Overcoming Difficulties in Australia

The five months I spent studying at the Australian National University are among the
most prominent months of my life thus far. From making friends, experiencing a new culture, and learning about myself, I can conclude that deciding to study abroad was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Australia is a beautiful country, and the people are wonderful. However, there were many difficult parts of my journey as well. Moving overseas to a foreign country was a little scary, and making friends and feeling comfortable took time.
When I arrived in Canberra, I was very concerned about what my experience would be
like. I left sunny summer in Oregon and entered the middle of a rainy cold winter, students were not back from their winter holidays yet, and Canberra just seemed empty which only made me feel instantly lonely. Not to mention, the jet-lag hit me hard and I was tired at all the wrong times. Within a week or so, I became friends with the residents on my floor, and a few of them were more welcoming than I could’ve hoped for. They went out of their way to invite me to go grocery shopping with them and just hang out with me in my room. I am so grateful for the friends I made, particularly my friend Claire, who helped me feel much more comfortable in a new place.
School wise, the system was very different. Campus was emptier than it is at U of O because lectures are not compulsory; they’re all recorded and available online to be viewed in various speeds. Mid semester exams were made into a more serious deal at ANU as well; all students had to show their ID to enter the testing room and sit in their assigned seat, leaving their backpacks in a separate room. I took two psychology courses and two sociology courses! One of the highlights of my experience was flying over to New Zealand with one of my friends during our mid-semester break. The trip was spontaneous; the only part we had planned was a one-way flight to Auckland! Once we got there, we figured out where to stay, rented a car, and ended up working our way down the north island and flying to the south island, and then driving across to Queenstown. New Zealand showed me the most incredible sights I have ever seen in my life, and I don’t think many other views can top the glacial waters and ginormous icecapped mountains. I spent almost three weeks aimlessly working my way around New Zealand, and I have to say it was one of the best times of my life.
Overall, my time abroad was life changing. I didn’t realize how independent I was until I
had to be, and learning that is priceless. I feel more confident, experienced, and cultured. Five months away from home was hard, but frequent FaceTime calls to best friends and family really helped. Despite any difficulties I faced, I am so glad I was able to spend five months of my life in the land down under.

-Anna Graham, Fall 2016


This past fall semester I had to opportunity to study abroad in Mexico City. There I attended the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), which is the largest university in Latin America. Moving from Eugene, Oregon to Mexico City was quite the experience. I remember getting on the plane to go to Mexico City on July 30th, my eyes were red from tears falling down my cheeks. I was scared and sad to be so far away from home in a big city where I did not know anyone. I remember praying that the five months I would spend in Mexico City would go by fast so that I could return to Oregon and be surrounded by the familiar things I grew up with.

Back to where it all began → Mexico

In the year 2000 my family immigrated to the United States from a small town in the state of Michoacan called Patamban. At the time I was barely 5 years old, therefore my memories of living there had faded over time. I chose to go to Mexico because I wanted to experience first hand what it was like to live in Mexico, especially in a big city. While in the United States I have only lived in Newberg, Oregon which has a population of nearly 23,000 people and Eugene which is significantly bigger than Newberg but nowhere near the almost 20 million people that make up Mexico City.

Mexico City Spanish

Spanish is my first language but because I had to juggle with learning English as well at an early age I tend to be more comfortable with speaking Spanglish. Therefore when I arrived in Mexico City I felt intimidated by all the other spanish speakers. First of all they spoke a lot faster than I was used to hearing. Throughout the spanish courses I have taken at the UO my peers and professors have repeatedly mentioned that I speak very fast in spanish, but it was nothing compared to people in Mexico City. Secondly, my family comes from a more rural area in Mexico, therefore I grew up hearing different slang than the one they use in Mexico City. It amazed me how the Mexicans in the city had several different expressions for one word. For example the word “aguas” which translates to “waters” can mean to “duck down” or to be careful. Being in Mexico City I got to learn a lot of the slang and although it was difficult to understand at first, I can now comfortably use them. My speaking Spanish language consistency definitely improved while studying abroad, however I also learned to be proud of my Spanglish, because at the end of the day it demonstrates the influence both the Mexican and Northwest have had on my life.

Pan De Muerto and Day of the Dead

One aspect about studying abroad that I was excited for was getting to eat all sorts of Mexican food.  As a vegetarian, at first it was challenging to find places that would accommodate to my dietary needs but then I discovered vegetarian tacos and other kinds of foods that did not have meat in them. One of my favorite traditional foods was “Pan de Muerto”. Pan de Muerto is round wheat or flour bread that is made around the Dia de Los Muertos holiday. This holiday is also known as Day of the Dead and it happens November 1st and 2nd and it is a way for people to celebrate their loved ones as well as the afterlife. For the Day of the Dead I went to a small town called Mixcoac which is on the edge of Mexico City. I was amazed when I arrived to this small town because there was all kinds of foods and people dressed up in traditional dresses and painted faces. Previously I had already tried the Pan de Muerto but it did not compare to the hot, sweet freshly baked bread that I ate in Mixcoac. While in Mixcoac I also got to visit the graveyards where people visited their loved ones. The people had chairs by the graves as they sang, ate food, drank tequila and just overall had a good time. There were also several mariachi groups which was great to see and hear. My favorite part of this holiday was seeing people coming together to honor their ancestors in such a celebratory way, which is not common in the United States.

Dancing → Bachata, Salsa and Cumbia

I can not write about my experience abroad without talking about dancing. While studying at the UNAM I decided to take bachata classes. Bachata is a partner dance that originated in Dominican Republic. It is very popular amongst the Latino community, but I had never had the opportunity to take any classes while in Oregon. Additionally I wanted to meet new people so I signed up for the class at the UNAM campus. Without a doubt that was the best decision I made while at the UNAM. Before I knew it I found myself surrounded by an amazing group of friends who encouraged me to sign up for salsa and cumbia classes. What started out as an extracurricular activity soon became my favorite part of the day. I was taking dance classes five days a week and some days up to three hours a day. Slowly my dancing skills improved and I was able to go out to the clubs and local dance gatherings in Mexico City. Dancing is such an important part of Mexico City’s culture and this enabled me to connect to other cultural aspects. As I mentioned previously I made a lot of Mexican friends through these dance classes and this was important to me because I wanted to interact with students who grew up Mexico City.


On December 24th I got on a plane in Mexico City and headed back to Oregon. This time around, I couldn’t help but cry. I cried because I had fallen in love with Mexico as a whole and especially Mexico City. I realize it sounds so repetitive to say “Studying abroad changed my life” but it is true. I believe that Mexico City was the ideal place for me because it helped me be more independent, improved my Spanish and opened my eyes to career opportunities I had not considered in the past. I am thankful for all those who supported me on my journey to study abroad, I can honestly say I couldn’t have done it without you all. If you have are considering studying abroad take the next step and talk to an advisor. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

 Jules Martinez-Plancarte, Fall 2016

Service Learning in Mexico

This summer I traveled to San Cristobal de las Casas, a small city located in Chiapas, Mexico for a seven week, faculty led study abroad program. This program was undoubtedly one of the best experiences I have ever had and even two months later, I still think about it and miss it all every day.3One of the most unique aspects of this program was the two-week service learning portion. Each student was assigned an organization to work with in or around San Cristobal and was partnered with a Mexican student who was working on the project long-term. I worked with another student from San Cristobal at a small school in Zinacantan, a neighboring Mayan community. The school, Yo’onik (Yo’onik is Tzotil for ‘heart’), is a non-profit that provides remedial education for students for just as small fee (it is free on Saturday though so every child has an opportunity to attend at least once a week). It is entirely operated by volunteers and funds from donors.

This project definitely pushed me way out of my comfort zone. During these two weeks, I generally had the mornings free because the children did not arrive to their classes until 1. I ended up being able to spend that extra time hanging out with my host family or with my service learning partner exploring the city and the areas around San Cristobal. For almost two weeks, I was spending the majority of my time with people who did not know English and I was forced to really push myself in trying to learn and improve my own Spanish skills.

5In the afternoons, we would take one of the vans or cars that drive up to Zinacantan to start teaching classes. The first week I helped my project partner teach classes on the environment. The kids were enthusiastic to learn and although they were a little shy around me at first, it did not last long. We would spend recess playing tag and hide-and-go-seek or I would just monitor them as they played and pretended on a playground made completely out of tires.

After classes, we would plan the lesson for the next day and make all the materials necessary—the school does not have a lot of resources so making materials for the students required a lot of creativity. I would usually get back to the center in San Cristobal around 5 or 6 which left the evening free for exploring. One of my more memorable evenings was climbing to the top of a huge hill where the Iglesia de Guadalupe sits and watching the sun-set over the mountains surrounding San Cristobal. I am easily overwhelmed by the beauty of the world, but there really was something magical in the peace of that evening.

The next week of my service learning project was a little bit different. My project partner asked me if I would be willing to teach English classes and while there’s not much I could teach the children in a span of a week it was a wonderful experience that pushed me completely out of my comfort zone. Let’s just say we spent a lot of time playing loteria (Bingo) because I will be honest, I’m not exactly what one might refer to as ‘qualified’. But I am hoping the kids got something out of it, even if that was just having fun for a week with a teacher from a different country.2

One of the most interesting things about working in Zinacantan is that the culture there is completely different than it is in San Cristobal. It is a Mayan community that has its own laws and customs apart from the Mexican government. While I was working there, there was a celebration going on. The hill where Yo’Onik sits is considered sacred and as part of a ritual during this celebration, all of the most important political leaders would climb to the top of the hill and a band would play for them. I never figured out why or what the significance was, but it was definitely an interesting experience to have the leaders of Zinacantan standing right outside of our little school.

Another evening, one of the teachers at the school invited us over for coffee and pan dulce. We sat in her kitchen which was made entirely out of adobe while her sisters worked on artesanias to sell all throughout Mexico. The grandmother (I believe) showed me another room where they make and store all of these beautiful pieces of art—everything from purses, to belts, to dolls. I was humbled by their hard work and all of the beautiful things they make with their hands and grateful for their hospitality and for showing me this part of their lives.

The last day of my service learning project I was sick and was not able to go. This is probably my biggest regret (not that I had much control), but I was sad that I could not say goodbye to the kids. They did all write me sweet little notes though and stuck them on a big piece of construction paper. I have it hanging in my bedroom now because it really meant a lot—the whole experience did. Although the service learning portion was only two weeks of the entire program, it definitely impacted me deeply. It was a unique and unforgettable opportunity that I am forever grateful for.4


-Susanna Hedenstrom, Summer 2016

The Genius of Study Abroad: Revolutionary Imagination

I sit here, cramped and crowded, on the plane flying at mind-boggling speeds toward familiar oceans. The window is dark, wet with clouds turning surprisingly quickly into beautiful patterns of ice. I lay my head back and consider the time I have been away from my little corner of the world. I have had the incredible opportunity to travel throughout Europe over these last three weeks, and I have learned a great deal from my adventures and experiences during this time. I have examined in great depth and detail the meaning of “travel” and of “place”, and I have considered what each of those terms means in relation to myself. I have departed Portland, Oregon as one person and left Paris, France entirely another. In order to understand the true meaning of “study abroad”, I have followed in the footsteps of symbols and figures of the world in a myriad of disciplines, and attempted to understand why they chose to go abroad in their own time and how that experience affected their work and their own perceptions of the world.cliffs-of-moher

I arrived in Ireland, meeting the nine other students who would become my traveling companions. We excitedly traded stories of our flights and embarked together to University College Dublin, our first home away from home. Dublin is full of landmarks, though none so well known as the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben. Ireland’s capital city instead offered a contrast to such dramatic manmade exhibitions. I found myself appreciating the role nature played within the city (and outside it) far more than any architecture. One of my favorite memories was a day trip I and another student took across the country to see the Cliffs of Moher. It was an unforgettable experience and offered a unique view of Ireland. The trinity-college-dublinshockingly green, stunningly beautiful rolling hills and the cloudy gray skies created a beautiful color palette against which to appreciate the culture. I remember it vividly; recalling these hues also brings forth a memory of euphoric music and laughter, the trademarks of the friendly Irish people.

The stunning city of Oxford was filled with the most elegant buildings I had ever encountered. The entire city appeared almost as a single, sprawling castle. Everywhere we went, throughout tours, walks, and strolls, I found myself gazing upwards in awe at the grace and beauty of the colleges. I especially loved visiting the Bodleian Library. This particular collection was incredibly large and full of treasures, on display in exhibits for the public to appreciate. The original draft of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the Magna Carta – all of these amazing artifacts added to my wonder. It was a massive building, more modern than the rest of the town but open and accessible to any who might wish to enter. The library to me represented Oxford well; a hub of learning for any who might wish to search for it and full of historical treasures waiting to be admired. I fell in love with the tranquility of the city and the way I felt while there, and promised myself I would return someday.

The most surprising city, London, was unlike any other European city big-benI had visited previously. Leaving Oxford behind, London was the next step into the 21st century. Bright, loud, and busy, the city was excited to be alive. Londoners walked by their world-renowned sights and symbols on their morning commutes. I stood in front of Big Ben in awe; it surprised me with its elegance. I had never spent much time examining photos of the gigantic clock, believing it to simply be nothing more than a timepiece. Now I stood irresolute, jostled by the hurrying crowd and saw for the first time the intense detail that had been placed within the monument. London is the home of so much of human culture. We had the astonishing opportunity to visit both West End and the Globe Theatre. Attending those performances of The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, and Macbeth were experiences I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Paris is unique to itself, and I believe that is why so many, myself included, feel their hearts pine for it. It is full of beauty, romance, history, and literature, but it is a living city, and reflects this in its dirty metro stations and streets. The Eiffel Tower is famous, but I was more interested in la Cathedral de Notre Dnotre-dameame – the Church of Our Lady, sitting in the heart of the Left Bank. I sat for a long time in front of the church. The sun was setting, and it was bathed in orange light. The crowds were thinning, and the people were quiet as they began to consider dinner plans and their evening activities. I quietly examined each arch and window of the façade, looking at each carved face and wicked grinning gargoyle. I imagined a small silhouette reaching up to ring the bells, and felt literature come to life. I focused so intently on the architecture, without a camera or distraction of any kind. It evoked in me a sense of peace and a sense of loss, on my final evening in the city. The church was serene, overlooking the Seine with the patience of ages and looking down on tiny me with the same tranquility. I stood, vowed to return as soon as I could, and walked back along the winding streets in the twilight.

The world is both bigger and smaller than it seems to one looking out at it from their own window at home, and this paradoxical state seemed to be in constant flux for me as I traveled. I walked streets that were filled with people just like me. I felt as though the world was not truly as alien and mysterious as it sometimes seems from far away. I felt confident in the knowledge that though this place was new and on the other side of the world, it was really no different than the small quiet streets of my suburban home in Oregon. This illusion was displaced nearly as quickly as it formed, however, as I gazed in awe upon buildings older than I could fathom and landmarks both huge and beautiful. This incredible adventure was meaningful beyond all expression, and I am forever grateful to everyone who made it possible. I have been changed for the better in so many ways by my experiences abroad. I will cherish my love for these places forever, and hope someday to see them again.


-Delane Cunningham, Summer 2016 happy

A Summer in Tokyo

I had been to Tokyo once before, but this summer I got the opportunity to return to Japan and study abroad for seven weeks at Senshu University. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity. I learned a lot about the Japanese language, but more importantly, got to experience the culture and make friends from all over the world.

We were able to experience many aspects of Japanese culture, traditional and modern. One of my img_0546favorite days this summer (despite the humid heat) was the trip to Kamakura, an old part of Japan just outside of Tokyo that houses many shrines and temples. We went to half a dozen shrines that day. At one we hiked up the side of a hill where the hydrangeas were blooming. After, we all got paper fortunes- omikuji. The next shine was Daibustu, with a giant statue of Buddha. At another shrine, we hiked through a forest of tall bamboo. And at another, we saw a traditional Japanese wedding taking place in the bright red building in the center. Before we returned that day, we also went to the beach at Enoshima and one of our Canadian friends got to see the ocean for the first time. On other img_0501occasions we went to Kabuki theatre and a folk museum.

The streets of Tokyo are crowded, much different than Oregon where I have spent my whole life. Sometimes the crowded trains and thoroughfares could be overwhelming, but there was also an energy there that I miss. It’s weird to leave my house now and not be around hundreds of people at a time. Tokyo is the biggest and most populous city in the world, and I think even if I spent 7 years there, let alone the seven months I had, I don’t think I would even begin to scratch the surface of all it has to offer. It made every day that we went to the metropolitan area an adventure.

But by far the most rewarding aspect of my time abroad is the new friendships that I forged there. Classes were long, but we still had plenty of time afterwards just to explore Tokyo and spend time with the other students.Whenever we made plans, whether we were going across Tokyo to Ikebukuro or Akihabara or just walking down near the train station for karaoke, it was always an invitation. Everyone was so open and inviting. And since we lived in an international dorm with students from all around the world, on any given day, I would be hanging out with not just Americans and Japanese, but I also made bonds with new Korean, Chinese, French, Vietnamese, German, Canadian, Italian, and English friends. They have, all of them, opened my eyes to the world.shibuyaOverall, the experience made me aware of how big the world is. It can be so easy to get caught up in our comfortable lives, not even really aware of just how much goes on outside of our own city, state, or country. I hope I never lose the perspective of how much else there is out there, and how many people there are with completely different experiences. In meeting so many friends from around the globe, it opens your eyes to how easy it is to make a bind with people who may seem completely different from yourself on the surface.tokyonight


-Blair Prater, Summer 2016

Teaching in Cambodia

Having never left the United States before, learning to live and work in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on my own was an opportunity of a life time. I have learned more about myself in the past three months than I would have ever imagined I could in my four years at the University of Oregon. I was given numerous opportunities throughout the duration of my internship that allowed me to fall in love with the country, the culture and the people, as well as learn about a whole new part of myself in the process.img_7289

I arrived at Sovann Komar Children’s village on the first day of my internship with my roommate Ruth, the schools English teacher.  The school day was already in full swing as our bus regularly got us to school half an hour after class started. I spent my first day shadowing Ruth, and touring the school. The children were all very excited to meet me and the held my hands as I walked through the school all the while chattering away about different things that I wasn’t faintly familiar with yet. By the time lunch came I was overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality that the village offered to me. The staff was very supportive and grateful for my presence from the very beginning. Although It was overwhelming and stressful to be alone in a new country, I was immediately accepted into the community at Sovann Komar and at the time there was no better feeling in the world.

With the help of teachers and staff at Sovann Komar I began to settle into my new surroundings and learn how to appreciate the more relaxing culture that exists in Southeast img_7473Asia. I found it very hard at first to transition from my busy American student life to a more flexible professional environment. However, as the summer wore on I began to adapt and replicate their culture in my own daily routine until I was able to let my organization and time management skills rest to appreciate all that was available to me in the moment at the village.

For the majority of my time in the village I taught various classes for about six hours a day. I created and taught two lesson plans; one that focused on animals and one that focused on multiculturalism and diversity. Teaching came with its own set of challenges, language barriers were one obstacle that I continuously worked to overcome. I learned how to effectively work through and adapt to cultural barriers that I have never been exposed to before. As a human service professional, this skill will be very applicable as I continue to work with vulnerable populations. After teaching for eleven weeks, I was also able to leave the two curriculum packets that I developed for the school to continue teaching.

img_6893I was fortunate to have my weekends free to adventure around the country and learn more about the rich history that exists in Cambodia. One of my most memorable trips was when I took a bus six hours north to Siem Reap to visit the Angkor Wat temples. I spent two days wandering in and out of the largest religious monuments in the world, observing gigantic intricate pieces of stone that were quite possibly older than anything I had ever seen before. I was amazed at how beautiful and individual each temple was, it really signified why they call Cambodia the Kingdom of Wonder.

I was able to learn and grow personally and professionally in a way that I have never had the opportunity to before. I think about my community at Sovann Komar often and will be forever grateful for the gratitude they showed me during my stay. I no longer feel limited by my lack of travel knowledge. Through this trip I was able to gain confidence in myself as a teacher, traveler, and individual, and although thi s may have been my first international trip I know that it will not be my last.img_7436

-Chelsea Kimura, Summer 2016


A Trip to Palenque

This summer I spent seven weeks in Southern Mexico on the GEO Maya Communities and Social Justice in Chiapas Study Abroad Program. For the most part we stayed in the beautiful city of San Cristobal de las Casas, but we also explored a lot more of the state of Chiapas. img_20160805_154246-1jb9et8-300x169Our longest excursion was an overnight trip to Palenque.

The trip one way was supposed to take about five hours but it was closer to six due to the winding roads and low speed limits, that are enforced by speedbump. After we left San Cristobal the temperature increased from about 75 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 with close to 100% humidity.  We left the mountains and drove into the rainforest, although certain parts had been cleared for farming or raising cattle. Finally, after a six-hour car ride we made it to the small city of Palenque. We stayed just outside of the city center in a nice hotel that had a pool and air conditioning. My roommate and I walked into the town to explore it a little bit and went to a pizzeria, while everyone else ate at the hotel. After dinner we all went swimming and then we went to an awful hotel karaoke bar.img_20160820_120414-15r0zqm-300x169

The next morning, we got up at eight and it was almost just as hot as when we arrived the evening before. We ate breakfast and took off toPalenque. The town Palenque is named so because it is next to an ancient Mayan city of the same name. We arrived and I bought a hat and a huge water bottle because I could tell I was going to need it. There were vendors and tourists everywhere. Our tour guide gave us our tickets, we covered ourselves in bug spray and we all went in. At the entrance to the site there is a sign informing visitors that Palenque is a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) heritage site. Basically, that meant if there was ever a war that threatens the site the UN would come in and protect it because it is an important human historical site.

After we climbed a jungle covered hill, we came to a plateau and the trees opened up allowing us to see a grass field before a giant stone edifice. We climbed inside of what is known img_20160825_115957-1hw3f57-300x169as the Temple of the Inscriptions and saw a stone sarcophagus painted red with an arsenic rich mineral. Next we headed to the Palace. The Palace has a large maze of tunnels in it, a courtyard, and a Mayan watchtower unique to Palenque. After climbing through tunnels we emerge on top of the Palace and were able to explore it. These are the only two imposing structures we explored because a majority of the site is still covered by tropical forest. Exploring this pre-Columbus American city was a once in a life time opportunity!

-Casey Smith, Summer 2016

Ethiopia: Past, Present & Future

It has been 11 years since I’ve stepped foot in Ethiopia, yet every day I am reminded of this country. The day I arrived in Ethiopia was one of the most exciting moments of my life. As soon as I landed and stepped out of the airport I was greeted by uncles and cousins that I had not seen in over a decade. One of the first things I noticed about Ethiopia is that it has drastically changed. There were skyscrapers on almost every block in the capital city, and it seemed as if common-river-3the amount of people that lived in the city was multiplied by ten! There were so many cars, people, buildings and traffic. For a moment I thought I may have landed in the wrong country. Over the last ten years, Ethiopia has industrialized extensively then I had ever imagined. Nevertheless, although Addis Ababa is now known as the capital of Africa, there were still moments of the old Ethiopia such as cows, goats and sheep running around the city. I also noticed that the only means of “fast food” in the country included grilled corn, or steamed potatoes and samosas on the side of the road. After spending a night in the capital city, Addis Ababa, I began my journey to start my 10 week internship in Aleta Wondo five hours south of the capital.

The journey to Aleta Wondo was not an easy journey, mostly because the roads are not completely paved yet, so the car ride was extremely jerky. Upon entering the Common River gates I was mesmerized, it was like I had walked into a tropical garden. My experience common-river-1interning with Common River has been nothing but enjoyable. All of the faculty and staff on site were always there to help me in anything I needed, and I was able to get a long a create meaningful relationships with all the other international volunteers. In my internship with Common River I completed an ethnographic study of the Sidama tribe in Southern Ethiopia. Throughout my three months in Aleta Wondo, I completed a number of different interviews with the local Sidama people learning about all the different aspects of Sidama culture, including their cultural foods, dance, clothes and I even had the opportunity to participate in the Sidama new year. It was amazing to see how the people of Sidama value their religion. Through my internship in Aleta Wondo I was able to see how much the Apostolic movement has influenced the city. There were church conferences almost every weekend in neighboring towns, in which thousands of people would gather to church. While in Aleta Wondo I also had the chance to explore the city. Aleta Wondo is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever experienced because of its exquisite natural scenery. Aleta Wondo is a sub-tropical area so there common-river-7were several avocado trees, coffee trees, passion fruit, pineapples and more on almost every corner of each street. I also had the opportunity to help teach an English class for students in primary school. Because I come from an Ethiopian background myself and speak the national language, Amharic I was able to efficiently help teach and translate during English lessons with some of the other international volunteers. Although Aleta Wondo was an extremely beautiful city, it was also a city struggling to cope with poverty like many other cities in Ethiopia. Poverty and hunger are serious issues that the beautiful city of Aleta Wondo is still battling, allowing me to truly appreciate the beauty and nature of this city. There were many things that I have learned through this trip but one thing that I am most grateful for from this adventure is the relationships I have created. From the staff and faculty that work at Common River as well as all the students and parents I was able to work with, I will forever be grateful for these relationships I have made and cannot wait to reunite in the coming years.  common-river-5-Ruhama Dimboré, Summer 2016

California to Canada: Vancouver Study Abroad

Growing up in California is a gift and a curse. The California suburbs, much like Hollywood portrays it, is a place of manicured lawn (before the drought), friendly neighbors, and endless sunshine. Despite living in California for most of my life, I’ve never run out of things to do. 03-fujj9176Everything, including a change of lifestyle, was a stone throw away. Lake Tahoe, in the north, with its wood cabins, tranquil sceneries, and ski resorts. San Francisco, located in the opposite direction, with its hi-­‐tech offices, world-­‐famous landmarks, and bustling neighborhoods. Spoiled by the weather and proximity to different settings, the shortcomings of elsewhere becomes more than a nuisance. I would enjoy the novelty of a new location for the first few days then quickly get bog down by something I find irritating. Places like D.C and Texas become too humid. Places like Seoul and Tokyo become too quick-­‐ paced and too dense. This is, however, not to say that California does not share its own set of problems. My bias, as a long time residence of California, meant that there is always a “home is best” mentality. And then I was presented with Vancouver and it changed the way I perceived a place.


Initially, I hesitated to apply for the Vancouver program because it is simply “too close” with barely a seven hours ride from Eugene. It seems like a place that I can visit instead of studying aboard. But the prospect of learning about kinetic architecture (gizmos that transform spaces such as recessing a wall to create a larger space) and living in an urban setting was captivating. As someone wants to design residential housing in the future, I believe it is important to live in one myself. The opportunities Vancouver promised heavily outweighed my initial hesitation, so I applied.


Of all the cities that I had the fortune of living in, Vancouver may be at the top when it comes to livability. This city seems to have it all. My daily commute from my apartment in downtown 01-fujj0232Vancouver to class on Granville Island involves a twelve minute bike ride crossing a bridge and arriving at the destination located under another bridge. Granville Island is like miniature city. During my lunchtime, I would often mingle with the locals or tourists in its large pubic market try one of the dozens of restaurants the island offers, or eat my own lunch at one of its vista points.

I was so curious and so fascinated by what Vancouver has to offer; I would constantly spend all of my free-­‐time biking around exploring with my camera and sketchbook, capturing landscape, people, and even wildlife. I would go to different coffee shops each time so I can take a different path home. Despite going to all the major point of interests, by the end of the trip, I felt like there are still so much more nooks I have not discovered!


I took this curiosity and fascination back with me. Now I often find myself bringing a sketchbook out to sketch the sceneries and being really excited to explore familiar places with new eyes. This mentality allows me to really enjoy what a place has to offer. These places do not have the same charm that California has but they do not have to. They are very charming in their own way.



-Hieu Vo, Summer 2016

Medical Internship in Bolivia

Before going to Bolivia, my greatest anxiety was my Spanish level not being high enough. Although my first few weeks were very challenging with being able to understand and img_1869-1communicate with others in a different language, I am so happy I made the decision to go to a country where not only I would be observing different medical aspects of a new country but I would also be learning a new language. Although it has been amazing to observe medical practices and different forms of health care in a different country, I think it has been even more amazing to improve my Spanish skills and gain the confidence that being able to converse with people in a different language gives.

I have learned that when I am on my own, I am capable of figuring things out and being independent by myself in a different country, even if I can’t speak the language fluently. Before this trip (in the United States), I would be very shy on asking people for directions or asking people for help if I was confused about something, but being in Bolivia has made me a lot more confident on asking people for help, and for taking initiative for myself in the hospitals (like for which rotations I want to go to, or if I want to go to the emergency room in the evenings). I have also gotten a lot more confident in asking people questions if I don’t understand something in Spanish. A lot of times, all of us students in the program wouldn’t understand something that img_2083our medical director said, or that our Spanish teacher said, and they wouldn’t say anything about it. I was always the one to tell them I didn’t understand everything and ask them to repeat it.  I think the greatest reward here has been being able to see things that I wouldn’t have been able to see if I hadn’t taken initiative for myself. For example, I got to see an amazing surgery during my internship, but if I hadn’t asked the doctor if I could go to the emergency room after my rotation, I wouldn’t have been in the hospital when the surgery was going on and I wouldn’t have been able to see it. Additionally, I think me not being scared to try to speak Spanish (or even if I am nervous to try), even when I know that I am going to make mistakes every time I speak has been a great reward because it has allowed me to gain confidence as well as allowed me to improve my Spanish level immensely.

One of my favorite moments on this trip was when I went to the emergency room after my clinical hours to observe. My roommate and I went to the emergency room because one of the doctors had told us he would meet us there at 8pm. However, when we got there, he had already left and we were left alone, unsure of what to do. The doctor told us he was going to call another doctor that was there and he would help us. The new doctor told us that we were going to go to a surgery with him but to just wait in the room for a little bit until the surgery was ready. In the United States, if someone were to tell me to wait for a little bit I would assume 20 or 30 minutes maximum of waiting, but the culture in Bolivia is definitely different when it comes to the perception of time. Instead of waiting for just a little time as they had said, we waited for almost 2 hours for the surgery to start. While we were waiting we were a little confused what was going on because the doctor that had told us to wait never came back to us during the time we were waiting: were we supposed to keep waiting? Did we hear the doctor correctly? Did the doctor already go into the surgery without us? I think if I hadn’t already been in Bolivia for 7 weeks, I would have left, thinking the doctor had forgotten about us, but because I had been here for almost 2 months, I understood the culture a little more and knew that they wouldn’t have forgotten about us, they are just on a different time schedule. One of the main cultural me-in-lab-coat-2differences between Bolivia and the United States is the perception of time (in Bolivia, everyone is at least 20 to 30 minutes late from the predetermined time). Although this cultural difference can be very frustrating at times, I think it has helped me be a little more relaxed and patient, which can be very hard for a perfectionist.


-Sofia Hardin, Summer 2016

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