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. 

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

Monday, April 4, 2016

Spring vacation in Japan!!!! (February)

The whole month of February I was in South Korea with my friend Sulecca!!! 
We spent the first week in Seoul taking pictures of EVERTHING!!!!! We even met some of our friends that we made while in Japan!!! We met our friend Seobin in Gangmun and she showed us the tribute to the song!!! (of course we had to dance there) Then we were able to meet our friend Seolyul and had Korean style Chinese food and Korean ice cream!! Every day was super packed, we had a million places we want to see and so many things to do. We'd get up early, be out all day, come back around the last train, stay up late to map out the next day. Even though, it was exhausting, it was too great we couldn't miss our opportunity!!
We left Seoul and headed to Ansan! Everyone always asked why we went to Ansan, because it's supposedly the bad part of Korea. But we HAD to go because!!!!
Heejun!!!!! He picked us up from the train station and spent a few days with us!!! He said he wouldn't visit or spend time with us (such a lie)!!! We had multiple meals together, went shopping, took purikura in Korea, went to a game center, went to karaoke, had icecream, and even spent Valentines Day as a lovely family of 3!
I thought leaving would be hard but actually, he was returning to Japan about the same time we were!! Of course, we'll meet again!!!
On the the next stop!!! Train bound for Daejeon!! Two of the sweetest girls to meet!!!
 I first met Gyuri at the train station! After 2 years!! We we're both unbelievably happy!!! We left to shop around for a little, then we met with her boyfriend who took us to our hotel. After resting a little, we went out for dinner and drinking, we had soooo much to talk about (2 years of life to go through)!!! After dinner, it was time to do karaoke in another language!!! (that's just what we do)!!!
The next day I met with Chorong!!!! It had been a year since the last time we met!!! She introduced me to two of her friends. The five of us went to lunch, explored the city, and went club bowling and pool (Korean original activity)!! It was so much fun meeting them both in Korea, but I didn't have much time in Daejeon. I was only there for about four days! (Four AMAZING days!)
After saying good-bye Sulecca and I headed off to another city to tour around. We didn't know much about the city, but we didn't care what it was like! We were both happy being in Korea. We visited many cities, and there's so much to see and do! One of my favorites was our adventure to Jiju Island!! We went to Love Land, Alive museum, Kpop museum, a few water falls, the beach, made new friends, and got lost trying to use the buses (because no train!!)
Next stop was Busan!!!!! There were two more lovely ladies to meet!!! 
After being in Busan for a few day, I first got to meet Min!!! I had already done the main site seeing so she took us shopping and told us how to get to two really famous beaches. We planned to meet again after she was done with work!
Before I arrived at the train station to meet her she said she had a surprise for me! Yoni had told me she was busy the day Min was free, but the day Min worked Yoni said she was free. I wasn't expecting to meet them both at the same time. So when I arrived at the station, I saw Min and asked about my surprise. Min said I would have to wait because the train wasn't here yet! Jokingly I asked if she got me a person and when she said yes I was even more confused. As we were talking and waiting, Min stopped me in mid sentence and told me to look the other direction. At first Yoni was too far I didn't know who it was, but when she waved and said my name I had to run and go hug her!!! It had been about half a year since we last met but it felt like just the other day we were all at Maryville laughing at dinner!!! After site seeing and exploring a few more days Min and Yoni met me at the train station and said good-bye.
It was time to go back to Seoul for our last week in Korea!!! We did the site seeing spots we missed the first time we were in Seoul. And we even planned for a small Maryville reunion!! Gyuri, Jin-eon, Ariel, and I all made time to meet for dinner a few days before I had to go back to Japan!!
The last night I was there I had to go back to my favorite site seeing spot!! Namsan Tower!!! It was soooo BEAUTIFUL!!! It snowed the whole last day and it felt like a dream!!! It wasn't really time to go was it... 
When I returned back to Japan I was both happy and sad. Happy to be back at my second home with friends that became family. Yet, sad because I had to leave the friends that were already family.

Spring vacation in Japan!!! (January)

I started my spring vacation in mid-January!!!! (Are you sure that's spring)??? It was kinda sad at the beginning, because I had to say good-bye to some of the students that were 1 semester or had finished their year. Two people I good-bye to, I got really close to. One was a girl from the U.S. and the other was a guy from Korea!

I wanted to spend as much time as I could with them before they had to return home so we had about four good-bye parties, a million pictures, and a trillion hugs!!! 

Audrey's flight was first so I helped her clean her room and go to the airport. We said our last good-bye... (so sad). We both know it's not good-bye forever, but for too long.

As for Heejun, I was able to send five more days with him before his flight, but we said good-bye at I house. It wouldn't be too long until I see him again.