Sunday, July 29, 2018

Internship in Valencia Spain - Danielle Everett

Leaving the states and arrival in Valencia

I left for my European adventure on May 22nd 2018. I plan to be honest about my experiences so I will start that right from the top. I was terrified to leave. I left my family at the airport with tears in my eyes because of the overwhelming emotions I was feeling about being away from family and home for the more than twice as long as I ever had before. I felt strongly that this was something that was going to change my life and I was just hoping at that point that it would be for the better.

The flight over was really long and I did not sleep much on the plane. I went from Knoxville to D.C. D.C. to New York and then I had a 6 hour layover in Amsterdam. I was very torn on whether or not to leave the airport in Amsterdam. I was really tiered and scared and that I wouldn't make it back in time for my flight to Valencia. Ultimately I decide to leave and even though I only got to eat in a little cafe and walk around see a few sights before I went back I am so glad I did. Amsterdam was beautiful so I glad I got to see the city. But more even more than that it was the first time I proved to myself that I could do this trip. That I could go out into a city and have an adventure on my own and live to tell the tale.

Finally after many many hours I finally arrived in Valencia. My luggage was not at the right baggage claim and I did not know where exactly I needed to go so I was again overwhelmed. But finally I made it to my home stay. I met my host mom (who I quickly realized spoke only Spanish) and my roommate (who also seemed quite overwhelmed). I literally only had time to set my luggage down and use the bathroom before it was time to go out and meet the other interns from our program. That night I was so jet lagged that I don't remember much but I do remember that we were offered sangria or beer which may have been one of my first culture shock experiences in Spain, that our director used me as an example for how to hold your purse to not get pick pocketed and I that I tired gazpacho (cold tomato based soup) without being told what it was or that it was going to be cold which was also quite a shock. Finally after what seemed like forever we were allowed to leave and go sleep in our new home.

First week in Spain

I slept in a little bit the next day but was also feeling much better and ready to go explore the city. My roommate and I went on the first of our many shopping trips (which was also the first of many times I got lost). After that we to the beach which at the time was actually a bit chilly. That afternoon I got I my first taste of European ice cream and it was absolutely wonderful. The almost constant availability of amazing ice cream will be one of the things I am really going to miss back home.

That night we meet up with some other interns and I had my first Agua de Valencia (typical drink of Valencia similar to a mimosa but very good because of the fresh Valencian orange juice) and my first Paella (traditional dish of Valencia made in a large pan with meats vegetables and rice). Both tasted good but over priced because we did not know the best places to go yet. I also really saw the city at night for the first time which was neat. Over the next few days before I started my internship my roommate and I explored the city and ate more food and took lots of pictures. This time is strange for me to think of now because at time I still felt like I was tourist on vacation.

We also started learning many of the unwritten rules of our host mom who was the only one in the house and was really old enough to be our grandmother. We had our first of many arguments with her which were usually were about not eating her food, showering at the wrong times/ in the wrong ways or our clothes and suitcases. I will go ahead and say now that personally my experience with living at a home stay was very mixed. I did save money having meals provided and I did have many times where I learned from my host mom and from the other girls who came and went from our house that were from other European countries. That being said between the fact our host mom was used to having younger girls and therefore was quite overbearing, the cultural differences and language barrier I had many days that I wished I had chosen to live in an apartment rather than a home stay. Of course, everyone has a different experience but for me personally if I could go back and do it again I would have at least switched to a different home stay where the host parents were willing and able to talk with me in English at least if a serious problem came up because being in that house was quite difficult for me and only got slightly better as the trip went on.

First Internship

After those several days of exploring the city like a tourist and learning about where we would be living that next Monday I finally started my first internship at Fundacion Alanna. This organization works to help women especially those that have been victims of domestic abuse. They help them find jobs, get food and clothing, and escape the domestic abuse situations. The first day I was there they were having a little party in the middle of the day which I thought was crazy but I soon found out happened pretty regularly. It was my experience that people in Spain were generally much more laid back and not as concerned with efficiency in the work place as people are in America. While I was there I made friends with some of the Spanish interns as well as an intern from Vietnam and the other American intern. All of the women that I meet that ran the foundation or were interns were absolutely wonderful I feel like I learned so much from all of them they even took me out for a fun celebration night. That being said the work that I myself was actually able to do was very limited. I was able to teach some of the women English and help with the children sometimes but other than that most of the work required fluent Spanish. So while I was so happy to get to spend sometime there and lean about what they do, because there was such a big miscommunication about my there level of English and my level of Spanish, I requested to be moved to another internship where I could do more productive work.

Adventures in Valencia
One of my favorite things I got to do during my free time I Valencia was go outside of the city and pick oranges from an orange grove and see how they make Paella. It was really neat to get out of from all the big building and see a little bit of nature and how they use that in traditional Spanish cooking. This was also when I first really got to know my friend Anna that would turn out to be great friend and traveling companion. 

London and Dublin
Although during the summer tourist season its not as easy or as cheap as some made it sound, it still is reality easy to travel from one European country to another. So my friend Anna and I went to London and Dublin for a weekend. We late one Thursday night and arrived in London just in time to see the city and night while we walked to our hostel. That was also my first experience staying a hostel which I would say went as well as could be expected. The next day we got bright and early to make sure we made the most of the little time we had in London. We took a “tour for muggles” and saw all of the harry potter sites within in the city which I absolutely loved. We also got to see the London eye, big ben (which was unfortunately under construction), and Buckingham palace. We also got stuck on the tube for about a half hour due to a fire which was scary. We left the city for the airport and after a long wait in the airport due to a delayed flight we made it into Dublin.

In Dublin we stayed at an adorable bed and breakfast owed by a precious older couple who even hand made us breakfast themselves in the morning. Then we went back into the city and met up with my friend Lisa who studied abroad in Maryville this past year. It was so great to explore Dublin and catch with her. It was especially interesting because she was able to tell us some of the history of the city as we walked around. We also got to see some beautiful cliffs and eat traditional Irish chowder and food from a pub in the temple bar area both of which were very yummy.  That night her family let us stay with them and it was so fun to get to meet her family that I had heard so much about. The next day we visited an old prison that was full of history and also got to see a historic castle. Lisa took us back to the airport and it was quite hard to say good bye knowing that I don’t know when we will see each other again but it was certainly a wonderful trip that I am so glad to have experienced.

More adventures
The next weekend we went to the City of arts and sciences. It was designed by a famous architect that has done work in several Spanish cities. We saw an Imax movie about American national parks and then got to visit the aquarium which was really interesting and beautiful. That night we did a roof top tapas and wine tasting which was delicious. We also got to see the sun set from the roof top which was really beautiful. The next day we also saw the historic silk exchange and the cathedral of Valencia.

I also had the opportunity to visit a town called Cuenca. It was much smaller town and definitely had a different feel than Valencia. We saw a beautiful cathedral and the hanging house on the side of the cliffs and had also had lovely view of the mountains from the top of the city. One our way home our train got stuck for about an hour and we met some students from Texas who were studying aboard in Cuenca and ended up meeting up with them the next day for the festival of San Juan. The festival of San Juan is a bit like a new year’s celebration but it happens in the middle of the year. There are bond fires on the beach and fireworks and there are traditions such a burning lists of things you don’t want in the new year in the bonfires and jumping over 12 waves in the ocean that are supposed to symbolize a new beginning. We celebrated on the beach with what felt like most of Valencia and I am really glad to that experience a traditional holiday while I was here.

The fair, the zoo and the World Cup 
The next weekend  I went to the fair with some friends. It was really fun. There was lots of food and their carnival rides were even more unstable looking than the ones in the states but that didn’t stop me from riding one. I also went to the zoo. It was really interesting to see because it was different from American zoos in a few ways. You were able to get a lot closer to the animals and there were some animals there I had never even heard of. I also watched the last World Cup game that Spain was in. It was a really intense atmosphere everyone was kind of on edge especially towards the end. It made me think a lot about sports why they are or aren’t important. It was really neat to experience some of the fun things to do here that locals also like do.

Second internship
As mentioned above I did not have enough work to do at my first internship. I was supposed to stay there the whole time but I talked with the internship coordinator and we decided it would be best for me to switch internships. For my second internship I ended up at small counseling office run by a husband and wife. The specialize in using virtual reality as a treatment for older adults to help attention and memory and are also looking at using it as treatment for anxiety. For this internship we read a lot of research on this subject as well as practiced Spanish and English by making, editing and presenting bilingual PowerPoints on the this subject. We were also able to try out the the VR system including games, visiting other countries, and riding roller coasters. This was especially fun for me because I had never done it before. I worked with two other American interns both of whom were really nice and I believe also new to VR. There was still somewhat of a lack there of really productive work we could do on some days but all in all I’m really glad that I was also able to spend some time at this internship as well.

Prague and Vienna
The day of the forth of July I ate dinner in a Taco Bell because it was the most American restaurant on my way to the airport. It was hard not celebrating with family and friends the way I am used to but it was totally worth it to be able to go to Prague. I met my roommate from last year at the airport very late when I finally got in after a delayed flight. Her parents were so nice to let me stay with them. For the next two days we meet up with Ian and we got explore the city. I saw the historical churches and a castle and got to try traditional check food at a place called the fat kuala ( in check but that’s what it translated to) and a traditional check dessert called a turdlo which was also delicious it was such a lovely city that was so full of history.
 I also got to go to Vienna while I was there. I took a train and it was quite a log trip to do in one day but I’m glad I did it. I got to visit the Sigmund Freud museum and as a psychology nerd I absolutely loved it. The final day of that trip we went to the international church that Sarah’s family goes to and it was great to get to meet some of her friends and teachers from before I knew her. Saying good bye was hard especially knowing that was my last trip country that would really get to visit on the trip but it was a really great experience to get to experience a beautiful city with friends

Barcelona and Peniscola
For my final trip before flying home I went with several of the other interns on a weekend trip to Barcelona and Peniscola. In Barcelona we saw park Guel, the Sagrada Familia and the Cathedral of Barcelona. We learned about the history of the city from its beginnings as a roman city all the way to some of the current political issues. We got to shop at their main shopping districts and see the port as well. On our way back to Valencia we also stopped in the small town of Peniscola. We climbed up to a historic castle with beautiful view and took lots of pictures. We also got see an bird rescue habitat and eat some tapas. It was a beautiful city but it was also very hot that day which made it a little harder to enjoy.

Final days in Spain and return
My last week in Spain was bitter sweet as I prepared to go home I was very excited to see my family and return to my home culture but was really hard to say good bye to many people particularly the lovely couple who were my bosses at my second internship who sent me off with a hand decorated mug and a delicious piece of carrot cake and an invitation to come back anytime. It was also a bit sad since the timing was a little weird and I had two internship so I didn’t get to say a proper good bye to some of the people I had met earlier on but that’s just the way it worked out. I moved out my home stay a day early to be closer to the airport and began my journey home at 3:30 am. After having numerous luggage problems, trekking through foreign airports, having interesting conversation with strangers on the planes and staying up for over 24 hours I finally made it home and got to see my family. This trip was wonderful, challenging and most definitely life changing. I am so glad I got to have this opportunity and I sincerely hope you have enjoyed reading about it.

Best wishes,
Danielle Everett

Monday, July 23, 2018

Whoa, We're (Over) Halfway There

Internship Abroad, New Zealand, Kate Liggett

As this past week came to a close, it left me with only 3 more weeks of living in New Zealand and working with Recreate. In just over 5 weeks, I have gone on 4 trips with work, gotten stuck on the Coromandel Peninsula, had my 22nd birthday, and learned so much than I imagined I would about working with youth and young adults with disabilities. This past week was my favorite trip I've taken with Recreate so far. It was their National Camp, where participants came from all of their different regions come together for a week of adventure activities.

To start off our week, we drove about 5 hours south of Auckland to the center of the North Island, near National Park (look it up, that's the full name of the park). We got settled into our lodge and learned a bit more about how our week would go from one of the staff at the adventure center where we were staying. Our activities for the week were canoeing, caving, and whitewater rafting. With 31 people, including the leaders, we were broken into 3 groups for our activities. My group started with canoeing and caving on Wednesday.

The canoeing trip was relatively laid back with a nice paddle across a lake, a stop for morning tea, and a paddle back to our van. After eating lunch, we drove to a cave down a dirt road where the van got stuck. I ended up standing on the back bumper of the van to add some weight and get the back left wheel to touch the ground. The actual cave was very cool. There was a shallow river running through it and there were glow worms, which were very cool to see. I was very proud of all of the participants in the group attempting to cave and going all the way through with the group. There were a few moments where some of them needed to be comforted and reassured, but we ultimately had a very good caving experience. It helped that our guide from the adventure center was very helpful with our participants and good at working with their ability levels.

On Thursday, the group I was in spent the day whitewater rafting. I was, again, proud that the entire group gave rafting a go despite concerns about being cold and wet (it's winter here but we had the proper gear supplied to us). Our guide was absolutely incredible. He has over 30 years of raft guiding experience and was extremely patient with our group. The trip down the river was great, and we got to learn a lot about the wildlife on the river as well as the pumice stone that floats in some parts of it.

The adventure parts of the week were so much fun and it seems like all of the participants really got a lot out of the challenges, especially since every single one did everything. Outside of the adventure parts of the week, it was incredible to see all the bonding that happened and fun that was had when we weren't able to get the DVD player we brought to work and there wasn't very good cell reception. I also learned a lot more about helping participants with personal hygiene, whether that meant a reminder to brush teeth before bed or helping someone with the temperature of their shower water (after convincing them to take a shower). It was a great trip to close out my 3 straight weeks of trips with Recreate.

My 3 remaining weeks don't seem like a long enough time to me, but I'm going to make the best out of them that I possibly can.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Aotearoa: Land of Rainbows and Mountains

I started my four weeks in Wellington, New Zealand feeling a mixture of apprehension and nervous excitement, and ended the four weeks with lifelong friends, a camera roll full of stunningly beautiful photographs, valuable service experience, and a serious case of jet lag! As part of the first group of service- learning students in New Zealand, my purpose was to help a local non-profit in their day to day operations while learning some professional skills and getting a deeper understanding of the social issues that affect Wellington. I worked at Pablos Art Studio, a non-profit organization providing a place for artists recovering from mental ill health to cultivate their artistic practice and reconnect with their community.

 Before I could begin my program, I first had to conquer a 30-hour journey full of long flights and navigating massive airports. Amazingly, there was another girl from Louisville in the program and we had the same flights! It put me at ease to be able to travel with someone else. This also marked the first of many "kia oras" pronounced (key-or-ah), a phrase that would become comforting and familiar to me over the next four weeks. We arrived in Wellington on an uncharacteristically sunny and still winter day. It was nice to be away from the heat and stifling humidity of the U.S. summer. I was so tired from the flights that I slept through dinner until late the next morning.
The view of hilly Welly from my apartment window

Before our service-learning placements began, our group of eight spent a couple days on ISA excursions as part of their bridging cultures orientation. During the orientation, we visited the parliament building a.k.a "the Beehive", drove along Owhiro Bay looking at seals and admiring the crystal clear, but freezing cold pacific ocean, learned about Aoteroa's history at the Te Papa museum, and explored Somes Island, an immigration quarantine island turned nature preserve.

The tour of the Parliament building was interesting because, in addition to learning about some of the differences in our two political systems, we got to learn about modern earthquake engineering! The Parliament building and adjacent library are supported by base isolators that allow the building to shift from side to side in the event of an earthquake, making the buildings practically earthquake proof. 
Service-Learning Student Awkward Family Photo

 The day of the seal coast safari started out cold and drizzly as we all piled into the back of an old land rover. Our guide drove along the coastal road up to Owhiro Bay until we eventually reached the beach. This is where the trip got really bumpy! Thankfully no one got sick as we bounced down hills and around turns until finally, we reached a rock outcropping that looked promising as a seal napping spot. We climbed out of the truck and squinted to see the seals against the similarly colored rocks, and there they were! Seals are very much like dogs in that they love to sleep and lay around, occasionally yawning or letting out the odd snore. As our group walked along the black sand beach, the sky began to clear and a rainbow appeared out over the water. This was my first time seeing the Pacific Ocean in person and it was an awe-inspiring and humbling experience. After arriving back in Wellington, we went on a guided tour through the Te Papa museum focused on the history and culture of the Maori people. We only scratched the surface of the massive number of exhibits that day, and during the following weeks, I found myself headed back to the museum again and again to explore more exhibits.
Te Papa's own functional wharenui, or meeting house, used by the local Maori tribe 
The second rainbow of the day outside the museum!

The last day of orientation, our group took a ferry from Wellington harbor to Somes Island, a former quarantine site for immigrants coming into New Zealand, later converted into a nature preserve. Most of the island is now home to many at-risk native plant and animal species as well as the quintessential heard of sheep.

The next week marked the start of my placement and my first full week in Wellington. I worked at Pablos with two other service-learning students and together, our task was to help the director organize Pablos annual art auction, the proceeds from which go to boost funding for operational costs. Our daily tasks consisted of emailing artists across NZ asking for artwork donations, canvassing local Wellington businesses for support, and preparing fliers and other promotional materials. However, our time at Pablos was not just spent in the office. Every Tuesday, we took part in a painting workshop led by one of the tutors. Most of our work was donated to artists that missed the session so they would not fall behind, but I always looked forward to getting to do some creating. We also saw different parts of Wellington by taking fliers and donation letters to businesses all around the city. My legs are definitely strong enough to conquer any hill now! Interacting with the artists was also a large part of my day. Taking breaks for "yarns" in the tea room, talking about what our hometowns in the U.S. are like compared to towns in New Zealand, and laughing together about Kiwi and American slang were many of the highlights of my time at Pablos. There were also lots of opportunities for outings with the director and staff such as artwork pickup for the auction and gallery visits.
The last Monday of our placement was a bittersweet day. We threw a pizza party for the volunteers and board of Pablos as part of national volunteer week, but it also doubled as a goodbye party for us. After the party, a few of the artists came over to us and presented us with a gift wrapped in red and blue. One of the artists had made us a painting as a farewell gift! We all teared up a little bit. It was such a kind and meaningful gesture. The artists and staff at Pablos will always have a special place in my heart. Even though we had only known each other for a few short weeks, it felt like I had known them for much longer, making leaving all the more difficult.
A painting in process from the workshop
Planning out our four weeks at Pablos with delicious NZ coffee
The round house
 The most memorable part of my whole experience was the trip to Queenstown our group planned. I made a last minute decision to go but I'm so glad I did because those few days really united our group and created the memories I most cherish. We rented a house and stayed for 4 days. The website didn't have a picture of the outside of the house so we were a little concerned when we pulled up to the address and it was just a gravel driveway. We walked down the driveway and let out relieved laughter and yells of excitement when we saw the small round house sitting before us! The entire house is a circle that slants slightly downhill to reveal an amazing view of the mountains. At night we would all cook dinner together then listen to music, and talk about anything and everything while sitting around the fireplace (most houses in New Zealand do not have central heating). We truly became a little family after this trip. We still talk almost every day and I have hung out with the girl from Louisville a couple times since being back.

Luckily, our trip coincided with the Queenstown Winter Festival providing lots of free activities and concerts. We watched an amateur dodgeball tournament, danced around at concerts at night, and watched fireworks on the edge of the lake. Queenstown is near the bottom of the mountainous south island making it one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand, but also one of the coldest! At one point during the trip, I was wearing four layers! The last full day, we took a bus to Milford Sound where we cruised around the sound and out to the Tasman Sea. It was a four-hour ride to and from, leaving us exhausted at the end of the day, but it was well worth it! Milford Sound shrouded in mist is one of the most magical things I've ever seen. A pod of dolphins even appeared just as we were leaving the dock! the water was so blue and clear that you could see them swimming alongside the boat.
Milford Sound picture 1/1,000
The view of the mountains from Lake Wakatipu
 The relationship we had with the director of Pablos, Dee, was something special that we were lucky to experience. Alongside her, we worked as hard as we could to show her we truly cared about Pablos and were doing our best to help make sure the organization could continue. In return, Dee showed us all the hidden things she loves about New Zealand. We became her "American children", and on the last day of our placement, we took the train to visit her small, coastal town of Paekakariki, about an hour outside of Wellington. The four of us walked along the beach and looked for shells before spending the afternoon exploring the town and hanging out in her backyard laying in the grass eating oranges off the trees in the yard. It was one of the most blissful sunny days I will remember for a long time and hope to experience again.

The end of the four weeks came too soon, making the journey home all the more difficult because I was not ready to go. I have learned so much about myself and the world through participating in this program and I would encourage anyone even on the fence about studying abroad to do it. The experience you will have is well worth all the months of paperwork and planning it takes to get there. My only regret is that I did not sign up for the eight-week program. Now I just have to save up enough to go back before my sky miles expire!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Mind the Gap! Learning from London

Mind the Gap!

Megan Wright, University of Roehampton, London, England

In London, one thing you learn quickly is that whether you're going across the UK or just to the grocery store, every trip you take is to be considered a "journey." All the Transport for London advertising material says so, and after a while, you start to believe in the importance of the word, the importance of treating every outing like a journey of its own. My own journey began on June 6, when I boarded my flight at McGhee-Tyson and said goodbye to my parents for the upcoming three weeks. 
Another thing you learn in London is that even a very densely packed city can be a small world; you can run into the same person on the street in different boroughs, and after a while, you start to believe in the magic of this, too, and the magic of London as a whole. I was blessed with a little bit of this magic even before I boarded my connecting flight in Atlanta, when I found a fellow MC student participating in my program and we realized we were on the same flight and could go through customs together! My seat mate was a lovely American expat living in Wales, and she gave me dozens of good tips for starting my journey in London. There's a third thing you learn: if people want to give advice, take it. Her advice helped keep me calm over the next several days, when I remembered what she had said about people standing extremely close to one another on the Tube or the bus, and when I remembered that if I ordered ice in a drink, I would get a weird look from the waiter. By the time we landed, I was as ready as I would ever be for whatever London had to offer, which, as it turned out, was a kid puking on his shoes in the customs line. 

This next picture is of the view from my flat, a place I would become very well-acquainted with over the next three weeks. On the day I arrived in London (the 7th), my phone was on the fritz. The IT guy at my work had set me up with an international plan, but I couldn't even connect to the university's wifi from my room. Thus, my first three days in London were extremely unnerving. I was an only child on her first solo trip and her first trip abroad, and I couldn't use any of my mapping applications or even text my mom. I learned another important fact about London the hard way: the old Keep Calm and Carry On slogan? It's very true. You have to learn to roll with the punches while you're abroad, even when it's super stressful. I learned to lean on my friends for navigation during our first few days in the city, when I couldn't use Google Maps. I learned that Waterstones Bookstore is London's best source of WiFi, but a Costa or Cafe Nero will work just as well in a pinch. I kept pushing forward and looking for solutions; eventually, I managed to communicate the seriousness of the situation to my mom, and my IT guy helped me change my plan. I ordered an Ethernet cable for my Mac so I could use my laptop in my room, and my little flat became a place of rest instead of a place of connection-less sadness. Bonus lesson: always travel with an Ethernet cable. 

Another of London's important lessons is to keep your eyes and ears open for new opportunities to explore. No one in my group of friends knew anything about the Trooping of Colour happening the first Saturday of our program, but we heard faculty mentioning it on-campus and instantly knew we had to go. What an amazing way to spend our first day in central London! We saw dozens of palace guards, a flyover with WWII-era planes, and walked on blocked-off streets straight down the Mall into Trafalgar Square. Throughout my trip, listening to local advice resulted in experiences I enjoyed and wouldn't have otherwise had. My group ended up planning a Sunday trip to Brighton on a whim after several Londoners told us we should visit–– they were definitely right!

One thing I especially enjoyed about London was visiting its churches; my faith is the most important part of my life, and experiencing a global community of believers was something I had been looking forward to. During my stay, I attended church at Westminster Abbey and at a small church in Putney, and took a day trip to Canterbury (A-MAZING!!!) to visit the cathedral there. While I loved stepping back in time at Westminster, the openness and kindness of the tight-knit congregation in Putney was much more personal, and I felt more free to worship. That's another trick about London: don't expect that the major tourist attractions will be your most-loved experiences. Over and over, I found myself preferring locations I hadn't considered or expected to enjoy, like the Old Spitalfields Market in Whitechapel and the residential streets of Barnes. Be open to experiencing things firsthand instead of making judgments about what you're likely to enjoy before you ever step foot in your destination. 

My time in London's churches also taught me the importance of making time to find peace while abroad. In the hustle and bustle of a new school, a new city, a new country, it's easy to get overwhelmed without even realizing how anxious you've become. Seeking out places that are likely to put you at ease can be a huge source of comfort. Worshipping on Sunday mornings was an important outlet for me to openly acknowledge my struggles and to recenter myself before tackling a new week. Spending time in nature provided a similar outlet–– my host university had beautiful green space similar to the MC Woods, where I could wander densely wooded trails after a busy day of class and traveling. Nearby Richmond Park provided my favorite outdoor outing, though. At more than 3 square miles, Richmond is a gorgeous escape from Southwest London's cramped brownstones, and it's home to more than 600 Red and Fallow deer. I walked the .7 miles from my campus to Richmond Park one afternoon when I was in need of a mental break, and spent several hours alone, wandering the trails and using sign posts to navigate towards King Henry's Mound, a rise with views of central London and St. Paul's Cathedral. The open fields of knotty trees and wild grasses cleared my head, and I was blessed enough to see a herd of deer roaming free. I stood mouth agape, videoing and taking pictures as the bucks, does, and spotted fawns pranced by in front of me. After a particularly taxing few days in central London, Richmond Park was exactly what I needed, and the time I spent there was some of my favorite of the whole trip.

I definitely enjoyed traveling alone to Richmond Park, and traveling solo was something I did a handful of times. I had prebooked tickets to Shakespeare's Globe theatre and for a day-trip to Leeds Castle in Kent, the Dover seashore, Canterbury, and Greenwich, and I visited the Tate Modern museum and Covent Garden alone. Traveling solo is a fun challenge once you understand the transport system, because you have to depend on your own skills to get from Point A to Point B but are free to see whatever you like at your own pace. However, I found that, in spite of my introverted tendencies, I preferred traveling in a group to traveling solo, and spent the majority of my free time with a group of three other girls, one from MC and two from other American universities. As tough as it is to learn and interpret the culture of your host country, it can be difficult to learn and interpret the personalities of fellow American students. One thing we learned from London was how to adopt a bit of that classic British reserve in our conversations with one another, being extra-gracious to each other and accommodating the needs of our friends. My little group criss-crossed London in three weeks' time, from Tower Bridge to Abbey Road, the London Eye to the V&A and the Imperial War Museum. We never once got lost (the Tube system is wonderfully user-friendly), and by the end of the trip, we were not only comfortable with the transport system, we were comfortable and close with each other. My friends were a vital part of the success of my trip, as they acted as my support system, provided extra security when traveling, and were always ready to explore somewhere new. (And traveling with friends means there's always someone to take your picture!)

I've talked a lot about the traveling I did in my free time, but have hardly mentioned my study abroad class, which was an incredible experience in its own right. My lecturer, Dr. G.,  was a California-born London transplant with 10 years' experience of living in the UK. Our class of 18 women was her first ever class, having just completed her doctorate. My class was entitled Magic, Murder, and Mystery in London Literature, for which I can earn a senior-level transfer credit at MC. We studied the ways London has been used as a setting for a variety of stories written across centuries, from Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to Mary Poppins and Harry Potter. Though I spent a fair number of afternoons and evenings in the University of Roehampton's spacious library, reading and writing papers for class, Dr. G. also incorporated film, walking tours, and even social media into the class (we created Instagram pages for Dorian Gray and Lord Henry Wotton). Our class ran from 9-1 Monday through Thursday, giving us plenty of time for in-class debates, movie screenings, and tours of Jack the Ripper's stomping grounds and filming locations from the Harry Potter movies. As someone who has spent the last decade of her life learning all of London's hidden rules, Dr. G. was an incredible resource for us all, giving advice on where the best thrift shops are (Wimbledon Village), the best bookstores in London (Hatchard's is a MUST), and checking up on us to ensure we were staying safe and having fun. To our great amusement, the guides of our walking tours frequently mistook her as another student, wondering aloud where our lecturer had gone and posing questions to Dr. G. that were a clear insult to her seasoned knowledge of London life. You can see how easy it would be for anyone to make this mistake, though; Dr. G. is the one in the red sweater.

My time in London may have been limited, but I could fill pages with all the stories I gathered during those three weeks! My advice to travelers boils down to this: be flexible, have an open heart and an open stomach, and bring comfortable shoes! If you ever find yourself in London, try the prawn wontons at Old Spitalfields market, and head to Fisher's in Putney for some great fried haddock and chips. And if you want more stories, come find me in Anderson. That's one last thing I learned about London: everyone has a story, and they'd love to tell you all about it. All you have to do is ask. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Little Did We Know...

Kate Liggett, ISA Intern Abroad, New Zealand

To finish off my fourth week in New Zealand, I planned a relaxing trip to the Coromandel Peninsula with some of the other interns I'm living with. Little did we know, this weekend trip would take more than a few unexpected turns.

The Coromandel Peninsula is about 2 hours east of Auckland. We rented 2 cars for Saturday and Sunday and an Air B&B for Saturday night. Our first stop was supposed to be the trailhead for a hike called the Pinnacles. Little did we know, my car would get separeted from the other and my navigator's GPS would get us terribly lost, so lost that we ended up in an organic orchard on the other side of the peninsula.

The rest of our group started the hike while we attempted to find the trailhead. When we got there, we began the 4 hour hike to the top. However, we were only able to hike for about two and a half hours before turning around because it was raining very hard making parts of the trail flood. We wanted to get back down before dark. There wasn't much of a view, but I still had a great time and enjoyed the exercise.

We joined up with the other group after they completed the hike and went to our Air B&B. Everyone was hoping for a great view in the morning because our house was so close to the beach. Little did we know, we were in the middle of a terrible rain storm that would not end until late Sunday night. The next morning, our plan was to go to the Hot Water Beach to dig ourselves a hot pool and soak in some warmth during the bad weather. We managed to dig a hole big enough for 5 people to stand in and the water was freezing cold. After this failed attempt, half of the group was ready to head back for Auckland. The rest of us were able to convince them to split into two groups so they could leave or get food while we went to Cathedral Cove.

Cathedral Cove was absolutely beautiful despite the bad weather. Once we got to the cave it felt like stepping into Narnia (at least for those of us in the group that had seen Prince Caspian). The four of us that went thoroughly enjoyed the cave, standing under a freezing waterfall and taking a very brief dip in the ocean. Little did we know, as we played in the cove and the other group sat in a cafe, the rain was creating more problems for us.

We met back up with the other group to plan our return home. The guys in the group wanted to get back pretty quickly while we elected to take the scenic route. We got in our cars and drove off in seperate directions. Little did we know, every road out around us was blocked by either a flood or a landslide. We were trapped.

After running into a flooded road we were finally able to get a hold of the guys to find that their way out was blocked as well. We decided to drive back into the nearest town to make plans for the night after realizing the roads wouldn't be cleared until the next day. We found a reasonably priced holiday resort right on the beach with two more rooms left to settle in for the night. By the time we got the rooms the rain had stopped. Little did we know, the extra night on the peninsula would be a blessing in disguise. The night ended up being perfect for star gazing on the beach. We were able to see some neon blue spots in the tide cause by bioluminescent plankton. I even figured out how to take pictures of the stars with my new camera. (Little did I know, my lens cap was on for the first 15 minutes of night sky picture attempts.)

The next morning, since everyone was already going to miss work, we decided to make one more attempt at the Hot Water Beach. This time, the sun was shining and we were able to rent a shovel for $5 from a nearby cafe. As we waited for the tide to go down, we walked to the end of the beach and back. Once the tide had gone down significantly, we found a hot spot in the sand and started digging. After about 30 minutes, we were finally able to lie in our hot pool and soak up some warmth. It was a very satisfying end to the unexpected long weekend. Despite all the issues we faced this weekend, I still had a great time and learned a lot about problem solving on-the-go.

Monday, July 9, 2018

What I've Been Up to Lately

Kate Liggett, ISA Intern Abroad, New Zealand

The past week here has been a busy one. Last Saturday, I went with the group of interns I'm living with to Rangitoto Island, which is a dormant volcano just off the coast of Auckland. We took a short ferry ride to get there and spent the day hiking on the volcano and exploring old lava caves. The view from the top was absolutely stunning. It was great to spend the whole day outside, hiking and spending time with new friends. Below is a picture from near the top of the volcano and another taken from the ferry ride back to the city.

Work has been great over the past few weeks! I've been learning a lot from the facilitators at Recreate, and I've been experiencing a lot on trips with them. It has been very cool to sit in on their meetings to learn a bit about how the business is run. I've really enjoyed getting to meet the participants at Recreate and learning how to work with an older population than I am used to. With Recreate I have gone to a rugby game, worked on Life Skills, explored Auckland for a weekend, and gone to Ohope Beach, which is supposedly (according to the signs there) New Zealand's favorite beach. This week I will be going on another trip to Mount Manganui for another Recreate getaway, and next week I am going to Recreate's National Camp where we will be doing whitewater rafting and other fun outdoor activities at the Blue Mountain Adventure Center.

As far as adjusting to living in Auckland goes, I am absolutely loving it here! Everything has been a huge change for me these past three weeks, but I haven't actually found it too challenging. The hardest part of living here has been figuring out the bus system. Other than that, I've been having an amazing time in New Zealand. I can't find anything to complain about. I could honestly see myself living here one day if I ever got the opportunity, but we'll see how the remaining 5 weeks go for me. I'm sure they'll be just as amazing as the first 3. I'm already getting a little sad about how short the time I have left in this beautiful country is, but I'm trying to cherish the time I do have and not dwell on it.

Check back in with the blog next week to hear about another getaway with Recreate and a weekend trip with the ISA interns!