Author: Sam Bethel

My Semester Abroad in Norwich

It’s difficult to summarize five months abroad in few brief sentences. When my friends and family ask me how the semester in England was I tell them it was great, that I got to travel a lot, meet so many new people and I learned a lot about other cultures and myself. I’m so lucky to be able to say that I have friends from all over the world now. I even got to stay with a few of them in their homes. I traveled to eight different countries and saw landmarks I thought I’d only ever see in textbooks and on the internet. I assimilated to British culture and by the end of the semester I found myself slightly confused when someone would interrupt me and ask if I was American because I forgot I had an accent. But here I won’t reflect on the adventures I had or the places I saw or describe the people I met. Instead I will reflect on a few personal moments that I realized changes in myself.

Participating in a solo exchange instead of a group program allowed me to reach a new level of independence. Of course there were advisors at both universities to help me if I needed it, but I was on my own. Two months into the semester I admitted in my journal, “I have surprised myself with how comfortable I feel here even though I’m here by myself.” I had to step out of my comfort zone and introduce myself to so many people. At first, it was like dating, but for new friends. I became more confident asking questions if I encountered something new or culturally different. I could see how well I was handling my new freedom and I was overcome with this feeling that I could do anything. It felt so empowering.

Another personal quality I improved while abroad was my patience. Whilst traveling, things don’t always go as planned and traveling involves waiting in a lot of queues (the British word for line). Not only did I have to be patient as I traveled from country to country, but I also had to be patient with myself. I was experiencing cultures different than my own and I had to learn and adjust. I couldn’t expect that everything would come naturally to me. Sometimes I made mistakes, but that’s okay because I learned from them.

One particular moment that really stood out to me occurred when I arrived in Berlin. I was traveling alone and I had to take a train from the airport into the city where my friend lived. I made a mistake and got on the wrong train because the train lines were very similar in color on the map. As soon as I realized I was going in the wrong direction I got off at the next stop. The stop was in a rural area and there wasn’t anyone around, the sun was setting, I was in a new country, unable to speak German and I had no way to contact my friend. Usually I would start to panic, and I almost did, but I told myself that getting emotional wouldn’t be helpful because the only person who could get me out of the situation was me. I took a deep breath and used the map to find the best route to get to where I needed to go. Two hours after landing, I had made it to my friend’s flat safe and sound. I was so proud of myself for not shutting down despite the situation I got myself into and I figured it out on my own.

Studying abroad this semester was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I am so glad that I worked hard for the opportunity to go. The world is a beautiful place. I cannot wait to explore more of it. The places you visit and the people you meet are not the only things that make study abroad worthwhile; it’s the things you learn about yourself and the personal changes you experience too. Some of the changes I have highlighted here may seem minor, but overall I feel significantly different. I know that I have returned a more mature, independent and confident woman.

-Alexandra Mullen, University of East Anglia Exchange

Theatre in London

As the time has passed since my trip to London ended, I look back on the whole experience with nothing but fondness and a little bit of sadness at the realization in is over. My time in London taught me independence, team building, and helped me to explore and understand a brand new culture. Although they spoke the same language as me, the British people I encountered had a completely different way of living and outlook on life. They have different priorities individually and as a country that as Americans abroad, we noticed the contributions they made to alter their English-speaking society from ours.

Picture2It would be impossible for me to write about all the theatre we saw in fewer than two pages, so instead I will focus on one of the amazing short trips we took outside of London. Our first outing was to Stratford-upon-Avon, which we all learned means “the town of Stratford that sits on the Avon River.” Shakespeare’s birthplace, the location of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and home to many other original Tudor period buildings provided an excellent example for us of the Tudor Style and a chance to experience life in a smaller British town.

Stratford is luckily only about an hour and half long drive from London, in which we passed many small villages made up of entirely thatched-roofed houses, the Cotswolds, and the steepest hill in England (which they must close down in the winter due to the icy conditions). We arrived to sunny weather, making it a perfect mini-vacation from the hustle and bustle of the city. I was extremely excited to get the chance to visit all the historical buildings surrounding Shakespeare’s life and to see shows at the Royal Shakespeare Company since they are known for such incredible and groundbreaking work. Our first day, we visited the home of Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Aden, which is a working farm with all kinds of animals including sheep, hairy red pigs, and plenty of chickens. I had the most fun, maybe for the whole trip, playing on the playground at the farm. There was a pretty big group of us who were just letting go of any self-consciousness and just playing like we were 8 years old at recess again. There was a wonderful swing that was a giant hoop with rope tied to make a sort of hammock. Two of my friends pushed me on it as I lay on my back looking up at the sky. My immediate reaction when I’m scared is to laugh so I must have looked crazy while I was swinging. They were pushing me really high and I just kept laughing and then crying because I cry when I laugh a lot. I kept shouting “No!” and “I’m going to die!” But the truth is I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun while being so extremely terrified at the same time. I loved watching people have the same reaction as they took a turn on the swing.

After visiting the farm, we went to Shakespeare’s wife’s cottage, which had wonderful gardens to walk through and lovely orchards to take strolls in. Shakespeare wooed Anne Hathaway at this cottage, so it was exciting to see such a significant place in Shakespeare’s life. I loved spending time in the lavender maze there and just relaxing in the sun.

We saw three amazing productions at the RSC while we visited, Love’s Sacrifice (a Jacobean revenge tragedy), The Jew of Malta (one of Christopher Marlowe’s most famous works and to which Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice as a response), and Death of a Salesman (Arthur Miller’s classic). All three shows had extremely high production value, immensely skilled ensembles, and all worked well to captivate their audience during each performance. It was interesting to go to this world-renowned Shakespeare company and not see any plays written by him at all. It was almost ironic that we saw the production of The Jew of Malta, written by one of Shakespeare’s biggest rivals, performed on Shakespeare’s birthday. In fact, for that performance, my seat was in the front row and a man sat down next to me dressed in an outfit made to resemble Shakespeare himself. I was sitting with some of my peers and we all wondered if he was maybe a plant by the company but when we talked to him after the show, he said he was not from the company but that he enjoyed dressing up to celebrate the day. The cast of the show made him come up onstage after and had the entire audience sing him “Happy Birthday.” It was definitely a night I will never forget.

Picture3On that same trip, I also really enjoyed our short visit to Kenilworth Castle, or rather the ruins of a castle built in the 12th Century but primarily used as one of Queen Elizabeth I’s favorite places to dwell. It was amazing to walk through the ruins and feel the ancient history of the land. I sat on one of the hills toward the back of the castle for a long while and just stared at the beautiful countryside. As I sat on that hill, I thought about how lucky I felt to just have seen such wonderful play and visit such historic landmarks. I learned so much about myself (and British history!) on the London program that if I had the chance, I would go back just to experience it all again.

– Elah Seidel, Theatre in London

 

Waterfalls in West Africa

My summer in Ghana has been the most life-shaping and amazing experience of my life. I am so glad to have had the opportunity to travel and intern abroad. I had so many amazing experiences that it was difficult for me to choose just one to write about but I decided to write about hiking to the Wii Waterfall in the Volta region of Ghana. We started on our adventure early Saturday morning. We were all excited to stretch our legs after our eight hour drive the day before (it was only supposed to take 3 hours). We drove for another hour to reach our destination.

Waterfall Group Photo [1]The Wii Waterfall is a well-known attraction in the Volta Region. It’s the largest waterfall in West Africa and is tucked deep into the Volta jungle, near the Togo border. The 16 of us set off with our tour guide Michael, our chaperone Sonny, and Professor Ed Madison from the SOJC. We were all struck with the beauty of the area and it was a pleasant change of scenery and pace from the hustle and bustle of Accra.

We were hiking to the bottom of the waterfall, not the top because the top would’ve taken six hours to hike to. The hike to the bottom took 45 minutes. We all walked along together, laughing at the fact that our tour guide Michael, somehow still had phone service deep into the trip and continued to talk on the phone until we reached our destination.

Wii Waterfall[1]We broke out of the trees and saw the base of the waterfall. It was beautiful with and awe inspiring. We had the opportunity to swim and all of us waded out into the water. It was cold and refreshing. We all tried to swim out as far as where the water landed but the spray was too intense. We had a lot of fun swimming and playing around in the pool. Our hike back to the bus was enjoyable also, but we were sad to leave the waterfall.

-Megan Connor, Media in Ghana

Reflections on Vancouver Spring 2014

Making the decision to study abroad in Vancouver was the best decision I have made in college thus far. I grew up fifteen minutes from Manhattan, feeling privileged, thinking I grew up next to the best city in the world. Moving to Oregon for college, was a big change—no more fast pace, tall buildings, or public transportation systems. In Eugene, my bike became my transportation, tall buildings were replaced with evergreen trees and everything I did took an extra ten minutes. I could never say if I liked the city life, or the “Oregonian life” better; but after living in Vancouver for three months, I don’t need to make that decision anymore. Vancouver is what I like best. It is where I felt most at home.

There is nothing about Vancouver I did not love; okay, except for the squawking seagulls that dwelled on our studio roof, but I could easy fix that with my headphones. I had my favorite market on Davie Street where I got all my fruit and vegetables. The man who worked at the Grainry, a place to buy snacks in bulk on Granville Island, expected me there every day because no matter the quantity of my purchase, I would eat it all during one day in studio. I even found a nail and hair salon I trusted. I have none of that in Eugene and only half of it in New Jersey.

 

DCIM101MEDIAWhile living in Vancouver, I also made it a point to go around Stanley Park at least once a week, sometimes biking, sometimes running. That eight mile trail along the water front was too beautiful to not want to be there all the time. The interior of the park is a forest with endless amounts of trails too. I think it’s my favorite part of Vancouver.

I was afraid of getting lost the first time I ran through the interior of Stanley Park, so Justin came with me. Justin and I ran Stanley Park a few times together. We got to know each other pretty well on our runs. I never kept track of how far we were running because I stayed so engaged in our conversations. I think he always knew how far we were though because he has an incredible sense of direction.

The group I lived with in Vancouver was very eclectic, but we did have one thing in common—a love for architecture. Exploring a new city with fellow architecture students undeniably influenced how great my experience was. When pointing out details or admiring a building, we all just get it. We toured the city on bike with one of Vancouver’s city planners. Every design decision made in the development of Vancouver just makes sense. My favorite part of the development is that pedestrians have the closest access to water, followed by bikers, then cars. The city planning of Vancouver definitely makes it a desirable city to live in.

My roommates, Nicki and Dianna, also had a positive effect on my stay in Vancouver. Although the hotel room we lived in was small for three, I loved every second of it. All the friendships I made while in Vancouver are indescribable. The experiences we had together will never be replaced and I am glad to have met everyone. Of course, last but not least, Stephen Duff was the reason for all of this. Stephen set easterup relationships with Emily Carr professors that I learned so much from. Thomas Groppi, who taught our media class was overly knowledgeable on the programs he taught us, SolidWorks and SoftImage. I am impressed with myself and the rest of the students for how much we learned in a short amount of time. I learned a lot from Stephen in studio as well. He pushed my limits and enhanced my design method. Stephen is such a cheerful professor too. He knew we were all dedicated students; therefore he always made sure we made time for fun. He planned outings for us like a Paella party, and kayaking that got us to stop worrying about school for a little and just enjoy life. That really is why studying abroad in Vancouver was a life changing experience for me—I learned that the best knowledge and creativity comes from enjoying each day and studying what you love.

-Jackie Stinson, Architecture in Vancouver

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