The Difference Between America and Ireland

Recently, I saw an article somewhere online that listed Ireland as one of the happiest places on Earth. Over the summer I had the opportunity to go to Ireland, and although I only spent three days there, my opinion completely coincides with that of the article. Out of all of the countries I have been to (I’m up to 14), I made more friends and had more pleasant encounters in Ireland than I did in any other country, and I spent weeks or months in other countries. The people of Ireland are more social and outgoing than the people in a lot of places I have been. Everywhere I went I met new people that came up and introduced themselves and initiated a conversation, which is something I usually had to do if I wanted to meet people in other countries. It is more normalized in Irish culture to talk to complete strangers than it is in America. The social aspect of Irish culture is something that I think attributes to the country being named one of the happiest, because they always want to go out and meet new people instead of being at home, which is something I think America could use more of. On a night out, anytime I was on my phone an Irish person would come up to me and politely tell me to put it away and enjoy where I was and what I was doing at the current moment, which is something I learned to appreciate. It made me notice how little time the people of Ireland spend on their phones, and how much time they spend enjoying the presence of others, which is something that is sadly starting to become rare in the world. My experience also made me realize it’s not always where you are that matters, but who you’re surrounded by. Aside from all this, it was also one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The Cliffs of Moher are a must see. I left Ireland way happier than I was when I arrived. I already can’t wait to plan my next trip back.

 

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Italy Week

What a flashback! During Italy week, I ate pizza with the Italian professors, watched friends do the Nutella challenge, and attended the class on olive oil and cheese. Italy week was a great opportunity to meet up with other OU in Arezzo students that were in Italy the same time as I was. Although I already took a full semester class over olive oil, we did not cover cheese which we all wanted to. I took the opportunity to do this one and I am so glad I did. We were taught about the food industry across Italy and how it varies based on the region. Every region is different in the way they process and make the cheese. We tasted pecorino and bufala cheese (water buffalo milk cheese) which I had not tried before. The entire Italy week brought a flashback to my time in Italy, now all I need to do is go back!

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Day of the Dead Festival

OU held its annual Day of the Dead festival on October 29th. This is the University’s most attended event other than sporting events. My roommates and I went this year and we walked around since it was our first time going. We looked at the rides, ate at the food trucks and listened to the music. Coming from a Hispanic background, the Day of the Dead festival has always been a special day especially to my father. However, in America it is not nearly as celebrated as when he lived in Mexico. Here, death is hardly talked about and it is often avoided, in Mexico, it is a large celebration to help support the spiritual journey of a friend or family member who has passed away.

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OU Cousins

Being a part of OU Cousins has given me the opportunity to build a connection with someone from across the globe without leaving Oklahoma. This program matches students to you based on their hobbies, majors and the country which interests you the most. This year my OU Cousin was Elias from Frankfurt, Germany.  Over the course of the fall we were able to attend the Thunder basketball game. In addition, I took him and his friends to an OKC Energy game since their favorite sport is Soccer. Unfortunately, Elias was only here for a semester so we are unable to attend the many events in the spring. The best part of OU Cousins is it has given us a connection that we will both always remember. We are both friends on Facebook and he has said that I can come visit him whenever I want, and that if I am ever in Frankfurt, I will have a place to stay.

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Arabic Flagship Talent Show

This year I attended the Arabic Flagship Talent Show for the second year in a row. Last year was a great opportunity and I couldn’t pass it up again. Students from every class depending on their language level performed to show their advancements. It is one of the most entertaining part of the semester, and the food is delicious! The event took place in the Thurman J White Forum building, which is the perfect venue for this show. Like last year, I attended this event with my Arabic friend. This year’s show had poetry readings, singing and the best part, the skits which were both humorous and dramatic. This talent show really intrigues me and even influences me to possible take an Arabic course.

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Medical Brigade

Less than ten days after my return from a semester abroad in Italy, I was off on another journey. This time it was to Honduras for a Global Brigade where students participated in a medical and dental brigade to provide health care to rural communities. Global Brigades goal is to allow volunteers to help resolve global health and economic disparities in under-resourced communities to improve the quality of life.

Throughout the trip, the 45 other students and I assisted in patient triage, pharmaceuticals, dental, health education, and shadowed local doctors during consultations. From the airport in Tegucigalpa, we took a brigade bus to our compound in San Lorenzo. This journey ended up taking about 6 hours (2.5 without road construction). We then ate dinner, packed medications and health bags, and had our first introductory meeting.

For the following three days we had the medical and dental portion of the brigade. Each morning, we would travel for about an hour and a half to a rural community and set up a clinic for the people living there. When we arrived, there was always a huge line that wrapped around the entire elementary school. For most of these people, the nearest hospital or clinic is many miles away and the cost is often too expensive. We rotated through the 6 different stations: data informatics, triage, consultation, gynecology (only for the female brigaders), dental, pharmacy and charla. On the final day, we had the public health day where we built eco-stoves for many households.

In 4 days, we helped over 600 patients. We are truly blessed and we don’t deserve as much as we have. I thank God for keeping us safe and giving me the opportunity to make a difference. Although school can be tough at times, by helping that one person makes it all worth it.

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Europe

On January 15, 2017, I boarded a plane to Arezzo, Italy, with no clue as to what the next four months would bring. The day was finally here, I was so nervous but beyond excited; after a year of planning, saving, preparing, and anticipating, the time finally came to start my four-month journey abroad.

Fast-forward five months: it is May 11 and as I make my way back to Oklahoma City I am watching the country that I’ve grown to love get smaller and smaller. I lived in the beautiful and historic city of Arezzo, ate the most delicious food, and experienced more in 4 months than most people will in a lifetime.

What we see on our friends’ Facebook and Instagrams— pictures of beautiful European architecture, fancy cuisine, and breathtaking pictures — is not all there is to studying abroad. It is an adjustment and it can be difficult. There are times when all you want is actual peanut butter to calm your crave, some actual Mexican food (for me Fuzzy’s or Tara’s), or just being able to lay in your own bed. You become frustrated because you can’t drive to the grocery store, and all you want is to talk, face to face, with your best friends who are going on with life back home in the states.

You will realize that you are in a city filled with the most amazing tiramisu and where wine is literally cheaper than water. You might not be able to drive to a grocery store, but you can walk along the beautiful cobblestone streets of Arezzo; walk down Corso Italia and stop in Bar Stefano for the best tiramisu you will ever have; and walk to the train station and go anywhere you want to go. Yes, you will always miss your friends — that never changes — but remember, these new friends are going through the same journey with you, and together you are experiencing things that only you can understand.

Never in my life did I imagine I could accomplish so much in four months. I traveled to over 32 cities and eight different countries. I visited the headquarters of the Catholic Church, rode on a gondola through the Grand Canal in Venice; had Belgium waffles, Belgium frites and Belgium beer all in Belgium; watched the sun set over the tuscan hills in Florence; partied until sunrise in Berlin; ate traditional Greek gyros while watching a Mykonos sunset; saved the Leaning Tower of Pisa from falling; traveled all the way back to Oklahoma and back, mid-semester; walked down the streets of Pompeii; went on a boat tour around the island of Capri; remembered at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam; skied in the Swiss Alps; and drank beer at a Guinness Book of World Record bar in Brussels. I spoke a few phrases of Italian, which I think came out more Spanish than Italian, and ate 1,000 bowls of pasta (and probably even more gelato). I learned so much about myself and grew up in ways I never would have imagined, and I made amazing friends and memories that can never be replaced. Arezzo, I love and miss you more than you will ever know. You will always hold a special place in my heart. I will be back.

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Abroad pt III

Switzerland:

Switzerland, wow. Switzerland left me speechless. It is the most beautiful country I have ever seen. Although super expensive, we splurged in this couples vacation home in Lausanne, Switzerland, a charming and tranquil city right on lake Geneva.

We took trains all over lake Geneva and got to see the Olympic Museum, the Red Cross Museum and even to the peaks of the swiss alps to ski in the beautiful town of Verbier. These green valleys, picturesque villages, and sparkling turquoise lakes are every photographer’s dream. Switzerland has some of the most serene landscapes that I’ve ever seen. If you want to talk about places that will take your breath away, this is surely one of them. Partly from lack of oxygen, but mostly from these amazing views.

Spring Break!:

Rome, the first stop on my mom’s itinerary,  with nearly 3,000 years of globally influential art, architecture and culture, it was the perfect start to my family’s first time in Europe. There is Vatican City, which is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, and has St. Peters Basilica and the Vatican Museum which house some of the most important art pieces in history such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes, there are ancient ruins such as the Roman Forum and the Colosseum that portray the power of the Roman Empire, and so much more.

The next stop, Venice! After coming here just weeks before, I was now the tour guide. I guided my family through the windy and maze-like streets of Venice and showed them all the top sites. On every canal you pass and every bridge you cross, you take hundreds of pictures that all look somewhat the same, but are all magical in their own way. This city was something else!

Amsterdam, one of my favorite cities in Europe. The city, the people, the food, the history, the culture, it was all special. Although most of my friends disliked the city, if you can manage to stay out of the city center and far away from the red light district, you will find everything you are looking for. We went to a super trendy brunch restaurant and had some of the best breakfast food I’ve had, the Van Gogh museum and admired his artwork for hours, back in time at the Anne Frank house, and we celebrated St. Patricks day European style. It was truly special being able to share these memories with my family.

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Abroad pt III

Switzerland:

Switzerland, wow. Switzerland left me speechless. It is the most beautiful country I have ever seen. Although super expensive, we splurged in this couples vacation home in Lausanne, Switzerland, a charming and tranquil city right on lake Geneva.

We took trains all over lake Geneva and got to see the Olympic Museum, the Red Cross Museum and even to the peaks of the swiss alps to ski in the beautiful town of Verbier. These green valleys, picturesque villages, and sparkling turquoise lakes are every photographer’s dream. Switzerland has some of the most serene landscapes that I’ve ever seen. If you want to talk about places that will take your breath away, this is surely one of them. Partly from lack of oxygen, but mostly from these amazing views.

Spring Break!:
Rome, the first stop on my mom’s itinerary,  with nearly 3,000 years of globally influential art, architecture and culture, it was the perfect start to my family’s first time in Europe. There is Vatican City, which is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, and has St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum which house some of the most important art pieces in history such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes, there are ancient ruins such as the Roman Forum and the Colosseum that portray the power of the Roman Empire, and so much more.
The next stop, Venice! After coming here just weeks before, I was now the tour guide. I guided my family through the windy and maze-like streets of Venice and showed them all the top sites. On every canal you pass and every bridge you cross, you take hundreds of pictures that all look somewhat the same, but are all magical in their own way. This city was something else!
Amsterdam, one of my favorite cities in Europe. The city, the people, the food, the history, the culture, it was all special. Although most of my friends disliked the city, if you can manage to stay out of the city center and far away from the red light district, you will find everything you are looking for. We went to a super trendy brunch restaurant and had some of the best breakfast food I’ve had, the Van Gogh museum and admired his artwork for hours, back in time at the Anne Frank house, and we celebrated St. Patricks day European style. It was truly special being able to share these memories with my family.
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What I’ve Learned From Studying Abroad

I’ve spent the last 5 months traveling the world. I have been to 10 countries, 44 cities, and have gained an endless amount of friendships. Here are a few things I have learned:

  1. Even if you don’t speak the language, smiling means the same thing no matter where you are. No matter where I traveled, people would still smile at each other regardless if they knew each other or not.
  2. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it’s not everyday that you get to live in a different country, so take advantage of this amazing venture. Study hard but don’t hold yourself back from exploring all that you can and taking in as much as you possibly can. Make the moments last because it goes by fast, like really really fast.
  3. I learned to take risks. Studying abroad itself can feel a bit risky. Living with people you don’t know, often in a language you don’t speak. But during my time studying abroad, my best memories were times when I took some extra risks.
  4. Live in the moment. There were so many people on my program that would plan every weekend months in advance. Yes it may have saved them a few euros here and there. But honestly, some of my favorite trips were from last minute planning. I remember it was a thursday night on the third week in Italy and some of my friends and I were studying in the library with no plans for the weekend and less than 12 hours were in Brussels.
  5. While maneuvering through several international airports and navigating through the cities of a foreign country, you begin to realize that you are way more resourceful than you thought. I learned how to get around the city, learned the metro system in different countries, and became dependent on myself in a country where I didn’t know many people.

As excited as I am to be home, I will forever cherish my memories of being abroad. I have made friendships that will last a lifetime. Just remember, live in the moment, be spontaneous and experience the world as much as you can while you are there.

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