Introducing George, EIU OSA Graduate Assistant

Hi

I am George Anaman by my Christian name but you can call me Papachie because that is actually my Ghanaian name! I will be working as a Graduate Assistant at the Study Abroad Office for 2016/2017 academic year. I am a new international student enrolled in the Masters of Art program in Economics at Eastern Illinois University. I will be graduating August 2018 so I guess I have a long way to go but I know it will be worth it staying at EIU with it wonderful students, faculty and staffs.

I was born in the Western region of Ghana, Sekondi –Takoradi, the only twin city in Ghana where most Ghanaians are envois with our Fanti (Local dialect). Western region can boast of producing most of Ghana’s natural resources which includes Gold, Bauxite, Manganese, timber, cash crop and oh I forgot, we are the region that produces oil for Ghana. We are the engine that drives of our economy. Aside natural resources, we have beautiful beaches spanning along the coast, tourist attraction areas like Nzulezu  ( Village on Silts ), Monkey hill, Ankasa Forest, Fort San Sebastian,  among others.

Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a sovereign unitary presidential constitutional democracy, located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, in the sub region of West Africa. Ghana is bordered by the Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east and the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean in the south. My country has 10 administrative regions of which the capital is Accra. Ghana is popularly known for its hospitality. We are very helpful to foreigners in any way possible to make their stay a worth reminiscing one.

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My American friends in Ghana will also be like, Ghanaians are super friendly but hey, that is our nature. We just can’t help but be friendly and helpful. So I hope as you are reading, you will one day make it a point to visit my country to have a taste of her rich culture and I will forever to happy to help you with your plans when you come over to my office at Blair Hall 1207 during my office hours.

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Now back to myself! I had my primary education in Services Basic school which is a Ghana Armed Forces School and went through the educational ladder to have my tertiary education at the University of Competitive Choice I mean University of Cape Coast. The University of Cape Coast is one of the rare sea front universities in the world. I read Economics and Mathematics for my Undergraduate studies and completed my bachelor’s degree in 2015.

As a child growing up, I was always passionate about travelling around the world and decided to be a pilot. Come to think of it, pilots get to fly around the world and they really get to see how beautiful nature is when in the skies, right? So as a smart kid, I was like why don’t I be a pilot and utilize that opportunity to travel around the world haha.. I know it sounds funny. But I held on to my dreams of traveling abroad through to my University education when the Centre for International Education Office at my University offered me the opportunity to go on an exchange program to Grand Valley State University, USA for a semester in 2014. It was just a dream come true for me because America had always been my number one top destination. To explain why, I see the country to be a converging point for people of all walks of live. If I am in America, the chances of meeting someone from Pakistan, India, Brazil, Sweden, Kenya, Japan, China etc is decently high. At least, if I am not able to go to all those countries listed, getting to meet them and interact with to know their country and their way of life is even a plus to me.

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Going on an exchange program to Grand Valley State really had a positive influence in my life, I must be sincere. I met a lot of great people during my Stay in the United States including Students (both Locals and Internationals), faculty, staff and local residents. I thought Ghanaians were nice, but I must pour it out, Americans are super nice, welcoming, giving, full of energy and fun to be with and that actually influenced my decision to return to the US for my Masters and I am loving the experiences so far.

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Mmh , come to think of some funny experiences I encountered during my stay. I clearly remember my first night in the US when I got to my apartment. I went upstairs to unpack my luggage and had a quick chat with my Swedish roommate. I ran downstairs and came across a thermostat and as curious as I was, I got close to it only to read 75 degrees. I was like “No way! This is close to boiling point” and lowered it to 31 degrees. My roommate after noticing a sharp change in the room temperature shouted my name and was like “GEORGE, what did you to the thermostat!!” I was just confused about what was going on around me haha.  So ignorant of me, I was reading the temperature in Celsius not in Fahrenheit. I was confused a couple of times with some metric systems like Miles, Gallons, but with time I got used to it. Ah I forgot! My first snow!! It was so beautiful and so white!! On that very day, I remember it was early morning and excited as I was, I run up to my roommate in our apartment to come outside because it was snowing. He lazily starred at me from his bed and was like “George, for goodness sake, I am from Sweden!!” it was funny though.

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It is really an honor to be working at the Study Abroad Office at EIU. This will really give me the opportunity to share my experiences with prospective students who are deciding to study abroad . Also, I will also have a great in depth of most of EIU and non-EIU program relating to studying abroad. I am looking forward to working with a great team and having a fruitful year at the Office…

Studying abroad is a necessity, not a luxury” by Rick Steves

I bleed blue because I am a true Panther!!!!!! Medaase

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Alicia, Student Blogger: Week 5, Otavalo

Background information: What is Otavalo?  Otavalo is a small town north of Quito.  It is FAMOUS in South America for its market, especially on Saturdays when the market is the biggest.  Also nearby is Cotocachi, a small town known for its leather work.  Close to Cotocachi is the volcanic crater lake, Cuicocha.  The C names around here were so easy to mix up, especially when you factor in Cotopaxi, a volcano to the south of Quito.  There are also lots of traditional haciendas nearby to stay at.

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Bea and I took a taxi to the other north bus terminal, **Carcelen, to meet the other students at 8:30 (I brought my big backpack.  So excited).  The line to buy tickets for Otavalo was INSANE, so we took a chance on a guy with a mini-bus.  For anyone who feels like lecturing me for this: we felt out the situation and went with it.  There were indigenous people in the same bus, which made me feel better, and he seemed semi-legit, at least.  Plus, we paid like $4 each and skipped the line for tickets…

Anyway, we arrived and located the bus station first, so that the 4 students who weren’t staying the night knew where to go.  Then we found the market, and I was overwhelmed.  The stalls were absolutely overflowing with beautiful handmade clothing, blankets, wall hangings, scarves, baby clothes, hats, hammocks, trinkets, jewelry, figurines…

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We ate at a restaurant called **Mi Otavalito, which had good food in about the normal wait time in Ecuador (significantly longer than the USA).  Almost everyone got the menu of the day, which was a fantastic value: soup, corn on the cob with cheese, juice, a main course, and a piece of carrot cake at the end.  I ordered a sandwich with chicken and avocado, and lemonade, for the exact same price, as I didn’t feel incredibly hungry.  The menu of the day would have been a better option, as I eventually bought a piece of carrot cake anyway and ended up paying slightly more than everyone else for less food.  **Fun fact: go to the bathroom here.  It’s super neat.

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We decided to go ahead to Cuicocha, the crater lake.  We planned to take a taxi, but we actually had to pay like $0.25 to take a bus to the closest stop and from there we took a taxi for like $1 each to the lake.  They have a restaurant, some artisanal shops, and a boat tour company.  We paid $4 to take the tour around the lake, and waited about half an hour, since we came on a Saturday.  They load the boats so full that they can’t turn quickly, or else the boat will tip, but the guide seemed to know what he was doing.  It was a beautiful tour, lasting around 30 minutes.  We saw ducks, the two islands in the middle of the lake, and bubbles from the still-active volcano that rose to the surface of the water.  **Keep your ticket, as you get a free cup of canelazo afterwards.  In Quito, canelazo is basically hot, alcoholic orange juice.  This was more like hot apple cider, with or without alcohol.  I’m not sure which is the “correct/traditional” form, but I liked both.  Afterwards, the frustrating part is that you just have to wait for a taxi driver to come and drop someone else off… Luckily, our driver gave us his phone number, and we called.  He was 20 minutes away, but he was willing to take us to Cotocachi, so we were willing to wait for him.  From the lake to Cotocachi, we paid $2 a person and he pointed out the street with the most leather goods stores and a festival that was going on.

The indigenous groups have a festival every year around this time, close to the time of the summer solstice, to bring good luck to their upcoming corn harvest.  It was taking place in the town square, so we walked closer to see.  After asking many people, being ignored by some and not understanding others, we found out that each indigenous group gets a turn to “dance” their way to each corner of the square, taking the square as if in battle.  I’m sure there is more significance to that, as well as to the clothing and hats they wore, but we couldn’t interpret what it was.  The dancing appeared to just be foot stomping/shuffling, but these men (it was only men) were practically falling over with exhaustion. *Unfortunately, I only took a video, which I can’t attach.

We then walked down the street with the leather stores very briefly before heading to the city’s bus terminal to return to Otavalo.  I would have loved to stay longer, but the other students were worried about missing their bus back to Quito.  We paid around $0.50 to return to Otavalo, and walked around the market more.  I did a bit of shopping, as I came to Ecuador with the intention of bringing my family’s Christmas gifts back home with me. However, because I know that some of them read this blog, I am not going to write about what I got them.  I’ll write that post when I’m back and they have received their gifts because I don’t want to wait until December to give them out.

Athena, Marilyn and I got the other 4 students to the bus station and then we decided to locate out hotels/hostals. We found their hotel, a decent walk from the bus terminal.  It seemed very nice, quiet, and safe.  My hostal was on the other side of town, so we decided to eat first.  We ate at a restaurant called **Quino near their hotel.  It was a little late, so we had to wait for the food to be cooked fresh, which was fine with me.  The fresh juice was delicious, as was the trout with garlic sauce that I had.  Athena and Marilyn said that they also had good wine, and it was all reasonably priced.

We followed their map to my hostal, which took us through the town square, and unfortunately, through a dark, closed food market.  We were a bit uncomfortable, but we made it where the hostal was supposed to be.  However, we couldn’t find it… After walking around for nearly half an hour, we found it near the listed address with a poorly-lit sign in an almost-unreadable font… Upon walking in, the woman at the desk informed me that she couldn’t check me in, so she went to get her husband.  After 20 more minutes of waiting, he showed up and asked her to check my room.  She returned and said that it wasn’t ready, and they whispered a bit.  By this point, I had bad feelings about this hostal, and instead of waiting 15 minutes like he asked, I asked him to cancel my reservation.  We did walk by the city square, which was lit up in the dark.

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I went back to the hotel with Athena and Marilyn, but it was unfortunately booked full (**Hotel Riviera Sucre).  Their sister hotel around the corner, however, was not (**Hotel Santa Fe).  I was incredibly thankful for the other students walking with me, and I ended up paying only $2 more than I would have at the hostel.  At this hotel, I got my own room with a bathroom, and it felt safe and clean.

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Day 37

Otavalo is a shockingly noisy town, so I was awake early to start the day.  Breakfast isn’t included at the hotel, but there is an attached restaurant that serves breakfast.  For $2.50, I got a glass of fresh juice, cafe con leche, scrambled eggs with ham, and a large sandwich.  For that price, I had no problem paying to eat breakfast.

Afterwards, I headed back to the market.  Again, since some of my family reads this, I’m not going to write about my purchases yet, but I will later on!  I much preferred the market today, a Sunday.  Sundays are when the market is at its smallest, and it was much easier to navigate.  There may have been slightly less variety, but almost of all of the vendors sell the exact same, or similar, items, for almost the same prices.  The smaller size of the market made my shopping very easy, and by purchasing one item and then returning to the same vendor, I got several “special discounts” for coming back.  Whether or not I actually got a lower price, well, I’ll never know.  I don’t feel like I overpaid for any single thing I bought though, considering that it was all handmade and the prices that I would have paid at home.

I will say that, for myself, I bought a blanket, a sweater, a scarf, and a necklace, and I’m quite pleased with all of those purchases.

I got on my bus back to Quito around 11.  I hadn’t planned on leaving that early, but I decided to leave before I started buying things that I didn’t actually need. On the bus back, I met a nice man, Jaime, and his son. He was very friendly, and pointed out landmarks to me throughout the bus ride.   My professor and I had been talking about making friends with people who live in Ecuador and the benefits that it can have, so when he asked if we could exchange phone numbers to practice our languages, I said okay.  If something weird happened, I planned to just block him.  Fast forward several days, and I sadly ended up blocking him after he asked where I was approximately 10 times over the course of one day… I tried, at least!!  Otherwise, the trip home was quite uneventful, and the bus was nearly empty, making for a pleasant trip.

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When I got back to the house, the cleaning lady was there cleaning my room.  I always appreciate when she comes, as the floors get dirty quite quickly if I keep the window open.  However, the family won’t let me go in the room while she’s here, so I waited and waited.  Eventually, I left my stuff on the balcony and went with another student to get lunch.  Long story short, the food near the house isn’t very good and we ended up eating ice cream for lunch (not that I’m complaining).  When I got back in my room, I packed up the gifts that I’d bought into my suitcase, after taking pictures for my mom to approve.  When I leave, I plan to put my personal belongings in my new big backpack, as I primarily have clothes, so they don’t need much protection.

I also blogged and started watching the new season of Orange is the New Black on Netflix.  Everyone, including myself, knew that I wouldn’t last until I got home to watch it.

At dinner, we had soup, rice, red peppers, and chicken.  Rice and chicken tends to get old, as it’s incredibly popular in Ecuador, but it’s always good and almost always accompanied by fresh juice, which is a plus.

Putting a Face to a Name: Introducing our New Graduate Assistant

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A portrait captured by my friend, Alex Xayatone, in Cordoba, Spain.

Hola!

My name is Rachel Lindhart and I am the new Graduate Assistant in the Office of Study Abroad. I am a first-year student in the College Student Affairs Master’s program at EIU and I am proud to be a newly-converted Panther!

I’m a recent graduate of Central College, a small private liberal arts school in small-town Pella, Iowa, where I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and a minor in biology. I found my way into College Student Affairs and higher education through my position as an overly-enthusiastic, ragingly passionate Resident Advisor on Central’s campus and through time spent abroad my key interest points in Higher Education began to include studying abroad and international education as well. I feel so fortunate I was able to find a position that embodies both my love for student affairs and student development and my enthusiasm for travel and study abroad.

I was fortunate to spend not just one but two semesters abroad during my undergraduate career. The idea of studying abroad had always piqued my curiosity, but it wasn’t something I prioritized as I entered college. As I progressed in my studies, I realized that in order to fulfill the requirements for my Spanish major, I had to spend at least one semester abroad in a Spanish-speaking country. Central College Abroad has programs at seven different sites, two of them being Merida, Mexico and Granada, Spain. While my heart has always yearned to spend time in Spain and explore Europe, I chose to spend the spring semester of my sophomore year of college in Merida, Yucatan in Mexico in an attempt to incorporate both Spanish language and culture studies with courses in tropical ecology to stay on track in both fields of study.

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One of my favorite aspects of Latin American culture – the FOOD.

During my semester down south I fell more and more in love with Spanish, Hispanic culture, and traveling and I realized I wanted to somehow incorporate these interests as the focal point of my future career. I continued along with my studies in school and as it came time to plan my last semester I realized I only had a few Spanish courses left to finish up – why not do so in a Spanish-speaking country where I can immerse myself in the culture and learn first-hand from Spaniards themselves!? So, off to Granada, Spain I went!

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One of my final nights in Granada, watching the sun set over the Alhambra – the iconic Muslim + Moorish fortress/palace.

As hard as I sometimes try (shame on me for that!), it is so impossibly difficult to compare my two semesters abroad. They almost feel like two different lifetimes, two completely unique and unrelated adventures of Raquelita the Spanish Adventurer. However, they did have one thing in common in that each of them was influential in their own way and no doubt changed my life for the better. In Mexico, I interacted with local youth teaching English at an after school program, suffered from chronic sunburn, was adopted into my familia Mexicana, salsa danced the weeks away with my classmates in our little outdoor classroom, and realized my true passions in life. In Spain, I acted on those passions while I made life-long friendships, perfected my Spanish, checked places off of my bucket list I only ever dreamed of one day seeing in real life in a matter of two and a half weeks with one little backpack, made partners in crime out of my two little host brothers, ate one-too-many churros con chocolate, and was reassured that I have found the right field of work for myself – like I have found “me” in job form. Is there anything more rewarding than that?

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Two ‘hips’ and a ‘hooray!’ after climbing dragging myself up Mt. Vesuvius in Naples, Italy.

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Plaza de España in Sevilla, Spain.

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The Louvre in Paris, France.

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The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

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The Roman Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

If I could find a way to be in college forever and spend each semester in a different location, I would, but alas, I cannot so I would consider working in an institutional study abroad office to be the next best thing! I am thrilled to be in a position where I can use my experiences to enlighten college students on the opportunities, feasibility, and importance of studying abroad and inspire them to chase their dreams of spending time overseas and make those fantasies a reality. There is nothing more rewarding to me than engaging with students and empowering them through their strengths in order to find success in themselves, and I’m lucky enough to have a front-row seat on the sidelines where I can be loudly cheering them on the entire way!

If you ever find yourself in Blair Hall, please stop by and introduce yourself! I look forward to meeting each and every one of you. It’s an honor to be apart of EIU’s team.

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Riding a camel on the beaches of Morocco.

Graduation Time!

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Hey guys! It’s Mary, your professional writing intern, one last time.

It’s with bittersweet emotions that I say good-bye to my time in the Office of Study Abroad. I am really happy that I was able to sign up to be the professional writing intern here at the Office this semester. There was a lot going on, including completely revamping our study abroad website, that kept me busy and gave me a lot of experience that I can put toward future endeavors.

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One of the best things about working at the Office this semester was meeting all of the people that work here. My co-workers freely gave out praise and encouragement that helped me to complete that tasks that I was assigned while working here. Everyone is friendly and happy to help with anything I could have needed. Being able to work in the Office itself, I was able to see that this sentiment was extended to all that entered looking for help on studying abroad.

Not only am I saying good-bye to the Office of Study Abroad, but I am also graduating this semester and saying good-bye to EIU. Like many of you, the excitement of finishing this step in my life is mixed with nervousness about what I am going to do next in my life. The rush to look for a “big people” job or a masters program, whatever you feel is the next step for you, can sometimes get exhausting, but I try to remember to take a break once in a while and remember how far I’ve come.

It is with a heavy heart but a happy smile that I sign off one last time from the Office of Study Abroad.

~Mary Reber

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[Guest Post]: We Made It

EIU student Samantha DeYoung is currently studying at University of South Wales for the spring semester. Follow her experience with her blog here.

January 3rd, 2015

After a very long two days of traveling, I am finally here! Sitting in my room watching netflix, it is raining, something I will get used to very fast here in Wales. Yesterday was definitely the longest day of my life, literally I was awake and traveling from 3pm Thursday when I left Pittsburgh until 3pm Friday when I finally arrived at the University. With two time changes, two fights, a bus, and a train, we finally made it. Our rooms are nice and have private bathrooms attached to them, our flat consists of 6 rooms that remind me of American dorms, all connected by a hallway that leads to our kitchen.

Yesterday at the airport, I was constantly looking for all of those gypsies I had been constantly warned about, and of course I didn’t see any at all! The airport atmosphere was very safe. Customs gave us all a very hard time since our course of study is only until April, but our documents say it is until June. We were met at the airport by a lady that showed us how to catch a coach to Cardiff. After arriving in Cardiff, we walked from the bus stop to the train station. From what little I saw of Cardiff, I think it will be very fun to visit and wander around down there. Everywhere we go people can’t understand us and they use words we don’t understand either. After several jokes made at our expense, the people here are beyond friendly and helpful. I have never had so many people offer to carry my bags and offer to show us where to go. People here go out of their way to help you, something very foreign to Americans!

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(Cardiff Train Station)

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(Castle on our way to the Treforest stop)

After climbing a mountain to get to the accommodations office, we were shown our rooms and could finally relax. Kait and I went into the Treforest village to buy shampoo, conditioner, water, bread, and soap for our rooms. The village is very cute and we passed a lot of small shops and restaurants. After stopping to get Chinese “Take Away” we walked over the bridge that crosses the railway and hiked back up to our rooms.

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(Our pretty campus)

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(The view from our Flat)

Everything has been very exciting so far, tomorrow we plan to go back to Cardiff to visit and to explore. We choose our classes on Monday and hopefully can start planning for all of our trips after that!

xoxo

Join our staff member Megan Melbourne as she “Takes a Look Back on her Trip to England”

A Look Back on England: Megan Melbourne

Looking back upon my study abroad experience there are very few things I’d ever want to change about it. But, I’m sure there are several things I could have done to prepare better. So here’s some advice for future travelers based on the lessons I learned.First of all, I am a notoriously bad packer—ask any of my family! I over pack and somehow always pack too much of the things that I really don’t need and forget at least on vital item. When packing for England I had the notion that I needed only to pack nicer clothes rather than comfy, casual ones. I figured I’d want to blend in with the locals since they are notorious for dressing well, have amazing style, and reject the t-shirt and sweats stereotype of an American. I also naively believed that I wouldn’t really have much use for a bunch of t-shirts and other casual lay around clothes. Well, I was wrong. So, so wrong. T-shirts are glorious things: they are easy to pack, don’t take up much room, and let’s be honest what you want to wear when out doing outdoor activities, sleeping in airports, and laying around a manor in between classes. Granted, I loved myself for all the sweaters and cute British clothes I had to buy to make up for my lack of t-shirts. So, moral of the story, my number one advice for outbound students is to be sensible when packing. Think more about what you are most comfortable in rather than what you think you want to be wearing.

“Being abroad taught me to accept the change and the new, it taught me to jump at new challenges and experiences, and to never take any of it for granted”.

My other piece of advice though is to expect for the unexpected, especially, when it comes to your budget. I had spent an abundance of time by myself and with my parents making a budget for my trop and going through several different possibilities of weekend trips, flights, and accommodations. I believed that I was going into my semester abroad experience fully prepared and with plenty of money to do everything I wanted to. But, I quickly found out that my plan wasn’t so perfect. There are so many things that I hadn’t expected to have in my budget that made quite an impact. Such as laundry cost (it adds up), exchange rates changing, getting sick and needing a doctor or medicine, and most importantly food costs. There are so many possibilities of where your adventures can take you which means every more possibilities to spend money. Be sensible and plan for the unexpected so you aren’t making that phone call home half way through the semester asking for more money.  And lastly, embrace being able to be on your own.

“Studying Abroad is a chance to grow”.

I found that when I was by myself I could take it all in better and really had the opportunity to take it all in better and really had the chance to appreciate the small things at my own pace.  By the end of term trip to Italy I had pretty much given up on making an itinerary or planning anything with others in the group. Yes, I wanted to spend time with everyone and there were some activities that you just had to do with other people like going on a gondola ride. But, I was most looking forward to just wandering around Italy by myself and exploring. I had learned the joy of getting lost somewhere new and how peaceful it was to wander around on my own. We all spend too much time flying through our days and just checking things off our to-do lists without actually taking in what we are doing and seeing. This is without a doubt an American problem. And, if there were anything I should take away from my time abroad, it would be to not continue to live life that way. And, no one else should either.I myself have learned lessons on lessons and could come up with more advice than just these few tidbits. But, I think that learning all these lessons was my favorite part of my experience. If you go into something having every last bit of it planned out and never veering from the plan than there’s no chance of ever learning anything. And, without learning, there’s no chance for growth.

-Megan Melbourne

[Guest Post] From EIU to Taiwan

Hello, everyone! I’m an EIU alumna and current employee at HESS International Educational Group in Taiwan.

Overall, my experience teaching and living abroad has been filled with incredible moments and opportunities. I taught children’s English classes for a couple of years before moving into the human resources department at our company’s corporate office. I’ve lived in Taiwan for almost five years, and while I could go on and on about my experiences here, I will try to keep it to just a brief snapshot.

EIU alumna Amy Simpson accepts a 2013 Employee of the Year award from the CEO of HESS International Educational Group at the company’s year-end banquet in Taipei, Taiwan.

EIU alumna Amy Simpson accepts a 2013 Employee of the Year award from the CEO of HESS International Educational Group at the company’s year-end banquet in Taipei, Taiwan.

The first thing that stands out is something frequently mentioned about Taiwan: the people. The locals are unbelievably welcoming and helpful, and the foreigners come from all over with their own little piece of the world to share.

It’s not unusual for Taiwanese people to go out of their way to personally escort you to a gas station across town or chase you down the street to return the wallet you’ve left in a restaurant. Likewise, it’s commonplace for foreigners to strike up a conversation about which neighboring country is best to visit or invite you to join them at a dinner table. The people I’ve met have helped me to embrace Taiwan and enjoy all the things it has to offer.

When you live in a different place, you also start to re-evaluate the way you look at everything around you–and the way you look at yourself. You start to realize both how big and how small the world is.

Last Thanksgiving, HESS asked teachers what they were thankful for. We made videos depicting what we loved about Taiwan, teaching, children, friends, family, etc. It was an open-ended invitation to capture the truly enjoyable parts of life. We compiled those videos and called it “The Thank You Project.” (You can view the whole project here)

In my HESS Thank You Project video, I talked about a former teacher who used to say, “The more you know, the more you know the less you know.” This is definitely true of my time in Taiwan. There’s always something new to learn, always a challenge to be faced, always an opportunity to learn and grow as a person. For better or worse, as soon as you feel like you have something all figured out, you’re reminded you that you don’t. This can be a frustrating thing, but it can also keep you fresh and open-minded. If you can embrace those opportunities to grow, there’s always something new and exciting to experience.

It’s interesting to hear about perspectives, and there are plenty to be found all around us. If you haven’t already, definitely consider living, teaching, or traveling abroad to experience things that you might not get to at home. If you’re thinking about teaching abroad, I would recommend Taiwan as a great starting point.

New teachers strike a pose during their July 2014 initial training at the Main Office of HESS International Educational Group in Taipei, Taiwan. HESS provides all the support and guidance newcomers need to settle in and start their journey abroad successfully.

New teachers strike a pose during their July 2014 initial training at the Main Office of HESS International Educational Group in Taipei, Taiwan. HESS provides all the support and guidance newcomers need to settle in and start their journey abroad successfully.

Lastly, to everyone, I would encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and be willing to embrace the good as well as the difficult. Given the change, it will broaden the way you look at just about everything.

I’m happy to discuss any of these topics further, so feel free to email me at amy.simpson@hess.com.tw. Thanks for reading!

[Guest Post] 5 Things I Learned in London

This post is the first in a “5 Things I Learned in __________” series, written by our returning students.

Geoff ZuHone is a senior Journalism major who has studied abroad twice: once on a short term faculty-led program in France and a second time at the University of Westminster in London, England. He is also a member of the inaugural class of STA4000G: Study Abroad Capstone.

5 Things I learned in…London

1 Produce Market

America Who

I’ve said it before, and I will continue to say it; the American way isn’t always the best. Just knowing that there are alternatives to how you live inspires reflection in other parts of your life. Studying abroad forces you (in an amicable way) to confront certain aspects of your life that might seem archaic or backwards. Now, I’m more likely to buy fresher food for a couple days, going back to the store 2 or 3 times a week rather than buying frozen or convenient food in bulk. Before studying abroad, I would always assume that I would drive everywhere I needed to go, but now I look for reliable public or mass transit options before setting out. It’s refreshing to know that seemingly unimportant aspects of your life can change just by visiting or living someplace different.

2 A Briton & I

Starting Anew

Studying abroad by yourself is tough and intimidating, but it’s rewarding beyond belief. Starting from scratch is rejuvenating, and it knowingly preludes the “real world.” I’m terribly glad to have been able to set new, shallow roots in London that will one day grow into a firm network of friends and colleagues. I implore anyone that will be studying abroad in a foreign country, do not only hang out with the other American kids only; find the locals, get to know them, and you will learn more useful information about a city, about a country, than there is in most travel manuals.

3 On the red carpet

Spontaneity

This is the most important trait I acquired from studying abroad. Being in Europe, it’s customary to travel to close countries for long weekends away. After an hour of researching, I am proud to say I can book lodging and transportation to a foreign country for four people, all while finding popular and unique activities to fill three days with. These transferable skills have already allowed me to book a weekend in Canada during the middle of this school year, along with finding and renting out a New York apartment in less than 3 hours this past summer. Having the confidence to be spontaneous has allowed myself to become less reactive and more proactive. Now if only I could stop myself from researching flights to Paris around Christmas time.

4 Train Tracks in England

Trainsportation

Growing up in the Midwest on a corn and soybean farm, I always thought of trains mostly as a means of transporting grain and oil. Now, having comeback from modernity, I see trains not only as the future of travel, but as the past and present of travel. Trains have been constant, especially in Europe, for nearly 200 years. Modern trains can easily cut the travel time in half compared to driving a car. It’s also much easier and less stressful than flying; showing up 10 or 15 minutes before the train departs is wonderful compared to showing up hours ahead of time to an airport terminal. Best of all, there’s hardly any security to go through, so there’s no liquid restrictions, body X-rays, or long-lines. It’s the most convenient, most enjoyable, and most fun way of traveling I have ever experienced.

5 Exploring the streets of London

Do, Don’t Just Watch

Culture just isn’t in the museums or around the monuments. Culture is an experience. The more you immerse yourself and get lost in a culture, the more you retain from it, the more learn from it, and the more you grow from it. This is one of the most valuable and priceless effects of studying abroad. There is always something new you can learn from another culture, whether it be a different way to eat, a different way to earn money, or a different way to dress. Every change to your personality, no matter how small or imperceptible, is a willful absorption and emission of a different culture; that, is beautiful.

[Guest post]: The first 48 hours

chicago ohare airport

Jocelyn @ the O’Hare airport .. rocking our shirt!

 

Jocelyn Swanson is a junior Foreign Language Major concentrating in Spanish, with a Music Minor at EIU. She has just kicked off her fall semester at Malaca Instituto in Malaga, Spain.

You can keep up with her this semester via her blog: http://jswans.wordpress.com/

“Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
– Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite movies, and in my experience of leaving the United States and entering Spain, I felt the same as Dorothy. This was my first time leaving the country and I had only flown once round trip, so I had no idea what to expect. Saying goodbye to my parents was hard, and I didn’t know what to do going through security, so I asked random strangers questions. I was lucky and met people along the way who answered my questions, and I met someone who helped me navigate the Madrid Airport, which was a relief!

To be honest, I expected that customs would be a lot more difficult, but all I had to do was hand over my passport and boarding pass. They looked at it and then stamped it. I had documentation and multiple copies, but didn’t have to use it.

malaca instituto

View from Malaca Instituto

The challenges started when I arrived in Málaga. Going to three different carousels to find my luggage, not understanding the people, and trying to find a payphone to call my mom was exhausting. My first experience of the city was getting lost in 80 degree weather wearing jeans, a hoodie, and hauling around a 40lb suitcase and 25lb backpack, but I managed to get to where I needed to go. I took a bus from the airport and got off a stop too early. Luckily my experiences since then have been better!

I felt really insecure about my speaking skills at the beginning. I hadn’t spoken Spanish for about 3 months since coming home for the summer. Trying to navigate was overwhelming—I felt like I didn’t belong and couldn’t communicate. But a couple days with my host family helped immensely, and my skills have picked up so much since. It’s truly amazing how studying a language in its native country helps to learn it!

airport view

best way to catch a sunset: by plane

One of the most annoying things was that the banks are only open from 8:30-2:45ish. I had brought cash to exchange but I slept 17 hours my first night here, waking up at 4pm. I could only sleep one hour on the plane. Because I was busy, it took me 6 days to finally get to the bank while it was open. I have to admit that I am still adjusting to the food—I’ve had some appetite issues and have been trying to stick to familiar food. I have visited the same Italian restaurant 4 times since being here, though. I’m a sucker for pizza!

Being in Spain hasn’t gone exactly as I’ve expected, but one thing is for sure: I am falling more in love with the language than I thought possible!

malaga mountains

Mountains outside of Malaga

Mil gracias, Jocelyn 🙂

[Guest Post] Everyday abroad: Carnaval del Toro

Everyone was dressed up in different costumes. I saw a cat, even a tomato. The air was filled with excitement.  After all, it was Carnaval del Toro! We meandered through the streets, admiring the festivities and costumes, and eventually saw the fences in the distance. We headed in that direction and found a spot on the fence. The bulls would be running by any minute!

bulls

The Carnaval del Toro run isn’t nearly as large as the famous running of the bulls in Pamplona each summer, but it was exhilarating none-the-less. Before  we knew it, the bells were ringing to announce that bulls were in the streets. Five of my friends were standing in the road across the fence from us, ready to face the beasts. As the bulls got closer, the bells started ringing louder and faster. It wasn’t long until we could see the herd and even hear their footsteps. My friends’ eyes were full of terror. In a flash they took off running with hearts beating out of their chests. In a matter of seconds, both my friends and the bulls were gone.

Once the running was over we walked down the street to meet up with the rest of our group. Luckily, everyone made it and none of the bulls got out of control. Overall the Carnaval del Toro in Ciudad Rodrigo, Spain was a wonderful cultural experience. Hands down, it was a great way to kick off the ending of my college career since I’ll be graduating in May!

Elisha Alto is a senior Spanish major studying abroad at the Universidad de Salamanca in Salamanca, Spain this spring.