Monday, October 26, 2015

Norway!

Titles for blog posts are so difficult. Hence why the title of this one is literally just Norway. Because I went to Norway. At least it gets the point across.

Bryggen, which is located right by a port.
Anyway, Norway is beautiful! We went to Bergen, which is a quaint little place with that old European charm I love and surrounded by nature, particularly fjords. Honestly, I felt like I was in heaven. Bergen is the place people picture whenever they think of Scandinavia. There was one place
in particular, a spot downtown known as Bryggen, that feels especially Scandinavian. The street is lined with colourful buildings and inside the buildings are shops filled with all kinds of Norwegian goodies!

We spent the morning walking around downtown. We went to Bryggen, of course, and walked down a few alleys to see where they led us. We also went to a fish market, which is apparently Bergen's top attraction. There, we got the chance to try whale (it actually tastes kind of good!) and buy freshly caught salmon to cook for dinner that night.

If you go somewhere and don't
have a photoshoot, did you
really even go to said
place?
After that, we took a trip to the highest point in Bergen, and we were able to see the entire city and marvel at its beauty. We easily spent two hours there just gawking at how incredibly beautiful is. I
don't think I'll ever forget the view from that spot.

Silvia and Ana, two Spanish girls I couldn't imagine
my life here in Sweden without. And behind us?
The GORGEOUS view from the random
village we accidentally went to.
The next day, we took a very long bus ride to a small village where we could see the fjords. The only problem? We got off at the wrong village. We walked around a bit before we stopped for lunch and started trying to decide on a new game plan. Some people wanted to go to the right stop, but others didn't want to pay to get on the bus
Check out this cool waterfall
again (the bus ticket had cost $30 one way!); in the end, we decided to visit a waterfall that was fairly close to the village we were in instead of the fjords.

To get to the waterfall, we had to walk through at least three miles of farmland. Since I grew up in a farming town, I felt completely at home and even told a few stories I had from working on a farm. It was a great way to pass the time. And the waterfall itself? Gorgeous! But even better than the
waterfall was the view! From the waterfall, you could see all of the farmland you'd just trekked across, and it, again, was absolutely stunning. Really, Norway is just a gorgeous place. I am quite fond of it. I wouldn't say no if someone asked me to go again.

A truly picturesque sunset :)
But now I'm back in Sweden - for now, anyway! Tomorrow, I'm leaving for Estonia with a friend who's currently visiting. And during the second week of November, I'll hopefully be going to Germany to visit a friend from back home who's currently studying abroad as well! And on the 12th of November, I begin working as a volunteer for the Stockholm International Film Festival. I am so excited!!!

Farvel! (that's Norwegian for goodbye!)
- Lee

Friday, October 23, 2015

Ten Things I Learned In India




By: Kristin Kimberlain 

  1. Things as simple as crossing the road can be exhilarating but difficult. There’s tons of crazy traffic with no lanes in big Indian cities, and crossing in front of four or five lanes of cars, trucks, motorcycles, and stray animals is an acquired skill. Once you learn how to do it, you feel like you can do anything.

  2. Never wear your shoes in the house. Or in a religious space. We don’t think much of it here, but it makes sense because shoes get really dirty.

  3. Smells are a really important part of the experience. Walking down the street, it’s typical to pass by a heap of garbage and feel really disgusted by the smell, but when you turn the corner just a second later, the air can smell entirely like jasmine and camphor—absolutely heavenly.

  4. Cows are amazing animals. Whether you’re encountering a cow on the sidewalk in the middle of a bustling city or grazing by a lake in a wildlife reserve, it’s nice to be able to pet them and talk to them. They’re so docile and can really help center your nerves in an unfamiliar place.

  5. South Indian food is delicious. Meals are always an experience because of the diversity in flavors and spices that you experience every single time you eat. Using your hands as utensils is really fun, and fluffy Keralan rice is a hundred times better when it’s covered in ghee (clarified butter!)

  6. Bargaining is an art form. Don’t get ripped off in the market or by a rickshaw driver! Know the price you’re willing to pay and stick to it. Once you’re a good negotiator, you feel like you can run the world.

  7. Indian laundry services are enviable. It’s so nice to be able to send your clothes away for half a day at a hotel and have them come back crisply folded and neatly organized. It’s also incredibly cheap!

  8. The friends you make in India are really important. Going to India with a group of students was an awesome bonding experience. We had so many hilarious encounters and overcame challenges together, and the friends that I made there are still encouraging me and laughing with me in my life back at home.

  9. Learning about people who are different from you is incredibly fulfilling. South Indian culture is really different from US culture in so many ways that I could never imagine before actually going there. India is an extremely diverse and really complicated place, and knowing about differences makes the world so much richer.

  10. “Fearlessness is heaven even in a moment”. This was painted on a wall along with lots of other inspirational phrases outside of a church in Chennai that we walked by almost every day. India teaches you  to be fearless and know yourself, which is the most valuable lesson you can learn for being the best person you can be both abroad and at home.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

So Tired...

I feel really guilty for not posting here every week like I'm supposed to be doing. I'm trying, I promise, but it's really difficult with such a busy schedule. Even though I only have class a few times a week, my planner is packed full of things i have to do and places I'm going. I don't want to complain, but, quite honestly, I am so beyond exhausted that I feel like I can't keep going at the pace I've been at since I got here.
A look at my planner this month...
I've been calling it the month from hell.

Studying abroad is really a lot of fun. You have the opportunity to do and see things you never imagined you'd be lucky enough to do and see in your life. You get to experience new cultures and potentially learn new languages. Really, I'm having the time of my life here, and if I had to go back to the States today, you'd have to force me back kicking and screaming.

But it's also really, really draining. Especially as an introvert, which is what I am. Being with large groups of people and social outings leave me mentally and sometimes emotionally drained. I need days to just sit in bed reading a book or watching Netflix to recharge my batteries, and I recently realised that I haven't done that since I got here. And that's something I really, really need to do. I owe that much to myself.

I started a new class the day after I got back from the Netherlands and then a few days later my friend from Finland, Ida, came to visit me. Ida left today, and tomorrow I'm heading to Norway with a group of friends for the weekend. Two days after I get back, a friend from home who is currently studying abroad in London is coming to visit, and while she's here, we're going to Estonia. But once my friend leaves, I will have about a week and a half to myself before I start volunteering for the Stockholm International Film Festival, and during that precious week and a half, I plan on relaxing as much as possible because I know I'm going to be completely drained when this hectic month is over.

So this point of this blog post?

Studying abroad is fun. It's great. You should definitely do everything you want to do while you have the opportunity to do it! But please, please, please, don't forget to take care of yourself as well. You won't be able to fully enjoy what you're doing if you're exhausted, both mentally and physically. Don't be afraid to take mental health days where you stay in your pyjamas all day eating Nutella and binge watching Netflix. I promise that that one day to yourself every now and then is not a waste of time and will make all the difference when you begin adventuring again.

I promise I'll have something more interesting next week, what with going to Norway and all... :)

Hejdå!
- Lee

Monday, October 5, 2015

5 Things I Learned in India


    After returning home from my three week journey across Southern India, I was frazzled, exhausted, and craving absolutely anything fried and greasy. It took a while for my mind to digest all of the information that had been brought to my attention throughout my study abroad experience. I was well aware of the fact that I had just experienced a once in a life time opportunity. I was also aware that I had gained knowledge which would stay with me for the rest of my days, but I hadn’t yet processed or made all of the connections necessary to see the big picture, or the grand scheme of what I had learned during my time abroad. It has been 8 months since returning from India and I am happy to say that I am still learning and drawing new connections between my experiences abroad and other aspects of my life. Read on for 5 of the major lessons I learned from studying abroad in India:

  1. Attitude is everything! While my experiences in India were absolutely amazing, there were many aspects of the program that were also quite challenging. Hot days, odd food, traveling on crowded overnight trains, and trying to blend into a culture that I had never experienced before were not always bright and cheery endeavors. During the program, our professors would emphasize the fact that we had to adjust to each new situation. “Adjust.” When you adjust your attitude towards a situation, it really helps everything fall into place.
  2. The Value of Friendship: Building friendships is an important part of life, but traveling abroad really made me consider the true value of friendship and the bonds that you can create in a new country. I traveled abroad with 22 wonderful students from both Maryville and Elon University and most of them I had never even met before entering the program. While in India, we all developed close bonds that helped us have fun and allowed us to work through our experiences together. Even after returning we have stayed close. It’s a great feeling to share such a life changing experience with a great group of people.
  3. Discovered new passions! While abroad, I not only discovered a new found passion for travel, but also one for psychology. I had always been interested in this field of study but after experiencing a new culture and their customs, beliefs, and ways of thinking, I decided that I wanted to gain further knowledge in the field. My experience abroad inspired me to minor in psychology. Since I am a marketing major, learning more about the psychological processes of people around the world will allow me to better market towards many people across cultures in the future.
  4. Navigating: After having to negotiate the rugged streets of India as the sounds of honking horns and racing rickshaws flooded my senses, having to communicate with locals for directions, and even becoming lost in the city of Kochin, I now feel more confident than ever in my ability to navigate a new country!
  5. Cultures are different and that is a good thing! I’ve always wanted to learn about different cultures, but traveling to India was my first experience actually submersing myself into one. It was amazing to see how vastly different yet shockingly similar life was in India. All of the things that made India different also made it unique and helped to bring my fellow travelers and I knew perspectives on culture and the world.

All of these are lessons that I now try to incorporate into my everyday life. I will never forget the experiences or the things that I have learned through my studies in India. I encourage anyone and everyone to study abroad!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Time to Travel!

This week I went to the Netherlands.

Elisa 
It was kind of a spur of the moment thing. I noticed that I wouldn't have class for a week so I started texting friends in other countries and asking if I could sleep on their couch for a few days. After a bit of decision making, it was decided that I would spend my week off in Rotterdam, Netherlands, where my friend Elisa lives and goes to school.

I love Rotterdam! I know that Amsterdam is the first place everyone thinks of whenever they think of the Netherlands, but for me, it'll always be Rotterdam. I'll admit that I knew next to nothing about the city when I arrived, but I loved it as soon as I stepped off the train. It seems to find a really nice mix between old European charm and modern styling, which can be said for most of the country, actually.

My days in Rotterdam were mostly just spend wandering around, hopping on the tram whenever I felt
like it and hopping off in the same fashion. I don't really know where I went, and I probably couldn't
I'm constantly surrounded by water.
Pretty different in comparison to Texas!
get back to those spots if I tried, but it was still a lot of fun. It was nice to be able to explore like that, and I hope I have the opportunity to explore another city like that again soon.

My final day in the Netherlands was spent in, of course, Amsterdam. You can't visit the Netherlands without going to see Amsterdam, I think. It's like an unwritten rule. Amsterdam is
a really cool city, too. There's something for everyone, it seems. Sure, there's legal marijuana and the red light district, but there's also art and history, and pretty much everything anyone could ask of a city. Really, it's great. I love the Netherlands, and I love the Dutch.

Everything was so aesthetically pleasing


So here are a few things I learned about the Dutch during my week in the country:

  • Questionable but delicious condiment choices. Apparently eating mayonnaise with your fries is a popular thing there. I'll admit that I was disgusted when I was served mayonnaise with my fries, but Elisa convinced me to try it, and I don't think I'll be able to go back now. Hot sauce with fries though? Yeah, still not with you on that one.
  • Really good English??? Like, better English than we speak in the States. And the Dutch don't really seem to have their own accent, as odd as that sounds. Their accents sound more like British accents than any accent in Central Europe, though many Dutch people seem to have a bit of an American accent going on.
  • Very, very, very Americanised. They have all of the shops and fast food restaurants we have. Solo cups are called American cups. Everyone loves KFC. It's very weird. But also kind of cool. In a weird way.
Next week, my friend from Finland is coming to Stockholm! I'm very excited to spend the week with her! And then the day after she leaves, I head out to Norway with a group of friends to spend a few days there. It's going to be a busy month, but I'm ready for it!

Vaarwel! (That's Dutch for goodbye!)

-Lee



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