Student Spotlight: Scott, Ireland and Northern Ireland, Part 1

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May 12th, 2016

This morning we had breakfast in the hotel around 8:30AM. We then got ready for a tour at the Queens University. It is an extremely old university (1848). There was an extreme number of inventors that thrived from the Queens University. We then walked to the city hall at noon to further out knowledge of Belfast’s past political conflicts. We then went to a bar known as the “Perch”. It was a rooftop open area with a bar. It had a lot of colorful flowers. After a few hours of conversing we got ready to meet with our air coach at the hotel. As well as our tour guide of the “peace wall”. We drove beyond the downtown Belfast area. To the “suburbs”, and unfortunately there were no good stories. Ireland has terrible relations with the Republics and Unionists. There were terrible shootings and tragedies at almost every corner. We got to see the differences of both sides because only one street separate’s them. They literally put a “Peace Wall” dividing the two reducing the amount of crime. Whenever there are problems the police close the gates. People were commonly wrongfully detained in prison (Belfast Prison). This was an extremely interesting day.

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Kristen, Student Blogger: Rome in Less than 24 Hours

KR06.06.02We completed Rome in 24 hours. We booked an Airbnb one of the first couple of nights in Torino for the night, right next to the Vatican for 30€. We struggled to find a cheap and convenient flight for the trip though. Somehow through deleting our history and continuously hunting we found one by Tuesday. We also found 12€, skip-the-line tickets for the colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum.  We woke up at 4AM on Saturday to make the bus in the center of Torino by 5AM. Figuring out which bus to get on was quite the hassle. No businesses were open and no one on the streets that early was wanting to speak English. Thankfully, (shout out to the Charleston Vision Center), I spotted a bus two blocks down the road with a sign for the Torino Airport. It was smooth sailing from there until we got to Rome. Even though we had tried to research, we had no idea how we were going to get from the airport to our Airbnb, in Rome cheaply and fast. Maybe not our best decision, but we found a guy that offered to take us straight to our Airbnb location for 15€ each. We got in a SUV with a couple from Canada and a couple of guys who spoke Italian. We knew we didn’t have a lot of time to see everything so getting to our place as fast as possible was essential. On our way in we didn’t see a lot but we did see the wall for the Vatican. There were lots of people standing outside waiting in a line… Another thing we had not planned for. There was no way we could stand in that long line all day and still have time to go see the colosseum, the city and Trevi Fountain. But there was also no way that we could come to Rome and not see St. Peter’s square, the Sistine Chapel and the St. Peter’s church. We got to our place and frantically started scouring the Internet for possibilities of what we could do. A lot of the skip-the- lines for the Vatican wanted you to book 3 days in advance not 3 hours…  We kept coming up with dead ends.

Somehow, by the grace of being so close to the Pope or God himself, we found a skip-the-line tour starting in 15 minutes. We ran to the opening and had a guard point us in the right direction for where the tour were to start. For the tour, we got handed a radio and head phones in which our tour guide talked to us through the tour. The first part of the tour consisted of paintings and tapestries by Raphael and various other famous ancient artists. In the middle there was some contemporary art that I didn’t get any pictures of and finally the Sistine Chapel close to the end. Within the Sistine Chapel visitors were asked to be silent and not take pictures or video in respect for the worship area. The art and architecture was unbelievable. After the Sistine Chapel, we went into the unbelievably huge and beautiful St. Peter’s Basilica. We walked out into St. Peter’s square. Definitely well worth the hefty price we paid for the last minute fast entrance.

Okay so afterwards we hopped on metro to the Colosseum. Again, totally amazing and glad we got a fast entrance to see everything there. We sat at a restaurant right outside of it and had lunch with the monument. A subway back led us straight into the center of Rome where we were able to buy some souvenirs, see the Trevi Fountain, The Piazza Colonna, the Piazza di Montecitorio, the Pantheon, the Piazza Navona, the Piazza dei Tribunali and finally Castel S. Angelo. The final Castel gave us a gorgeous view where we could see the river, Fiume Tevere, the Vatican and the Castel all to wrap up our wonderful day spent in Rome. We left back to Torino on a 10:50 flight to come back to our less touristy, more Italian, much loved home.

Alicia, Student Blogger: Week #1

Day #2

Breakfast is at 9am when we don’t have school.  We had bread, like a croissant, with a slice of ham and cheese, sliced bananas, and tea.  They gave me Coca Tea, which is supposed to be really good for helping with the altitude.  I later learned that it’s related to cocaine, so be conscientious of that. If you work in the medical field (which gets drug tested a lot), or will be returning home quickly, you probably shouldn’t drink it, as it can test positive in a drug test for a while.  The tea itself is legal, though.

My first shower here was quite chilly because the water is heated electrically in each shower as you use it, and I couldn’t get mine to work.  I haven’t done that since; I really dislike cold water.  Then Yolanda, one of my host moms (there are many people in this house) showed me how each key works.  I have one for the garage, one to get from the garage to the house, one to get into the apartment (the entire 4th floor), one to get into my room, one for my balcony, and one for my desk (6 keys!!).  Then I took a very short walk to the bakery to buy something for lunch and to the store across the street to buy my own water, as travelers shouldn’t drink the tap water in Ecuador.  I then sat on my balcony and got my blog up and going, since I didn’t think ahead enough to do that prior to leaving home.

For dinner, we had cabbage soup, then a dish with noodles, and ice cream for dessert, my favorite.  After other students using my shower because they struggled with their hot water, too, I Skyped with my boyfriend, Jimmy, and called it a night.  At this point, I could tell that I was at a much higher elevation because my chest was tight when I went on my walk.  Otherwise, though, I was just tired.  This soothed another of my fears: not handling the adjustment to the altitude well.

Day #3

Day three was my first day of classes.  We had bread and butter, pineapple, and more coca tea for breakfast.  The student from Canada and I walked together; it’s about a 1 mile walk exactly.  I started out as the only student in Edison’s class this week, and we just reviewed things that I should already know.  Then we waited for 2 other students to finish their classes, so that we could all eat together.

The other students, a grown man (the self-proclaimed old man) from Colorado, and a 25 year old woman from Germany, met us and we had “Italian” for lunch.  It was neither Italian nor American-Italian, but it was quite good!  Food here is cheap, Spaghetti with a soda, garlic bread, and a small salad cost me $5.50, which is in the middle range for lunch here.

After some time at the house to rest, the student from Canada and I took a taxi to Parque Carolina.  Fun fact about the taxis: the internet is paranoid.  IT tells you to always call for a taxi, or to do this or that.  Really, this is unnecessary.  The most safe you can be is just to take the taxis with the red/white/green “taxi” sign on the top.  These are the most regulated and I believe they’re government registered.  At night or early in the mornings, you should call to make sure you get where you need to go, though.  This park was huge!  It had a botanical garden that we missed and will return for.  It has a skate park, a dog park, a manmade pond for paddle boating, ice cream vendors everywhere, a running track (1km, I believe), soccer fields.  The taxis here are inexpensive, as well.  Our taxis cost $2.50 there and $3.50 back because of traffic.  Just make sure to have them use the meter, or negotiate a rate beforehand.

Dinner, as usual, was delicious.  We had soup with a vegetable very similar to spinach, but not spinach.  Then rice with a sauce made from some kind of small pea (I hate peas, and this sauce was good), and chicken breast, and then blackberry juice for dessert.

Day 4

Breakfast: bread with blackberry jelly, cantaloupe, coca tea.  Day two of classes, and they moved me to a different class.  This happens often, to try to keep students with other students close to their difficulty level.  There are only 6-10 students at this school at a time, and there’s no time minimum or maximum on how long to stay, so things get shuffled around frequently.  I’m now with the student from Germany and our teacher is Fernanda.  Today is a holiday, the anniversary date of the Battle of Pichincha, in which this region of Ecuador gained their independence for the last time. We talked about that, and the parade/4 hour long speech by the president.  This also means that we get Friday off of school.

After class, the two of us from the house walked to buy my mani de dulce (sweet peanuts, roughly translated).  I have to bring them to class tomorrow.  Every week there’s a lesson with all of the students.  Everyone brings one food from the topic, this week: grains.  We split an awesome lunch, too.  A slice of thin steak with two fried eggs on top, rice with that pea sauce, avocado, and we added a cheese empanada.  Then we just decided to walk.  We walked through the 2 free exhibits in the Museum of the City: one was a photo gallery (no apparent theme), and one was about the hospital that used to be in that building, the first hospital in the city.  Then, there’s a street called La Ronda that’s very trendy and popular.  Most of the restaurants and stores are only open in the evenings, but it was a nice walk.  At the end is a big, modern athletic complex.

Then we walked back to the road that takes us by the school.  We went in the Church of San Augustin.  They asked for no pictures to be taken, but it was quite beautiful.  There’s also a convent attached, which we didn’t try to go in.  On the walk back to the house, we bought movies to watch, and we bought ICE CREAM!  It was so good; most of the ice cream here is made with mostly cream, as opposed to water.  We watched the Incredibles in Spanish with Spanish subtitles to rest when we got back to la casa.

For dinner, we had soup with potatoes and barley, then a really neat 2nd dish.  It was a fruit, similar to a banana, mashed and formed into a ball with cheese inside of it, then fried in a pan.  Mango juice for dessert.

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Day 5

Since I’m obsessed with food, I’ll probably share what I eat for every meal, every day, in case anyone is as excited as I am about food.  For breakfast, we had bread with a slice of meat and cheese, a bowl of papaya, and apple cinnamon tea.

I had my very first walk to class alone, which went just fine, as usual.  The biggest concern here during the day (to my knowledge) is pickpocketing, and I walk faster than almost everyone here.  This makes it easy to notice if anyone is keeping up, and I haven’t felt threatened by anyone or anything yet.  This was the day that we all shared our grains.  There were lots of them, and I’m a bit behind on journaling and blogging, so ask if you’d like to know about them.  My favorite was choclo mezcla, different types of corn mixed together with cilantro and some other seasonings.  It was very plain, but good.

After class, I ate with some other students.  Chicken soup, pork with mushroom sauce (I LOVE MUSHROOMS) and rice, and juice to drink.  So far, the food and drink from restaurants haven’t posed a problem.  We eat at places that seem clean, and if I order water, I order it bottled.  The juice hasn’t been an issue thus far, either, and it’s one thing that many people warn against.  Risk vs reward, I guess.

On the walk back home, it started to rain.  And I mean RAIN.  It wasn’t incredibly scary or anything, but there was a significant amount of water running down the streets, and some thunder and lightning, too.  We decided to wait for a lull in the storm, and then get a taxi.  The taxi rate here starts at $.50 for getting in, and the most I’ve paid for one so far has been $3.50.  Most of the time, it’s between $1.50 and $2.5o, unless you’re going far.

I then returned to school for the cooking class that I signed up for.  We made ceviche de camarones (shrimp).  It’s cooked shrimp; chopped: tomatoes, onions, green peppers, cilantro; lemon and orange juice; and a bit of ketchup, mustard, salt, and pepper.  We ate ours with popcorn on top, and I thought it was delicious.

We also had dinner with the family (lots of food today), and this was one of my favorites so far.  Soup with cabbage and bolsas (“bowls”), which are ground corn formed into a round shape with cheese inside.  That was good, but the best part was the second half.  We had boiled potatoes with an AMAZING cheese sauce, delicious veggies (I don’t even know how/if they were cooked, but they were so good), and meat that I’m assuming was pork. I definitely ate well this day.

Day 6

At this point, I got a little behind in my journaling, which is what I’m using to write the weekly blog posts.  I don’t remember what we had for breakfast, but we did have orange tea that smelled amazing.

In class, we discussed the holiday.  The 24th was the anniversary of the Battle of Pichincha, the day that this region gained its independence for the last time, but it’s also a 3 day weekend to celebrate.  We talked about this and the things that there are to do during the long weekend.  We also talked about our respective cultures much today: mine, of the USA, another student’s, of Germany, and the teacher’s, from Ecuador.

After class, 4 of us students ate (I can’t remember where), and went to see the churches.  First, we stopped at the Cathedral, which is, I believe, the oldest church in Quito.  Then we visited La Compania de Jesus.  I don’t have accents on my computer, so that phrase is missing like 3 important accents… Anyway, this church was beautiful!  This church and La Iglesia de San Francisco had a competition of sorts to out-do each other, and it was quite impressive.  There was lots of gold and arches and religious symbolism that I couldn’t describe.  A really cool part of this day was that Jason, the self-proclaimed “Old Man” of the students, also a super cool nurse, is also Catholic!  A very knowledgeable Catholic, at that!  So, we had a lovely tour of these churches with a very informative tour guide that we didn’t even have to pay for!  To get in, we asked about a student rate since it was a little pricey.  $2 for students was a lot better than $5!  Then, as it turned out, that also covered admission to the museum.  I believe it was the Metropolitan Museum, according to the map, but I’m still unsure. The museum was about the history of the equator and the process of finding out where it was.  Much of that discovering process was done by the French, so it was lovely to have another student there whose first language is French!

Then we went to the San Franciscan church, and wow.  This church is covered in gold, and I mean covered.  The other was beautiful and impressive, but I must say that this church is over-the-top.  With no fee to get in, we decided to pay the few dollars to get into the museum, too.  It used to house a convent, so it had a lovely courtyard with captive and wild birds and beautiful flowers.  The museum was about (I think) the history of the church, and it also had lots of artwork of Jesus, many sculptures.

After returning to our houses for a short while, we were then off to Salsa dancing lessons!  They’re in a part of town known as “Gringolandia”, or the place where the white tourists hang out.  Regardless, it was very fun!  We then went to a bar and ordered a delicious pizza with bacon, mmm, bacon, and enjoyed the night.

(Day 7 will be in the next post, and there’s a reason why.)

Kristen, Student Blogger: Tour of Torino

Blog #3 Tour of Torino

On our, second day of class, we went on a bus tour of our new home for the next few weeks. The city of Torino has a lot of history surrounding it. The USAC coordinators stood at the front of the bus and told us about the city. Sites we saw:

  • The “Po” River- right outside our school. The river starts in Piedmont, Italy and ends in Emilia-Romagna, Italy. It was previously named Eridanous in Greek mythology.
  • The Lingotto Mall- What might seem like just a mall was actually the starting point for Fiat. Fiat tested their first cars on the roof the building. Now they have building on the other side of the city.
  • 2006 Winter Olympic Stadium- With a cost of about 4.1 billion the stadiums now serves as a park on the outside. They will host concerts sometimes but for the most part, is gated off from entrance into the actual stadium. During the Winter Olympics, the Alps, about an hour and a half out of town served as the spot for where the mountain sports took place.
  • Underground Roman Ruins- The city is full of old Roman structures. Near “The Shroud” is the Palantine Towers. These towers serve as what used to be one of the 4 major gates guarding the city. There is supposedly a “Magic Turin” tour where you can also see the Roman ruins of tunnels underneath the city.
  • Torino is special in that it lies on the axis of the myth of dark and white magic. It shares the white magic axis with Lyon, France and Prague. It shares the dark magic with London and San Francisco. This is not something that I know a lot about or our tour guides. If we get the chance we’re hoping to go on the “Magic of Turin” tour to learn more.
    • “Gates of Hell”- this statue is within five minute walking distance from my apartment. This serves as a reminder of the dark magic in the city. It is said to be on the west side of town because this is where the sun sets, the darkness come on first. As you can tell from my picture it is a dark angel atop men reaching for the top. The place of the most “light magic” is said to be where the Holy Shroud is placed.
  • Basilica di Superga- This church sits on top of the mountains in southwest Torino. It looks all across the city and took about 15 minutes get to the top of. This was probably one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen with the combined church, river, alps and city itself.
  • Piazza Vittorio Veneto is a very large Piazza is very large shopping and restaurant center in western Torino. It sits right next to the river and has a great view of Gran Madre di Dio.

Alicia, Student Blogger: Day #1

My first time on an airplane, yikes… Getting my boarding passes was easy, then my family and I had plenty of time to wait.  We ate breakfast, and I tried not to cry.  Then it was time to actually do things by myself, so I did cry.  My family did too, but they might deny it if you ask them.

I went through security, which I was terrified of; I couldn’t have imagined a worse way to start my flying experience than at O’Hare at a time when TSA is understaffed… Yet, maybe because it was an international flight, I got through in less than 5 minutes.  Seriously.  Then I bought the nastiest coffee ever, dumped it out, and got on my plane.  Flight #1 was just fine; I had no strong feelings about flying yet.  The food was good, so props to COPA Airlines. Fresh fruit, good waffles, and decent yogurt, plus some CocaCola, and better coffee helped wake me up.

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5-ish hours later, I landed in Panama.

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The transfer to my second flight in Panama was actually very simple; there were easy signs to follow, and all I had to do was wait to get on the plane.  Again, the food was pretty good.  A chicken empanada was a nice pick-me-up (I was nervous that I wouldn’t have a chance to eat on this day of travel).  This second flight was when I had some troubles… The airline did nothing wrong, but I get very motion sick in cars, boats, buses, etc… and my fear of this happening on the plane was realized.  I felt like we descended really quickly.  Looking back, the problem was more likely the fact that the cabin started to depressurize and I’m definitely not used to the altitude of Quito: 2,580 meters, or 9,350 feet, for us Americans.  I got hot and sweaty, my hands got clammy, the nausea set in.  I could not wait for the plane to stop moving, which it eventually did and my body regulated itself again.

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Here’s my little review of COPA Airlines: I loved it.  Granted, I’ve never flown before, so I have nothing to compare to.  However, from my first-time flyer perspective, it was a lovely experience.  The plane seemed clean, the bathrooms weren’t awful (just tiny), the flight attendants were helpful and patient, and I got to my destination on time, and safely.  I would recommend flying COPA if you have the choice, because they were also the cheapest ticket we could find that had me arriving at a decent time of the day.  Another plus.

I went through customs and immigration, no problems, got my bags after a short wait, and the driver that the school arranged for me was right there waiting for me.  He was great, he helped me with my bags and told me what was going on, but didn’t make me talk much.

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The drive to the house, actually IN Quito, was about 40 minutes long.  The view was beautiful, which helped distract me from my motion sickness that was coming back.  At one point, the driver pointed straight up at some buildings, told me to take a picture, said “That’s Quito,” and then began the nearly-vertical portion of the drive.  There were some very narrow curves, some very sharp turns, and some very vertical streets, but I finally made it to the house!  The host family was wonderful to me, so wonderful that they’ll get their own blog post later.  Once I got my stuff up to the 4th floor (yes, it was hard after being sick), they had dinner for us.  Students get breakfast and dinner at the house.

We had soup with noodles and potatoes, then eggs scrambled with ham and tomatoes, with boiled potatoes, then juice for desert.  *Remember this pattern, this is how all dinners work here.*  The food was very good, and very neutral on a nervous tummy.  I was incredibly comforted to find out that there were other students living here, too.  One retired woman from California, one man who looks in his 20’s but is actually older (he’ll get mad if I post his actual age), and one woman from French Canada who’s 25.

That was my day one!  All of the fears I had, besides motion sickness, were a waste of my energy, and I survived!  The worst part was leaving my family, as I struggle with anxiety when I leave my family or when they leave me.  It was actually somewhat weird how I left Chicago in a big flying tube (an airplane) and by the end of the day was in a foreign country.  The process of actually traveling was quite simple, in this instance.

Kristen, Student Blogger: Writing from the Middle of my First Class

I’m in Italy! Halfway around the world! Actually only 4,498 miles away from Chicago. Which is not even a quarter around the world. I feel so far away though! So much has happened in the past few days.

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The rest of my trip to Italy:

The Chicago girls met up with more study abroad students once we got to Germany. On the flight to Torino, I was lucky enough to have a nice man from Munich sit next to me. He was reading the paper that had a story on JFK’s sister. I must have been somehow screaming that I was American, because after I finished my photo session of the Alps, he started taking to me about the story. I am no history enthusiast but I thought it was interesting how quickly he picked up on the fact that I was American without me even talking. The man was on his way to Torino to visit he daughter and grand-daughter. His grand-daughter was participating in a theatrical production the upcoming weekend. He and his wife suggested multiple places to go in Torino that we must not miss.

Once we got to Torino we stuffed all of our luggage onto a charter bus, saw a little bit of the city on our way in, checked into our group hotel rooms and went to our first Italian meal. The goals of the USAC coordinators was to keep us awake to help us adjust to the time change. We kept moving all night until about 9 when we were finally able to go to bed. We had pizza on the top floor of the restaurant that sort looked over a small alley of city of life. Italians hate to waste food but pizza was served endlessly at the restaurant. We were told to make sure to tell them to stop making pizza when we were full. Extremely tired but still excited, we all participated in an hour long walking tour around the downtown area afterwards. There is just so much history just in downtown Torino. One of the first few things we noticed on our first couple of days here was how clean the streets are though. I swear people come out at night to sweep the sidewalks and streets to keep them looking nice. If it isn’t the secret street cleaners I think it must be the lack of trees, with them only being located in the parks. Torino is known for being the prior capitol of Italy and for having “The Shroud”, Jesus’s cloth that he was wrapped upon burial. Kristen05.30.04          Move-in to our apartments came the next day. I have three roommates in downtown Torino. All the students are pretty spread out across the city. Some live by the school (in the southern outskirts of town) and then there is also a midtown location of apartments. Our housing coordinator negotiated with landlords across the city to get our housing assignments. So I am living in one of the nicer apartments, which has 3 rooms, on the 2nd floor, with a 7 minute walk to the train and a 5 minute walk to one of the main, local shopping streets, known as “Garibaldi”. It is far enough away to be away from the busy and loud streets. I can keep my window open at night, as air conditioning is not a utility of Italy apparently. We are right across the street from a market that offers for Italy, a wide variety of products but for an American, growing up with a Wal-Mart, a very limited amount of food and paper products. So far though, the city is great, my roommates are great and we have an endless list of things we want to accomplish before we leave here.

Alicia, Student Blogger: Preparing for Abroad

With today being my first (full) day in Ecuador, I didn’t do much.  The plane, driving, and altitude made me a bit sick yesterday and I need to acclimate, so I’m just going to do a whole lot of blogging now!

Maybe a future study abroad student will find it useful to know what I did to prepare to come here to Quito, Ecuador.  Some of what I did was school/city/country specific, but some was general Latin American travel preparation.

In general, make sure you talk to all of your people.  For me, that involved meeting with Study Abroad many times.  USE THIS RESOURCE, they’re one of the best resources I had.  I also talked to my advisor in the SpEd Department, the head of the Foreign Language Department, my former and current Spanish teachers, my counselor, my doctor at home, and Health Services at EIU.  Obviously, I didn’t do all of this in one day, so start early, if possible.  I got it all done, but I wish I’d had a month or two more to prepare and plan, especially with school to focus on while planning a trip.

Study Abroad does their job, that’s mostly self-explanatory.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t forget to submit your documents to them.  Also, any document that OSA needs from you is probably a good document to bring or to make copies of.   (Pro tip: don’t forget to sign your passport.  OSA can’t accept it, and it’ll cause you issues when traveling, if OSA doesn’t catch it.  Have that thing signed before you get to the airport.)  If they cannot answer your question, it might be one to ask Yanapuma or your destination school.  Yanapuma was incredibly patient and helpful.  They answered all of my e-mails within a day and a half, they were very knowledgeable, just a pleasure to work with so far.

Talk to your advisor.  Tell them your plan, make sure it won’t throw off your graduation or class schedule for any reason.  If you have any scholarships or summer obligations, double check that the trip won’t interfere with anything.  Let them know that you’re going, so that they can check in with you in the fall, and so that they can understand any different or new attitudes/beliefs/ideas that you may bring back with you.

You’ll have to talk to Dr. Eydt-Beebee, or whoever the head of the FL Dept is at the time.  They’re responsible for determining which EIU classes you’ll receive credit for, and they’ll make sure that you’re actually accomplishing what you want to.  For me, this meant that I would 100% sure be finishing my minor, as long as I passed classes in Ecuador. They may also know other students who have done the same trip, and they’ll have more resources or tips for you.

Honestly, I spoke to my teachers and professors for selfish reasons.  They encouraged me to go, they gave me tips and tricks that made me feel more confident, and they were great resources.  All of them, 2 high school Spanish teachers, and 2 professors from EIU, had traveled and they had great information about traveling to Latin America.  I also spoke to my former high school teachers to thank them, and to tell them that their work to inspire us not only to learn Spanish but to travel did not go unnoticed.  From what I can tell, teaching a foreign language can oftentimes be unrewarding.  Students take it to get into college, parents make them, it’s hard and it can wear students down, it’s difficult to see the benefits.  Tell them that they inspired you, thank them.

After a rough first semester of college, I started seeing a counselor.  This was not my favorite experience, but that’s a post for another day.  Regardless, I’m overall glad that I was seeing her and I’m glad that I talked to her about the trip.  If you struggle with mental/emotional health, or even if you don’t, it’s a good idea to talk to your counselor.  Make sure you’re prepared with plenty of any medications that you might be on, and that the trip really is a good idea for your health at the time. My counselor gave me some advice about situations that may trigger anxiety for me, and about how to cope and adjust as well as possible.

Before leaving, the OSA needs a note from your doctor or Health Services saying that you are in good enough health to travel.  I did this at Health Services.  It’s a quick appointment, but you might need some vaccines, as well.  You’ll want vaccines for: Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, your regular vaccines, the most recent flu shot, and potentially some others.  I had all of the regular vaccines, plus my flu shot, the Hepatitis B vaccine, and Gardasil, the vaccine for HPV/cervical cancer.  I mention that vaccine because if you’ll be sexually active while away, you’ll want that series of vaccines, as well.  This left me with the Hepatitis A vaccine and the Typhoid vaccine.  Both of these can usually be gotten at Health Services.  When I went, their Typhoid vaccine had expired, so I had to go to my local Health Department and get it.  This turned out just fine, because the Health Dept. went over a lot of information with me that I hadn’t seen yet, and they double checked to make sure that I didn’t need a Yellow Fever vaccine.  More on that to come.
WARNING:  The Hepatitis vaccine is a series of 2, I believe the other (that I already had) was a series of 3.  I did not know this, and I was only able to get the first one.  The second one must be administered 6 months later.  I’m still 85% protected, but 100% would be better… Be mindful of this as you prepare for your trip.
As far as Yellow Fever goes, you don’t need it coming from the USA.  If you have a layover less than 12 hours in a country with Yellow Fever, you don’t need it, as discovered by my Health Department.  HOWEVER, if you are going to do any traveling to other countries, you probably do need it.  Many airlines and the customs/immigration will ask for a certificate saying that you’ve had the vaccine if you’re coming from a country proven to have Yellow Fever.  Again, be mindful of this, if you’re going to travel elsewhere.
Many websites recommend Malaria protection.  It is not required, and it’s not a concern in Quito because of the elevation.  I spoke with Yanapuma, as I hope to travel outside of Quito, and they said that would be unnecessary in Ecuador, just to bring long sleeved shirts, long pants, and the proper bug spray for any excursions or additional trips.  This does not mean all-natural bug spray, it means that you need to go to Bass Pro/Gander Mountain/a similar store, and buy spray with at least 40% DEET.  I bought mine with 99.9% because of the Zika scare right now; it was expensive, but I had a gift card and I wanted to be protected.

In addition to seeing HS, I also spoke with my family doctor at home.  She refilled several prescriptions for me, and we discussed the motion-sickness patch, as I get very motion sick sometimes.  (I decided against them because they have too many side effects; I just brought over the counter Dramamine instead).  She also reminded me to bring my knee brace.  It wasn’t necessary, but it was very helpful to speak with her.  Make sure flying/traveling/elevation/etc won’t cause any complications with any medical conditions that you may have.  We discussed my asthma and allergies, to make sure I wouldn’t struggle while away.

As far as preparation, that’s my advice.  And when in doubt, ask Yanapuma or OSA.  They’ll know better than anyone else.  And please don’t let the paperwork you’re given or other people scare you.  Things like sickness and crime happen everywhere, but the USA does not have a travel warning/advisory out for Ecuador right now and EIU wouldn’t let you go if it wasn’t safe.  The fact of the matter is that traveling, because of what it is, has some risks and you have to manage those and be smart and safe.  I, personally, am nervous, but no longer scared about crime and illness.  It’s easy to get bottled water here, and my host family cooks with filtered water.  As far as crime goes, pickpocketing seems to be the biggest concern, and I think I’ve prepared myself well by buying a great money belt.  Travel safely, be smart, and I’m incredibly excited to have fun.

 

On Being the Ultimate Chronicler: Making Memories Last

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Studying abroad is all about exploring: exploring yourself as an individual and a young professional; exploring new places; exploring cultures and the world around you… exploring yourself within the culturally diverse world around you!  Each day abroad will bring about a multitude of memories that will forever be a part of you. However, memories fade, and as much as we’d like to be able to bottle them up in a jar and keep them precise and perfectly in-tact forever, we can’t, which is why the value of some sort of documentation throughout your study abroad trip is exponentially heightened.  Check out our list of various ways to be a top-notch chronicler on your study abroad adventure!

  • Journal.  Journaling not only allows you to document the happenings of your study abroad experience with a sense of personal intimacy, but it also gives you a space to vent, reflect, ponder, and track your developmental process throughout the journey.  It is a beautiful tool to getting thoughts and ideas off of your chest, even if you’re not quite ready to share them with the world.
  • …but maybe you are eager to share your thoughts from abroad with the world?  Start a blog!  Blogging is a handy e-version way to document your trip in both words and pictures and share it with your friends, family, and possibly even strangers who may be curious about your location, program, or studying abroad in general.  This also will prevent you from having to repeat your stories over and over again to your curious loved ones.  If they question you about what you’ve been up to, direct them to your blog!  Commonly used free and user-friendly blog hosting sites include Blogger, WordPress, and Weebly.
  • Vlog.  Video blogging or vlogging is the new version of blogging.  Grab your video camera and record yourself talking, exploring, and going about your day-to-day!  Vlogs can be easily shared for free through YouTube.  For inspiration, check out a vlog series from EIU’s very own Rachel R., who is currently studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea!
  • Intimidated by committing to a consistent, in-depth journal?  Keep a daily one-sentence journal that is manageable and allows for brief documentation of each day’s most memorable moment summarized in one simple phrase.  Even consider using an e-based version like a daily Instagram post.
  • Collect the little tangible memories from your adventures (ticket stubs, public transport cards, coins, pamphlets, maps, brochures, receipts, business cards, preserved flowers or leaves – anything your heart desires!) and compile them to create a DIY travel scrapbook, like this one here!
  • Instagram.  Whether you create a separate account for your travels or use your personal account, get creative and post photos on Instagram.  You know what they say, a picture’s worth a thousand words!

How else do you like to document your experiences?  Share them below!

Ciao for now,
EIU OSA

Recognize Us?

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SMILEY LITTLE MEERKATS | PHOTO CREDIT: ANNA TOWER, FCS IN SOUTH AFRICA, 2013

We got a face lift!

Welcome back to our new and improved EIU Study Ablog!  Start by checking out our about page as well as our past and present student blogs.  We hope this resource serves as a place to live vicariously through our students’ experiences as well as get tips and tricks to making the most of your study abroad adventure.

Now this is where you come in.  To maximize our potential, we are seeking dynamic, creative, insightful writers to post diverse, exciting content for our blog.  If you’re currently a) studying abroad b) reminiscing about your life-changing time abroad* or c) planning your upcoming study abroad trip, then we want to hear from you!  We’re looking for both one-time spotlight posts and program-long editors – the choice is yours!

Interested?  E-mail the OSA GA Rachel at ralindhart@eiu.edu for details.

Merry Meerkat Wednesday!  We’ll see you back here soon.

*study abroad alumni: need ambassador hours?  write a post to earn some time!

The Truths About Studying Abroad

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” Azar Nafisi

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Everyone will tell you how cool it is that you are studying abroad. How much fun you are going to have. How many cool sites you are going to see. But did anyone tell you how much you were going to change? Did they tell you that once you leave you will not be returning home the same person you once were? Did they tell you how differently you are going to see the world, your country, and your peers? If someone did tell me then I did not listen. I knew I would have the time of my life in London, but I never thought it would actually ‘change’ me. Now I have been wrong before, but never this wrong. I came back different. A good different. Coming back a changed person is one of the many truths about studying abroad.

 

 “Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life” Michael Palin

Another truth about studying abroad, you will get the travel bug. The travel bug is the best/worst illness you will ever get. Here is why it’s the worst (I am a firm believer in bad news then good news). Unless you become a flight attendant or some other really cool job that allows you to travel you cannot satisfy the urge to travel. You want to travel ALL THE TIME. I see no problem in traveling all the time, but my bank account sees something completely different. Now here is why it’s the best. You are curious and you know that there is so much more out there than the Midwest. It also makes you want to find adventures anywhere, even in the Midwest. You just want to go. Whether it be on a road trip to a new city that is six hours away, or a ten hour plane ride to a different country. As long as you are exploring the travel bug is not biting.

 

 “The fact is, with every friendship you make, and every bond of trust you establish, you are shaping the image of America projected to the rest of the world. That is so important, so when you study abroad, you’re actually helping to make America stronger” Michelle Obama

During your time abroad you will meet and connect with many new and different people. The friends you live with and meet abroad will be different than any friend you will ever have. You open up to them quicker, you grow so close to them nearly instantly, and you learn to trust them so fast. All of this happens so fast because when you are abroad everything is heighten. It is not a comfort zone, so you make them a comfort zone. The friends you meet abroad are the friends that you have no problem spending a twelve hour bus ride with to Amsterdam or going on a six day trip where you are together 24/7. You all have an incredibly special bond because they get it. They understand how it felt to see the sunrise over the Thames at 5am. They know what you mean when you say how small you felt on top of that mountain in Scotland. They tasted that delicious macaroon under the Eiffel Tower, and remember how rich it was. One of the truths about studying abroad is you will meet friends who will last a lifetime and who will always understand you.

 

“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves.” Pico Iyer

-Jordan Nelson

From the Office of Study Abroad, Thank you Jordan for your enlightening blog post