Antarctic Study Abroad – Part 1

Danita Dahl is majoring in Animal Sciences through the College of Agricultural Sciences. To experience research in the field, she traveled to one of the remote places on Earth, Antarctica! This OSU faculty-led program combined in-class instruction, online activities, field activities and assignments to learn more about this interesting place. Read on to experience what it is like being Antarctica! 

FaceAntarctica is a vast continent with untamed beauty and remoteness that can’t help but to have an effect on its visitors.  The reasons I signed up for this adventure were two-fold: I wanted to travel to a place like I had never been before and I wanted to see what it was like to conduct research in the field under Fish & Wildlife.  During my journey I was able to connect the class experiences with my field experiences, but now that I have been back for two weeks, I still feel that I have not fully realized Antarctica’s personal effect on me.  It is a location that truly emphasizes how small we are in the world and yet how connected everything is.

Our last stop on the South American continent was at the current most southern city in the world, Ushuaia.  I say the most current because our guide in the area noted that there is an island just off the coast of this pleasant city that is becoming more populated over the years and may end up taking its title.  The day we departed Ushuaia the temperature was 7ºC.  It was cooler than Buenos Aires where we had come from, but was still nice weather since it was summer in the southern hemisphere in December.  Many of the members of our group noted the beach dresses and swimming suits in the shop windows and the fact that this did not reflect the local’s attire as they were all wearing jackets and long pants.

As we departed the port aboard the ship, I saw seagulls and during dinner we noted a large gathering of shag.  We had heard a lot in the classroom lectures about the Drake Passage that we would be going through around midnight that night.  Many of the researchers who had spoken to us during that time had stated that the Drake is not too bad until it is.  This is because this passage is located between Cape Horn and the northern tip of Antarctica where the Southern Ocean’s movement, previously unimpeded, must bottleneck through this narrow and relatively shallow waterway.  Even at dinner we were unsure what was truly waiting for us ahead.  Although we had been told by the captain that it should not be too rough, it did not put everyone at ease and much of the first conversations on the vessel were about possible sea sickness and the precautionary measures people had taken to dampen any effects of the new sensations of being on the water.

Much of these first days reminded me of summer camp since they were packed full of lectures, equipment hand out and fitting, safety drills, and environmental protocol briefings.  The vessel, the Academik Ioffe, carried approximately 100 passengers and crew.  Our group consisted of thirty of those individuals and we quickly broke into smaller groups in order to get to know each other easier – not on purpose of course, but this is what I have found happens when you are traveling in a large group.  Throughout the trip people transferred from group to group and we ended up getting to know each other pretty well.

On the first day that we awoke on the vessel we started our research objectives – which for us meant 15 minute shifts of bird watching from the bridge deck that were scheduled just prior to the meals.  Our journey through the Drake Passage had turned out quite mild and our weather was truly spectacular, although windy, with 4ºC air temperature and a long day in store starting with sunrise at 4:30 am and sunset not until 10:10 pm.  My group started the shifts that morning and we encountered many more species of birds than we had seen closer to shore.  We noted blue petrels, wandering albatross, cape petrels, and black-browed albatross in our log.  This change in diversity did not surprise me since in class we learned that you often see more types of pelagic seabirds further from the coastlines.  This also looked like a good start to our project since if this trend extended our full journey southward it would prove our hypothesis.Landscape

Many of us chose to spend any free moment outside admiring the vastness and trying to get the first glimpses of unique birds, any whales, or ice that was to be seen.  I found myself in awe of the flight patterns of the albatross – although we had learned of these magnificent birds in class you do not get the true value of the size or grace of these animals until you are close up in their environment.  This is also the time that I truly appreciated the fact that this enormous continent of Antarctica is out there and that over 90% of the world’s population of almost 7 billion people would never see it and never get to feel the rolling waves from horizon to horizon seemingly dropping off the end of the world itself.  I imagined being one of the first explorers and realized, quite clearly, why they might have assumed that the world was flat with an image of this water flowing furiously downward forming an implausibly large waterfall into nothingness.

That night, making good time at 12 knots, we crossed the Antarctic convergence, which is a climatic boundary between the colder water with lower salinity surrounding the continent and the contrasting waters north of the convergence.  This quick change provides a bounty of nutrients and is where the northern and southern foraging seabirds overlap.  We learned in class that this area provides significant support to the Southern Ocean ecosystems through an up welling of deeper water as well as the temperature regulation of the oceans as a whole.  This transition was quite noticeable to the passengers of the ship since the temperature at wake up was hovering around -1ºC.  However, this was alleviated with the lack of 12 m/s winds which had been replaced with mere 9 m/s gusts.

During my shift, just before lunch this day, was an eventful one.  We were the first to spot penguins!  They were porposing chinstraps off the port bow of the ship which occasionally stopped to preen themselves seemingly oblivious to the ship just behind them until we were almost on top of each other.  This day, December 20th, we also got the pleasure of witnessing humpback whales in action.  These two events made this day special to me since I and the other passengers became members of an exclusive few who get these memories forever.  The field work was conveying what seemed like a good trend of continuing progression of the seabird diversity with today showing the greatest diversity seen on the trip thus far.  This night it was difficult to sleep because we knew what that night and the following day would bring us – the first sightings of sea ice and the first steps onto land in the Antarctic!

To learn more about international opportunities at OSU, click here!

“Give it a Go”

Elliot Nelson is majoring in Political Science and minoring in Writing through the College of Liberal Arts. Last summer-fall semester he traveled to Sydney, Australia to participate in the IFSA-Butler study abroad program at the University of Sydney. Read on to learn about his experience being immersed in such a unique and exciting culture!

Elliot with a native koala“Give it a Go” are words that Aussies take pride in, and I initially heard them from a high-ranking University of Sydney official during my first time on campus at a meeting for exchange students. Although I felt like I knew what those words meant, I would later realize I didn’t quite have a grasp on them like I do now. The official said that while we’re on this finite, once-in-a-lifetime journey, it’s important to immerse ourselves in the culture of this world renowned city. Whether that be trying a “coat of arms pizza” with kangaroo and emu on it (Aussies are the only people in the world to eat the two animals that appear on their coat of arms) or simply enjoying a night out in the city near the largest natural harbor in the world, Sydney Harbour.

In front of the University of Sydney

I chose to study in Australia because, one, it’s about 8,000 miles away, so I didn’t know if I’d ever get the chance to visit again, and two, I’ve always had an urge to go to Australia since studying the breath-taking country in grade school where we got to go to Outback Steakhouse for a field trip. And yes, there are Outback Steakhouses in Australia.

I was nervous to go to Australia because I didn’t know anyone else going. I’d later find out that I was the only student out of about 45 in the program to be from a school on the West Coast. What I thought would be a bad thing ended up being possibly the best thing for me. I was able to connect with kids from across the USA, and realized that even though I was about 8,000 miles away and knew absolutely nobody, I could not only get by, but also thrive.

In front of the Sydney Opera HouseWhen my parents came to visit me at the end of my time in Australia, we went to Hugh Jackman’s Broadway to Oz show in Sydney. One of the stories he told hit home. He told the audience that when Steven Spielberg called him to ask if he’d host the Oscars, he responded by proclaiming, “Sure, I’ll give it a go.” Jackman was initially embarrassed because he couldn’t believe that he used the words “give it a go” in a conversation with Steven Spielberg. However, he realized it’s the Aussie way, and the Aussie way helped drive his career to where it is today.

KangarooIf a high-ranking University of Sydney official and Hugh Jackman tell you it’s the Aussie way to give something a go five months apart, then it really is the Aussie way. What changed for me when Hugh said those words towards the end of my trip was that I actually gave it a go in Australia all by myself and loved it. From eating Tim Tams to bussing up the East Coast in 9 days and 9 nights with 60 exchange students, I know that my experience is something that can never be taken away from me and gave me a new perspective on many things. I highly recommend going to study abroad anywhere—especially in Australia—because then you too will have the privilege of gaining a new perspective only studying abroad can give you that you can’t put into words.

To learn more about international opportunities offered by Oregon State University, click here! 

KOBENHAVN

Russell Barnes was a senior majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering through the College of Engineering when he studied abroad in an OSU exchange program in Copenhagen, Denmark. This program allowed him to take classes at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) for a whole semester. Read on to learn about the challenges and benefits of being abroad in Denmark!

Copenhagen, DenmarkIt wouldn’t be a proper blog post about studying in Denmark if I didn’t mention the part about actually living here!  Taking trips earlier in the semester worked perfectly because I was able to wind them down in the second half and spend more time in Copenhagen as the weather slowly improved.  I didn’t understand how seasonal affective disorder could exist until coming to Denmark in January when, even during the daytime, the sky still didn’t quite reach full brightness. It’s funny looking at the photos from earlier in the semester when it was dark, cold and snowing because our daylight hours now surpass Portland by about two hours, and they’re growing longer each day.

Something that I won’t miss about Denmark is shopping for food.  Grocery stores are small and with a limited selection, and, like most businesses here, their hours are shorter than what I’m used to.  Some stores call themselves 24 hours, but what they mean is that they’re open til midnight.  The packages of food are also smaller, so I wound up going grocery shopping with two to three times the frequency that I would back hoFoodme.  A good effect of this is that it’s easier to keep stocked with more fresh food when you’re going more often.  Also, I think it’s funny how bewildered people are when they see me eating potato chips with lunch.  They see chips like how we might see popcorn or Mike and Ikes: something that you only eat during movies or parties.

It has been awesome being surrounded by people from all over the world, and I have learned so much about different cultures and countries.  Some groups of students tended to band together with peers from their own countries, U.S. students included, but I tried to avoid doing that because the whole point of the exchange program is to be around people of other cultures.  In fact, I’ve barely seen the other OSU exchange student here, and I think that we’re both perfectly okay with that.  Even with that in mind, it’s still cool meeting other Americans here because everyone else is from the East Coast or Midwest.  Seeing how multilingual young Europeans are makes me wish that we had better language education, but I think that there is a lot more motivation for Europeans to learn other languages than there is for us because of their high language diversity and the utility of English skills in the working world.

 

To learn more about international opportunities offered by Oregon State University, click here!

Learning to be Flexible


Courtney Kutzler is a senior working towards an undergraduate Psychology and 
International Degree. Last year, she completed back-to-back abroad programs in Miguel de Allende, Mexico through IE3 International Internships and a faculty-led program in Costa Rica through the Department of World Cultures and Languages. Since returning, Courtney has spent her time advising students who want to go abroad with her position as an International Ambassador through the Office of Global Opportunities. Read on to learn more about her unique experience!

One of the 4 year old boys I worked with.jpgMy first few days in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, I was overwhelmed and felt as though I did not know a single word in Spanish. Throughout my first week, I was constantly lost and confused. As I explored the streets, I learned that many of the people I met were welcoming, understanding, and helpful.With the progression of the next few weeks, I could not stop smiling as I walked around in the community and at the daycare I was interning at. I knew I belonged there because experiences like cleaning up poop from one of the kid’s pants or dissolving temper tantrums, that can be seen as difficult aspects when working with children, only motivated me more to continue interacting with them.

One stormy day, I was invited to play soccer with some of the friends I had made (other volunteers and locals). The plan was to get together at 3PM, but we didn’t leave until around 6PM. When my friends arrived, we all piled into the bed of a pickup truck that rattled as though it would fall apart at the next speed bump. There was lightning in the distance and I could see storm clouds rolling in. My initial thought was that if we had left when we planned to, we wouldn’t have had to worry about the storm. In that moment, I reminded myself that this was just part of the adventure.

My friend, Noel, drove a few miles out of town to a seemingly random field. We got out of the truck with our soccer ball and started to warm up. The teams were boys versus girls. The game was fast and with the wet ground and the lack of soccer gear (e.g. shin guards and cleats) we were covered in mud, sweat, and bruises by the end. Even more noteworthy, we all could not stop laughing. This experience was one of the many highlights from my experience in Mexico.       During my time abroad, I got to practice Spanish and learn about the culture. I did this with my friends, colleagues, and the children at the daycare. I learned and experienced important aspects of the culture by trying diffA friend and I on a weekend trip to Guanajuatoerent foods, learning about the history of the town, playing/watching soccer and boxing, and talking with an open mind and heart to everyone I met.

One of the skills I developed that I am the most proud of is the ability to adapt and be flexible. When something was supposed to start at a particular time and didn’t (like playing soccer), I always would think of it as part of the adventure. At the daycare, a lesson plan or activity would not take the time that was planned or the children would need extra time or support to complete it. Or there was some time for unstructured free time. In these moments, I got the opportunity to think outside of the box and problem solve.

The challenges above helped me grow both personally and professionally. The patience and interpersonal communication skills that I gained through speaking in a second language, attempting to understand individuals’ perspectives different than mine, and applying the knowledge that I’ve gained at Oregon State University about working with cultural groups and with children are invaluable. I knew at the end of this internship that I would utilize these skills on future trips abroad, working with individuals from different backgrounds in the United States, and in my future career.

Immediately after my return from Mexico, I prepared for a study abroad in Costa Rica. I knew this experience would be different than my internship. I was anxious about possible problems, but I was able to embrace it and I was excited for what might not “go as planned” because I’ve learned that those experiences are usually the ones that stand out and are the most meaningful.

After arriving in Costa Rica, I found myself homesick from Mexico. At first, I felt like I Ziplining over the cloud forest!shouldn’t be homesick over a place that I had only lived in for 10 weeks. However, after reflecting further, I was thrilled that I had such a meaningful experience in Mexico that I missed it so much. I was able to apply many of the social skills I had learned in Mexico, but I was aware that the culture was different and I continued to be sensitive and learn from and about those differences.

In Costa Rica, one of the most significant aspects for me was to have a host family. At first, it was uncomfortable. My family was very welcoming and friendly, but I was still a stranger occupying their house. It took time and many discussions for us to get to know each other before I truly felt at home. I got a better sense of the culture as I talked to them and was included in family activities. One important activity was watching soccer with the whole family and all of their friends. My host mom would make a huge meal and we would all watch the game together. This summer, Mexico and Costa Rica played against each other during the Gold Cup. Of course, I was asked who I was going to be rooting for. I made the mistake of outing to everyone that I wanted Mexico to win. The whole night my family called me Mexicana and made a point to cheer every time Mexico messed up or if Costa Rica got the lead. This experience made me feel more connected with my family because all families have differences, and in the end, we were all still having fun and bonding. I now know that I always have a home in Costa Rica.

The classes I had in Costa Rica and the experiences with my family improved my Spanish speaking and understanding. Both experiences gave me the ability to be more culturally aware, tested my adaptability, and improved my understanding of two very different cultures. Mexico was an experience that centered around my work environment and colleagues while Costa Rica focused on learning Spanish and utilizing it with my family and the rest of the community.

My best advice to others planning on going abroad is to connect with as many people as possible. This can be done even with a simple genuine smile or by spending time talking to a stranger. These connections will be helpful while abroad and can be life-long academic, professional, or familiar contacts. Lastly, make sure to keep an open mind and take advantage of opportunities that occur when abroad. (I was told once to always say “yes”…of course, within reason.) These are the experiences that will create massive personal growth and memories that will always be with you.Dia de Guanacasta

To learn more about the international opportunities are OSU, click here!

Down at the Barbie

 3105824455Jarinn Settsu is a senior in Kinesiology through the College of Public Health and Human Sciences and an International Ambassador for the Office of Global Opportunities. Last winter/spring semester, Jarinn travelled to Sydney, Australia on an OSU Exchange Program for the adventure of a lifetime. Read on to learn about his favorite parts about being abroad in a strange, new culture!

My most memorable experience about studying abroad in Sydney, Australia was definitely, as cliché as it is, having barbeques by the beach. During the barbeques I had the unique opportunity to try some food native to Australia. I’m not talking koala burgers or quokka sausages, but I am talking about Kangaroo steaks and emu burgers. The reason why these barbeques were the most memorable experience of my time studying abroad is because it gave me the opportunity to interact with people who lived in Australia their entire life and from people from all over the world.

At these barbeques, there were people from the United Kingdom to Saudi Arabia, from Florence, Italy to Beijing, and all the countries in between. It allowed me to learn not only about my culture and the Australian culture, but cultures all over the world. It’s amazing to see how, no matter where you may live in the world, there are always things you’ll have in common with someone. The differences you may have, whether it be cultural or specific interests, are ways to learn about cultures from people who actually grew up in that culture and get a first hand account of their life and rich history of their culture.20150621_142856

The Australian culture, words can’t begin to explain the Australian culture…but I’ll try. The Australian culture is centered around the history of the native Aboriginal people. Because of this, it only seemed right to dive right into trying to learn the history of the Aboriginal people. One way I tried to immerse myself in the Australian culture was through the playing of the didgeridoo. Lets just say I’ll stay in school. But it was an amazing way to learn the stories and history played through the didgeridoo. Although we may come from all backgrounds, countries, and religions, there are some things in the world that people can bond over. Whether it be, food, music, and the desire to experience new cultures outside of our own. We just need to be open and willing to take the time to learn about cultures other than our own, and I believe studying abroad provides you the opportunity to do so.Sydney Darling Harbour (1)

I came to Australia wanting to learn more about the Australian culture, but I left with the experience of learning about cultures all over the world. That’s something that would take years of studying in the classroom, but I was able to in a matter of 15 barbecues.

Abroad, Friends and Sunsets

Graham DiNicola is a International Ambassador in the Office of Global Opportunities and a civil engineering major through the College of Engineering. Last winter and spring term, he studied abroad in Florence, Italy through API. In this entry, he shares some of his favorite memories from being abroad. Read on to learn more about the authentic Italian experience!

 Face_Picture“There are some days when no matter what I say it feels like I’m far away in another country and whoever is doing the translating has had too much to drink.” – Brian Andreas

Nearly everyone has those days dreaming about being far away from reality, but how many actually experience this dream where translating is necessary? Let me start by saying that based on firsthand experience, even if whoever is doing the translating is as sober as Sister Maria, there is nothing more that will stress you out than being yelled at by Italians. As you quickly learn, it is not the path you take that gets you yelled at, but the adventure (even if you do get lost) – and this journey is certainly one that will not be easily forgotten.

Embarking on a new scene in life is intimidating – looking at two bags, traveling to a new country with no familiar faces – now that is…. Let’s just say an experience that not many get. Traveling was nothing new to me, but accepting a new home in Florence, Italy – that was something I could never fathom, only dream about and it turned into reality.

People may say that study abroad opens up your eyes, and it certainly does; but living and studying in a new place does more than this. You become a new person, picking up on cultural aspects that many are often too blind to admire or take for granted. These realizations often come about from the people that surround you on this abroad experience.

Ian Bickerton was an older Australian Professor who wore two different socks that he claimed represented the Democratic and Republican parties and did this to demonstrate the contradiction that he is. Mix this in with his dry sense of humor, a colorful ascot, and his liberal view of the world; I was bound to learn more than just Globalization from Professor Bickerton.

Professor Bickerton was a man full of life lessons, many applicable to Florence. The first, flights are scheduled to be missed. Because of this, seeing Eisbach (the wave people surf in Munich, Germany), and enjoying a meal in Marienplatz in the shadow of Neues Rathaus became realities – did I miss my plane? No, but I was the last to board it.

Architecture_PictureThe second, I should wake up every morning and go to a bar (Italian – coffee shop) and read. If by the third morning the barista does not have my order memorized, I should find a new bar. This lead to the biggest realization that the Italian culture is focused on quality – their attire, food, wine, city (the list could be an entire blog itself). It purely is the Florentine way of life.

This quality was something that I was longing to return to even when visiting other cities and countries such as Venice, Rome, Cinque Terre, Greece, Switzerland, Germany, France, and Ireland – it was the glow of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (The Duomo) that greeted me home. The Duomo is something so ornate and colossal that started construction over 600 years ago – and is still being completed to this day.

That is one thing about Italians; they love the slow pace of life – even if it takes 600+ years to complete a task. Getting your day started at 8am, working at your own leisure, afternoon naps, two-hour dinners, and gathering in the plazas scattered about the city – this lifestyle is centered around enjoyment and happiness, something I got very used to. When the nights engulfed the streets of Florence, families would emerge, children would play in the plaza while the parents enjoyed a bottle of wine and the company of others – this gateway to darkness Sunset_Picturewas so beautiful, it can never be put into words.

Our nights would often start with live music, a glass of wine, and a view of the entire city of Florence at the Plaza De Michelangelo. These sunsets were so perfect that pictures could never embrace the full beauty. It was a reminder of the untouched beauty such a place and culture hold – for it was here that I felt humbled and the happiest in my life. This was quality at its finest – from structures to sunsets, it was this slow pace, fineness of quality, and recognition of the importance of happiness in that solidified the Italian culture.

FoodThis finesse in the Italian culture carried over to the best dinners I have ever experienced. Sitting down with the actual owner of Trattoria La Burrasca – where the menu was hand written every day based on what was available fresh from the Mercato Centrale – was an experience in itself. The meal over fresh caprese salad, gnocchi, and Florentine steak is something that one cannot simply arrange. It was an adventure that we stumbled upon – and from it gained a weekly dinner with an even better friend.

It was these types of experience that made me realize that study abroad was not just traveling and studying, but finding a new home – for when the tourist season arose, I was just as fed up with the amount of people that had flooded the city as an actual Italian. For over the course of a semester, I had learned more than I ever could have imagined – about myself, about academics, and about the world we live in – with one aspect shining through – the most important things in life can only be experienced firsthand, not taught or read about – only experienced.

To learn more about the international opportunities at Oregon State University, click here!

Meet a Resident Director: Sylvie Brugerolle

Sylvie Brugerolle is a Resident Director with IE3 Global in Poitiers, France. In her entry, Sylvie shares what 25 years of experience with international students has taught her. Read on to discover more about life in France and the challenges and joys of studying abroad.

What brought you to be a Resident Director?

Sylvie BurgerolleA fantastic opportunity! For a year, I welcomed an exchange student into my home. It was a wonderful experience and at the end of that year I learned that the program was looking for a coordinator in my city, so I applied with enthusiasm. I was selected even-though my studies and previous professional career didn’t specifically prepare me for the work; I am trained as a lawyer and worked as a financial advisor in a bank.

25 years later, I continue to be glad that I chose a different direction professionally and transitioned to a career rich in human and cultural connections.

What are some unique aspects of your city and country?

The history of the city primarily. Poitiers, one of the oldest cities in France, has an exceptional historical, cultural and artistic heritage. In addition, the long academic tradition (more than five centuries!) makes the medium-sized city one of the youngest and most dynamic in France – and one of the most international as well. Poitiers is the city in France where the ratio of students to inhabitants is the highest and one of the cities welcoming the largest number of international students. There is always something to do in Poitiers and international students, whether they come for a large city or a city of more modest size, appreciate the active cultural life.

The location of the city is another plus. Situated an hour and a half from Paris and Bordeaux (and soon less than an hour with a new high-speed train line!), the geographic location in the center of France permits one to travel easily in France and Europe.

What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?

Whenever I have a free moment, I pick up a paint brush to decorate any of the media I can find – canvases, furniture and porcelain.

What are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?

I greatly appreciate the aspect of “multi-tasking” inherent in the resident director position; academic, practical, psychological, administrative, and sometimes legal. It is not a position with the threat of routine or boredom.

My greatest joy, confirmed each year, is to observe how the students change during their stay. The maturity and independence that they gain over the course of the experiences they have, the challenges they face and overcome, to see how, cut off from their cultural and emotional supports, they find in themselves the capacity to adapt and develop a new openness.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

Multi-tasking, which I highlighted above as my favorite aspect of my work, isn’t paradoxically always the easiest to manage. My priority is to make myself immediately available to the requests of students no matter what administrative tasks I might be in the middle of doing. It is sometimes difficult to predict one’s schedule because one never knows the tasks the day will bring, what question or request the students might have that needs to be attended to: discuss a course with a student?, respond to questions about a misunderstood grade?, consult about a relationship with a professor?, manage the relations between a student and their host family?, console a student?, search for the best price for a train ticket with a student preparing to travel?, find new accommodation for a student?, assist with an administrative task a student must complete?, etc., etc. And all of this might fall into your lap at the same time!

What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?

The first is realizing that the French they practiced in their courses in the USA isn’t really what they hear in France. Young French people speak at great speed, not well-articulated and use expressions that are typically foreign. Visiting students cannot allow themselves to doubt their abilities so that they don’t get discourage. If not, the student risks seeking refuge in their comfort zone by searching out the company of other English speakers.

Then, they have to understand and adapt to the French university system which is quite different from what the students are familiar with. Professors are less accessible to students, administrative assistance less available, more autonomy in the work expected from the student and grading of homework is more strict.

What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?

To leave behind all expectations, to exercise patience, to understand that their host country doesn’t always work according to the system they are accustomed to in the USA and to have a deep store of good humor available.

What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?

Today we find in France, as a result of globalization, more or less all of the products sold in the USA. Don’t hesitate to bring a little of your world with you, however – a favorite book, photos of your friends and family to share with others, a collection of quotes to read on challenging days, your favorite candy.

Why do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?

Mark Twain said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, intolerance and narrow mindedness”. Leaving your comfort zone to adapt to another language, another culture, another educational system, another environment is indeed an unparalleled opportunity to exercise your thinking in the complexity of the world, to make it more open, imaginative and connected.

Go to Oregon State University’s Office of Global Opportunities for more information on international programs, scholarships and more!

Meet a Resident Director: Maria Keane

Maria Keane is a Resident Direcctor for IFSA-Butler in Ireland and North Ireland. She has had the opportunity to work in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Maynooth. Her position allows her to work directly with international students studying in Ireland to help them make the most out of their time abroad. Read on to learn more about her experience!

MariaWhat brought you to be a Resident Director?

I spent my early twenties travelling the world and working abroad. By the time I was 20 I had worked in four countries, and at twenty-four this had grown to eight including China and Australia. I always tried my best to get the most out of every minute while I was away. When I started looking for a ‘real’ job I wanted to work in an area that would enable me to use my experience to help others away from their home country. I know that living abroad is one of the most challenging but rewarding and fun things you can do, so working with IFSA and helping students to make the most out of their time abroad was a perfect fit for me. I guess I am one of the lucky ones who actually love what they do. I care about our students and want each one of them to leave Ireland having had a semester that opened their eyes to new experiences and always remind them that they are strong, capable global citizens.

What are some unique aspects of your city and country?

I live in Cork, Ireland’s second biggest city. Cork people are known for their immense pride and we are never short of reasons why Cork is in fact a far superior city to Dublin. The Dubs may think otherwise, but they are wrong!
I think the most unique thing about Ireland is our people. We’re a talkative and inquisitive nationality, who loves to know what’s going on with everyone, everywhere! You hop into a taxi for a five minute ride and come out having been asked about fifty questions ranging from political views to best value supermarkets. It’s all harmless chat and it just shows that we are interested in learning about people. This inquisitiveness also means we are great explorers – Irish people are found in every corner of the globe and are always ready for a chat and cup of tea.

What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?

I trained with the Moldovan State Circus as a clown! Okay, it was only for a day, but it was the hardest day’s work I have ever done. I couldn’t walk for about a week afterwards, but it has left me with some pretty great party tricks!

What are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?

I love that every semester is different. Although our program core is pretty constant, our incoming students always bring such a sense of anticipation and excitement with them that it’s hard not to pick it up. I really like working on our program and making slight changes to ensure that our students get off to a good start at orientation and have a great semester. It’s exciting to keep on top of what’s happening in Ireland so that we can share this knowledge with our students.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

I guess I would have to say that dealing with a major incident is always quite challenging, but luckily we get very few here. Ireland is a safe country and we don’t get natural disasters, so we are quite fortunate. That being said, things can happen. Although it is hard at the time, I believe having us here to help out does make it less stressful for the individuals involved.

It can also be challenging to get through orientations in January and September without gaining ten pounds – we feed our students a lot while they are in Dublin for orientation and I find it hard not to tuck in too!

What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?

I think that homesickness, while not affecting everyone, can be very upsetting for a small few. It’s something I have had to overcome myself so I know how hard it can be. Luckily, I think most of our students feel they can reach out to us for help if they are homesick and we can nearly always help them to feel better.

What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?

Go for it! You won’t regret it. Don’t worry about the small stuff – apply, get accepted, get on the plane and we’ll help you with the rest!

What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?

You can get everything you need right here and pretty cheaply too. I’d be more inclined to say don’t over pack as you want to leave room to bring stuff back.

Why do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?

A sense that they are more competent, capable people than they were when they arrived.

To learn more about the international opportunities available at Oregon State University, click here!

Fueled by Curiosity

Jordan Mach. (4)

While at Oregon State University, Jordan Machtelinckx majored in Civil Engineering and International Studies, and spent a semester in Cape Town, South Africa in the Spring of 2012. Since his graduation, he has embarked on a journey to explore Eastern Europe and Asia. In this blog entry he articulates how his perceptions of various cultures have changed. Read on to learn about an Oregonian’s experience across the world!

In travelling to entirely unfamiliar places, I have been happily overwhelmed by the complexity and relationships of cultures. Currently on a journey to experience the spectrum of culture and landscapes across Central Asia, I am constantly surprised by the way seemingly different cultures are actually hugely related. I’ve come to realize that geographically neighboring cultures which have always seemed, in my inexperience, to be similar have been, in actuality, historically unrelated until relatively recently. The bottom line is that cultural and political borders are not the same.

I must admit that I have little background knowledge on the subject compared to those who may have studied it academically so my revelations may come without surprise to many, but jumping into the trip with no preparation was a conscious decision on my part. I have been lucky enough to travel by numerous methods for various objectives, but this trip was fueled by little more than curiosity for what I might learn along the way.Jordan Mach. (1)

For example, hitch hiking across Turkey illustrated the difference between the European-style west side and the Central Asian east side with its significant Middle Eastern influence. Meeting the inhabitants of various backgrounds along the way piqued my interest about the cultural history of the area and motivated me to dive into some articles on regional history that provided headaches of confusion rivalling those of my time as an undergrad in engineering. Trying to research more about the boundaries of Kurdistan led me through articles that felt like condensed political science courses and clarified why so many residents of Turkey identified themselves to me a bit differently than others. Some were proud of Turkish heritage, some of Kurdish heritage, and some of each group embraced Arabic language to varying degrees. I was fascinated to see the associations of these cultural distinctions with my geographical eastward progress.

Language itself is a cultural attribute I have always taken interest in. It was news to me that before Ataturk (modern Turkey’s first president) circa 1928, the Turkish language useJordan Mach. (3)d an Ottoman script which was closely related in appearance to the modern Arabic script. Crossing from Georgia to Armenia brought me through a small Georgian region where most residents are Muslim Azerbaijanis. Despite the Azerbaijanis being separated from Turkey by Georgia and Armenia, which both use vastly different languages and alphabets, they are in fact historically most related to the Turkish culture (not to be confused with the country of Turkey… that’s the confusing part). In researching the next leg of my journey I discovered that the Kazakh language was originally written using an Arabic-derived script as well, and is actually also a Turkic language. Simply because Kazakhstan now uses Cyrillic, I had always associated both the language and the culture with those of Russia instead.

Coming across these kinds of discoveries as I move eastward was exactly what I was hoping for when I (didn’t) plan this journey. With my lack of previous knowledge I find it hard to retain all the details of this region’s cultural, political and linguistic history I learn along the way, but I am pleased with myself at the knowledge I have managed to retain. I consider myself well-educated in various domains, but the culture and history of this part of the world was not one of them. Wandering across it with no itinerary has proved to be an efficient method of satisfying my curiosity and exposing me to culture and history at which I am – all pride aside – a complete novice.

Jordan Mach. (2)

To learn more about study abroad opportunities at Oregon State University, click here!

Meet a Resident Director: Madeline Lennon

Madeline-Lennon (1)Madeline Lennon is a Resident Director with IE3 Global in Santander, Spain. Originally from Ireland, Madeline has a passion for travel, adventure and Spanish culture. Using these skills, she helps students studying abroad make unforgettable memories, lifelong friends and develop a love for Spain. Read on to learn more about her exciting position with IE3 Global!

What brought you to be a Resident Director?

I was living and working in Santander, teaching English as a foreign language in the Language centre, Centro de idiomas de la Universidad de Cantabria (CIUC) where the Oregon students have classes. Someone was needed to be the on-site Coordinator, who was based in Santander, was a native speaker of English and interested in working with study abroad students, so that somebody turned out to be me! That was over 10 years ago now and I feel I was really fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time!

What are some unique aspects of your city and country? 

I’m actually from a small town in Ireland, and I am still very much Irish at heart! My ‘adopted’ country is Spain. It is a fantastically diMadeline-Lennon (3)verse country; each region has something wonderful to offer, from distinct cuisines and traditions to art, history and architecture. From the smallest village hidden in the mountains to the bigger cities, there really is a lot to see and do and tons to experience! Santander, where our program is based is a really beautiful medium sized city, lying on the north coast on a Peninsula completely surrounded by golden beaches. Inland it’s surrounded by the mountains. It really is picture postcard stuff!! It’s an incredibly easy city to get around in, it’s not too big but, better still, it’s not too small. It has a wonderful lively, compact city centre, with all modern amenities and everything in walking distance. The students reside with families near the centre of town and are also in walking distance from the University.

What I particularly like about the city as a base for a study abroad program is tMadeline- Lennon (4)he fact that it is very safe and is not over run with English speakers, like you might find in the larger cities of Madrid, Barcelona or Sevilla. While there are other foreign students around, many from the European Erasmus program, they are also here to immerse themselves in Spanish language and culture. I also love the fact that we have an international airport with low cost flights to many Spanish and European cities. The bus and train system running from Santander is also really good and there are plenty of destinations and combinations to choose from. The program is structured in such a way that students are free to travel most weekends.

What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?

Gosh, difficult questionMadeline-Lennon (7)…I have quite a lot of contact with the students, generally seeing them on a daily basis, and over the duration of the program a relationship builds up; we talk quite a lot and do activities and excursions together so I get to know the students quite well and they get to know me. In result, there’s probably not much ‘important’ stuff they don’t know about me. However, I don’t think I have ever mentioned that I came second in the All Ireland under 8’s 80 metre sprint; I was 7 years of age.

What are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?

My favorite aspect of the job is the interaction with the students and teachers. I have always found that the students who sign up for study abroad programs to be fantastic to work with. I have met so many really nice people over the years; every group is different so it always feels new. I really enjoy forming part of the team.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

This is 10 week intensive immersion program so it is all engines go right from the start. The first week is crucial to a successful program. There is a lot going on and you have to be a step ahead of everything, whilst making sure that everyone is settling in and doing well. I am very fortunate as our students have been well informed and guided by the staff in Oregon before coming here. That really helps making the transition period a lot smoother for everyone.Madeline-Lennon (6)

What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?

Again while it is true to say ‘Spain is different,’ it is a modern country in the European Union, so I think the initial challengMadeline-Lennon (8)e of deciding which study abroad program to choose and then setting out and organising it! It’s plain sailing after that, at least on the Santander Program.

This immersion program is not just about learning a language though, the students LIVE here for a term and that involves adapting to a new country, language, host family, teachers, classes and timetable to name but a few! All of these are challenges, and while not to be taken lightly, our students rise well to the challenge and by the first week most students have adapted and are living life like the locals. In fact it usually turns out that the biggest challenge the students face is the reality that after 10 weeks the program does comes to an end and they have to go!

What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?Madeline-Lennon (10)

Be prepared to immerse yourself in all aspects of the program and take advantage of all the opportunities to practice Spanish that come your way. You will learn more Spanish here in one day of class than a week of classes in the States, better still; the classes are only a part of your day. You live with a Spanish family and have Spanish conversation partners, and it’s all in Spanish! It is practically impossible not to greatly improve your language comprehension.

 What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?

A genuine interest in doing a study abroad program and in learning Spanish. On a practical level, comfortable shoes for walking and a rain jacket. On an even more practical level I think less is more when packing, as you might want to pick up some stuff along the way and you’ll need the space to get everything back.

Why do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?

To be able to ‘take-away’ you have to also ‘eat-in’. Meaning, to really benefit, you have to give it your best, and really want to make it work. By doing this, students gain on all levels. Academically students obtain a major boost, a fast forward in their language capacity. On a personal level students ‘grow’ and gain more confidence, a better understanding of themselves and others, more insight the world and their relationship with it and their part in it. Study abroad is such a unique experience, something you have to do to really know what it’s like.Madeline-Lennon (9)

To learn more about study abroad programs offered in Spain, click here!