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Study Abroad in Senegal this January!

Applications for the Gender, Health, and Development in Senegal Study Abroad Program are now open! The third UMKC Study Abroad program to Senegal will take place in January 2020. The application deadline is October 29, 2020. Applications are now being accepted (to apply, please visit  https://umkc-sa.terradotta.com/?go=senegal)


Pre-Departure Sessions: December 6, 2019, 4 – 7 p.m. & December 7, 2019, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Senegal Trip: January 2 – 19, 2020

Post-trip Session: February 7, 2020, 4 – 7 p.m.

Applications Due: October 29, 2019 – apply online at https://umkc-sa.terradotta.com/?go=senegal


UMKC Faculty Leaders:

Dr. Brenda Bethman | bethmanb@umkc.edu

Dr. Amanda Grimes | grimesa@umkc.edu


Coursework: Gender, Health, and Development in Senegal: 3 Credits

WGS 408  |  FRN-LNG 380 |  HIST 408  |  HLSC 408  |  BLKS 405

Earn 3 UMKC credits (undergraduate or graduate) through this intensive course led by UMKC faculty (2.75 or better GPA required).

Fulfills the following requirements:

  • HLSC 460 global health requirement for Health Sciences majors
  • minor electives for Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Black Studies minors
  • breadth requirement for Foreign Languages & Literatures majors
  • major elective for FLL majors with the International Studies emphasis
  • major elective for History majors
  • Biology 397 for biology majors
  • humanities distribution requirement for all CAS majors

Program Overview

This program/course examines women’s economic empowerment, health education initiatives, and social entrepreneurship in West Africa and Senegal in particular. In the main city of Dakar we will visit indigenous and global nonprofits to study their policies and processes. The culture, both urban and rural, will be experienced in order to provide a unique perspective on the Senegalese and their culture.

The program will be split between Dakar and the area around Toubacouta in the Fatick Region. Toubacouta is located in a mangrove delta and known for abundant fish, birds, and wildlife. This program allows you to live, volunteer, and experience two distinct parts of Senegal.

In Dakar you will meet Senegalese leaders and community activists working to improve life in Senegal. After a day of introductions and a city tour, you will stay with a host family, who will help you learn about Senegalese culture. After a couple of days of lectures, you will receive your volunteer placement — you will most likely be able to choose from 3 or 4 volunteer placements. Placements will focus on areas such as: health, education, music, entrepreneurship, business management, social service, local governance, and/or human rights.

In addition to volunteering in Dakar, there will be cultural visits built into the schedule. Visits include Gorée Island, which is a small Island off the Cape Verde Peninsula, known for its role in the slave trade. We will also visit mosques, museums, and the lively markets.

After six days volunteering and exploring Dakar, we will travel south to the Fatick Region and Toubacouta. Here you will stay in an ecotourist hotel while we work on volunteer projects in the village. Saloum Delta National Park was formed when two great rivers met the Atlantic ocean. We will visit the park and explore the beaches, mangroves, sand dunes, and wildlife. At the end of that week, we will to Dakar for a final wrap up.

Dakar was the capital of all of French West Africa from 1902 to independence in 1960, and Senegal has traditionally had a special relationship with France. Senegal was also the home of major Francophone African writers Leopold Senghor and Ousmane Sembène, also known as the father of African film; there are interesting Francophone women writers from the country as well, including Marie NDiaye, the first black woman to win France’s most prestigious literary award, the Prix Goncourt.

Housing & Meals

You will live with a Senegalese family while in Dakar. You will be welcomed into the home of a Senegalese host family, who will provide breakfast and dinner most days. You will spend the first night and the last night in a hotel in Dakar. Some group meals at restaurants in Senegal will be organized and included in the program fee. While in Toubacouta, you will stay in an ecotourist hotel. Most meals are included. There will be 2-3 students in each homestay and sharing rooms at hotels.

Excursions

Several excursions are included in the program. The city tour introduces you to Dakar’s museums, mosques, markets, and beaches. In addition to volunteering in Dakar, we will also travel to Gorée Island. This small Island off the Cape Verde Peninsula is known for its role in the slave trade, colonial heritage, and museums.

The second part of the volunteer experience is around Toubacouta in the Fatick Region. The bulk of the time here will be spent getting to know the people of this region and working on volunteer projects. We will explore the Saloum Delta National Park as a group. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for mangrove forests, islands, sand dunes, and wildlife.

“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.

A Failed Weekend Trip is Not a Failed Weekend

As I’m writing this, I’m on a regional train from Prague to Budapest. I’m looking forward to a weekend trip to Budapest, where I plan to visit the Széchenyi Thermal Baths, make my way to Buda Castle, and even take a night-time cruise on the Danube. An exciting part about studying abroad in Central Europe is that it’s relatively easy to find trains or buses that connect you with other major cities in different countries in the area.

I shouldn’t overstate how easy it is to get from place to place, though. Last weekend was when I was originally going to board a regional bus from Prague to Budapest. I arrived at Prague’s central station almost an hour early for my bus. The transit company that I booked with had offered ticket-holders the opportunity to get text updates about delays. I kept getting various updates that my bus was delayed in arriving. Finally, I got a text that my bus was here, so I presented my ticket and passport to the ticket checker… who promptly denied my entry. As it turned out, there was a glitch in the company’s text updates, and it had been sending me updates for the wrong bus. Devastated and confused, I went to the ticket-counter to see if there were any other opportunities to get to Budapest for the weekend. Everything was booked.

I was heartbroken. Because of the last-minute missed bus, I had to cancel my lodging in Budapest on a whim and didn’t get a refund. It wasn’t just the lost money that I was upset about, though; it was the lost opportunity. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it to Budapest and worried that I was going to have a boring weekend in Prague, since I hadn’t planned out what I wanted to do.

My weekend in Prague, though, was anything but boring. In fact, it was amazing. On Saturday, I got brunch with friends, visited an amazing pop-up photography exhibition, took a boat ride on the Vltava river (where I could see Prague Castle from the water!), wandered around the Lesser Town, and got to visit a street festival. The street festival was incredible, and honestly, if it weren’t for the missed bus, I wouldn’t have been able to go.

The view of St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle from the boat ride on the Vltava River.
We had to take a ferry to cross the Vltava River to get to the street festival on the other side. We didn’t even realize that our student public transit cards covered this!

On Sunday, I enjoyed a relaxing morning and then bought tickets to see a ballet at the Národní Divadlo (National Theater) on a whim. The student-discounted tickets to see an original Kafka-inspired ballet at a world-class theater were only SIX DOLLARS! The ballet was beautiful and was such a unique Prague-exclusive experience.

The beautiful theater where I saw a ballet rendition of Franz Kafka’s “The Trial.”

I guess the lesson here is this: a failed weekend-trip isn’t a failed weekend. I had an expectation that if I wasn’t constantly traveling to different places on the weekends, I was “wasting” my opportunity to go and visit more of Europe. There’s nothing wrong, though, with “staying home” in Prague (or wherever you may be). There just might be a one-time street festival or an original ballet waiting for you. Budapest, or wherever your desired weekend trip is, will always be there. Your time as a study abroad student in Prague won’t, so don’t be afraid to spend your free time in your “home” city, soaking up as much as you can.


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.

It’s Okay to Sleep

If you know someone who studied abroad, and they only told you about the good parts of their experience, they’ve told you a half-truth. The truth is that study abroad, while amazing in so many aspects, can be really hard – and sometimes exhausting.

When I first got to Prague, I was quite the opposite of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, since I hadn’t slept at all on my incoming flight. In my taxi from the airport to my dorm building, I kept looking outside the windows at the scenery. After trying to decipher Czech billboards, the realization came that I was going to be functionally illiterate here for the next 7 weeks. Then, I got to the dorm, had a strange check-in experience, and then got to see my room, which was… not entirely what I was expecting. I was unsure of how my time here would go.

I soon snapped out of that initial panic once I settled in and thought: I AM IN PRAGUE! An overwhelming excitement took over me. Who cares what my dorm looked like?! There were things to see! There were things to do! I then spent my first 3 weeks going to place after place after place, trying desperately to soak up the time that I had here. I explored Prague, the town of Český Krumlov, and even Berlin, Germany on a weekend trip. A busy class schedule combined with my own Type-A desire to not waste any time and see as much as possible meant that I was always on the go.

Stopped to take a photo when leaving the castle at Český Krumlov!

 

Český Krumlov is even more beautiful at night.

Everything I saw was wonderful. There was only one problem: I was exhausted. My excitement to see new places began to wear off simply because I was tired. Despite my exhaustion, I continued to push forward and jam-pack my schedule. I was doing this out of fear; I felt like allowing myself to rest was allowing myself to miss out on an opportunity. I had some serious FOMO (fear of missing out).

The reality, though, is this: it’s okay to sleep. Really.

While studying abroad gives you a unique opportunity to experience new cultures at an exciting time of life, the regular parts of life still are there. That means that sleeping, eating, and breathing are all still necessary. Not only is it not possible for you to allow yourself to skip out on these things, but it also makes your sightseeing less enjoyable when you skimp on them. For example, you might enjoy seeing a museum a lot more if you work in some time to relax before jumping from site to site. If you’re at the point where you’re not enjoying the museum at all because you’re so tired, there’s a chance you’re overbooking yourself and you need to back away for a little bit.

Speaking of museums… The East Side Gallery in Berlin (while not literally a museum) is fantastic. I loved this painting of the car breaking through the Berlin Wall.

Your physical and mental wellbeing still matters while you are abroad. Health is still important. Study abroad is a beautiful time to see the world and get lost and find yourself. You can’t do that, though, without taking care of yourself along the ride. So in case you need to hear it again: it’s okay to sleep.


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.

5 Tips for Midwesterners in Prague

As I’m writing this, I’m closing in on my first week in Prague, Czech Republic. So far, I’ve hiked the Bohemian Paradise trail, explored Prague Castle and the St. Vitus Cathedral, and wandered the streets of Old Town. I’m blown away by how gorgeous this city and country is, and I can’t wait to explore more of it.

View of Hrubá Skála from the Bohemian Paradise trails.
The Astronomical Clock in Prague’s Old Town.

Although I’ve already seen some beautiful sights and learned a lot in my class (titled “Imperial Nations and Subject Peoples: Czechs in the Austrian Empire”), the most interesting thing to me has been how different the Czech culture is as opposed to American culture — specifically American Midwestern culture.

I’ve lived in the middle of America for my entire life. As it turns out, the things that I thought were common are not common at all here! The Czechs are very reserved in a way that Midwesterners in the United States are not. So, from what I’ve learned about Czech culture in my first week here, I thought I’d make a very brief Midwestern Guide to Czech Culture.

  • Smiling at strangers is a common Midwestern phenomenon, but it is not so common in the Czech Republic. People will think you are strange!
  • You shouldn’t just make small talk with strangers in lines, on trams or trains, etc. They will wonder why you are talking to them.
  • You shouldn’t expect that your cashier or server will engage in friendly conversation with you. Most often, they will simply do their intended job and cut out all the unnecessary bits. They’re not being rude – the culture here is just that people don’t feel a need to be overly interactive with strangers.
  • If you’re a ranch lover, you’ll need to find a way to wean out your ranch addiction before you get to Prague.
  • You don’t need to be so excessively polite. You of course should not be rude – but you don’t need to keep the “Midwestern nice” label on you for your entire trip.

So, there you have it! There’s 5 tips for the Midwesterner who wants to travel to Prague. The culture change has been a shock, but I’m learning more about how to fit in with each day that goes by. I can’t wait to find out more about this beautiful country and its reserved culture.

 

The sun setting over the Czech countryside as I rode on the train from the Bohemian Paradise back to Prague. The view reminded me of the Midwest. 

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.

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.

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.

The Joys of Hiking

Tomorrow it will have been 2 months since I left the United States and landed in Spain! 2 MONTHS! I can hardly believe how fast this semester is going. Midterms are just around the corner and then after that it’s a mere 5 weeks until finals! When studying abroad for a semester, you think you have so much time, but in reality it really does zip by.

Anywhere you are – traveling, moving to a new city, at school, at home, it is important to find something that fills your heart and that makes you feel connected with your environment. For me this semester that something has been hiking. It never fails to make me feel at peace and rejuvenated. Granada’s population is more than 230,000 inhabitants, whereas my hometown, Liberty MO, has roughly 31,000. Not only is the population greater in Granada but also the city is much more condensed. You can easily see from the city by walking in 1-2 hours, but Liberty is much more spread out than that. Additionally, I live in an apartment, with my host mom and roommate, that is about the size of my main floor at home in Missouri. It gets to feeling a little crowded at times, in the streets and at my host home.

When I need some space to myself, hiking is a lifesaver. I don’t dislike the city or my apartment, but there is nothing quite like the silence, solitude, fresh air, and the openness and freedom found in the mountains. No traces of cigarette smoke or exhaust are smelled. The air is crisp and inviting. The view of the large mountains on the horizon and the tiny cars of the city in comparison remind you just how small you are, how small your problems are, and how much more there is in the world beyond your minuscule and often clouded perspective.

I can’t express how much I love the mountains and the joy that they bring me! There are no mountains in Missouri, which may be why I love them so much: it’s extra special when I am near them. I take every opportunity I can here to explore the vast trails of the mountains while I have them in my backyard. From my apartment to the start of the trails is about a 45 minute walk; at home it’s a 9 hour drive to Colorado to find the best mountains. I am so grateful to be studying where I am.

What I have particularly enjoyed is the two times my friend and I went hiking at 6:30 in the morning to watch the sunrise over the mountains. It is truly magical. For starters, the walk through the city to the mountains is quite tranquil: the only people in the street are those returning home after a night out at the club (it’s very common to stay out all night here… I can’t keep up!) When we get to the mountains, I love how the sun first lights up the surrounding peaks before fully revealing itself to you. After hiking for an hour or two, my friend and I are of course very sweaty. As we sit and wait for the light to break over the peaks, our sweat is drying and it is quite chilly. Through this experience I realized how often I take the sun for granted. As my friend and I were shivering from the brisk wind and cool air, we jokingly contemplated would happen if the sun just decided not to rise that day: we would miss out on the beauty that it brings with it and we would also still be very cold. When the sun finally shines over the crests, I instantly feel its warmth and began to thaw. Mmm, I could just bask in the sun all day. With the sunrise, the world rises around us. What a treasure is the new day that the sun brings. And in the mountains it is even more magical.

I didn’t expect to be able to write so much about hiking, mountains and nature, and I could definitely go on. However, I will conclude with a thought I had on one of my hikes. This activity lends itself well to somewhat cheesy (yet profound) metaphors for life, and I love that. Here is my most recent one:

When hiking, it’s okay, and even encouraged, to look back at how far you’ve come and all that you’ve passed through. But if you turn around and walk back the way you came, focusing too much on that path (your past), you will never know what views and experiences lie ahead, where life will take you moving forward. Occasionally when hiking, through the mountains and through life, you will get lost and you’ll be forced to go back and retrace your steps (to spend a short time in the past), but this is only so that you can find a better path forward the next time around.

Go out and experience the nature around you! Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you.


Camille Meeks is a junior 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.

Revisioned Introspection

There was an indescribable bittersweet feeling upon my return to the United States from South America. I am happy to speak my native language and to spend time with my family and friends, but I already miss the daily cultural immersion, aspects of leaning, and adventures that I experienced while I was abroad. Before I left home, I attended seminars and listened to my professors discuss the effects reverse culture shock that I would experience upon returning from abroad, but I never really thought that same experience would happen to me. Every day was a new experience, and I did not understand the significance of even my smallest interactions until I returned. Though I was saddened when these exchanges suddenly stopped upon returning home, I learned valuable lessons outside of the US.

Through traveling overseas, I have learned the value of cultural introspection. Prior to this summer, it was difficult for me to observe culture within the US. At that time, I mostly considered the US to be a melting pot of cultures in which it has become increasingly less common to maintain cultural ties and practices outside the environment of a particular culture. Latin America provided fresh insight to my definition of culture as I was able to observe and become immersed in authentic cultures of people with a shared set of beliefs and values. After some time, my own personal definition of culture expanded, and, over time, I became surprised to find that my culture was more significant to me than I initially thought.

One of the differences I noticed while I was engaged with these other cultures and societies was the vague systems and unconstrained organization which guided the culture. This laxity seemed to create an intricate yet chaotically coordinated web of interactions which functioned just as well, if not better, in the absence of strict systematic restrictions. This was astonishing to me as I was accustomed to the methodical tendencies of my own culture. For example, while sitting on a bus weaving in and out of traffic, stopping for bystanders before suddenly restarting again, I recognized that no other passengers were struck by the erratic bus stop patterns and unspoken communication between the driver and commuter.

Events like these were particularly spectacular and inspired cultural introspection to the necessity of the intense guidelines we follow within the US. While I understand that some regulations are fundamental and others provide preventative measures to problems which could otherwise arise, it is interesting to consider the possible simplification and expedition of processes in our daily lives without a change in results or outcomes. Though I realize that this is often unlikely, and we are the result of generations of work that cannot be undone even within a decade, I think it is important to contemplate the effects of systematic processes on marginalized persons who lie outside of the systems. With the implementation of more encompassing programs and greater flexibility and acceptance of people, our punctuated society could increase its efficiency and effectivity.

While it is not beneficial to compare cultures to each other, it is important to embrace change and learn from others. My experience abroad has increased my passion for helping marginalized people, and it has exposed me to the divides and dangers that exist in our current society. Study abroad is more than studying and living in another culture, it creates an opportunity for inspiration, introspection, and identification within our own lives.

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Felix Amparano is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Chemistry, Spanish, and Biology. Felix is excited to spend six-weeks of his summer studying Spanish in Buenos Aires, Argentina with the UMKC Spanish Program. During his time abroad, Felix hopes to gain a better understanding of Argentine culture and health care with the hopes of becoming more culturally competent in his approaches to patient treatment. 

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.