Departure and Initial Adjustments in Sāpmi.

Greetings Earthlings! Please allow me to introduce myself and the focus of my studies. My name is Steve Guardi, originally from the village of Johnsburg in northern Illinois and currently finishing up my bachelor’s degree in Conservation Science and Management at the University of Washington. It is a pleasure to be representing the Gilman International Scholarship Program through the Gilman Global Experience Blog. I will be reporting on my immersive studies with the indigenous Sāmi communities in Sāpmi (or Norway as the “land of the Sāmi” is so named today). Rather than using the nation state’s name of Norway to represent this place, I will insist on referring to it as Sāpmi.

With the intention of broadening my western education with traditional ecological knowledge from across the globe, I will be focusing my research on the ways in which the Sāmi are connected to the land, their use of place-based song, and their struggle to retain their identities in a world that is still facing the onslaught of colonization and assimilation. Records show that the Sāmi people first inhabited this part of the arctic sometime between 11,000 and 10,000 BCE, so naturally it would make sense to assume they have a good idea of how humans ought to interact with the natural world.

First day of class!

First day of class!

My journey to Sāpmi was atypical and full of anxiety that is outside of what people are expected to feel before travelling internationally. Of course, I was nervous about the language barrier, the cost of living, making friends, and learning everything that I had hoped for…but some major travel hiccups nearly destroyed any chance I had of even making it to Sāpmi and made those normal anxieties feel quite insignificant.

Long story short, my first plane was seven hours late due to a thunderstorm so I missed my flight from Newark to Oslo. After spending the night wandering around the airport searching for my checked bag after agent after agent sent me one wild goose chase after another, I finally made it to Oslo a day late. I had an hour between landing and catching my final flight to Tromsø, and the folks to attach the bridge to the plane were having difficulties for thirty minutes. I made it to my final flight just in time and enjoyed one of the most scenic flights I have ever been fortunate enough to witness.

Once in Tromsø, I found myself waiting at the baggage claim for a checked bag that never arrived. It has been nearly one week without my backpack with tent, sleeping bag, vitamins, clothing, and all of the other items that would enable me to feel comfortable in a foreign land. Nearly all of the things that make me feel “at home” are potentially never going to enter my life again. I hope to have them returned soon because I leave in three days for the international indigenous music festival, Riddu Riddu, where camping is essential.

View of the planetarium, mountains, and harbor from the bus stop.

View of the planetarium, mountains, and harbor from the bus stop.

However, I did not come to Sāpmi to worry about my checked luggage and be filled with anxiety. So what if all I have are sweatpants? I’m in Sāpmi as a scholar and Gilman blogger! These things are completely out of my control at this point, and accepting when you do not have control is worthwhile endeavor if you aim to become a calm, low maintenance, and self-actualized individual. It was finally time to experience all that this place has to offer, this is what I have been looking forward to for months.

Culture shock set in when I had to do simple day-to-day tasks like getting a new SIM card and buying groceries- everything is written in Norwegian, the currency is in krones, and nearly every brand is one that I have never seen before. Sure, everyone here speaks English as well as two other languages, so asking for help isn’t impossible to someone like me who knows absolutely no Norwegian. But am I really going to ask someone how Frukt isTe vannmelon juice tastes? No way, there’s only one way to find out! Sweet cheese? Lemme at it! Wait, grocery stores aren’t open on Sunday? I can’t purchase alcohol after 6pm on weekdays and 3pm Saturdays? The university that is hosting me has its own ski jumps, planetarium, and botanic garden. Our dorms rooms have a sauna, but a bottle of Coca-Cola will cost you $9. The sun doesn’t set? That’s right, we have 24 hours of daylight in the Sāpmi summer. Things are different, but I think I love it!

One of my main goals outside of my academic pursuits is to meet as many locals as possible and make long lasting friendships. I have already been getting along with that goal very well, as I managed to meet a graduate student majoring in plant ecology from Spain. By chance we had breakfast together in the dorms, and then lunch, and then he invited me out with him and his friends. I spent the evening with wonderful new friends, exploring the town and making small talk with anyone we could. There was a rumor that Norwegians can be introverted and standoffish, but I have yet to experience that quality in a single person I have approached.

Traditional meal at Lisa's home with new friends and colleagues_

Traditional meal at Lisa’s home with new friends and colleagues.

Apart from our course lectures presented by both University of Washington professors as well as UiT (The Arctic University of Norway Norwegian: Universitetet i Tromsø) literary scholars, my study group was invited to a traditional Sāmi meal by one of my professor’s colleagues, Lisa, and Lisa’s niece, Aila. She prepared  blood cakes for us. What’s a blood cake? It’s basically reindeer blood mixed with meat, spices, something to hold it together, and molded into a sort-of dumpling around a center of diced bacon. As a vegetarian, the idea of a blood cake terrified me.

Did I eat it? Absolutely. How often in my life will I eat blood cakes prepared by a wonderful Sāmi woman whose recipe is only so because she had a mother who taught her what her mother had taught her, and on back through the generations? Were they good? I must say, yes. I ate every bit of it, and it was absolutely delicious while also being unlike anything else I have ever tasted. Not only was it simple nourishment, it was an example of Sāmi identity that has, much like the language, been retained throughout all of their struggles against colonizers.

We spent the rest of the evening drinking wine, sharing our life stories, and learning from Lisa aspects of Sāmi spirituality that I will take to the grave with me, as it would be inappropriate to reveal to the world at large such intimate familial knowledge.

Possibly my favorite garden on campus. One must be careful, the seagulls are rearing young, so they are guarding their turf!

Possibly my favorite garden on campus. One must be careful, the seagulls are rearing young, so they are guarding their turf!

My journey has only just begun, and I am having an incredible time. Sure, I faced some setbacks, but I’ve always thought of myself as resilient and ever-positive. So far this state of mind has served me well this first week in Sāpmi. Stay tuned for my next blog where I will move away from my personal experiences and more into the Sāmi culture as represented at the three-day international indigenous music festival, Riddu Riddu.

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Getting ready!

Hello everyone (or anyone)!

My name is Claudia Paguay, and I am extremely excited to be sharing my journey to South Korea with you all.

This upcoming Fall semester I will finally be a Senior at Hunter College, where I study both Urban Studies and Media Studies.

During my time at Hunter College I dabbled in many different areas of study, and my many interests left me worried about which career path I should follow. Thankfully, last semester I took my first documentary production course and I discovered that I loved it! I began to seriously think about working in this field when I luckily learned about the Media Production and Cultural Studies program in South Korea with Brooklyn College. It was perfect for me!

Not only will this summer study abroad program allow me to improve my production skills, but it will also allow me to travel, explore Korean culture, and make beautiful memories.

A few years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to some aspects of Korean culture, like the food and music. After that, I began to do my own research and I felt like Korean traditions and customs were so interesting. On top of that, I was enticed by the beautiful sounds of its language. My respect and love of Korean culture even lead me to take two Korean language courses.

CP1 school supplies

In fact, I am hoping that I can use what I learned from those two language courses in South Korea. I want to be able to correctly translate street signs, menus, and I would love to hold a conversation with a native Korean. I gathered all my notes from my Korean classes and I am re-writing them into a neat little notebook that I will take with me. I want to explore South Korea without getting lost or feeling scared, so this notebook will help me do that.

I leave for South Korea on July 10, and I have yet to pack. Before you give me an “are you serious?” look, I would just like to say that I have a very good reason.

CP1 group

My summer program’s final projects consists of us creating documentaries that compare two different aspects of American and South Korean culture. We were broken up into groups of four and had to start on our American part of the documentary. I was put in a group with the fun and amazing Cherry, Emmy, and Nia! We all instantly got along and have been working hard on scheduling interviews, shooting, creating a project presentation, and editing. We finally finished our second rough cut last night, so now I can finally focus on packing.

I have a lot ahead of me, so I hope you stick around and experience this journey with me!


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Back in the Heartland

Studying abroad was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. The friends that I made and lessons that I learned have guided my outlook on the future since my flight touched down in Denver, Colorado and I made the long trek back to Nebraska. I’d be lying, though, if I told you that I wasn’t excited to return to the United States. I see my experience in Poland as one of deep value not just because of my studies and the relationships that I have forged a world over, but because it has already transformed the way that I view and desire to live back at home. Perhaps the biggest struggle that I had in Poland was adjusting to a daily and academic lifestyle that was completely up for interpretation, negotiation, and often lacked hard deadlines or due dates. I craved the structure of my life back in the United States, but now that I’ve returned, it is this structure that is ironically conflicting for me.

There’s never a shortage of deadlines, due dates, or obligations. Graduation, internship applications, and prospective careers are the foci of my life now that I’ve returned, and that’s okay, but it’s far different than the previous nine months. It’s no longer an evening meal with an international friend group, a university trip to Kraków, or introduction of a new holiday celebration that takes precedence each day, but rather, a more competitive and structured lifestyle with an emphasis on professional and financial advancement. While there are merits to both lifestyles, I have felt as if I’m caught somewhere between the two conflicting ways of life and attempting to find methods that balance future goals alongside the desire to see, experience, and familiarize myself with new perspectives and places.

Perhaps one of the best outlets for me since returning home has been not only staying in touch with my friends abroad, but also reconnecting with my peers and classmates that are also returning to the United States or who have been in a similar situation. Discussing our mutual experiences and comparing and contrasting them with our normalized routines at home not only helps me readjust, but also highlights the aspects that I miss most about Poland as well as those that I enjoy in the United States. With this being the outlet that best suits me to deal with reverse culture shock, I have great excitement to continue working with international students as well as my peers that are planning study abroad adventures of their own when I return for my final semester at Nebraska Wesleyan.

If you’d asked me about my future plans even a couple of weeks prior to my departure for Wrocław, Poland there’s no doubt that I would have had a specific trajectory for my life in mind and a grand plan of how to get there. I still have plans and goals after this experience, but I now have a far better idea of which aspects I can control and those that I cannot. If I take anything away from my time abroad, it is that some of the most rewarding experiences stem from taking a detour from the grand plan that I keep in the back of my mind. As a result, I’m far more open to enjoying the moment and making the most out of the opportunities that are in front of me. It means taking that family trip to South Dakota, attending that friend’s birthday party, or RSVP’ing for that summer wedding. It means not getting so discouraged with the flight that’s been cancelled the evening before it’s supposed to depart, but instead getting to know the grandmother from Yorkshire and the Scottish storm chaser that you’ve been seated next to on the rescheduled flight. Minor actions such as these are the agents of change in my life that I have brought home with me, and implementing them each day is one of the best culture shock vaccines that I could ask for.

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On Being a “Good” Foreigner in Japan

Japan has built a reputation as a safe haven for tourists, often going out of their way to help them and making sure they have a good time. Most notably, Japanese citizens grant foreigners “gaijin power”, or forgiveness for any social mistakes that they may commit. While they are nice enough to excuse any ignorance, when you are abroad, you should try your best to learn these unspoken rules so as not to live up to the “entitled American/foreigner” stereotype. Here are just a few of the behaviors I’ve noticed.

Train practices

When riding on a train, it is expected that everyone stays quiet. Often time, “salary men”, or employees often characterized as wearing suits and working long hours, fall asleep on their commute home. As a vast majority of the employees here work over time, it is good practice to be considerate. This general concern for others begets other rules like putting your phone on “manner mode” or silent/vibrate, not eating as to avoid creating a smell, and not answering phone calls.

When waiting for the train, make sure you’re waiting orderly in line. When about to board the train, step to the side of the doors and wait until everybody gets off before you step on. You should always yield your seat to the elderly/pregnant/injured (in some areas where there’s priority seating, this is mandatory). Move into the middle of train if you’re standing so as not to make it difficult for the next person to step in.

Japan’s public transportation system is very good so you may find yourself riding the trains a lot. With a general concern for others, Japanese people try to make the riding experience good for everyone so it’s important to try to remember these rules as well.

Food Practices

When you start your meal, you say “itadakimasu”, as a form of saying thank you for the meal prepared. When you finish your meal, you say “gochisousamadeshita”, as a final thank you for the meal. Never pass food chopsticks-to-chopsticks or leave your chopsticks “stabbed” upright in food, as this is only done in funeral ceremonies. In restaurants, there is no tipping. If you’re outside, you don’t walk and eat at the same time. When you’re done with your trash, you have to separate it. Japan has some of the strictest trash laws so it’s important to take care in making sure your trash is in the right place. This helps keeps Japan’s streets very clean, something it is known for.

Food is most commonly used as an expression of culture, and Japan is no different. By adhering to the customs that the Japanese use, you can show a level of respect that will make the food and the experience that much better.

Parting Thoughts

While these represent a small portion of the unspoken rules Japanese people live by, the underlying principle is the mindfulness of others. If you as a foreigner seek to minimize your disruption, you will find that most of these considerations come normally, making your time here enjoyable for both you and the Japanese.

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Becoming a Global Citizen – Arlette

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Changed for the Better

As my time in Poland comes to an end and I prepare for one more round of final papers, presentations, and meetings with friends I have begun to reflect on on how different my life here has been in comparison to the one I put on pause in Nebraska and how those differences have changed me as both a student and a person. I make this distinction because often people think that purpose of going abroad is specifically academic, and to some extent, it is. However, the majority of my growth over the past academic year has taken place off campus and outside of the classroom. Instead of crafting the perfect thesis at every corner, I’ve learned to create and have dialogues that I cannot have at home. Rather than living for an exam, I’ve spent the year living for experiences and seeing sites that will be out of reach in just a couple of weeks. Of course, I’ve definitely taken the time to study, particularly when it comes to the political and cultural shifts that are visibly changing Poland, but while nine short months ago I would have only examined these changes behind the screen of a laptop or between the covers of a book, I am now actively witnessing them with analyses provided by professionals who call this country home.

This past year has also changed my outlook on my future and my home state significantly. When I initially applied to attend the University of Wrocław, I was actively seeking a change of pace. I had recently concluded what I consider to be the most difficult year in my academic career and questioning whether or not my future would be in Nebraska, and if not, where would I go? My time in Poland provided with clarity when it came to these topics and reassurance in the fact that sometimes it’s impossible to know. I’ve become more relaxed and flexible when it comes to setbacks, both personally and academically, and a new found acceptance of deviations to my “master plan” seem far less intimidating than they did last fall. This is not to say that I don’t take my education and future seriously, but it does mean that I’ve allowed myself more room to expand my horizons and embrace situations that would have only caused me frustration in the past.

When it comes to Nebraska, I have to admit, I miss it far more than I thought I would at the beginning of this experience. Of course, I never had any doubt that I would miss my friends and family (and a special thanks to each of them that has worked with my strange schedule and across time zones just to say hello), but I was skeptical of missing the slow pace of my small hometown. As it comes time to consider my return, though, I am far more excited than I expected to spend some time back in the routine that has, love it or hate it, always been home. As I move from the short grace period of reconnecting with family and friends, I will also embark on my final year of college. Before long, I will be writing a thesis and rushing to finish final projects, but I will also have the opportunity to work with international students at my home university and my peers that have decided to go abroad through my university’s Office of Global Engagement. I will also be able to welcome the newest class of students to the campus I have considered a second home for the last four years, and for that I am all the more prepared because of the experience I have gained over this past year.

Perhaps the largest impact that going to Poland has had on me is the affirmation I am capable and excited by the prospect of living and learning abroad. I have gained a support group on an international scale that has encouraged and inspired me since my first day in Wrocław, and these factors have ultimately led me to consider the pursuit of a master’s degree abroad with a focus on development, security, and the impact of a globalizing world. If someone had asked me a year ago about my plans after undergraduate study, I would likely have smiled and politely declared that I first had to get through the semester at hand. Now, I am looking forward to finding a place to continue my education even further and taking my experiences with me on the long journey back home as the next chapter in my life unfolds. Although I cannot pick one single event during my time here that led to a life changing epiphany, my collective experiences have ultimately changed me for the better and I am beyond excited to translate them into a new perspective on my once familiar life back home.

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Lessons from My Study Abroad

Studying abroad in Seville has definitely prepared me to exceed professionally, academically, and personally. Reflecting on my mentality before leaving the United States to now, I can notice a drastic change on my outlook on things and situations. It’s funny to think that the only aspiration I wanted out of this experience was to become more fluent in Spanish and I have received years of wisdom, knowledge, and confidence in aspects of life I did not even realize I needed to sharpen.

From kindergarten until now, I have attended predominately African American populated schools. In this semester, I was the only student of color in my classes. “I cannot mess up, I cannot be the weakest link.” was what I used to tell myself. I felt like I was representing the entire African American undergraduate population and I could not appear less than my peers. I had to let these thoughts go and tell myself that I am taking on a journey not so many students like me are able to (yet) and that I am doing my best. This semester has really broken down my weakness of being a perfectionist. As long as I did my best and learn from my mistakes, I can only up from here. I have always been a optimist but after this semester, I have learned to count my blessings one by one. From arriving with no luggage to not being able to board flights, I have seen it all. I am able to think faster when unexpected situations present themselves. Budgeting and trip organizing are also key skills I have also picked up along the way.

Communicating is vital to progress. Whether it is for social activism, business negotiations, or clarity, communications is how we get from point A to point B. I will never forget how, when I first arrived to Seville, I asked my host father if he spoke English and he said no. From then on, every conversation was Spanish or nothing at all. At first I did not speak as much, but with growing confidence and vocabulary, my host family and I have shared memorable, comical, and interesting conversations. I have always had an interest in Spanish but after spending a semester in Spain, I love the language and the idea of communicating in multiple languages. To speak to someone in their native tongue is essentially showing interest in their culture. I never thought I would grow fluent in Spanish based on my education prior to studying abroad. My teachers were great, but if you don’t use it you lose it. I am now able to confidently read, write, and speak Spanish. I plan to keep this proficiency through keeping in contact with my Spanish friends, listening to Spanish music, and having Spanish subtitles on movies and television shows.

This semester I challenged myself to obtain an internship, professional development opportunities, scholarships, and a student government position while abroad. I was not going to let opportunity pass me by because I was an ocean away. I am fortunate to say I will be interning with Fox 4 in Ft Myers, Florida and I have been elected as Student Government Association (SGA) Secretary for 2018-2019 academic school year. Obtaining these opportunities was not easy. In running for SGA, I had two students running against me. Not being on campus can make or break a campaign. With my strong and dependable campaign team and my reputation on campus, I became one of few students to win such a prestigious position while studying abroad. This experience, along with coordinating interviews for professional development opportunities and my internship, has strengthened my organization and critical thinking skills. I had to have the answer to my questions before I asked the questions. I had to be flexible and strong standing because it would be so easy to forfeit these opportunities since I was abroad. I was not going to let that hold me back. I know if I can get this much completed while abroad, I can tackle anything that comes my way now.

I was only supposed to complete some credit hours and learn a little Spanish while abroad. Instead I have gained life-long skills, relationships, and confidence. If I could restart this semester, I may have started by hitting the grown running on Spanish. I was so afraid to be wrong or sound stupid. Nothing is stupid about trying. I see the fruits of my labor now. I only hope my experience influences more students to go abroad and not let anything defy to determine their success and future.

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