What Constitutes a Home?

Last week my study abroad program, made up of 10 students, went on a tour to Kerala. Kerala neighbors Tamil Nadu and a lot of Indians call the state by its nickname, ‘God’s Own Country.’ If I had to compare Kerala to a specific location in the United States I would say it’s similar to the Outer Banks because it seems to be where a lot of Indians and foreigners flock to for their vacation. Kerala was beautiful! The temperatures were much cooler (about 85 degrees Fahrenheit) and there was very little humidity.

Our first stop was Thekkady, a very popular tourist destination. Trees and greenery surrounded Thekkady; I felt like I was in the jungle. One of the highlights of my stay in Thekkady was visiting an organic spice farm, which was also a mini animal farm. On the spice farm tour I learned that almost 78 percent of the world’s pepper is grown in Kerala! Crazy! I’ll never look at black pepper the same. Another highlight of Thekkady was being able to run outside. I woke up early in the morning to take a long jog up the mountain and it was beyond fantastic! The morning fog was still lingering amongst the trees and the sun had yet to fully rise. The air was cool against my face and I could actually see my breath when I exhaled. The best part about my run in Thekkady was the peace and quiet that surrounded me. It had been a very long time since I was provided with a space and time to be consumed in my thoughts.

 

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I saw an emu for the first time in my life…at the spice farm….

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All of us were able to take a leisurely walk in the tranquil tea plantation.

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My friend Nora and I befriended an elephant!

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We were terrified of getting on an elephant (as you can tell from our facial expressions). Never again will I get on the back of an elephant.

 

Thekkady was filled with luscious greenery and calming, cool air. The visit to the spice farm was a stark realization of where my food came from. The visit to the tea farm helped me understand why my friend Hunter is in love and obsessed with tea. Tealeaves are planted in a way that it looks visually appealing. All the shrubs are evenly spaced out and grow along the side of the mountain; therefore, from afar the tea farm looks like a wall of green. In Thekkady I was one with nature (which is hard to come by in Madurai); however, in Cochin my experience was the complete opposite. We visited Cochin for the last 2 days of our tour. It was a bustling, hustling city. It felt like Madurai but on a greater scale. The streets were filled with automobiles, the nightlife was exciting, there was a humongous mall. I visited the Centre Square Mall a couple of times and for a split second it felt like I was back in the United States. The mall had stores that I was familiar with: Nike, Puma, The Body Shop, Levi, and so many more; however, I wasn’t interested in shopping. The real reason I visited the mall? It had a Baskin Robbins! Finally, an ice cream shop that I recognized! To be fair, I’ve had my fair share of ice cream in Madurai. Ice cream at iBaco is mediocre; they always have waffle cones, which helps make up for the lack of depth to the flavor of the ice creams. The mall around the corner from where I study has Coldstone ice cream but I find that they mash the ice cream one too many times. Therefore, finding a Baskin Robbins stand on the first floor of Centre Square Mall was a sign from the world that I needed to consume as much ice cream as possible. What are vacations for if you can’t eat whatever you want in huge quantities? I estimate that I had at least 7 scoops of ice cream during my 2-day stay in Cochin. In other words, the Baskin Robbins employee got to know me very well.

Although the existence of a Baskin Robbins could have probably convinced me to set up camp at the mall for the rest of my time in South India, I wanted to return to Madurai. I remember saying to myself, “I want to go back home now.” Regardless of Madurai being drastically different than my home in the United States, I have made Madurai my home. For the past couple of weeks I have struggled with establishing personal space and finding my niche in Madurai. Regardless, I call it home.

 

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Chocolate exotica from Puppy’s Bakery. It definitely satisfies my chocolate craving.

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Dark chocolate dessert jar from Puppy’s Bakery. I’ve bought so many I now have a growing jar collection in my closet.

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My mango milkshake from Zaitoon, an Arabian restaurant. Sometimes I wonder if I’m eating my stress away via sugar….

 

What constitutes a home? For me, home is closely related to familiarity. In Madurai, I can hop onto any ‘share auto’ at the end of my street because the drivers always go the same route. I can walk to Nila, a local grocery store, and pick up a carton of curd to eat with my oatmeal. Every evening my patti (grandmother) greets me with a huge smile as she hands over the house key. While it can be relaxing to get away from the city of Madurai, being able to come home to a welcoming host family at the end of the day is much more satisfying. After 2 months of being in India I feel like I’m settling in; I’m finally starting to call Madurai my home. With only 30 days left in Madurai (I have a short study abroad program) I hope to make the most of my time by spending more evenings watching movies with my ammaa (mother), getting to know the employees at Puppy’s Bakery, and whatever else Madurai has to offer.

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Filed under Michelle in India, South & Central Asia

The Great Impact

Since returning home, I have been experiencing some stages of reverse culture shock. I was initially very excited to return home, however, since returning home I have found it a bit difficult to adjust back to the lifestyle here. It has been particularly difficult because my experience abroad has impacted me so profoundly. While my friends and family have continued to move along through their everyday routine, I am still adjusting to life here and reflecting on my time away. I feel as though I must not quickly forget what I took away from this experience. It is so completely different here in the United States. I had not noticed how accustomed I had gotten to the Moroccan way and culture until returning. It was hard to see then the little things that had made such a difference in Morocco. It is shocking to me how different the culture here is and I was not anticipating that. Things have been very different than I expected them to be once I returned. They have been more sad than exciting, unfortunately. Adjusting back as an athlete has been somewhat difficult. The amount of  new teammates unintroduced to me has been shocking and incredibly overwhelming. School started so quickly and I felt as though it was a very quick turnaround and that I did not have much time to spend with my family and adjust. Although it has been difficult, I believe that I am slowly adjusting back to the ordinary here. Things are definitely different from the way they were to me before leaving. Nonetheless, I hope that they stay that way.

 

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A photo taken on my departing plane at the Mohammed V International Airport located in Casablanca, Morocco prior to our departure from the country after two months.

 

I very much miss the familiarity of Morocco. It was great being able to go to one restaurant or grocery store where you know people. I also miss being so close with the group of people I was living in Morocco with, as well as adventuring to different places in Morocco. Lastly, I greatly miss the laid-back and happy culture. On the other hand, I am happy to be reunited with my friends and family in the US, as well as the pool and my sport. I have noticed a lot of differences between the US and Morocco. It is mainly the little things, such as the way people interact, the way of life, the conveniences, the food, the regulations, etc. These are things that I didn’t know were so important to my life before leaving America. But while away, I came to realize that all of the little things lacking were actually all very important to my way of living, which greatly affected me.

After having this experience, I will continue on with my schooling, however I will not forget how I have been impacted. I hope to share my experience with as many people as possible, while also becoming a more involved individual. My experience abroad has only made me more grateful and more motivated to make a large impact for the good of others. I know that I will definitely be better about prioritizing my time to put the things that matter most first, and put others before myself. I know that this experience has made me love life and want to live each day to its fullest.

 

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A photo taken from a high point in one of the four mountainous regions of Morocco.

 

During my study abroad, I definitely came out of my shell. I became more open to unexpected situations and more adventurous and courageous. This was mainly a result of unanticipated conflicts experienced throughout the completion of my project, as well as trying to acclimate to the everyday lifestyle of the Moroccan people. It was also due to various weekend trips spent traveling and exploring the country in a very short amount of time. I definitely improved my communication skills, solely as a result of the high level of interaction with others. I definitely developed myself as an individual throughout my time in Morocco. It has become more clear to me the type of person that I want to be. I believe that this was a result of being in a foreign country disconnected from American society. It gave me a lot of time for reflection, all the while having such an amazing experience. It put things in perspective and allowed me to become more in touch with my inner self. Lastly, my experience abroad has made me more appreciative of everything that I have in my life. Just walking on the streets and seeing how the Moroccan people live was enough to evoke this change. They live the simplest lives and find the simplest jobs, just to get by in life. They also set aside time for the one thing that matters most to them, which is family. But the one part of my experience that made appreciation so much more prominent in my life was hearing the personal stories from families with autistic children that I interviewed for my project. They struggle so much to obtain decent lives for themselves and their children, not to mention proper education, treatment, and diagnoses. It was heartbreaking to hear their stories, all the while eye-opening to see how happy and grateful they still are for what they do have.

 

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A photo of the Ksour, a famous clay building depicted on the 50 dirham bill (Moroccan currency). The techniques used by the Moroccan people when creating such a structure allowed them to develop highly efficient architecture.

 

In addition, I definitely grew professionally while abroad. It was a new experience for me to complete this project while working with a sponsor. It was enriching to work with a group of students to complete a report, database, and present all of our information collected to our classmates, advisors, and sponsor. I learned how to deal with difficult team dynamics throughout the project and gained a lot of experience presenting my material in a professional manner.

One piece of advice that I would give to scholars interested in studying or interning abroad in Morocco would be to not set expectations, but rather to just enjoy the experience for all that it is and take the most from it. I can guarantee that any person studying abroad will get more out of the experience if they are able to avoid spending time worrying about how things should be. Whatever happens, they should be able to enjoy the once in a lifetime experience and not set their sights on the things that are not going perfectly as planned. I would encourage them to enjoy every moment of such an amazing opportunity while they have the chance, because it will be over in the blink of an eye.

 

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A photo taken at a village depicting the sun setting over the mountains in Morocco.

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Do’s and Don’ts

I know I have only been in Florence for 8 weeks now and that is definitely not a long time to think that I know the ins and outs of this city. So maybe this could be for the beginners, the ones thinking about studying abroad in this amazing place and just need a little push.

DO:

Eat out once a week.

  • I say once a week because of my next point…

Go to the markets and pick out fresh ingredients!

  • Why? To cook obviously. Italy is a food country and they love getting people to try their food. But they also encourage those to learn how to make their own food, and there is always a variety of ingredients to create things you’ve never tried before.

See the Duomo. This is a must. And then…

Go the top of the Duomo because it’s one of the greatest views you will ever see in your life.

 

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The view from the Duomo.

 

Go see the Statue of David. Also a must see.

Take a train to a random city you’ve never heard of and stay there for a few hours.

  • I mean why not? If you’re from New York like me or any other urban city in the States, you get lost or fall asleep on the train and wake up in random places all the time. Except this time, don’t get on the return train going home. Venture out and see a town or city you didn’t even plan on visiting. The smallest cities possess so much charm and are worth the trip.

Make random conversation.

  • I was going to class and I was thirsty so I stopped at a little café for a bottle of water. I noticed that the water was a lot cheaper than where I usually buy it so I asked him, “Why is your water so cheap?” He didn’t speak English that well, so I said I understood Italian a little bit and I tried to catch a little bit of what he said. I think the gist of what he was saying was that, “As a kid, I did not have that much water to drink and I was always thirsty. So I don’t want people to feel thirsty.” At least that’s what I hope he said because I said something like “Wow, che e` molto noble e gentile” meaning “that is very noble and kind,” and he smiled.

Visit the Santa Croce.

  • Why? The bodies of Galileo, Machiavelli, and Michelangelo are all buried there. Like what??

 

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Before entering the Santa Croce.

 

Try the club scene.

  • It is very different and very diverse. But also very special. Many other Italian cities, such as Rome, do not have club scenes and students rarely go out. So when they come to Florence, they talk about how much more fun it is.

Visit the leather markets.

  • Please, please, please go get your mom a leather purse or hand bag BEFORE she calls you complaining about how you’re cheap and don’t buy her anything.

Pet the Golden Boar so that you are granted safe travels back to Florence one day.

GET GELATO THREE TIMES A DAY. You will not get fat. Hopefully.

Go to all the famous spots like All’antico viniao sandwich place or the Vivoli Gelateria and wait in the lines that stretch to across the street. You will definitely be tired, but it is definitely worth it.

Go to a movie theater and watch a random Italian movie. (And not understand what’s going on.)

  • I definitely went in there hoping to find a movie with at least a little English so that I could follow it. The film definitely joined my list of one of the weirdest movies I have ever seen, but at least I can say I did it.

Have dinners with your apartment roommates and form a bond.

Speak to your close friends and family from time to time to let them know how you are doing.

  • They miss you as much as you miss them! (I think!)

Find a random relative!!

  • One of the club promoters turned out to be my cousin. Don’t ask me how or why he is out here. I just know next that next time I’m in Florence, I will get in for free with him.

Lastly, stand out as much as you can without a care in the world. Be different. Be unique.

  • Before you come here, people will tell you and give you advice on thing like how to dress in Italy, how to eat, how to talk, and maybe even how to walk. But I wouldn’t try to follow that as much as possible. Before I traveled out here, someone told me to try to tone down on the slang and try to speak as well as Italians do. But today, my Italian roommate is starting to use slang words that I do, words he has never used before, and he loves it. I even taught my teacher a new word. It’s okay to be different I think.

 

DON’T: 

Don’t crave American food everyday. Try something new!

  • But I’ll admit, you will definitely miss having a bagel or regular bread because they do not have that as often as you will like. They also don’t have pancakes. I forgot to add that to my lows last week.

Don’t assume restaurants or shops have the best food because they advertise it as much and as big as they can. The tiniest cafés and secret little restaurants have the best food.

  • I remember my roommates and I were on our way to this famous restaurant that we heard had ‘okay’ pasta and we wanted to try it out for ourselves. On the way, we got lost and ended up in an alley way and found this small restaurant called ‘Acquacotta’ that had the best spaghetti ever. (You’re welcome.)

 

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The BEST spaghetti.

 

Don’t assume everyone speaks English fluently.

  • Simple because, they don’t. But they will try and that’s good enough.

Don’t assume people know you’re American.

  • (Relating to my last bullet) I say this because sometimes people will hear you speak English but will still approach you using Italian. What’s nice about this is that you get to practice your Italian a little so it’s not that bad.

DON’T eat out every night.

  • I said in my Do’s to eat out once a week. Not just to cook, but the quality and deliciousness of the dinner lifestyle is too rich, in money and variety, to have every night. It may lose its value quickly as some people have experienced.

Don’t get a taxi everywhere. WALK as much as possible.

  • As much as I hate walking (well, used to) I love it now. 8 weeks in, I enjoy the 25 minute walk to class at 7:30 am three times a week. I enjoy walking in circles trying to find a food spot that my maps never seem to be able to accurately locate.

Don’t assume water is free, ANYWHERE.

Don’t assume the water is hot either!

Don’t sit down when you get a coffee because you get charged a sit down fee. I know. It’s crazy.

Don’t get fooled by con artists. They think they are low but they are not!

  • Some guy asked me where I got my pants from and he thought he felt the need to touch my pockets to figure out where. Not me sir, not me.

Don’t lose awareness of your surroundings. Always be on the lookout.

Don’t forget to remind your friends how much you miss them!

  • As annoying as they are I miss my girlfriend and other friends, my brothers on the basketball team, and yes, my mother too.

Don’t forget why you’re here. Immerse yourself as much as possible.

  • Grades and rest are important, yes. But try not to stay in bed all day, or spend all day studying. There is way too much to see and time goes fast.

Don’t assume you know Florence because you have lived here for 8 weeks! There is still much more to see, discover, and experience.

Don’t go to museums, churches, and parts of the cities just for pictures.

  • I know for me sometimes I get lost in is the excitement of trying to take an amazing picture to show people. But I’ve started to get a better understanding of just seeing the value of where I’m at without pulling out my phone.

Don’t spend all your money right away, it definitely goes fast.

Don’t think people won’t ask you random questions about who you are, and even why.

  • No joke. On my way to catch my flight to London, this guy on the train noticed that I was African and asked me what my name was. I assumed because I am black and the majority of blacks seen here selling things are from Africa, he thought that I was the same so I told him, “Christopher.” But then he said, “No, what’s your real name?” I asked him what do you mean, and he asked me why I don’t go by my African name. At first I did not know how to answer. One, because a random guy was asking me a random question on a random train. But two, because I have not really found the answer to that question for myself. A few people know of my African Heritage and my African name, Kwasi, and that is not because I like to keep it a secret. It’s just not as natural as saying my American name. Sometimes when the topic comes up, I see it as an identity thing. Do I not want people to know that I am a little different than how I already appear, or does a part of me simply reject my culture? It is hard for me to be myself, completely.  I am confident in who I am as a person, but maybe there is more than just confidence when it comes to understanding other parts of who you are as well. Though I don’t really know what more it really takes, or how to really find out. But hopefully, being in a country like the United States and Italy that is drastically different from African culture, a culture that I need to learn to embrace more, will help me find the answer to the question that random man asked me. He got off the train before I got to answer.

 

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Finally made it to London.

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Coming to America

As I boarded the plane from Shanghai, I couldn’t help but reflect on the memories I had made and the new friends I was leaving behind. Although I had only spent one summer in China, it felt like a lifetime had elapsed. I looked forward to seeing my family and friends back in America, but I wished that they could have shared my experience as well. However, my journey in Asia was not over, in less than three hours I would be reunited with my childhood best friend, Ryo. When I landed in Tokyo, I could hardly contain my excitement. I had not seen Ryo in 13 years and I did not know what to expect. I recognized Ryo immediately as he towered over the crowd beaming the same goofy grin he wore in the second grade. We made our way back to his apartment in Shibuya and spent the evening in Tokyo where we caught up over a traditional Japanese dinner. Japan was quieter and the people seemed more reserved than their Chinese counterparts. In the morning we said our goodbyes and I made my way to the airport to catch my flight back to Ohio.

This time, it was real, I would be home in less than 24 hours and back in school that same day. When I arrived in Chicago, I felt as if I had entered a foreign land. Surely, this was not the America I remembered. The people seemed…bigger. I was no longer a giant among my peers, I was no longer a “foreigner” or “mei guo ren.” I ordered a Chicago style pizza and waited for my connecting flight to Dayton, Ohio. I arrived in Dayton to find my beautiful mother and sister waiting patiently. I was overwhelmed with joy to see my family and share the countless stories that I had amassed over the past three months.

 

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Reunion with momma.

 

Now that I have taken the time to acclimate and get over my jet lag, I find myself missing Chinese food and the meals I shared with my good friends. It was nice to catch up with my college friends after a long summer apart, but it was hard to relate to their experiences and increasingly difficult to translate my own. Life in the United States is fast-paced and it is hard not to reminisce about a simpler time when life was challenging, yet unusually relaxed. I noticed that the news is completely different from what I had been exposed to abroad. Now the narrative has shifted: The East has become the focal point of danger and the West is a safe haven for refuge. As I prepare to finish my last semester in college, I have a pretty good idea of what I have to look forward to in the “real” world. Currently, I am applying for the Fulbright assistantship, graduate school programs in the United States and China, and jobs in the financial services sector.

After studying abroad in China, I have acquired many new survival skills that will enable me to adapt to a foreign environment. I can navigate complex metro systems to explore new cities, find affordable local produce for home cooked meals, and budget my provisions to meet my immediate needs. I have also gotten pretty good at haggling, however I have not found much use for this skill in America. At the risk of sounding cliché, I feel that I have changed as a person since interning and living abroad. I have gained a broader understanding of Chinese culture and built a deeper connection with the international students in my community.

 

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My Mindxplorer family (where I did my internship).

 

Additionally, I have a better understanding of the nuances that make China foreign to Americans and am using my experience to bridge the cultural gap for my domestic friends. My passion for school has become invigorated because I see the applicability of the theoretical knowledge that I am learning in the “real” world. I have expanded my professional horizons by working for Chinese and international firms abroad to learn the meaning of “Guanxi” and the intricacies of international business. My advice for any young scholars interested in studying abroad or interning in China is to come with an open mind and an open heart. China is a challenge but it is well worth the reward—this experience is what you choose to make of it. For me, it was a tasty, heartwarming, and surreal journey that I will treasure for life.

 

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Rivalry and Unity, The KoYon Games

The first week of school at Korea University had just finished and all of the international students seemed to have survived the class registration chaos and started settling in. A message is posted in the Korea University Buddy Assistants (KUBA) Facebook group by one of the leaders, Jihyun. “Our first official event as KUBA will be an amazing cheering orientation on Friday!” she wrote. “Through this cheering orientation the Young Tigers (official cheer team) will teach us the cheers, songs and dances for the KoYon games!” At first glance many were quite confused as we were thrown off by the word “cheering.” Why would anyone need to teach us how to cheer or root for our team? We had no idea for what was in store, as it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. At 5 pm, half of the KUBA groups met in a small auditorium while the other half met at 7 pm. Everything seemed normal as we took our seats and listened to the start of the presentation. Minutes later we found ourselves up and about dancing, singing, and sweating with the cheering. The schools have around 20 or more songs which were a range from traditional, nationalistic, patriotic, or simply poking fun at our rival university, Yonsei University. Around two hours later we finished the cheering orientation. Everyone was dripping with sweat and exhausted from what seemed to be the hardest workout any of us had ever done. No one seemed to mind though as there were huge smiles all around and many still humming or singing the cheering songs long after it was over.

 

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Cheering orientation, the start of the madness.

 

Now the reason for all of this cheering was to prepare us for the Korea-Yonsei Games (KoYon Jeon). The KoYon games are a friendly rivalry sports competition between two of South Korea’s most prestigious universities- Korea University (KU) and Yonsei University- held annually in the fall. The games take place over two days and the schools compete in 5 sports: baseball, basketball, ice hockey, rugby, and soccer. Thousands of students fill the stadiums from both universities and cheer for around 6-8 hours at the games.

Two weeks fly by and the KoYon games were upon us. Friday is the first day of the games with baseball, basketball, and ice hockey on deck. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend basketball and ice hockey as tickets were given out based on a raffle. I decided to attend day 2 (Saturday) as no tickets were required. Each of the 8 KUBA groups met at the subway station near campus at different times between 7-8am. Once we arrived, we finally found the entrance we needed to enter through and waited for around two more hours. After the long wait, they finally let us in and handed each person a booklet with cheer song lyrics, a bottle of water, and a bread-like pastry. As we were entering we could already hear the Korean students who entered the stadium before us and then bam, fireworks shot off behind the stadium and the students erupted in cheer. Coming up the stairs was quite a sight to see. The entire stadium was packed with students split into two with KU crimson red on one side and Yonsei royal blue on the other. KU began cheering songs with the cheering team leading the way on a stage at field level while Yonsei does the same on the other half of the stadium with theirs. We quickly found a spot in the standing areas behind the seated sections. This worked out better as we had plenty of room to cheer and no one who had seats used them through the entirety of the rugby and soccer matches which went from 10am to 4pm.

 

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Stadium divided by crimson red and royal blue students.

 

It was quite surprising really, the cheering songs never stopped. It was one song after another. With our arms on each other’s shoulders we swayed to some songs, jumped or dipped our heads up and down to other songs, and screamed out what little lyrics we actually remembered. It sure was something seeing students from different parts of the world all joined together in this stadium like two huge families. All laughing, singing, dancing without a care in the world. Most of the games throughout the weekend were extremely close considering Korea University has won the KoYon games for the past 4 years. KU won baseball while ice hockey and basketball ended in a draw. With those scores we would only need to win one in order to win the overall KoYon games score. The rugby game as with the other sports was very close however KU ended up losing by 2 points. Now the stage was set, only soccer left and the winner would be crowned KoYon games victor. Talk about intense! The soccer game started. The cheering continued. This time however, everyone was paying close attention to the soccer game while cheering. Yonsei scored first and we could hear them singing their cheers over ours. Things looked grim for KU as the first half ended 1-0 in favor of Yonsei. The 2nd half started and KU students got really into the game along with cheering. Every scoring opportunity was “ooh” and “aah” all around us. Finally it happened, KU scored a goal and we were back to even. The entire crimson red erupted and burst into the victory song that is played whenever KU scores in a sport. Another goal by KU and now the students can taste victory. Just 15 more minutes to hang on. This was perhaps the longest 15 minutes ever. Yonsei kicked it into overdrive and had scoring chances one after another. The time ticked down slowly and it looked as if Yonsei was about to break through until a misstep and KU took advantage with goal number 3. KU was victorious!

 

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Students celebrate on the field after the games are over.

 

The two days of sports games and cheering was over now but the KoYon weekend was not. It is tradition that after the KoYon games, all students from both universities will go to one of the home towns and have a celebration full of food, events, live music, and many other activities. The group leads instructed us that we would take the subway back to Anam (the town where KU is located) and the after party would commence fairly soon. It took about 3 subway trains to get everyone back to Anam but we managed to do so quite quickly despite that many students. I’ll never forget the moment when we arrived back at Anam station. I exited the train and looked up to see the entire platform and stairs leading out of the subway was a sea of students in their crimson red or royal blue shirts. It was a really magical moment to see the rival universities all next to each other sharing in the same excitement for the upcoming night full of fun and memories together. Once out of the subway we saw that one of the main streets with many shops and restaurants is closed off to the public. There was one stage at the start of the street and another stage at the far end about 10 blocks down. Once everyone made their way to the street, there had to have been maybe 10,000 or more students packed in the streets. At times it was difficult to get by because there was so many people. During the beginning of the after party all the students play the “train game,” which is when 10 students form a line, or train, and you go to different restaurants doing chants or songs to try and get free food. It was such a fun and unique experience to participate in the train game. Our train lead was a KUBA leader and shouted out a chant in Korean which we echoed. After a few stops with the train we all split off to do different things.

 

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Fun after celebration in Anam with KU and Yonsei students.

 

A friend and I made our way to the far end of the street to the second stage where they started doing short, fun dance competitions with randomly selected students in the crowd. These were fun to watch as there were some really good dancers and some just up there having fun. This however turned into playing cheering songs from both universities. This was perhaps one of my favorite moments of being a student at Korea University so far. To our surprise many students knew the cheering songs for both schools. We jumped into one of the cheering circles and it was such a great moment. I looked around the circle and saw students who didn’t know one another, students from rival universities, students with a language barrier, and students of varying ages, race and gender. None of that mattered as everyone was joined up arm in arm singing the songs, dancing around and having an absolute blast. We ended up loving the cheering so much that we participated in it for about the last 3 hours of the night. Needless to say, it was extremely tiring and I don’t think I’ve put my body through that kind of workout ever. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and the stages packed up and restaurants closed. We said goodbye to our new friends from both KU and Yonsei and made our way back to the dorms. At my home university, I don’t live on campus so I am usually only there when I have classes. Because of this and working at the same time, I’ve had a hard time becoming really involved or having a lot of school spirit. That all changed after the KoYon games. I feel a sense of belonging and this is my new home. I’m a Korea University Tiger forever. I’ve done many exciting things in my life and ventured to many places around the world however the KoYon games and after celebration might just top them all.

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Filed under East Asia, Jeff in South Korea

Gilman Scholar Allysa Grant’s Favorite Things About Moroccan Culture

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Filed under Allysa in Morocco, middle east

A Day in Leuven

Hi Friends! Since my last blog post, I’ve visited Ostende, a coastal city in Belgium, and Gent, another beautiful city in Belgium. Whenever I return to Leuven after traveling to other cities in Belgium and Europe, I feel like I’m coming home. In this post, I’m going to take you through a typical day for me!

On a typical day I have two classes: Human Rights, a law course intended for non-law students who want to know more about human rights and how they actually play out in a European context, and Low Countries, a history class about well, the low countries, that being Belgium and the Netherlands. They’ve both been interesting and I’ve learned more about European law and history through them. The building where these classes are taught is about a 15 minute walk from my residence, and goes straight through the shopping center into a central part of Leuven. On my walk I encounter a lot of other students, in college, primary, or secondary school. I smell freshly made waffles and see people in cafes sipping their espresso or afternoon beer. There is a yummy Thai restaurant just steps away from the building where students line up for affordable (less than 5 euros!!!!!) pad thai or curry. My friends and I usually decide to catch lunch there in between our classes.

 

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A typical classroom set up.

 

On any given day, I’ll go to a store to browse or the closest grocery store, Colruyt (think a smaller version of Costco), to pick a few things up. (It’s important to remember your own shopping bags!) One day after class, I decided to go to a vintage store with a friend. The vintage store is located at the end of Oude Markt (Old Market) a popular nightlife spot that is constantly bustling with the inhabitants of Leuven. It was a rainy day today, so the streets were a little less crowded and umbrellas were up!

 

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A cloudy day in Leuven after a random rain shower.

 

Once I get back home, it’s normally dinner time so I’ll cook whatever I’m feeling like or me and a friend will make a meal together. Usually pasta and pesto or curry and rice have been the go to for me. I eat dinner a bit earlier than my hallmates, which means I get the kitchen to myself! By the time I finish dinner, the rest of the hall will decide they’re hungry and start cooking. Once you get 13 people in the kitchen trying to cook their own food, it’s bound to get crazy! During that chaos, I kick back on the couch in the kitchen and catch up with everyone and share funny stories.

To end the night, I’ll catch up on some homework, water the 3 cacti I bought at the local flea market, or stay up late talking to the people on my hall. Conversations get interesting and laughs are always shared. I’m happy to have found my rhythm in Belgium. Time is FLYING by!

Thanks for checking in, I’ll catch you again in a few weeks!

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Filed under Nhi in Belgium, Western Europe