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.

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My German Holiday Experience in Spain

Since returning to Germany from my visit back to the United States in April, I have been busy every week with school. I came back from break on April 10, with my classes starting less than a week later on the 16th. If you have read my earlier blog posts regarding my classes, school has been very stressful for me this semester — but it’s also been an opportunity for growth.

I had not had a break from school since it started, and the stress was actually affecting my health and well being. I decided a vacation away from school for a weekend was what I needed to get myself motivated again.

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Lessons From a Samurai

If you had told me four months ago that I would have the chance to be able to swing a real katana, I probably would’ve laughed in your face. I would respond with something like, “No way, I’m way too clumsy for that.” However, a few weeks ago I got to do just that, and I learned quite a bit from it too.

Some friends and I had been planning a trip to Japan for some time. One of the reasons we went was that one of my friends was from Japan and was about to start a summer internship in Tokyo. So, jumping at the opportunity, we decided to have a last hurrah before the end of the semester and the four of us proceeded to book our tickets and accommodations.

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Tbilisi, Georgia: Women’s Studies Edition

To travel is to dive into the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable. We are left utterly vulnerable when we leave our comfort zones, so I decided to climb slowly down the ladder into the unknown, one rung at a time.

The first rung was studying abroad with the faculty-led program Issues of Gender Identity in Georgia. A city is much less daunting when exploring it with a group of 20 of your newest friends. Together we discovered a city painted in encapsulating murals and graffiti, a culture which survives on live music and wine and foods we will all be dreaming about until the next time we find ourselves in Georgia.

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