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Pre-Departure: Abby Goes to Peru!

Hi everyone!

It’s time! Here marks the beginning of my study abroad trip to Peru! I can’t believe it! I am sitting in the Dallas Fort Worth International airport right now awaiting my international flight to Lima and it still doesn’t seem real. As I told my grandma last night, I don’t think it will hit me until I get there.

I’m not entirely sure what to expect. Granted, I have researched for hours in preparation. But no amount of research is comparable to experiencing something in real life. I think that my host culture will be surprising. Peruvian culture is much different than American culture, so there will be a lot of adjusting to do. I am expecting culture shock and I have brought information about what to do when that sets in. I think that once I get past it, I will more easily dive in and try my best to live like a local.

I am both very excited and very nervous to spend four and a half months abroad. I have been planning this trip for months and months (six maybe?) and now it’s real life. Wow. I’m excited to learn the language, material from my classes, street smarts, how to live in a big city and how to do so independently, but I am most excited to learn about myself. For all of you who love psychology, you could say I’m still in Erik Erikson’s “identity vs. confusion” stage, which essentially means that I am still trying to answer the question, “who am I?” Hopefully this trip will continue to point me in the right direction. I am also looking forward to seeing many parts of the country and tasting all of their yummy cuisine.

As for the nerves, I’m past airport security, so those have definitely decreased. One of the things I have learned so far on this trip is that airport security makes me feel a little anxious. I also got a crash course on the best way to board an airplane, how to not hit people with my bags, and I learned that backing up to an open overhead bin once yours is full is next to impossible. As for the nerves pertaining to being in a new country, I have a lot of them. The first is homesickness. I’ve never been away from my family for more than five weeks, so four and a half months will be a challenge. I grew up in the country and have been on public transit less than five times in my life, so I am nervous about getting around a city as huge as Lima, which is home to about nine million people. Not being fluent in Spanish is another concern, as I have only taken through the 100-level sequence at WOU. However, I seem to acquire it naturally and retain it fairly well, so I’ve got that on my side. The last big thing that I am nervous about is breaking out of my bubble. I have a bit of anxiety when it comes to social situations, so this is hopefully going to be a time of growth for me. I have been mentally preparing for months to go completely alone to a country where I know nobody and only know a fraction of the language, so hopefully my personal pep-talks will get through to my stubborn self and I will make friends, talk to people often, learn lots of social skills (and Spanish), and it will all be fabulous.

I think that despite all of my worries, I will find that I am well prepared. I have done countless hours of research and have had plenty of time to prepare. I was raised to be smart, cautious, and independent. I am a natural problem solver and have learned how to be very resourceful. I have my faith, which helps me to be positive and see the bright side of all situations. I have God by my side every step of the way to guide and protect me. I am grateful for all of these things and because of them I am prepared.

Finally, I am so thankful to everyone who has helped make this trip possible: WOU staff, CISabroad staff, my CISabroad advisor Brian, who has put up with my multitude of questions, my family, and so many others who have been my emotional support, listened to me talk on and on about my trip, and given me advice and warm wishes. I am so blessed to have each and every one of you in my life.

Until next time,

Abby

Here are some photos to represent what I am expecting:

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Intro: Abby Goes to Peru!

Here's a a sideways photo of my face!

Here’s a a sideways photo of my face!

Hello all!

My name is Abby and I will be spending fall semester in Lima, Peru. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to study abroad in Australia. I had dreams of seeing the Great Barrier Reef, seeing koalas and kangaroos, spending time on the beach, and swimming and scuba diving in the ocean. While I still wish to do these things some day, my more immediate plans changed when I transferred to WOU this past school year. I switched majors from pre-dental to education in the process of transferring, and somewhere along the way I rekindled my love for the Spanish language and decided to also pursue a Spanish Bilingual endorsement. I have always heard that immersion is the best way to learn a language, so I started looking at programs in countries whose main language is Spanish. I knew I wanted to travel for a full semester, so that narrowed my choices a little bit. I then started looking into the courses offered at the universities so that I could stay on track to graduate, and the best option for me turned out to be Peru. I’ve heard great things about the country and did quite a bit of research about it, and made my decision. By the beginning of April I had been accepted into my program, had created a Pinterest board with dozens of pins, and I was very dedicated to my Spanish courses. Here I am, almost four months later, about to finally embark on this big, crazy, exciting, once in a lifetime journey!

I have the highest hopes for all that I will learn and accomplish during my time abroad, and I can hardly wait for it all to begin.

-Abby

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Day Before! Finale Coming!

With my program reaching its end. I definitely have no doubt in my mind that my feelings have changed since I have last left the U.S. I was overcome with many different emotions: the idea of being alone in a foreign place without any of my family close by, meeting new people for the first time, and being immersed in a whole new place where English is not the first language.

Now that I have been here for five weeks, I feel bad that I did not feel more excited about coming to Mexico because it is a great place to live with some great qualities to it. I honestly was nervous because I had no idea what to really expect. People are unpredictable, as such I try to avoid any conceptions before actually meeting someone or multiple people. At the very least, I imagined that my host family would be kind and help me feel accustomed. For the most part, I was right. I was blessed with a great host family who treated me well. I was hoping they would be a family I could talk and interact with when the time is right and this turned out to be the case. I did not see myself speaking with the locals too much since I am cautious around strangers, but I wanted to at least interact with some people, and I am glad I did in the end.

As for my feeling about returning, I am very excited to see my mother again and eventually my close friends as well. I feel as though, no matter where I am, I will always feel a sense of emptiness when I am not at home in Oregon. It is for that reason that I believe I could never live far from home, it would be too hard in my opinion. I do have mixed feelings though. I feel like just when I have really started to feel at home here, I already need to leave. I feel like I have developed a sense of place here, and it is ashame that I have to leave now when I am not so busy with homework and studying. It is funny, but I am filled with emotions just like in the beginning. The difference this time is that I am not nervous or scared of being Mexico, but actually a bit sad to leave. I believe all abroad programs are like this. One develops the sense of a second home and they must feel bad for having to leave it. It truly is funny how the world works at times.

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Countdown to Finale! New Friend’s Help with Catch-up!

The time in Mexico continues to pass by, and by this time, I start seeing that my time has not been completely well-spent. My upbringing has made me pretty shy with regards to going out and getting others to accompany me to places. I believe my host mom recognizes that too and has urged me lately to get out and experience more of the culture of Mexico. I have been to a few places already, but I know there is more I can still do. Another student from the U.S has joined us in the household and he is more extroverted than myself. He is always on the move and ready to explore. I cannot help but feel kind of envious. Nevertheless, the other student has helped me to get out and explore more of the city and we have even walked my host mother’s dog who has not gotten a walk in many weeks. We observed some wonderful art done on the streets near the roads and the steady stream that may be would have more of a common sight in France due to its calm appearance and rather wide length as well.  The “Mural” art was another aspect that captured my attention as well. in addition to the museum relics and art, the murals are quite prevalent in Mexican culture, and I thought the ones I saw were really well done and showcased the artistic side of the culture quite well.    We ended up going to a park and some were actually set up a bit like exercise equipment outside. I am not sure if they were wholly intended for the younger kids who come with their parents, but it seemed to be perfect for the other student to comically do exercise of his own. I think it may have been designed for those who maybe cannot go to the gym due to costs. I know Mexico is a country where the people make the most of what they have, and this is just one of many examples of its better qualities.

Classes continue to enlighten me more about the culture here in Mexico in different ways. In addition  to the usual practice with writing and learning of tenses, We learned about the different legends that exist in Mexico and how they can come in different versions. We were tasked with creating our own version, and I took the opportunity to notice how broad the legends are. From volcanoes and lakes, they each hold their old ideas and lessons that are fascinating: the concept of love and how its beauty can remain eternal, and the importance of obedience for the well being of oneself and the family around them. These lessons hold great importance in life, and the fact that they can be told via  legends is all the more reason to appreciate their existence. We also ended up learning more about the nature of superstitions and how prevalent they are in the culture as well. Many people in Mexico believe in superstitions and sometimes resort to utilizing the services of supernatural mediums to turn their lives around when things do not go so well for them. It was an interesting category to discuss since most people in Mexico are of religious (mostly Catholic) faith. Much like with parties, it serves as a means of alleviating the harshness that work and other responsibilities can bring.

With the countdown towards returning already well underway. I believe this last week will be the most interesting of all of the weeks so far, as well the most stressful

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London Week 2

Visiting London and the surrounding area of the United Kingdom has provided me with a sense of a vastly different culture, or I should say a sense of cultures. The diversity found in the city is greater than I have seen in any other place. Before coming to Britain, the greatest real-life example of diversity I had found was on-campus at WOU. I have heard more unique languages spoken aloud in the last two weeks than I had previously heard in the entirety of my experiences. The city here reminds me a lot of the big cities back home. However, there is a much greater sense of community here than I pick up in big cities of the U.S. Perhaps this is due to the close proximity of everyone in town. People of all races and classes appear to travel on the same path everyday. The trains and tube are always packed with all kinds of interesting folks that do not seem to mind being so close to everyone else around them, and it does not seem that anyone is deterred by the thought of using public transportation either. At home, the public transportation has certain negative connotations, whereas here public transport is just a part of the routine. The public transportation system also seems to be fairly well maintained compared to the systems I have seen back home.
Another aspect of the culture that lends to the sense of community here is the tradition of the pubs. No matter where you go, you are bound to find an assortment of these establishments. The pubs are always bustling during lunchtime, and especially after work hours. It seems that people here do not see alcohol as a negative influence as we do in the states. The people here are used to just grabbing a beer with their colleagues during the day, or after work without thinking twice about it. In the U.S. society in general has a very different attitude towards alcohol; alcohol is a forbidden fruit and people who drink may be judged for their choices. I think this attitude breeds the issue of young people feeling the need to drink to excess. The bars in America are often filled with people who are making a scene and taking things too far. In contrast, I’ve noticed that people here are more apt to go to the pub for socializing with friends and family; pubs are less about the actual drinking and more about the community aspect here. Of course there will always be a bit of mischief associated with overconsumption anywhere, but it doesn’t seem to be a major issue.
A final note on pubs: I was very encouraged when my friends and I were in a local pub and we noticed that not a single person there was on their phone. This was quite a novelty because back in the states, it’s almost a guarantee that half of the people in a restaurant or other public place will be staring at their phones at any given moment. It was refreshing to see that people were very present in the moment and not concerned with whatever social media had to offer.

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Second Week in London!

Hello all!

I have learned many new items following British culture in my mere two weeks of attendance,you can see a different in speech and the written word all around the city in its people and signs. For example they use alternative words for insults, clothing, and phrasing such as knickers for panties. It is interesting to see the contrast in language as both the British and Americans speech English, however use different words for different meanings. You can see the roots of the linguistics’ and at what point the two split in history; it is more apparent being within the city.

British culture additionally has scenery of different that provides to its surrounding culture. The buildings in many of the neighborhoods, even though some are new and involve more modern looks, hold the structure of its original design. Some even have the old stones in which they were originally built as well. It gives London a sense of timelessness as some portion seems to have been stopped in the 18th century, or even earlier. This is additionally seen in the British Museum and the artifacts that it holds. There are many pieces, not only from the Kingdom, but from all over the world that attribute to the culture and it’s since of timelessness and maintain an aura of medieval. The collection of artifacts plays into the intelligence of the people within the city as well. The British seem to value intelligence in the early years of its community. Museums are maintained and multiplied throughout the kingdom, and schools are required to send their students to their grounds. To this point it would seem that the British schooling system is substantially different, and clearly more defined.  Most general courses are accomplished in the early stages of school, and upon entering college fine focus their skills for future career. Schools in the area are of a higher degree, and are generally in the Ivy League range. The college courses do not contain lectures required for a grade or graduation, as grades are no longer distributed and examinations lasting many days determine whether a degree is given.  I find the system of the schooling for the British the most interesting, and would like the Americans to adopt the system. It is a strong portion of the British culture and the types of individuals it produces to the outside world.

The last item of the British culture that was intriguing was their view on alcohol. It is not forbidden to the younger portions of the community as all ages are allowed in at all times. It is also considered normal to go to the pub after work for a drink, or have a drink during dinner. In the British culture drinking is a social item of interest, not a method of becoming obnoxious as is “normal” in American society. Many things in British culture that are forbidden in American culture are made differently because they do not adhere to obnoxious behavior or try to “hide” like to younger generation. You can assume that the idea of adulthood is made known early on. Overall there are many items of interest that make up the British Culture that have shaped my perspective, however the journey continues in its quest to further my knowledge!

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Week 3 in Spain

Hola!

I am starting to feel like a month in Barcelona is the perfect amount of time! You can see all of the gorgeous sites, you can enjoy the weather, but just when you start to get homesick, you only have 5 days left! Luckily for me, I get to stay a few extra days because my parents decided to come visit spain as well. So even though I will be traveling en extra two and a half weeks in Europe, at least it will be with people I’m familiar with.

I made an effort to visit the beach more, and its so worth it. The water is warm but refreshing, the sun is hot, but there is a constant breeze too cool you off. I really like the fact that not once haveI felt nervous or uncomfortable here, either traveling by myself or in groups. I can’t believe I was so worried about safety!

Im also coming to the realization that I have to ay goodbye to some really awesome people… My Aussie roommates are hilarious and so easy to get along with, and with my two west coast friends I feel like we have known each other forever! And another girl from Ohio is one of the sweetest yet craziest people I know! Goodbyes are always hard, but not knowing when I will see these people again is tough.

On the bright side, I real have enjoyed my cross-cultural psych class. The teacher is very laid back, and discussions are very much directed by us students. It is one of the first psych classes that I truly wake up excited to go to!

Anyways, it is bitter-sweet that I am in my last week of the program, but I anticipate that it will be one of the most memorable things I do in life <3

Adios! Chao!

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London week 2

So, I have finished my second week here in London. It has had its ups and down. On the plus side I got to travel to Scotland this last weekend and I got to see the beauty that it holds. I finally got to ride on a open air double-decker bus. I took a tour of Scotland while sitting on the top of the bus. It was really nice not to have to take pictures through a window.

I climbed a hill called The Tor. it is a 518 foot hill and the climb is almost vertical, but I made it to the top and the view was well worth the climb.

I have made some really great new friends, many of whom I am already Facebook friends with. they are the kind of people that I know I will keep in touch with for a very long time.

On the down side, I learned that even with all its benefits, the train transportation isn’t always the best. I was stuck on the train for an extra 2 1/2 hours on my way back from Scotland due to electrical problems. 2 1/2 hours is a long time when you can’t really get up to move, there are screaming kids, and no bathrooms. But I made it back in one piece. Then, while changing lines on the tube some one stole my plug adapter out of my back-pack. they aren’t kidding when they say watch your stuff carefully on the platform.

All in all it has been a great trip. I have learned a lot and see a lot and I still have two more weeks to go!

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The End, and the Beginning, of Another Amazing Week

Before I start throwing out all the words, here are some visuals to help describe my adventures for the last week!

British Museum- Armor   Platform 9 and 3-4   Vegetarian English Breakfast- Glastonbury   Arthur and Guinevere   Glastonbury Tor- Group   Bagpiper

Hot Sass in Scotland   Scotland- A View from Above

From left to right, and up to down. (1) Armor from the period of Roman Britain (what the Hobbits may have had in their collection, and what Arthur and Lancelot would have worn: British Museum, London. (2) Headed to Hogwarts, at platform 9 and 3/4: King’s Cross Station. (3) The Traditional English Breakfast, with Vegetarian Sausage: Glastonbury. (4) The (supposed) original tomb of the legendary Arthur and Guinevere: Glastonbury Abbey. (5) A group selfie, with Glastonbury in the background: Glastonbury Tor. (6) A bagpiper: Edinburgh, Scotland. (7) Glorious Hot Sauce: Edinburgh: Scotland. (8) The view from above: Edinburgh: Scotland.


After a little over two full weeks in London, I am feeling pretty run down, and starting to get a bit homesick. But even though it has been overwhelming, I am having the time of my life.The trips never end! With two classes, I am going on about three to four excursions per week. This last week, I went to the British museum (3 times!), the British Library, Glastonbury (the first burial site of the legendary Arthur and Guinevere), Lacock (a village where some Harry Potter scenes were filmed), and Scotland (a personal trip). I didn’t think that it was possible, but I had even more fun this week than I did last week. I was able to admire many items and locations that inspired my inner (or outer, it is obvious) English nerd.

One of my the fun locations for this last week was the British Museum, three times. Now, this may seem like overkill, but I still have not seen everything that that museum has to offer! It is the biggest building I have ever been in, and more items stored than would fit in our university. Someone could go there every day of the week, and still not feel as though they had seen everything, not to mention they change the exhibits often. You would think that such an awesome museum would be expensive, but entrance was free! Of course, I still had to buy some books at the gift shop, since I didn’t have to spend money on admission. �� I also bought some books at the British Library, which was the most amazing archival/English experience that I have ever had. Our class explored the treasures room, which includes such original documents as Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (My absolute favorite novel) and Beowulf, written in Old English (My favorite Epic).

Glastonbury was absolutely beautiful. I got to see the ruins of the Glastonbury Abbey, as well as the tomb that the legendary Arthur and Guinevere would have been buried in (of course, this is all legend). And I also got to climb up to the Tor, in which one can see to “the ends of the earth.” I am not exaggerating when I say that this was the most beautiful view that I have ever laid eyes upon; I felt like I was on top of the world: it actually inspired some tears.

Lacock was a cute little village, which is apparently a prime filming spot, as there was filming going on during our visit. This cut off our access to the Harry Potter film sites that we had come to see, but it was still fun to explore pieces of the little village. I had some delicious dark chocolate, and took a picture as an English prisoner.

Scotland was my favorite trip. Although Edinburgh is also metropolitan, it was much quieter and less crowded than London. Also, residents have worked very hard to protect the look of the city; new construction has to fit in with the old buildings. This makes it very fun to visit, as you really get the feel of a complete city, rather than the parts and pieces that arise in London. I also appreciated Scotland because the people there were much nicer; they smiled at us, an occurrence that is rare in London. I was also able to hear multiple Scottish accents; it is easy to tell which accents come from a “higher” class. Hearing the “lower” class accents made me feel like a fit in a little more, since I always feel like I am mumbling in London; I couldn’t understand the “lower” accents that ran together. Now I know how Londoners feel when I talk to them; I should get a cone installed on my neck…

I am still discovering cultural differences, every single day. One of these was quite shocking. This last weekend, I decided to chop all my hair off in Scotland, (don’t worry, I have been planning on doing this for forever,) but I could not find a barber shop that would serve me. Apparently, even with a short cut, barbers only cut male hair in Scotland. When I did find an actual hair salon, a woman, not a man, had to cut my hair. This was pretty surprising to me, as it is not like this in Oregon. I felt a little bit oppressed, even though I know that this was not the intent.

Even though I am feeling a tad homesick, since I never have time to sit down and just relax, I can’t picture living in the states for the rest of my life. As I stated in my last post, I am seriously considering graduate school in the United Kingdom. And even if this does not happen, I will definitely be coming back to visit even more places next year, such as Ireland and Paris.

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Finally Home

It feels really good to be home to be honest. I missed my family and friends, so it’s nice to see them again. However, there also has been some adjusting that I am currently doing. First off, I had to stay in a hotel an extra day after the rest of the group left Ireland as I had arranged my flight to leave a day later. It was quite unusual for me to be on my own like that. However, I still had a great time as I visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity College, and other sites in Dublin. Fortunately, I made it back to the states without any trouble. Another struggle adjusting to life back home is the time zone difference. The difference between Oregon and Ireland is eight hours, so that is a big difference. I think I’ve adjusted now at this point, but it took quite a few days. I would wake up really early and still feel exhausted at the end of the day. I’ve also struggled getting used to not having to do something everyday. It’s quite a bit more boring here than in Ireland. I’m so used to everything here, so I find it a lot less interesting here in Monmouth. Finally, I’m getting used to remembering to do more homework. I have an essay to write before the end of August. I need to write it soon so that I don’t forget all the details from my trip. Thankfully, I have photographic proof of what I did, so that’ll help. I loved that I was able to do this, and I hope to someday go back to Ireland someday.

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