Category Archive: Travel Blogs

A Semester in Spain: Allison Loderbauer

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Name: Allison Loderbauer

Majors: Elementary Education and Spanish

Program: Bilbao, Spain – Spring 2018

Why did you choose to study abroad?

One of my majors is Spanish and I knew the full Spanish immersion in Spain would really boost my Spanish skills. Studying abroad would allow me to experience a new culture for an entire semester while meeting new friends who also chose to study abroad. I was planning on studying abroad for just a few weeks during Interim or summer but I thought that studying abroad for an entire semester would give me a lot more opportunities.

Why did you choose to go where you did?

I really enjoy travelling and have had an interest in Spain since I began studying Spanish in middle school, so I knew that I always wanted to study abroad in Spain! I also knew that it would help with my Spanish skills since I am studying Spanish as a major and studying in Spain is complete Spanish immersion. All of my classes are taught in Spanish. Bilbao is a semester long program and the city has a lot of activities. I thought that Bilbao would be a better fit for me than the other programs in Spain that were offered.

What’s the best part about studying abroad? Favorite experience?

I really enjoy the opportunities for travelling that you have while studying abroad. Since Spain is in Europe,28154580_154084948610731_6795727465978265600_n travelling to other European countries is pretty cheap and I have been/will be able to visit many countries during my time abroad. You also meet a lot of great people who are also studying abroad that are willing to travel with you. Honestly, what’s better than travelling with a great group of friends? It really helps you bond with other students and make lifelong friends and memories!

What did you struggle with? How have you overcome it?

I am incredibly close with my family and so I became really homesick when I was about a month into my program. I also was sick during this time so I did not want to leave my room a lot which did not help. In order to overcome it, I made sure I kept busy. Once I started hanging out with other students, I became less and less homesick. Even if it was just going to a cafe or going for a walk, just getting out of my room so I wasn’t thinking about home really helped. Every student who is studying abroad is in a similar boat. They left everything (except a suitcase full of belongings) back home and flew across the world to study without knowing many, if any, other students. Everyone gets homesick at times, and talking about it with others really helps. My friends in Spain, my host family, and my friends and family back home were all very supportive of me and that was incredibly helpful. Another struggle of mine is that I miss a lot of things that I take for granted in the United States. Whether it was not having to pay for tap water at restaurants, being able to go to Target or a store I am familiar with to get items I need, or even just going to my favorite restaurant and eating my favorite foods, the things that I’m so used to back home aren’t always available in other cultures. I have done a lot of positive thinking and realize that all of those things will still be there when I go back home and that I have to enjoy the time that I am in Spain with the friends that I made here and make the most of it. I never realized how fast time goes until I only had a set amount of days to do something. 18 weeks abroad might seem long, but it goes by SO fast. I want to make the most of it.

What advice do you have for those who want to study abroad?

Take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad if you are able to, even if you think it is out of your comfort zone. Some people would love to be able to travel the world and study in a new country, but they don’t have the available resources for it. It is difficult at times, but it will be a life-changing experience. If you study abroad, make sure you make the most of it right from the beginning of the program. I am already almost halfway done with my program and I felt like I just arrived last week. Don’t tell yourself “Oh, I’ll just do that next week.” If you keep putting things off, you don’t know when or if you will ever have that experience again. Seize the moment! Even if you may not feel like going out because it is raining or gloomy outside wherever you study abroad, try and convince yourself to so that you don’t regret not experiencing as many things as you can. You will never regret going on too many adventures, just the adventures you didn’t take.

28154006_1634090433343516_9151310796389613568_nHow has studying abroad personally helped you?

Studying abroad has really put me out of my comfort zone, but it is really helping me with independence. Being over 4,000 miles away from everyone I am used to being around is really difficult, but I met people while studying abroad that have become my new friends and family. I made some of my best friends while studying abroad and I know that it will be difficult when I go back home and don’t seem them every day so I make sure to spend as much time as possible with them now. I already have so many memories with them that I will always cherish. I also have learned to appreciate the things back home that I miss so much while I am here, such as my friends and family, but that has not stopped me from having an amazing time with my new friends in Spain.

What are the differences between your home country and the country you are studying in? (Or states, if you are in the NSE program)

  • You have to pay for water in restaurants in Spain and you don’t tip waiters.
  • There is a TON of public transportation. I am so used to driving back home and in Bilbao, almost everyone walks or takes public transportation.
  • Obviously, the language is different. It takes a little bit to get used to hearing a different language constantly, but it really has helped me learn Spanish.
  • The cuisine is very different and even though it is very good, I sometimes crave foods that are only found in the United States.
  • They don’t have a lot of the same stores and restaurants as the United States so make sure to check different stores so you don’t overpay for certain things like groceries and basic essentials.
  • The different currencies are difficult to remember but you get used to it after a while!
  • They have a lot of different customs and traditions so make sure to research before you go! For example, to greet a person in Spain, you give them a kiss on each cheek. They don’t just shake hands like in the United States and that was a big change for me at first.
  • A lot of people in Spain live in apartments, especially in Bilbao, so the concept of everyone having their own house like most people in the United States do is different to them.
  • Being from the Midwest, I noticed that Midwesterns are way more friendly and willing to help more than in Bilbao. I have gotten some weird looks when I have stopped to help someone if they dropped something or gave up my seat for someone on the bus. It’s not a bad thing, I just don’t think the people in Bilbao are used to people stopping and helping them or smiling and saying hi to strangers as much as I am used to doing these things at home. (Don’t worry, not everyone is like that! Just make sure you look up their customs and mannerisms in whatever country you study.)
  • People in Bilbao, at least my host family, know a lot about the United States. A lot of nights in Spain, I watch the news with my host dad, and there are actually a lot of stories every day about the United States. You see how people all around the world take interest in other countries and when something major happens, it impacts them too, even if they don’t live in that country. I feel like the United States is more closed off to news of the rest of the world unless it is something super major, but even things that are minor in the U.S. make it on Spanish news sometimes and it is interesting to see how much the U.S. has an impact on other countries.
  • The weather is very different in Bilbao compared to Wisconsin. It’s not ever super cold, but if you do choose to study there, just remember a rain jacket and boots! :)
  • There are so many differences, but that just makes the experience more interesting! Yes, you will have culture shock at times, but it will also help you be grateful for the things you are used to and broaden your cultural mindset. If everything was the same as back home, you would have no reason to study abroad. Explore the world. It is worth it.

A Semester in Germany: Christopher Thomas

Name: Christopher Thomas

Major: Political Science

Program: University of Marburg, Hessen – Spring 2017

Why did you decide to study in Hessen?christopher

I decided to study in Hessen, because I have always been fascinated by the social history of Germany since high school. I chose Hessen, because that was where the European Central bank was located, EuroBank in Frankfurt. I also chose Hessen, because from my knowledge, Marburg University was huge school with a large exchange student population. The city, I was told was very scenic and young. All claims turned out to be true!

What did you like best?

Man! I do not know what I like best! It is hard to choose between the Doners or watching the sunset
from the castle in Marburg. It is extremely hard to choose.

How did you handle the different educational system?

American educational system are much more organized and guided, whereas I noticed the German
educational system is more independent and “loose.” I handled this by creating my own schedule
for how things were going to happen. I treated school like a Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm
job. I would wake up go to my classes and do work until 5pm Monday through Friday. I was
successful with this technique and learned a lot of things, while entertaining my social world.

christopher2

What was your biggest surprise?

My biggest surprise was the number of people that did not mind my presence and how people that are poor were treated. I grew up where you would see poor people commonly wondering the streets at night and loitering to find a place of shelter. I would see that in Marburg, however at night people that were displaced disappeared at night. I was confused, because I did not know where they all went and I still do not. I just assume the treatment of displaced individuals is more benevolent in Marburg than where I grew up. I also was astounded by how many people that I saw that looked like me and when I did not see people that looked like me I felt comfortable; and so did others. Where I live now, frequently when I walk into a store I feel like a threat to those around me. That was not the case in Marburg or Germany for that matter. I felt safe in my own skin and people felt safe around
me too.

What was your most memorable moment?

The most memorable moment(s) was playing with the ducks and talking to them when I was cooling
by the Lahn after class. The ducks would keep me company when I wanted to be alone, but did not
want to be alone.

National Student Exchange (Alaska): Maria Romfoe

Name: Maria Romfoe

Major: Environmental Policy and Planning with an Emphasis in Planning

Minors: Philosophy, Environmental Science

Certificates: Environmental and Business Institutions, Outdoor Studies

Program: National Student Exchange with the University of Alaska Southeast

 

maria1Why did I choose Juneau, Alaska for my exchange?

I decided to participate in the National Student Exchange because I wanted to experience something new.  NSE provides an awesome opportunity to travel somewhere new and actually get to know the area rather than just the face value as often is the case when traveling around.  I chose Alaska for my exchange for a couple of reasons:

 

 

  1. I wanted to go somewhere very different from Wisconsin
  2. I just kind of had a gut feeling that Alaska was the place for me
  3. I love the outdoors, and I wanted to travel somewhere beautiful –The University of Alaska Southeast campus is located between the ocean, mountains, and the Mendenhall Glacier
  4. I wanted to have easy access to outdoor recreation activities –UAS has an amazing Outdoor Studied Program where I was able to get credit for kayaking, rock climbing, and backpacking

 

What did I do while on my exchange?

  1. Rock climbed at the Juneau Sea Cliffs and in Skagway for five days
  2. Kayaked in Bristol Bay for a weekend where I saw whales and kayaked beside a couple of super playful seals
  3. Backpacked to the Grandchild Peaks Ridge and Granite Creek Trail
  4. Navigated in the backcountry using a compass and topographic map
  5. Summited Mt. Jumbo, Thunder Mountain, and Mt. Troy
  6. Received my Leave No Trace Certificate
  7. Went whale watching
  8. Hiked around the Mendenhall Glaciermaria4
  9. Jumped into Auke Lake
  10. Went sledding
  11. Had a lot of snowball fights
  12. Saw black tail deer, porcupines, bears, eagles, jellyfish, salmon, seals, sea lions, whales
  13. Met new friends from all over the US and the world
  14. Watched a lot of ski films
  15. Ate a lot of free food with my friends
  16. Attended get-togethers—ice skating, dinners, cookie decorating–for exchange students
  17. Visited an old gold mine
  18. Went to the Gathering of the Drums where I listened to tradition Tlingit drumming and ate fry bread
  19. Went blueberry, salmonberry, huckleberry, and highbush cranberry picking
  20. Became an active member in the Sustainability Club
  21. Worked as a journalist for the Whalesong Newspaper and the Student Alumni Association

 

What were some differences I had to get used to?

  1. UAS is an extremely casual university: you call all of your professors by their first name, Xtra Tuff rain boots are worn at every occasion, and people bring their dogs literally everywhere.
  2. Literally everybody knows each other. With a campus of 3,000 students (most of them completing their studies online), you learn everyone’s first name even if you don’t talk to them.
  3. A “large” class has thirty people in it. My largest class had twenty people in it, and my smallest class had four people including me.maria3
  4. It rains a lot in Juneau—it’s a rainforest. It is always very cloudy, so everyone has a holiday when the sun comes out.
  5. Even though Juneau is in Alaska, it is a lot colder in Wisconsin. Cold in Juneau terms is fifteen degrees Fahrenheit, while in Green Bay it gets down below zero.
  6. You can be ten miles into the backcountry and run into someone you know.
  7. Half of downtown closes down in late September, after tourist season is over.
  8. Living on a boat is completely normal.
  9. Juneau is isolated from the rest of Alaska because of the Juneau Ice Fields, ocean, and protected wilderness areas, so if you want to go to any other city you have to travel either by ferry or plane.
  10. Almost everyone fishes in the summer and loves to eat salmon.
  11. Seeing deer, bears, porcupines, and eagles on campus is pretty normal, and if you walk five minutes down to the harbor you can see seals, sea lions, and jellyfish.
  12. Fresh produce is crazy expensive but not as expensive as the grocery stores in rural inland Alaska. I thought paying three dollars of a pineapple at Aldi was expensive, but in Juneau a pineapple costs eight dollars, and once you get up to villages like Barrow they can cost more than twenty dollars.

 

What did I gain from my experience?

maria2I had the most amazing experience that I could ask for.  My classes and professors were phenomenal.  I made strong friendships with people all over the world that I would have never met if I didn’t go on exchange. I learned a lot and gained experience in multiple outdoor recreation activities with classmates I became very close to very quickly.  I climbed mountains, kayaked beside whales and seals, learned how to build personal anchor systems, learned rock climbing rescue procedures, learned basic avalanche rescue techniques, learned how to travel and navigate the backcountry, and how to plan and pack for excursions. I had such a great time with my Outdoor Studies courses that I will be returning to UAS for another exchange to finish the Outdoor Studies Certificate program.  Juneau it truly a magical place, and I can’t wait to return.

Studying in a Scottish Castle: Ethan Ahnen

Name: Ethan Ahnen

Major: Business Administration, emphasis in Marketing

Year in School: Sophomore

Program: Glasgow, Scotland – Spring 2017

 

Why did you choose to study abroad?

The University of Glasgow

The University of Glasgow

I chose to study abroad because I wanted to absolutely push myself out of my comfort zone. This is one of the most difficult disciplines to put yourself through, but the fruit it bears is immeasurable. Living my whole life in Green Bay, I also wanted to take this opportunity to travel out of the country. The longer you wait throughout life, the harder traveling is to do.

 

Why did you choose to go where you did?

I chose Glasgow, Scotland by narrowing my options down. This was my first time out of the country, so I wanted to live in a country where I spoke the primary language. This narrowed my choices down to the UK. I am also one who loves beautiful scenery and nature, so I chose Scotland. I finally picked Glasgow because I believed it was the biggest, most international, and most exciting city in the country.

A day trip in St. Andrews, Scotland

A day trip in St. Andrews, Scotland

 

What’s the best part about studying abroad? Favorite experience?

While living in another country was very interesting, my favorite experiences are from my trips. For the first three months, I went on a day trip around Scotland almost every weekend. They were with Student Tours Scotland (a company I highly recommend) and it let me see pretty much all of the country I was studying in. The University of Glasgow’s spring break is three weeks long. Thinking this might be my only chance to travel extensively, I traveled around Europe for all three weeks. My sister came with me to Italy for a week, but then I traveled my myself for the last two weeks. I then came back to school to finish my classes. After that, I went on one more weekend trip to Paris and Dublin before I had to come back as I wanted to make sure I got to visit France and Ireland.

 

What did you struggle with? How have you overcome it?

I’ve not only grown up in the same house in Green Bay, I still live in it because I commute to UWGB. Since that was the case, I struggled at first getting used to living on my own money. If you live on campus and have already dealt with this problem, it probably won’t be an issue for you. This was not as difficult to get used to, but it just took time. I also had troubles adapting to a new culture, especially academically. At UWGB, I’m used to continuous testing or assignments to keep my course knowledge in-check. This is extremely different, however, at the University of Glasgow. At that school, they only give you lectures and then they grade your whole work for the class based on usually one paper and one final exam. The work put in is also much more than I thought. It was hard at first, but it just took some discipline and thought to adapt to how students do work over there. Once I got used to it, it was just a continuous process like it is at UWGB.

 

How has studying abroad personally helped you?

With friends at Devil's Pulprit, a local ravine

With friends at Devil’s Pulprit, a local ravine

Studying abroad may have gave me an invaluable insight into how the world works and a more cultured world view, but I am the most grateful to how it has developed me as a person. This may sound cliché, but it is absolutely true. Like I stated earlier, I was somebody who still lived at home, never left the country, and almost never went anywhere without somebody else. There was nobody else from UWGB going to Scotland when I went and I had no friends that were coming or were living there. I traveled by myself to another country, lived by myself for the first time, made new friends, and thrived in a new environment. Even though I spent a lot of time with my new friends, I wanted to travel to places they didn’t. I was not going to miss my shot. After traveling through Italy with my sister, I again traveled solo across Europe for two weeks straight. Then, I traveled to France and Ireland by myself once again. Did everything go according to plan? Absolutely not. I hurt myself while traveling, I missed a flight, and I had to find my way back to my hostel in Budapest without a map after my phone died, to name a few. To overcome these setbacks, I had to find new routes, change plans, and problem-solve on the spot. I am no longer the guy that only knows what it is like to live with his family in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I am now the guy that has traveled across 20 different cities and 10 different countries by himself. I am the guy that adapted to a new culture and life-style on his own. Not only has studying abroad made me a better intellectual, it has made a better individual in my everyday life.

The Danube River, Budapest, HungaryWhat advice do you have for those who want to study abroad?

Be the change you want to become. I wanted to be more of a risk-taker and live in the moment, so whenever there was an opportunity to do something, I seized it. Because I did this, I either have funny stories if they were failures, irreplaceable memories if they were a success, and no regrets. Make sure you reach out and really get to know others around you. Almost all the friends I made abroad were either my flat mates or other students I knew from the university. They also don’t have to be people from a different country as all of my friends were from the United States, but they were all from different parts of the country. On a more personal note, make sure to bring a journal or write a blog. I am not a writer in any sense of the word, but my sister (who also studied abroad) made sure to get me a journal to write in. Write down places, dates, people, and experiences you encounter. It will give you a neat view of your thought process at that exact point in time. I didn’t journal every day, but I made sure to write about all my traveling and certain experiences with friends. I am also not a picture person, but I took over 3,000 photos while abroad, so make sure you are not shy about using your phone or camera. I took an SD card for physical storage and used Google Photos (free unlimited cloud storage on any device) for my online storage. Lastly, make sure you seize and cherish every opportunity you have. You will eventually leave your host country, your friends, your travel destinations, and your experiences. They, however, will never leave you.

 

Teaching Abroad: Brooke Soto

Brooke Soto

Teaching Abroad

My Class at the British Berlin School!

Major: Education

Year in school: Senior

Program: Teaching Abroad at Berlin British School

 

 

 

“Teaching abroad has been a life changing opportunity for me. I am experiencing new cultures, languages, and people. I am also discovering different teaching strategies that I believe will make me a better teacher.”

 

 

Why did you choose to teach where you did?

When opportunity knocks… open the door! I first heard about teaching abroad this past spring. A guy came in to talk about how he student taught in France and how he is currently teaching in France because of this. After class was done I went and talked to him about how he was able to do this. He told me about a program, through the school, that allowed him to pick a country and teach there. I knew this was something that I had to do. With my love of traveling and my desire to teach, I applied to teach abroad and (spoiler alert) was accepted! My first choice was to teach in Vienna but God had other plans for me. I wasn’t able to teach in Vienna but was accepted to teach at the Berlin British School in Germany.

 

What were somethings you had to get used to living in Germany?

There are many thing that I will have to get used to.

1. Most stores (including grocery) are closed on Sunday.

2. Your life doesn’t revolve around your schedule… it revolves around the U-bahn, S-bahn and Tram schedules.

Berlin Blockade and Airlift

3. You can’t be soft spoken.

4. It will feel like leg day every day.

5. If someone tries to hand you something, don’t take it. They’re probably trying to take something from you or get you to buy it. Also, your purse is your best friend so always keep a hand on it.

6. Don’t smile. It’s considered flirting. But for real.

7. If you need help with translating or getting somewhere just ask. People are typically very friendly and then you have a new friend.

8. Almost every building has some sort of historical significance. So take lots of pictures.

9. Yes, there is a McD’s 2 blocks away and you did pass a BK’s on the S-Bahn but…. TRY NEW FOODS!

Living in a different country provides opportunities that may never come again. Being adventurous is the best way to enjoy my time here.

What are some things you enjoyed learning while abroad?

Walking around Berlin there is history around every corner. It’s amazing what I’m learning along the way. I discovered that there is an abandoned airport in the middle of Berlin.

bogIn 1948, Soviets cut off West Berlin from having access supplies. This was done because West Berlin was located in the middle of the Soviet’s portion of Germany. They were afraid of what might happen if the anti-Soviet West Berliners united against them. In response, Operation Vittles was formed. Within the next year the Allied forces sent around 2.3 million tons of cargo to West Berlin to keep them from falling apart. The Berlin Airlift is a memorial (located in “Platz Der Luftbrucke”) to those who died trying to help the people of Berlin get the supplies they needed.

Want to read more about my experience abroad? Follow my personal blog posted below!

https://brookelynnsoto.wixsite.com/brookeingermany

A Semester in Germany: Emily Van Rossum

 

Name: Emily Van Rossum

Majors: Democracy and Justice Studies/Spanish

Year in School: Sophomore

Program: Semester at IUSP Phillips Univerität Marburg, Germany Spring 2017

 

Why did you choose to study abroad?VanRossum S17 Phillips sign

I have been dreaming about studying abroad my entire life, since I was about 5 years old. I did not know exactly     where I wanted to go, but I knew it would be in Europe. My mother had studied abroad in England, and my father had spent some time in Germany as well, so they were very supportive in my spending a semester here. The UW system has a great study abroad program, which was a quality I valued when looking at attending college. I had also grown up to know that living in a different country will bring countless benefits to your future life, so I continually worked towards setting up my academic plan in such a way that I could have time to fit this into my curriculum. Starting early has paid off in my case, because I’m not behind in credits, and am actually still on track to graduating on time.

 

 Why did you choose to go where you did?

Many people have been surprised that I chose to study in a German city when I am earing my degree in the Spanish language. I chose Marburg for a few reasons. First, I wanted to explore the most of Europe that I could during my time abroad. There is rarely another period like this in life that will allow you to travel to so many places in such limited time. Germany is centrally located in Europe, which warrants many opportunities for adventure. I have a strong German and Dutch heritage, so curiosity about where I came from also influenced my choice.

 

What did you struggle with? 

The university itseVanRossum S17 Berlin Wall (1)lf is spread out all over the city, with buildings by the cafeteria, and also right across from Elisabethkirche, the church of Marburg’s patron saint. This might seem very daunting when coming from a school where all of the buildings are connected by tunnels, but I found that locating everything took a relatively short period of time. It’s similar to being a freshmen all over again. One of the struggles has been learning the bus system, but getting lost sometimes leads to finding new adventures; not always a bad thing.

 

Another personal struggle has been not knowing the language. I do have a language course I am taking here, and we learn a lot of helpful information, like how to navigate the German culture, words or phrases to order in restaurants, and what to look for when in a train or bus station. It takes a little time to adjust hearing German everywhere, but I have found that when I return to Marburg after being in a different country for a weekend trip, all the German sounds perfectly normal, even if I can’t understand the majority of it.

 

 

How has studying abroad personally help you?

Surprisingly, my time abroad has actually helped with my homesickness. I am one of those people that loves to stay in bed and watch movies all day, but being in Germany has helped me be more outgoing. I don’t have a TV in my room, so I find that I am going out more, taking weekend trips, and doing my homework in a different building, which helps me not to think about home so much. Of course I miss my family and loved ones, but I know they will be waiting for me as soon as I step off the plane in Wisconsin. My mission is to enjoy my time here and bring back amusing stories to tell. And to study of course.

 

What is your favorite experience studying abroad?VanRossum S17 Brandenburg Gate

My favorite experience in Germany so far has been visiting a blind cafe. Here in Marburg they have a special school for blind students, and the city itself is tailored to assisting them in leading independent lives. The bus stops have audible schedules, the sidewalk has specific ridges on it so indicate where a walking path is, and the crosswalks will all make a noise to signal that it’s safe to cross the street.

In an attempt to bring awareness to regular people who have their sight, there is a blind cafe in which the dining experience is done totally in the dark. The waiters are blind, and there is not one shred of light that helps you see your food. I had apple pie and ice cream when I went, and used my hands more than I used utensils to eat my food. It truly gave the feeling of not having any sight at all, and how it must feel like to navigate everyday tasks without being able to see.

 

What advice do you have for those who want to study abroad?

My first piece of advice for anyone planning to study abroad is to always be open: open to meeting new people, open to eating new foods, or open to listening to opposing views someone may have. Be open to finding a new bus when yours is not on time, and open to the new university system. Second thing is always have wet wipes. They come in handy more often than you think, and it is always good to have some on you. Three, there is never a shortage of German bakeries, and life is too short to not go and enjoy all of them.

 

I cannot wVanRossum S17 Disney Castle (1)ait to get back to America and see how much I really have changed without realizing it. Besides there being obvious differences in the language and the way the university is set up, I know I have habits that have been modified. For example, Germans usually only buy groceries for one or two days, never a huge cart full, and the stores are not open 24/7. I have now gotten in the habit of buying food for only a few days in advance, so I anticipate feeling a subtle difference at home. However I have changed though, I know that I will always look back at this adventure with great appreciation for such an amazing semester.

A Semester in New Zealand: Haley Stevenson

Haley Stevenson has been spending the semester in Auckland, New Zealand! She has also been keeping a personal blog to share her ongoing experiences. Interested in reading all about it? Here is the link to her online blog!

Live. Laugh. Kiwi.

Haley NZ S17

Haley NZ S17

Study Abroad Student Spotlight – Lauren Stockton

Lauren Stockton has been spending the year in Bordeaux, France! She has also been keeping a personal blog to share her ongoing experiences. Interested in reading all about it? Here is the link to her online blog!

 

Simple Solace

Bordeaux, France!

Bordeaux, France!

 

A semester in Scotland: Brittany Blohowiak

Brittany Blohowiak

Major: Mathematics

Year in School: Sophomore

Program: Stirling, Scotland – Fall 2016

Why did you choose to study where you did?

I chose to study in Stiring, Scotland based on the size and the similarities of the campus to UWGB. I have never been out of the country before, or away from home, so I thought that a campus that feels familiar would help make the transition easier. I chose Scotland purely because it is absolutely gorgeous and there is so much to see in all corners of the country.

 

What was the best part about studying abroad? Favorite Experience?

Reading Break in London

Reading Break in London

I have the most memories from trips that I took with my flat mates. During reading break I went to London and Oxford with my flat mate Maddie. We are both pretty big Harry Potter fans so we made it our mission to see all of the sites where the movie was filmed (very nerdy, I know). Of course we had to go to Kings Cross to get a picture at Platform 9 ¾, like every other tourist who likes Harry Potter, but it was well worth the wait.

Another highlight was my trip to St. Andrews. I went up there by myself and stayed for the weekend to see the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at the Old Course. To be in the birth place of golf was just surreal. My dad and I are pretty big into golf so I knew I had to make a point to get up to St. Andrews if there was ever a tournament going on.

 

 

 

 What did you struggle with? How did you overcome it?

Climbing Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh

Climbing Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh

The biggest learning curve for me was figuring out how to live on my own. I commute from home into college normally at UWGB, so I have never been on my own before in my whole life. Honestly, I have never done a load of laundry before coming on this trip. So it was a learning curve for me to determine what groceries I needed for the week, cooking healthy meals, while still studying and doing school work. I was anticipating being homesick because I have never been away from home for such a long time; however, it has not a problem for me. I think it was the fact that I adapted to the culture so quickly and became so close to my flat mates very quickly; they became my family. It is just astonishing to think that I have only known them for a few months, yet we know each other so well.

             Another aspect that was difficult was trying to balance school life and travelling. My flat mates and I usually would try to plan weekend day trips whenever we could because Scotland has cute little towns in every corner of the country. With the weekends booked it became harder to get my readings done, which lead to a few late nights on multiple occasions. I have learned to balance out when I have the time to travel and when I need to say no, in order to study.

What advice would you have for those who want to study abroad?

For anyone even considering studying abroad, I would tell them to go for it. I can honestly say that studying abroad has been one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. All of the new experiences, cultures and lifestyles that you face in day-to-day life makes it worth every penny.

 

Hiking up to the top of Dumyat

Hiking up to the top of Dumyat

How did studying abroad personally help you?

Studying abroad really helped me get out of my shell. I was never very involved in extracurricular activities and I am a quiet person to begin with. So, this whole experience helped me become more comfortable putting myself out there and making friends from allover the world. I can now say I can couch surf in places like Canada, Spain, Ireland, Paris and Copenhagen. It has been such a great experience for me and I am sure that it has made me more outgoing in return.

 

Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven

Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven

 

 

 

 

Want to read more about my experience abroad? Follow my personal blog posted below!

http://www.travelpod.com/members/brittany-b

A Semester in Puerto Rico: Ericka Bloch

Name: Ericka Bloch

Major: Spanish and Communication (Public Relations and Mass Media emphasis)

Year in School: Senior

Program: NSE to Cayey, Puerto Rico Spring 2015

Why did you choose to study abroad?

There were many reasons that I wanted to study abroad, but my main reason was to immerse myself in the language. It has always been a goal of mine to become fluent in Spanish, but simply attempting to learn the language here wasn’t giving me the results that I wanted. I knew a few people that had studied abroad in Spanish-speaking countries—one of which was my cousin—and they came back practically fluent in Spanish. Because I wasn’t really learning at the rate that I wanted to—partly because I was too afraid to speak and make mistakes—I wanted to force myself to be surrounded by the language.

The house we stayed in on campus. It used to be an old military base.

The house we stayed in on campus. It used to be an old military base.

Why did you choose to go where you did?

I had actually known where I wanted to study abroad since 6th grade. Throughout middle school and high school Spanish, we always had to do projects on Spanish-speaking countries and I usually chose to do mine on Puerto Rico. This was partly because we never really learned about it in our classes, but also because my dad had actually been stationed there for a few months while he was in the Marines. Honesty though, the real reason I became fixated with studying in Puerto Rico were the bioluminescent bays. The pictures that I saw online were enchanting, and I wanted to experience that in real life. The reason that I chose Cayey specifically, was because it reminded me a lot of Green Bay. The campus was small, and had trees and mountains surrounding it. It was also in a smaller part of Puerto Rico where I would more easily encounter people that would speak to me in Spanish, since almost everyone can speak or understand English.

What was the best part about studying abroad? Favorite experience?

For me, the best part about studying abroad was getting to immerse myself in the culture. While I was there, I took part in anything and everything, and talked with anyone and everyone. Once I started to make friends with the locals and they began to help me travel, and helped teach me about the culture. I also took a Puerto Rican history class, which was actually one of my favorite classes. I even got a little coqui tattoo on my wrist to remind me of the time I spent abroad.

Playa Tamarindo

Playa Tamarindo

As I said, traveling was one of the best parts of studying abroad, but there were two places specifically, that I enjoyed the most: Culebra (a small island off of Puerto Rico that has the world’s 3rd most beautiful beach) and the bioluminescent bay in Fajardo. It was a struggle to get to Culebra because you need to get to the ferry before midnight and wait in line for hours just to catch the 6 am ferry.  We had actually attempted, and failed, to go on two separate occasions before we were finally able to go. But the struggles, and the wait, was definitely worth it! Once we got off of the ferry, we went to Playa Flamenco which is considered the world’s 3rd most beautiful beach. The next day we also got to go to Playa Tamarindo where we got to swim with over 20 sea turtles!

 

This is a video of me hula hooping in Culebra:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xygJ0QcBVo

Kayaking to the bioluminescent bay in Fajardo

Kayaking to the bioluminescent bay in Fajardo

But by far, my favorite experience was getting to kayak to the bioluminescent bay in Fajardo. As I mentioned before, it had always been my goal to visit a bioluminescent bay. I had also visited the bay in Lajas, but we went during a full moon, and it wasn’t as bright as the pictures I had seen on the Internet. The one in Fajardo is the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. We had to kayak for 2 miles before getting to the bay, but the ride felt like it only took 15 minutes. Once we got there, we all got anchored together and had a chance to play with the water underneath a tarp so that it could be as dark as possible to see the glow. I was wearing a dark shirt, so when I threw the water on me, it looked as if I was being showered with stars. Even though it was close to a full moon, it still looked like all of the pictures I had seen on the Internet. As the kayak drifted through the water, a bright glow trailed behind. Visiting the bioluminescent bay was by far one of my most magical experiences.

What did you struggle with? How did you overcome it?

Truthfully, I was always struggling with something while I was there. The first things I struggled with were the culture shock and language barrier. When I first got there, I couldn’t understand anything that anyone was saying to me, nor could I really respond to them because my Spanish wasn’t the greatest. I was also afraid to leave campus for the first week or so because I didn’t know the area, or any of the people. It was easier to overcome the culture shock than it was the language barrier though.

Mofongo con pollo. One of my favorite Puerto Rican dishes.

Mofongo con pollo. One of my favorite Puerto Rican dishes!

To overcome the culture shock, I did a few things. First, I tried to put myself out there and talk to as many people as I could. I didn’t become friends with most of them, but once I did find a group of friends, it was easier to settle into my new life abroad. Having friends also helped with the culture shock because it was easier for me to immerse myself in the culture with their help. Once I started to see the culture through their eyes, it became a lot easier, and more fun for me. Same with traveling; once I made friends and started traveling to different parts of the island with them, I forgot about how overwhelmed I was, and really started to enjoy myself. Lastly, my campus also had a councilor that was free for students, so I would see her once a week to talk about what problems I was having. That really helped me.

I also did quite a few things to overcome the language barrier. Most people could speak, or at least understand English, so when I really needed help, I was able to find it. But because I was there to improve my Spanish, I tried to stick to strictly Spanish: Plus all of my classes were in Spanish so I had to be able to understand my teachers. First thing I did was talk to my professors after my classes on the first day. I explained my situation to them and they were all very helpful; they would even check up on me to see how I was doing throughout the semester. They really were there to help me succeed. Second thing I did was again, just tried to talk to as many people as possible to practice my Spanish. People were very willing to help me, both in class and out of class. I also went to the tutor three times a week, two hours a session, just to talk in Spanish. When I went to the councilor every week, I also used it as a way to practice my Spanish. I had started out talking to her in English, but eventually tried speaking in Spanish more each time I saw her.

23 postcards in one night!

23 postcards in one night!

The last thing I struggled with was home sickness. I ended up staying in Puerto Rico for an extra 3 ½ months, so I was away from my friends and family for a total of 7 months. I had never been away from home for that long before. Out of everything that had to deal with, that was probably the toughest because there wasn’t really that much I could do to relieve it. I did Skype with many of my friends, called them on the phone, and sent them postcards and letters, but it still didn’t help as much as I wanted it to. My family also came to visit me for spring break though, so some of my homesick was relieved through spending time with them. But I just tried to take advantage of everything that Puerto Rico had to offer me so that I didn’t think about how much I missed my friends and family.

What advice would you have for those who want to study abroad?

Me and my advisor, Aruturo.

Me and my advisor, Aruturo.

First of all: Just do it! Don’t worry about money, significant others, or anything else that might stop you. If you let those things hold you back, you’ll miss out on the experience of a lifetime. I almost let my fear of failing stop me. And if I had, I never would have met the people that I did, experienced what I did, or have accomplished my goal of becoming fluent in Spanish.

And if you experience culture shock or homesickness, there are ways to deal with it. Get out and meet people, explore the city, Skype your friends and family. It may seem hard, but I promise you will get through it.

How did studying abroad personally help you?

A mural of  a coqui and the Puerto Rican flag that I found on the side of a building. The coqui is known as the symbol of Puerto Rico.

A mural of a coqui and the Puerto Rican flag that I found on the side of a building. The coqui is known as the symbol of Puerto Rico.

Studying abroad obviously helped me to better my Spanish, but it really helped me develop myself as a person as well. I have definitely become more confident in myself. While studying abroad, I was pretty much all on my own to figure out what I needed. Being able to not only survive, but flourish in a country where I know nothing (no people, the area, nor the language) is an amazing feeling. There is no better confidence builder than throwing yourself out of your comfort zone.

Lastly, studying abroad helped me find myself. As cheesy as that sounds, I did a lot of self-exploration while abroad. When you put yourself into a different environment, and again, throw yourself out of your comfort zone, you learn so much about yourself. Part of this is because you have nothing, or anyone, holding you back.

 

Check out the blog I kept while in Puerto Rico!

Blog: http://raeofsunnshine.weebly.com/