Nathaniel Ung studies Bio-engineering with a minor in Asian Languages and Cultures. In fall 2016, he traveled to Japan to study at Akita International University through IE3 Global. Read on for his reflections from his time abroad:

When I first arrived in Japan, I was sure of almost everything I would do there in four months. I would take my necessary courses for baccalaureate core, and some classes towards my minor in Japanese. I knew beforehand that I would not take anything for my Bio-engineering major, but looking back, a break from science courses wasn’t so bad. My study abroad allowed me to think about things outside of my major, and about what I can improve in myself, mainly my lack of interaction with peers. I have always been a quiet person who goes through the routine of school, looking at the computer for a couple hours, and doing the occasional volunteer activity, such as showing elementary students the applications of science in everyday life. However, Japan gave me opportunities that would go against my usual routine, and allowed me to figure out my interest in working abroad in Japan as either a teacher or an engineer.

I studied at Akita International University for four months as an exchange student, and those four months changed me, improving my outlook on the present and giving me more options for the future when I graduate. Even though AIU is in the countryside of Japan, I participated in many different activities. One I especially enjoyed was volunteering as part of the Research and Community Outreach Services (RCOS), a group within AIU that hosts many different projects within the local Akita community, such as weekend camps and English teaching. I loved teaching school children English, as many had a strong interest in learning the language. The kids were also excited to speak to me about America, and specifically the attractions Oregon has to offer if they ever choose to travel. They taught me how to play various games that really tested my language skills, such as their own version of rock-paper-scissors where the winner has to say a Japanese phrase and point in a direction. If the loser looks in that direction they lose, otherwise the game keeps going, but at a faster pace.

On the weekend camps with kids, I spent a total of four days teaching them how to write the lower case alphabet, with plenty of games to help them remember. I used a combination of English and Japanese to interact with them, and we all had fun playing games, learning, and cooking food. Although it was just me and other college students cooking barbecue, they enjoyed all of it. I also participated in the local rice harvesting, where locals showed students how to harvest rice, and cooked the crops for us to all indulge in together.

Of course, my experience wasn’t all about teaching; I enrolled in different courses to fulfill my OSU requirements. I took Japanese 206 at AIU because I had previous Japanese experience, but you can start learning Japanese there without prior knowledge. My class for example was taught entirely in Japanese—the teacher never spoke to us in English. When I came back to America, I was placed in the 300-level series of Japanese, which helps my minor a lot. One thing I should mention is that the campus is relatively small compared to OSU. With around 2000 students total in the university, including exchange students, I ended up getting to know my peers well. I got along well with my classmates in Japanese class, joking around in Japanese and even doing group skits for projects. For my baccalaureate courses, I took Sociology and a course about Social Movements. Discussions in these two course were interesting, as we spoke under different viewpoints: Japanese, American, European, or Indonesian, among many others. One discussion focused on the importance of seniority in different countries, and hearing some Japanese students actually detest the seniority system in their country was fascinating.

My time in Japan was amazing and opened my eyes to other things outside of America. Meeting new people, learning a new language and culture, and changing my school life for a short time allowed me to make some changes to my life here in Oregon. I try to plan my schedule better to include a social life, and I interact with more of my peers by going to movie nights or having meals together. My study abroad experience also got me thinking about applying for the JET Program—spending one year in Japan to teach English after graduation. I truly did enjoy teaching children, and being in a new country gave me new ideas about working in Japan for my major, or pursuing other work opportunities abroad. My time over there was short, but it gave me a new outlook for my major and the future.

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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!

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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.

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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.


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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

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 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.

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.

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