These Minnesota college students get an A+ for adventure. Follow along as they explore the world while studying abroad.
Northern Ireland, a place of former turmoil is where my most recent excursion has taken me. !Warning! History lesson about to begin. Many people are familiar with the term “The Troubles.” This correlates to a time where Protestant and Catholics hatred grew into great violence. Now using the terms Protestant and Catholic is a very loose and not fully representative term for the true nature of the violence, but it is a simplistic way of describing the sides. During these times it was not uncommon for there to be deaths and shootings daily. There was a wide variety of strikes and protests. Cities became greatly segregated, and remain so. Walls were put up to divide the two distinct sides of the conflict.
In the current time Northern Ireland has enjoyed a state of grace for the past few years, however it is still rich with tension. This tension can be felt in the air as you walk down the street and seen in the elaborate murals painted on walls and buildings. The murals range from aggressive opinions to future prosperity. It is an unique experience to stand on the wall of Derry and see Irish flags on one side and British flags on the other. Additionally there is a mural saying “Free Derry” and on the other it reads “still under siege, no surrender.” These aspects alone create a tense atmosphere. This same tension can be felt in Belfast.
Now despite these tensions it did not hinder thee great experience. Fellow students and I were fortunate enough to be in Derry for Halloween. This is a big event in Derry as it draws crowds well over 50,000. It contains a parade which presents spectacular floats and displays. After the parade there is a fireworks show which was an impressive spectacle. I sported a purple morph suit this year for Halloween.
The end of this excursion signifies the near end of my study abroad experience. My academic semester officially ends November 26th. That is 19 days. I have one more excursion which will take me to Cork and Kilkenny. It is with this final experience that I will say farewell to the Emerald Isle and be bound for home.
While it may be hard to believe it, I am actually in Ireland for school. This entitles me to a fall break right? That is correct, ten days of traveling Europe. My travels brought me to London, Prague, Interlaken, and Geneva. London ways spectacular, Prague was full of surprises and Switzerland (Geneva and Interlaken) were absolutely splendid.
I arrived in London at night allowing me to see instantly the night life and lit up building such as the iconic Big Ben and impressive Westminster Abbey. The first day I went to the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace. People were crammed into tight spaces in hopes of getting the best picture possible. After attending the Changing of The Guards I continued to Westminster Abbey. This was one of the top experiences for me in London. Westminster is full of such a rich history. In addition the architecture present was absolutely staggering. After ending my visit at Westminster a walk around the city was needed. It unfortunately rained most of the day, but I managed to stay relatively dry.
The next day consisted of mastering the Tube (subway). After an initial blur of lines and which color to take mastery of the tube was found. I went to the British museum, Kensington Palace, the famous Abbey Road, and many other sites around London. To end the day myself and those traveling with me went out to dinner to celebrate a birthday.
The next morning it rained again, but it was the departure day. After an early visit to the Tower of London I hoped on a train to the airport. The plane was bound to Prague of the Czech Republic. This was one place I did not know what to expect. London I knew Big Ben, Westminster, etc. It was to my great delight that Prague was one of the most beautiful sites. The easiest way to describe it is a giant palace. To further add to the delight is the low cost of living. To put it in perspective I was able to buy two large meals for about three dollars. That is because the currency exchange rate. Prague itself consisted of a tour of the city, visiting the largest castle in Europe, and night life in the Old Prague Square.
Soon my time in Prague expired and I began the trek to Switzerland. I arrived in Interlaken, Switzerland in the evening as I did in London. The difference was the Alps were not light up. It was not until the next morning that I saw the splendor of the Alps. It is quite strongly a saw dropping experience. The first day in Interlaken a few traveling companions and myself walked the city of Interlaken. We walked to the lakeshore which presented an incredible view with mountains as a back drop. We even managed to stumble upon a 13th century castle. It was a day which can best be described by the motto “We should do that!”
The adventure continued the next day as the same group of us hiked the Alps. We ascended roughly 1500 meters summating one of the lesser mountains in the Alps. It rendered one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen. It was most rewarding after a near 4 hour ascent. The hike back down was filled with amazement at what had been accomplished, but was bitter sweet as our departure was the next day. Before my departure I went to a ropes course. The easiest way to describe this is a playground 20 meters up in the trees for adults. It consisted of over 20 sip-lines and countless obstacles pushing a person to the limits of balance and strength. It was further enhanced with the Alps in the back ground.
Once the ropes course had been completed it was time to travel to Geneva. The 3 hour train ride was stunning as the whole ride consisted of the beautiful landscape of Switzerland. I did not get the opportunity to do much in Geneva as it was simply a stop point before our trip back to my home away from home, Spiddal Ireland. The trip consisted of a train, plane, bus, and a cab. It was a welcoming experience to once again step foot in the cottages that I have come to know and love. Now back to that thing known as school…
Since landing in the Sydney airport 3 months ago I have been amending a list of cultural differences I have encountered while in Australia. Although Australia is a very Westernized country that speaks English, there is a world of differences. Many might even beg to differ that Australian English could classify as an entirely different language.
I will begin with a list of Aussie slang and an interpretation.
All “r’s” are left unpronounced.
“Come here” sounds like “Come hea”
Car sounds like “Caw”
Australians explain that American’s waste half of their life pronouncing their “r’s”
Enthusiastic positive response to a request or an activity. A want to do something.
“I’m keen to go the beach later”
A lot or lots.
“What are you up to?”
How are you going?
“How are you?”
So many times I froze at this question not sure whether to answer how I was or where I was going
“What’s happening?” or “What’s the plan?”
Instead of to take. “I’ll have a nap” or “I’ll have a shower” instead of “I’ll take a nap”
“Mine” / “Yours”
“My place / your place”
Good on ya
“Good for you!”
Thank you (less used).
“No problem” - I’ve picked this phrase up.
Pissed / Wrecked
Saying “hey” after everything
“Last night was fun, hey!” or “hey?” instead of asking “what?”
Refers to a friend. However, they also use it as a derogatory term. An Australian friend was driving us one day and yelled out angrily at another driver in traffic, using profanity but still referring to the driver as “mate” – Australians are always friendly.
Also a “wanker”. Comparable to a hick or redneck, but Australians would cringe at this comparison. A slang term for an uneducated person.
Wife or Husband. This is used commonly.
A New Zealander.
Places and things.
Bathroom. Australians will stare at you blankly if you ask for the "bathroom"
Maccas. Australians really like nicknames.
The best dessert ever. Similar to a prepacked s’more dipped in a chocolate.
Trunk of a car
Tank top/ sleeveless shirt.
Boxed wine. A popular favourite among Uni students, and broke international students. Alcohol is heavily taxed in Australia.
Shopping cart. We use these on a regular basis to truck our groceries home.
French fries. One of the first weeks I went to a food counter to order fries and told myself a thousand times I was going to be “cool” and say “chips”, but as I spoke “french fries” came out. The guy told me they didn’t have any of those but they did have some chips. I was a little disappointed in my efforts. But I definitely have it down now.
Not underwear. Sandals/flip flops.
Small scale casino with slot machines.
Pyjamas or Tyres
Use “Y” in words that American English does not.
Below is a list of other differences that I have noted during my time here
All foods are much healthier tasting.
Food at the supermarket is made with less artificial ingredients, many of those that are used in America are illegal in other countries.
When we first arrived at our apartment we had no food and no utensils so we ordered Chinse takeout. We were surprised at the freshness and taste of the food. We didn’t have that familiar bloated feeling after finishing a delicious plate of American Chinese assortments.
There is no tipping in Australia.
This includes everyone from waiters, to hair dressers and cab drivers. Tipping is of course always appreciated but is never ever expected. Minimum wage is much higher in order to accommodate for this. In addition, minimum wage increases with age.
American magazines distributed in Australia use Australian slang.
I was surprised to open my favourite magazine -which was 5 dollars more here I may add- and find some of the slang terms used above. One particularly different term, was “lovefriend” – referring to a boyfriend or girlfriend.
The relaxed nature of the Australian culture.
Everyone jokes about the laid back beach style of Australia, but I was surprised to find it to be true. Of course not everyone surfs, but almost everyone is involved in outdoor activities – and I have seen quite a lot of long blonde haired men. Shoes are always optional unless in upscale restaurants or hotels. Timing is casual. Even public transportation runs almost always behind schedule. This usually was not a problem, except for one day when the bus was an hour and a half late. That was a moment when the Australian time was too casual for our transportation needs. In restaurants, service is very slow. Trying to get a quick bite to eat at a sit down restaurant is an impossibly frustrating task. Despite this, we have come to love Australian time (for the most part) and will likely have a rude awakening when we arrive back in the States and are expected to join the hustle and bustle of American culture.
Not only do cars drive on the left side, people walk on the left side.
We caught on to this fairly quickly. In addition to cars driving on the left side of the road, people, when walking in crowds or along sidewalks always divert to the left side. This seemingly simple idea was a difficult task to ingrain in our trained brains. We so wanted to join the normal flow of foot traffic and avoid those awkward back and forth confrontations with strangers. By now we are able to naturally gravitate to that side of the road. But we will have to “un-learn” this when retuning to the States.
Even with just one month left in Australia,
The Journey Surely Continues.
The prior weekend was the first long excursion weekend of my study abroad. It took me to Glenstal Abby, Dingle, and Killarney. It was without a doubt one of the most impressive experiences I have had.
Glenstal Abby is a Benedictine order of monks. One of my professors is a member of this community. The trip to Glenstal consisted of an impressive tour of the castle like structure. Inscribed on the main gate was the word PAX, meaning peace in Latin. After our tour of this impressive castle some of us had the chance to celebrate mass with the monks. It was an unique experience has they still use Gregorian chant music. I must say it was incredibly beautiful.
Once we had said our good byes to the monks of Glenstal my group and I departed for Dingle. It is a small town that is located on the scenic Dingle peninsula. On our arrival the group got lost trying to find our hostel, despite the small size of the town. Our living situation was a little cramped as we had four people in a room that was about 6x8 feet.
Our next day consisted of an unusual opportunity; we had a free day to explore Dingle. This consisted of our group herding around the town looking around shops, going to aquariums, walking to the shore, and an amusing hurricane simulator. The evening finished strong as our group received the news of the Jonnies beating the Tommies. For those who do not know St. Johns and St. Thomas are rivals. On hearing the news our group began chanting down the streets of dingle drawing stares of clueless locals.
Once our stay at Dingle was completed we boarded the bus once again and began our drive to Killarney. Killarney is one of my favorite cities to date. It presents an unique feel. Additionally the tallest peak in Ireland is not far. This of course enticed many of our group to go climb this. We had already climbed one mountain (Crough Patrick) a week before. Crough Patrick was about 2,500 tall. The mountain we climbed was named Carrauntoohil. It is a little over 3,400 feet tall. This mountain creates and impressive shadow on the landscape. I distinctly remember our initial descent still in disbelief at what we were about to climb.
We were lucky on the day we decided to climb as it was the clearest day of the week. Once our group was together we began our walk to the base of the mountain. After a decent walk one of my fellow students asked own of our guides about how far we were and the guide replied, “Oh we have not even started.” Not long after that comment he pointed at a jagged wall and said “alright we are going to climb up right here, this is the first level of three.” At this point many of us became giddy with excitement, and anxious about what was in store for us. It took about three hours to complete the hike up to the top, six hours round trip. Our descent down took us to a path known as the devils ladder. It was aptly named as it consisted of sheer drops with jagged rocks jutting out. In addition a small stream poured into the path making it wet and slippery. Luckily for our group there were no major issues on our way down and we all made it back safely.
At this point the group and I were exhausted and ready for the long bus ride back, hoping to grab some shut eye. The bus ride back must have been the quietest bus as a good 80 percent of us were fast asleep. It was a fitting end note to an excursion of new heights.
Life is not always a beach.
In addition to beach hopping and Tim Tam indulging, I spend a portion of my time here in Australia in the classroom. I am an accounting major, interested in writing, headed to law school. It is easy to tell that my interests are vast. Thus, I am equally fascinated by each of my different curriculums. These include an Introduction to Sharia course that focuses on Islamic law, an Introduction to Marketing class which is particularly interesting from my international perspective, and a Plein Air painting course in which I attempt for the first time ever to paint. Without a doubt there is more wholesome culture exchanged in the classroom than on the beach or at the bar (although I was once blamed for American involvement in Syria by a guy at a nightclub in Brisbane).
I just survived my first foreign midterm examination period and surprisingly have to share that despite all the fear instilled by advisors and professors back home, it was not all that more stressful than typical American midterms. I had a speech and separate paper due in my Islam course, a large exam in my Marketing course and a 5 painting portfolio critique in my painting course. When you consider the daily assignments U.S. universities give in addition to midterms, Australian schooling has a much lighter workload. This is not to say it is necessarily easier. Australian universities place a heavy emphasis on independent work. The actual classroom time per week is typically 3 hours, 2 hours for a once weekly lecture and 1 hour for a once weekly Tutorial where the larger lecture group splits into small manageable classroom sizes for discussion. This means that the required time commitment is minimal, but the necessary independent studying is heavy. In order to further allow for flexibility, the lectures are not attendance based and many lecturers video and audio tape their lesson each week and post it online. The Tutorial is a favorite aspect of the Uni system here. It is a low-key period in which the professor or an assistant clarify lessons, review topics, answer questions and generally “hangout” with us students. In one of my first “Tuts” (as it’s commonly called) for my Islam course, we watched YouTube videos and discussed current events in relation to the Muslim-Australian community. I even made a few jokes with the professor. I highly regard the addition of a laid back, less strenuous but still academic setting for faculty and students to dialogue in the American university systems.
On my first day of Introduction to Sharia I found myself completely out of my element. I was listening and trying to understand through two unfamiliar filters of perspective. I was foreign to Australian culture and even more distant from the religion of Islam. 10 weeks into the course I still have a Muslim-Australian culture. I have learned to take a separate set of notes to be googled and understood later. Without a doubt I feel so much more educated about one of the largest religions and cultures in the world in two months of learning than in 15 years of schooling. The exposure that is given to the Islam religion via some media outlets is unjustly wrong and I am now equipped to see through the biases.
As expected, American and mid-east relations have come up in discussion. This is particularly interesting for me, as I am aware of these references. At times though, I am sorry to know the controversy so deeply. I feel pressured to both shame and boast my country’s history and policies. I cannot avoid hearing American criticisms with a grain of salt. No matter my personal feelings, it is hard to be scrutinized as a representative for my entire country. What I say and how I act in that class represents the American culture. This is a pressure that Muslim-Americans feel every day. To be representatives of the best kind of Islam there is. I researched and wrote an essay on this topic and the assignment was an incredibly eye-opening experience in itself.
Had I not studied abroad it would be impossible for me to understand how it feels to be both shameful and appeasing but proud and argumentative. I am so grateful to have been given the chance to step out of my American bubble and experience the criticism and love from the outside world. This is an experience in itself that should encourage anyone to travel. It allows us to reflect on our home and to be able to return having gained a new perspective and the ability and desire to improve. This is what I will return home with in December.
On my first day of Introduction to Marketing I was asked to sell myself. It was a horrifying request. We were soon to pick groups for a large marketing project and the professor asked that we sell our abilities to our fellow classmates, promoting ourselves as valuable group members. Initially I was shocked, and started to worry that this forward nature was typical to Australian culture. But after we began the activity, it was clearly not. No one wanted to talk about themselves in front of the class, nonetheless boast about themselves. Most people made a vague comment about being good with people, adding that they haven’t had a lot of group experience and then ended with some self-deprecating comment about their inabilities. Essentially, most people did exactly the opposite of what they were asked. We all felt uncomfortable discussing our talents in front of strangers in a competitive way. Seeing this activity fall apart, I decided that when it was my turn, I was going to really go for it. I boasted about my detail oriented major, my obsessive organizing and planning and my ability to be also creative in my writing and photography. I discussed my tendency to take the lead. Of course by the time I sat down I was red-faced and entirely embarrassed. But I am happy I put myself out there. It’s in my American nature to be competitive.
In the following weeks I was able to use my international perspective in other ways that added to the classroom atmosphere. My professor often asks me specific questions about the culture and proceedings in the U.S. and how I understand or feel about Australian culture. It feels incredible to be instrumental to a course I am just a participant in.
I am not sure when or where in my time here, whether it was the understanding of different international perspectives from Islam or the business differences from Marketing, but I decided midway through my semester that I would love to focus my career on international business. When you want to expand your business globally- how does that happen? What are all the laws and culture considerations that need to be made to smooth that transition and negotiate rights? These are the answers I want to sort through. I want to study international law and how it relates to business functions. I have finally pinpointed my desired career.
I was asked before I arrived here how my time in Australia would improve my business career and I had some generic answers, but little did I know what this time would do for my career path. It has truly opened doors for me.
On my first day of my painting course I had an entirely different experience. The course is much less about learning Australian culture (unless you consider studying the bark on the trees and the Gold Coast skyline learning the culture) and more so learning about myself. In this course I have been challenged in a different way. I cannot blame it on my lack of Australian knowledge, or my foreign perspective, but instead it is my lifelong inability to draw, paint, and create with my hands in general. I have been truly challenged in a way where I am totally unsure of a solution and at times cannot reach it even if I see it. This painting course was taken as an opportunity to see the Australian landscape and relax- but it has been much more than that. I have learned to not compare myself to others and understand that we all have diverse talents and to ask ourselves to compete in different races at the same pace is unfair. It has been good for me to feel humbled. I have a new appreciation for art and already spend much more time at art galleries studying paintings. I plan to continue to paint when I am home for my own well-being. What I have learned in this course I will bring home with me also.
Overall, in my time in Australia I have revived my love of education and learning. Studying abroad is more than just landscapes and accents, but a chance to better round yourself as a person and to broaden your perspectives.
Made in the moon’s image, the most famous Mid-Autumn festival food are the dense, round pastries known as mooncakes, or yuè bĭng 月饼, given as gifts between family and friends.
It had originally been the tradition to hand-make mooncakes. I live in a dorm. I have no oven and no idea where to start making a mooncake. This year, I joined the majority of people in opting to purchase mine pre-made. From the traditional lotus seed paste and salty duck eggs (the roundness, again), to sweeter flavors like taro and pineapple paste, there are an unpredictable variety of fillings to choose from.
Beyond their role as snack and traditional gift, mooncakes are something of a cultural icon. Legend has it that secret military plans baked into mooncakes helped in a Han uprising against the ruling Mongols during the Yuan dynasty, letting the Ming revolutionaries spread messages coordinating their attack. This year, the Wall Street Journal ran photos of pandas in Guangzhou province being fed special bamboo-powder mooncakes for the holiday. Even merchants like Starbucks and Häagen-Dazs have gotten in on the game, creating for sale their own versions of mooncake-shaped sweets.
Mooncake-giving has also become linked to status, and in some cases, corruption, when incredibly lavish cakes are given to politically and socially influential figures in the hopes of gaining favor. Gifts to officials in past years have reportedly included gold-encrusted cakes stuffed with sharkfin and other expensive delicacies, and beautiful boxes with room for hiding bribes. This year, demand for these most luxurious mooncakes is said to be down following the new president’s emphasis on cracking down on corruption. Mine were a more garden-variety, picked up from the grocery store, shoved into a flimsy plastic bag and weighed by the gram. It was a little more than 14 yuan for the dozen I got, or about two dollars - nowhere near the highest-priced boxes that sell for hundreds.
All this and despite my best efforts, I still have no idea what the majority of the filling flavors were.
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