Experiences in Japan vs. Korea

At the beginning of May, I went on a week trip to Japan with my roommate, Alice. I met my Chinese friend, Jenny and her fiance, Takuya who both graduated from UMKC. They live in Nagoya, Japan so Alice and I were lucky to have them travel with us to different cities in Japan. We used the Skinkansen (Japanese Bullet train) traveling at 200 mph to get around to different cities. It was very useful for traveling.

 1. Kyoto
Kyoto is a very traditional place in Japan. There are many temples, mountains, historical landmarks in Kyoto. Since there are many traditional temples and shrines to visit, we all decided to wear Kimonos (Japanese traditional clothing).
We went to a temple called Kiyomizu. Within the Kiyomizu temple there is a Kyoto Jishu Shrine (known as the Cupid of Japan). It is said to be the place where young Japanese people looked up to and relied on Jishu Shrine as the dwelling place of the god of love and matchmaking. In front of the beautiful main building, there are two stones set about ten meters apart. They are called ‘love-fortune-telling’ stones. If a person walks safely from one stone to the other with closed eyes, his or her love will be realized. This simple fortune-telling practice is very popular among both Japanese and foreigners. Jishu Shrine’s god, the Cupid of Japan, can give the people of the world endless love, wisdom, and happiness!


In the evening, after our busy day of walking around with our kimonos in the hot sun we retreated to our hotel to rest before dinner. For dinner, we ate sushi which was the best I’ve ever had. Shortly after, we were heading back to the hotel, but saw a karaoke place on our way and decided to go there. It was the first time I ever karaoke in a private room with others.

The next day, we went to Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion) Temple. It is a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha. The garden and buildings centered on the Golden Pavilion were said to represent the Pure Land of Buddha in this world.


2. Hakone
Hakone is popular for scenic views, volcanic activity, and Kuro-tamago (Black egg) which is a local specialty of eggs that is hard-boiled in the hot springs. The boiled eggs turn black and smell slightly sulfuric. If you eat the eggs it is believed to increase longevity. Eating one is said to add seven years to your life. You may eat up to two and a half for up to seventeen and a half years, but eating a whole third is said to be highly unadvised.We all decided to go to Hakone to see Mount Fuji. Unfortunately, it was rainy that day. However, that did not stop us from going there to try out the hot springs. We rode the Hakone Ropeway over the mountains in hopes of a glimpse of Mt. Fuji, but it was too cloudy. We tried a Kuro-tamago, which tasted just like a regular boiled egg.


3. Tokyo
After we spent our day in Hakone, we headed to Tokyo in the evening time.  We stayed in Akihabara, which is known to be a shopping district for video games, anime, manga, and computer goods. The next day, we went to Shibuya which is known as one of the fashion centers of Japan, particularly for young people. The area is overpopulated with thousands of people who crosses the intersection. We went to many popular shopping centers there. There is also the famous dog statue named Hachiko which is located there by the train station. The statue represents a dog who waited near the Shibuya station for his owner, a professor at University of Tokyo who had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died, never returning to the train station where Hachiko was waiting. The dog waited for nine years at the same spot and exact time the train would come. Many people acknowledged the loyalty Hachiko had towards his owner and dedicated a statue of Hachiko there.

4. Yokohama 
In Yokohama we first went to the navy pier to see the beautiful scenery and the famous amusement park with a huge Ferris wheel that would light up at night. Then, we went to the Chinatown that is one of the biggest in Japan.


5. Nagoya 
On some nights we would stay in Nagoya with Takuya’s parents. His parents were very kind and open to Alice and I. They taught themselves a few English vocabulary to communicate with us. Also, Takuya’s father helped a lot by planning the whole trip, booked the hotels, and prepared the train tickets in advance. Takuya’s mother would occasionally cook breakfast for us, so we’re lucky we got to experience the homemade Japanese food. We all went to the hot springs called Nabana no Sato. It had a nice garden of all types of flowers, many restaurants, and an observation deck. The hot spring was a great experience. Also, we tried Unagi (cooked eel) for dinner which is very popular in Nagoya. From all the busy traveling, we decided to get body massages to ease our sore shoulders, feet, and backs. The last day in Japan we went to the Nagoya castle and tried delicious Ramen. Overall, I am glad I had a chance to go to Japan and traveled with good friends who were a big help and made my trip fun and successful. Out of all the places I visited, if I had to choose where I would live, I would live in Nagoya. I cannot wait to go back!


After my trip, I realized there are many differences between Japan and Korea:
I. Air
The #1 difference that I noticed about Japan vs. Korea is the air. The air in Japan is far more fresh, dry (at least not humid), and overall better than the air in Korea. Of course, in the city it would smell like sewage and car pollution. However, being in Tokyo, Japan I can barely smell that bad city air that I was expecting. In Seoul, South Korea when that bad smell hits, I can tell right away I was in the city. Also, it gets so humid in Korea that I can barely stand walking outside for 10 minutes and already starting to sweat. It doesn’t help when you go to a university with many steep hills and stairs either.

II. People
People in Japan are more nicer in a crowded place. In the train station, there are many people who are in a rush. So, if you are walking and about to collide into someone, then they will move aside and let you walk first or apologize for bumping into you. It is the polite and common courtesy that I liked about the people of Japan. They act very respectful and well-mannered towards others.
In Korea, they are not as nice as letting you pass first or say anything if you bump into each other. However, some people are still kind if a situation like that occurred. Yet, I rarely experienced it.

III. Food
Japanese food doesn’t have much spicy dishes. So far, the only spicy ingredient that I tried is wasabi which is mainly used to eat with sushi. Whereas, in Korea there are many foods that are spicy. Also, the chopsticks are not the same. Japanese chopsticks are wooden and usually smaller at the ends. Korean chopsticks are metal and flat.

IV. Traditions
Visiting Kyoto made me feel like I was really experiencing the history of what Japan used to be by going to see all the temples and shrines. It is very nature-like with lots of trees and mountains in Japan that felt very traditional. In Korea, when I visited the Korean traditional palace, I could still see the city outside the walls of the palace, regardless of all the mountains, it still didn’t feel as traditional as when I was in Japan.

V. Cost
Korea is definitely more cheaper than Japan. Shopping, restaurants, and transportation was so expensive in Japan. Most of my money was spent towards transportation and food. So, I’m glad that I am studying abroad in Korea. Everything is more affordable, especially the food. However, some things in Korea can be highly priced as well.

Hope to write again~

Ting Ngov ^_^

Nine months later

End of the Year Personal Evaluation

Yesterday was my last day of school. Nine months in Morocco…I can’t believe i(I thought I would never say that) my study abroad is already over. I’m heading to Turkey on Sunday and I can’t believe I’m leaving my ultimate comfort zone .  I’ve grown so much as a person being in Morocco. I have blogged a little about the idea of “finding yourself”, which I think is a silly idea, but I do think you become more accepting of yourself. You grow as an individual because you are put into situations where you realize who you are and what you stand for.

One of the biggest things I have realized while being in Morocco is that I am a black feminist. There are not a lot of women of color who are feminists.  Being here has made me realize there is not enough black women on the front line fighting for the equality in both sectors.  Being a double minority is difficult, the odds are stacked against you in a place where you still are overcoming the recent Jim Crow laws—and Treyvon Martin cases.  Our Black and African communities are fostered around religion; our religions need to create an identity within women to balance the scale of inequality.

I have expanded my knowledge about Islam, which is an INCREDIBLE religion, which teaches peace and selflessness…when practiced correctly (like any other religion). The west, Americans especially, seem to be so hyper-sensitive when it comes to Muslims.  First of everyone needs to understand Islam is an Abrahamic Religion just like Judaism and Christianity.  The route goes like this—

First there are Judaism, the chosen people of God, followers of Moses

Second there are the Christians who believe that Jesus Christ was the Messiah—another form of God

Third we have Islam—first of all the word Islam means total SUBMISSION to God, they believe in the same God, but use the word Allah which cannot be used in gender form unlike God—Goddess…They believe in only Allah and that Mohammed was his last Prophet, they believe in Jesus, Mary, Moses, etc.

Americans (including myself) we need to brush up on your religious studies…

I have also realized who my true friends are, communication is a two way street. When people call you up at the end of your program so you remember to bring them souvenirs, it’s like, “where have you been these last nine months”?

I also APPRECIATE my family so much more. The support they give me is unforgettable, I feel like I can conquer the world and I know I can rely on them no matter how far apart we are!

Patience, this is also another thing I have blogged about before…this is something we Americans need to work on. Being in Morocco we all understand the concept of Moroccan Time, which essentially means Morocco does not run on this said concept of time. Time is non-existent, which sometimes can be really eye-opening in the way that you learn to appreciate the small things in life like organization and timely fashion back in the United States, but you also understand that life is often times taken TOO seriously.  Life is meant to be enjoyed and that is DEFINITELY another thing I will be implementing into my life back home in the United States.

The last and MOST important thing I have learned about myself is to enjoy my own company. I can do anything and everything alone. I’m not suggesting a system of total isolation, but Americans are so plugged into Social media…we are constantly worried about FOMO (fear of missing out). We have to be constantly posting, talking, and hanging out with people. When you learn to enjoy your own company it’s the MOST liberating experience. Realizing you don’t NEED people is the best because you know you genuinely want to spend time with that person; they are not just time filler.

This is my last blog whilst in Morocco, but I will be keeping you all up to date on current events as I travel around this summer.

Thank you for all your support these last nine months.

Enjoy your summer.


Ida Ayalew


Living as a woman in the Arab Muslim World

Living in Morocco has been one of the most challenging experiences coming from the United States.  The open system of patriarchy here was very difficult because the American system of discrimination is hidden, but the most important thing I’ve learned about women’s rights while being is how patriarchal the system in the west has always been.

The Middle East and North Africa are known for its system of inequality because of gender roles, (which have must be fulfilled by men and women)…then I realized that we in the US are constantly put into gender roles.

The fight, the struggle, the movement, lives within each woman in EVERY country and it is our duty to overcome this system of oppression regardless of where we are located.

This poem I wrote about how living in an OPENLY misogynistic environment has made me realize that we Americans are no better than any country. Inequality is inequality and we should not SETTLE.

–We still have not passed the Lilly Ledbetter Act. The bill concludes women would essentially have wage equality, this bill was signed in 2008, twenty minutes after Obama took office…but there still has not been any changes within the system and it’s been six years. Let’s not even talk about how rape isn’t taken seriously enough within the court systems… their are so many problems within the U.S., but we constantly have our DIRTY fingers pointing elsewhere. I’m not willing to settle just because we compare ourselves to other countries.

At the end of the day misogyny is all about control. That’s how some women are forced to veil in extremists Muslim communities…but also how western women are CONSTANTLY sexualized, why aren’t women choosing what they want with their bodies? If we want to sexualize our bodies or dress modestly, we should have the ability to do so without having to dress to either A. try and avoid the eyes of men or  B. attract the eyes of men.


Change will come when every veiled, unveiled, sexualized, modest, intelligent, unintellectual, poor, and rich women come together to pursue every RIGHT we deserve.

I am A Feminist
Morocco you have my soul
When we first me I could not stand you at all
All the things I’ve had to deal with to get here
I did not expect to fall—
MISERABLY, into the fate of others at my own will
I submitted my freedom to you like a slave to a master
I feared that if I did not follow your patriarchal leads
-I would stand out in the crowd, so…
I patiently waited for your arms—to accept me
For my brown skin, curves, and thighs
For that beauty mark I hold between my thighs
How could I be so blind
Without doing the research I had been told?
Adventures, adventures—to remember when I am old
Sitting in my rocking chair reading about everywhere
I went, I traveled, I ate
But I asked myself was it worth the pain
Of being a woman in an openly men dominated world
Where I can’t go to a café
Without being looked at and scowled—I’m a woman,
Women don’t belong in cafes
They belong at home
With the babies and bread
Ya…Ya…I’ve heard it all before
“What did you expect”
I EXPECTED to be treated like an equal
Like a human
But I was treated the same way I am treated there (U.S.)
Being a female is a joke and she’s nothing if she doesn’t have
Long straight, silky hair
But here where a large majority of women cover
From head to toe
They are told modesty is the tradition
When [some] women cover
They cover for their mother, brother, father
Very small percentage for Allah
Forgetting God has anything we want him,  no HER to be
She, it animal, almighty, existent, non-existent
We women of the west don’t realize
We are subjected to the same—THE SAME patriarchal systems
BUT if it’s ACCEPTED by a white man holding a Bible
We think we are FREE
But we are caged
Wearing Bandeo’s, tank top’s, Rain boots and Thongs (song reference)
WE are SEX
We created SEX
So what do we DO?
As women we must decide for ourselves
Must not let men decide;
What to…wear, eat, drink, buy, and smile
We stand together
With as little judgment as possible AND
Tell men; our GOD is a WOMAN
We follow the leader and if the leader is like us
We, Women were made in the image of God
Because men say to us, man was made in the image of God
Women was made from Adam’s Rib
There’s so must lost in translation it’s just glib
Human error depictions
White men’s agendas

Being in Morocco has taught me
There is no one standing in my way, but ME
Women of color; pink, red, brown, black, Carmel
We CANNOT let these men control us
We Must Rise because our souls belong to no one, but

Hello again from South Korea~

Hi everyone!!
I have been in Korea for two months now.

How I am feeling at this exact moment:
Accomplished: So far, my semester is great, now that I have finished all of my midterms.
Speaking of midterms… The week before midterms is the worst. Everyone that you may possibly know will be studying in the library. I know, I should be studying at the library with them as well. However, one thing you should know around midterms or finals in an Asian country is DO NOT expect to find a place to study in the library; it will be completely full on every floor. Also, never expect to hangout with anyone that whole week. Korean students will be too stressed and focused on studying.
Note: There may be a handful of people who would just want to party instead of studying… DO NOT be tempted to go anywhere with them. When the time comes to taking your exams, it will come back to bite you if you slack off on studying.

Missing home: After the first month of being in Korea, I thought I would never miss the U.S. but, I was wrong. I am missing my family, friends, and the food!
 You cannot believe the trouble I went through to find pizza made like Papa John’s. The Korean-style pizza has super thin bread and tastes very healthy. Well.. who doesn’t want healthy pizza…? Not me, I enjoy a well-portioned meat-and-veggies supreme pizza!

This is a Korean-style pizza at Pizza Hut

Also, if you love eating pasta, good luck finding a place that will have actual pasta noodles (penne, rotini, macaroni, etc.). A lots of restaurants and cafeterias on campus have pasta… however, it is made with long spaghetti noodles.

Spicy Chicken Pasta (Notice it has spaghetti noodles..)

*A big food tip for being in Korea: Most Korean food are spicy!!! So, if you do not enjoy killing your taste buds, Korea is a bad place to eat. Oh but fear not, some places will have food that is not so spicy, so ask first. Personally, I like spicy food, but sometimes I cannot handle the spicy levels of Korean food, even the soups (which most meals will come with).
Also, they do not have much salty food, which I like. So, if you like to add salt to your food, you cannot do that in Korea unless you are cooking your own meals. 
Overall, I enjoy eating Korean food almost every day, but from time to time I miss the food I eat in America.

Excited for the new adventures: I have experienced so many events and places these past two months.
I have been to:
–A traditional Korean palace
–National Museum of Korea
–Han River
–Cherry Blossom festival
–Many shopping districts (Still more to see)
–Thai festival
–I got a massage for the first time (by the way, it was very painful and relaxing at the same time)
–Participated in the Lotus festival parade for Buddha’s Birthday (holding lit lotus lanterns) all through Seoul.

Seijin Kwon and I at the Lotus Festival

There are still a lot to experience during my semester here in Korea. I am looking forward to sharing more of my adventures~

Ting Ngov

Three Essentials Things to Study Abroad Weekend Traveling

Hola Todos!

My program is coming to end soon and I really just wanted to share with you a few things I’ve learned through experience since my last post. So, from about the end of February I have been traveling somewhere almost every weekend with Either my program (ISA) or my friend Shaylynn. Info info we have so far been to Girona, Valencia, South of France, Madrid, Amsterdam, Paris, and just recently Portugal. Through all this traveling I’ve learned a few things That I find essential in trying to enjoy the Study Abroad travel experience while staying focused on the main purpose Also to study abroad – which is your culture and education perspective.

The first of the essential things is: Preparation

If you plan to travel During the weekend it’s best to plan as soon as possible and as much as possible. Many of my teachers are very lenient when it comes to traveling but They can only bend the rules as much as the program will allow. Almost all of my classes have a very strict attendance policy (not very common in the States) in Which you can only miss 4-8 classes in order to be able to take the final exam (depending on how many hours of class you have) . I usually write down all the important dates in my classes – exams, quizzes, presentations ect – so there are no confusions That when booking trips.We do not have classes on Friday, which is good for traveling on the weekend, but a lot of people like to try to leave Thursday after class and come back Monday morning before class just to get the Most out of the weekend. In That case I would suggest saving your allotted absences for times where cutting it close That Could go wrong, ie you miss the train on you way back from the airport, your flight gets delayed, or worse case scenario you miss you flight all together. In another sense, sometimes flights are cheaper for one day That Dramatically Increase Whereas drastically They next day. For example, Shaylynn and I traveled to Amsterdam on Thursday on Which to my class ends at 24:30 and she has a class ends at 7:45 pm That. The flight for Amsterdam was much cheaper than in the afternoon and one in the evening was much cheaper than in the evening That early morning next Friday. Though it would Have Been much cheaper to travel in the afternoon on Thursday (In Which We both miss class), Shaylynn is allotted eight absences in her class while I am only allotted four. It’s little tweaks like that can Interferes with traveling, that’s why it’s essential to Efficiently So THAT if need be to missed class does not Affect you plan progress in class.

Preparation and planning are essential not only for your attendance in class but Also for your finances. Budgeting is a key factor when it comes to planning a trip or even weekends spent Study Abroad in your city. I live in a home stay and my mother cooks breakfast, lunch, and dinner for me and my roommates every day. However, sometimes I eat in between meals, and Usually I’m out of the house all day on weekends. Also many of our program excursions do not include meals. Eventually all this adds up, and trying to pay for food, living, entertainment and travel to where ever you May Becomes a bit more difficult towards the end of the program.

The second of the essential thing goes Along with the first one and it is: Studying

Strategically planning your trips clears up any confusion or inconveniences you would run into while traveling, but you Also have to Consider your traveling time. My Study Abroad semester is much Shorter than a semester at UMKC. Our classes end on April 10th, info info we have spring break, then we come back for finals for two days, April 22nd and 23rd. Usually classes are much Easier for the first two or three weeks. A lot of people take advantage of These weekends to travel  where keeping up with your school work is not so difficult Often Because You have little to none. However, a problem is Most people When studying abroad find alone (like me), the first couple of weeks are spent trying to find friends and travel buddies. Often by the time you find someone to travel somewhere and your school work has gotten a little bit harder and requires more time studying. I suggest at the beginning That the program of study you set-up times THROUGHOUT the week as soon as you Become accustomed to your class schedule. Now, here in Barcelona there are a lot of little things people like to explore and see after class Such as parks, museums, as well as go to the beach. This is where I would suggest you plan your weeks Strategically (correlating With the first essential thing I Mentioned) for both “study time” and “exploring time”. For example, Monday and Wednesday I have a class at 24:40 That Ends. and another from 3:40 pm-5: 8:00 pm. Between this time I go to the ISA office, eat lunch, and study; After class on Monday I usually plan my weekend (book trips, plan random adventures, ect.). Wednesday after class I study until dinner (Which is normally around 9pm). Tuesdays and Thursdays my classes end at 24:40, so I have the  Entire  day to explore and study. Tuesday afternoon I usually study for Most of the day then explore until dinner. Thursdays I finish planning my weekend (packing if I am planning on traveling) and study for the weekend so I do not That Have to cram for anything Sunday night or Monday before the class. This essential thing is very nit-picky and Usually not much fun, but the main purpose for studying abroad is the educational part and it’s very much worth it to  be able to travel THROUGHOUT the program with out any worries on schoolwork.

Finally the last essential thing is: Keeping up with your Health

As simple as that sounds, Constantly traveling does take a lot out of you. Like I said before Most people try to take advance of the cheaper flights after class at night or early in the morning before class coming back, But Usually This results in little sleep. I do not know about you, but I find it really hard to get a good night’s rest on a plain or a train. Just recently on my Portugal trip we took advantage of an early morning flight on Monday in order to make it to my 11:00 a.m. class. The flight left at 6:50 a.m. Which meant we needed to wake up at 3am, leave by 4am, and be at the airport to check in and go though security by 5am. We arrived in Barcelona at 9am and then I had to go to class! Inexpensive flights are a bonus, but sometimes they come with a down side: such as This. Traveling all day, almost every weekend can be a drainer on your body Especially with a lack of sleep to add to it.  Twice During my time abroad I’ve caught a cold Because of so much traveling, the change in weather, lack of sleep , and lack of water. My previous essential things to traveling, preparing / planning and studying are Most ideas importance of ideas, but They take up a good amount of time THROUGHOUT the week days. This means trying to catch up That on the sleep That You May have missed over the weekend Becomes a lot more difficult and can cause a great deal of stress!

With only about three weeks left in my program I thought it would be good to share what I felt was essential to enjoying your travel Study Abroad experiences while never losing focus to the true purpose. Not every one likes this much Have To Consider When so many destinations to wait, but it’s definitely worth it so you will not ever have to look back With Any regrets!

Until then!

Gabby Smith

Experiencing Racism in Morocco

Hello my fellow Missourians!

I hope the sun has arrived early enough for you to enjoy the beginnings of spring.

       This particular subject is something that I have been struggling with upon my arrival to Morocco.
Racism is always a heated topic of discussion in the United States (US) because of the its long affiliation with slavery. Coming to Morocco, I never expected to be openly discriminated against. I sincerely thought, ” I AM GOING HOME”. When I say home, I mean Africa. As an Ethiopian Diaspora, I view all the countries in Africa apart of me, I carry a piece of my cultural pride with me where ever I go, especially back home in the US. My expectations of Morocco were much of the same expectations I held for Ethiopia. I was expecting Moroccans to accept me with open arms, open arms for their African sister, but I was wrongly mistaken.

   My first encounter with racism was shortly after my arrival in Morocco in August. Sitting in the Taxi, my friends were conversing with the driver about Morocco and my friend said something along the lines of, “I’m so excited to be in Africa”. The Taxi driver immediately said, “There are two Africa’s, black Africa and white Africa, Good Africa and Bad Africa”. The first real conversation we had with a Moroccan man in Casablanca soon painted a reoccurring theme I had with Moroccan locals. This state of differentiating between the white and black Africa.

  After this encounter I just tried to brush off the conversation and head to my bed. I had a long exhausting twenty-six hour flight getting to Morocco, all I needed was a bed to just crash. Soon upon my arrival in Meknes I would receive stares, which isn’t anything out of the ordinary. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to blend into a homogeneous environment, but I was not expecting to receive the reactions (from some individuals). DON’T get me wrong, I have experienced PLENTY of racism in the US, but in America it’s behind closed doors and rude remarks with underlying tones of racism.

    The only difference between Americans and Moroccans are people here are more inclined to be open their frustrations with sub-Saharan black people and Americans attempts to hide it. I do want to set the record STRAIGHT by also saying I can understand why some Moroccan locals are frustrated about the migration of sub-Saharan into Morocco. I am not making excuses for Morocco, but what most Sub Saharan people try to do is escape poverty (who can blame them??).

Sometimes people are willing to experience extremes for the taste of freedom.

    Immigrants first diverge a plan to make it to Europe through Morocco. Essentially just trying to use Morocco as a transit, not a permanent place to live. First, they travel up through Mauritania, then through the Western Sahara, then up through Morocco. When arriving to Morocco, they head North to the Strait of Gibraltar. The body of water is a 13 km gap between Spain and Morocco. Both Moroccans and Sub-Saharan Africans either try to bribe their way onto the ferry which will carry them onto Spain, others try to sneak their way into the Cebta (the disputed Spainish territory Morocco), and other try and swim across. Those who try to swim across are mostly faced with a deadly fate of being shot, drowning, and very rarely there are some who make it to shore. All illegal citizens whether in Morocco or Spain either, A. burn their personal papers or B. don’t bring them, so the government has to deal with them. The government cannot deport them because they do not know the country of origin without papers.

  The European Union has now made a HUGE push with additional funding for Morocco to secure its border patrol because of the how many illegal immigrants are making it into European countries. A lot of this racial tension comes from the new immigration laws and previous colonization. Morocco was a “protectorate of France”, another fancy meaning for colony. When the French came, they also divided the people of Morocco, between the Amizghr and the Arabs. Of course, like Napoleon said, Divide and Conquer. There was already racial tension between the two main ethnic groups in Morocco, but this additional pressure on Morocco is causing more racial tensions to soar even more with the immigration issues.

This is what is causing racial tensions.

  There are many places in Casablanca which refuse to rent to Sub-Saharan Africans. This back lash against blacks has caused many institutionalized systems of Moroccan Jim Crow laws. It wasn’t until this year–2014 that King Mohammed the VI offered Sub-Saharan African children (who were born in Morocco) to a Moroccan father citizenship. Do not get me wrong, this is a GREAT step in the right direction, but the root issues for tension should be solved by the governments from which these people are trying to escape from. Most illegal citizens, both Moroccans and Sub-Saharan Africans, experience racism and poverty in Spain.

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

     People in both Morocco and Spain are frustrated. Morocco has a 30% unemployment rate, there are not jobs for those who are educated or those who are not. Which means there is a big competition of jobs for “blue collar” jobs. We see this frustration in the US with the (illegal) migration of Hispanic people. Sub-Saharan people and Moroccans are working for much lower wages in both Spain and Morocco to just compete with the job market. This is just like how the illegal Hispanic are treated in the US. 

  What is the solution? I sit here telling to you about how I’ve been called a nigger multiple times on the streets of Morocco and I have been physically assaulted, because I am a woman of color. At first all I could do was sulk in my bitterness, but now I know there are more positive ways to work towards a future of working together. NOW stop what your thinking AMERICANS, we AMERICANS (including myself) have a tendency to generalize people. I have experienced a lot of racism here, just as much as I have experience in America, BUT there have also been AMAZING people I have met here that DON’T care about the color of my skin. The key to moving forward is addressing this situation. I have been apart of amazing group of young Moroccans trying to make a change in Morocco. The first step as an outsider is to support locals to bring change to their communities. Change comes from within.

 Many Moroccans are extremely hospitable people (besides Ethiopians [lol]) and have the kindest hearts.

    My experience in Morocco has NOT and will NOT be tainted by ignorant people. Of course it does not make you feel good when people judge you based on something you cannot control (my skin color). There is nothing more that I love about myself than the color of my skin. It is a badge of pride that I wear. I’m not going to lie if I told you I haven’t wondered how much easier it would be to be white man. The treatment of my friends when we go places, for the most part, is exceptional. Experiencing some of this hatred has made me question a lot of things, but at the end of the day, there is nothing more than I am proud of than to be a beautiful brown woman and if that brings negative or positive understandings, I know I am working for a brighter future where we all work together.

I honestly LOVE Morocco and there is nothing in the world that could ever change the things I have confronted and dealt with here. It sucks that a small minority of stupid people sometimes are the face of the majority, but unlike those people I refuse to generalize Moroccans or Arabs.

I have to remember not that ONE person is not a REPRESENTATION of the whole society.

Love is colorblind.

 أحبك (I love you),

Ida Ethiopia Ayalew

The unspoken truth

Hello أمريكا (America),

     I have missed you all very much. It’s been about seven months since I have seen all the McDonald and Quicktrip signs. As May approaches, I am filled with sadness, my time in Morocco is drawing to a close. This second semester has been a semester of plenty of reflection and acceptance. It has definitely been an emotional roller coaster, but I am learning to let unimportant things roll of my back.

    Last semester, I did not fully appreciate Morocco. I constantly ask myself why did it take me so long to come to this point of revelation? I was extremely homesick and didn’t even know..

    When packing for Morocco, back in August (ages ago), I did not expect myself to fall into a perpetual state of homesickness. I was thinking to myself, Morocco; colorful long skirts and shirts. Not once did it ever really hit me, I was going to be gone for one year, 365 days. I never asked myself, what I should take with me to a distant place, drastically different from home. I urge those who are planning, considering, or beginning to study abroad to make sure you bring a piece of home with you wherever you go. 

   I have struggled with mild depression before coming to Morocco, visiting my counselor once a week during the school year, I addressed the problem points of my life. When the opportunity of traveling to Morocco came up, it never crossed my mind that I could fall back into my perpetual state of depression. I was thinking it will be all things Sunny! What was there to worry about? Nothing. Well, I was mistakenly wrong. The first semester in Morocco where incredible, until I came back from Ethiopia in January. I just tried to cope with life the same way I do when I am at home–study, study, study, but the longing to be home in Ethiopia with my mom and sister got the best of me. I would sometimes come straight home from school and sleep for hours beginning of this semester. I still traveled on some weekends, enjoyed some moments, but I was not living the moment. My mind was constantly bogged with dreading coming back to Morocco which I *thought* would draw me into this perpetual cycle of sadness, but it was my own reluctance to address my issues which trapped me in my room.

    I just needed my family, especially when I came back from Ethiopia. I hadn’t seen my sister or mother in five years so coming back to Morocco felt so much harder than it actually was. Looking back I wish I just would have left my apartment, I wasted so much valuable moments and time. All I needed to do was get out and see something, breathe, meditate, but I choose instead to ostracize myself. My friends tried to encouraged me to go, but I made the ultimate decision.

What the solution? HONESTY! Call your loved ones.

  I encourage all those who can, call your family! There is nothing better in this world than hearing the voices of the people you love. Their voices bring so much comfort and encouragement, you feel you can conqueror the world. I am EVER so blessed to have a family and school who supports me. Without the help of my aunts, uncles, sisters, cousins, brothers, dad, mom, friends, and UMKC, I do not think I would have been able to get to the point of realization I have recently came to this semester. Life is not about your expectations, it is all about making your expectations met life. This preconceived notions about life abroad people have are wrong. Same you + different country = same you, BUT you have to choose to take advantage of the opportunities you have and it saddens me that it took me this long to realize this! It is such a simple answer to a simple question.

  I have this theory that life is actually simpler than people make it, I am accountable for making my life more complicated than it needs to be.

      As I was sitting at Pizza Hut eating the closet “American” thing I could find. My thoughts had consumed me. That was the moment I knew, I was homesick. Soon after this realization I knew I had to do something about it to enjoy the rest of my semester. January was definitely some long days of sadness, trying to break this funky mood I was constantly in, I starting running everyday. Exercise and mediation is helping me in my progress to move towards a positive direction.

      Homesickness is not taken seriously, it’s my seventh month in Morocco and I am just getting over the milestones of homesick. People need to understand studying abroad isn’t all rainbows and sunshine, but it is about creating your own sunshine and pushing through those cloudy days. It has taken me a long time to let the small things roll off my back. It’s for the better, control what you can control and don’t worry about the rest.

I just want to take this time to let everyone know, it is OKAY to be homesick, it’s natural. We just have to work through it all the good and bad.

Find something which gives you peace and be self-aware. Whether it’s sports, writing, singing, dancing in the rain, hiking, YOU have the ability to change how you feel.

Sending positive vibes from Morocco.

ليلة سعيدة (Good Night),


                                                        Enjoying some sunshine in Rabat!

안녕하세요(Annyeonghaseyo)- Hello from South Korea~

Hi to everyone who studied abroad, will study abroad, or is interested in anything related to studying abroad! Currently, I am here in Seoul, South Korea studying at Dongguk University as a Business-Management student for two weeks now. Everything is happening so fast. I am enjoying all the new faces and environment. I met so many people since I first arrived in Korea. Many Korean people here are very friendly if you just talk to them. So being in a new, completely different country where you cannot speak the language sounds scary, but is not so bad once you overcome your fears of spontaneously meeting and talking to new people. I have spoken to many Korean students who rarely knows English, but are still nice to try to communicate with me.

My first experiences since I been in Korea:
-Riding the bus
-Riding the subway
-Taking a Taxi
-Trying Korean BBQ
-Trying street food
-Walking everywhere!
It was great that I got to experience all of that here in the city of Seoul. From time to time, I would miss my car, but I got used to walking everywhere.

A few things I learned about the country and the people:
-Seoul has A LOT of HILLS and STAIRS, especially at Dongguk University
-When it gets crowded anywhere, and you start to bump into people, it’s natural to say “excuse me” or “sorry” BUT a lot of people do not mind or say anything to you. They are used to it.
-Be careful when crossing the street in busy traffic, the cars here will continue to go even if they have a red light. So, the crosswalk lights are your best friend. Do not jaywalk unless there are no incoming cars. Even in some narrow streets, cars will still try to squeeze in and you will be forced to get out of the way. They like to drive really close, but won’t necessarily hit you, hopefully.
-When meeting someone, they will tell you a time such as 2pm, in Korean time, that means it can be 2 minutes BEFORE 2pm or 2 minutes AFTER 2pm. Being on time is very flexible here.
-A lot of Korean students are very dependent. Therefore, most of them are still living with their parents, which is not a bad thing! 🙂 

I am very lucky with the classes that I chose to take here at Dongguk University. All my professors spoke descent English with all the materials written in English. My first day of classes, I was very nervous of how the professors, students, and the way the class will be like. I imagined all my professors would end up teaching the classes in Korean. However, after my week of attending all my classes, I felt very relaxed due to all the friendly students and helpful professors who were able to speak in English. I cannot wait for when the semester picks up and I will be able to study again. I have been on break from classes since the beginning of December of 2013 (End of the Fall semester at UMKC).

I hope to write again!

Ting Ngov

Here is a link to see all my pictures from my fun and exciting adventures in Korea:

Second Semester

I’m now well into my second semester in Lyon, France. This semester is harder scholastically because I am in regular French university classes, but my intensive language classes last semester are definitely proving to be helpful. It’s still amazing to me that I know what’s going on at all. Being proficient in a different language is so interesting. Words that seem like gibberish are coming into my brain and being processed quite normally. It’s so much fun. 🙂

My parents came to visit me over Christmas break and we traveled to Annecy, Rennes, Mont St Michel, and Paris. It’s definitely a lot easier to travel on my parents budget. 😉 In Februrary, I had the opportunity to visit Oxford, England another time. I haven’t done loads of traveling this semester so far but I’m looking forward to doing some traveling in April, May, and June. I’ll be traveling to the south of France (Avignon and Arles), as well as the west coast (La Rochelle), and then it’ll be up to Amsterdam, down through Germany to visit some dear friends, back into France, then up into England and Scotland for some hiking before coming back to the states.

It’s hard to believe how fast this year is going by. I only have four months left abroad, only three of which will be spent in France. Back in August and September, I was sure that the eleven months would pass slowly but now I have no idea why I ever thought that. I am a little apprehensive about returning to the states. I’m a missionary kid, so moving around a lot has always been a part of my life, but I was never alone before. There are absolutely many features of Lyon that I will miss when I’m back in Kansas City.

Actividades de Seis Semanas

Hola Todos!

I´m so excited to be able share my experience with you all on this blog. Unfortunately, I´ve had a bit of an issue with internet connection for a while, so I haven´t been able to post as often I would like. I´ve missed good amount of time, but I´ll jump right in and share as much as I can!

I´ve been in Barcelona for six weeks now and I love it! We’ve seen so much, both with ISA and on our own.

On the very first day of the program, I met my family.  I was a bit overwhelmed with the fact that my host family doesn’t speak any English, but they were extremely welcoming.  My host mother’s name is Pepita and the father´s name is Juan. They are an older retired couple that live in a nice apartment in Grácia. I met Juan first and he showed me back to the apartment where I then met Pepita who helped me unpack and cooked me lunch. Later that night, I met my roommate, Haleigh, from Colorado. She´s very nice and, luckily, very good in Spanish. I never reaized how much I needed to improve my Spanish until I got here!

For the next couple of days we visited a lot on placed on an ISA tour bus. One of the first places we visited on an ISA tour bus was a mountain where you can see the entire city of Catalonia! We then rode the bus to the beach and took some beautiful pictures of the sunset.

Image  Image

ImageThat same week we visited the Gothic Area, The Cathedral, and The Segrada Familia.

The Segrada Famila is a beautiful church with so much history and such detailed architecture that  it´s not expected to be finished until 2026. Gaudí´s plan is breathtaking from the moment you walk in and all throughout the church!

When classes started, our time to explore the city became much more limited. We don´t have classes on Friday so this gives us a good weekend to go traveling. Of course we needed to become accustomed to the city first, but after two weekends in Barcelona, I chose to go to Morocco, Africa to vist my friend Ida. We visited Fez and the Medina, Casablanca, and spent the last nights in Meknes where she is also studying abroad with ISA!

During the weekends after that we traveled to couple cities in Spain with ISA. First we visited Gerona, a city about two hours north of Barcelona. This was such a beautiful mid-eval town. It was very quaint with a lovely scenery, nice stores, and friendly people. We also just visited Valencia, a city about four hours south of Barcelona. We chose to go at the right time because even though we´re in Barcelona´s winter season, it was 80 degrees there. Perfect weather for the beach. Along with the beach, we went the the Valencia Aquarium; the biggest aquarium in Europe!

This is only a gist of the many things that have occurred over the course of these six weeks, but I have plenty more to go and I can´t wait to keep you all updated.

Hasta Luego!

Gabriell Smith