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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.

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  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.

Drink

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.

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Almost.

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.

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4. The Sydney Opera House is incredible at night.

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5. The street art has led me to epiphanies.

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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.

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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.

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

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…as long as you go say hi to a croc.

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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.

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

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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.

Cheers,

Eileen

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The Unspoken Rules of “This Part of the World”

It’s been about three weeks since I arrived in Doha, Qatar in August. Apart from the initial chaos of settling in and trying to fix the ugly class schedule (which is what happens when you are a senior with tons of unfulfilled requirements), things have proceeded without too much surprise – at least on the surface. Slowly, however, I realized that there are as much happening underneath, with the unspoken and unexplained oftentimes trumping the stated and the obvious, which is intriguingly how things run in this part of the world.

It did not take long for both me and my other exchange friends to realize that instead of relying on clear-cut rules, sometimes instincts are more helpful to “figuring things out” by ourselves in this foreign country. A case in point is with regard to dress code. Before flying over, I have heard many different versions of what is permitted and what is not in Qatar, mostly from people who have either been to the country or are familiar with the Gulf region. To seek clarification, I emailed a local advisor, and was given a somewhat vague answer that “it depends on the circumstances and locations.” Just to be safe, I decided to pack all loose-fitting long sleeves and long pants into my one and only tiny suitcase.

What I saw in Doha turned out to be interesting (and made the dress code question even harder to answer). True as my local advisor said, instincts and flexibility override any clear-cut instructions. While sleeveless shirts and above-knee pants/skirts are uncommon, they are not outright disallowed, and are rather popular among beauty-conscious young girls in the Education City. Tight jeans are also somehow seen as a “fashion statement.” All these, however, are premised on the condition that they are not outrageously rule-flouting (again, the rules themselves are hard to define), and more importantly, as long as they are within the parameters of the Education City, which is more or less a “safe zone” in the (arguably) strictly religious country. The need to use personal acumen to determine dress code becomes more imperative when one is dealing with the authority or engaged with the public realm (e.g. in the souq (local market), in the mosque, etc). Unlike the freedom and protection afforded by the private space, the symbolic values of public display mean simple issues such as what one is wearing are subjected to greater scrutiny and more rigid judgment.

Another dimension that illustrates this well is the concept of “Arab time”. During the orientation program, it was subtly mentioned to us that the concept of time here is different from that at home. The pace of life is slower, much more relaxed, and one hardly feels the cut-throat pressure that can sometimes permeate college life in the States. Partly as a result, the idea of being on time is often not strictly adhered by. As one says, being “fashionably late” is expected – that is, being on the Arab time. I have heard an interesting story from a fellow exchange student. Eager to pay her housing fee, she arrived at the Residential Office 10 minutes after it was supposed to open but found it closed. Out of curiosity, she inquired with the front desk, and was met with an exclamation “Jesus, it’s only been 10 minutes!” A little shocked, she then realized that she had come too early – according to the Arab time.

It is very interesting to see how cultural differences are often embodied in these small things and lived out in our daily lives. While I am still adapting to many of these subtle differences (in addition to adapting to the tropical weather) and trying to figure out all the hidden rules in this unique part of the world, I guess that is where the fun of studying abroad lies.

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Just Say Yes

I have been in Strasbourg for a week but it feels like an eternity.

Today was the first day of classes for me, however, I won’t start a full schedule until next week. With an entire week to explore the city I have dedicated myself to eating my way through Alsace. I am fairly certain that I have eaten part (or at times a whole) baguette for every meal here and have enjoyed different sausages, chicken dishes, pizza, sandwhiches, (a lot of) coffee, and so much more. Food is truly central to the French way of life.

That being said, eating can be one of the more stressful parts of my day because it requires that I find food and communicate what I want. In class, we typically breeze through the different words for foods because they aren’t academic words. I have found that I could describe a character in a book far better than I can order a sandwhich.

At times the waitress asks me a question that I can’t answer or my host mom asks if I would like something that I’m unsure of – and I’ve learned that the best thing for me is to just say yes. Say yes to this experience and to all that it means. I’m, thankfully, not a picky eater and I can often just mimic what my host family does – add this spread to this type of bread, or drink tea out of this type of bowl – yes bowl.

Saying yes isn’t always something I find very easy. I’m the type of person who likes to plan before I do something – ensure I know exactly where I’m going and how I’m getting there. However, that has been uniquely difficult during my first week here. Beyond just my excursions in french cuisine, I have been walking nearly 20,000 steps every day as I wander around the city and try to discover new places. This has been both incredibly rewarding and incredibly challenging as my phone does not work at all outside of the US and there was a delay in receiving our French SIM cards. A true millenianl through and through, I was a little at a loss for how to get around the city without a data plan that would allow me to use my maps app. Instead, I have been researching the route to different cafés and restaurants, picking out landmarks and following streets with the hopes that I remember correctly. By the time that my SIM card finally works, I feel as though I might know enough about the city that I won’t need it.

I feel as though I could make an endless list of everything that I’ve encountered that has thrown me through loop after loop here as I slowly but surely embrace the fact that I am no longer in the United States. While I get used to the idea of taking a bath again instead of a shower and mourn over the lack of air conditioning in the 90 degree weather, I know that in no time at all my life here in France will seem like normal. Until then, I’m just going to keep saying yes to whatever new or interesting challenge comes my way.

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Appreciating Home Before Heading Away

IMG_6479the Windy City!

In what I saw as being a slow goodbye to Georgetown, I stayed the summer in Washington, D.C., and returned in early August to Glenview, Illinois. I was about to begin my “second summer”: 6 weeks at home before I left for University of Oxford – Pembroke College for the year.

Four weeks in, two more to go and the anticipation of my eminent departure is mounting. By now my peers have settled into school and their respective study abroad programs, so I truly am impatient to go. My parents and I leave for London on September 23rd for a week of exploration before school starts, and I have felt in a bit of a limbo this past month. However, I have not been home for this long of a time for over a year, and the slow-paced life has presented a new set of opportunities for me to slow down and work on some long-term discernment and projects. Apart from reading English mystery novels and driving my siblings around, I have spent countless hours creating travel lists, researching restaurants in London, Facebook stalking my future classmates and taking stock of my life. I vaguely feel the creeping sensation of déjà vu from the high school summer before I left for Georgetown, yet I am entering my third year of college. It is somewhat unique and funny at the same time.

No matter how often I fantasize what my experience will be like, it is just that: a fantasy. I have never been to England and cannot help but notice the small cultural differences that I will have to work to understand, such as military time, spelling and vocabulary, and regions of the country. Before school ended in May, some of my friends gave me a book called, “How to Speak Brit,” which I have found both useful and immensely entertaining (ie. chips are french fries which I probably should have known anyways). I guess my next blog post will be able to elaborate more thoroughly on my struggles and progress in this regard.

I desperately miss my friends and community at Georgetown, but am ready for the next adventure and feel buoyed by their support and encouragement. From experience, the hopes and goals and dreams one has before they embark on an adventure are very interesting to come back to at the end of the journey. I hope to potentially join the rowing team, join the Oxford Union, rekindle my interest and joy of music, and delve into my true academic passions. We shall see what the future holds. Until then, I will be in Glenview surfing the web for what it might look like.

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Eating My Way Through Santiago

Kira Isaacs Santiago: Cheescake

Manjar. Also known as Chile’s Nutella. You know how they call the food of the Greek gods “ambrosia’? Well I’m thinking that what they really meant by ambrosia was manjar. Some of you may know manjar as “dulce de leche”, but for those of you poor souls who’ve never been lucky enough to try it, it’s a caramel-like spread made of condensed milk and sugar.

I have no shame in admitting it; food brings me an abnormal amount of happiness. Especially sweets. My sweet tooth is out of control, and Santiago has been living up to its expectations. One of the reasons why I was so excited to come to Chile was to try a new type of cuisine that I’ve never had before. For whatever reason, despite all of the Argentinian, Peruvian, and Brazilian restaurants, I’ve never found a Chilean restaurant in Boston. Now that I’m here eating Chilean food every day, I can honestly say that my inner foodie is content. Before coming here, I had heard that Chile is not known for their food—nothing compared to renowned Peruvian cuisine. While Chileans eschew spiciness, the plethora of other flavors makes up for it.

Now back to manjar. In Santiago, you can’t walk two blocks without finding it. Outside the metro stops are women who sell steaming hot, manjar-filled churros, one of my favorites. Walk down the street, enter any café, and you’re almost guaranteed to find a decadent slice of manjar cheesecake. Last week (at a food truck festival in Parque Bustamante!), I ate a manjar crepe that was the most delicious dessert I’ve eaten since arriving in Chile.

Living with a host family means my host mom, Pili, serves me three meals a day (I’m so spoiled, I know!) I’m at my Universidad Católica classes on the San Joaquin campus most of the day so this means that she also packs me a lunch, or colación. Sometimes, yes, I feel like a third grader having my mom make me lunch, but I wouldn’t have it any other way because my host mom is an amazing cook. These lunches can range from a piece of tortilla Española (think a thick vegetable omelet) to chicken stew. Some of the staples here are avocado, eggs, and bread. Bread can be served at all three meals, especially Chilean specialties like Pan Amasado or Marraqueta. I have a couple of gluten-free friends back home and at Georgetown who unfortunately, would probably have a difficult time with such a bread-heavy diet.

Bread aside, I already have fallen in love with some traditional Chilean dishes that I eat at home (meaning my home in Santiago). Chilean empanadas are the most traditional, and probably my favorite. Almost every Sunday, my host family invites more family and friends over for a big lunch. I’d say Saturday and Sunday lunch here are the equivalent to my Sunday dinners in the States—where mom or dad cooks a special meal and the whole family sits together for more than a quick bite. There are always two options—empanadas de queso and empanadas de pino, but I prefer the former: warm pockets of fresh-baked dough filled with hot, melted cheese. My host mother also prepares “Mote con huesillo” about once every two weeks, a sweet traditional drink with soft grains of corn or barley.

Embracing my inner grandma, what I love about my home here is the amount of tea that we drink. A lot of my friends, both here or back home (shout out to Meghna and Dion) think tea either tastes bad or is inferior to coffee. Haha, to each their own! However, like my dad, to me, drinking a warm cup of tea is one of the simple pleasures of life. Luckily, my host family thinks the same way; we have at least four cups a day here. The best part is that my host mom often makes her own blend, using tea leaves and adding her own flavors like orange peel and ginger. Pili happily explained to me that superiority of “the tea ceremony” as opposed to tea bags.

Food and drink to me is so much more than the actual food or drink, if that makes sense. And that is why I am such a foodie. With traditional dishes comes culture and history, with family recipes comes stories passed down through generations. Drinking rich hot chocolate in Barrio Italia was when I laughed with both my program friends and new Chilean ones. Last weekend, my host mom and I exchanged stories about our love lives as she treated me to my first Chilean “completo” or famous hot dogs. There are so many foods and experiences I haven’t tried yet, and I know they’ll both keep on coming!

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Two Beijings

“Oh, Beijing is a crowded and dirty city. I’m not too fond of it,” a friend from China responded to my comment about studying abroad in Beijing. Well, hardly the enthusiastic response I hoped to hear. I chose Beijing partly because my professor told me that it is one of the best cities for Chinese language study, as the Beijing dialect forms the basis for Standard Chinese. I also chose Beijing for its host of historical sites, including the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, and the Forbidden City. Since this will be my first trip to China, I figured I should try to visit these locations. Hearing a bad review about Beijing, especially one from a Chinese national, cast doubt on my decision to spend nearly four months there.

Fortunately, another friend from China responded with the enthusiasm I was hoping for, mentioning that Beijing was a fun, vibrant city with a rich history and a more “Chinese” culture than many of the other big cities, which would mean a more meaningful experience for me. The stark contrast between her positive comments and my other friend’s negative remark shed light on two very different opinions of Beijing, held by Americans and Chinese alike.

In fact, just about every time I explain that I will be studying abroad in Beijing this fall, I am met with one of these two images of the city. The first is the filthy, loud, frantic metropolis with air that belongs in Venus’s atmosphere. Mobs of commuters shove their way into subway trains. Taxis and trucks incessantly honk in vain at the stopped cars ahead. The entire place sounds like an obnoxious and exhausting experience. On the other hand, the second image is the lively, colorful, rich capital of the People’s Republic, complete with buildings and artifacts thousands of years old. Beijing Opera performers move gracefully across stages in traditional costumes. Grandparents practice morning tai chi under the trees in neighborhood parks. Magnificent temples, palaces, and walls reflect the centuries of culture and innovation that China has offered.

I realize that these two versions of Beijing are stereotypes, but I also realize that stereotypes are often based, to a varying degree, in truth; they don’t appear out of thin air. I sometimes worry that the first, less appealing image of Beijing will be the one I encounter. The air pollution alone caused great consternation in 2008 before the Summer Olympics, and such pollution will not bode well for my asthma. The fact that dust masks are a suggested item on the packing list doesn’t help.

However, I’ve been blessed to travel to other “difficult” cities in the past and I’ve learned that finding the second, more pleasant version of Beijing, or any city for that matter, heavily depends on the visitor’s outlook. In Dschang, it took effort to let go of my concern that a Schistosomiasis infection was lurking around every corner or to get used to carving my own toilets in the jungle mud with a machete. But I made the best of it, and that made all the difference.

So far, I’ve heard a tale of two Beijings. Most likely, the city is a mix of both stereotypes; it may be polluted, loud, and hectic, but it also may be cultured, vivacious, and pleasant. Therefore, I aim to enter China next week with few assumptions. I don’t want preconceived notions to cloud my actual experience of life in Beijing.

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Off Towards Tokyo

Two weeks ago, I sat watching the closing ceremony of the Rio Olympic Games, mesmerized by the colorful extravagant performances. Towards the end, the focus turned towards Tokyo – the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics and my home for the next year. The scene was filled with things that I’ve grown to love about Japan – innovation and creativity with origami-based costumes, lighthearted appreciation of pop culture with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appearing from a Super Mario warp pipe, and views of the country’s natural beauty projected via lights and shadows.

In just a few short days, I will find myself traveling from one national capital to another, traversing the bridge between Western and Eastern society. Though I’ve had years of experience learning about Japan, its culture, and its language, I still feel anxious and unprepared, especially with regards to the sheer size and population of Tokyo. Coming from the suburbs of central Virginia, I’ve felt that Washington D.C. is large and populous enough. D.C. is completely dwarfed by Tokyo, which has about 14 million living in the city proper, and almost 40 million people in the greater Tokyo area (which is about 30% of the entire population of Japan!). While I’m not claustrophobic, I’m not the kind of person to enjoy being in huge crowds of people and tourists, especially on trains.

Still, despite the prospect of intimidating crowds, I’m super excited for what’s to come. Having spent the past six months becoming more involved in Japan-related activities and organizations in the D.C. community, from interning with the National Cherry Blossom Festival to the Embassy of Japan, I’ve shared my excitement and amassed a huge list of tips, must-see places, must-do activities, and new information from friends and mentors who have all held similar interests in Japan and U.S.-Japan relations. I can’t wait to see the annual Snow Festival in Hokkaido, reconnect with friends around the country, hop between animal cafés in Tokyo, and revisit the places I went to from my first trip to Japan as part of a summer program three years ago. By the end of the year, I hope to be able to impress my Japanese professors with my new language skills, to feel immersed in Japanese culture and society, to embrace my inner child with the latest video games and technology, and perhaps most importantly, to have learned more about myself along the way.

For now, however, I’ll have to finish packing my enormous suitcases, wonder about how to pass the excruciating fourteen-hour plane ride, and face the possibility of arriving in Tokyo on a dark and rainy evening. But hey, it’s all part of the experience!

それじゃ、またね!

Until next time!

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Embracing the Uncomfortable

I’m currently sitting in my new room in my host family’s apartment, sweating profusely. Unfortunately for me, it is just as hot in Madrid as it is in D.C., but without the blessing of constant air conditioning. My slightly overheated state and desire for a fan sum up my feelings about the coming month pretty well: I’m embracing the uncomfortable and adjusting to the culture shock.

Anyone who has ever met me knows that I’m a person who enjoys having a rhythm. At Georgetown, I have established study spots, favorite restaurants, and the quickest routes to class to optimize sleep time. Even planning for study abroad happened in true type-A fashion. I have known that I wanted to study abroad in Madrid since high school and I didn’t even consider other options. I methodically researched the city, my classes, and potential weekend trips.

As helpful as planning is, it’s no substitute for reality.  I still feel apprehensive about speaking Spanish, making the 40-minute commute to class, and my utter lack of fútbol knowledge. For all the things that I can plan for, there are many more that cannot be anticipated, only faced head on.

Thankfully, in the past two weeks, I haven’t had that much time to stress about study abroad. I have been traveling throughout Central Europe, which meant facing a different type of discomfort. For the most part, traveling to a city for a few days is something I am used to. It’s easy to get over the annoyances of sleeping on the floor of a Czech train or trying to figure out the exchange rate of Hungarian Forints when you know that the situation will pass in mere hours. Living in Madrid will give me the chance to really know and embrace a city, for the good and the bad.

I am excited for new challenges this semester and the somewhat unappealing opportunity to feel like a lost freshman at NSO again. Hopefully, I can do it with a little more grace and adaptability than I showed two years ago, gaining another new city to call home.

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