Monday, July 28, 2014

Good News for my career

 This week is getting better pain wise but now I am in a rush to visit all of the places I was planning to go last week.  My Psychology of Art professor asked me to stay after class so naturally I thought uh-oh…what did I do?  She asked me where I wanted to go with my art career and asked me to stay in touch!  She wants to get my artwork into Edinburgh and some other areas.  I was also asked to do some paintings to have for sale at a fly fishing/hunting lodge!!!  This has been the best news ever and is encouraging me that I am on the right path of where I want to be!  This is short and sweet but I will try to write more after class! 

Culture and Customs of Scotland

            So…my computer died while I was in Scotland and needless to say all of my drafts of my journal were lost along with my pictures and a five page report that was due for class.  After I cried a bit (and rewrote the report), I decided to do what I know best and not rely on fickle technology but instead on the good ole pen and paper. 

            This third week is proving to be H-E-Double hockey sticks!!!  My leg is swollen beyond belief and I’m in so much pain that I cannot even make it to the kitchen to eat.  My academic aide personnel, Julie, and I formed a friendship so when she saw me hobbling my way to class saying everything was fine she didn’t buy it.  She insisted that she drive me to and from class and I accepted.  It is hard for me to show exactly how much pain I am in and how emotional I get when I am.  This one act of kindness sent me over my edge and I cried when I got back to the solitude of my room.  I am starting to shut back down and not wanting to be around anyone.  I am confined to a little area with no porch that I can sit on and look out over the land to calm me down.  I cannot cook for myself, take a shower by myself or even get dressed by myself and while Josh has always helped me with this, somehow it feels different here.  I feel like I am holding everyone back to take care of poor little me.  Pain proves to take the logical sense and make it an illogical emotion.  I am so sick and tired of not being able to participate in all of the activities planned.  This is proving to be the most stressful and angering thing I am encountering being somewhere so new.  Enough about my anger and self-issues…let me move on to something I am learning about the culture here.

Making myself part of this community in Scotland and adjusting to their culture has come as easily to me as writing my own name.  Josh and I have become known by the community and it feels so warm and welcoming.  When we are out for a stroll in Bridge of Allan looking for food, we hear shouts from across the road “Hi ya’ Josh and Jess” and we reply enthusiastically “hello ___ and ____!”  It is wonderful being in a place where people take the time to know you.  It is true that there are a lot of preconceived ideas that all Americans are fake, loud and obnoxious and to some extent it is true.  Some, especially in cities, will say “hello” and “how are you” but expect a one word answer versus the truth.  If the truth does come then it is perceived more often than not as drama.  Traveling to several different cities here, I have found the same thing though so I asked a couple we know if they ever really travel to the cities and they said no that they don’t enjoy it.  When I asked why, it was ironic that they said because they are loud, obnoxious and only after your money. 

Americans live extremely busy lives and our working hours are nearly TWICE as long as that in Scotland so time is precious and while it is a nice gesture to say these things, I can see how others take it as fake.  If I was asked how I was doing in Bridge of Allan and I replied with one worded answers, most of the time it was taken as rude.  When asked in Glasgow, if I answered with more than one word it seemed to be a bother to listen; exactly as it was perceived to be in America…one worded answers preferred!  I have learned to embrace it and instead of getting into an arguing match, which I saw one teenager from California attempting to do and losing badly, I decided to get to know the person/people and ask them about their customs.  By the end of this week we had changed a few minds.  The problem is that the areas Josh and I go to are out of Stirling and in smaller, quieter towns that are well established with strong traditions and older generations.  Walk into a pub in the Bridge of Allen and it is aged 50 and above; walk into a pub in Stirling and its age is 18-45 (unless you go to the locals place).  When people come to visit America, very rarely is it to visit somewhere that isn’t a city.  Go out to a small town (or even a certain part of a city) in the U.S. and odds are you will see the same attitude of warmth and welcome as that of Bridge of Allan.  Make note that these are generalizations and one person’s observations but this is how I see it. 

I hated living in San Diego for the same reason as stated above.  Every area of every country has their own cultures and customs that can be over generalized for the entire country.  If I tell someone that they should never live in San Diego because they are loud, obnoxious and fake people and they tell others, I have just started a prejudice when someone else’s experience may have been the best of their life!  (If that makes sense)  When I think of San Diego I think of how out of place I felt but it was only because I was use to a small town where everyone knows your name and business.  This is why I believe I felt so comfortable in the smaller towns of Scotland and could mesh so well.

Side note:  There was only one place we walked into that I ever felt nervous.  It was a locals only place (which we had no idea) and the crowd was very rowdy and really into the “YA” for Scotland’s “freedom”…a HUGE vote that is coming up.  I thought this only happened in the movies but when we walked in the loud laughter and talk came to an abrupt halt.  Too bad we had already ordered a drink!!!  I would have booked it out of there!!!

I am still learning a lot about here and have made it a priority to take note of customs.  It is fascinating and while the accents and landscapes are different from the U.S., the attitudes aren’t really all that different.

Monday, July 21, 2014


So, this was my first trip ever traveling by myself. I would so say far it has went pretty well. I learned a lot about traveling solo quickly on my way over here. Now that I am here and have been for a few weeks, I am not nervous anymore, just kind of content. Of course not everything goes as planned, but that is expected while traveling. I have come to realize that and it is okay.

Lets start with currency exchange. I knew there would be fees, but I was not sure how many or how much. Let's just say I was disappointed and next time I will just save those rates and draw money out of the ATM next time I travel. Again, first time traveler problems. Next is that I was not told that I would be living with children, but that is okay because I love children!! The kids are so cute and very sweet at times. They are three and five. However, they are not disciplined which can get a little overwhelming at times. Again, it is fine though. My host family is great and so is the other host student I'm living with. I get my own bedroom and then Celia and I share a bathroom which is really nice. Their flat is really modern and nice, too! They also have a pool, two cars, bikes, they live close to school, and close to the beach. We usually take the bus to school though which is interesting. It is the first time using a public bus like that for transportation, but I enjoy it. Spain seems to be environmentally friendly which is AMAZING!!!! They also have great tasting food which our host mother makes taste even better.

Some cultural differences that have shocked me is how Spain is supposed to be in a depression. If Spain is in a depression right now, America is doing a depression wrong. My host family seems to be pretty wealthy because their flat is new, they own one by the beach, and they also have a family house in the mountains they go to every Sunday with their parents and siblings. Water in Almeria is valuable because there is very little. I like to take quick showers anyway, but this reminds me to take even quicker showers. The city has multiple fountains though that constantly run as well as street cleaning trucks which is pretty cool. The stores also close early on Saturday and nothing but restaurants are open on Sunday to respect citizens who do attend church. It is also set aside as a day for family which I found really nice. The food is different, but a good different. I can't explain it. It is just different from my expectations.They do have Kinder bars though! :) So the language, of course, is different as well. Again,as expected, some words are different. This small town of Almeria has lots of different accents as well which can be a little difficult to understand, but most people are patient.The people are really nice, but they know how to stay up late. Whereas in America, we stay up until 3 if we go out, they stay out until 6 or 7 a.m. That siesta really does help.

Besides that, classes are great. I get a long well with the students in my program. Excursions are fun, and other groups join. Besides ISEP study abroad, there are Mexicans, Germans, and Canadians taking a managerial skills class at the same university.They come on our excursions with us and give us opportunities to learn about more cultures which I love! I have not had home sickness yet, but I am just now starting to feel like I am in Spain after three weeks. It is weird, but I love it! I wish I would have studied abroad earlier.

Those are my thoughts for the night,

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

ESL Summer 2014/ 2 Weeks Session/ Week 1

ESL program at the Maryville College is not only about sitting in the class but also about fun. We are having special two weeks session when we are not only learning and practicing English but we are also experiencing different activities.Every day is different, exciting but also adventurous. This session help us to make better friends, to communicate better and to learn about our classmates’ cultures.
Here is a little description of our first week of the session.

Day 1: Rafting in Ocoee Inn, Georgia.

The river was wild but we are wilder. 

Day 2: Mountain challenge team Building at the Maryville College campus.

The Mounting Challenge helped us to improve our communication skills. 

Day 3: The Lost Sea.

The Lost Sea is America's largest underground lake, located in Sweetwater, TN. 
We are in the middle of the session and we went for two overnight trips, to Gatlinburg and to Atlanta. 

Day 4: Gatlinburg 4th of July Parade.

Happy birthday America!!!

Day 5: Dollywood/ Splash Country.

Ready to have some fun. 
Day 6: Trip to Atlanta and Atlanta Braves Game.

The Braves won and we really enjoyed the game. 

Day 7: Atlanta: Zoo/Aquarium/CNN.

Day 8: Shopping in the International market.

Day 9: Smoky Mountains- Cades Cove picnic and horseback riding.

Another great day in GSM.
The last week was great and we had a lot of fun. We can't wait for the next few days  for more adventures. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

On To the Next Adventure: South African Style

Taylor Smith
Blog 2

The trip here.

I am now in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  The trip here was excruciating to say the least.  I left Knoxville at 6:00 a.m., I had a 10 hour layover in Washington D.C., an 18 hour flight to Johannesburg, and overnight layover in Jo-burg, and then a 2 hour flight into Port Elizabeth.  I left Knoxville on Friday morning and finally arrived at my destination Monday morning.   The flight out of Knoxville to D.C. wasn’t too bad; it was over fairly quick.  However the 18 hour flight to South Africa was almost unbearable.  Initially it wasn’t so bad.  I had a window seat and the girl who sat beside me was very friendly.  She was visiting family in Durban, and was happy to answer any and all questions I had.  Throughout the duration of the flight I became restless and body was sore all over.  I honestly just needed to stand up, walk around, and stretch. 

After arriving in Jo-burg, I had to go through customs which ended up taking about an hour.  Next I had to fight my way through the massive international airport, and try to find my way to the bus which would be taking me to my hotel for the night.  I found my way to the help desk, and the employees there gave me directions to the shuttles.  However, what happened next was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.  As I was walking to my bus a couple of men who pretended to be airport employees walked up and proceeded to “help me.”  They asked where I was going, and then said they would personally take me to my bus because it was a dangerous place for women after dark.  I gratefully thanked them and we continued on our way.  All of a sudden these men directed me down a darker more abandoned pathway. Right away I felt that something was off, but since one was carrying my luggage I just prayed that everything would be okay.  About halfway to the busses the men stopped and demanded a tip.  Me being the na├»ve traveler pulled out 10 Rand.   The men then demanded that I give them 600 Rand which converts to about $60.  I handed over the money and rushed to my shuttle. 

Once I arrived at my hotel, I tried to connect to the wifi so that I could check in with my family.  Unfortunately, the wifi wasn’t working very well.  After calming myself down I tried to take a nice shower thinking that it would help to ease my mind.  However the hotel heated their water by a gas system, and one of my neighbors must have just used all the hot water.  I finally climbed into bed and tried to sleep.   As one could imagine I had a rather sleepless night.  I tossed and turned all night worrying about the rest of my trip.  My flight to Port Elizabeth flew out at 6:00 am but I had to leave my hotel by 5:00.  Needless to say I was absolutely exhausted by the time I reached PE. 

Thankfully NMMU had arranged for someone to pick me up, and I was greeted by a very friendly welcoming face.  I joined one other girl and was brought to the university for my program orientation.  I finally felt like I could be at ease because I was around other students and smiling faces.   

Hopefully my study abroad experience gets better because I don’t think it can get much worse.

Praying for a better time!

Taylor Smith