Getting Oriented Abroad

Written by Emily Zehm, Foster undergraduate

For International Business Students studying abroad at Erasmus during fall quarter, there is a mandatory orientation that is a 3-day, 2-night excursion. For my orientation we all took a bus to Maastricht, Germany. All of the International Business Students stayed at a hostel together where we got the chance to listen to guest speakers, get to know each other through group discussions, and participate in fun games and bonding activities. I left this orientation really feeling like I had made some close friends.

We were also paired up with a “buddy” who is a matriculated student at Erasmus University and is in charge of helping us get settled. My buddy’s name is Yanbin, and he gave me some advice on how to succeed in my classes and where I can purchase a bike. For anyone reading this that is going to Erasmus make sure that you join the Facebook group titled “Commodity Market Rotterdam”. This is where people post about anything they are trying to sell, and you can find a ton of secondhand bikes this way!

My favorite part of this orientation was the last night, where we did a talent show. It seemed a bit ridiculous and juvenile to me when we were first told we would be doing it, however, it turned out to be a really good bonding experience and a lot of fun.

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Posted by goabroad - February 4th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink



Making International Friends

Written by Nancy Shao, Foster undergraduate

One of the best decisions I made in Korea was signing up for the intensive Korean language classes. Even though it was two hours every day Monday to Friday, I learned a lot of Korean and really bonded with my amazing classmates. We had people from the Netherlands, England, Phillipines, China, Canada and America all in that one classroom. It was the first time I was in such a diverse situation. We all became really close friends and it makes me sad to think we will probably never all be gathered in the same place again.

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Our teacher was really nice too even though she didn’t speak much English, we would communicate with bits of Korean, English and Charades. By the end of level 1, we learned how to order food, tell time, haggle and read. Reading is really important I realized. You just feel so insecure when you’re in a country where you are illiterate. You don’t know where you are if you can’t read road signs and it’s hard to find restaurants and even the bathroom. Life got a lot better in Korea after I learned how to read. It was like the world finally started making sense. Karaoke was definitely a lot easier. I also realized I lived next to a lot of fried chicken and beer places.

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Posted by goabroad - January 26th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink



Dressing the Part

Written by Nancy Shao, Foster undergraduate

Some friends and I went to a tiny palace in Insadong called “Unhyeongong”. The reason we went to this one instead of the larger and more famous Gyeongbokgong was because there was no entrance fee for this one and our primary goal was to take Hanbok pictures! A must do for every foreigner traveling to Korea because we are all curious to see how we look as a citizen in the Joseon dynasty. I should’ve worn a shirt without a collar though because we had to wear the hanbok over our normal clothes and my collar showed so I had to tuck it in. My friend Rebecca had to wear a child size one because all of the other ones were too big for her. You can tell because it had a velcro closing instead of the normal ribbon you tie in the front. We did get some nice pictures and the weather was quite nice as well. 

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Posted by goabroad - January 26th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink



Spa Day in Seoul

Written by Nancy Shao, Foster undergraduate

A Korean friend took us to one of the biggest jjimjilbangs in Seoul “Dragon Hill Spa” or “Yongsan Spa”. The big sign says students who took the Korean college entrance exam can get in for free. It makes me wonder if we ever got any perks for completing the SAT. Well we probably don’t have it as hard as they do so they deserve a relaxing day in one of the best spas in Seoul! When we first entered, we were met with pictures of famous Korean celebrities that have been to this jimjjilbang. Among them were “Girl’s Generation” and the cast of the hit variety show “Running Man”.

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The jjimjillbang is really big and has an arcade, spa, movie theater, PC room and a restaurant. We ate dinner in the restaurant and our Korean friends taught us how to make “Sheep Hair” by rolling up the towels. I’ve only seen this done in the dramas but it was on my “to-do” list. I proudly wore my sheep hair around the spa.

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Posted by goabroad - January 26th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink



The Beautiful Cinque Terre

Written by Mayowa Laniran, Foster undergraduate

I hiked and explored Cinque Terre, which are beautiful and colorful towns on the Italian Rivera. The journey from town to town was about two hours of hiking, but well worth it each time, and I got to eat some great food along the way. Since it was still September, the weather was great, and the group I went with decided to get on a boat to go explore the two towns we were too tired to hike to. Cinque Terre is definitely one of my top recommendations of places to visit in Italy.

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Posted by goabroad - January 23rd, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink



Casa di Clooney in Como

Written by Mayowa Laniran, Foster undergraduate

Como Lago (Lake Como) is a place where the wealthy keep vacation homes and I see why. Como Lago is about an hour from Milan, and the town of Como offers a lot for such a small area. We took a trip with ESN, and got a boat tour of the entire lake, the coolest site was George Clooney’s house. With over 100 exchange students participating, it was a great opportunity to meet new friends. A sky tram took us up to the mountains of Como, where we were able to look down on the city for a very cool view. There were an endless strip of mansions up there, and lots of cool sites.


Posted by goabroad - January 23rd, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink



Meeting the famous Spike Lee in Italy

Written by Mayowa Laniran, Foster undergraduate

Today was a very interesting day to say the least. Spike Lee, one of the greatest American filmmakers visited our university today to talk about cinema and sports. But those topics only lasted a little while, as many of the Italian students began asking questions about the issue of police violence against blacks in America. High profile cases of Mike Brown and Eric Garner were revolving around the world news, and Spike Lee used this platform as a forum to discuss the issues. After showing the moving video of Garner’s death, many Italian students wanted to know how they could help speak up and raise awareness about the issue. It was a cool event showing that students from all around the world wanted to invest their time to fight racism. Eventually the conversation turned to discussing racism that exists in Italy and all over Europe. Afterwards, I got the opportunity to speak with Spike for a few minutes and had to snap a picture for the record.

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Posted by goabroad - January 23rd, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink



Parting Words

Written by Bonnie Beam, Foster undergraduate

Who knew that small, quirky Pamplona would forever hold a special place in my heart? I had the incredible opportunity to study abroad at the University of Navarra in the Fall of 2014. During my time in Spain, I was amazed at how much I don’t know and the capacity I have to learn if I humbly allow others to teach me what they know. A huge part of this realization came about in my living situation in Pamplona. Early on I decided I wanted to live with locals of the city, knowing that my Spanish was bound to improve much more than if I were to live with people who spoke my native language. This was by far the best decision I made! It was awesome to learn about UNAV, Pamplona and Spain at large through their eyes. They were very eager to help me improve my Spanish, correct my embarrassing mistakes (like referring to God as sexy instead of good – it’s “Dios ES bueno” not “está” in case you were wondering) and teach me all those idiomatic expressions.

Another “must” is going on all the trips with the international students, arranged by the international student office at UNAV! It is the best way to get connected with your fellow exchange students and experience Northern Spain. Our trip to Asturias was by far my favorite- a weekend full of repelling down waterfalls, kayaking, cave-exploring, mountain-climbing. What more could you want?! As a side note, the international student office and the student ambassadors were extremely helpful during my time at UNAV and were always more than willing to answer questions about the school, registering for classes, and give their suggestions for things to do/see in Pamplona and the surrounding cities!

Some other cool experiences I had were tutoring two Spanish kids in English (there is a large demand for English-speaking tutors so look into it if you’re interested in hanging out with kids a few hours a week and earning a little extra money), getting involved with an evangelical church in the area and getting to know more college-aged Spainards that way and playing badminton every week at the polideportivo (UNAV has a variety of sports for which they offer free group lessons every week) and learning how to play pádel with my roommates.

I had a wonderful experience at UNAV! Was it challenging? Very. Awkward? You bet. Eye-opening? Most definitely. Fun? Of course! Worth it? Totally. Whenever you place yourself into a new environment with a completely different culture, language and set of norms, you can expect to grow. But only to the degree that you allow. So if I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to allow yourself to grow A LOT! Attend the conferences, go on awesome adventures with the International Office, serve in some capacity at Navarra, talk with the locals, go to your professors’ office hours, live with Spainards, do things you wouldn’t normally do when your back in the comfort of your home country!

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Hanging out on the beach of Southern France with my roommates. France is only about 2 hours away- you must go!


Posted by goabroad - January 23rd, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink



A Matter of Perspective

Written by Bonnie Beam, Foster undergraduate

“How’s Spain?!” seems to be a common question these days. As I try to give an honest answer, it seems that quite contradictory phrases most accurately describe my experience thus far. It’s both exhausting and relaxing, challenging yet simple and by far one of the hardest and easiest times of my life.

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Why are these simultaneously possible? Because everything is a matter of perspective.

Por ejemplo…

(1) The fast-track American lifestyle, with maxed out schedules, work-oriented mindsets and the rarity of sit-down meals with loved ones is no where to be found. For the Spanish, living life to its fullest is not about how much money they can accumulate in the bank rather how much time they can spend with loved ones; whether that be making a meal together, going for a walk or grabbing drinks.

One of the things I love most is the priority the Spanish culture places on eating together “en casa” (at home). Nearly everyone goes home for lunch and all the shops close down. Proof of this? My university cafeteria consists of 6, 4-person tables… That’s right, 6 tables for an enrollment size of 11,000! You can imagine how alone I felt when I had to pack a lunch and eat at school one day due to my class schedule.

As many of you know, I live with three girls from Spain. Every day, we all come home for both lunch and dinner to prepare and eat a meal together. Each meal, from start to finish, usually lasts about 2 hours. And not once have I thought that my time would be better spent elsewhere. I absolutely love having the ability to be completely present with those around me; not feeling guilty for missing another function or failing to check off a task on my to-do list because the reality is, here in Spain, the only place you should be is at home, eating with your friends and family.

It’s disheartening to realize that this routine is impossible for most back in the states, where most of our schedules only allow for a 45 minute coffee break, if that. This last week has been a refreshing reminder that our energy should be devoted primarily to people, not to electronics, money or everything that encompasses “achieving the American dream.” In America, the typical Spanish lifestyle might be labeled as unproductive or lazy but to the Spaniards, Americans have their priorities all wrong. Once again, it’s a matter of perspective.

(2) A little visual to help you understand what happened…

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Yes, I was pooped on. While walking down the street with some of my friends from Peru, a bird decided to give me a surprise. Needless to say, I was shocked, mortified and a bit disgusted. But I was soon forced to look at the situation from a different perspective my Peruvian friends quickly explained that in their culture, getting pooped on is good luck. Who knew?! And thus, another realization that everything is a matter of perspective.

A few other things you might like to know…

  1. Dinner is eaten between 9:30-11:30pm. More often, the latter.
  2. I walk everywhere. All day, every day. Yesterday alone, I spent two hours walking to school and back.
  3. Yet, no one carries water bottles. The other day, an older couple in the elevator poked fun at me for carrying a water bottle around.

Ciao!


Posted by goabroad - January 23rd, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink



Among The Cattle and Caves

Written by Bonnie Beam, Foster undergraduate

This past weekend I took a trip with 40 other international students at UNAV to Asturias, located in northern, central Spain. From mountains, to cathedrals, to rivers, to sleepy, cobblestone towns, the Asturias province has it all! Lush with vegetation and bursting with cattle, the area perfectly captures the un-rushed life here in Spain.

After a nearly 6 hour bus ride, our guides decided to take advantage of all the energy we had stored up on the bus and us through Los Picos de Europa, a range of mountains 12 miles off the coast of Spain (a very rare combination). Fun fact: Los Picos also contain some of the world’s deepest caves! I’ll talk about our cave exploring later on :)

It was hard not to feel like I was back home, exploring the mountainous beauty of Washington.  The one big difference? We wandered amongst hundreds and hundreds of cattle roaming free! They were so close, I could even take selfies with them.

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But the coolest part of being up there was getting to meet Maria, a woman who has lived up there her entire life, in the hut pictured below. She makes excellent cheese from the cattle nearby in her humble abode. Despite what we would perceive as “lack” of basic commodities, she was one of the most joy-filled people I’ve ever met. It was one of the many reminders on this trip that joy and happiness are not the product of material wealth.

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Aside from exploring Los Picos, we also spent our weekend kayaking, cave-exploring and repelling off of waterfalls. To make things extra exciting, while we secured in metal harnesses, swimming and jumping off the waterfalls, a huge thunder, lightning and rain storm moved in. Definitely freaky but so much fun (and something I would never do on my own initiative!).

Each night, we would head back up into the mountains where we stayed in a modest bunk-house, which brought me back to my summer camp days when I was younger. Since I don’t live with other international students, it was great to talk the night away with students from all over the world!

All in all, a great weekend of discovery, friendship, adventures and learning!


Posted by goabroad - January 9th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink