Everyone’s study abroad experience is different. Before I left for Royal Holloway, I was intimidated by the thought of somehow not taking enough advantage of my time abroad, or not using the experience to its full potential. I knew I was excited to spend time living in the U.K., but would I travel “enough”? Would I go on enough adventures to feel I had the approval of all the relatives and friends I left at home, who were so excited for me to embark on this experience?
During my time in Surrey, I discovered that the less I worried about these questions, the more I got out of the experience, and the more fun I had. I had to remind myself that there were no rules to going abroad, and my family would be happy for me no matter how I chose to spend my time.
I spent a lot of my days in London. I became an expert in navigating the British railway system and London underground. I spent a lot more time on campus then perhaps a lot of other students do while abroad, but I made some amazing friendships through the societies (British for clubs) that I believe will be long lasting. I tried standup comedy. I had full English breakfasts at the pub in town way more often than is healthily advisable. I visited my friend in Oxford many times, and I became friends with other international students who were just as nervous as I was.
Even though I wasn’t going to a different country every weekend, I did a lot living on my own. That in itself was invaluable to my growth as a human being. The combination of excellent public transportation and the desire to try new things led me to develop my sense of independence, for which I will forever be grateful. Two years ago, I never would have thought that I could confidently walk around New York City by myself. Now, having spent countless days in London on my own, I feel like I could take on any city life throws at me next.
I did get to do some further reaching travels. My weekend in Scotland was one of my favorite parts of the whole experience, and I was lucky enough to get to travel some of the continent after term ended. Even if I hadn’t made it to those beautiful cities, however, I would still feel like my time abroad was more than well spent. Sometimes students can feel all this pressure to “make the most” of their time in college, especially while abroad. My advice is, make your time what you want it to be. Do things that make you happy, whatever they are. Undoubtedly, they will help you grow into a confident and strong citizen of the world in your own way. For me, being on my own in the U.K. made me more aware of the world around me, and even more so, of myself.
I hold close to my heart the knowledge that I am a Washington College student regardless of what country is under my feet. In fact, some mornings in Cork I wake up and feel close to Chestertown regardless of the thousands of miles between us. Sometimes it's the sound of birds flying overhead or the sun glimmering off the river Lee that takes me back. Other times a local student will ask me about college in the United States, and I get to undertake the impossible task of explaining what my life at Washington College is like.
The value of the liberal arts education is its timelessness. What I have learned at Washington College is not bound to the location or to the people, but rather to the philosophy that educating the next generation of thinkers will require them to think extrinsically-- to interface with the world around them whilst embracing an insatiable curiosity. Being a global citizen embodies these ideals and encourages me to leave a lasting impression on the people I meet and the activities I try, just as those same people and activities have irrevocably changed me.
Global citizenship isn't about how many stamps are in your passport or sleepless nights in airports or even the amount of new friends you make. Instead, it is about allowing yourself to soak in and participate with the world around you, to actively experience culture in all its forms, and to say yes to adventure wherever it may call you.
I love traveling! Even though I have hardly traveled anywhere. So, I guess I should say; I love the prospects of traveling. In my opinion, traveling brings a lot of cross-cultural experiences you will not have if you stay at one place. And in some sense, traveling around the globe contributes to being a global citizen. However, I don’t believe that is the only requirement for being a global citizen.
I had never thought of the essence of being a global citizen nor considered myself one. Having said that, this semester changed my perspectives. Before the semester officially began, I had the opportunity to be an International Student Guide for incoming international students. I learned so much from this diverse group of people in less than a week. This week singlehandedly, was the most exhausting week of my life that I can remember but the experience was extremely rewarding. Despite the work load, I will not trade the laughter, stories, smiles, connections and bonds for anything else. That week taught me so much that would not have been possible in even two semesters.
Throughout all this, I began to have a deeper respect for the cultures, traditions and languages of other people. I saw how connections develop regardless of geographical or linguistic barriers. This experience transcended the awesomeness of having many languages spoken at once or different countries being represented in a single room. This was my profound journey to self and cultural awareness. It was my journey to better social interactions. And most importantly, this was my journey to being a global citizen.
I now value the importance of being called a global citizen and I embrace this name with pride. To me, a global citizen is a person who is respectful, understanding and even more importantly, willing to share and partake in different cultural traditions, languages or experiences. A global citizen does not wait to travel the world to participate in any cross-cultural relations but instead, finds the diversity around him or her and explores it. I believe that, whether I backpack travel across continents, or stay in Chestertown, my awareness of the different people around me and my willingness to engage and see culture and ideologies from different point of views is what makes me a Global Citizen.
In my opinion, anyone who is called a Global Citizen is broadening their horizons wherever they may be and is appreciating the numerous differences around him or her.
When I began my year abroad I promised myself I would journal every day and take more pictures and videos than I knew what to do with.
I did not keep these resolutions.
Upon arrival in Japan I realized I was in over my head. I couldn’t even read the name of the closest train station to my dorm because I couldn’t read Japanese! My journals quickly became the notes for basic survival.
Instead of writing about my trips with friends to Kyoto, South Korea, or Thailand, I wrote advice. A lot of advice.
I kept a “Survival Guide for Meiji Gakuin University” in my journal that I have updated semi-frequently. Some of the highlights include:
1. Invest in everything waterproof.
a.I discovered this after walking 40 minutes home from school in the middle of a typhoon on the first day of classes fall semester. My umbrella broke, my phone refused to charge, and my shoes took a week to dry.
2. The dorm says “internet provided” but this does not mean wifi! Only wifi means wifi! It’s an Ethernet cord! Macbooks need an adaptor! The horror!
3. Rules are different in Japan. Make sure to read ALL the signs.
a. My friend was accused of shoplifting and taken to the police station because she didn’t see the sign at the store that asked customers to purchase their goods on each floor. Not all at once on one floor.
4. Watch a video about the Japanese trains during rush hour. One day you will be one of those people.
5. The dorms have a curfew and keep track of who enters and exits the building. It is important for the school to account for all students in the dorm in the event of an earthquake.
a.Growing up in Delaware and going to school in Maryland I had never truly experienced earthquakes before. My first week in Japan we had 3 or 4 extremely small earthquakes that really shook me up. They helped me realize how quickly everything can literally come crumbing down.
Hopefully this advice helps a future student in Japan. One last “Japan Fact” is that the Japanese academic year begins in April, so as I am writing this I am just beginning my second semester here, and all my friends at Washington College, or at another study abroad university, are finishing their semester. The sakura, or cherry blossoms, have just begun to bloom and the first years are exploring the campus. I am going on my first “hanami” adventure this weekend, where people of all ages go out to parks and picnic under the cherry blossom trees. Even though I have been in Japan for 7 months I am still surrounded by countless “firsts.” To me, that is the most important thing about my year in Japan. New adventures, new struggles, and new insights into a culture that I know I will never fully understand.
There are so many things that I could say about what I learned while I studied abroad. That while abroad, you very quickly learn the merits of increased adaptability. That traveling can sometimes teach you more than a classroom ever could. That Kasteel Rouge is most definitely the best beer in the world. But anyone can tell you that. I’ve studied abroad three times for a total of 11 months, twice in France and once in London, England, and during that time there were many things that I discovered specifically about myself. That London is my favorite place in the world. That when I’m abroad, the things I miss most are my pets and Thai food from a little restaurant in Pasadena. That I was definitely right about making Benedict Cumberbatch my favorite actor/celebrity crush. Lastly, study abroad made me come to some pretty profound realizations. That being alone, traveling alone, can sometimes be the greatest opportunity in the world. That no matter where you go, it is the smallest things that end of making the biggest differences. And that it is actually possible for a town to cause so much heartache that it physically hurts to be away from it. In the end, these are my insights from my experiences, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything (except perhaps a farm full of pugs). I may love these experiences, but to many others they can be very boring. The point of study abroad is to have your own experiences and discover your own values. It can be a daunting task to juggle the logistics of getting there, and once there it can seem impossible to adjust to a new culture. In my experience, it can be all too easy to get caught up in these feelings of insecurity and anxiety, and allow those feelings to prevent you from doing what you truly want to do. But of all the things that study abroad and college life have taught me, this is the most important: life is precious. Don’t waste time by taking it too seriously. (I’m a senior, I’m allowed to get cheesy).
Student teaching in Tanzania, Africa was a once in a lifetime opportunity that opened my eyes to the effect a teacher can have on a student's life. I learned so much about other teaching styles, education systems, cultures, and most distinctly, myself. My purpose on this trip was to teach and touch children’s lives on the other side of the world, and I left with so many more lessons taught to me than I could have predicted. I wanted to be a part of their education system, and the firsthand experience taught me more than any book could; I want to translate my experiences and learning into effective teaching styles here in the United States. I want to incite the same excitement about learning and exploring new cultures in students just as I did in Tanzania schools.
To summarize my experience studying abroad in such a “bonita” (beautiful) place like Madrid, Spain is impossible. What I’ve learned, the memories I’ve made, the places I’ve visited, and the incredible people I’ve met will forever hold a special place in my heart. Spain has given me much more than I will be ever to give back, and I am forever thankful to have spent a little over four months learning, exploring, and transforming into a true Madreñlina (person of Madrid).
Before I left home, I wasn’t aware of how special this place would mean to me. Walking through the calles (streets) after class, grabbing a coffee with a friend, taking a daily siesta (naps, which are not frowned upon but instead encouraged), and laughing about anything and everything with my host family soon became home to me.
I still remember perfectly arriving to my flat (confused, sleep deprived, but excited) and being greeted by host mom with dos besos (the norm in Spain to kiss both cheeks) and immediately being welcomed into their home. Soon after I was greeted by the father and three daughters, which are all my age and soon became my closest friends. Naturally, I was given a tortilla Española (an incredible creation of an omelet but with chopped potatoes and onion in a pie form), and a coffee to wake me up from my long travel. This experience is a perfect metaphor to describe the people of Spain; immediately welcoming, incredibly giving, and always willing to make you a café no matter what time of the day it is (the coffee here is incomparable).
The next morning after arriving was orientation. Jet lagged and all I managed to get to my university on time after getting lost and asking for directions even though it was a mere five minutes away (keep in mind my Spanish was nowhere where it is now), and I quickly found a group of individuals who were all in the same situation. It’s easy to spot a bunch of foreigners in a crowd of Spaniards.
As far as classes go, I am a double major in Business Management and Hispanic Studies so all of my courses are in Spanish and mostly centered on the language. However, I do have one business course about Businesses in Spain, which is also taught in Spanish (pretty cool to learn the cultural differences and new vocabulary). I have two classes a day, Monday through Thursday, allowing travel room for the weekends. I absolutely love my school here, it’s small like WAC, it’s a lot more of a relaxed environment (like everything in Spain, “tranquilo”), the professors are hilarious, and only having class four days a week makes the week fly by. Also, arriving fifteen minutes late to class every once in a while is a thing and completely normal. Before you know it, it’s Thursday and you’re either planning to go to a local park and catch some Spanish sun, go to a local bar and watch a fútbol (soccer) match with your amigos, or rushing home to grab your backpack and catch your flight that cost less than the pair of boots you probably bought yesterday.
Everyone dresses nice daily, even red lipstick is normal to class, and you will hardly catch anyone in the streets wearing a sweatshirt or yoga pants unless they are going to the gym. Fashion is a big thing which means the shopping in Madrid… Incredible. I even arrived during the second month of their two-month long “rebajas” (essentially a holiday for sales). Needless to say, I immediately fell in love with the most popular and successful brand in Spain; Zara.
Something that I truly love about Spain is the way of life. Spaniards are relaxed and “no pase nada” is a perfect phrase (my favorite) to describe the life here. “No pase nada” is essentially “it doesn’t matter”, “no worries”, and “it’s all good” put into one phrase. How cool right? But seriously, people focus less on their jobs and more on their relationships and friends. It’s awesome really. People go to work of course but then during siesta time either take a nap, go home to eat with family, or grab a coffee, cerveza (beer), or a tinto de verano (red wine mixed with lemonade, my personal favorite) with a friend at a local bar or café. Not to mention, when you order a drink, you get a free tapa! Trying a new café with a friend after school and getting a café con leche (espresso with milk, the coffee of Spain) is one of my absolute favorite things to do. It’s so relaxing; you grab a coffee (maybe/always a croissant as well) and just sit and enjoy the environment and the people you’re with.
People stay up until around 1a.m. normally, which is why a siesta is essential in my opinion because people wake up at normal hours. Also, if you’re going out you might not even get to the bar/discoteca (dancing club) until around 2-3a.m. and will stay out all night; some even try and stay out until 6a.m. for when the metro opens. That being said, the streets are always filled with people. So, sleeping in until midday on a weekend and waking up for lunch around 2 p.m. (the biggest meal of the day) is normal (and also awesome).
As far as my travels go, I was lucky enough to visit a few other breathtaking cities in Spain and also across Europe on my weekends bouncing around from hostel to hostel. I visited Segovia, Granada, Barcelona, Pedraza, Seville, and a few other cities in Spain. In Europe, I traveled to Rome where I met up with my two friends and WCFH teammates Ali Grady and Jordan Mitchell for a weekend. We enjoyed gelato at least twice a day without thinking twice and had fresh pasta for dinner every night. I never thought I would have the opportunity to travel to all of these places, let alone share those experiences with two of my closest friends. I also visited London and had the opportunity to visit with my cousins, easily making that one of my favorite trips filled with lots of laughter and a full English breakfast. I visited Paris, Portugal, and I am going to Amsterdam this upcoming weekend. However, Madrid without a doubt has been my absolute favorite. My friends and I always jokingly say we get “Madrid home sick” on our travels when we are away because we love it so much. Nevertheless, traveling to those other places have been truly unbelievable and I am looking forward to visiting them again in my future.
There are a few things I will really miss about this beautiful place. The fact I can buy a bottle of wine less than one euro (three euros if you want to get fancy), that there is fresh bread for every meal, siesta time in general, and most of all my host family. Without a doubt, living here and making memories with this family is the one thing I am most thankful for. Living with them and feeling completely at home has made my experience that much better. Speaking Spanish, eating lunch, gossiping over some coffee, and overall just joking around and talking about our days is something I will forever cherish and hold in my heart. It’s bittersweet knowing I will leave just under two weeks but I know I will be back one day and have these memories forever.
This experience has taught me so much about myself, different cultures, and has made me really appreciate the life I have back in the states and the wonderful people that are in it. It’s difficult to write about everything I’ve gained and the people I’ve met while being here in such a small article, which is why I think studying abroad is such a gift. It something you can’t explain, but yet something you need to just live and appreciate in the moment. It teaches you about what you can’t learn being in the classroom; it’s so much more than that. It teaches you about life, yourself, and what’s out there. It’s bittersweet knowing I will leave soon, however, I am so thankful for my experience and cannot wait to see what my next adventure will be.
Muchas gracias para todo Madrid, Te veré pronto.
"If we were meant to stay in one place, we'd have roots instead of feet, he said." - Rachel Wolchin
Seeking a break from the mega city in China with a 20-million population, I decided to make a big change and come to Washington College. Quickly has time passed, and it is already my last semester at the school. I still think I chose wisely four years ago because Washington College really provided me with an excellent international education experience.
In summer 2013, I first arrived at Chestertown with some distance from Baltimore and Washington D.C. I grew up in a city filled with traffic and skyscrapers, so I immediately fell in love the peace and quiet in this small town. All the people that I first met indeed represent well the small town culture because everyone was surely nice and welcoming. I was fortunate to be surrounded by many kind people and I have never received a single no whenever I reach out to seek help. That was when I knew it would be a lovely place to spend 4 years.
Some people think there isn’t much to see here in Chestertown, but I have most certainly been enjoying the large areas of green throughout my college term. Plus, I find many opportunities to get a ride offered by the school to the nearby cities such as D.C, NYC, and Philly. The Global Education Office team always tries to offer their best and holding this kind of fun trips and events. Meanwhile, variety of restaurants and bars in town, although not perfect, do offer an alternative option when you need something outside the dining hall. Besides, First Friday and farmer’s market undoubtedly make the town a popular place. There is a Harry Potter Festival every year. So, if you explore, you will enjoy what the tiny Chestertown has to offer for sure because you will discover something new every day.
Moreover, the school gives good education and many career opportunities. Attending this liberal arts college, you will be exposed to various courses, and this will help if you do not know what you want to do because you will have the opportunity to explore different areas of studies. Almost every class has only 10-20 students makeing it extremely easy for you to get to know the professor. This can be even more advantageous for international students because of the extra possible communication. There are many employment opportunities on campus for international students that you will have the chance to make extra dough outside class. The career center also does a wonderful job that the staff will help the students perfect their portfolio, and be prepared to move forward post-graduation.
"Roses are red,
Violet are blue.
Washington College is great school."
-an original poem by Hao Zhang