From Scotland to Stillwater

By Carlie Pearson

Students coming from other countries face lots of challenges, but for Rachel Stewart, on exchange from Heriot Watt University in Scotland, “it’s definitely one of the best experiences of my life, which is cliché, but I don’t know how else to explain.”

When Stewart and her best friend, Lauren McNally, on exchange from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland, came to OSU for the year, they had to start fresh and build a life here.

“It wasn’t easy to start with. But you learn a lot about yourself,” she explains.   McNally, an international hospitality and management major, met her best friend, Stewart, an international business major, at OSU. Together, they have above all, become true Cowboys during their year at Oklahoma State.

Early in the year, they met the captain of the lacrosse team, and joined her team. It turned out to be the best decision they could have ever made. “We are actually going to the championships this weekend,” McNally said, in May. The club sport been a great way to meet people and get involved on campus. It has also been an incredible way to see more of the United States, as the lacrosse team makes trips to surrounding states to compete.

“Here everyone is huge into OSU; it’s like a culture,” Stewart explained, “Back home we have club sports, but no one would really come see them.” They were excited to find out how interactive and social sports can really be. They recommend incoming students get the season sports pass, and to experience tailgating at a home football game.

Academically, their experience at OSU has changed their perspectives on learning. At OSU, there is always help available. It’s the first time McNally and Stewart have really gotten to know their professors. “Each class, my professor starts with trivia, and it gets everyone interested. We have also been taught practical skills we can actually use,” McNally said. In their classes, they have been inspired by OSU’s students, of whom they say are very ambitious, and make them want to try harder. Above all, they love the friendly community on campus and in Stillwater.

Lauren and Rachel are thankful to have come to Oklahoma State for the whole year. Not only did they see an entire school year, from football to finals and from the perspective of a Cowboy, but they also learned things from outside American culture through meeting other exchange students. Because they met students from Germany, France, Mexico, Australia, Spain, South Africa, and more, they now have contacts from around the world that they can visit in the future. Some of their best friends, for life, were made here.

“One of my favorite weekends was renting a lake house at Tenkiller Lake,” McNally said. It turns out they rented, unknowingly, an old girl scout camp. “It was fun to sleep upstairs with all the beds in one room – like The Parent Trap!” It was also their first time to try s’mores, a traditional camping food favorite.

The most unexpected things for Stewart and McNally were seeing real cowboy boots and hats. Sometimes cultural differences such as this made things tough, like when repeatedly ordering food. “We speak the same language, so I wasn’t expecting so much trouble.” But the slang between Scotland and Stillwater was hard to get used to, according to Stewart.

During our interview, the two were sad to think about leaving Stillwater. Stewart said she will miss the fact that there’s always something going on, and that every week, everyone is talking about it. But their American adventure isn’t over yet. Before traveling home, they will spend one month exploring San Diego, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, New Orleans, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. Upon leaving, Stewart said she “will miss Mexican food so much. I don’t know what I’ll do without Qdoba.”

Rachel says for anyone looking to study abroad, they should consider Herriot- Watt University in Scotland. “Obviously the city is amazing,” she says about Edinburgh.

Scotland to Stillwater

Herriot-Watt is a great central location in Scotland, located just outside of Edinburgh. Though the  university is small, students become very close, especially if you join a sports team.

Robert Gordon is a great, modern university located in Aberdeen, a student city near the adventurous Scottish highlands. Though quite small, it is called the “Granite City,” and also has its own beach. McNally says that if students are looking for a business school, RGU should definitely be one of your top choices for a semester or year abroad.

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A Trek into the Unknown

By: Matt Gallagher

“Dober dan” from Ljubljana, Slovenia! My name is Matt Gallagher, and I am studying economics at the University of Ljubljana (loo-blee-ah-nah), with my good friend and fellow Oklahoma State student, Trey Gilbertson. We are about to celebrate six weeks in Slovenia, and we have enjoyed every second of it.

Slovenia_MattG
Like many others, you may be interested in how a couple of true Okies ended up in a small, seemingly obscure, somewhat non-traditional location like Slovenia. We entered the application process with an extremely open mind, and chose to take every potential location into account while making our decision. We searched all over the world for a relatively inexpensive university in an ideal location for travel and adventure. So naturally we settled on, you guessed it: Valencia, Spain. Of course, the University of Ljubljana was a close second choice, and we found out nearly a year ago to date that we would be spending six months in a little Central European country we knew even less about.
As we have learned over the past six weeks, there was an awesome purpose to this selection. Slovenia is a beautiful country delicately situated between the towering peaks of the Julian Alps and the deep blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. Bordering Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia, Slovenia is the ultimate location for travel all over Europe. Having a history in which it continually changed hands from the Romans to the Franks, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire to former Yugoslavia, Slovenia has a fantastic mix of cultures. Ljubljana itself sees architectural and artistic influences from the Franciscans, ancient Venetians, and the Viennese. Traditional Slovenian culinary tastes consist of sausage and goulash dishes similar to that of the Germans and the Austrians, and Italian pizzerias and trattorias can be found on nearly every street corner.
After a two-week tour of England and Scotland to kick off our study abroad experience, we found ourselves in a hostel where we spent day-after-day searching for an apartment. We had chosen to wait until we arrived in Ljubljana to find a residence because we wanted to be acclimated and familiarized with the city we hardly knew anything about. While at times it was somewhat stressful living out of a suitcase in a room with twelve other people, we have no regrets and finally found a nice studio apartment that overlooks the Ljubljanica River in the city center.
While we are both pursuing an engineering degree at Oklahoma State, we are currently studying economics in order to complete separate business minors. Our faculty consists of 6000 undergraduate students and around 150 international students. Our classes are entirely taught in English and we are able to interact with students from all over the world. Lectures are largely discussion-based and allow students to hear and discuss different cultural ideals and national issues related to economics. We have made friends from Slovenia, Turkey, Germany, England, Portugal, and many other countries. Coming from strict, objective engineering classes, we are exceptionally intrigued by this classroom environment and it makes going to class almost easy.
As mentioned earlier, Slovenia is an ideal location for travel. Since we arrived in early February, we have toured northern Italy and Tuscany, the Austrian Alps, and Zagreb, the capital and largest city in Croatia. We have also planned many more trips from Turkey to Morocco and from Belgium to Poland to be completed over the course of the semester. Slovenia is also home to some of the world’s most spectacular natural marvels. The Karst region holds the largest cave system in the world and the gorgeous Lake Bled attracts tourists and locals alike with its pristine waters at the base of an immense cliff-dwelling castle. The Julian Alps, while not exceptionally tall (around 2000m), provide immaculate views and excellent skiing, hiking, and even paragliding.
While many may not know much about Slovenia and may question our choice in coming to this outwardly unconventional location, we feel tremendously thankful for the opportunity to live here. As we have learned, the people are just as beautiful as the landscape and have been extremely hospitable and gracious toward us. Most citizens speak excellent English and have a strong desire to see that we enjoy our time in Slovenia. Like most other Europeans, they have a strong love for food, football (not the American kind), and family.

Slovenia_2
We would like to encourage all of you who are seeking study abroad opportunities to keep an open-mind. For those that may be   considering that peculiar location that your  parents frown upon and that may not seem as   comfortable as your home in Stillwater: go for it. We are continuously learning to take each day one at a time, and enjoy the small, unusual quirks that set this culture apart. Our journey this semester has little to do with school; it is all about finding ourselves in a vastly different  culture and taking advantage of every day to sharpen our character and outlook toward    others. Every day in Slovenia is a brilliant       collision of adventure and challenge, and we hope to indulge in every beauty this small, seemingly obscure country has to offer.

An Aussie in America

By Cole Campbell

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Damon Smith, a senior Human Resource Management student, has made the long journey from the “Land Down Under” to Stillwater, Okla. in search for his first cultural experience in the United States. Smith is an exchange student from the University of South Australia in Adelaide, Australia, one of the 90 reciprocal exchange partner universities of Oklahoma State. Before deciding to come to OSU, he weighed his options of other schools such as Colorado State, Northern Arizona and Minnesota State. But he thought that the south would be more of a change of scene to what he was used to in Australia. “The sports drew me here, I also liked the size of the university and the business school is highly ranked. I also read that Eskimo Joe’s was a fairly iconic sports bar,” Smith said. He is in his second semester of his yearlong stay and he says that there are many differences between Stillwater and his hometown. “Adelaide is a city of 1.5 million people that has a Mediterranean sort of climate and is only a 20 minute tram ride to the beach. Stillwater is pretty barren in comparison but I like the university and it has a really friendly atmosphere,” Smith said.  When he arrived to OSU, he says that many people were willing to help him get settled in.  “Everyone wanted to help me out and asked if I needed rides to Wal-Mart; people seemed to be surprised to find out that there was an Australian on Campus,” Smith said.

One of the biggest initial adjustments for exchange students is getting acclimated to the different teaching philosophies between countries. Smith says that at OSU, he has professors that count attendance for grades, something that is quite rare in Australia and he has experienced more random testing. One of the interesting opportunities that one can take advantage of during an experience abroad is learning about your major study through another country’s perspective. As a Human Resource Management Student, Smith is interested in learning about and comparing the very different labor systems in the United States and Australia.  “In Australia, the minimum wage is $640 a week, we are guaranteed 10 sick days a year, mandatory 401ks and a required 4 week vacation for all full time employees.” After studying America’s employment benefits, he believes that Australia’s method is fairer for the average person and that the United States is going to have a hard time paying out pensions with fewer taxes. When Smith is not studying, he likes to run, see guest speakers at the Spears School of Business, hit the Strip with his friends and travel around the U.S.

In five short months, Smith has seen more of the States than most Americans will see in their lifetime. Last semester alone, he traveled to Los Angeles, Dallas for the OSU-FSU game, Montreal, Canada to visit a ‘mate’ and Austin for the Austin City Limits music festival. Taking full advantage of our four week Christmas break, he went to Las Vegas, San Diego, New Jersey, Manhattan, Boston, Nashville, Denver and San Francisco before heading back to Stillwater for the spring semester. He plans to move to L.A. after this semester in search for an internship and getting involved in the underground band scene. So far, Smith has had a really positive experience at Oklahoma State, and is happy to experience a new life in a new country.

When asked what Smith wants Americans to know about Australia, he says that he wishes that more Americans would watch Australian football. “It is a hybrid of soccer, basketball and rugby, but it is essentially Gaelic football but with more tackling and on an oval field,” Smith said.

For information on studying abroad at Damon’s home university, University of South Australia, visit the Study Abroad /National Student Exchange Office or visit the website at http://www.abroad.okstate.edu

Advice from Dijon

Many students try to picture what a semester abroad would be like. From international friendships to housing options, we took the chance to ask currently studying abroad students about their experience so far, and advice they have for students considering a study abroad experience for themselves. Meet Sam Koontz, a Strategic Communications Junior from Oklahoma State University studying in Dijon, France at the Burgundy School of Business.

Where are you studying, and for how long?

I am studying in Dijon, France which is about two hours outside of Paris. I arrived on January, 17 and will be here for the next three months

How did you choose the location you are in, or the University at which you studied?

I really wanted a location that had a rich culture that I could emerge myself in. Also, the town is small and picturesque, which doesn’t hurt. I knew that the daily lives of the habitants would be very different from what I’m used to, which is both exciting and scary but would allow me to come back with a greater knowledge of a different culture

What are you studying? What courses are you taking?

I am studying at a business school, so I’m taking a lot of business courses such as Management of Organizations and Geopolitics of Business. Of course, I’m taking French courses as well (Elementary French and French Culture & Society), which are a godsend given I can only speak English and a little bit of Spanish.

Where are you living? How did you come to live there?

I am living in an all-girls residence intended for international students. It is only a short walk to the school, which is convenient, but it’s also a huge bonus living with girls that are also in the same boat as I am! Sometimes I’ll walk into the lobby and hear six different languages being spoken from different ends of the room, it’s insane.

What has been the most unexpected event or change thus far?

I’ll admit I was not prepared for the power of the language barrier. I’d been told a million times not to leave without having at least a basic understanding of French. However, I pretty much ignored that and assumed I’d be just fine with “Bonjour” and “Merci” as the only phrases in my repertoire. I was wrong..so wrong. Day-to-day errands become projects. But I’ll say- even though it’s been a major struggle, I’ve never been more excited for my language courses to begin!

Tell us a favorite story that you will remember forever about your study abroad.

A couple friends and I decided to spend our first free weekend abroad to take a brief trip to Zurich, Switzerland. We planned on making a half-day trip to the largest waterfall in Europe, Rhein Falls, and allotted ourselves an hour to make our way there. Well.. we got lost.. very lost. It took 3 more hours than expected to get to the falls but once we were there.. wow. We were exhausted and frustrated but once we leaned over the rail and got a look at the Falls all of that melted away. It was pure natural beauty and we spent the afternoon wandering the platforms along the waterfall; chatting and simply enjoying ourselves without phones and without worries. It was wonderful.

Describe the new friends you have made.                                                                                                       

I’ve made a group of really diverse friends here. Naturally, I’m inclined to hang out with the Americans just because it’s easier to understand and relate to them, but the international program here organizes several functions to really push the students to branch out. That’s how I met my Slovenian friend, Ana, and my Uruguayan friend Augustina. They are so fun and eager to learn both about my culture at home, and share the experience of adapting to this one as well!

How did you prepare for your study abroad?

I went through a lot of different emotions during the long process before leaving. I tried to combat the anxiety and nerves by telling myself how much fun I was going to have and the experiences I would get to enjoy while I’m gone. But beyond that I just kind of jumped in with both feet, no turning back!

How did you hear about study abroad?

My roommate last year was constantly applying for different things around campus. We had always talked about the idea of studying abroad but she was the one who actually went through the trouble of getting hard information about the application process and even went to an informational meeting. She got me really excited and finally forced me to fill out an application for myself too, which I am so thankful for!

What advice would you give a potential study abroad participant?

I would tell them to just be all-in when you’re at your location. I have a harder time being 100% a part of the culture since I don’t know the language (yet), but some of the best times I’ve had are when I’ve ditched my phone and fully immersed myself in conversations with my international friends over coffee or a croissant. Making an effort to be completely present makes a huge difference, because it can be easy to feel out of place as an exchange student from far away. But when I make the effort, I start to feel like I’m part of the culture.

Sam Koontz Dijon France

The Return Journey

Two of the Study Abroad Office Peer Advisors decided to spend their holiday break in the countries where they studied last year. We were curious, what is it like to return?

Part II: Emma in the UK Emma 2nd Blog Post, Photo #2

Working in the OSU Study Abroad Office, I often get the question, “how long should I go abroad for?” Some students, who are looking to go abroad, think a year is unimaginable without the comforts of home, and family. Others couldn’t even imagine a semester. But from students that have been abroad before, I commonly hear, that once you’re abroad, you never want to come home. That was certainly my experience. Before going abroad, I thought a year would be just enough. The first semester you spend getting acclimated to the country: new people, new tastes, new accommodation, new experiences; and the second semester, you get to enjoy, embrace, explore and savor these new people and things. But even after a year, when it was time to come home, I was nowhere near ready. If not for my extreme dedication to graduation (and my visa expiring), I would have been tempted to remain in England for another year (or ten).

Emma 2nd Blog Post, Photo #3As soon as I returned, I was anxious to get back to the place I love. But leading up to my trip, I became a bit more anxious. I was lucky enough to have a friend that was letting me stay at his flat in Leicester, England for a week, and then I was going staying with him and his family just outside of London for the Christmas holidays. I had met his family before, and they were excited to show me their English Christmas traditions, and I was excited to be able to spend Christmas with a family. Then for New Years, I was going to fly to Amsterdam to visit my friend Mirte – who incidentally, I spent New Years with the year before – in her hometown of Beverwijk. Mirte is a friend I met studying in Leicester who, upon hello, became my traveling partner and best friend, but who I hadn’t seen since the summer. Yes, it sounds like the perfect Christmas break, in my eyes, but there was a part of me that knew, even before leaving, that it would be even harder to say good-bye the second time.

The flight from Oklahoma to Atlanta to London to Leicester was as exhausting as I remembered, but just as we were pulling into Leicester, and I started to see buildings I recognized, instantly, this calm feeling came over me; I let out a big smile and thought, “I’m home.” The first night I was there, I met my friends at my favorite pub, for my favorite pub meal and a pint of cider. It doesn’t get any better than that. It was weird to think it had been over six months since I had seen them, but it felt like no time had passed at all. In fact, that seemed to be a general theme throughout my trip; it felt as if everything had been waiting for me to return.

The best part about going back to Leicester, besides seeing friends, was the Christmas market and decorations. In England, the lights are strung from one building to the opposite building in the square, causing the lights to hang over the walkway. And then in the middle of the centre, at the clock tower, there was a huge Christmas tree. Then the market had stalls with gifts handmade or grown by individuals, or hot mulled wine and cider, and sometimes rides for the kids. It’s a fun atmosphere for Christmas shopping.Emma 2nd Blog Post, Photo #4

Returning to England also gave me the opportunity to interview with the Royal Veterinary School in London as well as a tour of the University of Bath, where I have already been accepted to a Master’s Program. The promise of doing graduate school in England made the trip that much more exciting. After meeting friends in Leicester, I was off to a town called Brentwood, just outside of London, where I stayed with my friend and his family for Christmas. Christmas in England is very different from the United States. There’s still a big dinner, but there are crackers (I know them as poppers) which hold presents inside of them, and kings crowns you wear throughout the dinner. There are Yorkshire puddings, which are pastries similar to rolls. And for dessert, Christmas pudding, which is similar to fruit cake, but doused in rum and lit on fire. You can even find money hidden in your piece of cake, if you’re lucky enough.

The day after Christmas in England, December 26th, is known as Boxing Day. This day is a bank holiday so everyone has it off work, and generally families have big celebrations. In my case, we went to an old city on the sea called Malden. It was full of houses that had been built in the 1600s, and big ships that went out to sea and up the Thames into London. In the evening, we had a big buffet of food from the day before and played games and watched football (soccer). I really liked the tradition of Boxing Day. It allows you to have one more day with your family (and sports and delicious food) before you have to go back to the real world.

The highlight of my trip, by far, was my mini-trip to the Netherlands while in England. Mirte and I kept in touch since she returned to the Netherlands and I to the US, so being able to visit her after so many months apart was nothing short of amazing. When I was in Europe before, I was unable to visit the Netherlands, so this was my first time in the country as well! We visited Amsterdam and Utrecht, but nothing compared to the New Years Eve celebrations in her hometown, Beverwijk.

We started the night at a small party in her flat with her close friends, but at midnight, we had bought fireworks to set off. Mirte had warned me before how big fireworks were in the Netherlands at midnight on New Years. In fact, the year before, when we were in Madrid for New Years, she said that was the one thing she missed. But I was not prepared. It was SO COOL! As soon as the clock stroke midnight, the entire town exploded. We ran outside, and everywhere you looked you were surrounded by bright lights and color. We had our own fireworks to set off, and that certainly added to the excitement. Afterwards we went to a small bar and danced the night away (literally) not coming home until the wee hours in the morning. And the following morning we went to the beach. The cool, salty air was just what we needed to clear our bodies of the night before. I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to bring in the new year.Emma 2nd Blog Post, Photo #1

But in the end, leaving the second time was harder than I ever imagined. Saying good-bye to friends is always hard, no matter where you are or how long you’ve been with them. But the great thing about the friends I’ve met and the experiences I had is I never know where they’re going to take me next. When I say bye, I know at some point in my life I will see them again. I just don’t know in what country, or in what capacity, or at what time. But in the meantime, we will stay in touch. The excitement and the potential of it all are special in their own right. All in all, I guess Billy Joel was right; Vienna (or England, in my case) really does wait for you.

By: Emma Rupert

85º and December

Two of the Study Abroad Office Peer Advisors decided to spend their holiday break in the countries where they studied last year. We were curious, what is it like to return?

Part I: Erin in Mexico

Erin's Photo for the Blog #2After spending a year studying abroad in Puebla, Mexico, I decided to leave the Oklahoma cold this winter and head south to Mexico for Christmas break to visit friends I had made during my exchange stay. Upon my arrival, I was promptly received and greeted by my friend Raul, whom I had met in the university, and his family, and taken to his home in the state of Morelos. The following two weeks I spent in a small pueblo, Quebrantadero, living the typical Mexican life. Mornings were always a pleasure leisurely waking up and cooking an all-natural Mexican breakfast accompanied by a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. Breakfasts were made with fresh produce purchased from the local markets, leading me to realize I should probably change some of my eating habits back home. My afternoons were usually spent visiting nearby towns and pueblos magicos, small towns across Mexico that have been named for the symbolism, history, and events they offer. I loved strolling through these towns admiring the local crafts, artwork, and food.

Leading up to Christmas Eve beginning December 16th, every night there was a “posada” held at various houses among the town.  These posadas are traditional Mexican holidays represented by traditional Catholic songs followed by tamales and ponche, similar to apple cider.  Tamales being one of my favorite Mexican foods, I thoroughly enjoyed filling up on them at the posadas.  I celebrated Christmas the 24th, la nochebuena, with a classic dinner at home including codfish, pasta, salad, and apple salad for dessert.  We attended Christmas Eve mass at the church in the town’s center with traditions similar to my own, except at the end receiving a bag of goodies and animal crackers.

One afternoon we were invited to a baptism party; never had I seen such an extravagant party for a one year old baby. There was a mariachi, dancing, dinner, tossing of coins for the children to receive, and much camaraderie between all the guests. Same thing goes for the wedding we attended the following night.  An outdoor wedding in December with a live band and palm trees was nothing less than enjoyable. I even got my turn at a piñata during a carne asada, or barbeque, that we had among friends and family. However, there was one aspect that didn’t seem quite right during my Christmas stay, the fact that it was 85 degrees, sunny, and perfect! I soaked up the sun, food, and life in December during my break in Morelos.

By: Erin Chancey

Newly Weds Down Under

All kinds of pairs decided to study abroad, even newly-weds.

When I transferred to OSU my sophomore year from a small private university, I knew I wanted to check into the study abroad options here. However, apart from just being a transfer student, I was a Non-Traditional student in that I was married. Megan Photo #3I still remember going to the study abroad office to ask if there was any chance married students could study abroad. I expected discouragements and explanations of how difficult it would be to work that out. Instead, the study abroad advisor encouragingly replied, “Of, course you can. Married students study abroad all the time.” I was shocked and elated. Still, some part of me expected that studying abroad would be much harder and maybe even impossible for Non-Traditional students like my husband and I. Nevertheless, this was the first step that led to my husband and me studying in Adelaide, Australia for the spring of 2012.

Throughout the process, I was surprised by how little being married actually seemed to cause any problems at all. Most of the obstacles we faced were typical for all students, and everyone seemed more than willing to work with us. Concerns we did have, however, included issues such as finances and living arrangements. To deal with the costs of studying abroad, both my husband and I applied for a number of OSU and outside study abroad scholarships. We were shocked by how many we received. Especially helpful was the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, which I received. This is a substantial scholarship and made the difference in us getting to go. We were also concerned about where we would live and did not know if we could live on campus. We had both always been interested in doing a homestay. Again, I expected to be met with discouragement when I emailed the Australian Homestay Network, and again, I was instead met with acceptance and support. Over and over again, I was amazed at how Non-Traditional status did not limit our options.

Finally after months of preparation and 17 hours of traveling around the world, we arrived in Adelaide in late January of 2012, just two days before their annual celebration of Australia Day. Our homestay mom met us at the airport and gave us our first introduction to Adelaide. My first impression was “wow!” There were beautiful beaches, mountains and a bustling city all within 20 minutes of each other.
Since classes didn’t begin for another three weeks, we had plenty of time to explore Adelaide and its surroundings. Coming from a very small rural town (seriously, we have one stop light!), I fell in love with the city of Adelaide. Adelaide is not huge in the overall scheme of large cities, but it’s clean and it’s beautiful and I loved it! In those three weeks, my husband and I also got to swim with dolphins, kayak with dolphins (can you tell I like dolphins?), feed kangaroos, visit an old German town in the mountains near Adelaide, and much more.

Megan Photo #1

Perhaps some of the most memorable of the experiences came when things did not go quite as expected. For starters, we arrived in late January, the height of the Australian summer and we arrived in the middle of a heat wave. I’ve lived in Oklahoma my entire life, so I’m used to HOT summers. However, I’m also used to air conditioning… and our homestay mom’s aircon (as the Aussies call it) was broken when we arrived. That made for several sweaty weeks. Other “unexpected events” included numerous bus and train debacles (I didn’t get a bus schedule figured out the entire 6 months!), a few interactions with some new foods (I confess I ate kangaroo and worse, I liked it!), and various unexpected “adventures”.
Megan Photo #2

I got to travel along the south coast of Australia and see the Great Ocean Road. I took a road trip into the outback and saw a view of the stars like no other. I even got to spend three days diving the Great Barrier Reef in my first-ever diving experience. Though it’s cliché, studying abroad was truly the opportunity of a lifetime for me. I learned so much, both from my challenging but truly enriching courses and also through the array of experiences themselves. None of it ever would have been possible if I had not asked. Studying abroad was not only possible for me and my husband, but I learned that ANYONE can study abroad and, after my own experience, am convinced that EVERYONE should!

Written By: Megan Bennett

Setting the Record Straight

After studying and living in Mexico for a year, Erin shares what she learned about what Mexican food really is…

For those of you who love a good basket of chips and queso alongside a chimichanga or a flour tortilla soft taco, it is time to set the record straight that this is considered regional Tex-Mex food.  Mexico is a country rich in gastronomy, each state having a particular dish that is known to the region.  However, one thing is for sure: no meal is complete without lime and spicy salsa.

Living two blocks from school and a 15 minute walk from downtown, I had prime location to many street vendors and delicious restaurants.  Down the street from my house in the mornings conveniently was stationed a lady that sold tamales of various flavors such as green sauce, chicken, chili, strawberry, and to drink atole, a traditional hot Mexican drink with flavors including chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, rice, and coffee.  I loved to start my mornings off with a tasty tamal and cup of atole on my way to school.  Or if I happened to be feeling rather healthy that particular morning, I could always get a cup of fresh squeezed orange and mandarin juice!

Puebla is a city with rich foods and tradition within its gastronomy.  Some typical plates originating in Puebla include the chile en nogada, mole poblano, and cemitas. Mole poblano is a sauce blended with various types of chiles and chocolate poured on top of chicken and rice.  Much an acquired taste, as mole poblano is very distinct for those who have never tried it.  Chile en nogadas consist of a filled poblano chile topped with a nut sauce and pomegranates. It’s a seasonal dish typically eaten during the months of August and September.  As for cemitas, these are large sandwiches filled with chicken, potatoes, beans, nopal, and guacamole.  Cemitas can be seen sold all over town out of large baskets, particularly in Puebla by the bus terminal.

The staple food in Mexico is tacos, but not quite the tacos with which we are familiar.  The most frequented taco stand near my house made their tacos with corn tortillas and your choice between carne asada, similar to a thin steak, or chorizo, a spicy sausage, along with onions, red or green sauce, and guacamole if you so please. Accompanying radishes with the tacos are also common to calm the spiciness. As always, these tacos are made fresh to order up until the wee hours of the night.  So, next time you are craving a burrito with chips and salsa, remember this is tex-mex your taste buds are desiring, not Mexican food.

By: Erin Chancey

Thanksgiving in England

Last year, I studied abroad at the University of Leicester in Leicester, England.  One of the most difficult things about being abroad is missing out on holidays with your family.  There’s no way around it, while you’re abroad, you’ll miss your family and you’ll miss certain American traditions.  BUT there’s no use in living abroad and thinking of all the things you’re missing out on; the only way to remedy it is to come up with new traditions, involving new friends and new “family.”

In the US, with my family, Thanksgiving is a big holiday.  We usually spend it with my dad’s side of the family, and it involves a gourmet feast prepared by my mother and aunt.  While lunch is being made, a massive game of touch football breaks begins in the field behind my cousin’s house.  And after dinner (served around 3 pm), we eat pie and sit around conversing, usually talking smack about the bedlame game, and watch non-controversial football games on TV.  It’s the typical American Thanksgiving, I suppose.  It’s really just a time to see family you haven’t seen in a while, and find out what’s going on in everyone’s life.  And that’s what I was craving when I was in England.

It was especially strange to be in England because, without Thanksgiving, they move onto Christmas directly after Halloween.  And I’m one of those that hates seeing a Christmas ad or lights on houses, or trees being sold before we’ve had the chance to celebrate Thanksgiving!  While I was abroad, though, I had a lot of international students that were curious about the holiday; maybe they’d seen it in movies, or songs, or heard me talk about it.  So as far as I was concerned, it was decided, I would throw a Thanksgiving feast for all of my international, English, and American friends.  My problem is, I have too many friends.  Okay that sounds disgustingly self-assured, but, it’s true.  I found myself inviting everyone I loved to spend time with, to come to my Thanksgiving celebrations.  Well, before I knew it, there were 25 people who had RSVP’d, and that was about the time I realized I had never actually cooked Thanksgiving in my life.  In fact, I don’t find myself to be much of a cook at all.

After a few frantic calls home, I had my recipes, I had my groceries, and I set out to do the impossible: cook Thanksgiving dinner.  Luckily, I had a lot of help.  My close friend Mirte, whom I met my first day at Leicester, helped me cook, and I had several people keep me company with encouragement, good conversation, great wine, and good music.  I had one American friend I made in Leicester, Erin from Colorado, and she was thrilled about the concept of having Thanksgiving, so she came to help me set up the dining space (which was actually just the common room in my flat building).  I also had a friend Jenny, who was studying at Keele University from OSU, who traveled to Leciester in order to check it out and join in on the Thanksgiving celebrations.  And lastly, my close friend Becca, whom I met in my Art History classes at Leicester, came over to help cook because she, and several of my other friends, are vegan, and she wanted to make sure they could partake in the festivities. 

It turned into a wonderful time.  I made two turkey breasts – I didn’t want to be overambitious and go for a full turkey – green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and rolls.  Each of my guests brought wine or beer, and some brought desserts.  The desserts were the best part!  One of the guys that came was from Germany, and he had just been to Germany the weekend before, and had brought back the most wonderful chocolate cake.  Another girl brought an Italian cake I couldn’t begin to remember the name of, but similar to angel food cake with a bit more substance, and sprinkled with powdered sugar.  There were also all kinds of fruit pastries and pie.  It was heaven.

Though not everyone knew each other, most of my English friends not knowing my international friends, everyone got along really well.  I even made everyone go around in a circle and say one thing they were thankful for before we ate.  And afterwards, we rested and rallied to go out that evening (it was a Thursday, after all).  It was such a wonderful time.

The purpose of this is to tell you how great my Thanksgiving was.  But, my real message is, when you’re abroad, there are times, especially around the holidays, when you’ll miss your family.  No matter how great the English culture and customs were, I still found myself craving pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce.  But instead of crying about it, make new traditions!  Make traditions that incorporate American culture and your abroad culture.  This year, I find myself longing for my friends, my not-as-good-as-my-mom’s cooking, and a good night out, instead of the usual football and food with my family.  You’ll be surprised at the memories you make while you’re abroad if you make the best out of every situation.

Written by: Emma Rupert

Succeeding with a Language Barrier

Studying abroad can seem like an intimidating experience: new foods, new cultures, new standards of living, and new languages. The OSU Study Abroad office provides a substantial array of programs and universities spread across the globe that allow students to immerse themselves anywhere from Dijon, France to Bangkok, Thailand, and every place in between. Many students find themselves in English speaking countries, such as the England, Ireland, Scotland, and Australia. Spanish and French speaking students also often find themselves studying abroad in a country where the linguistic barrier is often broken down with useful terms, conversational phrases, and general familiarity with the language. But, one is inclined to ask, what about students who end up in places such as Brno, Czech Republic, Ljubljana, Slovenia, or Ankara, Turkey?

Personal Experience

On August 31st, 2011, at 11:37pm, I set foot in the Chengdu International Airport in Chengdu, Sichuan, China. I was 27 hours without sleep, two of my bags had been lost, and literally the only Chinese I knew was ni hao, or “hello”. As one could imagine, “hello” does a pretty poor job of telling airport security “I’m an American international student here for the first time, and I can’t find my bags. Please help.” With the help of a 22 year old flight attendant who happened to be walking by, I was somehow able to signify my cry for help. Things did not get easier as I spent my first few weeks in a city completely void of English speakers, as most locals had never left the city, much less completed formal training in helping confused American college students shop for groceries, get a cell phone, or travel to various places. For the beginning period, I relied solely on an oversized language dictionary and my now-superb charades abilities to get from A to B. As time went on, however, the crippling fear of stepping outside and communicating turned into a personal quest to challenge myself to improve. No longer would I need to act out that I needed a wallet, or be overcharged for peaches from street vendors. The immersion experience, with help from my new friends, allowed me to quickly overcome any challenges that I could face. By the end, not only was I able to carry on meaningful conversations with whomever crossed my path, but I was also comfortable enough to get on random buses and travel all over the country, seeing new cities, meeting interesting people, and trying incredible foods. That being said, what I had learned was even though I could finally ask what you were eating, I often found myself wishing that I was back in the day when I had no idea. There are only so many things you can order once you find out that everything is made of chicken intestines, cow stomachs, and pig brains. Ultimately, the difficulties that went in challenging myself with such a new and difficult language not only made the entire experience more incredible, but it gave me a great sense of personal pride and accomplishment.

So what should you do if you find yourself moving to another country and don’t speak the country’s language?

My advice is this:

1. Learn A Little Bit Before You Go – Very little is more frustrating the not having your luggage at an airport or not being able to order food day to day. Introducing yourself to a language before not only prevents that initial anxiety to an extent, but it allows you to become more comfortable with learning the language after you arrive. There is nothing like having a head start.

2. Make Friends – The most valuable resource that you will have in your quest to immersion is the people of the host country. Try to find local students who can also speak English to help you with the transition. With them, you can ask questions, listen to daily dialogue, practice your new abilities in a comfortable setting, and learn to speak like a local. Language aside, they also offer new and exciting insights into your host country.

3. Surround Yourself with Locals – Once you have learned a little bit, you are ready to go out into the world. Supermarkets, drug stores, taxis, and banks are all great places to practice your new language abilities. What I have found is that making an attempt to speak a local language is received incredibly positively. Their smiles and thumbs up are great motivation and feedback for the discouraged student who feels like he isn’t making progress. In China, I often found myself at a local tea shop playing cards with old men. Even though communication was still difficult, being around those who can’t speak English forcing yourself to be there will dramatically improve your abilities.

4. Don’t Be Afraid To Make Mistakes – We all hate looking stupid. Learning a language, however, is one place where it is entirely okay. When you start your day, leave the ego at the door and allow yourself to look dumb. I promise it is never as bad as you think. In trying to order chicken fried rice at one restaurant, much to the delight of the shop employees, I found myself trying to order a chicken butt. By bullishly speaking, you will learn to spot your own mistakes and fix them in the future.

5. Have Fun – That is what studying abroad is all about. Do something crazy, go on an adventure, don’t be afraid to say yes to new experiences. Traveling with friends, going to karaoke bars, and taking part in local traditions will be the best part of your experience, and it is complimented by the ability to speak and understand. By allowing yourself to truly experience this new culture, not only will your language abilities improve, but the overall quality and magnitude of the entire experience will be that much better.

If you are on the fence about studying abroad somewhere because of the language barrier, please at least consider my advice. It will be a wonderful, challenging experience that will help build who you are. Don’t let the fear of the unknown hold you back, but rather, allow it to push you forward to new heights. From up there, you just never know what you might see.

By: Collin Nolte