Europe

I’M FINALLY HERE!!!

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Written by: Sarah Breysse

The first day after we landed wasn’t a real day because all I did was eat and sleep. The next day, Saturday the 19th , we took a train (extremely impressed with the train system here. It isn’t super inexpensive but it is efficient and easy to use,) to Edinburgh, Scotland. I’ve been to Edinburgh before, but the second time was just as amazing as the first, if not better.
Unfortunately we had some serious travel mishaps including me running 2 miles back to our hotel to get our train confirmation number and getting back to the station with only 2 minutes to spare. The second mishap started with my mom asking for directions to our bed and breakfast in Scotland and lead to us on the opposite side of town because the guy gave us the wrong directions. This wouldn’t have been such a bad thing if it wasn’t snowing, windy, and up-hill. On that note, cab drivers around here are not the best at maneuvering through their own city. At least 2 taxi drivers have given us bad directions or taken us to the wrong destination.

We packed a lot of activities into our day in Edinburgh. We started by going to dinner with our old friends who live in the city and it was literally the best. I got to hang out with baby Freddie and then go out for a pint with all the grown-ups. One of the best nights I’ve had in a while and I learned a lot about living in England (including the fact that you have to ask for the check at restaurants, there are no street signs anywhere, and everyone lives in flats.)

The next day my mom and I climbed the stairs of the Scot Monument, toured Holyrood Palace (I felt like Kate Middleton), went through the Castle (it was built in the 12th century and was unbelievable), and had lunch at a little pub right down the street from where they used to do public hangings and just down from where the Germans bombed in WWII. Just from walking down the Royal Mile I learned that Edinburgh is known for their cashmere, to be a city in England the area must have a Cathedral (St. Giles) and the number of kilts are still unflattering on pretty much everyone.The one strange thing I have experienced is repeatedly seeing some random person on the street and thinking they look just like someone I know from home. Even if it’s just a slight resemblance I think it’s one of my friends. Probably just home sickness. Seattle seems like Mars over here.

More on Manchester soon!
xoxo

 

Manchester Bound

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Written by: Sarah Breysse

So as I sit on my couch watching TV thinking about getting through the next couple weeks, while I should be packing, I’ve decided to start my study abroad blog instead. All of you should be extremely excited about this by the way, because it’s about to win a Pulitzer. (I am a horrible writer, please do not judge me.)

I’ll start off with some background. I will be attending the University of Manchester, Manchester Business School. The process has been long and quite a struggle to be completely honest; especially considering I found out I was accepted to the program over a year ago.  The biggest pain in my butt was getting a visa. No, I didn’t have to go down to San Fran to get it like other people, but I did have expensive and unfortunate relationship with the British Embassy in New York after I applied for the wrong type of visa. The UK should really try and clarify their student visa process, (granted I’ve never even thought of applying to come into the US so I admit my bias).  The other rather large issue with “studying” abroad was trying to convince my professors to give me credit towards my degree for actually doing the “studying” that the 6 business classes I’ll be taking require.  This led to many trips to the counseling office and an unreal amount of emails to a very nice guy named Andy at the MBS admin team.

The anticipation is seriously killing me. I would totally hop on the next plane right now and hitch-hike through England just to not have to wait 2 weeks to start my very own, less graphic, version of Eurotrip. I have so much to look forward to and knowing that my beautiful, rustic, and very English single dorm room is waiting for me feels like partial torture.

In all seriousness, I cannot wait to see everything, be everywhere, and meet everyone that I possibly can. Getting out of the GS bubble is going to be a much needed real life wake up call. As much as we all try and deny it, we are pretty sheltered at times. I’m not saying that Manchester is some worldly utopia of life revelations or culture shocks (especially since they speak English), but it is a different country, a different upbringing, and a new educations system. If nothing else, I will at least learn how to use public transportation that actually works.

The waiting continues.

Stay tuned….

xoxo

Musings About the Netherlands

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

By: Evelyne Kolker

I think that the best part of studying abroad is the chance to meander around another country, enjoy a new culture… When we had time to travel around, we wandered all around the Netherlands. My first day trip was to Delft, which is a smaller city to the northwest of Rotterdam.. Unlike Rotterdam, Delft remained intact after World War II, so offers the quintessential Dutch town feel.. There are beautiful canals throughout the city, beautiful old buildings, and a main town square with a church (called the New Church, yet dates back to the 14th century). The Delft Technical University also has a really cool library. Inside it has spiral stair cases, rows of books light up with a blue background, and a lots of places to sit and study. The library has a sloping roof covered with grass that’s great to lounge around on. It’s a delightful town to walk around in.

Evelyn edited

Amsterdam is a huge city that offers an unbelievable variety of things to do. In comparison to Rotterdam, you definitely feel constantly surrounded by tourists. Amsterdam is massive and you can spend days just walking along canals, down streets with handsome buildings. The architecture rivals some of the best cities in Europe. It’s a breathtaking city and you can wander into the Royal Palace or some great museums or just wander in and out of little stores all across the city. One of my favorite experiences in Amsterdam was meeting up a with a family friend who has a Dutch girlfriend. The advantage of knowing someone from Amsterdam is that we ended up going to this little restaurant in the middle of nowhere, past the port of Amsterdam. It’s somewhere you would never know about unless someone takes you there. The restaurant is housed in a boat that used to ferry people across the water. The boat is now stationary and houses one of the best seafood restaurants I have ever been to. They serve only locally-grown, fresh food, and was the best way to try out all the different types of seafood Amsterdam has to offer.

Evelyn

We have also headed to little towns around the area. One day we went to The Hague, which has a lot of important government buildings. On a personal note, it has the M.C. Escher museum,

which for me was hands down one of the best things I got to see here in the Netherlands. Escher was a Dutch-born artist and has created some really amazing art work. We headed up to Leiden after looking at one of the famous tulip fields Keukenhof. We also headed to Utrecht and Gouda (yes, as in Gouda cheese;-p). Overall, the Netherlands has a lot of really great places to visit and see.

The Host Family Experience

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Written by: Patricia Mayer, studied abroad in Leon, Spain, Fall 2012

PatriciaMayer2Patri, mirrraaaaa”
Mira=look, or in Jorge and Miguel’s language “hey look at meee!”

I should have learned the first time. Never, ever, look. A few days ago my host family got home after picking Jorge up from karate practice. As I was studying in my room Jorge ran in dressed in his Karate robe and practiced one of his moves on my arm. A few minutes later I hear “Patri, mirraaaa!!” I glance over to my doorway where Jorge, who escaped from Chety’s grasp midway through changing into pajamas, stands butt-naked dancing and sticking his tongue out at me. I almost fell out of my chair laughing, and the best part was, after a long day at work Chety didn’t have the energy to wrangle an unruly Jorge and let the incident go without punishment.
This might have been the reason why yesterday, as I walked out of my room I was met by Jorge mooning me. Wanting to be just like his big brother, Miguel quickly joined in. And soon I was trying to figure out how to yell the boys are mooning me in Spanish. Something I don’t think I will ever have to say again in Spanish.

And another prime example of the adventures of Miguel and Jorge:
Today, a distressed Eli burst through the door as both boys screamed and talked a mile a minute. I learned they had been at the super market earlier and had been refusing to behave. (Note: they are normally very well behaved, eat all they are given, tell their parents they love them and give them a kiss) But today, they wouldn’t listen to Eli at all in the supermarket. Somehow, while Eli grabbed something off the shelf, Jorge became in charge of pushing the cart which held Miguel as a captive passenger. Because he is 5 and can’t see over the cart, Jorge plowed straight into a coca cola display, knocking a ton of stuff over, and catapulting poor little Miguel out of the cart. Miguel showed me his leg which at the present moment has a giant purple bruise.

I don’t know how I’m going to say goodbye to these guys. After spending 3 months eating my meals in the center of chaos (and the best free entertainment you could ask for), I don’t want to leave!

 

Hello from Rotterdam!

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

By: Evelyne Kolker, Foster Undergraduate

This is Evelyne Kolker, writing from Rotterdam in the Netherlands! I am studying here on a business exchange through UW at Erasmus University, Rotterdam School of Management (RSM).

I wanted to share a few of my favorite memories from here so far:

A major national holiday here in the Netherlands, Queen’s Day! This day is called Koninginnedag in Dutch. This holiday began in 1885 as a way to garner support for the Dutch monarchy and has become a national day of celebration and merriment here in Holland. This Queen’s Day was a particularly special experience because this is the last Queen’s Day ever. From now on, due to the coronation of King Willem-Alexander, the holiday will be called King’s DayJ

In action, Queen’s Day is a day when all of Holland dresses up in orange, the national color. Our group of friends joined the official ESN (Erasmus Student Network) boat trip in Amsterdam. We took a bus up to Amsterdam early in the morning. An entire bus full of college students dressed in orange. We then spent a few hours on a huge boat for 150 students gliding through the canals in Amsterdam. It was an amazing experience to pass people standing on bridges or on either side of a canal, cheering when we went buy. The overall atmosphere was really great, with the music blaring, everyone dancing and cheering; the entire city, the entire country celebrating.

Another fun thing to do is travel north to Keukenhof, which has rows and rows of tulips. Due to the cold spring we have been having, I ended up heading to Keukenhof on one of the last days it was open, because I kept waiting for a sunny day.. Here’s a photo of me with Phil, one of the exchange students who came from Erasmus University to UW earlier this fall.

Beyond the traditional experiences, it has been a lot of fun just being in the Netherlands. The university is around an area called Kralingen, which is considered one of the nicest and most expensive parts of Rotterdam. I like walking through the streets in this area, because it has some older buildings. Since Rotterdam was bombed during WWII, you have to travel to other cities to see older, “traditional” Dutch towns, but Rotterdam’s Kralingen area gives you a little of the feel of the older towns.

Another fun thing about living in the Netherlands is the sheer amount of bikes. I even noticed little bike garages, to keep the bikes from getting wet from the rain. There is nothing quite like seeing someone riding a bike, while smoking a cigarette and talking on their cellphone. This kind of multi-tasking while riding around is pretty typical and always amusing to see.

The RSM program itself provides an entirely different form of teaching. The approach around here is much more hands off; students are expected to study and learn a lot of the material on their own. Beyond the rigor of the courses, the fact that 40% of the IBA program here are from other countries, other than Holland, is absolutely impressive. It makes you really feel that we are living in a global age; many of the students have plans to live all over the world while working, from Hong Kong to Berlin to Toronto. Another perk of studies here at Erasmus is that every student in RSM is required to study abroad for a quarter or a semester in the fall of their 3rd and final year. I think that the program here really encourages students to explore the world, whether it is through the required study abroad or through the sheer diversity of students and professors.

 

With love from Rotterdam,

Evelyne

La Bella Vita

Monday, June 3rd, 2013
By: Annika Gunderson, Foster Undergraduate
Arriving in Italy, I didn’t go directly to Milan.  My entire family came to do an extended vacation in Rome, Florence, Venice, ending with moving me into my Milan apartment.  Dragging my 2 suitcases, carry-on, and backpack through 4 cities definitely made me stand out as a stereotypical American.  Italians would jokingly ask “Are you moving here or something??” as I walked past with my suitcase’s wheels rattling obnoxiously on the cobblestone.  I always stopped and said “Yes!  I’m moving to Milan!”  Every time I thought they would tell me how
beautiful Milan is, how excited I should be to live there, how amazing it would be….but instead I got “Why?  It’s ugly and industrial. I would never want to live there.”  Needless to say, I was very scared when I got on my final train from Venice to Milan.  I kept on thinking “What did I get myself into??”
Everyone I talked to about Milan was wrong.  The city is energetic, fashionable, and gorgeous. Milan never sleeps, there’s always a fashion or design week during the day, aperitivo in the evening, and clubbing at night.  Italians are night owls, when I go out I’ll eat dinner with friends at 11, hit the clubs at 12, and sometimes stay until closing at 6!  Good thing Italian espresso is strong!I couldn’t wait for class to start so I could start meeting new people.  I was so surprised when everyone came to class in groups and all sat together!  I realized that I was one of very few exchange students who came alone.  Everyone else came with groups from their university and were already friends!  Being alone made meeting people a lot more difficult, but a lot more rewarding. I didn’t come to Italy to hang out with Americans!  I now have friends from Israel, Italy, Hungary, Serbia, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, France, and the list goes on!  Some days I really wish I had searched out other Americans here so I could have a little feeling of home, but I know I have the rest of my life for burgers and beer and I should enjoy my wine and pasta while I can!

I somehow ended up becoming closest with a group of models.  I did come to Milan for the fashion, and now I’m in the middle of it!  I love them, but sometimes it’s very intimidating to hear them talking about going to a Versace casting the next day, or online shopping and seeing them all over the website! I always look forward to seeing what they’re wearing because I know they see all the trends before the public does.  Unfortunately, I’m always in something colorful while they’re always in black! I definitely stick out from Europeans- can you guess which one is me in the photo??

That’s all for now, I only have 2 months left in Italy and I want to go out and enjoy them! Baci, Annika

Stateside from Pamplona: How We Change

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

By: Michael Cross, Foster Undergraduate

I’m home. I’m here. It’s time to see everyone I’ve missed the last 4 months. But wait, it’s weird. Something just feels different. There’s some invisible difference placed between us that’s just not jiving like it did before, but we’re still great friends or family. What is going on? What is this?

Here’s my thought(s):

A study abroad or other world experiences might not be what change us. We go abroad seeking this conversion into a “whole new person”, whatever that means, but that’s not the whole story. Yes, our ideas are challenged, and we’re presented with all sorts of new things that could mold us into the imaginative “whole new person” we’re looking for. But there’s something else going on.

People are what change, so people are what change us.

Pretty buildings, breathtaking views, and famous museums don’t change us. We get from those exactly what we want from them. What changes us are the people we have experiences with. So going abroad, in and of itself, doesn’t change us. Instead, it just provides us with a barometer to gauge the change that has occurred. Here’s what I mean—

At home, we tend to change at the pace of those around us- friends, colleagues, and family. And as a result, we don’t necessarily see the change because it’s so incremental. But when we go abroad for an extended period of time, we’re no longer around those people changing with us. Instead, we have new people and less close relationships. We don’t stop changing, and we still may not be able to see it while abroad but once we return home, we see it. We see when it feels hard to relate with our close friends. The people that were once so easy to communicate with and relate to now seem distant. The relationships haven’t changed, but some undercurrent has. And I think that undercurrent is YOU. You start to see how you changed independent of your friends. You still might not be able to put your finger on what changed, but you sure feel it. Relationships that were easy and close before now feel slightly forced and different.

But give it a little time and you’ll be back in the groove, assimilated just as before.

Use this as an opportunity to enlighten your friends, teach them what you’ve learned and how you’ve changed. Chances are they feel it and see it to, making them quite curious of what caused the distant feeling. Bring it close again through the sharing of the new you!

You’re Abroad. You NEED to Travel

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

By: Michael Cross, Foster Undergraduate

I left for Spain without a single weekend trip planned which made me a little nervous for how I would get it all together. But upon getting settled and meeting people I was soon able to put together trips for 12 of the first 13 weekends! I’m so glad I hadn’t put any together prior to my arrival in Spain because I would have done it all wrong. I had assumed the only way to get around were trains and plain. However, in Spain, the ease of travel is incredibly simple through their bus system. In the States, I never would have thought about taking the Greyhound to get around but it’s a very easy, useful, and a cheap system in Spain. Take advantage of this! It makes it easy to purchase cheap flights out of small airports because there’s a bus connecting them, and what’s even better is they let you get around to cool towns and cities that wouldn’t be easily accessible without your own car. For instance, a favorite trip of my friend and I was a day trip up to San Sebastian, an absolutely gorgeous, French-inspired beach town in the tip top northeast of Spain. There we could swim, surf, tan, and just take a break from what was already a break from real life. But this is only the beginning of my travel experiences.

One thing to have in mind is that you’ve already purchased the expensive plane ticket across the Atlantic, so you might as well tack on a ton of cheap trips too.  Throughout my 4 months, I was able to get to 16 cities in 7 countries and 2 continents—all for a little more than the cost of getting to Spain from the US. All of this was made possible through the ease of travel and the economical viability of transportation throughout Europe. If you use Ryanair or other low-cost providers, and avoid trains like the plague, it’ll amaze you how cheaply you can get around. So do it! Don’t waste any weekends. The time abroad speeds by, and perhaps extra travel doesn’t help, but it’s so worth it. This leads me to one of my biggest pieces of advice:

Sometimes you’ll get sick of traveling. Honestly, it’s exhausting traveling weekend after weekend because it’s stressful learning new cities, getting your bearings, and filling your head with memories and your camera with gigabytes of photos. So at times I found myself thinking, “I just want to stay put this weekend and take a breather.” But I’m so glad I didn’t! Here’s my advice— If there’s something awesome going on in the city of your abroad trip, then by all means stay put, go to it, and have an experience. But if there’s nothing, go travel! It’ll be so worth it! You’ll get to make something great out of an otherwise ordinary weekend. And each city has so much to offer you. When you’re back in the States, you won’t be able to sit in class and surf Skyscanner or HostelWorld to plan out your weekend. Take so much advantage of this.

Now, this might be different in other, larger cities, but Pamplona is pretty small so you don’t miss much by taking off for the weekend. You’ll be so happy you did in the end.

Exploring

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

By: Andrea Gagliano, Foster Undergraduate

“I never thought I’d be homesick from my abroad exchange.”

Studying abroad was the time of my life. Why? Because I was continually exploring. People, class, activities- it was all new. Nothing was mundane. Life was never simply “just the same.” This made every single day new and exciting. It made every memory vivid and dream-like. I constantly found quirky words and sayings, tried some pig blood when some black pudding showed up on my plate, took a spur of the moment trip to Poland just to explore something random. I had tea in queens English territory, skied on fake snow in an indoor warehouse, went to the same Christmas market three times in one week just because I couldn’t get enough of it. I could find something different around every street corner, and in every conversation.

Amongst all these differences, I did resort to something familiar and comforting- sports. I play volleyball. But even this, at every single practice, differences were being revealed. I call the ball differently, I interact with my teammates differently, I play by slightly different rules. These findings were my favorite. I got more excited about unexpected differences in my day-to-day activities than going out and exploring a new city. This was the benefit of studying in a culture very similar to America. With English speakers, it was possible to identify these small differences between cultures instead of getting overwhelmed with drastic changes.

Whether I was exploring minute, detailed differences, or exploring an entirely new city, I was continually surprised by the unexpected. Now that I am back home, I try to recreate this. I try to explore Capitol Hill with a fresh pair of eyes, or take a conversation in an unpredictable direction. I gravitate towards any hint of an accent. But it just isn’t the same. It doesn’t replace this explorative craving that now runs through my veins.

The Friendship Experience

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

By: Andrea Gagliano, Foster Undergraduate

When I first got to Manchester, I was meeting so many great people every day. You start off continually meeting so many great people. Then everything settles in. People get into their routine. The British resort back to their long-time friends. The weather gets kind of dreary and rainy. You hear what your friends back home are doing, and you wonder why you left this great life you had at home. I really began to question how I ever made close friends. Not just friends to do activities with, but close, comfortable friendships that make a place feel like home. I was really missing this piece of life and wanted to go back to it. I was homesick.

I was really good at asking someone their name, having a small talk conversation with them, and going to a football game with them, but I was struggling with how to take that next step to being comfortable with them. How to avoid the awkward dinner parties, or pauses in conversation on walks to class? And the truth is, there is no magic trick or strategy. The only thing that helps with this is time and persistence. It took continually hanging out with people until you break that barrier.

Although the friend making experience was a bit of a roller coaster and quite frustrating at times, the rewards in the end were so worthwhile. My heart has been heavy this week, two months after returning to Seattle, because I miss the great friendships I made. In the process, I learned that I don’t need to have super close friends near to me at all times. I’ve realized that I don’t need to hold back in moving to a new location or going someplace where I don’t know anyone because those friendships will come. Going through this process of knowing no one to finding close ones is absolutely invaluable.