Tag Archives: gilman scholarship

Auer-Welsbach-Park

The entrance itself isn’t magnificent, but it has a way of making you feel larger than life. You aren’t quite sure which path to take or where they may take you. There’s the trail in the right corner, hidden by rows of trees. In your view is a small shack, but you can’t make out the graffiti painting on it.

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How mysterious, maybe I’ll take that way some other time, you think to yourself.

You gaze at the trail in the left corner where picnics are taking place. There’s even a swinging hammock tied between two large trees. Wow, some friends and I could definitely chill here for the day, you think to yourself. Then there’s the middle trail, and it appears to be the road that’s taken most frequently. It reveals every angle of the park. It leads directly to the children’s laughter, the quiet whispers of happy couples, and the quick pants of a restless dog. There’s a lot of temptation to follow that path. It almost draws you in and gives you no choice. I wonder where it leads to, you think to yourself. So you proceed.

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This is Auer-Welsbach-Park. There hasn’t been a time where I skipped running through this park during a run. I remember my first and last run through this park. The first time, I remember wondering where the path I was running on would lead to the entire time. Who would’ve known that it would wrap around and bring you in close proximity of Schönbrunn Palace? I was in for a pleasant surprise that day and actually ran past the palace gates to stop for a quick glance. It’s always beautiful and always busy.

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There’s also a daycare right in the middle of the park. There’s something about hearing children laughing and playing early in the morning that gives me life. It was the kick I needed to get back to the pace I started my run at. Although everything is vague after entering the park due to the tree leaves overshadowing many areas and the sky, there isn’t a time when you feel unsafe. From time to time, a police car drives along the middle path. It’s great to know that people put great effort into spending their leisure time at a park and to also know that their leisure time is being protected. It just makes the place more special. The last time I ran through the park, it started sprinkling but I could barely feel the raindrops because of the leaves. I didn’t get soaked until I ran out of the park, and I was tempted to turn around and take another lap.

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I think I appreciate this park just as much, if not more, than the locals that live in the area. It’s special because it doesn’t get as much tourist traffic as other places in Vienna. It’s only those who enter that understand its uniqueness.

 

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Filed under Elizabeth in Vienna, Western Europe

Apathy is Not an Option

Hello there, my name is Bioreoluwasheto Sarah Odimayo and I am an International Studies major from Texas who is currently studying the German language and political science in the beautiful city of Lüneburg, Germany. I have been in Lüneburg for a little over a week, so my initial thoughts and feelings about my program are still very fresh in my mind.

I was not very anxious about leaving the United States. This is simply because I had spent an enormous amount of time the past school year organizing and preparing myself for my summer semester in Germany. I was actually extremely excited because I saw my trip as the culmination of a year’s work; the culmination of juggling a job and school work to pay initial deposits, of obsessing over scholarship/grant applications and of conditioning myself to get into the mindset of being open to a new educational experience.

So, when it was time for me to leave and when I arrived, I felt ready to take on Germany and to have the best study experience possible. And then I stepped out of the airport terminal and realized that everything (as it should be) was almost entirely in German.

The one thing I had failed to register in my mind was the fact that I, as an intermediate German speaker, would find it extremely difficult to speak to anyone who is above the age of 8 years old. Fortunately, this initial fear slowly but surely subsided as I found my group in the airport and realized that I am in the best place and best situation possible for learning the language. Then I studied my surroundings and came to the conclusion that, besides the obvious language and maybe some ideological differences, everyday life in Germany will not be immensely different from life in the United States because the U.S and Germany are both western and modern nations. Luckily, this initial perception was mostly right.

Although it looks nothing like the big cities in Texas that I alternate between, I felt extremely “at home” as we all arrived in Lüneburg from Hamburg. This town is extremely beautiful, quirky and quaint. I had not prepared myself for the fact that I would be in awe of the medieval structures and story-book cottages that regular, non-fantasy people actually live in. I had always been sort of skeptical when people talk about “love at first sight” but now I know that it’s possible.

 

Sarah 1 photo

As the epitome of an amateur photographer, I am genuinely surprised that my first picture of Luneburg turned out to be one that captures its essence.

 

A week has passed and I am still very much in love with Lüneburg and with my life here. From about the second day, my fellow classmates and I have expressed the fact that we feel like we have been in Lüneburg for a very long time. This city embraced us and has made it easy for us to fully immerse ourselves into learning more about the language and German way of life. And because I feel at home here, I know that I can focus on the goals that I set for myself when I was preparing for this experience.

The obvious reason for me being here is to improve on my German language skills and earn some political science credits on the side. But I am also here to test myself. I truly believe that complacency and monotony in one’s life is extremely detrimental because it leads to apathy. And as someone who is pursuing a career in international relations and conflict resolution, apathy is not an option. My goal is to use my study abroad experience to train myself to be open-minded about differing ideological perspectives, ways of life and points-of-view. I am going to do this by simply being open to talking to anyone on any subject.

I have a feeling that even the shortest conversation with someone I would have otherwise overlooked or not been exposed to has the potential to lead to a deeper understanding of the human experience. This is what excites me the most about my study abroad program here in Germany.

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Filed under Bioreoluwasheto in Germany, Western Europe

Miss You Greece, Be Back Soon!

I’m home. It feels strange to call any place other than my little apartment in Athens home now, but this is it. Coming back home has been difficult, more so than adjusting to my home abroad was. Little things like going to the store and not bagging my own groceries, the severe lack of Greek food, and inability to walk anywhere I need to go serve as a constant reminder of how different my life was abroad. I miss walking to Kekko’s each morning to get my coffee, stumbling upon ruins throughout the city and speaking Greek to anyone and everyone in my general area. I didn’t realize how much I had come to love the culture and people I’d come to know until this point. Needless to say, I’m experiencing a heavy dose of reverse culture shock that for some reason I didn’t think would affect me. I think what makes leaving more difficult though is the uncertainty of it all. Here, back home with my family and friends I’ve known for years, I was sure to return. Leaving Greece though, a country that I’d come to love and appreciate immeasurably, I can’t be sure that I will go back. In a sense that makes it far more special that I had been able to experience such a way of life at all, but also far more heart breaking.

When I first got back, readjusting was overwhelming. As time goes on though, I’m incorporating some of the things I enjoyed in Greece into my daily routine. The last time I went out to eat with my family, we dined together taverna style, sharing different appetizers and main courses among the table, and they really enjoyed it. They, like I had, realized that eating in that way allows you to taste a variety of foods rather than just one, wastes less food (someone will want to finish what you won’t) and is noticeably cheaper. I’ve continued my Greek lessons on my own and hope to make it my third language so that when I do return, which I plan on doing in the next year, I can speak in entire conversations with everyone I come across. For now, I’ll be working as the student coordinator of an organization that I love, the Democracy Project, and returning to tutoring my students. I know I’ll continue to miss Greece and the many friends I made there, but I’m also very grateful to be home with my family and friends from home. Senior year is sure to fly by between two senior theses, law school applications, and working, and before long hopefully I’ll be visiting my favorite city again. Until then, I feel incredibly blessed to have had this experience, and grateful to Gilman for making it possible. Until next time, Θα είμαι πίσω σύντομα, Ελλάδα

 

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Filed under Destiny in Greece, Western Europe

Study Abroad Leads to Inspiration

Studying abroad in Costa Rica has completely changed my life. As a Gilman scholar, I have been given the enriching opportunity to grow academically and professionally through new language skills and cultural integration. My time in Costa Rica has enhanced my ability to dream passionately and to keep striving toward my vision of becoming a bilingual health professional who can make a difference in the community.

The Gilman Scholarship has truly helped me believe in myself and helped me realize all things are possible. The challenges I’ve faced during my international educational experience have ranged from language frustrations to learning to cope with the stages of culture shock while being abroad. All of my experiences have helped me mature and have allowed me to develop as a more flexible and open individual who can take on all obstacles with integrity. With the new language skills I have acquired from my language intensive program with the University Studies Abroad Contortion, the Gilman Scholarship Program has opened the doors of opportunity for me to apply to the Peace Corps as a community health aid for South America. (I’ll know about my acceptance within the next month!) After my two years of service with the Peace Corps, I hope to continue my education with a pre-medicine program designed for career-changers in order to pursue my lifelong dream of studying medicine. The Gilman Scholarship Program supporting my dream has had an invaluable impact on my life as my Spanish speaking skills will help me serve my community, while also helping me grow.

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That’s me in front of Universidad Nacional on the first day of my last semester of undergraduate. I’m so thankful to the Gilman Scholarship Program for supporting my study abroad experience in Costa Rica. It’s been such a dream come true, and I can’t think of any other way I would rather complete my Bachelor’s degree. Estoy muy feliz y agradecida que se puede aprender sobre la cultura costarricense como estudiante de intercambio de la Universidad Nacional. Ahh, ya ha aperandi mucho. Here’s to dreaming passionately, curiously, and being a change-maker of the future. Thanks Gilman!

The Gilman Scholarship Program has made me more passionate about recognizing full human potential in myself and in others. When I realized I wanted to study abroad my senior year to learn Spanish, I faced confusion from people who doubted that I could reach this lofty goal. With the support from Gilman, I’ve been able to thrive in completing my last goal as an undergraduate which was to be conversationally fluent in Spanish. I’m hoping to inspire more people from my community to study abroad with the Gilman Scholarship Program because it will open doors for them and help them build confidence. I think a common barrier students face when dreaming to study abroad is their misconception that they’re “not good enough” or “not smart enough.” As a student who has overcome these doubts, I can now serve as a stronger role model and bring more encouragement to others with similar goals which will help make a stronger community as a whole.

With three months remaining in my program (and in my entire undergraduate career), I have been driven to make the most of my educational opportunity and find ways that my skills can help me help others. I am pleased that my sentences are flowing, and my grammar skills are beginning to solidify. I’m finally able to serve as a translator, and to formulate fluid thoughts and opinions of my own. I can even explain to my local friends my goals for the future, and them understand me! I know the language skills I’ve developed in Costa Rica will serve me for life. The Gilman Scholarship Program has enhanced my confidence to believe in myself and my ability to become a bilingual health worker of the future.

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Filed under Alexandria in Costa Rica, Central America

The Return (Unaffiliated with Derrick Rose)

My final days in St. Petersburg went as usual: I would avoid the massive pothole that is usually filed with water outside of our building door, I would reply to the graffiti remarks in my head on my walk to school, passing by the tastiest Georgian restaurant that became a Friday evening favorite, and running diagonally to cross a huge intersection before the cars started going for us – all done of course in St. Petersburg fashion, with rain clouds denigrating the sky in the background. Though everything appeared typical, my thoughts and pangs in my heart spoke more solemnly. This anguish was sourced from my growing relationship with my family in Russia (mom, bro, sister), knowing that although I was returning to America, I was leaving my family behind.

After five years of phoning to the city government to fix the pothole, they finally came around to it... and just plopped a pile of asphalt on a fraction of the hole. It's still progress and I will actually miss that pothole that greeted me every day before entering our building.

After five years of phoning to the city government to fix the pothole, they finally came around to it… and just plopped a pile of asphalt in a fraction of the hole. It’s still progress and I will actually miss that pothole that greeted me every day before entering our building.

This meant that I would be bereft of my Russian mother’s delicious borsch, the interesting conversations with my sister on Jewish art, and the reverberations from my brother’s guitar, voice, and even harder-hitting lyrics. The core of my sadness wasn’t simply leaving behind the aspects of their care for me, it was more so the frustration that came with knowing that they are the ones who have to continue living there during the economic hardships in Russia. Though the ruble’s depreciation may have been convenient for the American students, the hard-hitting financial, economic, and social impact on Russia that comes with major recession and high inflation is devastating to communities, including that of my host family.

I realize that this financial crisis is a burden that cannot be immediately solved by regular citizens, let alone myself, so I really had to focus on the good aspects of my experience there. On my last day in Russia, my mom there prepared a meal for the four of us, my brother prepared some music that he performed with his guitar, and my sister also participated in the entertaining conversations. When it was finally time to leave, I will never forget the sullen faces of my host mom and sister through the glass window of my taxi. The taxi driver asked me if I was going home and with a brief moment to think, I replied with, “da.”

I am very thankful for the love, care, and hospitality that my host family in Russia provided. We are a team that is not to be separated anytime soon. I have made a promise to return and I choose to live by my word.

I am also very thankful for the excitement and mirth of the holiday season in America. Upon my return, streets were gleaming with decorative lights, Christmas trees were elaborately and sumptuously adorned, and my friends and family welcomed me with wide smiles and open arms. I think that if it weren’t for Christmas, my 21st birthday and New Years all within three days of each other, my return would have been a little more gloomy. Fortunately, I am surrounded by loved ones that made my adjustment back to the States as warm and welcoming as a cup of Russian tea.

Until next time, my dear St. Petersburg.

As the famous saying goes, you can take the girl out of Russia, but you can't take the Russia out of the girl. Adorned with a Soviet wool scarf on Christmas Day.

As the famous saying goes, you can take the girl out of Russia, but you can’t take the Russia out of the girl. Adorned with a Soviet wool scarf on Christmas Day.

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Filed under Boryana in Russia, Eastern Europe

Being LGBTQ in Japan

Being a part of the LGBTQ community in any country gives you a little extra nervousness whenever making new friends. Japan is no different, and it also gives a little extra element of nervousness due to the fact that you don’t really know how the people in your age group will react when you tell them this little piece of information. So far, the Japanese friends that I’ve made and told this to react with shock and surprise. To be honest, they have had a very different reaction than the people who I’ve told back in America. I still find it a little awkward when telling someone here because I’m used to my sexuality not being a big of a deal to anyone. Being Pansexual is not really a concept that people even in America can fully understand or distinguish between Bisexuality. Trying to communicate this kind of difference in Japanese usually doesn’t work too well, so I’ve had to mostly say that I’m bisexual to my friends if/when I tell them. It’s kind of awkward having to change my sexuality label just so I can get people to understand that I’m not straight, but the language barrier definitely rears its ugly head in this situation. Yet, even after the initial shock, none of my friends or anyone else that I’ve told about my sexuality have ever been rude or demeaning in any way. In fact, they seem extremely curious and interested in learning more about my life and views on relationships and my background. It makes me actually really happy in a way that I can’t describe well, but it gives me a lot of hope for the LGBTQ community slowly becoming more accepted in the younger generations here.

You honestly don’t really hear anything about the LGBTQ community here in everyday conversation or on the news. There’s a small part of one of the areas on Shinjuku called Ni-Chome that is known to be the gay district full of bars, clubs and also some prostitution, and it’s seen as being pretty scandalous to go to that area unless you’re with a tour group. So, I haven’t really gotten a chance to try to integrate into the community here and I honestly don’t know if I ever will.

When I first lived abroad about three years ago, I was very shy about my sexuality and was definitely still closeted, but living in a different country gives you a lot of insight into the fact that “norms” with anything (especially when it comes to notions on sexuality) isn’t really something that’s cross culturally applicable. My time abroad has given me so much confidence in knowing who I am as a person, and in turn given me so much pride for the community that I represent. And, even being in a situation now where I may feel uncomfortable at times about how people react to a part of me, it’s actually done nothing except made me more proud of the fact that I call myself something other than heterosexual and it’s made me realize that the United States maybe isn’t as bad overall as some make it seem when it comes to accepting people in the LGBTQ community.

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Filed under East Asia, Stephanie in Japan, Uncategorized

Dolphins, mudflats, and speed-dating?

It’s been six days since I landed in Australia on Sunday morning and somehow I survived. The journey was 21 hours from my home town in Boston, Massachusetts. I flew on Virgin Australia with three of my college mates: Matt, Mikhail, and Harry. After a particularly sleepless flight, our first journey was to a small eatery just outside of Stradbroke Island— nicknamed by locals, Straddie— where we had a cup of tea and snacks. Then, we took a ferry towards Straddie. It was amazing to see a whole ship carry a bus. Yes— to take all our belongings along and by the nature of Australia’s nonexistent beaches between mainland and island, it was now I see, a real necessity. That was perhaps the first thing that I noticed: the lack of bridges. Taking the ferry to the Straddie Island, I noticed the clouds seem to shift away and the blue skies started to overtake us as the ferry moved eastward towards the island. We also saw a pod of inland dolphins breach the water near Straddie, though they were just far enough to just make out. It was nevertheless quite a sight, combining a slight breeze, deep blue skies, and a feeling of openness stretching out for miles.

Since Sunday afternoon, the Hobart and William Smith College/Union College group has completed the sort of tasks that are needed for a semester together. We bonded over icebreaker activities—“speed-dating” and bingo with Australian slang. I also began to appreciate Australian’s morning tea time, which is the time after breakfast and before lunch, and their hankering for sweets in all varieties. Through sand and mud flat field work, trudging through chest-height level water, and learning the Australian sport cricket, I think a lot of changes in my life have taken place in the form of learning new activities and games.

I miss very much my comforts of my home; knowing where everything is and having everything organized and in one place in my bedroom. In my first few days, everything has been on the whim. Packing for excursions, getting ready for class, and using what precious free time we have to try to work together cohesively.

I am anxious about not being prepared. I am afraid of missing out because of not having an essential piece of item, whether physical or mental. I can tell you that I am not trying to control what cultural experiences I have or making it the utmost perfect study abroad experience ever, but it is such a vast undertaking, that it is almost overwhelming.

I can say I had this kind of realization going away 358 miles away by car from home in Boston to Hobart College in New York. But look, that was going to a new place in the same country. I could pinpoint exactly what I might expect culturally or what I may expect from the majority of other students. However, in Australia, most of the people I will come across will not be from a college town. My host family will have their own ways of living that they have developed through the years and I will be expected to conform to some extent.

And there are many more examples of my small anxieties.

1). Being prepared for week-long academic excursions to islands, national forests, and the outback.

2). Walking around in an Australian city.

3). Meeting people that could be speaking in a completely different vernacular.

Though, this is the reason why study abroad exists. There is no way around these feelings unless you immerse yourself in the experience.

I like to play tennis, run cross country, and try out new things. Moreover, I like to make it a challenge— challenge to beat what is exhausting, but in the end an accomplishment I can be proud of.

I believe that I still have a lot more room left to grow, and my first few days have shown me there is much more to discover in Brisbane.

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Filed under Oceania, Raymond in Australia