Indigenous Acknowledgement in Sydney

Submitted by Josiah Taylor on the 2024 Winter BUAD program in Thailand/Australia…

Growing up in American public school systems, we read lots of histories and accounts about the mistreatment of Native Americans. They were forcefully removed from their land and zoned into special reservation areas. Though many of Native descent now live across the US, assimilated into American society, original land ownership is rarely recognized. When it is, in township names or University statements, it’s a “nice to have,” rather than an expectation.

In Sydney, during my two weeks here, it has seemed quite different. Though our countries share similar histories of British colonization, it seems the expectation that native land is remembered and acknowledged. Tour guides and company representatives preface tours with an acknowledgement of the local tribe. The Aboriginal flag has also flown alongside the Australian flag above the Sydney harbor bridge since last year. This may be a more recent movement and, for all I know, it could be contained to the nearby area of Sydney, but it’s shocking and fascinating to see how wholly a country can embrace and recognize their troublesome past in order to move towards better relations with indigenous people. 

This is not to say the Australian people have it perfect. Australia Day, much like our Columbus Day, has been met with floods of protests and controversy in recent years, some are even calling it “Invasion Day.” However, it is fascinating to see how quickly they’re progressing in this movement as compared to the US.
I do believe America is headed in a similar direction as it grows increasingly more important to recognize and uplift marginalized groups, but it will be interesting to see how, due to cultural differences, we will approach it differently. (Submitted on January 30, 2024)

Final Week of India

Girls trip!

Submitted by Madeline Greenly on the 2024 Winter ENGL program in India

We have arrived back In Delhi, and finally got to experience the many shops and long winding streets that are Old Delhi. There are many things to see here, and it was pretty overwhelming at first. Very quickly I took to liking it. Old Delhi is exactly how I pictured all of India to look, just from all the stories I have heard from people and the pictures I have seen on the internet. It’s packed, fast paced, exploding with colors, sounds, and speeding rickshaws. We got the opportunity to visit Jama Masjid, which is one of the largest Mosques in India. It was absolutely gorgeous. We had to remove our shoes to enter and don some robes over our clothing. Afterwards we braved the streets, weaving in and out of the crowds and stopping quickly to buy Knick knacks, spices and tea. 

After old Delhi we were off to Agra, where the famous Taj Mahal is located. There is really nothing that could have prepared me for the sight of this thing. Shah Jahan was the emperor that commissioned the Taj Mahal to be built, in honor of his favorite wife. It was built with walls surrounding it so that the building is not visible until you are directly in front of it. It was huge, with stunning white marble inlaid with many precious gems and stones. Flowers were carved into the walls, the petals gleaming with vibrant colors. We took hundreds of pictures, none of them really doing the building justice. Many pictures were taken of us as well. By this time we were accustomed to it, so we told many people to kindly delete them. 

Following this we visited Agra fort, which was bigger than it looked on the outside. Many places were blocked off and were being used by the Indian military. We were shocked to learn what we had only explored about ⅓ of the entire fort. The same flowers and stones that decorated the Taj Mahal also appeared in the craftsmanship of these walls. 

Couple under the archway

Next, we were off to Jaipur. Here we tried many Rajasthani dishes, and watched a bollywood movie called Fighter. It reminds me a ton of Top Gun, except this film had two amazing dance scenes. The whole movie experience felt more like a broadway show than a movie theater. People were cheering, taking videos with their phones, and there was even an intermission. While in Jaipur, we also visited the Amer Fort. This place was massive, located on top of a huge hill. We ran around in the upper levels of the fort, looking down from the fort’s walls at the many tourists below. Many people had come there to take pictures for their engagements. They donned wedding attire, and posed with each other romantically in the beautiful curving archways. We also visited the Monkey temple, Hawa Mahal, and the royal palace. 

Soon we will be leaving India. We are back in Delhi currently, and we will explore more of Old Delhi today for more shopping. I’m going to try and find the oldest perfume shop in Delhi today. Crossing my fingers… 

I have learned and experienced so much while studying in India. Each day has been jam packed with activities and traveling. Being with such a small group, 7 girls total, has been so much fun. I believe the friendships I made on this trip will continue through my lifetime. I am always going to miss the mountains we climbed, the momos we ate, and the people we met. I have had the privilege to explore so many places in India thanks to our amazing professor Dr. Barua. I fully plan on returning to India one day! (Submitted on January 29, 2024)

The women of the monkey temple

A Day with the Elephants

Riding an elephant while it swims

Submitted by Bethany Pasmore on the 2024 Winter DIST program in Thailand …

Well, my study abroad trip to Thailand has come to an end. It has been an incredible experience – one that I will never forget. My favorite activity this week was our visit to an elephant sanctuary called Into the Wild in Chiang Mai. The elephants were very friendly and fun to be around. First, we helped feed the elephants bananas and watermelon. I was surprised to watch them gulp down unpeeled bananas. They could eat so quickly! One of the younger elephants named Grace was especially greedy. She would quickly take as much food from people as she could, even if she was still chewing what was in her mouth! I enjoyed feeding her the most. After some pictures, my group went on a scenic hike up a nearby mountain with the elephants. We enjoyed following their lead and watching them interact with one another. Afterwards, we returned to the main part of the camp and ate lunch. The lunch consisted of various native fruits, chicken and potato curry, and papaya salad. It was delicious! Then, we learned about medicine balls. According to their caretakers, elephants need to eat medicine balls composed of various natural herbs to aid their digestion. So, we mashed up a concoction of sugar cane, tamarind, grains, bananas, vines, etc. to feed the elephants. After eating a few medicine balls, the elephants were led to a mud pit, where we gave them a mud bath. The tour guides enjoyed throwing mud at each other and smearing mud on our backs. Now that we were all muddy, everyone ran to the water and jumped in. The elephants joined us for some swimming as well! The highlight of my experience was being able to ride on one of the elephants while she was swimming. It was extremely fun! Overall, the elephant excursion was a unique experience that taught me a lot about caring for elephants. I will miss Thailand and the beautiful Asian elephants, but I hope to return there one day! (Submitted on January 29, 2024)

Giving a mud bath to an elephant

How to Come Unprepared for Your Trip

Submitted by Ava Malkin on the 2024 Winter DIST program in Thailand…

A night market in Bang Sean Beach, Chon Buri, where we would walk around with the locals

Before this trip, I researched Thai foods I had to try, clothing expectations, and practiced a few everyday Thai phrases. I bought proper attire– modest, covering shoulders and knees, yet light for the weather– so that I met the cultural standard. I was able to try lots of street food, such as pad thai and Tom Yum, with knowledge before about which foods were spicy or had a different protein than I was used to. Additionally, I expected there to be a language barrier during many of our academic and cultural excursions, so my classmates and I learned a few key phrases to help us communicate. Although we did rely on Google Translate for a few encounters, we tried our best to rely on our general language skills to have conversations. 

The prior research was incredibly helpful, but it was more important to simply exist in the culture and take in every moment. My classmates and I said “yes” to every opportunity for a new experience and prioritized curiosity. We coined the phrase “When in Thailand…” frequently to push ourselves out of our comfort zones to enjoy the new culture. Every day was another opportunity to learn, so we always felt interested and asked questions along the way wherever we went. My best advice is to understand that some things cannot be solely textbook-knowledge. A lot of the information I learned was street-knowledge, or picked up along the way! I saw how people treated one another, how they shared a smile at every opportunity, or how they moved about their day. This was the most exciting part of the trip, the constant acknowledgment that I am one tiny part of the massive world, and I still have so much to learn. I acclimated just by riding the MRT (subway) or walking around a market, observing the interactions between Thai people rather than reading about it on a page. Our trip was filled with culture shocks and new experiences, but I enjoyed every moment of it. Reflecting on my study abroad in Thailand leads to feelings of immense gratitude in understanding that I have grown and developed so much in these last few weeks. The journey, however, is not over! I look forward to many more years of travel, and many more years of wisdom to be discovered. (Submitted on January 28, 2024)

Bihu Celebrations

Submitted by Meghan Rogers on the 2024 Winter ENGL program in India …

Our transport to Assam (Guwahati) was a bit rocky at first in the Bagdogra airport. A gong would go off multiple times an hour calling flight boarding gates and any status updates. The volume had one level and it was LOUD. With only 2 boarding gates and many flights departing, the airport was chaos. Once we finally touched down in Assam, we were then transferred to our homestay family where we will spend the next week or so! The homestay is a completely immersive experience in and of itself. On our second day in Guwahati, we visited the Kamakya Temple and received vermillion blessings. The temple was amazing with stands outside lining up to buy beautiful jewelry, nicknacks, and scarves. 

The family that two of the other girls and I are staying with has a 5 story private K-12 school in their backyard and 5 labradors roaming around the outdoor campus. Because the Assam harvest festival, Bihu, was on the 14th and 15th of January, our host family held a festival at their school for many of the high school students to perform traditional songs and dances including drums and flutes. All of the girls were wearing red and cream traditional saris with a bright red lip and the boys wore cream dhotis with a headpiece. The performances were breathtaking. 

Prior to the festival, we had mentioned to our host family that all of the girls in our study abroad program would be interested in taking some sort of traditional dance class. One of the dance teachers was available a few hours before the festival and offered to host a 2-hour class for us. We had such a fun time and picked up the dance fairly quickly. Toward the end of the class, our dance teacher, Arpana, slipped in that we were going to be performing at the harvest festival alongside the students, we were floored, laughing so hard in disbelief. Two hours later, we were on stage with over 200 people watching us dance. 

After having a late night, we were off to Kaziranga National Park the next morning for a 3-day reset. Once we arrived at Diphlu River Lodge, we were welcomed by hospitable staff, luxurious huts, and a buffet lunch on the outdoor patio. There were elephants with barback mounts riding them throughout the resort with lambs and cows roaming freely. The Diphlu River Lodge is a beautiful resort with amazing accommodations and beautiful views. Diphlu also held a Bihu celebration with incredible performances and a delicious barbeque by the fire pit and dining hut. While in Kaziranga we saw over a hundred rhinos, hog deer, water buffalo, and many more animals. The safaris that we went on were absolutely amazing and lasted anywhere from 3 to 5 hours each. While we were most excited to see a tiger, we unfortunately never crossed paths. We got Swedish massages and enjoyed a very fun and relaxing stay. After 3 days and two nights in Kaziranga, we began our return to Guwahati. We stopped for a roadside coconut and continued on our way to begin our service work with the Parijat Academy. (Submitted on January 29, 2024)

Week 4 and Week 5 in Dubai

Submitted by Ryan Kahn on the 2024 Winter CIEG program in Australia and Dubai

Week 4

This was another incredible week here in Dubai. We went on some amazing excursions this week so I wanted to highlight a few that really stood out to me. The first one is something I was really not expecting, the Dubai desert classic golf tournament. A big group of people on my trip got tickets to watch the last day of the tournament. The course was beautiful and got to be up close and personal with some incredible golfers. 

Another excursion I want to highlight is our day trip to Abu Dhabi. It’s about an hour from Dubai and we spent an entire day there. We started the day by going to Louver, the only other one outside of Paris. The building itself was magnificent and the art inside was all so stunning. Pictured is a Leonardo da Vinci original which was super cool to see. Afterwards we went to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. An absolutely beautiful mosque and the biggest one in the UAE. Overall, a really awesome day in Abu Dhabi. 

All in all, I’m having a great time here in Dubai but I’m also having an unbelievable time with all of my peers on my trip. We have gotten so close over these past 4 weeks and even though we are leaving Dubai soon, these friendships will last a lifetime. (Submitted on January 26, 2024)

Week 5

I can not believe the trip has come to an end, I am writing this final blog the night before my flight back home. I can not express in words how much this trip means to me. Between the experiences that I was able to have, the people I have met, and the life long friends I have made on my program, I feel as though I am a different person and for the better. The fifth week of being here in Dubai was again just as incredible as the first 4 weeks. During the last week we took a day trip to Atlantis. Atlantis sits on the very end of the “Palm” which is the enormous man made peninsula that looks like a palm tree. This was my first time going to the palm. It was truly breathtaking. Once we arrived at Atlantis, I felt as though I was a little kid again. The waterpark was so big and had incredible views of the skyline of Dubai. My favorite slide is called the leap of faith, this is a drop slide that goes through a shark tank, an absolute thrill! 

We also went back to Old Dubai this week where we did a lot of shopping for gifts to bring home to our friends and family. While wandering around the city, we came across a shop that custom makes colognes. We handpicked the scents that we liked and got to make our own personalized cologne which was really cool. In addition we went to Expo 2020 which is an area of Dubai where 192 countries each built a different sculpture or building. It was really cool to walk around and see all the different unique buildings from all over the world. 

Overall, this trip has been absolutely amazing, I am sad to leave, but satisfied in a sense. I feel as though I saw everything I wanted to see and I experienced all Dubai had to offer. I will definitely return to Dubai at some point in my life and hopefully I can return with all the amazing friends I made on this trip. (Submitted on January 31, 2024)

Chon Buri, The City of Water

Submitted by Maggie McAfee on the 2024 Winter DIST program in Australia and Thailand

The third city we visited on this trip throughout Thailand was Chon Buri. Since this trip started, my schedule has been packed with academic and cultural excursions and I finally was able to have a free day and hang out by the beach with all of the girls on this trip. Not only was this a great day to relax in the sun, but I was also able to see how locals go about their everyday lives and how this beach area is different from what I experience on the east coast. One interesting difference was how I was so excited to sit out in the sun, but all of the locals were seen searching for shade and wearing longer clothing to avoid the sun. The idea of having tan skin in the US is different than in Thailand. 

One very exciting and fun activity that was offered on the beach was the opportunity to go on what’s called a Banana Boat. It was a torpedo shaped raft attached to a jet ski that went up and down the beach and when switching directions we would get thrown off. I did this activity with five other girls and it was a small experience on this trip, but it was so fun! During the point where we were trying to get back on the raft after being tipped, a group of local girls started asking us where we were from and when we said we were from the US they got so excited and said they were from Thailand. It was such a wholesome interaction with local girls around our age. 

During our time in Chon Buri, they had a little music festival occurring right across the street from our hotel right on the beach. They played both western music and Thai music which was so interesting and fun to listen to. They also had a market set up right on the beach with such cute stands of clothes and objects. They also had a mix of items that are popular in the US and items that are popular in Thailand. It was a sight to see when the sun was setting. It was gorgeous and great music was playing in the background. It was such a good time exploring all of what Chon Buri has to offer! (Submitted on January 26, 2024)

Last Night in Thailand

Submitted by Sydney Gaffin on the 2024 Winter DIST program in Australia and Thailand…

Last Night River Cruise in Bangkok 

On our last night in Thailand, we wrapped up our trip with an amazing river cruise in Bangkok that showed the fabulous city at night. It was a great way to end our trip and take in the last moments of this amazing country. On the river cruise we were filled with a delightful cuisine buffet of so many Thai authentics such as pad thai, papaya salad, so much seafood, some great spicy soups, and to top it off mango sticky rice for dessert; which was definitely one of my favorite things I have tried here. We were also greeted with a Thai traditional dance that showed beautiful and graceful body movements with lavish costumes and music. Also, a performer dressed in a lavish Sak Yant monkey attire was there dancing too. In Thai tradition, the Sak Yant monkey means good luck and fortune. So for our last night, he was bringing us all good luck for our travels back home. Though the highlight of my night was how everyone all came together danced and sung the night away. We had a mix of Thai music and American music but we all were able to come together and have one more amazing night in Thailand! I am so sad to go but I will cherish all the memories I made in Thailand forever. (Submitted on January 26, 2024)

Week 3 in Dubai and Week 4 in Dubai

Submitted by Jacqueline Kumbatovic on the 2024 Winter CIEG program in Dubai …

Week 3 in Dubai 

As we have just closed out our third week in Dubai, I cannot believe we are three-quarters through this trip. This week’s excursions included visits to the Global Village, Abu Dhabi, and Atlantis. 

Global Village is a shopping, dining, and entertainment attraction where over 90 cultures are represented as themed pavilions where you will find beautiful handicrafts and delicious food representative of each country. Cultural performances and international music acts take place each night. There are also carnival and boat rides available. We eagerly explored all the cultures and sampled the foods of each region. It was interesting to see all the different areas of the world showcased in one park. 

Our day trip to Abu Dhabi began with a visit to the Louvre, which is an art museum that explores the connections between civilizations and cultures. After lunch, we visited the Turner Construction Guggenheim Museum site, which was jaw-dropping. After learning about the project, we were given a tour of the construction site. It was incredible to connect what we have learned in class about international construction to what we saw on site. We then visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which is the UAE’s largest mosque. It was so beautiful and peaceful, inside and out. 

To close out week three, we took a day trip to Atlantis, which is located on the Palm Islands. We enjoyed the Aquaventure water park, exploring every tower, and trying every water slide. We loved BlackOut, which is the tallest vertical drop in the Middle East. This was another great week in Dubai, and we are looking forward to week four! (Submitted on January 25, 2024)

Week 4 in Dubai 

As our program concludes, the last week was filled with memorable experiences as we savored our final days in Dubai. We ventured to Kite Beach, a new and vibrant coastal area with numerous shops and delightful food. Additionally, we received our Certified Associate in Project Management (CAMP) certificates, which makes us eligible to take the PMI PMP Exam – Project Management Institute (PMI) Project Management Professional (PMP) exam. We had the opportunity to visit the site of the 2020 World Expo in Dubai, which was truly fascinating. Another highlight was our visit to the Turner International offices, where we met the CEO and Vice President, who presented Turner’s completed and proposed projects in the Middle East. We took a trip to the Souks, which are the traditional shopping markets in Dubai. Our farewell dinner was held at a high-end Iraqui restaurant with delicious food and great service. It is hard to believe this trip has concluded so quickly. This has been an extraordinary experience, and I am so grateful for the incredible memories and moments shared. (Submitted on January 30, 2024)

Dubai Week 3, Week 4 and Week 5

Submitted by John Kaminski on the 2024 Winter CIEG program in Dubai

Week 3

After an exciting last two weeks, my 3rd week in Dubai continued to impress. We began this week with a group desert safari excursion, where we traveled deep into the Dubai sand dunes. During this excursion we got the opportunity to ride ATV’s and Camels around the desert as well as watch a traditional Middle Eastern belly dance and fire breathing performance. This excursion was especially cool for me due to the fact it was my first time in an actual desert. Our next excursion of the week took us to Dubai Green Planet, which is a massive indoor rainforest where the animals walk around right next to you. Another excursion that we went on this week was a boat trip in the Oman Fjords, which was by far my favorite excursion of the trip so far. The views that we experienced on the boat trip were absolutely breathtaking, plus we also got the opportunity to snorkel and see some of the local aquatic life, which was also extremely fun. The final group excursion that we took this week was another trip to the Burj Khalifa, but this time we actually got the opportunity to go up to the 124th floor observation deck. This experience really put into perspective how impressive the height of the Burj Khalifa actually is, absolutely towering over all of the buildings around us. This week was especially amazing, and I am looking forward to my next 2 weeks in Dubai. (Submitted on January 24, 2024)

Week 4

Finally home! It feels like it’s been a year since I’ve seen my friends and family back here, even though it’s only been a month. To be honest, at first I was nervous about going on this study abroad trip. I had never been away from my family for that long, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle it. But after seeing the things I saw, going to the places I went, and doing the things I did, I can safely say that registering for this program has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve had more “firsts” on this trip than any other. I made new friends, ate amazing local foods, and had the opportunity to experience different cultures in their purest forms.

As part of the trip, we overnighted in not just Porto, but also Lisbon, Geneva, Paris, Barcelona, and Milan. And while we didn’t stay overnight there, while we were in Italy, we also went to Como and even Venice. If someone were to ask me my favorite city we went to, I would probably say Barcelona; the city was drop-dead gorgeous and I had so much fun while I was there. That’s not to say that those places like Paris and Venice weren’t amazing; I also had a lot of fun while I was in those cities, going to places like the Eiffel Tower and St. Mark’s Square in Venice. Unfortunately, however, both Paris and Venice were foggy when we went there, so we were unable to see them in their full beauty. That being said, I still had a lot of fun.

Not to mention the personal growth I went through while I was over there; before the trip, I was shy, and unsure about how to make new friends. But after the trip, I can say that my social skills have noticeably improved, to the point that I have walked away with a few new friends.

I would highly recommend this study abroad program to anyone in a heartbeat, not just engineering and physics majors; through the program I was able to visit places and do things that I might have never been able to otherwise. Depending on what’s available, I would definitely be open to doing another study abroad in the future. (Submitted on February 2, 2024)

Week 5

With our flight scheduled to depart at 8am Thursday morning, I used this week to finish up my final class assignments and accomplish any last objectives. One of the final things that I wanted to accomplish was a trip to Expo 2020, which was the site where Dubai hosted the 2020 World Expo. This site featured some beautiful architecture showcased from different countries around the world, and also displayed a massive lightshow at night. My final trip in Dubai was an adventure to Kite Beach. This beach was especially beautiful due to its crystal clear water, and amazing views of the downtown Dubai skyline. To close out our trip to Dubai, we had our group farewell dinner at an Iranian restaurant. This meal was an absolute feast, and by far one of my favorite meals of the trip, featuring some of the most delicious fish, lamb and chicken that I’ve ever had. While I am very sad that the trip is coming to an end, this trip to Dubai was by far one of the best months of my life. I would like to thank Dr. Siddiqui and UD study abroad for making this trip possible. (Submitted on February 5, 2024)