Monday, February 20, 2017

The Sunday Market


I leave for Bordeaux, France early in the morning, and so, my post will be unusually short. I just wanted to share something that I have discovered to be a hidden jewel of Caen! Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit the Sunday market that is located a short distance from UniCaen's campus. The market is a gathering of local farmers and vendors looking to sell fresh foods and unique merchandise.

The sights and smells at the Sunday market made for the most amazing experience I have had in Caen as I learn about the beautiful culture. It was amazing to witness the local hardworking farmers selling fresh produce ( at reasonable prices, even)! My experience can be compared to nothing else back home. I loved every minute of it! A bientot!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

One Month Down!!


It's day 31 here in France for me! This week, I've had to take tests in some of my classes. Although classes have been difficult, the faculty is more than willing to help! Much like Maryville College, UniCaen also provides adequate resources to practice what is taught in the classroom. There is an online portal much like MC's Tartan that professors are able to post links on. Also, there is an entire library on-campus that is dedicated to the Languages division.

The international program and Erasmus organize numerous events for international students studying at Caen, and I've been lucky enough to go on 2 excursions so far and also participate in Soiree Jeux (Game night!). The fee for the excursions is minimal. So far, the typical prices that I've noticed is around 30 euros. Lucky for me, I went on the two excursions that only cost 2 euros apiece. I visited Mont St. Michel on the first excursion and did a cider tour this past weekend.

Normandy is well-known for its apple cider, and so, we were able to visit a farm that produces cider! We saw the process of how it is made and even got to taste some at the end! Aside from this, we also visited a fromagery (where cheese is made). Normandy is famous for certain cheeses as well, and so, the group walked through the factory and did a cheese tasting at the end. This particular excursion allowed me to learn more about the Normandy region in particular, which I found to be extremely interesting.

So far, I have met and befriended numerous international students. Although I did not come with any other students from my school, I feel relieved in a way. A classmate of mine told me I had a "muscle heart" for doing such a thing, and while I appreciated her remark on my courageousness, I knew that coming alone would allow me to grow in ways I wouldn't expect. Already, I have learned so much and met so many amazing people. One friend in particular actually had Taco Night this past Sunday after I shared with her my longing for Cinco's (my favorite Mexican restaurant) back home!

Next week will be our first break. We will have a week off, and I have already prepared to spend the majority of that time traveling!! Though I don't plan on leaving France, I will be able to ride a train down to the south of France (Bordeaux, in particular). On the way back, I plan on having lunch in Paris!! I'm extremely excited about the entire trip and will hopefully have many pictures to share!

                                                                         A bientot!


Monday, February 13, 2017

My Time So Far in Japan

Hello, everyone!! It's me, Renee!

I've been in Japan since January 17th. Ever since then, I've been going nonstop. Since I'm a little behind on my blogs, I'm going to catch you guys up on what I've been doing! Later on, I plan to do separate blog posts on Kyoto, Osaka, and Kansai Gaidai, my university.

Well, let's jump into it!

Week 1

My first week here was dedicated solely to orientation. It covered things like where you should ride a bike on the road, what to do during an earthquake, and how to create a bank account.

Before I did any of this though, I had to do the most important thing- figure out where my college is. After all, orientation took place at Kansai Gaidai. I also figured it would be good to know where it is so I could attend classes. It seemed like a good idea. So I joined a couple of people armed with Google maps. After a 30 minute walk, we found the campus!

That bank account was the hardest part of orientation. There were eight different forms that had to be filled out perfectly. And I mean perfectly. This means not letting the ink bleed in the paper. Your letters must look like they were typed. It took two hours to fill out all the forms. I had to redo one form eight different times. The Japanese don't mess around with their forms! Also, it normally takes six months to get a bank account in Japan. With the help of Kansai Gaidai, I can get it at the end of February!

Yay food money!

The ultimate highlight of Orientation Week, though, was undoubtedly the optional trip to Kyoto. Hirakata City sits right in the middle of three major traditional Japanese cities- Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara. This means day trips to these cities are common and cheap. With two Japanese guides, my group makes are way to the train station where we learn how to buy a ticket or card for multiple trips, the train and bus schedule, and proper train edietquite. Since Kyoto is known for its numerous temples, each group went towards a different temple to experience traditional Japan.

When we arrive in snowy Kyoto, we make our way towards Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Most temples in Japan are either Shinto or Buddhist. Kiyomizu-dera is a Buddhist temple for couples- from matchmaking, to easy childbirth. Many of the rituals that can be done there are related to ensuring a strong relationship or healthy marriage. It was beautiful seeing all of Kyoto from the top of this temple. I imagine it’s even prettier in the spring.

Week 2

Week 2 kicked off with our first week of classes. Since all the Asian Program Studies courses are in English, most of the classes are in the CIE (Center for International Education) Building. Classes last for ninety minutes, with the first class starting at 9 am and the last class ending at 6:10 pm. Needless to say, it can be a long day depending on your schedule.

That weekend, a group of friends I made decided to go to Osaka for some much needed shopping. Our first stop? The Pokemon Center. The Pokemon Center encompasses half of a floor in the Osaka Train Station Shopping Center. Statues of the Legendaries from the newest game can be seen here, along with all the merchandise you can imagine! They even have the Pokemon Go Plus devices here, which are sold out in America. I'm personally not the biggest fan of Pokemon, so I used this moment to pick up some souvenirs for my friends.

Next stop, the Disney Store! Despite having a Disney Store in the Knoxville Mall, going to the Disney Store in Japan is a must if you're in your 20's and love Disney. Disney's popularity in Japan rivals that of America. Young adults, specifically women, love Disney here. As a result, the stores here cater to people our age, instead of the young’uns back home. There's not a Disney costume to be seen. Instead phone cases, dishes, jewelry, and the all-beloved Tsum Tsums fill up the store. Tsum Tsums are cylinder Disney characters that you can stack, either in plastic or plush form. My goal here was to buy some Japan exclusive Tsum Tsums. I succeed. My debt card paid dearly that day.

After this, our group of friend split ways. My friend Jenny and I made our ways to another mall. The highlight of this mall was the giant ferris wheel on top. For 500 yen, or $5, you could ride the ferris wheel and see all of Osaka, including Osaka Castle. All in all, it was a fantastic and very successful shopping day.

Week 3

The highlight of Week 3 was no other than Toei Movie Studio! Never heard of it? That's ok. I didn't either. At Kansai Gaidai, Japanese students make field trips of the international students to go and experience Japan. Jenny and I chose the Toei Movie Studio field trip! We expected it to be a replica of Edo Japan where we could dress up. Though this was sort of true, it's not really that. Instead, it's like Kyoto's version of Hollywood Studios. The whole place is a permanent set filled with restaurants, plays, stores, ninjas, ninjas, and did I mention ninjas?? At Toei, you could be a ninja for a day. From throwing shuriken (ninja stars) to figuring out how to escape ninjas via secret passageways, there is something for everyone here! We even got to see how a classic Japanese ninja movie is made.

This was the first place where English wasn't ever present. Sure, safety rules and menus were in English, but demonstrations, mini history lessons, and plays were strictly in Japanese. This made using context clues, such as actions and vocal cues, to figure out what was going on. For example, for the play we saw, it was all in Japanese, but I could still understand the humor due to the actors’ expressions and actions despite not knowing the words.

Overall, I highly recommend coming here if you ever make it to Kyoto!

Week 4

Instead of going on another field trip, a group of my friends and I went on our own adventure. This week the Osaka Aquarium! We were very smart and decided to go on a weekend that so happened to also a be a national holiday! It wasn't crowed at all!!

That was sarcasm.

This was the first time I experienced true Asian crowds. Sure trains were crowded, but it was mostly find a place and stay there. Here, everyone was fighting to get to the front to see the different animals and creatures. I literally, and I mean that literally, had to push my way to the front. Luckily, us Americans (and Norwegian and Hollander) would switch spots with each other so we could all see.

The aquarium here is one of the largest in the world, holding massive tanks dedicated to seals, dolphins, and the biggest otter I've ever seen. They focus on creatures and animals from the Ring of Fire, also called the Ring of Life in the aquarium due to the diversity present there. The biggest attraction, however, is the Pacific Ocean Tank. Here, they have two whale sharks, the largest fish in the world. They’re massive! Thankfully, they eat via filters and won't harm humans. It's definitely a site to behold.

Afterwards, we rode another Ferris Wheel. Here, we saw the Osaka skyline and Universal Studios Japan. And for some reason, they also have a replica of the Santa Maria, one of Christopher Columbus' ships. It was overall, a great day!

(I’m still confused on the presence of the Santa Maria by the way.)

The Present

Well, now you're all caught up!! Hopefully I'll start making weekly blog posts after this one! Now, I'm just writing this post, procrastinating on studying for my Japanese test.

I really am missing everyone back home. Plus, American food. The absence of Chickfila is starting to get to me. But I'm making the most of it! I’m eating so many different Japanese foods! I'm having a great time and can't wait to tell you guys more of it! And hopefully I'll be able to upload pictures next time!!

I miss you all and hope you guys are having a great time back home!! Love ya'll! See you the next post!!

Monday, February 6, 2017

French Cuisine


      I've been in France for 3 full weeks, and
while I miss my family, I have now adjusted enough to my surroundings to feel comfortable maneuvering the city on my own.
      A lot of Facebook friends and family have been eager to see the pictures I have of France, but I've noticed that what they are most interested in is (of course) the FOOD! Because of this, I decided to write a bit about the cuisine I've been exposed to.
      So far, I've have Asian food, Indian food, American food, and (you guessed it) French food! I didn't realize that Caen would have so many different types of food. I suppose I was expecting only cafes and creperies. What
 I have found has been much better!

      Although there's more to be found in the city of Caen
 other than cafes and creperies, I have never been anywhere more indulgent to a coffee-lovers need for caffeine! Therefore, I will now proudly share some of the many coffee drinks I have consumed (as well as one crepe).
     I discovered that cafe au lait (coffee with milk) is a safe choice for someone used to drinking the American coffee drinks. Aside from that, my newest sanctuary here in Caen has been Keys & Co., a cafe staffed with bilingual people who are kindhearted enough to let me butcher the French language when ordering and then communicate back to me in English.
     Keys & Co. also introduced me to my new favorite coffee drink: their house Mocha!! Its absolutely amazing, with a combination of chocolate and coffee!! There is no going wrong there!

 While there are many many more pictures of the food I've feasted on since being in France, I would like to at least mention the food/drinks that can only be found in my small town, U.S.A. (or at least, not found here in Caen.)
1. Cinco's -a Mexican restaurant with the best chicken chimichanga I've ever had. (I haven't seen a single Mexican restaurant in France, yet).

2. My sister's home-cooked meals- Maybe its the agony of having to cook for myself, but I absolutely miss my sister's food. I'd love to eat any of her Pinterest-attempted meals right now!

3. Sweet Tea!!- Maybe its the Southern girl in me, but I feel like many problems can be solved (or at least talked about) over a nice glass of cold sweet tea! That is a staple where I come from, and it's nonexistent in this part of the world!

Well, there are plenty more, but I'll leave on the refreshing note of sweet tea! It's been a great three weeks here. I can't believe its almost been a month!! A bientot! -Albrianna Jenkins

Sunday, January 29, 2017


I've been in Caen, France for 13 days!! That's almost 2 weeks of adjusting. The first major change I had to deal with was the time difference. Here, I am six hours ahead of my family back in Tennessee. It took a full recoup day in which I slept 12 hours for me to adjust. Even still, 8am classes are as difficult as ever!

Speaking of classes, I just went through my first week of them! I didn't go into the week expecting anything in particular (which was good)! I was met with French, French, and more French. I can now relate to international students who come to the U.S. speaking a language other than English. I've never been more sympathetic! Even after being confronted with the foreign questions and answering that I did not understand what was being asked, I realized that that was quickly becoming an invalid excuse. This was France, after all!

Of course, I was met with patience, and professors, faculty, and students alike were kind enough to explain as best they could with different french words, but in my head, I kept thinking "Just speak English!" I'd never felt more stereo-typically American-that is, self-centered and closed off to the French culture. I was the minority here. That was definitely a tough thing to comprehend. After a few frustrating days, I realigned my sights. I was here to learn this beautiful language! I shouldn't be tip-toeing around it and messing it up by wanting the familiarity of English translations!

Within the past two weeks, I've been able to explore the area around the campus and see some pretty amazing sites within the Normandy region. I've visited Mont Saint-Michel and the D-day beaches. I've depended on a plane, a shuttle, a tram, and a bus-but mainly, I've depended on my God-given legs! (Oh, I've never used them so much in my life!) Luckily, the beautiful architecture within the "ordinary" streets of Caen propels me forward.

Today, a fellow international student from England introduced me to a lovely French cafe. I believe it will be my safe haven while I spend my time here. The food has been amazing, but my location has not improved my cooking skills. They are still quite poor. I was blessed with the chance to join a friend on a visit to Franceville where a few of her friends live. There, we had an amazing three course lunch, and I was able to speak French and English with them. Within the next week, it is my goal to spend more time off campus, actively communicating in French, and also, to explore the local restaurants further. I hope to also meet a few French students from Caen who might be willing to help me learn their beautiful language.

A bientot!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Student Abroad

My name is Albrianna Jenkins. I am a Maryville College student who has been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to study abroad in Caen, FRANCE!!
At first, the idea to study abroad seemed interesting enough, but not nearly as real as is now is to me. I was looking to travel abroad for the J-term (roughly three weeks), but what I ended up doing was deciding that a semester abroad would present me with enough time to transcend "tourist" and become a "local". Today is my sixth day here, and it has given me just enough time to realize that I made the right choice.
My pre-departure class prepared me for many things, but one thing that I just had to come to terms with by myself was the fact that this was my reality! I have lived in Tennessee all my life, and although I'd traveled to a handful of other states, my knowledge of the world outside of my hometown was severely lacking! Even my knowledge of the geographic location of France was non-existent. It might as well have been Narnia!
The first time I flew to France was also the first time I'd flown ever! Was I scared? Strangely, no. While my family warned me of human traffickers, terrorists, and other unpredictable oppressors, I listened attentively, and then, nothing. I had a peace within myself that this was something that I needed to do. My perspective of the world was so limited! I needed this traveling experience! So I said "Au Revoir!" (Good-bye) to my family, and I came to France. Of course, I miss them dearly, but I'm using this time away to grow.
A quote that has led me to the point I am at is this one:
"Which do you want: the pain of staying where you are, or the pain of growth?" -Judith Hanson Lasater
I am looking at every uncomfortable situation as an opportunity to grow, and every time I feel a pang of longing for my family, I count it as growing pains! Sure, its not the best sometimes, but in the end, I will be a better person because of it. A bientot. (See you soon) -Albrianna

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Missing Food

By Allison Luppe
Study Abroad Student

So, whenever I went to the UK, I knew that there were some things that were going to be different about the food. I knew that I probably wouldn't be able to find Cheerios for my cereal or peanut butter based on some of the research I had done. And I was right in one of those respects: peanut butter is really hard to find in the UK. Cheerios were actually on the shelves in Sainsbury's but I decided to stick with the Frosties cereal to put into my tea mug shaped bowl (I am that level of a tea nerd).

One thing that I wasn't expecting was how much I would miss some of the food that I had gotten accustomed to finding whenever I got back. So here is a list of the foods that I've missed since I've gotten back.

1) Jaffa Cakes
jaffa cake

These wonderful mixtures of cookies and sponge cakes are exactly what I just described them as. They are spongey cookies covered in a light chocolate and with an orange center. There is debate in the UK as to how you should eat them, but I always ate them by the box thank you very much. They are incredibly addictive which is probably why I finally caved and bought a three-pack of them off of Amazon and was willing to wait for the two weeks for them.

2) Digestives
Image result for digestives

These are like Jaffa cake's older and cookie-er brother. Rather than having a sponge cake base, these are cookie based sometimes with a chocolate covering and sometimes without. They are really nice to dip in a cup of tea before you run to class. Also, yes, I am aware that that could have been the most British thing I could have said.

3) Pasties
Image result for cornwall pasties

This might have been more of a Plymouth thing since the city is so close to Cornwall, but pasties are freaking great. They are almost like calzones, but instead of tomato sauce and cheese, they are made with beef chunks and sometimes vegetables. They are meals wrapped up in a doughy container and are really easy to simply enjoy while you sit on one of the benches watching people walk by.

4) Irn Bru
Image result for scottish soda

I realize that this isn't technically food, but I can't find this soda in US grocery stores so it's going on the list of things that I miss. This drink is really hard to describe and even harder to explain why I like it. It tastes a lot like the fake citrus taste that they add to medicine to help kids take it, but there's a kind of addictive quality to it that made it one of my favored drinks even though it's technically Scottish.

5) Jelly Babies

Okay, so if you're a classic Doctor Who fan then you will probably recognize these a little. These are Jelly Babies, little gummy candies that are covered in a thin layer of something resembling flour. Even though I sort of gorged myself on them in the first month, they were still really good and something that I miss.

Even though I know that I could probably find most of these if I ordered them off Amazon, I realized that I didn't want to do that just yet. Probably once more of the nostalgia sets in I will be willing to do that. But for now, I will patiently wait for my Jaffa cakes and try and reconcile the fact that I have to wait so long for the things that I had grown accustomed to while abroad.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

An Open Letter to My Bilingual Friends (Part Two)

Part one here.

I recently decided that I'm going to get my Spanish minor this summer, something I'd previously thought of as impossible due to studying in Sweden for a year. Indeed, it's something that's still totally possible to accomplish, but it's difficult. While in Sweden, I naturally didn't speak much Spanish, which resulted in me losing a lot of the language. In order for me to be ready to take Spanish classes this summer, I have to get back that language that I lost.

In doing so, I ask myself almost daily if I'm being too ambitious and want to give up. I believe that relearning Spanish is the most difficult and exhausting thing I've done in a while. I have Spanish-speaking friends helping me out, texting me in Spanish daily and conducting the occasional conversation in the language. I panic every time they speak to me. When someone says something to me in Spanish, I feel my heart begin to race and I almost always ask the speaker to repeat what they've said in English, even if I understood them. Sometimes I'll put up a fight and try to convince my friends, my teachers, to speak English, even though I know that what they're doing is for my own good.

Basically, at times I feel like I'm in the same boat as plenty of the friends I made in Sweden last year who were not confident in their English speaking abilities as well as some new friends I've made since returning to Maryville. It makes me think that it's time for a second open letter to my bilingual friends, and maybe I'm even talking to myself a bit as well.

Dear bilingual friends,

Do you realise how freaking awesome you are? You probably don't, but that's what I'm here for. It's challenging, perhaps even maddening, to conduct your day-to-day life in a language that still feels foreign to you. Sometimes you might feel like what you're doing is too difficult. Sometimes it might feel easier to just give up.

Don't give up.

Why? Because you're doing great. Sometimes you may think you're doing an awful job, but just remember that we are our own worst critics. It's difficult, but you're doing it, and you should applaud yourself for that.

You're still learning. I understand that and so does everyone else. That's why no one is judging you when you open your mouth to speak or turn on your English keyboard to send a text. And with each day, you're learning new words and phrases and gaining even more fluency in the language. How awesome is that?

It's okay to admit that it's difficult to say some words. It's okay to have an accent. It's okay that you make mistakes. It's okay. You got this. You're doing fine. You're not stupid when you make a mistake; you're brave for trying to speak a foreign language. It's not embarrassing to have an accent; it's courageous to roll unfamiliar words off your lips. I know it's not fun when someone corrects you or when you catch yourself making a mistake, but think of it this was: you're learning, growing, and becoming even better each and every day, and that's nothing you should ever be ashamed of.

What I'm trying to say is everyone starts somewhere.

I think I've about come to the conclusion that everyone that wants to really learn a language has to, at some point, swallow their fears and anxieties and just jump off the deep end and dive into the unknown because that's the way you learn a language. That's really your starting point. It's a long journey, one you and I both know isn't easy, but the end of the road is one worth waiting and working for.

You, my wonderful, fantastic, amazing, and generally awesome bilingual friends, make my life a happier place so it makes me so sad whenever I see you beat yourself up over struggling with the language because, to me, you're doing so great.

So before you apologise for your English - don't. It's not something you should ever be apologising for.

Thanks for everything, friends.

(PS - if someone ever makes you feel bad or ashamed about your English, send them my way and I'll make them feel bad or ashamed for making you feel bad or ashamed about your English)

Lee is exploring with a group of international friends during her year in Sweden. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Studying Abroad as a Minority


This autumn, pensive morning is evoking a reflective mood within me. As J-term study abroad sessions are approaching, I thought I would share some of my experiences studying abroad as a minority.

Studying abroad as a minority was an interesting and fulfilling experience for me. As a student of color, my identity as African American stayed at the forefront of my mind, acting as a filter during my destination decision process. I was fortunate enough to choose a study abroad program to Ecuador during my January term.

As I prepared for departure, I worried about things like my hair and my skin tone causing me unwanted attention or curious stares. I was brave despite my hesitation, and pressed on.  My first night in Ecuador we landed outside of Quito. We were met by our tour guide, Ivan, who was of a similar skin tone to me. I looked around at other Ecuadorians and realized that brown skin was dominant everywhere! While I didn't specifically look like locals, I felt normal compared to my American day to day racial experience.

One day after many hours swimming in the ocean, making new friends, and riding a boat on the lovely Pacific Ocean, I exhaled a sigh of relief. Ecuador was allowing me to be a global citizen beyond the barriers of my racial, American identity! I was genuinely enjoying myself.

The people of Ecuador are warm and accepting. Perhaps it is the humbling effect of being surrounded by such overwhelming beauty, whether it be the deep ocean or the luscious jungle, that causes these people to understand humanity better. Whatever it may be, my experience in Ecuador allowed me freedom regarding understanding of  myself and of others in new and seemingly unregulated boundaries.

To all my minority sisters and brothers, if you have the opportunity to study abroad, do it! You might be surprised how much you can give and receive when you cross borders.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Being sick abroad and other stressors

I quite possibly have the worst immune system of anyone I know, not counting my sister. While I have been here, I have had three different colds, something almost flu-like, and a throw up bug. It has been a wild wild ride. I should drink plenty of fluids and have copious amounts of rest, but instead I find myself dragging my sick body through the cobblestone streets of Prague. I can't stop traveling. My past self (stingy and timid) would be in shock about the amount I have spent and the multiple times I've been spontaneous. I have talked to many strangers, everyone here is practically a stranger. Last weekend I found myself having Tex-Mex in Prague with an Australian, Indian-Canadian, and Filipino man, all hostel-goers that my roommate met. They, and others, are all wonderful people that I wouldn't meet if I stayed in my bubble.
Balancing school and fun is hard. It was hard back at Maryville but it is much harder here because all of Europe is calling. I plan when I will study and when I will go to Sweden at the same time. I recently made a trek to the end of the metro-line in Milan to find an obscure Steak and Shake with my roommate (the fries are different, but still delicious). I did this while ignoring the fact I am semi behind on all the readings I have to do my next week. Ah yes, exams are upon me....weeks after they struck their terror at Maryville. Let me tell you, I am nervous. There i no such this as a study guide here. We just have to know EVERYTHING. In a class where we have three readings per class, that is downright scary.
I promise I am full of happiness despite these issues. After Midterms, I am going to Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. This weekend I am going to Florence. I will be in Paris by Christmas time. What the h*ll. I never thought I would have such opportunities.
I am overjoyed and overwhelmed and signing off for now.