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Tag: study abroad (page 2 of 4)

What You Need to Know for this Summer’s World Cup

I cannot wait for summer.

Yes, I know that pretty much every other human being shares this feeling, but let me elaborate.  This particular summer excites me even more so than usual because the world will unite for an epic event that only occurs once every four years.  Of course I’m talking about the FIFA WORLD CUP!

June 12th-July13th: Experience the world's game at its greatest splendor.

June 12th-July13th: Experience the world’s game at its greatest splendor.

Ask anybody, and they’ll tell you that I am a huge soccer nut (yes, I know that the rest of the world calls it “football”, but I live in ‘Murica).  I love watching it on TV, and even moreso playing it in my dorm room (the trick is to not hit my roommate’s lamp).  Naturally, my loyalty lies with the U.S. national team, and I am beyond stoked for this year’s tournament.  Jürgen Klinsmann, the team’s coach, has put together an exceptional squad, and they are poised to take on the rest of the world.  Despite the talent of players such as Jozy Altidore, Landon Donovan, and Clint Dempsey, the U.S. will need its other players to step up and deliver.  The U.S. drew an especially difficult group draw for this year’s tournament.  Along with the U.S., the group known as the “Group of Death” contains Germany, Ghana, and Portugal.  While many in the international community have already written the U.S. off, I can confidently proclaim that we will prevail!

The location of this year’s World Cup, Brazil, currently struggles to deal with controversy.  Last year the country experienced nationwide protests by demonstrators who accused the Brazilian government of spending more money on the World Cup than on helping the poor and needy.  To make matters worse, at the time of this article’s publication, the Brazilian government hadn’t even completed all of the stadiums to host the matches!  This has caused FIFA, or le Fédération Internationale de Football Association, to consider other venues for this year’s tournament.

Regardless of where the games will take place, I know that when the U.S. game comes onto play, I will plant myself in front of the TV screen, cheering my heart out for the Red White and Blue squad.  My one hope for the U.S. team (besides ultimate supremacy) will be to win another close game on a crazy goal.  This dream of mine came to reality during the 2010 World Cup match between the U.S. and Algeria.  Landon Donovan’s come-from-behind game winner solidified itself as the greatest sports moment I have ever witnessed, and has been coined the most dramatic moment in U.S. soccer history.  In addition, sports commentator Ian Darke’s famous call of “You could not write a script like this!” sends shivers down my spine to this day.

So, this summer, while you’re hopefully lounging about and relaxing, make certain to follow the action down in Brazil and cheer on our boys to bring home the gold!

Mi Casa es Su Casa: Living with a Host Family

For those of you who don’t know, I’m currently studying abroad at the Universidad Mayor in Santiago, Chile. I can’t even put into words how amazing my trip has been so far, from the cute cafés on every street corner, to the hustle and bustle of city life, to the picture-perfect view of the Andes from just about anywhere. All breathtaking scenery aside, one of my favorite aspects of studying abroad is the opportunity to live with a Chilean host family.

My host mother’s name is Enriqueta and she is hands-down the sweetest little lady I have ever met. Each morning she calls us to the breakfast table where she’s set out cereal, assorted fruit, crackers with homemade strawberry jam, and tea. She always explains situations or events to us in terms that we can understand, but if we ever have a problem she readily whips out a dictionary to make sure that we are never at a loss for words.

A glimpse inside my Chilean home.

A glimpse inside my Chilean home.

While I have very little to complain about regarding my living situation in Chile, there are a few things that took some getting used to. The way Chileans live in general is very different than Americans for a variety of reasons, especially concerning the amount of people in one house. Right now there are eight people sharing one bathroom, so I think it’s safe to say that the quarters are pretty close. Also, you can’t just turn on hot water here. There is a big white box above the kitchen sink that we have to insert a match into in order to light an unidentified object on fire. Then we turn a knob for precisely fifteen seconds and this somehow brings about hot water. When in a foreign country, sometimes it’s better to just do things rather than to ask why.

I personally prefer living with a host family rather than in a hotel for a variety of reasons, but the most important of all is the fact that I have to use Spanish to communicate whether I like it or not. I’m very shy when it comes to speaking Spanish, so I think it’s beneficial to be forced into speaking the language in order to talk to my host family. Other than a few random English words here and there, my family speaks only Spanish, therefore I have no choice but to improve; that is why I am in Chile, after all.

For anyone who is on the fence about applying to study abroad, my advice to you is to go for it! Hey, it doesn’t hurt to be sitting outside in 85 degree weather while Newark is bracing itself against a massive snowstorm! Living in a foreign country for a month (or more) is an opportunity that you will probably never have again after college, so take advantage of it while it’s at your fingertips.

When Panama Gives You Papaya…Then You Eat the Papaya

Context regarding the title: well, I’m in Panama. And almost every morning since my arrival on January 5th, my host mom has given me and my roommate papaya for breakfast. I had never tasted papaya before this trip, but I thought I would like it, being the fruit connoisseur that I am. The first morning that I tasted papaya, I detected a slight cat-food flavor (no, I wouldn’t know exactly, but it did have a strange aftertaste and is the color of salmon). I now find the taste to be better than I originally anticipated – kind of like my experience so far in Panama. At first, I had no idea what to think.

I wrote a draft of this blog twice already, first while on a break from classes at the Universidad Technológica de Panamá. The draft was on actual lined paper, scribbled out in pencil. Then I read over my writing…and realized that I absolutely had to start over from scratch. I physically and metaphorically crumpled those two pages up into a tiny ball and threw them in the trash.

Here’s the thing: I’m studying abroad in Panama, right? You know, Panama: the land of the infamous canal? Well, as a result, I’m sure the expectations associated with a post about my experiences thus far involve wide-eyed, travelling wonder. Umm…not exactly.

The problem, which is occurring yet again even in this third draft, is that I’m trying to strike the right tone. For the sake of complete honesty, my trip has been a series of ups and downs. So, yeah, there have been wonderfully positive experiences thus far…but there have also been some not-so-perfect things.

In defense of anyone who hesitates before describing a previous study abroad experience: I believe that there is a stigma associated with anyone who voices that he/she did not absolutely love his/her time abroad. I think that travelers everywhere should be allowed to voice their candid opinions and stories, whether amazing or not-so-amazing.

Pros so far:

(1) The beaches are breathtaking.

(2) The Panama Canal really is all that it’s cracked up to be. Side note: this is the 100-year anniversary of the Panama Canal. (You go, Panama Canal.)

My real, in-the flesh, sloth buddy.

My real, in-the flesh, sloth buddy.

(3) I saw a sloth. (On an emotional scale, I was an eleven.)

(4) I think that my Spanish is improving slowly but steadily (very turtle-like if this was a tortoise and the hare type race), which was the whole aim of this trip.

A few different things:

(1) The lack of AC in 90-plus degree weather is still unfamiliar. As are the cold showers – hot water does not exist in my host home.

(2) This is a big one: I wish the people were friendlier. Every Panamanian outside of my professors and host mom seems to dislike Americans with a strong passion, as evidenced by their frequent, cold stares and constant use of the not-so-nice term, “gringo/a.” I also suspect that it doesn’t help that Panama /U.S. relations have a somewhat bloody history, with Panamanian university students killed at the hands of the U.S. soldiers in the 1960’s. My group was in Panamá for the national day honoring those murders. Awkward.

With two full weeks left, I’m most looking forward to Bocas Del Toro, which is rumored to be a gorgeous-beyond-belief travel destination. Who knows what those next two weeks will have in store? I’m optimistic that the next 17 or so days will be filled with more interesting, eye-opening cultural experiences. And maybe more sloths. And definitely more papaya.

The Big 2-0

Today I am celebrating my 20th birthday. I have lived for 175,200 hours, 7,300 days, 240 months, and two decades. My teenage years are coming to a close and the reality of “aging” is setting in. I think I might even have my first wrinkle. It’s a pretty groundbreaking moment when you realize that you consider yourself to be old.

More important than the numbers and my need for eye cream however is the fact that it will be my first birthday celebrated without my family. This winter, I am in Washington D.C., fulfilling some credits and (hopefully) making some connections in the field I desire to one day work in. My mom won’t wake me up with a song or a freshly baked muffin. I won’t get to choose my favorite entrée for dinner or blow out any candles. Instead, I’ll get phone calls, a package that is scheduled for delivery some time between 4 and 7 pm, a poorly worded early morning text message from my father.

The cake I make for myself every birthday.

The cake I make for myself every birthday.

This feeling of distance is part of growing up. We are all destined to find ourselves in foreign territory at some point. The most successful people in the world don’t remain homebodies. They seek to see the world, to absorb knowledge, to extend the bounds of their comfort zones. Long distance relationships aren’t just the basis of rom coms or reality television. Chances are that most college students are in one, with parents, siblings, family traditions.

As the timely distance from childhood increases, there is loss. We stop believing in Santa or the Tooth Fairy. We lose the favorite stuffed animal we once couldn’t sleep without. We begrudgingly accept the fact that money does not spring from wallets and that laundry is real life. We realize that our parents aren’t invincible. We give up traditions that once seemed so important (like being awoken with freshly baked goods on the morning of your birthday). Magic is replaced by knowledge.

This year, my birthday will be bittersweet. I’ll be in a city that I love, participating in a program that could potentially set my future career into motion. I’ll be attending a hearing on Capitol Hill, something most U.S. citizens can’t say they have done (and something I am very nerdily excited for).  I’ll be surrounded by new friends. I’ll likely consume all manner of fatty delicacies at Good Stuff Eatery.

However, I highly doubt that anyone will awaken me with a song or a cake, and I don’t think candles are allowed in our student residence. My boss won’t take the excuse “but it’s my birthday” for any lackluster performance and my parents won’t be around to refer to January 9th as “my special day”.  I will miss these little things that once made the passing of a year of life so astronomical, so exciting, that sleep the night before was impossible. But this aging thing brings about a new kind of thrill, new prospects like drinking legally and living in your first real apartment and graduating, more important milestones than an anniversary of being born. 

Erin Dugan

Spending Thanksgiving Abroad

To put it simply, I am a huge fan of Thanksgiving. I love everything about the holiday: getting to be with family, the food, football, and even the 5K Turkey Trots. It is the one day of the year when it is socially acceptable to think about, talk about and eat food all day. What’s not to love?

However, this year I was a little nervous about Thanksgiving. After all, it would be the first year where I would not get to see my family, eat some of my mom’s famous stuffing, or run as a part of Team Jaegermeister in a local Turkey Trot.  I knew that it was going to be a strange day.

And a strange day it was. While all of you were at home sleeping in, I was waking up and going to class like any other Thursday in Spain. It was an odd feeling knowing that while I was spending six hours in class, my family and friends back home were participating in some of my favorite traditions. Luckily, I was able to catch some live footage of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which put me a bit more in the Thanksgiving spirit.

My program was also kind enough to host a Thanksgiving dinner for us. It was the fanciest Thanksgiving meal that I have ever had, and for being cooked by a Spanish chef, it was also quite delicious. While the stuffing was not my mom’s nor the turkey carved by my dad, it still made the day feel more familiar. Although I did not get to see my family on Thanksgiving, the meal with my program made me appreciate the friends that I have in Spain even more.

It might not be home, but it's definitely an impressive spread!

It might not be home, but it’s definitely an impressive spread!

So although this Thanksgiving was different, it still reminded me of how thankful I am for many things in my life. I am so incredibly grateful for my family back home, who not only talks to me regularly through video chat, but who also took the time to video chat me at their Thanksgiving dinner so that I could say hi to everyone. I am also thankful for the wonderful opportunity that I have to study abroad. This experience has been one of the best of my life. And, on a more shallow note, this Thanksgiving I realized how thankful I am for central heating and running water, because I did not have either last Thursday!

This Thanksgiving, like my whole trip so far, was a simply an adventure. It certainly was different, but I know that it was one that I will always remember. After all, not everyone gets to spend a major US holiday in another country surrounded by good food and good company. Now, it is time to focus on my other favorite holiday (Christmas!) and the 2.5 weeks that I have left in Spain. And maybe, if I am lucky, my mom will make some of her delicious stuffing for me when I return home.

~Rebecca Jaeger

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