Read the whole story here…
Read the whole story here…
December was the last month of this amazing opportunity to study abroad, and I really took advantage of it.
At the beginning of the month I went to Moscow, Russia, where, I was able to visit various iconic places. On the first day, I went to the Red Square, where I was able to visit The Iberian Gate, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Statue of Minin and Pozharsky, Kazan Cathedral, Kremlin Wall, Lenin Mausoleum, and GUM. The ones I liked the most were St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin Mausoleum, and the Kremlin Wall, although GUM, a Harrods-like shopping center, counted with several souvenir stores with tons of beautiful products. Clearly, St. Basil’s Cathedral was the highlight of the Red Square, as its architecture would attract any tourist regardless of his/her origin.
Lenin Mausoleum was also a really interesting place to visit, as it provided me with an opportunity to be incredibly close to one of the most iconic characters in world history. Nevertheless, one of the most interesting things about the Red Square, which genuinely caught my attention, was to see how some locals would dress as Stalin to charge tourists for taking pictures with them. Tourists, excluding me, would get really excited about such picture, and therefore, would pay a considerable amount ($20). On the next day, I took a tour around Moscow’s metro. Moscow’s metro is known for the beauty of its stations. Each station has a different architecture, and tourists, just like me, often take some time to take a tour around some of the most important stations.
After the short metro tour, I went to a Russian market 15 minutes away from the city center, where I was able to purchase very famous souvenirs like matryoshkas and eggs. It was also really interesting to see how many of the t-shirts sold in this market had Putin’s face printed on them. The president is really popular amongst citizens, and such particularity was evidenced on the merchandise sold not only at this market, but also at many other souvenir shops located in the Red Square. On that day, I also went to Gorky Park, which is the equivalent to Moscow’s Central Park. The park was neatly decorated by Christmas lights, and most of it was turned into an ice skating rink. On my final day, I visited the Kremlin, where I was able to see wonderful cathedrals, the palace where Putin lives, and the Senate, apart from several sculptures from the period before the Bolshevik Revolution.
After coming back from Moscow, I was able to attend my first UEFA Champions League game. It was a wonderful experience, as I had dreamed my entire life as a kid to listen the Champions League’s anthem live. The game was an easy 3-0 win for Spurs, and it was a great opportunity to visit one of the most important stadiums in football’s history: Wembley Stadium.
Concluding my entries, I have to say that there are many things that I will take from this amazing opportunity. It is true that I had already experienced studying abroad when I decided to leave Colombia for the U.S., but the magic of studying abroad is never lost. This period in London taught me that studying abroad is never an opportunity one can miss, and I will definitely recommend studying abroad to every H-SC student that is doubting about taking this opportunity. Experiences like the one I’m about to finish are the ones that make us grow as a person, and definitely the ones that help us becoming good men and good citizens.
I categorized Africa to only be food, wildlife, and poverty, but Africa is Extraordinary! It is everything all in one, the good and the bad. There are major cities all the way to rural countryside, so you see the extremely wealthy and the poorest poor, but Africa is an experience I wish everyone could have.
While in China, I attended an Acrobatic Show in Shanghai, and it was extraordinary. It was amazing to see so much talent and skill in a single room. For example, there were some people jumping from bicycles onto their partner’s shoulders, and I saw a man on stilts do back-flips through the air and land in the middle of a target. I also saw people hanging from other peoples ankles while they were 20 plus feet in the air! Also, the food here is amazing. I would say that “Traditional Chinese Food” is all about what region of China you are in because they all have their own styles of food (like different parts of the USA are known for different foods). The Great Wall of China was breath-taking. In either direction you looked, the wall just stretches for what seems like eternity. The people in China are so friendly, and they are happy to help you if needed. It was a lot of fun having a language barrier and trying to talk to people, because everyone was laughing at how we couldn’t understand each other. Yes, the language barrier can sometimes be frustrating, but if I was completely comfortable and did not experience any type of difficulties while I am on this trip, it would be a waste of time, because I am supposed to embrace this culture and opportunity fully and learn from the experience.
My general advice for future study abroad students, and travelers of all kinds, would be to go talk to all of the local people, especially the locals around your age group because they can give you the best ideal of how the country is; however, do not make their one opinion your only opinion on the country. Also, you can never have too much money; one of my coaches from high school who studied abroad in Spain said, “Whatever number you think you will need for the trip, double or even triple it.” This was very true.
My experience from traveling and studying abroad has highly changed my thoughts on my place in the world and my identity. Even though I am not home yet, I would say the thing I am looking forward to the most will be to eat my mother’s cooking and spending time with my friends and family. The hardest part of going home will probably be not being able to spend time with the people I have bonded with for the past 4 months. I will miss the amazing friends I have made on the ship, and the experience of waking up in a different country every other week.
It’s been another month living in this amazing city, and so far, this has been the busiest month not only for the workload of my courses but also for the different trips I’ve completed.
With less than a month of classes, the deadlines for my different courses have come closer, and with them, the stress of putting sufficient effort to excel in my classes. I have already presented the business I created with my group for my New Venture Creation course and I have also completed the individual assignment for that class, which allowed me to focus on my other courses. Out of the other three courses, I have already started the assignment for Economic History and Ideas, and I have also planned the outline for the other four assignments I have to submit for Emerging Market Economies and Politics and History of Central Eastern Europe. Although courses at UCL have been very demanding, I have enjoyed them and learned from them the most I’ve been able to, and I can’t wait to go back to H-SC to share all I’ve learned in the courses I will take next semester.
During this month I’ve also enjoyed my time with the boys from the UCL Football Club, apart from the four matches I played, the club carried a series of events, like the initiation night, in which I had a great time, full of laughs and joy, with my teammates and the guys from the other six teams the club has.
However, the most interesting part about this month was all the traveling I was able to do. During this month, I went to Istanbul, Athens, Bruges, Brussels, and Amsterdam.
I went to Istanbul for two nights and I was able to visit important places like Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Hagia Sohpia, and the Grand Bazaar. The food of this amazing city was clearly the highlight, as apart from being really cheap, it was delightful. After Istanbul, I went to Athens and stayed at this amazing hostel for two nights, where I was able to have a great time with people, apart from visiting tremendously historic places like Acropolis and the Ancient Agora. The highlight of this city was the amazing people I was able to meet, who I’ll probably see again in the future. After Athens, my next trip was Bruges. This town in Belgium is probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to, and although I only stayed there for less than one day, I was able to make the most out of it by walking through its beautiful streets and tasting a delicious Belgian beer at the main square. The next stop was Brussels, where I stayed only one night. Here I visited important places of the city like the European Union Headquarters, the Grand Pace, and the Cinquantenaire.
The highlights of this city were not only the beautiful sights, but also the amazing beer I had at Delirium Pub, said to be the best beer in the world, and the street waffles I had next to the Manneken Pis, which are also very famous. After Brussels, I went to Amsterdam, and although the weather was terrible, I was able to have a great time. I went to many places including the Heineken Experience and the I am Amsterdam sign. The highlight of this city clearly was that I was able to visit some family that I had not been able to see in almost five years.
Although this month was full of great experiences, I am looking forward to December. It will also be a great month, as not only I will get done with my classes but also I will visit one of the cities I have wanted to visit since I was a kid. Such trip could be the highlight of December, but it will compete really hard with another important event, as I will also be attending my first UEFA Champions League match at the mythical Wembley Stadium. However, I am extremely conscious that December will be the last month of my study abroad experience, and that makes me feel really sad, as all the experiences I have had and all the wonderful people I’ve met, will make it really hard to get on that plane heading back to the U.S.
Blog Reflection on South Africa and India
After experiencing the sheer beauty of South Africa combined with the abundance of exhilarating activities, I honestly thought that no country on this trip, or likely any country I would ever visit could top my experience here. In South Africa, I went on the most beautiful hike of my life, had some of the best meals I have ever had, went paragliding, went shark cage diving, chartered a yacht for a fishing expedition, toured some of the most beautiful wineries, and stayed at a luxurious safari. I did this for around one thousand dollars. Then, I encountered India. I did not go to an animal safari or soar through the air in a parachute like I did in South Africa, but that was okay, because India amazed me on an entirely different front. Where South Africa was identical to the United States in many ways, such as food offerings, language, nightlife, and availability of goods, India was like no place I had ever been. I will never forget looking out the window of my airplane, only to see grey, not because of the clouds, but the smog, the air pollution. Then upon touching down, seeing people use the restroom in the streets, drive without lanes on the road, sometimes fitting 5 vehicles in a space equal to about two lanes, or even share their streets, their homes, their cities with a whole variety of animals. Accepting that there are people just as happy as me that live day to day in these conditions that not even the poorest of poor Americans face was mind provoking. Understanding that many of these indian people lived in shacks, so that they could give the majority of their wealth to construct these giant temples with unrivaled beauty was a wake-up call to how collectively Indians think. This collective religious ideal was even stronger in Myanmar where thousands upon thousands of pagodas were built from even poorer communities.
I don’t know if I will ever witness a structure more majestic as the Taj Mahal. When I walked under the arch, and the Taj Mahal came into sight, I was overwhelmed with awe. In conclusion, India taught me that the goal of traveling should not always be about chasing a thrill, but more often about discovering a unique culture.
o So far on my voyage, my favorite food would be Naan, bread from India. I have also eaten squid, octopus, and eel while on the voyage.
o I was a member of a South African Musical, which was really fun and amazing.
o I spend my free time talking to my friends about anything in the world. All the way from politics to last names. It is a little different from the US because everyone on the ship truly has a different perspective, instead of in the US where it’s just a “different” version of the same ideal.
o Even though I am not taking any language courses, I have been practicing my Spanish with friends and crew members on the ship. Also, I was taught how to say hello and thank you in Hindi, Burmese, and one language in Ghana.
o In my global studies course, I have become aware of my “American Way” of thinking. I noticed some of my thoughts and actions are completely different in other cultures.
o Outside of class, I have learned interesting ideals and beliefs. Our ship as a whole, is a different country.
o I have discovered tons of new music. For example, I have listened to music from Puerto Rico and then turned around and listened to music from Ghana, and one more time to India. The shipboard community is full of different music and aspects. I have also learned how to dance the salsa, bachata, and merengue.
I have spent time just enjoying and embracing the Sunset and Sunrise. I have also participated in yoga for the first time.
o I spend my time with other students, including students from other countries. I have met people from Puerto Rico, China, Ukraine, Columbia, Iceland, and many other places, and they are ALL wonderful! I have met new people in all of the different countries that I have visited, and we have exchanged contact information, so we can stay in touch when I return home. I have only met one person from HSC, and he is on the ship with me. However, I have met the President for Shipboard Education, and he has visited Hampden-Sydney College.
o My school is a ship, and my campus is the globe. My classrooms are a movie theater, a dining hall, a pool, and an auditorium.
Everything has been going great over on this side of the pond. Classes are really picking up pace, which is keeping me busy. LSE has classes and lectures for each class. Lectures are two hour presentations on the material, and you are normally with 200-300 other kids. Classes feel much more like Hampden-Sydney because there are only 20 kids in each class and it is much more interactive. The nice thing about lectures is that they don’t take attendance because they are recorded online, so you can watch them at your own convenience. That is a big plus because I have two lectures on Friday, which I don’t like going to and therefor can watch them on Sunday. Wednesdays are my full-days off, which is common over here because they like to allow sports teams to practice on Wednesday afternoons.
So with all that being said, I only walk to school on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. The walk is about 25 minutes door to door, which seems like a lot, but it is actually a very enjoyable walk. I’m living on the south side of the River Thames, and LSE is on the north side, so I walk across the Blackfriars Bridge everyday. I could technically take the tube, but it would take the same time door to door and would cost more. Plus, it is great exercise to walk.
The dorm I am living in is called Bankside House. There are only LSE students living there, but I don’t really know that many kids in it. Most of my friends live in the other housing options around the city. I have a single room with an en suite bathroom, which I enjoy a lot. I have had a roommate the last couple years, and it’s nice to have a room to myself for once. The room is much bigger than the ones at Hampden-Sydney. Bankside House is in Southwark and is directly behind the Tate Modern. I prefer my location to all the other housing options because it is quiet. The area that I live in used to be considered a bad part of town, but in the last 20 years it has really changed for the better, making it a very trendy place to live.
The culture in London is much different than the United States and much different than Hampden-Sydney. Everyone wears dark, skinny clothes. No one wears shorts. Chuck Taylors are the most common shoe. And, no one wears baseball hats. It is quite intriguing to see the differences in fashion on both sides of the pond. I would say I have conformed somewhat to the way people dress over here, but there are certainly things that still make me stand out as an American. Given all of this, I wish I hadn’t packed some of my pink and red polo shirts, because I haven’t worn them once. It will certainly be interesting when I return home, because I will have to change my style back to the US style.
For me, there was never a decision to be made about studying abroad, but rather the much more difficult question, which country? When I learned that the ISE (Institute for Shipboard Education) program called Semester at Sea allowed me to visit 11 countries across four continents, I couldn’t resist. After all, my love for travel is what fueled my desire to study abroad in the first place. Therefore, Semester at Sea was a perfect match, with one exception–the means of transportation. I had never so much as been on a ship before, so the thought of living on a ship for four months was understandably overwhelming. I decided to knuckle down, step out of my comfort zone, and do it for the once in a lifetime opportunity to travel the world. Throughout the summer, I often times found myself questioning whether or not I made the right decision, which is the problem that comes with facing so many fantastic options. However, the minute I stepped onto the ship, I knew I made the right decision. My new home for the next four months was breathtaking. It wasn’t something I had to deal with, in order to see so much of the world, or a sacrifice, but far from it. It is a magical experience in itself. Walking up to the vessel, I immediately noticed it’s giant stature, but beyond that it looked quite plain. It wasn’t until I stepped inside that I could fully appreciate the magnificence of the M. V. World Odyssey.
The interior looks like something out of the Great Gatsby. Elegant is an under statement. Beautiful wood trim lines the walls, the doors, even the cafeteria, pretty much everything is decked out in this beautiful wood. The carpet is a deep royal blue, with a majestic pattern that gives off a warm feeling of utter decadence. I was then guided towards the Kaisersaal, a fantastic room filled with enough furniture to seat 500, not to mention the furniture feels like it was plucked from early 20th century mansions. I then glanced upwards to find that even the ceiling was decorated with a mural that spread from corner to corner of the massive room. After I finished checking in, I proceeded to my room, to find a heavy wooden door with bronze guild. The first thing to catch my attention was the amount of woodwork in the cabin. The dressers, tables, both desks, cabinets, and even the bottom half of the room was covered in this premium wood. The design was complimented by artwork in gold frames. The bathroom was equally amazing, the walls were lined with a pearl marble finish, while the sink was comprised of a darker marbled stone. The gold/bronze trim from the room was even more prevalent in the bathroom, and to top it all off a sea duchess was painted on to the marble shower, emitting a feeling of untethered serenity. It was at this moment that I realized I’m actually living and studying in a moving hotel. And, not just any hotel, a five star hotel that while I was marveling in its splendor, was simultaneously transporting me across the world. Being an art admirer, one of the most impressing things of the masterpiece of a ship, was the prevalence of artwork throughout. Prints and originals alike line the hallways and rooms of the ship, accentuating the classy feel. However, in my opinion, the diverse array of sculptures were far more impressive, as they were all museum quality originals. The glamorous decor of the ship was great, but it also felt over the top, after all I am just a student. I was curious as to why Semester at Sea would go to such great lengths to provide such a luxurious accommodation for me. That was until one of my professors explained to me the history of the ship. From 1998 to 2012, the ship was the home of one of the most popular German television show Das Traumschiff. The name translates to dream boat, and it is easy to see why. My professor went further to explain that Semester at Sea actually leases the ship for 9 months, and one of the conditions is that the ship cannot be altered in any way from the original set of the show. The reason for this is that fans of the show pay large premiums to be able to sail on the set of their favorite show.
The First Month
It’s only been a month since I arrived to London, but long enough to do lots of things.
Regarding my housing, I feel very satisfied. I moved to Goldsmid House, which is a UCL residence fairly close to Buckingham Palace and the Big Ben. I was quite lucky to be placed at this residence, as apart from the amazing location, my room counts with a private bathroom and a semi-double bed, as opposed to many other UCL facilities that only count with single beds. However, in terms of transportation, I wasn’t as lucky as others who live a walk-distance from campus. Daily, I commute by tube to campus, and I take the bus to go back to my house. It’s important to highlight that although commuting by bus takes much longer than taking the tube, I enjoy it more, as the route back from campus passes by Trafalgar Square, the House of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey.
In terms of academics, I can’t complain much. Although I’m taking very demanding courses, I was able to enroll in some of the courses I was more interested in. I’m taking four intermediate courses: two of Economics, one of Political Science, and one of Business. Probably the most challenging one of the four is Political Science, as it focuses on Central Eastern Europe, a region I’m not familiar with, and approaches the subject from a completely political and historical perspective. Nevertheless, all of these courses are really interesting and the module I enjoy the most is Emerging Market Economies, which is about the transition of countries in Central Eastern Europe from centrally planned economies during communism to market economies after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989-91.
In terms of entertainment, I’ve also been very satisfied. Apart from enrolling in my classes at UCL, I was also able to join the UCL Football Club. I will play Wednesdays and Saturdays on a league in which other schools in London, like King’s College, London School of Economics, Imperial College, and others participate. This club is the biggest one at UCL, and apart from focusing on the athletics, it also carries several social events during the term which I will happily be part of, like the Christmas Party.
Apart from getting involved in many activities at UCL, I was also able to travel to some places this month. On my first trip I took a bus to Liverpool. It was a very short trip, as I only stayed one night, but long enough to visit, Anfield Liverpool’s FC historic stadium, and the Cavern Bar, which was the bar where the Beatles were discovered. As Liverpool isn’t a big city, one day is more than enough to tour the important places of the city.
On my second trip, I went to Venice, Italy. I stayed two nights and was able to visit iconic places like Plaza San Marco, El Gran Canal, and Santa Maria della Salute. Venice was great, and probably one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been; however, I’m a bit disappointed as I wasn’t able to ride on a Gondola, Venice’s most famous mode of transportation.
In the coming weeks, I hope I can travel more, meet more people, and learn more, but so far the future seems bright, as Halloween approaches and my classes are getting more interesting.
Life is different on my study abroad program. My commute to class is easy because I can get anywhere in about 3-5 minutes. I can always hear people talking about their experiences from the last country we visited, or their plans for the future countries.
My living space is nice and moderate. My room does not have any windows, so I wake up to pitch, blackness every morning as if it is 3’o clock in the morning, but it may 2’o clock in the afternoon. My roommate’s name is Curtis, he is from Connecticut and goes to Elon University. My home abroad is different from my home in the US because we are constantly moving, and my home abroad is always surrounded by water. Also, I had to get use to rocking side-to-side and not being able to walk in a straight line due to the rocking from the waves.
When packing for this trip, I wish I would have left behind a lot of the clothes I brought with me because you always buy a lot of clothes while you are abroad. I wish I could have packed my family and friends with me, so I could show them the world I am experiencing.
Most of the people dress just like at home because we are mostly American students. I have seen some traditional dress from our international community; however, I use the term international community sparingly because we ALL are international. #WeAreForeigners #GlobalCitizens While I was in country, I thought I would see more “traditional” dress; however, I noticed that people still dressed similar to what I was accustomed to. That is when I realized that I was thinking of the stereotypical image of the countries I visited, or the Single Story Phenomenon. The Single Story Phenomenon is when one generalizes a group based only on one aspect of what you hear or what the media portrays when in actuality the group is so much more than one’s opinion. Think about it; you cannot describe yourself with one word or one sentence. I have changed the way I dress by not always wearing basketball shorts and instead wearing pants or cargo shorts. However, I have not given up my crazy socks!
One thing I am trying to get used to is time. We use military time on the ship, and military time still sometimes confuses me. Also, I am going through around 11 different time changes while I am away.
My favorite food that I have tried so far is squid and jollof rice. This rice is made with tomatoes, onions and a blend of spices.
We have been to many places so far and have more to see. But, there is one in particular that I want to share. For one of my classes, we went to Robben Island to learn about intergroup relations during the Apartheid Era. While at Robben Island, we visited Nelson Mandela’s cell where he spent 18 years of his life. The cell was barely twice the span of my arms. There was not a “bed”. Only a mat on the ground. It was a very humbling experience because I could not imagine enduring 18 years of physical and psychological abuse. Not only did Nelson Mandela do this, but he also never lost faith, and he forgave everyone in the process. It was a very inspirational experience.