Holi: Festival Of Colors!

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During the afternoon on Friday the 24th of April, 2015, the Office of Study Abroad will be hosting the third annual HOLI: FESTIVAL OF COLORS from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Library Quad of Eastern Illinois University. Admission is FREE, so come out and celebrate the spring season with us in an explosion of color and friendship.

The celebration originated as a Hindu religious holiday, mainly in India and Nepal, as a day to rid oneself of past errors, end conflicts, forgive and forget. It also marked the beginning of spring, and the tradition of spreading colors everywhere is a way to celebrate and encourage the coming growth of spring’s flowers and plants. The festival has since spread throughout other Asian countries and on to countries like the United States. Here at Eastern, the Festival of Colors gives students an opportunity to get together with their friends and work off the stress of upcoming exams and the end of the semester.

People of all ages and professions are encouraged to come and make a mess. As per tradition, colorful powder will be distributed to be spread on friends, family, and strangers. Participants will be sure to leave covered in all sorts of color with a smile on their face. Returning participants will remember the festival well and are sure to encourage new people to remember to wear white T-shirts or at least something they do not mind getting messy.

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It’s sure to be a fun and messy time. Save the date, and I’ll see you there!

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Happy Lunar New Year!

Today is the Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year!

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The name of the holiday is based on the Chinese calendar being lunisolar which means the months coordinate to the cycles of the moon but the length is periodically adjusted to keep it relatively in sync with the solar year, which the United States follows. Because the Chinese are not the only ones who celebrate this holiday, the name Chinese New Year is interchangeable with Lunar New Year.

New Year festivities are a tradition for celebrating great ancestors, family, religion, and a surplus of abundance. Lunar New Year is celebrated through lantern festivities, fireworks, dancing, music, food, and relaxation. It is also traditional for windows and doors to be decorated with red paper-cut outs with themes of “good fortune”, “happiness”, “wealth”, and “longevity.”

Check out this from the New Dragon Dance Performers as they dance in honor of the Lunar New Year!

Every year for the lunar calendar is marked by one of the 12 zodiacal animals: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. This year is the year of the sheep, but there has been some conflict over what the Chinese word yang translates into: ram, sheep, or goat. The ancient Chinese symbol meant goat; so, those in China more commonly use goat as this years animal. People in other Asian countries disagree. In Korea, the symbol more commonly means sheep. All three translations are technically correct. I guess it just depends of what animal you can find in your area.

Do you want to find out what animal coordinates with your birth year? Click Here

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Q&A: Missy on South Korea

Another installment to our Q&A Series dedicated to our returning students. Hear their thoughts from best to worst and everything in between.

Missy Muser

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Graduating this December as an EIU Finance major and Economics & Biology minor, Missy decided to study abroad this past summer in South Korea. Originally from Coles City, IL she ventured off to the South Korean city of Suwon where she studied at Ajou University for a month long program.

Q1: FOOD , your favorite subject & ours. Best dish? Worst dish? New recipe you picked up?

I loved the food in Korea, so picking one best dish is difficult. I absolutely loved Topokki, which is a spicy dish that included rice cakes. The rice cakes were delicious and the best way to describe them would be comparable to a thick, chewy noodle. I’m a terrible cook so I didn’t come home with Korean recipes, but when I’m craving one of their dishes I find myself going out of my way to dine at a Korean restaurant here in the states.

Q2: PLACES , talk about your favorite spot in your home away from home. Where? Why?

During my travels I was able to visit the capital of Seoul, Korean Folk Villages, Buddhist Temples, and even spent a few days on Jeju Island, which were all incredibly beautiful places. My favorite me-time place was the picnic tables area in front my dorm. Surrounded by trees and chirping birds, it was there where I would spend my mornings drinking coffee and reading my book because I found the spot to be quite soothing.

Q3: TOP SECRET , did a local point you to a market, pub, or park you didn’t know about? Pass it on.

A few of the Korean students lived in the surrounding area so they pointed us to some of the better local food places.  They took us to a melting pot type restaurant where each table would cook their own food of beef, seafood, or vegetables. It was delicious! Another great spot they showed us was a barbecue restaurant.  In South Korea the barbeque doesn’t include barbeque sauce, but simply the grilling of the meat.  At some restaurants you grill the meat yourself along with cooking kimchi eggs along the outside of the table, which were also very good.

Q4: NOPE , are there things you don’t miss from your destination? What? Why?

One of the few things I don’t miss is the lack of outdoor garbages.  For whatever reason, they just weren’t that common in South Korea. Usually a pile of garbage would just occur throughout the day around one location, but I couldn’t bring myself to just leave my garbage sitting there.

Q5: YEP , you’re actually homesick for something from abroad. What? Why?

I was most homesick for coffee while abroad. I was given coffee singles from a girl I had met while I was out there, but most of the coffee had sugar or sweetener added to the mix, which made it too sweet for my liking. Even the coffee I bought from their convenient stores was still too sweet, which just couldn’t satisfy my intense American coffee craving!

Q6: SPEAKING OF , what new vocabulary have you added to your repertoire after study abroad?

I find myself saying the word “yes” in several different languages instead of just in English.  I also say, “Bulio” (I don’t know) and “Kamsahamnida” (thank you) in Korean quite often as well.

Q7: SHOCKING , you could hardly believe your eyes when you saw … What? Why?

The airport. It was shocking finally reaching my destination and it became that epic moment where I felt like I was really in a new land. I couldn’t wait to spend the following month in South Korea and meet so many new people.

Q8: WEEKENDS , full of travel. Where did you go? How did you choose? Was it difficult to plan?

I visited the city of Gangnam (yes, from the catchy song), and there I was able to see some nightclubs and roam the streets. A few of us from the program also traveled to Caribbean Bay, which is a well-known water park, and took about 1.5 to 2 hours to reach. Lastly, we went to Jeju Island for a school field trip and were able to explore the beaches and see the beautiful landscape.

Q9: TOUGHEST DAY , everyone has one. What challenged you while you were abroad? Why?

My toughest day was actually the day I had to leave. The day was tear-filled and it was just heart wrenching knowing I had to leave all the people I became so close with. Many of us have kept in contact with each other, which I am grateful for, and some I will be seeing again soon if I get to return to South Korea in the spring for a job opportunity.  However, I knew when leaving that it wouldn’t ever be the same situation and experience if I were to ever travel to South Korea again.

Q10: PARTING WORDS. What would you say to students worried / concerned / afraid of Asia?

Everyone is always a little nervous traveling to a new place, but if you are open and friendly to people, they will open up as well and that will help you make connections with people from all over the world.  Also, don’t be afraid of not making friends because if you are open to meeting new people it will be very easy to make those types of relationships with others.

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Thanks, Missy! We’re glad you enjoyed your study abroad experience in South Korea!

My relationship with India.

Originally published on Sara’s travel blog on August 2, 2012

Today, I will be returning to the United States after spending the last two and a half months in India. I don’t know how you all feel about the question, “So….how was your trip?”, but I hate it! How can I even possibly begin to explain what has just happened to me in the past two and a half months in India? Yet, the best description of an experience like studying abroad came from one of the students at my hostel during one of our tea time discussions: studying abroad is like a relationship. In the same way you can’t simply answer questions about the health of your marriage or relationship, you can’t describe the good and the bad of your study abroad experience in one simple response. It seems that this is the type of relationship I have with India.

Stage 1: My first date with India. I arrived in India on May 16, 2012. Like most first dates, the first day was a little awkward. I watched a man pee on the side of the road, walked around the streets feeling very aware of my whiteness, almost got hit by a few rickshaws, and ate food that I did not recognize and was too afraid to ask what it was.

Stage 2: Getting comfortable. It wasn’t until I arrived in Mumbai, after spending a week in Delhi, that I began to feel like this relationship between India and I could really work. I stayed with my friend’s sister and visited an old friend from Eastern who I had not seen in two years and didn’t think I would ever see again. I even wore a saree and was fed lots of delicious food (this time I was comfortable enough to ask what it was).

Stage 3: Is it love that I’m feeling? After Mumbai, I spent two weeks at the Asha House, a children’s home near Delhi. Here, I fell in love with 29 beautiful children who accepted me immediately upon my arrival. They tried (and failed) to teach me Hindi. But, they taught me cricket and seven stones, while I taught them how to do the Hokey Pokey.

Stage 4: Could India be the one? After my stay at the Asha House, I ventured down to Hyderabad, the location of my study abroad program. In Hyderabad, several Indian families welcomed me into their homes, and it was here, in Hyderabad, where I attended my first Indian wedding, mastered the art using Indian public transportation, and made friendships that will last a lifetime. I felt less like “a foreigner” and more like a part of a community.

Like most relationships, not everything has been perfect, including the times I have been ripped off by rickshaw drivers and shopkeepers, when the power goes out every five minutes for just enough time to disconnect my computer from the internet, and the internal struggle I face every time I see someone throw their garbage on the side of the road. But, I guess this is just how it is with relationships: you accept the other for the good and the bad. Although I have been in India just two and a half short months, I think I might just be in love.