La Bella Vita

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

Posted by goabroad - June 3rd, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



Singapore: Looking Back

By: Chris Morgan, Foster Undergraduate

Looking back on my time in Singapore, while my favorite thing may have been the traveling, I’m really happy I got to experience such a unique city and country. Singapore is growing and changing; skyscrapers were built and finished just while I was there. It’s modern feel, stylish restaurants and clubs, and fast-paced nature is very appealing, especially for global business.

The country itself is borderline utopian and highly regulated. No gum, no food or drink on public transportation, and no disturbing the peace. While it can sound intimidating from the outside, it isn’t on the inside. These regulations and strict policies have resulted in an extremely clean and safe country all around. My favorite thing to describe this is a quote I found on another student’s travel blog: “A 21 year old girl could find every dark alley in Singapore at 4 in the morning, and she would only be approached by a registered cab driver asking if she needed a ride home.” Not to say crime is nonexistent, but my friend left her iPad in the public library during finals week for 4 hours, came back, and it was exactly where she left it.

It can run high stress, and the culture can be seen as a little uptight at times, which is really the only large downside. However, being a foreigner in Singapore is great. The exchange program at NUS is fantastic and you’ll be able to make plenty of friends from around the world and alleviate the stress with a little world traveling and clubbing on the tops of skyscrapers. (1-Altitude is my favorite) The most important part of any study abroad trip is the experience, and you would be hard-pressed to find another country where you can experience this much of the world in one city.


Posted by goabroad - June 3rd, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



School in Singapore

By: Chris Morgan, Foster Undergraduate

While traveling is a big part of experiencing Singapore and Southeast Asia, you do have to go to school too. I actually learned a lot, and I’m not just talking about course material. Being that Singapore is an English-speaking nation in Asia (one of the few, if not the only), you have a very interesting look into the culture of Asia. Singapore brings in people from all over Asia and the world to study and do business, and so you see a lot of world beliefs, ideals, and societal facets mix. It was a unique experience to learn and test in a different culture’s ideals. I learned a lot about Eastern culture and how they look at education and the world and it has changed how I view a lot of the world and my own work.
The bottom line is, for a Westerner, this is going to be a little hard. It’s not that the material is over-the-top difficult; it’s just a different way of learning and a different way of thinking. (I wrote a paper on it, you can see it at my travel blog: cmsingapore.blogspot.com)

In order to take advantage of the traveling and in order to really experience the country and the region, I recommend you take 3 classes and do pass/fail if you can. If you’re a marketing student, Game Theory is an interesting class that really captures the formulaic thinking that I found common in the culture. Also if you have room, take a class specific to Asia, like Asian Markets.

 


Posted by goabroad - June 3rd, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



The Singapore Experience

By: Chris Morgan, Foster Undergraduate

Singapore is sometimes referred to as the West’s gateway to Southeast Asia, and that has definitely held true with my experience of the small country. While being a fast growing utopian-style metropolis, Singapore is also a hub and launch pad for exploring the entire region, Myanmar to Indonesia. Traveling is fairly straight forward, and if you want to see a lot of this region I definitely recommend the program to study abroad at the National University of Singapore. They take in a decent number of exchange students from around the world, and it’s very easy to grab a group and travel to Thailand for the weekend (or the week, it’s a great place). I recommend that you make a group with some other exchange students that you meet at the first mixers or beach parties, they will all want to travel too and having a travel group is very important for going into a foreign country. Plus, having a group of people from all over the world is an amazing opportunity and leads to some great conversations and friendships through your travels.

That being said about groups, Singapore is safe to traverse and explore on your own, and solo travel adventures aren’t unheard of. I went to Bali on my own (fairly safe place to go by yourself in the region) and it was amazing. I can’t say enough about traveling with this exchange opportunity. From climbing a volcano in Indonesia to kayaking through island caves in Southern Thailand, I got to see and experience so much more than I had anticipated. The possibilities to have a trip of a lifetime are endless here, so take a few!


Posted by goabroad - June 3rd, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



Stateside from Pamplona: How We Change

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!


Posted by goabroad - March 7th, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



You’re Abroad. You NEED to Travel

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.


Posted by goabroad - March 7th, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



Exploring

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.


Posted by goabroad - March 6th, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



The Friendship Experience

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.


Posted by goabroad - March 6th, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



Post-Study Abroad Reflections

By: Travis Rind, Foster Undergraduate

The last few days spent in Manchester were bittersweet and filled with some of the most memorable times of the entire experience. Fortunately, most lectures were cancelled to give students extra time to prepare for examinations in January (or, perhaps to have an earlier Christmas holiday). In any case, the exchange students had the short end of the stick as we were stuck finishing up our final essays. Traditionally classes let out mid-December and students return towards the end of January for final examinations. But, being on exchange and unable to return, our assessments consisted of 2,000 to 3,000 word essays. Just two of mine were due before leaving Manchester, so I was working on my remaining three well into the beginning of Winter Quarter at UW. Results aren’t returned until early March, so there is a long and anxiety-filled waiting period!

Already I miss the sense of spontaneity, adventurousness, and openness to try new experiences. Not only visiting, but truly living in, another country forces you to change your mindset, learn to be more flexible, and adapt to the unexpected. For better or for worse, I have returned to the relative comfort of home. There are no more missed buses, language barriers, or unusual foods here in Seattle. While it was often times frustrating and stressful dealing with such circumstances at the time, I now cannot help but long for the feeling of knowing that there is so much left to explore and experience right in the palm of my hands.

Having met so many people from more than a dozen countries, I am proud to now say that I have forged such strong friendships with these individuals and sincerely cannot wait until I can see them again. I know I will travel again soon, and encourage everyone to grasp that opportunity.

My advice to anyone considering living, working, or studying abroad would be to simply do it. It’s too easy and convenient to make excuses for not doing it – it’s expensive, I don’t speak the language, it’s uncomfortable, I don’t know what I’m doing, what if something goes wrong. I’m sure your experience will be similar to mine, in that you’ll find that the similarities vastly outnumber the differences and that at the core, most people are truly benevolent and overwhelmingly welcoming towards others.

 


Posted by goabroad - March 6th, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



Cultural Differences

By: Travis Rind, Foster Undergraduate

This was my first Thanksgiving spent outside the US, and the first time experiencing it with non-Americans. We took the opportunity to share a cultural tradition and host a potluck. Everyone brought dishes from their home countries to share – with everything from crepes to sashimi! (But don’t fear, we still had the traditional oven-roasted turkey and mashed potatoes.) Everyone was very curious about this distinctly American tradition, and I enjoyed sharing our culture with others.

I was particularly surprised with how wide-spread American influence was overall. Grocery stores had Thanksgiving displays, and even our dormitory dining hall offered a ‘traditional American’ Thanksgiving feast complete with spicy chicken wings, chili dogs, BBQ ribs, and French fries. Clearly there is a bit of a cultural gap that may take a bit more understanding.

Europeans were also very interested and well-versed in American politics. Because the US is such an influential power player in global affairs, many felt that their nations were directly impacted by American policy. The presidential election was followed ardently, and a lot of the other exchange students and locals even stayed up through the night to watch the election results live on television.

These experiences have made me realize how lacking Americans typically are in understanding other cultures. I’m not sure how many people know what St. Andrew’s Day is or can name the prime minister of the United Kingdom, but being abroad has helped me realize the importance of educating oneself about global affairs. Not only is it practical knowledge for being in the realm of business, but you are able to have much more lively and engaging conversations with others when you expand your knowledge base.


Posted by goabroad - March 6th, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink