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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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.

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Coming Home; The Biggest Culture Shock of them All

I’m now back home after what was an amazing, life changing experience in Thailand. I know that the people I met will be friends when I come back to San Diego for school and the life lessons I learned will stick with me forever.

After starting the program in Chiang Mai, we spent the remainder the last 5-6 days in Bangkok. Bangkok is, as my former JMS teacher would say, is an “entirely different animal.” Bangkok is much more populated than Chiang Mai and a lot more busy.

Every night the city streets would be bustling with street vendors and tuk tuks and taxi drivers.

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Soy Americana

I know what the stereotypical American looks like. The country of my birth identifies me as African-American.  My own country misconstrues my national identity. However, a passage in my passport “requests all whom may be concerned to permit the citizen/national of the United States named herein to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection.”

This is especially contemplative, considering how people of color are treated in the U.S. Traveling abroad, I am no longer a suspicious, hyphenated or sub-American —  I become a fully embodied U.S. citizen.

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Hope for the Future

A couple of days ago I was talking with my groupmates about the future. We are supposed to graduate this May and we were discussing our plans. One girl said that she declined a job opportunity from a company in San Diego in order to return to the Bay Area to live closer to her family. She said that she wants family support; she loves adventures and traveling, but she prefers to be more of a homebody.

I was surprised by it, because in our field it is hard to find a good full-time job. However, on the other hand it is understandable. Finding your comfort zone is very important to succeed in life — especially when your relatives support you.

However, I’ve always thought that challenging yourself is the main point to be successful in this life. As a Russian international student, I live thousands of miles from my family, my best friends, my lovely room and my comfy bed. And I do not regret it. I got so much experience and new skills in every aspect of life, that I would not change even a bit of my current life.

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Making New Friends — and Making a Difference — in Korea

It has been about a month since I arrived here and I can’t believe it has been that long. I must admit that I miss my parents, my friends and my school.

Despite the nostalgia, I could not be happier about finally accomplishing my dream of studying in South Korea. I am loving my experience so far and I am anxious to keep learning and discovering more about this beautiful country.

At SDSU, I had never taken a proactive role to be part of the campus community — not because I didn’t care or want to, but because of other responsibilities. However, to make the most of my experience in Korea, I decided to be part of a club where I could feel involved and establish friendships with Korean students.

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Living in Debt

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing this post. The reason is simple: Before I moved to the United States, I always thought about the ways of life in Russia and the US as being similar. However, that was a big mistake.

It turns out that, in one very big way, people here are way different than people in the country where I was born and raised.

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