Of Bad Days and Unexpected Culture Shocks

“Positivity all the time is kind of unrealistic,” said my friend while we were chatting about my experiences here in Mexico. I wholeheartedly agree. We are constantly told to maintain a positive attitude and be optimistic and that we will have a blast on study abroad. But we should remember that we are also human beings who have real emotions that should be addressed.

If I were to provide a bit of advice about study abroad, I would say to be honest with yourself. You are the most knowledgeable person about your own emotional state and needs. If you are having a bad day, acknowledge it. You don’t have to break down and cry if you don’t want to, but it’s not the end of the world if you do.

The truth is that bad days do happen — even in other countries.

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Thank You, Japan

Well, my stay in this country has ended.

I have to say that my life in Japan has been absolutely amazing. Though it definitely was not easy at first, I found that some of the most difficult things to do in life are the things that are worth doing. Being as introverted as I am, and having never even left my home state before, it was a big jump to travel across the world all on my own. Yet, I stepped over 5,000 miles outside my comfort zone to live in a country that — in almost every way — is completely opposite from mine.

For three and a half months.

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Ding Ding Smile — Welcome to Hong Kong!

“Ding ding” is what the buses are called here; one of the many names Hong Kongers use where sounds are incorporated into the naming. Aside from the names, there were many other things that shocked me upon arriving and for the last three weeks that I’ve been here.

But before I dive in, let me backtrack a little so you have a better idea of who I am. My name is Sarah and I’m a fourth-year biology major and psychology minor. If you’re a biology major, you know how hard it is to study abroad due to our course requirements and schedule — but I made it!

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The Discovery of Meaningful Living through Cena, Antoni Gaudí

I had a melting pot of emotions before going international — this was my first time going abroad and “flying solo” (literally). I had no idea what to expect. All I had brought with me was a suitcase of comforts to remind me of home and the adequate ability to speak Spanish.

I was a bit uneasy and anxious at the thought of beginning this journey alone. However, as I touched down in BCN, all that fear had vanished.

I’ve been living in Barcelona for about a week and already I’ve been humbled by the culture that embraces me with hospitality, kindness and simplicity. If I’m keeping count of the number of touristic activities that served to educate me on the beautiful, unique qualities of Spanish culture, it is of considerable worth. Yet, as I truly reflect on processing the value hidden behind these excursions and my personal interactions with the natives of Barcelona, it carries even more significance.

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A Cultural Illumination in Justice

The recipe of a successful study abroad experience typically carries a checklist of core requirements: enthrallment in culture and society, academic captivation and meeting the right people.

You can have two out of the three and still call it a wonderful experience — but my personal list can go on, filled with checks that have made my study abroad experience one of the most memorable trips in my short but fruitful college career.

As a result, I am coming home with an extra beat and note to add to the incessant rhythm and melody of my life.

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¡Vale! ¡Gracias, Madrid!

During my time in Madrid, I thought to myself, “Why do I need to study abroad?”

As a kinesiology major, international experience is not something I thought I would need. However, during my experience with International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ), I was able to answer my own question.

I brought a camera and a journal with me to record my experiences each day. Being able to reflect on day-to-day adventures, I found that I grew knowledgeable about Spanish culture and even myself. So let me take you through some pictures of my wonderful experience in Madrid, Spain.

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Basketball, Construction and Volunteer Life in Madagascar

Five weeks down, five to go!

While my first two weeks in Madagascar actually felt like two weeks, the next three weeks passed so quickly that I can’t believe I’m already halfway done with my time here. Since I’m here for 10 weeks total, I have the unique opportunity to watch many different sets of volunteers come and go. It’s been wonderful to meet and get to know people from all over the world, but it also means that most of them will leave long before I do. It’s really nice to have friends who are here for a longer period of time like I am, but I enjoy getting to know everyone no matter how long their stay is.

A lot has happened in the past few weeks, but here are some highlights.

Continue reading “Basketball, Construction and Volunteer Life in Madagascar”

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