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“You´re 25 and you´ve never seen the ocean???”

I’m 25 years old, and I have only just now experienced the ocean, which luckily was during my study abroad trip in Costa Rica. Guys, this place is absolutely gorgeous.

I am elated to say that I have now seen 9 beaches here, three which are on the list of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches. I also got to see a beach in Panama.

I’m referencing this article if you´re interested! (P.S., I´ve been to numbers 1, 2, and 4!)

I’m going to make this blog post about my absolute favorite beaches, and the remarkable experiences I had there.

The first area we went to was Playa Manuel Antonio, listed as the 2nd most beautiful beach. In that area, I saw 4 separate beach areas. My first experience was marvelous, there were monkeys playing on the beach (and on the lookout for things to steal from the beach goers). Here´s a link to UMKC study abroad´s insta if you´re interested in seeing a bit of that cuteness.

Playa Manuel Antonio

The next weekend, we headed to the Guanacaste province to check out Playa Tamarindo, listed as the 4th most beautiful beach. This place was gorgeous.

Playa Tamarindo

There were even howler monkeys outside of our Airbnb, while we were in the pool!

Howler monkey

Sunday, before we left Tamarindo, two of my friends and I got up really early in the morning. Our mission was to see the number one most beautiful beach in Costa Rica: Playa Conchal. Notice how the word Conchal looks like conch? As in the shells? Perfect, because that´s what this beach is all about. Playa Conchal has a large part of it’s beach area where instead of sand, you see itty bitty broken pieces of polished shell. This place is honestly the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my life, my little Kansas mind absolutely could not handle it!!!

Playa Conchal: Bonita!

How could I tell you it is the most beautiful place I have ever seen if I didn’t provide proof? Well, that would almost be……shellfish of me!!!

Clear waters of Play Conchal

Can you believe how clear this water is??? Even the waves are clear and completely gorgeous.

Even the waves were crystal clear!

When I tell you I’m ready to go back…that’s no joke! The last weekend I stayed in Cahuita. I took a short drive south to see Playa Negra in Pureto Viejo.

I can’t decide if Playa Conchal or Playa Negra in Puerto Viejo, where we went on my last weekend were my favorite.

I could not get enough of how cool this was!!!  I’m not quite sure why there was a random barge there…but it was super cool!

Playa Negra.

I love this picture because of the contrast between the white waves and black sand.

White waves on Playa Negra.

I don´t think I could have picked a better study abroad program. This program was awesome because it has so many places to visit, so much wildlife, and so many amazing beaches. Not only that, my Spanish improved dramatically! Now that all of my degree requirements have been met, I’ll take that Spanish degree now.

You better believe that my mind was blown during the entire program, and that I absolutely will be returning one day.

Sarah Schleicher is a senior at the University of Missouri – Kansas City majoring in Spanish and minoring in Latinx Studies. She will be taking the last two required classes for her B.A. this summer in Heredia, Costa Rica. She is currently a Pre-K teacher and Enrichment Coordinator, and she would eventually like to work supporting Spanish speaking children.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Tranquilidad, a Costa Rican way of life

Tranquila.

If you don’t speak Spanish, it’s a word that describes calm, a general free from worry, and most importantly, the laid back attitude of Costa Rica.

It’s also one of the most common phrases or expressions you’ll hear, especially if you’re an American with an anxiety disorder who worries about literally everything. Typically, this word is used as an adjective in Spanish, but in Costa Rican Spanish, they’ve adapted this word into a command, and a way of life.

Before I left, I had read about this, and noted that it was best to remain calm in all situations here, because Costa Ricans value peace over everything.

My first real experience with this expression was during an Uber ride home…after dark. It gets dark around 6:00 P.M. here, so even if you´re not out super late, it feels like you are.

Also a fun side note, in Costa Rica, addresses are a bit…different, to say the least. The way they navigate through a city is by using a focal point (we use the local mall), then describing how far you have to walk in a direction from that focal point…then describing what the house looks like.

There are street signs, people have tried to modernize the address system, but the old ways have stuck. Which means if you’re not a local, you could be stuck scratching your head while you’re trying to ask for help from strangers.

Back to the Uber ride.

Because addresses are different here, Uber only let me put in the beginning of the address, which luckily was the name of the area. It won’t exactly take the driver to your home stay, but it’ll land you somewhat near there. I also have a picture of the front of the house so that I remember what it looks like.

Nuestra Casa Costarricense, Our Costa Rican House

So the Uber driver stops where we’re apparently supposed to get out, but my roommate and I aren’t quite familiar with the area yet and its also dark…so my anxiety starts to set in.

I nervously tell the driver in Spanish that we don’t know where we are, and that we are new here. He genuinely tries to help us, but it’s hard because Spanish isn’t our first language, and we don’t exactly know what to do in this situation.

I remembered that our host mom had written down the ‘address’ on a piece of paper and gave it to us, so I gave this to the driver and also pulled open Google Maps so that I could try to get a sense of where we were in the area. I vaguely remember a bit more and tell the driver, but he completely passes the area and gets back on the main road.

And then, the anxiety started to creep in even more.

While my roommate and I have gotten a bit more of a sense as to where we were, my nerves got the best of me and I tell him too excitedly that he passed it, and that we have to go back.

“Tranquila.”

This was the word he uttered to me as he turned around and attempted to get back to where we needed to be.

My roommate described this to me later because I didn’t see it, but I guess he gave me a look, like he was genuinely concerned for me and also not sure why I was so on edge.

Of course, we made it home, and we thanked him a million times. One of my Costa Rican friends told me that people here will genuinely try to help you, and he technically did not have to go so out of his way to make sure we made it just to the house, because the Uber application told us we had reached our destination that we put in. I made sure to tip him well.

So with one week down, I’m remembering to keep my head together and stay calm in a foreign country. And remember my friends,

“Tranquila.”

Everything will be all right.


Sarah Schleicher is a senior at the University of Missouri – Kansas City majoring in Spanish and minoring in Latinx Studies. She will be taking the last two required classes for her B.A. this summer in Heredia, Costa Rica. She is currently a Pre-K teacher and Enrichment Coordinator, and she would eventually like to work supporting Spanish speaking children.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Spain, you have stolen my heart

Part of the city of Arts and Sciences. I live 5 minutes on bike from here and it is breathtaking.

Wow, it has been 2 weeks since I embarked on a journey of a lifetime. You guys want to know a secret??? Spain is AMAZING!!! I know… it is hard to believe. I am walking/biking about 6-10 miles a day in Spain, yes…most of the time I feel disgusting and sweaty, but so does everyone else so who cares?! The driving here is horrible, gas is $8 per gallon or more, traffic is a nightmare, and there is not a lot of available parking so most people walk, bike, bus, or scooter. My roommate and I chose biking to get some exercise and burn off the calories from all the delicious foods we are eating! Plus, there is a bike system built into the roadways called Valenbici so you’re never too far away from transportation.

Café and a delicious pastry = always a great day!

Want to know another secret?? Coffee in the United States sucks. Did I think that 2 weeks ago? Lol, no. But, Spain is known for having amazing coffee along with the rest of Europe, and that is no lie. It’s pretty funny because everyone in Spain, including my host family laughs at how Americans make coffee; (lots of water and very little café so they say). Here it’s about 3-5oz, super concentrated, and VERY strong. While it is a very different taste than what I am used to, it is a very delicious one.

I am loving my new host mom and dad (we had to get re-homed after our first 4 days in Valencia because we were being “neglected”… yikes, I know, but that’s a story for a later date). My current host family is a very sweet couple without any kids of their own, and my roommate and I are the first adults they have ever hosted and for the longest amount of time. They usually host 13-14 year old French students for 4-5 days at a time, but made an exception for us due to our previous situation and we couldn’t be happier that they did. I have been to Madrid, Toledo, Valencia, and Barcelona so far in Spain and I have to say… my host mom makes food better than anything I have had in a restaurant in any of those places thus far. My host mom is also Colombian so we get a mix of Spanish and Colombian foods and it’s always fresh and made from scratch. Did I tell you she is an amazing???

I will never get tired of the views here.

Even though I may be eating a lot here (is it really that much when you’re burning them all? I think not). I feel healthier because a lot of “things” in foods at home are not legal here. The fruit is the sweetest and freshest I’ve ever tasted (pineapple here is out of this world), the meat is very different and always fresh, and I will never look at a “tortilla” the same again. I put the word tortilla in quotes because the tortillas here are made with eggs and potatoes (and other things depending on the type) and are about an inch thick. No, you can’t wrap it like a burrito or make it into a quesadilla, it’s like a side dish. When we told our professor what a tortilla was back home she said it sounded disgusting. After having these I think so too!

A view from “El Castillo” a castle in Peñiscola, Spain. Fun fact, Game of Thrones used this castle to film the city of Meereen!

There are some things I’m missing from home…like water. Calm down, I am staying hydrated, but it is nowhere near as accessible in Valencia as it is at home. There are no water fountains (except a few in the park for runners), and everyone buys giant things of plastic water bottles for their homes because there is no faucet connected to the fridge. Ice is also almost non-existent, but, with all that being said, it’s only one pitfall of being here and I’ve found some pretty creative ways to stay hydrated and get water, so, I’ll survive.

With everything I have experienced in Valencia so far, I think my favorite is going to the beach. There are so many cool things about the city and places to explore, but living in the Midwest, where beaches don’t exist, I love being able to just go put my toes in the sand and hang out. It is usually peaceful and empty during the week and I love going in-between my classes to lay in the sun, listen to the waves, journal, and just fully enjoy and soak up my life right now. The ocean is still pretty chilly though (June is the start of their hotter months) but after laying out or playing sand volleyball for a while it is nice and refreshing to get in.

One view from the top of the castle in Peñiscola. Absolutely gorgeous.

I have met so many amazing friends in my program and they are all wonderful people. This country/program has brought together 28 students from all over the United States and after a short 24 hours together, most of us felt like we had been friends for years. Everyone in our group is at different levels in their Spanish journeys which I think kind of makes this trip more fun; learning from those above you and then teaching those who are aren’t as strong yet in their Spanish abilities. Nevertheless, we all mess up and struggle with things and that is just part of learning.

I still have so much I want to share with you about my journey thus far. I am not trying to write a novel for you to read so you will just have to stay tuned for another update and probably some crazy stories.

¡Hasta luego, mis amigos!

¡One happy chica!

 


Madison Keller is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City. She is on the pre-medicine track, triple majoring in Spanish, chemistry, and psychology. Madison will spend the summer abroad with the ISA Valencia, Spain Hispanic Studies Program. Madison’s career goals are to attend medical school and incorporate Spanish into all aspects of her life and career.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Preparing for Abroad

The time is finally here. The time to pack up my bags, say goodbye to family and friends, and say hello to a new country and a new adventure. I have wanted to study abroad ever since my freshman year at UMKC, but now that the time is finally here, I am not sure what to think. See, up until this moment it has been a dream, a journey that always seemed far into the future. But now it is here, waiting for me to get on a plane, abandon my routine and comfortability, and open myself up to countless new adventures, new friends, and the opportunity to experience the world through a different lens; and for that, I couldn’t be more excited.

My name is Madison Keller, I am on the Pre-Medicine track at UMKC triple majoring in Chemistry, Psychology, and Spanish, and will be studying abroad for 6 weeks in Valencia, Spain to continue learning about the language and culture. I discovered Spanish in eighth grade during a world languages course and was hooked from the get go. I am now a senior at UMKC and have taken a Spanish course every year, for the last eight years. I know what you’re thinking, “wow, she must be fluent by now!” No… I am definitely not, but I am hoping that living in the country and being fully immersed in all aspects of the way of life in Spain will help push me toward my goal of fluency and increase my confidence in speaking the language with natives.

Image result for valencia spain map
I will be studying in Valencia, Spain!

On top of taking two courses in Valencia, one in grammar, and another in culture, I also have the opportunity to complete what is called an Independent Study on a topic of my choice for additional course credits at UMKC. Because I want to go into the medical field, I thought what better way to incorporate the two things I am passionate about; Medicine and Spanish! So, I will be researching the differences in the health care systems of the United States vs. Spain and narrowing in on mental health and emergency medicine. I will be conducting interviews with physicians and pharmacists, do a LOT of research and then compile it all into a minimum, 30 page paper! Seems like a lot, right?! Maybe so, but I can’t wait to get started learning. So, on top of hearing about my courses, the city, and all my adventures, you will also probably be hearing about my independent study and the progression of my research! So exciting!

This is my pup, Mowgli.. as you can see, he did not want me to pack for Spain.

Now, getting ready for this trip seems like it has taken me forever. Everyone says to “pack light”, but when you are leaving for 6 weeks, what does that even mean?! I have packed, re-packed, and re-re-packed like 4 times all in an effort in trying to “pack light” and I still don’t think I have done it as “light” as maybe it should be; but oh well. The hardest part in getting ready to leave the country though is not packing. It is saying goodbye to my pup, Mowgli. You see, he is VERY attached to me. Not seeing his dorky, hilarious, lovable personality and squeezing his face for six weeks is definitely the hardest part about leaving. He’s my rock and my best little friend so it wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t dedicate part of this post to him. But I have to take this once in a lifetime opportunity and I know he will be safe and happy while I am gone and get LOTS of love; even though all of that is WAY easier said than done and I am going to be crying like a baby when it’s time to leave.

While I am excited and a little uneasy about leaving, I know once I get there and settle in, I probably won’t want to come home. I think I am ready for this incredible journey in T-minus 2 days, and I am excited for you to follow along with me and my adventures! Let’s do this!

 


Madison Keller is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City. She is on the pre-medicine track, triple majoring in Spanish, chemistry, and psychology. Madison will spend the summer abroad with the ISA Valencia, Spain Hispanic Studies Program. Madison’s career goals are to attend medical school and incorporate Spanish into all aspects of her life and career.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

The Cities That Made Me Speechless

I sat down three times to write a blog about Prague, but for some reason, I couldn’t think of anything to say. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy my time there, I definitely did. And it wasn’t that the city didn’t leave an impression on me. But I felt like I didn’t have any coherent thoughts or words about my experience there.

But soon after, it was time for me to go to Rome, and I had the idea to just write a blog about both cities, that way I had more to say. Then I came home from Rome and my writers/thought block was almost worst. I didn’t understand what was happening.

See the reason I couldn’t write about Prague, and now how it’s even harder to write about Rome was I didn’t know how to write about a beauty you just have to see with your own eyes.

I couldn’t explain the magical feeling I got walking through the winding cobble-stoned streets of Prague, like I had been transported to a fairy-tale land. I couldn’t put into words the emotions that overcame me looking up at the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel, the ceilings I heard about every day of my childhood (thank you Catholic school education).

It’s that feeling of being lost in history that people are chasing when they come to Europe. But it’s not kind of history that has a face and name, like when you see a Berlin square that the Nazi’s rallied in. It the 100’s of years of people that weren’t written in the history books. The merchants who all met in a small square in Prague that you, thousands of years later, are eating dinner in. It’s the streets that the first Christian’s walked on, and you have to wonder about what life they were living. The history that swallows you up, and you are just a small fraction, a blimp in the city’s eyes.

In Prague and Rome, when you see artifacts and buildings that were built in the 1700s, you are unimpressed because the 1700s? That’s new for these cities. With buildings built 2,000 years ago still standing, 300 years is modern. But then I kept thinking about how stuff in the 1700’s is older than my own country. With the U.S. not being founded until 1776, most of the stuff around me has been there before everything I’ve ever known at home was even thought of. Some of these buildings were worked on before anyone knew America even existed.

My expectations going into Prague were actually pretty low. I remember both of my sisters saying Prague was a “must-see” but I didn’t really know why. Prague’s history was (and is) confusing to me, I didn’t understand how the city was important in history, I don’t remember ever learning about it in history books. All I knew was that it was old and currently in the Czech Republic, but previously in Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, under Nazi rule, AND in the Austria-Hungary Empire. I couldn’t wrap my head around an old and beautiful city that experienced that many regimes in current history. But that experience made Prague what it is, a must-see. It has pretty much every era of world history to show, from ancient to Baroque to the communist era.

As for going to Rome, I was anxious. From loving ancient history, to learning about Rome so much in school, I was worried my expectations were going to be too high. But from St. Peter’s Basilica, to the Colosseum, to the food, Rome did not disappoint.

But my favorite part of both Prague and Rome weren’t the grandiose structures of ancient times, it was the quiet beauty that just existed as part of daily life. The cobblestone streets and the beautiful trees and the random statues on every corner. It’s probably the stuff you get used to living in Prague or Rome, but when used to seeing a Walgreens (no disrespect to Walgreens, I love you) on every corner, it is a bit overwhelming.

All in all, amazing doesn’t cut it. So again, I find myself at a loss for words.


Emily Reid is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City double majoring in Journalism and Political Science. She is spending the semester in Berlin, Germany through the ISA Berlin Program

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Berlin the Bountiful

I’m halfway through my time in Berlin, so here is a list of all my favorite things about this city so far.

  1. I could argue Berlin is the most international city in the world. For one, let’s take into account that one city was controlled by four different nations for a number of years. Want to go a British pub? 20 minutes away in Charlottenburg. Hungry for some French food? Visit the neighborhood of Wedding, a former French district. And there’s nothing like an American burger… I can find one down my block in Zehlendorf. I had known the city of Berlin was split into four of course, but I had only really thought of East Berlin changing, and had never realized the brief control by other nations would actually have a lasting effect on West Berlin.
  2. Flower shops are everywhere. There are three flower stores I walk past every day on my 3 block walk to the S-Bahn platform.
  3. Their determination to keep the memory of The Holocaust and and the atrocities in World War II alive, but at the same time to prevent it from happening again is tremendous. In the museums I’ve been to so far, they have these plaques up, that say “No photos of Nazi symbols,” which prevent tourists and attendees from focusing on the Nazis and Hitler. Along with that, the site of Hitler’s bunker was kept secret until 2006. The German government refused to put up a sign or open the bunker to the public to prevent neo-nazis and worshippers from making it a pilgrimage. Today, the bunker remains sealed and looks like an ordinary parking lot a part from a small sign at the corner.
  4. It is true, the German’s are incredibly environmentally conscious. Some of the ways are obvious and a little incumbent to the typical American, the 3 different bins at every trash can and the lack of dryers in houses. But most of the ways are subtle yet so easy it has me wondering why we don’t do them in America. For example, train and bus doors don’t open unless you push a button, most public lights, like in schools or apartment hallways are motion sensor so they are not on permanently. But my personal favorite is that it is a common habit for Berliners to leave glass bottles outside of trash cans. Besides the abundant cigarette butts, these glass bottles are the only litter you will see. But it’s not really litter because people, mostly homeless, will go around collecting these bottles to make money. And since drinking in public is legal here, those beer bottles stack up on the weekend.
  5. Doner Kebab. For those of you who are unlucky enough to never had tried this delicious, heaven sent, marvel of food, I pity you. In a crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, perfectly cooked piece of bread, slathered in garlic sauce, spicy sauce, hummus, anything you can dream of, then filled with seasoned meat and topped with lettuce, and then sprinkled with cheese. Doner is amazing and I eat it every day. You will catch me coming home 40 pounds heavier and still smiling because that’s how amazing doner is.
  6. Stuff! To Do! Every! Day!: This could also be filed under things I don’t like about Berlin because wow is this overwhelming. And the guilt I feel when I’m laying in bed not doing anything. 100 new galleries opening every day, new exhibitions at every museum, all the bookstores and coffee shops, concerts and a walk in every park, restaurants to try….phew.
  7. Public transportation. Yeah, commuting sucks but being on a train and not worrying about driving gives me time to read and work on homework. Public transportation is specifically great in Berlin because Germans love punctuality which means buses and trains are always on time.
  8. Art scene. The city of street art means you’re walking through an art museum 24/7. Everyone here is so creative, you can’t help when it rubs off on you. From the people sketching on the bus, to work shopping screen plays in coffee shops, everywhere you turn is an artist working on their next masterpiece.
  9. All the parks and green areas. This is something I will appreciate much more when it gets warm out, but Berlin is more park than city I swear.
  10. Berlin is Berlin. You are you. Unlike any other major city, one gets more stares in public for dressing too nice than too sloppy. It’s a city where it’s cool to look unkempt. At the same time, a 86 year old man can walk onto a bus in a wedding dress and I don’t think anyone would look up from their newspapers. Fashion is no fashion, wear whatever you want, no one has any expectations or rules. This applies for bars and clubs too, there isn’t a dress code apart from don’t try hard. As a girl who takes approximately 7 minutes to get ready in the morning, I am at home here.
  11. Bread and cheese all day every day. I could go days only eating some variation of bread and cheese. And since these two things happen to be my favorite food groups, let’s just say I am doing well.
  12. Mauerpark Flohmarkt, and any other flea market. Sundays are the best days in Berlin! Everywhere you turn there is a market, like elves come in over night and transform the city. Mauerpark is the best, with rows of stands, live music, karaoke when it’s nice out and the occasional dance show.
  13. Spatkaufs. Late shops open on almost every street corner. Go in and buy beer or snacks for really cheap, and when it’s nice outside people will just hang out on the street drinking and eating.

 


Emily Reid is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City double majoring in Journalism and Political Science. She is spending the semester in Berlin, Germany through the ISA Berlin Program

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Failing and Flourishing but Adapting Nonetheless

Me, second from the right, and my new friends from across the globe 🙂

I had been speaking hypothetically about this journey for over a year before I actually departed. I knew I had wanted to come to Argentina for a long time but I never really put too much thought into what I would experience while I was there. I had caught a case of the travel bug after my first volunteer trip to Mexico just a year after I had graduated from high school. I stayed and worked there for two months trying to preserve the environment there. Never once did I get homesick even though my living conditions consisted of just a cement block with carved out windows. When I returned from my first adventure, I knew I needed to get out again. I had learned so much from being in another culture and traveling alone for the first time. My mind had been opened and a travel bug ventured in. I traveled once more to Guatemala for six weeks the summer before my present journey, here, in Buenos Aires. This is by far the longest I have ever been gone. Weeks before this semester-long trip, I moved out of my apartment and threw out the majority of my belongings and put the rest in storage. I was living with my sister with nothing more than the two backpacks I was going to take with me to Argentina. It began to sink in that I was leaving the United States for a while this time.

I didn’t put much thought into how my life would work in another country. I knew I was going to be taking classes in Spanish and living in a hostel, but I never imagined how it would actually feel. After having been here for three weeks now all I can say is that my adjustment was very smooth or maybe I have just gotten used to the daily cringe-worthy awkward language moments and hostel lifestyle.

When I first arrived in Buenos Aires I was immediately met by a leader of the program I was traveling abroad through and guided to a meeting point with upwards of ten other traveling students. Fortunately, I immediately felt secure. However, once we left the airport and went to our respective living accommodations is when I began to realize just how far I had come. I knocked on the door to my hostel and I was shown around my new rustic and eco-friendly home. Showers were archaic and dirty with everyone’s belongings mixed together. The kitchen as well was a mixture of all of the resident’s food. My room contained four beds, all of which were full after my arrival. I put my stuff in my room and had to attend a meeting at the school just thirty minutes after my arrival. I didn’t have time to process what I thought about my new home. However, it began to sink in during moments of boredom in my orientation meeting. I was thinking ‘oh my god, my stuff is just sitting there open for the taking’ I hadn’t met any of my roommates to deem them trustworthy or not. I thought of the showers and when would be an appropriate time for me to wash off the 24 hours of travel musk I was wearing. I didn’t know the rules around cooking or storing food in the hostel… I felt very alone.

When I returned, my belongings were still there. My roommates turned out to be some of the coolest people I have ever met. And turns out we have a cook here at the hostel that prepares dinners for us regularly. Additionally, the hostel is incredibly eco-friendly and sustainable which perfectly aligns with my studies of Environmental Science at University. I felt amazing and all of the fear I had before melted away. The next adventure was navigating the language barrier.

My biggest obstacle by far has been communication. Every single day I feel like I am just hurdling over one awkward moment to the next. Honestly, I have cried many times over this. I want to learn this language so bad but I cannot understand or communicate how I’d like. I am not able to explain my thoughts in Spanish. I have been studying and communicating as much as I can each day and sleep heavy from mental exhaustion each night. I am nowhere near where I would like to be at this point, but I am improving immensely each day.

The most monumental thing I have noticed so far in my life here is that I am learning so much every day. If I wrote down all of the little things I have learned I would have written a novel already. My roommates are from Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, France, Germany, Venezuela, and many more countries as well. I am learning about so many different cultures. I am discussing heavy topics including feminism, LGBTQ rights, corruption, racism, etcetera within many different countries all the while speaking a foreign language. Everyone has been incredibly patient with me and really try to hear what I have to say even if it takes me 10x longer to explain. I have already made lifelong friends here. Not once have I felt homesick just like on trips before. I never learn this much in a day in the United States. I truly believe traveling teaches me sooo much more than school ever could. I am already intending to continue my travels after I finish my degree.


Ashley is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City pursuing an Environmental Science degree along with a Spanish minor. She is studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina with the ISA Latin American Studies program during the spring of 2019. She hopes to become fluent in Spanish and attend graduate school to study marine biology.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Berlin Bound

Berlin, Germany

Since the moment I learned what studying abroad was, I think maybe in 6th grade, I immediately knew it was something I wanted. For 9 years, I waited and I dreamt and waited some more. I narrowed my choices down and set my heart and eyes on Berlin. This has definitely been a long time coming, filled with anticipation and excitement. And now it’s here.

With a major in journalism and a long time love of writing, it only makes sense to blog my travels, daily life, and experiences while in Berlin.

When I decided to study abroad, I wasn’t immediately sure where I wanted to go. There wasn’t one place that had always called to me, I didn’t have some strong familial connection to a country besides the knowledge that my great great (great?) grandpa was buried somewhere in Ireland. And besides two unbeneficial years of high school Spanish, from which I took away only the knowledge of a Soy that wasn’t a sauce, I didn’t speak a language. So, in making my decision on which country I wanted to live in, I made a list of what I wanted from my experience. Then I narrowed down from there.

When I tell people I’m spending 4 months in Berlin, many ask why I chose it. So I figured giving my long-winded answer of “Why” is the first step to this whole blog abroad thing.

  1.      I wanted to go to Europe. When studying abroad, most people know which region of the world they want to explore. For me, Europe was an obvious choice. I love European history, I love how so many diverse cultures are existing in such a small area of the world, I love how I can knock off like 20 cities in 4 months. For me, there was nowhere but Europe to study abroad.
  2.      I wanted to be immersed in a culture different from mine. England and Ireland are both amazing countries, but I wanted something further from my American experience.
  3.      I wanted to learn a new language, I was never dedicated enough in high school to learn Spanish, but I do love words, and learning languages has always been a dream of mine.   
  4.      I wanted to live in a country with a rich history. Of course, when we think of Germany our minds jump to World War II and Nazis, and when it comes to Berlin one can’t help but mention the Berlin Wall. And these were definitely contributing factors to my decision, being a bit of a history nerd. But beyond that, Germany has such a long and fascinating history of being one of the greatest nations in the world. And considering our European History classes in America tend to focus on Great Britain and Rome, there is so much I have yet to learn.
  5.      I wanted a big, trendy city. Not only is Berlin the 6th largest city in Europe (by population), it is up and coming, relatively inexpensive, boasts an amazing art scene and of course renowned for being just a fun place to live. The culture, the community, and of course the clubs all contribute to Berlin being a great place for young people.

So there you have it. My reasons why. Of course, this doesn’t even delve into the whole “Why I want to travel” discussion, which has a lot to do with reading and little to do with a natural curiosity. But I have 16 weeks and 16 blogs to touch on that.

So welcome, now let’s have some fun.


Emily Reid is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City double majoring in Journalism and Political Science. She is spending the semester in Berlin, Germany through the ISA Berlin Program.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Dear Future Globetrotter

Flamenco show in Granada, Spain

Spain is amazing. Traveling is such an adventure. Studying abroad is a gift. I truly cherish the months that I have had the privilege of living in this beautiful country and all that it has taught me. As the semester comes to an end, a handful of consejos (advice) come to mind that I think are important for anyone about to embark on their own journey abroad. These are some things I have learned (in no particular order) during my time in Granada, Spain. Everyone is unique and has their own story, struggles, and journey abroad, so they may not apply to every person out there. But, I do think what I have observed and learned is very useful and I hope you find it to be as well.

1. Make every effort to get out of the American bubble. You are going to make new friends in your program and in your classes, and that is wonderful! But odds are most, if not all, of those people will be from the United States, which means you will mostly be speaking English and it will be more difficult to meet locals. This happened to me, and while I love the friends I’ve made, I didn’t meet many locals. It was a lot more challenging than I expected. I spoke English more than I imagined I would when at the start of the semester I really believed the majority of the language I used would be Spanish. All I’m saying is to find a balance and be intentional about meeting the locals in your city.

2. Don’t wait until you have the perfect friend(s)/group to do something you are interested in… Similarly, don’t be afraid to do things alone. The biggest example of this for me was when I took a solo trip to Manchester, England. I went for the sole purpose of visiting the Chatsworth House, which is Mr. Darcy’s home in the newest movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. I really hadn’t found anyone that was interested in going there, so I went alone. It was a very challenging experience but one I really cherish. I’m the type of person that loves to share experiences with others, so at times during the trip, I felt very alone. However, this also meant I got to learn even more about myself: what I like, what I don’t like, how I travel without outside influence, and so much more. It’s okay to do things alone and you’ll even grow from it!

3. If you’re abroad to learn and practice a new language, don’t shy away from continuing to speak in that language if the person you’re talking to responds in English. This happened to me far more often that I would’ve liked. It’s usually in situations where the person I’m speaking with is in a hurry and I’m taking too long to get my point across (like ordering food at a restaurant). It sometimes made me question my Spanish abilities. Were they switching to English because I wasn’t speaking Spanish well enough? I was there to learn so I wouldn’t let that stop me from speaking. Who knows? Maybe they want an opportunity to practice their English. Just keep practicing! You’re there to learn.

4. If you see something potentially interesting or are curious about something around a corner, through an archway, up/down stairs, go explore! You won’t regret taking those few extra steps and seconds to check it out. Even if it doesn’t end up being that noteworthy, you won’t leave the country wondering what could’ve been. Plus, you just never know what you will find!

5. Learn how to use public transportation systems; it’s a great feeling when you get it down. I still struggle with it at times, but Google Maps is a lifesaver. Keep in mind, some countries are easier to navigate than others with this mode of transport, but you’ll get the hang of it.

6. Front load the time you’re living in the country by doing a lot of activities, exploring, eating new foods, meeting locals and new friends. Time really does fly when you study abroad and you don’t want finals week to suddenly be upon you and you still have so much on the table. It’s not fun to be studying for finals and still trying to cram a few more activities in. It just it makes it hard to enjoy it all. I was a victim of this… the procrastinator in me really revealed itself this semester. Don’t wait!!

7. Just take it all in! Enjoy every second and find special moments in each day. I know this is very general, but there is so much to discover and take in. Make the most of your time!

Thank you for joining me this semester and for taking the time to read about my adventures! I hope that those who are planning to study abroad have a wonderful experience. And if you are still on the fence about whether you should go or not, I have one piece of advice for you: do it! You won’t regret it.

The Alcázar in Segovia, Spain

 

Picos de Europa, northern Spain

 


Camille Meeks is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Psychology and Languages & Literature with an emphasis in Spanish. Camille will spend the Fall semester studying in Granada, Spain through International Studies Abroad as a Truman Good Neighbor Scholar.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Transitioning from Newbie to Native (More or Less)

A pic of me on a side trip to Morocco and the Sahara Desert!

Let’s be real: there’s a honeymoon phase to almost any new thing we do. Whether that’s starting a new job, new school, new hobby, or making new friends, there comes a point when you see the activities or the people for what/who they really are. You may still enjoy it, but you begin to know the true depth, see the flaws, and generally have a deeper understanding of reality as you become more accustomed and comfortable in that environment or with those people. I have definitely noticed a similar trend with studying abroad.

Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and for me, I even welcome it by embracing the sometimes uncomfortableness of the situation. When you reach this point, it is when you really begin to learn the culture and experience something new and beautiful.

For me, this process took over a month. I can’t pinpoint an exact day since it’s so gradual. But I do know that today, compared to when I first arrived in Spain, I am much more comfortable and feel like I blend in (most of the time) to the natives around me. Here is a simple example of when I first noticed this change:

In the busier, more crowded areas of Granada there are typically people stopping others to take a survey, sell a service or product, etc. They usually only target Spaniards, so it’s safe to say I wasn’t called out during my first month here as I probably looked so lost. However, one day a man stopped me in the street, and said (in Spanish), “Is your family missing?” There was definitely something lost in translation (because what I thought I heard could not have been correct…I still have a lot of Spanish to learn) and I repeated back to him with surprise what I thought he asked and he quickly said in English, “Oh, you’re not from Spain?” I replied that I was from the United States and he apologized for stopping me and moved on without a second thought. I, however, was so honored! It was so simple and kind of silly, but I was so proud that someone thought I was a local. Usually being stopped like that by people of the street would bother me, but in Spain it means that I come off as one of their own. I feel that in myself, as well. I am so much more comfortable here than I was at the beginning: I walk more relaxed and continually feel more at home.

Hiking in Alpujarra, Spain. If you look very closely you can see the Mediterranean Sea between the mountains.

As I have mentioned in past posts, I love traveling. But this is more than traveling- it is a learning experience. I learn more about the culture, the people, the history, and myself every day. It’s not all pretty, but it is the reality and that’s what I want to know. I don’t want a sugar-coated semester: I want raw and real. I want to understand the economic crisis of Spain and how that is making it difficult for Spaniards, especially young people, to find secure jobs, forcing them to live with their parents until they are 25-30 years old, for example.

But at the same time, I have loved learning about the good things that this country has to offer. Like the fact that most students pay less than $1,000 for college per YEAR as opposed to universities in the United States costing anywhere from $10,000-$60,000 per year, causing most students to be in extreme debt. The government of Spain understands the importance of education and it shows in the prices of attending university. Spain’s education system and general economy may have its own flaws (for example, the reason that college is so “inexpensive” is because taxes are much higher), but at least it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg outright to attend college. It’s all much more complicated than I know, but that’s pretty incredible.

There is so much more I could discuss regarding the culture and the people. It’s an intricate and complex country with a lot of history and depth. And I haven’t even mentioned what I have learned about myself and my own beliefs by being immersed in this culture. There are still things that I have discovered but haven’t fully grasped and can’t articulate quite yet. I don’t think it will be until I return home and have time to process the semester in its entirety that I will understand how this semester has impacted me. I am looking forward to those realizations, because I’m sure this time has affected me in more ways than I know.

Thank you, Spain (and all other countries I have been fortunate to travel to this semester), for welcoming me, teaching me, and showing me all that you have to offer.

The mosque of Cordoba (now a Catholic church).
La Plaza de España (The Plaza of Spain). A few scenes from Star Wars were filmed here!

Camille Meeks is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Psychology and Languages & Literature with an emphasis in Spanish. Camille will spend the Fall semester studying in Granada, Spain through International Studies Abroad as a Truman Good Neighbor Scholar.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.