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18 January 2023

Staying in the Moment

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy the comforts of home and familiarity. Before studying abroad, I had never been out of the country. For most people, their first time out of the country would not be for five straight months and 4,000 miles away. However, I had always dreamt about traveling the world since I was little.
I studied Sociology in Brighton, England for the entire spring semester. In preparation to leave for my study abroad experience, I had rose colored glasses of what my time would be like overseas. The initial culture shock was almost too much for me to bear when I first stepped onto English soil. No one had warned me of the small but very important differences in cultures before my experience abroad. Between the differences in food, everyday interactions, and classes I was completely overwhelmed in my first few weeks. At one point in time we all get a feeling of homesickness being away from what is familiar, whether it just be missing home cooked meals or friends. Eventually, I learned to adapt to my new surroundings and ultimately grew to love where I was at. The accessibility of facetime and texting eased all my feelings of homesickness. Even though I finally felt excited and comfortable where I was, homesickness comes in waves. No one discusses the highs and lows that come with studying abroad. For me, the lows were extremely low due to an increasing desire to be home and surrounded by familiar things. However, the highs were amazing and in those moments I never wanted to come home.
Every trip I went on, distracted me from thinking of home and brought me out of my comfort zone. In total I got to travel to France, Italy, Spain, Scotland, Greece, and Ireland.
Studying abroad challenged me to learn more about myself in so many different ways. I have learned to be more independent while also enjoying spending time by myself. After the homesickness started to subside, I realized the importance of staying in the moment and to take as many pictures as I can! Throughout my study abroad experience I got to take a trip to Scotland, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, and Greece! If I had let the feelings of homesickness take over me, I would not have been able to enjoy my experience to the fullest extent. Remember that homesickness comes in waves for many people, to live in the moment, and take every opportunity at your fingertips.

08 December 2022

What Does it Mean to be a Gilman Scholar?

    Studying Abroad, what a wonderful thing! You get to live this whole new life, in a new country, with new people. It’s a chance to put your life on pause and live out the dreams you’ve always had, or reinvent yourself to the person you’ve wanted to be. But this all sounds too good to be true right? Something only a rich person with unlimited money can do? False! 

    As a student who relies on FAFSA and other financial aid to pay for college, I did not think Studying Abroad would be an obtainable option for me. Let alone extending my semester into a semester and summer program in two different countries! What allowed me to do this extension was the Gilman Scholarship, it managed to pay the entire expenses of my summer study abroad program, including the flight. 

    What is the Gilman Scholarship? This scholarship is designated to undergraduate students who are receiving the Federal Pell grant (through FAFSA) at the time of their application. The student must be a U.S. Citizen or National, and the study abroad program chosen must be in an approved country, but don’t worry the list has almost 200 countries/territories that have been approved! 

    What’s the Gilman Scholarship’s purpose? According to the Gilman website, “A principal objective of the Gilman Scholarship Program is to expand international education opportunities by encouraging applications from students who have not previously studied abroad for undergraduate academic credit”. This is truly a great chance to get out and see the world without the stress of finding the funds to do it. There are normally two opportunities to apply each year, once in March and once in October. The scholarship is worth up to $5,000 which can often cover all or the majority of a summer program, or be a great start to funding a semester-long program! 

    So let me tell you about my trip! I got to go to the lovely city of Stockholm, Sweden and take part in the DIS program. With this program, I was able to take one of many unique courses, mine being Medical Diagnostics. This is a type of course I would not have expected to take until medical school. During the course, we were taken on two field trips, one to their big Hospital in Stockholm and another to a Mammogram center. This gave me and all the other students interested in medicine a new perspective to a healthcare system so different to our own here in the United States. Aside from such a great educational experience, I also had a great time with the new friends I made. In my session, I was the only Arkansas student (that I was aware of) which meant I would get to make all new friends all by myself! Intimidating at first, but easy once I got started. Six months later, I am still in regular contact with my roommate and our neighbor we became close friends with as well as a sweet friend of mine from the course I took. During our three weeks, we managed to travel all over Stockholm to all the big spots and hidden treasures. We also planned our own little trip to Oslo, Norway for a long weekend (another beautiful place I highly recommend). 

    As of now, I am back home at the U of A where I work at the Study Abroad Office. I get so excited when I get to talk to students about my experience and all the opportunities you have to fund your trip and make it happen. Being a Gilman Scholar will always hold a special place in my heart, and I will continue to advocate that every person eligible apply.

About the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program
"The U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is a grant program that enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad, thereby gaining skills critical to our national security and economic competitiveness. 

The Gilman Scholarship Program is open to U.S. citizen undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university to participate in study and intern abroad programs worldwide."

15 November 2022

Travel Tuesday #HogsAbroad in England

Hi! My name is Caroline Johnson. I’m in the Fulbright Honors College double majoring in Criminology and Sociology. This spring, I got the incredible opportunity to do an internship abroad in London! I worked for Breaking Barriers; an amazing non-profit that helps refugees resettle in the United Kingdom.

I lived in student housing in the Whitechapel/Shoreditch area, which is a super cool part of East London. I have never lived in a city before, but I found that I loved living in such a busy area. There was always something to do every single night, and the public transportation made it so easy to get there. I went to trivia nights, speakeasys, plays, markets, ping pong tournaments, escape rooms, and a ton of other cool places. I’m also a big foodie, so I loved trying out all the new restaurants and cuisines!

While I really loved living in London, the best part of the entire study abroad experience was the travel. Every weekend, I flew out to a different city thanks to the very cheap Ryanair airline (£17 roundtrip to Germany!). I went to:

Barcelona, Spain

Paris, France

Brighton, UK

Cork & Kinsale, Ireland

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Heidelberg, Germany

Bath, UK

Salzburg & Vienna, Austria

Looking back, I am so glad I decided to study abroad. I had the time of my life running around Europe while also having an incredible internship doing real, important work. If you are considering doing a program like this, I would 100% encourage you to do it. I’m already planning a trip to go back!

06 October 2022

My Summer as an Immigrant Worker #HogsAbroad in Ireland

Hello! And welcome to my End-of-Summer-Abroad blog post. Before you go looking for a Start-of-Summer blog post, I will confess to you that there isn’t one. Though I have some great excuses in my back pocket as to why there isn’t one, the truth is that I just didn’t have it together when I got to Ireland. Not that I would’ve had many profound or productive things to say eight weeks ago; nothing had happened yet. Now, lots of things have happened. My abroad experience has been rather unique, I’d say, at least compared to the average Arkansas Abroad Experience. I am majoring in the largest major at our University (let’s hear it for the psychology department!) and yet am the only student from Arkansas who has gone abroad to this city (Dublin) with this program (Global Experiences). This fact has put me in a position of power: I (the blogger) get to tell my story however I like, and you (the reader) have nothing to compare my claims to. But don’t worry. I’ll do my best to give it to you straight, the good and the bad and the ugly of interning abroad as an American college student.

The comment I’ve gotten most often- and from people all over the world- is that I look oh-so American. I found this funny at first because I am not by any means a picturesque American girl. My hair is brown, my bust is small, and I have rather fair skin. Before coming to Ireland, I had this vision, this daydream, that I would come to Europe for the summer and blend flawlessly with the culture here. And though I have certainly been welcomed and immersed into the culture, it’s still very obvious that I have No Idea What is Going On. And nothing makes you look more American than that. 

The way I see it, America and Ireland have one big thing in common: both countries are isolated. Ireland is a relatively small island off the coast of Europe, accessible primarily by plane. For the Irish this phenomenon has brought them peace in recent years. Life here as of late is quiet, calm, and content. Many of their systems are the same as what you would find in central Europe, so they lack the ignorance we Americans have, but they have managed to stay out of any serious European drama (save the whole thing with Belfast). The Irish are perfectly content to mind their own damn business. America, on the other hand, is completely off in its own world. The USA is an island in its own way. With such minimal exposure to non-American lifestyles, we have no concept of how anyone else lives, or really that people live differently than us in the first place. We are raised with a value for centralized thinking that many European countries don’t have. Our generation of Americans is not expected to go travel before we are done growing up, and this cultural stagnancy has cost us a lot of knowledge. Something about living in a place where public transportation supports not just the city or country, but the whole continent, I truly believe makes a person invincible.

I am residing in Dublin, which is a huge immigration hub. This summer I am interning at a family resource center located in Dublin 1 (the descriptor “Dublin 1” serves as a zip code). Over 80% of the residents in the neighborhood are immigrants, and though the area is referred to as Dublin’s Chinatown, the residents come from all over. My job is to help habilitate immigrant families into the Dublin area. At least, that is how I will phrase it on my resume. The job is much less formal than the title implies. The organization I work with is called Hill Street. Before sharing any other information, I feel you should know that the property of “Hill Street” (which includes a main building, a basketball court, and 2 playgrounds) is also an old graveyard. It was literally built on top of a cemetery. The headstones still line the fence of the playgrounds because the city had nowhere else to put them. There is also a very old structure that isn’t technically a castle but definitely looks like a castle. Yes, they have a key and no, you cannot go inside (I asked). There are 8 employees at Hill Street; four are Irish, two are Chinese, one is Hungarian, and one is Brazilian. All are women. All consider each other- and now even seem to consider me- family. They are family to each other, and they are family to hundreds of families in Dublin. 

Throughout the year, Hill Street runs various programs to help set parents and children alike up for success in Ireland, as well as hosting a handful of events for the community. I call it a community, but I feel that word implies that this is a niche group of people with lots in common. That does not remotely describe the citizens of Dublin 1. The programs and events Hill Street puts on provide for thousands of people: families and children of business owners, technicians, office workers, merchants, and laborers, many of whom are immigrants or first-generation Irishmen. All of whom lack the village they need to raise their children. That is what Hill Street is there for. The program they are most renowned for at the moment is called “Prep for Preschool”. In Ireland, children are given two years of free pre-school before beginning real school at age 5. Often times immigrant children have never been away from their parents, since they have no friends or family in the area to help care for them. Many kids are incapable of handling more than a few minutes away from their mom and dad. Prep-for-Preschool introduces and acclimates them to a schooling environment slowly and builds their tolerance for being away from their parents. As the kids become more independent, and the length of their time apart grows, the parents are offered classes downstairs. There is a curriculum in place, covering everything from how to register for free healthcare to classes on speaking basic English. A plethora of information is made available to these parents while their 1- and 2-year-old children develop necessary social skills in another room, all for no financial burden. 

The event Hill Street is most renowned for at the moment is Chinese New Year’s. If you’re still reading this, please Venmo $5 to @peyton-mosman. I am saving for a plane ticket so I may attend in February of 2023. The celebration is incredible; it lasts several days and has over 5,000 attendees (even in COVID years)! There is even an avidly managed potluck style table set up, so families can share their culture’s cuisine. Authentic food from authentic people from China, Thailand, India, Poland, Ukraine, Brazil, Germany, Hungary, and many more countries, some I’d never heard of before. The children spend months preparing dances and performances. There is live music and a stage and even a cotton candy machine. I hope to attend someday, but luckily I was around for Hill Street’s Intercultural Family Fun Day (see photo above), which proved to be a slightly toned-down version of Chinese New Year’s, with about 1,000 people in attendance, including several members of the Dublin City Council.

If you’ve made it this far you may have pondered the question: how does Hill Street pay for all of this? Who coughs up the dough for an event for thousands of people? Who is maintaining the expansive property they use? To work in Ireland with children I was required to be trained and vetted by the Republic of Ireland, so I assumed this was going to be a government job. However, upon my arrival I learned that Hill Street is a privately run organization. Most of the funding comes from the Dublin City Council, and the money is directed towards an approved proposal. For example, Prep-for-Preschool and the Chinese New Year’s Celebration were approved proposals. More recently, when the conflict in Ukraine began just a few months ago, Hill Street proposed a bi-weekly day care for parents and children. This offered the mothers a place to network, to ask questions, to meet other Ukrainian families going through the same thing. It gave the children a sense of normalcy, access to playgrounds, and exposure to other kids. It gave them a community. The city of Dublin had placed dozens of Ukrainian mothers in the hotels in Dublin 1, where they stayed for months until more permanent housing became available, and their fathers and sons and husbands were able to come join them. 

Hill Street’s latest proposal is for a new building. My supervisor told me in my first week that Hill Street has a lot of respect from the citizens of Dublin right now. This proved to be true at the end of my third week when we got news from the Dublin City Council. They have approved a blueprint that will not disturb the really old building or graves. They have the backing of several important organizations and politicians. They have a timeline that estimates construction completed by 2028. The true details of how they have accomplished this are lost on me, naturally. My knowledge of how to obtain government funding in Ireland is minimal, but regardless, Hill Street is expected to have a new building by 2028!

As we approach the start of European Summer Holiday (the month of August), the entire country seems to be winding down. The Irish are very respectful of the 9-5 workday, and everyone gets a month off in August. If America is going to adopt any customs from Europe let it be that and the free healthcare. The program I have helped to put on over the last four weeks is referred to as Summer Camp. A group of 16 kids come Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and we take them on three adventures. One to a local beach and one to a local park, both via public transportation, and one “Family Trip” via private rented bus. The family trip consists of the summer camp kids (a new group each week) and about 70 families from the area (a lot of the same faces I love). We are only responsible for the summer camp crew, with a ratio of 4 kids to every 1 adult. So, to put it in my perspective, I have spent the last month xtravelling Dublin, sight-seeing with some dear friends I have made over the summer, none older than seven or younger than two. Many of whom I am unlikely to see again. Some of whom don’t speak English, but hey, how much do you understand a three-year-old anyway?

Now, buckle in, because I am about to get to the most important lesson in this blog post. The cherry on top of this whole freaking thing. The fact is that the hardest part of study abroad is getting there. They give you so many hoops to jump through, so many meetings and emails and phone calls and decisions and scholarship opportunities that you really need because they also make study abroad so very expensive. And if you do all that, you will find yourself getting on a plane with no clue in the world what you are walking in to. And then you just live. And that is the lesson. Because if studying abroad has shown me anything it is that I can do it. I can make my way in the world. This is the first time I am the only one accountable for myself and this is the only time I will be accountable for only myself. I am so unbelievably young and free. And that is the beauty of being in your twenties.

And so, as this blog post (which has turned out to be far more heartfelt than intended) comes to its close, I want you to know that this summer I also travelled 6 out of the 8 weekends I was abroad. During the week I worked 9-4, but I got off early on Fridays and managed to see London, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Belfast, and the Aran Islands. And although I could write an entirely unrelated blog post about why you should travel, the experience of actually working and living in another country is the part of my summer abroad that shaped me and enabled me to grow as a person over the last two months. They say the point of an internship is to learn what you want from your career. This experience has confirmed not only that this is the field of work I want to go into, but also that I want to work in Ireland. So, in a year, with a bachelor’s in psychology, I hope to go work and study in Ireland. It isn’t as warm as Texas, but with free healthcare and affordable education, Ireland has definitely won my heart.  

14 September 2022

C'est la vie #HogsAbroad in Denmark

Hi! My name is Rebekah Reynolds. I am a senior Interior Architecture student at the Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design with a minor in music. This summer I participated in the Danish Institute of Study Abroad (DIS) in Copenhagen, Denmark.

I have been studying in Denmark for almost two months now, and there is this phrase I have begun using quite a bit since arriving in Denmark, c’est la vie. Now you may be saying, “but that’s French, not danish!”, and yes that is true, but somehow it has become a saying that I now associate with Denmark… oh well. Another thing you may be thinking is “that’s not the most positive outlook” or maybe “what even does that mean?”. C’est la vie translates to “Such is life”, and I would argue that rather than a negative outlook on life, it is a way of stating that not everything in life is in your control, and that’s ok. This is something I have learned constantly in my journey abroad, starting all the way back to the application process. 

I first applied to DIS during the spring semester of 2020, with plans to travel that summer. Within 4 hours of receiving my letter of acceptance into the program, I received an email informing students that due to COVID-19, no UARK students would be studying abroad that summer… c’est la vie. This is how I ended up studying abroad the summer after my senior year, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Fast forward to arriving in Denmark. After many flight delays and stressful hours in the airport, I finally arrive in Copenhagen, only to be told that my luggage did not arrive with me. I spent my first week in Copenhagen with only my carry on bag, wearing the same two t-shirts and jeans, and you know what, I couldn’t find it in me to care! I thought “ why on earth should I be torn up about my lack of luggage when I’m in Denmark on a life changing journey?”, c’est la vie. And not to worry, I did eventually receive my luggage! (Pro tip- pack your carry on as if you will lose your luggage for a week). 

Moving on to the first time I actually heard someone say the words c’est la vie on this trip. When studying abroad through DIS, you go on a 1 week study tour in different countries (I went to Norway and Sweden), and it is basically a jam packed week of travel, meeting new people from other classes, and good times. What you can not expect is to feel well rested for the entirety of that week. After a particularly long day of travel (I’m pretty sure we were awake for 18 hrs), a professor used c’est la vie while discussing the trip and it caught on. I wish I could remember the context, but alas I was just a little tired. 

At this point in the trip I had realized that life going in an unexpected way had become a trend for me. This was something that a planner like myself usually did not enjoy, and yet every time life had taken an unexpected turn, amazing things came from allowing myself to let go and continue on. I came to Denmark without any close friends, and will be leaving with a group of friends that will be with me for life. I woke up each day with no specific plans, and let life decide what would happen. I branched out from my usual design habits in the studio and benefited greatly in the learning experience. I lived life to the fullest by not allowing myself to get caught in expectations but instead staying grounded in the now. C’est la vie.  

Now I have to come back to reality, and begin this new chapter of life as an official working adult. And though I am sad to end this chapter of  travel and school, I enter this new one with the wisdom that life isn’t in my control, but it’s better off that way. How else are you supposed to have fun? And so I leave Denmark with these parting words, c’est la vie.

22 August 2022

Life Lessons #HogsAbroad in Spain

“RyanAir’s employees are going on strike this weekend.”

Who would have thought one little sentence could inspire so much panic. I frantically began reading articles, scrolling through mentions of RyanAir on twitter, and researching our rights as RyanAir customers. Everything left me with more questions and anxiety than answers. I thought traveling in Europe was supposed to be easy!?

My name is Josie Zakrzewski, and I studied Spanish in Madrid, Spain for a month this summer. As a double major in International Studies and History with a minor in Spanish, Madrid was the perfect place to be. It truly is a global city; there is no doubt about its influence across media, politics, education, and more. Despite this, it has not lost sight of its unique history and culture, and its citizens talk with pride about the place they call home. I grew to deeply love Madrid over my four weeks living and studying there. My experience was overwhelmingly great, filled with good food, friends, and professors. However, being my first experience overseas, I expected there to be at least a few mishaps, and I wasn’t disappointed. 

After three weeks living and traveling around Spain, I thought I was a pro. My friends and I discussed just how comfortable we had become. We could navigate the metro, order perfectly (the first time!) in Spanish, and our stomachs were finally accustomed to the new diet which for me (a vegetarian) consisted largely of eggs, potatoes, and tomatoes. So, when my friend asked the group if we wanted to take a trip to Portugal our last weekend in Europe, we all agreed with little hesitation. We felt like experienced travelers at this point. What could go wrong?

My first mishap began when buying plane tickets. After spending an hour attempting to purchase my tickets from a rather sketchy website, I decided to give it a little research. “Is EDreams legit?” I googled. What was I met with? “NO! Run away, please, run away.” Ok, great, I thought, glad I researched before buying. Upon my return to the website, I attempted to cancel the transaction. What happened? I accidentally accepted the purchase. Frantically, I backed out and closed the tab, hoping it hadn't been processed. After 30 minutes with no email, I figured it was canceled and proceeded to buy tickets from the same website my friends had successfully used. As soon as I’d finished, I received a confirmation email from the initial “sketchy” website, “Your trip to Portugal is confirmed!” Oh, boy.

Lesson #1: Buy flight insurance that lets you refund your tickets. Better safe than sorry.

Now, geared with two round way tickets to Portugal, I felt overly prepared for the trip. Sure, I was out an extra $250, but ever the optimist, I was determined not to let it ruin the trip. Well, my optimism could not have prepared me for what came next: “RyanAir’s employees are going on strike this weekend.” The cherry on top.

No reliable source could tell me whether our flights were likely to be canceled or delayed. RyanAir employees were only able to guarantee that we would be “fully reimbursed” upon any cancellation. Good to know but not the issue. Our issue? Our flight back to Madrid was scheduled for Sunday at 11:30pm. Our finals were Monday morning. If anything happened to our flights, we would miss our finals (33% of our grade) and there were no makeups.

Lesson #2: Don’t trust cheap airlines to get you where you need to be. Especially if your entire program grade depends on it.

We ultimately decided after three full days of panic to cancel our plans to Portugal and accept our losses. I, however, was determined that our last weekend in Spain would not be a disappointment and began research on cities nearby that we could spend the weekend in. I found the furthest place from Madrid our public transport cards would take us: Guadalajara.

Airbnb booked, we boarded the bus to Guadalajara. What did we find upon arrival? Absolutely no one. The streets were desolate, and I began questioning whether anyone lived there at all. Where had I brought my friends? We ignored the elephant in the room (that Guadalajara seemed closer to a ghost town than any type of travel destination) and ventured on.

The first half of our day was rough. One person wasn’t feeling well, lunch was not great, and everything seemed to be falling apart. As we wandered back to our place for a quick afternoon nap, we stumbled across a street that had… people! We strolled down, happy to finally feel like we were not the only ones in the entirety of Guadalajara. We decided to take our nap and come back later that night to grab some dinner.

When we arrived later, music, laughter, and people flooded the street. In shock, we tried to figure out what was happening. We happened upon Guadalajara’s annual folk festival. We stopped to talk to the residents, who were happy to share in their culture, even gifting us each a traditional instrument from the region. We watched dancers and singers in traditional clothing in a parade down the street. We ended the night at a small concert that had been an empty park that morning. This time, it was far from empty. Singers, dancers, and the community of Guadalajara had come together to celebrate their shared traditions.

We stood in the back as they sang traditional songs, feeling privileged to be let in on what felt like an extremely intimate experience. Older folks sang along while kids laughed and played together in the street. My friends and I smiled at one another with the silent understanding that what we were experiencing was truly special. I was overwhelmed by the love and joy, completely forgetting about our lost trip to Portugal. What I experienced in Guadalajara was so much more important. It’s a memory that is permanently etched into my soul. 

Did our flights end up delayed or canceled? I still don’t know. I didn’t care enough to look them up.

Lesson #3: When airline strikes force you to cancel your trip, take a free bus ride to a city you’ve never heard of before. You might wander upon a festival you don’t know the name of and make one of the most meaningful memories of your life.