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“Yeah, sure, it’ll be grand.”

Trinity College Dublin was founded in 1592, and four weeks into teaching term I am convinced that its bureaucracy and administrative technology are relics of that century. From registering for modules (or what we in the U.S. call courses) on paper, to adding/dropping modules on paper, to signing up for tutorials on paper…well, I suppose you get the picture. Very few things can be done online, other than finding out that academic registry has messed something up, and even then you will probably have to go in person to three different people to get a form signed in order to fix it.

Before coming to Trinity, this would have annoyed me to no end and probably left me an anxious wreck. However, following an epiphany I had earlier this week, I’ve decided to adopt a somewhat common Irish phrase as my new mantra for the semester: “Yeah, sure, it’ll be grand.”

Wednesday morning, I found myself speed walking from a lecture in the Hamilton Building (on the east end of campus) to a tutorial in the Political Science Department in College Green (the west end of campus, outside the gates and partially obstructed by construction of the new tram line right in front of Trinity). A note I’d written for myself on my phone listed the tutorial location as College Green Room 3, and seeing as the room number was not posted online I had no way of knowing that I’d gotten it wrong until I accidentally walked into an Economics tutorial, 5 minutes late. Panicking, as I was now late for the first tutorial of term, I ran upstairs to the department office, where I explained the situation to the secretary and asked if she had the tutorial timetable and room numbers for my class.

To this, she replied that she could check the PDF she had, but it might not be up to date (only in Trinity would the department not have the most up to date information on its own classes). It turned out that my tutorial was meeting in the Arts Block, which is about midway between Hamilton and College Green. As I ran to my tutorial, bumping into multiple tourists in the process, dozens of thoughts raced through my head.

“I’m going to be so late.”

“My TA is going to hate me.”

“I don’t even know where this room is. What if it’s the wrong place?”

And then, the epiphany.

“Yeah, sure, it’ll be grand.”

I realized that it was no use worrying over it. Yes, I was going to be late, but I was going to get there. The TA probably wouldn’t care as much as I thought he would (when I eventually slipped into the room over 15 minutes late, he looked at me for about two seconds before continuing teaching). And now that I knew where the room was, I’d be on time and in the right place for the next tutorial.

I’m trying to carry this outlook with me as I face various other challenges during my time abroad. It’s no use worrying over stressful events. I know that I possess the skills to overcome most obstacles. Eventually, everything will work out in the end—it’ll be grand.

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“Modern” China

Beijing is a modern city. China is a modern country. That’s what I’ve been hearing over and over again since arriving here. One of my first Chinese lessons was all about modernization, and since then 现代化 (xiandaihua, or modernization) has come up in class time after time.

Having been in Beijing for well over a month now, I can say that it is, in many aspects, a modern city. The new subway train lines are clean and heavily computerized, complete with live subway maps and television adds on the walls of the tunnels. Yes, the tunnel walls are covered in screens that create advertisements as the train moves along. Just about every restaurant has Wi-Fi and just about every student owns a smart phone. Beijing locals seem to be quite proud of their modern city. A stranger on the subway even asked me about DC’s metro system and looked pleased to hear that the DC metro has yet to add the safety walls and doors separating the train tracks from the station platforms, a feature already present in Beijing’s new subway lines. Based on my exchanges with teachers, friends at Minzu University, and some strangers, it seems that Chinese people are quite interested in being members of a modern society. I can’t necessarily blame them; I often enjoy and sometimes take for granted the prestige that comes with being a citizen of the United States, the world’s political hegemon and a trendsetter in modern music, entertainment, and culture.

The desire to be considered modern is not new in China. Perhaps the most shocking example of this desire can be seen in the Cultural Revolution. In 1966, Chairman Mao put into motion a new revolution to rid China of the capitalist and bourgeois influence that allegedly seeped from traditional Chinese culture into the Communist society. The result was 10 years of rapid and frantic modernization. Ancient artifacts were destroyed. Thousands of books and scrolls were burned. Urban youth, professors, doctors, and high-ranking party leaders alike were sentenced to years of exile in rural villages to be “reeducated,” as their high level of education was unacceptably posh. Members of the Red Guard even bothered to exhume the ancient remains of emperors just to burn and disgrace them; that was considered an effective method to prevent traditional culture from undermining Maoist ideals.

Needless to say that the revolution didn’t work out as well as imagined. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) itself has since branded this desperate attempt to modernize China as the greatest national setback in the history of the People’s Republic. Yet the CCP has held on to many of the policies and ideas that brought about such hardship. Here in Beijing, as in the rest of China, online bloggers and writers are forbidden from using words as common as “freedom” in contexts not sanctioned by the CCP. Various religious groups, especially Christians, Jews, and other minorities, often meet in illegal 地下教会(dixia jiaohui, or underground churches) to avoid the Party’s strict censorship. Movies critical of Maoist ideology, such as The Blue Kite, are prohibited in China because they suggest that the Cultural Revolution was not merely a stain on the otherwise perfect track record of the CCP, but rather a product of years of drastic policies put forth by Chairman Mao and the Communist leadership.

With my notion of the Western “modern” in mind, these examples certainly put China in a rather different light. Indeed, some could question whether a society that banishes the word “freedom” can be considered modern. But plenty of people, Chinese and foreign, still consider China to be a modernizing country. Perhaps this is because the definition of “modern” is not always clear. In the material sense, China is quickly achieving the same “modern” standard of living often associated with Western countries. However, in the cultural or ideological sense, the Western “modern” and the Chinese “modern” are not necessarily the same. While they may share similarities, their differences are significant. For example, from what I have observed, one “modern” emphasizes the power and freedom of the individual to achieve a greater goal in society, whereas the other emphasizes the power of the collective Chinese nation to achieve that greater goal. Furthermore, as seen in the Cultural Revolution, ideas with ties to traditional Chinese culture, capitalist economic systems, religions, or just about anything else chastised by the CCP are silenced; the government is not always subtle in its attempts to stifle unapproved speech and ideas.

On the surface, China seems modern in the Western sense, and in many ways that is true, but the remaining underlying differences are also leaving China with a type of modern more reminiscent of that sought by the Cultural Revolution. Whether or not this will continue in the future is difficult to say, especially given today’s ease of access to information.

In a sense, my Chinese lesson is correct. China is a modern country, but what that means exactly may not be entirely clear as it changes under the lenses of different biases and cultural backgrounds.

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Living with a Host Family

I’ve met a lot of foreign exchange students here in Santiago—from France, Spain, Colombia, Bolivia, Sweden, to just list a few, and plenty of others from all over the United States. What I’ve come to notice is that my study abroad experience is totally different from theirs in one major respect: living with a host family. While all ten of us IFSA-Butler program students are staying with Chilean families, I’ve come to realize that we’re living an unique experience that most other students I’ve met do not get to enjoy. Living with a Chilean host family has come to shape my experience abroad, and I decided that it is an important aspect for me to share for any potential study-abroad students.

As I’ve discussed in a previous blog post, moving in with a new family was an adjustment for me. For the first couple of weeks I struggled with the loss of my newfound freedom and independence that I found in college. However, I have grown to love it more and more each day. Perhaps this is what inspired today’s blog post: last night I had a dream that I was going to be moving from my host family’s apartment into a student-housing residence for the rest of my duration in Chile. I found myself panicking. I didn’t want to move—I realized I would miss my Chilean host mom, home-cooked meals, and playing with our dog Toldito. Most importantly I feared no longer having a family to come home to at the end of the day to talk to in Spanish. 12:10 PM the next day, as I am writing this blog post, I now know that it was all a dream (or nightmare). But it made me really recognize the fact that I now truly feel at home here.

A few weeks ago, my mom (biological, not host mom) came to visit me in Santiago. I showed her all the touristy sights, the beautiful view at the top of Cerro San Cristobal; we ate amazing food, and even toured some wineries on a weekend getaway in Santa Cruz. At the end of the week, I asked my mom what her favorite part of Santiago was. I guess I should not have been so surprised to learn that it was meeting my host family. My host mom Pili was very excited to invite over my real mom for lunch, and as soon as my mom stepped through the door, Pili excitedly told her to “Make herself at home, my dear.” While Pili speaks some English, it was my job to translate between English and Spanish for my mother and host family. While it was definitely chaotic and confusing, it was also very fun and amusing. My host dad, Ivan, would explain a complicated history about Chilean exports in Spanish and then excitedly direct me to translate for my mother. There were plenty of us around the table sharing empanadas—six of us including my host parents, my host brother and his girlfriend, and my mom and I. Every single one of them was so kind to my mom, and the lunch that my host mom prepared, as usual, was delicious. Discussing it later, my mom and I compared my experience with my brother’s home stay in Spain. A few years ago, while visiting my brother in Grenada, my mom and I had lunch at his host mother’s house; the difference was, we concluded, that she was not as warm and friendly as my host mom is. Unfortunately, my brother’s host mother was not so interested in forming a relationship with the exchange students she hosted. I am so lucky then, to have a Chilean host mom that truly wanted to bond with my real mom. Later that week, my mother and Pili went out to lunch by themselves, though neither of them knows much of each other’s language. I found it adorable and I was so proud of the both of them. I attribute my positive home stay experience to two factors: the general warmth of Chilean culture, and also that I was just lucky enough to be placed with special people.

No matter what the explanation is, I have been showered with kindness and affection. Whether it’s my host brother packing me lunches when my host mom’s away, Ivan introducing me to his friends as his “hija gringa,” or my host mom giving me a hug when I come home from class, I have been accepted into a family that make me feel like their home is my home. I’ll admit that there are both pros and cons when deciding between doing a home stay and living with other students, but the choice I made is one of my favorite parts of studying in Chile.

Pili and me!

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Just Getting Started

IMG_2901IMG_7372Although a bit later than everyone else, I am finally settled at Oxford. It is “2nd week” out of the very quick and short 8 weeks that constitute Michelmas term. I am living in Pembroke College, which is my “home” for the year. There are 32 separate colleges at Oxford, and they all admit their students directly. At Pembroke, there are only 110 “freshers” as they are called, and they were selected after an intense application and interview process, which puts the stressful American college process to shame. In Pembroke, we sleep, eat our meals, use the library, have administrative resources, and meet with faculty. In the University of Oxford at large we use the vast library system (there are over one hundred!), attend lectures, join sports teams, and sit for exams. I can only compare it to a combination of a Greek-life/Hogwarts house system


Pembroke is only about three hundred people, and one of the smallest schools I have ever attended. However, as a visiting student, it has been wonderful. In the first few weeks I have met and gotten to know almost everyone. Also, as I live in the college and eat Formal Hall three times a week with everyone (dinner where we get served three courses and have to wearing a black cape called an academic gown), I have felt completely immersed and like an Oxford student from day one. Most people barely know that I am a visiting student (except for my American accent). So far, I have joined the Law Society, the Oxford Union Debate Society, and Mixed Lacrosse, all of which have been a great opportunity to meet students from other colleges as well.

Regarding this immersion, I have found myself starting to speak in a British manner, with my wide Midwestern “a’s” becoming longer. Although technically English is still spoken here, I sometimes cannot understand what someone is saying, especially in large lecture halls or while whispering. However, I am slowly becoming better and learning new words, such as “revising” means “studying,” “pitch” means “field,” and “chunder” means “to throw up.” If anything, I remember to say these words when I see a blank look on the person’s face I am talking to.

Overall, I feel quite at home in England so far and truly enjoy the people, the schooling, the silly words, and the humor. In my next blog I will describe the election, the difference between schooling here and the US, and some of my cool trips!

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A Foodie in France

In the land of baguettes and an entire course of cheese between dinner and desert, France is a magical gift for a foodie like myself. However, no matter how good the food is, adjusting to how and when we eat these immense amounts of baguettes and cheese and missing the ability to order pizza at two a.m. remains a difficult transition.

French BreakfastBreakfast, to begin, is more simple than stateside. We eat one to two slices of bread with butter or (my favorite) jam. My host mother makes her own jam and she has shelves and shelves of different kinds of jam so that I can try different jams each day. We often will eat one or two types of fruit with the bread. I also discovered on my first day, much to my surprise when my host mother handed me a bowl rather than a mug, that tea is typically taken in a bowl at breakfast.

Lunch is often something quick from a restaurant in town or near school. This semester, Georgetown has 18 students in Strasbourg and we like to discover the local eateries together including everything from a Leo’s pasta line-reminiscent risotto to go (you read that right) to our favorite boulangerie where we all have customer loyalty cards.

Sausage and SauerkrautDinner is the most traditional meal of the day. Dinner is eaten quite a bit later here, anywhere between 7-9:30 depending on the family. We usually eat with our host families, even though this picture was taken while on an excursion in Alsace with the other Georgetown students. Alsatian food typically consists of sausage, sauerkraut (it’s sweeter here), ham and potatoes. speciality of the region is the Tarte Flambée which resembles a pizza but is made with lardons (a kind of small french bacon strip) and fresh creme. Due to our proximity, and history of occupation and changing of hands, Strasbourg is the best of both worlds for those who love the respective cuisines of France and Germany. Dinners at home don’t always consist of Alsatian foods but a mix of French and German influence. We almost always start with a salad, then eat the entre which is often some sort of baked tarte, such as a wonderful salmon and zucchini tarte we had the other day. Then, we have a course of cheese and bread. This might be controversial but I’m starting to lean towards Cambert as my favorite cheese. My host mother explained to me that the reason cheese in France is so much better is because it is made with non-processed milk or “lait cru.” I think the citation of Charles de Gaulle says it best, “How is one supposed to govern a country where there exists 246 varieties of cheeses?”

Finally, desert is usually plain yogurt with the option to stir in your favorite jam. However, my host mother also makes a wonderful apple crumble and recently tried a new recipe for whisky bread. When I asked her what her favorite food was, she shared that for her it is less about one food or the other, but she loves the ability to try a little bit of everything. Her joy comes from variety.

CrepePictured here is a crepe made with Banana and Nutella. Yes, there’s Nutella here.


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An Adventure for my Taste Buds

It’s been almost a month and a half since I set foot in Japan, and time has felt like it has been flying by. Since classes only started two weeks ago, I have had the opportunity to spend the previous few weeks traveling around the city, taking in the sights and enjoying daily life. Throughout my experience so far, I’ve discovered that one of the most amazing parts to living in Japan, and something I already know that I’ll miss after I return to the United States is the food.

Toriten Udon. Yum.

Unlike Georgetown, Waseda University does not have set meal plans, leaving everyone to explore the wonders of small restaurants around the area. While there is a self-serve cafeteria on campus (with reportedly cheap and decent food!), it seems that it’s usually crowded and not usually the best option. That isn’t a problem, however, since there is absolutely no end to the number of restaurants located within walking distance of campus – just look for the hanging noren banners outside of traditional small shops, 営業中 signs (open-for-business), or the displays of realistic-looking plastic food in café windows.

Overall, it appears that most restaurants on the street in Japan seem to follow a similar pattern – limited seating mostly geared towards individuals or small groups, a menu specializing in a type of dish or cuisine, and special lunch or dinner sets offered for full meals. While a filling sit-down meal at a restaurant in D.C. could usually run between $10-20 before tip, most of my restaurant meals in Japan have been around $7-9 – and you’re not expected (and not supposed) to tip either! Some of these restaurants are also fast and convenient. Quite a few let you order a meal via vending machines, which dispense meal tickets to be handed over to the staff. In other restaurants, waiting staff is almost always very polite and friendly, and they never interrupt your meal to ask “how is the food?” but they’re always on call for when you need something. Also, in many traditional shops, the chefs also make your food right in front of you, allowing you to follow your meal from start to finish – the open kitchen is usually visible from your seat!

Open for business sign at a gyōza store with a Japanese pun – combining Eigyōchū (営業中 – open for business) and Gyōza (餃子)

Food in Japan has also been recognized for its variety and quality of dishes. Washoku, or traditional Japanese cuisine, has been recognized in 2013 as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage for its diversity and use of ingredients, nutritional balance, and ties to themes of nature. Traditional set meals known as teishoku offer a good balanced meal: a portion of rice, picked vegetables, miso soup, along with your main dish. Large full multi-course meals also hold traditional significance, and are usually reserved for special events.

Personally, I’ve preferred restaurants specializing in a specific dish so far, being able to taste the freshness and strong flavors unique to each store. Some favorites of mine so far: katsudon (pork cutlet with egg served over a bowl of rice), aburasoba (thick soupless noodles seasoned with oils and sauces, especially popular around the Waseda area!), and toriten udon (chicken tempura over a bowl of udon noodles).


While I still have much more to try in terms of cuisine here in Japan (in addition to working towards a personal goal of attempting to overcome my aversion for fish and many vegetables), I much look forward to a unique atmospheric and flavorful experience for each and every meal.


Until the next meal!

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Perpetually Waiting for the Metro

I’m now a month into my study abroad experience and I associate my day-to-day life in Madrid with a lot of things: drinking tinto de verano with friends at a café, talking about politics with my host family over cena, and taking a run in Retiro park. However, above all, when I think of daily life in Madrid, I think of the metro system. A very glamorous life to lead, I know, but on a typical day I can spend over 3 hours on public transportation, so a good relationship with the system is vital.

The main culprit for my long journeys is school. While the business campus of University Comillas Pontifica is in the heart of Madrid, my buildings, the humanities ones, are out in the suburbs of Cantoblanco. Door to door, it’s a 50-minute journey from my home to my first class of the day. This may seem like a lot, and some days it is, but the process is made easier by the stellar transportation system that Madrid has built. After suffering through Georgetown’s lack of metro stations and outrageous prices, it’s a welcome change.

As a student, I pay 20 euros a month for my transportation card which covers all buses (they have wifi), metros (my stop is less than 5 min from my house), and regional trains (also necessary to get to school). I’m pretty sure you can spend $20 in a day on the DC metro so this fixed cost in Madrid allows us to take the metro for only one or two stops without any feelings of guilt. The metro here is never late, always clean, and very easy to navigate. None of which can be said about the D.C. metro.

Most of my afternoons in Madrid are spent exploring, so metro stops all over the city have become familiar. If I’m at Manuel Becerra, it means I’m heading home to the upscale neighbourhood of Salamanca where I live. Around my home stop there are always children in their Catholic school uniforms, and families walking their dogs. If I’m at Argüelles, it means I’m heading to my Wednesday night class at the ICADE campus of Comillas in the heart of the university district. If I’m at Nuevos Ministerios, I’m either switching to catch the train to school or the metro to the airport. If I’m at Gran Vía, it’s to go shopping with all the tourists. If I’m at Sol, I’m waiting to meet friends to go out for the night.

Somedays I wish I never had to see the inside of a metro. It can be time-consuming, crowded, and frustrating, especially when you miss the train by 2 seconds. However, for the most part, I’m very grateful to live in a large city that has been made so accessible to me. Hopefully, by the end of the semester, I’ll have visited every metro stop in Madrid, or at least the important ones.

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An Introduction to Ireland

Green. Music. Guinness. Castles.

1916. Language. GAA Sports. Peace Walls.

Every culture has its stereotypes and symbols, and Ireland of course is no exception. The first things that come to mind when most Americans think of Ireland are typically green fields, castles, leprechauns, and alcohol, among others. Of course, these stereotypes fail to do justice to a vibrant and complex culture in a country with a rich yet often turbulent history. Over the past few weeks of living and studying in this country, I’ve encountered aspects of Irish culture which most Americans are unaware of.

For example, the Irish language, while not in everyday conversational use in most parts of the country, is everywhere you look; from street signs, to bus and train timetables, to Students Union emails written in both English and Irish. Irish Gaelic has more of a symbolic national significance than practical application, as everyone in Ireland speaks English, but its ubiquity underscores its importance in constructing Ireland’s national identity.

Additionally, a good place I’ve found to experience Irish culture has been the pubs, especially the less touristy ones, which often host live traditional Irish music sessions. Pubs are also a good place to go to watch Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) matches on TV with the locals. GAA sports include Hurling (which I can best describe as a cross between lacrosse and field hockey, though that doesn’t begin to explain it) and Gaelic Football, and are distinctively Irish sports. Almost every town in Ireland has a local GAA club, with teams for both children and adults, and the sports are very popular throughout the country. The month of September saw both the men’s and women’s finals in Hurling and Football, with Dublin playing County Mayo in the Men’s Football final match. The teams tied in the last few minutes of stoppage time, and so have to replay the match this weekend.

Another significant component of Irish culture is the country’s political heritage. 2016 marks the 100 year anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, widely viewed as the beginning of the movement for Irish independence from Britain. Almost everywhere you look in Dublin, you’ll see some evidence of the commemoration. Though the rising initially lacked popular support in 1916, its aftermath helped spark support for Irish War of Independence which eventually came in 1919. Since then, the Easter Rising has been glorified in Irish literature and folk music, and the scale of the commemoration this year demonstrates how the rising is viewed in a positive light today in the Republic of Ireland.

That’s not to say that Ireland’s political history in the 20th century is uncontroversial. A few weekends ago, a friend and I took the train up to Belfast in Northern Ireland, still part of the United Kingdom. While there, we took a cab tour through West Belfast, the working class neighborhoods which saw most of the violence during The Troubles in the 1970s and 80s. The Protestant (Unionist) and Catholic (Irish Nationalist) neighborhoods remain separated by Peace Walls, built to prevent sectarian violence. They’re not something you would expect to see in a Western European country, to say the least. Our guide, a native of West Belfast, explained that one of the reasons the walls remain in place is to prevent future outbreaks of violence, which suggests that some tensions still remain 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement.

These examples, of course, only begin to scratch the surface of what it is to be Irish. That said, there’s certainly not enough room here for me to go into detail about every experience I’ve had in Ireland over the past month. And so, I hope that this post can serve as an introduction of sorts for the ones to follow, as I continue to explore Ireland, learning more about its people and culture in the process.

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The Oddities of the French School System

As an American student, I have a very distinct idea of what school looks like. However, after just over three weeks here in Strasbourg, I have discovered that not only are french classes different in language but in approach, structure, and perspective.

First, as an American student I have become very accustomed to the importance of discussion and participation in class. Not only is there no such thing as participation points here, participation is not very welcome. The style of class is a lecture by the professor and a mad rush by the students to catch every word. That’s right, every word – or at least it seems that way. French students write their notes in large paragraphs rather than the american outline and bullets method. Not being good enough with the language to catch every word, let alone know how to spell each, I have stuck to my bullet and numbers outline. In the coming weeks, I hope to make some french friends and see if we can compare notes in an effort to 1. ensure that I truly understood what was going on in class and 2. to see up close how these book-like notes work.

The french class, further, does not seem to require much work outside of the classroom. There are some suggested readings, but I have yet to have a true homework assignment. My exams will be either written or oral at the end of the semester and my entire grade depends on that one test. And to think that I complained when I had an econ class that only constituted a midterm and a final.

I have asked myself frequently throughout my weeks here how many times I have heard France come up in one of my classes at Georgetown. I can only recall a couple of times, and the majority of them have been in french class. However, a group Americans including myself are playing a game where we time the beginning of class to see how long it takes for the US to come up. I have yet to have a single class where the United States was not referenced within the first 40 minutes. As much as we talk about how much influence the US has in the rest of the world, I didn’t believe that it would be this great or this academic. It’s almost like they know that we’re timing them or that there are several Americans in the class. I would like to hear from my french classmates in the coming weeks how they feel about the amount of times the United States comes up in their education system.

Finally, the actual class structure is also quite strange to me as a foreigner. Classes last for two hours and meet once a week. There are no breaks between classes but there are breaks within the class. Classes often start a little bit late due to the mad rush from room to room – most of the Georgetown students are taking classes exclusively at the Institut des Études Politiques (Sciences-Po) which offers all classes within one building. Also, while not the case for all who study abroad in Strasbourg, but for most of the students who are taking classes almost exclusively at Sciences-Po, classes seem to mostly take place on Mondays and Wednesdays. I have long days twice a week, one class on Tuesday, and no classes Thursday-Sunday. This leaves me time to polish my notes and look up background information and words that I didn’t fully understand in class.

I can’t say that the french school system is necessarily better or worse than american universities, but I can say that it takes some time to get used to. I’ll leave you with perhaps my favorite part of class in france: there’s plenty of time to get coffee in the middle of class and the line is always fast and efficient so we can sip on little french expressos while learning about the formation of the European Union.

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10 Discoveries I’ve Made in Sydney

To start off, I should address the fact that I’ve had such a difficult time writing my first blog post after arriving in Sydney. There are at least 5 unfinished drafts of blog topics in my Google Drive that range from late-night deep thoughts to ideas that sounded good while I was showering but ended up terrible on paper. The reason for my difficulty is because I have so many things I want to say.

Throughout all this difficulty in coming up with what to tell people about my experience studying abroad in Sydney so far, I’ve met a number of new people, had memorable conversations, traveled to an entirely different part of Australia, and ate some of the best food I’ve ever had. So, I’ve decided that before jumping into anything too deep and meaningful, I will create a list of the more sensory experiences I’ve had here so far.

Here we go. 10 things I’ve discovered so far in Sydney.



  1. When you arrive on a Sunday morning in the Sydney winter, you will not have WiFi, you will not have any heating, and you will not have human contact. If you’re as lucky as I was, the airline will also lose your luggage for two days, leaving you with no pillow, no blanket and no toothbrush. Do not despair. The cooking channel and an insect documentary (scientists have managed to video the praying mantis eating its mate, as I now know) will carry you through that first cold, smelly night.


2. Vegemite is kind of good in one of those gross ways. The magical paste tastes essentially like jellied soy sauce and smells like an aircraft at the end of a long flight. With some avo slathered on, you almost forget it’s there.



3. Being above the drinking age is an underestimated nicety. The ability to legally enter a bar and order a glass of wine changes the idea that alcohol is exclusively binged on instead of enjoyed.


4. The Sydney Opera House is incredible at night.


5. The street art has led me to epiphanies.


I now eat my greens every day.

6. When you can’t be bothered to show up to class on time, these beautiful steps remind you of the real priorities in life.


7. A large proportion of the cuisine and culture in Sydney is influenced by Asian countries. Authentic Chinese noodle soups, Malaysian Laksa, Indian Tandoori dishes and so many more options envelope you, keeping your stomach full and your bank account empty.


8. It is perfectly acceptable to dab in the midst of borderline-creepy, winding trees that lie adjacent to crocodile-infested waters…


…as long as you go say hi to a croc.


The 4 & 1/2 meter beauty we spotted in Northern Australia looked more relaxed than I’ve ever been and more intimidating than I could ever hope to be.

9. Chocolate cafes are everywhere.


Along with famous pastry places called Black Star Pastry that serve strawberry-watermelon-rose cake that might change the way you see dessert forever.


Cheat day isn’t a day, it’s a way of life.

  1. Lastly, my experience in Sydney is dissimilar enough from my home in the US to be captivating and keep me trying new things every day, but similar enough to my home in the US to be quite comfortable. From talking to Australians, I’ve been told that there are rural portions of Australia that offer a completely different lifestyle and overall life view from Sydney. As well as that population outside of Sydney, the indigenous population is a whole segment of people that I rarely encounter. The 3 or 4 didgeridoo performances I’ve seen were incredible, but only scrape the surface of understanding Aboriginal culture and values.

In following posts I hope to delve into more perceptive thoughts about my experience in Australia, studying abroad, and how these experiences change my understandings of life.



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