Traveling Anywhere and Everywhere

So far I have been in England a month and have gone to many places. I have been into Central London 7 times seeing a bunch of different tourist destinations and museums. I have been to Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, the National Gallery, took a tour of Buckingham Palace and took a tour of the famous Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I have seen the London Eye, Big Ben/Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Leister Square, and explored the South side of the River Thames. I have taken every chance I have to go into Central London. Central London is like New York City, but it is also completely different. Everyone is a tourist there so you don’t feel weird or feel like you are bothering anyone by stopping to take pictures. Everyone is very nice as well! I have had to asked directions or questions to the police or workers of the tube. If you ask nicely they will be nice to you. Also, travel where you want to go! It’s okay to go see things by yourself. I have seen many things by myself because my friends aren’t interested in seeing it or our schedules clash.
I have also gotten to go out of the UK once. This past weekend I went with a tour group to Ireland. It was a lot of fun! If there are tour groups that your school supports then I would highly suggest that you go! I saw so much more than I would have on my own. I saw small things that most people just pass by. I wish the trip was a little longer, but there is only so much you can do while classes are in session. I highly recommend traveling as much as possible because it is very cheap once you are in Europe to get to a different country.

The Mid Autumn Festival

Hello All! I hope you’re all having a nice and relaxing week because I know I am! This entire week was break because of the Mid Autumn Festival. Now, I could tell you in academic terms what that exactly is or I could cut to the chase and just describe it as a week where people go back to their villages and spend time with their loves ones while admiring the full moon and eating moon cakes.

This week has been a blur of food comas. I’m pretty confident that all the weight I lost (which was at least 10-15 pounds) has all been gained back (and then some haha). Seriously though, everyday, you’re supposed to enjoy your family and foreign friends by drinking and eating. My good friend Sean invited me and some other study abroad friends over to his house for a BBQ. It was very fun and we ate from sunrise to sunset (basically we ate A LOT). By the end of the night, we all had food babies, it was great! We got to meet his family (who couldn’t understand us), we saw his hometown (people starred at us left and right), and we even met his dog (we weren’t allow to touch it because it would bite us). However, what brought us all together was the beautiful scenery and the delicious food.

We also went downtown which was amazingly fun. Downtown guilin is also known as the city center ( I don’t know why it has two names but it does!) I have never seen an area so PACKED. It was very hard to move ( If I got lost, you’d probably never see me again. “Yes we’re looking for a Chinese girl with blonde tips, about 5’2, name is Beth… I can’t imagine getting lost there). Even getting onto the bus was a hassle. Warning: Do NOT underestimate old chinese women and men, they will push you to the ground and then walk on you like you were part of the ground.

This weekend, I was invited to two outting, one for tonight (Friday) and one for Saturday night. Can you guess what we’re going to do? If you said eat… then CONGRATS because you are correct! I am very excited, however, I don’t know if my stomach would agree. Oh well, I walk a lot in Guilin, it will be fine (digestion wise)

Classes Across the Pond

Classes here are different than SUNY New Paltz. The classes only meet once a week instead of twice like at New Paltz. The students also know each other since they are in the major that the class is a part of. The workload is also less assignment heavy. I only have one or two assignments for each class along with some readings. They do expect you to actually do the work, so you cannot just skate by without doing the readings. The readings are helpful to me since I need to keep my mind busy in order not to miss my family. I am excited to take the classes I am though. They seem very interested. I am only taking half of the class because they have classes that run the full year. It is nice since you do not need to feel so overwhelmed with the entire classes curriculum.

I was a bit overwhelming for me since it was something else I needed to get used to. It is slowly getting easier, but it was difficult at first. The teachers and students are very nice and friendly; it was just something else I needed to get used to. It is only week two of classes, but I am taking it week by week and slowly my time here will have gone by. Having schoolwork to do helps me not feel as homesick (as well as Netflix). Besides classes, I have been Skyping with my family as much as I can so they know what I have been up to with classes and traveling. It stinks that I have to experience all these cool things without my family, but I am making videos and sharing videos of my pictures with them.

Classes in Ireland

I am taking four classes for my psych major and one class just for fun. I am taking psych of personality, psych of work, psych and everyday life, empirical psych 1 and Irish Traditional Music. The classes are taught by lecturers, not professors/ The lecturers use powerpoints and put them online, so in that sense they are similar to professors at New Paltz. Some lectures also require tutorials once a week, and they are taught by TAs or matriculated students. Classes are also called modules. The classes are generally pretty similar to the classes at New Paltz. They’re basically typical college classes. However, one big difference  actually deals with the registration process. As an international student, I was allowed two weeks to try numerous classes. You don’t meet your advisor right off the bat. You make up your schedule on your own and you have to do it manually, unlike at New Paltz where it’s done online and your schedule is essentially generated for you. Another main difference is the classes seem to be less personal. I have only one class where the professor knows my name. The coolest class is Irish Traditional Music. That module has two lectures a week and then one hour of learning Irish dance. It’s really fun. It’s a very unique class and I’m glad I had the opportunity to take it. There is going to be a performance at the end of the semester. I am looking forward to it. I think it will be really fun. Irish dance is very unique and it’s an integral part of Irish culture and this was such a rare opportunity to take this kind of class and I’m really glad I decided to do it. That class and Empirical Psych are my most hands-on classes. In empirical psych, we do research by conducting experiments. In a lot of my classes, there are concepts discussed that I remember learning about in my classes at New Paltz.

Ciao Milano!

I landed in Milan bright and early on a September morning. It was chilly and sunny, which is the perfect weather for me. It had blown my mind that just 8 hours before, I was in NYC, in my home, with my parents and my pets, all of whom I hold close to my heart. I was excited, yet super nervous to start this journey, especially without my parents, siblings or even best friend to hold my hand through it all- literally.

When I stepped off the plane and into the airport, everything felt normal. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary or different; people in the airport spoke English, and there were other Americans in close proximity considering we had just gotten off of a plane that departed from JFK- my main concern was getting from the airport to my apartment which was an hour away. I made it to a train called the ‘Malpensa Express’ which connects you from the airport to the central train station in Milan. My 5 foot 3, 135 pound self trucked my 80 pounds worth of bags and luggage across towns, transferring from the airport, to the Malpensa Express, to the metro. What an experience! I was so determined and focused on getting from one point to the next that I couldn’t even think about anything else.

However, when I got to my apartment, that is when reality set in. I am here. IN MILAN. WHERE I WILL BE LIVING FOR 3 MONTHS. Is this real life? I couldn’t believe it. I felt so overwhelmed with emotion, I couldn’t help but cry. I knew that these next couple of months would bring intense change for my life, and although I knew that it was necessary for this change to occur at this point in my life, I wasn’t exactly ready to step out of my comfort zone and accept that it was going to occur starting now.

Adjusting: Culture Shock is Real

I definitely experienced culture shock when I first arrived in England. It was not a walking town like New Paltz. I was in a dorm in the middle of a neighborhood where it’s a 15-minute walk to a town. I was mainly overwhelmed with having to take buses everywhere I went and having to buy food for every meal. I slowly got used to it, but it was difficult at first. I was very open with the friends I had made since I arrived, so I didn’t feel so lonely with everything. They were experiencing the same things I was. That was a great thing to do because I felt so much better after. What made me feel better was knowing that other people were feeling the same way I was.

I also let my family know how I was feeling. With the help of my family, I took it day-by-day and focused on the next big adventure—normally a trip into central London. In order to make myself feel better, I made countdowns to everything: my Ireland tri, when my aunt and cousin are coming, when my family is coming to see me and when I am leaving. Another big thing that my sister told me to do was to keep my mind busy. I made sure to keep myself busy that way I didn’t get homesick as easily. I had to get UK Netflix in order to stay busy, but it gives me something to do at night. I also started hanging out with my flat mates more, which helped a lot.

I do not feel as overwhelmed or homesick anymore since I have been keeping myself busy, but I know I will always miss my family. I will see them soon enough, though. Plus, there is always Skype and FaceTime. I chose to study abroad because it was a dream I had since I was in high school. Now that I am finally here, I am going to make the most of it since I am only here for a short time. It makes me feel better knowing I am here for only a short time because it means I will see my family in a few short weeks. I just need to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone because I know I will love the experience after it is done.

Thoughts About Limerick

If you live in on-campus accommodation, you live in a village. These are a bunch of houses that each come with their own kitchen/living room, two bathrooms and multiple single rooms. You don’t have a roommate. Dorming is very different here. It feels to me like you have a lot more freedom and just more room in general. You really are living in your own house.  Having your own kitchen  is important because the norm is to make your own food. That was hard to get used to at first, but I enjoy cooking so I didn’t mind once I got used to it. It’s also really nice to have your own room. I also notice a huge difference in social interactions. It seems like people in Ireland are just generally so much nicer. You can strike up a conversation with people sitting at the table next to you at the pub and it doesn’t feel weird. People just seem generally more at ease with talking to people and getting to know them and it’s just really nice and really fun. People also dress so much more nicely when going to class. A lot of guys wear Adidas pants, but the girls can get pretty fancy with makeup done and nice clothes. I have yet to see a single person wear actual sweatpants to class. It’s a very different atmosphere. I feel like students are slightly more mature here, partly because of the way they carry themselves and the way they interact with others. But they also really know how to have fun. I have really enjoyed getting to meet new people here and observe how this culture differs from culture in the US. The international students here come from a wide range of countries

FOOD! Food?! Food?? Food…?

So you’re probably wondering how I came up with this post’s title. Let’s just say that the more and more I kept trying new things to eat in China, the more I started wondering… wait, what did I just eat, was this food or…? Before I arrived in China, I was very excited to try authentic Chinese food. (I love Chinese take out so I figured, Chinese takeout taste x10!)

When I first arrived at Guilin, I was told to try Guilin’s famous rice noodles and soup. The reason the soup is famous is because you apparently can’t find such thick noodles anywhere else in China. The first week, I was introduced to many… interesting food. Now I hope you are reading my posts chronologically because remember when I said the dish, chicken feet, literally looks like feet that came off a dead chicken a minute or two before being served, well I wasn’t kidding (look at those feet in the above picture) Yes, I did try ONE, however I refused to it directly like that, so my friend was very kind and cut the meat off the feet so it wouldn’t look like an actual foot (yeah, yeah, yeah, you can call me a baby, but I’d like to see you try and eat a full chicken foot and not squirm!) Obviously, it tasted like chicken (DUH) but I’ll stick to the American way when it comes to eating a chicken. In other words, staying far, far away from chicken feet. I’ve also eaten at least three different pig organs, not on purpose LOL. Organs are very chewy, just remember this if you ever come to China. ( I was told the bladder is the chewiest…) Don’t worry… I am also very cautious about the meat I eat mainly because I really do not want to eat gou rou aka dog meat.

ANYWAYS, I have learnt to love and eat tofu mainly because I hate vegetables. Yes, I know, I am in China, how can I not eat vegetables and still go to China… my mom tells me this all the time. Well, you will be glad to know that you can! By eating tofu instead since most meat dishes have vegetables incorporated, I have been able to dodge many vegetables (I also let my friends eat my vegetables LOL) Fast forward to now, currently in China for three weeks. Incase you haven’t guessed it, I am already getting tired of Chinese food, which meant, I was on a mission to find any type of American food. Luckily, I have a great friend named Sean (aka my translator) who took to me this amazing pizza place called Cafe Gabriel’s! I swear, Chinese pizza doesn’t taste as fattening as American pizza. Also, if you take a look at the picture below this post, you will see my pizza I ordered and a small green square! Guess what is inside, plastic gloves to eat the pizza with! (I am a huge fan of this idea coming to America simply because it makes me feel better knowing that my dirty, germ filled hands are not directly touching the pizza) Cafe Gabriel’s has become my new favorite spot since they have pizza, pasta (YES I SAID IT PASTA, BOLOGNESE IN CHINA), hot dogs with ketchup, and more!

Asian Academics… not as clear cut as you think they’d be

It has been almost a full three weeks since I’ve arrived in China. (I can’t believe it, it’s going by pretty fast) Of course there are going to be major differences, but the major difference that through me for a loop was the academic classes. I knew there would be differences in clothes, music, values, and food such as dog meat, chicken feet (they literally look feet that just came off the chicken a minute ago) etc. However, classes in China are much more relaxed than any of my Western classes will probably ever be.

It was very hard to adjust because I like having a clear cut schedule, with clear cut goals, and clear cut due dates. In China, there is no such thing as clear cut anything when it comes to academics (besides maybe getting your health exam done?) For example, my Chinese language class has only THREE-FOUR people in it. I say three-four because some days there are only three of us and then some days another student decides to pop in and take the class (Guess he felt like waking up) In America, we have attendance and a certain amount of kids must take a class in order for the class to even occur.

In my Chinese class, the teacher tries to match the class’s pace with each individual student, which means, we don’t follow a sturdy schedule on a weekly basis. Another thing is that for the past four literature classes, we have been watching this one Chinese movie with no subtitled and very little explanation from our Chinese teacher who speaks a limited amount of English. (Listen I’m not complaining, it’s super fun to just relax in class and pretend to understand a movie in class, I’ve done it in American classes before. Plus my other classmates are just as confused as I am) I just found it interesting that for our fifth class, our teacher asked us if we wanted to continue watching the movie or move on. Now you tell me….what option do think a group of American 20-24 year olds chose…thats right, we chose to move on! Just kidding, we chose to watch the movie. Don;t get me wrong, maybe this is the teacher’s way of teaching, who am I to judge? It was just interesting to me that he let us decide what we’re doing next class (maybe he thinks highly of our opinions, who knows!)

Overall, my Chinese classes definitely more student oriented than I was expecting (the opposite of what Westerners think about Chinese classes)

Arrivederci NYC!

Since my summer began, all that had been on my mind was my countdown until I would be in Milan, Italy. The range of my emotions were quite extreme- I was excited yet nervous, curious yet anxious. I had no idea what I would be flying into, considering the farthest I’ve been from home is to Hawaii- and that still is part of the United States! I’ve always had a desire to travel elsewhere, out of the United States and dive into cultures where I could only daydream what they were like. Yet here I was, about to travel to Europe for the first time, and completely immerse myself in Italian culture.

When choosing where to study abroad, Italy was on the top of my list; the Italian diets consists mainly of carbs and fish (both of which happen to be my faves), the Italian culture is so rich with history, and the university I will be studying at had courses that both sparked my curiosity while fulfilling my major requirements here at New Paltz. Day and night I would think about Italy- what I would eat there, who I would meet there and what I would learn there! Questions started to arise in my mind: Would I come back fluent in Italian? Would living in Milan make me more fashionable and push me to experiment with my style? How much pasta can I eat that is humanly possible? It all felt so surreal that I was going to actually be living there for an extended period of time.

As my summer dwindled to an end, and saying my farewells to family and friends, I couldn’t help but be ecstatic to embark on a new journey that would hopefully be a transformative one. Saying goodbye was definitely hard and tears were shed, but I knew what is to come will surely be amazing.