Shanghai, China

I’ve got to say that time has passed by quicker than I expected here in China. I intended to write a post on this long ago but I’ve been kept so busy with my classes and exploring that I’ve just never gotten around to it until now (my bad). It feels weird that the semester is almost over. I remember how nervous I was when I first came here, not only because I was in another country, but also because I only knew a few words of the language (those were ni hao, xie xie, and wo yao shui). Looking back at everything I’ve seen and done, I can’t help but be amazed. I can now say that I’ve been to the Great Wall of China, I’ve seen the terracotta warriors, I’ve explored the Ming tombs, and I’ve also somehow survived going to the Pearl Market (Beijing and Shanghai). However, going to these historical sites just scratches the surface of what it is like to live in China. Every morning, when I go to class, I see the local people practicing their tai chi. People young and old will randomly say hello (in english) to me. I do find it a little weird to hear Justin Beiber being played inside of stores though. I’ve become accustomed to riding the subway (I think I have been on one only once before). A lesson to learn quickly while living here is to avoid the subway at rush hour. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people packed together in a single space in my entire life. Despite this, people will still try to get on. It’s funny how little things can throw you off living in a different country. Things like how different the milk tastes, or how in China they have green tea flavored chips(and that’s only the beginning of weird flavored things they have here). While I’m on the subject of food, I might as well say now that Chinese food in China is nothing like Chinese food in America. It’s just another thing to adjust your expectations to. Some other small things I’ve noticed is how in the summer time many people walked under umbrellas even when it wasn’t rainy. The people here try to avoid getting tan because they see darker skin as lower class. They sell skin lightening creams in the stores so people can try to improve their complexion. This amused me because I just thought of how in America we have stores selling tanning lotions and have tanning salons. I walk around every day enjoying the time I have here. I’ve learned so many things just by living here than I ever would sitting inside of a classroom. Once the semester is over many people from the USAC group will be going back to their respective homes. I’ve often heard the people in my program say how much they miss home and how excited they will be to go back to see their friends and family. I’m excited about the fact that my journey isn’t over yet. I’ve still got another semester to go. I wonder: what will I learn next?

Sevilla, España

As of November 19th, I now only have one month left of my semester abroad in Sevilla, Spain, where I am currently attending the Universidad Pablo De Olavide. Looking back on my time so far, I can easily say that it has been the most amazing experience of my life. Over the past two months, I have done so many things that I never imagined would be doing one year ago while sitting in the College of Business contemplating my future at the University of Louisville.

In only two and a half months abroad, I have visited three countries. I have gone to Paris, France twice, where I was able to take in the Eiffel Tower at night, and explore the largest art museum in the world, the Louvre. In Lagos, Portugal, I watched the sunset from what was once thought to be the “End of the World,” at the southernmost tip of Europe, and swam in the Mediterranean Sea. To top it all off, I have been able to do all of these things with my girlfriend, Meg Ryan, another U of L student, who is studying in France this semester. While it has been fun jet-setting across Europe, it is only natural that I have spent the majority of my time in Spain.

Sevilla is located in the south of Spain in the province of Andalusia. The location has been perfect, allowing me to take numerous day or weekend trips all over the province. I have gone to Cadiz, where I went to the beach for a day, and Granada, where I spent the weekend discovering the famed Palace-Fortress known as the Alhambra. What’s more, is that I have done all of this while living within a stone’s throw of both the third largest cathedral in the world, and the Royal Alcazar, a palace still used to this day by the King of Spain.

Even though Spain is an industrialized country much like the United States, there are still plenty of differences between the two nations, outside of the language barrier, that make life in Sevilla quite the adventure. For example, there is no such thing as a 24 hour Wal-Mart, or grabbing a late night snack from Taco Bell. Almost every shop is closed by 12AM, except for the bars, where you can find Spaniards out until the early hours of the morning- everyday of the week! What about a McDonald’s breakfast? Forget about it. The grading system is also very different, relying on a 10 point scale, with 9-10 being an A, 8-9 being a B, 5-8 being a C, and 0-5 being a failing grade. Internet access is also severely limited, forcing me to rely on cafes, and making it difficult to keep in touch with friends and family back home. Not only this, but the entire city shuts down for 2.5 hours during peak business times for an afternoon, “Siesta!’ While it is sometimes inconvenient that many of the amenities that I have grown used to in the States aren’t available, they are all things that I can do without. In the end, discovering the many nuances of Spanish culture are what keeps life interesting, teaching me to react on the fly and to expect the unexpected.

Other than my family and friends, what I have missed most about being home is the food. My Senora takes really good care of me, making me three course meals two times each day, but as tasty as Spanish food is, there is nothing quite like some good old-fashioned home cooking. I am really looking forward to coming home and having some of my mom’s lasagna, and any type of breakfast food, since I have not had breakfast since I have been here. Not only that, but if any of you have ever been to Northern Kentucky, you should know that we love our skyline chili, and my favorite pizza, LaRosa’s.

Despite all of the things that I’ve already been able to accomplish, I am excited to see what else study abroad has in store for me. In December, I have a big eight day trip planned to London, Amsterdam, and Berlin. I cannot wait to have that week off of school and to explore some of the most amazing cities in the world. I have loved my time here in Spain, and cannot believe that in just a few weeks it will all be over and I will be heading back to Kentucky. As sad as it will be to leave, I look forward to being back at U of L for the spring semester. See you all soon!

Hasta luego,

Christopher Groeschen

The Netherlands (The Hague University)

My name is DeSean Jackson and along with a couple of other UofL students (Eric Tandrian & Matthew Schulz) we are currently studying in the Netherlands at De Haagse Hogeschool (The Hague University).

It has been a little more than two months since I have come to the Netherlands to study abroad. So I apologize for posting so late to the blog.

The first two weeks were the hardest to get used to and very hectic. This happened to be my first time traveling outside of the U.S. so it was pretty overwhelming for me in the beginning. I was very homesick and could not adjust to the 6 hour time difference.

When I arrived at The Hague University things did not run as smooth as I had hoped. By the time I had arrived all the offices were closed so I had to stay in a hotel for the first night. The following morning when I figured out my housing situation, my apartment was 3.5 km (approx. 2.2 miles) away from the school. The cultural shock had begun! It was difficult just being in a city where English wasn’t the main language. Everything is in Dutch so I almost felt disconnected from the world. I couldn’t read the newspaper or even watch TV. Fortunately almost everyone speaks English so that made things more comforting.

I have always stayed very close to campus at UofL and could easily get around with my car. Here in the Netherlands transportation is quite different. Here in the Hague You can travel by a number of ways like train or tram, many people ride bicycles. The first couple of weeks I walked everywhere but that was just an inconvenience. More people here in The Hague ride bikes then drive cars and there are bike routes throughout the city. I did the Dutch thing and bought a bicycle at a second-hand shop. It’s good exercise and environmentally friendly!

I am a very picky eater and have lived off fast food and frozen products since I have been at UofL. Things changed once I got here in the Netherlands. The first time I went to the grocery store and I did not consider that everything would be in Dutch. I did the best I could and bought whatever looked familiar. So far I have tried some common Dutch foods. The worst has to have been raw herring and onions and the best has to be Dutch apple pie. I must admit I still eat McDonalds or Burger King four to five times a week. Some little differences here that I find funny is that at the grocery store you have to either bring your own grocery bags or buy grocery bags and its normal NOT to tip when eating out.

The lectures and teaching are a different style compared to UofL. Each class meets only once a week and the majority of work is outside of the classroom and is almost always a group project or assignment. The hardest class I’m in now is a Survival Dutch class and is just a crash course learning the Dutch language.
Even though The Hague University has just as many students as UofL, the school is located in just one big building, so there isn’t much of a campus type of feel.

My favorite thing to do over here in Europe is to travel. We invested in the Eurorail so we travel by train quite a bit. We have traveled almost every weekend since we have been here. So far we have been to 8 countries (Germany, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Greece, and the Czech Republic). Every country has its own culture and is so interesting and has so much history. Just having the chance to meet so many people and experiencing so many different cultures is hard to put in words.