Five Things I Will Incorporate into My American Life

 

  • Biking

A fun fact about The Netherlands is there are two bikes for every one person. I heard this going into Holland, but I never actually visualized what it would look like. There are bikes everywhere! Every time I walked across the road I was worried about getting hit by a bike. I truly did the “look right, left, and right again” walking around the city.  Within the first week of walking miles a day, I did the Dutch thing and bought a bike. I fell in love with my bike, because I used it every single day. Now, being back in the United Sates, I miss it more than ever. I will start taking weekend biking trips and remember the good times I had biking to the North Sea.

  • Easy/Spontaneous Travel

In the States, I can hop in my car and drive anywhere I want, but I usually just drive to school or to get food. In The Netherlands, traveling was just as easy if not easier. I didn’t have a car in Europe, but that didn’t stop me from waking up early to catch the first three-hour train to Paris, or jump on the ten euro Flix bus for an eight-hour drive to Belgium. When I was in Europe, I had a sense of adventure. I only realized that I can do the same kind of adventures right here in the States when I talked to the people from Europe asking me if I’ve visited California. I now know how easy it really is to just make a destination a goal and go for it.

  • Language

I’ve always had an interest in foreign languages, but I never actually understood the importance of them until I went to an international school. I knew a little bit of Spanish, and I even got into an introduction to Dutch class, but none of those were quite enough for me to actually communicate with some of my closest friends in their native language. Hanging around many Spanish speaking people, the once English-speaking majority soon became Spanish. I was unable to fully understand what my friends were saying, but I could see the expressions on their face which gave me a little bit of an idea. Being back in the States, I am going to make it a goal of mine to practice different languages with the help of my newly made international friends.

  • News

In Europe, I started every single day by reading the news. I got my news from Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other forms of online media postings. This was a great way for me to be able to stay in touch with my friends and family back home. The only problem with my news was that it was a majority from the United States. I realized that for me to learn what was happening around in Europe, I had to ask my friends and classmates. They briefed me on the major events that happened in The Netherlands and what was happening in their home countries. This showed me that I didn’t have the perspective of the world like I thought I had. I now start my day on talking to people I have met, because it is usually mid-day for them, and get caught up very quickly on what’s happening around the world.

  • Friends

Friends and Family are the most important things in life. This is something that I believe and hope that everyone understands. I was very lucky when I met a group of friends on the introduction day at The Hague that lasted until the day I left. Even though oceans are between us, we still stay up to date using Snap Chat and Instagram.

Breaking a Stereotype

Social media had a huge impact on the people of 2017, and will continue affecting people for years to come. Every time I got on Twitter, Facebook, and even LinkedIn, someone was posting about not being understood for who they are. Going abroad has allowed me to realize just how important it really is to understand someone for who they are instead of the stereotype that people portray them of being. To begin with, I went to study in The Hague, The Netherlands. On the opening day for the exchange program all one hundred and fifty exchange students, including three University of Louisville students which were the only United States citizens in the room, watched what the school thought was a great introduction video to break the ice. The instructor first began the video saying, “I know all of you have seen this video before, but we can watch it again.” The video consisted of a foreign television host making a fool out of President Donald Trump. I felt absolutely humiliated, because before I didn’t have the chance to speak to anyone, and everyone made their stereotype about The United States. It was only after everyone in the room was laughing at the obscene footage that the instructor asked if any Americans were in the room. Two others and I raised our hands in shame and humiliation. This story is not to convince anyone not to participate in study abroad, because it was an experience of a lifetime. This allowed me to break a stereotype to every single person I had met. Over the four-and-a-half-month period I was in Europe, I had the opportunity to prove that I was not a stereotype. “You can’t be American. You aren’t rude. You aren’t fat. You aren’t something.”  For the entire beginning of the trip, I had to prove to people who I wasn’t before they could get a chance to meet who I was. I had to break down cultural barrier that should have never been built in the first place, and needless to say, I loved it. I got to show my new friends from all over the world what made me a United States citizen, and I stopped letting stereotypes make a name for me. As much as I felt like a victim of being misunderstood, I was also culturally uneducated. I have heard many stereotypes of countries, and as much as I knew they couldn’t all be true, it did give me a bias. One night I vividly remember was my friends and I cornering all parts of the globe sat around and began to allow each other to explain where the stereotypes come from. By the end of the night, we were all laughing at the common belief of people that new absolutely nothing about the culture of our countries. Now, I can finally say I am culturally taught, but I could never be able to assume anything about anyone based on where they are from.

Differences between the U.K. and the U.S.

Before departure in my study abroad in London, England I thought what could be so different about the U.K. and the U.S.? They both speak English! The longer I was there, the more I noticed the subtle differences between the two. For the first most obvious one everyone probably knows, they drive on the opposite side of the road! They also heavily rely on public transportation. They have the tube, the famous double-decker buses, and trains. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of cars on the road, but there are even more people using public transportation. Another big difference that I noticed is that their restaurants, stores, and pubs close far earlier than ours. On weekdays their stores will close around 9 p.m. or earlier, restaurants around 10 p.m., and pubs by midnight. Another big difference is the variety of cultures. We call America a melting pot, but London indeed is a melting pot. While in London, I only met two people who were actually from London! Also, when we would go out to eat, we would see our server once when we were ready to order, when we got our food, and then when we got our check. Where in America our servers would probably check on us 5-7 times or more!

For one of our projects, we had to go to the tube and compare the differences in the advertisements we saw in London versus the advertisements in America. Some of the main differences we noticed are that ads in the tube are very wordy. They will have nearly a whole paragraph on an ad. Where in America, we are short, sweet, and to the point. We also rely a lot on visual aids to draw attention. Another large difference is they do not focus on interactive advertising as much as we do. We try to get consumers involved and interacting with us and one another. Where in the tubes they mainly used only traditional media. Our main conclusion was that London is about 5-10 years behind America on effective advertising.

My point here is that I was expecting things to be so similar to American culture, which in a lot of ways they were, but the more I explored London, the more differences I saw.

You Never Know What You Can Find

I didn’t realize how much studying abroad had changed me until I got home. Traveling and being surrounded by other cultures has affected how I view life back home in many ways. Each place that I visited had something unique about the culture and some sort of signature piece to the city. Being back in Louisville has made me curious as to what Louisville, Kentucky has to offer. I have never had any interest in exploring Louisville until now. I can’t help but think “if I was abroad here, what would I do, where would I go, and what would I want to see?” These questions have been on my mind ever since I landed at SDF.

I think my biggest take away from this experience is to learn as much as you can, no matter where you are. Although Louisville has never been voted “the most exciting city in America,” it is still unique and a very important city to me. We have the Kentucky Derby, Thunder Over Louisville, 4th Street Live, museums, and have been home to legends such as Muhammad Ali. Although these are all amazing things about Louisville, I have come to realize that what you find, wherever you are, will surprise you and be unexpected. There is more to this city that just the big-ticket items. I cannot wait to go explore Louisville and learn more about the culture that I have been surrounded by my entire life. I am excited to go see another side to Louisville and see what treasures I can find away from the main attractions.

10 Tips for Studying Abroad

  • DO IT! This is most likely the only opportunity that you will have to travel with little responsibilities. Also, it is a great resume builder!
  • Pack light. When you are going from airport to airport and train to train, having to carry a bunch of luggage can be very tiring and make your traveling experience less exciting.
  • Travel around. Don’t just stay in the city you are studying in. Go experience other cultures and get a feel for how different parts of the world live.
  • Take a relatively “easy” course load. You don’t want to spend every waking minute doing assignments, studying, and being in class. You need to have time to explore the city you’re in and travel around.
  • On the other hand, go to class! It is just as important to learn in the classroom as it is to learn outside of it.
  • Eat the local foods. Even if you are a picky eater, like myself, try something new! You will be surprised at how much you like new things.
  • Call home, but not too often. Keep your friends and family updated on your well-being, but don’t make yourself homesick by always checking in. Life in Louisville will continue while you are away.
  • Bring a small trinket from home. For those times if/when you do get homesick, having something from home can help you get past it.
  • Have a budget. If you go without a budget, you will spend a TON of money. Budget out trips, food, housing etc., and try to stay with it.
  • Have fun. This is an experience that will change how you view yourself, others, and the world. Learn all that you can and just have fun and enjoy it.

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.

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!