Livin’ the London Life

Hello hello! Or “cheers” as they say here in London! This is Alicia McCormick, checking in after my first couple of weeks here at Queen Mary University of London. I am loving it so far! Plus, it is a great school because it is the only university in London with an enclosed campus and it’s a bit outside of central London, just like BC!

Settling in here was a lot easier than packing was. I told myself I would not over-pack, but alas, I did. Yet, I still have plenty of room for all my clothes, with the giant dresser in my room! I also enjoy the luxury of having my own bedroom and bathroom, so it will certainly be an adjustment going back to BC’s dorms next semester. The flat I am in is shared with 9 people total; myself and two other Americans, as well as 4 British girls, and 2 boys from Korea and Romania. The diversity of my flat extends to the university as a whole as well. I have met people from so many different places here, including Brazil, Italy, El Salvador, France, Bulgaria, Canada, China, and of course our lovely city of Boston :).

What is great about the university system in the UK is that there is Fresher’s Week, meaning we have an entire week on campus before classes even start! Granted, this week is intended for the freshmen, it allowed us study abroad students to have plenty of fun as well! I got to explore all over London and beyond, including taking a boat cruise on the River Thames, going to Greenwich (and taking a pic on the Prime Meridian!), seeing the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, and visiting Stonehenge! This is such a beautiful country with so much history. I’ll also add that for the most part the weather has been absolutely beautiful here, but I don’t want to jinx it! I think I brought over the summer sun from Boston :P.

Now that classes have started I am getting into a bit more of a routine, but it is still so different than home since most classes only meet once a week. My schedule worked out so that I only have classes on Monday and Tuesday (plenty of time for traveling and exploring London!). I already have a trip planned to Sweden and I am working on getting flights to Rome, as well as a few other places! My semester abroad has kicked off to a great start and I cannot wait to see what the next few months have in store!

-Alicia 🙂

Tower Bridge on the River Thames

Tower Bridge on the River Thames

The Prime Meridian in Greenwich

The Prime Meridian in Greenwich

Changing of the Guard

Changing of the Guard

The Beautiful Buckingham Palace

The Beautiful Buckingham Palace

Gassongram 2.0 aka Westminster Abbey

Gassongram 2.0 aka Westminster Abbey

Big Ben

Big Ben

classic London

classic London

Stonehenge!

Stonehenge!

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Does this seriously count as a field trip?

Alyssa Florack here checking in midway through my semester in Brisbane, Australia! Abroad adventures may just be beginning for my friends in the UK, but I’m already two and a half months in! It’s crazy to think that so much of my time here is already gone, and even crazier that I’m currently on spring break! I’ve taken some amazing trips to beach towns like Byron Bay, Moreton Bay and Surfer’s Paradise, so this spring break I decided to go with my terrestrial ecology and marine biology classes and on their 5-day long field trips. On our first field trip, we went to Fraser Island, the biggest sand island in the world. You have to take a ferry to get to the island, and then when you arrive, you drive on beaches in 4WD trucks! We were flying over sand dunes and driving through the rising tide on our very first night, so I knew it was going to be a good trip. We spent the next five days hiking, jumping off of sand dunes, swimming in lakes and doing research in the Eucalyptus forests and rainforests. Once again, Australia has proven itself to combine work and play in all sorts of ways. We spent mornings playing volleyball on the beach and afternoons doing data analysis, so it’s added up to a fun week! Even our tutors (like TAs) seem to be enjoying themselves. They’re always the first in the water, and they race the trucks on the beach (it really is bizarre to be on a beach and see a speed limit sign). Unfortunately we can’t swim in the ocean here because these waters are popular with sharks and jellyfish, but nothing could be more Australian! Right now I’m riding the bus back to our university in Brisbane, and a few hours after we arrive, I’m leaving on the field trip with my marine biology class to Heron Island. It’s five more days of research, night snorkels, diving and reef walking, so I just can’t wait. It’s hard to imagine anything like this happening at BC, so I’ve just got to enjoy it while I can! Cheers!

你好 from Hong Kong!

HELLO! 

Will Hennessy here from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology studying, you guessed it. Business. Despite their name they have one of the top business schools in Asia . I am originally from New Canaan, CT and I am studying Computer Science in the Carroll School of Management. 

The school itself is much like BC. It is located a few kilometers away from the city, easily accessible through public transportation (MTR), and is on its own self-contained campus…and (like Chestnut Hill) IS GORGEOUS– surrounded by trees, mountains and sits right on the water. 

My campus!

My campus!

I’m living in a traditional double just like I did freshman year in Duchesne (Go Newton!) and my roommate is another exchange student from Germany studying Mechanical Engineering.

I’m taking a full course load including a classical music class (Arts Core), a Biology and Physics class (Natural Science Core), Organizational Behavior (CSOM Core), and a negotiations class (just for fun!). All of my professors are awesome, and all classes are taught in English not Cantonese (the official language of Hong Kong). 

Since the school is publicly funded 70% of the students are local from Hong Kong, and then out of remaining 30% half of them are from Mainland China, and the other half are international students from all over the world. Just in my dorm alone there are students from 29 countries and 6 continents and speak over 10 different languages.

One of the most interesting things thus far is their club fair. If you thought BC took their clubs seriously, just wait until you HKUST. They fair lasts 2 weeks and they made the most beautiful art pieces to show off their club. If I was talented enough, I would want to join the Dragon Boat team—they seem like the coolest team on campus. 

Club Fair

Though I miss game days at school, I’m having an incredible time. I’m in awe of everything around me. Can’t wait to see what surprises me next! 

Will Hennessy

The first two weeks!

Hola hola hola!

Friday marked the end of my second week in Barcelona, and my goodness has it been an incredible, beautiful, exhausting time. We are up and walking all day and then dancing all night. You can check my fitbit, when I wake up in the morning I’ve already reached my 10,000 steps. No lies.

Since our program got us here a while before classes, we’ve had plenty of time to explore and learn about Barcelona. I can’t really summarize all of the amazing tourist sites I’ve seen or the delicious food I’ve eaten, but I’ll succinctly give you the highlights in bullet form:

  • Patatas Bravas, Tortilla Española, and pan tomate are my lifeblood.
  • Wine is cheaper than water.
  • It’s so beautiful and I keep tearing up because I’ll be looking at some old building and remember that I’m here in Barcelona living my lifelong dream!
  • The streets are super clean! And they do a great job recycling and composting. A+
  • I could walk for hours and hours in Ciutat Vella (which is the oldest part of Barcelona with all the windy streets that you’ve probably seen pictures of).
  • Did I mention how much I love the food?
  • Gaudí was a genius!
  • The city is as busy in the middle of the day as it is in the middle of the night.
  • So many cute dogs!
  • The weather is PERFECT.
  • Catalan is not easy to pick up.

Though the lifestyle is extremely different from anything I’ve ever experienced, it hasn’t been too hard to catch on to siestas or eating 5 times a day. Since day 1 we have been running around nonstop and I can’t get enough. I am stoked beyond belief to see what the next 3 months have to offer!

Here’s a random selection of some of the pictures I have on my computer:

Christina

The Start of a Venice Adventure

Buongiorno!

My name is Jordan Panza and I am studying abroad in Venice Italy for three and a half months. I am originally from the Boston area so I never had to be concerned with how much stuff I brought to school, so packing for three and a half months in 1 big suitcase and a carry on suitcase was a new experience for me. It was very difficult to decide what pair of shoes were practical yet cute. It was also difficult to pack for such a wide range of temperatures! In September, Venice can be 80 degrees but by the time I leave it could be as low as 25!

After arriving and settling in I have realized packing was the easy part! The difficult part is getting adjusted to a new country, new friends and being away from my family. I was so exhausted when I was on the plane that it did not hit me until I arrived that this was it, I was going to be away from my comfort zone for three and a half months. I missed my boat to get to my apartment so I had to wait an extra 30 minutes or so. Then when I was finally on the boat, it was crowded and everyone was speaking a different language. After the boat ride I had a ten minute walk up and down stairs to get to my apartment. As I said earlier I had two suitcases. When I saw the stairs on the first bridge I think I almost cried. I just thought of how easy every other move in day at BC was. My parents had been with me, I had a car to bring my stuff right outside my dorm and then elevators to get everything up. All I was thinking is why did I pick the challenge? As I was have a mini breakdown on the famous Rilato Bridge, a father of two young children came up to me, picked up my suitcase and carried it up the flight of stairs. I was so overwhelmed with the kindness of this one man that I was shocked when a different guy did this at next set of stairs. The kindness that these people showed me was incredible. The rest of the journey to my apartment was much easier!

Unpacking had its own set of struggles as there is only one small dresser and small closest to share between my roommate and myself! Currently, I am half living out of my suitcase and the other half of my stuff is unpacked. After my unpacking, I made a huge mistake. I called my mom. Mixing extreme exhaustion with homesickness led to a tear filled phone call of asking my mom “What was I thinking with going abroad?” After my mom reassured me, I took a nap to try to get my head straight.

After my tear session, I met my two other roommates. I have three roommates in total. My direct roommate is a girl from Japan. I also have a guy from Germany and another guy from North Carolina. Our first meeting included lots of questions that started with “In your country is…” It is so awesome learning about all these different cultures and countries.

I am still in orientation week and trying to learn where everything is in the city. I have quickly learned that I will still most likely get lost everyday but I am up for that adventure! I cannot wait for classes to start (Never thought I would say that!) so that I can started getting a rhythm down. I do have to mention that I am lucky, I do not have to get adjusted to the food at all. I have always been a big fan of Italian food so the food transition has been great!

I can already tell I am falling in love with this beautiful city!

Well that is all for now!

Ciao!!!

Down Under (well just barely)

My name is Carson Truesdell and I am studying abroad in Quito, Ecuador at la Universidad de San Francisco (with fellow SAPer MaryEllen Kray and 13 other Eagles). Before coming to Quito, many people asked me why Ecuador? And at that time I did not have a great answer; however I quickly realized what makes this country, this program and this university special. From the beautiful panorama of the mountains and volcanoes (one of which is currently erupting) I have from my bedroom window, to my caring and inclusive family that is patiently teaching me Spanish, Ecuador lives up to much more than its size.

Ecuador is just different. Where else can you stand in two hemispheres at once? Where else can you be in the rain forest, on the beach, or on top of a mountain all in one day? Where else do you have to carry around a mask in case the nearby volcano erupts? Where else can you have a different juice every day for breakfast (so far in my two weeks there have been no repeats… let’s see how long the streak can go)? Where else can you experience four seasons in one day, but not have four seasons in a year? Everything in Ecuador is a little new, and at times can be a little uncomfortable. Adapt, adjust, repeat. There are a lot of things that have been hard to understand, but with more experiences everything will make sense.

Where else would rather be right now?

This time the answer is pretty easy: Ecuador!

Ama La Vida

Hello friends!  My name is MaryEllen Krah and this semester, I am studying abroad in Quito, Ecuador.  On August 15, I arrived here and after a few days of transitioning to the altitude, I quickly settled into the apartment in Quito.  My host family has had at least 15 BC students over the past five years, so they know exactly how to help me figure out the city, plan weekend trips with other BC kids, and most importantly make the apartment feel like my own home.  I was nervous to be living with so many strangers, but I cannot think of a more perfect way to get to know the country.

Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) is in a valley outside of Quito (think Chestnut Hill vs. Boston but add a 600 meter elevation difference).  By looks, it is completely the opposite from BC.  The buildings are made out of stucco and almost everything is open, the way I imagine schools in California where it is always sunny to be.  There is a garden and pond instead of a quad, and two Great Danes wander around the campus.  While everything visually is so different from BC, there are a lot of similaritites in the organization of the university. I am taking five classes — Ecuadorian culture and history, Bilingualism and Bilingual Education, Spanish conversation, Language and Film, and Physics. All of my classes are in Spanish and I am already overwhelmed by this!  Living with a host family gives me plenty of time to practice, but my notes for my classes have already turned into a lot of Spanglish.

I am so excited that my semester has only just begun!  There is a lot to do in this beautiful little country and I am excited to explore as much as I can. Hasta luego!

So… Do Australians Ever Wear Shoes?

Hi everyone! My name is Alyssa Florack, and I’m an Eagle abroad from Green Bay, Wisconsin. To answer your first questions, yes, I like cheese, and yes, I love the Packers. When I told people I was going abroad in Australia, they told me all sorts of things – the need to pack as lightly as possible, the can’t-miss experience of going snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, and (most importantly) my inevitable death by shark or spider attack. No one, however, mentioned that Australians don’t wear shoes. In Brisbane, the motto seems to be “No shoes, no problem.” From laying outside instead of attending lectures to riding skateboards through the streets, this laidback lifestyle follows my new friends everywhere. It’s been a bit odd adjusting to life at such a relaxed pace, especially when we come from a place like BC, where the motto is “Work hard, play hard.” Here, my life is the strangest combination of vacation and school, and the fact that it’s summer break back home just adds to that feeling. Still, we’re finally starting to get into the swing of things. I feel like I just got here, but it’s been six weeks of classes with great new friends and amazing field trips to the beach for my marine biology class. The other exchange students and I have begun planning all the cool trips we hope to take this semester, and I can’t wait for what’s to come!! Now that I’m settled in, I’m off to New Zealand to visit some friends from BC next week. It’s strange to know that those friends are the only ones from Boston I’ll get to visit this semester, but I’m glad that I’ve gotten to know some real Aussies while I’ve been abroad… whether they wear shoes or not. Cheers!

Three Months Down, Three More to Go

I cannot believe I am almost three months into my time abroad. The whole experience has been surreal, and I am having an absolute blast. While I have spent a lot of my time during the week in the classroom and library studying and writing papers, I have had loads of time to explore Edinburgh, England, and other areas in Europe. Since I arrived in Scotland, I have grown to appreciate the culture and accept the differences with open arms. I am still getting use to washing my dishes in a bin within the sink and saying pence instead of cents, but I still have some time to nail down the proper lingo and ways of living.

Despite the great time I am having, I often find myself missing home and BC. Relay For Life, UGBC Elections, and speaker series are all events I love taking part in on campus. It has been sad seeing these events go on without me being there to experience them myself. Although I am missing school, my family, and my friends, I am excited for what the next few months of my time abroad hold. Since I am just about done with classes, I have loads of time to travel and explore the UK and Europe while still finding time to study for exams. In the next few weeks, I have plans to travel around Spain, Italy, England, and Greece with both new and old friends. I cannot wait to see in person the many monuments, buildings, stores, and museums I have been reading about in my classes and online. It may not be the snowy and social justice-filled semester I am use to at BC, but I know I am learning a lot about myself and the cultures around me, and I plan to take all of it back to Chestnut Hill with me in the fall.

A Copenhagen Wrap Up

My finals are over, I’ve passed my 5.5 month mark, and I’m currently sitting on a one way flight to Boston. It’s official; my study abroad experience is over. For now, all I can say for certain is that I am exhausted, amazed, and above all else grateful. I started this journey having travelled to a few states and Canada; my world knowledge was limited to travel magazines and Anthony Bourdain shows. Now, I head back to the states with so much more life experience and most importantly self-confidence.

Before I take the easy route of only reporting the honeymoon stage of studying abroad I have to mention that it was tough at times, painfully tough. Turns out having every sign written in a strange language and never being able to eavesdrop on strangers is overwhelming. You feel like an alien, debriefed before leaving the Mothership only to land and realize you know nothing of this country, these people, or even this continent. Those culture shock charts you see over and over again during pre-departure – only to immediately brush off – are so accurate I want to tattoo it on every prospective study abroad student. However, it’s in those lows and on those adventures where vital self-growth occurs. No matter what you feel or what happens, you are abroad and constantly learning from every single experience or encounter. It’s a huge act of courage to uproot your life and immerse in a new, weird culture. Whether you’re getting hopelessly lost in Brussels or falling in love with city over a pint or taking an extremely nerve-racking oral exam this semester or year is so incredibly important to your academic and personal life now and forever.

I haven’t fully comprehended the impact of what I’ve just done, but I’ve done it. I’m flying back home safe and sound with a massive new postcard collection that backs up my incredible amount of memories. The ups and downs are natural and it’s that process that makes this opportunity so special. It’s a unique chance to exchange cultures for a brief amount of time with no strings attached, to just explore and learn week after week. I can’t tell you where to go or how long because that’s such a personal preference, plus cities tend to show themselves differently to different people. So, I urge you with all my being to go abroad if there’s any possible way you can. Go and see for yourself what I can’t hope to put into words.