Indiana University Overseas Study

Emma Storen - Cape Town

“It’s all part of the experience,” is the mantra that I constantly repeated to myself during my first three weeks in Cape Town. The turn of every corner held a new surprise whether it was a breath-taking view from the top of Lions Head mountain or a pigeon pooping on the middle of my forehead in downtown Cape Town. I tried to come into this experience with no expectations, but simply an open mind. For a while, this mantra got me through and I was able to put every experience I had into a positive light.

Cape Town

View of Cape Town from Table Mountain

Slowly, I began to exit the “honeymoon” phase of culture shock and come into the second phase, mainly comprised of frustrations. At this period of time, the differences between South Africa and the United States began to feel overwhelming and truly frustrating. I began to regret my decision to study abroad for a whole semester. However, because of preparation on the part of IUB and CIEE, my host institution here in Cape Town, I was able identify that what I was experiencing would most likely be the pit of my time abroad and that it would eventually pass.

Emma with elephant

Me at the elephant encounter on the garden route trip

Luckily, these feelings came right before a public holiday and long weekend. I had planned a trip with some friends for the long weekend and I was hoping it would rejuvenate me. Thankfully the trip did serve as a good departure from the little stresses of everyday life in Cape Town and allowed me to see some other parts of South Africa. The Garden Route Tour (something everyone studying abroad in South Africa should do!) was compiled of adventurous activities like bungee jumping, elephant rides, lion walks, and cave exploring.

wild lions

Lion encounter on the garden route trip

As the weekend concluded, I was forced to realize that the school year had really started and that midterms were slowly approaching. I’ve spent the time since then readjusting to life at the University of Cape Town and trying to figure out how to manage my studies and the experience of being abroad. Although school in the states is just starting, here at UCT we are nearing the halfway point of the semester. Even with five weeks of experience under my belt I still haven’t totally mastered the balance of work and play.

The UCT “spring break” is next week and I hope to return to classes from my Cape Town “stay-cation” feeling rejuvenated and ready to conquer the last six weeks of the semester!

Coastline

View from the Knysna Heads, just a few hours east of Cape Town

Emma Storen - exploring the history and economy of Africa

Kendall Machledt - Prague

Now that I have completed my two months in Prague, I am left with such a bittersweet feeling. There is a strange aspect to studying abroad, and that is that the friends you’ve spent eight weeks getting to know, going on adventures with, and exploring Europe with go back to their homes all around the world. The first session was pretty large and everyone became quite close, and lots of these friendships carried on through the second session as well. It is difficult saying goodbye to people who, in some cases, are the only other people who know this part of your life, or have experienced these life-shaping moments with you. It can be hard to think about the fact that it is not definite that you will see these friends again.

I believe that is an added long-term benefit of studying abroad, however. Having shared such significant and amazing experiences, that is a big incentive to stay in contact with study abroad friends and keep up the relationships. I also feel that everyone will be more inclined to travel either together or to see one another, now that we mastered the act in Europe and share the same desires.

One friend in particular that I am thankful to have made is Paula. Paula is from Beirut, Lebanon, which is also where she attends school. We both went on a trip to Vienna, Austria our very first weekend in Prague with a few other new friends, which is when we really clicked. The funny thing was that Paula and I were so dissimilar in many ways and had very different lives, but it was also in that way that we complimented each other. Her outgoing personality encouraged me to do things that I may not have otherwise, and definitely played a part in making my time in Europe so unforgettable. I expected to make lots of friends all over the U.S., but had not anticipated starting such a unique friendship with someone across the world.

I have been so thankful to have chosen Prague as my study abroad destination. I had always wanted to visit Prague, and studying abroad there was a great opportunity to get acclimated to the culture and life in a foreign country. Being a vegetarian, I was a little apprehensive about diving into an unfamiliar culture’s cuisine. All I had heard about Czech food was that it is creamy, dense, and primarily meat-based. This proved to be very true! However, out of all the countries I traveled to, the Czech Republic had the most vegetarian-friendly food options. The most popular Czech vegetarian dish is fried cheese, which is essentially a giant Mozzarella stick-like square, with Edam cheese instead of Mozzarella, and it is quite good! I did need more than fried cheese in my diet, though, and became a regular at the nearby Burrito Loco, which was the closest thing around to a Chipotle. The fact that Prague is full of a variety of ethnic restaurants really helped me to find meals out. I had some great Italian food and discovered noodle bars. That being said, I am happy to be coming home to veggie corndogs and burgers.

This summer has been the most important one of my life. Having the opportunity to grow in so many ways and creating friendships across the globe has already had such a positive impact on my life and my future. From mastering city public transportation systems, to learning just enough of each new language to get by for our stay, I have gained knowledge and confidence that I don’t think I could have gotten elsewhere. My time studying abroad in Prague left many impressions on me, one in particular being that one day I will return.

Kendall Machledt - discovering new cultures abroad

Hello Jerusalem!

Frankie Salzman - Jerusalem

שבוע טוב!/Shavua Tov! -Hebrew for “good week,” and the customary exclamation of well wishing after Shabbat.

The sun is currently setting here in Jerusalem. That means shortly the busses and light rail will once again be running after the legally required shutdown from Friday night to Saturday night-Shabbat, or the Jewish Sabbath and the kosher restaurants will reopen for patrons to enjoy a final dinner before the work week begins again tomorrow. In Israel, because of Shabbat, the week is from Sunday-Thursday with the weekend being Friday and Saturday. It’s been a bit odd adjusting my internal clock of how to view the week. Tuesday is now “hump day” instead of Wednesday, TGIT instead of TGIF.

The weekly shutdown of the city during Shabbat is also something I feel one would be hard pressed to find anywhere else. Today, I went walking around at the Shuk, the major open marketplace that, during the week is full of people speaking Hebrew, Arabic, English, and other languages from around the world, but today on Shabbat was a ghost town. On the major streets taxis and cars still go by, but the inner streets of the city are quiet.

It is peacefulness that I have not experienced anywhere else. It is not empty but rather intentionally still. But not everywhere is shutdown. The Jewish world may be still here, but the Arab world keeps going. A ten-minute walk from campus and there is a grocery store open as if nothing has changed. It is so interesting to see such difference here. Two separate, unique cultures co-existing in the same place. Jerusalem is truly special like that. Nowhere else in Israel are there Jewish and Arab communities existing like this. The religious landmarks are the focal point of city with a character all its own.

It has been a privilege to spend two weeks here so far. I have gotten to daven, pray, at three different spots in the city, experiencing a variety of religious Jewish life. Some of it has been familiar and comforting to me, others were new and challenging. I have slowly begun to obtain a routine. I begin my day hiking up the mountain I live at the bottom of to attend Ulpan, the intensive Hebrew class I currently have every day from 8:30am-1:10pm, on the gorgeous campus that has breathtaking views of the city. I then eat lunch either in my apartment or grab some falafel on campus (some of the only food I have been able to find that isn’t way more expensive than everything in America). I then do my homework and study for the next day’s Hebrew, and then to bed. Some days I take the light rail to the center of the city and visit the Shuk for pitas, dry fruit, cheese, and whatever other goodies I feel like treating myself to that day. On others, I relax in my room or with others I have met in Ulpan from around the world (my class includes students from America, Israel, China, Korea, France, Mexico, Spain, and Italy). All in all, I’m finding my way.

Figuring out the time difference has also had its challenges. It is 7 hours between here and the Eastern Time Zone of America which means I start my day with a good morning text from my mom as she is heading to bed.

I will try to end every post I have with a little lesson in Hebrew. Today, in honor of my mother, Instead of goodbye I say “בוקר טוב/boker tov” “good morning.”

Frankie Salzman - further his language and culture studies at the source

Vincent Halloran - Buenos Aires

I cannot describe how pleased I have been with my experiences in Buenos Aires so far. On our second night in the city, after spending our first night in a hotel, we were each picked up by our respective host families and taken to our new BA homes. My host, a sweet Argentine grandma named Susy, is a former social psychologist who now focuses her free time on painting and writing poetry. We live in a comfortable first floor apartment with two beautiful patios in a trendy and beautiful neighborhood known as Palermo. Soon, after arriving and taking a moment to unpack my mountain of clothes (I am here for 5 months, remember), we sat to eat dinner with Susy’s cousin Ernesto. Ernesto, upon learning that I study Political Science, shared with me a passionate and encyclopedic knowledge of Argentine politics over dinner; I could not have been more thrilled.

 

Casa Rosada

Casa Rosada, the seat of the Argentine presidency

Ernesto, over the course of our two-hour meal of chicken soup, chicken salad and a delicious apple salad, essentially broke down the last 50 years of Argentine political history. His account, accompanied by the occasional clarifying interjection by my endlessly kind host Susy, captivated me with its level of detail. At one point, to illustrate Ernesto’s level of knowledge, Susy randomly asked him “Who was the Argentine Economic Minister in 1947?” Ernesto answered so quickly that I even thought they may have planned it before!

the Obelisco

The Obelisco, a potent symbol of Argentine democracy

From 8 until almost 11, Susy and Ernesto debated the merits of the current administration, headed by the heavy-handed but progressive Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Ernesto, a steadfast supporter of the left-leaning populist, praised “Kirchnerismo” for revitalizing Argentine domestic industry. Meanwhile, Susy decried the current level of corruption, highlighted by the Nisman controversy earlier this year, so much so that at one point the discussion escalated to shouting! As a passionate observer of Latin American politics, I felt incredibly fortunate to have this intimate window into the Argentine reality opened. The evening left me filled with anticipation of an exciting semester to come.

Vincent Halloran - analyzing Argentine political and economic models

Marie Kalas - Valparaiso

Christmas in July has taken on a whole new meaning for me since coming to Valparaiso, Chile a week ago. Since I’m below the equator, the seasons are opposite from home. Although the mornings can be as cold as thirty degrees, it usually warms up to about fifty then gets cold again at night. During the days though, it’s hilarious because there are people in winter jackets, hats, gloves, and scarves—lots of scarves.

For those of you from places like Florida or California, maybe temperatures that don’t hit sixty sounds dreadful. If you’re from Chicago, like myself, or have spent one winter or fall at IU, you can understand that 50 is like the beginning of summer or late spring. So when I leave the house with a sweatshirt or a light jacket, my host mom begs me to put on more jackets.

My bags were lost for the first couple of days which meant I was walking around with my host mom’s jacket, scarf, and tennis shoes because all I had was my IU sweatshirt and sandals. If I didn’t already look like a gringa (white woman) with my CIEE drawstring bag and my Valparaiso map, these clothes absolutely put me over the top. It was nice.

Weather is definitely a topic of conversation here just like the US but so is the traffic. When my mom said, “Hay un gran taco,” she was not saying, “There is a big taco.” She was really saying, “There’s a big traffic jam.” That was the first word I learned—taco.

Chile is bursting with words that no one teaches you. There’s taco for traffic jam, cachaí? for “do you understand,” and colcho for corn to name a few. My favorite is probably pololo which is a word for boyfriend. Novio is for fiancé. So when my friend told her host family she had a novio, her mom asked to see her ring. We gringas have experienced many awkward moments here because of the language barrier, but even after just 48 hours, I felt like I had a better command of it.

The only thing I don’t have more control over is this feeling of extreme homesickness. Each day I’ve been here, I’ve had a little breakdown at some point. I figured coming here for five months would be like going to school at IU for five months and skipping going home for Thanksgiving. It’s way different. Although it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, I have friends who I love dearly, and am extraordinarily excited for my classes and excursions to start, I would honestly pack up and go back home right now if I had the choice.

I told myself I need to give it at least a month before I decide if I can’t handle this feeling anymore. I pray every day hoping that I get the feeling that I never want to leave, but right now it just doesn’t feel like that feeling will ever come. I think it’s okay to be sad though because I at least have a goal for myself—get through the first month. I’m sure I’ll end up staying, and I’ll laugh at myself for wanting to go home, but right now I have no desire to stay here until December. So to future study abroad students, if you feel this terrible in the beginning, it’s okay. My motto will continue to be “Fake it ‘Till You Make it,” and hopefully by the end of four weeks, I will have made it.

Until then, I’ll continue riding the buses through the taco while wearing my host mom’s scarves.Marie Kalas - immersing herself in Chilean language and community

A New Home

Frankie Salzman - Jerusalem

“Where are you from?” a common icebreaker question simple for some to answer, while greatly complex for others. Personally, it’s always been easy. “Indiana. More specifically Carmel, right outside Indianapolis.” But ask me where “home” is, and my answer will be much more layered.

I am writing this post shortly before leaving for the Rotherberg School at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. After a 10-hour flight from New York I will arrive in the Holy Land at 5:30 AM and begin the next ten months of my life. I am not from Israel and I’ve only ever been there on a 10-day trip for young Jewish adults known as “birthright” two summers ago. Despite this unfamiliarity, this is the place I will be calling home for both my fall and spring semesters.

In some ways, Israel already feels like home to me. It’s the homeland of the Jewish people, a country for those of my faith. I rejoice in knowing that I will be able to experience religious holidays in a Jewish setting. However, there is also a great deal for me still to learn. From the food, to the people, to the weather, Israel is such a different place than Indiana where I have lived my whole life up until this point. The longest I will have ever been away from the Hoosier state before this trip will have been for six weeks, a much smaller number than ten months.

But I am prepared to take on this challenge. I cannot wait to begin making a home out of Jerusalem and Israel. I have a vast list of goals to accomplish-some as small as shopping at the shook (outdoor market) every week for fresh produce and baked goods to grand adventures like visiting the Baha’i Gardens in Haifa. I am excited for the numerous friends I hope to make and the countless memories I will create. I am also giddy with anticipation for the things that I could have never known needed to be on that to do list, and I am stoked to have this platform to dissect, analyze, reflect, and share my journey.

Throughout my life, I have made many places into homes. I have been privileged to have my summers filled with a variety of camps and internships, and at each location I learned how to build a home. Now I have the even greater privilege of constructing a home in an entirely different country, and for the first time in my life I will be able to fulfill the phrase all Jews say at the end of their Passover Seders-“!בירושלים הבאה לשנה” “Next year in Jerusalem!”

Frankie Salzman - further his language and culture studies at the source

Off to Argentina

Vincent Halloran - Buenos Aires

As I find myself in transit to “BA,” as I am told the locals refer to the Argentine capital, I am considering the many motivations that have led me to embark on this semester abroad. This journey is about more than just solidifying my ability to speak Spanish, it is about embracing a lifestyle without borders. I refuse to live constricted to Indiana or even the United States; I know I will benefit throughout my personal and professional life by taking on this experience while still in my formative college years. After so much reading about Argentina’s culture and history, I cannot wait to be on the ground to experience it firsthand.

In the past, I have been lucky to study abroad in central Mexico and San José, Costa Rica; these experiences have provided me with a unique background which I may reference in future posts. I will often look to juxtapose Argentine realities with my time in other Latin American nations and even the United States. I expect Argentina to have more in common with the capitals of Europe or uniquely opulent North American cities like Montreal than with Mexico City or the Costa Rican capital. I will attempt to continually relate my time here with previous experiences in hopes of drawing more thoughtful conclusions about life abroad. My posts will often focus specifically on comparing and contrasting the democratic realities of Argentina against the backdrop of a potentially pivotal presidential election later this fall.

In Buenos Aires, I hope to experience everything the so-called “Paris of South America” has to offer, from incredible national museums to the famous street cafés in the city center. Beyond the unique places I will be able to go, the people I will meet and learn from are what I am looking forward to most. The Argentine capital is not only physically distant from our Hoosier home, but culturally distinct as well. This cultural immersion, which will put me in the midst of an incredibly diverse global city, will allow me to move beyond the homogeneity of Indiana. My ultimate goal is to be comfortable amongst as many cultures as possible, so that I can become a citizen of the world rather than just Bloomington – as much as I have grown to love it. My bags are packed, now all that is left to do is to get there!

Vincent Halloran - analyzing Argentine political and economic models

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 287 other followers

%d bloggers like this: