Monday, July 25, 2016

Cultural Programming at CIE

There is no doubt that you will be kept busy while attending Maryville College. Through the cultural ambassador programming and possibly joining GCO, you will have a lot of exposure to activities. Sometimes you will want to be able to do fun activities with friends that you may not have to plan. And that’s where CIE comes in!
A group of MC international students at the Blue plate concert in Knoxville
A group of students at the Blue Plate Concert in Knoxville. 

Every month, CIE plans fun activities for all students – ESL students, international students and U.S. students.  We offer many events to learn about the USA.   In the past, we have celebrated U.S. American Cultural Holidays as a group at I-House. For example, last year we had a Christmas party for all students, but have done Halloween activities as well. One of our biggest events of the year is our annual Thanksgiving Dinner.  We celebrate with international students and our local social host families to learn about and celebrate this popular U.S. American holiday.  Students have set up international dance parties on campus and coordinated fashion shows. These events are fun and allow you to teach friends about your culture.

The stairs at international house decorated with Red Christmas Stockings
The stairwell decorated for
Christmas.
Other times, we offer the opportunity to learn about local Tennessee culture!  We explore the Great Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg. I-House has adventured out to rivers for white water rafting or tubing and gone hiking in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Some years there have also been weekend trips to Nashville, Atlanta or other cities. These events are organized by I-House and students can sign up for a reasonable fee.

If there are any activities that you and your friends are interested in, you can tell the staff at I-House. Whether the idea is for an on campus program or off campus excursion, we can work together to see if the activity is a good fit for I-House programming. If it is a good fit, we can work together to plan the event for students to enjoy.

A group of students white water rafting
White Water Rafting
To help students out with more practical trips, I-House offers weekly shopping trips to local supermarkets and stores. Each Wednesday, you will have the chance to sign up to go to one local store for a short shopping trip. This allows you to get school supplies, some groceries or anything else you may need. About once a month we go to Knoxville to the international markets, or Pigeon Forge outlets, or a bigger mall in Knoxville.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Global Citizenship Organization

By Kristen Rolston

5smiling individuals are posing and their clothes are covered in colorful powder.
Kristen (center) and friends after the Holi
celebration. 
Global Citizenship Organization, or GCO, personally has felt like a family to me. I've met students from all over and each of them has very different personalities, but every single one of them is accepting and friendly. When I first came to Maryville our previous president invited me to join the leadership and he became one of my good friends – I still talk to him even though he has returned to Cyprus. One of my funniest memories is when I came to help make signs for our "world directory" post that stands outside of I-House, and all of the students kept asking me if I was the girl coming from Ireland because of my red hair. From then on, I met more friends than I thought I would and now have connections all over the world. I also have a language buddy to practice my Chinese with!


students are standing on a the steps in front of bartlett, wearing traditional clothing from many countries
Students at the International Fashion Show.
GCO is a Maryville College organization intent on helping MC students connect with other students from all over the world through visual presentations (dances, PowerPoint, panels, etc.). Any student is welcome to join and sign up for emails regarding organization events. Typically every Friday at 3:30 in Bartlett Hall, students put together a presentation on their home country or some cultural aspect of a country. When there isn't a presentation there
are lots of parties, dances, and activities to be had!
a large group of students are standing in front of a presentation screen. one is holding the armenian flag
Students attending a country
presentation.

Some of our most popular events are Holi, the Love, Sex and Marriage Panel, Fashion Show and our themed dance parties. ​

Currently there is a leadership position open for any international student interested in being directly involved in organizing events. Below I have attached some pictures from some of our events and a link to our page: https://www.facebook.com/MaryvilleGCO/​.

Please like us and share our page!​

a group of students are outside throwing colorful powder up into the air. they are celebrating holi

Monday, July 11, 2016

Maryville College Cultural Ambassadors

At Maryville College, we want to help all students become active leaders in their community. To help International and Exchange students achieve this goal, the Center for International Education has the Cultural
a group of students with a lot of colorful powder on their clothes at the holi celebration
Holi Celebration 
Ambassadors program. Cultural Ambassadors are meant to get involved and have fun while sharing their culture with students, faculty and staff. Cultural Ambassadors will in turn learn about U.S. culture through active participation in at least one organization on campus. Through these activities, we hope that campus will have a strong presence of international leaders.  Every international and exchange student at MC is a Cultural Ambassador and shares her culture throughout her time at the college.


Each term, Cultural Ambassadors strive to share their culture on and off campus and to actively participate in an organization!

A group of international students at homecoming
Group of students at Homecoming
Many students share their culture on campus through the Global Citizenship Organization’s (GCO) cultural presentation times, in your resident halls or during international education week. There is a lot of flexibility in sharing your culture on campus, so students can also plan their own event or way of sharing. For example, perhaps you love to cook traditional food from your culture and want to host a small event teaching others how to cook a dish. If you have traditional clothes or items from your country that you want to share, remember to bring them with you to Tennessee. Staff at CIE are always here to help you brainstorm ideas and help put plans into action.  We will ask you to present your culture AT LEAST ONCE formally on campus, so be prepared!

Sharing your culture off campus can be done in similar ways. CIE organizes at least one off campus visit or fair per semester and you can plan to join in on those events. In past years, we have set up events with the Boys and Girls Club, Rotary Association, Alcoa Elementary School, William Blount High School, Clayton-Bradley STEM Academy or local churches.  You’re always encouraged to reach out to other organizations though and set up other small events or activities.
students sharing traditional chinese new year activities at isaac's
Chinese New Year Celebration at Isaac's Cafe

The last requirement is a fun one that will help you find your place on campus. You can join any organization you want and participate fully to fulfill this requirement. Participating fully means that you will go to meetings and be involved with at least one event each semester in your chosen organization. Being a member of GCO or the International Education Week Planning Committee may be a good option, but you could also join the Student Government Association or one of the many groups on campus (we’ll talk more about these groups in a later post!).  One of the best things about a small college is that there are many leadership opportunities within organizations right from Day 1.  Attend the Opportunities of a Lifetime Fair the 2nd week of class to get to know all the clubs.


The CIE is looking forward to seeing how each of you embrace your ambassadorship this coming year!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

New Student Billing

You likely received a message recently with information about paying your Maryville College bill.  I wanted to share a couple of pieces of information with you to help clarify that message.

Exchange Students: You don't yet have access to the portal they are talking about, and any fees owing are determined by your exchange agreement.  ISEP students will only pay the $200 refundable deposit.  You can pay this when you get here.  StudyUSA and World Learning students will have their fees paid by your sponsor organization.  

Degree-seeking students: (first year or transfer students)


  1. Late Fees: I have made arrangements with the Business Office to WAIVE the late fee as long as your bill is paid by registration on Friday, August 26, 2016. However, please make an effort to pay your bill in advance.  If you are planning to do a wire transfer, please do this before you leave your home country (or 2 weeks in advance)
  2. Insurance: All international students are automatically enrolled in the international student insurance plan.  IF you have insurance from your home country, you will need to show proof of current enrollment to Kirsten Sheppard or Micki Pruitt in the International House.  If you do this, they will take the insurance fee off your bill.  See below for the specific requirements for health insurance.
  3. Vehicle Registration Fee: If you will have a car, fill out this form: https://www.maryvillecollege.edu/campus-life/becoming-a-scot/vehicleregistration/ If you will not have a car they will waive this fee when you get here.
  4. Financial Aid: If you have a question about your financial aid, you will need to talk to the Financial Aid Office (FAY 141) or call 865-981-8100.
  5. If you have any other question about your bill, visit the Business Office (FAY 110) or call 865-981-8249.

Method of Payment

Full payment is expected on Registration Day.  If you are planning to pay by any method other than credit card, you will need to make arrangements prior to your departure.

Maryville College accepts the following forms of payment:
·        Credit Card: be sure that you contact your bank to allow for the entire amount owing to be charged at one time.
·        Wire Transfer: below is the information you need to make a wire transfer.  Plan to do this at least 2 weeks in advance.  You are responsible for all wire transfer related fees.  Be sure that your name is in the notes on the wire transfer. Contact kirsten.sheppard@maryvillecollege.edu for bank transfer information
·        Money Order / Bank Check / Travelers Checks (in US dollars)
·        Check from US Bank account

For F-1 degree-seeking students, it may be possible to make monthly payments towards your tuition and fees.  For more information visit: http://www.maryvillecollege.edu/admissions/finaid/types-of-aid/private-sources/payment-plan/


MC International Health Insurance Policy:


F-1 students may bring proof of insurance from your home country, but it must meet the specifications below.

J-1 students must have insurance from their sponsor (ISEP, World Learning, IREX or Maryville College). 

If you are an F-1 student and have your own insurance, the insurance policy should be underwritten by a United States state-chartered corporation having an A.M. Best policyholder rating of “A” or above.*

Specifications:
The minimum coverage should provide:
Medical benefits of $100,000 per accident or illness
Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000
Expenses associated with you and your dependents’ medical evacuation to your country in the amount of $50,000.
A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.
Evidence of your insurance coverage has to be submitted to the Center for International Education upon your arrival and prior to initiating your participation in our program.

You will not be allowed to participate in any program at Maryville College if you and your dependents do not have the required insurance coverage. All students should, however, consider one’s own health condition, talk with one’s physician, and ensure that one has adequate coverage to meet one’s personal needs that may not be met by the Maryville College Health Insurance.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Welcome to Incoming 2016 Students

As you’re beginning to prepare for your time at Maryville College, you may be wondering how to find out a little bit more about what’s on campus and the surrounding area.

Maryville College is known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience, all while building a community of students, staff and faculty that will help you along the way.
picture of Barlett Hall atrium with international flags hanging
Bartlett Hall with flags representing all of the students on campus.
Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation in partnership with others. Founded in 1819, Maryville is the 12th oldest college in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Maryville College has about 1,200 students, representing approximately 40 states, the District of Columbia and 30 other countries. To take a virtual tour of campus before you arrive, go here and click on the “Tours” tab. You’ll be able to watch videos about the campus and do small photo tours for some buildings.

In Maryville, there are many things to do within walking distance. If you’re a coffee lover, you may want to visit Vienna Coffeehouse for a cup of Joe or to see one of their many live music performances. There are also many restaurants, cafes and shops downtown and beyond. In the early Fall and late Spring, Maryville hosts a small Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings where you can explore local produce, baked goods and other delicacies. If you like being active and outdoors, you’ll love Maryville’s Greenway, a system of biking and walking paths around Maryville and Alcoa. A short drive away there is also Foothills Mall, a small mall with shops, department stores, and a movie theater. In neighboring Alcoa, there are many shops, restaurants and supermarkets that are easily accessible by car.
Maryville Downtown
Maryville Downtown and Greenway


Outside of Maryville, there are many fun and interesting places to visit close by. Knoxville is just a 30-minute drive from Maryville and has many fun things to do. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is an excellent way to reconnect with nature and is a short drive away.


Get ready to explore this coming year because eastern Tennessee has a lot to offer!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Final Thoughts

Ten months ago, I was sitting in Dallas/Forth Worth airport, waiting on a flight that would change my life forever. Whenever we started boarding for the flight, I recall thinking to myself "What the hell are you doing?! Why are you willingly leaving behind your life and everything you know?" I wouldn't admit it to anyone, but I was terrified. You can read all the study abroad blogs and listen to all the advice your classmates and professors give you, but the fact of the matter is that you are never really sure what to expect out of the next few months or, in my case, year of your life whenever you're boarding a plane to study abroad.

So this is my life: Swedish-style
taco nights and Snapchat filters.
Little did I know, I would have the same feeling at Stockholm Arlanda airport waiting on my flight to return to the United States. Although I cried plenty during the days leading up to my departure, I managed to hold back the tears at the airport until the wheels of the plane left the ground. I started full on, ugly crying, screaming at myself in my head "This is wrong! This is where you belong, what the hell are you doing?!" 

Now that I've been back in the States for a few days, I don't quite know what to think anymore. I'm back in the environment I grew up in; everything feels so familiar, but at the same time, it all seems sort of new. Not a single moment passes by that I don't think of Sweden or the experiences or people I encountered there, but at the same time it all feels so far away. I feel like I'm stuck in limbo, somewhere between Sweden and the USA. I'm experiencing culture shock here the same way I experienced culture shock when I first arrived in Sweden. I'm in a constant daze, wondering when I'll snap back to reality.

I hope it's soon.

My girlllll
In a sense, so far I'm spending my days asking myself "okay, now what?" I left my life and so many of my friends behind in Sweden, so I almost feel like there's nothing left for me, which, again, is just how I felt during my first days in Sweden. I know that a lot of people were thinking that I took the easy way out by going to Sweden, a pretty homogeneous society that speaks English just as well as they speak their own language, but there's no such thing as easy when studying abroad. Some of the hardest, most difficult and frustrating days and moments of my life occurred when I was in Sweden. There were times when I wanted to give up, just pack up my things and come back to the States and never look back, but I had a solid support system that convinced me to do otherwise. 

January and February was really hard for me, and everyone knew that. I spent most of my time looking at the prices of flights back to Texas, telling everyone I would go home just for a visit, but most people knew that if I went just for a visit, I wouldn't come back. So instead, I went to Finland to visit Ida and Pauliina, and being with both of them made me feel like I was at home, safe and sound. (I just want to note I've started crying thinking about how much I miss both of them). 

After that, things got easier. I felt happier, but I still had to fight off some dark demons. This entire second semester was nothing short of an uphill battle, one I almost lost. 

I went to Finland for Ida's high school graudation,
now it's her turn to come to the USA for my
college graduation!
But I did it, I survived, and looking back, there isn't a single thing I would change about this entire experience, because it's shaped me into the person I am now, as cliche as that sounds. Now, I have to look forward to the future and consider how this amazing, life-changing experience will impact my life. Next year, I'm finishing up my degree, then, if all goes well, getting a job, ideally one at a university assisting students looking to study abroad and international students at the university (yes, I really did decide what I want to do as a career while I was abroad! I thought that only happened in stories!). Pauliina might visit in the winter, Ida might come to my graduation, and I'd love to go back to Europe to visit all my friends next summer. 

And none of this would be possible if I hadn't taken a shot in the dark and gone to Sweden for a year. 

So thank you, Sweden, for everything. You have a special place in my heart, now and forever.

En sista gång,
hej då!

- Lee

I miss you already, Sweden. I'll be back soon, I promise.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Anyway Here's Wonderwall

As I'm typing this, it's 1:34am, and I'm somewhere in the Baltic Sea. I'm headed to Finland by boat for two weeks of quality time with some of my favourite people, Ida and Pauliina, so I'm of course very excited about that.

Seeing as my ship will dock in Turku at 7am, I decided it would be a wise and responsible decision to go to sleep early. My cabin is inconveniently located a floor below the ship's nightclub, and the noise made it difficult to fall asleep, but once I was asleep, I didn't encounter any problems.

Until approximately ten minutes ago when the club, for some unthinkable reason, started playing Wonderwall (seriously, who plays Wonderwall at a club?)

This song in particular brought me out of my slumber, and once I realised what song was playing, the heartbreak I'd been fighting off for the past twenty four hours finally set in.

Arnaud, who I've mentioned many times in this blog, has a knack for the guitar, and, as cliche as it
sounds, one of my favourite things he plays on his guitar is Wonderwall. Hearing this song reminded me on the uncountable number of nights everyone was huddled up beside a bonfire or squeezed into a kitchen, listening to Arnaud strum this very familiar song while we all mumbled the lyrics to ourselves as he played. These are good memories. They're happy. I wouldn't trade these nights or these memories for anything in the world.

But hearing Wonderwall being played by someone other than Arnaud for the first time in (literally!) almost a year made me realise that yesterday, before leaving for Finland, I said goodbye to some of the greatest people I'd ever met. And it wasn't a "hey I'll see you when I get back form Finland" goodbye. It was a "five minute but still not long enough embrace while we talk about how happy we are to have met one another and promise we'll see each other again one day" goodbye. I don't want to say it was a final goodbye, but... it kind of was.

It's an odd feeling, and I'm not sure how to describe it. Bittersweet is perhaps the closest I can get.

It's bittersweet. I've spent the last ten months of my life seeing these people on almost a daily basis. It's kind of hard to believe that it's all over - just like that. It wasn't like last semester, when everyone avoided talking about leaving; this semester was the exact opposite. Everyone was asking everyone when they were leaving then frantically trying to find ways to squeeze in as much time as possible with everyone before we all depart. There were lots of late nights and group selfies, everyone trying to soak in as many memories as possible.

It's weird knowing that when I go back to Sweden, most of my friends won't be there anymore. They'll be scattered across the world again, just as they were before they came into my life and changed it in every way possible. I don't know how I should expect to feel when I get back, but maybe it's better that way. Maybe it's best that I don't think about the fact that I'll be pretty much alone when I return to the place I now call home as long as possible and instead enjoy the time I have to spend in Finland because I have to say goodbye to some pretty amazing people when I leave Finland as well.

The next month is essentially one heartbreaking goodbye after another, I suppose.

Anyway, here's Wonderwall:



Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Northern Ireland vs American College Education System


Mary-Claire O'Mullan
Queen's University Belfast
Exchange student 15-16 @ Maryville College
Northern Ireland

For those of you I have not met, my name is Mary-Claire and I am an international student from Northern Ireland. Every year fifty-sixty students from Northern Ireland are given the opportunity to study business and management in the U.S as part of a programme called “Study USA”. “Study USA” began in 1994 and is funded by the British Council. Its aims to develop the academic and applied skills of ambitious and talented students in business-orientated subjects, create opportunities for young people to realise their ambitions in international business and assists in community building in Northern Ireland by widening horizons of young people in a new cultural setting. Having completed two years of an Accounting degree at Queens University, Belfast, I successfully applied and was placed at Maryville College.

I arrived in August, moved into my dorm, completed international orientation and became accustomed to “Southern” living. Over the last two semesters I have taken eight business classes, including Organizational Behavior, International Business and Human Resource management, experiencing first hand major differences in the Northern Ireland and American education systems. While both certainly provide an excellent environment for learning, the structure of the college, approach to work and student life are far from home.

Length of Time

One of the most notable differences between the college education system in Northern Ireland and the U.S is the amount of time it takes to finish your degree. In general, degree programs in Northern Ireland are designed to last three years while in the U.S it usually takes one year longer, although this can vary depending upon the course or major taken and whether you receive a Master’s degree prior to a PhD. In both systems, you can go directly to a PhD program after your undergraduate program, but in Northern Ireland it is more common to complete a Master’s degree before moving on to a PhD. A Master’s program in Northern Ireland usually takes one year and a PhD three, while in the U.S it usually takes two years for a Master’s and five-seven for a PhD.  Courses of study are shorter in Northern Ireland because the course programs are generally much more focused than in the U.S.

Academic Term

While most universities in the U.S begin their terms in mid to late August, taking a rather lengthy break beginning in mid-December and starting the second semester in early to mid-January, Northern Ireland universities operate on a completely different academic calendar. Term begins in late-September or early-October with the second semester starting in early-February and ending in early-June. All Northern Irish universities have two, twelve week semesters, excluding two-three weeks at Easter. Christmas holidays come after the first term but with the addition of January exams. There are no classes in January but students take exams from the second-last week and then begin the second semester in February. Similarly, the second semester ends early-May with the summer exam period lasting from late-May to early-June. These differences make for a slightly shorter academic year in the U.S than in Northern Ireland.

Classes

In the last year of Secondary school, (the equivalent to U.S High School), Northern Irish students will apply to study a specific degree programme at university. This degree will consist of compulsory classes, solely relating to the degree subject. While some courses may offer optional classes the structure on the course is pretty set in stone. As previously mentioned, I am studying Accounting and so have only ever taken Accounting or similar classes at university. This is a huge contrast to the liberal arts philosophy here at Maryville College. Based on the development of well-rounded knowledge, students are expected to take a wide range of varying subject classes. This variation and freedom of choice with regards elective classes is something I really enjoyed and feel it breaks up the monotony of only taking classes related to your major.

Participation and Attendance

Emphasis on student participation and group work are other major differences between my home university and Maryville College. During the 2014/15 academic year 23,855 students were enrolled at Queens University, Belfast with 79% being undergraduates. As a result classes can consist of hundreds of students making monitoring attendance and participation practically impossible. In contrast, professors in smaller U.S colleges usually dedicate a portion of students’ final mark to attendance and participation. They expect students to display their knowledge actively and engage in their lectures, as participating in classroom discussions is seen as demonstration that you grasp the course material. With regards group work, I have had more group work in my last semester at Maryville College than in my entire time at Queens. While this is partly due to the contrast in class sizes, this team approach to work has been helpful both in improving my team work and communication skills and in getting to know more people. Additionally, there are no 8am classes. The earliest class is 9am and as attendance is not compulsory they are not the most populated classes of the day.

Homework and Grades

In addition to participation, another key difference in the U.S college classroom is the amount and frequency of work and how it is graded. In Northern Ireland the final grade of a class commonly consists of homework (5-10%), coursework/midterm exam (15-25%), (usually takes place around week 6 of term) and a final exam (85-75%). Something U.S students may also find interesting is that grades are based on the British undergraduate degree classification system. Calculated by the weighted average of all classes taken, the degree classifications are: First-class honours (≥70%), Second-class honours, upper division (≥60%) and Second-class honours, lower division (≥50%), Third-class honours (≥40%) and an Ordinary degree (35-39.5%). Contrastingly, I have learnt that U.S Professors begin grading within the first few weeks of class and the final mark compromises numerous quizzes, tests, assignments, presentations, class participation and group work. Everything contributes to the final class grade and to the overall Grade Point Average (GPA) of the student. Most students will aim for at least a 3.0 GPA or a B, the equivalent of 83-86%. This is something Northern Irish Students will definitely find daunting and did require some time to get my head around. However, I should mention that while U.S exams are more frequent, Northern Irish exams are harder.

Cost

The cost of education in both countries is far from cheap, but the cost of education in the U.S is generally, substantially higher. Universities in Northern Ireland can charge up to £3,925 for yearly tuition fees (approximately $6400) to students coming from Northern Ireland but fees for international students can be significantly higher. The government sets the limits for tuition fees, and each individual school sets its own fee up to that limit. By contrast, the government has very little control over what universities charge in the United States. The U.S differentiates between in-state tuition fees and out-of-state tuition fees, as well as between private and public universities. These distinctions determine the tuition fee. The average tuition fee for public two-year institutions is around $3000 per year, while the average fee for private four-year institutions is around $29,000 per year and some private four-year institutions can cost up to $50,000 per year.

Accommodation

Both Northern Ireland and the U.S provide students with residence halls in which to live. However, at Queens, residence halls are only open to first year students and are in high demand due to the size of the university. Living in residence halls is not compulsory and many students will live in houses or apartments close to the university. Queens is also an open campus, meaning university buildings are scattered throughout South Belfast an area simply known as the “student area” of the city. If you do live in residence halls you have your own bedroom and usually your own bathroom facilities too. Having to share a bedroom with a complete stranger was definitely high on my list of worries when coming to study in the U.S having always had my own space. Northern Irish residence halls are also all self-catered, while here in the U.S a range of full dining options are commonly provided for students.

Although I did have to adapt to major changes, my experience with facilities, students and staff has been nothing but positive. Entering through the gates of Maryville College, almost nine months ago, I could never have imagined the sadness I feel as my time here comes to an end. Nonetheless, I am leaving not only having developed my business knowledge and skills but having learned lessons and made connections and friendships that will last a life time. I am extremely proud to become a Maryville College Alum and thank everyone, especially Study USA, the British Council and Maryville College Centre for International Education for an amazing year. Go Scots!

Mary-Claire O’Mullan

Friday, April 22, 2016

Home Is Where the Heart is...?

They say home is where the heart is. I don't know who "they" are, but I have to admit - they're right. By definition, home is where a person permanently lives, but there are a plethora of connotations that perhaps better portray what the word home means to most people.

There's nothing like being trapped in three
feet of snow with your favourite people.
I think that, first and foremost, home isn't necessarily a place. Home can be a person or a number of people. Sometimes, you meet someone and you get those warm fuzzies inside that you'd heard about as a kid but was never entirely convinced existed until that moment. You don't know how or why, but you feel like you've known this person your entire life, that by their side was where you were supposed to be from the very beginning. That feeling you get when you're with that person, and the fact that that feeling doesn't go away no matter how much time you spend with them, that's home. 

Abstract as it may be, I also believe that memories can serve as some sort of "home." Some of my fondest memories include wandering down the streets of Prague at dusk, a trdelník in one hand and a koláč in the other (Czech Republic has good food, alright?), celebrating Finland winning a gold
medal in ice hockey with an arena full of Finnish people in Helsinki, and hiking with my best friends for what felt like hours to find Norway's most popular waterfall. As temporary as these moments were, and thereby essentially the exact opposite of the definition of "home," these memories will always serve as something of a makeshift home for me. 

Prague
However, if you want to try to be at least a bit literal to the definition, places, of course, can be home to a person. A house doesn't make a home, though. Home doesn't have to be fours walls and a roof; where I'm currently living, of course, has these things, but I don't at all feel at home there. Instead, there are other places I feel at home. Sitting out by the water in Skeppsholmen feels like home to me. Hovet Arena during a Djurgården ice hockey match feels like home to me. A little dock by the river in Rovaniemi, Finland feels like home to me. 

These people, places, and memories have all captured a piece of my heart, which is why they all, to some extent, feel like home to me.

"Home is whenever I'm with you."
So what do you do when pieces of your heart are scattered around the world?

It's a tricky question.

In a sense, you almost have to start asking yourself where you belong. You feel so at home in so many places, and that sensation alone is one that simultaneously convinces you that you don't truly belong in any place. Really, it's a paradox and a wild ride of thoughts and emotions.

I think being abroad so long provoked this question, or perhaps this identity crisis, in me. What do I mean whenever I say "I want to go home"? Do I mean I want to be with my family in the States? With Ana and Silvia in Spain? Ida and Pauliina in Finland? Štěpánka in Czech Republic? Or right here in Stockholm? Or am I longing to relive one of my fondest memories?

It's a difficult question to answer solely because the answer is always different and because the word has such a different and personal meaning to everyone.

So what does home mean to you? It's something worth thinking about. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

5 Things to Know Before Studying Abroad



          There are endless checklists, to-do lists, and other methods of preparation for a study abroad experience but during my time in Pamplona, Spain these 5 things stuck out to me as ideas that I should have known before the start of my journey.




  1. Trips with your new friends are fun, but trips by yourself are rewarding.

·         Doing things alone in general is okay. When you get on a bus or a plane or a train by yourself, a new experience comes to life. Making friends is easier, in these settings and you just might end up in the presence of some really cool people. Cities are great with friends, but there is something special about wandering down the streets of a new city on your own agenda. You get to decide what you want to see, when you want to see it and how long you want to spend doing any given thing. With this freedom, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the things that you love and care about the most.  


  1. Systems and processes vary country to country and culture to culture.

·         The small everyday parts of our lives may be completely different in our host country. This is a part of the experience, but it might be smart to look into some of these things before you arrive and to also accept that if a difference comes up, adapting to your situation is fundamental and will help you to succeed. Some examples of differences in processes that I experienced are listed below:

o   Course selection (not online, given a month to “try on” classes

o   Postal service (number vs. line, different lines, MANY forms and papers to fill out)

o   Produce in grocery stores (weigh yourself and get a sticker that goes on the bag)


  1. Asking for help is okay.

·         I think this one speaks for itself, but it is a vital part of living, working, and studying in a new place. You won’t have all of the answers, but someone else will. Most of the time people will be very willing to help you!


  1. Journal/Blog/Keep a Record/ Capture Memories

·         This is the one thing you should do every day   

·         This will be one of the best experiences of your life. Write about it and not just what is happening, but how you are feeling, this will help you process what is happening and to remember it later


  1. You have to push yourself in the host language because there will be plenty of people ready and willing to speak to you in English.

·         English is a common language among many peoples, university students in particular might be very keen to speak to you in English to practice, this means that you have to be intentional about speaking in your host language.


By Study Abroad Ambassador: Brittany Miller

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