Written by: Jennifer Joe, Foster Undergraduate
To start off, Morocco is one of the most beautiful countries out there. Each city has its own unique personality and even each building seems to maintain its own distinctive character. While I thoroughly enjoyed exploring these cities, my most memorable experience will be the one where I got to eat my dinner watching the sun set amongst the High Atlas Mountains, where I got to enjoy peaceful moments of tranquility underneath stars on a clear night without a hint of technology or busy cities around me, and where I got to watch donkeys and goats roam around free on mountain sides that would have been impossible for me to scale without seriously injuring myself. My trek through the High Atlas Mountains was an unforgettable experience where I learned a lot about myself. We had to hike for most of the day during the three day trek to get to our final destination and we had no technology or running water for all of it. Each day presented a new physical challenge and each day I would spend a significant amount of time just observing my surroundings and all that nature has to offer. It’s in those times that contemplation and reflection really kicks in. Every little thing begins to mean a lot to you and every simple thing starts to become significant to you. It was like taking a step back in time. When it comes to a trip like this this, I can’t think of a better way to really get to know the people around you and create a special bond that can’t be imitated easily. An experience like this makes you become truly mindful of the present moment and enjoy the company of others and appreciate the unique personalities that make up a group of 19 people. You learn that everyone brings something good to the table- whether it be stories, jokes, optimism, outdoor skills, or supplies. It also gives you a new found appreciation for nice hiking boots and moleskin.
Written by: Jennifer Joe, Foster Undergraduate
Written by: Benjamin Conrad, Foster School undergraduate, Exploration Seminar to Paris
One of the best experiences I had while studying in Paris was a trip I took to the outskirts the city to the Isle of Impressionists. This island was hosting a music festival that I thought would be a really fun excursion. My program’s material involved activities where the suspension of normal motives was necessary. On several occasions we were asked to wander around the city and “get lost”, leaving from point A without any sense of point B. This led to plenty of cool experiences and a much more involved exploration of the city and its people. While sometimes disorienting, this mode of exploration transferred a bit into my time at the festival, and I don’t believe I would have seen such cool art or heard such good music without it.
Paris was an awesome place to socialize in because it was such an international city. Many of the people I met and friends I made were from all over the world, and it seemed that I met less Parisians than anything else. The festival was no different, and I ended up making friends with people from New Zealand, Denmark, and Canada. It was really interesting to explore common interests at the festival with people who came from such different cultures. I was also very lucky to spend so much time with people who spoke English so well, as my French is atrocious. Plenty of the time I relied on other people in the program to help me communicate, but because I went to the festival by myself, I could have had much more trouble if I didn’t meet such outgoing people. This festival really had me investigating much of the different cultural aspects of Paris, and is an example of how fantastic my time abroad was.
The festival on the Isle of Impressionists was an amazing experience. The food, the people and the atmosphere all contributed to one of the best days I had in France. The day I spent there was fantastic, and I don’t think I’ll forget it anytime soon.
by Kiersa Sanders
Day 1 of our Self Employed Women Association (SEWA) visit involved meeting at SEWA headquarters, visiting two different garment worker communities, visiting a garment worker thread store, presenting our $2,000 donation to SEWA, and brainstorming solutions to attract more shoppers to the store. We ended the night at a traditional Guajarati restaurant for dinner.
At SEWA headquarters, we learned about why and how the group was formed. The organization’s main goal is to obtain full employment and self reliance for the women in the informal labor sector that it represents. From SEWA headquarters, we travelled to the thread store that our fundraising will support. It was a very small space but the shelves had a variety of different types of thread. We asked questions about the product, supplier, and customers to get a better idea of how the store could improve. My favorite part of the day was actually meeting the women that will be utilizing the thread store. Our group and about a dozen female seamstresses packed into two different sitting rooms and exchanged questions. We discovered that many of these women both worked nine-hour days and took care of the household duties. They earned 30-60 rupees per day or less than $1 US dollar.
They told us that girls have to start sewing at around eight or nine years old. Students often had to leave school to support the family income. In addition to this, even basic government school costs families at least $300 US dollars per year. Families that enrolled their children in school stood to lose money from lost hours at work as well as the tuition itself. This part of the visit was pretty disheartening and made me reflect on my own education. Growing up wasn’t all roses, but at least school was free. Performing well at school opened up opportunities for me to exceed what my mom had been able to accomplish financially. Because many of these women are at the whim of the garment companies that contract for their services, many families get stuck in a cycle because they have to depend on the children to bring in the necessary income. I’m thankful that I have had the opportunity to attend school and become eligible for different job opportunities.
There is a pretty stark contrast between SEWA Day 1 and SEWA Day 2. We began Day 2 at the Gandhi museum which was located where he lived for part of his life. I had no idea that Gandhi was born in Guajarati. The museum was extremely peaceful. As I walked through the exhibit I learned so much that I never knew about him. He studied law in England, took his first position in South Africa, where he experienced discrimination for the first time. Without Gandhi’s teachings, I wonder where I would be right now. Many of his philosophies inspired the peaceful strategies of the Civil Rights Movement that helped make it successful.
by Diana Conde
One of the places we traveled to while in Brazil was an indigenous place called a Quilombola. This place as well as many others was a place where Africans who were often runaway slaves stayed. These places are very poor and only have the necessities in order to live. It was shocking for me to learn how slavery was such a big part of their history as well and how much inequality still remains today just like in the United States.
When we visited this place which has housed many generations, many of the people were very happy because today they have a lot more resources than they did many years ago. Their children are receiving better education and most importantly they actually have access to get education. Many people live in this small area which houses 96 families. The leader of the Quilombo is a woman, she is the first to lead the Quilombo as well as having been voted a second time because of how well it has been run. They also made us a typical Quilombo meal which was very delicious.
I learned that there are many quotas that universities have on the amount of afro Brazilian students they have to take in. This is done in order to level the field a bit since they were so disadvantaged in the past. This also exists in the workplace. I learned that they are trying to get more Afro Brazilians educated and in better working positions for the same reason of being disadvantaged in the past. I also learned that they aren’t trying to get them to the higher level positions just a step or two up from where they are now. Even in the government there are no Afro Brazilian people who have an important position.
This really shocked me because their situation is even worse than the United States because they still aren’t trying to be completely equal. What they wish for the most is to be able to be in the position that African descendants are in the United States which is to have the opportunity to be truly successful. While in the Quilombo one of the ladies there was asking us about Obama and how he was doing as the president. She said that they were very proud of him and that they want Brazil’s African descendants to be able to one day be president as well.
I think this visit highlights my time in Brazil because I learned many new things about Brazil. There were similarities between Brazil and the United States but there were many differences. My experience was amazing and I was able to open my eyes to a whole new world full of their own issues and battles. This experience was great and I’m lucky to have been able to participate in it.
By Midori Ng
“Bonjour”, “La Orana”, and “Hello” surrounded us as we disembarked the airplane and into the overwhelming humidity. Since I only speak English, I was immediately culture shocked with the French and Tahitian languages. The LePendu’s were our host family who warmly welcomed our UW group of 22 students with flower lei’s, shell necklaces, and friendly kisses. This marked the beginning of my Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMAD) study abroad journey in Tahiti for one month, exploring the towns of Punaauia, Fa’a, Papeete, and Moorea.
A small island with an even smaller population, Tahiti is home to natural wonders of sandy beaches, exotic flora and fauna, and clear blue ocean waters. To the outside world, it is known as paradise. However, many people never truly experience the aspects of Tahiti that make the island so alluring and captivating.
Our journey focused on making connections within the Polynesian community and learning about the Tahitian culture beyond the stereotypes and pre-perceptions. We spent weeks studying the traditional Tahitian canoes Polynesians used to voyage across miles of ocean during migration through guest speakers, readings, and discussions. Afterwards our group canoed in open water, swam with stingrays, and learned to how to paddle board with the LePendu kids. This type of active learning was applied to multiple aspects of the Tahitian culture.
During our second week, we attended the Heiva Dance Festival in downtown Papeete to watch an entertaining Polynesian show full of chanting, dancing, and singing. Afterwards, we got to partake and create our own Heiva festival, learning four dance routines, two songs, and a traditional chant within 48 hours to perform for the Punaauia community.
Volunteering at a kid’s camp and elementary school were the most rewarding experience of the trip. We spent all day with the children learning about their culture by weaving handmade baskets, making coconut milk, and preparing the dish E’ia Ota (Tahitian lime-marinated tuna). I also loved sharing parts of the American culture by playing basketball, soccer, and football with them. We also attended an American Football game between two local high schools to support the students the UW Athletic Football Department helped coach in June 2013. The football team performed the traditional Hakka dance for UW showing their appreciation of our support.
This was my first time out of the country and first time studying abroad. Through this program I realized the importance of slowing down and enjoying the moment being presented in front of you. Only staying for one month, every day was a new adventure and memory that would pass by too quickly.
Tahiti was an eye-opening study abroad trip that has no doubt changed my life. It is a destination that offers the greatest of simple pleasures rooted in a culture that values community, nature, and diversity. I found I am genuinely happy with Tahitian lifestyle of minimal accessibility to technology and materialistic items. More importantly, the LePendu family taught me a lot about living with a positive outlook, big heart, and open mind. As I am settling back into my life in Seattle, I am extremely grateful and humbled to have experienced the trip of a lifetime.
Written by Kathleen Hatch, Assistant Director, Global Business Center
Each year during the month before the University of Washington starts, groups of students led by UW Faculty travel to all parts of the world to explore a topic and a world region. This fall, I was really lucky to co-lead a program focused on how internet and technology businesses are transforming in China. We spent three and a half weeks meeting with companies and learning about Chinese culture in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guilin.
China is moving fast. Walking around in Beijing for just 8 days is enough time to notice that the whole city seems to be lurching forward. Our hotel was located near the center of Beijing, and when we arrived they were remodeling a store on our block – the sidewalk was completely torn up and the store was gutted. By the time we left Beijing to take the high-speed train to Shanghai, the store was open for business with merchandise hanging in the window. The growth and development of the city is not just something that you can feel, you can actually see it happening.
This was my first trip to China, and it was an incredible experience to meet with company executives and hear firsthand about their challenges and opportunities. We met with Sina Weibo, a microblogging platform that has taken off in China and is now expanding internationally. Our group visited Microsoft’s Asia-Pacific Research and Development Group in Beijing – the second largest Microsoft campus next to Redmond. Their mission is “Innovation in China, innovation for the world.” Each year Microsoft invests two billion dollars just in Research and Development. Our speaker, Sam Zhong, Group Program Manager of the Strategic Partnership Group, talked with us about how innovative and entrepreneurial the Chinese are. He said Beijing feels like Silicon Valley in its height.
We received a presentation and toured the manufacturing floor of Tektronix. We toured UPS – their Shanghai offices are the largest in China, and they are located right next to DHL. When asked about their competition, our speaker responded that they embrace the competition and hope that this will help to further develop the system of logistics in China. Our group visited Lenovo which represents 36% of the PC market share in China with HP and Dell as their major competitors.
We watched cars being assembled at Hyundai, and our group crammed into the apartment of the founder of an internet start-up called Wodache.com, where computer programmers sat at the kitchen table on their MacBooks. Between all of our company visits we also found the time to attend a National Chinese Orchestra performance, hike the Great Wall, and eat a lot of delicious noodles and dumplings.
Now that we have already returned back home to Seattle, I’ve been able to gather all of my thoughts about our trip in Beijing. I can honestly say that it was one of the best experiences of my life. I was able to connect with my cultural heritage and see the land of my ancestors with my own eyes. We were able to visit all the former palaces and royal buildings which allowed me to bring those images of all the landmarks to life. Not only were we able to see historical landmarks but we were able to catch a glimpse of China’s rapid modernization by visiting sites such as the Olympic Park. However magnificent the Watercube and Bird’s Nest looked on television, they were magnified by a 100 in person. Not only are the Watercube and Bird’s Nest amazing pieces of architecture, but I really believe that the Olympic Park along with the 2008 Olympics were symbolic of China’s progress as a nation. Especially as a business student, it was great being in China and seeing first-hand what type of advancements the Chinese economy is making. China is already quickly playing a bigger part in the global economy, and this experience in Beijing will most definitely benefit me in the future.
The most valuable thing I left Beijing with however, were all the friendships and connections that I made. Throughout my time in Beijing, I was able to build close friendships with a few local Tsinghua students which are something I will always treasure. With my fellow classmates in the program we were all able to create memories that will last a lifetime. So far since we’ve been back home I’ve stayed in touch with those friends in Beijing through Skype and Facebook, and I have become closer with many of my classmates from the trip. Going into this program, I did not know what to expect and to be honest one of my major concerns were how I was going to get along with everyone. China far exceeded any of the expectations I had and provided me with so many great memories and experiences. As I think about my future career goals, I know that my knowledge of Chinese culture and language will help me no matter what I end up doing. My experiences and time in this program reinforced to me that as business continues to become more and more global, it will be imperative to know multiple languages and be comfortable in international surroundings. For every Foster student I would recommend studying abroad and especially exploration seminars because they have such a short time commitment. I personally guarantee that no matter where the location is, it will provide an unforgettable and worthwhile experience. Thanks and see you again soon Beijing!
Wow, China really is an amazing place. All the historic sites that we have visited have been nothing short of breath-taking. Being able to connect what I have learned about my heritage to the actual places where it all happened is an amazing experience. Over this past weekend we visited the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City.
Visiting the Great Wall lived up to all of my expectations that it would be one of the best experiences in my life. Since the Great Wall stretches throughout China, there are only certain sections that can be climbed. We traveled to one site right outside Beijing and it was our first time outside of the city. After receiving a short introduction from our tour guide and teacher, we broke off into groups and proceeded up to the Great Wall. My group consisted of a few good close friends, Jason, Warren, Carsen, and Lauren. The day before Jason and I had played a full day of basketball so we were already dying of soreness before our climb even began. But you only get to climb the Great Wall once so we definitely pushed our physical limits. After many stops for pictures, countless water breaks, and a little bit of socializing, we finally reached the end of our painful hike and climb to the top of the section. Just as we had imagined, the view was amazing and we really felt chills being able to say that we had climbed the Great Wall. However, what really made the experience great was the way down. At one end of the section, there were both gondolas and toboggans that the public could ride to get down from the Great Wall. Of course we chose to toboggan and it was probably the most exhilarating thing we did in Beijing.
To continue our jam packed weekend, Sunday we checked out Tiananmen Square as well as the Forbidden City. The moment that we arrived to Tiananmen Square we were all shocked as to how big it was. One cool thing about Chinese architecture is that each piece always represents or symbolizes something. For example one of the buildings in Tiananmen Square was supposed to resemble a chair which symbolizes the people sitting back in power. The first thing we visited was Mao Zedong’s memorial. The memorial has his actual body inside, and I think I can speak for everyone when I say that you definitely feel chills walking through. It was crazy walking through the memorial of such a prominent figure that made such an impact on history, and it’s a feeling that I’ll never forget. After some pictures in the actual square, we moved on to the Forbidden City. After hearing so much about it and seeing parts of it in the media, the Forbidden City still exceeded my expectations for how beautiful it would be. Although many royal structures were designed similarly, the size and history of the Forbidden City awed all of us.
To round out our fun filled weekend we went to one of Beijing’s most famous restaurants to eat Peking duck. Many past U.S presidents and other important figures had dined there, and it was no wonder why they enjoyed it so much. We all stuffed ourselves to the neck, and it was finally time to head back to our dorms to wind down and get ready for the week ahead.
Regardless of how many days you stay here, India never stops amazing you. In New Delhi, I found the Islamic influences in India and a new picture of insane humidity and traffic. In Agra, I found the wonders of the world from the Taj Mahal to Akbar’s tomb and the families who turned rocks and tarps into homes. In Mumbai, I found slums where people living in far worse conditions than me, living unimaginably content lives. In Pune, I found Tata motors, the Nano, and proof that India is definitely coming up as a powerhouse in the global economy. In Goa, I found open beaches and Portuguese influences in buildings, language, and food. In Bangalore, I realized just how far India has come in terms of information technology and why it has surpassed so many developed nations with its abundance of knowledge. In Mysore, I found majestic palaces and wonderful silk in a variety of colors.
In the course of 3 weeks, I saw numerous parts of India that no amount of words can fully capture. The experiences, businesses, architecture, and people I have met are beyond anything I imagined. Whether you decide to a 3 week or a 3 month study abroad, I strongly urge to students to experience India. It truly is a country unlike any other you have or will encounter.