Every day I basically have to pinch myself (multiple times in fact) that I’m actually here LIVING in Spain. For as long as I could remember, I knew I always wanted to study abroad in Spain and, to me, it always felt like a dream of the distant future or a day that would never come.
In the weeks leading up to my flight, I was asked multiple times, “What made you want to study abroad?” Almost instinctively I’d give the same generic response of, ”To see ways of life different than my own. I want to experience other people's culture on their terms.”
When I signed up for World Youth Day in Kraków last fall, I never expected “fear” to be in the equation. I had been to Poland several times previously, and I had never been overly concerned about my personal safety or the safety of others on my trips. Poland, and the rest of Europe, seemed to be a very stable area and so I never gave terrorism another thought.
This trip to World Youth Day (WYD) 2016 in Kraków, Poland, seemed to come quite suddenly. I had just gotten back from Rome on May 29. However, college is all about making memories and doing as much as possible.
The past week has been entirely devoted to directed research. The complement of 22 students in the program were broken up into six different groups whose research groups included both physical and social science topics. Some of the most interesting projects, in my opinion, were: biodiversity in local forests, the growing cordycep (an extremely valuable Himalayan fungi) market, conservation around religious sites and, my own research project, the effects of forestry management practices on local forest stands.
The past several days have been filled with a plethora of cultural experiences with locals in and around campus. While simply walking down the street can tell you a lot about the Bhutanese people, it is something else completely to spend significant amounts of time talking with a Buddhist monk or staying with a family. Luckily, I’ve been able to do both of those things in the span of a few days.
My time in Taiwan has been so non-stop that I’ve barely had time to write any updates! The trip is two days away from ending, and while sleeping in my own bed sounds marvelous, I know that I will miss this as soon as I’m gone. Taiwan is filled with so much beauty and I am so grateful to be here.
After a few weeks of finally settling into the city of history, culture, arts, nightlife, food and much more; Thessaloniki, Greece, has become my stay for these 37 days abroad. Choosing a city (the second largest in Greece), that is not too common among Americans for studying abroad, was a place I knew was going to be very different. For example, dinnertime does not start until at least 9 p.m., businesses close from 3 to 5 p.m. for afternoon nap time, a large number of Greeks are avid smokers and the surprising appreciation from locals when attempting to speak Greek. The differences, however, have shown me that there is much excitement that can be found from being immersed in unfamiliar places. Places that hold so much learning and discovery.
During the past week, we left the relative coziness of our dorms on campus to go on a trek through the surrounding valleys. It was a three-day hike that would begin with us hiking across the Bumthang Valley where our campus is located. After the flat portion of the trek, we went straight up over the extremely small Himalayan Mountains in the area (only 12,000 feet high — the Laurel Highlands are a small fraction of that). Once on the other side, we’d be in the neighboring Tang Valley where we’d camp another night and hike to a cultural site to finish off our learning adventure.