Sunday, November 12, 2017

Mercy in Toledo!

Hola a todos!

My name is Mercy and this year I am a Senior double majoring in International Global Studies and Communications with a minor in Spanish. I just (well in July but it feels like it hasn’t been that long) got back from spending my Spring semester in Toledo, Spain studying Spanish. From the moment I got off the plane, I felt like my brain was being punched over and over as I tried to understand what people were saying to me in a language that I had only learned in a 50 minute setting. Accents, double cheek kisses, SPANISH ALL THE TIME, I felt like someone had flipped me on my head and told me to walk normally. But God is good and gave me two sweet roommates from UNCG who were bilingual in English and Spanish which aided in help me adjust at a gradual pace. My classes were in Spanish, which was definitely a challenge, but forming relationships with my professors definitely helped a lot. 

Some sweet friends from Khazakhstan and France.
Not even going to lie to you all, Spain was hard. But I left there with a greater appreciation for things. I learned to appreciate using my brain to push myself when it came to language comprehension. Learning a language is no easy thing, but when you do, you feel more connected with the world as well as proud of yourself when you thought you wouldn’t be able to do it. Spain taught me to go out and dance, to make friends to get out of my comfort zone because studying abroad means you’re already ready to exit that comfort zone. 

My visit to Freiburg, Germany

 I miss it so much. The sangria, el reggaeton, speaking/developing my Spanish, the ancient buildings and the little community I had there. But one day, I will go back and I cannot wait until I do! People are always on the move and being an intercultural person means understanding that wherever people come from, they are individuals who want friendship and to be respected and appreciated just like you and I. Having an open mind, understanding that you all may not agree on everything, but you are part of the human race and should love and respect each other is something I definitely had to remember while I was there. Spain helped me to listen more and talk less because, to take each day as it comes understanding that there is always something to learn. Studying abroad changed my life. It helped me to distinguish what line of work I want to go into (Foreign Service through the State Department, Lord willing) and I cannot wait until the next time I am able to get on a plane and go!

Mercy Woods
University of Toledo
Toledo, Spain

Monday, November 6, 2017

Grant and General Artigas in Uruguay!

¡Hola desde Uruguay! My name is Grant and I am a Junior Information Systems and Supply Chain Management major, Spanish minor. This semester I’m studying at La Universidad de Montevideo, a university in the capital city of this small South American country, tucked between its much larger neighbors of Argentina and Brazil. As my first time outside of the United States, my term in Uruguay has been full of new, sometimes amazing, sometimes exciting, sometimes stressful, experiences that have left an unforgettable impression upon me.

A pleasant surprise in the Piedmont Triad Airport as I prepare to board my first flight.

My first dinner in Uruguay was a chivito, a Uruguayan staple made of thin-cut steak with ham, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo on a non-sesame seed bun.

US Embassy in Montevideo, one of the largest embassies in the country.
I will say the first few days were rough. My “what the heck am I doing here” moment occurred when I arrived at my hostel. It was an unusually mild weather Saturday for the Uruguayan equivalent to late January. The adrenaline rush from arriving at the airport, clearing customs, and seeing the city for the first time from the inside of an airport taxi had worn off. I had checked into my hostel a little earlier than originally planned and was directed to the parlor while the staff flipped my room. As I sat there, I began to think about things lying ahead I had yet to do: line-up permanent housing, readjust my class schedule, seek out the local stores and street markets, and most importantly, learn the 30-minute walk (one-way) to the university before Monday, in a country with a different language. All that piled together would make anyone’s head spin. Ask anyone relatively close to me and they will also tell you that I am naturally “wound tight”, so you can imagine that calmness wasn’t exactly my forte in that moment.

This is Sopa, the very loving dog found on the streets of Montevideo by the owners of the hostel.  He keeps things lively as he barks at passing people and dogs, protecting the hostel and his family.

My LIHC dragon, General Artigas, and I at the International Student reception at La Universidad de Montevideo.

Me behind the newly installed Montevideo sign.  One must wait in a queue for 10 minutes to get a picture here because it is so popular.
While I had intended to stay at the hostel only long enough to find somewhere else, the manager of the hostel and I struck a deal for a monthly rate. Because Uruguay is in the Southern Hemisphere, I arrived in the middle of Winter, leaving the hostel relatively empty. Though we had guests come through, it was nowhere near the numbers seen during the summer. That left many nights where it was the hostel caretakers, another monthly guest, and myself. I came to really enjoy those quiet evenings, as us four would talk and laugh about cultural differences, world politics, or any number of things, in a very mixed up version of Spanglish, as the fireplace crackled in the corner and Sopa the dog tried begging for somebody’s after dinner leftovers.

The Ombu tree, a rare tree half a block from the hostel.  There are only two of these trees in the city, so they are used with giving directions because everyone knows where they are.

Sopa asleep on the couch across from the fireplace as the rest of us hostelers engaged in our "fireside chats."

An Uruguayan asado (barbeque), complete with steaks (on platter) and Uruguayan sausages, during an Independence Day party at the hostel.

It’s a joke in Uruguay that with its small population, somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.44 million, you’ll always run into someone on the streets that you know. Furthermore, Uruguay is known for its tourism in South America; so much so that not only did I learn about Uruguay, but also about Argentina, Brazil (while I can’t speak it, I can now identify Portuguese), and Chile. Maybe both explain the friendliness of the culture. In my experience of Uruguay, almost everyone has been very friendly and open, always willing to explain directions, give suggestions on places to visit, even if you are still learning Spanish. My friends at the hostel were prime examples of Uruguayan friendliness. Should I have any question about anything at all in the country, they would go above and beyond to help me in any way they can. It was through the hostel that I learned, on a side street around the corner from the hostel, a group of vendors would set up and sell fruits and vegetables in a government sanctioned, Sunday market known as a feria. Supplement that with the supermarket two blocks down, my worries about getting meals were done. I do not regret staying at the hostel, both on the personal growth and financial sense terms.

Me, Mar, and Lucia (the hostel managers) after they baked me a dulce de leche cake for my birthday.  It was a very tasty one at that!
A photo from my room window of the first of two holistic health fairs hosted by the hostel.  A very fun and informative festival that I enjoyed both times.

The statue of General Jose Gervasio Artigas Arnal, a Montevideo-born military figure who is know as "the father of Uruguayan nationhood." The statue, and the adjoining mausoleum, are major tourist attractions and national landmarks in La Plaza de Independencia in the Ciudad Vieja neighborhood of Montevideo.  General Artigas is the namesake of my LIHC dragon.

Of course, I cannot forget the university. La Universidad de Montevideo is well known in Uruguay for its amount of international exchange students. I met students from Germany, France, United Kingdom, Russia and many other countries. The Uruguayan students at the university were always welcoming towards us international students, knowing we were all figuring things out as we go. It was a terrific thing to be in class discussing the issues of today, with opinions and theories from all over the world, whether it be about politics, the economy, or pop culture. In comparison to UNCG, UM is very small (no more than 2000 students in total); it doesn’t take long to meet people and make new network connections.

The Uruguayan national soccer stadium, built in the 1930s, located 4-5 blocks from the Universidad de Montevideo.

The Montevideo sign decorated for the Spring season.

The Presidential Building facing La Plaza de Independencia, the Uruguayan equivalent to the White House, except it serves only as an office building, not a residence.

General Artigas on the sidewalk of La Rambla, a street that runs alongside La Rio de La Plata.  Pictured in the background is the neighborhood of Pocitos.  The World Trade Center Montevideo and BBVA Uruguay buildings are in the skyline.

I can honestly say that I have thoroughly enjoyed myself and my only regret is that I don’t have more time to explore this small on population, big on personality country. It has been the time of my life learning how to live in a new country and discovering the multiple ways one may live their life. Uruguay’s very progressive democracy provides for the opportunity for many walks of life, such as holistic and alternative medicine, but also the traditional Roman Catholicism that Latin America is famous for. Uruguay is a crossroads of many cultures, with a special twist that makes it special. If I had to choose where to go to study abroad all over again, I would choose Uruguay without batting an eye. I cherish my memories from my time here so far and I am excited for the ones yet to come.
If you have any questions about Uruguay or La Universidad de Montevideo, feel free to send me an email:


Grant Harris
La Universidad de Montevideo, Uruguay

Monday, October 23, 2017

Dean Ali in Paris!


So, I have the pleasure of going to Paris several times a year as Inspector for History-Geography--a special appointment and honor by the French Ministry of Education. I provide pedagogical direction and historical expertise to over 100 teachers from around the world--including the U.S., France, Guyana, Canada, Ireland, Monaco, South Africa, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and China. 

It's my great honor to serve in this capacity as Monsieur l'Inspecteur ... An official designation to which I naturally respond Mais oui!' (I happen to speak French fluently, having spent nearly five years in North Africa and then studying at a Lycée Français).

On this last trip I brought Baby Lloyd with me and snapped a few photos in the Jardin du Luxembourg, next to where my meetings take place. What a beautiful public park! People sitting or strolling, taking in the gorgeous gardens ... and the ever-glorious sun. While I'm usually only in Paris for a few days, I always make sure to walk, and walk, and walk, and walk, and walk ...

With Baby Lloyd in the Jardin du Luxembourg
Baby Lloyd says "Bonjour!" from the Jardin du Luxembourg

Baby Lloyd on a boulevard

Paris is like no other city in the world (but then again, no city is like any other in the world). Here are some photos during my meetings and--more aesthetically interesting--from my Saturday evening stroll through the city ... overlooking the Seine, a view of Notre Dame while crossing over the river, a statue of Thomas Jefferson (who served as U.S. Ambassador to France on the eve of the Revolution), a view of La Tour Eiffel as the leaves begin to turn, and a selfie as I return to Greensboro, home sweet home ... 

French Ministry of Education meeting

Overlooking the Seine

Notre Dame at night

U.S. Ambassador to France, Thomas Jefferson
La Tour Eiffel in the autumn

Homeward Bound

Thank you for letting me share this otherwise Honors student space ... and I look forward to seeing you on our beautiful (no, stunning) UNCG campus and city.

Omar (a.k.a. Monsieur L'Inspecteur)
Dean, Lloyd International Honors College

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Morgan in Japan


Hello fellow readers,

My name is Morgan Overcash, a Junior Communication Studies major at UNCG. This spring semester, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Kyoto, Japan. It’s hard to put my experience into words, but I will do the best I can. The difficult point is finding out where to start. How does one put 4 months of intercultural experience into just a few paragraphs? I don’t think anyone has found the answer to that yet, and probably never will, but that’s what makes it so exciting, right? Now, let’s begin!

My dragon, Peter, and I are ready for our trip to Hiroshima
 At Miyajima (the floating shrine). Don't let that deer fool you though, it tried to eat Peter

I study communications at UNCG, but I have been taking Japanese classes as well. Therefore, when I came to Japan, I decided to solely focus on becoming better at Japanese (a dream of mine for many years). For the past few months, I have been studying Japanese at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. Let me tell you, it has truly been a unique learning experience. Transitioning from having Japanese being taught in English to Japanese being taught in Japanese definitely helps you improve your language learning much faster. It’s nerve-wracking at first, but you quickly become immersed in the language, and I honestly believe it is the best way to learn a foreign language. With Ritsumeikan’s intensive Japanese language track, holding 3 types of classes 5 days a week, you will quickly become closer to your classmates, sharing the struggles of learning a language completely different from your own. However, friends are not only made in class, but in your dorm as well.

With friends at Fushimi Inari, a very famous serious
 of gates and shrines in Kyoto
Ritsumeikan University during sakura season

At Osaka Aquarium (海遊館) with friend Momoko

I lived in the dorm Taishogun this semester. A dorm filled with about 190 other students is bound to create some new friendships, and I for one, am thankful for every single friend I have made while being here. If you’re worried about making friends, don’t be. I know you probably hear this all the time, and trust me, even I was skeptical at first, but no matter how long it takes, whether it’s two days or two weeks, friends are right next to you. Literally, right next to you...I became friends with my neighbor before I even knew she was my neighbor. See, crazy things like this happen when you study abroad, and the people who have gone abroad before you are not lying when they say friends are around every corner. This doesn’t mean you can just sit back and let them come to you though. You have to take the initiative to go up and talk to people as well. The most interesting people you will ever meet are the ones you meet while you’re abroad. I have heard so many amazing stories, and I think sometimes we forget just how big this world really is. These friends you make may or may not become your best friends, but the times you share with them will be unforgettable and you will carry them with you for a lifetime. Studying abroad does not come without your own misadventures. There will be many times where you mess up, get lost, or say the wrong thing, but hey, that’s what studying abroad is all about. We aren’t perfect, and your friends are going to be there to help you out (or take pictures of you with a cast when you sprain your ankle playing volleyball).

Me when I injured my ankle playing volleyball (nothing serious, just a sprain)

With friends in Uji, home to some of Japan's best green tea (まっちゃ)

With my friend Jess in Osaka next to this famous poster of a man running (don't ask me why it's famous, I don't actually know)

Well, enough about those things, what you really want to hear about is what Japan’s like, right? Japan is a place that holds fast to its past, while also continuing to progress through the modern age. Kyoto especially, is a very traditional city, littered with shrines, temples, gardens, and more. It’s the place you go to if you want modernity and tradition all at once. I have been to 4 other cities while living here in Japan; Osaka, Hiroshima, Nara, and Shirahama. Each place is unique and fun in its own way. However, the most surprising and interesting thing about Japan is that, no matter where you, you can always catch a glimpse of the past and the present all at the same time. So, if you love history and tradition, yet still want the hustle and bustle of tourism and city life, Japan is definitely a smart choice. 

Attack of the deer! In Nara, where wild deer roam freely and
 chase you when they realize
you have food (don't worry though it is totally safe)
Samurai in Miyajima

A-bomb site in Hiroshima

It’s difficult to say all of the things I have done while I was here, but just to name a few; I went to the Peace Museum in Hiroshima, saw the A-bomb site, went to the beach, went to Japan’s oldest onsen, watched traditional, Japanese music performances, got to pet wild deer, went to a Japanese baseball game, and literally ate as much as my stomach could hold. There is so much to do here that 4 months is only good enough if you do not have to go to class (sadly that isn’t an option). My favorite thing about Japan is the people. They can usually tell if you’re a foreigner (especially if you look like me), but that only makes them want to help you more. If you can’t speak Japanese, they will try their best to help you as much as possible. So, don’t get frustrated, just take your time with them and it’ll work out. Customer service here is something that other countries should strive towards. Some people may say you don’t need to know Japanese to get around, but believe me when I tell you it is so much easier when you at least know a little. If I did not know some Japanese before coming here, I think I would have had a more difficult time getting around or asking random people questions (directions and ordering food for example). I encourage you, if you want to come to Japan, learn some of the basics. They are very simple and easy with practice so don’t worry. Also, it is the best thing in the world to see a Japanese person’s face when they hear you speaking Japanese (no matter how bad it is). They truly appreciate it when foreigners attempt to speak to them in their language, and sometimes this is the best way to become friends with Japanese people. Step out of your comfort zone and try everything because study abroad is the time for it.

Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion)

Peter at a temple in Uji

Okonomiyaki and Yakisoba

I don’t want to give you clichés because with every study abroad blogpost you read they are all there, but some of them are true and very important. This experience has changed me, taught me a lot about myself, and has shown me just how little we know about the world (and how little we will ever fully understand). I am about to tell you something many people may neglect to mention, study abroad is not all sunshine  and rainbows. There, I said it, but hear me out because it is very important. Things you normally have help with at home, you will have to do alone abroad. Things you normally avoid at home, you will have to confront head-on abroad. Going abroad is meant to shape you, reveal things about yourself that you never realized before, and teach you things you never even knew existed. Isn’t this why you’re in the honors college, to stretch your mind as far as it can possibly go? You are still in reality while you’re abroad, you are going to go through some hard times, but the fun times are going to be more numerous and will outweigh all of the bad. All in all, studying abroad is a life changing experience. I have no regrets, and it is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. 

Me in Shirahama, located in Wakayama. Beach town and home to Japan's oldest onsen, Seki-No-Yu

If you’d like to know more about the program I did, or about Japan in general, shoot me an email:


Morgan Overcash
Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto

Spring 2017

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Christina in Shanghai!

Teo and I love Shanghai Normal University (SHNU)!

Nĭ hăo,

My name is Christina Santiago, I am an Elementary and Special Education (Dual) major at UNC-G and this Summer I have had the pleasure to study at Shanghai Normal University (SHNU) at Shanghai, China! To begin, I want to express how grateful I feel for being here. Studying abroad began as a dream that later turned into a goal and now it is finally a reality. But, to be completely honest, I was not always sure of where I wanted to study abroad I just knew that I wanted to go study outside of the country and the faculty-led program through the School of Education was a great opportunity for me to turn my goal into reality. What really sealed my decision to study abroad here was the collaboration we’d be participating in with Mathematics teachers here in Shanghai, China. Little did I know that the best part was yet to come... I am now on my third and final week here in Shanghai and although I am a bit sad, I plan to continue to make the most of it. Keep reading to find out more about Shanghai and my adventures here! J 

Nanjing Road, Shanghai, China. 

 About Shanghai, China
Shanghai is such a large metropolitan city that offers many cultural sites. One of the most famous sites is Nanjing Road, the main shopping street of Shanghai and one of the world’s busiest shopping streets. Nanjing Road, which is divided into two sections, leads you to another well-known site, The Bund. At The Bund, you can experience a beautiful view of the modern, “new,” Shanghai, which includes the sighting of the famous Oriental Pearl Tower, the Shanghai Tower, and many other skyscrapers.  

A walk through Nahjing Road!

View of Shanghai from The Bund!

Educational Experiences

As mentioned, one of our responsibilities of studying abroad through this program is to collaborate with Mathematical teachers and experience the Chinese education. I have been honored to intern at the Shanghai Experimental School International District (SESID). To give you some background information about SESID, it is a public primary school that serves international students from all over the world. Therefore, the students who attend this school are not considered Shanghai local residents. The students that attend SESID attend this school mainly because their families have moved here for reasons such as job relocations, etc. Nevertheless, the students are held to the same educational expectations as other local students. Perhaps the biggest difference is that their instruction can sometimes be bilingual rather than 100% in Mandarin. But, generally, students are able to learn Mandarin as they progress through their school years here at SESID. 

Student game competition at SESID.

Something I have really been enjoying about the education system here in China, specifically in Shanghai, is the idea of allowing students to play, experiment and perform… an idea that is emphasized by the Lloyd International Honors College. In the picture above, the 3rd graders are seen competing with each other in a fun mathematics game. But… not just any game… it is a game that specifically reviews the unit they have completed. It is very typical to see students engaging in fun activities that involve movement to practice and assess their knowledge rather than seeing them complete worksheets after worksheets or tests. In fact, last week we observed an entire school participate in a poem competition and lots of other activities that involved poems. The curriculum here is also fast paced compared to our curriculum in North Carolina but nonetheless; I enjoy seeing how they learn in fun and creative ways. For example, in China every class lasts 35 minutes and after every class students are given a 10-minute break where they are allowed to play all over the school… literally! I know it sounds chaotic but they are so independent and disciplined that I was impressed myself, and still am the more I am exposed to it.

Shopping for supplies, Mathematical activity at SESID

Also, at SESID, and in schools across the country, children are encouraged to participate in numerous electives and extracurricular activities of their choice. One of the electives that SESID offers is the Gu Zheng elective, where children have the opportunity to learn how to play this traditional Chinese instrument… and just to say the least… THESE STUDENTS ARE TALENTED!

Learning how to play the Gu Zheng, a traditional instrument

More Experiences and Cultural Sites

Wearing a Han Fu at the SHNU Feng Xian Campus

Modeling in my Han Fu, traditional Chinese dress, because you aren’t really emerging into a culture until you step into their traditional clothing… no really though. The traditional dresses are very beautiful and comfortable… I almost wanted to take it home! 

Chenghuang Temple, burning leaves to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival. 

Because I am studying here during the summer, I have been fortunate enough to experience the Dragon Boat Festival, a national holiday here in China. This festival lasts 3 days and people are typically given a 3-day vacation so that they can spend this holiday with their families. A lot of tourists can be seen here during this time as well. Because it is a national holiday that brings families together, people are usually seen engaging in different activities, from visiting cultural sites to staying home and enjoying traditional meals.

Chenshan Botanical Garden (Songjiang District).

Photos of the beautiful Chenshan Botanical Garden!!

Another one of my favorite things about China is the Botanical Gardens that are located throughout the country. I went to visit the Chenshan Botanical Garden here in Shanghai and I must say it was a breathtaking, yet a relaxing, experience. These gardens are a must see! In fact, the environmental efforts here have challenged my perspective of what I thought China, more specifically Shanghai, was like. Too many times I heard that the pollution is bad and the population is too high, yet I am so impressed with their effort to decrease their waste. For example, in just about every block you run into both trash cans and recycling cans. But that is not all; I was even more surprised with the limited amount of litter that I see around the streets of Shanghai, considering its population of approximately 24 million people.

Cultural sightseeing in QiBao, Shanghai, China

Kung Fu kick in QiBao, Shanghai, China.  

Personally, studying abroad has allowed me to get to know myself a little better as I have found myself having to be a bit more independent than the usual. This experience has also allowed me to get to know and experience a culture that is completely different from my own. But the best part of it all, I have built meaningful and life-long relationships with SHNU undergraduates and Shanghai educators. In fact, being emerged in this culture and their education system has challenged and impacted my perspective on education in ways that I never imagined. Everything I have learned here are things I hope to adapt as a future teacher and incorporate in my own classroom, in some way, in hopes to model an ideal education for all students. It saddens me to think that I will only be here for one more week. Nonetheless, I plan to continue emerging in this culture for the time left. So… my advice to anyone reading this is, if studying abroad is crossing your mind or is simply a dream for now, hold on to that dream and work towards turning it into a reality.  “It’s a life changing experience,” says everyone… and genuinely, it really is! That is all for now, I must go and enjoy my last week in this beautiful country! J

Delicious food with friends!

Because it would take me a lifetime to discuss all of my experiences on this blog, please feel free to contact me if you would like to learn more about Shanghai, China, the program I am participating in, or more about general study abroad information.



Christina Santiago
Shanghai Normal University
Spring 2017