In March, I went to an info session on the OU in Rio de Janeiro Study Center. This was a really casual event outside Dale, but it was fun to learn a little more about the programs offered in the study center and how that is different than the Arezzo campus. When I was talking with them, I wish I was staying longer at OU, so I could go to Brazil and have new experiences there as well. It is always great to see study centers become more known on campus. I know most people know about OU in Arezzo, but it’s exciting to see new locations gain attraction.
I think the study centers are a great idea especially for the students not wanting to go completely by themselves. I went to the OUA campus with PLC a while ago and was really glad I wasn’t on my own and that I had a group of Americans with me. I am glad OU is expanding their campuses to all over the world. This truly gives OU students the comfort of OU students and professor but still provides students opportunities to experience new things and get out of their shells.
For global engagement day I attended the Women, LGBTQ Persons, and Minorities Abroad. During this discussion, it was interesting to hear about their experiences aboard especially because I never realized the different ways people are forced to act to ensure their safety in different places. My study abroad location was in Spain and very different than the different locations some of these individuals went. One of the stories that struck me was when the student studying in Morocco had to hide certain traits about himself because being gay was not allowed. With the female student who studied in Africa, she couldn’t show her legs or anything of the sort in public. These experiences are very foreign to me especially with my study abroad experience.
When I compare my upbringing to my time in Spain, it is very different. Spain is extremely liberal especially when comparing it to the culture in small town Oklahoma and even more so with Morocco. It is crazy to think about the different spectrum over all the cultures of what is considered appropriate.
This past Spring break I was able to go to Germany and got to experience and learn about German culture. One interesting thing I learned was the different regional foods and drinks typical in the different states. I was in Darmstadt during most of my stay which is in Hesse and is about 20 min from Frankfurt. The most typical drink in this region is Apfel Wein, or apple wine. This drink is quite similar to white wine, but it does have a slightly different flavor. I am by no means a wine expert, so I can’t go into great detail, but it is rather good. I would recommend anyone try it if they have the chance. Apple wine is normally served in just a ordinary glass, which is very uncommon for the typical red and white wines. There are actually two different types that can normally be found in restaurants but the most normal is see-through and a little sweeter. All in all, a pretty decent drink and definitely worth a try if you are in Germany and especially in Hesse.
I went to the contra dance in Norman on December 1st. Contra dance is very similar to folk dance, and going to this dance was a little out of my comfort zone. The dances were a lot longer than anticipated and I was actually pretty tired by the end of it. I surprised by the technique and moves that were involved in it, and I think that was obvious because a couple of the regulars had to help me quite often. I am glad that I experienced a contra dance. I think it’s neat that they are becoming more popular in Oklahoma and it seems to make people happy. Participating a different tradition or norm from a different culture is always something you can learn a lot from. I don’t have any plans on going back to one of these dances, but I am glad I had the opportunity to partake in Contra dance.
I went to the fancy dance concert in Catlett and the Oklahoma fancy dancers performed during the first half and the Siberian Natives performed during the second. The performances were great and I learned many new things about their cultures. They had the opportunity to bring the Siberians here because of the program, Peer to Peer, which was funded by the embassy in Siberia. The goal of Peer to Peer is to bring people from two different sides of the world together and connect them by what they have in common, which is being indigenous people. This helps preserve their cultures. The whole concert lasted around two hours and there was singing, dancing, and playing instruments. They also got the audience involved and brought them on the stage to participate a dance.
The most interesting thing I saw was the Siberian throat singer. A week before actually I had learned about them in my Language Across Culture class and I was really surprised the sounds they can make with their throats. It is a super low sound that isn’t similar to anything I have heard before. Hopefully the clip I attached works and you can hear the sounds.
In the past couple of years, Canada has experienced some French-Only laws specifically in Quebec. The situation that caused such an uproar was when an Italian restaurant was fined for using Italian words on their menu… Little much don’t you think? This was later described as Pastagate. But this circumstance can be compared in many ways to the English-Only laws that have come about in the US recently.
Quebec’s government cares so much about things being in French because it is their heritage and culture. In the recent years, 50% of the new generation across Canada is taking English as their main language, which causes Quebec, a strong French speaking community, to make sure their heritage is preserved. This example involving Canada is different in comparison to The US because the culture and language Quebec is associated with the most is under threat. This is very different than the dominant use of English here. While that is an important difference, there are many similarities in attempting to make one language seem more important than others. As for Pastagate, I think they definitely took policing too far and I think the government knows they went too far as well looking at the reaction of the people. It is still policed more than it should be, specifically looking at the restaurant that is required to display French in a larger font than any of the other languages on his windows. It is always interesting to see how some regions want certain languages to dominate and the extremes they might go to in order to ensure that.
I feel like life has come full circle now because this semester I was assigned to tutor at my old elementary school here in Norman. I am even working with one of the teachers I was around all the time when I was at school there. This semester I was assigned to work with 2 boys once a week. I had actually worked with one of them before so that was kind of nice because we could just jump into things. I had found that his English had majorly improved since I had last worked with him, and he was doing better in school.
Since I have studied abroad, I have a new respect for these children who come to the schools not knowing any English. It was a struggle when I got to Spain even after years of studying the language and having others around me who couldn’t speak fluently either. I can’t imagine going into a new country as these boys have and probably their families as well. It makes me happy to help them out in anyway I can.
I kind of already did a kind of “what to bring post”, but I guess this is more of a “what to know” when traveling abroad. Besides the obvious things like copying your documents, have extra cash, etc. that Education Abroad covers really well, these are my super quick, probably super well-known, travel/study abroad tips:
My first is figure out a way to have a three-day weekend… or more when you are figuring out your schedule at the beginning of the year. It can be harder than you think, and I actually ended up not taking one of the classes I originally planned to just to get that three-day weekend. Honestly though, you are studying abroad and this is probably the biggest chance you’ll get to travel which I personally found more important than taking fluid mechanics on time. Because I ended up having way more time, I got to do a lot more traveling than I thought I would.
Going on with traveling, you probably all know about skyscanner, but if you don’t, you really need to! I booked almost all my flights through this website, and I honestly still use it for domestic flights now. It searches all of the typical search engines, and a couple of not so common ones. I actually booked my flight on a less known website that skyscanner showed me, and I think I saved a couple of hundred dollars that way! Long story short, this is a great travel tool.
Although flying is really cheap in Europe the absolute cheapest way is to travel by bus (if you aren’t doing the eurorail thing). I went on a trip from Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia and the total bus cost was just at 61 euros. I would always use GoEuro for bus purchasing, and it was always the best deal I could find.
In Spain, and probably other countries too, they have Erasmus groups that put on trips and activities every week. Their trips are usually well organized and you can get to know other people that way from all over the world. Pricewise they are pretty reasonable as well. They have big trips to Portugal, Morocco, and Ibiza so of course it would be cheaper if you plan a trip to go there yourself and do all of the work, but I think it is usually a pretty good deal, especially for the day trips. My favorite was paddle boarding in Javea.
More general tips are always start early, and don’t be afraid to ask people around you. These are definitely common sense things, but for me in some situations, I think I needed a reminder. For the starting early, I am mainly referring to flights and in cities you are not familiar with. In Paris, there was a point where my friend and I were actually running down a street to try and catch a flight because some of the transportation system that day wasn’t running (we ended up making it). And most of the time the people around you are more than willing to help if you just ask. I am still thankful for a girl named Flor who helped my friend and I through the subway system in Paris. There were plenty other Flors in my experience abroad because I learned to just ask.
During my time in Spain, I found my go to restaurants after a month or so. These places were all really close to my apartment and were all reasonably priced, especially with the menu of the days. I absolutely love that Spain does menu of the days. The menus always have amazing things for cheaper prices and it comes with a dessert, which is arguably the best part half of the time.
First there is the food on campus. There isn’t exactly a specific restaurant, but food on campus is so inexpensive and always pretty good. The cafés in the Agora, the main square, are where I always get my cortado and tostadas. For both of them, it costs around 1.75. It is great. There is also a place across campus that has huge bocadillos for only 3 euros and you can get a 3 course meal for 5 euros, bread and drink included. Not sure how they make any money, but gotta love the cheapness.
Pan de Azúcar is a good place to eat at because it is pretty cheap and is directly across from my apartment. I can see people going in and out from my window. This place has great crepes and appetizers and is always a fun and lively place. The prices are also student friendly, so this has always been a good choice.
Shish Mahal is another restaurant that is probably a 2 minute walk from my apartment. This place is a little nicer and therefore pricier, but if you go during a week day lunch time period it isn’t too bad because of their menu of the day. I have never really had Indian food until this place and I am constantly surprised with how good the food is.
100 Montaditos is actually a chain throughout Spain that you can find in any decently sized city. The thing about this restaurant is that it has deals of Sunday and Wednesday when their entire menu is €1. I think in the end it only saves you about €3 euros per meal, but the amount of times we have ended up going here I am sure we saved quite a bit.
Bastard’s Café. My one true love. Ok maybe I shouldn’t be that intense, but this is hands down my favorite restaurants in Valencia. This is again a 2 minute walk from my apartment, which is so good yet so bad because I go there so much and spend money. It’s now basically the end of the semester and I think at least half of the staff recognizes me. I always take my visiting friends here when they visit and they all love it. I will miss you Bastard’s.
While food is extremely important in the Spanish culture, I would say drinks are just as important. Now here is my short list of some of my favorite drinks in Spain. I know I have missed some for sure, but here they are:
Sangria is probably the most typical Spanish drink you hear about, and I must admit it is for good reason. You can find it on any menu and there are plenty of options in grocery stores to choose from. If you don’t know, Sangria is red wine mixed with fruit juice, and in summer often provides a great refreshing drink in the hot weather.
With my tostada I usually have a cortado. A cortado is an expresso shot with a little bit of hot milk poured on top. My taste in coffee changed over the months I was in Spain and this is what I landed upon. I cannot drink really sweet coffee or a lot of coffee now. Even a small caramel macchiato from Starbucks is usually too much for me to drink, so this caffeine packed small drink was perfect because it is not sweet or harsh due to the small milk and can be finished in probably 5 or 6 sips.
Gin and Tonic is strangely a very popular drink here. Or maybe it’s just more of an unexpected popular drink to me because in the plaza near my apartment, there are 2 bars that have half their menu dedicated to the drink. I am very thankful for that as that was one of my favorite drinks before coming here. In one of the bars, they have a list of all the different gins and all the different tonics they have and you choose which ones you want. It is great!
Tinto de Verano is not as well known around the world as sangria for a typical Spanish drink, but it is still extremely popular in Spain. This drink consists of red wine and sprite or a sprite like drink. In my book, tinto de verano beats sangria by a long shot. It is usually not as sweet as sangria but is still a great drink in the summer. This was sold at one of my favorite restaurants in Spain, and I would always get it when I was there.
Finally, something I have loved in Spain was there orange juice. Oranges are grown in Spain, so they are extremely fresh. In the Mercadonas, they have an orange juice machine that squeezes it for you right then and there. Normally orange juice is not my favorite thing, but it is impossible not to like it when it is that fresh.