Sunday, November 15, 2015

La Marseillaise

Friday was supposed to be a normal night.

I went into Stockholm to see a film, then I had planned on coming home and watching an hour or so of Netflix before heading to bed since I was scheduled to be at work at 8.00 the next morning.

However, Friday was anything but a normal night.

As everyone knows, Paris, France, fell victim to numerous terrorist attacks Friday night. I heard about one during my train ride back home and unfortunately didn't take it as seriously as I probably should have. When I got home, I opened my laptop and got on Twitter; Paris was the most trending topic worldwide. I skimmed the headlines to news articles provided by Twitter. It was a whirlwind of devastating words such as terrorists, hostages, bombings, attacks, among others. If it was physically possible for hearts to shatter, I think mine would have done so in that moment.

I was in a panic. I texted friends that I knew were in France, suspected might be in France, had family in France, or were from France to ensure that they and everyone they knew were safe and alive. Everyone I reached out to said that they and their loved ones were safe. The next day, I asked again to make sure and asked those I hadn't talked to the night before to ensure that the same could be said for them. Everyone I know and they know is alive and accounted for. I wish the same could be said for everyone.

The next morning, I was able to ask off work (I'm currently volunteering for a film festival, and we're always overstaffed in the mornings, so it wasn't a difficult task at all) so I would be able to attend a gathering to support France with a group of my French friends. The person that organised the rally is a Frenchman currently in Stockholm for an internship, and according to the roughly translated version of his speech that I got, he decided to create the event while he was watching the previous night's events unfold. He said he didn't know what to do at this event, he didn't know what to say, all he knew was that it was important to be together.

So we were together.

The world is in mourning...
The French anthem, La Marseillaise, was sung. Candles were lit. Swedes, Americans, Latvians, and other nationalities stood in solidarity with France. Where we were born and what our passports claimed were irrelevant; in those hours, we were all French.

After getting back from this gathering, I began to catch up on the rest of the news from the day before, and it was then that I discovered just how tragic Friday was, not just for France, but for the world. Natural disasters in Japan and Mexico. More terrorist attacks in Beirut and Baghdad. Hundreds dead all in a 24 hour period.

I was in shock. I didn't know how to react as I read tragic headline after tragic headline. For a moment, I felt like the world was collapsing right on top of me.

Sometimes, it feels like the world is too much for us. What I learned this weekend is that whenever the world starts feeling like it's too much for us is when we need one another the most. I just think it's a shame that it took a weekend like this one for me to figure that out.

Yes, we should stand in solidarity with France. The French people need all the love and support they can get right now. But we also need to stand in solidarity with Beirut. We need to stand in solidarity
with Baghdad. Despite our differences, we are all part of one human race, and we need to stand in solidarity against the attacks on humanity such as the ones we witnessed this weekend. If we stand divided, it is inevitable that our enemy will prevail.

For this reason, I stand in solidarity not only with France but with all of humanity who seek justice, freedom, and peace.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I Love Europe

This video is 100% an accurate depiction of me.

Europe is, in a single word, awesome. As much as I love my home in the States, now that I'm here, I never want to go anywhere else. I understand that Europe isn't the right place for everyone. I want to stay in Europe as long as possible. When I go back home and return to normal life, I'll start planning my next trip here. I would love to have the opportunity to work somewhere on the continent one day. Really and truly, I love Europe so much. However, some people are content with staying where they've been their entire lives, and that's perfectly okay.

But even if you are one of those people, I think it's important to get out and see what else the world has to offer! It's fun, exciting, and life changing in the best way possible. And I'm saying this after only two and a half months abroad; I still have another 7+ months of being here!

I feel like I'm talking in circles with this blog. What I really want to drive home is the fact that I love it here. I love Europe. It's everything I've ever dreamed of and more. There's still so much I have left to uncover and explore, and I'm practically buzzing with excitement just thinking about it.

Wherever you want to go, go! I know that's easier said than done, but do everything in your power to make it happen. Going abroad for an extended period of time is oftentimes a once in a lifetime ordeal, but that once in a lifetime ordeal is guaranteed to change you forever.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more just to be among my Pamplona family...

November is here and I find myself in my third month home. I cannot believe that it has only been that long. I simultaneously feel so close and so distant to my time in Spain.

So much has happened since I've returned and honestly I haven't had much time to process my return, the differences, and all that I learned in my time abroad.

What I do know is that I often ache to be back in Pamplona. My heart strings are tugged with desire to be walking the streets of Pamplona, to be sitting in a piso surrounded by my people, to wander from bar to bar on Thursday nights eating pinxos and enjoying the charm of juevinxos, to be speaking Spanish, and to see my improvement day by day.

I miss the place and the lifestyle, the culture, and mostly the people. I miss my Erasmus family, the classmates who helped me every step of the way, and Johanna and Leslie and our nights of language exchange.

I should be studying for my comps, and I will get back to that, but as I sit here, listening to my Pamplona playlist, I can't help but to yearn for the place and people that I left behind. You don't realize until the experience of a lifetime is over just how amazing it was.

I get excited when I get to talk about my time abroad and even the thought of it all brings a huge smile to my face. There is so much that is special about the types of things that you get to do when you are in a new country alone. If only tomorrow I could hop in a bla-bla car, head to the South and get lost in charming cities, narrow streets, and incredible edifices containing the architectural and cultural influences of centuries of different groups. How I wish I had explored more of Navarra and all of the diverse natural wonders that it has to offer. What I would give to spend an afternoon sitting in the ciudadela and a night roaming in el casco viejo... These things that seemed so trivial to me at the time have become something that I wish for constantly.

I guess this post is mostly for me. To express my wish to return to times past and a chance to discuss my nostalgia. It is also a plea however, to my friends studying abroad here in Maryville or to my Maryville friends about to go abroad to make sure to make the most of every moment and to revel in the glory of these days because they will go by fast and before you know it, you will be sitting somewhere reflecting on times gone by and how they were the best days.

Monday, November 2, 2015

5 Things to do Before You Study Abroad

Written By: Study Abroad Ambassador, Joel Thornton

One of the hardest parts about studying abroad, and most important, is the preparation phase that begins months in advance. There are dozens upon dozens of things that have to be done, usually in a timely manner, in order for everything to run smoothly. I will highlight 5 key items that are crucial for preparing to go overseas:

  1. Research, Research, Research
    This is the first step to studying abroad, and allows you to narrow down what countries and/or schools are right for you. You can never know too much about your future place of study.
  2. Location
    It is of extreme importance that you choose the place that you want to go to. Do not let anyone (parents, boyfriend/girlfriend, best friend, coach, professor) persuade you from the place you truly want to go. However, it is important to see it from others’ perspectives.
  3. Credit Transfer
    It is crucial that you set up a dialogue with your academic advisor so that together you can determine what overseas classes/credits will transfer back to MC.
  4. Airline Tickets
    Make sure you purchase your tickets well in advance of the date of departure (5-8 weeks prior should suffice). Usually, the closer you get to the date of departure, the higher the price of the ticket and the lower the chance of getting ideal flight times and seating.
  5. Packing
    I highly recommend packing several days in advance (5-7 days) to give yourself adequate time, and so you are not in a panic or rush. It also allows some room for error in case you forgot something important and need to go buy it or order it online.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Estonia and Halloween

It's been a busy week! I am absolutely exhausted and am totally using this Sunday to be totally lazy; I've earned it, especially since next week will be a busy week as well!

So what have I been up to this week?

This is not from a fairytale. This is from Estonia.
I went to Estonia! Specifically, I went to Tallinn, which is the capital of Estonia. Now Estonia is a pretty cool place with some pretty awesome history. During my fine arts class freshman year, we watched a documentary called The Singing Revolution, which is  about how Estonia earned their independence from the Soviet Union. They used songs and their song festival to gain independence in a non-violent way! The Soviets forced them to speak Russian and sing only Russian patriotism songs, but the Estonian people refused. They sang their own anthem, they waved their own flag, and they, unarmed and peacefully, took on Soviet soldiers who rolled into their tiny nation in tanks with fully loaded guns. I cry literally every time I watch this documentary, so of course, the opportunity to actually visit Estonia wasn't something I was about to pass up.

My travel companion and I are so cute.
First of all, Tallinn is beautiful. It's very, very, very different from Stockholm. Almost everywhere you look, you can still see the mark the Soviets left on the country. Almost everything is written in both Estonian and Russian. Every church has services in both languages. But all of the old buildings and statues are marked in Russian. It is in these places that you really remember what Estonia was going through not even 25 years ago. Because I had the documentary on my mind, these moments ended up making me pretty emotional, but I'd say it was in a good way. I wasn't necessarily sad, yet I don't know how to describe what exactly I was feeling. Was I feeling happy for the Estonians who bravely and tirelessly fought to gain their freedom? Was I feeling proud of them for doing so? Whatever it was, it brought tears to my eyes. I'm not ashamed to admit it.

You do you, Estonia.
The friend that I went to Estonia with seemed equally in awe of its beautiful. I told her about their history, and she seemed to gain even more of an appreciation for the young nation after that. Even though it was exhausting, I'm glad we went.

Daredevil! Or burglar...
Right after we got back from Estonia, it was time to get spooky and celebrate Halloween! I kind of put together a costume last minute because I didn't realise others would be dressing up. So I decided to go as a genderbent Daredevil. The only problem with that? Not many Europeans are familiar with the TV show, and that caused a lot of confusion. Most of the conversations I had with people went something like this:

Other person: You look cute! What's your costume? A burglar?
Me: Well, uh, have you seen Daredevil? The TV show?
Other person: No... I've never heard of it.
Me: Okay, well let's just say I'm a burglar then.

Close enough, I guess.

What a beautiful drag queen!
Everyone else had really cool costumes, though, so it was fun to see them dressed up! We went to a club for a while, but a lot of people had partied last night and were tired so we left kind of early and hung out at McDonald's instead. All in all, it was a really fun night! I'm so happy I got to spend it with my friends here.

You wish you had a squad this cool.
Other than school, not much is going on next week, but I have to finish a final paper for the class I'm taking now, then my next course starts the next day. AND I have a meeting for the Stockholm Film Festival, which starts 11 November, and obviously I'm super excited for that! Have a great week, everyone!

Hüvasti! (That's Estonian for goodbye!)
- Lee

The times I'm having...