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Welcome to WOU’s Photoblog for Students Abroad!

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I’m pleased to introduce you to WOU’s photoblog for students who are studying or interning abroad.  I  invite you to follow our students on their journeys from pre-departure preparation through the return home.

Photoblogging is a wonderful way for students to share what they are learning, observing, and discovering in their new environments.  Enjoy the journey with them!

WOU’s photoblog is modeled on the Australian “Bringing the Learning Home” project developed by Jan Gothard, Greg Downey, Tonia Gray, and Linda Butcher, and with their permission, utilizes some of the materials from that project.  http://ozstudentsabroad.com/

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Experiencing Italy

The last two days have been a whirlwind. Orientation began with an introductory seminar and a tour, followed by a tour of our neighborhood, and finished with two seminars, one of which we got lost on the way to! Later that day CIS Abroad treated us to a wonderful four course three hour Italian meal. Needless to say I left the apartment at 8 am that morning and didn’t return until 11 pm! There was just so much to see! Yesterday after a full day of exploring the city and running errands to get settled into my new home, FUA hosted a welcome reception with a buffet and desserts. Today is the first day to take a breath, relax, and prepare for the start of classes on Monday! At this point, any initial assumptions I in initially had coming into this experience have been changed. The main thing I have noticed is that there is a huge difference between the tourist parts and the local parts of Florence ; especially when it comes to the restaurants. In the tourist-heavy parts of Florence, there are extra charges in restaurants for tourists called a cuperto. This is charged per person and can range from 1 to 4+ Euro, many tourists are unaware of this. The service is good enough, but usually gets worse if they find you will not be tipping (tipping is uncommon in Italy, as the employees make a living wage, but many servers have come to expect it from Americans).Servers will sometimes say this to Americans, regardless of if a service charge and/or cuperto was already charged, in an effort to guilt them into tipping. At a local establishment, there is rarely a cuperto, and if there is, it is often very low. The staff are friendly, though rarely speak much English. They encourage American guests to practice their Italian and provide excellent friendly service. I will attach a picture below of a note our server made for us when we were inquiring about various Italian phrases. I have also learned a lot about what is and is not socially acceptable here, there are many things we do with out thinking in America that would shock or disgust the locals in Italy. Some examples are: asking for food to go after not quite finishing a meal at a restaurant, eating while walking in general (food is meant for the table), coffee sitting down or to go, asking to change something about the menu while ordering (this is very rude to the chef), and various others. I will try to update these as I find out more!

Ciao!

-Alexis

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Week 3 in China

Week 3 in China and we have officially left Xiangtan.  After almost 2 weeks in the same town it feels nice to have a change.  Our first town we visited is Zhangjiajie which I had been looking forward to for a while.  We got to visit so many mountains I can’t pronounce the name of and saw so many sites in china that were just beyond gorgeous.  We got to hike the mountain where avatar was filmed, as well as go to Tianmen mountain where there’s a cable cart to get to the top of the mountain, a glass bridge on the side of the cliff to walk, a suspension bridge between cliffs, and escalators built INSIDE the mountain.  This mountain was insane and absolutely beautiful I need to come back.  Before leaving Xiangtan we had one last lesson and it was on Chinese diet.  I loved this lesson cause it was very interesting to see where their diet views come from.  I learned they base their diet off seasons and the 5 elements (fire, earth, water, metals, wood).  Each element has its own specific color coordinated with it, and is assigned to a specific season.  The color coordinated with the element represents the type of food you should be eating that season.  So if the color is yellow, you want to be eating yellow foods like a banana.  Each season also focuses on a specific organ or part of your body that is being treated during this time of the year.  I wanted to learn more in depth about this because there is just so much to know, so I’m hoping to get a book on Chinese diet and Chinese history to learn more about it, As well as possibly coordinate their diet into my life.  I was very amazed by their diet, I agree with it so much and I love that when they talk about food its not about what taste good (even though it taste amazing), but is about what IS good for your body and organ system.

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Week 2 in China

Week 2 in China has been amazing.  Adjusting to the culture differences was hard at first, but I really feel like I’m adapting well here.  I’m loving the food here and am adapting to the amount of spice they put in everything! This week we got a few new members added to our group who are from the UK and they are already tons of fun.  This week we had lessons on the Chinese language.  We were taught some basic vocabulary that’s useful when beginning learning Chinese and taught how to pronounce their alphabet.  I give props to anyone who learns Chinese as a second language.  It is very difficult and their whole language is based off 4 basic tones which makes it difficult to learn how to pronounce things properly.  Last week we studied  Chinese massage.  Had massage done on us, then we were taught the techniques and practiced them on our partners.  This week has been more focused on acupuncture.  We studied meridian channels and got the opportunity to practice acupuncture on ourselves.  I loved how hands on our training was.  Lastly to finish off the week we got to visit an herbal garden, and be taught the properties and benefits there are to each plant.

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Travel!

Since I came a few days early with my grandparents, my initial post is occurring from within Italy after my arrival and recovery from the extreme jet lag. I do have a few pictures from the ride to the airport I will attach as well. My initial thoughts before arriving were that this place seemed almost imaginary. People were constantly telling me how wonderful it was and how it was a great experience and that I would have a wonderful time, but all I had seen of Italy was out of a book or movie. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, all I could picture were these fairytale images! I expected the language barrier to be difficult, since I do not yet speak Italian, and was told the people were friendly and welcoming but that they, and the city did not always smell the best. These were my first thoughts heading into this adventure. Orientation is tomorrow and I will follow up afterwards about my reaction to actual Italian life as well as how my orientation went!

Ciao!

-Alexis

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Day 32

We are headed home.. I am so sad to be leaving. I feel like I learned a ton on this trip and am so happy I went. I feel like China could be my home one day. Everyone we met was extremely nice, and even with all the differences in culture this country is still amazing. I would love to come back in 10 years and see the differences and improvements they make. Hopefully I can do that. I will definitely miss all of the friends I made while abroad.

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Thank you Dr. Flatt and Mariano for the wonderful photos of days that I didn’t have any!

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Day 31

Today was a free day, some people went to the zoo or you could go shopping. I’m just going to talk about Hadeels presentation on traditional Chinese herbal medicine. She is against using the medicine if the ingredients are not layed out to the patients. She personally took a remedy that made her more sick than beforehand, she ended up in the hospital. I think this is a great reason that Chinese medicine should be more controlled. Although the government is trying to implement a ore controlled practice, in “small” cities such as xiangtan the practice of medicine can be done by anyone. You don’t need even a certificate. This is scary because you could get a doctor who truly knows there stuff or you could end up with someone who doesn’t know their knee from their elbow. Dr. Li actually has no qualifications which make him a doctor, he is just extremely good at his job. So basically at this point everything is on word of mouth. I think integrating western and Chinese medicine can lead to problems such as Hadeel’s not happening again.

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Day 30

The class went to the Great Wall but again I was sick so I stayed in bed. This piece of history is legendary. It was built to protect the Chinese empire from Mongolian invaders, obviously it wasn’t perfect. But the fact that just humans with no machines built this giant symbol of strength is legendary.

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Day 29

The class went to the summer palace, but I didn’t go because I got sick again. I will be putting a photo in from there. Basically it is a beautiful giant garden with more pagodas and temples that you can visit.

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Day 28

Arriving in Beijing and getting to the hotel made this trip for me. We saw the forbidden city today. It was extremely crowded, so I never felt that it was very awesome. But the fact that the emperor had a whole “level” just for his wives, which he had tons of, is crazy. They had their own lives separate from him. It’s just weird when compared to how people live nowadays.

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Day 27

We visited the tai chi village today, which is in the middle of nowhere! You drive and drive and come across this small village and then enter these gates. It almost looks like one of the temples but the. You go through another gate and bam! It’s this giant open area with gardens and statues and giant buildings. I loved it! There is a whole museum on the history of Chen style tai chi. The guy who made it is very famous, at least in this circle. Every book on tai chi and movie is talked about or mentioned. Even the people who started the style are photographed as far back as possible. It’s really a wonderful place.

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