Thursday, April 19, 2018

Culture and Food

Rasmus Callerhorn
MC Junior from Sweden

Swedish people and American people are very different. With only three words to describe either I would say that Swedish people are selfish, quiet, and tall. Three words for Americans are friendly, talkative, and diverse. The difference is huge, and for a lot of international students or people traveling a lot they know that there are culture shocks when it comes to everyday interactions with people. Swedish people usually don't engage in conversation if they do not have something important to say, and most of the time they don't even greet people they know when passing them by. Americans are the complete opposite, they are nice and always very talkative, random people can come up to you and start conversations, they hold open the door for you.

Someone like me who grew up in Sweden probably looks like the biggest introvert to Americans, but the Swedish norms are just so ingrained in me at this point. When I came to America I only greeted people if they greeted me, I usually look at the ground to avoid eye contact. Something that is common for Swedish people to say about Americans and one of the big problems for us is that it seems like you have a lot of friends but no close friends. Friends in Sweden are usually your closest friends that you interact with on a day to day bases, and little to no interaction with random people happens. For someone who is coming to America for the first time get ready for a lot of nice people who will have a friendly greeting, but be careful because most of them do not actually want to engage in conversations. 

I always had a hard time with people asking me "what's up?" I started to engage in conversation when they really just wanted you to say "good, how about you?". People that greet you do not always want to start a conversation which is very different from Sweden, only time someone would say something is when they wanted to talk to you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Learning English to Learn Spanish

Mackenzie Yaksic
PUCV (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile)

As I have delved into greater depths of learning the ins and outs of the Spanish language, I have realized how grateful I am to know English grammar. I feel, as an enthusiast of the English language and a beginner of the Spanish language, that it is extremely important to know a basic foundation of English grammar before you embark on a journey of learning a new language. This is why:
          Yesterday in class we began to learn (or review) el préterito perfecto in our grammar class. When the professor, who speaks little English, began to explain the tense, many people were lost almost immediately if they had not already learned the tense. The professor knows that I love English grammar, because of a past conversation, and requested that I explain the subject in English before we all progressed in Spanish. I was slightly taken aback when I realized many people in the class did not have a basic understanding of the verb tenses in English. It made it much more difficult for them to progress quickly and efficiently in Spanish.
          I don't write this post to shame people who do not know English grammar, because to many people, English grammar is the definition of a snooze fest. Nor do I write this post to gloat about my little English grammar knowledge or that I acted as the teacher's pet for a day. I write this post to inform anyone who plans to learn another language. Get familiar with your native language before you set off to become bilingual; it will help tremendously, and you'll be amazed at how quickly you are able to relate new Spanish concepts to ones in English. It has helped me progress in the language and translate between the two languages, and I greatly advise it for anyone who is serious about mastering a new language.

Saturday, March 24, 2018


Mackenzie Yaksic
PUCV (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile)

When you first arrive here in Valparaíso, it's overwhelming. The amount of makeshift, bright buildings and housing on the hills is overpowering. The streets are unlike American streets in almost every week. Street vendors and pop-up farmers' markets are common. It's a busy city, and the streets are filled with many people from all social, age, and work groups. Men in suits with brief cases sit along side young mothers and college students. The way these different groups merge in this city is amazing. The street art is incredible, also. One has to take an ascensor up one of the hills to see most of the street art, but each hill makes a great day trip. The city is amazing, and unlike any other I have ever visited.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Blogger Tips

Marlena Madden
Study Abroad Ambassador
Fall 2017, Tokyo International University

Study Abroad Blogger Tips

The first step to writing a blog post is often the most difficult. Deciding on a topic can be a challenge. Hopefully, this post can help.

While you should always consider your audience, you also need to keep yourself in mind. Always try to write about experiences that you are comfortable with sharing. To me, blogs are like journals without all of the personal commitment.

Here’s some tips to help with your blogs:
Look at other travel blogs
Everyone has different experiences, but looking at other people's blogs might give you some ideas for developing your own.
Take and share lots of pictures
I’m not suggesting that you remain committed to photographing everything you encounter, but it’s nice to look back on photos when you return home. I love looking through my photo albums.
Update regularly 
It’s important to keep up with the blog on a regular schedule. If you don't do this, it might be difficult to get into the habit of posting. You don't want to look back and wish you would have been more active while you were abroad.
Share on social media for friends and family
Your friends and family probably aren't aware of this blog site, and want to know about your adventures. By sharing your posts on social media, you can keep them in the loop.

Some suggestions/ ideas for possible blog posts:
Life in your City/ University
This could help others decide if the country or university is the right choice for them.
Local Foods and Drinks
I know that this might seem boring at first, but I find that many Instagram accounts are often dedicated to food.
Experiences using Foreign Language
Stories about language communication and barriers are often very entertaining. Telling these stories can make your blog very lighthearted and entertaining to readers.
Famous Places/Popular Travel Destinations
Describing the cultural importance of these places can be a great conversation starter. You can also make all sorts of useful suggestions for others who might be interested in visiting these sites.

There’s an endless amount of possibilities when it comes to making a blog post. Keeping up with a blog might be stressful, but it is something amazing that you can look back on!

While trying to decide on which tips to share, I found this awesome blog post which goes way more in-depth than me: 

Marlena Madden

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Weather Patterns: HELP!!!!!!

Myka Bland
University of Worcester

Now, I was born in Michigan and am well aware of the content of snow, such as color, where it comes from, how it's formed, etc., but if I had any advice for anyone wanting to study abroad, PLEASE MAKE SURE TO CHECK THE WEATHER PATTERN OF YOUR DESIGNATED COUNTRY!!

If I had to describe a "perfect weather" day, it would be a nice cool breeze along with a 70-75 degree Fahrenheit, sun is optional, and ABSOLUTELY NO RAIN!!!!! However, I can count on one hand how many times I have seen the sun, rain seems to rarely be in the forecast, but it has rained almost half of the time I've been here, and, not to mention, I was just apart of the biggest snowstorm to hit Worcester in the past 5 years. Oh it's true; IT'S DANG TRUE!!!!!!

If someone asked me how to better prepare themselves for their time abroad, I would have to say CHECK THE WEATHER PATTERNS OF WHERE YOU ARE GOING! If you are all about sunny days, warm nights, and very dismissive to rain, then maybe the central part of England is not for you!

Week One Recap- Culture Shock is Really Real

Mackenzie Yaksic
PUCV (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile)

I have spent just a little over a week here in Chile, but it has felt like three months already. I came here not knowing much Spanish, and that has been my biggest, most stressful struggle to deal with. The school programs for learning Spanish are supposed to be great for all levels, but life outside of class is nearly impossible around here without adequate Spanish knowledge. Even my entire orientation week for international students was spoken in Spanish, and the speed at which everyone speaks here is almost unbelievable. I would not recommend coming here without an intermediate to advanced level of Spanish communication.
Transportation around here is also very much unlike the US. I have to use the metro or the bus to get anywhere I want to go. On the first two days of my orientation, my host sister showed me how to use the bus and the metro, so I now know the paths to get to my school, but that is all. My lack of Spanish knowledge also isolates me from finding my way to other parts of the town, so I have not done much exploring, like I'd like to. I have spent much of my time at my house, and when I do go out, it is with my host family. All but one member (who is never with us) speaks no English, so I am left to silently sit and listen to a language I do not know. I am treated almost equally to how they treat their family dogs, who know just about as much Spanish as I do.
Living situations are incredibly different than in the US. The school does not provide housing, so there is little to no student community. All of us international students live spread out throughout Valparaíso and Viña del Mar. The closest friend lives nearly a mile away, so walking is a must when visiting friends. Because of these living situations, meeting new people and making friends has been difficult for me. As of this point in my trip, I am left feeling incompetent, undereducated, and isolated.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Traveling within Europe

Myka Bland
University of Worcester

After living in the United States for all my life, I would think that traveling around Europe would be just as expensive as traveling around the US, but I would be sadly mistaken. I've purchased ROUNDTRIP plane tickets as low as  20 pounds (which equals about $27.80 in American currency). I swear it's nothing like it; I can go to a new place almost every weekend and still have enough money to try different foods and stay in different types of accommodations. That's one of the many perks about being in the UK; So much to do in SO LITTLE TIME!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Visa advice (for Chile)

Mackenzie Yaksic
PUCV (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile)

The process that I went through for obtaining my Visa was nothing short of hellacious, to put it bluntly. But I learned from my experience and hope to help others who are applying for a Visa to Chile. 

Tip #1: Start early
We started the application process around two months before my trip, but with the complications that we had and the miscommunications between the embassies and us, I only received my Visa two weeks before I left, and only after I made trips to D.C, Miami, and Atlanta. Start the process as early as you can, because the embassies take a long time to process everything and respond. 

Tip #2: Read and reread the necessary components of the application
Chile requires you to upload a lot of paperwork in certain forms (pdf, I think), and the documents need to be precise and exactly what they're looking for. I had to redo my application (the first time)  simply because my photo was too pixilated. So, make sure you know that your documents are correct and what the embassy is asking for. 

Tip #3: Reach out to the embassy (repeatedly) after you turn in your application in all of the listed forms of communication-- this may be the most important tip!!
When my application was first denied because of my picture, I did not find out until I physically went to D.C (which is the wrong embassy to apply to if you live in Tennessee, another miscommunication) a month after I applied. The email that the embassy sent back to me was never received in my email, so I was a month behind on the process just because I did not receive one important email and did not reach out to the embassy. Tip #3 is very important. If you think you're being excessive or annoying about the emails, calls, faxes and letters, send at least one or two more emails and faxes. It might not make the employees the happiest of people, but it will surely get their attention and respond. So, call them, leave voicemails, fax them, email them, and even send letters to all of the addresses, phone numbers, and fax numbers that they provide on their website. 

Tip #4 Double and triple check which embassy you need to apply to
A former student passed along information that I could work with the consulate in D.C and that they're faster workers, but only after I applied for a second time with a correct picture did I find out that they strictly do not allow people from outside their jurisdiction from applying to their consulate. Make sure you know which consulate represents your state. You can do this by search the Chilean Consulate jurisdictions for America. 

Tip #5 Bring all of your documents to any meeting in person that you have-- another ESSENTIAL
When your visa is finally approved, you actually have to go to the consulate to bring them all of your documents (background checks, letter of approval from your university, bank notes stating financial well-being, passport, etc). 

Tip #6 Reach out to staff at Maryville!!
Kirsten was so kind to help me along the process when I could not do it on my own. She sat with my during the entirety of my second application, she scanned and faxed and emailed documents for me, she reached out to tech support to make sure my photo was acceptable, and much more. If you feel at all lost, have any questions, or just want to update them on where you are in the process, don't hesitate! It's what they're here at Maryville for!

For me, the process for obtaining my visa was one of the most frustrating and cumbersome tasks I have ever had to do. So when I finally got my passport with the visa page in it, I cried tears of joy! Celebrate the little accomplishments, because those all add up to be your entire experience abroad. 

I hope this blog could help you if you choose to embark on an adventure to Chile, and I hope this does not deter you from going to Chile, because it shouldn't! As I write this, I am sitting in the living room of my new family's house with my new sisters and brother. My first day has been successful, and I cannot wait to experience this semester here!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Is It Too Soon?

Myka Bland
University of Worcester

So it hasn't been a month and I am already feeling a sense of homesickness. Don't get me wrong: I don't regret coming here and I have learned to like the school and the Worcester city environment, but I just get into these spells where I wish I was in my house in my bed watching "Criminal Minds" in one of my boyfriend's T-Shirts. Is it too soon for me to feel the need to go home? It hasn't even been a month and I'm already thinking about the things that I am going to do when I get home. However, it hasn't caused me too slack in any of my classes and I have yet to cry about the situation so I don't think it's that out of control. On the other hand, everything else seems to be going alright; classes are fairly simple, I've made a couple of friends, and traveling in Europe is SO CHEAP so I have a chance to get somethings off of my bucket list before returning home. Who can complain about that?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

First time for everything -_-

Myka Bland
University of Worcester

So it's been exactly ONE WEEK since I stepped foot in not only a different country, but a different culture. To say it has been easy is an understatement, but I have learned to manage traveling alone in a foreign city (i.e. bus routes and trains). However, food has become one of my biggest struggles. Don't get me wrong; I like bread, cheese, rice, and beans as well as the next person, but I am not a fan of it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It does make me feel some type of way when I have to travel off campus to get a burger, a steak, or even a good fettuccine Alfredo. However, I have experiences with some off-the-wall cafeterias (i.e. Pearsons Hall) so I was more than prepared to do what I had to do. Overall, I would mark my first week as a success (check mark)!