September

It is hard to write a blog post about the month of September, because in order to do so I have to acknowledge the thought that September has already come and gone. How can it be? My first month in Spain, my first month at a new university, my first month living in an apartment…so many new and exciting things that I am just now getting used to myself.

I started this month after finishing an intensive Spanish course in a small beach town called Gandía. While there, I met about 100 Germans, 10 Italians, more Swedish than you would imagine, the rare French – and then of course the rest of us (that’s where I fit in). To explain where Oklahoma was, I had to say the word “Texas” more times than I would like, but besides that I enjoyed being from a place so far away. I don’t get to experience that sensation very often going to school in Oklahoma, and I think it has helped me realize how special home is. There is rarely a situation presented in the U.S. to explain your city, your state, your university – because most of the time that is information within your circles realm of knowledge. Oklahoma is completely alien to these people, so I have enjoyed getting to share with them the wonder of tornadoes, Native Americans, and really, really good Mexican food.

However, I want to focus more on Valencia than Gandía. Gandía was great and I made friends, but Valencia…I had no idea what I was expecting but I could not even begin to imagine this. I don’t know if it necessarily the city, or the lure of the thought that I get to call it home for the next year, but I am in love with this place. From the beach, to the historic center, to the park that stretches through the city…I could get lost here for months. There is so much to see and to explore and I feel so lucky to have the time ahead of me that I do. Today, I just went for my first run in Jardines del Turia and I discovered a whole new active sector of the city that I did not know before. The day before that, I took a bike ride home from the other side of town and when I stopped for a quick second, I found the historic center which was spilling with tourists. I found it quite funny that there were all these people from all over the world, rambling about in these streets that I did not even know existed yet. Tomorrow I will get to explore a different part of the beach than what I have seen so far. It is so exciting to have these pockets of the city to explore – some I will save for later, some I will never find, and some will slowly become part of my everyday life.

Another thing that I was not expecting was how addicted I would become to unfamiliarity. It’s almost like my mind and body crave it and I find myself trying things I have never tried before. I am so used to knowing what types of activities, people, situations, etc. that I enjoy that my first instinct is to follow that. But then, when I arrive to the deciding point I realize that’s not actually what I want to do, it’s just what I am used to. I wish that I had this inclination always, but I know it is always not so easy done as said when we are in our natural habitat. The people we surround ourselves know the path we follow, our feet know the streets we normally walk – and day after day we find ourselves funneled through the same routine. Not particularly “scared” to try something new, but the thought just doesn’t cross our mind often. Or at least, when it did mine, it was always overshadowed by preconceptions of what else I needed/wanted to do. It isn’t that way here, and I haven’t quite found out what that will mean for me, but in the moment it means studying French, taking a surfing class, joining a yoga studio. It feels good and I am curious to what else will come.

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With A Little Help From Strangers

Every one who has traveled in another country knows the pain of the Traveler’s Luck- maybe better, the lack there of. I used to believe that this was preventable, that perhaps adequate planning or dropping my untimely habits would fix this, but I’ve found there is no real escape. It is better to embrace these moments for all that they are. However, there is some good news. No matter how dire of a situation I have found myself in, there is always (always!) someone right behind me setting me back on the right track. Sometimes a complete stranger, sometimes a friend – whoever it is they sweep in right at the perfect second and all is right again (at least for now). Here is a story of a day I got by With A Little Help From Strangers.

Upon arriving to Spain, I quickly realized that 1) there are not as nearly as many Americans here as I believed would be and 2) the European Union is a beautiful thing. They have uniform cell reception all across Europe, they don’t have to apply for a Visa, AND they are incredibly good looking. How is it fair? Anyways, I have been in the process of applying for my pertinent residence card. I had to apply for a Visa before leaving the U.S., and this is the follow up once you are in-country. I just received a paper from the General Consulate of Spain before leaving saying that I needed to go to the National Police within one month of arriving to Spain. Cool. No problem. Not so fast, Heath.

As you may know, I spent two weeks at an intensive language course in Gandía (about an hour outside of Valencia) before arriving to Valencia. In Gandía, we only knew how to practice three things. These three things were simply: beach, party, eat (+sleep?). Therefore, there was no “confirming your Visa blah, blah” happening these first two weeks. When I arrived in Valencia, another two weeks quickly went by setting up my apartment and confirming my courses. So here I was, in the last week of my “first month” in Spain and thought it would be a good time to visit the National Police. Exciting!

I spent one morning taking the bus/walking to what I believed to be the office I needed to go to, but this was not the case and is not quite the story I am wanting to tell – so we will skip this part. Just know it was hot and sweaty and ultimately a waste of beach time (never a good thing).

Yesterday, was the day I had scheduled an appointment to get my pertinent residence card (TIE number). My roommate, Pilar, had helped me by calling to set up an appointment over the phone (Spanish is hard). I knew the time and location and what I needed to bring. I went to my first class of the day, and finished at 12:15. Then, a few friends of mine told me about an interesting course they were taking, and I decided to sit in on the lecture. I left early in an attempt to be avoid the disaster that was inevitably waiting me. Cute 🙂

I checked on Maps and I needed about an hour to get where I was going. I had an hour and 15 minutes. There is a kiosk next to my apartment where you can take and print ID pictures for official documents. I went to this first, but I was missing one euro. My credit card has not been working the past week or so because someone hijacked my other card, so I haven’t been able to take out cash lately. I was fairly sure I had some spare change upstairs, so I decided to go up, grab my things, and then try again. After grabbing my passport, asking my lovely roommate for a euro, and grabbing some things to make a sandwich on the bus – I was back to try for the photos again. I inserted 4 euro and then I realized that I cannot count and 2 + 1 + 1 is, in fact, not five. It is four. I wish you could see my face in this moment.

Sweaty, four euros stuck in the machine, running out of time, not sure what to do. I peaked out of the curtain and saw a nice couple walking by. This was my best/only option. I nicely told them my difficulties and asked for a euro. The man did not believe me, but luckily his wife was a little more compassionate. Once I won her over, I could see he felt a little bad for his initial resentment. He said he thought American girls were rich. Glad we could clear that up. Thank you, Stranger #2!

I got my pictures and was on my way to the bus. A little nervous that I would miss it, I walked quickly and arrived with a few minutes to spare. 48 minutes left to get there. 45 minutes ETA. Once the line approached, I boarded and scanned my card. Surprise! Out of bus rides. Out of cash. This stranger was potentially the most important helper of the day. We negotiated and he let me stay on the bus. Thank you, Stranger #3!

I took my seat and decided it was time to eat some lunch. I was the kind of hungry where you start to feel a little nauseous, so it was good that I had grabbed something before leaving my apartment. I prepared my sandwich in my lap, and right before that glorious first bite my sandwich had other plans and decided to crumble to the floor of the bus. I pathetically looked up at the passenger across from me and she was not amused. She resentfully handed me some napkins, but nevertheless, she handed me some napkins. Thank you, Stranger #4!

I got off at my stop and started to head towards the office. 5 minutes in the wrong direction. That’s okay, back on track now. 5 minutes until my appointment and about a 9 minute walk ahead of me. A ran a little bit. I got to the office, and when I walked inside I was greeted with the great news that it was impossible for me to have an appointment at 2:15 because they close at 2:15. My appointment was actually at 12:15, not 2:15. If you do not know, in Spanish, this sounds fairly similar (doce and dos) so that must have been where the confusion was. However, I had come all this way, and I really did not want to have to do so again. I did my best to communicate how desperate I was in Spanish and she asked future Stranger #5 if she could help me. She could and Stranger #4 sent me on my way. Thank you!! Finally, I had the papers I needed and could move on from this mess. Let me not forget the prequel of the Strangers that came before this day. The woman who helped me pay at the bank, a friend who helped me fill out the forms, Pilar for setting the appointment, and the list goes on.

On the way home, I decided to just take a bike home and not worry about finding an ATM to pay for the bus back. It was a beautiful bike ride through Turia Park and I felt thankful for all the experiences of the day. It reminded me how much humans need each other, even those we do not know. Even just to feel the heat of other humans around you, to see the eyes of a passerby, to hear conversations floating around you – it all reminds you of how small you are and how common your problems are. We are all just living each day the best we can, separate yet together. I find that to be a beautiful fact of life. The sun felt extra warm on my skin and the bike glided extra smooth down the paved roads. Isn’t it true that we all get by With A Little Help From Strangers? I think so.

Adapting to Spanish Life

After my first half month of classes, I’ve learned that Spanish Culture and American Culture are much more different than I originally though. Just to give an example, my enrollment was completed until the 1st of October. Classes started the 11th of September. Let’s just let that sink in for a moment. But that being said, I have also had a really good time, met a lot of cool people, done really interesting things, and learned a lot. Here are some pictures of me being too tall to fit through Spanish doors, exploring giant Spanish caves, and making fantastic American mashed Potatoes.

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Guadalajara, Guadalajara!

In September, I went on my first side excursion while here in Mexico to Guadalajara in Jalisco! Guadalajara is the second largest city in Mexico and is known as the birthplace of Mariachi. On Friday, I took a bus from Puebla to the Mexico City airport. From there, it was a short 45 minute flight to Guadalajara. Flying into the city was amazing, as I could see the beautiful green hills and big lake around the city. Upon arriving at the airport, I had a little problem finding transport (Uber isn’t allowed for airport pickup in Mexico). Once I was off, the highway took us over a little hill that offered a breathtaking view as we descended into the big city. I arrived at my Airbnb that was a beautiful house set only a couple blocks off of the Avenida Chapultepec, a cultural center of the city with great restaurants, bars, and more. On weekends the street has a market along it, and on sundays, the street is closed so people can bike, run, and walk their dogs along it.

That night, I went to visit my friend in Colonia Ferrocarril. We walked around the colonia that felt like a small community even within the big city, and I ate a delicious gringa. Later, we went to a birthday party for his tia where there was a live banda sonora playing! After that, it was time to try to get some sleep for the night.

The next day, I was greeted by the sad news that my tour of the Pueblo Magico Tequila had been cancelled. Still wanting to get to see Tequila and the fields of blue agave surrounding it, I hurried to find another option. Finally, I just decided to take a bus to the town and do a tour of the Mundo Cuervo (the big distillery complex of Jose Cuervo) there. This option ended up working out great! It was significantly cheaper than a guided tour, my friend was able to come along too, and we were able to have time to explore the town on our own.

The ride through the Jaliscan countryside to arrive at Tequila was beautiful, and we knew we were getting close once the hallmark blue agaves fields began to stretch as far as the eye could see. We got off the bus and hurried to catch our tour. The Jose Cuervo complex was beautiful, in the style of a hacienda. It was really cool getting to see the process of how tequila was made and to hear about the history and legends that surround the drink. Getting to suck on some agave cocinado was delicious too! After the tour, we explored the town some more. Tequila is small, but beautiful and full of color. It has so much charm centered around its zocalo. After snacking on some pozole and elotes, we caught the bus to return to the city.

The next day, we started by going to look at some Jose Clemente Orozco murals. After that, we went to a huge marketplace. The open-air market stretched on for blocks and sold everything from food and clothes to home decor and action figures. After trekking from one side of the market to the other, we headed to a nearby house/restaurant to try tortas ahogadas, a famous dish in Guadalajara. It is a torta on something that looks like Italian bread drowned in salsa. Delicious.

After the market, we hopped on a bus to head to my favorite part of the trip, La Barranca de Huentitan. The Barranca is a huge gorge on one side of the city with beautiful rivers at the bottom of it. The trail there consists of a series of 60 switchbacks to make it all the way down the steep sides of the gorge. To go back up, we hiked “Las Vias,” an old train track that goes in a straight line from top to bottom. It was so steep, and I nearly got sick hiking up it. The feeling of accomplishment on reaching the top and the view of the gorge definitely made it worth it.

The next day, I was I greeted by the sounds of mariachi as I left my airbnb and spent the morning exploring the beautiful Zocalo of Guadalajara. Soon enough, I was on a plane back to Puebla with ganas of coming back soon. Guadalajara was amazing.

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The First Week of Classes

Classes started last Monday, and I can already tell that this semester is going to be a bit of an adventure. For one, the classes are not scheduled at regular time intervals. At OU, classes are always at the same time on set days of the week, like 3:00-4:15 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But here, my classes are scheduled at random times on random days, like 10:00 on Mondays and 1:00 on Tuesdays. The meeting time or place can also change for a week randomly. That means that my schedule is a lot harder to remember.

Probably the part that is most different about classes here is that the final is always worth at least 85% of your grade. That is slightly terrifying to me, especially since I’m going to have a month between when classes end and when finals start. I really don’t understand why they would put Christmas break in the middle of their semester! That means I have to be studying and worrying about finals instead of actually having a relaxing break.

It is nice that I won’t have so much graded homework though. At first I was concerned that we wouldn’t have any homework at all, which would be bad for me since I rely on the homework to actually learn the material. But it turns out that they just make the vast majority of the homework optional. There are one or two assignments that are actually graded, but the rest you just do on your own and check your answers when the key is sent out. That is actually kind of nice. Less pressure to make the homework perfect. I do wish the final wasn’t worth quite as much though.

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Arriving in England

I arrived in England two Sundays ago, and I spent all of last week getting acclimated to the new city and culture. Probably the greatest difference I have noticed between England and America is that everything in England is way smaller. The roads are tiny, the cars are tiny, the stores are tiny, even my room is tiny.

The drive from the airport to the university was an hour long, and during the entire drive, I saw a total of five trucks, including commercial ones. Coming from Kansas/Oklahoma where you are guaranteed to see at least five trucks at just one intersection, that was pretty strange. I was also amused to see that there were one-way bridges with stoplights at either end to allow two-way traffic to pass. There are actually places like that in the city too.

The tiny stores are a bit annoying, but I can appreciate them too. The fact that they are small means that you have to go to a different store depending on what you want to buy. You buy your pots and pans at the hardware store, your food at the grocery store, and your shampoo at the pharmacy. There is definitely nothing like Walmart around here.

There is also not a large selection of merchandise either. In America, the shampoo aisle has probably a hundred different types of shampoo to choose from. At the little pharmacy down the street, there were about ten options to choose from. Even the “huge” grocery store was rather limited. But it’s not all bad. The fact that they are small means the quality of what they do have is much better than what I am used to. There is a wonderful little fruit store (dangerously) close to where I am staying. I bought three pears for one pound (about $1.25), and they were the most delicious pears I have ever eaten. The juice was literally dripping out of the fruit when I took a bite. I could definitely get used to paying so little for such great quality.

Scotland!

So, it has been almost a month since I have arrived at Scotland. As the plane was descending into Glasgow, the most beautiful landscape appeared out of the tiny airplane window. There were mountains covered in lush green trees with crystal blue lochs in the valley. Fun fact: there is only one lake in Scotland, but there are over 31,000 lochs. An immediate difference that I noticed is the language. Yes, American and Scottish people both speak English with different accents, but I did not realize just how different Glaswegian (the Scots dialect that is spoken in Glasgow). The first time a native Glaswegian spoke to me, I truly could not understand a word he was speaking. It sounded like a completely different language. When they speak, they drop so many letters in the words and use so much slang to the point where I just stand there and nod pretending I understand the conversation. Even now, I can only understand a few words that they are speaking and most of the meaning is lost to me. Hopefully by the end of the semester, I will be able to understand Glaswegian better.

I’m currently living in a 12 person flat in student accommodations.  At least in the U.S., the word “flat” is considered the same thing as an “apartment”. And when most people hear the word “apartment”, they image a housing accommodation with a few bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, and living space at minimum. When I first arrived at my flat after a long airplane flight, I was shocked to discover that the “flat” was simply a typical dorm with an additional kitchen. There is a long hallway with 12 single bedrooms and then a kitchen in the middle. Unfortunately, due to being “fire hazard”, we are unable to put in additional furniture. There is a good mix of international students in our flat: 3 from Australia, 1 from New Zealand, 1 from Quebec, Canada, 1 from Azerbaijan, and the rest from the U.S.

Uni has been an interesting experience. The first week was a hectic adventure trying to get classes approved and finding classes. Unlike in the U.S. where classes are at a set time and location usually either on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule or a Tuesday, Thursday schedule, at the University of Glasgow, class times and location change on a daily and weekly basis. For example, my Gaelic class meets in a museum one day and then in the medical school another day. And for other classes, we may meet in the mornings on some days, but on other days we meet in the afternoons. I had the hardest time finding classes that didn’t have time conflicts with each other. This is most likely due to the fact that there isn’t really a general education requirement here and non-exchange students typically only take courses for their major. There is a greater emphasis on self-learning here than in the U.S. Back at my home university, there would typically be homework due daily or weekly, but at Glasgow for most of my classes there is just two term papers due and a long list of “suggested reading” to do on our own time.

University of Glasgow 

University of Glasgow

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To Choose: Touring Auschwitz-Birkenau

These past three days, I have had the privilege to tour both the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camps and Oskar Schindler’s Factory in Krakow, Poland.

Ever since touring the infamous concentration camps, I have been struggling with how to put the experience into words. after all, how does one describe walking on the same stretches of land where millions of people were violently mistreated and murdered?

Prior to my visit, I expected the tour to be primarily educational and, of course, a bit eerie. But, nonetheless, I expected it to first and foremost an opportunity to learn more about the horrors that the Nazi Regime brought to Poland between 1939 and 1945. An opportunity to pay my respects to the dead, to honor their memory, and then to return home and continue about my visit.

In the most basic sense, I suppose that it was a rather informational occasion. However, to describe it as such would be a terrible understatement.

Auschwitz and Birkenau are utterly chilling — haunting in a way that I had never experienced before, and never expect to experience again. Upon entering the Auschwitz camp, my guide explained that nearly 1,100,000 lives were taken there within the span of four years. She explained that the few who survived only did so after enduring unimaginable torture — both physical and mental.

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She relayed one survivor’s remark that he wished he had died in the cattle cars — among family and friends — as opposed to enduring the torturous pain of watching everyone he knew be murdered before his eyes, wondering if he would be next.  My guide explained that this man has no surviving relatives; his entire family was murdered in the Auschwitz concentration camp complex, and all that I could think was that the last time he saw his family — his mother and father and three siblings — he was standing in the very same place that I was.

He was 18 at the time. Only three years younger than I am now. That man — that boy — spent his college years in a concentration camp, while I have spent mine living in luxury…attending a top university, going out with friends on the weekends, eating Sunday dinner with my family each week, and now traveling around Europe without any fear that my friends and family may not be there when I get home.

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At the same time,  I couldn’t help but think of the startling similarities that we see between the United States today and the early days of the Nazi and Fascist regimes of the past. Of course, this is not to say that I believe we are on the verge of World War III, or that the present administration would ever go so far as to advocate for any form of cruelty that could match the atrocities committed during the Holocaust.

However, as I walked through the doorway to one of the many blocks where prisoners were kept, and saw before me the wise words of George Santayana:

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

I was immediately reminded of the fear and the hatred and the division that first enabled a man like Adolf Hitler to rise to power, amass such an army, and exterminate over 6 million people.

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I do not believe I am being an alarmist when I say that I see many of these same characteristics reflected in American society today.

I see Democrats and Republicans more polarized than ever. I see more and more of our politicians moving towards extremism, and I see more and more of my fellow citizens becoming so enraged with “the establishment” that they would rather put their faith in alt-right candidates like Donald Trump or, alternatively, in far-left candidates like Bernie Sanders than in our government itself.

Whether this is a problem of our democratic system, our politicians, or the electorate itself is a debate for another day. However, the fact remains the same: our country is rapidly polarizing.

We throw around mantras like “Make America Great Again” without knowing (or caring) that Hitler used the very same phrase — “Make Germany Great Again” — to instill a sense of violent nationalism in his followers. A sense of nationalism that preyed on their fears, and utilized their hate and division to ultimately drive them to violence

I see more and more hatred between my fellow Americans — whether it be on social media or on the House and Senate floors. I see more and more minority groups being demonized for America’s social, political, and economic problems over which they have no power to correct and little power to influence.

I hear our top politicians referring to blacks and immigrants and Muslims and the elite with the same aggressive tones that past leaders like Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini referred to Jews, gypsies, and their respective political establishments.

I see these things, and I am afraid for my country. I am afraid of the road we may soon go down — a road marred with hate and discord and hostility.

I am afraid.

However, my fear is not the sort to effectuate paralysis. No, my fear is the sort that drives one to action. I believe with the utmost conviction that I am not alone in this fear, and I know for certain that I am not alone in my desire to act.

I have seen first hand the fear — and the subsequent action — of my fellow Americans over the past two years as we have taken to the streets to advocate for what we believe in and to demand that our voices be heard.

From our collective fear has emerged a sense of togetherness — of shared activism — and it has given me a renewed hope.

This reminds me of another thing that my guide explained during my tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

After being asked about what could have possibly motivated Hitler to such violent cruelty towards Jews — could it have been that he was rejected from art school in Vienna by Jews? or could he have just been raised to despise the religion? — the guide merely shrugged and explained simply that there are all sorts of rumors and myths and musings about Hitler’s motivations, but ultimately Hitler was one.

Hitler was one.

“What about his followers?” she went on to ask us. what of the hundreds of thousands of people who, blinded by their hatred and fear, bought into his extremist ideology without question?

Moreover, what of those who looked on in silence as millions of human beings were being massacred? What of those that saw, and heard, and did nothing?

Adolf Hitler was undoubtedly an abhorrently vile and cruel and insolent man, but he did not single-handedly commit mass genocide.

It was the people.

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This sentiment reminded me of another quote. My favorite quote, in fact. First expressed by a German pastor named Martin Niemoller who only actively opposed Adolf Hitler after he himself was personally affected by Nazi violence:

First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

 There is a lot to learn from his words. However, first and foremost, I think that it is a clear warning of the dangers of indifference. Of inaction. Of seeing injustice, and doing nothing to correct it.

Just as the people were the driving force behind the Holocaust, they could have just as easily been the damning opposition against it.

What it came down to was individual choices. And, unfortunately, too many people chose wrong. However, we are now in the fortuitous position to learn from their examples — to take note of their mistakes, and consciously choose not to repeat them.

And there is a certain power in that. the power of Choice.

Today, I visited another monument. The legacy of another man. A better man. A man by the name of Oskar Schindler.

Anyone who has seen the film Schindler’s List is familiar with his legacy, but this museum in his honor brought to my attention something that I had previously neglected to realize.

All of the lives that Oskar Schindler was able to save. All of the cruelty that he was able to prevent. Everything he did hinged on a single choice: would he continue to support the Nazis and act in his own best interest, or would he risk it all — put everything on the line — to save the innocent?

Oskar Schindler was one man. One man that made one choice and saved hundreds.

In his museum there is a quote — a quote that has been echoing in my head since I very first read it:

“For some, war leaves no choice.

For others, it makes choosing a must.

A small gesture can yield irreversible consequences.

it can either save a life,

or ruin it.”

This quote is represented in an art exhibition entitled the Room Of Choices at the Schindler Museum, in which it is transcribed in over forty different languages:

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May we never repeat the mistakes of our past. May we remember them, and learn from them, and choose a different path for our future. May we choose it, and may we fight for it. Tirelessly.

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OU Cousins Matching Party (9/19/18)

Yesterday was an exciting day because I finally got to experience OU Cousin again; this year with a new International Student. The matching process was so fun, as we got to socialize with a lot of the international students and eat ice cream. After talking to many students, my eye was set on a girl named Charlie, although her real name is in Chinese. She’s from China and she loves sports, like myself. I was so excited to match with her, and I can not wait until we hangout more. This is going to be a fun year (:

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My First Few Weeks Abroad

Bonjour from Limoges! I left home on August 24th, so I’ve been in Europe for just short of a month. Before coming to France, I spent a week traveling with my best friend (another Global Engagement Fellow!), Hennessey. We flew into Amsterdam together and made the best of four rainy days eating lots of good food and going museum hopping. During a brief period of sunshine, we rented bikes and rode around the canals, an experience that left Henn with a sizeable thigh bruise from a minor collision.

From Amsterdam, we took a train to Brussels, where we stayed in a very cheap (and highly flawed) AirBnB. On our first night out, we were surprised to find that almost no restaurants served food on weeknights. When I went into one establishment and asked if they were serving dinner, the host said yes, “but no food, only beer.” Our few days in Brussels were marked by many struggles with finding food and using public transportation. We never ate dinner before 9 pm, and I was averaging about 20,000 steps a day. Still, we saw some wonderful things, including the Palais du Justice, which made Hennessey cry, and the Royal Museums of art.

The highlight of our time in Belgium was a day trip to Bruges, a city that seems to just be famous for being cute. We spent most of the day wandering the streets, looking at the beautiful architecture and eating chocolate. The weather was perfect, and I think I’ll remember the day forever.

After that, Hennessey and I went our separate ways– I got a train to Germany to visit some relatives, and she boarded a plane to Amaan, Jordan, where she is studying for the semester. I spent three lovely days with my Aunts Marita and Marlies and Uncle Werner in Aachen. We had only met once previously, but I could tell that we were family. My Aunt Marita reminds me so much of my mom, and we even look alike (rosy cheeks run in the family!).

Finally, I took a 15 hour bus ride from Aachen to Limoges, where I arrived on September 4th. The first couple weeks have been both more difficult and happier than I expected them to be, but I think this is the start of a wonderful semester!

 

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