Back in the USA

There is a lot that I already miss about Australia. The kangaroos, the accents, the metro, however being home is somewhat refreshing. I readjusted to home faster than anticipated and did not experience reverse culture shock the way many people told me I would. I guess it is just very different for everyone.

My time abroad in Australia was amazing. So much planning went into it but with the help of Samantha it was made possible. I am a bit sad to be home since if I am being honest I have no idea if or when I will make it back to that end of the world. I saw amazing things from the Great ocean road to the Great Barrier reef. I realized really just how little of the world I have truly seen. Even in the U.S I have only been to a handful of states and now I am more inspired than ever to travel and explore!

Being home has been a little underwhelming but I am grateful for all the experiences and people I met while abroad. I look forward to hopefully visiting Australia again in the near future. While my big adventure has ended I am looking forward to next one!

Uhh, Habla Inglés?

The best part about studying in the UK is that everyone here speaks English. Upon coming, I didn’t have to worry about saying something wrong or misunderstanding a native because we speak the language. It was one of the reasons I made the decision to study in London rather than a non-English speaking country. I’m not gonna lie, life is a lot easier when everyone speaks your language anyway. Especially when you’re an awkward person like me who gets nervous when they misunderstand anything and doesn’t want to ask the person to repeat themselves 5 times until i hear them correctly. So, what was it like to travel from a different English speaking country to a non-English speaking country, you ask?

I recently went to Barcelona, Spain to celebrate the end of finals. Wow, did I deserve a celebration. Essays upon essays using a citation format you’ve never used before and trying to incorporate theories you weren’t here to learn so you teach them to yourself wasn’t so easy. Therefore, I believed the sunny Barcelona beach and beautiful city sights was in the cards. The only difficult part of this trip was the fact that I don’t speak nor understand a lick of Spanish. Sure, I know the basic “hello,” “thank you,” and “where’s the bathroom,” but aside from that Spanish might as well be gibberish. I took Italian throughout middle and high school, why didn’t I plan a trip to Italy instead?

Thankfully, many people there spoke English. My friend (who also did not know any Spanish) and I really lucked out, however I did ask my good friend who is a Spanish major back at New Paltz how to say some key phrases. Shoutout to the lovely Erin, your phrases did indeed come in handy. For example, she told me “puedo ayudarme” means “can you help me,” which I hoped I wouldn’t really need to use unless I was asking for directions. My friend ended up fainting on the metro and that phrase helped me in that tricky situation. I probably wasn’t saying it correctly, considering I had no idea how to handle the situation, but strangers came to help before I even really started to get the words out. Spanish people are very nice and helpful.

Anyway, it was very different going to a country where English is not the first language. I’ve only ever visited English speaking countries, so this was a very cultural trip for me aside from being the most relaxed I was all semester. I didn’t feel as isolated as I thought I would since there were so many people who spoke English, but I almost wish that wasn’t the case so I could try to challenge and immerse myself more. As they say, what better way to learn a language that be surrounded by those who speak it, right?

The Best Study Abroad Class

Exploring your host country is arguably the best aspect of studying abroad. Everywhere has something new, exciting, and different to experience and learn about. With that being said, i’m unsure if there is anything similar to this at other universities, but Kingston University has a class exclusively for study abroad students that I would definitely recommend. It’s called “British Life & Culture” (BLC) and consists of a weekly 3 hour lecture plus field trips! It did cost a bit extra in order to pay for transportation and tickets to places, but it was 100% worth it.

If it weren’t for my BLC class, I most likely wouldn’t have gotten around to seeing and experiencing some of the places we went. Even if I did, it would have been a complete different experience since we talked about the background of places we were visiting during lectures. For example, one lecture discussed the film industry in England, how it differed from the film industry in America, etc. before we took a trip to the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studios. Or learning about the cultural and religious backgrounds of UK citizens before visiting a Gurdwara.

What I got out of this class were some awesome experiences (and great pictures). Obviously all of the trips we took were fun, but going there for educational reasons also really helped me get a better grasp of British culture. One of my favorite places we went to was Parliament, and although i’m not a big political or history fan, I couldn’t stop holding onto every word the tour guide said. The UK government is run very differently from the US, and being able to walk through some of the chambers in which important meetings are held was so intriguing. We were shown where the Queen stands and waits before walking down a super long hallway and heard other cool stories.

Another place we visited was Bath, where we got to see and learn about the history of the city and the Roman Baths. We got a tour of some of the city’s historical landmarks and walked down the path Jane Austen writes about at the end of her novel Persuasion. Nothing about the city is modern, and it was a nice treat to see something so different from London. Very few things compare to the beauty of this small city, and it’s so out of the way from where I am I probably would never have visited on my own.

It’s sad to think about all the places I could’ve potentially missed out on seeing without this class. It also helped prevent a lot of culture shock considering our first class talked about English stereotypes and things we had noticed were different so far. Another thing that made it a great opportunity was that I knew who all the other abroad students were, so it opened the door for many to make new friends or at least see a familiar face on campus. We were just a bunch of foreigners in one big room.

The only con to this class was the workload. In my situation, this class isn’t transferring over as any other class for me. I took care of all my GE requirements freshman year. So it makes it quite annoying that I still had to put effort in so it wouldn’t negatively affect my GPA when it wasn’t going towards any class. I’m still unsure if it’s even gonna count for Liberal Arts credits because i switched into it after I got here, so I haven’t spoken to my advisor about it. I learned halfway through that I could’ve audited the course, meaning I would’ve been able to go on the trips but not worry about the work. So, if you’re thinking about coming to Kingston University, I highly suggest auditing this class if it won’t transfer over as a class you need. Definitely worth the 90 pounds.

The Land of Ice Chronicles: Adjustment 101 [The Party and The After-Party]

It’s Friday night and my hormones are raging. Tonight is the big night! Tonight is the night that I experience what the NIGHTCLUB on campus has to offer. I am beyond excited and I feel completely confident in the outfit I’m in. I’m wearing my tiara again and I feel and look like royalty. I walked to the stables club with the biggest smile on my face and a heart full of hope. Perhaps I’d meet my knight in shining armour at this shindig. Perchance I’d get to experience the feeling of someone else’s lips on mine (it’s been a while and mama wanted some sugar).

When I got to the stables centre, I saw people at every corner. Nobody was dancing but it still brought me joy to know that the room was full of opportunities to make new friends and meet people from all corners of the world. I specifically had my eye on a group of Japanese boys; I always tended to get along with Asians easily so the fact that there were some of them here brought me relief. Within minutes, I’d become immersed in conversation with this group of people; it was fantastic. One of the guys I met (Ko-Sato) had been there for a semester already and had somewhat morphed into an Irish Japanese man. He was honestly my favourite though. Dancing around with him and just talking to him reminded me of one of my best friends that I met at New Paltz.

After having spent a lot of time with Ko-Sato, I longed to meet more people and well try and seek a hot guy to dance with. That’s when I saw him; this caramel-coloured angelic being dancing in a corner. I went up and spoke to him and found out that he was actually born and raised Japanese with one of his parents being of American descent. The combination of the two ethnicities made a beautiful new form of species I low-key wanted to pounce on. Had me like:

Lucky for me, towards the end of the party, I did dance with the caramel-coloured Asian. We did kiss a bit and, yes, it was amazing to have my lips being stimulated again after 5 months of nothing. He was also just a really nice guy which made me happy. Before I left to go home, we exchanged information and he even said he wanted to hang out sometime outside of the club.

I smiled and said, “yeah, we should”. Then I was off to my home and screeching about the experience with my mom and my best friend from back home. I took this request of ‘hanging out’ to mean that this caramel angel actually wanted to date me; a thought that excited all of the cells in my body because I’d never really been on a date my entire 21 years of life.

I was intensifying everything for myself. THAT IS A BAD THING; NEVER AGAIN. I kept having all these daydreams and expectations of how it would feel to be on a real date for the first time. Wanna know what it was like? Sorry, I can’t tell you because

IT NEVER HAPPENED

After messaging this guy to try and pick the date and location to hang out, I realised he was just like all the other men. All he wanted was a piece of ass.

Don’t get me wrong, normally that fact wouldn’t upset me at all. I mean I walked into the club hoping for a hot make-out session; guys walk into clubs expecting that to lead to a steamy one-night. But that ain’t my type of thing- I can kiss a guy and dance with him but that’s it. My body is a temple and I’m not ready for all the drama that comes attached to the loss of virginity. The reason why I was so mad at the realisation that this guy was just like all other guys was that of the way everything happened. When I was clubbing in Korea, the guys try to get you to leave the club and get busy so you know right away exactly what they want. This caramel devil in disguise was so gentle and his request to hang out seemed so innocent and lacking any sexual innuendos. So when I found out the truth, I was heavily disappointed.

This realisation didn’t come until Sunday though. So for a whole two days, I felt 100% adjusted to this country and its newness and vibrancy. For two whole days, I was happy enough to forget about my longing to be home. It was the first time since I’d been in Ireland, that I slept through the night with no worries or fear. Hence, when I did learn the truth, I was propelled back down into this bubble of homesickness, self-pity, and lowkey-depression.

I tried to be as positive as I could be though. Tomorrow would mark the start of classes so I had to at least try and maintain a positive attitude. And I was somewhat successful. I was, slowly but surely, re-adjusting to being a college student living on UL’s campus in Limerick, Ireland. I was just about comfortable with everything right before I contracted the flu.

I CONTACTED THE FRIGGEN FLU

Interested in learning what comes next?

Then, continue reading “The Land of Ice Chronicles”

The Land of Ice Chronicles: Adjustment 101 [Week 1]

“Rise and Shine”, my alarm seemed to yelp at the top of its lungs at 7am on a Monday morning.

I smiled as I woke up; it was the first day of Orientation.

For some odd reason, I was excited for Orientation week. It was fun in South Korea and it was a blast when I was a freshman in New Paltz so I had high expectations. I put on a ton of makeup, put on my cutest outfit and even wore my tiara. I was convinced that today was going to be an amazing day and I wanted to feel like a queen while I experienced it.

I walked into the auditorium where all the orientation stuff was happening and was able to talk to people more easily this time than when I was at Eden the day before. I made a few friends and then we were all off to get our Student IDs and going on a tour of the school. Our tour guide was Edward and he was a literal ball of energy; he called me Princess the entire day (which I admit made me feel like royalty). However, there is one thing he said at some point that harshed my mood just a bit that day. We were all talking about reasons we decided to come here and when it was my turn, I told my truth “I’m 25% Irish so I wanted to see what I was missing”. Before I could finish my sentence Ed cut me off and said:

“Hah- Americans always going around saying things like I’m 3% Polish, 0.001%Irish, 4%African…”

That response caught me off-guard and I admit that, at the moment, I wanted to roundhouse kick Edward in the face. It enraged me so much; that was so uncalled for. It made me feel so unwelcome in the country I was in. Even though I let it all slide after it happened, I think that it was that moment that kept me in a negative mindset for most of my semester here at UL. On the low-key, I couldn’t stop thinking about that one moment. It always seemed to remind me of the untrue thought I had; “I don’t belong here. Coming here was a mistake”. And then I would make it worse for myself by comparing the journey I was having here to the one I had in South Korea. I’d tell myself things like “if we were only in Korea we’d be happy”. The fact is that in Korea, I’d say things like “I think my spirit is Korean” and Koreans would just smile, laugh, hug me, and invite to go to places with them. Yet, here, a country where I have an actual ancestral history with wasn’t accepting me as being a part of it?

I know. I know. I was being 100% overdramatic is what I was being. The truth is that happiness shouldn’t be placed on anything external. It should always be something that is within you. After all, happiness is an emotion and we are the people that control when and why we feel or don’t feel it. This is a lesson that I wouldn’t learn until months after my first week in Ireland.

But before we get to my moment of enlightenment, let me tell you about my journey of getting there. So after the tour, we all went out for a beer which was pretty great. That’s one thing I love about this campus; there’s a bar on it. A bar that doubles as a nightclub. So you could imagine my excitement for the International Students Party. And I’m not gonna lie, when I look back at the first Stables Friday Party, I like to think it was pretty amazing.

Why was it so amazing?

Continue reading “The land of Ice Chronicles” and you’ll find out!

The Land of Ice Chronicles: Welcome to Limerick

It was about 9 am now and Rachel and I had just arrived in the City of Limerick. I can’t speak for Rachel but I was tired as hell; I literally wanted to sleep on the concrete… However, the fact that the school had arranged a cab to take us both to our dorms from the city kept me sane enough to stand up straight. My big plan was to get to my “new home” and just crash until my brain could function properly again. And I was literally laying in bed when I got the e-mail; there was an event happening and it was strongly advised that I go. This was my reaction:

Behold, here it is. This moment in time where I had to make a life-changing choice. Do I stay in and sleep? What would that mean for my social life in this country? Surely, if I stayed in bed things would go wrong. Wouldn’t they? I spent about 10 minutes in bed wondering what to do. Part of me was saying, “Go and make friends! Sleep is for the weak!!”. Another part of me was saying, “Screw everyone. Sleep is the fuel a person needs to gain energy. Just sleep and socialize another day”.

I kid you not, for a minute there, I was about to just pass out and give up on the world. Instead… I chose to go to this meet and greet event. I willed myself out of bed thinking I’d walk into something life-changing or whatever.

I should’ve stayed in bed

The minute I got to Eden Restaurant, I regretted my decision. Everyone had gotten there earlier and it felt as if there wasn’t really a place to fit in or a chance to mingle with new people. But it wasn’t even the lack of chances to meet people that frustrated me, it was the lack of brunch food choices. Since I arrived late half of the food was gone so I had to settle for a singular tiny crescent that had grown a bit stale. You have no idea how badly I wanted to be at HASBROOK (of all places). I had this huge epiphany and was so tempted to just go to a corner and cry; I didn’t realize how many things I took for granted about SUNY New Paltz.

But in the words of my Abuela, “How is crying going to solve anything?”. So I swallowed my stale croissant and tried to be friendly with the people around me. Luckily, I was rescued from feeling out of place with the opportunity to go into town and shop. I hopped on a bus that took me straight to a shopping complex and went looking for the things I needed. I bought all the necessities… and…

A bottle of Angry Orchards to get me through the rest of the day

Trust me when I tell you that is the one decision I made that day that I will never regret. Opening that bottle and sipping on it while watching “The Big Bang Theory” was one of the happiest moments I had in Limerick.

Call it self-medicating; Call it destruction; Call it temporary happiness; Call it my “Irish Blood”; Call it a one-woman welcome party; Call it what you may… One thing I am sure it wasn’t was a mistake.

It made me feel like I was back at home and it made me forget about the terrible weather happening right outside my window. It took away some of the home-sickness and within seconds I was waking up to a new day.

And that new day was a lot better than the one before. It was still freezing outside but something inside of me felt a warmth.

I knew the road ahead would be tough but I was 100% positive that I’d survive it and come out stronger.

Are you ready to see what comes next?

Then you’ll have to wait til next week’s chapter of “The Land of Ice Chronicles”

The Land of Ice Chronicles: Boarding the plane

“Today’s the big day! Today begins the journey to find truth through intense connection!”, I kept telling myself on the way to JFK airport. I was going to be in Limerick in just a few moments and I couldn’t be more excited. I was all packed and clenching my mom’s hand as we walked to get my boarding passes. I knew I was going to miss her like hell but I also knew that I was going on my very first journey to adulthood; I felt brave and confident to embark on this new journey. Despite studying abroad last summer, I’d never really done something like this before…

My mom came with me to Korea and stayed for a week so I guess in a way she might have been the reason I adjusted so quickly to the time difference. I also had tons of friends waiting for me in the land of miracles so I guess I was never really ALONE.

The thought of that made me feel liberated in a way. It meant that I would have all these adult responsibilities and have to manage them all on my own; it’s like a trial run for when I graduate and have to start doing all that stuff for real. I wasn’t scared at all and I had faith that I would make friends in Ireland and that it all would turn out okay.

So with my boarding passes in hand, I clenched my first and said: “Let’s do this”. I said goodbye to my family and got ready to step on the line to go through security check.

And that’s when it happened… EVERYTHING TURNED TO CRAP IN 0.4 SECONDS! My flight was DELAYED, which meant the connected flight was DELAYED which meant I had to stay in BOSTON for a DAY AND A HALF by myself to wait for the next one which WON’T GET ME THERE IN TIME TO GET PICKED UP or by THE GOD DAMN TIME I NEED TO BE THERE. 

What would you do if you were in my situation? Have a panic attack? Yeah, me too. I called the company I booked through, argued with airlines, cried, yelled, the whole nine yards. Thankfully my family was still there to help but that wasn’t changing the fact that I was so intensely screwed. It was at that moment I just wanted to go back home, take a semester off altogether, and just wallow in self-pity in the place I know best (NYC). But.. that clearly was NOT an option. The best option was the one the airline thought of, and it wasn’t even that great.

They put me on a direct flight to Dublin, which meant I would get where I needed to go in time… as long as I took a 4-hour ride on a bus from that airport to the University. It was an annoyance. On the bright side, however, I wasn’t the only incoming UL student that got screwed. I bonded a bit with Rachel as we sat next to each other on the plane and bus. Even though, something inside me had shifted. I wasn’t feeling that feeling that I felt before the whole delay debacle began. I felt defeated, I felt like I was on the wrong path. Needless to say, I felt like I wanted to stay home. My whole entire outlook was destroyed and I think it corrupted the beginning of my journey in Limerick.

But, as I would later learn…Experiences aren’t always meant to be amazing things that leave your heart full of joy. Experiences are meant to help you improve and grow as a person.

And that’s exactly what happened as I studied abroad in Limerick, Ireland. 

Ready to see how Ireland changed me?

Well you’ll have to wait until next week’s chapter of “The Land of Ice Chronicles”

Living the London Life

My journey across the pond began with a very early flight leading to a very cranky me. It’s crazy to think I woke up to get ready to leave for the airport at 4:30a.m. and didn’t land in London until around 10p.m. Although, once I landed in the iconic Heathrow Airport, I was absolutely thrilled to finally be in London. I wasn’t sure what intrigued me more, the accents or the classic double decker red buses. I felt like a rescue puppy trying to soak in every little bit of its new home but being too excited to notice everything. After years of wanting to visit the city of London, I was finally there. For a solid 4 and a half months.

After a bit of a messy start to my dorm hall, I was relieved to have made a few friends and embark on a mini tour of Kingston Upon Thames led by someone at Kingston University. Walking through Kingston market gave me a Woodbury Common’s vibe, which both excited and comforted me. From Starbucks to TopShop to North Face, the stores seemed endless. I couldn’t wait to dive in head first.

Admittedly there wasn’t much culture shock. It’s a major concern for many students and parents that the differences in environment will overwhelm the student. I knew from the beginning that I wouldn’t be badly affected by that because I thrive for experiencing new things. By coming into London with an open mind about the experiences and pushing and insecurities to the back of my mind, I was lucky to eliminate all those insecurities within the first few days of being here. My biggest concerns included finding friends, knowing how to get to my classes and to the campus from my dorm, and how to navigate my way into town. Thankfully I accomplished all these fairly quickly, giving me more time to focus on other aspects of adjusting to my new home. Like the coffee. In England, and I assume it is the same if not similar in surrounding European countries, you cannot just order a “coffee.” Everything to them is coffee. You want just a regular iced coffee? No, you want an iced americano. Don’t drink your coffee black? You want a white americano. However the worst adjustment for me, by far, was their cup size difference. Most of my motivation and productivity comes from my venti iced coffee, but the largest size at most places is equivalent to a Starbucks grande cup for iced drinks. So you can see what my struggle was for the first few weeks (okay, month. I like my iced coffee, okay?). It took a few tries to get used to ordering an americano, and even longer to get used to drinking hot coffee.

The only other thing I had to keep reminding myself was normal here is when someone says “are you alright” they’re basically asking “how are you?” The first few times I was asked I had to pause for a moment, wondering to myself “do I look extra tired today or something? Do I look sad? Why are they concerned?” only to snap back to reality and realize they’re just asking how i am. So far Kingston has been a dream. It somehow feels simultaneously calm and busy and I look forward to see what else it has in store.

 

Edit: I have recently discovered there is a venti size, but it is smaller compared to America’s. Have you ever seen a cat with stubby legs that looks all cute but it’s small because of them? That’s what the vent cup here reminds me of. Give. Me. My. LARGE. Iced. Coffee. 

Traveling on My Week Off

Half way through the semester Kingston has what is called Enrichment Week also known as Reading Week. This week is supposed to be where you get ahead on the work for the next half of the semester, but no one does that obviously. It is like spring break at New Paltz. People are supposed to do work during it, but that barely happens (unless you have a paper or test right when you get back). Since they barely give work here most kids either go home or go on trips. As a study abroad student, I obviously made plans to go somewhere during this break.

My first stop was to see my friend who is studying abroad for the full year in Munich. She was kind enough to let my friend and I stay in her apartment the few days we were there. She was a huge help in showing us around and the fact that she understood the language really helped. She was a great tour guide and showed us everything we wanted to while we were there. We even were luck enough to see a Russian opera in Munich. It was so nice to catch up with her and talk about everything and anything with her. Munich is such a pretty city and I highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about going.

My next excursion—after a day or two of rest and exploring London—I was headed to Amsterdam with a tour group. We didn’t have much time in the city itself, but it was still a lot of fun. We had two nights there and the days were either traveling or seeing some of the cities around Amsterdam. We saw Edam and Volendam, which were both beautiful and worth the visit. I also got to go to Anne Frank’s house. That is definitely something you want on top of your list when you go to Amsterdam. You do need to get tickets ahead of time, but it is worth it. You walk through their hiding space and walk in the same space they lived in for two years. It is a moving experience and is definitely a must see.

I had a great time seeing different countries during my week off. I wish I had more time to explore more countries, but that just means I need to return to Europe in order to see more countries that I wanted to see. The week was a lot of fun and made me want to travel more. I highly recommend traveling to as many countries as you can while you study abroad because it is so easy to get around—as well as is very cheap to travel.

London, Venice and More Oh My!

While studying abroad, I have been fortunate to do a ton of traveling- both in and out of Italy!

My first trip was to Cinque Terre. It was my birthday weekend; my friends and I visited each of the towns in one day! Each offered a different experience but they all had one thing in common- an amazing view. Cinque Terre was only a 2 hour train ride from Milan, making it a super accessible but fun trip!

After that, I flew to Prague and London! My sister had planned to travel to Prague coincidentally during the time that I’d be in Italy, so we thought it was a perfect weekend to meet up. My sister is 6 years older than me and lives in another state, so seeing her had made me so happy- who knew we’d be in Prague, TOGETHER?! It truly made my heart full.

London has to be one of my favorite cities I have ever visited! It was so metropolitan, and nostalgic. Everywhere I went felt sophisticated and chic. There, I visited shops and pubs, walking along townhouses in Notting Hill, while stopping to drink tea or eat falafel pockets (which were SO yummy). Being in London made me SO happy. I definitely will go back to visit one day.

And lastly, my most recent trip that I did happened to be with my dad! At my university, we just had our mid-semester break and my dad was lucky enough to get some days off so, he flew all the way to Milan and we took a “road trip” of Italy. We went to Lake Como, Venice, and Florence. All of the places were so different from one another; it is mind-boggling to me how you can be in the same country yet certain parts are so vastly different from each other! All were beautiful in their own unique way. Visiting all 3 places were truly enriching, especially with my dad by my side.