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OSU Abroad

Up, Up, and Away!

March 3rd, 2014 · No Comments · College of Public Health and Human Sciences, IE3 Global Internships

Oregon State senior Rachele Gallinat is a Human Development and Family Sciences major in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences and is currently overseas! Rachele is fulfilling her degree internship requirement by interning with the Eric Liddell Centre in Scotland through IE3 Global Internships.

I have begun my internship! The Eric Liddell Centre is located in an enchanting building with a beautiful winding staircase and stained glass windows filling the halls. My desk with my own computer, centre email address, and personal phone line (I feel so Rachele Gallinat l Scotland l IE3 Global Internshipsimportant) are located in a cozy little copy machine room that opens into the Ca(I)re Programme office. Despite how secluded that sounds, coworkers are frequently entering the copy room and I couldn’t find a more social office to have! The other great part? We never stop drinking tea! It’s quite lovely to always have a warm drink in hand.

This week I began researching carer support and setting up carer courses for the Ca(I)re Programme. Carers include those who are in an unpaid caring role for a loved one, spouse, friend, or neighbor. Specifically, the Ca(I)re Programme aims to provide free courses for caregivers to have a break from caring, learn something new, receive much needed support, and even get more exercise. Courses include anything and everything from birdwatching walks to yoga, painting, relaxation, and even computer courses.

My research began with calling all the carers who had participated in the courses last autumn. Speaking to the carers allowed me to discover how these courses have helped them in the long run, how the course helped give the carer a break, and other factors like the improvement of overall health. Speaking with Scottish people with various experiences has been quite fascinating and typically ends with discussing where I come from.

Follow the link below to Rachele’s original entry on the IE3 Field Notes Blog: http://ie3global.ous.edu/blog/comments/1365/

 

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Facing Fears

February 26th, 2014 · No Comments · IE3 Global Internships, Returnee, University Honors College

Alejandra Marquez Loza recently graduated from Oregon State University with an Honors B.S. in Bioresource Research and a minor in Chemistry. During her final term (Fall 2013) as an OSU student, Alejandra received a scholarship from IE3 Global Internships and interned with Child Family Health International (CFHI) in South Africa.

Fear is temporary, but regret is forever. That was the slogan for the Bloukrans bungee jumping advertisements that really got me to just go for it. Prior to arriving there I really did not think I would actually jump off the highest bungee in the world! Once there however, I just thought back to all my initial fears of what being in South Africa might be like, and how none of my worries had proven to be true. Just as I had conquered those initial worries and worked so hard to overcome the obstacles it took to be interning in Africa, I felt I could not pass up the opportunity to conquer another fear. I decided to jump. The first 2 seconds felt like the most terrifying moments of my life but afterwards came a strange calm followed by an extreme adrenaline rush. I was on the top of the world. I felt that if I had conquered that initial fear, I could really do anything I set my mind to.

During the ten weeks I spent in South Africa on rotations at hospitals, clinics and outside of work I found that the moments where I learned the most were when I placed myself outside my comfort zone and took leaps of faith with uncertainties. Cape Town and Durban were not what I imagined before arriving there but far exceeded any expectations I had. I learned to plan for things to go as unplanned and embrace the moments of discomfort. There were often little fears I had to overcome when I felt hesitant about approaching a doctor, answering questions during ward rounds, or starting up conversations with patients in my limited Zulu or Afrikaans. Despite my initial hesitations, I always felt it was well worth it when, to my surprise, it was such simple acts like those that taught me something valuable or that sparked long-lasting relationships.

Follow the link below to Alejandra’s original entry on the IE3 Field Notes Blog: http://ie3global.ous.edu/blog/comments/1364/

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Biosand Water Filter Sustainability and Khmer Language Study in Cambodia

February 19th, 2014 · No Comments · Boren Fellowship, Environmental Science, research, Returnee, Scholarships, sustainability

Jaynie Whinnery is currently pursuing a Master of Public Policy at Oregon State University. During 2013, she spent nine months in Siem Reap, Cambodia as a Boren Fellow researching biosand water filter sustainability. She also holds degrees from OSU in Environmental Engineering (M.S.) and Mechanical Engineering (B.S.).

The Boren Fellowship provided me with funding to pursue a student-designed program combining research, internship, and intensive language study of a less commonly taught language while abroad. Boren Fellows muJaynie Whinnery l Boren Fellowship l Cambodiast also tie their study abroad plans to U.S. national security and agree to work for the U.S. Government for at least one year following graduation. I have always regretted that I did not take the chance to study abroad during my undergraduate years, and with my research interests focused on global water and sanitation issues, gaining more extensive international experience was the next obvious step. During my time as a Boren Fellow, I chose to live and work in Siem Reap, Cambodia, from January through September of 2013. Siem Reap is a really fun place to live in because, due to the presence of the Angkor Wat UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has a stimulating mix of local culture and world-class, tourism-driven amenities.

During my Boren Fellowship I volunteered with two organizations that work to increase access to safe water – Water for Cambodia and The Trailblazer Foundation. Rural areas in Cambodia have particularly high rates of poverty; families are often lacking sufficient nutrition, running water, adequate sanitation, electricity, educational and employment opportunities, and Biosand Water Filter l Boren Fellowship l Cambodia Biosand Water Filter l Boren Fellowship l Cambodiahealth care facilities. According to the United Nations, approximately 38 percent of Cambodia’s rural population does not have access to an improved water source. Both of the organizations I volunteered with are implementing household-scale biosand water filters as one of their primary programs. These water filters are a simple, easy-to-use technology that is proven to be effective at removing disease-causing organisms and other common contaminants in water. My research focuses on the sustainability of these water filter programs by evaluating what factors contribute to continued long-term use.

One of the most amazing aspects of the Boren Fellowship is that it requires, and provides funding for, intensive language study. I began studying the Cambodian language, Khmer, in 2012 through the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon, but nothing can compare to the daily immersion I experienced in Cambodia. Khmer is a pretty challenging language to learn as a native English speaker because there are so many differences in pronunciation. The alphabet has 33 consonants, 23 regular vowels, 11 independent vowels, and several punctuation-based modifiers. During my Boren Fellowship I had formal language lessons four to five times per week, through classes and with private tutors. After a few months, once I was able to hold a conversation, my understanding of the local language helped me form friendships and working relationships that would not have been possible otherwise. Not to mention all of the laughter, as I became a source of never-ending amusement for rural Cambodians who had never heard a foreigner speak their language before. I think they have the best sense of humor in the world. Trying my best to have everyday conversations in Khmer with Cambodians was one of my favorite parts of the entire experience.

Now that my Boren Fellowship is over, I am back on campus and on track to complete my Master of Public Policy degree by the end of the academic year. I am currently writing my final public policy essay on the sustainability of biosaKhmer Intensive Language Study l Boren Fellowship l Cambodiand water filter programs based on my data and observations from my time in Cambodia. My experience as a Boren Fellow further solidified my desire to pursue a career in public service. For that reason, the service requirement for the fellowship is a bonus because it provides additional resources for the job search. I am also hoping to pursue a Ph.D. in public policy or international development, in which case I can defer my service requirement until I finish that degree. Overall the Boren Fellowship was an ideal opportunity to have a unique study abroad experience as a graduate student because I was able to design a personalized program based on my own learning objectives and research interests. I highly recommend applying if your interests align well with the Boren program’s preferences. The initiative offers scholarships for undergraduate students and fellowships for graduate students.

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Accessory and Necessity

February 12th, 2014 · No Comments · College of Public Health and Human Sciences, IE3 Global Internships, India, Returnee

Exercise and Sport Science student Goretti Pham spent Fall term 2013 studying and interning at the Center for Social Medicine in India through IE3 Global Internships.

Coming back home I was welcomed by all of the things I left behind: my family, my close friends, good food, and a large, warm bed. It was so easy for me to fall back into my old routine that for a day or two it felt as though I never even went to IndGoretti Pham l Center for Social Medicine l India l IE3 Global Internshipsia! It frightened me a little so I had to revisit the journal I kept while abroad. Reading through my journal I was able to take a step back and really look at everything that had happened now that my nerves are calm and I’m back in a comfortable setting. Reading through my notes I realized that I really learned a lot during my internship; I learned about myself, about my career, about India, and even about my own country from another person’s perspective.

Through India’s very conservative culture I was able to step back and look at my own culture through their lenses. Neither is better than the other, rather there are just two different ways to go about life, however, being in India made me appreciate the beauty in concealing your body as well as appreciating the present moment. The Indian concept of time has always boggled my western mind. They never rush, they are always relaxed and do not often plan ahead; it is a beautiful thing, really. Westerners often worry so much about the future that they tend to forget to live in the present.

Follow the link below to Goretti’s original entry on the IE3 Field Notes Blog: http://ie3global.ous.edu/blog/comments/accessory_and_necessity/

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My Second Home: Jordan

January 22nd, 2014 · No Comments · College of Liberal Arts, IE3 Global Internships, International Degree, OUS, Returnee, SIT, study abroad

Kristin Chase recently graduated from Oregon State University with degrees in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and International Studies and an Anthropology minor. Kristin recently returned from Amman, Jordan where she studied Arabic through the SIT: Intensive Arabic Language Studies program. Additionally, Kristin interned at Ruwwad: The Arab Foundation for Sustainable Development through IE3 Global Internships.

I returned about a month ago from spending five amazing months in Jordan. While abroad I had the opportunity to build upon my Arabic language education, as well as apply my research skills and passion for social justice. Since OSU only offers second year Arabic courses online, it was imperative that I go abroad in order to continue working toKristin Chase l Jordan l SIT and IE3 Global Internshipswards my goal of becoming fluent. I chose to study through SIT because they offer a seven-week intensive language program in the summer. I wanted a program that was focused on language and had a homestay component. I lived with a middle class- Palestinian family who spoke fluent English, but also spoke Arabic with me. I was able to experience Ramadan in a family setting and learn more about Jordanian life from the perspective of a particular class in society. The program was also a good fit for me because we took many excursions that allowed students to understand more about the country’s culture and history. My favorite part of the SIT program was the Bedouin homestay experience. I had such a sweet family and I went back to visit them for a week after the program ended. Not only did my host family treat me as one of their own, but I also quickly became close with many members of the village. Overall, it was great starting out with a structured program as it provided a smooth transition into Jordanian society.Jordan l SIT and IE3 Global Internships

After completing the language program, I started a three-month internship with Ruwwad, an organization based on community and youth empowerment that hosts many sustainable programs to benefit the local people. I chose this particular internship because of the organization’s focus on women and gender equality. Ruwwad allowed me to merge my interests in, and apply my skills related to, women’s issues, Arabic language and culture, and research writing. I wouldn’t do the organization justice by trying to describe all of the incredible work they do, so I will focus on my particular projects. Since I am a Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies major, I knew I wanted to focus my efforts on something that would benefit women. Therefore, I taught women’s English classes (which were content based) that allowed me to develop relationships with many women in the community. My conservative dress and knowledge of Islam made me quickly accepted by the female students and their family members. Reputation is extremely important in such a community. The classes provided opportunities for the students and I to speak about clothing and modesty, gender roles, the Arab spring and other political issues, leadership and community involvement, as well as English Teaching l Ruwwad l IE3 Global Internshipsthe media. Every day was such a pleasure because the women were really funny and opinionated and I enjoyed watching them express themselves as they became more comfortable in class. Our conversations gave me a deeper understanding of the power issues women face in their particular community, which helped shape the other component of my internship. I developed a conscious building module that Ruwwad will translate into Arabic and implement over the next few months. I am really excited about this and think Ruwwad is a model social justice organization. I feel so blessed to have been selected to intern for them.Kristin Chasel Jordan l SIT and IE3 Global Internships

While completing my internship, I lived in an apartment with a British woman who worked as a refugee activist. It was really nice to live with someone who shared similar passions and could relate to being a woman abroad. Living in a new environment, particularly the Middle East, has a lot of negative stereotypes attached to it—especially if you’re a woman. However, I highly recommend it! I found that in general, because of my respect for the local customs and interest in the language, culture, and religious dynamics, most families and women accepted me and treated me as family. Jordan, and some neighboring countries, I would argue, are much safer than reported by the media. Moving somewhere new with such a complex and fascinating culture forced me to rely on myself and become more competent, not only in navigating new geographical spaces, but also in understanding sociocultural dynamics, my own identity, and other people. I have become so much more confident and grown into myself by embarking on this journey and I am beyond blessed to have had this opportunity. I can’t wait to go back!

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Talk Deutsch to Me

January 15th, 2014 · No Comments · College of Liberal Arts, College of Science, Environmental Science, Exchange, OUS, Returnee, study abroad

Charlene is 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. She is currently a senior and is applying for funding of her Master’s studies in Germany for next October.

Waterfront - OUS Baden-Württemberg Exchange Program During my time abroad I marveled at the Germans’ environmental protection and conservation efforts through culture, laws, trash separation, wind and solar energy development, but what I fell in love with was the language. Yes, I know. Deutsch is rarely, if ever, deemed poetic and lyrical. However, the words are practical conglomerations of smaller words. Deutsch has a multitude of dialects within and outside of Germany. The language is diverse yet unified through the people who speak it. I find it beautiful.

I did not begin my year in Freiburg with immaculate Deutsch. Although I had already completed the 300 series at OSU (equivalent to 3rd year proficiency) and could read and write pretty well, meine Aussprache, or pronunciation, and overall confidence in speaking the language was lacking. I went abroad with the set goal to improve my Deutsch, but improvement in a foreign language does not happen overnight. Through this blog entry, I hope to illustrate how difficult it can be to step out of your language comfort zone, but just how rewarding that leap can be for you as a person.

I was super enthusiastic my first few weeks in Germany, but I began to feel overwhelmed. I was far from home: my culture, my humor, my food, my music. Although I had travelled before, I had never lived in a foreign country for an extended period of time, or had to rely on my foreign language skills to get around. I was exhausted at the end of each day. I eventually realized that taking university courses for a foreign language was much different than trying to comfortably utilize that language in a society. I had an American accent. As soon as I spoke — if I were lucky enough not to be immediately “English’d” — I was asked “Ach, wo kommst du her?” (“Oh, where are you from?”).  This sounds like an innocent question, but after a while, it can become intimidating. You try to improve your language skills and integrate, yet you are continuously reminded of your foreignness.

So I went through a period where I avoided speaking to others, in German or English. My brain was so confused.  It became normal for me to mix German and English vocabulary and grammar, and sometimes even my American friends didn’t understand what I was trying to communicate. So I stopped talking and started listening. I began to observe, wNight Out - OUS Baden-Württemberg Exchange Program hich was new to me. In the U.S., I was always in the spotlight or on the stage; I’d never been a wallflower.

As I listened and observed the people around me for a couple of weeks, I began to understand how they interpersonally communicated: quieter voices, polite verb forms, overall more reserved. I would eavesdrop on conversations in the Straβenbahn (streetcar/tramway) and began to understand the little Kinder (children), which was a very good sign my listening comprehension was improving. I eventually began to realize that I would have to use German if I expected myself to make progress with the language. I was a foreigner in a foreign place, and I would just have to adjust and be more patient with myself and my abilities.

I remember one Tuesday morning in Freiburg very clearly. Waking up, I told myself, “Today is the day, I’m going to make German friends.” That morning I was on a mission.

I made my way to campus and entered the Vorlesung (lecture) room a few minutes early to find my American friend had not yet arrived. It was the perfect opportunity. I went to the row behind where we, die zwei Amis (two Americans), usually sat and asked two German students if we could sit with them that day, to which they responded “Na klar!” (Well of course!).

I was relieved, but tried to mask it—I was now sailing uncharted waters. When my American friend arrived, he looked pleasantly surprised to discover that we would be sitting with the Germans that day. We both managed to make conversation with our two new friends, although we had to ask a few times “Wie bitte?” to have them patiently repeat themselves so that we could be a part of the conversation.

At the end of Vorlesung, I was determined to not let this opportunity for friendship with the natives slip by. I immediately asked if they were free on Friday night and would like to get together for a dinner and game night at Stusie (our dorm). To my ultimate delight and relief, we exchanged Handynummern (cell phone numbers) with the Germans.

From then on, my language began to improve. I cared less about my grammar mistakes and American accent, it was more important to me that I had foundRoller Derby - OUS Baden-Württemberg Exchange Program patient friends who would interact with me and were just as curious about me as I was about them. I have to say, my language developed through the friendships I made throughout the year. In January, I joined the local roller derby team and spent my Friday nights at Training, learning to understand Umgangsprache (slang) and how to roller skate. By the beginning of my second semester in Germany, I was taking regular university courses in Environmental Science with the Germans, I had Training with the derby girls, and I spent time with my Tandem partner (my German conversant partner) cooking Käsespätzle and watching Tatort (a popular German television series). I was totally surrounded by Deutsch. I could feel myself continually making progress and adapting to the culture. I’m very blessed to have made the friends I did in Freiburg, many of whom I have remained in active contact with! Through my friendships came my language skills and the best part about being back in the United States is that I know Deutsch ist und bleibt für immer ein Teil von mir (German is and remains forever a part of me).

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Public Health in Botswana

January 8th, 2014 · No Comments · CIEE, College of Public Health and Human Sciences, study abroad, Uncategorized

Olivia Hollenhorst is an International Ambassador for the International Degree and Education Abroad (IDEA) office. She is a senior studying Public Health and considering a GIS Certification. During Winter and Spring terms 2013 Olivia participated in the CIEE: Community Public Health Botswana program.

As a Public Health major with only a basic understanding of anatomy and an expired CPR certification under my belt, I felt a little Clinic Sign - CIEE Botswanaunderqualified standing next to Dr. Suzie, the competent French speaking doctor from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). As she began to cauterize the blood vessels on our adult circumcision patient, I thought to myself how lucky I was to be observing in such a unique environment. This was my third month in Botswana and already I had crossed four borders, eaten breakfast next to white rhinos, picked up enough local Setswana to ask for directions, and now here I was observing births and circumcisions in the small village of Kanye.

My study abroadBotswanian Natives - CIEE Botswana program was specifically designed with a public health emphasis, allowing myself and the other students to spend 10 hours a week observing and learning in the local clinics around the capital city of Gaborone. Botswana was an especially exceptional country to study in due to its celebrity in the public health world for its management and response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Just 10 years ago, Botswana’s life expectancy was in the 30s. With a 40 percent prevalence rate across the country, the already small population of Botswana took a hit physically and economically.

With the help of foreign aid, the government of Botswana has been able to expand health care coverage to around 90 percent of the population. This coverage includes HIV/AIDS counseling, anti-retroviral therapy, and co-infection treatment for tuberculosis. While still extremely limited in resources and man power (17 percent of the health care work force was depleted due to the epidemic), Botswana has raised its life expectancy back up to 60 years Scenery - CIEE Botswanaand lowered the adult prevalence rate to 23.9 percent. Though the pervasiveness of HIV/AIDS still leaves Botswana with the second highest prevalence rate in the world, there is no doubt that care and treatment for HIV/AIDS have been drastically improved.

Botswana’s health care system is centralized on primary health care through the government. There is a nominal fee of five pula (equating to 58 U.S. cents), but anyone who needs care receives it. Although the national health care system is accessible and inexpensive, there are still gaps in quality of care and management.  One of the largest problems Botswana faces in most government factions is human and resource management. While there may be a clinic in every major village, they are not always adequately stocked or staffed. Being on the ground, observing and assisting in clinics made me realize how variable and inimitable health care is. Every country must have a characteristically unique system in order to provide the most comprehensive and accurate care for the population. My five months in Botswana left me with a committed interest in global health and an understanding of how much more I have to learn.

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Comparative Healthcare: An Ecuadorian Perspective

December 2nd, 2013 · No Comments · College of Science, Ecuador, IE3 Global Internships, International Degree, University Honors College

Erik Dove is a senior in the Honors College at Oregon State University, pursuing degrees in Biology and International Studies with minors in Chemistry and Spanish.  He works as an International Ambassador for the International Degree and Education Abroad (IDEA) office. In Spring 2013, Erik participated in a medical internship in Quito, Ecuador, through Child Family Health International and IE3 Global Internships.

I recently returned from a ten week medical internship in Quito and Chone, Ecuador, through IE3 Global Internships. IE3 partners with Child Family Health International, an organization that connects local and international health professionals to conduct community health projects and global health education programs.  My internship took place in clinics and hospitals in two cities, offering a comparative perspective on the health care available in urban and rural settings. Our curriculum consisted of daily clinical rotations and Spanish classes, yet offered ample free time to explore the cities and travel on weekends. On a professional level, this internship exposed me to differences in clinical care, ethics, and health education, stemming from the distinct cultural identity of the Ecuadorian people.

Erik Dove I CFHI I EcuadorI lived with a host family throughout the ten week program.  This opened up the door to cultural experiences to which I would not have otherwise been exposed.  Our house was located in downtown Quito and was a quick walk to the bus stop, where I could access all parts of the city for twenty five cents. My host family was also able to give me advice on places to visit, activities to do, and foods to try.  Additionally, my Spanish speaking skills were greatly improved by living with the family, as it forced me to practice my Spanish continuously.

I chose this particular internship site because it offered the chance to gain valuable clinical and language experience.  A personal goal of mine is to become proficient in Spanish, so living with a host family and taking language classes as a part of the program contributed to the immersive experience I was looking for. During clinical rotations, we learned treatment practices, conducted patient interviews, and assisted physicians when necessary. An added benefit was that it exposed me to societal and cultural aspects applicable to my undergraduate thesis, which focuses on public health issues in Ecuadorian populations.

For me, the most valuable component of the CFHI internship was the opportunity to develop skills necessary to communicate with patients of a diverse culture. These skills are a vital element of being able to deliver effective care as a health professional. ThroughouErik Dove I CFHI I Ecuadort the program, my program peers and I witnessed the importance of considering each patient’s values, beliefs, and ideals. An individual’s cultural background may influence the attitude they have towards medicine, their physician, and their understanding of health.  For example, during the time I spent in the Emergency department of the rural city of Chone, a patient was rushed in with a poisonous snake bite. Upon arriving, his forearm was blackened and enormously swollen. As he drifted in and out of consciousness, his friend explained that he had been bitten almost 5 hours previously, but had initially sought treatment from a medicine man rather than the hospital. Due to his delay in seeking professional treatment, he was sent into surgery for amputation.  This incident represents the challenges health professionals face when treating individuals with varying levels of health awareness. Consequently, health care workers who are sensitive to cultural issues are able to provide a higher level of care for their patients. The internship experience offered the opportunity to develop my language and cross-cultural skills, and provided the necessary education to enhance clinical experiences.

An additional advantage of the internship was the exposure to a variety of medical specialties, which allowed me to explore focuses within the field of medicine.  Our intern group spent each week in a different clinical setting, observing in the Surgery, Hematology, Emergency, and Internal Medicine departments to name a few.  This made for incredibly interesting experiences in all kinds of clinical settings – gruesome dog bites, broken bones, and the rapid assessment and treatment of victims of accidents.

My experiences in Ecuador led to an appreciation for a health care system vastly different from that of the United States.  I returned with greatly improved Spanish speaking skills and a broader sense of cultural awareness. The internship helped me to identify specific areas of medicine that interest me and allowed me to gain experiences that will enhance a future career in health.

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Lay-Ups in Lancaster

November 21st, 2013 · No Comments · College of Liberal Arts, Education Double Degree, Exchange, Political Science, Returnee, study abroad

Zach Johnson is an International Ambassador for the International Degree and Education Abroad (IDEA) office. Zach is currently studying Political Science and pursing the Education Double Degree at Oregon State. During the 2012-2013 academic year, Zach participated in a year-long OSU exchange program at Lancaster University in Lancaster, England.

As a huge soccer fan, I had always wanted to see a live match in England, but if someone had told me two years ago that I would be watching a Premier League Zachary Johnson I Lancaster Exchange match in Manchester, England I would have laughed in their face. Studying abroad transformed what seemed like an unlikely dream into a reality. During the academic year of 2012-2013 I had the privilege of studying abroad in Lancaster, England at Lancaster University. I was lucky enough to be accepted into an OSU exchange program through which I was able to pay regular in-state OSU tuition, fees, etc. and study abroad in another country. As a duel major student (Political Science and Education) I am entering my fifth year now, and actually went abroad in my fourth, so don’t let your academic class standing stop you from going abroad! While abroad, I studied politics, specifically international relations courses that focused on the Middle East, the UK, and the EU. This was an amazing way to gain new and exciting perspectives on some of the biggest issues in politics.  During my time I was able to travel to multiple countries, including Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, and more!

One of the more surprising aspects of my journey abroad was the fact that I tried out for the Lancaster University Basketball team and made it as an international walk-on! As a dedicated sports fan, and someone who grew up playing competitive sports there has been a little something missing in my life since finishing my competitive sports career after high school. For this reasonZachary Johnson I Lancaster Exchange I did a bit of research about the team and contacted both the coach and president of the team prior to my arrival in Lancaster. We discussed if they held tryouts for international or exchange students, and luckily for me they kept five spots on the team for open tryouts. As Lancaster is a very popular international school, and many students participate in yearlong or two yearlong exchanges they leave a limited number of roster spots open for students like me. So, I attended the open tryout and was selected to fill one of the open positions. I eventually worked my way into the starting lineup which was an incredible honor for me. During the season we played in the Northern England 1A division—the second highest division in England. I was able to travel all around the UK playing basketball, meet a ton of incredible people and revitalize a passion of mine! This was just one of many aspects of a remarkable year I spent abroad. From the people, to the places, to the experiences,  my year abroad provided me with not only the most fun year of my life, but one in which I grew immensely as a friend, student, and individual. I will end here, and leave you with what almost any person who has spent time abroad will tell you and that is to do it, you won’t regret it!

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A Voyage of Self-Reflection

November 15th, 2013 · No Comments · College of Science, Returnee, Semester at Sea, study abroad

Helen Walters is a senior  at Oregon State pursuing a degree in Bioresource Research with a minor in Chemistry. During Summer 2012 Helen voyaged with Semester at Sea (SAS) – a program that provides students with a multiple country experience. During her 2 month voyage, Helen visited the countries of Spain, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Morocco and Portugal. 

This past MV Explorer l Semester at Sea l Summer 2012summer, I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in Semester at Sea’s 2012 Summer Voyage. The entire experience was made possible because of funding that I received from both Semester at Sea and Oregon State University.  Throughout my program, I wrote and shared a blog of my various adventures and experiences with family, friends, and contacts back home.  The trip, as one would imagine, was incredible. The new sights, experiences, and friendships I discovered were beyond anything I had previously imagined. Being immersed in so many different cultures stimulated a lot of reflection time when I got back to the U.S. I discovered that what I had most taken away from my SAS experience was a broadened sense of the world and a more accurate sense of self.

As it turned out my favorite experience wasn’t the snorkeling in Croatia, or the camel riding in Morocco, or watching the 2012 Eurocup semifinals in Barcelona, Spain (and mind you I am a huge soccer fan). My favorite part of the trip was how I felt at the end. I thought for a long time, “why was it that out of all the new experiences I had and people I met, that the ultimate end of the experience was a greater understanding of the world and how I fit in it.”

This brings me to the crux of my reflection: Culture Shock.

You hear many times before embarking on your journey abroad that when you reach the destination, you will experience something called “culture shock.” Culture shock happens when you are completely immersed in a culture that is unlike the one you have spent your entire previous life in. It can be scary, exciting, new, and ultimately shocking. Culture shock is discussed as something to be feared, wary of, and ultimately inevitable. The reverse of culture shock happens when you arrive back home and are re-introduced to America.Semester at Sea l Turkey l Summer 2012

When you arrive back stateside from your study abroad, people view you differently and you view yourself differently. You feel like a different person and those around you, who are at all perceptive, take notice.

Before I went on the 2012 Semester at Sea Summer Voyage, I had never been out of North America.  I had never before heard people speaking languages that I did not understand, nor had I seen stop signs written in Arabic (a language I could not even begin to read) and I certainly had never met people like those I met abroad.  I was in culture shock.

One of my favorite experiences actually involved being lost in Istanbul, Turkey. I was looking for a hotel that my friend’s mom was staying in and somehow managed to get very lost. It was dark and we were wandering in the back alleyways of Istanbul. The biggest problem was that I couldn’t understand any of the people and therefore asking for directions was quite challenging. My friend and I saw five Turkish men sitting on the side of the road playing a card game and chatting away. Desperate, I approached them and asked for directions to the hotel, as I frantically pointed to the address on the piece of paper that I clutched in my hand. They were talking in Turkish. I was talking in English.   Not a word was understood. It was obvious that we were at an impasse.

Then, one of the elderly gentlemen took my precious piece of paper containing the address I was trying to reach. He raised his hand in a motion to follow him. Then the question was “do I follow the old man down the dark alleyway or do I not?” Well, yes was the answer I came up with. Yes. For twenty minutes, my friend and I walked through winding alleyways, up and down hills, and around buildinSemester at Sea l Turkey l Summer 2012gs as we followed this man. Eventually, we came out on the busy street. Right in front of us was the hotel and the man was frantically pointing to it, as if saying “please, it is right in front of you, you cannot miss it from here!”

As I am searching in my purse for some Turkish liras, the nice gentleman just walks away. Although he didn’t accept any form of payment for his help and he may never remember me, I will forever remember him as the man who showed me the way in Istanbul.

Yes, some of the culture shock was scary, but mostly it’s exhilarating. For the first time, I was the minority. I was the one having difficulties speaking a language that was foreign to me. Ultimately I was the one who didn’t “fit in.” It was absolutely wonderful. This new atmosphere induced vast amounts of learning about other cultures and stimulated a desire to understand the world better.

The bottom line is that no matter how well one attempts to prepare for it, culture shock can still happen. When you return you may be the quiet one who prefers to re-examine the scenery of America, or you may be the boisterous one who wants to share every single story you have with every person you meet. Regardless, remember your experiences abroad and remember how they have allowed you to see the world in a different light. Most importantly, remember that no matter what you saw or did, you are still the same person, but with a greater understanding of the world at large.

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