Comparative Academic Culture

One aspect of culture that is under constant discussion amongst students on study abroad is comparative academics. With people coming from all over the world to study together, one thing you can guarantee they have in common is schoolwork—but it’s amazing how differently different countries (even countries next door to one another) handle the same […]

The Estonian Landscape

When my advisor recommended I consider studying in Estonia, she showed me some pictures of the university and said, “Other than that it’s pretty grim. Lots of old Soviet block buildings and I mean it’s desolate but you can travel!” My first impression of the country seemed to confirm what she had warned me about. […]

My Pitch for the Baltic States

Over the past month I have been lucky enough to travel among the Baltic States and to see parts of Latvia and Lithuania, including their respective capitals, Riga and Vilnius. Previously I spent a weekend in Helsinki, Finland. In general, I think we in the US tend to think of the Nordic states (Norway, Sweden, […]
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English in Perspective

I’ve always known that speaking English as a first language was a considerable advantage in the increasingly globalizing world. English, for a variety of reasons, is quickly becoming the default language of business, academics, and cross-cultural communication. Without delving into the problems with this trend, I will say that my experience with being a native […]

An Inauspicious Beginning

My first days in the place of my dreams were far more nightmarish than oneiric. Prior to arrival I was told that while Estonian is the national language everyone here speaks English so I’ll be just fine. I learned a few basic greetings, questions, and survival phrases, but over all I wasn’t too concerned about […]

Keeping Perspective

I am genuinely terrified of the direction that this country is heading politically, on both a domestic and international level, but I’m not as terrified as I could be.  Let me explain. Donald Trump has no clue what he’s doing.  He doesn’t know anything about being president; I would be shocked if he even knows what the Supreme Court does.  But the fact that he’s an idiot at least makes him less dangerous.  I urge everyone to remember in this time of terror and horror that should something happen to Donald Trump, Mike Pence will be our president.  And ideologically he is every bit as horrific as Trump, but he actually knows how the system works.  Rather than bumbling through half his presidency trying to figure out that intelligence briefings aren’t an insult to one’s existing intelligence, a president like Pence or Cruz would actually be able to enact horrific legislation with full knowledge of what they are doing.  There were much more competent threats facing us this election than Donald Trump and things could have been much worse.

Now is any of this to say that his incompetence and ineptitude in foreign affairs won’t get us horrifically embroiled in international snafus from which there will be little escape? Of course not. It absolutely could and very well might.  Does any of this mean that Donald, incompetent as he is, will not be used by those same forces of even greater evil as their puppet to accomplish the things we were all afraid of? Of course not.  They certainly can and almost certainly will use him.  Would the US have done unethical things at home and abroad, as they always have, no matter who had been elected? Obviously.  But let us not forget in the flurry of FDT following the election that there are people of whom we should be far more wary.

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The Importance of Planning Ahead

I have known since I was extremely young that I would want to study abroad, and as soon as I got to the University of Oklahoma I began setting up meetings with advisors and becoming informed about what my options were for where I would be able to realistically study abroad.  Having originally wanted to go to somewhere in the British Isles, I discovered through research that the cost of living in those places would make it prohibitively expensive, so I ended up deciding that since I was studying Russian anyway somewhere in Eastern Europe would allow me the travel options I wanted within the budget I could manage.  I did plenty of research and when I was going into my junior year (the year I knew I wanted to study abroad) I got serious about my applications and started working on getting into the program I wanted and making it feasible.

My advisor told me repeatedly not to worry too much about things and that I should wait to worry about things like visas and plane tickets until I got accepted to my program.  I was nervous about many things about going into this experience but I told myself not to be such a drama queen and that I should listen to her.  I now have to fly to New York for two days just to get my Visa.  This is an unexpected expense that is vastly cutting into my budget for the trip and which is completely unavoidable, but for which I could have planned much better had I continued looking ahead instead of putting off my research and preparation.   The moral of the story is: don’t let anyone tell you to chill out. Trust your gut.

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