By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
This past week was my first full week of classes (four days of four hours of classes, which for the record is more than I was doing back in Boston so that’s an adjustment in and of itself). After my four hours of morning classes on Monday, I decided to be a good student and head over to neighboring Imperial College for a study session. They also have a pub on campus so I figured I’d get a pint as I worked my way through my Government and Politics of the European Union textbook. Aren’t I such a good student?
The union pub thing (it’s still not really clear what the place is called) is basically a big room with a couple of tables, big windows and high ceilings that apparently gets pretty wild on Wednesdays when classes are in session. Oh, and of course, a bar that stretches the length of the room.
Walking into the union (we’ll call it that), there had to be no more than five people in the place (probably because it was 2 p.m.), including the one bartender woman that gave me a pretty glare-y once-over as I walked over to the bar. Actually, it felt like all five people in the establishment turned and stared as I walked into the place. Like they could smell it on me that I wasn’t from here (or even a real Imperial student). Finding a spot to sit felt like that scene in Mean Girls where Cady tries to navigate the lunchroom only I didn’t have a posse like Janice and that guy who’s too gay to function telling me where the awkward foreigners sit. Because that’s apparently now my clique du jour. At least no one growled at me.
But alas, faking it until I make it is among my primary skills so I plunked down in the corner of the union with my pint and textbook and did my best not to be distracted by the freakishly good music being played. Seriously, they played “Hey Ya,” “99 Problems” and “Milkshake.” I kept kind of laughing at the music because it was great (I was drinking a pint, after all), and the bartender and other patrons just kept looking over at me with these weird judge-y stares. In hindsight, this might be because I ordered a pint at 2 in the afternoon.
People trickled in and out of the union during my three hours of studying (that music was really distracting) and I couldn’t help but feel like I was just this weird magnet with my funky and arguably fresh American scent.
Once I finished my work, I resisted the urge to slam down my glass and yell “FOR AMERICA” or drop the mic or something (because that would be rude). I have no proof or real knowledge that anyone in the place actually even noticed I was there, but it was strange to feel like I was sticking out like a sore thumb.
One of my friends on the program is originally from England and has been acting as my cultural ambassador. I told her about my experience (“IT’S LIKE THEY COULD SMELL THAT I’M AN AMERICAN!!!”) and she said it’s probably true. She also said that no one really cares. If you’re from America, you look like an American and people can observe that the same way you know a German when you see one and that’s that. But really, no one cares.
I still haven’t decided whether or not I’ll be going back this week. If I do make it back, I’ll just have to resist the urge to sing the national anthem or start a “USA” chant.
By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
Well, I’ve survived my first week abroad. It hasn’t been too painful. Aside from the constant ache in my feet from walking so far. Blame that on my refusal to wear sneakers while sightseeing. Gotta look posh, ya dig?
We didn’t have classes on Friday and since some of my friends had plans (side note: don’t worry guys, I actually did make friends), I decided to head out and do some solo sightseeing. Since it was a rainy day (and by rainy I mean transitioning from sun to rain in 20-minute intervals), I made up my mind to visit one of London’s museums. I’m not normally one to fly solo like that, but YOLO (You Only London Once), so why not?
I made my way to the London Transport Museum and the market and shopping area called Covent Garden, which apparently inspired Faneuil Hall and is much more posh than its Boston counterpart. After getting off the tube at Covent Garden, nearly being trampled by some German tourists and realizing my Google Maps app wasn’t working, I just wandering through the streets. It didn’t take long to find Covent Garden (hint: follow the crowds) and the museum itself, which featured the development on London’s mass transit systems from the days of the riverboats all the way to the future of the Underground.
I spent a good hour and a half going through the exhibits and the accompanying gift shop (and proceeded to spend more pounds than I’d like to admit on some souvenirs). Afterward, I took to the streets around the markets and just wandered around, stopping at Ladurée for a couple macarons and a little café for a sandwich to snack on as I explored.
I was surprised by how empowered I felt during my outing. I had honestly never done anything like that — sightseeing for me had always been a group endeavor complete with friends and family members to take my picture. But it felt really refreshing to set out on my own, armed with nothing but a camera and a not-so-functioning cell phone, and see where my feet took me.
I’m not sure how, but I ended up in Trafalgar Square, replete with people climbing all over the lions and a view of Big Ben and Parliament in the distance. I’m sure I had some goofy grin during that tube ride home, but I didn’t expect to feel so accomplished – even though I forgot to snap a selfie with one of the lions.
By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
I’m not even in London yet and I have to keep reminding myself that “study” comes before “abroad” in “study abroad.”
I’m writing this about a thousand feet above the Atlantic Ocean, en route to London to begin a semester studying abroad through BU’s journalism internship program. I have to admit, I’m really more concerned with my internship and where I’ll be traveling on breaks and weekends than when/where my classes are. Let’s chalk it up to “senioritis.”
I’ve always known I wanted to go abroad. Back in high school when I was in the throes of learning the Spanish language, I was dead-set on studying in a Spanish-speaking country. Now, most of my language skills have disappeared with age — though I can still throw out a couple swearwords when need be, so it’s just convenient London is English-speaking.
A couple of my friends went to London last fall. More specifically, they went to Oktoberfest. The experience undoubtedly broadened their horizons and also opened my mind to the glorious realization that, hey, I can do that too. The pictures of them in the tents drinking some beer and eating pretzels – two of my favorite things – and having fun with a group of people in a foreign country just looked like such another level of fun that I had to go.
A few months later, here I am, en route to the UK. It’s not exactly Oktoberfest - still working on that one – but I’m headed toward new surroundings, new friends, and new experiences. All on a new continent.
Once we land, it’s off to the Crofton, my home for the semester. I have no idea when classes start but I do know one of my political science classes has a field trip to Brussels. It’s a fact that political science + waffles + beer = a happy Lauren.
Until then, I’ll be fighting off jet lag and Instagram-ing my little heart out. Wanna follow along in real time? Follow my Instagram @LaurenDez and Twitter @LaurenDezenski. I’m also posting additional blogs beyond these weekly posts on my own website, laurendezenski.com, because it’s the semester-so-nice-I’m-going-to-write-about-it-twice.
Side note: Snaps to the Boston Logan International Airport E Terminal Burger King for serving my final meal in America until December 15. The E terminal had pretty slim pickings food-wise (Dunkin Donuts, whereforeart thou?), but Burger King shone like the beacon of hope and truth we all know it to be and delivered some glorious American fast food.
Lauren Dezenski is a senior studying journalism and political science, spending the semester studying abroad in London.
By Sofiya Mahdi, Staff Writer
I had not anticipated how much Sydney would get under my skin. Calling London home, going to school in Boston, spending the spring in Washington, D.C. and having lived in Dubai and Geneva as well, I figured I was a professional at diving headfirst into the unknown and being unfazed by the whole ordeal. Spending a few days in Singapore before braving the fog to eventually land in Sydney, I looked forward to interning at a think tank on international policy, learning about sustainable urban design in class and throwing myself into unfamiliar surroundings.
Despite being geographically isolated on a map, the city still seemed connected to the rest of the world. The pulse that courses through any major city’s veins is still present here. There was one difference: our internet connection was terrible. It may seem a trivial detail, but this essentially cut me off from my home and school ties and forced me to really admire where I was, reflect on where I’ve been and who I’ve discovered myself to be these past few weeks.
Whether it was snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef, wine tasting in the Hunter Valley, having food thrown into my mouth at Benihana on the Gold Coast or watching the sunset behind the Sydney Opera House, I never anticipated my Australian experience to be one that impacted me this much. As I held a warm, soft koala in my arms I turned to grin like an idiot at the waiting camera. It may have only been eight weeks of my life, but the connection I made with that city and the snippets of the country is one that I will never forget.
As I landed back at London Heathrow, the past two months almost didn’t seem real. But I know my love for Sydney had only just begun.
By Abigail Lin, Staff Writer
As I’m sure many of you are experiencing this summer, getting out of bed every Monday to Friday to schelp myself to my internship is undoubtedly the hardest part of the job. In Paris, I would reward myself simply for waking up in the morning – on time or not – with a gorgeous buttery croissant from the corner boulangerie, reveling in the delicate pastry’s apparent apex of warmth and overall exquisiteness in the morning.
Memories of my stint in Paris come back to me in bursts: the lazy, lingering lunches at cafés for as long as I pleased to stay, the second-hand smoke that resulted from sitting outside at such cafés, the mandatory greetings uttered upon entering and leaving a shop. Picnics where the bread would be the first thing to run out and the remaining cheese the next, the store-bought pudding cups in impossibly fragile and petite jars of glass, the satisfaction I felt when inventing a French sounding word and then realizing it was indeed real.
At the close of our semester abroad, us BU Paris Internship students were forced to attend a mandatory end-of-semester workshop. Mostly, the professors were warning us against reverse culture shock. In typical Parisian fashion, we scoffed, dismissing the idea as ridiculous. It had only been four months, after all.
Yet, when I walked into my local mall’s food court but a couple weeks later, the reverse culture shock was all too real. Dollar hamburgers on fast food menus! A small soft-drink from Wendy’s being 16 times the size of a typical European espresso! PEOPLE IN PAJAMAS! Quel horreur.
Mostly, I miss the challenge of simply stepping outside the confines of my bedroom. To communicate my intentions, personality, sense of self, to my host mom, boss, and teachers in a different language was the ultimate test of my will and self-confidence. I miss learning des petits trucs every day about French culture, politics and strangers. I miss the humbling feeling of being a curious, wide-eyed student of Paris, France and of the world.
But above all, I miss baguettes.
By Sydney Shea, Staff Writer
After dreaming of traveling to London for most of my life, when I arrived I was so anxious and homesick that I could barely eat, save for one bowl of Special K each day — not the optimal way of slimming down for summer. A terrorist attack in which a UK solider was stabbed in broad daylight was not welcoming either, especially when I thought I had left the Boston Marathon bombing behind. Thoughts of Rhett the Terrier, the Citgo sign or the Charles River made me cry and want to board the next plane to Logan Airport immediately. I was so angry at myself for having such a horrible attitude after wanting to come to this amazing city for so long.
I found the best way to get over missing home was to take in new experiences as much as possible, even if I was just going through the motions of being a tourist. While I enjoyed seeing Big Ben, Harrods, Greenwich and Kensington Palace, one of the best feelings someone can experience abroad is allowing yourself to get lost and then navigate back home.
I began to let myself relax after that. I then understood why every friend who had studied abroad in London would miss it so terribly. London has so much to offer, whether it’s visit to any of the world-class museums, a drunken pub-crawl or just being able to get lost in a new city.
In just over a month, I have been on the list of the most exclusive clubs and have had once-in-a-lifetime experiences; an after-hours reception at the British Museum, where I sipped white wine in one of the world’s most famous art galleries.
My adventure has made me a more open-minded person, but I will say that I will not return thinking that Boston isn’t my favorite city on the planet. It’s always good to be back home.
By Christiana Mecca, Staff Photographer and Writer
It was fitting the day was grey. Going into “The Killing Fields,” I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to see.
You travel the same roads out of Phom Penh the thousands of victims traveled from S-21 Prison, except you’re riding in an open-air tuk-tuk in broad daylight and not blindfolded in the back of a crowded truck during the night. You get out of the vehicle and listen on your headset to the story of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge and events at this remote and eerie location only three and a half decades ago.
The Cambodian genocide occurred from the years of 1975 to 1979. It started as an attempt by the Khmer Rouge army leader, Pol Pot, to form a Communist peasant farming society. It resulted in a great number of deaths from starvation, overwork and executions. Over the course of three years, it is estimated that the Khmer Rouge killed 3.3 million people.
There really is no way to give the full effect of an event to an outsider, but the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center does a good job of bringing you close to the stories and memories. When you arrive, you receive headphones and an audio device to walk you through the site. You begin where the prisoners began, at the truck stop, then move through the detainment space and the check-in area (the Khmer Rouge made sure to double check the whereabouts of each victim – there would be no escaping) and into the huge area of mass graves. Roped off are a few that still churn up bone fragments, teeth and cloth.
For some reason, hearing the words with Cambodian accents directly in your ears makes it more real and personal. The marked-off mass graves are lined with bamboo fencing and thousands of bracelets hang on the posts as little symbols of respect and remembrance of the dead.
You then walk around the lake listening to stories of survivors, not of the killing fields, but of the S-21 prison. There were no survivors of the killing fields. If whatever tool the Khmer Rouge guards used for slaughtering (usually farming tools or hammers) didn’t accomplish its goal, DDT would finish the job. Individuals would kneel in front of the hole, blindfolded, and be forced to sing songs of the regime before being hacked, beaten or stabbed to death and falling into their grave.
Children are another story. Pol Pot believed that in order to be successful in offing a “traitor,” the accused person’s whole family must also be killed, or else there would be someone left to seek revenge. That’s where the “Killing Tree” comes in. After the infants, toddlers and small children were beaten at this tree, they were thrown into the mass grave with their mothers.
It wasn’t easy to see but it was well worth the experience. Not only did I gain knowledge of Cambodia’s history, but also endless respect for the people who lived through it.
By Taylor Hartz, Staff Photographer and Writer
At the start of the spring semester I had never traveled outside the country. Today, I find myself quite literally on the other side of the world, spending my summer in Australia.
Our first two weeks have consisted of soaking up the city: finding Nemo at the Sydney Aquarium, cruising through the Sydney Harbour to catch our first glimpse of the magnificent Opera House and the “Vivid Sydney Festival” – a two-week light show across the city at night. All the biggest buildings are covered with lights and moving projections, while the fountains in the Harbour glow with color as they dance to everything from Queen to the Carmina Burana.
After that, I’ve got a full schedule of wine tasting at Hunter Valley and a weekend spent shark feeding, sting ray petting, whale watching, mountain climbing, camel riding and dune surfing in Port Stephen’s! Our last stop is a flight down to Melbourne for a stroll down Great Ocean Road for a view of the 12 Apostles.
Needless to say, life down undah is exciting, adventurous and beautiful.
By Abigail Lin
At the close of my time in Paris, it’s jarring to think about the difference between the Paris I imagined and the Paris whose streets I traverse every morning on my way to work. Just like I have struggled with washing machines, irons, and electricity, I have had difficulty finding the unconditional love for this city I was sure would come so easily.
The first day I left my apartment to head to the BU Paris campus, the sky was a muddled dim grey, peeling back the layers of black in the sleepy morning. It was 8:30 AM.
Shockingly enough, Paris rested under (a lighter) gray sky for the rest of the day – and then for another 3 months.
For every error in judgment regarding the French language, crisis in the home of my host mom, and flash rain storm whilst I’m out walking, there’s also been tulips in bloom in Tuileries Garden after a long winter, falafel tasting on the Rue de Roisiers in the Marais, and the reassuring searchlight of the Eiffel Tower after a weekend spent far from home.
But Paris isn’t just the Eiffel Tower. It isn’t the Champs Elysee, the Louvre, the Notre Dame. It’s the violent dark blue glow of the pre-dusk sky reflected in the glass café windows in Montmartre, distorted reflections of the corner bistro cursive on the sodden sidewalks of the Latin Quarter, crackling neon lights advertising peep shows behind lush drawn curtains in Pigalle.
After exploring arrondissement by arrondissement, pockets of Paris far from the Seine, and hidden passageways in between corridors of alleyways – I’ve found myself incongruously falling in love and will be leaving justifiably enamored.
It wasn’t long ago that I was a senior in high school, sitting in what I was to be sure to be my last French course ’till the end of time. I happened to glance over at the door and through the glass window, to see my friend Jason knocking discreetly. With the confirmation of my eye contact, he grinned sheepishly, and pulled up a poster for me to view through the glass that read: ABBIE LIN – MOI ET TOI – PROM?
Well – suffice to say, that wasn’t my last run in with French.
And like how my supposed last French class was never to be, I am sure that before long, Paris’ contradicting charisma will pull me back for more.
By Abigail Lin
So far, one of the most palpable disparities between Europe and the United States that I’ve noticed is in its’ citizens environmental consciousness. How many bags did you last use in your trip to Shaws, 10? While they have plastic bags for purchase in Paris, each one costs the equivalent of four cents. While it seems like chump change, obviously it adds up. Personally, to avoid the charges, I’ve been seen juggling a jug of milk, a block of cheese, cookies, and oranges back to my apartment from the supermarket. I’ve gotten the infamous Parisian snobbish stink-eye multiple times, but as long as I get back to the apartment with all my goods, it’s worth it.
I didn’t notice the types of bags offered to carry purchases from clothing stores at first, but my host mom pointed out that Gap— an American company— uses plastic bags rather than the customary paper bags provided by most other fashion companies. The French don’t see themselves as being especially “green,” rather, the cognizance of conservation is engrained in their culture. This is speculation on my part— but the French take short showers since water is especially expensive, so perhaps that’s why there’s a stereotype that they smell? (Read: a joke).
In my apartment building and in most other buildings in Paris, all the lights are off for most of the day, by default. They aren’t motion-detection sensored, and require the good ol’ use of effort to manually turn them on. They stay on for a pre-determined fraction of time, before they shut off again.
One night, as I closed the door, I pressed the button for the light in my corridor’s hallway. I took an unusually long time to lock the door, and as I stepped four steps down the marble spiral staircase, I was met with debilitating darkness as the lights clicked off. I grappled my way over to the stair rail, fending for myself in a cold, dark world; I imagined slipping and faceplanting mere yards away from my front door. Surely the embarrassment alone would kill me. As I navigated my way blindly down each successive step, I finally hit the third floor. As I shuffled over, one cautious foot in front of the other, I got to the light switch, and began my carefree descent. Another small victory in ma vie quotidienne Parisien.