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OSU Abroad

Meet a Resident Director: Gerardo

March 3rd, 2015 · No Comments · Costa Rica, Resident Director, SFS

Gerardo Avalos lives in Costa Rica and works with The School for Field Studies (SFS) helping to spark student’s interests in ecology and sustainability. Atenas, Costa Rica, where Gerardo’s program is stationed, is small, yet beautiful. Gerardo invites OSU students out of their comfort zone, and into Costa Rica.

gerardo-avalos
What brought you to be a Resident Director?
I served as a Tropical Ecology Faculty for 6 years before moving into the Resident Director position. By training, I am a plant physiological ecologist with interests on multivariate statistics. Being a scientist is different from being an administrator, but I wanted to develop the SFS Center in Costa Rica in new directions. In addition to consolidating our academic program, I wanted the center to be a model farm and an effective research institution to generate information about the management and conservation of natural resources for our clients in Costa Rica (national parks, protected areas, and local communities) so that our students could get not only an authentic educational and research experience, but leave behind a positive footprint on the country.

What are some unique aspects of your city and country?
The center is located in the town of Atenas, just 40 min away from the airport and the capital city of San Jose, and about 1 hour away from the nearest national parks (Poás Volcano in the Central Mountain Slope and Carara along the Pacific coast). Atenas has only 20,000 inhabitants, but despite of being small, it has all the basic services. It maintains a very traditional Costa Rican community, with coffee farms covering 40% of the area. Here, students can see a representative part of Costa Rican rural communities, traditional coffee production, and the celebration of local holidays like Independence Day and the ox cart parade. Atenas also has a very diverse international community. This area of Costa Rica presents some of the most pressing problems of the country as a whole, such as water production and conservation, urban expansion, waste management, and conflicts between these issues and biodiversity conservation. Costa Rica has maintained a leading tradition of democracy and political stability in Latin-America as well as of biodiversity protection. It is also one of the most biodiverse countries in the Neotropics with about 5% of the estimated number of species concentrated here. In terms of running a program like ours, these conditions have many advantages. Field trips could span strikingly different ecosystems in one day. Students can compare and contrast different agricultural models and different community profiles superimposed on different ecological conditions. This is an ideal country to study environmental issues and analyze the balance between biodiversity conservation with economic growth.

What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?
I spent one year at the School of Fine Arts at the University of Costa Rica studying history of art before switching to biology. I have an artistic side, and still do a bit of pastel and water color painting. I can also do cartoons, and have illustrated a children´s book. I did a bit of scientific drawing as an undergraduate student at the Biology Department at the University of Costa Rica.

What are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?
Observing the transformation of our students when they first come to the center and seeing how much they change and have learned from the program before they leave is very rewarding. Students could move on to graduate school, or to jobs that employ an environmental component, so you can see that the program has had a critical impact on them.

What are some of the challenges of your job?
This is mostly a balancing act. This goes across the board in terms of making sure the program works in all aspects. We plan our semester way ahead of time, looking at lecture schedules, community outreaches, field trips, and our week-long trip in Nicaragua. A program this complex is not an easy feat to accomplish. It requires experience and team work. Keeping a good team is critical for the program, the consistency of the educational quality we provide, and the professional development not only of our faculty, but of all our staff members. We are talking about a staff of 17 people, 9 of which function to support the program in terms of maintenance, cleaning, and cooking. It takes a long time and effort to form a good team.

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

This is a residential and very structured program. Students need to adjust to community living. They compromise to change certain behaviors for the benefit of the internal community, and abide by the sustainability contract (which a previous group of students proposed a few years back). Implementing down-to-earth changes (improving recycling, water, and electricity use, for instance) could be hard, representing a compromise and a more conscious awareness on the consequences of our actions on the capacity of our planet to provide services. Being less resource-demanding does not mean a decrease in our quality of life. Being closer to nature has multiple benefits that improve your perspective on life. Unplugging from the internet and decreasing the use of your gadgets and social networks is also an important challenge for many students.

What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?
Be open to new experiences; do not have preconceived expectations because every session is different and unique. What you positively learn from this will affect your life in the long-term.

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

A good pair of binoculars and a digital camera.

What do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?
Humankind is very consistent across the board. We have an amazing capacity for ecological and cultural adaptation. However, we also have a puzzling aptitude to repeat the same mistakes. Learning that deep inside, across cultural borders, we are all the same, and have invented ingenious ways to adjust to challenging ecological conditions (hopefully without repeating the same mistakes) is the key to a more sustainable future. Respecting and appreciating the diversity of ways to relate to nature is something you cannot learn from textbooks. You need to step outside your comfort zone and see the world.

To find out more about Gerardo’s program, follow this link!

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Meet a Resident Director: Aynn

February 26th, 2015 · No Comments · Resident Director, SIT

Aynn Setright lives and works in Managua, Nicaragua. Aynn is an resident director for SIT study abroad programs. She has been a director for 16 years and is currently overseeing the SIT Nicaragua: Youth Cultures, Literacy, and Media program.
Aynn at her Desk in Managua l Aynn Setright

What brought you to be an Academic Director?
Well, I’ve lived in Nicaragua for nearly thirty years now!  For the first ten years, I lived in rural Nicaragua and worked in community development.  When I moved with my family to Managua in 1994, I started graduate work at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN- Managua) which introduced me to the academic world.  By the time SIT opened a program in Nicaragua in 1996, I was working on linking activism with academics and I served as the rural coordinator for the first SIT Study Abroad groups. Then I was named Academic Director in 1999, and here I am!

What are some unique aspects of your city and country?
Nicaragua is a great place to experience Latin America with an edge.  Because of its turbulent past Nicaragua has not grown much in terms of tourism, though it IS the safest country in Central America.Student in the Field l Aynn Setright

The country is divided into three regions, the Pacific where the colonial cities and program base of Managua is located, el Norte (The North) where most of Nicaragua’s coffee and tobacco is produced and the Caribbean, where the Afro-Caribbean influence is the strongest. We visit all the regions of the country on academic excursions and travel to Havana, Cuba for a 10 day comparative study of Youth and Cultural Expression.

Our program site in Managua is said to be the inspirations of U2s’ song “Where the Streets Have no Names” because of the 1972 earthquake the streets have no names, but on nearly every corner of Managua there is a story to tell from the Insurrection and Revolution of the 1980s-1980s.  The country is also a young country with 35% of the population under the age of 15.

What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?
I’ve never studied Spanish!  I learned Spanish completely by immersion have interpreted Spanish for years but know very little about Spanish grammar!

What are some of your favorite aspects of being an Academic Director?
I love turning students on to Nicaragua.  This whole country, and the people in it, make a great 20140905_110516classroom.  And I love introducing Nicaraguans to engaged, intelligent young people from the United States, so Nicas can see it is not like on TV.

What are some of the challenges of your job?
Helping students understand the need to be autonomous and independent, but at the same time representatives of and part of SIT Nicaragua.  We’ve worked very hard to establish solid, respectful relationships in Nicaragua – we need our students to understand that they are a part of that!

What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?
It is hard to get adjusted to the heat, and the rhythm of going to class in Managua. Students are exhausted at the end of the day for the first couple of weeks, but it is important for them to develop habits to take care of themselves. Some helpful habits are getting exercise, staying hydrated and spending time with their homestay families and to not fall into the trap of free time connected to Facebook and friends or family in the USA. It is a challenge sometimes for students to really embrace being in Managua, because it is not familiar.

What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?
Come with an open mind and be ready to embrace Nicaragua – it’s hot, sweaty, and complicated!  It is a 20141022_132537country that gets under your skin, which is the title of the Nicaraguan author, Gioconda Belli’s autobiography – Country Under My Skin.

What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?
A sturdy water bottle!

What do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?
The most important take away is to gain understanding and appreciation for different perspectives. Things are complicated, there are a lot of nuances to understanding these different perspectives.  Be open to understanding and don’t make your time studying abroad just about travel, make it about learning.

If you’d like to learn more about going on Aynn’s program, follow this link.

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Meet a Resident Director: Silvia

February 24th, 2015 · No Comments · AHA, Italy, Resident Director, study abroad

Silvia Minucci has a passion for languages, travel and students. She is a resident director for AHA International managing the AHA Siena Program in Siena, Italy. In this entry Silvia tells us about her life, and the life of students of this town in Tuscany.

Silvia Minucci

What brought you to be a Resident Director?
During college, I studied Foreign Languages and Literature and specialized in literary translation. My dream was to work in the international field. I started working at AHA Siena in 1999 as an assistant, and since 2005 I have been the Resident Director. From day one, I fell in love with my job, and I have never stopped enjoying it.

What are some unique aspects of your city and country?
Siena is set in the heart of Tuscany, surrounded by gorgeous landscapes, from Chianti vineyards and olive groves, to the chalk hills and cypress trees of the Val d’Orcia. Siena is an ideal town for a study abroad program, large enough to offer a wealth of opportunities to study arts, history, culture, tradition and Italian language; yet, small enough to be safe and user-friendly, manageable, not overwhelming, and packed with architectural and artistic treasures. Students can walk around Siena and really “live” what they are studying in class. Siena’s central location allows for easy travel opportunities: it’s just over an hour from Florence by bus, 3 hours from Rome, and 4 from Milan. Siena is considered a student town, as many Italian (particular from the South of Italy) and international students come here to attend the Universities.

What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?
My first love in languages is Russian. I studied Russian and lived in Russia for a year. I even wore a Russian Princess-style, white-fur-trimmed dress at my wedding!

What are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?
I love the social activities with the students. I love showing students things I know they have heard and read about for years and finally get to see. The reaction of students when they stand in front of the Michelangelo’s David for the first time is priceless.

AHA Study Abroad Students l Silvia MinucciWhat are some of the challenges of your job?
I feel very protective of my students, like an “Italian” mom!

What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?
Homesickness. Many students don’t expect to be homesick, so it’s a big surprise to them when they are, and we need to help them to deal with it. However, the ones who are most homesick at the start usually end up having the best experience!

Having studied abroad myself in France, Great Britain, Ireland and Russia, I understand students’ adjustment difficulties as they adapt to living in Siena. Of course, studying abroad is a big challenge, starting from the moment you step off the plane, but it’s an experience that will change your life and one that you will never forget.

What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?
Be prepared to accept that things are different from America, but to see the differences in a positive way.  For example, we don’t have Starbucks here, so we can’t get a tall pumpkin spice latte to go, but you can have a great cappuccino standing up at a bar with the locals!

What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?
Comfortable shoes! The streets here are made of large stones and there is a lot of walking to do when you are sightseeing.

What do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?
Being able to see your own country from a “foreign” point of view, from a different perspective. You’ll find some things that you look at in a more critical way, and many things that you appreciate even more than before.

To find out more about going on Silvia’s program, follow this link!

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Meet a Resident Director: Mary

February 20th, 2015 · No Comments · India, Resident Director, SIT, study abroad

Mary Storm is a resident director for SIT Study Abroad in New Delhi, India. The OSU approved program that she facilitates, focuses on National Identity and the Arts. In this post, Mary tells us about her job, and gives a glimpse into her world.

Tea Time with Mary l Mary Storm
What brought you to be a resident director?
I completed my Ph.D. in South Asian art history at UCLA, so I spent a lot of time in India doing fieldwork as a graduate student. I came to love, not only the arts of India, but India itself. One day (many years ago) I decided that I would like to be immersed in what I study; I’d rather live and research in the same place.

What are some unique aspects of your city and country?
Delhi is a huge crazy city and just like NewExcursion l Mary Storm York, Tokyo or other big vibrant cities, it has its ups and downs. Delhi has many layers of history, back into antiquity, because of this there are monuments hidden away all over town. You’ll be walking down a road in a modern residential neighborhood and suddenly come across a 13th century building. As the capital, it has great exhibitions and arts festivals. There are good restaurants, shops and medical facilities.

What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?
I have a diploma from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, but I cook mainly Middle Eastern food. I am a dedicated vegetable gardener, and I have two much loved dairy cows.

What are some of your favorite aspects of being a resident director?
I love to see students rise to meet the challenge of living in a very different culture. We see students arrive in India shy, hesitant and unfamiliar with Indian society. They usually leave confident and excited with a world of new skills and knowledge. Studying abroad truly can change lives.

What are some of the challenges of your job?
We travel a lot during this program. Travel logistics are difficult in India, and Alternative Classrooms l Mary Stormwe spend a lot of time fine-tuning schedules. I give about 1/3 of lectures, but it can be a challenge working with other academic schedules. India is infamous for government bureaucracy and we must negotiate that.

What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?
Physically: the heat and dust of India can be hard, and some students have tummy troubles. Socially: Learning to negotiate different gender expectations and notions of social behavior can be difficult for American students.

What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?
Come and join us! Experience a very different part of the world; come with “an open heart and a strong back.”

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

What do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?
Humility and open mindedness.

To learn more about Mary’s program, follow this link!

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Meet an Exchange Student: Emily

February 13th, 2015 · No Comments · Australia, College of Business, College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Exchange

Emily (front left) and friends at an OSU football game. Go Beavs!

Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Emily is a direct exchange student from the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. This is a College of Business international exchange program offered to students intrested in studying international business. Arriving here in Fall to study Business and Exercise and Sports Science, Emily tells us about her time in Beaver Nation.

What inspired you to pick OSU?
I had heard great things about OSU from people who had studied abroad here in the past and I also loved the idea of living in a college town on the West Coast. Before applying for OSU I hadn’t heard much about Oregon but I was excited to explore such a unique state.

In what ways is OSU different from your home university?
There are honestly too many things to mention. However, the college sport has stood out as a big one, the atmosphere is amazing! My home university is in the suburbs of a major city so most people live at home and commute to uni everyday so living in a small college town surrounded by students has been a big change but so much fun too.

In what ways is OSU similar to your home university?
They both have great international/study abroad programs and the staff have been great on both sides of the world. Both have a very diverse range of study options and are in great locations that make it easy to travel on the weekends and during breaks.

What is one memorable experience you’ve had in Oregon?
People making fun of my accent! No matter where I go or who I speak to there’s always someone who will mention it. It’s always fun when my friends and I come across words that we say differently or have different meanings. We speak the same language but you’ll be amazed at how many times we can’t understand each other!

What are some of your favorite aspects of studying abroad?
I have loved meeting new people and discovering what its like to live in the PNW and other places within the US and around the world. I’ve also really enjoyed trying new foods, experiencing ‘college life’ and learning about American culture, which I’ve found to be quite different! I have also loved having the opportunity to be independent and travel!

What has been one challenging aspect of studying abroad?
Being away from family and friends during celebrations such as birthdays and Christmas was tough, but having such incredible friends here at OSU made it so much easier to be away from home.

How will your time abroad affect your future career or life?
This experience has taught me a lot about who I am and who I want to be. Although I’m still not entirely sure what I want to do in terms of a career, my experiences here have definitely confirmed my love for travelling and exploring. I have had the opportunity to develop new relationships with people, deal with tough situations and find my way around the world- which are all skills that can’t be taught in a classroom but will definitely have an impact on the rest of my life.

What is one “take away” or lesson from this experience?
‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone’. Go for it.

What is one thing, person, or experience you are excited to reunite with when you return to your home country?
I’m definitely most excited to see my dog when I get home! Being away from him for so long has been one of the most challenging parts of this whole experience.

What is your message for OSU students considering studying abroad in your home country?
Go for it!! This has honestly been one of the most rewarding, challenging and exciting experiences that I’ve had in my life and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I now have close friends in Oregon and all over the world, I’ve learnt so much about the American way of life, and I’ve discovered a new meaning of the word ‘independence’. For those looking to study abroad in Australia, don’t be turned off by the wildlife! It’s not as dangerous as you think!

If you’d like to learn more about going on exchange to Emily’s university, follow this link!

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Studying Abroad, Continued?

January 29th, 2015 · 1 Comment · International Degree, Returnee, study abroad

While at OSU, Charlene was an Environmental Science and International Degree student with a minor in German. She studied abroad at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg (Freiburg, Germany) on the OUS Baden-Württemberg Exchange Program during the 2012-2013 academic year. Now, she has moved back to Freiburg to attend a Master’s program. In this entry, Charlene writes about the challenges associated with returning to live in to the place she studied abroad.

One morning last December I was completely absorbed in thought while on my way to class.Profile l Charlene Marek It was raining and I was waiting to cross the street. I was in Freiburg, and had been for about three months. During those three months I had moved twice, completed three Master’s courses and been selected to be a student representative for our class generation. But this morning, my mind was reaching back into the not-so-distant-past. If you’ve been abroad before, you know that those experiences never leave you. I had spent my junior year in Germany and my senior year back at OSU, devising my return to Germany for graduate school.

On this rainy morning I asked myself if I was really back in Freiburg; the Freiburg I longed for during my senior year in Oregon. My Master’s program is in English. This is both a blessing and a curse in Germany. Although I can study with ease, it is often difficult to find time to practice German. This time in Germany, my life is completely different than it was two years ago. After my first time abroad, I arrived back to the states to finish my last year at OSU. I came home with a suitcase and a bag of “post-study-abroad-blues”. It was difficult to readjust to every day life and culture in the United States. Yet, here I was on this dreary morning, standing in Germany once again, feeling just as disjointed and unprepared for re-adaption back into Freiburg as I had felt when returning to the U.S. a year before.

As I stood underneath gloomy skies akin to those in Corvallis, I began to reflect on my readjustment to the United States. I suddenly felt a tinge of regret and bitterness when I remembered how I had struggled to re-embrace my own culture the previous year. Why was I reflecting on this? Wasn’t I happy to be back abroad? I was just beginning to come out of my re-culture-shock phase of living in Germany again. Many things in Freiburg were different than I had remembered and, many things had simply changed while I was gone. I had also changed through my re-adaptation to the United States. I began to realize these circumstances and feelings were very similar to how I’d felt in the United States, so why had I now been re-experiencing this in Freiburg?

Quite simply: each study abroad experience for each person, each place and each purpose, is very unique and individual, maybe even one-of-a-kind. It is not something to be recreated, even when we consciously or subconsciously decide to do just that! I realized I had subconsciously hoped that my journey back to Freiburg as a Master’s student would return me to that romantic junior year of study abroad when German culture, language and the irrevocably liberating independence of living abroad for the first time, were all so foreign to me.

It finally dawned on me: we are responsible for the interpretation of our own experiences.

Returning to your first study abroad destination again for an extended period can allow you to better process and reflect on that remarkable experience, especially in fully unpacking and contextualizing its significance in your life. But don’t forget, life’s a trip- it takes us places- but never in reverse. New adventures lie ahead.

Hiking in Germany l Charlene Marek
To read Charlene’s entry about her first time abroad follow this link.

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A Day For Change

January 9th, 2015 · No Comments · College of Business, Returnee, SFS, study abroad, sustainability, University Honors College

 Jenna Wiegand, a senior in the University Honors College majoring in both Finance and Sustainability, spent fall term in the Turks and Caicos Islands studying marine ecology and environmental policy through The School for Field Studies. During her time studying in the South Caicos Islands, she wrote this entry about her new, and sometimes out of the ordinary life abroad.

Jenna Weigand- SIT South Caicos (2)

Those that know me know that I sometimes have “a day for change” where I try something new. While this is usually food because I am a terribly picky eater, these last two months in South Caicos have witnessed me trying too many new things to remember—things that are now so commonplace, but posed such discomfort only two months ago. I’ve made a list of a few of those new experiences that are now a part of my daily life:

  • My ears are always salty from the constant snorkels and research dives. Every afternoon we have a field exercise or activity in the water, so there is hardly a day where I go more than six hours without being in saltwater (either the ocean or our saltwater showers). There is no fix to this.
  • My bed is always sandy. There is no fix to this either, unless I put a rinse bin at the base of my bunk since our dorm floor is perpetually sandy. Oh well. Consider it nightly exfoliation?
  • I have a serious bootie tan line. This is from my diving booties and this winter it will look like I am wearing permanent leggings.
  • I am now a vegetarian. This was mostly because we eat enough rice and beans anyway and the meat options are not that appealing; plus the black bean veggie burgers are much tastier.
  • All of us here at the field center count the days until the food boat comes in, and a pan of brownies calls for a stampede.
  • I tried tofu. (Shock of shocks) It was good.
  • Showering every 2 days or longer (once a week?) is perfectly acceptable here. Snorkeling and diving are seen as “pretty much showering” so there is no need for more. Yes, this is kind of nice but it is weird to think that what is completely normal here would never be fine in the U.S.
  • I am a pro at back-rolling off boats to go diving. And I’m getting a little bit more arm muscle from hauling around my gear, weights, and tank (what… 40, 50 pounds?? It’s ridiculous).
  • The best compliment you can receive here is “You look clean” or “Your hair looks clean”.
  • Special occasions (or just evening cravings) call for a trip to town to buy a pint of ice cream.
  • I can identify around 110 marine organisms… algae, corals, fish, sharks, rays.
  • I have held a couple of sharks and have tried to catch a turtle (yes, “turtling” is a real thing).
  • I have now spent 5.5 hours of my life underwater, and have dove to 73 ft!
  • I will never underappreciate a washing machine again. I now do laundry the “easy” route which means forfeiting my fresh water shower and using it to fill up a tote bin so I can hand scrub my clothes. And let me tell you, to decrease shower use more, the shower has a chain pull that you must hold down the entire time to continue the flow of water. So there is no way you will lose track of time and take a 20 minute shower.
  • Four pm snack might possibly be the best time of the day.
  • I don’t even know what a sweatshirt is anymore.

But clearly all is not bad in this place because I am loving it for the most part. Snorkeling and diving are indescribable, as are the sunsets. After dinner, the weather cools off and there is usually a breeze through the hammock area– then it is absolutely wonderful to be out. It is so nice to be a bit disconnected from technology and phones; a lot of the materialism and outward vanity of the U.S. is gone as well– you don’t have much, but it is so easy to be happy with what you have.

So at the end of the day this place is pretty awesome, even with the cockroaches and the salt.

Jenna Weigand- SIT South Caicos (1)

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Have a Pleasure!

December 5th, 2014 · No Comments · College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Returnee, SIT, study abroad, Uncategorized

Amedee Ngarukiye is studying Public Health, focusing on Health Promotion and Health Behavior. During Fall term, he traveled to Nyon, Switzerland, through SIT Study Abroad programs. While in Switzerland, he focused on global health and development policy. In this article he reflects on how his trip abroad helped him enjoy the little things in life.

AandFam

We arrived on a Thursday and on Sunday, the day before classes began, we met our host families. Immediately after walking into the hotel, the meeting spot for our host families, they recognized me (and I them). After a brief in-person introduction, we quickly left the premises. They gave me a tour of Nyon, where classes were held. They provided me with a thorough run-down of the train schedule, and many other things. Though they lived about 15 Countrysideminutes from the hotel, it took us about 45 minutes to get home because they gave me a presidential tour. To my surprise, it felt like a mere 10 minutes because we were talking the entire time. From Olivier’s bad English, to my broken French, we often made up words to fill in the blanks during our conversation and if it had not been for his wife Caroline, who is much better at the whole English thing, we would have had an even harder time communicating. Upon arrival, I was led to my room and given yet another tour. After confessing my previous night’s activities that resulted in 2 hours of sleep, I excused myself to take a shower and a nap. I thought Olivier’s response to my request was priceless, he simply said, “Have a pleasure”.

Olivier would say “have a pleasure” every time I was about to do something, literally anything, regardless of what it was. “Okay, I am off to bed, bon nuit”, I would say and he would respond “have a pleasure” without hesitation. “Je veux prendre une douche” (I want to take a shower), Olivier would respond “have a pleasure!” or “je veux faire mon devoir” (I want to do my homework), again he’d say “have a pleasure”. It never failed, regardless of how innocuous the endeavor.

It was during my forth week that the meaning of Olivier’s words became clear. It was the Thursday of a week that had been both academicallyAandCows demanding and physically exhausting. As we sat down for supper that evening, we talked about how our week was going. That is when they proceeded to tell me stories about previous students they had hosted and encountered through other host families. They told me about the girl who got a bit overwhelmed and nostalgic while working on her Independent Study Project and subsequently left the country to visit her boyfriend in the U.S. which resulted in her academic dissatisfaction. They talked about a student who was robbed by some French hooligans in Lyon after a night out. They brilliantly conveyed the story of the girl who never left the house. They imparted tales of students from other host families who were expelled for academic dishonesty. I spent the rest of the night doing homework and reflecting on their tales and Olivier’s words.

 The following morning, I had a hefty breakfast in preparation of a long day ahead. As I was on my way out to the train station, Olivier was in the backyard tending to his garden. Had it not been for the familiar wish of “have a pleasure” I would not have noticed him. Ironically, his words seem to sum up my time in that strangely exotic land. I indeed had a pleasure. I was bored so I went to France with a friend just to have lunch, we had a pleasure. It is easy to be overwhelmed, especially in a strange unfamiliar land. That night, I came to conclusion that Olivier’s words were literal, an indication that I should have a pleasure regardless of what I am doing. I decided not to be caught up in one thing so much that it becomes overwhelming. In doing so, I needed to find a balance between my priorities and extracurricular activities. I decided to have a pleasure.

That weekend, a couple of friends from the program and I, along with our academic director hiked the Jura Mountains; I had a pleasure. The following weekend, I returned to the Jura Mountains for the festival of the “Cattle Descent from des Alpes CowsPastures”. At the end of September, around 400 cows descend from the pastures of des Alpes after the summer months, adorned with flowers and ribbons. Accompanied by the farmers and their cowherds, they are welcomed back into the village of St. Cergue by spectators from near and far. This was by far the most “Swiss” experience during my time en Suisse, well, at least according to Olivier. Upon my return from the event, Olivier knighted me as Sir Amadeus of Génolier. It goes without saying, I had a pleasure!

The following weekend we visited a chocolate factory! I had a pleasure. I had my first reclete; I had a pleasure. I had a taste of my first crepe; I had a pleasure! I played footy with Olivier and his colleagues on top of a mountain overlooking lac Léman under the night sky with a cool rain showering down and the moonlight shining bright (where I made a successful slide tackle); I had a pleasure! I conducted my first qualitative research which immensely inspired me; I had a pleasure. I returned to my home university with a 4.0 GPA for the semester; I had a pleasure. I embarked for Excellency by interning with two NGOs on separate continents and, you guessed it, I had a pleasure. Dear Beaver Nation, Have a Pleasure!

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Art in Athens: Part Two

November 24th, 2014 · No Comments · AHA, College of Liberal Arts, Returnee, study abroad

Madelaine Corbin is an Applied Visual Arts major in the College of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University. During Summer of 2014, she spent two weeks in Athens, Greece, through AHA International. She delighted in taking in the surroundings, learning about art and even learning more about herself. Below is a continuation of her artwork, as in her previous entry, along with excerpts from her blog that she wrote while still in Greece.

“Jack Kerouac’s writing brilliantly inspires people to adventure. One of his writings states, ‘there was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep rolling under the stars.’ My goal in life is broad, but it is ultimately to go everywhere and do everything passionately with a fire inside.”

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“The city of Athens is buzzing with life. Millions of people meander the streets and go about their days embracing the sun and smiles that saturate the air.”

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 “Remember, stay hungry, value each of your moments, and just keep rolling under the stars.”

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Turning Point: Learning to Cha-Cha

November 21st, 2014 · No Comments · Chile, College of Liberal Arts, Returnee, Spanish, study abroad

Rhiannon Williams is a senior at Oregon State University. She is in the College of Liberal Arts studying Spanish with a minor in Psychology. She spent a semester with IFSA Butler in Valparaíso, Chile, improving her Spanish skills, taking literature, history and culture classes, and volunteering to care for animals affected by a forest fire. Here she tells us about her journey learning Spanish, and her path to realizing that fluency does not happen overnight.

Half way through my semester abroad in Valparaíso, Chile, I experienced an important turning point in my journey. My host mother sat me down and asked if I was happy with my living situation. I never felt completely comfortable living with my host parents during the first two months in Chile but I could not pinpoint the issue. My host mother helped me realize that I had been coming across as aloof. I knew I had been very reserved in the beginning as I became accustomed to the new culture. I realized that I had put up invisible walls and did not communicate enough with my host family. The issue was how to become accustomed to living at home with a family while going to university. I was very familiar with coming and going as I pleased at university in the U.S without having to answer to anyone. Even though I lost some independence that I had in the States, I gained two caring host parents.

After that moment, I interacted more with my host family which boosted my happiness and comfort. I know that my timidity is a part of who I am, and awkward silences are sometimes unavoidable. At first I was upset that I may have wasted the first two months of my study abroad journey. Then, I realized that it was an incredible learning experience. Since then, I have been livingRhiannon W Blog photo 3 by this quote: “Optimist: someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it’s more like a cha-cha”.

My constant struggle with the language Castellano (Chilean Spanish) closely ties with this. I would be so concerned about what to talk about in Spanish with my host family during meals that I would sit silently with thoughts whirling around in my head. I learned to just talk and not worry so much about making grammatical errors. Some days were easier than others and I could tell that my Spanish improved when I decided to just let things be.

I also had an internal struggle with English. I would feel guilty for conversing in English with my friends instead of practicing Spanish. I would then silently fight with myself instead of interacting with my friends. I put so much pressure on myself to reach a high level of fluency in Spanish while abroad. I realized that I would not magically become fluent and I needed to make peace with this. Every day I spoke Spanish, as well as English occasionally with friends. Although it was often difficult to see, my Spanish improved tremendously over the five months. It is most important to view the improvement from when I arrived to when I returned to the United States rather than compare myself to others, or wish that I were closer to fluency. So many people told me as I left the States that I would come back fluent in Spanish. I returned improved and more confident which is more important to me than the end goal. The journey is more important than the destination.Rhiannon W Blog photo 5

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