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.

 

Spain: Helpful Hints

This is a post for students who are planning on studying in Spain. I’m going to lay out a few tips and tricks you can use to blend in a bit better with the locals and get a really “Spanish” experience out of your time abroad. These aren’t hard and fast rules, but they are good guidelines to follow. I’ve studied in Spain twice, and these are things that I wish I had known when I went.

1. Ditch the Americans- It will be very tempting to stick together with other Americans in your program and go see the sights, try the food, and pick out a good bar to frequent. My advice is to avoid this as much as possible. Find ways to meet locals. At first they will be surprised that you took an interest, but before long they’ll be inviting you to soccer games and parks where they hang out with their friends. Your Spanish will get better, and you will get a real look at what life is like for a Spanish university student.

2. Learn the public transit- Taxis are expensive, and walking everywhere takes time and is tiring. In Seville, there is a public bicycle system that I highly recommend. Granada has great buses, and the Madrid metro is the best I’ve ever seen. You will get lost a few times, but after that you will be glad you took the time to figure it out. There’s no substitute for seeing the city on your terms.

3. Forget your fancy phone- For about 50 euros you can get a good old-fashioned brick phone and plenty of pre-paid minutes. Smart phones are still very much a luxury in Spain, and while it can be tempting to drop a Spanish SIM card in yours and stay connected, it isn’t safe. Most of your friends will be sporting older models too, so you won’t be missing out and you will definitely save some money.

4. Eat the food- I don’t like all of the Spanish food I’ve ever tried. I did, however, try everything that my host mom gave me. Not only is it polite, it’s one of the reasons you’re there. I’ve had four host families, and the number one complaint I’ve heard from them about other Americans is that they are picky eaters. Unless you have a dietary restriction, you should try everything you can.

5. Stay sober- This is the second biggest complaint I’ve heard about Americans from my Spanish friends. Being drunk is a good way to keep Spanish people from talking to you, because Spanish people don’t drink in excess. Drinking too much can be dangerous and it would be embarrassing to show up to your host home obviously drunk.

6. Ask for help- This is the tip that I wish I had followed more. Are you lost? Tell someone. Forgot the word for fork? Point at it and look confused. Not feeling well? Have someone take you to the pharmacy. People can feel isolated when they are abroad, and the biggest reason for this is because they want to do it all themselves. You will make better relationships with people and struggle less if you just break down and ask.

7. Give someone else your passwords- To everything. And make them change them. Don’t let them tell you what they are. Get rid of Netflix, social media, even an email account you don’t really need. Disconnect. Looking back and seeing that you spent three hours a day in bed watching bootleg episodes of The Walking Dead won’t be nearly as rewarding as looking back and knowing that you made the most of every day.

8. Study- I know that’s probably not what you’re looking forward to the most. It wasn’t my favorite thing to do either. But you have to have get credit for your classes, and you just might learn something in the process.

9. Speak the language- Silent dinners aren’t fun for anyone. Not you and not your host family. They know that you aren’t as good at Spanish as they are. They won’t be offended by it, even when you accidentally say something offensive (and you will). My program director said it best when he told us that “those of you who practice will improve, and those of you who practice less will improve less.” Making mistakes is encouraged.

10. Enjoy yourself- It is easy to get over there and after the first few weeks… “hit a wall.” It isn’t fun and new anymore, and you’re starting to get homesick and tired of all of the differences. The best thing to do when this happens is to make yourself get out there and try something new. Make a new friend or find a new hobby. The time will fly by, and you need to make the most of it.

Let me know if you have any questions, and enjoy your time in Spain. It’s a great country.

Traveling from The Hague!

So I have been in The Netherlands for about a month now and it has been nothing short of amazing. I am so happy with my decision to study here in The Hague because it makes traveling so easy! Since arriving at the end of January I have already been able to travel to France and Spain.

Since we arrived in late January we had about a week and half with no class. Sophie, Evan and I decided to take full advantage of this opportunity and booked a trip to Paris! I was surprised by how easy it was to get there (a five hour train ride). We stayed at a nice hostel called Le Regent Hostel Montmartre that was very reasonably priced and located in a super fun area. While there we got to see all of the major attractions like the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, the Palace of Versailles, etc. Besides the amazing sights that Paris has to offer, the other reason i would definitely recommend going there is THE FOOD. SO. GOOD. A Madame Croque will change your life, I have no doubt.

After returning from paris we began our first week of class, but luckily for us we only had two weeks before our Spring Break (if you call February spring…). Evan and I decided to try to find a cheap beach destination so we spent one night searching all of the internet and finally came across a great deal to Palma de Mallorca in Spain on Expedia. I would definitely recommend Expedia when flying somewhere because usually by buying a package deal you end up with a nice hotel a flight for about the same price you be paying for a flight and hostel were you to do it separate. Anyways, Mallorca was BEAUTIFUL. The beaches are not like beaches in the U.S., they’re much smaller and more like coves. Just to warn you, so you aren’t surprised like we were, wearing a top at the beach is apparently not required in Spain. The actual city of Palma is also very beautiful. There are tons of great stores to shop at and lots of little places to eat. However, my favorite part about the city was its compact size, you could walk from one side to the other in just an hour. While we were in the city we visited La Sea, the Cathedral of Mallorca and it was breath taking. We also hiked our way up to the top of the hill to visit the Castell de Bellver, a 13th Century castle. The view from up there was absolutely amazing. Besides these tourist attractions, Mallorca is known for its nightlife. February is part of the “offseason” in Mallorca, but you could still find crowds of people in the streets at 5:30 in the morning on the weekend. Some locals told us its like that EVERY night May- October so I definitely wouldn’t recommend going to Mallorca if you’re trying to get you’re beauty sleep.

The places I’ve been so far have been amazing and I’m looking forward to continuing my travels!

Nothing Comes Closer To Home

http://youtu.be/5-KswdZ2Ihw

Nothing Comes Closer To Home
The title of this post may be a Stoufer’s jingle but it has complete relevance, here. After months of living in a different country and years of living in the states I’ve decided that…(drumroll please)…home is what you make it, honestly. I’m not saying that from the standpoint of “you can find a family anywhere” but with the perspective of how we view our homes.
In Spain and a lot of the other Mediterranean countries, it is not uncommon for the people walking in the streets to keep to themselves; no head nods, no finger flips, no wrist waves. Just straight faced, runway-worthy walking. I would probably think I did something wrong if a stranger and I crossed paths and I acknowledged both of our existences but they simply looked passed me in the states, particularly in my Ole’ Kentucky home. At first, it’s easy to look from the ethnocentric perspective – the view that your home country’s ways are superior – to make the generalization that Spaniards are rude and don’t know old-fashioned, southern hospitality. And truth is, they don’t know southern hospitality, but they have their own version.
The essence of the Americas is one of exploration, liberty, and freedom. We’re known as the guys with the “frontier spirit” and manifest destiny- to spread from coast to coast and such. Remember that song from elementary (or grade school for you private, catholic folk) “this land is my land, this land is your land, from california to the new york islands.” It has a lot more implicit meaning than I ever realized. Sure, we’re not a perfect society and we have had and still have our problems but despite this we are a open society where PERSONAL space is at a minimum. We’re quick to share, quick to greet, quick to befriend. This land belongs to all of us and it makes up our “ home” in its totality.
Just because I’ve spent a few months here doesn’t make me an expert or local by any means but between my classes, my personal experience in my homestay, and the accounts of Europeans I have spoken with, I have a little bit of an idea of how it works here in Espana. Remember when I said that the Spaniards keep it a little more on the straight faced side compared with us Americans? Well, Spain’s place in the history of the world has afforded it a little different view of society. They are a people who look at the history for their answers more so than the future or event the present. Thus, it’s kind of important for them to have a history with you before they go on exchanging all the pleasantries of a familiar friendship. The Italians, French, and Spanish are sort of famous for their kissing-as-a-greeting and their bypass of the tradition hug. Well, it turns out that the hug or “abrazo” is reserved for special relationships. Neat, huh? And all this time we thought they just moved really fast in relationships. What more? A common perspective is actually that American “friendships” can be a little superficial and surface. After all, how much can you really know about someone you just met? Here, time spent together and a common knowledge of one anothers backgrounds is a contract of a solid relationship in itself. In this case, actions speak louder than words. In Spain, the home isn’t necessarily everyone you meet but those with whom you have taken the time to build something special.
There are advantages and disadvantages from all perspectives, as with most things in life, but there is no wrong answer here. Now, however, I will stop to think about the differences in perception of personal space and how relationships function in different parts of the world. Furthermore I can apply this learning to the different cultures represented by the salad bowl that it the U.S. Also, I will reflect on the amount of time and effort I put into my relationships in the states and how I’m building “my home,” while continually sharing the “frontier spirit” and letting everyone, no matter where they’re from that “this land was made for you and me.”