Thursday, August 11, 2016

Cory and Bean in Tanzania

Jambo from Tanzania,

I was able to spend the last month exploring the beautiful country of Tanzania, all while taking part in archaeological excavations at Olduvai Gorge. Olduvai gorge is an important site for those interested in human evolution because it is home to some of the earliest fossils that belong to the genus Homo, meaning it is one of the few places in the world where we can study the remnants of our earliest ancestors and the cultural material they left behind. 

My dragon Bean with a collection of bones at the campsite.

A view of the Olduvai gorge from the museum on site.

Bean hanging out on the top of our tent.

Bean at the BKE preparing to excavate.

The entire trip wasn’t just digging up fossils and stone tools, however. We were able to hike the quartzite outcrops near our camp, such as Naibor Soit, go on safaris so we could view the stunning diversity of wildlife that lives in the region, and even witness the (re)unveiling of the Laetoli footprints, which provide evidence of hominins walking on two feet 3.7 million years ago. We also had the opportunity to interact with some of the people native people to Tanzania, the Maasai. The Maasai were kind enough to invite members of our group to take part in many of their rituals, such as dances, markets, and even a circumcision ceremony, which occurs when a Maasai boy transitions into a warrior.

Water buffalo in the Ngorongoro Crater

Vervet monkey just moments before breaking into our truck looking for food.

A giraffe peeking at me from behind a bush.

A picture of my Massai friend Samson, taken on a hike to see an abandoned lion's den.

Lemagerut, a volcano positioned to the south of our camp.

Zebras we saw on the way to our site.

If anyone is reading this and considering taking part in a study abroad experience, I can’t urge you more to take the opportunity to see more of the world. This has been my second time leaving the country thanks to the study abroad program at UNCG, and these experiences have not only helped me to learn more about the vast diversity that exists within the world today, but to catch a glimpse of how much we have changed over the course of our evolution. 

Bean and I collecting rock hardness samples for my research project.

Best of luck,

Cory Henderson

The Olduvai Paleoanthropology and Paleoecology Project

Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania

Monday, August 1, 2016

Allison and Jamie in New Zealand!

Kia ora!

It is crazy to think I’ve been living here in Palmerston North, New Zealand, for three weeks already! I have already created plenty of fun memories in Palmy (I haven’t made it outside the city yet!) and I have had plenty of opportunities to get to know my flatmates. While I have adjusted pretty well, there are some things that have required adjusting. The biggest change from the US I have experienced is the weather. With New Zealand in the Southern Hemisphere, I arrived in the heart of winter. It took a bit of adjusting to board a plane in 100-degree weather and then get off another plane in 50-degree weather.

Jamie (named after James Cook) was excited for classes to start!
The biggest tool I have used to get to know my flatmates is a pretty simple one: Pokémon Go. We’ve spent many cold nights walking around campus catching Pokémon (Team Instinct, because we’re all about the underdog!). We’ve balanced our Pokémon catching with movies and TV shows during the rainy days since I’m pretty movie illiterate. (Rest assured, all professors reading this, I have been doing my schoolwork!)

This sign lights up at night and during one of our quests for Pokemon I had to stop and take a picture!

I love how naturally beautiful campus is.

I am so content with choosing Massey University’s Manawatū campus as my new home. Palmerston North reminds me so much of Greensboro in so many ways. It has a bus system that is free to students, campus is a manageable size, campus is beautiful, and some of the activities are similar! The first Wednesday of the semester was known as “Club Day,” so for a couple hours all the clubs gathered in the concourse so people could sign up (sound like fall kickoff to anyone??). I’m also not missing any of the food trucks from home either because there are food truck festivals in the town Square!

Town is just as beautiful as campus.

The sun setting with the clock tower in the Square (once again we were out catching Pokemon)

I know everyone who posts becomes an advocate for study abroad, and that’s exactly how this is ending. DO IT! You will regret nothing – I’m a solid 3 weeks into living here, 2 weeks into classes, and 1 week away from my first adventure outside of Palmy. Within a week, this place felt like home and it’s hard to imagine having to leave in four months. Don’t be afraid to go somewhere new and unknown and try something you normally wouldn’t! 

When it gets dark, the clock tower in the Square lights up and changes colors.  Its is probably one of the coolest things about town.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” - J. R. R. Tolkien


Allison Smith

Massey University

Palmerston North, New Zealand

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Elaina and Emily in Siena!

Ciao from Italy!
From John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to inside the medieval walls of Siena, we have jumped in and embraced the Sienese Italian culture, traditions, and languages. Embarking on this journey in order to learn our third and fourth languages while in Siena, we have grown so much both academically and individually. While studying at the Siena School for Liberal Arts we were able to learn LIS (Italian Sign Language – Lingua dei Segni Italiano), Italian Deaf Culture and History, and Italian spoken language. The two new languages we learned afforded us the opportunity to not only communicate with shop owners and locals but also with the local Deaf Community! We were really challenged to use our new languages on a daily basis.

Gi and Alfie meet Richie from RIT.

Our home for three weeks in Siena

Apart from local historical traditions such as il Palio, the Sienese horse races dating back to the 12th century, we have gained knowledge on the history of the Deaf community in Italy and the educational, cultural, and social changes that have occurred in the Deaf community since the 19th century. The building where the Siena School is located is rich in history itself. We learned about one of the pioneering Deaf Educators, Tommaso Pendola, who founded the School for the Deaf in Siena Italy in the 1800’s. His work in Deaf Education flourished in Siena until the 1980’s when the school unfortunately was shut down. We learned how the historically influential professionals in the American Deaf Community, such as Thomas Gallaudet, worked alongside the international Deaf education Pioneers. Learning about the history of the Deaf in Italy and being able to compare it to what we are learning about the history of the Deaf in America has been a wonderful and eye opening experience.

Piazza del Campo during the Palio

Palio horse and jockey

If studying abroad is something you are thinking about, GO FOR IT! When fellow students say that it is an eye opening, life changing experience, they hit the nail right on the head! Plus you and your dragon get to meet amazing people!

Elaina and Emily and Gi and Alfie arriving in Rome.

Elaina Gasparino and Emily Katella
Siena School for the Liberal Arts
Siena, Italy

Monday, July 18, 2016

Melissa in Hull!

Cheers from Hull, England!
Tribute to Graham the dragon, who got lost amidst all the packing.

Traveling overseas has always been a dream of mine, and now I don’t want to leave! Study abroad is one of the best decisions I ever made. Though I miss my family and teachers back home, this opportunity to make new friendships and connections has been invaluable to me.

Hull City Centre
View from my window

William Wilberforce statue
Big Ben at night

Hull is a small port city in the northeast side of England. Despite its size, Hull contains loads of history and little-known facts, including the home to abolitionist William Wilberforce and being the second most bombed city in England during WWII. The City Centre in Hull is chock-full of unique pubs, shops, and museums, making for fabulous weekend trips!

Tower of London

As a music student, I chose the University of Hull because of the performance opportunities it offered—and I was not disappointed! Besides performing solo works and collaborating with other musicians, I was also given the amazing chance to work as pianist with the cast of Urinetown the musical, a production which has spanned throughout most of my time here. Also as it happened, all of my classes fell on Tuesday (class once a week whaaaat), so most of my free time is spent practicing my instrument and traveling!

You can't tell but I'm holding my breath-these things smelled so bad!

Sherlock Holmes museum in London. I really wanted that pipe!  
I absolutely loved riding the London Underground!

Speaking of travels, I have enjoyed many of these outside of Hull! My first trip was a week getaway to visit one of my best friends studying abroad in Toledo, Spain. Though not my major, I have been studying Spanish since high school; I loved getting to apply this learning! I also made several trips to London. There I not only met friends for travel, but I also got to visit my aunt who happened to be in London on business at the same time! My most recent trip was to Edinburgh in Scotland, which is easily the most breathtaking city I have ever seen. For my three week spring break, my beautiful mother came to visit and travel with me! Together we made it to London and Bath in England, Amsterdam and Haarlem in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Paris, France. Navigating all the different transportation systems was incredibly challenging, but the experiences were totally worth it!

"The Hiding Place" for Jews in Haarlem, Netherland
Chillin with this hottie in an art museum in Madrid

Toledo, Spain

To those of you who are debating study abroad in the future, stop hesitating—say yes! You won’t regret a moment of it, and your time there will fly by way too fast. Step outside of your comfort zone and simply go on an adventure; I know I’m glad I did!

View from Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland

Melissa Sultan
University of Hull
Hull, England

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Abbigayle and Little Red in Siena!

Ciao Tutti!!

Welcome to Siena, Italy!
Pretty blue Vespa and my apartment!
Social in an Italian garden with my fellow students!
This week is my THIRD week of studies, and also my last here in this amazing city! I have experienced an incredible amount of history, culture, language, and new faces during my time in Siena, and I'm not sure that I will ever be ready to leave.

The director of Siena School explaining the geological significance of Siena's buildings, and our lovely ASL interpreter!
Sunset views of Tuscany!

The Contrada of the Aquilla feasting and celebrating together before the Palio!

Street artists in action!
I am here at the Siena School for Liberal Arts, taking three classes in the Deaf Studies program. I have completed the Italian (spoken & written) portion of my program, but am still taking LIS (Italian Sign Language) as well as Italian Deaf Culture and History. Italian was taught verbally, but my other classes are taught in Italian Sign with a little bit of American Sign Language. Every day I am interchangeably using four different languages, which is a welcomed challenge! I have some wonderful instructors who are passionate about their culture and language, and learning from them is so enjoyable!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Alison in Uruguay!

Dear Reader, 

I have a confession.

I am a mutt. Yes, you read that correctly. I mean a mutt just like your precious pet “Maxi”, the one that you claim is your Poodle-Beagle-Rottweiler mix. You know exactly which one I am referring to. Your dog that has 4 differently sized paws, a mole in the center of his forehead which resembles a third-eye, and one ear pointing straight up while the other practically droops off his head. Please just admit it; you have no clue what breed Maxi actually is. Sometimes you doubt if he is even a dog. 

But I, too, am a mutt with my ancestry. Like many Americans, I claim to be a nice mixture of everything from Scottish and German to British and Irish. At times, when I consider my ancestry, I like to think that maybe, just maybe, a little “Luck of the Irish” was passed through my genes. However, at the beginning of study abroad here in Uruguay, I began to fear that maybe a warped, twisted “luck” was passed down to me instead. 

Now hear me out. I am not being dramatic. I would never be dramatic.

The Hollywood sign of South America. MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay

On my second day in the country, I rode the Montevideo city bus. This simple enough task finally came to an end after taking seven buses, wasting $10, and crying in front of bus full a strangers who had no clue what I was saying. My Spanish speaking abilities had failed me. 

A few days after the “bus incident”, I met the student who would be my flat-mate for the next five months. He had been in Uruguay since the previous semester and knew the town pretty well. Being the sophisticated and generous Brit that he was, he offered to take me for a walk around the city. It was one of the most beautiful, sunny days I have ever seen in my life. Not a single cloud dotted the sky. Not even a hint of gray graced the horizon. Suddenly, like something out of a movie - a horror movie- the sky began to laugh with its hearty thunder before pouring bathtubs full of water on us. “That’s never happened to me here,” he informed me in the most British accent possible. “You must have bad luck.” 

I knew it. 

Cabo Polonio: Most spectacular sea-side town.

Shortly thereafter, over the course of three days, I bought 3 different track phones, each of which broke. In order to replace each phone, I walked the entire city, crossing nearly every major highway.
My Dear Reader, I feel the need to spare you the grim details of my head-LICE infestation.
You don’t need to pity me too badly. (However, I will accept a little bit of pity if you are feeling generous). 

Then, one morning, as if the luck of the Irish had finally tossed a gold coin my way, I rolled out of bed and realized, “I live in South America!” SOUTH AMERICA. As cliché as it sounds, this experience is a dream come true. I had imagined this day since I was 15 years old. All during high school, I talked about one day traveling through South America and perfecting my Spanish speaking abilities. While studying in Montevideo, I’ve adventured up the coast of Uruguay, traversed through Buenos Aires, and will travel to a few more countries before returning to the USA.  It’s hard not to feel unbelievably blessed when I think about this stunning opportunity to see the places I have studied about for nearly five years now. I don’t think I will go home to good Ole ‘Murica (though my parents insist I have to come home regardless).  

Robin and I at Minas, Uruguay

The same morning this realization came to me, so did another. That two hour bus trip through Montevideo taught me how to use city busses and read a map. The rainy-adventure introduced me to one of my best friends here in Uruguay. We still laugh about that sunny yet rainy day. Likewise, the broken phones taught me all the major roads to use to get places quickly. But I know what you’re thinking, “How could head-lice have a positive spin?” Well, come on Reader; that’s just hilarious. The pharmacists who helped me were laughing hysterically as I, some random foreign girl, pointed at my head and screamed, “Help me! I have lice!” 

In addition to the crazy memories above. I’ve made friends from every corner of this earth who have forever left an impression on my life. Some of my favorite memories are the simple day-to-day lunches in the cafeteria with one of my Uruguayan friends who loves to talk politics. I’ll never forget the laughter and great fun we’ve had cooking traditional Polish, Russian, and Mexican cuisine. Nothing can beat the times arguing over which is better: a bucket of dulce de leche (sweet desert filling and spread) or a box of alfajores (traditional sandwich cookie). 

Learning how to make Polish Pierogies. Robin (Canada), Alexa (México), Justyna (Poland), Me

Having the ability to study in a foreign country is a gift and a blessing. Dear Reader, I am not going to lie to you. There will be bad days, but you will also make unforgettable, spectacular friends and memories. Whether you are a mutt or a purebred has nothing to do with your study abroad experience. You don’t need the luck of the Irish either. Only you can choose your attitude! So, choose to be thankful for the opportunity to have amazing adventures, enhance your language skills, and learn about life.

Lastly, My Dear Reader, if you get the opportunity to study abroad, (in the words of Nike) JUST DO IT!

Dancing the Tango in El Caminito, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Best regards from the never dramatic,

Alison Bean
Universidad de Montevideo
Montevideo, Uruguay