Tag Archives: #upsanddowns

Roses and Thorns

Traveling to different places and different countries has taught me that there are always highs and lows. I could be in Vienna eating Viennese cakes for a week but that doesn’t mean it’s all rainbows and flowers. India is the same. Let’s start with the Thorns. It’s always better to end on a high note, right?


-First and foremost, it was finals week. I had a Tamil exam and 3 papers to submit. I can’t say it was the most fun or exciting week; it was stressful and tedious. I sat on my butt for so long writing my final papers that by the end of the day it felt like my butt was flat as a pancake.

-The weather in Madurai has not cooled down. The high is always 102 degrees Fahrenheit. If we’re lucky, the temperature will dip right below 100 degrees. According to my host mother, it is unusually hot for this time of the year. To make it worse, the rainy season has not started. I asked my host mother about the rainy season that I had heard so much about from previous students who had studied abroad through SITA (South India Term Abroad). My host mother looked at me with an amused expression.

“There is no such thing as monsoon season in Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu is a very dry state. Our rainy season means that it will rain two times a week, if we’re lucky maybe three times a week.”

I was shocked! Prior to coming to India people described the rainy season as the “skies opening up to let the rain pour down on you.” It was all a lie. After being corrected by my host mother, I was in denial. I wanted to be caught in a rainstorm. I wanted to wear my raincoat. I wanted to bathe my Chacos in some fresh rainwater by jumping into huge puddles. Most of all, I wanted the temperature to drop. It’s the beginning of October and rainy season should have started here in Madurai. I assure you it has yet to begin. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the rain will pick up!


-Classes are over! Enough said!

-From the 9th to 15th I will go on a week-long excursion with my study abroad program. We’re traveling to Kerala, a bordering state, where we will be exploring tea plantations, spice farms, and so much more! I am VERY excited! After 8 straight weeks of class, all I want to do is find a quiet outdoor space and read my eBooks for hours on hours. An additional perk to going to Kerala is the fresh seafood! Stay tuned for some awesome food pictures in my next blog post.

-As I mentioned above, I took my last Tamil language exam. During the speaking portion I was speaking one-on-one with my Tamil professor, Dr. Arun. I am proud to say that I can actually speak Tamil. I can say complete sentences and understand questions directed towards me. I’ve only been learning Tamil for 8 weeks but I can have conversations with auto-rickshaw drivers and locals. This is the difference between learning a language in an American classroom and being fully immersed in the country it is spoken in. I’ve never been exceptionally good at learning languages but being forced to speak it and hear it all the time paid off!

-I locked myself into my own room…on the day of my Tamil exam. It was 8:30 on that sunny Wednesday morning and I had my backpack packed up and my gym bag ready to go. I knew I had to leave soon if I wanted to catch a shared auto and make it to class on time. I put on all of my stuff and went to my room door. I unlatched the lock at the top and turned the handle to open it. The door wouldn’t budge. I thought to myself, “maybe you’re doing it wrong Michelle.” The door was a little finicky beforehand and I just thought turning the handle a little bit more would unlatch it from its lock. It didn’t work. Third time was not a charm, neither was the fourth time nor the fifth time. My mind blanked. I didn’t know what to do. I banged on the door, hoping to attract my host mother’s attention. She slept on the first floor so I pounded on the door. I paused and tried to listen for footsteps. The house was dead quiet. For twenty minutes I beat on the door. Still nothing. Finally, I came to my senses and went to call my host mother on my cell phone. The problem? I had 2 rupees left for phone credit and she wasn’t picking up her cell phone. I should have added phone credit the day before. Why was I so dumb?! At this point, it was 8:50 and I knew I wouldn’t make it in time for my Tamil exam. I called my friend and told her that I was stuck in my room and there was no way of getting out. She was confused. I mean it’s not everyday where your friend is stuck in her room, right? I hung up and tried to think of ways I could leave the room. I could try to climb out through the window. I was desperate. I went to the window and soon came to the realization that there was NO way of getting out through the window. The window had metal bars, which my arm barely fit through. I tried to think of anyone else I could call. With the slightest bit of hope I called my host family’s home phone. After 5 or 6 rings my host mother picked up! Turns out she had gone out in the morning to run some errands. When I told her I was locked in my room I could hear the panic in her voice. She ran up to my room and fiddled with the door. No luck. She told me to remain calm and called a serviceman who could hopefully open the door. I sat at the foot of my bed and started laughing. The frustration had passed. Now, the whole situation was funny. Of course this would happen to me on the day of my exam. It was too good to be true. Being stuck in my own room would make one heck of a journal entry, I thought to myself. Eventually, the serviceman had to break the doorknob to get me out. I didn’t make it to my Tamil exam on time but I got to ride on the back of my host mother’s two-wheeler, which was SO much fun. So who really won here, the door or me? I’m leaning towards me.

-I saw an elephant! My friend and I were taking an auto-rickshaw to the fitness center when my friend shouted at the driver to stop. I look outside my window and sure enough there was an elephant 5 feet away from me. Sitting on the elephant was a man, who I assumed was its owner. The elephant was beautiful and SO big. I knew they were large but seeing one in-person and so close showed me the vast size of these animals. It’s too bad I couldn’t take a picture of it. Later that day I told my host mother that I had seen my first elephant and she informed me that it was the neighborhood elephant! Of course India has neighborhood elephants, so casual. She said the elephant’s owner takes it on short excursions to say hello to neighbors. How awesome is that?

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Highs and Lows

It’s really hard to believe that I’ve already lived in another country for almost 5 weeks now. I’d say time is flying but then again I really don’t want time to go any faster. It is truly amazing here. I feel as though every day I am learning something new. Not just in the classrooms but through the culture as well because there are just so many things to learn about and discover. Sometimes I take walks throughout the city and just relish in the moment, thinking about my first days here and where I am now. My experience here has definitely had a great number of highs, but there definitely are some lows too… Though they may not be considered lows for people not in Italy for a semester.

I’ll start with the lows .Water isn’t free. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve walked into a diner or a restaurant and sat down waiting for a glass of water. And with that, each restaurant has their own price of water, it’s not a standard amount. I’ve paid 2 euros for a pitcher of water at some places, and other places I’ve paid 6 euros. Also, the water in the apartments isn’t the cleanest and takes a long time to filter.

I wouldn’t really consider this a low, but one thing I haven’t gotten used to yet is the street signs. I tend to get lost more often than I would like, and the buildings honestly look a lot alike, so it’s hard to remember which direction I came from. I have an 8 am class on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays that is about 20-25 minutes away from my house, so getting lost sometimes on the way there is definitely a hassle. I am also trying to work on my Italian the best that I can, but when I can’t remember certain words, I resort to English for directions, and let’s say not everyone knows what I am talking about.

If I really had a true low, it would be the fact that I am not able to experience this with any of my close friends from back home. Yes, I am making new friends here who are really cool and interesting people. Yes, I am making new memories with people from around the whole world. But when I go to sleep at night, I can’t help but feel like sharing these experiences and memories with people who have been in my life for numerous years would make my time here 100x better. My time here has definitely made me value the friendships I have back home a whole lot more. I have been here for only a month, but I think I am starting to get a little homesick. But I am sure that will wear off sooner than later.

Now my highs certainly outweigh my lows.

I think I’ll start my highs off with this one: I spent and celebrated my 21st birthday in Munich, Germany, at the grand German festival known as Oktoberfest. The reason why I put this at the top of my list of highs is because how many people can say they spent their 21st birthday at Oktoberfest, surrounded by millions of different types of people, and when in my life would I be able to do this again? Chances are not so many, which is why it’s been one of my best and most exciting times here. Oh. Let’s not forget to mention that me and a friend who is studying in Spain this semester met up and wore dashikis to the festival. Yes. Out of the thousands and thousands of people there, we were probably the only two black students at the entire event, and we wore dashikis… and we got a lot of compliments on them too! The people there were so kind and giving, and the atmosphere was just full of life and joy. A table of lively Germans even invited us to sit with them at their table and just share laughs and music.



Celebrating my birthday at Oktoberfest.


Another one of my highs here would all the different foods I have eaten and made. I have never cooked this much in my life. It doesn’t hurt that my roommate is a really good cook so I have learned a lot of different things from him as well. I’ve had a bunch of variations of pasta, different types and forms of chicken and other types of meat. One thing that is different is that here the food is not processed, which means I’m putting good things into my body. However at home I could leave chicken in the fridge or freezer for a few days to a week, and here the food, chicken especially, goes bad really fast. So if I spent my money on it, I’m going to cook it. And whenever I’m feeling a little homesick in terms of food, I have found a great place to get amazing pancakes or a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. The food at restaurants and diners is also really good and different. They are really big on sandwiches here! There are lines as long as the whole block to try sandwiches at a lot of different spots. I’ve gotten really cool with the sandwich-maker at a spot really close to my apartment so he lets me skip the line all the time, another high for me.



Pizza made with love.


The BEST gelato ever.


One of the best parts about being here is just the ability to travel, and it is very inexpensive which makes it a high for me. When I think about how I was in the ancient city of Pompeii not so long ago, I almost don’t believe myself.  I’ve already booked trips this month to London, Amsterdam, and Barcelona. Next month I’m going to be going to Austria to visit a friend on a basketball team there and catch one of his games. I am also planning on visiting Greece, Paris, and Switzerland.  I booked my flight to London 3 weeks ago, and in the blink of an eye, I will be going there next weekend. It really is crazy how quickly time goes when you are exploring the world. I am just really excited to see new places and find new highs to add to my list.



The ancient city of Pompeii.

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