Tag Archives: #gilman

A day in Cambridge

It’s 6 am and the rumblings of tourist season are already drifting through my window. My room is perched above King’s Parade, a historically significant street that attracts flocks of tourists to its shops, restaurants, and colleges. Since I don’t have class until 10:15 am, I grab my ear plugs and try and doze a little longer. Eventually I am woken by either my alarm, or the humidity from this perpetual heat wave. My family would be quick to inform you that I am the antithesis of a morning person, so it’s not till I have downed my morning bowl of matcha tea that I can contemplate my day’s schedule. Classes, homework, and some sort of evening activity.



Descending the spiral staircase from my bedroom I pop in my headphones and brace myself for the crowds. After 15 minutes of deftly dodging honking cars, screeching children, and racing cyclists, I arrive at class in the Engineering building. During my final three weeks at Cambridge I am taking one class, Behavior Ecology, which means I have lecture five times a week, and seminar twice a week, for one hour and fifteen minutes each. Lectures usually consist of a standard PowerPoint presentation, whereas seminars are much smaller and we partake in demonstrations, activities, and discussions.

After my morning lecture on predator-prey behavior, I have a two-hour break until my seminar. There isn’t quite enough time to return to King’s College for lunch, so I meet some friends at our favorite coffee shop across the street from the lecture hall. The cafe, Hot Numbers, always has delicious sandwiches, drinks, and salads; I cringe to think of how much of my food money has been spent here.

 After getting a snack and finishing a bit of work, I head to Pembroke College where my seminar group is meeting. Today we are exploring Coe Fen, a semi-rural meadow that adjoins the busy city center. Here hotels and pubs populate one side of the River Cam and cattle roam through wild fields on the other side. We follow our professor to various locations as he points out examples of wildlife behavior he explained in the morning lecture. Even through the heat and humidity is oppressive, it’s exciting to be outside and learning about the local flora and fauna.


Our professor explaining how animals distribute according to the amount of food resources in the environment by feeding the mallards and Canadian geese bread chunks.

I walk back to King’s as my mind buzzes with damsel fly mating patterns and goose feeding habits. During dinner my friends and I swap stories of our day, or of our lives back home. Evenings here are almost always different. If we have exams I will head to the library, if I feel a bit antsy I will take a sunset stroll along the River Cam, or if I have time I will take part in one of the program coordinated events. Almost every night there is some sort of optional social program or lecture, but everyone’s favorite event is the formal hall.


Dinner at King’s College


My bedroom desk where I attempt to study

During the school year most Cambridge colleges have formal hall multiple times a week. Cocktail dresses or suits are required and the three-course meal is always delicious. The grand hall rings with laughter and the tinkling of utensils. After the beautiful candlelit affair everyone goes out to the bar or club to dance off the endless wine.


Some of my friends before our second formal.


My friend is also graduating from UC Berkeley when we finish our courses in two weeks.

Since there are only three formal dinners most nights are occupied elsewise. Regardless of the evening activity the best part of every day is returning to King’s College and stepping into the courtyard just beyond the gate. On the right King’s Chapel soars toward the sky, in front is the stunning Gibb’s Building, and to the left is the building where I live. A delicate silence permeates the open space, one that is almost startling after the sudden cessation of the day’s activity. The stained-glass windows of King’s Chapel twinkle from a mysterious inward light and the cool night breeze plays with my sun dress. If the weather permits, the sky alights with thousands of stars. The sweetness of these moments provides a breath of time for reflection and gratitude.

gibbs building

Gibb’s Building is the first thing you see as you walk through the gates of King’s College.

Heading left to my building, I climb the spiral staircase, rinse off the day’s sunscreen, and crawl into bed. I listen to the murmuring of the late-night lovers or the random guffaw from friends walking home from the pub. These sounds lull me to sleep as think about all that occurred during the day and prepare for tomorrow’s adventure.


Looking over the River Cam at the back of Gibb’s Building and King’s Chapel.

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Filed under Sofia in England, Western Europe

Ups and Downs

This trip has been something that I have been looking forward to for months, basically since I found out about it. Travel has always been something I’ve been passionate about, and excited about doing and this trip is one of the biggest trips I have ever embarked on. I do not think that I prepared enough.

When it comes to planning, I normally over-plan and map everything out, as I did with packing for Spain. I had my spreadsheet, and a picture of each item attached. With the trip itself though, I decided to just let things happen on their own. Anyway, my study abroad program is mostly figured out for me: 18 days, each day mapped out within the syllabus my teacher had posted. That gave me a false sense of comfort that everything was ready for me to arrive and experience all that Spain has to offer.


I forgot to account for arriving three days early in Barcelona with two fellow classmates. Thankfully, one of them had done some research and I was able to just ride on her coattails, tagging along on the various tours. Day one was a bit hard, but I tried to stay optimistic. Traveling itself is just extremely exhausting. I spent the whole day packing and getting ready to leave, and left the house around 9 PM to get on a five-hour plane ride at 12:50 AM. We arrived in Spain at 10:30 local time, completely exhausted. Navigating public transport, we got lost for about an hour in Barcelona, trying to locate our Airbnb. It was hard not to get frustrated with my friends, my brain wanted to take things out on someone for being so tired, and so hot, and just completely exhausted.

Day two was really the first day in Barcelona, and it was honestly a bit of a low for me at first. I had been taking antibiotics since before I had left home, and they were making me extremely nauseous and wound up, spending the first half of the day in bed trying to cope with how it was making me feel. Taking a nap in the middle of the day really did not help my jet lag. My friends explored the old town of Barcelona as I stayed in bed until about 6 PM when I felt good enough to go out. It was hard not to get upset at myself for staying in bed. There was a cycle of thoughts, about how I’d come so far only to stay in bed feeling ill, wasting time.

The afternoon made up for it though. We went to the beach and I swam in the ocean. It was one of the most amazing feelings I’ve had in my entire life. The taste of salt on my lips after I emerged from the water for the first time, was something I hadn’t tasted in years. After spending all day in bed, the ocean was so comforting and honestly just fun.

The rest of Barcelona was a similar roller coaster for me. Not so much a roller coaster as a turbulent airplane ride, like the one I had taken into Spain. It’s hard being somewhere you have never been before, and it is scary when you’re surrounded by people that don’t speak your language. I took four years of German back in high school, which is absolutely nothing like Spanish, so teaching myself the basics of Spanish has been a challenge. The first thing I asked in Spanish was where the trash can was, and I was really proud of myself. It was a moment of victory, the fact that someone understood my terrible pronunciation of the word ‘basura’.


I think the hardest thing has just been exhaustion. My body just is not used to moving this much, carrying so much. The day I had to travel to my homestay, we took a train from Barcelona to Madrid, arriving at 11:10, with another train for me leaving at 20:00 from Madrid to Segovia. I had this gap in time so I could explore Madrid for a few hours, which I don’t regret because of how beautiful and unique Madrid is. Dragging around a suitcase and a full camera bag, laptop included, through the country for hours on end was hard, though. Around 5 PM I felt completely exhausted. We had left our Airbnb a little before 6 AM, my feet and shoulders were killing me. We had spent about 5 hours in trains and the metro and I just wanted to go to bed. So I went to the train station early and waited two hours for my train. From my train, I got on a bus and my host mother picked me up around 9:15 PM. It was an incredibly long day.

The other hard part was needing to overcome a language barrier, because my host mother does not speak English, and I barely speak Spanish. When I say barely, I mean I don’t speak Spanish. I was trying to comprehend her fast-paced sentences. She spoke in a way that seemed so quick, as I was picking up on small words I knew and trying to get the big picture of her meaning. Thankfully Google Translate exists, and I had brought a small Spanish phrase book and dictionary. Even with those tools though, it was still difficult at first. I was mostly just exhausted, ready to sleep, and my brain power was close to 10% after the long day. I stayed up for another hour or two getting to know my host family, and telling them a few things about my life back home and my journey getting there.


There have been a lot of ups and downs of the trip so far, and it has been a little hard on me emotionally if I’m honest with myself, but I feel good right now about where I am. I’m incredibly excited to get to know more about my host family, this country, and of course photography – the thing I’m here to study to begin with. I’m glad I took the few extra days before my class officially started to really see some of the country on my own with a few friends. I can’t wait to see how much I grow and learn over the next few weeks.

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Filed under Lexi in Spain, Video Bloggers, Western Europe

Surfing, fishing, and travelling through Sacred Landscapes of Sápmi

I lay in my tent reflecting on the past week at the Sámi cultural festival, Márkomeannu. I have traveled on buses, ferries, cars, and with my own two legs. I am exhausted and at the same time pulsing with the special energy that comes from being in new, sacred landscapes.


Fortunately for me, my immersive experiences since my previous blog were of an environmental theme which corresponds with my current studies in Conservation Science and Management. I believe that it is important for future land managers like myself to gain insights into indigenous worldviews and ways of life in this post-modern era. In doing so, we will become a more well informed ally to those communities whom have had, and still have, their lands stolen by colonial interests.
By seeing so much of the landscape in such a short amount of time, it is easy to admire the incomparable aesthetic beauty of the mountains, fjords, forests, and waterways. It is easy to forget that these visually pleasing places are sacred in ways a tourist or even a student like myself will never fully understand. These places do not only exist in Sápmi (Norway), or course, but across the globe. I assume my North American readers can make the connection between these words and similar places in the USA. In fact, many of the federal, state, and locally managed ecosystems are places where indigenous peoples had lived sustainably for hundreds if not thousands of years.
To make my point clearer, I’d like for you to imagine yourself enjoying a hike in Yosemite Valley or another one of your favorite hiking destinations. You become captivated by the beauty of the landscape and enjoy your solitude. But what is missing? What is missing are all of the human beings that ought to still occupy those spaces, the indigenous communities.


Of course. I was not only travelling – I was surfing…

That’s right, surfing above the arctic circle. As part of my comparative indigenous studies Coursework, I spent some time learning about surfing as a traditional Hawaiian sport that has been appropriated and eventually globalized for its obvious fun. It is important to think about how Hawaiian peoples had their land occupied by settler colonialism and their sacred beaches, fishing habitats, and surf spots stolen. An interesting point to note is that Hawaiian masculinity was more fluid and in a sort-of monarchical system that was expressed in surfing. When the sport was appropriated, it was marketed with images of machismo white males dominating the surf while overly sexualized images of women admire from afar in their hula skirts and other misused clothing. So, I spent time in a place here in Sápmi where Sámi peoples had historically used for fishing, but is now a primarily Norwegian community where a world famous surf club hosts tourists, surfers, and Hollywood filmmakers. I did rent a surf board. I did take advantage of their saunas. I did not manage to stand up on the board once! But I had so much fun trying. After all, life is about having fun while gaining knowledge and increasing ones consciousness.


And, of course, I was not only surfing- I went fishing…

After the surf weekend, I traveled again and stayed was with Lars, a Sámi activistm educational leader and prominent political figure. He helps to operate one of the only language centers in the country, works with the community to solve domestic family struggles, and is a musician that Yoiks, or sings in the traditional Sámi style, beautifully alongside his guitar accompaniments. He and his friend, Sven, who happens to be a top-tier member of the Sámi Parliament (Sámediggi) took some of my colleagues and I on a fishing trip in their ancestral waters. We pulled up cod and pollok at a rate I have never experienced, sometimes three fish on a single line. This blew me away, mostly because of how the environmental conditions of a place directly determine how well the fish population does. The next day, I received three amazing lectures by these men about the environmental impacts of off shore oil drilling and mining from an indigenous perspective. I love how this program has bridged the divide between in-class lectures and immersive, experiential learning because both serve different needs and foster different dialogues that compliment each other so well.


The final notable experience that I will mention for this blog was being hosted by Márit, an expert in indigenous sacred landscapes, spirituality, and world religions. She is good friends with the Dali Lama after being an activist with Tibetan refugees years ago. It was important for me to gain a perspective on how places that someone like me might think of as just a good hiking or swimming spot are also an important spiritual center for the community that has lived there for ages. She mentioned many sites across Sápmi, and also throughout Europe and even Australia, where a sacred mountain will officially be closed off to hikers next year. Land management where I have worked always focused on the ecological and conservation sciences approach to managing land, so it was enlightening to become more aware of how I can serve as an ally to indigenous peoples in this way of managing sacred lands that may currently be in the ownership of the US government. Mount Rainier, for example, isn’t even called Mount Rainier! Its true name is Talol or Tahoma, but has been renamed. Native American tribal nations have been and are currently working through the legal system to have the name changed back officially.
I am learning SO. MUCH.


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Filed under Norway, Steve in Norway


Now that my program has officially come to an end, I can’t help but feel a little sad. I’ve made so many memories and I’ve met many amazing people. I can confidently say that I’ve grown as a person and as a student.

I quickly adapted to the new culture and I realized that, at some point, I could even see myself living in Seoul. The massive comfort that I felt is partly due to the amazing friends I’ve made. Emmy, Cherry, Passang, and Bianka made this program even more special than it already was. We encouraged, protected, and deeply cared for one another. We became close pretty fast and now it feels as if we’ve known each other for years.

claudia crowd

They have helped me grow more confident in myself and to not let my positivity be affected by others. I used to be extremely wary of doing seemingly hard or new things, but my friends, and the circumstances that I’ve found myself in, have allowed me to make quick decisions and be more independent.

For example, I’ve seen my friends successfully use the bit of Korean that they know, so I stopped being scared to speak Korean. I’ve used it while shopping, at the pharmacy, catching a cab, and more!

My friends taught me that regardless of what happens, they’re there for me, and that I can’t let some setbacks stop me from doing what I need to do. When we were filming our interviews and editing we ran into a few problems, including faulty equipment, unsuitable set locations, unreliable people, and last minute shooting reschedules. As the director for my group I felt like it was my responsibility to fix all of these problems and there were times when I was really stressed out.

claudi hongdae

For instance,  we had to shoot in 100 degree weather two days before the final project was due. It was tough finding suitable shooting locations but after it was done I felt extremely proud of our group.

My directing, cinematography, and editing skills have improved significantly. Now I hope to obtain a media internship either for this Fall or next Spring, and I will want continue taking Media Production courses.

claudia video

When we finally exported the final version of our project I was overjoyed. In the past I’ve had group film projects that were problematic, which caused me to dislike our end product. This time however, I was there for each step of the process, and I had a supportive and talented team. This project turned out to be what I had envisioned. It was great seeing how an idea of mine could take shape and evolve into this wonderful and quality video project.

It was an amazing experience! Thank you to the Gilman International Scholarship for supporting my future!

claudia students


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Filed under Claudia in South Korea, East Asia

First Impressions of Vienna

“When are you going to start packing for studying abroad? You know you’re going to be there for 6 months. You need to start now.” That’s what my mom said about a month before my date of departure to Vienna, Austria. I laughed and told her my plans for the next couple of weeks, then went on about my business. Boy, was she right! Funny pre-departure story: I cried from the moment I arrived at the airport until I boarded the plane. Serious tears, not crocodile tears. I wasn’t crying because I was going to miss my parents or home, or for any of the usual leaving-home-for-a-long-time reasons. I cried because I forgot to grab my winter coat. Yes, my winter coat, of all things. I think the stress and sleep deprivation from packing was the cause. I mean, after unpacking and repacking three times in a matter of five days, all while juggling an online class, I learned my lesson the hard way.  The good news is that the journey to Austria was a memorable one, and I survived without my winter coat.


Representing the Gilman Scholarship Program while waiting for my flight to depart.


Since the first day I arrived in Austria, I keep thinking Vienna is massive! (Compared to my hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana.) When I tell the people who live here how big I think the city is, we always end up agreeing to disagree. My initial thought about Vienna is that the number of people on the streets do not amount to the number of apartment buildings in the city. There are so many buildings, and no two buildings look alike.



Nearby apartment buildings.


I’d say the size of Vienna is comparable to New York City or Chicago, but the discomfort of walking through those cities just isn’t here. I say discomfort because if you’ve ever visited New York City or Chicago, you just can’t escape bumping into a couple of people or getting lost in a huge crowd. I believe the fact that Vienna is separated into 22 districts is the reason it feels less populated. Every district I’ve been in also varies in the vibe it gives off. One may feel urban while another feels more suburban. I live in District 22 near the Schonbrunn Palace, and I’d describe it as a busy but relatively quiet district. It’s lined with cafes, local markets, restaurants, and art galleries (recent discovery)!



Art from the gallery that is a 5 minute walk away from me.


The way Vienna is set up makes it unique and breathtaking, and excites me more than any city I’ve ever visited. There’s a thrill in knowing that I won’t ever be bored because on top of my classes, there will always a new place to visit, or a different restaurant to try out. I love the city life!



Traditional Austrian schnitzel with fries. Yum!


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Filed under Elizabeth in Vienna, Video Bloggers, Western Europe