Jennifer Matson CIEE (Fall 2012) Melissa Meyer CIEE (Spring 2012) Amelia Townsend CIEE (Spring 2012) Daniel Owens SIT (Fall 2011) Lauren Miller SIT (Fall 2011)
Brenda Cuellar SIT (Spring 2012)
Germany France Spain
Benjamin Foss CIEE (Fall 2012) Kara Hartman ACM (Fall 2012) Steven Skawski CIEE (Fall 2012)
Crystal Hooper CIEE (Fall 2012) Ilar Edun CIEE (Spring 2012)
Megan Hauck IES (AY 2011â€“2012)
Connor Mulcahy CELL (Fall 2012) Margie Lund CELL (Fall 2012) Adrian Burmester CIEE (Fall 2012) Conor Hughes CIEE (Spring 2012)
Jennifer Matson CIEE (Fall 2012) Melissa Meyer CIEE (Spring 2012)
Amelia Townsend CIEE (Spring 2012) Daniel Owens SIT (Fall 2011)
Lauren Miller SIT (Fall 2011)
Brenda Cuellar SIT (Spring 2012)
Germany France Spain
Benjamin Foss CIEE (Fall 2012) Kara Hartman ACM (Fall 2012)
Steven Skawski CIEE (Fall 2012)
Crystal Hooper CIEE (Fall 2012)
Ilar Edun CIEE (Spring 2012)
Megan Hauck IES (AY 2011â€“2012)
Connor Mulcahy CELL (Fall 2012) Margie Lund CELL (Fall 2012) Adrian Burmester CIEE (Fall 2012)
Conor Hughes CIEE (Spring 2012)
Nicaragua Jennifer Matson CIEE (Fall 2012)
I spent four and a half months in Managua, Nicaragua and it changed me. In the midst of my semester abroad, it felt difficult. I was lonely, the showers were cold, the sun was hot, the school system was disorganized, the bus system was crazy, the air smelled, and I was so tired of not fully understanding anything. But little did I know, these seemingly small discomforts and difficulties would greatly affect the way I lived. It is often in the face of challenges and discomfort that we are changed. My American-imbedded instincts of cleanliness, organization, efficiency, individualism, and self-sufficiency were challenged and I am so thankful they were. God broke down my pride and reliance on my own understanding and comfort in the American culture, so I needed to rely on him for everything. Proverbs 3:5 says â€œTrust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.â€? In Nicaragua, the Lord challenged my own understanding of how things should work so I could learn to trust more completely in Him.
La marcha de los desaparecidos
Argentina Melissa Meyer CIEE (Spring 2012)
Easter Island This experience opened a new world of culture and adventure for me. During my study abroad time (I was about 2 months in at the time) my aunt and uncle from New York came down to visit me in Buenos Aires during la semana santa and gave me the best gift of all: a trip to Easter Island (La Isla de Pascua) during Easter break (oh the irony...). After a lovely dinner and mate-sharing with my host family, we were off to the greatest adventure. The island is owned by Chile and is 5 hours off the coast. Only one plane comes in and leaves from the island a day! We spent four days hiking all over the island, jumping into the middle of the ocean (well I did with the guide, my uncle and aunt watched) and of course, seeing the MOI (the giant heads made from stone). Our tour guide, Roberto, who we ended up befriending us told us so many stories that were passed down from his great grandfather who was the mayor of Easter Island! His English was very broken so Roberto and I became a team. He told all the stories to me in Spanish and I translated them back into English. Instead of staying in my American bubble, I continued practicing my Spanish with all the tour guides, waiters, and maids in the hotel and they graciously invited me out for a true and authentic islander night: traditional Rapa Nui dancing, a time of conversation and dancing the night away at the only discotec on the island. Nicaragua
Jennifer Matson CIEE (Fall 2012)
I spent four and a half months in Managua, Nicaragua and it changed me. In the midst of my semester abroad, it felt difficult. I was lonely, the showers were cold, the sun was hot, the school system was disorganized, the bus system was crazy, the air smelled, and I was so tired of not fully understanding anything. But little did I know, these seemingly small discomforts and difficulties would greatly affect the way I lived. It is often in the face of challenges and discomfort that we are changed. My American-imbedded instincts of cleanliness, organization, efficiency, individualism, and self-sufficiency were challenged and I am so thankful they were. God broke down my pride and reliance on my own understanding and comfort in the American culture, so I needed to rely on him for everything. Proverbs 3:5 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” In Nicaragua, the Lord challenged my own understanding of how things should work so I could learn to trust more completely in Him.
During my first month in Buenos Aires, I experienced one of the biggest marches I have ever seen: La marcha de los desaparecidos. In the 1970s, el gobierno y militar in Buenos Aires kidnapped and killed 30,000 of their own people. It was a horrific time in Argentina and the people still distrust the federal police. This march was a remembrance of those who went missing and families who are still mourning. There were huge banners with pictures of the missing and deceased, and signs that read “Nunca más” (never again). The people displayed their passion and cariño for each other during a time of horror. Las madres (the mothers) protested the government to receive information on their missing children and during la marcha wore the same white head scarf that they wore during their protests in the 70s. People honored and glorified them as they marched with everyone on the street. This experience showed me the passion the porteños have for their country and the events that have occurred.
watching Messi play soccer My program, CIEE, offered many different excursions to participate in during our time abroad. One of these excursions involved seeing a trial soccer game for the world cup: Argentina v. Ecuador. We all met outside of the Riverplate stadium (a huge club team in Argentina) in Belgrano and we made our way inside the stadium. The best part was that Lionel Messi, one of the best soccer players in the world, played that night for his querida Argentina. This game was bigger than the club game I went to in March. Everyone was going crazy over Messi (it was probably because he scored 6 goals during the game). Argentina won 8-0 against Ecuador! However, when I tried to leave the stadium to get to my best friend Celeste’s birthday dinner, they would not let anyone out until all the players had left. The old men began to yell “Abren las puertas” and I ended up in the middle of an angry crowd. I am surprised I made it out of there and held my own. American sporting events are nothing compared to an Argentinean soccer game!
et k r
a M s
he c it
During my last week abroad, my two close friends and I traveled to Bolivia to see the beautiful country. While we were in the capital, La Paz, we decided to go see the witches market that was recommended in my guide book. This market was so colorful and happened to be located right behind the San Francisco iglesia that was also a big attraction to see in the city. As we wandered around the market, we noticed a peculiar thing that they sold. Bolivians who follow the indigenous culture worship the la pachamama (mother earth) and still practice sacrificing llamas to bring a prosperous harvest. This particular market sold something else...dried llama fetuses. It is a tradition to hang up the llama fetus in their house to bring them good luck for the harvest year. Disgusting to some people, yet interesting to see an indigenous culture flourish within the hustle and bustle in the city.
transpor tation Ask anyone who has traveled or lived in Buenos Aires about the transportation system, and the first word that would come to mind is chaotic. Never set a time to meet someone or do something specific. Most likely it will not work out and you will end up waiting for a bus for 45 minutes constantly debating with yourself, â€œshould I just give up and walk?â€? When I first was getting to know Buenos Aires, I became comfortable with the subte and walking while avoiding all buses. The buses were sporadic, didnâ€™t have a set schedule, and a great opportunity for failure. However, the subte goes on strike almost every month and walking can get tiring. I finally faced my fear and began to ride the buses with confidence. By my second month there, I became the collectivo (bus) queen. Once the system is understood, it is easier to get to know and use. I loved every bus ride, subte ride and the long walk that the city had to offer me. After all my public transportation successes and fails, I will never complain about public transportation in the United States again.
South Africa Amelia Townsend CIEE (Spring 2012)
Now and Then—January 30th, 2012 vs. January 12th, 2013
Waking up to heavy grey clouds was a relief—it gave me comfort that at least today the hot African sun would not burn my skin to a salmon pink. An early breakfast at Coco Wah Wah, a local coffee shop, with my friend Hannah became an even better idea. As we got ready, donning bright rain jackets, we excitedly chatted about our time in South Africa so far and our day ahead of us. We had plans of purchasing a Ukelele and exploring parts of Cape Town we had yet to
see. As we ventured outside of our gated house, the African rains poured down, splashing our legs as we walked the few blocks of the suburb Rondebosch to the café. I had been told to try the chocolate flapjacks that they offer. I assumed they would be similar to the chocolate chip pancakes I had at home, so I ordered them. Later, as my waiter headed towards the table, he was holding a plate that looked quite different from what I imagined. These flapjacks were pure chocolate and looked like they were made from some sort of brownie mix. As I looked closer, I realized that what I thought were huge piles of butter were scoops of ice cream. It was a breakfast made for champions, and I ate every bite. As we sat for a few hours, Hannah shared her life story. I listened, processing it all, trying to remember the names of her friends and to mentally record some of her incredible life experiences. It was a comfort to find that we had much in common, and yet very little, at the same time. Becoming friends broke through unspoken boundaries of differences and it was revitalizing and thrilling to recognize the possibilities of who else I will be meeting in the months to come. map
On this chilly January day I find myself looking back on my time in Cape Town, South Africa with much more clarity. As a peer advisor in the Hope College Study Abroad Office, I get to be surrounded by stories of people who have traveled to places unknown to me. I take great delight in daydreaming with students who stop by the resource library about all of the adventures and life changing realizations they may have abroad, when planning their trip. Getting to speak with return students has helped me shed light on the vast differences of our experiences and yet the overall similarities that study abroad alumni have had in building cross-cultural friendships, asking tough questions about the many different beliefs people hold to spiritual or not, and the exciting/ embarrassing/hilarious encounters we have had in our areas of study. It was only last night that I found myself making a Mango Mint Crush, a favorite treat of mine taught to me by Comfort, the manager of Coco Wah Wah. I became a regular so quickly it is strange for me to remember that first time I went. In fact, I went there so often it was like being in an episode of Cheers, where everybody knew my name. It was easy for me to build off of those small encounters I had every day in Coco Wah Wah, from acquaintances to friends. Thanks to a free international texting app on my phone I am able to continue talking to my friends I made in South Africa on a daily basis. It was only this afternoon that I purchased a ticket to return to South Africa in June
for a two month long internship and reunion with my friends. I was so excited just thinking about seeing my friends and meeting new people there that I pulled out my Djembe drum I was given for Christmas and attempted to play various rhythms that I had been taught in my Cape Town African instruments course. Things truly have come full circle with me from changing my major to international studies, even though I am already a junior, and focusing on African studies. Leaving South Africa terrified me that my adventure was ending; that I may never see some of my new friends again, or have the amazing feelings that I did when I was forced into the unknown; but it was not until last month that I realized this is only the beginning of my journey. Just recently, I found a monthly drum circle at Holland’s Park Theater. It is incredible to know that my friends from South Africa can give me their input on what I am learning in my Global Politics and African Politics classes from their own perspective. Their input is enriching, rewarding, and challenging at the same time, and knowing we will eventually have these conversations in person brings more encouragement for me to learn as much as I can in my short time left at Hope and apply it to all of my experiences to come. Trying new things is essential to develop the spirit of a traveler in daily life. This is only the beginning of the journey because what happens upon returning, is up to me.
South Africa Daniel Owens SIT (Fall 2011)
As a white male from suburban Ohio, I’ve always occupied a comfortable place in society– at school, at work, and in my community. I’ve always “fit in.” Not so in South Africa. For the first time in my life most of the people around me didn’t look like me, didn’t talk like me, and certainly didn’t share a common life experience with me. I stood out like the yellow paint stains that enveloped my khaki shorts after painting a rural high school’s library. For instance, with the exception of the other students on my abroad program, I was nearly always the only white person in the mini-bus taxis I rode to my internship each day. More poignantly, I was often one of handful of white people in the entire City Centre of Durban. My presence evoked a variety of reactions. Some stared while others mocked, some smiled and still others tried to solicit things that ranged from coloring books to drugs. Don’t worry, I never bought the former or the latter; I’m far too frugal. As a white American, I often experienced an overwhelming sense of responsibility– a feeling that I was, in effect, representing my country when I interacted with South Africans, particularly students whose knowledge of the US stems primarily from Hollywood movies and rap videos. Thus, I now can empathize with those who are always obliged to represent something beyond themselves, be it their country, race, gender, etc. It is taxing--both mentally and emotionally. That said, I did feel like a celebrity at times: so many people wanted pictures with me!
Cameroon Last fall, I spent a semester in Cameroon, West Africa with the School for International Training. The program, Social Pluralism and Development, focused on the diversity of Cameroon as well as the complexities of a developing country and development initiatives. We had French classes but also learned some local dialects. Other classes included a seminar on social pluralism, a research methods project, and an independent study project. We were based in the capital and visited the Western and Adamawa region for two weeks. So I had three host families in total and I love them all! The last month of my semester was spent doing my independent study project. I completed an internship at Le Centre National de Rehabilitation des Personnes HandicappĂŠs. There, I worked in special education classrooms and interviewed teachers, administrators, parents, and doctors to learn more about the perceptions of people with disabilities, the problems they face and how education can be a way to improve their future. This was my favorite part of the program! I learned to navigate the capital better, talk with interviewees, and compile all my information. I loved working in the classrooms and became good friends with the teachers and students. SIT gave me the chance to travel the country and learn, but also to be independent and discover things on my own. Iâ€™m so thankful for this fun and challenging experience!
Lauren Miller SIT (Fall 2011)
Brenda Cuellar SIT (Spring 2012)
Top five favorite memories
My top memory in Morocco was taking a shower in a Hammam. A Hammam is a public bath where women typically spend about 2-3 hours cleaning themselves and socializing. This was the first time I was confused as a Moroccan since I was not seen with American clothing on. I was able to bond with my host sister, Soukaina, while meeting other beautiful Moroccan women and scrubbing their backs. This was definitely different from my normal 10 minute shower in the U.S.
My second memory was visiting and living with a host family in Beni Mellal. Our group of about 12 American students was the first group of foreigners to ever step foot in this village. I learned about a more conservative, traditional household compared to the capital of Rabat where I usually lived. I lived with my host mom who was only a year younger than me and with my host dad who was 10 years older than me. My host mom had two beautiful babies. I was able to practice Arabic and cook delicious meals with my mom.
My third favorite memory included visiting the Sahara desert. I made three best friends in Morocco. We visited the Sahara Desert one weekend and rode dromedaries for a total of four painful hours. We slept outside and watched the sunrise while we met Moroccans who spoke over 5 different languages. I was able to practice my French and Arabic and use my Spanish skills.
My fourth favorite memory included the day I moved in with my host family. I turned 21 years old. My family knew it was my birthday and threw me a surprise birthday party and invited one of my American friends. My family sang happy birthday to me in Arabic and made me a cake. It was the best welcome/birthday party ever!
My final favorite memory included becoming friends with a lady who sold pastries. Her name is Imane and she became on of my best friends. I helped her sell pastries as she helped me improve on my French and Arabic. Most days on my way to class we would talk and catch up while eating a chocolate croissant. We both cried before I left and she gave me her ring to remember her.
Jordan Benjamin Foss CIEE (Fall 2012)
One of the most interesting things that I found with studying abroad in the Middle East is the overwhelming sense of welcome that was displayed to me by all those whom I met in both the cities and the rural areas. Hospitality in Jordan is stressed because it was a tribal society which honored hospitality between families, tribes, and especially guests. The idea that the United States is a melting pot is fairly common, however Jordanian society takes this to a whole new level. Given the conflicts in the Middle East, Jordanâ€™s population is hugely influenced by immigrants including 1.5 million Palestinian displaced immigrants, 400,000 from Syria and a sizable Egyptian and Iraqi population. That being said â€“ when you ask what makes a Jordanian, they do not have a solid answer because half their population is not actually of Jordanian Bedouin descent.
One of my favorite memories regarding the trip would be our trek across Wadi Rum, made famous in Lawrence of Arabia. Being from Minnesota, I know the beauty of the woods, the rivers and the lakes however watching the sunset over the vast expanse of the desert mountains is easily the most powerful sight I have seen. Never have I felt so close to God than when being in the middle of the desert gazing across the dunes by starlight.
Italy Kara Hartman ACM (Fall 2012) When I first applied to study abroad in Florence, Italy, I had no idea that I was
in for the adventure of a lifetime! I originally went so I could take
a figure drawing class and study art history first hand, but this experience impacted me in a way I could have never imagined. While I was in Europe, history came alive for me! I was living in history, seeing it, and touching it. I can close my eyes and still see everything so clearly! I can see the tunnels underneath the Colosseum in Rome, the tomb of Saint Peter inside a dark crypt in the Vatican, the incredible view of Florence from the top of Brunelleschiâ€™s Duomo, the gondolas floating down a canal in Venice, and the ancient Greek ruins on the Acropolis during my brief visit to Athens.Â Art, history, language, culture...it all has such a deep meaning for me now! The world is such a beautiful, incredible place filled with amazing tales, legends, and timeless works of art. Sometimes I believe we get so caught up in the problems of the world that we forget to look at its beauty. We are here only once, live while you can! Be daring, take risks, go out into the world and discover its hidden treasures. You never know what adventures you will find along the way. This is life! Live it to the fullest!
My homestay is a family made up of Juan, Asunción, and her two sons, Dani and Alejandro. We also have 4 dogs and 7 birds, which have certainly contributed to wonderfully cheerful mornings, full of noise and spirit. One of the birds, Juanillo, became a pet when he flew through the open balcony door, through the living room, made a sharp right down the hall, and another into the master bedroom, settling on Juan’s shoulder.
Spain Steven Skawski CIEE (Fall 2012)
Mi Segunda Familia
We live on the fourth (and top) floor of an apartment building, which means we have the largest balcony in the complex. During the initial few weeks, I was able to spend afternoons reading my (required) contemporary Spanish novels. It also serves as a second living room when we have the extended family over on Sunday nights. Of my family members, I spend the most time with Juan. He has been retired since he turned 50, almost a decade ago. Juan started working at a local bank at the spritely age of 15 and worked his way up the management ladder, which allowed him an early (and European) retirement. But he prides himself on his youthfulness and we jest during all hours of the day.
the infam ous "Ju an illo "
fa mi ly th e ex te nd ed
“Si se pierde su juventud al dentro, se pierde suyo.”— Juan “If you lose your inner youth, you lose yourself.”— [translation]
However, it’s not all jokes between the two of us pranksters. We’ve had some stimulating conversation, ranging from the health benefits of olive oil all the way to Franco’s regime and capital punishment. He is very well read and has surprised me on more than a few occasions with his opinion. We play chess on a weekly basis and have plans to frequent the local pool hall and run the tables together next week. His health is very important to him, as he has not been to a doctor in some 15 years (his eldest son is a doctor ironically). I often find him sprawled on the couch with a book about health & wellness. He claims that with proper nutrition and exercise, one should not (and will not) get sick, pointing to himself as an example. It’s because of people like Juan that universal healthcare functions for Europe.
Accordingly, his daily routine is to wake up before dawn and run or walk in the park with the two larger dogs: Troylo and Currero. I had the opportunity to join him this morning. The park was shrouded by fog, and Juan let the dogs run free as we conversed about whatever crossed our minds. After stopping to chat with other dog-enthusiasts multiple times, he explained (with a grin) that he knows virtually everyone who frequents Parque de los Principies. Asunción is a bit more serious than Juan. That being said, she is extremely sweet and dotes on me constantly. She is always busy, whether it be cooking for the family, cleaning the house, doing laundry, or shopping (the Spanish buy their bread at the beginning of every day, resulting in incredibly fresh toast & sandwiches). She doesn’t relax until after dinner, when she finally sits down and watches her favorite television programs. It is an unspoken rule that she gets to decide what we watch during dinner and after. To my dismay, she despises fútbol and says “FÚTBOL?” in a very similar tone of voice to that of Waterboy’s mother (Adam Sandler reference) when she discovers Ale and I watching a match. Dani, the elder of the two brother at 24, works as an Erasmus guide at the University of Sevilla. This has
Our ches s mat ches are the only time we sta y silen t
Jua n at par k
C ur re ro
proved incredibly helpful for me as far as understanding Spanish. He is extremely knowledgeable about common language mistakes and has corrected me countless times, helping me to correct bad habits. His English is roughly the level of my Spanish, although we do not speak English unless he inquires about a phrase that he heard from an Erasmus student. In addition, he works weekends/ holidays at OpenCor, a Walgreens-like establishment. He plays the trombone extremely well, and is in a band that has the honor of playing during Semana Santa, Spain’s version of Easter week, when all of Spain takes to the streets for a weeklong celebration.
Alejandro is 19 and has just started taking classes at the University. He is a bit more withdrawn than Dani. As a result, we have not spent nearly as much time together as Dani and I have. However, he has a passion for fútbol and is very knowledgeable about La Liga, educating me in fútbol terminology and occasionally exposing me to the underground Spanish music scene.
Ale jan dro
In parallel with all Spaniards, both Dani and Ale love American television. They are particularly fond of “Walking Dead”. The producers did a fairly good job modifying the language for Spanish viewers. I justify my watching an episode each week by choosing to watch it in Castillan Spanish. ¡Hasta luego!
Spain Crystal Hooper CIEE (Fall 2012)
o l l e h
One of the top three things that employers look for in recent graduates is internships. Well, why not add a spin to it and do an internship outside of the United States! That is exactly what I did. I completed my first internship in the city centre of Seville, Spain at Hotel Murillo. I enjoyed the many encounters with tourist from countries all over Europe, Latin America, North America, and Asia. It was very common to hear many different languages spoken throughout the day, and although I could not understand them all it was pleasant. The diversity in languages was something that I really appreciated about my work environment. I especially enjoyed the diversity of the people I worked with which was a mixture of Spanish, Cuban, Italian, and Panamanians. The people I worked with in the hotel were not only kind and helpful, but also seemed to take an interest in my experience abroad outside of the internship. When I told my half-Panamanian, half-Roman colleague that I would be traveling to Rome, he was excited that I would be visiting his hometown. He informed me of where I could find discounts to experience the beauty of Rome and taught me a few Italian words and phrases! Talk about a language and culture learning experience! Goede Working in the Reception department allowed me to have many of these diverse encounters. The work dag I did in the Administration department, however, allowed for more independence. Most of the administration work involved organizing information into a database using Excel. I also really enjoyed eating my lunch on the rooftop of the hotel. Since the hotel was located in the city centre, it was very close to the Cathedral, and I could see the Giralda from the rooftop and much of the beautiful scenery of Seville. I mostly enjoy talking about the great memories, but there were also frustrating moments that filled me with anger and sometimes sadness. Despite those moments, I would do it all over again!
Rooftop view at Hotel Murillo in Seville, Spain. La Giralda is the tallest building.
arena! (M e: far righ t)
France Ilar Edun CIEE (Spring 2012)
For me, one of the biggest challenges while living abroad was not the cultural differences or language barrier, but getting adjusted to a new family. I studied in Rennes, France and I was placed into a host family consisting of a young daughter Carla (age 5), her mother Cecile, and their dog, Richelieu. At first I was eager to be placed into a family with kids because I figured they would be less intimidating when I was speaking with them in French. While this was definitely true, I found it was very difficult at times living with such a young child. Carla was an extremely cute but naughty little girl who loved to talk and push people’s buttons. Every day she would joyously burst in to my room ready to destroy all of my belongings – okay, that is an exaggeration, but she was a lot to handle. I am in no way saying I hated my host family, in fact, I really got along well with my host mom, and my host grandparents were very wonderful as well. I am extremely grateful that I had the experience of living with a French family and having a connection with them in a country where I did not know very many people. As difficult as it was to get along with Carla, I don’t think I would change it. I learned a lot about myself, and as much as I hate to admit it, Carla did make me laugh at times. Except for the time when she locked me in the bathroom – but that is another story for another time.
Germany Megan Hauck CIEE (Academic Year 2011â€“2012)
bur g i e r F f o r ies o
Alban Stolz Haus June 15, 16, and 17 was the best weekend I can remember. Alban, the dorm I lived in while in Freiburg, celebrated its 50th anniversary with sports, food, and lots of time with friends. I had arrived at Alban the September before, at which time I was welcomed with open arms. My hallmates were patient when I couldnâ€™t find the right words to express myself, made sure I participated in every activity (there were a lot), and eventually became my close friends. Spending time with them the whole sunny summer weekend was more than I could have asked for. We played each other in soccer and volleyball tournaments, talked the night away in the courtyard, climbed the tallest tower of crates we could, and raced rubber ducks (Enterennen) down the river. These German students had become like family and this weekend made it even more evident.
IES friends The morning after we arrived in Freiburg, the thirtysome American students, part of the IES Abroad language program, all met for breakfast. We awkwardly sat eating our schokocroissants, not knowing whether to speak English or attempt to string a couple of German words together. Even though we were only together for four months, I found great friends in that group. We were all experiencing a similar situation together: I wouldnâ€™t have made it through the first couple months without being able to go upstairs and compare notes and struggles with Lisa, another IES student. Lisa and I, along with a couple others in the program, became close friends and even met in Chicago to go to the German Christmas Market there.
Freiburg day-to-day life Simply living in Freiburg, day to day, is one of my best memories. Being able to spend a year there helped me appreciate the little things. On a typical day I would leave for the city, a 15 minute bike ride, and arrive in time to meet Anja for our 10:15 class. Afterwards I would bike over to the IES center, possibly grabbing a Bretzel (a German pretzel) on the way, for my medieval history class, also taught in German. After classes were over, I ran any errands I had in the city before biking back to my dorm. The afternoon was devoted to homework while sitting by the river. The evening was spent playing ultimate Frisbee, which we introduced to the dorm, leading English club, playing soccer, or participating in cooking club. Afterwards, I would unwind from the day sitting in the floor’s common area with my hallmates.
Hospital Internship Because of the different semester schedule in Germany, I had January and February free. I took advantage of the time by interning at St Josefs Krankenhaus to gain experience in order to apply to Physican Assistant School after graduating from Hope. The internship was a Pflegepraktikum, which is required of first year German medical students. I worked closely with the nurses and other interns caring for patients pre- and post- surgery. Malte, a medical student from Munster, and I worked together figuring out where to find an Ultraschallgerät or where the Röntgen CDs went. My German became much more natural, as I needed to communicate with the patients as I got them ready in the morning. By the end of February, I was even asked to show the new interns around the floor.
Weekend travels Freiburg is the perfect base from which to travel around Europe. I lived an hour from France and an hour from Switzerland. Taking advantage of group deals and a Eurail 10 day pass, I was able to see so many beautiful places on my three day weekends. One of my favorite adventures was a trip to northern Italy. After stopping for a couple of hours in Zurich, a friend and I arrived in Venice just after dark. After fully exploring Venice for a day, we headed over to the Cinque Terre area and stopped by Pisa before heading home to Freiburg. In the spring I was able to meet a friend studying in France in Paris for a week. We walked until our legs wouldn’t take us any farther, but we were able to explore Versailles, become familiar with some areas in Paris itself, and even see a ballet at the Paris Opera.
Iceland Connor Mulcahy CELL (Fall 2012)
Humility Black rock, grey sky. blue water hissing through cobbles post each crash. silence, ocean. clouds stretch out, over land and sea blanketing all. gloves off; this is a place where your hands should be cold wet salt-kissed. skin sliding over smooth monoliths of stone, twisted and dark; fingers dipping into hidden pools of clearest water stillest water. d West Icelan
The backpacking trip
This landscape is not cheerful, yet it is imbued with a joy, deep and melancholy that resonates with impossible power. here mortality catches in your throat as waves batter the slowly retreating earth par they would batter a watcherâ€™s frail frame. Man is in his true place here small in awe of the forces around him subject to them no longer omnipotent; arrogance dashed against the cobbles like so much ocean spray.
Iceland Margie Lund CELL (Fall 2012)
Russia Adrian Burmester CIEE (Fall 2012)
My five best memories
Near the end of the semester, the program that I studied through hosted a 90’s themed concert where Russian and English students were the performers. All of the friends that we made were able to come and everyone was dressed in 90’s costumes. I joined a Russian choir and took balalaika lessons throughout the semester; I performed both of those. I also sang with a group of friends as the Spice Girls with a break-dancer that I met while in Russia. Our night was filled with dancing and seeing the talents of our fellow students. It was a great time!
The very last night that I was in Russia, the church that I had been attending for the whole semester hosted a concert for a band formed by some of its members. The music was great and it was the last time where I could hang out with my closest American and Russian friends. We spent the night dancing, eating and laughing with each other. As a gift, my Russian friends bought me a CD from the band so that I could remember that night. After the concert, we all gathered in a circle and prayed together. In English and in Russian we praised God for the semester that He had given us, the relationships we developed, and our prayers for each other’s futures.
I was eating dinner with my host mom, and she was trying to get me to eat more bread (I had already eaten enough for two). Earlier that day in class I learned a Russian word meaning full. Thinking that I would show off my new Russian knowledge, I used the new word to say that I was too full to eat more bread. Well, I had forgotten that that word had another meaning which meant that you were fat. I realized my mistake too late and my host mom was standing over me telling me that I wasn’t fat and that I could have bread if I wanted to. I hurriedly tried to explain my mistake to her but she was already in the zone. After a few minutes of her speaking non-stop, she grabbed her best friend who had been living with us for a few little. They both came back in the kitchen and for about 15 minutes I was sitting with two Russian women shouting dietary advice at me. The night ended with my host mom bringing out a measuring tape and measuring all of our waists to make sure that we weren’t fat. I still have to smile when I think about that night.
During WW II, St. Petersburg was under a siege that lasted almost 3 years. So many people in Russia died during the war, especially in St. Petersburg, that the people still feel its effects. One day I took a tour around St. Petersburg, exploring the city as it would have been at the time of the siege. We ended the tour by visiting the mass graves and monument dedicated to the civilians and soldiers who died defending the city. Everywhere you look, you can see orange-and-black striped ribbons to remember the war. During this time the people came together and suffered together. This was an extremely difficult day to get through and left me with heavy thoughts, but it was something that was necessary in order to understand the city. It was hard to hear but you cannot truly understand St. Petersburg without learning about the siege.
While traveling to a small town outside of Moscow, a group of us went to a Russian sauna. The sauna is a staple in Russian culture, so this is something that anyone studying in Russia needs to do. In the sauna we washed, had great conversations and hit each other with branches of birch leaves (supposedly it helps the skin to breathe). We spent hours in the sauna talking, eating and drinking tea.
The Russian Soul Comes Alive
During my semester in Russia, I traveled on a train 5 times for a total of 89 hours. As I stepped into my first Russian train, my impression was of claustrophobia and a crowd of people. The narrow corridors were filled with soldiers putting away bags and making beds. I soon realized that the conversations on a train were not simply because Russians were talkative, the layout of the train forced riders to share and interact. In the second class cabins, the train was divided into a series of niches. On my On each side of the niche were two beds perpendicular to the corridor, very first trip on a train, our car one about two feet below the ceiling and the other about two feet off the was filled with a group of soldiers traveling to St. floor. Between the four beds on the walls of the niche is a small table Petersburg for a celebration for finishing their two year required and window. Across the corridor were two more bunked beds parallel to service. After we spent an hour or so getting situated, we invited some the corridor, where the lower one folds into two chairs with a small table soldiers to play cards with us. A few agreed and we started playing card between them. With this design, the people on the lower bunks need to games with them, learning Russian games and teaching them American ones. We open up their beds as a seat for the people on the top bunks when they played for hours, sharing food, chocolate, and laughter. After we got tired of games aren’t sleeping. This situation makes for very little personal space we started talking, using sign language and drawings to fill in the insufficiencies of our and ensures at least some amount of communication between the Russian knowledge. We talked about everything: school, home life, military, relationships, other 6 in your cubby. In retrospect, I think that the train was the jokes, government, language and culture, learning about the differences between our place where I felt the Russian soul in its clearest and most two countries. I remember thinking as we talked how strange it all was. We were from concentrated form. The Russian soul is something different sides of the world, different sides of society, we had drastically different pasts that is difficult to explain with words but I will and different futures but on the train we could be intimate friends. We would never describe some brief scenes from my train see each other again, but that was part of the intimacy. Our 8 hours on the train experiences to help describe the together were filled with embarrassing stories and personal stories. There Russian people. was nothing to do on the train but enjoy each other’s company. We ended up talking until about 4 AM, then came to St. Petersburg at about 6 AM and parted with the soldiers forever.
Walking through a park with Lev, a Russian bre ak-dancer that I met in St. Petersburg, he bro ught up Russian trains. He des cribed it as an experience unlike any other, a scene that had been depicte d by Tolstoy, in movies, and recalled fondly in most Russia ns’ memory. He said that it wa s a place where the ‘Russian (a common phrase in Russia soul’ n culture) came alive. There wa s nothing to do but talk to tho you; it was known as a place se aro und where hearts were boldly ope ned and philosophical discus were had. As we walked past sio ns a mother and daughter feedin g pigeons I wondered what he meant. Soo n I would understand.
On my My next final ride on a train I was in a train ride was a 36 hour ride from niche with an older man, older woman and St. Petersburg to the Artic city of Murmansk. I was only two soldiers. At first they were skeptical of me as traveling with my friend, Alan, but our seats were in niches next to the American but then I asked if they would like to play each other. When we first boarded the train, Alan took the bed next to mine, cards. We played a Russian card game together and after a hoping that we could switch with the person who actually had that bed. Pretty soon few rounds the old man looked at me and said “You’re not too an old man came up to Alan’s bed and looked from the bed, to Alan and back to his ticket bad, that’s good.” And from then on they accepted me as one of with a look of confusion. Alan explained to him that we were together and wanted to be next to their own. For this trip I listened a lot to their conversations, each other and asked him if he would mind switching beds. He was still pretty confused when a squat one of which I remember was about the health care system in Russian woman of her mid-sixties joined into the conversation and helped the man to understand. We Russia. Many times they would laugh at me when I spoke hadn’t even introduced ourselves to her yet but she got up and told the man in true Russian frankness to leave and would make jokes at my expense, but you get and lay in a different bed instead. He eventually understood and moved to the other bed. This woman, whom we used to that in Russia and it ended up lovingly called Mama Valentina, was one of the characters we befriended on that train ride. Valentina and a young being a good time. man of 22 named Misha were the people in our niche who helped make a 36 hour train ride a pleasant experience. As with the soldiers, our train ride consisted mostly of conversation about our different cultures intermittently broken Through by Valentina giving us mounds of food and telling us that we didn’t eat enough. We also played card games and riding on trains in Russia, I had some word games for hours as the Russian wilderness sped by outside the window. Again I was struck by the enjoyment, of the most interesting conversations that I’ve ever laughter and intimacy we could share together on that train even though we were so different. At one point, had. It was a place that brought together people from completely when Alan was sleeping, Valentina asked me if we were married. I told her no, we were just friends. Then she different worlds and you never quite knew how your trip would go. proceeded to tell me about her son and what a nice man he was. After describing him for a few minutes, The fact that these people will never see each other again and the physical she asked me if I would like to marry him. Misha and I burst out laughing at the proposition and so did closeness creates an environment where people open their hearts to each other. Valentina, even though she said she was serious. For the rest of the train ride she would bring it The train rides gave me a chance to see how Russians interact with strangers up again and again, leading to laughter every time. Misha left the train in the early morning, and to be involved in something that is even a special experience for Russians. waking me up with a hug and a letter telling me to write. Later in the ride Valentina also Lev, my friend, was right. The train is a place where people open their hearts left, giving us chocolates for the road and the invitation to come and live with her up to complete strangers. I was struck by the conversations I had and the anytime. The generosity, love, warmth, and connection I felt with these generosity of the people I met there. Riding on the Russian rails can two people is something that be an extremely intimidating and uncomfortable experience I will always remember. at first, but I made some of my fondest memories there.
Japan Conor Hughes CIEE (Spring 2011)
Watch my adventure climbing Japanâ€™s tallest Mountain! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKyC2oESskE