These Minnesota college students get an A+ for adventure. Follow along as they explore the world while studying abroad.

Read about our contributors: Emily Atmore, Catherine Earley, Rachel Fohrman, Paul Lundberg, Andrew Morrison and Emily Walz.

Arrival to My New Irish Home

Posted by: Paul Lundberg under People Updated: August 28, 2013 - 4:18 AM

  I have arrived in Ireland, and thus far it has already been an adventure, from plane delays to getting lost.  To any potential travelers to Ireland be sure to know how you are getting to your destination from the airport.  We (my fellow students and I) were under the impression it would be easy to get a ticket for a bus that would take us to Galway.  It turns out that “easy” turned into a hour-and-a-half of walking around trying to find some sort of booth that sells tickets.  Finally we broke and decided actually to ask for help and our dilemma was answered quickly.  Turns out you simply buy the tickets on the bus, it is brilliant!  If only there was a sign to tell us this information.

 
The jet lag did not really hit many of us for some time.  We tried sleeping on the airplane with little success and the bus was not much better.  We did however get to see some interesting architecture on the drive and what I thought was a creative preschool paint job.  Of course it was the bus ride where we truly discovered what driving on the left side of the road feels like.  In all honestly it was not too bad until we came to a roundabout.  They are confusing enough going in a familiar direction, but once you go left you think an accident is soon to follow.  Additionally the roads are much thinner and the driving is far more aggressive.
 
An average road in Dublin

An average road in Dublin

 
The weather here in Ireland is considerably different from Minnesota.  For example at my home college they had a heat advisory with the high getting in the upper 90's while here it never got above 70.  Besides this stark difference in temperature it is always wet and it will mist on and off all day.  The rain here is not like home where it is a torrential down poor for ten minutes then done, instead it is a constant misting of water,  This means nothing ever dries.
 
I will now be living in a cottage which will be my home for the next few months.  The cottages are located pretty far out in the country.  It is pleasant, they are slightly secluded allowing for a peaceful environment.  For example as I am writing this the sun is setting and birds singing.  On arrival my roommates and I quickly unpacked and decided that dinner was required as most of us had not eaten for a long length of time due to traveling all day.  Lucky for us we already had some food in the fridge and we made spaghetti.  Dinner was what I would call a success for our first homemade meal of the trip.  Later that night the owners of the hotel next to us (same people who own the cottages we are living in) opened the bar and we all relaxed after a long day of travels.  It was an excellent way to end the day and to kick of the beginning of this Ireland adventure.
 
The living space in the cottages

The living space in the cottages

 

Generation X

Posted by: Emily Walz under Travel Updated: August 25, 2013 - 11:10 AM

Themed restaurants are very much en vogue in Beijing.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine offered to take me to one. She told me it was a 1980s restaurant, and that I had to be sure to bring ID. Only ‘80s babies allowed.

I was trying to envision what an ‘80s nostalgia restaurant would look like. As an American kid, I grew up with Nickelodeon cartoons and Boy Meets World, but the 1980s in China were what? Tian’anmen Square and Reform and Opening? My cultural reference points were somewhat lacking. I had no idea what to expect.

We caught the subway into a more central part of town and leaving the busy streets behind, followed my friend’s smartphone map through ever-narrowing side roads. In the middle of a neighborhood, we turned into a small alley between apartment buildings, walked past a public restroom, and turned a corner. It was a fairly ordinary Beijing alley: cement walls and narrow roads, little shops and their proprietors sitting outside. Except for the large crowd of twenty- and thirty-something Chinese people milling about, we might have been anywhere.

A man with a rockstar ponytail was sitting by the door, checking reservations and handing out oversized pieces of paper, formatted like a Chinese grade-school exam: the menu.

The staff was in the middle of cleaning out the restaurant for the next round of diners. Everyone loitered outside, waiting until they finished and the doorman began to call roll. As he shouted names, groups piped up with “present!” and filed into the restaurant.

This building had been remodeled to look like an elementary school classroom: blackboards on the walls, a hopscotch mosaic on the floors, a Chinese flag over the blackboard, pictures of Lu Xun on the wall, an old arcade video game console sitting dark between the tables. Groups of adults were crowded into small wooden desks and chairs.

The back room had posters of movie stars and rock bands from the 80s; the walls and door were all covered with graffiti, a mix of English and Chinese writing stretching up to the ceiling. Unlike a typical restaurant where tables turn over regularly, everyone was let in at once, squeezed in all together around desk-tables. It was one long dining experience, a kind of interactive performance dining, on display once a night. Reservations required.

The “teacher” waved a wooden pointer around, summoned the class monitor to put any unruly “students” back in line, and barked commands while the diners worked to contain their giggles. He was imposing and hilarious. “Students! Class begins!” Much of what he said went over my head, but I got the gist of it, and my friend Jade helped fill in some of the gaps.

The restaurant sold bags of favors shaped like uniform shirts, tied with a red scarf. Jade told me about the red ties students had to wear around their necks when she was in elementary school, the class inspections, and how students would get demerits for forgetting to wear theirs.

I recognized ring pops and push pops among the packets of candy – a cultural commonality. Jade told me the wind-up jumping frog was a toy every Chinese child had. Finally, there were multicolored rocks that looked like jawbreakers. The teacher hit them together at the front of the room, causing a shower of sparks.

Dinner ended with a trivia contest. The tables transformed into teams, each with a buzzer rigged to ring in. The questions were all about Japanese anime characters and movie scenes, video games and television shows. I was no help, but the diners at other tables scrambled to be first to buzz in with the answer.

When we left nearly three hours later, it was dark outside, and the competition was still going.

Emerald Isle Bound

Posted by: Paul Lundberg under Adventure travel, International travel, People, Elk River Updated: August 18, 2013 - 4:42 PM

 That is right folks I am heading to Ireland, Spiddal to be more precise.  It is an exciting notion, as well as frightening.  This will be the first time I have truly been cut off from home, and by cut off I mean the entire Atlantic Ocean.  Despite this separation I am invigorated with this extraordinary adventure put forth in front of me.  Where will it lead?  There is one way to find out, one ticket to Ireland please!

“Why Ireland?”  Is usually the first question people ask me when they discover I am traveling there for a little over three months.  My answer is simple really; it worked and heat is not my friend.  Further persuading was found with the possibilities of this trip; such as an overnight stay at Inishmore (Aran Islands), seminars at the Hill of Tara, visiting the Rock of Cashel, etc.  In addition to these excursions I also wish to further my understanding of people and various cultures, while Ireland is not exotic, it is certainly different then Minnesota.

With only a few days till my departure it has finally become apparent to me that I will indeed be living in a different country for several months.  My days consist of check lists and last minute errands to ensure I have all that I need.  Before I know, it I will be waving good bye to family and friends and boarding a plane.  Let the adventure begin…

Settling in

Posted by: Emily Atmore Updated: August 18, 2013 - 4:29 AM
I have been an Australian resident for a full month now and its safe to say that I have settled quite nicely into my life here. It definitely does not feel like it has been 4 weeks since I left Minnesota. Nonetheless, I have attended 3 weeks of classes, frequented both the grocery store and the beach each week and eaten too many Tim Tams to count. I am feeling very comfortable navigating the city, and have begun planning a handful of upcoming excursions with friends.
 
Study abroad students are often warned that after the first few weeks pass the excitement starts to wear off and the homesickness sets in- however I have a thought of a way to combat the usual homesickness. My plan is to do my best to avoid any sort of monotonous or regimented schedule while in Australia- being open to spontaneity and adventure at all times. I am normally a very plan-oriented person, sticking strictly to schedules, but I hope to change this part of me at least a little while here. The many weekend getaways I am organizing will definitely fulfill my desires to explore.  Also, with 5 roommates and a circle of 10+ friends I have not had one moment where I was even near a state of boredom.
 
In my time here I have taken part in the lively nightlife downtown in Surfers Paradise and around my Uni village. Just this passed weekend the Gold Coast Turf Club hosted a student Race Day. This meant lots of last minute shopping for appropriate dress and of course hats and fascinators. On the day of, the entire village gathered for what was 5 hours of mingling and horse races. It was an unforgettable experience. It wasn’t the fancy dresses, or the nice suits, the colorful drinks or delicious food, it was not even the horses that made it so special. It was getting pampered and not feeling like broke Uni students for a day.
 
This same weekend we had 3 friends’ birthday’s to celebrate. This meant multiple night bus rides to Surfers where we checked out some of the different bars and dance clubs. We also splurged and spent one evening at a nice outdoor Italian restaurant eating delicious pasta and sharing margaritas. This night, as most do, ended with a jaunt to Ben and Jerry’s.
 
This coming weekend I will be attending an Australian Footie League match as the Gold Coast Suns take on Melbourne. I am not totally sure what the rules of Footie are, but I hear it is the Australian take on American football. I have also heard more than one local Aussie grumble at the mention of AFL but regardless I am keen to see the game played live. On Sunday evening I have plans to go with some Aussie friends to a sunset music and drum festival at a beach south of the city in Burleigh Heads.
 
In the next few weeks I also have plans to bring 7 other girls back to Byron Bay, to take an extended weekend in Melbourne, to go camping in Binna Burra Lamington National park, to travel for a week up the coast to the Great Barrier Reef, to see my beloved Beyonce perform in Brisbane and to travel through New Zealand after my semester is completed.
 
It may be foolish to say this so soon, but it is hard for me to see myself getting intensely homesick whilst busy venturing through Australia- especially having great friends at my side. Although it is true that I have “settled” into my life here, there is little time to actually settle in between classes, trips to the beach and the many hunger inspired journeys we take to discover new delicious restaurants.
 
I think what I’ve gathered so far in my study abroad experience is that even after the novelties fade, the accents become familiar and the slang becomes decipherable- there are always surprises. There is not a day that is wasted and there is not an opportunity to be missed. And the Australian beach will never be less beautiful than the first day I saw it. 
 
Race Day at Gold Coast Turf Club 
 
High rises in downtown Surfers Paradise
 
 
Sunset in Surfers Paradise

Sunset in Surfers Paradise

 
 
The Journey Continues

Final Days

Posted by: Rachel Fohrman Updated: August 6, 2013 - 1:04 PM

This weekend was really amazing. On Friday we left for Livingstone, an 8-9 hour drive. Unlike some of my more adventurous counterparts, I didn’t go skydiving, but Victoria Falls was beautiful. We ate at an awesome Italian restaurant that gives all of its proceeds to supporting vulnerable children, and went to high tea at the Royal Livingstone Hotel.  We all felt super classy.

     

Today, it was back to service learning at Vision of Hope. We’ve managed to sell fifteen rugs to the group so far, and are hoping to sell a few more before we leave.  40% of the proceeds go directly to the girl who made each rug, and the additional 60% go back into the organization so they can sustain future IGAs. The great thing about this project is that they use scraps from fabric shops to make each rug, so they are made at very little cost. When we were thinking about ideas with strong revenue potential, we thought of notebooks because making paper has no cost, and the fabric we are using to bind the notebooks is also very inexpensive. Each notebook costs about two kwacha to make, but can be sold for thirty-five, which gives us really strong profit margins.

  While we were gone over the weekend, the girls made eighty-two pieces of paper. Some of them had holes in them or were too thick, but with what we had we were able to make our first two notebooks today. The girls were really excited, and the notebooks look great. With the first notebook the girls made today, we are going to print pictures we have taken of the girls and paste them into it so we can give them something to remember their experience by. I think they are really going to like it, and it will be a good reminder for how far they’ve come.

 

 

 It was awesome to see our project coming together, and I really hope the girls are able to sell these notebooks successfully at markets. Already, everybody in our group wants at least a few, and we have promised to buy as many as they can make by this Friday. I really hope I can return to Zambia in a few years and see how far Vision of Hope has come. This is probably the most positive experience I have ever had working for an NGO, and it has made me really want to pursue a career in NGO consulting or with a foundation.  


 

Making Paper

Posted by: Rachel Fohrman Updated: August 1, 2013 - 8:53 AM

 

I am starting to feel really lucky that I have had such a wonderful experience at Vision of Hope. Each of the girls I have met have been incredible, and I would come back to Zambia just to see how much further Vision of Hope has come. Yesterday we did an empowerment training with the girls, where we went over their future plans. I hadn't realized how long it would take, as most of the girls are just learning to read and write, and needed help with spelling. A couple of them are still illiterate, but are hoping to go to school next year. Their hopes and dreams for the future were just like any other child's, and it was a great experience to hear what they had to say. 

Today the girls made their first piece of paper for an income generating activity we secured a small grant for. The girls are then going to make notebooks, which they will at the market. It was a lot of fun for us to see how excited they were, and I am really hoping we can at least finish a few prototypes before we leave at the end of next week. I am really going to miss the girls, as they have played a really important role in my experience here. 

Her first piece of paper!

Her first piece of paper!

"I don't go to school now, but would like to go next year. In five years, I will own my own tailoring shop." -Modesta 


 

 "I want to be a journalist. When I am a news reporter, I want to take care of my family and my children. In five years, you will see me on the television." - Sopiso

 

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