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10 January 2022

The 99% Rule #HogsAbroad in Spain


You’re traveling alone?!
    A mother’s fear peaks its head into our phone call.

¿Vas a ir sola?
    Even my Spanish professor raises alarm.

    As a college-aged woman, the world does not necessarily welcome you with open arms. I mean… there are entire true-crime podcasts dedicated to what can happen when a 21-year-old decides to go to Germany and Austria all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. So obviously, hesitation, fear, and nervous excitement built in my chest.
    My name is Danielle, and during the fall semester, I studied abroad in Valencia, Spain. Nevertheless, when a long weekend came up on the course calendar, I decided it was time to go to Austria. To explore. To find peace in independence. If none of that cheesy stuff, I was going to go so I could pretend to be in my own music video of “Vienna.” With Billy Joel singing in the background, I boarded the cheapest flight I could find.
    One thing is for sure, the interactions that I had on this break stuck in my mind. They made the world feel a bit more manageable, a bit more welcoming. Maybe it’s because I broke rule #1 of those true-crime podcasts…Don’t talk to strangers.
1. I was assigned to sit next to two older women at the Vienna Opera House. One had learned English on a road-trip through America when she was “my age.” The other spoke zero English, but when she looked at me, there was a wish between the two of us that we could communicate. At the end of the night, I asked, “how do I say goodbye to you in German?”

“Gesundheit,” she replied, blowing a kiss.

I later learned she was saying, “Bless you.”
2. Breaking another unspoken rule led to this next one…Don’t talk to strangers on planes (oops). Next to me, I met a woman my age named Melissa. She reminded me of my Fayetteville friends but if my Fayetteville friends were instead studying wine in Vienna, Austria (movie-star alert). That night, we went to get a drink, share stories about life in our countries, and laugh about cultural stereotypes.

The waiter places my drink in front of me and the German word for “thank you” gets caught in my throat.

*Danke. Say it, Danielle! Danke.*

It wasn’t happening. I was too scared of mispronouncing. Of seeming like a confused tourist. Instead, I looked even more silly with a nervous smile and wide eyes.

Melissa could not stop laughing, imitating my embarrassed face. She said, “You need to hear about my 99% rule.”

“Your what?”

“99% of the people in public, you’ll never see again. So do the silly thing. Do the embarrassing thing.”
I tell you these things because I think college students can sometimes take themselves a bit too seriously. Through graduate school applications. Thesis research. Even writing these blogs. We can sometimes feel like little babies sitting in a puddle of professional suits that could never fit us.

Well, the most memorable parts of my study abroad were the messiest. So, from now on, take the trip. Stumble over the new language. Try the creative approach. Talk to strangers.

Just stay safe out there.

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Learn more about Danielle's USAC program in Valencia, Spain.

You can start planning your adventure abroad today! Dive in to our Explore page at https://studyabroad.uark.edu/explore/index.php, and start your program search at http://studyabroad.uark.edu/search/

16 December 2021

Fixing my Posture #HogsAbroad in Spain

I wish you could see my blank stare. Gaping eyes. Tense eyebrows. The one that screams, “What did you say to me?” and “I’m definitely not from here.” A facial expression that spills over with embarrassment and apprehension. You become quite familiar with it when learning a new language in the real world, beyond the safety of the classroom.

My name is Danielle, and I am studying Spanish in Valencia, Spain for three months. That in itself sounds like an unreal sentence, one that only shows up in Hallmark movies and cheesy coming-of-age novels. Even on the flight here, I played out what life would look like living in Spain. Acoustic guitar plays in the background, reminiscent of an old, romantic film. I would skip through uneven, stone streets, surrounded by picturesque cathedrals. I would order my usual café con leche, and watch locals and tourists alike live on Spanish time, concerned only with enjoying a meal with their friends or family. Finally, after 3 months, I would leave fluent in Spanish.

The record scratches. The acoustic background music screeches to a halt…I sit down at my first restaurant and look at my first menu in Spanish. It reads:

Pulpo a la plancha con parmentier a la pimienta de la vera y algas wakame

Blank stare.

Elementary Spanish II did not prepare me for this.
As a 4th year psychological science and social work student in the Fulbright Ccollege at the University of Arkansas, I would like to believe that I have a stable foundation in my field. I speak about constructs with professors, test research questions, and apply existing knowledge to new concepts and ideas. However, coming face to face with the Spanish language in its unfiltered, everyday environment, I frankly felt like a child—a child in 2nd grade trying desperately to learn addition while the big kids conquered long division. After the first week, and three more months ahead, something had to change.

I’ve had to adopt a new posture to learning. I’ve had to pull myself back to a place of wonder, humility, and patience. As children, we stare in awe at simple science experiments…Wonder. We ask to join new clubs out of interest rather than necessity…Excitement. But somewhere along the way, within standardized testing and college applications, we can lose the beauty of learning. We place strict deadlines on expertise and unachievable objectives, and then we are somehow surprised when burnout welcomes us earlier than we expected.

We need a new posture. One of enthusiasm. One that giggles when we make mistakes. One that makes us eager to see progress in the future.

Now, please do not misunderstand. Not being able to communicate the miniscule details of life is disheartening, and I fall into frustration. But I think this new lens of learning can further rejuvenate my future academic and professional life, within Spanish and beyond. If you’re not yet convinced, let me paint one last picture.
I am on a cheap flight coming back to Valencia from Germany, a Ryanair flight with the safety of a six flags rollercoaster, and I sit next to a stranger with a shy “hola.” I buckle my seatbelt. I can not remember how it started, but my neighbor and I began speaking…in Spanish. His name is Carlos. Carlos is from Columbia. He is positive that the coffee in Valencia could never compare to the delicacy back home. I tell him how particular the locals are about their paella. We laugh, probably annoying the other passengers. The plane lands, and I had spoken for over an hour in Spanish—something I could not have imagined a month ago. I didn’t have time to worry about exact verb tense, and I couldn’t beat myself up over mispronunciations as I connected with somebody in their native language.

Sometimes, I still get the blank stare when a stranger asks for directions. Those tinges of embarrassment and frustration still appear when I fail to process the speed of Spanish. I no longer have the romantic, ethereal movie filter over my time in Spain. Nevertheless, having patience and the willingness to make mistakes has made learning this new world so much more colorful and vibrant.

Who could’ve known?

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Learn more about Danielle's USAC program in Valencia, Spain

You can start planning your adventure abroad today! Dive in to our Explore page at https://studyabroad.uark.edu/explore/index.php, and start your program search at http://studyabroad.uark.edu/search/

09 December 2021

It was for the Plot #HogsAbroad in Denmark

Blog post courtesy of the Honors College

My name is Mallory MacDonald, and I am a senior honors student double majoring in biology and psychology with a minor in statistics in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. While that sounds like I should be going to medical school, studying abroad changed my trajectory. I took classes outside my comfort zone and fell in love with International Humanitarian Law. I will now be attending law school in my future.

There is this new phrase that I’m trying to add to my everyday vernacular. Kinda similar to YOLO, it goes something like, “It was for the plot.” Sadly, I stumbled onto this saying after I was back in the states on TikTok. However, it still describes my experience wonderfully.

To begin, this expression indicates that I have control over how I write my story. That’s exactly what I was able to do during my study abroad experience. This past summer, I took classes in Copenhagen, Denmark, through the Danish Institute of Study Abroad, or DIS for short. Originally, I choose this program in the Fall of 2019. The class that drew me in was called The Neuroscience of Fear. The program had added in a weeklong study tour to Munich, Germany where students were going to have a tour of Dachau, the first concentration camp. As a biology and psychology double major, this class was going to be an amazing opportunity. Due to COVID-19, I went during the Summer of 2021 when this class was no longer offered due to travel restrictions. This gave me my first time to change up my plotline! The class I took instead was Humanitarian Law and Armed Conflict. During the class, I thought maybe I would go into law as a joke; however, now, I don’t think it’s a joke anymore. I just took my first practice LSAT two days ago.

While I was in class for four hours a day (which felt like the biggest inconvenience), most of my day was spent exploring the city. I spent afternoons walking up and down Stroget, a walking street dedicated to shopping, in different museums learning about the history and culture of Scandinavia, or exploring castles. While roughly 40% of their workforce travels to work by bicycle, I decided to get a metro card. I made it a goal, though, to ride a bike at least for a full day to get as close to the experience as possible. One of my favorite days! The story starts when I mentioned to a classmate of mine that I wanted to ride bikes to a small fishing village south of Copenhagen. She wanted to come and invited a couple of her flatmates. From there, I rode 40 minutes on a bike to a town I didn’t know much about with people that I just met that morning. We ended that adventure by going to eat at Reffen. I have never had parmesan fries as tasty as these. Reffen is the largest street food venue in the Nordic! It sits right on the harbor with a wonderful viewpoint of the sunset if you stay late enough (the sun sets around 9:58 p.m. which also happens to be when the last bus leaves the area too). My roommate got a tattoo here. I talked to some Danish Royal Guards. Good food, good times, and a great place to make TikToks. I’ll end this story with some advice. Take the random classes. Invite the stranger. Try the food. Say yes (but be safe).
The second reason I use the “It was for the plot” expression is because it’s a positive outlook for when something does not go right. For example, your tour bus gets stuck in the sand – it was for the plot. You rent a car and make a wrong turn and end up somewhere you didn’t plan to – it was for the plot. One Tuesday, I planned to have a quiet night finishing homework. That was before some friends from the building walked in and asked if I wanted to jump into the harbor. How could I say no? The plot was going to be better if I said yes. Also, I just love the water. I changed into my swimsuit so quickly. There were about five of us that jumped in all at once. We quickly learned that the water was about 58 degrees Fahrenheit, a.k.a cold! After that experience, I soon learned that most Danes jump in on a hot day after they get off work (not at night after an average temp day).

Another aspect of my study abroad experience that I could not control was COVID-19. I was lucky enough to be one of the students to get to travel in 2021. The first five days that I was in Copenhagen were spent in quarantine in my flat. This gave me that opportunity to get to know who I was living with very well. I experienced jet lag during this time the most. I got the opportunity to see how another country dealt with COVID, how they loosened their restrictions and their attitudes towards the vaccination. COVID-19 has added to my study abroad experience. Before studying abroad, I heard of students traveling all around Europe on their weekends off, going to Paris, Barcelona or Amsterdam. It would have been amazing to get to travel to all those places. Instead of spending 48 hours traveling to and spending time in another county, I got to visit different cities and towns within Denmark. About a two-hour drive south of Copenhagen is a nature reserve called Mons Klint where about 30 DIS students went camping one weekend. Roskilde is about an hour and a half train ride and houses the Viking Ship Museum. During the week-long class trip, we went all across Denmark on the tour bus. During this week, I saw the second-largest city in Denmark, stayed a night in my teacher’s hometown, and went to a beach near the northernmost point of the country.

All in all, the stories that you remember most aren’t going to be the adventures that you planned for but the ones that you stumbled upon.

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Learn more about Mallory's program in Copenhagen, Denmark with DIS.

You can start planning your adventure abroad today! Dive in to our Explore page at https://studyabroad.uark.edu/explore/index.php, and start your program search at http://studyabroad.uark.edu/search/

22 November 2021

Cathedrals, Cadavers, and Checkpoints #HogsAbroad in Cyprus

Tyler visits Kyrenia Castle in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus.

Blog post courtesy of the Honors College

Bodenhamer Fellow Tyler Merreighn, an honors public health and biology major, signed on to study abroad at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus because the program offered a rare opportunity for undergraduates to study anatomy on a med school campus. This included access to cadavers and hands-on (literally!) practice in conducting physical examinations. Tyler also found fascination in the rich interplay between Western and Eastern influences in Cyprus, and the stark contrasts in cultures along the U.N. buffer zone that divides the country.

Situated in the eastern Mediterranean Sea only an hour’s flight from Athens and the Middle Eastern cities of Beirut and Tel Aviv, Cyprus’ history has largely been shaped by Western and Eastern influences. Studying abroad in a Greek-speaking country with such a complex interplay of cultures was an incredibly rewarding experience.

Exploring East and West on One Island
Each weekend, Global Semesters, the University of Nicosia’s study abroad program provider, brought the members of our program to a different city in Cyprus. One weekend, we traveled to Larnaca in the south of the island. Our first stop in Larnaca was the Hala Sultan Tekke, a mosque that houses the tomb of Umm Haram, who theologians currently theorize was the nurse of the prophet Mohamad when he was a baby. Our next stop was Saint Lazarus Church, built around 890 A.D. and regarded as one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in the world. Lazarus of Bethany, who the church honors, is the biblical figure who Jesus resurrected four days after his death. Although the vast majority of southern Cyprus is of the Orthodox Christian faith, seeing these two religious structures provided context on the strong influences in Cyprus of two of the world’s Abrahamic religions — Christianity and Islam.

Politics in Cyprus is different than anywhere else in the world. The only United Nations buffer zone on the planet runs east-west across Cyprus and divides the island nation roughly into northern and southern halves, the result of a Turkish invasion of the island in 1974. The south is controlled by the Cypriot government. The northern region, known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, is a de facto state still controlled by the Turkish government and recognized by the rest of the world as Cypriot territory nearly 50 years after the invasion. It is only possible to get from one side of the U.N. buffer zone to the other through checkpoints located along the zone. On our last weekend, my newfound friends and I chose to travel independently from the program to the north through the checkpoint in the island’s capital of Nicosia. On the northern side, it seemed as if the city had been frozen in time. The streets were empty and storefronts were shuttered and outdated, but you could hear the call to prayer echo throughout the streets. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is almost entirely Muslim, and it was an unparalleled experience to see such a stark contrast in way of life walking a few hundred feet through the checkpoint from one side of the U.N. buffer zone to the other.
Tyler conducts a practice respiratory exam on a classmate.

Hands On Practice for Pre-Med Students
Cyprus not only offered a unique cultural and historical experience, but it also provided a unique academic experience. The month I spent in Cyprus will undoubtedly be a learning experience I cherish for the rest of my life. During my time abroad, I studied Special Topics in Anatomy and Clinical Skills and Management of Care. Instruction of our anatomy course took place on the medical school campus, and I had the opportunity to learn from cadavers. When I found out about this while exploring programs online, that fact alone almost sold me on the program. Learning in an actual cadaver lab is not an opportunity that’s often found at undergraduate schools in the United States and I’m certain it’s not one at the University of Arkansas, so it seemed like an obvious choice to go experience this in Cyprus. The knowledge I gained from the more than 20 cadavers at the medical school is invaluable, and it was a humbling experience having the opportunity to learn from them.

The other portion of our anatomy course revolved around clinical skills, and it instilled in me a confidence that I’m sure I can bring with me to the medical school application process. In this section of the course, our instructors demonstrated how to perform clinical skills such as respiratory, intermediate cardiovascular, abdominal, and rectal examinations, and then they allowed us to practice those skills on each other and on mannequins. Learning anatomy and clinical skills from instructors at the University of Nicosia Medical School turned out to be an experience that further solidified my decision to pursue medicine and gave me a confidence to continue.

The other course I was enrolled in while in Cyprus was titled Management of Care. In this course, we explored complex topics like physician-assisted suicide, determinants of health and perceptions of health. We were also guided in exploring the health system in Cyprus and other health systems within the European Union. Our challenge was to then compare the various aspects of these systems, such as insurance, price regulation, government spending, efficacy and equity with the United States. This course provided an opportunity to critically analyze the health system we rely on daily in the United States and find ways in which we can improve on it by comparing it to systems found within the European Union. There’s not a course like this at the University of Arkansas, so I’m thankful for this unique touch to my undergraduate experience.

If you’re reading this and looking for a cue to study abroad yourself, then you can consider this your cue. My study abroad experience in Cyprus was an opportunity that I wouldn’t trade for the world, and I know it’s an experience that will help me stand out in my medical school applications. If you’re reading this and hoping to experience a study abroad program that is culturally, academically and personally enriching, then you can look no further. Cyprus was just that for me, and I’m sure it can be that for you. Oh, and if you’re wondering what I did as soon as I got home: I ate at the nearest Raising Cane’s. The gyros were good, but there were just SO MANY!

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Learn more about Tyler's program in Nicosia, Cyprus.

You can start planning your adventure abroad today! Dive in to our Explore page at https://studyabroad.uark.edu/explore/index.php, and start your program search at http://studyabroad.uark.edu/search/

25 October 2021

Studying Abroad: It Can Be Overwhelming #HogsAbroad in Spain

Hi! My name is Caroline Jennings, I’m a senior studying Math with a concentration in Applied Math and English with a concentration in Creative Writing. I’m also studying Spanish as a minor, which is part of what led me to study abroad in Salamanca, Spain this past summer. With COVID still messing the world up, I wasn’t sure I would ever make it to Spain. Even when I was actually given the opportunity, I hesitated; I wondered if traveling abroad would be too stressful, considering the circumstances.

Was I wrong? Not entirely. But after six weeks of immersion into Spanish culture, I have zero regrets. In fact, after being home for two months, I’m just disappointed that I can’t remember every moment!

To be fair, not everything was perfect every single second. Living in a homestay, trying new foods, struggling with language, etc. can take a toll on a person—I don’t want to try to convince anybody that their study abroad experience will be 100% perfect. But, after experiencing it myself, hopefully I can give some tips that will help make your study abroad experience 100% worth it!

Too Much All at Once
My biggest problem throughout the six weeks was feeling overwhelmed. There wasn’t necessarily much that I disliked, it just felt like I was experiencing SO MUCH in such a short period of time. I couldn’t take any of it in. I would lay in my bed at night feeling like I blinked and missed it all, and I hated it. In an effort to remedy this issue, I called a friend and asked for advice.

Some people may tell you (as they told me) to simply “live in the moment.” Okay but…how? What does that even mean? I took my friends advice as the answer to that question. She told me that if I didn’t feel like I was able to absorb everything at once, then I needed to find ways to keep track of things so that I could check them out later.

Take Notes
One way she said to do this was to write every possible thing down. So, I bought a little journal. Even though I was busy, I tried to write something at the end of each day. I ended up writing down every single thing I ate, fun things that happened in class, and experiences with my host family. There were days that I chose sleep instead of notetaking, of course, but I did my best to catch up when I could.

Don’t just write down the literal stuff, keep your feelings in mind as well! When you’re in the middle of something overwhelmingly exciting (like a special excursion), try to take note of certain things. Do you feel hot? Cold? Scared? Shaky? Giddy? Latch onto those feelings and attach them to the memory.

Take Pics
Aside from that, my friend told me to keep visual reminders of everything I experienced. When I went on excursions, I took pictures of EVERYTHING, shamelessly. Yes, it’s good to put the phone down and look with your own eyes, of course, but I wanted to save memories in a physical place outside of my brain, and my phone camera allowed me to do that.

Don’t Underestimate Your Senses!
Another tiny but related tip she told me was to hang onto smells. Smell is an underrated sense when it comes to memory—a simple nostalgic sniff can bring you back to a memory you thought you had lost. Take advantage of this when you study abroad! I did my best to take note of any delicious foods I smelled in hopes that I could one day make something similar and end up (momentarily) back in Salamanca. It sounds crazy, but it’s possible!

The Bottom Line
It may be easier said than done, but try not to get too sad if you feel like you’re letting life fly past you while you’re abroad. Your brain will be trying to take in 5000 different things, so it’s perfectly reasonable to struggle with feeling present and engaged. All you can do is take note, take pics, take time to breathe, and have fun! That way, you’ll be able to spend time with all of the memories later.

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Math & English major Caroline Jennings spent the Summer 2021 term in Salamanca, Spain with AIFS with support from the Office of Study Abroad Scholarship.

You can start planning your adventure abroad today! Dive in to our Explore page at https://studyabroad.uark.edu/explore/index.php, and start your program search at http://studyabroad.uark.edu/search/

27 September 2021

Packing Your First-Gen Suitcase

Blog post courtesy of USAC

What You Should Know About Studying Abroad as a First-Generation Student

Choosing to study abroad as an underrepresented student may bring up concerns about what your experience will be like. As a first-generation college student, you may be experiencing a lack of resources, such as financial or interpersonal support, that other students have access to. The same is likely true for study abroad. But that’s okay! USAC is here to help you navigate the world of international education and support you as you learn more about studying abroad.

The Resident Director for USAC England, Dr. Jeremy Doughty, was a first-generation college graduate and study abroad-goer like yourself. In a recent Info Session, Jeremy shared his experiences moving away to college, choosing to study abroad and expanding his career in international education abroad after graduation. Jeremy also shared his best tips for taking the leap to study abroad as a first-gen student.

The first tip he gives you? Understand that you will have to pack your study abroad suitcase a bit differently than other students. Your metaphorical suitcase, of course.

What does this mean?

Here are Jeremy’s steps for planning your study abroad:
  1. Start learning about the programs and process early.
  2. Communicate regularly with trusted advisors.
  3. Learn more about your study abroad destination.
  4. Inform others about your study abroad experience (especially your family).
  5. Explore what type of support you’ll have
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You can start planning your adventure abroad today! Dive in to our Explore page at https://studyabroad.uark.edu/explore/index.php, and start your program search at http://studyabroad.uark.edu/search/.