I learned about a culture, I learned about a people, I learned about types of food, I learned about the concept of siestas in Spain, that Czech drunk food is deep fried cheese on a bun with a creamy sauce, that Rome, even in the rain, is breathtaking, that the sky in Paris is like crystal when it’s not grey. And not only did I learn about these things (dramatic pause for cliché), I freaking lived them…I ate bizarre cuisine, I made social faux pas like touching things at vendor stands before asking permission, and hugging people when you first meet them instead of giving them bisous. And it’s all okay—because no matter how embarrassed I got, or how uncomfortable on the silent subways as I was sometimes—all of that lead to my realization that I have the capacity to be comfortable in a foreign place—and that it’s possible for a person to adjust, and become one with a culture.
At the beginning of the semester, a professor of mine asked “what does it mean to be francophone?" As a class we sort of concluded that it was a mixture of things: Speaking the language, observing the culture, and most importantly LIVING, at least a bit—in the style of this foreign French place. And without any other options (seeing as I found myself living in a foreign land for this number of months), I ended up living a lot—I became somewhat francophone (I think).
I don’t know what I will remember years from now, but I do know being in Paris has affected me and my outlook on things…I’m much more appreciative, for instance, of a beautiful setting and being in good company with people who you consider to be good friends. I think I’ll also take the sentiment I grasped from that essential part of being francophone--of living in a culture to make the idea of being francophone real...The idea of living to live is interesting. It was an excuse I made for myself in justifying some stuff I’ve done here…but rightfully so, I’ve realized.
We only freaking live once. Judge all you want, but in the end, life and notable points in our lives are made up of those particles of moments in which we’ve lived and have been really present. Though this outlook probably can’t justify all things, Paris made me realize we have to live while we can, stand up on the subway while our legs won’t give out on us years from now, read books while our eyes work, eat salty/creamy/heavy/fatty foods while they won't send us into heart failure, then walk off all of that food while we still can...go places, see things, dance, and enjoy.
Thanks Paris for making me realize I gotta keep living…you’ve truly filled me up, yet I still have a thirst for more, thanks to you. Through having really lived this study abroad expereince, I have realized that what I will be bringing back with me …Seeking to prolong my "luck time ."
Thanks everyone for a great semester- it was a pleasure to read all of your posts and see your time abroad through your eyes. It was also interesting to see how we all seemed to experience a lot of the same things, despite being literally on the other side of the globe in completely different situations. Best of luck, everyone....I leave you with this song by Carla Bruni, at our dernière minute at our foreign places.
Cheers, It's been a pleasure,
The biggest problems I faced were just because of language. I think if you do come to Paris, you should come with some basic skills in the language, especially if you only come for a semester. If you’re only here for four months, and come speaking not a single word in French, you’ll only really be able to somewhat converse with people after two months, and you’ll still be pretty bad.
When I go home, I hope have embraced some of the more relaxed attitude in France. Maybe I’ll start forcing myself to enjoy my evenings more on weekdays and have more relaxed, in the French way, Sundays. On the other hand, I think being in France will and have already opened my eyes to how convenient everything in New York is. Did you know that French cabs don’t take cards? Did you know that there are no standalone ATMs in Paris, only in banks? Did you know there are no bodegas? These are just some of the things that I assume as givens, and that in France suddenly seem like such a luxury.
I think NYU needs to do a lot to make this program the best it could be. For starters, I would make the program bigger. More people in the program would probably make it more enjoyable. There are weirdly a lot of freshman in Paris. I would also offer more classes, or at least more cultural classes or a film class in English. Also, I know other programs have dorms, and I think if NYU had some sort of dorm in Paris, a lot of people might benefit from it. I know some people who didn’t come to Paris because they would have needed to be in dorms.
I did not feel like this after Ghana and I did not feel like this after Israel, but I am ready to go home. Whereas I could have stayed months – years, perhaps – more in West Africa and the Middle East, I feel that m time on the Iberian Peninsula is coming to a timely close. Maybe it is because of jumping around all over the world this semester – from the US to twelve countries in Europe to the US to Haiti to the US to Europe to the US to Europe and on and on. Maybe it is because of my recent surgery in California or a brief hospital stay in Spain. Maybe it is because of the stresses associated with trying to squeeze in too many extracurriculars (about which I care tremendously) alongside academic responsibilities. But my body and mind are physically exhausted, absolutely wiped.
Watching movies on the couch while my Grandma cooks up a Christmas feast sounds nothing short of ideal right now, which is a rare (if not unprecedented) statement coming from a girl who never stops to let herself breathe. I need it.
My experience in Spain has not matched the majestic ones of Ghana or Israel, which surprised me. I always said that Spain was a place where I could picture myself living down the road. It is a cosmopolitan, metropolitan center where I speak the language – yet just foreign enough to make it seem exotic and fascinating. But no, I don’t think that will be the case. There is not one point that I can single out as the sole reason, but it’s simply not a place where I would want to live again. Visit? Yes, absolutely! I will certainly be back to Madrid, many more times, as I have over the course of the past number of years. And I will come back with a new appreciation, a new understanding, which only someone who lived there could have. And I am thankful for this experience for a great number of reasons.
I have loved my internship and long luxurious solo lunches at dozens (yes, dozens) of the greatest vegetarian cafés in Madrid. The three huge courses (one of which is pictured above; a Greek salad and then some from a favorite lunch spot of mine) + drink + bread + tea + you name it midday meals are something that everyone needs to experience – and do so more than once, for sure. I may have to incorporate that into an occasional weekday back home, or at least find the time to sit and eat and enjoy, rather than grabbing a bite on the go between meetings or class. There is a certain sense of relaxation that Spaniards seem to maintain for those couple of sacred hours, regardless of the stresses or situation at work or home, or even the economic or political setting of the country, which have been bleak of late, to put it lightly. Peace and food, yes, that sounds mighty fine to me!
But I never made it to Hong Kong (I guess we ran out of weekends and I only had one entry added to my visa) or experienced acupuncture (though I did look up and find a reputable, expat-y place near my apartment. What I realize now is that plans change. When I was packing I didn’t know that there would be an NYU sponsored trip that would send 60 NYU students into the dunes of the Gobi desert (or that I would be unlucky and not get one of these coveted spots). Or that my other roommate Clarissa and I would decide, screw it, we’re going to play with camels and sleep under the stars whether NYU arranges it or not.
Instead of acupuncture I got an amazing (and really cheap!) Thai massage in Phuket and instead of visiting Hong Kong I was able to visit Tokyo, somewhere I have always wanted to go but never got the chance, and eat some of the freshest sushi in the world at 5 am at the Tsujiki fish market. I met some amazing people and did amazing things. This semester wasn’t what I expected (or packed for…).
It was so much better.
Thanks for a great class everyone – your comments always made writing these posts just a little more entertaining :) Have a great winter break.
Photo: "View from atop a camel" - I took this on my film camera (hence the light streaks, it's really old ;) during the first break when my roommate and I decided to trek into the Gobi desert on camels (the best $50 I have ever spent :) The whole experience was surreal and beautiful and cold.
As much as I love being in Ghana, what I love more is the people. The best part of this program is how close you become with the students here. I don’t think I would have meet many of them on my own in New York City. I do think though that you have to be a little off-kilter to choose Ghana as a study abroad site, and it’s in that weirdness that we’re similar.
We often talk about living in the city post-Ghana, meeting each others’ New York selves and all the things we have to do together. Being here feels so much like a dream—with time moving either too fast or too slow, never in between—that it’s a bit of a shock to think of going back to NYC and that, in 24 hours, some of my dream friends will be there.
If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s to be friendlier to people. Trite, I know, but it is because it’s true. Everyone greets everyone else in Ghana—hello, good morning, ete sen?—from close friends to complete strangers. It’s pretty hard to be anonymous, even more so because I’m clearly not Ghanaian. Yes, sometimes it sucks: the catcalls of obruni, the children in school uniforms demanding 10 pesewa for water, the absolute lack of thought behind parroting homophobic propaganda. The disorganization of development. The men who grab my wrist in the street. Yes, sometimes people suck, but I don’t have to be one of them. Eugene the guard still gets my name wrong but is always enthusiastic to see me. Mary the fruit lady dashes me food even when I haven’t bought anything. A Ghanaian acquaintance’s father passed away a month ago. A professor’s niece did as well. Bertha the seamstress laughs at my thorough descriptions of clothes I want made. The puppies on the street outside our dorm grew big and died. I think I’ll be friendlier to strangers in New York.
So Ghana. I feel like whatever farewell I try to articulate won’t do you justice. What I do know is that it’s strange to think of life before you, that I didn’t know these wonderful people four months ago. That Africa is now a place where I have lived and will go back to. So thank you.
(Photo is my own. We had a sleepover in our living room the night before since it was most people's last night in Accra)
I hate saying goodbye – I always have, and probably always will. It’s not that I get all emotional and sob or anything, but I just think part of my personality just doesn’t like change. While an overwhelming majority of me is so ready to get back to New York, a city that I now call my home, with people, restaurants (can’t wait for the food), and places that I love so dearly – a portion of me is sad to be leaving London. For the last three months, I’ve worked to settle into a daily routine, and a new life that this amazing city has to offer. Now, it seems to have passed by so quickly, and it’s time to pick up and leave again.
Reflecting on my time here, the things of London that I will miss the most are: the friends from the city I’ve made, the hustle & bustle and merriment of the pubs, the expansive farmers markets on the weekends, the rich historical landmarks and museums, and the always vibing music scene. Granted, most of these things I can find back in New York as well, but there’s still something about experiencing it in London that makes it completely different.
However, if there is one thing that has been continually revealed to me over the last year, it is that when one adventure seems to be ending, another is just beginning (as cliché as that may sound). While I may be hesitant of change to begin with (as I was when first coming to London), I can never know for sure what the future holds, and what opportunities lie ahead. London has been an enriching experience, and has continued to help me come into my own, and learn so much about myself. It has been an adventure I won’t forget, and I know, even a month from now, I’ll be looking nostalgically back through Facebook albums. For me, the biggest thing about coming back home will be keeping up with the people I’ve met here. That has been the most rewarding part of these last few months, so hopefully, I won’t lose touch with the people I’m leaving here. I have no doubt that I will be returning to London whether it’s within the next 2 years or 10 because it now has a little piece of my heart, so I’ll definitely be back someday.
Good luck to everyone in the midst of finishing up finals, papers etc, and safe travels back to the states!
I haven’t even left you and I am missing you already. You have been so good to me. While my time with you wasn’t always easy, you made me better. You introduced me to wonderful people, helped me try new things, and pushed me to be the person that I really want to be.
When I first met you, I was timid, uncertain, and didn’t really know what I was doing with my life. But you showed me what the world has out there for me. You showed me the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly. You taught me how the world is so rapidly changing. I caught a glimpse of your riots, experienced the occupation at St. Paul’s, and have watched a crisis unfold from the doorstep of Europe. You gave me the chance to travel and an appetite to see the world. You also taught me how to slow down a bit and just relax…something I was never good at. You made me confident. Though I am still not exactly sure where I am going in life, I am sure of myself and my aspirations.
We did have quite a bit of fun together. You sure do know how to have a good time. Though I may not fully recollect what we did some nights, I know it was fun. I will miss your pubs, though they close too early. I wont miss your cabs…they are just too expensive. I will miss the Tube; it’s fast, clean, and so polite, as the voice over the intercom kindly tells me to “Mind the gap.” I will miss your people; they are a lively bunch. I won’t miss the mess that is Oxford Street. I will really miss Marks & Spenser’s. Where else can you go grocery shopping and buy yourself some knickers, all in the same place? I will miss your Pret a Manger. I know we have them in New York, but they just aren’t as delicious there. I wont miss your exchange rate that has bee so unkind to my bank account. I will miss getting lost in all your museums and wandering aimlessly in your beautiful parks. I will miss all your nooks and crannies and little places that I have found to call my own.
I am very sad to leave you. I have even contemplated ways that I may violate the parameters of my visa and evade the UK border agency. But it is time to go home. I miss New York City and all the wonderful people that I love back home. This isn’t a goodbye; it’s more of a “see you later.” I know I will see you again. I could never forget you. You are a special place. I look forward to seeing how much you have changed when I return. I know I will be quite different myself. So London, thanks for everything. It has been wonderful.
Until next time,
(The picture shown is my own)
Beyond towel knowledge though I also learned to be flexible. This was something I struggled with immensely not only in travel plans but also in nightly plans. Although most of us had emergency phones, we rarely used them. Facebook was the main form of communication so plans could change in an instant without anyone really knowing. However some of the best stuff was done on the fly. I think it will be interesting to see how I transition back to the states. I’m not sure if I’ll return and text minimally or burn through the screen on my iPhone in a blaze to reconnect.
I’m not sure if I would describe this semester as rewarding. As a gluten intolerant vegetarian my diet truly suffered in Prague, leaving my body struggling to function efficiently. Food is a grand part of my life and it definitely put a damper on my semester abroad. The most rewarding part of this semester was the classes I took. Two of my professors were active members during the Velvet Revolution and as the semester progressed and I felt more comfortable asking questions they opened up about the violence and torture Communism brought. It was interesting to hear personal stories about near death escapes from the country, faking deaths and assuming new identities, and handing out pamphlets as children in giant hockey bags. I learned about Central European politics, European history, and Czech culture but beyond this I will take away the personal stories my professors shared with me.
The semester abroad was definitely a learning experience. I was forced into new, uncomfortable social situations, presented with linguistic challenges, and I got lost many times. There were ups and downs, successes and frustrations, and a lot of beer between all of it. Prague was an entirely different world and as this secular country begins to celebrate Christmas, the streets are lined with beautiful decorations and squares filled with holiday markets donning giant, ornate trees. I’m glad to be leaving; I miss home and friends. But Prague, you were different. And different is good.
I did not think that study abroad experience would be very life changing for me given that I had already been “studying abroad” for the past two years. But I am amazed at just how much it has affected me. My parents and grandparents have travelled the world, and I chose this country because they had never stepped foot here, and I really wanted to conquer something different. And when I first got here, I thought to myself “Are you mad?” But soon enough I had picked up enough of the language to survive, figured out my way around the city, and eventually the country. NYU gave us amazing opportunities to travel in groups to little-known areas of the country, and eventually I found myself spending weekends in various parts of the Czech Republic outside of the NYU trips.
To live in a country with a culture so different from my own was great experience. And I think that I took advantage of my time here to really immerse myself, and I hope I can look back on these four months and have no regrets.
The one thing I did realize was that I have spent two years in America, and feel like I haven’t really immersed myself in American culture. I realized that New York is not the prime example of American culture; it’s just a melting pot. And I hope to maybe travel a bit more around the country when I am back, and maybe go visit some of my friends’ houses to really understand what the real American is like. Given that I managed to do that in the Czech Republic in four months, I’m assuming I will get plenty of opportunities in America to do that!
I’m glad that I took this course, Travel Studies, because I now have a small collection of thoughts to reminisce over. The weekly assignments were great, each was very varied and I think it covered a wide variety of topics and themes and really made me think about my experience once a week. And it was great reading other people’s experiences too and comparing them to my own!
I’d like to thank everyone for his or her awesome comments on my posts and hope you all have a great last week and a brilliant holiday! Cau cau!
(The picture is of Prague Castle. I randomly stumbled upon it while lost in the city back in September and took this picture)
More than anything I think I will remember the people in the program. One of the things we are all most looking forward to is seeing each other in New York. A benefit of having such a small program- its possible to fit everyone in one room. I am amazed at the comraderie that developed and how fast it did within our group. Like others have said, what I love about abroad is that people who would never meet in New York become the closest of friends when in a smaller setting and tackling the unknown together. (the photo displays one of our many great adventures together)
This semester has caused me to think and reflect more than any other. And I do not mean through my classes only. Simply walking down the street, I can immediately jump into a stream of thought, reaching for my notebook to start jotting down questions and ideas that I am having. I am hoping that even when at home and back in New York I will be as observant as I am here and not simply blindly meander down the streets. My volunteering experience at an orphanage here helped me to feel like I was doing something worthy with my time as well as teaching me so much. I realize now how easy life in New York can actually be and the challenges that I have faced this semester, and that I see others face, though tough at times, have greatly benefitted me in the end.
This class has helped a lot to organize my impressions of Ghana. I would definitely recommend this class to others who are going abroad because while it can be a little tough to keep up with at times, it helps to be able to reflect on your experiences. It is also both helpful and interesting to read other people’s blogs.
While improvements can probably be made to the program, I am never really good at pointing out areas of need when I have had an overall good semester myself. It was different, which is what I think most people look for when going abroad. Everyone is excited to go home but for some, myself included, will miss our life here. It has been a slow paced but never boring lifestyle.
(own photo of the group in our African best at our rural home stay)
- Coconuts. Here, there are coconut sellers on street corners, kind of like the bagel/coffee carts in New York. It’s usually a big iron cart heaped with dozens of enormous green coconuts. A man hacks away at them with a long machete, cutting off the excess until the coconuts resemble little white huts. He asks you if you want a soft (more juice, less meat) or hard (more meat, less juice) one, then he’ll tap on a few until he finds the perfect one. He swiftly chops off the top with the machete, then hands it to you with a bit of the juice overflowing from the hole. You gulp it down, then hand it back to him, and he chops the coconut open, scoops out the meat with his machete, and offers it to you to eat. Somehow a bottle of VitaCoco won’t compare.
- Cheap Things. Here, nothing costs much at all. Taxis cost a few bucks, a pineapple is the equivalent of 66 cents, and an egg sandwich is less than a dollar. It makes you feel a lot richer than you really are. I know I’ll miss being able to spend no more than five dollars a day once I’m back in New York and two subway rides add up to $4.50.
- The colors. Subtlety is not really a part of African culture. People love glitzy, shiny clothing with lots of metallic trims and rhinestones. They also love their bright African fabrics with yellow, red, orange, and blue all combined in a vibrant print. You rarely see plain clothing or dark colors. My eyes might have to readjust once I get back home.
- Not having as much to do. Life here is a lot slower. I’ve had way less schoolwork, no part-time job, and a lot more free time. Though I thrive on action and often feel bored here, I know I’ll miss the relaxed pace once I return to the on-the-go American lifestyle.
- The people. Since the NYU program is so small, we’ve all gotten to know each other really, really well. I’m used to living with nineteen other people, popping into their rooms whenever I like. You never feel alone or lonely here, as there is always someone around. If you want to go anywhere, it’s easy to recruit a friend. It’ll be weird going home and not living with twenty other college students. The space will be nice at first, but I’m sure I’ll miss the late-night chats.
There are certainly more things I’ll miss, but I know I won’t realize a number of them until I get home. Of course, there are a number of things I’ll be happy to never see again (the gutters, plantains, aggressive men, the heat). But for now, I’m trying to focus on the positive things. I doubt I’ll be back to Ghana for a long time, so I’m attempting to enjoy the last few moments. The semester has been quite mixed, at times miserable and wonderful, but it’s an experience that will always remain with me.
Perhaps I’ll be in a busy cafe in NYC or trying to eat and study at the same time at Bobst when I’ll reflect upon my study abroad experience and remember the beauty of this time. I appreciate how Madrid has taught me to slow down and enjoy the small details of everyday life.
Honestly, I have loved/hated every moment of this time abroad. It takes a very crazy person to pick up whatever they are doing and decide to move across the world without any comforts of home and live to tell about it.
Also, I have to say that I have enjoyed this online course. After the first two months of traveling abroad, I began to countdown the remaining days I had abroad. This course has forced me to slow down and reflect on my time here. There have been topics that took me several days to reflect on to answer properly. I really enjoyed reading everyone’s blog and it helped me realize that I am not the only one on this emotional roller coaster.
I think the NYU Madrid program is run very well. I enjoyed all the trips that they had planned for us. The staff is nice. Some teachers are not enjoyable but that’s at every college and university. I really enjoyed that NYU tried to help the students assimilate to the culture and learn more about Madrid. There were some tips that were unnecessary and untrue, I’m sure that’s at every location though. I’m glad that there were enough days off so the students could travel across Europe without missing out on schoolwork. I would suggest, though, a bit more space to study and work because there’s 80 of us and only a 4 tabled study room??? C’mon, we’re still NYU and we want to do well.
Overall, I enjoyed my time abroad. I would recommend NYU Madrid for those adventurous souls who would like to learn more about this hidden European city. You get to understand why it’s hidden.
All I have to look forward now is the reverse culture shock of NYC: bring.it.on.
The most rewarding aspect of the experience here is the people, not necessarily the people in Buenos Aires though haha, but the people in the program. It is rare that in a university as big as New York we can get that small school experience but studying abroad allows just that. It is as someone else said on the blog, it is a bit like summer camp.
When I get home to the good old US of A I am not going to take the amazing variety of food we have, both in restaurants and the super market, for granted. I want to eat healthy again! I am also looking forward to the security the States has. When I am walking down the street I no longer have to watch over my shoulder as much and constantly worry about having a phone on me, though knock on wood because I don't want to jynx myself.
I think something that I could miss though when going home is the fact that here I can eat lunch at a cafe, or ride the subway, or walk on the street and NOT understand everyone's conversations around me. Sometimes it is nice not being able to understand all the gossip and gibberish around you. It is peaceful even among the commotion here.
Though the staff is much more helpful and friendly here than in New York there could be changes made to the program. First of all we all feel a little as if we are getting ripped off because it is cheaper to have NYU students down here than in New York but we are still paying full time tuition. Other programs seem to have trips that are paid for by the university which we don't have. We also have a VERY strict attendance policy that makes it difficult to travel sometimes. Sometimes we have to pay for the much more expensive ticket that leaves at a different time in the same day because we are not allowed to miss class. Then the attendance policy becomes an issue of spending more money too. It is also kind of annoying because they don't offer any courses towards my major or minor down here, or towards anyone’s it seems, so it makes it harder to really care about classes when you could be learning so much more outside the classroom traveling.
With only two weeks left, I finally feel like Paris is home. My roommate and I have begun to point out all the little things we are going to miss back home in America. While we are excited to get back home (to where you can get a freshly brewed iced coffee for about $2.00), there are lots of places, faces, sounds, and smells that will be missing from our lives. Even something as small as the distinct sound of the rented Velib bikes passing our apartment is something that I know I will become nostalgic for.
I’m really thankful for this course because it has forced me to reflect on my experience here. I’ve always wanted to keep a journal of sorts; I have a handful of them on my desk at home, each with a few entries, but more empty than not. I always seem to give up and then regret it. Even though these posts are more guided and focused than a journal, they will still act as a personal recount of my study abroad experience.
One thing I’m sure I’ll notice back in the states is the price of things. To wash and dry a load of laundry here it costs me about 15 euros. This is outrageous compared to prices in New York. After four months though, I’m not shocked by the steep prices anymore so it will be interesting to maybe now be shocked by “cheap” prices in the states.
I’ve also gotten kind of used to the slower pace here in France. After weeks and weeks of being frustrated by the unhurried nature of the people here, I now am used to it and almost appreciative of it. I hope that when I go back to the city I will easily adapt back to the “go go go mindset”.
One of the biggest problems I faced was accepting the fact that my time here became very similar to any other time in my life. I imagined my time abroad to be a time of constant adventure and excitement, but it became four months filled with a similar routine as in New York. Prior to moving here, my fantasies about Paris failed to include school, friendship struggles, sickness and all those other fun things. It was hard to realize that life doesn’t change drastically even if you travel 3,000 miles away.