Dao Tran, spent her fall 2005 semester studying abroad in Italy.
When I first arrived in Florence, I was overwhelmed by how different it actually looked compare to what I had imagined. Not being sure of what to think, one thing for sure, it was not similar to home. Nevertheless, my anticipation exceeded any other feelings I had. Being so far from home, from everything I knew, and being in a different country without knowing the language, was more than I can ever envision.
Neither Florence nor Lorenzo de Medici was perfect; it simply was different. Though it took a little time for me to get use to everything, once I did, Florence was like a second home to me. Occasionally, I would still feel stunned and awed for being where I was. I was in Florence! Living like a Florentine!
Thinking back, I really miss everything there is about living in Florence, especially the simple things. I miss walking to school, going to the central market to buy fresh vegetables, browsing the Lorenzo market, going to beautiful churches, hearing "Ciao bella" too many times in a day, having a way too expensive dinner with friends, going to endless museums, tasting some of the best wine, listening to the music on the streets, and especially eating gelato. Not one of those things I could really experience here.
I was surrounded by some of the most important artworks ever created. I walked on the same streets famous artists and powerful people walked on. What more could I ask for? Florence has given me knowledge, not only about the Italian culture and history, but also about people and myself. It has given me friendships and an unforgettable, irreplaceable experience.
Peter Uong, spent his fall 2005 semester studying abroad in Japan.
Japan is THE coolest country ever! The people are so friendly and polite. One does not usually give tips in Japan; good service is assumed and naturally given. And who can forget foods like yaki soba, udon, ramen, curry rice, and sushi of course?! I was especially impressed with the train systems which are amazingly efficient and convenient. In fact, there are two giant, complex train systems overlapping the Tokyo region alone. The shinkansen is the bullet train the feels just like an airplane on tracks.
In Japan I lived in Saitama, the prefecture (a state) outside of Tokyo, which is itself another prefecture. My "hometown" Kawagoe is only a 30-minute train ride from Tokyo. My program JSP offered great classes and found the perfect host family for me. My host family loved taking me out to the beautiful countryside and cultural festivals. My classes (Japanese, Politics, and Manga) and teachers were all very engaging and awesome! Having no previous knowledge of Japanese language beforehand, over one semester, I learned not only how to speak Japanese, but also much about the Japanese way of life and their politics, history, and mentality.
Right now, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment. My trip abroad was a personal challenge in so many ways. I did things that I would never do at home, like climbing Mt Fuji, endless sightseeing, picture-taking, and karaoke. I also enjoyed walking, biking, and taking trains to random places and the refreshing morning bike rides that I take daily past the rural fields to school. I learned and experienced much that would be impossible if I had merely visited a place for a week or two. My bedroom had traditional tatami mats and sliding paper doors and windows, and I slept on a futon on the floor! Japan took me by surprise from beginning to end, and my trip really was an experience of a lifetime! My semester in Japan has honestly been the best one in my life, and my only regret is any hesitation I might have had before going.
Victoria, spent her fall 2005 semester studying abroad in England.
The London experience is so difficult to put into words. It was the best time I've had in my life and has opened my eyes to new opportunities. I made some amazing friends that I still keep in touch with and have plans to see again in the future. I was blessed to be immersed in a culture completely unlike my own, with representatives from numerous countries. However, despite our differences, we all had a common theme of the night life! I had something going on every night with these amazing friends that lasted until dawn many times. I was able to travel a few times, while I was over in England. I took four trips which was plenty so that I still spent ample time in London. There is always something new to do each night of the week and the sites are not to be missed! Tower of London was by far my favorite London sight. The rest of England, such as Bath, Cambridge, Lake District (Keswick) and Stratford-Upon Avon is also just a small train ride away and worth the trip! One of favorite moments was climbing on the Trafalgar Square Lion with my friend Fid, and then added 2 more friends. Let me tell you... it is NOT easier to climb up on that lion since it is so enormous with nothing to grab on to! Drinking in the Ice Bar was really amazing too. You get to wear this swinging silver poncho with gloves since everything (including your glass) is made of ice! Also, the public transportation will spoil you! Not having to deal with traffic and pay gas prices was amazing! Plus, you really underestimate the entertainment of tube games! To anyone interested in going to London, all I can say is... GO NOW!!
Katharine Sheldon, Historical Studies Major, studied for 2 semesters at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, July 2004 - July 2005.
When I first arrived in New Zealand, I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I was worried that I wouldn't like it, or that I would be too homesick to handle it. What I found when I got there was a country and cultures very different from my own, but similar in many ways. During my nine months there, I was able to explore this land of diversity, and become familiar with the elements that created such an interesting, and thoroughly unique land and people. Although I was homesick, I needn't have worried so much. What I didn't realize before I left was that the friends I would make and the home I would have would create a completely different life, which I miss just as much now that I've left it.
Much like America, modern New Zealand culture has been shaped by the many immigrant groups who have recently come in from Asia and the Pacific Islands, as well as the native inhabitants, the Maoris, and the early British and Irish settlers. What has evolved is a group of people fiercely proud of being New Zealanders, or "Kiwis" as they call themselves, and distinct from either Britons or Australians. I was very struck by how much of an impact Maori culture has in New Zealand society. Where in America, Native American culture is not by any means mainstream, Maori culture features prominently in everyday life. For all important ceremonies greetings are done in both English and Maori, and even at events like rugby matches, the New Zealand national anthem is sung, once in English, and once in Maori. Maori symbols are present everywhere, from Maori flags flying over homes to the Maori jade and bone jewelry sold everywhere, and worn by everyone.
One of the elements that combine all cultures in New Zealand is rugby. In fact, rugby is one of the first words that comes to mind when describing Kiwi culture. No matter how hard you try, you cannot avoid being sucked into rugby culture at some point, because no matter where you go, people are always talking about it. Kiwis are fiercely proud of their prowess on the rugby field, and rugby has become an integral part of New Zealand's cultural identity. I hadn't been in New Zealand for twenty-four hours before I had already seen a rugby match being played, had the rules explained to me, and played in a match myself. The national rugby team is the All Blacks, and the sight of them passionately performing the 'haka', the traditional Maori war dance, before the games begin is stirring enough to get anyone involved.
Another aspect of New Zealand that I consider to have created a distinct Kiwi cultural identity is their love of nature. New Zealand is truly a nature lover's paradise. The two islands are located on a plate tectonic fault line, and all of the geologic forces happening as a result have created a very diverse and unusual landscape. With white sand beaches, active volcanoes, hot springs, and bubbling mud pools on the North Island, there are snow capped mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, and gold deposits to be found on the South Island. With so much diversity, and so much of the land available to play around in, it's virtually unavoidable to become involved in some sort of nature sport. If rugby is the national sport, then hiking or "tramping", as Kiwis call it, is the national pastime. Fortunately, I was living right next to the Southern Alps, which form the backbone of the South Island, and was able to go on many hiking trips in some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Especially popular places to hike for both locals and tourist are to various Lord of the Rings filming locales.
Of course, for the majority of the time I was in New Zealand, I was studying at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch on the South Island. The university was quite different from UTD, but in general life was pretty much the same in that it consisted of going to class, studying, and writing countless papers in the twenty-four house computer lab, The Loft.
By studying in New Zealand for a year I not only got to live in one of the most beautiful countries on earth, I got to take classes and learn about countries and cultures so very different from my own, that I had never studied before. I made friends from all over the world, and learned some valuable lessons in life on the way, and those are things I will be forever grateful for.
Michelle Buggs, UTD Accounting Major, begins her study abroad experience in London, England, and forwarded these pictures from Trafglar Square.
Michelle Buggs, UTD Accounting Major, is studying abroad this summer 2005 in the IES London program. In two recent e-mails from Michelle she writes (June 1) "...I just wanted to let you know I made it to London safe and sound. Everything is going pretty well. I am just trying to get used to everything..." and (on June 16) "...I am having a great time in London. I just started my job this past Monday and so far it is going great. "
School of Management studies in China.
March 4-15, 2005, Dr. Habte Woldu and 29 of his students traveled to Beijing, Shanghai and Han Zhou, China, attending lectures at Beijing University and The Shanghai University of Economics and Finance, business meetings with the Chinese Business Council, TEDA ( an economic development organization in China). They met with representatives of TI and Ericsson in Shanghai, and took guided tours to learn about the Chinese culture and amazing changes that have occured in China in only the last twenty years.