This past week was extremely fun, yet tiring. I met so many international students and learned so much about Mexican culture. Los jovenes les gusta la musica reggae y beben mucho tequila. Mexicans definitely know how to have fun and they love to party. Just in the first week there were so many parties that I couldn’t even keep count of. I only went out once because partying isn’t really my scene, but they definitely went hard! We were in a party bus then went to one club after another, ALL FOR FREE! How crazy is that? They treated us like family. The students here are so nice to us, and it makes me feel very comfortable. They are always willing to help us, to speak to us, and to just be a great resource/friend. I have had many conversations with native speakers, and I feel like I am already getting better at holding a conversation. Yesterday I went to watch wrestling, se llama “La Lucha Libre” en Espanol, and it was so funny. Getting to see something like WWE live has always been a dream, so that was very fun. My classes are extremely fun, and I cannot wait to learn more and understand more. Lastly, this past weekend we went to Angelopolis, it’s like a mall area, and we rode the ferris wheel. I had a great time being in the city, but soon we will be taking more trips. I can’t wait!
This semester I am studying abroad in Puebla, Mexico. I hope to gain so much from this experience and learn so many things. Why Mexico you might ask, well I’ve always had a love for learning Spanish and learning about Latinx culture, so I thought the best way to fully learn is to be present. By being here in Mexico, I hope that I can get better at my Spanish and have a better understanding of the culture. I think it’s essential for us to step outside of ourselves and learn about other communities because everyone’s culture is important. Not only do I want to understand my own struggles within my community, but also the struggles that Hispanic people face, so one day I’ll be able to speak truth to power within the Latinx community, as well as my own. Join me on my journey in Puebla!
During my time abroad I visited Madrid, Spain. I was in awe of the beautiful landmarks in Madrid as well as in its surrounding cities. Downtown Madrid has so many historic buildings and statues that I was lucky enough to see like El Oso y el Madroño. I also enjoyed that I could speak in Spanish with the locals which helped me find more places to visit. After visiting downtown Madrid I went to Toledo which is the former capital city of Spain. It has many medieval buildings and it is also fortified. After visiting Toledo I also took a trip to Segovia which is home to a former royal palace and a Roman aqueduct. Spain is a great place to visit as it has a lot of history and beauty. I would tell anyone going to Europe to make a stop in Spain!
During my time in Denmark, I took a day trip to Copenhagen with friends I made in my course. We took a bus and then ferry to Copenhagen which is the most affordable method of transportation for students! During our time in Copenhagen, we visited Nikolaj church, the Little Mermaid statue, and we took a boat tour. We did not plan anything before we went so everything we did was spontaneous and it was so much fun. I recommend a trip to Copenhagen to any student studying abroad.
Another social activity I participated in was a trip to the old town located in central Aarhus. The old town is an open air museum that opened in 1914. It is a museum of urban history and culture that even has original homes from the 1860’s. It was a beautiful museum that taught me a lot about Aarhus and its people.
Going into this summer, I knew I was embarking on an international adventure. However, I did not anticipate just how many different kinds of people of people I would meet along the way, how many languages and cultures I would be surrounded by, and how many beautiful friendships this would lead to. The Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Intensive attracts people from all over the world; I have met people from the Netherlands, Germany, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Poland, Britain, Portugal, Italy, Malta, Macedonia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Russia, Mexico, Canada, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Australia, South Africa, of course Israel, and I may even be forgetting a few. At any time when I am walking somewhere, I may hear three or four different languages along the way.
I have never been part of such an international group, and I have loved learning about the different places people come from. Despite all of the different languages spoken here, the most amazing revelation has been that we all share a common language of movement: we speak through our bodies with the vocabulary of dance.
It’s been about a week and a half since I’ve arrived in Russia, and it already feels like a month. I’ve had to do so much, learn so much, in just this first half of August.
I arrived last Saturday, August 3rd, and perhaps the very first thing I noticed upon leaving the airport was how much cooler the temperature was. Though this may not be all that surprising to some people, it shocked me to learn that St. Petersburg is as far north as Juneau, Alaska. I had learned this prior to leaving for Russia, but it really struck home when we landed in St. Petersburg and the temperature was only in the upper 50s. I had flown out of New York, where the average temperature for the past week was over 90 degrees, and I spent the summer at home in Omaha, Nebraska, where we had weeklong stretches of highs above 100. So to step outside and find that I actually needed my coat? Super strange. I skipped the second half of summer and went straight to autumn.
Since then, it has gotten a little warmer here, but the daily range remains in the 60s and lower 70s. One of my Russian professors told us in class the other day that he considers this weather to be hot! I wonder what he’d think of Oklahoman summers.
The second thing that really struck me was that people actually spoke Russian. I know I sound ridiculous, but it didn’t really hit me that I was in a different country until I was walking behind a family with a toddler, and she spoke in Russian to her parents instead of English. In class at OU, we’re with other teenagers and young adults, and the only fluent speakers we encounter on a daily basis are our professors. Listening to the toddler talk was the first time I had heard a child speaking Russian. Then it occurred to me that she had a better grasp of Russian than I did, and I realized just how far away from the United States I had gone.
There are also families and dogs everywhere. I’m not sure if this was so surprising to me because I’ve lived on OU’s campus for the last two years with thousands of other teenagers and young adults, but here, I see families and people walking their dogs all the time. I go to class, and I see maybe six or seven dog walkers. I come back from class, and I pass five families. It is so out of the normal from what I’m used to in Norman. I wonder if people here perhaps value nature more, or if it’s just because the winters are so cold here that families and pet owners must make the most out of the warm weather while they have it.
The next hardest thing has probably been living with two other people. I am very much an introvert, and I zealously guard whatever alone time I can get after a long day of classes. Freshman year, it wasn’t so difficult, as my roommate and I had very different schedules and rarely saw each other until going to bed at night. Here, my roommates and I go to class at the same time, come home at the same time, and generally spend the whole evening in our room together. It’s a little bit of an adjustment, not getting to come home to an empty house at the end of a long day of classes, but I’m learning to find solitude in other ways, particularly by walking to and from class by myself and going out to explore the campus alone after class.
Figuring out the currency here has also been a little bit of a struggle. In Russia, they use rubles, and the exchange rate of rubles to US dollars is somewhere around 60 to 1. I’m still figuring out how to apply that ratio to my daily purchases though. More often than not, what ends up happening is that I think anything under 500 rubles is a steal, and anything more than 500 rubles is extremely expensive. When I spend 270 rubles on a coffee, I think that it’s way cheaper than in the US, when in reality, I spent about $4.50 which is about the same. On the other hand, I bought a pan that cost maybe 800 rubles, and I thought for sure I had spent a fortune, but it’s a really nice non-stick skillet that actually only really cost about $13. I need to keep working on understanding the value of rubles so that I’m not quite so clueless about how much money I actually spend.
Perhaps the last thing that’s been a real challenge for me since arriving in St. Petersburg is finding the courage to actually speak to the native speakers here. I know a decent amount of Russian, and I can hold conversations pretty easily in class, but when it comes to real-life situations out on the street, I lose my nerve, and I resort back to English or only manage to string together a couple of incoherent words in Russian. My main goal for this study abroad experience is to gain a better understanding of and better fluency in the Russian language, so finding the courage to actually speak is vitally important.
But as it as, I’ve only been here for a week and a half, and I’m only just starting to find my footing. I still have four and a half months to learn all I can before I come home.
I have trained extensively in classical ballet since I was six years old. While I have taken modern and contemporary dance classes along the way, the majority of my classes have been focused on ballet technique; I’ve spent years striving for perfect lines, meticulously pointed feet, jumps that defy the laws of gravity and extensions that go above and beyond the natural range of the body. This summer I have learned that there are no limits to the capabilities of the human body, and I have discovered entirely new ways of exploring and creating movement.
In living life and in making art, it is easy to get trapped in a bubble of routine. As artists, this bubble is our absolute nemesis, because we must continually break the bounds of what we think we know and how we understand our craft. We are scientists each day we step into the studio; it is our laboratory for researching the body and experimenting with the bounds of movement. This kinesthetic research is an exploration of the different ways we can convey ourselves as individuals and as a collective artistic force.
I have been immersed in contemporary dance this summer at the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Intensive, and I have discovered an entirely new way of using my body to make interesting and exciting art. I’ve broken the barriers to what I thought I knew about the limits of my abilities, and each day I wake up eager to see what I will discover about myself. Dancing here has shown me that the world of movement available to me is limitless, and by diving in I can discover whole new dimensions of my art. I have fallen in love with dance all over again.
2019 started off pretty awesome if you asked me. I became a citizen of the US!! The process wasn’t new to me since I had a friend that went through it a year before me but I know it was new to my other friends. It started out with an application which was pretty normal if you asked me. The only shock was the price but it made understand why not everyone with a greencard becomes a citizen right away. The next step is pictures and fingerprints if you get approved and that was normal. The final step before you become a citizen is the test which for me was pretty simple since I took American History all my life but I was shocked that some of my American friends didn’t even though some of the simple questions….maybe everyone should take the test!! haha just kidding. The step after that was the ceremony which was pretty awesome because you are in a room with people from all over and you are all becoming a citizen.It was really neat meeting people who have been in the US for years and they are just getting their citizenship. Also, it was cool that if you had a child under 18 they also became a citizen that day if they weren’t. This journey make me really understand what blessing it is to be an American.
This day is honestly my favorite part of the spring semester. I have soo much fun learning about everyone’s experience abroad. Honestly, I am a broken record when it comes to talking about my time abroad and this gives me an excuse to tell people about it. I had an awesome time learning about how I wasn’t the only one that has a medical emergency when I went abroad. It makes me feel a little better about myself..hahaha!! I can’t wait for the spring so I can attend again and listen to everyone’s story who went abroad this summer. Also, I enjoy this day because it gives me a chance to meet people in this program since we don’t have meetings. I can’t wait to write about this day again next year.