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Studying Abroad

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

Nelson Mandela

 If someone had told me a year ago I was about to live one of the best experiences of my life, I would not believe that at all. However, seven months ago I started a journey that has completely changed my life in so many different ways that it is even hard to explain. Leaving my country to live in a place I had never been before, with people I did not know at all and for so long, is such a challenge. Most people tell me all the time it takes a lot of courage to do such a thing, but I always reply, well, is not life about challenges and adventurous experiences?

I have never been a shy or dependent person, however, when I came to America, it was hard for me to be able to be completely myself.  I still remember how I used to feel lost the first weeks of classes, walking around campus looking for the right building and room, how I barely participated in classes, even when I’ve always been a talkative person, and how I used to be very self-concerned about my accent. It has been seven months since I came to America, and I can totally say that I have grown as a person due to this experience.

By the end of last semester, I had a lot of friends outside the international students, I could easily go to New York City by myself and not getting lost and I found funny how even my English improved a lot to the point that I do not embarrassed about my accent anymore.

 My time in this country has definitively been one of the best experiences of my life but it does not mean it has been easy all the time, however, learning is always about beating obstacles. I can tell I have been improve many skills since I came here, my English is a lot better, for example, but also, I have learn about life. I have learn to be independent and to stand for myself, but also, my willing for learning about other cultures has incredibly grown, as well as my world view, and at the end of this journey, that is all what I’m going to take with me back home.

However, every journey comes to an end, and even when this experience is about to finish, here, it is about to start in the place where I was born. Studying abroad is not only about the experiences you live in the host country, but also about the experiences you share once you are back home.

I have been blessed with so many great experiences but now it is my time to take all what I have learned and share it with my people. I’m an education major student, and one of the most beautiful things about teaching is when you are able to give without getting anything in return. I think that the most important things I am taking with me to Costa Rica are not those in my suit case but those in my heart. I am a passionate person, and one of the things I enjoy the most is to teach, so I cannot wait to be back home and fill little hearts with knowledge and love.

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Philadelphia Photo Contest!

On April 19 International Services took a group of 47 students, scholars, and staff to Philadelphia.  The trip began in the morning with the Cherry Blossom Festival, and ended in central Philadelphia.  We wanted everyone to have a wonderful time, and to document their experience in Philly, thus the Philly Photo Contest was born!

During the week following the Philadelphia trip, we received lots of submissions from various students.  All the photos were fantastic, and it was extremely hard to chose a winner; however, a winner had to be chosen!

And the winner is…

 

Hamza Jazmati2

Congratulations!

All of the entries were wonderful, so here they are as well!

Change Shu:

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Wenhong Guo:

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Parisa Vahedi Pour:

Parisa_1          Parisa_2           Parisa_3           Parisa_4            Parisa_5           Parisa_6           Parisa_7           Parisa_9            Parisa_8

Hakon Furulund:

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Changwon Kim:

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Thank you to everyone who submitted photos!!  And I hope everyone enjoyed their Philly experience!

Trip to Philly!

When I got the email from International Services saying that they had organized a trip to Philadelphia I got very excited. Five minutes later I was leaving my house to sign up for the trip!

We left nice and early Saturday morning and we had a good time in the bus. We made our first stop at 10 am, beginning our morning heading towards the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival at Morris Arboretum. I was overwhelmed by all that beauty of the nature. It was a great serene place to get away from the rush of the city and relax. It was truly amazing and worth “walking the distance”.

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P.S. Do not judge by the photos. They are nice but do not represent half the beauty of the site!

After leaving the park, we went to the city. We arrived at 12:30, and we had only 6 hours to explore the city by our own. I know it seems we had plenty of time, but the hours passed by very quickly!

These are the places I visited; you could use it as a guide if you decide to go to Philly someday!

1-Independence Hall

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2-Liberty Bell Center

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3-Reading Terminal Market

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4-City Hall

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5-Love Statue

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6-Swann Memorial Fountain

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7-Free Library of Philadelphia

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8-Rodin Museum

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9-Barnes Foundation

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10-Philadelphia Museum of Art

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11-Rocky Statue

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Ice skating for the first time?

Yes, for many international students, winter weather, as well as all the activities related to it, is not common in our home countries. Ice skating is a very popular activity in America, and maybe something that we have never done before. It is always good to find what to do during the winter time because you can get sad or depressed, especially if you are not used to it. Therefore, looking for activities you can do with your friends, such as this beautiful sport, can be a good ‘what to do’ during the winter season.

The Floyd Hall Arena at MSU is one of the best places to do it. It is for free for MSU students with a valid ID but also you can bring your friends. It is only $4 to rent the skates and you can go as many times as you want. If you plan to go with a big, fun group of friends it is going to be such a great adventure, even if you do not have much experience on ice.

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Also, we are used to watching people skate in New York through movies and shows, but when you go to there you realize it can be quite expensive.  However, there are other choices. Bryant Park, located right behind the New York Public Library, between 40th and 42nd Streets and 5th and 6th Avenues, is a nice place to do it. Admission is free and you just have to cover the rental of the skates.

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5 Ways to Avoid Depression in College

College life can be stressful for young adults as it is. But when you move to a whole new country, much different from the one you are from, college life can be even more confusing and taxing. You are barely able to cope with the vast culture shock because you are expected to keep up with the innumerous immigration and admission paperwork right from the moment you step in to the American soil. All this, when paired with homesickness, language problem, financial and accommodation issues, can be a deadly combination and going into depression would not be unusual. In fact, many studies have shown that a high proportion of international students are depressed when studying abroad (Oluwafunmilola, 2012). Needless to say, this is preventable but no one but YOU can avoid falling into this trap. Here are five simple steps that you can take if you ever feel bouts of sadness and loneliness, a phase perhaps every international student goes through at some point:

1. Be Positive: Having an open mind and a positive attitude about the new culture is fundamental. You are sure to experience many instances where you will be confronted with stark cultural differences- not only in the way people interact, but also in how things function and are organized. Even things as tiny and subtle as a light switch can remind you that you are in a different world altogether. The key here is the knowledge that it is normal to feel out of place in the beginning and everything will fall into place if you give it time. Just go with the flow and enjoy these difference as much as possible.

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 2. Be Physically Active: College can be a great resource to keep yourself active if you look for it. Utilize the gym, dance classes, martial arts classes or other sports on campus to not only keep yourself busy, but also keep your body feel energized and work off the stress.

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3. Make Friends: Be open about making American friends in college. It may be challenging at first, but once you take this step it can be one of the best ways to assimilate into the American culture. Making friends here can be a great resource because they help you explain different customs and show you how things are done in America.

 

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4. Make Goals: As an international student, you are expected to not only keep up with any paperwork you may be required to complete, especially in the beginning months, but also maintain a good academic record in school- an overwhelming challenge. The best way to handle all the work would be to keep small, daily/weekly goals for yourself. By setting small, reasonable goals and achieving them can help bring more structure and organization in your life- making your life much easier and less stressful!

 

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5. Seek Help: If despite taking the above steps, feelings of loneliness and sadness persist, do not hesitate to reach out to CAPS, the counseling service located at Russ Hall on campus. All counseling service provided on campus are free and confidential. Some cultures may consider going to a counselor as taboo, but in the U.S, visiting a Counselor is a norm and quite common, so do not feel inhibited to make use of the facility.

 

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The Transition

I was sure that my very first post on this blog should start right from the very beginning, my first experience in the U.S; after all, that is why this blog were created. Luckily, I found a journal I had kept when I was moving from India to the U.S, in 2007. Although, it has many private moments of my life, I have decided to share it with you because if you are reading this, you have probably gone/are going through something similar. I hope this post can help you cope with the transition or at least help you realize that you are not the only one. Also, I am not sure if I could recount my first experience in the U.S with such intimate detail and emotion again. The transition from one completely different culture to another was one of the most challenging phases in my life, but today seven years later, I could not have been in a better place. In the end, it is all worth it. Here is an account of a 17 year old teenager’s experience..

21 June 2007 : The Sun just set in for the day, leaving a violet blanket over the sky. I smell wet mud. Aah! Nothing smells better! Within minutes I hear the pitter-patter of the rain. Almost simultaneously, I hear my mom’s shouts. Unwillingly, I get down the window sill, muttering something to myself. The fact still not sunk in, I begin my packing. I look at the airline tickets for tomorrow. It is an afternoon flight to London and then off to our destination, New Jersey where my dad was already working. I look around my room and I can only see bare walls and my clothes strewn all over the floor. It began with a small tear and in no time I was crying out loud, shuddering. I couldn’t control, nor did I want to. Memories of my time in my house and school began to play like recorded tape. I never realized before this moment how lucky I was to have such great friends; I was certainly going to miss them. The rain and the thunder seemed to grieve with me.

 22nd June 2007: The first image that came to my mind as soon as I woke up was of my boyfriend at the time. I was to leave him and go far away, what would happen of us? This wasn’t feeling right and I felt so helpless, defenseless. Completely dominated by gratifying ideas of running away, I got ready. I somehow found peace when my boyfriend called for a final goodbye. The hour and a half ride to the international airport seemed to have passed off within minutes. Neither of us wanted to keep down the phone but I sensed my mom’s impatience. It was finally time to catch our flight. At that moment I felt so vulnerable. Was I foolish to leave all that I had and enter a world I dreaded? I feared? Something in my head told me “Change is the only constant”. Almost instantly, I replied to myself, “Spare me the cliché”. I was not ready for any consoling words, even from myself.

 21st August 2007: Two months later, here I am sitting in what I now call my room, feeling nostalgic. I can’t say I am not homesick anymore, but life seems to have had a fresh start, everything is new but it is not as bad anymore. I still do not have any friends here, but I at least have my parents with me, I am one of the lucky ones. Today, two months later, I feel a flood of optimism in me. I do not know what the future holds, but I am certain that it will be something new and exciting, and I am ready for it!

After all, change is the only constant.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Last Friday I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I honestly think it’s an inspiring place and everyone that lives or visits New York should see it at least once in their lives (even if your major hasn’t anything to do with arts, like mine!).

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You gain better understanding and appreciation of art through history across many different cultures.If you love art and have an open mind, you will find a room that really mesmerizes you.

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We were very lucky because the weather was on our side. It was a perfect sunny day! One of my favorite pieces that the Metropolitan Museum of Art had to offer was the Rooftop Terrace. The fresh air of rooftop was rivaled only by the stunning view of the trees in Central Park and amazing skyscrapers. This made me fall in love all over again with NY. If you’re reading this it’d be a shame if you didn’t go see it! On the floor of the terrace, what looks like red splatters is actually a piece of art that carries a powerful message. I don’t want to spoil it for you, only because I think is worthy seeing at first hand.

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There’s also a cafe in this roof (Roof Garden Cafe & Minibar). Forget the prices, quality, or variety of the drinks here. It’s all about the view, and enjoying it. I can’t find a better place to be on a Friday evening. So there you have it! Remember that there is so much to see, so make sure when you go to visit you plan everything ahead so you can spend a good amount of time here.

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INFORMATION: How to get there? From the Penn Station,  take the M4 bus to 83rd Street and Madison Avenue; OR take the C local train to 81st Street and transfer to the M79 crosstown bus (free transfer) across Central Park to Fifth Avenue.

Hours of operation: Open 7 Days a Week

Sunday–Thursday: 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

* Friday and Saturday: 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.

* Closed Thanksgiving Day, December 25, January 1, and the first Monday in May

Tips: The admissions price is just a suggested donation. I showed my MSU ID and told them I was a student, so I donated what I could (which was $5). I know, amazingly cheap compared to the fun time you have. Also, the museum stays open until 9PM on Fridays, which is much appreciated.

Class at The Yogi Berra Museum on Campus:

We recently had a class session conducted at the Yogi Berra Museum on campus this past week and it was amazing to get a glimpse of the baseball sport from the perspective of Yogi Berra, an American former Major League Baseball catcher, outfielder, and manager, who played almost his entire 19-year baseball career for the New York Yankees.

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Sportswriter Robert Creamer once defined baseball as a game that links sons and daughters to fathers and grandfathers, reflecting a host of age old American tensions between workers and owners, scandals and reforms, the individual and the collective (Robert Creamer, American Sportswriter and editor). The Museum is a non-profit organization, which means any money they receive goes to improving their services.

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For our class project, Collaborative Problem Solving, we have to come up with solid manageable and reasonable solutions to propose to the Museum so that it can remain open for the students and the community it helps. We will create outreach plans to schools and celebrities; propose ways to maintain its public professional image(Public Relations) and research its definitive brand.

NJ Hall of Fame at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, YBMLC.

Valentines Day in NYC

This Valentines Day, I decided to go to NYC to celebrate. Ofcourse Paris would be the most romantic spot to go but since I cannot go to Paris and come back the same day, NYC is the second best. First, I went to dinner at this wonderful Gluten-Free restaurant near Washington Square Park in the West Village. The pizza and the bread sticks there were amazing, actually I’m convinced everything on the menu tastes great! The name of the restaurant is Risoterria and the official address is 270 Bleecker Street, NY, NY.

After dinner, I went to Grom, a gelato place near by, the official address for Grom is 233 Bleecker St, NY, NY. Grom’s gelato is incredible and I suggest getting whipped cream with the ice cream because it tastes heavenly. Whenever I go to get ice cream at Grom, I choose flavors without tasting them because every flavor I have gotten so far tastes perfect, it’s also more exciting that way. All in all, it was a perfect Valentines Day in NYC.

 

Risoterria

The pizza was delicious!!!

gelato at Grom, yummy!!!

gelato at Grom, yummy!!!

 

Loving winter!

Since I came from Spain in August 2013, I’ve seen a lot of things and enjoyed every minute of it. Without any doubt, winter is one of them. As we get ready to head into February, buried in snow, and spring being way out of sight, I came to thing about the stuff about winter that’s actually pretty amazing here in the US:

Christmas

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Hot chocolate on cold days

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Snowball fights and snowmen

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Snow tubing!

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Sun’s reflection off the snow

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Beautiful snow scenes

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…and I could give a thousand reasons more. Honestly, I’ve always hated this season. Until now!