Une Baguette S’il Vous Plait

Emily Eastman spent the fall of 2011 in Paris, France studying French at the Institut Catholique de Paris, readingin Gardens, eating palmiers, and conversing with locals. Read on about her Parisian experience…

1.)       What were you totally freaked out about before going that turned out to be no big deal?

Before leaving for Paris, I knew that I would probably have my fair share of moments where I would want to break down and cry. The main thing that made me nervous was missing the feeling of familiarity with places and people I love! I couldn’t wait for the moment where I stopped feeling like an American tourist, and started to feel like an ever so slight Parisian where I could comfortably navigate and talk my way through Paris. As soon as I landed in Paris and started to meet the other students, I realized that everyone is in the same boat…total foreigners in the distant land of France, and we soon got through the initial discomfort together.

2.)       What do you wish you had done to better prepare before going abroad?

I am not ashamed to admit that I could most definitely qualify as the world’s worst packer. As a classic over-packer, I had no idea how in the world I was going to attempt to pack for three months. The delta requirements seemed pretty strict: one 50 lbs. suitcase, a carry-on, and a purse. I successfully packed a 50.0 lb suitcase, and with the help of some vacuum bags, my carry-on and “purse” weighed approximately 70-90 lbs. combined. Looking back I wish that I would have realized that simplicity should have been my focal point while packing, I needed to focus on the “less is more” motif.

3.)       What’s something you did for the first time while abroad that you’ll continue to do now that you’re home?

In order to experience the true Parisian lifestyle, I attempted to embrace the unfamiliarity of each moment. If I was to be hesitant and shy within this foreign country, I knew that I wouldn’t be experiencing Paris’ people and culture and by stepping outside of my comfort zone, I had interactions and conversations with people that I will remember forever!

4.)       What’s the most annoying thing about everyday life in your host country?

One of the things that drove me crazy as time went on was how Parisians can identify everyone as foreigners, and in turn start talking in English in order to make the conversation easier. As I traipsed around Paris, I wanted to be testing out my French, and yet there were many times where I was responded to in English…If I was feeling feisty I would acknowledge that they spoke to me in English, yet refused to respond in anything other than Le Français…

5.)    What local food and drink do you miss most now that you’re back?

I would have to stick with the stereotypical response that I desperately miss the French cheese, bread, and wine. I also miss the dinners that my host parents would make; coming down to the dinner table was always a surprise….

6.)    What food and drink from home did you miss most while abroad?

Wendy’s natural-cut fries with sea salt, and a chocolate frosty.

7.)    What standard local fashion styles would elicit strange looks in Seattle?

Surprisingly, I felt that Seattle and Paris have somewhat similar styles, both cities master the idea of total simplicity, while at the same time looking completely polished. There are vintage thrift shops located all around Paris which would always be swarming with young Parisians, reminding me of the thrift shops in Seattle as well.

8.)    What’s something you experienced while abroad that would never happen in Seattle?

At SPU I have yet to go on a field trip for a class…but within the first two weeks I had already been on TWO field trips! My French cinema class went to a movie theater to watch a French movie, and my Gastronomy class went on a gastronomical tour of the Latin quarter in Paris which included visits to bakeries, patisseries, oil shops, cured meat shops, and some of the renowned restaurants of Paris.

9.)    What’s the coolest place you visited while abroad?

One of my favorite pastimes back in my hometown of Portland is to bike, and I was able to bike in the gardens of Versailles on one of my days off from school! A couple of friends and I headed over to the Versailles gardens where visitors are able to rent bikes for the day, which was absolutely magical. The Versailles gardens are gigantic, so the last time that we visited Versailles, there wasn’t enough time to walk around all of the different gardens. Biking was a great way to get around and experience the entirety of the gardens, and when visiting in November, the trees were magnificent!

10.)    Where do you want to go next?

I would love to explore more regions within France, specifically Provence… but I also wouldn’t mind taking a non-stop flight straight back to Paris and to my home on Rue Marcel-Duchamp…

Kung Pao chicken and matching outfits in Chengdu, China

 Conor Smith studied at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China during fall quarter 2011. The Sichuan University program is an SPU program where students study with other SPU students, Chinese students, and international students. Conor talks about the comforts of home (costco hotdogs…yum!) and the odd habit of couples dressing alike. Read on…

1.)    What were you totally freaked out about before going that turned out to be no big deal?

I had no idea who any of the people were. I hadn’t seen them around campus or even talked to them at all. I’m really good friends with the people that went and I had a blast with them.

2.)    What do you wish you had done to better prepare before going abroad?

Probably should have done a little more research on China. At least looked up the wiki page for China or something.     

3.)    What’s something you did for the first time while abroad that you’ll continue to do now that you’re home?

I had never gone in a Taxi! Pretty great to do something like that for the first time in China. I also didn’t eat spicy food before I left for China. Now that I am back I can take the heat much better.

4.)    What’s the most annoying thing about everyday life in your host country?

I’m annoyed too easily. Talking on the phone though with Chinese people can be very difficult especially with the accents. Also receiving text messages would sometimes take nearly 2 days for people!!

5.)    What local food and drink do you miss most now that you’re back?

Dumplings, Kung Pao Chicken, Drunken Beef, The Spices in the dishes, Tsing Tao, and the deep fried corn.

6.)    What food and drink from home did you miss most while abroad?

A Costco Hotdog and Dr. Pepper.

7.)    What standard local fashion styles would elicit strange looks in Seattle?

Couples would often wear the same outfit together and the guy would also carry the purse for the woman. The strange t-shirts with English saying on them would probably get you plenty of attention as well as how tight they fit.

8.)    What’s something you witnessed while abroad that would never happen in Seattle?

There are plenty of instances that will never happen here in Seattle. The first thing that comes to mind is a cook walking over to a fish tank and grabbing a fish with his hand and throwing that fish on the sidewalk until it was dead…then cooking it. Also, the street vendors would set up food carts covering most of the street after 10 at night and block all but one lane of traffic at an intersection. What you don’t see in Seattle really makes the trip worth it.

9.)    What’s the coolest place you visited while abroad?

I was able to go to a Chinese National Park. It was a mountain that is part of the Himalayans and we were able to see the top, which was a very big deal because it’s usually covered with clouds. We hiked on the glacier below the mountain and then went to hot springs with a view of the mountain after hiking. The trip was just 2 nights but it blew my mind.

10.)    Where do you want to go next?

Other than going back to China, I would love to visit South America. I need a little sun and tropical beaches. I love to swim and snorkel and hike in jungles. Hopefully I can learn something while I’m there too.

Guacamole and Mayan Ruins (not necessarily together)

Billy Martin answers our questions about studying abroad in Guatemala with SPU’s first ever Go Guatemala program. Read on to find out how you might elicit strange looks once back in Seattle….

 

1.) What were you totally freaked out about before going that turned out to be no big deal?

I was kinda freaked out about not really knowing anyone from SPU going into this trip and that it would be hard make new friends and feel comfortable with the group.  But it ended up being so much better than I imagined!  Everyone was awesome and we all got along from the very beginning.

2.) What do you wish you had done to better prepare before going abroad?

I wish I had packed more warm clothes!  I never thought I’d be cold in Guatemala but the weather was not what I expected.  It was still warmer than Seattle so I’m not going to complain, but I wish I brought some sweats or something.

3.) What’s something you did for the first time while abroad that you’ll continue to do now that you’re home?

Part of the culture in Guatemala that I loved is that people are totally invested in whatever situation they are currently in.  People aren’t thinking about what they have going on later or who else they need to talk to.  It was easy for me to get used to this since I didn’t have my cell phone or my laptop with me most of the time and I didn’t have many obligations each day to worry about.  I haven’t thrown away my cell phone since I got back, but I am trying to give my full attention to whoever I am with and not let the other things I have going on distract me from being with them.

4.) What’s the most annoying thing about everyday life in your host country?

Taking a shower was pretty rough. Our shower was outside and you never knew if you were going to get hot water or not.  Because of that, talking a shower wasn’t technically part of my “everyday” life while I was there.

5.) What local food and drink do you miss most now that you’re back?

I miss the guacamole.  I still love it here, but it’s just not the same as when the avocados are picked 15 minutes before it’s made.

6.) What food and drink from home did you miss most while abroad?

A chicken burrito with pinto beans and fresh salsa from Chipotle and a double tall peppermint mocha from Starbucks.  Not necessarily together.

7.) What standard local fashion styles would elicit strange looks in Seattle?

I can say from personal experience that the indigenous shirts get some weird looks here in Seattle.  The shirts are woven cotton with bright colored designs on them.  Mine is blue.

8.) What’s something you witnessed while abroad that would never happen in Seattle?

I saw a motorcycle with 4 passengers driving down the street one day.  There were three on the seat and one on handlebars.

9.) What’s the coolest place you visited while abroad?

We went to see Mayan ruins at a place called Tikal.  It was incredible to walk around and climb on the huge structures that were built 2000 years ago.  We had a great tour guide who knew all about the ruins and the jungle, and we got so see a lot of really cool animals.  We didn’t see a jaguar which was disappointing, but we did run into a couple tarantulas and a poisonous snake which was fun.

10.) Where do you want to go next?

Well I brought home the Arabic Rosetta Stone so I might have to go visit the Middle East once I get fluent.  I still have a few hours of lessons left though so it’ll have to be a little later.

Espresso and Harem pants in Europe

Mollie Diddams answers our questions about studying abroad in Europe with SPU’s European Quarter. Read on…..

1.) What were you totally freaked out about before going that turned out to be no big deal?

Since I was going to be studying abroad between early spring and early summer, I was really afraid I would bring too many summer clothes and freeze the whole time, or bring too many winter clothes and die of heat the entire time. But, I brought lots of simple clothing to wear in layers, a big bag to carry an extra sweater or scarf in, and I was fine!

2.) What do you wish you had done to better prepare before going abroad?

I wish I had done my own research on the places and things I would see on my study abroad, in order to have an informed and more personal connection to my experience.

3.) What’s something you did for the first time while abroad that you’ll continue to do now that you’re home?

In order to meet people abroad, I really had to get out of my comfort zone and talk to strangers on a daily basis. Opening myself up to engaging with others allowed me to, one day, speak to a Brazilian man in French in Italy; one of my favorite multicultural conversations in Europe!

4.) What’s the most annoying thing about everyday life in your host country?

Everything in Europe is expensive, and that was painfully annoying. I felt like I was treating myself, or giving myself a present every time I didn’t eat food from a grocery store!

5.) What local food and drink do you miss most now that you’re back?

Fresh baked goods and true espresso every morning! Now I’m back to cheerios and orange juice, and it’s just not the same.

6.) What food and drink from home did you miss most while abroad?

Fried foods and BBQ!

7.) What standard local fashion styles would elicit strange looks in Seattle?

Harem pants and (usually) platform stilettos.

8.) What’s something you witnessed while abroad that would never happen in Seattle?

Silent rides on packed public transportation.

9.) What’s the coolest place you visited while abroad?

Geneva. It’s a beautiful city right on a glacial lake with the Alps rising in the distance. The city has a great deal of history, yet at the same time is modern. It’s very clean, and the people are the right amount of friendly. The foundations, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations that are centered there help people all over the world. It’s definitely a cool place.

10.) Where do you want to go next?

Turkey, Greece, Chile, French Polynesia.

Jamie Tucker answers questions about studying in Uganda

neighbor children near Jamie's host family home.

Recent Seattle Pacific University graduate and study abroad returnee, Jamie Tucker, answers our questions about studying in Uganda with Best Semester during fall quarter 2010. Read on…

1.) Q. What were you totally freaked out about before going, that turned out to be no big deal?

I was really freaked out about living with a host family for four months. I wasn’t nervous about this at all when I applied, but the closer the time to leaving got, the more I started to wonder, “WHAT was I thinking? Why didn’t I just sign up to live in the dorms with the other students instead of with a host family?” It turned out to be my absolute favorite part of study abroad though, and added so much to my experience that now I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I had never lived with or met my Ugandan family.

2.) Q. What do you wish you had done to better prepare before going abroad?

I wish I had been better prepared for what I should wear while at school in Uganda. All of the American girls at the university, myself included, wore cute spring-like skirts and tops. Our skirts were usually pretty long. The Ugandan girls at the university wore outfits that were very business-like and always looked very stylish. We really stuck out (even more than we already did) in our long, flowery skirts.

3.) Q. What’s something you did for the first time while abroad that you’ll continue to do now that you’re home?

Something that was really emphasized in our classes in Uganda, as well as everyday discussions with staff members, was the importance of presence. Just being somewhere without an agenda- taking the time to just be with people, whether you are having a conversation or just sitting peacefully together. This was really difficult for many of us Americans at first, because we’re so used to doing doing doing all the time- never really just being still (especially not used to just being silent!). Silence (and just sitting without doing anything) can make us feel awkward and useless. The idea of presence really grew on me while I was in Uganda though. It also really helped me with my host family. At first I had a hard time knowing how to get to know them, but finally I just started focusing on being present. If my help wasn’t needed somewhere, I would just go sit in a common area and observe my surroundings, or play with the kids, or do my homework. I just tried really hard to be around my host family, even at the beginning when it was still awkward because we didn’t know each other. Pretty soon, it became more natural to just be present, and to be a little more laid back. My host family and I started to get to know each other more, and everything became easier. This is something that has been hard for me to continue at home, but it is something that I would really like to work on.

4.) Q. What’s the most annoying thing about everyday life in your host country?

Something that annoyed me a lot when I first got there was that in many situations (grocery stores, restaurants, etc.), people don’t stand in line. You have to be pushy to be served or you may never get to the front. This was hard for a lot of us American students to get used to, but really it was just a difference in culture.

5.) Q. What local food and drink do you miss the most now that you’re back?

One food that I miss that I NEVER expected to miss when I was there is matooke. It is a staple food for the area we were in, and is served at least once a day, sometimes two or three times a day. It is made by steaming plantains and then mashing them, and is often served with some kind of sauce or beans. When I first arrived in Uganda I didn’t like matooke at all, and had a hard time eating enough at every meal to be polite, but after a while I grew to actually enjoy it.

6.) Q. What food and drink from home did you miss the most while abroad?

I didn’t miss food from home as much as I thought I would, but every once in a while I did. Strangely, something I really wanted while I was there was a Subway sandwich. I also missed being able to use ice when I was drinking water.

7.) Q. What standard local fashion styles would elicit strange looks in Seattle?

Sometimes women in Uganda wear a traditional dress. They are often worn for special occasions, but walking around the town Uganda Christian University is in, Mukono, you would many times see women walking around in these dresses. The dresses are long, have puffy/pointy shoulders and usually have a big bow around the waist.

8.) Q. What’s something you witnessed while abroad that would never happen in Seattle?

On my walk to university each day I would pass several schools. One day I was passing a primary school just before I reached the university and all of the young boys at the school were outside in their uniforms. Each had a machete and were cutting the school’s grass.

9.) Q. What’s the coolest place you visited while abroad?

I wouldn’t say this is the “coolest” place I visited, but one of the most interesting was Gulu, Uganda, which is in the northern part of Uganda. Before I left I had been learning about Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army and through organizations like Invisible Children, and through some classes at school, I had heard about the war that took place in northern Uganda. The first night we were there we stayed with an organization that works with child mothers. Many of the women the organization helped had been taken into the Lord’s Resistance Army as soldier’s wives, and had come out with children. It was a very sad situation, but also hopeful as we saw what was being done to help those affected by the war.

10.) Q. Where do you want to go next?

My first choice would be to go back to East Africa. I miss my Ugandan family and friends so much and would love to be able to see them again. I would also love to visit other parts of Africa and South America though. 

Ni Hao! Study abroad returnee, Jillian Leavitt answers questions about China

Jillian at the Leshan Buddha, near Chengdu

Jillian Leavitt studied abroad at Southwest University, in Beibei, China (HINT: in case you are searching for Beibei on a map, it is located near Chongqing in central China) for fall quarter 2010. She answers our 10 returnee questions below….read on!

1.) Q. What were you totally freaked out about before going that turned out to be no big deal?

 I was most nervous about the group of people from SPU that I went to China with.  I didn’t know very many of them and I was pretty nervous about getting to know a whole new group of people.  But, traveling to a different country bonds people so quickly!  By the first few days of running around China, we had so many experiences in common that it didn’t matter that we weren’t friends before!

2.) Q. What do you wish you had done to better prepare before going abroad?

I wish I had brought more reading with me.  If you have a kindle or a nook, definitely bring it!  I also wish I had better prepped myself to make Chinese friends.  I left China with a few good contacts, but I know I would have put myself out there more if I had mentally prepared myself to do that.

3.) Q. What’s something you did for the first time while abroad that you will continue to do now that you’re home?

I tried new foods fearlessly.  It didn’t really matter what it looked like or what people told me it was (it’s always better NOT to ask), I tried it anyway.  Expanding your taste buds is fun and it lets you experience the culture in such a tangible way.  I have definitely continued to try new foods at home with less reservation and found so many amazing dishes!

4.) Q. What’s the most annoying thing about everyday life in your host country?

Unfortunate as it is, you are a foreigner in a country not your own.  In China, Westerners stand out like a sore thumb.  People will stare at you.  Strangers will talk to you, ask to speak English with you, ask for your picture (or just sneakily take pictures of you).  I found this very annoying and unnerving at first, but eventually I flipped my perspective.  Think of it as your time in life to be famous!  But also be aware that you’re representing America, and the greater Western world.  Be humble, sharing some of your world and learning about the world you’re a guest in.

5.) Q. What local food do you miss the most now that you are back?

A couple of friends and I were shown this incredible soup noodle restaurant a few blocks away from our dorm by our Chinese language partners.  Well, it’s not really even a restaurant, just a tiny square shop open to the street with 4 tables and 1 tiny kitchen.  It was run by two older ladies who started to recognize us and welcome us happily into their shop after the first couple of weeks we went there.  They served delicious bowls of spicy soup noodles with tender beef and vegetables.  SO GOOD.  I have phases where I crave a bowl of those noodles so badly.  Another thing I desperately miss but luckily can be found in Seattle in the International District is bubble tea!  They have bubble tea shops EVERYWHERE in China, but each has a slightly different flavor.  Finding your favorite one is part of the fun and challenge.  Some girls on my trip showed me the best bubble tea place, with delicious milk tea and just the right amount of tapioca.

6.) Q. What food and drink from home did you miss the most while abroad?

As a true Seattlite, I desperately missed a good cup of coffee.  Although coffee shops are starting to pop up in China (besides Starbucks), they can’t make it like they do in Seattle.  I also missed Italian food.  Chinese food doesn’t have anything equivalent to good breadsticks, pasta with marinara sauce, or pizza. While I did miss these foods, I had plenty of other foods to try. There are so many kinds of food in your host country, try everything you can and realize you’ll be back to your staple diet before long.

7.) Q. What standard local fashion styles would elicit strange looks in Seattle?

Definitely the English phrases on clothing! One of the most humorous things our group did in China was read the English writing on people’s shirts!  They would say the most ridiculous things.  Because Western culture is seen as “cool,” clothing designers will put random English words on clothing items …and usually it makes absolutely no sense at all!

8.) Q. What’s something you witnessed while abroad that would never happen in Seattle?

The absence of diapers on babies and toddlers! Instead of diapers, babies wear pants with a big hole cut out of the rear so that they can just do their business whenever…wherever! Also, we saw lots of women hiking up mountains and on trails in high heels! You would definitely never see that in Seattle!

9.) Q. What’s the coolest place you visited while abroad? 

One of the things I loved most about my study abroad trip was all the different trips we took within China!  We got to see SO much of the country and discover how diverse and beautiful the land is.  My favorite places were Lijiang and Yangshuo. Lijiang was a mountain village in the Yunnan province which borders Myanmar.  The ethnic people there were beautiful and reminded me of Nepal.  The architecture and feel of the town is very unique and rural.  Yangshuo is very famous throughout China, and is located in the Guangxi province.  It’s a river town with very interesting steep green peaks dotting the landscape.  We had so much fun there biking, swimming, rafting, and rock-climbing!  It’s beautiful and an outdoor activity paradise.

10.) Q. Where do you want to go next?

 I am currently planning a post graduation backpacking trip through South America with my roommate!  I have always wanted to go to South America and backpacking is one of my favorite ways to travel because you experience so much more culture and meet so many local people and fellow backpackers.