on earth am I supposed to figure out where I’m going? And oh god they want me to use public transportation, how on earth do you read the tram schedules?? I was really afraid that maybe study abroad wasn’t for me, and that I shouldn’t have come at all.

Fortunately, that feeling didn’t last long. By the end of the first week I had attended three days of class, was riding the trams with no trouble and managed to successfully navigate a grocery store where none of the signs are in English. I started to adjust and instead of feeling overwhelming I started to enjoy the cultural differences I was seeing. People are people, whether in the Czech Republic or the United States, so it was just a matter of adjusting to slightly different expectations. If you’re willing to pay attention, it’s not terribly difficult to go with the flow and fit into the crowd.

I have really loved living in Prague, but there are some definite differences it might have been nice to know about. So for anyone thinking about studying abroad here or even just visiting, here are some things to remember:

  1. It’s really quiet here – you don’t realize how loud Americans are until you get used to crowded places in the Czech Republic. And?l is a central area about five minutes’ walk from my apartment where there are two tram stops, a metro station, a mall, and a number of stores and restaurants within about 100 meters of each other. I’ve never been there at a time when there were less than one hundred people in view. In the states that many people would be making enough noise to deafen you, but here it’s barely a quiet murmur. And when using public transportation, an entirely full tram car is usually almost completely silent. It takes some getting used to, but I honestly really like it. I’m pretty quiet for the most part so I fit right in. It does, however, make the tourists who aren’t trying to be subtle stand out like a sore thumb. You can spot them immediately just by the amount of noise they’re making. The stereotype of the noisy American makes a lot more sense to me now.
  2. Do use public transportation – It’s amazing. I can get almost anywhere I want to go in twenty minutes or less without having to drive or deal with traffic. There is a huge network of trams, metros, and buses that will get you anywhere in the city and the schedules might look hard to read, but they’re actually very logical once you get over how many numbers there are. Just be aware that Prague’s public transportation system runs on the honor system. You don’t have to buy a ticket in order to ride but if you don’t once you enter the tram/bus or the ticket required areas of the metro stations you are subject to random checks by transportation officials. If you don’t have a paper ticket that you validate when you enter or a valid Líta?ka card (a card you can load with a month or more’s worth of ride credit. Definitely get one of these, it’s worth it and it’ll pay for itself with how much you use public transportation) then you may end up with a hefty fine. So follow the rules and you’re good. Plus, two months of credit was less than twenty-five dollars. And I use public transportation at least two times a day, usually more.
  3. Air conditioning is not standard. And you probably won’t find it most places – honestly, until the last week of the program we haven’t needed it. This week we’ve had temperatures in the nineties, which is somewhat unusual here, and we could have used AC but the rest of the summer I’ve been really comfortable. I have a couple of elbow length sweaters that I have worn a lot because the temperatures have usually leaned a little cool rather than too hot.

That’s all for now! I’m sure I’ll think of other things but those are the big ones anyway. Hope everyone’s having a summer as awesome as mine!

Returning Home

It has been a couple of weeks since I have returned from my study abroad experience, and it has been tough. When I first got to Barcelona I didn’t have any culture shock or any trouble adjusting to the time zone there because I was so excited to be in a foreign city by myself. My return home was a different story. For the first week I woke up every day at 6 am because it was noon in Barcelona, and I always got very tired at the end of the day when all of my friends wanted to hang out and were doing things. This was one of the first things I noticed about coming back home. The next challenging aspect of moving home was when I was hungry and when I ate. Now this may seem like a ridiculous struggle to have but when eating in Barcelona I would eat lunch around 2:30 and dinner at 8-9:30, but at home we ate at noon and like 6-7:30 so I was never hungry at the right times and didn’t really eat much with my family. Although these are small things they really play a big impact into a persons life.

 

The next thing that was challenging when coming back home was reverse culture shock. When I went to Barcelona I was so excited to be there and so ready to immerse myself into the culture that I didn’t experience any culture shock because I was open to almost anything, but when I returned home it was tough. When in Barcelona I would wake up every day and walk out on my balcony and look at the incredible view and then walk to class and get to look at all the architecture and beautiful sights. At home, I was either stuck in my house or had do drive my car to get to where I wanted to go, and everything was the same stuff I looked at and went to in high school. I was slightly depressed when coming home because I had moved away from this new incredible place where I experienced so many new things, and now I was back home to the place I spent 20 years of my life and have done everything there is to do. Even things such as being 20 minutes on the Metro away from the beach were tough to get used to not having since now I am nowhere near a beach. Overall it was a tough adjustment being back in my hometown instead of being in Barcelona.

 

The last challenging aspect about returning home was the food. Barcelona offered new food and new food experiences that I don’t have at home. Whether it be traditional tapas or a fresh seafood paella the food in Barcelona was incredible, but now I don’t have the options I did there. The first few days it was fine because I missed a lot of my home food such as Skyline and Chipotle, but after that I just wanted to be able to go to all of my restaurants that I loved in Barcelona. This summer was the greatest experience of my life and I got to experience so much culture and so many different things and I am happy and sad to be back in the United States and at UofL again, and I can’t wait until my next traveling adventure when I go abroad.