Bearcats on the Road

The Last of China

Posted by Theresa Thimons on Mon, Jun 27, 2016 @ 12:00 PM

My time in China is coming to a close, and I just got kind of good at figuring out the subway system. It’s sad to know I’ll be leaving in the morning, but I am excited to arrive in Taiwan and begin the next segment of this trip!

Since you’ve last heard from me, I visited the Great Wall of China and the Pearl Market, as well as spent two more afternoons with the orphans at New Hope. The Great Wall was incredible - I was not prepared for the beauty that I saw. Similar to the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls, no photograph can do it justice. Initially when we arrived at the Great Wall, we were amused by a sign that read, “do not appreciate the scenery while walking.” A few minutes into our hike, however, we understood. (And yes, hike is the appropriate word to describe walking the Great Wall.) It was a difficult hike, but it was breathtaking. I honestly think that it's worth a trip to China to visit the Great Wall alone. 

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This past morning, I went to the Pearl Market to barter with vendors and buy souvenirs for my family. I don’t have much experience with bartering, but I soon found that I loved it! When I saw something I liked, I would ask the vendor, “how much?” and they would take their calculator and punch in a number. They would then hand me the calculator and I would make a counter offer, usually about 10% of their original price. Of course they would always say no, and sometimes they would even laugh at me, but if I was stubborn enough and would only raise my offer slightly, I could get a good deal. The trick was  walking away at some point. These vendors are hungry for business, so they will chase you down and lower their price. That is not the point at which you stop; that is when you make another counter offer and, with some stubbornness, get the vendor to agree. Needless to say, bartering gave me quite the adrenaline rush and I loved the experience!
 
Of course, I have to talk about my last days at the orphanage. I spent a lot of time with my favorite buddy in a wheelchair (mentioned in my last blog post). When I walked in on my last day, his face lit up. I walked over to him and he took my hand in both of his and kissed it. My heart sinks when I think about how I will likely never see him again, but I will forever be grateful for the joy he gave me and that he allowed me to show him love. Someday a family will be very lucky when they adopt him.
 
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Although it’s hard to leave this place, I am excited to go to Taiwan in the morning! I can’t wait to see what adventures will come with being in Taiwan. I’m ready to go, but I know that there is one thing I’ll be leaving behind; a piece of my heart will always be with the boy from New Hope orphanage. 

Topics: China, Hope Foster Home, service learning, Great Wall of China, Theresa Thimons, Pearl Market, Beijing

Talking Without Speaking (in China)

Posted by Theresa Thimons on Fri, Jun 24, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

As I think about the events of this first full day in China, the word that rings the loudest is joy. After a tour of the Forbidden City this morning, led by our wonderful tour guide, Jim, the group headed out for lunch in the food court of a nearby mall. Ordering and paying for food may not sound like an adventure, but it is when you and your waitress can’t even guess at each other’s languages. I was amazed at the success of our communication without the use of words. The waitress took a table of people from the other side of the world and was able to help us order and pay without any problems. People are really incredible.
 
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After lunch, we headed to New Hope Orphanage where we were given a brief tour explaining how the orphanage is run specifically for children with health problems, mainly surgically correctable diseases. The orphanage loves and cares well for these children, gets them the surgeries and medical help that they need, and hopes that they will someday be adopted into a loving family. Once the tour was complete, we were free to play with the children all afternoon. These kids have such big personalities; my heart was touched by each one. Again, the amazement of communicating without words struck me. One young boy kept touching underneath my chin, and I soon caught on that this meant he wanted me to tickle him beneath his chin. A little girl who had some trouble with walking held my hands and pulled me upward. Then she shuffled her feet in circles, and next thing I knew, we were dancing! Another boy who especially captured my heart was having the time of his life play acting with me. We would take turns playing pretend and making silly faces, and he would laugh so hard and smile so wide that I couldn’t help but do the same.
 
When Fr. Killian was at the door, the boy slammed the door shut with his wheelchair and started cracking up. He may be a sneaky one, but between his unique personality and the plethora of laughter that passed between us, this boy and all of the children left me bursting with joy. Each and every child in that orphanage has a heart full of love, and if our group from Saint Vincent brought them half as much joy as they brought us, then today was a complete success.
 
Between ordering lunch and playing with the children, one lesson that really rang true today was that actions speak louder than words. Because of this lesson, I was able to find out something else. Although in the van back from the orphanage we were all speaking the same language, the actions of the group spoke much louder than our words. Loud laughter filled the van in a way it hadn’t before that moment, and it was clear that this was because of the joy that the kids brought us. The words being spoken were pointless conversation about the trees and Oompa Loompas (two things that were, believe it or not, related in this conversation), but the unspoken words were so much louder. Our smiles were all brighter, the way we interacted with one another held such a deep and true friendship. Our actions told their own story of how volunteering at a Chinese orphanage for medically-handicapped children brought joy to a group of college students. I cannot wait to go back to the orphanage, and I am excited to continue to observe the actions throughout both the tourist and service aspects of this trip to see how the story unfolds.

Topics: China, Hope Foster Home, service learning, laughter, Theresa Thimons, Beijing

Returning to Beijing

Posted by Gabrielle Kohl on Thu, Jun 23, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

Today was our first travel day, and after our 12-hour flight, we finally arrived in Beijing! When we arrived, we were greeted by our host and driven to our hotel in a van. Along the way, we learned about the population and a brief history of Beijing. After arriving at our hotel, we were given around 20 minutes to put down our luggage and get changed if we wanted. Then, we went to dinner at a small restaurant that was right across the street from the hotel. The food was AMAZING. Then, some of us took a stroll down a large shopping street near our hotel. It had a large amount of stores, restaurants and much more! We walked along and just explored the view around us.

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As I am reflecting about my return to Beijing, I can't help but compare it to last year’s trip (I did go on the same mission trip last year). Last year, I arrived in Beijing with no prior experience. I took a ridiculous amount of pictures, and I was filled with amazement. This year, I didn’t take as many pictures and I wasn’t really filled with amazement. Instead, I was filled with pure happiness and hopefulness. I was happy to be back in a country that contains good memories of friendship and adventure. I was hopeful to make more memories and more friends. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the trip holds.

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Topics: study abroad, China, Saint Vincent College, Gabrielle Kohl, Beijing

Research & Downtime in the Himalayas

Posted by Samuel Geer on Wed, Jun 22, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

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It’s hard for me to believe, but the classes I’m taking here in Bhutan are already nearing their end. There’s still about one more week of condensed classes before we move on to directed research, but in that week we’re packing in a lot of learning. Today I had a pair of field lectures that tie into some of the research projects we’ll be doing here. The first was on biodiversity monitoring the government does to keep track of the animals that inhabit nearby areas. Looking at trail camera footage from within 15 miles of campus, we saw everything from wild boar to leopards and even majestic Bengal tigers. The second was on tree-core research and the methods used to test tree age, health and plot prosperity. This one was particularly interesting because I actually got to bore into some of the blue pines that populate the hillsides near campus.

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Despite the stressful schedule that is a byproduct of taking a condensed six-week semester, there are some opportunities to sit back and relax ... or not. This past weekend we had two days off. One was a scheduled day off on Sunday and the free Monday came as a surprise due to a Tsechu, a Bhutanese festival, which was declared only two days before. On Sunday, I was able to explore the nearby ridges that surround campus with some of my classmates. A two-and-a-half-hour hike took us up to the crest of a ridge where the clouds flew by just several feet above us. At the Tsechu on Monday, we had the rare opportunity to witness a festival that won’t occur again for another 12 years. The small village of Chamkar below our campus poured into a nearby temple with thousands from neighboring areas. While I may not consider being crowded in with thousands of other people as a relaxing time, it was a powerful moment to see just how much of an impact Buddhism and culture has on the Bhutanese people. 

In addition to my last several lectures this week, I’ll also be heading out on a multi-day trek to the far north of Bhutan. We’ll be learning in the field while we hike, and I’m looking forward to another glimpse of the Greater Himalayas. 

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Topics: study abroad, Saint Vincent College, Samuel Geer, Bengal tiger, Bhutan, Tsechu

Preparing for a Plane to China

Posted by Theresa Thimons on Fri, Jun 17, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

When I was a little girl, I would often play in my backyard and go down the slide over and over again. In my four- or five-year-old mind, this wasn’t just any slide, it was a magic slide that could transport me to any place in the world … even China! Now, some 14 years later, my magic slide has become an airplane, but the destination remains the same. This time, it will take closer to 15 hours than 15 seconds to travel to China. And this time, it’s real.

To be fair, my imaginary trips to China were very real in my young mind. I created a whole world and a whole set of interactions with people. This time, I cannot decide how other people will act, and it is better that way. I’m going to travel ready and open to what other people ask of me. I’m going to do something meaningful. I’m going to interact with humans who were created in the image of God, and I’m going to love them that way. I’m going to learn more about who God is through these people. I’m going to experience a different culture.

Am I ready? Far from it. How could I be ready? I’ve never experienced anything like this - I’ve never even flown on a plane before! Am I excited? Very. I am excited in all of my unknowingness. I am confident that this will be the experience of a lifetime. Am I nervous? Of course! Like I said, I haven’t done anything like this. Who wouldn’t be nervous?

Am I filled with joy at the thought of thimage from lifeworks-internatioal.comis trip? Absolutely. I am overwhelmed with joy when I think about going to Hope Foster Home in Beijing. There, medically fragile children are cared for and loved, no matter how critical their condition. There, people have given their lives to caring for kids who may not survive. There, I want to make life a little easier for those incredible people, and I want to share in the joy of these children, surrounded by love. I am overwhelmed with joy when I think about traveling throughout Taiwan with the students from Fu Jen Catholic University. I am excited to do a variety of things to help the people there, and I am excited to learn something from every person I encounter.

As I write this, the trip is four days away. I am full of nervousness and excitement and joy. My magic slide is now a plane, and I invite you to make this blog your magic slide. It can be your way to walk alongside me and all of the other members of the Saint Vincent community who are taking this trip. I hope that you can find something meaningful in it. Welcome to the journey!

Topics: Taiwan, China, travel, service, Saint Vincent College, SVC, Hope Foster Home, Theresa Thimons, Fu Jen Catholic University

Arriving in Bhutan - Buddhism, Hikes and Clothing

Posted by Samuel Geer on Tue, Jun 14, 2016 @ 04:00 PM

After almost a week of traveling, I finally arrived at Paro, Bhutan, at around noon local time on Friday. Our flight from Thailand left early in the morning and we had one layover in Bagdograh, India. As we took off from Bagdograh, I had my first experience viewing the Himalayas. Looking out over the vast plains of Northern India, they rose terrifyingly high. Once we’d reached our cruising altitude, the silhouettes of the mountains still challenged our aircraft for superiority in the sky. 

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Arriving at the airport in Paro was an emotional moment for me and the other students who had been delayed from our destination for almost a week. The plane tucked between mountain passes and then the airstrip was upon us. Even though the final turn into Paro was a bit harrowing, it was like something out a dream once we landed. Bhutan’s pristine mountain valleys stretched endlessly before us as we made our way from Paro to Bhutan’s capital of Thimphu. Along the way, we saw countless prayer flags and beautiful mountainside temples. Once in Thimphu, we resumed our classes which include everything from lectures on Buddhism, language lessons given by the locals and the environmental challenges Bhutan faces today. It has been a very immersive learning experience. Our lecture on Buddhism was presented in front of the Buddha Dardenma, a massive gold-plated Buddha that overlooks Thimphu from the mountainside.

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Apart from the incredible learning experience, we’ve gone on multiple hikes through the mountains here for field exercises and classes. Yesterday, we also purchased our traditional Bhutanese clothing (Gho for men and Kira for women). I went with a traditional black with green embroidery on the collar while some of my peers went for the more colorful options. So far, I am in amazement of all Bhutan has to offer. 

IMG_2759.jpgA look at our group in the traditional Gho - I'm third from the right.

Topics: study abroad, Samuel Geer, kira, Buddhism, Bhutan, Thimphu, Paro, gho

The Journey to Bhutan: Patience is a Virtue

Posted by Samuel Geer on Thu, Jun 09, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

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Above: Sam Greer at Ayutthaya Historical Park in Thailand which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was the 17th Century home to the Ayutthaya Empire
 
Hi! I’m Sam, an environmental science major, and for six weeks this summer I’ll be learning in the remote Himalayan nation of Bhutan. Home to sweeping mountain landscapes and a proud people with a traditional culture, Bhutan is a place that very few get to venture to in their lifetime. When I applied for this program last year, I remembered how grateful I was to be a part of an adventure so rare. 
 
It’s four days into that adventure now, and I’m still looking forward to seeing what Bhutan has to offer. Unfortunately, several delays by airlines has left me and fellow classmates stranded in several foreign nations along the way. First, we were stuck in New York’s airport for 13 hours before having to stay the night in Shanghai, China. The next day we flew to Bangkok, Thailand only to find that the next flight to Bhutan was five days away. 
 
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Above:  A temple in Bang Pa-In, which was Thailand’s former capitol before Bangkok
 
My point in this is, things might not always go directly to plan on trips such as these, and that’s really O.K. It's been quite the adventure being a guest of two additional nations I never thought I'd get to visit (other than their airports). Driving through Shanghai was like entering a whole new world and Bangkok, while over 100 degrees and humid, is an amazing myriad of culture and people. Luckily, we’ve been able to start classes while we’re stuck in Thailand (in the dining room of a restaurant, oddly), and we’ll be on our way to Bhutan in the next couple of days.
 
While writing my applications to study abroad, I remember encountering questions about The Rule of Saint Benedict and the virtues he explores. Among these is patience-- a virtue I’ve used to the extreme in my 4 days and counting of travel around the world. With patience, anything is possible, and I look forward to continuing my exploration of the world as I will finally soon reach my destination. 
 
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Above: A traditional Thai lunch I had on the river which included fresh fish, rice, coconut milk soup, grilled vegetables and shrimp. Also pictured are a variety of spicy sauces that incorporate chili peppers and other fiery substances that give the food a good kick.
 
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Above: Another photo of Ayutthaya which shows the massive structures where the former kings’ ashes are entombed.
 

Topics: study abroad, Shanghai, Food, Saint Benedict, Ayutthaya, Bhutan, Thailand

Serving at St. Peter’s Basilica

Posted by Anastasia Jaeger on Tue, May 24, 2016 @ 04:00 PM

May 23: 

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I'm so excited to say that I’ve seen the Trevi Fountain and it is absolutely breathtaking! I also have seen the Colosseum and Pantheon.

This past Sunday, five members of our SVC group were approached by an usher. One of us had the opportunity to lector and the others got to carry up the offertory! I never imagined that I would not only be able to see St. Peter’s but also be able to have the role of carrying up the offertory for Sunday Mass there! That is certainly a memory and one that I will treasure forever.

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One of my favorite basilicas is St. Paul’s. I was able to visit the tomb of St. Paul and he has always been one of my favorite Biblical inspirations. I admire his strength, courage and wonderful writing skills. He was truly a man led by the Holy Spirit.

Today we went to Assisi. It is a beautiful town despite the wind that is constantly blowing. It has a truly astounding view. I was not disappointed in Assisi at all. My mother has always been inspired by Saint Francis and it was enjoyable for me to actually visit his tomb and get a deeper understanding of who he was as a person of God. Tomorrow we will have a tour of the Vatican, as well as Mass underneath St. Peter’s in the grotto. The Sistine Chapel will be a part of the tour and I cannot wait to explore the beauty of the chapel. There is still a lot left to share so check back again soon.

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Topics: Italy, Rome, Anastasia Jaegar, Colosseum, Vatican City, Trevi Fountain, St. Peter's Basilica

Visiting the Subiaco Monastery

Posted by Anastasia Jaeger on Mon, May 23, 2016 @ 04:00 PM

May 20, 2016

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Today we went to Subiaco, a monastery for Benedictine monks. There is a lot of history behind it and it is built around a cave. Saint Benedict lived in this cave for three years!

Saint Francis of Assisi also visited there. There are numerous frescoes that are fairly old, and they depict Saint Benedict’s life and show numerous scenes from the gospels.

Now, off to find the Trevi Fountain!

Photo Credit: Subiaco monastery

Topics: Benedictine, Anastasia Jaegar, Saint Benedict, frescoes, Saint Francis, Subiaco, cave, history

All Things Arsenal

Posted by Gina McKlveen on Mon, May 23, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

Monday, April 4, 2016

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Football (American soccer) is the major spectator sport in England and throughout Europe. There are several teams in and around London including Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea and West Ham, just to name a few. But the team that is known as London’s “home team” is Arsenal. Londoners live and breath all things Arsenal. They are die-hard fans.

My first Arsenal experience was watching a match against Tottenham (a bitter rival) at a pub near the Emirates Arsenal Stadium. It was a laid-back atmosphere at first, but then the game started … there was screaming and taunting, punching walls and slamming fists. It was great! Oh, and lots and lots of singing. Football fans here aren’t much for chanting; rather, they have songs to cheer on their team. It was quite entertaining listening to a pub full of drunk old men sing along to the Arsenal cheers. Also, just a warning, but a pub might not be the best place to take your mother to watch an Arsenal game because of the excessive use of swear words and other derogatory language. It would definitely be rated R for language.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see Arsenal come away with a W, but they did tie with Tottenham!

My next Arsenal experience was with my study abroad program. CIEE managed to get us a tour of the Arsenal stadium! It was a self-guided tour and we were able to see the field, the locker room, the press conference room and the members’ clubs as well as sit in seats where the players sit during the game and walk through the tunnel where the players come out of every game!

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Most recently, I had another Arsenal experience. This time I got to see an actual Arsenal game at the stadium. Even though it was just the under 18 Arsenal team, it was still a really good game and tickets were a lot more affordable than an actual Arsenal game. Just to give you an idea, to see an actual official Arsenal game it costs around £90-£150. The game I paid to see was only £4 (much more affordable for a college student living on a budget). Tonight’s game was the semi-finals for the Under 18 FIFA cup Arsenal versus Manchester City. The winner of the game would move on to the finals. The atmosphere I’d imagine was a lot more laid-back compared to an actual Arsenal game, but still fun nonetheless. There was still some singing and swearing, but more mild than the pub on game day. Arsenal and Manchester City tied, but Manchester moved on because they had the better record.

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I’m beginning to really like football, or at least the atmosphere that comes with it! It makes me miss playing sports back home! I can’t wait to be home cheering on Steelers Nation!

But for now, Go Arsenal! COYG (Come On You Gunners)!

Cheers!

Gina

 

Topics: study abroad, London, Gina McKlveen, football, soccer, Arsenal, Come On You Gunners, stadium tour

About this Blog

In Bearcats on the Road, students chronicle their lives while studying abroad or completing internships away from campus.

Michael Orange

 

How can you study abroad?

Learn more about studying abroad at Saint Vincent College

Current Bloggers

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Theresa Thimons is a sophomore majoring in mathematics. She is the proud little sister to nine siblings and aunt to seventeen nieces and nephews. Theresa believes that each encounter she has with another human is an opportunity to better understand the heart of Jesus, as every person is the result of God’s love. In whatever career path she ends up taking, she looks forward to solving problems and hopefully inspiring more people to explore the world of fun that is found in math.

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My name is Sam Geer. I’m from Murrysville, Pennsylvania, and I’m a junior at Saint Vincent. I’m getting my major in Environmental Science and minoring in Public Administration. I’m a work study at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve and am a member of the Benedictine Leadership Studies Program. This summer, I'll be traveling to Bhutan in the Himalayas of Central Asia, home of the bearcat, where I’ll be studying environmental sustainability and Bhutanese culture. 

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Hi! Im Gabrielle Kohl, an avid reader who loves to travel around the world! I love to experience new culture, literature, people and food. I aim to make a positive impact in the lives of people with whom I interact in order to make the world a happier place.

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Hi! My name is Nicole Berry and I am currently a junior studying communication and psychology. I also am minoring in children studies. I am a commuter and currently live in Delmont, PA. I am hoping to graduate in May 2017 and go on to graduate school for my Masters in Social Work and Juris Doctorate.

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Anastasia Jaeger is a junior English education major with a minor in German and a minor in peace and justice. She has always dreamed of being able to travel around the world and is thankful that Saint Vincent College has these opportunities available to students. When she is not at college, she is likely working her part-time job at a local bakery. In the future, she hopes to travel more and do humanitarian work or teach high school students English.

 

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