Becca in Hungary: BLOOPERS!!

May 6, 2015

While typically bloopers are saved for the end of the show I wanted to bring the bloopers from my time in Hungary out a bit earlier. As my program begins to wrap up in the next couple weeks I want to reflect on how I have changed through this experience, but I can only show how much I have grown if I show you where I first started. And with that I list my favorite “Bloopers” of my trip:

1) This face whenever someone tries to speak Hungarian to me:

Becca 1
2) followed by this face from them when I try to reply back in Hungarian:

Becca 2
3) When I went to the post office to try to mail a letter home, and everyone in the post office started yelling at me for some reason I am still unclear of today. (note: Sorry mom and dad I haven’t sent anymore postcards; the post office is just too scary of a place for me now.)

4) When I accidentally ate sour cream for an entire week because I thought it was a yogurt. WARNING: if you come to Hungary and see big shelves of tejföl it is NOT yogurt!! Hungarians are just in love with sour cream so they have a deceivingly large amount of it which may make yogurt lovers like me think that it is in fact yogurt.

5) This weekend when I went to a small ranch hotel, the concierge at the front desk would literally run to the back room whenever she saw us, in fear that we may ask her questions in English since she knew little English. At least I hope that is the reason she ran away from us…

6) When I was stopped at the metro to check for my metro pass. Because I have a student pass, I also need to carry a student ID with me. In this specific instance I forget my student ID and the metro workers were not happy. I knew this by their raised tone of their voice, but my lack of Hungarian prevented me from picking up all the details. Once they said they were going to call the police I knew I should just pay the fine for my offense and go on my merry way.

7) When taking a train from Vienna back to Budapest we were told that we had to buy first class tickets because there were no seats left in economy. When we got on the train we found the economy section to not only be nearly empty, but also that our first class tickets were not valid.

8) When I got lost in a Hungarian mall because not only do they have one H&M, T-Mobile, etc in each mall, sometimes they have two or three of the same exact store in the same exact mall… This leads to problems when telling someone meet me at H&M…

9) Trying to explain why I came to Budapest to study abroad. Many Hungarians didn’t realize that their countrymen are crazy good at math and a large portion of the greatest mathematicians are in fact Hungarian.

10) Trying to explain that you don’t want alcohol in some drink you are getting… that’s an even stranger concept to grasp for some Hungarians.

While I love to look back at these moments for a good laugh, I also love to look back on these moments to see how far I have come. Now, before buying tickets for a trip I verify online that I am in-fact getting the right price and deal. When I go to the grocery store I avoid tejföl at all costs, and when I am looking for something more specific I try to Google the Hungarian name before I go or ask someone in the store when I get there. I will never board any form of public transit without my student ID, and when I am using public transit in other countries I carefully check I am purchasing the correct ticket.

This semester has made me more aware that we can’t just assume things about the people and cultures we meet throughout our lives. Its not fair that I just assume that everyone I meet should just know English or that this person will understand our cultural differences. These differences, though, are not something to fear but rather to be explored and celebrated. That really is the point of the studying abroad anyways: exploring new cultures and realizing the plethora of ways people think and operate. I just continue to thank everyone that has allowed me to have this opportunity to explore the culture of Hungary and beyond.


KyungSun in Scotland: The Hardest Goodbye

May 5, 2015

Everyone is leaving, returning, graduating, and getting busy all too fast. I am trying my best to see what I haven’t yet seen of Scotland (weather permitting), have a meaningful goodbye with my exchange friends, say goodbye to my senior friends back at UR that are graduating, AND prepare for my upcoming trip around Europe. It’s honestly an understatement saying that it’s been a roller coaster ride. I’m feeling so many emotions in a day and constantly pressured to absorb as much of Scotland as possible, all while the weather teases me like the stubborn version of myself when I don’t know what I want.

Typical stubborn Scotland.

Typical stubborn Scotland.

I realize that no matter how many gifts I buy, no matter how many pictures I take, or how many meaningful memories I make in these last few days, I can’t capture it all. There’s no way. The other day, I was briefly taken back to my Spain Facebook album, when I traveled there the summer before my senior year in high school. I hadn’t seen these pictures in over three years and I was surprised at how little I remembered. I got pangs of slight familiarity when I saw my photos, but when I compared my photos to my friend Jackie’s photos of Madrid, I had forgotten how intricately detailed and beautiful the buildings were, what each place was called, and how delicious the tapas looked. Most importantly, I forgot what I learned besides the fact that it was my first time abroad.

Fortunately, I wrote most of it in my journal. This is something that I always do. Even back at home, I take time to reflect and write down not just what I’ve seen (because pictures do that for you), but what I’ve been thinking, feeling, and questioning. It’s not a daily thing. I write about every 2-3 days, and to take pressure of myself, I don’t write down everything, but only the things I’m reflecting on that day. It’s not only a great stress reliever, but also my personal way of capturing my growth during my college years. Journaling abroad has allowed me to add that last level of depth to my pictures, souvenirs, and videos. It also weirdly takes an enormous amount of pressure off to find the perfect souvenir for myself. So far, I bought a comic-style map of Scotland (since it listed a majority of places I’ve been to) and a few postcards. But then I still haven’t bought my shortbread, a Scottish flag, or a University of Edinburgh sweatshirt and that’s a must right?

To me, these things are the best representation of what I experienced in Scotland. The map represents where I was, and each postcard represents my favorite things about Scotland.

To me, these things are the best representation of what I experienced in Scotland. The map represents where I was, and each postcard represents my favorite things about Scotland.

I know in the end, we eventually become desensitized to things. I still have meaningful necklaces, posters, and t-shirts from past travels, but I never really notice them on a daily basis. And when I look at my Scotland posters and postcards, the last thing I want to do is simply say, “Wow, Scotland was so beautiful”. Instead, I want to absorb the lessons I’ve learned here and let my fresh perspective shape my experiences when I return. This way, by the time I graduate, I can look back on my four years, look at those souvenirs, and be reminded of how Scotland transformed how I spent my last year at Richmond.

Bonnie Loch Lomond

Bonnie Loch Lomond

So here I am, about to leave the place that I have gotten to know, explore, and be a part of for four months. Remember my post about love? Well, Scotland has taught me a lot about falling in love. Like I said, it’s a painful thing to have to let something or someone you love go, just like I am deeply sad in a way that I can never express in words about leaving Scotland. But you know when you’ve truly loved and not just clung onto something out of selfish desire when you get to know, understand, be immensely happy in, and happily, although sadly, let it go when you need to, knowing that it’s brought you much happiness through the joys and trials during your time together and at the end, inspired you to continue on a path towards becoming a better person.

Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh.

Edinburgh.

Scotland.

Scotland.


Jackie in Switzerland: Cheese, Chocolate, and Cows

May 5, 2015

This week, I learned what Switzerland is really all about: cheese, chocolate, and cows.

I got the amazing opportunity to go to Gruyères, which is the town that actually makes Gruyère cheese, the staple of Swiss cuisine. Of course because this is Switzerland, the town itself was charming and adorably and obviously had an amazing view of mountains and nature (the number one criteria for Swiss cities).

This was the train that took us from Lausanne to Gruyères. I have never in my life experienced something so adorable that it almost didn't seem real.

This was the train that took us from Lausanne to Gruyères. I have never in my life experienced something so adorable that it almost didn’t seem real.

This picture explains how the views in Switzerland are still amazing no matter how many times you have seen a snow covered mountain.

This picture explains how the views in Switzerland are still amazing no matter how many times you have seen a snow covered mountain.

While in Gruyères, I got to sample all of the different types of Gruyère and I could not believe how one kind of cheese could have so many different tastes. We learned how the cheese is made, and how these different types of Gruyère result from the aging process. I also got to try the cheese just before it was put into the rounds, at the very beginning of the process. It was DISGUSTING.

This is the very first stage of cheese making, where the milk gets churned until it makes this gummy type-substance that will be aged to make cheese. This is the gummy stuff that I tried. Very appealing, I know.

This is the very first stage of cheese making, where the milk gets churned until it makes this gummy type-substance that will be aged to make cheese. This is the gummy stuff that I tried. Very appealing, I know.

It was gummy and white and totally flavorless and I cannot imagine how the beauty of Gruyère cheese is made from such an unappealing thing. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed all of the samples throughout the day. The Swiss cheese makers clearly know what they are doing.

This man told us all about how he crafts his cheeses, and then proceeded to jump into the giant vat where he made the cheese.

This man told us all about how he crafts his cheeses, and then proceeded to jump into the giant vat where he made the cheese.

After trying loads of cheese, we walked it off on our way to eat even more chocolate at the Cailler chocolate factory! On our path, we came across more cows than I have ever seen in my entire life. I finally felt like I was in a traditional, small Swiss village. I have made it fairly clear that I am not a super outdoorsy type of girl, so while some other students got a closer look at the cows, I chose to use the ‘zoom’ setting on my camera.

Lots of cows.

Lots of cows.

Okay, so they are kind of cute, but they are still livestock and therefore I kept a fair distance.

Okay, so they are kind of cute, but they are still livestock and therefore I kept a fair distance.

First, we got to walk through a ‘history of chocolate’ interactive museum that showed us how chocolate has evolved over the past few centuries and where chocolate originated. Then, we got to see how Cailler, Switzerland’s major chocolate producer, came to dominate the chocolate world. While this was all well and good, the best part did not come until the very end.

Il était une fois: Evidently, the Swiss take their chocolate very seriously.

Il était une fois: Evidently, the Swiss take their chocolate very seriously.

After the tour, we got to try some of the raw products that go into the chocolate, like almonds, hazelnuts, and raw cacao. I obviously ate as much as I possibly could, which backfired in the end. After this stage of the tasting, we actually got to taste some of the final product Cailler chocolate.

Le chocolat, c’est quand? C’est toujours Cailler, always.

Le chocolat, c’est quand? C’est toujours Cailler, always.

We saw how a certain type of their chocolate is produced and then a factory worker handed us some samples. I expected one or two, but thanks to a very generous worker, we all got a TON of these samples. I was regretting eating all of the raw cacao in the beginning.

But wait.

There’s more.

After this stage, we got an unlimited tasting of all of the Cailler specialties. Yes, you read that correctly, unlimited free samples! These chocolates had caramel, hazelnuts, creamy nougat centers, and coffee infusions. Again, I ate as much as I possibly could but there is only so much chocolate a girl can take. Here in Switzerland, people often eat chocolate as a part of their daily diet. For example, if you are about to go workout and need some pre-exercise fuel, the Swiss would suggest eating a small bar of chocolate. I would like to note that I approve of this mindset.

jackie samples 1

First round of samples.

I could have eaten every single chocolate on these tables if I wanted to. It was tempting…

I could have eaten every single chocolate on these tables if I wanted to. It was tempting…

Although I could barely move after so much chocolate, the experience was amazing and despite my declarations that I would “never eat chocolate again”, it took me all of one day to return to my pro-chocolate mindset.

It was easy to forget in such a cool place that I am an actual student with actual responsibilities, but now I am getting into the swing of final assignments. I do not have any final exams after the class period, but I have a lot of papers and in-class exams to finish in the next couple of weeks. But with the help of the best chocolate in the world, I think I will be able to make it through, wish me luck!


Fabiana in China: The Last One

May 1, 2015

As we wrap up the month of April, I sit back and enjoy my last plane ride back to Beijing. I look at the blue sky and clouds, and remember I forgot to throw out the milk in my refrigerator before leaving (two weeks ago). Haha.

With approximately 1,400 photos in my camera (of which 200 are basically selfies), I feel as if it was only yesterday when this trip started. We had seen and learned so much, to the extent that I have to make an effort to remember what I had seen in each city. I could go on and on about everything that has happened, but instead I’ll briefly narrate my top 10 experiences.

(Because it’s too hard to rank them, I just listed them according to the order in which each was done)

Visiting the White Horse Temple (Luoyang, western Henan province, China)

The White Horse Temple is the first Buddhist temple in China. Established in 68 AD under the patronage of Emperor Ming, the temple is considered “the cradle of Chinese Buddhism.” The legend says Emperor Ming had a dream vision about a Buddha who established Buddhism in India. He then sent emissaries to search for Buddhist scriptures. In Afghanistan, they found two Buddhist monks that agreed to come to China to translate the Buddhist scriptures into Chinese. These monks carried their Buddhist books, scriptures and relics on two white horses. In their honor, the Emperor built and named the first Buddhist temple The White Horse Temple.  Creative huh?

Photo 1

Witnessing tens of thousands Buddhist statues carved into mountains (Luoyang)

The last time I remember feeling this amazed was when I saw the Taj Mahal in India two years ago. The view of the Longmen Buddhist Grottoes was simply breathtaking, especially because you never really know when you’ll reach the most famous sculptural site of the place. The construction of the grottoes began in 493 BCE, and in 2000, the area was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. With around 2345 caves and niches, 2800 inscriptions, 43 pagodas, and over 10,000 Buddhist images at the site, it is one of the most impressive collections of Chinese art from the Northern Wei Dynasty, Tang Dynasty and other periods.

Photo 2

Touring The Terracotta Soldiers Site (Xi’an)

Ever since I saw an exposition at Epcot, Disney of the Terracotta Soldiers, my dream was to go see “the real-deal.” These life-sized statues of warriors older than the Roman Empire are located 1.5 kilometers east of the Mausoleum of the First Emperor, Shi Huang Di. Farmers found pieces of broken terracotta in 1974 when digging a well. This is how the 14,260 square-meter pit of terracotta warriors and horses was found. Today, more than 8,000 soldiers and 100 chariots have been excavated. However, because of the “limited technology” today, most of the excavated warriors have been buried again for better protection. There are only 1,000 terracotta figures in exhibition today.

Photo 3

Riding a Tandem Bike on Xi’an’s Ancient City Wall

There is truly no other way to wander this 14-kilometer city wall other than riding a bike. If you’re up for spicing things up, try renting the tandem bikes. From the top, you’ll be able to see the contrast between the old and new architecture: the old referring to the construction located inside the city wall, and the new referring to the outside. The city walls form one of the largest and most complete, ancient military systems of defense in the world. They were built on the fortifications of the Tang Forbidden City.

Photo 4

Eating in Xi’an: Arab Street Food

From fried bananas on sticks to spicy meat over bread: when in Xi’an this street is a “must-go” to eat. Half the time you will not know what you’re eating, but the lines of people waiting will depict how good the food being sold there is.

Photo 5

Roaming Around the Potala Palace (Lhasa)

This palace is truly astonishing. When seeing it from the outside, you see a combination of white on the bottom and red on top. These two colors correspond to two palaces built in different time periods, but connected to form one from the inside. Pilgrims walk around the Potala Palace for hours to pay homage, so as soon as you’re near the palace you can get a feel of how important this building is for Buddhists. The 13-story palace stands 117 meters high and has over 1,000 rooms. It covers an area of 130,000 square meters.

The red palace contains jaw-dropping mausoleums of previous Dalai Lamas and the white palace contains the living headquarters of successive Dalai Lamas and their tutors. The Potala Palace is full of precious sculptures, murals, scriptures, and Buddha figures accompanied by the hums of the Buddhist prayers. It has been considered one of the most sacred places for Buddhism for hundreds of years.

Photo 6

Having Tea by the Barkhor Street (Lhasa)

“入乡随俗,”by far one of my favorite four-character word sayings in Chinese means: “In Rome, do what Romans do.” After walking one of the oldest streets in Lhasha called Barkhor Street, one has to make an effort to find the famous teashops located on hidden alleys. Our tour guide took my friend and I to one of these for a big surprise. These places are not the ordinary teashops you’re imagining, where you sit in an ordinary manner and have a server ask your order. These are the type of places you sit wherever you fit: there are long tables and chairs everywhere. This is a type of place locals sit and chat, do business and meet total strangers. With a whole pot of milk tea priced at $1, this is the place to end your day’s adventure.

Hiking the Leshan Giant Buddha (Leshan)

The Leshan Giant Buddha is the biggest carved stone Buddha in the world (71 meters high). Located at the confluence of three important rivers, the statue was built to bring the water spirit under control. The falling stones during the carving would also help reduce the water force there. It took 90 years to complete the carving.

Photo 8

Visiting the Panda Research Base/Giant Panda Breading Center (Chengdu)

The research base, which has elements of a veterinary lab, a park, a panda habitat, and a zoo, is one of the best places to see giant pandas in the world. The research base, covered in trees, flowers and 14 species of bamboo, provides a pleasant escape from city life. Red pandas (closer-looking to a raccoon than a panda) are also sheltered there, giving a twist to the whole experience.

Photo 9 pandas

Walking through Jinli Street (Chengdu)

In ancient times, Jinli was one of the busiest commercial boulevards of the Kingdom of Shu. Today, visitors from all over China and abroad enjoy this renovated street, as there is a lot to see, hear and EAT. WARNING: eating some of the local specialties will literally make you sweat. If you’re not into spicy food, make sure you tell the vendor “bu yao la” 不要啦 = I don’t want spicy. They’ll look at you a little insulted (they love the spice), but will make sure you get the least amount of spice in it (if possible).

Photo 10

With the semester completed and a month left in Beijing, I wrap my last blog post with a BIG THANK YOU. I couldn’t have done anything without the support of my family, boyfriend, and friends I made along the way. I liked having this blog for my stay in China, who knows if I’ll have another independent one in the future.

There is still so much to see, touch and taste out there. I am young. I am hungry for experience.

Till we meet again.

F.


KyungSun in Scotland: Happy Graduation!

April 30, 2015
My teacher/Parliamentary program coordinator, Paddy, and the girls from my flat!

My teacher/Parliamentary program coordinator, Paddy, and the girls from my flat!

Last week marked the formal end of my internship. As I reflect on my time at Holyrood, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming mix of joy, accomplishment, and sadness. It takes me back to high school graduation. I remember down the red carpet with my diploma in hand, ready for the next step in my life, but also sad for the people I’d say goodbye to. The difference between then and now is that this time, I won’t be coming back to the same place. Scotland is and has always been the temporary home that my exchange friends, church friends, teachers, and MSPs shared. Now, I will be leaving this home in 6 days.

When I first arrived, I came with two main academic goals: to learn about the policy-making process and how Scotland delivers great healthcare through its NHS (National Healthcare System). I was expecting to just see and learn the formal processes in action, but instead learned in a much greater way.

My MSP, Richard, in particular created a very open space for me to learn and grow during my time at Holyrood. I initially was very nervous when I first came in and was immediately asked to write up briefings on research Richard needed. I thought it would be something that he would just skim or put aside for later, but was surprised to find out that he had sent out the reports to other staff members on the project. I was always diligent in my work, but of course I wasn’t perfect. I still had to get used to little things like the different spellings to the bigger things like not always knowing where to look for specific information. But being able to interact and bounce off these topics with Richard made me see how passionate he is about keeping people healthy. Something that struck me was when we were reviewing the percentages of waiting times and Richard, frustrated, had said something like this:  “Can you find me a number? I don’t like this report because it gives me a percentage and people are not percentages; they should be counted each as individuals”. I admired this statement; it reflects his dedication to bringing about change for the people he serves, and I’m glad to have been part of making the changes happen.

Richard

 Richard's Alcohol Bill Launch! One of the things he really pushed for is to reduce the alcohol/tobacco consumption in Scotland. Some of the measures in his bill include things like retailers not being able to sell packs of beer cheaper than if you would buy the same amount as individual cans.

Richard’s Alcohol Bill Launch! One of the things he really pushed for is to reduce the alcohol/tobacco consumption in Scotland. Some of the measures in his bill include things like retailers not being able to sell packs of beer cheaper than if you would buy the same amount as individual cans.

The greatest thing I admire about Scottish politics are the incentives built within the political system that enables the MSPs and their staff to focus on the work rather than the position. In Scotland, politicians have a modest spending budget limit for campaigns, which makes the position more accessible to the general public. It was both surprising and amazing when the other interns and I discovered that staff members of MSPs (Member of the Scottish Parliament) were running either as MSPs or as MPs! The other interns and I agreed that we would never see this in the States simply because you need a lot of money to have a good chance in the race. I certainly wish I could bring this feature of politics back with me to the States.

It initially didn’t hit me that it was time to say goodbye. I went into work as usual, had lunch with some of the other interns, and went campaigning on my last day as a final gathering with the team. The UK Election is now officially 1 week away and my MSP/staff have been busy campaigning for Gordon Banks, the Labour candidate running for MP (Member of the UK Parliament). I spent a very relaxing, fun day down in the constituency office in Alloa getting to know the other volunteers. I also got to share a car-ride chat with Gordon Banks about his work as an MP. I could see that he is someone who values the individual relationships he has with the community he serves and he told me that if he had the choice, he would choose to work from his constituency rather than spilt his time between London and Alloa. Even on my last day, I was happy to be learning more about the people driving change in Scotland/UK. But all too soon, the day ended, and I hugged everyone goodbye.

The Labour campaign team to re-elect Gordon Banks! He has served as an MP for the past 10 years already!

The Labour campaign team to re-elect Gordon Banks! He has served as an MP for the past 10 years already!

Where we were campaigning: in the quaint town of Alloa.

Where we were campaigning: in the quaint town of Alloa.

Initially, I had ruled out working in government simply because I saw it as a job that detaches you from the people you serve. But I am now re-considering the possibility of being involved in local or state government someday. I see it as a great incubator for change. I see so many possibilities as I enter my final year at University this upcoming fall. I see a long road of detours and discovery. But most of all, I see hope that I, although one person, can be a force of change.

With my Parliamentary Program diploma in hand, final research report submitted, and thank you cards given to the people who’ve given me this wonderful opportunity, the next and last thing to do is somehow begin preparing myself to say goodbye to Scotland and the friends I’ve made here. Till next time!


Becca in Hungary: Class Field Trip!!

April 28, 2015

In grade school, I remember the best parts of any school year were field trips, and even as an official legal adult, those are still the days I value the most in my school year. I guess there are just some things you can never change about a person! This past weekend, my program took a group trip to Lake Balaton. The goals of the trip were to 1) Continue to bond with our fellow AIT classmates and 2) See the countryside of Hungary and learn more about Hungarian culture. My goal now is to reflect on these goals:

1) If you recall some of my first blog posts, I noted that I first went to a two and half week language emersion program. About half of the AIT students participated in this program, while the other half waited to come three weeks later at the official start date of the program. This means half of the program got a jump start at forming new friendships and relationships. Ever since the others arrived, there has always be this divide between the language program students and the new students. For the first time though, I started to notice that the divide between these two groups was beginning to fade. No longer could I remember which people attended the language school or not. It was awesome to see more unity within my program!

unnamed

Group photo during a hike

 

A castle we visited

A castle we visited

2) I also learned that the countryside of Hungary is completely different than Budapest. In Budapest, I never really have trouble with my lack of mastery of Hungarian. However, in the countryside, no one really speaks English. Most people I spoke to use an “English-Hungarian hybrid language”, where they spoke in Hungarian with some key words in English. Not only do I see a contrast with the language, I also saw a contrast in lifestyle. In Budapest, it seems like people are always out and about, while in the countryside you see very few people roaming the streets. You do not see large supermarkets or stores, but rather small villages spread across a hilly terrain broken apart by large chunks of farms. While people in Budapest seem to be working in big corporate jobs, those in the countryside seem to be taking small local roles in their community.

Landscape of the countryside

Landscape of the countryside

For me, I found this countryside style of living to be very charming, and it reminds me that life is not always about the “hussle and bussle” but rather just enjoying the daily joys you receive in your life. It has been amazing to travel the world and experience all these new cultures, but at the end of the day what makes me happy are the basics of life such as having an amazing network of family and friends, being able to get weekly groceries, being able to workout and play frisbee, and so many more! I feel like many successful individuals, such as my fellow University of Richmond Spiders and myself, are always seeking for “more” whatever that “more” is for them (more money, more adventure, more friends, etc.). But this weekend trip, and this study abroad opportunity in general, makes me see that we don’t always need to seek for more, but rather enjoy what we have now.


Jackie in Switzerland: le mal du pays

April 27, 2015

Homesickness has hit. I have had the sense of missing my family and friends for this whole semester, and I thought that this was homesickness [the French call it “le mal du pays”]. It was only after my Spring Break trip that I learned what homesickness really is.

The French call it le mal du pays, which seems to be a better description to me. Obviously I have been having an amazing time studying abroad and I wouldn’t change my situation for the world, but that doesn’t stop me from missing my home. After seeing Snapchats, Instagrams, and tweets about socials, away weekends, and of course Pig Roast, I realized how much was going on in Richmond without me. After talking to my parents, I learned that my little cousin has started walking and talking. No matter how incredible it is to study abroad, it is impossible to not miss all of the things from home.

The snow is gone and Lausanne is brightening up! Even when I feel homesick, it is hard not to fall in love with this view

The snow is gone and Lausanne is brightening up! Even when I feel homesick, it is hard not to fall in love with this view

I had thought that the hardest part of studying abroad would be the classes, cooking for myself, and especially the French! But in the end, the balance between home and here has been the most challenging obstacle for me. I want to stay involved in Richmond and keep up all of my relationships with friends, but at the same time, it is hard to keep up at home and really immerse in life here in Switzerland. Luckily, I have the most amazing friends in Richmond and in Pittsburgh who make me feel loved and missed.

Even though sometimes I feel so far away from Richmond, I love staying involved in any way I can. It was so fun to take the pledge in support of the Start by Believing campaign halfway across the world!

Even though sometimes I feel so far away from Richmond, I love staying involved in any way I can. It was so fun to take the pledge in support of the Start by Believing campaign halfway across the world!

After talking to a lot of other study abroad students, we realized that there is this idea that we all want to show the very best side of study abroad. We want to travel to the coolest places as much as possible just to let everyone at home know that we are having a good time and that we are okay. There’s almost an invisible pressure to have an absolutely perfect study abroad experience that we forget to actually experience it without worrying about what our friends back home think or about what we are ‘supposed’ to think.

Me and Amelia

Me and Amelia

Me and Amanda

Me and Amanda

 I am so incredibly lucky to have met so many amazing people from all around the world!

I am so incredibly lucky to have met so many amazing people from all around the world!

I think that in my blogs, I have always highlighted the positive, once-in-a–lifetime experiences of study abroad, but there are also parts that are not so easy. I am getting better and better at really getting into the experience instead of worrying about what I’m ‘supposed’ to be doing (of course I learn this towards the end of the semester). That being said, I think that it is a skill that everyone has to learn, and studying abroad has helped me do it. It’s hard sometimes to do what you want to do, instead of what we are expected to do, but you have to do what makes you happy.

For example, some of my friends went hiking the other day, and despite my adventurous rock climbing and skiing skills, I really don’t like nature all that much. I almost went to the hike, just because I felt like since I am a study abroad student, I ‘should’ be out and about seeing the country. BUT instead I stayed in, watched Scandal, and ate Ben and Jerrys. Such an exciting study abroad life. In the end, I had to realize that studying abroad is an experience for me and no one else.

The less glamorous, but equally fun, part of any study abroad experience. And YES its totally okay to do this instead of jetting off to Paris for the weekend!

The less glamorous, but equally fun, part of any study abroad experience. And YES its totally okay to do this instead of jetting off to Paris for the weekend!

After getting over my wave of homesickness and eating way too much ice cream, I am getting ready for the last month of classes, which means lots of papers and tests. I haven’t mentioned this in a long time, but my French is actually improving! My hall mates are amazing and insist on speaking to me in French, and my conversations with them have helped so much.

Next week I have an hour long presentation on the Swiss Book as a vector of Cultural Diplomacy in the United States (thrilling, I know). Just before the trip, I will be visiting Gruyeres and the Cailler chocolate factory. Rumor has it that at the end of the factory tour, there is a 10 minute, Hunger-Games style all you can eat extravaganza.  This makes me happy, and you can expect a detailed blog about this as soon as I get over the sugar high.


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