Tag Archives: routine

A Day in the Life of Jeff in South Korea

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Filed under East Asia, Jeff in South Korea

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.



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!



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

Gilman Scholar Allysa Grant Shares Her Moroccan Routine

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Filed under Allysa in Morocco, middle east

Building and Breaking Routines

One aspect of studying abroad that is definitely similar to my time at UMass, and really probably life in general, is how natural and easy it is to fall into a routine. I was very focused at the beginning of my semester at USFQ (Universidad San Francisco de Quito) to engage in any adventure presented to me and throw myself out there in order to make the most of my once in a lifetime experience here in Quito. However, the reality is that no matter how determined you believe you are, it’s nearly impossible to go on a trip every weekend, or do things during the week all the time, not only due to classes, but also considering your budget when abroad. So I find myself going to classes, getting lunch with friends, going to salsa club, and usually returning to my host family’s apartment or getting some work done in a café with friends, similar to what I might do during a semester at UMass. Personally, I don’t think there is any shame in routines, I think they help keep me sane and calm during stressful course loads, and especially now, since I’m surrounded by a completely new environment. While at the surface, things seem to be similar to my semesters in the U.S., there’s also this imbalance of nothing really being mine here, but having to make it mine so that I can enjoy my time here without missing home too much. Although having a planned out week and keeping things in a routine so that I know what to expect is how I normally like to live my life, I knew that this experience abroad would not have been what it has for me so far if I did what I normally would at UMass.

As a challenge for myself during my time abroad, I have been focusing on experiencing every day a little further out of my comfort zone. Not only by going on trips around Ecuador that may or may not be totally planned, but also by exploring Quito during the day on my own, reflecting and focusing on what I am experiencing in the moment instead of worrying about an assignment or whether or not I remembered to close my door so that the dog wouldn’t get in. Although spending time on my own and experiencing the area may not seem like something that exciting or challenging, as someone who is always looking for friends to spend time with and never wanting to do things on my own, I think this is a big step, and I have been enjoying my small doses of solitude and have been able to learn things about myself in a new country, which I think was a very important goal for me when I was thinking about studying abroad.

Unlike most weekends, where I spend time with groups of friends going out or going on weekend trips or going camping, a few weekends ago, I spent the Saturday in Quito on my own – and discovered the most amazing market, el Mercado Iñaquito, where I walked around and spoke with Ecuadorians who had stands there, bought and tried produce I had never heard of before, practiced my bartering skills, and had a delicious lunch. It was an amazing Saturday, and it was all on my own. Afterwards, I went to see a movie by an Ecuadorian director called Sin muertos no hay carnaval, which was an incredible story about life in Guayaquil, the most populated city in Ecuador, and was an amazing opportunity to learn more about Ecuadorian culture and life in Ecuador, as well as practice my Spanish (I’m pretty confident that I understood the majority of the film).


El Mercado Iñaquito is an open-air market with stands that sell fruit, vegetables, meat, seafood, toys, backpacks, clothes, flowers, kitchen supplies, and more! Here is a beautiful picture of the fresh produce area.


For $3.50 I had this huge and delicious serving of hornado¸ a traditional Ecuadorian meal that consists of part of a whole roasted pig with mote (corn grains), fresh salad, avocado, and llapingacho (fried potato cakes), accompanied with a huge glass of fresh passion fruit juice. You can never go without fresh juice during a meal in Ecuador!


Although there is a lot of pressure to continuously go on adventures with other classmates or friends during your time abroad, I just want to stress the importance of taking time for yourself, while also exploring what is around you, especially if you find yourself spending a lot of time with others and not taking the time to think about the city you are living in and how it has been impacting you and you, it. On the other hand, finding balance is always essential, and I’ve also found that it helps to talk to others studying abroad about their experiences and also search for advice from those who are from the country you are studying in. Some of my Ecuadorian friends have given me advice on incredible places to visit and know in Quito and beyond, and this country never ceases to amaze me, whether I am by myself, reflecting on the space and what I hope to gain from my experience here, or with a group of friends, taking pictures and enjoying the natural beauty that is Ecuador. I will be doing just that this weekend in Quilotoa, a breathtaking crater lake in Ecuador that has trails to hike and unbelievable views.

Stay tuned for updates on the astounding beauty that is Ecuador, from this weekend’s trip to Quilotoa, next weekend’s trip to the coast, and a mid-semester break in the Galapagos! I feel an upcoming blog post about Ecuador’s flora y fauna coming your way.

As always, thanks for reading!




Filed under Alicia in Ecuador, south america

Developing a Routine in Morocco

Over the past few weeks, I have developed a routine: I wake up to the city-wide call to prayer in the early morning. I prepare my school supplies and do some last minute studying. I walk up the narrow staircase to my host mother and siblings eating breakfast. My mother gestures for me to get some bread on the table, and use the olive oil, honey, and jam to spread on the bread while she pours me some coffee and mint tea. After eating for a bit, I realize I have lost track of time and have to hurry off to class. I make a shaking gesture to my host mother trying to communicate with her that I need to run, and she does the same gesture back to me while making a noise that is supposed to imitate the sound of rushing feet. I thank her and dash down the stairs to get my jacket and backpack and open the door to the slowly awakening medina. Breathing in the cold morning air, I walk around the street merchants setting up their displays, mothers bringing their young kids to school while dodging bikes and motorcycles. These tiny, winding streets that only a short time ago felt like an indecipherable maze, now feel like part of a normal morning commute.


Fez's Medina neighborhood

Fez’s medina neighborhood


As I walk up to the wooden door of my host institution, I ring the buzzer and wait a few seconds for the click signaling that I can enter. I exchange good-mornings with the staff member at the front desk and hurry over to my Arabic class. When our class is over, my other classmates and I exchange complaints about how difficult Arabic is, but how glad we are that we are learning it in a country like Morocco. We grab some coffee from the coffee machine and head to our lecture. I am constantly in awe of the amazing people that we have the opportunity to listen to and ask questions to. One day it could be a foreign correspondent for Reuters or Associated Press, and the next day it could be a human rights activist who was jailed and is explaining censorship in Morocco.


Biennale 6 Art exhibition in Marrakesh

An art exhibition in Marrakesh.


After the first lecture, we head to lunch and discuss and debate the contents of the lecture and what we might want to do for our independent study project. After filling our bodies and minds, we head to our final lecture of the day, where we will once again be enlightened by an amazing professional. After our classes, we split up into groups depending on who needs to study what, and head off to various cafes to study. I typically study in a cafe called Arab Cafe located just off of Mohammed the V Ave. After studying for a few hours, and ingesting more than our fair share of mint tea and second hand smoke, we head back to our respective host families and enjoy a traditional family dinner.
Although this routine was becoming comfortable, this past week we had the opportunity to explore outside of Rabat. Getting into a routine, you can kind of take the place you are in for granted. Some of the things you once saw as novel could become monotonous. This excursion shook me out of that. We were able to travel to the Medina of Fez where we saw the tanneries and the various other textile cooperatives. We traveled to the Sahara and watched the sunset and rise over the sand dunes. We scaled the Atlas Mountains, and we went to a traditional medicine cooperative in Marrakesh that sold pure Argan oil, among other things.


Leather tanneries of Fez

Leather tanneries of Fez.

Rissani, Sahara Desert

Rissani, Sahara Desert.


While riding in the bus between these cities, I had a lot of time to reflect. As I watched the landscape rush past I became aware that this- what I was seeing, and smelling, and feeling, and thinking- would have all been a distant dream had it not been for the Gilman Scholarship. The Gilman Scholarship made what I once thought was impossible, a very real reality. For that, I am deeply and truly grateful for this opportunity and will live it out to the absolute fullest. When I turn the corner into the Medina during my morning routine, I’ll make sure to stop, look around, take a deep breath and smile, knowing that even if I am late for class, I am late for class in Rabat, Morocco.

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Filed under middle east, Savin in Morocco