Tagged: Study Abroad

Lauren in London: The Epiphany

By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
@LaurenDezenski

What inspired the epiphany./PHOTO VIA Lauren Dezenski

It has always taken me a little while to feel settled. It took a couple months for that to happen when I came out to Boston from my suburban Minnesota hometown. I still remember the moment too – it was the first time I went for a run on the Esplanade and caught a glimpse of the Charles and the Boston skyline.

This moment certainly didn’t happen during a run, though I did go for a guilt-induced jog through Hyde Park today. Chock it up to one too many nights ending at Burger King. Whoops. I even got lost on my run and ended up at the Speakers’ Corner, where people go to pontificate about their beliefs and ideas in the open air (thanks, Wikipedia). My favorite part of the entire ordeal is that tons of people come to listen and heckle the speakers. Being the digital creature I am, I recorded a Vine while at the corner and actually caught one of the hecklers calling a speaker a “crazy antichrist.” I laughed.

The epiphany actually happened on a relatively tame Friday night. After a day of sightseeing, high tea and Kate Middleton impressions (okay, so I may have made my friend take a ton of pictures of me walking out of the same door Kate did during the Royal Wedding…), my friend, her sister and I decided to explore the South Bank.

The South Bank is a neighborhood or borough directly across the river from Westminster. Coming from the Crofton in Kensington, the easiest way to get there is to get off the tube on what’s technically the north bank — though no one calls it that — and walk across one of the bridges to the other side. We opted to get off at the Embankment tube station instead of Westminster (we had seen enough of Big Ben for the day).

We exited the station at around 10 p.m., so obviously it was dark out and walked up the stairs to a pedestrian bridge flanking the London Bridge. The view from the bridge looking across the Thames toward the City of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral was breathtaking. Electricians have to be rich in this town because all the structures along the river were lit up with these incredible colored lights, with the blue-lit arches of our pedestrian bridge to the yellow lights from surrounding buildings and this incredible pink and purple structure that I think was an art museum, with everything glittering off the Thames’ low tide. The notorious London clouds even parted to reveal a full moon behind the entire spectacle.

I kept raising my camera to capture the view, but ultimately keeping it down as I stood and just tried to absorb the view. It’s one of those moments when you try as hard as you can to take mental snapshots. For me, a camera can’t duplicate that sense of warmth, happiness and even peace that washed over me as we made our way across the bridge, stopping every few feet to soak up the view a little more.

My Adventures in Paris

By Abigail Lin, Staff Writer
@abbielin

The bustling neighborhood of St. Michel in the 5th arrondissement/PHOTO VIA Abigail Lin

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.

My Adventures in London

By Sydney Shea, Staff Writer

Creating new experiences in London/PHOTO VIA Anna McGraw

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.

My Adventures in Sydney

By Taylor Hartz, Staff Photographer and Writer
@taylorjaded

Sunset of Sydney’s beautiful habor./PHOTO VIA Taylor Hartz

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.

After 32 hours of traveling, I went from Connecticut to Boston to Houston to LA, and finally to Sydney. The signs in the airport actually say “G’day” in addition to the customary “Welcome.”
Aside from hearing “good onya mate” at least twice a day and being called a “sheila” by the local barista, Sydney feels a lot like America. This city has the price tags and crowds of Manhattan, but the architecture and history of Boston. You almost forget you’re on the opposite side of the globe, until you see the Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge or any of the dozens of beautiful beaches.

Technically speaking, it’s winter here. Although the Australian idea of winter is no colder than 65 degrees, it doesn’t stop locals from talking about where the best hot chocolate spots are or which pubs have cozy fireplaces to warm up by. I spent my afternoon tanning on the rooftop deck while the streets below were crowded with Australians bundled in parkas and scarves.

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.

Over the weekend I discovered Manly, and subsequently equivocated it to being the Cambridge (of Cambridge, MA) of Sydney. It’s a charming little beach town with trendy restaurants and lots of well-dressed hipsters. We spent the afternoon on an exhausting, but breathtaking three-hour kayaking tour through three beaches, hiking a rock trail to a stunning lookout point over Manly Wharf, visiting the eery museums at Quarantine Beach and relaxing on a rocky mountain to watch the sunset over Shelley Beach.

In addition to all the adventures, I’m spending four days a week interning with Time Out Sydney magazine. As if writing for a respected and popular publication every day weren’t enough, I’ve already scored some great tickets to the Sydney Film Festival, a few theater shows and some exciting cabaret, Cirque du Soleil-esque club venues.

The next month and a half includes too many trips to count. This week’s calendar includes the FIFA World Cup qualifying match between Australia and Iraq and a trip to the Blue Mountains – where we’ll feed kangaroos, finally get to pet koalas and take the world’s steepest railway straight down into a rainforest.

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.

Abbie Abroad: The iron fiasco

By Abigail Lin
@abbielin

My now defunct pantsuit, in all its iron-shaped hole glory. RIP./ PHOTO BY Abbie Lin

My now defunct pantsuit, in all its iron-shaped hole glory. RIP./ PHOTO BY Abbie Lin

The French are infamous for being more closed off and reserved than Americans, and it is true. I have noticed that they are less willing to accept someone, even as a friend, and are more distant in their novel relationships as a result of their seemingly inherent cultural coldness.

That being said, there is a unique fear attached to living in a stranger’s house for a semester – and even more so in a French household.  When I first arrived in Paris, my host mom left me to my own devices without giving me a tour, or any rules I had to abide by.

Although I’ve been living in the apartment for three months now, I still tiptoe whenever I know she’s in the next room over. A slight trepidation still plagues me even making meals, taking showers and coming home at night, mostly because of my fear of impeding on my host mom’s home.

The first time I broke a bowl in my host’s ceramic sink, I stared at it dumbfounded. I hadn’t broken a bowl in my own home for years, and was literally confused at how it could’ve happened. I texted her frantically, in ratchet broken French, about how sorry I was for breaking something and luckily, she texted me back assuring me that it wasn’t serious. The second time, she didn’t text back at all. I avoided her for three days.

The first time my host mom showed me how to use washing machine it looked easy enough. Three hours later, I was sitting on the bathroom floor downloading an English copy of a manual of the French washer/dryer combo sitting in front of my face. I tried every setting on the contraption for a few seconds, and still ended up putting my clothes through three wash cycles and no dry cycles.

This past week, I attempted to use the iron in the bathroom. It was late, so I didn’t want to wake her to ask permission– and besides, iron use is in our housing contracts so I figured all would be fine. Skillfully, I turned on the iron. As I pressed it to my jumpsuit, it seemed to steam a bit. I waited a few seconds, and went down the other leg. An iron hole shape suddenly appeared– with crisp thin edges to round out the hole. As I looked frenetically at the iron, I noticed the black fabric had quickly turned to what looked like tar on the shiny plates. Beside myself with self-loathing, I was frantic over the thought of my host mom catching me with an obviously burnt and blackened iron. Always my friend, the internet suggested a few remedies.

And that is how at 1:39 a.m. Paris time, I sat on the bathroom floor with a wooden spoon, sponge, paper towel, and salt with an iron in my lap and black flakes all over my hair and body, scraping the life out of this poor iron. Who said study abroad was glamorous?

Abbie abroad: Fromagerie fiasco

By Abigail Lin
@abbielin

Stacks of cheese at my favorite fromagerie, Chez Virginie/ PHOTO BY Abbie Lin

Stacks of cheese at my favorite fromagerie, Chez Virginie/ PHOTO BY Abbie Lin

When I exit my 18th arrondissement apartment, I can walk three minutes in any direction and find: a fish market, an artisan butcher, a bakery whose line snakes out the door on Sundays, a wine cave, a tantalizing cheese monger, an exclusively frozen prepared-foods supermarket (!), various fruit and vegetable stands and my choice of a few big-brand traditional supermarkets.

When I first was surprised by the lack of fresh options at the supermarket, I asked my host mom where to find the best fruit. She practically scoffed as she responded that “No, I would never go to Marche Franprix (the big-brand supermarket).” Instead she directed me towards the fruit stand directly across from the apartment, citing their excellent, but expensive fruit.

The movement towards local food currently in the United States takes on a completely different meaning in France – the French skip big-brand supermarkets for the most part, and instead frequent specialized locally run stores to obtain the best product. An important part of each community and neighborhood, the venders who run these small stores are depended on to provide expertise in their field of food. Food shopping is a multi-stop excursion, rather than a single trip.

The unfortunate part of this, for me, is that there are infinitely more people I need to speak to, in French, while trying to forage supplies for dinner.

The fromagerie (cheese store) was the first place I dared to enter. Despite my fear of being laughed at, I couldn’t stay away from the tempting mounds of yellowed cheeses stacked upon each other in the window.  I left the fromagerie triumphantly, with my block of compte in its delicate white wrapping, and cradled it all the way home.

On my second trip to the fromagerie, I inquired about whether or not they took credit cards – and was met with a concrete “Yes, but only above 15 dollars.” On to the butcher I went. It being my first trip, I stared dumbfounded at all the different cuts of meats without any labels, but thankfully I knew the word for chicken breast. As I repeated the same question I asked the fromager, I was met with a quizzically cocked head. Slower, I repeated, “Prenez-vous des cartes de credit?” The butcher waved over one of his comrades, who gazed confusedly at me as I stated the same question, this time holding up my credit card.

As he gazed confusedly at me, I finally reverted to English, and stated even louder “Credit cards?” And the butcher vigorously nodded, increasing the volume as well, surely responded, “MUTTON CHOPS?” In horror, I made a frantic motion with my hands, while saying “Non, non!” Finally, the lady next to me repeated the exact question I had originally asked, and they burst into laughter – “Oh! Oh! No I can’t sell you credit cards,” they shouted while bursting into boisterous laughter. “Yes, we take credit cards for purchases over 15 dollars, they cried, while still laughing. As I mumbled a “merci,” I heard their laughter linger on my way home.

It took me two whole weeks to go back, but with a wad full of cash, it went off without a hitch.

Lima living continues

By Annie Maroon, Staff Writer

Stands like this one, with paintings ranging from representations of Andean farms to religious symbols, are all around our neighborhood, Miraflores.

This weekend I bought a painting. I hadn’t gone out intending to do so, but in the middle of Parque Kennedy, where local artists set up their displays every weekend, I found myself talked into an impulse buy in the most pleasant way possibe.

The painter, Hermán, was a round-faced man in his twenties or thirties who was already talking to two of the other girls on the BU program when a friend and I showed up in the park. His paintings sat on a wooden frame, some protected by a plastic sheet from the rain that had been falling all day (this was Lima’s version of a punishing downpour, meaning that after walking around outside for half an hour, my hair was slightly damp).

One after another, the other girls selected paintings, none of which cost more than 20 soles – $7.63 in U.S. dollars. All the while, Hermán was telling us about Peruvian foods we should try (the one I made sure to remember was the picaron, a sort of donut made from squash and sweet potatoes) and asking us where we were going after we left Lima. Rather than harassing us to buy something or pushing us toward one painting or another, he told us about the towns we’d be visiting and asked us how we were finding the capital so far.

Parque Kennedy, one of the many green areas in the city, is populated by artists, markets, and also a number of stray cats.

The weather here – at times simultaneously chilly and humid, with gray skies from sunup to sundown – can take a toll on morale. So can the fact that rapid-fire Spanish, in conversation with native speakers, is still far from natural for me. It’s fortunate, then, that nearly everyone I’ve met in Lima has been exceedingly friendly. Our group of “amigos,” the university students who volunteered to show us around the city, have done everything from finding us soccer tickets to getting us “on the list” at various bars and discotecas around town (if you’ve never been “on the list,” I recommend it – no matter where you are, it makes you feel sort of like Beyonce). I’ve had a few random strangers approach me for conversations that wound up being much longer than I expected (don’t worry, these were in a well-lit, populated areas).

So when I was the last one left without a purchase, I went ahead and pointed to the one I’d been eyeing, an oil painting of two small Peruvian houses covered in colorful flowers. There may have been bigger, more impressive paintings in the tourist-geared “Inka Markets” that line a number of nearby Miraflores streets, but this one came from the person who told us about picarones and somehow stayed cheerful while standing in the rain all day with his work.

Lima living

By Annie Maroon, Staff Writer

Annie is currently studying abroad in Peru and will be sharing details of her experiences and travels over the next couple of weeks. 

There are 30 different districts within the city of Lima, and each is marked with a sign like this one. This is the central district, near the university where we’re studying.

Crossing the street in Lima is an extreme sport. Part of what makes it so fun (and by “fun,” I mean “life-threatening”) are the microbuses: buses that barrel down the streets with people hanging out the doors, calling out prices and destinations. And on the side of each multicolored vehicle is a partial list of destinations: BRASIL. VENEZUELA. CUBA. MEXICO.

Of course, they’re only street names. If these were submersible buses that could actually take us to Cuba, crossing the street might be a sci-fi movie, rather than just a terrifying South American experience. But I’m pretty pleased with the idea that I could hop a city bus in central Lima and, eventually, find myself in Venezuela.

In fact, during an excursion over the weekend, we passed by the Pan-American Highway, which I’d forgotten passes through Lima. I’ve been smitten with the idea of the Pan-American for the last couple years: essentially, it runs from Alaska down to the southern tip of South America, but you can’t actually drive the length of it, because there’s a 54-mile patch of Colombian jungle where there is no road and you have to ship your car around it by ferry to continue. Part of me is disappointed by this; the other is a little relieved to hear of a patch of the Americas that hasn’t been paved.

The Plaza de Armas in the center of the city, which was built by the Spanish when they established the city in the 1500s. Lima’s brightly colored government buildings, as well as several cathedrals, are in this area.

The point is that I’m on the other side of that gap in the road. Ecuador and Chile are my neighbors right now. But I’m in no hurry to head out of Lima, seeing as I only have two more weeks to learn my way around a city that sprawls over 310 square miles along the Pacific coast.

So far I’ve seen the area around the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Peru, a neighborhood that seems to be under a great deal of construction; Miraflores, the residential district where I live with my host family; the city center, which is full of brightly colored Spanish buildings and tiny shops selling llama-related paraphernalia; and Pachacamac, the ruins of an ancient city on the outskirts of town. It’s all part of greater Lima, but I feel like I’ve been in several different regions – the only unifying factor is the fog.

The fog, for which the local name is “garua,” is here to stay. During the entire Peruvian winter, it hangs over the ocean and the city on the cliffs up above, blocking out any hope of sunlight. I am serious when I say that I saw ten times as much sunlight in a week in Ireland (where I studied last fall) than I have in my first week in Peru. But even in the dead of winter (you know, jeans and sweatshirt weather), wandering around Lima for the next two weeks suits me fine.

One of the “microbuses” that carry people across the city, usually for about one sol – the equivalent of less than 50 American cents.