Gilman Video Blogger Alex – Internship Reflection

Meet U.S. Department of State sponsored Gilman Scholarship recipient Alex Montoya. Alex was a Gilman Global Experience Correspondent during the summer of 2014 studying and interning in Shanghai, China.  The Gilman Global Experience allows Gilman Scholarship recipients the opportunity to record videos around academic and cultural themes to share with other students interested in studying or interning abroad in the featured country. For more videos please visit the Gilman Scholarship’s Official YouTube page.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alex in China

Velkommen til København (Welcome to Copenhagen)

Nate-in-Nyhavn

Nyhavn – this canal leads out to the harbor, which you can actually swim in because they keep it so clean!

It’s the little things that catch your eye. Well, not at first. At first you’re Rushed, Rushed, Rushed ¿Confused? Tiiired, IMOBLIZED hungry Rushed and finally, after 10-plus hours and land in sight, relieved. You sigh, feel yourself relaxing just a bit, and then, only then, do you look around and notice these little things.

Like a translucent orb seeming to float, weightless, in mid-air that turns out to be a streetlight. Stoplights that flash a yellow warning before turning green. Colors that don’t seem to quite match. A citrusy, astringent aroma that seems to perfume all of the public transit busses and trains. A building that leans so comically off-kilter that it seems to stumble into its sturdier rectangular friend placed strategically to one side. And bikes. Bikes everywhere! Bikes carrying their riders to trains, bikes in trains, bikes in special lanes on the streets, bikes locked to other bikes locked to the omnipresent bike-racks.

A sign at the airport you saw earlier said “Velkommen til København,” introducing you in the friendliest way possible to the one of the most difficult languages to pronounce, at least in the opinion of your newly-made friends. And who even are these “friends?” You just met them 20 minutes ago! Now you’re exploring the city with them as if you’d known each other for the past year.

And then you notice the feeling that’s been resting calmly in the background since you left Boston. It’s a sense of purpose, of tranquility, lying under the more superficial feelings of anxiety and confusion. You’ve done this before – travelled to a new place with new people. It was completely your choice to do it then as now, and it worked out well before.

Times up! You slip out of your thoughts to your friend (yes, he is my friend now) calling out that you have to get back to meet your respective host families. My family? Right! Of course, I’m staying with people here. God you’re tired.

Later, they show up and your name is called as if you were back in elementary school and your parents’ minivan with the bumper stickers and comfy seats had just driven up. You feel so happy, elated, even joyful (and again relieved) to finally, finally meet the people you’ll be living with for the next four months. Jan (“Yan”) and Dot are friendly and funny, entertaining you as they take you on a car tour of Copenhagen. And the best part? They speak English as if you were still in the US. This string of familiarities soothes the jarring harshness of the unknowns you just faced like sleep taking away all the troubles of a day. Sleep! You’re exhausted. While on the flight, your body overcame it with adrenaline and numbness. Now, however, you’re parasympathetic nervous system is kicking in and you’re starting to really feel the exhaustion. You can’t wait to get back to your host parents’ house and just sleep….

But they don’t let you! They know (far better than your body) that it’s 10 am and it’s time to be up! It’s time to meet you host brother Anton! He’s about your age, with a big smile and easy laugh to match his gregarious personality. You spend the day with them doing various small activities. By dinnertime you’re almost incoherent. Your host family asks “What did you say?” repeatedly, because you’re repeating yourself, and them, and the world just doesn’t make sense. You think it will make sense after you sleep, so you finally give in and go to bed at 9 pm. Exhausted, bewildered, happy. You know this is what you should be doing. This is right….

This mingled apprehension, confusion, excitement, and odd sense of calmness made up the whirlwind that was my first day in Denmark. The plane arrived at Copenhagen airport at about 6 am and we had to wait until 10 for our host parents to arrive, so my new friends and I went to explore the nearest neighborhood: Christianshavn (not to be confused with Christania). The old, colorful, intricately-detailed buildings along this harbor melded beautifully with the cobblestone streets and fresh coffee we bought and made us feel truly in Denmark. Later, my host parents were smart enough to keep me up, which saved me from having any jetlag during the first week.

I chose to describe this first day in such detail beacause it’s actually a very good illustration of how I’ve felt since then. I’ve explored some of the most beautiful and historic places in Copenhagen, celebrated a Silver Wedding (25th wedding anniversary) with friends of my host family, made new friends, bungyjumped over the harbor, and visited my host grandparents in the source of the spirit of Denmark: Jutland (more to come on these later!). Through it all I’ve been feeling the same jumbled mixture of emotions as on the first day, but, most importantly, I’ve been welcomed. Directly opposing the stereotype of Danes as closed to outsiders, I’ve felt so accepted by my host family and literally every Dane I’ve met (not an exaggeration). They are friendly, warm, fun-loving, and always making jokes.

My experience with my host grandparents shows this best. Jutlanders are stereotyped by Danes from more metropolitan areas as serious, tough farmers with no senses of humor. When I arrived there with my host family, I didn’t know this (and was better for it). Jørgen and Mie, the parents of my host father Jan, certainly didn’t speak any English, but they were as warm and loving as the grandparents in a Christmas movie. I was content to sit and eat the authentic Danish meal they had prepared for us while they all spoke in the Jutland dialect, but about half-way through the meal Jørgen suddenly turned to me and said, in halting but coherent English, “I normally speak proper Danish, but today I’m speaking in my dialect so I can annoy Dot.” Everyone laughed. Up until this point I thought he spoke zero English, and to have him communicate directly with me, in my own language, was nothing short of a blessing. Jan, Dot, and Anton made me feel at home in Copenhagen – Jørgen and Mie made me feel welcomed to all of Denmark.

Clockwise from left: my host mother, Dot, me, my host father, Jan, Jan's father Jørn and Jan's mother Mie.

Clockwise from left: my host mother, Dot, me, my host father, Jan, Jan’s father Jørn and Jan’s mother Mie.

Comments Off

Filed under Nathaniel in Denmark

Bienvenue en AFRIQUE!

DSC_0291[1]

The city (I took it from the airplane)

I can’t believe I am actually in AFRICA! There is so much I want to write about and so much to tell, but mostly I wanted to tell you how grateful I am to be here! It is very surreal and I am constantly reminding myself that I’m actually in Africa! I love the people, the culture, and the hospitality. I won’t be able to express all that is going on, so please comment with specific questions and I’ll answer those.

The first few days we have been going through an orientation (lots of time in the classroom and little time to explore). We learn about Senegalese customs, learn to dance a little, learn how to eat around the bowl (this means we all eat out of the same big bowl and sit on pillows on the floor), learn about Senegalese EVERYTHING! I feel like I have forgotten most of what they said, but luckily I am not afraid to ask over and over again. Out of the forty-ish students here, I am definitely the one who doesn’t mind talking with the locals. I have made friends with about everyone I have met, and they are so welcoming. The Senegalese have one word that represents their culture: TERANGA. This roughly translates to hospitality. They have a firm belief to always invite people in and help foreigners because they never know if they will need help in the future. People gladly help me with directions, finding transportation, and I have already been given so many gifts.  I have had special excursions to some markets and have been introduced to several people around the city while the rest of the students just stay in the hotel. I am truly trying to get out there and experience the culture– and don’t worry mom, I’m being safe.

DSC_0300[1]

Hotel Room (aka the orphanage)

So since there is so much to write about, I will try to give an adequate abridgment of Senegal through my eyes with the understanding that I will never fully explain the entirety of this awesome experience.

The City

Dakar is a thriving metropolis. There are so many people, street vendors and cars everywhere. We have to cross a giant highway to get to school (which is terrifying since pedestrians have no rights) and I feel like I’m always a bit anxious when I cross. They have three main neighborhoods where students live. I live in the furthest one which is called Ouakam. Try to search for pictures from Oaukum on the internet to see where I live. This is a developing country so that means that there are livestock on the streets, dirt roads, no dependable source of running water, and frequent electricity cuts. I’m learning to shower out of a bucket and enjoy being sweaty and smelly all the time.

Food

The food is crazy delicious. Of course the main dish is rice and fish, but my host mom explained that she likes a variety of food. Everyone here eats out of one large bowl. Normally they eat with their hands, yet my family has adopted silverware after having been a host family for 6 years. Most of the dishes are very simple- lentils, french fries, rice, onions, etc. My favorite is the fruit, especially the MANGOS! They are so delicious! I eat about three a day because it also costs only one dollar for a kilo. I’m loving the food and so far no illness.

My Host Family

DSC_0315[1]

My family

So the best part so far is my host family. They insist that I call them ” Mama” and “Papa” along with my three brothers and one sister. Here are their names so you can get some sort of idea of who I’m living with: Simon Pierre, Bernadette, Christian (26), Amelie (23), Pappi (17), and Benoit (9). My little brother Benoit already loves me so much– he follows me around, copies what I do, always wants to play and gets sad every time I have to leave. My very first night with the family almost felt like I was in the United States. We had spaghetti for dinner and after we all played UNO! I am super blessed to be living with a family that shares my beliefs and has made me feel at home so quickly.

As I said, there is so much that has happened and so many people I have met! I am really missing feeling dry and smelling clean, but I know I will soon get over that. There is so much talk about EBOLA and with one case emerging in Senegal, I am trying to enjoy each day and do as much as I can.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Joshua in Senegal

Gilman Video Blogger Alex – A Day in the Life

Meet U.S. Department of State sponsored Gilman Scholarship recipient Alex Montoya. Alex was a Gilman Global Experience Correspondent during the summer of 2014 studying and interning in Shanghai, China.  The Gilman Global Experience allows Gilman Scholarship recipients the opportunity to record videos around academic and cultural themes to share with other students interested in studying or interning abroad in the featured country. For more videos please visit the Gilman Scholarship’s Official YouTube page.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alex in China

Gilman Video Blogger Karly – A Day in the Life

Meet U.S. Department of State sponsored Gilman Scholarship recipient Karly Kahl-Placek. Karly was a Gilman Global Experience Correspondent for the Spring 2014 semester in Jaipur, India.  The Gilman Global Experience allows Gilman Scholarship recipients the opportunity to record videos around academic and cultural themes to share with other students interested in studying or interning abroad in the featured country. For more videos please visit the Gilman Scholarship’s Official YouTube page.

Leave a comment

Filed under Karly in India

From one home to another… Back in the USA.

Araca - San Jorge

 

The beautiful country of Guatemala had much to offer: warm weather, magnificent views, and succulent food. What I enjoyed most about Guatemala however, were the people and their kindness towards outsiders. Almost all of my encounters with Guatemalans were warm and welcoming. They acknowledged that I was a foreigner and took an interest in learning why I was there. I have learned to be more grateful for people with a welcoming personality and to take my own experiences into consideration when interacting with immigrants in the United States. I now wish to model their examples as I begin volunteering more with my local Latino community here in the United States.

Being back in America has created an unusual feeling of disorientation. It was almost as if the moment I began to feel comfortable in another country, I was on my flight back home. Reflecting on my time in Guatemala has made me appreciate all of the opportunities and privileges that I have available to me here, especially my university and campus resources. On campus, there are more than 6,000 faculty and staff members of various fields with knowledge and expertise to share with us students if we seek them out. I have been convicted with the thought that I have taken for granted my privilege to be a student at NC State University. In order to take what I have learned from my internship and experience in Guatemala, I am challenged to become more involved in a NC State founded organization called VOLAR, which provides needed services such as tutoring and clinical care.

I now cherish my time spent in Guatemala because it has taught me how to be more independent and has challenged my views about immigration law. Personally hearing the stories of ethnic discrimination forced me to confront the issue. I am now challenged to be proactive in advocating for the rights of Latino Americans and those who desire to have a better life and pursue a good education in the United States. I understand there are many complexities surrounding immigration, but I would like to help others have a more holistic understanding of Guatemalans’ side of the story. In a nut shell, that was why I was ultimately there this summer: to seek out and understand their ideas and beliefs in order to better promote social justice globally.

Araca in Guatemala

Comments Off

Filed under Araca in Guatemala

Meet Gilman Video Blogger – Alex

Meet U.S. Department of State sponsored Gilman Scholarship recipient Alex Montoya. Alex was a Gilman Global Experience Correspondent during the summer of 2014 studying and interning in Shanghai, China.  The Gilman Global Experience allows Gilman Scholarship recipients the opportunity to record videos around academic and cultural themes to share with other students interested in studying or interning abroad in the featured country. For more videos please visit the Gilman Scholarship’s Official YouTube page.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alex in China