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.

My First Few Days in Ireland

On the airplane heading to Ireland, I was talking to a few people before take-off and mentioned I was studying abroad in Ireland. I was so excited and I just wanted to talk to everyone and just tell them. I happened to be taking the plane with some people from New Paltz, so it was nice to have people to talk to before getting on the plane and departing. When I first arrived, I quickly unpacked and then activities for orientation week began. It was very overwhelming at first, and I’d be lying if I said it was easy. I was really homesick and anxious at first. I really missed New Paltz and loved ones over there, and of course my family. The feelings of homesickness I felt were similar to the feelings I felt when I came to New Paltz as a Freshman. The feelings I used to feel when missing home were now the feelings I felt toward New Paltz. I guess it makes sense, because if I weren’t in Ireland I would be in New Paltz, and I had gotten so used to it and had made myself a home there. But it was special for me to realize how much I had truly grown to love and appreciate New Paltz, and how much of a home it had become for me, despite the fact that when I first arrived, all I wanted was to come back home to Manhattan. While it was a really hard transition at first, things got better, and it definitely helped to rely on loved ones back home. There were a lot of texts, phone calls, and video calls to people back home. Changes like these always feel impossible to overcome, but with time, things get better, and I am really glad I decided to embark on this experience.

A Semester Abroad…

One week from today, I will be 4,081 miles away from home for three and a half months. To be completely honest, I didn’t even make a list of things I should pack until yesterday. I’ve been too busy enjoying my summer working and spending time with friends and family. Lately, everyone around me wont stop asking me how I’m feeling about these upcoming months, but how can I feel something that hasn’t happened yet? It feels unreal. It’s like starting a new temporary life, I don’t have the slightest idea of what’s to come.

I’ve dedicated this summer to self -care and self love, something that is not stressed nearly enough these days. Practicing being present and living life in the moment may just sound like this inspirational quote you saw on Instagram, but many people make it their life motto to re-learn how to live in the now. If you can quiet your thoughts and de-attach from them, you learn to live a more peaceful and overall happier life.

So while the idea of spending a couple months alone in a country where the people don’t speak English may sound daunting, I feel mentally capable of handling any obstacle that may present itself. More importantly, I am full of gratitude for having the opportunity to get to know another side of the world.

So why did I choose to study abroad in the first place? Well besides the obvious reasons of wanting to expand my horizons, being able to travel inexpensively all over Europe, having the opportunity to become more independent, and being able to take awesome classes from a very different perspective, I chose to study abroad mainly for the immense amount of personal growth I know I will achieve during these couple months. There’s something about being alone half way across home that brutally forces you out of your comfort zone and into the world of adulthood. I don’t know what’s to come but I do know I will make the most out of it.


Goodbye USA!

It’s Almost Time To Leave

I’m not gonna lie, the weeks right before I left for Ireland are somewhat hazy. I was a camp counselor for eight weeks during the summer, and two weeks before I left, I posted an Instagram photo from camp. That seems like it was so long ago now. Before leaving, I honestly wasn’t worried about it. I had become friends with a student from the University of Limerick when he studied abroad at New Paltz, and the idea that I would know someone when I got there was definitely a relief. I didn’t start packing until the night before I left, and I don’t think it truly felt real until then. Everybody kept telling me how awesome it was and what a cool experience it would be. When you tell people you’re gonna be studying abroad, people get really excited and it seems like it’s universally regarded as being this totally awesome thing. I talked about it a lot before I went, both to my friend from Ireland and my suite mate who had studied abroad there the semester before. It also always seemed to come up in conversation during the summer, with people from camp, with friends and with family. I was looking forward to it, but it also seemed like a far away event, basically until the night before leaving. There were some minor periods where the fact that I was leaving for four months would sink in, but it took a while for that to happen. It didn’t really sink in until a few days before.

First Days Across the Pond

It did not hit me until we were about to land that I was going to be living in England for a few months. I was nervous to be alone in a completely different country. I had never been out of the United States; so flying internationally by myself was enough to make me nervous. I luckily had people that I knew traveling with me, but that did not help me feel comfortable with living by myself in a different country. It took the pressure off of the flight, but not of the entire study abroad experience.

Once I got off the plane I had to go through customs/immigration. Everybody was really nice and spoke in a British accent. This is when I realized that I was finally living out a dream I have always wanted. Since high school, I have loved everything British. I loved British novels, British stores and their culture. There I standing in front of immigration and I was about to live out my dream of living in England for a few months.

I was fortunate enough to get picked up from the airport, so I got to see the streets of England while relaxing on a coach bus. I was fascinated how the bus driver could maneuver their way around the small streets. There are also a lot of roundabouts, which made me smile because it was not something that we have in New York. The people that were from the University that picked us up from the airport were very nice and made sure that we were okay. I was both excited and nervous to start this experience.

Preparing for the Journey to England

When I started packing for England, I thought that I would definitely be able to put all the things I needed to bring into one suitcase, but that was not the case. Since I could not fit everything that I needed into my suitcase, I knew that the first day that I arrived in London would be a day where I would be shopping. I did not like this so much because I would have liked to been able to just relax after the flight.

Other then packing, I was also worried about being away from home. I am a family oriented person and being in a different country with no way to go home and see them was very scary to me. I knew I was going to have fun being abroad, but the fact that I would not be able to physically see my parents and sister was not something I ever wanted to happen. In order to make my situation better, I helped set up Skype with my parents and made sure I would be able to video call them whenever we were both free.

Don’t get me wrong I was very excited to be able to learn with British students and experience a different school system, but I was still scared of some things. I kept telling myself that my classes were going to be a lot of fun as well as I would be able to travel and experience different cultures easily. Studying abroad, to me, have pros and cons, but the pros out weight the few cons by a land slide. I knew it was going to be difficult at first and that I will really enjoy getting to do experience England as a student.