Blogging your Travels

Study Abroad Logo 2

By: Lucas McCamon

Inspiration for travel comes from all kinds of  places – a compelling book, a vibrant piece of art, an especially captivating dish – but the internet has made hearing the stories of travel abroad quicker and easier than ever before. There are all kinds of resources that showcase study abroad, specific locations, or a unique perspective on traveling abroad online. This access to blogs, vlogs, and articles makes any exchange student just a reflection and some pictures away from being a bona fide travel writer. Here are a couple of our favorite blogs and sites to inspire, reflect upon, or enhance a travel or study abroad       experience, and who knows, maybe you will start a blog featuring your adventure!

  • www.thecollegetourist.com is a hub for all kinds of information regarding study abroad. One thing that stood out in particular about this site is the    variety in its posts, ranging from infographics to articles written by students on exchange. The College Tourist is a great place to start to get some          inspiration for your own trip abroad!
  • www.goabroad.com/blog offers all kinds of information related to the        industry of study abroad. This includes student perspectives, highlights from a particular country or program, and even some tips for those who might be unfamiliar with international travel.
  • www.ceastudyabroadblog.com essentially is a platform through which       student bloggers from cea programs across the globe can post stories and excerpts from their host locations. Many of our other affiliated partners, such as Sol Education, API, ISA, and more host student bloggers, and they offer a great peek into what it’s like to study with that program specifically, or simply in that location.
  • www.letsgo.com might not be quite a conventional blog, but the site is       centered on student travel, especially some of the more traditional places to visit, such as Western Europe, and its clean look and straightforward          information forecast smooth sailing for your next trip abroad. This site offers information helping with visiting cultural sites, seeing natural sights, and booking international flights. The name says it all – the time is now to step outside your comfort zone!
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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.

Country of the Month: South Africa

By: Carlie Pearson

South Africa has a rich history and culture based on its multiethnic society.  But the diversity of the country expands beyond its population, and is exemplified in the variety of attractions to tourists and students alike. For those interested in wildlife, South Africa is an exemplary location to study African ecosystems, especially at the country’s world– renowned Kruger National Park. For those interested in a more urban scene, the country offers  Johannesburg, its ‘City of Gold,’ including endless entertainment, shopping, as well as freedom tours focusing on the country’s historic apartheid struggle. South Africa became independent of the United Kingdom on 31 May 1961.

Students can explore the wonders of South Africa through Affiliated programs including AIFS, CEA, and CIS, among others.

http://www.goabroad.com/study-abroad/search/south-africa/study-abroad-1

Study Abroad/National Student Exchange

School of International Studies

242 Student Union

Stillwater, Oklahoma 74078

5 Reasons to Study Abroad Long- Term

By: Adrienne Allan, Study Abroad Peer Advisor

  1. Independence

Students who study abroad gain the ability to use the skills their parents and professors have instilled in them throughout the years and apply them in real-life situations while growing their independence.

  1. International Friendship

While studying abroad, students make friends from all over the world. Whether it is within the city, at school, or on a trip, international friends with different cultural backgrounds are everywhere.

  1. Travel

While in ones host country, the opportunity to travel is at your fingertips. Trains, planes, and automobiles can take you to multiple locations in just one weekend to experience new cities, natural wonders, and culture.

  1. Learning a new Language

With roughly 6,500 different languages spoken in the world, the odds of you being in a country with a foreign language are in your favor.

  1. Gaining Cultural Insight

Studying abroad is the best way to learn about another culture. While living in a country different than their own, students get to experience how locals live and interact each and every day allowing for an unforgettable experience that they will never forget.

Study Abroad Professional Development

By Jessica Agnew- Career Consultant via Study Abroad February Newsletter

An international experience, whether short or long-term, can be extremely valuable in your future career.  Your experiences are unique and can set you apart from other job seekers.  In your job search, whether that is part-time, full-time, or an internship, it is up to you to showcase your acquired skills through your resume, cover letter, and interviewing abilities.  Here are just a few examples of how to sell your international skills.

  • Cultural sensitivity. This is really the understanding and awareness of other cultures. The workplace is full of diverse groups.  Use your experiences abroad to show your employer that you can respect and work well with diverse populations.
  • Comfort zone. Traveling and studying in a different country forces you outside of your comfort zone.  Compare this to the work environment, especially when you are first starting your career. Things might be uncomfortable, new, and even confusing at first.  Communicate with your employer that you are able to cope with change and willing to learn new things in order to be successful.
  • Adaptability to other environments. Adaptability is one of the top skills most employers are looking for in a new employee.  Being adaptable and flexible to new ideas, projects, tasks, etc. in the workplace will really make your skillset stand out.  Adaptable people act with positivity and poise, making them productive and calm in difficult situations.
  • Cross-cultural and global thinking skills. An international experience can truly give you a global perspective.  This can include having an open mind, understanding your own identity, while respecting other perspectives at the same time, and knowing the importance of building peaceful relationships in the workplace, just to name a few.

For more comprehensive ideas on international skills, gaining experience, and job search strategies, OSU students can visit a Career Consultant at any time. Appointments can be made online at HireOSUGrads.com, or by stopping by 360 Student Union.

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

Nadir in Iceland!

Name: Nadir Nibras         
Major: Mechanical Engineering with Biomedical option
Minor: Gender Studies (not official yet. I just started taking classes in Iceland and plan to continue with the minor at OSU)
Location: Reykjavik, Iceland
Program: Reciprocal Exchange Program

Why did you choose to study in Iceland?

I wanted to go to a country that was different, and I can’t think of another nation in the western world which is so unique geographically and culturally. I chose to study in Iceland for doing exactly the things that I have been doing for the last month: meeting wonderful people from around the world, learning more about the Icelandic way of life from Icelanders who are all direct descendants of the famous Vikings, and travelling all around the country having amazing experiences. Also I am a nature-lover so the natural geothermal pools, geysers, volcanoes and every other bit of the mesmerizing landscape in the country definitely helped my decision to come here.

What is the university like?

Nadir Photo #1Compared to OSU, the university and study-atmosphere around here is a lot more relaxed. It’s a very different system of teaching. Attendance to classes is not really something that is stressed upon in most of my courses. The teachers nonetheless, like teachers in every other country I have been to, are usually happy to help us do better in our courses. Fun fact to emphasize the difference in cultures: My University has a spectacular bar in the basement with special discounts on alcohol for students and this is where most people study.

And the city?

The city is a small one with only around 180,000 people but at the same time it is also a very eventful one. There is always something fun to do, which is a bit surprising considering the tiny population. The age of the city is evident from its ancient architecture and the city-design. Iceland makes the most out of its geothermal resources and there are plenty of heated swimming pools all around the city and the country.  A fun thing is that it’s impossible to get lost because you can always see the giant church at city-center from any point in the city and trace your way to wherever you want to go.

So far, what is a typical day for you?

A typical weekday and a typical day during the weekend is nothing close to each other.

Nadir Photo #3

Weekday: Wake up at 9 (which is before sunrise), go to university, do homework or just hang out with friends at the student café, come back early if there is something interesting going on. It usually ends with me hanging out with my housemates and going to bed.

Weekend: It is either going out of town to explore mother-nature with small groups of friends; or it is trying to have as productive of a day as possible and then going out to experience the splendid night-life of Reykjavik with no plans of coming back until the clubs close at 5.

 

Where do you live?

I live in a guest-house with 9 other students from all around Europe 2 from the US, We have a very nice and friendly set-up over here and these people have become really good friends of mine.

What has surprised you most about Iceland?Nadir Photo #4

I could make an endless list of them. If I had to name a few, the immense pride that all Icelanders share in their country and culture would definitely make the list. The beauty of the country also caught me off guard even after I had looked through more than a thousand pictures of the natural wonders. The big differences in social customs and especially in the dating culture is also something that I was not expecting and am learning more about every day.

What is the most interesting cultural experience you have had abroad so far?Nadir Photo #2

I met my “buddy” assigned to me by my university on a Thursday night and set off on a three day trip with him the next morning at 8 am with 45 other Icelanders, to the second biggest city in Iceland which is on the other side of the country. The trip included trying out snow-boarding for the first time in my life, living with dozens of Icelanders in a room for almost three straight days and going out to experience the culture and night-life of the city of Akureyri. Certainly one of the most fun and spontaneous things I have done in a while.

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