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Neither Here Nor There

Thank you for joining me for the second installment of my journey through Ireland. These last few weeks, much like the first few, have had their share of excitement, discovery, and head scratching moments. Since my last post, I have done quite a bit of exploring, mostly around southern Ireland. In reality, classes have picked up a bit, so I have to pick and choose my days to wander. Still, it is mainly just lecture as they do not believe much in homework apparently, which is more than fine with me. With that it leaves me quite a bit of extra free time to go to cool places during the week. 

I have a break in class from Tuesday morning through Wednesday evening, so that has become my exploration time. These have been some of my favorite trips because they involve little to no planning and a lot of figuring it out on the fly. For example, on the 17th of September, I hopped a bus up to Killarney and spent the day touring the castle and gardens. I walked around for hours before sitting down at a fishing dock away from the crowds to take in the scenery. There I met a guy named John, who had been backpacking Europe for a few months, and struck up a conversation. The conversation lasted a couple hours and ended with John eventually deciding he would buy a plane ticket to head back to the states to get a fresh start. I can’t take any credit for his realizations, but I wish him the best in his new pursuits. After that whirlwind, I attempted to walk back to Cork, got lost and ended up hailing a cab to get back to my apartment. That’s a story for another time. 

The next weekend I was lucky enough to embark on a fly fishing trip to a small town in the next county over. Late on a Friday night, I made the trek over to the town of Clonmel where I rented a last minute AirBnb. The nice lady who owned the house called me a cab for the next day in order to get to the fish shop. After arriving a bit early the workers and guide showed up and started collecting gear. Once we were armed and dangerous it was time to snag some trout. The day consisted of catching a few fish, learning some tricks of the trade, and seeing a ton of awesome country. The guys were extremely knowledgeable and kind as almost everyone has been. All of this made for a great day on the water.

Jumping ahead to this week, again with a few friends, we went and toured the town of Kinsale on the southern coast by way of bike. There we went around the city and out to an old military fort dating back hundreds and hundreds of years. I was able to learn a bit about the area’s history and take in the scenery. To no one’s surprise the views out over the Atlantic were nothing short of amazing.

This leads us to this Tuesday. A few days ago, I was sitting in my morning class thinking I had not done anything spontaneous in a minute or two, so I headed to the bus station as soon as we were dismissed. I had remembered reading about a bike trip through the Gap of Dunloe that was a must do, so I bought a ticket and was off. Upon arriving in Killarney, I rented a bike from a local place, nodded as the guy went through the local stops to make, and tore out of town. About 8 miles in I chained up and began to ascend a hiking path. An hour or so later I stood at the top of Slippery Bridge or “Big Gun” peak looking over more country than I could even take in. After staring in amazement for awhile, I headed back down realizing I would be in a real time crunch to make the last bus back. From there I picked back up the bike trip and headed through the Gap of Dunloe. I would try to explain the surrounding scenery, but it’s just one of those places you have to see for yourself. I attached a picture below, but it does not even do it justice. Five or so miles later of pedaling up the rugged terrain and down through the Black Valley, I finally got a bit of signal and realized I had an hour and a half to bike 15 miles back either direction. With the steepness of the surrounding hills, that just would not be possible. With a little detour and a lot of luck I was able to find a flooded walking path back through the forest and out to the main road. A couple miles and a soaked pair of shoes later I was right back on track. From there it was a long but manageable 8 miles back into Killarney. Legs burning and heart racing, I chugged along cursing myself out, and made it just in the nick of time. I chained up the bike and hustled to catch the last bus as it pulled in, a great success. 

As I look back on these last few adventures, I realize they are not things that can be strategically planned out. Life is about adjusting on the run, so sometimes you just have to buckle up and let it fly. I know these are the times I will look back and appreciate the most because they weren’t supposed to happen. I can’t be quite sure if it’s curiosity, determination, or just plain stupidity, but the three combined seem to create something special, something an itinerary will never capture. These trips are just more meaningful. They are about the journey and not the outcome, more about the story of getting there and less about the end result. That’s life.

 Again, thanks for reading, and I will continue to keep updating as often as possible. Much obliged. 


Photo courtesy of The Gap of Dunloe


Matthew Twaddle is a sophomore at the University of Missouri- Kansas City majoring in civil engineering. He is attending the University College Cork in Ireland through the UMKC Direct Exchange Program during the fall semester. Matthew is from Maryville, MO and is excited to continue his education in Cork, Ireland where some of his family still resides.

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.

Arriving in London

     I’ve been in London for four days now and I’m still pinching myself! I still haven’t gotten the chance to see central London, which is a bummer, but I’ll find a way. In my home in Kansas City most people rely on their cars for transportation, but in London it’s the opposite. Mostly everyone here relies on public transit, which is great, but I’m not used to it at all.

Today I missed the opportunity to go explore central London with fellow international students. The jet lag has been real, and has finally caught up with me! When I first arrived in London I didn’t feel tired at all. It was just yesterday that I began to feel extremely exhausted, but I have been staying up very late due to me getting used to new surroundings. Due to that I completely missed out on exploring the city today.

While I’ve only been here for four days, I’ve already met some great people from my flat and orientation. I’m happy to be putting myself out there in social interactions, and meeting new friends. One person who has really made an impression on me is my flat rep Dre. He has been very kind and understanding. Sometimes, I cannot understand a word he is saying but he won’t hesitate to repeat himself!

So far I’ve been to Asda (a “Walmart” like supermarket), a student friendly bar on campus, and a campus movie night. I feel great so far, but missing out on photo frenzy is kind of getting me down. If I didn’t explain already, photo frenzy is a day when all international students go out into central London and explore the town. The University of Roehampton even set up a clue game to have fun finding historical pieces.

It sounds very fun, and I hope to go enjoy the city soon. As I’ve said already i didn’t go into the city so I have no pictures of the city. Instead here are some pictures of my view right now.


Kierra M. Fayne is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City studying theatre performance. Kierra is spending the fall semester abroad with the Missouri-London Semester Program: University of Roehampton. She plans to study theatre in London to seek new techniques and tools that will help her tackle performances with more ease. Kierra was raised in Kansas City, Missouri, where she has made connections that have helped her identify her goals to study theatre performance. She is now ready to spread her wings, find connections, and make new friends in London.

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.

Arrivederci Bologna

Piazza Maggiore, Bologna

A last-minute flight, a trip across London in the wee hours of the morning and two lost suitcases later, I have made it back to KC! It feels good to be back, but I am already missing my little home in Italy. Even though I may have been in the part of the world most famous for its food, the first thing I wanted when I got back stateside was some good ole’ Kansas City BBQ! There really is nothing like it.

Before I came back, I prepared a meal for my Italian friends. I brainstormed what the most American meal I could prepare… I settled on hamburgers, mac & cheese, vegetables with ranch dressing and s’ mores. I must admit, I don’t know why I was surprised when they hated mac & cheese. In retrospect, I think that it is all of my childhood memories that I associate these foods with that make them so special. However, they did like the Ranch dressing and BBQ sauce, so I guess I can forgive them.

Since being back Stateside, it has really made me appreciate the beautiful culture in Italy that I was able to experience. I made so many friends from all over the world and memories that I will never forget. I cannot wait to share all of my knowledge and encourage other students to make the most of their college experience!

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II Milan, Italy
The Valley of Temples Agrigento, Italy
Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, Bologna, Italy


Olivia Weaver is a junior at the University of Missouri–Kansas City pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry, a minor in Psychology on a Pre-Dental track. Olivia will be studying in Bologna, Italy for her spring 2019 semester through the University of Bologna Exchange program. Olivia is excited about the opportunity to experience and appreciate different customs and traditions of those across the globe.

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.

Check out these other study abroad blogs for ideas and inspiration:

·         ISA Student Blog – https://isastudentblog.wordpress.com/

·         Gilman Global Experience – https://gilmanprogram.wordpress.com/

Hacks to Navigating Italy

 

A weekend day trip to Verona, Italy.

As a first time European traveler when I moved to Italy in January, public transportation was a whole new concept for me. I had to learn the hard way how to navigate it. When I first arrived in Bologna, I attempted to navigate the 30-minute commute into the city from my hotel. This seemingly simple journey may or may not have started with me standing by a sign that I thought was a bus stop for longer than I would like to admit until I finally built up the courage to ask someone for directions. I may be a bit more seasoned of a traveler now since I first got here in January, but that is not without the help of several great apps and the patience of many locals. Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to include a few of my favorites and why I liked them!

Related image1) Moovit was a game-changer for my intracity everyday commutes! This app was perfect for navigating the local buses. I really liked how the app would give me step by step directions during my trip and it would even remind me when my stops were approaching if I had locked my phone and zoned out to my music!

Related image

2) Omio (previously known as GoEuro) is the best app for Intercity commutes! This App searches flights, trains, and buses all at once so you can easily compare the best way to get there for you! An additional bonus is that you can adjust the currency in which you pay for things. It saved me a lot of money on those pesky conversion rates and penalties from my bank.

3) Trenitalia is specific to traveling in Italy, but this app allowed me to purchase my train tickets directly from here. I am notorious for losing things and when you buy the train ticket directly at the train station you must keep track of this little piece of paper and remember to validate it. This app took out both of those steps and was conveniently located in the app. An added bonus was that your ticket could be added to your Apple Wallet for even more convenience.

4) Last but definitely not least, this app was also useful for intercity travels! If I had a weekend trip in mind and I had planned it well in advance, booking my train tickets from Italo saved me a lot of money. These trains travel at high-velocity making trips quick and convenient. However, the catch is that the longer you wait to buy your ticket, the more expensive it is. Fun fact: this company is actually American owned!

 

I hope some of this information helps you all from learning the hard way as I did! Until then, Buon Viaggio!

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Olivia Weaver is a junior at the University of Missouri–Kansas City pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry, a minor in Psychology on a Pre-Dental track. Olivia will be studying in Bologna, Italy for her spring 2019 semester through the University of Bologna Exchange program. Olivia is excited for the opportunity to experience and appreciate different customs and traditions of those across the globe.

 

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.

 

Check out these other study abroad blogs for ideas and inspiration:

·         ISA Student Blog – https://isastudentblog.wordpress.com/

·         Gilman Global Experience – https://gilmanprogram.wordpress.com/

To Study or To Travel? That is the Question.

King Henry III’s round table replica found in Winchester Great Hall.
Winchester Cathedral

I think I’ll only get to take four books home– weight restrictions and all that. But I’ve made up for my disappointment by buying a wooden sword and tiny catapult/pencil sharpener. The second week of the program we were able to take an amazing tour of Jane Austen’s house, and Winchester Cathedral and Great Hall! I technically should’ve brought my homework along, but how could I write an essay surrounded by so much history?

The tutorial system of education, however, does NOT disappoint. It is amazing to have a class with just three other students and one faculty member. While I am beginning to adore my tutor, I’m still quite biased toward UMKC professors (shout out to Doc and DJ)! I can only imagine what kind of learning I’d be able to achieve if I had access to this system in the states. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to learn about myself and grow my study habits by finding a new system that works well for me. I can’t wait to implement some of the teaching style when I’m a professor.

Jane Austen’s House in Chawton
The idyllic English country side near Chawton Manor

I may be a literature student, but there are yet words I’ve not encountered. I believe those are the ones I’d need to accurately describe the beauty of this place. For now, I think I will go with: My heart is full and my head dreams for more.

 

 

 


Ashley Silver is a senior at the University of Missouri — Kansas City studying English Literature. Ashley will spend the summer semester abroad with the IFSA-Butler program in Oxford, England.

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.

Small City Dreams

Ye gods but Oxford is beautiful. I’ve been here for one whole hour and I am already in love. I’m staying in the dorms in Magdalen College; it’s the one with its own deer park. Can you imagine UMKC having a deer park in the middle of Kansas City? That would be wild. Don’t get me wrong, I love our quad, but there’s a distinct lack of deer. 

London’s West End has some great shows!

It is SO much quieter here than in central London. I had to stay at a hotel near Tottenham Court Road for the first couple days, just to get situated with my IFSA program. London is BUSY BUSY BUSY GO GO GO!!! There’s a constant flow and irregular heartbeat to the city that was very new to me. I can completely understand why people choose to make it their home. The tall buildings and narrow winding streets hid treasures around every corner. We took a VERY long walking tour and I got to see things I’d only read about in Dumas books. But, as I’ve lived in Kansas City for most of my life, it was a bit too much close quarters for me. I’m VERY glad to have learned that about myself before I committed to living in London or a similar big city. 

The deer get right up close to my window!

Oxford, on the other hand, is so far exactly what I wanted it to be. The buildings are shorter, the birds are louder, and there is grass to lay in. Also, some castles and the Hogwarts dining hall. But, I’m really ready to just settle into school here. The tutorial system of education is new to me and I am greatly looking forward to experiencing it. I have also brought a half empty suitcase that I’m looking forward to filling with books!

 

 


Ashley Silver is a senior at the University of Missouri — Kansas City studying English Literature. Ashley will spend the summer semester abroad with the IFSA-Butler program in Oxford, England.

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.

What Even is Time?

I have no idea how long a month is. I mean, I know how long a month is. But I don’t know how long a month is. Time is weird and it doesn’t make sense to me. There are only three times: right now, the far off future, and never. Hence why I’m sitting in the airport writing this blog post like I should’ve done a week ago. My friends keep telling me a month is a really long time, that I’ll have SO much time to see EVERYTHING in England. I just keep telling them I have homework. Because, again, time is hard and I do not have a good grasp on how long a month is. Also, I’m taking 11 credits in one month, which genuinely seems like a lot. 

I know we are supposed to talk about our plane trips, but… ok so from MCI to Georgia was like, an hour and a half? And that’s how far my cousin’s house in Iowa is. So Georgia is a close as Iowa. The flight to England is 8hrs and that’s how far Colorado was, so England is like going to Estes Park for me. 

I guess what I’m getting at is: if you have a study abroad trip, don’t worry about how long you’ll be there or how far away from home it is. Time and distance are completely meaningless and incomprehensible. 


Ashley Silver is a senior at the University of Missouri — Kansas City studying English Literature. Ashley will spend the summer semester abroad with the IFSA-Butler program in Oxford, England.

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.

“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.

Děkuji, Praha

My Intercultural Studies at Charles University program has ended and the most overwhelming feeling that I’m left with is gratitude. I’m so thankful that I got to spend a summer learning and living in Prague. I’m thankful for the new knowledge, the new experiences, the new friends, and the new sights I was able to see. Prague, and the 3 cities I visited as side trips — Berlin, Budapest, and Vienna — all taught me so many things, so I think I owe them each a brief thank you. I’ll save the main one — Prague — for last.

Danke, Berlin

Thank you for empowering me to be independent. 

I went with a group to Berlin, but on our last day, we kind of had differing opinions about what our final stops should be. So, I made a scary decision: I would go see things by myself. This ended up being amazing. I went to a local flea market, ate Berlin’s most popular street food (the Döner Kebab), stumbled upon the Karneval der Kulturen (a multicultural celebration), saw the beautiful Charlottenburg Palace, and then ended the day with a walk through the Kaiser-Wilhem-Gedächtnis-Kirche. Although I love the group I traveled with, it was so nice that I had a day where the itinerary was 100% mine. Berlin empowered me to be independent and pursue the itinerary that I wanted. It was such an empowering feeling to know that I navigated getting around a mega-city, that I’ve never been to, by myself! Berlin gave me a major confidence boost, and for that, I’m forever grateful.

Thank you for the friends. 

I met some really great people in Berlin. Some people go to Berlin just for the nightlife, and whether or not that’s your thing, try it anyway. The Berliners are so, so cool, and so fun to talk to — in German or in English!

      The reconstructed Kaiser Wilhem Kirche. Each blue             glass panel has a different stained glass picture.

Köszönöm, Budapest

Thank you for the lesson about choosing carefully.  

The first time I tried to go to Budapest, my bus ticket was denied. Check out my last blog post for the story on that… From that experience, though, I really learned an important life lesson: do your research before buying anything. Check if the product or service you’re buying is reliable and has good reviews. If it doesn’t, rethink! Just because something is cheap does not mean it should be purchased…

Thank you for your kindness. 

I was blown away by how kind the people in Budapest were. Of course, I wasn’t expecting that they’d all be evil, but I also wasn’t expecting that they’d all be so nice! Shamefully, I didn’t know much about the Magyar culture before going to Hungary, but I left wanting to know more. Each server, cashier, and local on the street made me regret that I didn’t know more about them.

             Budapest at night is so amazingly gorgeous.

Danke, Wien

Thank you for teaching me to do the tourist things.

I know it’s cliche to go on a city’s big Ferris wheel, so I almost resisted going to the Wiener Riesenrad, but I am so glad that I didn’t skip out on this. The view was beautiful. Thank you, Vienna, for teaching me that things that are tourist-heavy are usually that way for a reason.

…But thank you for also teaching me to go where the locals go. 

I also ended up at a city music festival in Vienna. The streets were flooded with people listening and dancing to live music. I had so much fun! Surrounded by Austrians, I stood and listened to live music for quite a while.

         The crowded streets for Vienna’s music fest.

Děkuji, Praha

Thank you for challenging me.

The classes I took at Charles University were not for the faint of heart. They taught me lessons in studiousness. My class about Czech history and politics — a subject I knew virtually nothing about — was so hard, but ended up being so meaningful to me. It really enriched my experience in Prague, because it helped me understand the culture I was visiting.

Thank you for the paddle boat rides.

My classroom was located on the street right in front of the Vltava River. Right across from my school building’s door was a paddle boat dock. Those after class paddle boat rides were so relaxing. I loved getting the view of Prague Castle from the water and soaking up the sun with my friends.

        Prague Castle as seen by paddle boat on the                                        Vltava River!

Thank you for teaching me how to use public transit.

I had no idea how to read anything public-transit related before I went abroad. I suppose living in the Midwest made me that way. Prague is where I first learned how to get around on my own. After I figured out how to get around and use the city’s trams, buses, subways, and trains, it felt like the city had become mine to explore.

Thank you for the confidence.

Before I left for my study abroad trip, I worried that 6 weeks in a new country, whose language I didn’t speak, and with people I didn’t know, would be too hard. I second-guessed myself a lot. But everything ended up being okay. In fact, it was more than okay; it was amazing. Prague showed me that I can conquer my fears. Prague reminded me that I’m young, strong, and deserve to see the world and meet its people.

Thank you for the friends.

My program was small. There were only 6 students. I feared that we wouldn’t get along or that things would be awkward. My fears, it turned out, were unfounded. Now, I have a bond with 5 other people, and we will always be able to share our memories of Prague.

Thank you for the food. 

Oh man. The food. Both the traditional Czech food and other types of foreign cuisine in Prague were so good. I might end up coming back someday just for Svíčková (a traditional Czech beef dish) and Burrito Loco (a Mexican food chain in Prague).

Thank you for your beauty.

From the sights in Prague to the views on the Bohemian Paradise trail, Czech Republic has so much beauty to offer. I’m so glad I was able to see it.

Thank you for everything.

   Vrtba Garden is one of the most beautiful places in                                               Prague.

There’s so much more to thank Prague for, but it’d end up being a book if I tried to write all of it down. I am so grateful for my study abroad experience. If you’re reading this and haven’t made any study abroad plans yet, it’s time to make the leap. You, too, will end up with so much to be grateful about.

So with, that, a final thank you: thank you UMKC for inspiring students like me to study abroad.


Helene Slinker is a rising senior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City. Helene is spending her summer studying in Prague, Czech Republic through the Charles University Intercultural Studies program, taking classes that contribute to her political science major and women’s and gender studies minor. Helene is eager to learn more about Central and Eastern European politics through this program and explore the Czech Republic.


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.

Overcoming the Language Barrier

One major part of the study abroad program is that each student stays with a host family for the entirety of the trip. In an effort to fully emerge us into French culture, the family kind of adopts us into their daily life and most importantly, they only talk to us in French. In theory, this seems like a very good idea as it provides us with the best possible way of improving our French, as we are constantly around the language and are forced to use it to communicate. However, it also has an unintended side effect by the way that it clearly delineates the presence of a language barrier, an obstacle I had never considered until I arrived here. Now, it is true that I do speak some French, but it’s more like what I like to refer to as “baby French”. And trust me, I had no misguided beliefs that I was going to arrive here and just start spurting perfect French. It takes a lot of effort for me to speak French conversationally, especially in the beginning. I had to think about everything I wanted to say very carefully. Then there is the added struggle of comprehending what is being said to me. It’s not too bad in a one-on-one conversation, but I’ve been staying with a family of seven. So every dinner or breakfast is kind of like a marathon for me as I try to keep up with everything that is being said, as both the parents and the children talk at full speed over each other.

I think this was such a big shift for me because I’ve always been able to articulate exactly what I want to say so that it is perceived and understood in the way that I want it to come across (at least to a certain extent). But, in French, I can’t do that. Furthermore, the way I communicate is a direct illustration of my personality. I’m a little sarcastic and silly all at the same time, all of which I communicate through my choice of words and tone. But again, in French, I can’t communicate that with my words. Realizing this made me feel as though my host family would never really get to know me and that inversely, I would never fully understand them. I had never fully understood the concept of a language barrier until that moment. Language can serve as a bridge that connects people or it can serve as a wall that isolates you. However, it wasn’t the source of the isolation, but only the tool used by it to enhance something that was already present. As with most emotions, the sense of isolation I felt came from the inside, created and cultivated by me.

Looking back on the first two weeks that I was in Lyon, when I felt this sense of isolation the most intensely, I can easily see how my host family continually tried to connect with me and include me in their family. They were kind as well as attentive and during group discussions, like the ones that would occur at dinner, they would slow down to make sure that I could understand, ask me questions so that I could join the conversation, and patiently wait as I tried to articulate my idea. My obstacle wasn’t the language or even being intimidated by the rapid French of my host family, it was me. I needed to be patient with myself, allow myself to make mistakes, and most importantly, to keep trying. In the end, when I look back on my trip, my host family was probably one of the best parts. I will be forever happy that they decided to adopt me into their home and that I put out the effort to make a connection with them, instead of allowing the language barrier to form a wall in between us.


Hannah-Kaye Carter is a junior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City double majoring in chemistry and psychology with minors in French and biology. She is spending her summer abroad with the Faculty-Led UMKC French Language Summer in Lyon, France. Hannah-Kaye was born in Kingston, Jamaica, where she lived until she immigrated to the United States at 9 years old. Currently, Hannah-Kaye is a member of the UMKC Pre-Med Society and a member of the Educate Organize and Advocate Committee. Additionally, she volunteers at the W.E.B. Dubois Learning Center as an assistant teacher in their subtraction classroom every Saturday morning. Her hope is to someday go to medical school, become a doctor, and eventually become a member of Doctors without Borders.


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.