Monday, April 20, 2020

Austin Takes Malta!

Hello! My name is Austin Rowland and I am a 20 year old full-honors student majoring in Arts Administration with a minor in Drama. In Spring 2020, I had the incredible opportunity to go abroad to Malta with the LIHC program. Although my time in Malta was cut short after a month due to COVID-19, my month there was incredibly eventful. Not only were the students supportive and kind of my situation and culture, there was not a single resident that I met that did not give kindness to me as I made my way around Malta. The biggest aspect of being abroad that frightened me was the acceptance of the Maltese- a problem by which I never discovered at all!

Austin and Jimmy The Dragon

While in Malta, I took 2 theatre study units while also having a dual-enrollment in two online courses at UNCG. This was very manageable, and worked out to where I only had to go to campus one day a week, and the other 6 days of the week could be spent exploring! I resided in a Hotel which serves students “dorm style”. My room was cleaned for me, there was breakfast served here, and there was a swimming pool. The area was very quiet and calm, and I did not once worry about my safety or have to deal with noise or theft. I also did not have a roommate, so it was nice and secluded.  My classes were full of students who understood me, supported me, and wanted to get to know me. That is just simply their nature. Kindness. We went out constantly, whether it be restaurants, or Malta’s capital city, Valletta.

Me and other UNCG students in Malta

I missed America as soon as I stepped onto the plane. In fact, my first question when I arrived at my residence was: “where is the nearest McDonald’s?”. There was luckily one in walking distance from where I was standing. However, as I discovered the amazing locally cooked pasta, squid, rabbit, and other endeavors- McDonald’s was a joke. I was also lucky to be in walking distance of the nearest LIDL, making grocery shopping effective, quick, and fun!

The highlight of my trip was taking the Game of Thrones filming tour. I am a die-hard Game of Thrones fan and the film tour did not disappoint! Primarily, the film tour covered "Game of Thrones", but also covered other media such as "World War Z", "Popeye", "Gladiator" and "Helen of Troy". I saw almost everything that went into filming Season One of the HBO award-winning show, and my tour guide was a crew member who worked on the show himself! The tour lasted all day, and took me around almost the entire island. I got to see where Cersei Lannister muttered the title line “When you play the Game Of Thrones, you win, or you die.”

You Win or You Die! (Game Of Thrones Tour)

I also got to see the amazing cliff dwelling by which Daeynerys gave birth to her dragons in the Season One finale. 

Dragon Birth Scene (GoT tour)

These two scenes are probably the most iconic of the show, and all my fellow fans back home demanded to see all the photos when I returned.

King's Landing Gate

The biggest disappointment about my experience being cut short was that I had planned to do so much. I had a trip to London planned on Mother’s Day weekend, birthday plans for my 21st in June with my Maltese friends, and other nights in the town which would be unforgettable. It was an emotional time as I packed up quickly, hopped into a taxi, and went home before cases of COVID-19 peaked in Malta. I speak with absolute confidence that my month there was as great as it could have been and I would change nothing. Malta is cool, calm, and collective, with people willing to include you and welcome you as their own. I hope to go back one day and reunite with the friends I had to say goodbye to so suddenly.

Popeye Village!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Shaye in Spain!

Hello! My name is Shaye Brockenborough, and I am a rising junior studying Elementary Education. This summer, I spent five weeks studying abroad with Centro MundoLengua at Asociación de la Prensa (ACP) in Cádiz, Spain! As I reflect on my time in Cádiz, I cannot help but think about all the amazing opportunities and people that I encountered along the way.

  Posing at Castillo de Santa Catalina
One thing that I really appreciated about my trip was the support of my host family and professors. Accents are a big distinguisher between people from Spain and Latin America. Spaniards have very thick accents and pronounce many of their words with a lisp. For example, they pronounce their Zs as “Th.” So, “Cádiz” becomes “Cádith.” At first, it was difficult to understand, but my host mother and her daughter (who lived next door), helped me by talking slower or using hand motions. I really appreciated their patience. In class, my professor Gloria gave us many diagrams and visuals to aid us in our learning. She had also studied abroad in the United States, so we had a special bond with her. Dr. Sotomayor, a professor at UNCG, required us to speak in Spanish during our history class. It was definitely a challenge, and because many of my peers were native speakers, the course was very fast-paced. Thankfully, Dr. Sotomayor would always have students explain things in English or put us in small groups to discuss the material. She also gave those who were not as advanced ample time to talk at their own pace. Because of this, I could tell that my listening and speaking skills grew tremendously!

My host family and roommates! Our roommate, Karen (center), was returning to Hong Kong the next day. We customized a cake from a local bakery and had an early thank you party for our host family. It was so much fun! 

My Spanish Conversation professor, Gloria!

One of my favorite activities in Càdiz was surfing on Playa de Victoria! I had never surfed before, so I was extremely excited to try it. Let me tell you, it is not as easy as it looks! I kept envisioning the movies Soul Surfer and Lilo and Stitch, but I spent most of my time falling off of my board and inhaling saltwater. Even though I was not achieving my goal like I wanted to, I did not give up. If there’s one thing my Mom has always told me, it’s “practice makes progress.” Finally, right before we ended our session, I made a momentous trip across the water on my knees! Surfing was hard, but it is definitely something I would do again. I enjoyed cheering on my friends and conversing with other surfers in Spanish.

Getting ready to surf on Playa de Victoria!

Not only did I get to experience Spanish culture, but I also learned a little French! For our free weekend, my friends and I wanted to take a day trip to Paris. We spent days deciding on what locations we wanted to tour and where we wanted to eat. It was going to be a jam-packed day, but we were ready! But, our day turned out to be a lot different than we thought. As soon as we stepped out of the airport to call an Uber, we realized that French was not as easy as it seemed. We knew nothing, and most of the drivers that we encountered did not know Spanish or English. So, something as simple as finding an Uber driver in a crowded airport took at least an hour. Then, it hit me! Being in the Honors College, I’ve learned all about the aspect of performance and play. Thinking quickly on my feet, I remembered that the Google Translate app had a conversation tab. It allows two people to speak in their native languages while translating everything for all parties to understand. Using that helped my Uber driver to take us to where we needed to be. By the time we got to our location, it was too late to do many of the things we had planned.  But, that didn’t stop us from having an amazing time! We walked around the city, ate crepes, and took pictures at the Eiffel Tower. Before we finished our pictures, my friends said, “Wait, you need a picture with your dragon!” Elisa, a name I always used in my high school Spanish classes, had been roaming around with me all throughout the trip. She was a mascot for my group of friends, and we included her in many of our pictures!

Watching Elisa in awe as she pushes the Eiffel Tower!

My time in Cádiz has allowed me to develop a stronger empathy for international students who come to the United States. Being in another country where you are not completely fluent in the language is hard, and I was thankful to have people who helped me along the way. Right now, I am interning with Duke University’s Summer Session for High School Students, where the majority of the participants are from other countries. My experiences in Cádiz have allowed me to better connect with my group of students, and we are able to bond over our diverse cultures.

On our last day in Cadiz, several of us decided to end our journey watching the sunset at Playa de Caleta. 
Posing with Elisa and fellow Honors students (L to R): Shelby, Max, Elise, and Casey at the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain!

I hope that this blog post has inspired you to look into the summer program in Cádiz! It is a city filled with rich history and exciting opportunities. If you have any questions or want to see more pictures and videos, feel free to follow me on Instagram @shayebrock and check out my highlights tab “Viajes.” Hope you all are having an exciting summer! ¡Hasta luego!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Laci in Uruguay!

   “¡Hola, me llamo Laci y soy de Los Estados Unidos!” is something I say a lot here, so it felt right to start with that. My name is Laci, my major is psychology, and I’m studying in Uruguay, a country that I have definitely fallen in love with. When I arrived with my fellow honors student from UNCG I was knocked off my feet from culture shock. Our flights lasted about 24 hours, our housing was not ready when we got here, and it was COLD! Cold in South America, who would have guessed that. The first day here was rough, I won’t lie, but it paved the way for me to come to appreciate everything that I would encounter in the next 5 months.

   My first few weeks at my university were exciting and a little overwhelming. At my orientation, I remember trying not to fall asleep because it was so difficult to understand what the directors were saying. I couldn’t find the library for at least a month which is sad because my school is basically one building, but it goes to show how nervous I was to ask where anything was. I felt like a visitor in someone else’s home. Now, I find myself wanting to hang out in La Cantina (our cafeteria) in my free time between classes or, something that is very common, buy a bizcocho (any sweet pastry) and lounge in the sun on the terrace. I am excited to eat lunch with my international friends and to practice speaking Spanish to strangers. Sometimes I find myself striking up conversations just to speak to someone new.

My friends and I taking in the sun at the beaches of Punta Del Este, with my dragon Chispa (spark!). 
Tango is a tradition that has very deep cultural roots in Uruguay and almost everyone knows the basic moves and rhythms of the dance. 

   Uruguay is truly a hidden gem in South America with plenty of beautiful places to travel and wonderful people to meet. A man asked me once, “
¿Cómo te gusta este paisito?” How do you like this little country? What a question. The answer: “Me encanta todo.” I love everything. The people are very active in fighting for social justice and want their voices to be heard. Everywhere I go I can find posters about human/animal rights plastered on the walls of buildings or signs promoting an upcoming march. I attended my first big LGBT+ pride march here, which was a beautiful experience. People filled the main road dressed head to toe in pride gear and chanted words of acceptance. Glitter bombs shot into the air. Friends hugged and kissed each other.

My view from on top of the lighthouse at Cabo Polonio, my absolute favorite secluded beach town in Uruguay. It’s one of Uruguay’s well-kept secrets. 

   Graffiti is huge here. So huge that I don’t think I have ever seen a building, other than government official buildings, without some kind of graffiti on it. Montevideo has to have some of the most talented artists in the world because some of the things I’ve seen I cannot believe! While graffiti is still illegal here, the law is not really enforced and I think the city is even proud of some of the artworks, legal or not. I often see open space art galleries of street art with pictures of different graffitis with the locations and artists’ names if they are available. I took a graffiti tour and learned of a lot of wonderful artists like David de la Mano and Alfafa, both of which have popular pieces in Montevideo.

A graffiti that I found on the streets of Montevideo. It’s fun to imagine the positions the artist had to be in to paint the piece.

   The culture itself is my favorite part. There is always time to do what you want and relaxing and watching the sunset is encouraged. My first trip with my international student group to Piriapolis, another city in Uruguay, we watch the sunset at a very touristic spot with other tourist groups and surely many Uruguayans. When the sun finally slipped behind the horizon along the ocean everyone clapped. It was really cute, like everyone was congratulating the sun on setting another day. On any given day, no matter the weather, you can find a bunch of Uruguayans drinking their mate (the most popular tea-like drink) and chatting with amigos by La Rambla, a sidewalk that spans a lot of the coast of Montevideo. I am going to miss being expected to take my time and enjoy the little things, like the sun setting yet another day.

One of the beautiful sunrises at Los Dedos. Spending time to watch time pass is a very important part of Uruguayan culture. 

   As I write this I only have 2 weeks left of class and 5 weeks left in South America. I probably talked to 6 or 7 different people that have been to Montevideo in preparation for this trip, but nobody warned me of the friendships that I would make here. I have met people from all around the world and each one of them has impacted my life. To think that I would have never met them if not for this paisito is crazy and I will forever be grateful to Uruguay for bringing such amazing people into my life.

My international friends and I ate dinner at Hard Rock Cafe so I could taste some American food. They don’t eat macaroni and cheese here!

   If your still here, thanks for taking the time to read a bit about my journey outside of the US for the first time. Viva celeste, besos, and ciao.