When it comes to food in London, I have had a lot of options. Whether it is a Sainsbury’s supermarket or a Byron’s burger, there is an unlimited supply of international food, restaurants, and supermarkets. The portion sizes at restaurants are more or less the same as in American locations. The meal times are usually chosen by myself, although I have noticed restaurants close a bit earlier here. I live in a student flat and it has a kitchen so I have had so much time to try new recipes and food items I find at the local stores. Luckily, I know how to cook so I often can limit how often I have to go out to eat and I eat most of my meals at my flat. The most delicious food I have tried so far in London has to be the food at the infamous Nando’s restaurant. They specialize in making a Peri Peri chicken and is literally the craze when it comes to dinner locations here. Overall, I have had a very moderate experience with the food here in London as it doesn’t differ very much from food in the United States.
Living in a town with under 500 people, it has been incredibly easy to meet locals. Our group sees the same people out in town and we see our neighbors every day. We have become friendly with those who work at the supermarket, the local restaurant, and the supervisors at the artist residency we are working at. During the three weeks we have spent in Skagaströnd, there have been many holidays celebrated in Iceland. Seaman’s Day, Icelandic National Day, and the 100 year anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in Iceland all fall in the month of June. On these days, people have been out celebrating in town and we have had the opportunity to meet locals our age. Luckily for us, we have encountered some really great people who are willing to help us with our projects and answer all of our questions about Iceland.
I can’t say that I have purchased anything too interesting while in Iceland. I decided to buy myself a puffin keychain as a souvenir, along with a minimalist print of an Iceland monster holding a snow cone. Some of my friends have made more intriguing purchases, such as a meal of whale meat or beautifully dyed fish leather. The currency in Iceland is the Icelandic Króna, where every thousand Króna converts to about $7.50 US dollars. The printed money here is incredibly beautiful, but anything under 500 Krona is a coin amount. All of us have acquired an unreal amount of change and it can be cumbersome to spend it without taking ten minutes to properly count it all out. Keeping a budget is not a hard task for me, but my group has found that it is easy to overspend here in Iceland. Most of us are trying to save up for when we go to Reykjavik next week!
By studying abroad I have become more confident in my ability to be self-dependent. Even though I am dependent at school, it was different eating, traveling, and taking care myself abroad because of the unfamiliarity of London and the group I traveled with. At school I have friends and faculty relationships to help me with any problems, and abroad that I solved most of my problems on my own. For such a small amount of time studying abroad, I was happy to realize how easy it was to make friends and relate to people so quickly. In class, especially Improvisation for Entrepreneurs, what sticks with me was that the fear of failure is not as bad as it seems, and trying new tactics on stage, no matter how ridiculous, is a sign of strength and the birth of creativity.
I have always been interested in acting for a young age but I only started pursuing to academically in the past few years. I have not had any schoolwork on voice, posture, and stage technique, but these classes have given me an understanding of how difficult it can be to do something on stage. Many improvements get a point across in theater are subtle. What these classes and my experience abroad have taught me the most is that developing a craft to a particular job is difficult but can be just as rewarding as the final product you want to show an audience. At times I would only do something to get a positive response, and if I did not I either assumed that I should completely scrap the idea I and try to get the audience to like whatever I’m doing. But attempting to act that way to me now does not seem genuine and taking the time at fine tune every little detail has been the biggest reward of this trip.
Becoming friends in a short amount of time was a lot easier than I expected. At first I was a bit worried that there were many friend groups already and that assimilating would be difficult, but everyone was warm and accepting. Whether it was at the dinner table, playing cards, or through our activities in class, you always learned something new about each individual. These opening up moments would then carry over to activities, and by the end of the first week I truly believed I made some great friends. This was important for our acting classes. On stage I felt more comfortable failing onstage, knowing that I would have the support of the audience and I would be less discourage to try something. My other fear was not being able see all the sights I wanted to due to a hectic schedule and short time abroad. While I didn’t get to visit all of London, especially West London, I am very satisfied with all the places I did see. After getting the very touristy but must see places out of the way like the London Eye and Trafalgar Square, I made it a mission to visit galleries, museums, and some of the best rated pubs in London. I could not see everything, but I was glad to accomplish what I did.
The greatest benefit to studying abroad is exploring at your own place. While the group had a common connection of being interested in entrepreneurship, everyone was interested in doing other things on their own time. Some wanted to visit art galleries, others Shakespeare plays, and some loved going to the park and enjoying the weather. Being on your own allows you to enjoy what you want at your own pace- you never feel rushed and slowed down by a professor or parent to do what you want.
My favorite experience was going to all the performances in London, but particularly the Jew of Malta on our two-day trip to Stratford. Stratford was a lovely town with such a drastic feeling to London (very peaceful and quiet). The show was the most entertaining and well acted, and the proximity to the actors gives a new perspective on how to get emotion across to the audience.
The best advice I would give is to take care of your body on the trip medically- get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated. With two weeks to go I got a fever in Stratford, and it ended up making the next five or so days miserable. While the nightlife is fun and tempting, try to limit yourself, you will end up spending a lot of money and getting home can be a pain. For the trip itself, try to see as much as you can, but do not get upset if you don’t cover all you wanted- you can always go back. Try to appreciate what is right in front of you. I expect to visit London again on my own, I love it here.
I would absolutely study abroad again and I fully expect to, whether it be a dialogue or an international co-op. I want to travel to another continent, maybe Asia or Australia. Ideally, I would be in a place that is accessible to mountains and outdoor adventure, like New Zealand, Japan, or Eastern Europe. The one thing missing from London was that nature-esc feel to it- we were completely in a city. I love cities and will probably live in one when I’m older, but there is so much natural beauty out there that I still want to discover.
I’ve poured over the library’s travel books, watched endless youtube videos from Berlin, and have thought endlessly about what I really do and don’t need to pack. The countdown is on. It is about a week before I get to take off from Boston Logan International Airport and embark on the most amazing and immense opportunity. I am so grateful because I get to live and study in Germany for a whole month (a WHOLE month!) with a group of other Northeastern students and two of my favorite professors. I have always been so excited about meeting new people and seeing what life is like in different places, so studying abroad has been at the top of my to do list for awhile. I hope to co-op abroad soon and I have never been overseas for more than a week so I want to try out living on another continent before I take the plunge. I am ready to plant some roots, make friends, and eat some seriously German food.
With all of the excitement of something new comes that big wave of nervousness as well. None of my good friends are going on the trip with me, so I definitely feel those freshman orientation nerves creeping back in. I also do not know the language and who knows how I will figure out how to get around the sprawling city of Berlin. But the excitement definitely overpowers my doubts and fears because I am ready for the adventure. I am pumped to make friends with the other people on the trip and the other students in the area. I want to explore Berlin deeper than a tourist or traveller would and really become a resident of the city. From all I read and heard, Berlin is a very progressive and young city so getting to explore it through photography and culture classes is definitely the experience of a lifetime. The city is bursting with history so I am excited to learn about its past a little more so I can appreciate why the city flows the way it does today.
So ten more days until takeoff? Ten more days.
-A Broad (almost) Abroad
I decided to study abroad for a couple of reasons. First of all, my quickly approaching graduation has made me realize that I probably won’t have many (if any) opportunities to spend a month in another country when I have a full time job after college. I really wanted to take advantage of one of Northeastern’s many programs. Another reason I decided to do this is because I also did a Dialogue last summer and I really enjoyed it. It was a great experience and I’m so excited that I decided to do it again. I think Dialogues are a really great and unique type of study abroad that everyone should try at least once. One of the best parts was that I met so many awesome peers from all ages and backgrounds who I never would have known otherwise. That’s definitely one of the ways I expect to be changed this time. I don’t know anyone going on this trip and I’m really excited to come back with thirty new friends. I’m also expecting that this experience will make me more independent and help me to see things from new perspectives. As excited as I am about all of that, I also can’t wait for the food!
My main goal while abroad is make the most of my time there. A month sounds like a long time, but I know that it’s going to go by so fast and I want to make sure I’m fully engaged and immersed the whole time. One way I hope to achieve this is by keeping a daily journal. This isn’t something I normally don’t do at all, but on my last Dialogue I tried to do it and it’s really great to be able to look back on. I also know that there will be days when I am stressed and overwhelmed and plans will change and things will go wrong, but I want to make sure I stay positive throughout all of those challenging times.
I don’t necessarily have any fears about this trip, but I am a little nervous about not knowing any Italian. Good thing I am taking it there!
The fortunate thing about being a tourist in Iceland is that nearly everyone speaks English. The native language, Icelandic, is one of the hardest languages to learn if you are not a native speaker. Although my group has been listening to Icelandic and trying to catch on, we have failed miserably with our pronunciation and attempts to learn new phrases. Interestingly, Icelandic is a language that has hardly changed since it’s creation. The Icelandic sagas are written about the original settlers of Iceland, the Vikings. Although they were written hundreds of years ago, they text is still legible today and can be read with ease, whereas English has been changing and evolving constantly with time.
Most of our guest speakers and the residents of our town like to say that they do not speak English well, but I am constantly amazed with their ability to communicate. I haven’t experienced a miscommunication in language, and the locals are always very kind when my group attempts to discuss a place or landmark that we have visited. Words like Skagafjörður, Goðafoss, and Jökulsárlón are always tripping us up. I make a point to try and learn how to pronounce each location we have visited. Besides the names of the places we have been, I only attempt to say “thank you” in Icelandic in order to avoid embarrassing myself. “Takk” is easy enough and is at least a phrase I can say without feeling too self conscious of my horrible pronunciation abilities.
Every time I study abroad, I learn something new. During this 5 week program, I’ve learned more than I know how to explain. Academically, I’ve learned a lot, and have gained valuable experience. However, most of what I’ve learned is personal. I’ve learned that this lifestyle, as crazy and chaotic as it was, is something I want to pursue. I want to keep traveling as much as possible, while writing and taking pictures. Everything I was testing myself on, I passed.
Academically, I’ve learned how to structure a story, to collect great quotes, and write a rock solid lede. However, I’ve also learned how to stand up for myself when developing story ideas, how to work with other students for a shared bi line, and most importantly how to pick out a good story from a “sky is blue” story. In the future, I want to take more risks with my reporting, and improve with my ability to dive a little deeper.
I’m shocked with my ability to power through. This program has been extremely intense, and there were many moments I just wanted to stop and breathe, but we didn’t have time. When you’re in the middle of a story, you don’t have time to freak out or break down, you need to push through and get it done. I’m pleasantly surprised with the patience I developed on this program.
However, in moments of a crisis where my patience was wearing thin, I allowed myself to slow down a bit. When scared or apprehensive, I slowly figured out that all I need is a moment to myself, to collect my thoughts and figure out the next step. This dynamic was tested each and every day, and sometimes it worked out better than others.
Either way, study abroad has once again given me a huge insight into the world I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten. I’ve learned so much about Spain: Spanish culture, history and society. I feel like I have witnessed hands on what Spain is both challenging and achieving, and to me that is invaluable.
Studying abroad is about learning more about yourself, making strides academically, and ultimately about true immersion. For me, the most valuable part is to see how I change while abroad, because I think this may be me in my most natural state. With no resources, no support and no general knowledge, you’re left completely on your own, and this is where you learn the most about yourself.
My favorite experience was finishing my first story. This is where I proved to myself that I can do this, and that I want to do this. During this moment, I felt totally in control and pleased with how much I’d already accomplished during the first few weeks of the program. I was happy with all my other stories as well, and possibly more so, but the first was by far the most rewarding.
This is why I would tell future participants to always stay calm, and remind yourself why you’re on this program. Yes, you want to make friends, and yes you want to see the city, but you are on this program to write and to experience the new culture you are in. In moments of extreme chaos and frustration, which are unavoidable, the only clarity and motivation came from the realization that this is what I was here to do. You’re lucky to study abroad, and although days will be hard and you will want to feel bad for yourself, remember what you set out to do, and focus on getting that done.
As my time here ends, I’m ready to start my next study abroad. Whether it is as a Co-Op or another Dialogue, I’m excited to see where I end up next. I have no grasp on where or when that might be, but as always I’m excited to plan my next travel. I always have a venture abroad planned, and I’m looking forward to discovering a new one.
The biggest cultural difference to me between my hometown in New York, and Dublin, is something called slagging. The Irish like to do this when first meeting a person, especially Americans. It’s simply a term for harmless teasing that an Irish person does when they first meet you. They’ll do it dead-pan sometimes and one could take these words as serious, but you just need to laugh it off and realize they are messing with you because they like you. Even the British did this too, but not to the same extent where there was a common term for the action.
This was a point of culture shock for me. At first, I thought I was being publicly mocked and didn’t really know how to respond other than laugh and awkwardly look away. But I realized eventually that this was slagging and that it was okay to slag people back, in a very respectful way.
My first point of culture shock came to me as I was crossing the street, and had to read the “Look Left” and “Look Right” signs written in the pavement in order to orient myself. Then, I got confused about the monetary terms for British Pounds. I didn’t know what their equivalence of cents was, and struggled to ask a grocery store employee that the self-checkout machine didn’t give me back enough coins (they’re called pence by the way).
Then came ordering food, and going to stores and having to speak with the local people. I had trouble understanding the British accent to be perfectly honest, and it was a struggle at times where I had to ask what the person said, repeatedly. All in all though I didn’t have a majorly difficult time adjusting, and being in such a big group made it easier to understand the local culture. I’ve now even natural become used to looking to the right, then looking to the left when crossing the road!
It would be an understatement to say that this trip to Japan was anything short of life changing. Going from a first world country to another first world country, I did not expect there to be a lot of a difference. However, the whole experience was very new and yet similar at the same time. I found that after experiencing a country that values hospitality and obedience, I became a nicer and more accepting person. I realized how much of a difference kindness and patience can have on relationships and on society as a whole. The Japanese take the phrase “kill others with kindness” to whole new levels. Another way that I have changed is the fact that I am not afraid of the language barrier as much as I was before the trip. I am not sure if this is because of the Japanese people, but I have more confidence communicating with people who don’t know English.
Going into this trip, I had viewed this as a great way to familiarize myself with the Eastern values and ideals. However, I gained so much more from this trip to the extent that it has changed my academic and professional goals. Academically, I decided that I would try to learn another language here at Northeastern University because I realized that there are so many opportunities and things to learn abroad. Learning a language would be a great way to better understand a foreign country. Professionally, I have decided to try and obtain a job where I can get vacation time to go abroad. This experience has shown me how valuable and experience exploring the world is.
I have discovered many things about myself during this trip. The most surprising self-discovery that I made was the patience and composure I maintained while communicating with foreigners who did not understand English. Before this Dialogue, I found it hard to communicate past the language barrier. I did not know that I had the communication skills to ask for things like directions. With a lot of practice on the dialogue, I found that I wasn’t afraid to ask a stranger for help. Although, this may have also been because I knew no one would have rejected my plea for help in Japan.
My fear of language barrier was one of many fear that I had going into Japan. I would be lying if I said I navigated through all my fears and apprehensions through my own efforts. There wasn’t much navigating because Japan mitigated all my fears and apprehensions. The food was amazing and the people were really nice. There was no reason to be afraid because it was just so safe in Japan. In fact, the fears that I had here in America were also mitigated by Japan. Things like walking on the streets at night were not as scary anymore. Tokyo is one of the safest cities in the world after all. Lastly, I had the help of students from Meiji University, who helped me with directions and communication.
Studying abroad has definitely impacted the way I view the world. This trip had really made me view the world as a puzzle. A huge puzzle with hundreds of thousands of pieces and each puzzle piece being unique. I have realized that there is so much to see out there past what I see in America. Right now I have only seen a modicum fraction of the entire world. I am nowhere near finishing the puzzle and I probably never will. However, I am surer now than ever that I want to try to fill the puzzle piece by piece.
To sum up the single greatest benefit of studying abroad, it would be that it changes you. It changes the way you think and who you are. If you want to be changed and see something that you haven’t ever before, go abroad. Explore the world and never look back.
My favorite experience in Japan would have to be the welcoming party that we had in Yamanaka, a small rural town, with the Meiji University students. It was my favorite experience because it was the start of a lifelong friendship that I would have with the Meiji Students. I was able to make friends with people that I would have never met had I not come to Japan. The relationships that I made with the Meiji students there are stronger than some of the relationships that I have here in America. There is not greater experience than having fun with people you love.
Here is my advice to future participants. If you are on the fence about going to Japan, don’t be because this experience is worth it no matter which way you look at it. Don’t be afraid, Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. This trip is worth every penny and you will cherish it for the rest of your life. What are you waiting for? Come to Japan and have the time of your life!
If you haven’t got it already, Japan was amazing. It has inspired me to study abroad again in the future. I am actually considering studying in Japan for a longer period of time. After coming back from this Dialogue, I realized that I would definitely go back to Japan someday. Until then, “Sayonara!”
And just like that, the trip has come to a close. I have learned things about myself I could never have learned in a classroom on campus. Seeing the slower paced Italians really enjoying their time, I learned to take it easy and really observe my surroundings when I come back to Boston. Additionally, my Dialogue group was filled with people from all over the world ( Saudi Arabia, Panama, Peru, India, Vietnam, etc.) and from different cultures. There is no other setting in Boston where we would be forced to interact with people of different cultures for this long of a time period. This as well as the immersion in the Italian culture has taught me to be open to different perspectives and opinions. I am shocked about how much I was able to grow and develop in what I thought was too short of a time.
In regards to my professional and academic goals, my plans have been reconfirmed. Coming on this business dialogue, I really got to see an inside look into businesses both big and small. We went to 32 different companies in over 15 different industries. Ultimately I am looking to become an auditor, and ultimately delve into different companies of different industries- the trip has reconfirmed this interest for me. I hope to one day start my own business and seeing how things run on the management and marketing level has been an invaluable experience.
Any fears that I may have had coming to this trip were not an issue. Running out of money, worrying about being homesick, etc, With careful budget planning, I was able to stay within budget and in regards to being homesick, everyone on the dialogue was so supportive and nice that I never once felt alone. We all are going through the same experience and everyone was always there for each other.
Studying abroad gave me a different perspective on the world entirely. I never knew that the USA and European countries could be so different. In regards to culture, sustainability, and interactions, there are many differences I never was aware of. More notably, the fact that Northern Italy and Southern Italy could be so different in these same aspects, yet in the same country, was really shocking to me.
The biggest benefit of studying abroad was learning a culture different from my own that couldn’t be read about in a magazine or online article. Ultimately, the biggest benefit this has led me to is curiosity. Before this trip I didn’t desire going abroad to other countries. I thought this dialogue would just be a nice break from being in Boston. Now, I really want to make it a priority to travel the world after college and see how people live worldwide.
My favorite experience was when we were hosted by a Sicilian family for a home cooked BBQ with an abundance of Italian cuisine. It was the best meal I had on the trip and also right after Memorial Day in the States. The family taught us with that meal what it truly meant to Be Sicily, the pride they show for their city, and a real taste of Sicilian hospitality. I will definitely make a trip back to Italy in the future.
Unfortunately, my schedule doesn’t have the flexibility to study abroad again, as I will be graduating in a year. My only regret is not doing a dialogue last summer as well. However, this trip has sparked my interest in doing an international co op. It has always been my dream to go to London, and lucky for me they speak English there. Fingers crossed I can find one!
For anyone thinking of studying abroad in the future, my best piece of advice would be to just do it. You won’t regret it.