Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Be Still, My Travel-Loving Heart

(Photo Credits to Becca)
Bonjour,

I've just returned from a week-long trip to Dublin and London. This past week allowed me to complete one of my three goals I set for studying abroad, which was to visit at least two other countries aside from France. Completing such a goal has been extremely rewarding! I saw the sites that both London and Dublin had to offer. I tried the food, I bought the postcards, but most importantly, I met other people as in love with life as me.

In Dublin, the two-day trip made schedules a bit rushed, and so, I wasn't able to befriend any Irish or non-Irish travelers. After returning to London, I found my way into the airport Costa coffee-shop for a much-needed coffee. It was there, in London, that I found the most friendly and outgoing Irish guy I'd ever met. We talked for over an hour of the differences between the U.S. and Ireland. He shared with me his plans for the future and told entertaining stories (one involving a large mattress and a rooftop window).

On two other separate occasions in London, I befriended groups of friends that welcomed me warmly and allowed me to tag along for the day. Seth and Becca, Boston natives, were in London and had been apart of a tour group discovering the city alongside me. When the tour ended around lunchtime, they invited myself and my traveling partner to join them for lunch. For the remainder of the day and for the whole of the next, I explored the city with them. We bonded over our love of learning and traveling. Seth, who never seems to meet a stranger, befriended others as well, and quickly, the group grew into a happy mix of student travelers.


With them, I traversed the cobbled London streets, I posed in front of world-famous landmarks, and I exposed my poor hand-eye coordination skill in a dimly-lit local ping-pong bar. Despite our identical nationalities, Seth and Becca taught me a lot. From them, I realized that even within the borders of the U.S., I have so much traveling to do. There is so much I still do not know regarding music, religion, and even Boston stereotypes!

After Seth and Becca left London, I had only one more full day to discover the hidden gems of London. While eating breakfast at the hostel, my ears prickled with the familiarity of the still-foreign language that I love so dearly: French. I turned to the two girls sitting at the table beside me and began to speak with them about my poor French-speaking skills and my current studies in Caen. We approached the topic of traveling, and it turned out that Sandrine and Marina were celebrating Marina's recent birthday only a few days before.

After hearing that I had no plans for the day, they promptly invited me to join them on an adventure to a local market where we feasted on the various products offered to us by the food stands. The smell of frying seasoned beef mixed with the strong aroma of an exotic coffee bean. Vendors called from all around us, advertising and giving samples. In awe, we took it all in. The sites, the smells, the crowds. This was London, and it was so incredibly amazing.

We took pictures of the street art as we made our way to Chinatown to try a famous new dessert from a restaurant called Bubblewrap. Though the store had only been open for one month, the popularity of the sweet treat was well-known. A line of eager customers waited outside the store. This line extended quite a distance away, but Sandrine, Marina, and I braved the crowds and withstood the test of time. Needless to say, we came out triumphant. The bubblewrap treats were Instagram-worthy, and the experience solidified our friendship.

This past week has taught me a lot. It taught me that though I prefer the structure of a schedule when in the U.S., when traveling, I yearn for the unplanned adventures and the spontaneous decisions. I relish in the idea of walking without a true destination, only keeping in mind the importance of happiness and, of course, insatiable curiosity.

I learned about others as well. Seth, with his relentless jokes, showed me that one shouldn't take themselves too seriously. Becca, always a reliable photographer, taught me to live in the moment, but make the moment so precious it's worth the picture. Sandrine, with her go-pro, made me realize that much of the beauty of a culture is in the candidness of it all: The aimless walking which gave way to lively market booths. And Marina, with her sarcastic humor, allowed me to find entertainment in the events around me, if only I pay enough attention.

This may be the longest blog I have ever written, and so, I leave you with this simple quote to sum up my entire traveling experience:
 As with any journey, who you travel with can be more important than your destination.

A bientot! -Albrianna









Monday, April 10, 2017

Spring Break Reunion

There isn't a day that goes by where I don't think about my year in Sweden. When I say that I created a new life that was my very own there, I mean it with every fiber in my being. I have an endless supply of stories, whether they be happy stories, fun stories, sad stories, and even a life lesson or two (or ten).

The sign reads "What is your next step?"
And that's honestly a pretty valid question.
Coming back to the United States was really hard for me, but I was comforted by the fact that I had made lifelong friends and, when (not if) I began to travel the world again, I had a place to stay on practically every continent. But it turns out it's not that easy. Within a month or two of returning from Sweden, I lost contact with a lot of people I thought I'd be lifelong friends with. Now that I've been back around nine months, the number of people I've lost contact with has grown even more. Sometimes when Facebook reminds me what I was up to a year ago today, I feel a bit of resentment. I was happy and free when I was Sweden, and now I feel trapped.

Obviously, it's really hard to return to life as usual after studying abroad, but I think it might be even harder for an American that studied abroad in Europe. Almost all of the friends I made are European. Travel is quick and cheap in Europe, so they're able to have reunions practically whenever they want, and I'm stuck in Tennessee feeling incredibly sad and jealous while I watch these reunions occur through Facebook posts and Snapchat stories. I studied abroad with a few Americans, but we're
scattered across a nation that's larger than Europe itself, so it's not as easy for us. Every time I've made a plan to meet up with someone I studied abroad with, the plans ended up falling through for some reason or another.

But finally.... FINALLY I got to have a study abroad reunion of my own. My best friend in the entire world, Ida, came to Tennessee for spring break. I was ecstatic. For those who don't remember, Ida is from Finland, and I went to her high school graduation last year. She arrived late Friday night and quickly passed out, but the next day, I gave her a brief tour of Maryville (brief because there's not much to see), we took my dog for a walk, then had dinner with my boyfriend and his friends. And on Sunday, we headed out to Nashville!

Spring break in Nashville!

When we arrived, I parked in LP Field Nissan Stadium. If you've been here, you know that it's a great place to catch the Nashville skyline. Nissan Stadium and downtown Nashville are separated by
Cumberland River, with a pedestrian bridge going over the river to connect the two. We stood by the river as Ida took in the skyline. After a few minutes of silence, I asked her how she felt about it. There was another long moment of silence before she replied, "Honestly... This is the happiest I've felt in a really long time."

Five minutes into spring break, and my mission has already been accomplished.

Found this tourist in downtown Nashville.
Anyone recognise her?
We spent the week doing whatever Ida wanted. I gave suggestions, but at the end of the day, I let her do the deciding (usually) because she'd come from such a long way away that I figured it was only fair to let her call the shots. We went shopping and to hockey games. We meandered around downtown for no particular reason. We walked miles upon miles to check out murals and the state capitol. I introduced her to southern cuisine, Tex-Mex food I'd grown up on, and even gave her her first experience with every college kid's favourite place, Cookout. Before we went to sleep at night, we joked around and reminded each other of fun and embarrassing stories from my days in Sweden. I didn't care what we did, I was just happy to finally have my best friend by my side again.
Can't wait to see this dime
and all my other friends again.

Spring break is long gone now, and Ida is back in Finland. But I won't forget the amazing reunion we had together in Nashville. It not only reminded me why Ida is my absolute best friend in the entire world but also ignited a spark in me to start travelling again, once it's financially feasible to do so. Which I suppose will require me getting a job... :p Even though I feel stuck, I realised it doesn't have to be that way forever. I'm young, only 22, with my whole life ahead of me. I have friends across the world that I love and will do anything to see again, all thanks to the fact that I studied abroad in the first place. So I will travel again someday. There's too much of the world left to be seen for me to give up now.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

La Carnaval des Etudiants à Caen

Bonjour,

I leave for London in a mere four hours and have yet to fall asleep! My sleep schedule has been completely destroyed (though by what, I am not sure). I wanted to share my experience participating in the largest student-led carnival in all of Europe that happens here in my second home (the city of Caen!). This past Thursday, thousands of students came from all around to take part in it. To be exact, there were around 30,000 people in attendance!

It is a tradition that dates back to 1996, I believe. It's been a success each year, and the crowds have only increased in number. The carnival serves at a gathering point for students across the continent to gather and celebrate the stage of their lives in which they study and live freely and happily. They do this by dressing up in costumes and parading throughout the streets all together.

Because I did not want to spend too much money on a costume, I used a spare sheet that was provided to me by the housing at Caen and made a toga. I went to Claire's and purchased accessories and looked something like a Greek Goddess (if I do say so myself.) I decided to bring a little current fashion to the wardrobe by donning on my trusty Chacos, which are sandals that I feel might never become a style here in France like they are in East Tennessee.

The energy of the parade was contagious and it made me feel so timeless as we marched throughout the city as a unit. One way to sum up my emotions is to use a quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower which is to say "We are infinite". That is how I felt, so very full of life and love and unity. I normally hate large crowds, but the opportunity was too good to miss and I am so glad I did not hold back.

Now, I must go because I leave soon for London and then Dublin. I will update about my adventure upon my return next week! A bientot!                                                                                                                      -Albrianna


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Answering the Call of Adventure


Bonjour,

This past weekend, I had the most memorable time with a new friend I met as a result of the local French school visit. She is French and very familiar with the area around Caen. She generously invited me to stay at her "simple home" for the weekend which I found to be an adorable French farmhouse (the kind I've only ever seen in movies).

I was able to try raclette for the first time. This was one of the recommendations suggested to me by the students I visited. Raclette is a traditional French dish. It being French, can you guess the main ingredient? CHEESE!! Raclette is the cheese that is melted with a particular machine that sits on the table. Then, it is poured over various types of food. I tried it on boiled potatoes and a baguette. Along with this cheese are various types of meat. During the meal, my friend taught me how to ask for the dishes by saying "Tu veux me donne le pain/la viande/la fromage/les pommes de terre?"

She also took me to a local site for thrill-seekers. The place was called "Viaduc de la Souleuvre". It was once a bridge built by Gustave Eiffel (builder of the Eiffel Tower) that supported rail-way travel, but the bridge was destroyed by bombs during the Second World War. AJ Hackett, a man from New Zealand, decided to use the abandoned area. Here, one can bungee jump, ride the "top swing" or "swing", zip-line, or ride the "luge". My friend and I went zip-lining together, which was pretty intense considering we started from the top of a bridge! We also rode the "luge", something like the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster.
After this fun-filled day, we went hiking at "Le Nez de Jobourg", a place named for the nose ("nez") shape of the land that juts out to the sea. It was one of the very few times that I can say I wasn't cold here in France! The weather was absolutely perfect for our hike and picnic (or "pique-nique", in French).


This past weekend renewed my burning passion for France, but also gave me an intense desire to travel to other places and meet other people as well. With the 2-week break approaching, I have been planning my trip to London and Dublin (a mere week away). At the end of this month, I will also be spending a weekend in Paris. I am excited for the upcoming events and am willing and ready to answer the call of adventure.

It's strange to consider that this is real life, and that opportunities this enchanting are happening to me! I've been incredibly blessed to have been able to study abroad, and although this trip is my first time abroad, I know for certain that it cannot be my last. For anyone with a curiosity for studying abroad or those who might be hesitant, I say GO FOR IT!
 
A bientot! -Albrianna





Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Visit to the Local French School


Bonjour, 


Last week, I had an amazing opportunity to visit a local French school for a day and can hardly contain my excitement to share with you all that I learned! My visit even made the local newspaper! Fair warning: This post might get a little lengthy!

First off, I want to acknowledge that there are numerous differences between French schools and U.S. schools. The grade levels are the most apparent and difficult aspect for me to remember! Because it would be extremely difficult to try and explain, I have provided a lovely chart created by FrenchCrazy.com to help! The school I was invited to would be considered a "college" which is absolutely not the same type of college as back home! I had the opportunity to talk to three different classes and got to observe a debate team meeting, as well. I spoke in English since the students were in their English class. They asked me all sorts of questions, and I did my best to answer.
Some questions focused on me, personally, such as "What is your greatest fear?" or "What is your happiest memory?". Other questions focused on my opinion of environmental conditions such as "What do you think about Global Warming?", "Do you recycle?" and questions involving eco-friendly habits that take place (or do not take place) back home in America. One of the most popular questions seemed to be "What do you think of Donald Trump?" The students seemed very interested in the political arena of American politics, and I don't disagree that that particular topic is presently a topic of intrigue, but I can't recall ever being genuinely interested in anything political in my middle school years. 

The French students may have learned a few things about my home-country, but in turn, I learned so much about France as well. For example, recycling would almost be considered mandatory with how commonplace is actually is. You would be considered odd for NOT recycling. This seems bizarre for someone like me who has made an effort to be more eco-friendly but has never owned numerous trash cans for paper, plastic, aluminum, glass, and other products.  

Also, the students taught me about the language requirements in the French public school system. It's normal to begin learning their native language
(French)in the first years of schooling and soon after, they are required to begin studying their second language (typically English), BUT by the time they are in high school, they are learning yet another language! Before "graduation" (obtaining their BAC), they will be familiar with or fluent in three different languages! It's an amazing concept!

Because I needed a few tips from the experts, I asked the students for suggestions to improve my immersion in the French culture. They provided me with a list of traditional dishes to try, as well as French movies and music artists to look up. They gushed about their favorite singers and recommended which ones to avoid. I wanted to share the lists with you as well, for curiosity's sake. Before I left, the students presented me with little gifts and homemade desserts. They set me up to look like France's biggest fan (which, of course, I am!) 


In just a few short days, I will have reached the halfway point of my stay here in France, and while I miss my family and friends back home, I already know that it will be hard to leave this lovely country and its wonderful people. I only hope that the second half of this adventure will be just as wonderful as the first!

A bientot! -Albrianna



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Tale with a Twist(ed Ankle)

Bonjour,

I'll spare the morbid details (and pictures) of my previously discussed ankle injury, and will instead acknowledge what affects injuries and illnesses can have on a person who is living in a place he or she is unfamiliar with.

I managed to twist my ankle stepping off of a curb while on my way to complete a group project that involved touring through the city of Caen. It was at a completely inconvenient time, but I do not think injuries or illnesses care enough to come about when the time is convenient for anyone, that is to say if there is ever such a time.

It took a solid four days of hopping around and cringing with each painful step before the swelling managed to go down and the bruising became minimal. I was recommended to visit the doctor, but being in an unfamiliar place with only basic communication skills, I was unwilling to seek out help from a professional
. Even with my injury, I tried my best to complete the group project, though sadly, the lack of time and endurance to walk though the entire city on a sore ankle made my work sub-par.

My injury affected many things: my performance in the group project, my mobility when undergoing daily tasks, and especially, my spirit. I was forced to ask for help from friends. This is especially difficult for me because I like to remain independent. When I feel as though I do not have control, I grow anxious and easily annoyed at myself.

My injury served as a reminder to slow down and swallow my pride just a bit, and the entire time, I was thanking God that my ankle was only twisted and not broken. I could not imagine enduring the rest of my time in France with a broken ankle! Metros would not be easily navigated on crutches!

I am blessed to say that I have not had to deal with any long-lasting sickness while here, though my neighbor and friend has. She is a study abroad student like myself, and for almost six weeks she was fighting multiple illnesses. I witnessed her painful coughs and listened to her sad tales, all the while almost positive that, had I been in her place, I'd be dreaming to be back home in my big bed with family tending to my needs.

It is scary to think of having to rely on strangers when one is in a foreign place, but while traveling allows a person to be independent, it also forces one to be dependent as well. In a vulnerable state as injury or illness puts us, it is nice to be reminded that help is available if one is willing to ask. Through the past week, I've reminded myself that everything I experience here, good or bad, is a part of my grand adventure abroad.

A bientot! -Albrianna

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Japanese Things That America Needs

I love America. It's my home. But sometimes, America could be better. And some of those improvements can come from Japan. So here's a completely, 100% opinionated list on Japanese things that America needs!

Fish Shaped Soy Sauce Dropper

If you ever bought grocery store sushi back in the US, you know the struggles of opening the soy sauce packet without it flying out of the packet and onto your shirt or all over your hands. Here, in the homeland of sushi, grocery store sushi (which is amazing by the way) comes with this fish shaped container filled with soy sauce. All you do is unscrew the little, red cap with no fear of it going all over the place. Then you can evenly distribute the soy sauce to all the sushi pieces, instead of the one soggy piece of sushi and the other one dry. Having this simple device back home will solve a lot of grocery store sushi struggles.


May or may not have bought sushi just for this picture.

Disney for Adults

Japan is obsessed with Disney. I'm ok with that. I, too, am obsessed with Disney. Back home, the Disney Store caters to kids. Costumes, dolls, light sabers, and other (mostly) kid only items fill the store. Heck, my mom even went to Disneyland recently and couldn't find a Rapunzle t-shirt there that was for someone my age. Here in Japan, the Disney Store is filled with items not just for kids, but for adults as well. In fact, there's not a costume in sight in the Japanese stores. They are filled with phone cases, train card pass holders, dishes, jewelry, and many other items catered towards an older demographic. It's a very nice change. Needless to say, I have some new Disney stuff now.


Tsum tsums galore! They even have Japanese exclusive heres, like the Rescuers! 

Public Transportation

American isn't know for it's public transportation. I don't even know how to use the bus in Knoxville. Hirakata City, my home for the semester, has a population that is less than Knoxville, but yet the bus and train system is better than Knoxville's. It's nice to be able to go to other cities, like Osaka and Kyoto, whenever I want via the trains. The bus is a great way to get to one end of town to the other in record time. Imagine being able to cross America by a bullet train. Going to New York to LA would be faster than by car. It'll be a great, cheaper, faster way to explore America.

The Keihan line takes you to Osaka and Kyoto!

Heated Toilet Seats

Now, I know this list is 100% opinionated, but I will argue with anyone how disagrees with me on this subject. Heated toilet seats have saved my life. You don't know what you're missing until you experience it for yourself. Japanese toilets also come with a range of buttons on them, from a perfume button to a bidet button. The plain ol' American toilet just isn't going to cut anymore. This is just something you'll have to experience to believe.

There's a button for everything next to the toilet.

Real Japanese Restaurants

Japanese restaurants in America are one of two things- sushi or hibachi restaurants. Japanese food is so much more than those two types of foods. There's the Japanese savory pancake, okonomiyaki. There's the ever popular ramen. There's yakisoba, fried noodles. In other words, there's a lot more to Japanese cuisine than what's present in America. I would love for these unique foods to showcase themselves in America. Sure, maybe fried dough ball filled with octopus (takoyaki, my favorite food so far) might be a little much for the average American, but I think they have place here. After all, we like our fried food here in the South!

Ramen is delicious when not out of a packet.

Various Flavors of Kit Kats

As my roommate knows, I really like Kit Kats. In Japan, Kit Kats are extremely popular. They are usually used as a gift to students taking exams due to the name being close to the word for good luck. Their popularity resulted in many flavors, some normal, some not so normal. I've had everything form sakura with soy bean to ginger to green tea. So why does America need so many Kit Kat flavors? From an economic standpoint, I think having multiple flavors would bring in more revenue for the company. Cookie and Cream Kit Kat bar would do really well in the US if it exists. Also, I would just like to have them. They're really good. My favorite so far are the sakura with soy bean and pistachio with raspberry.

Kit Kats in picture: Butter, Green Tea, Strawberry Maple, and Pistachio and Raspberry.
Butter was surprisingly not bad. Definitely tasted like butter though.


 A rare find: Sake Kit Kats. At first, I thought it was sake that tasted like Kit Kats. 
It's actually Kit Kats that taste like sake. 

Starbucks filled with Sakura

For a limited time, most popular chains in Japan introduce a sakura, or cherry blossom, flavored good. McDonald's has sakura McFlurries, fries, and soda. But the best sakura flavored food item comes from Starbucks. This year, they released a Sakura frappiccihno and latte. They are the best thing I've ever had from Starbucks. It's incredibly creamy with a very subtle cherry flavor. It's very sweet, but so good. If this was back home, I would drink it everyday. My waistline would hate me, but the taste is worth it. I'll miss it once I come home. If you every come to Japan around sakura season, be sure to check out all the sakura flavored foods!

It's so pretty too!

I know this post was a little different from the others, but I had midterms this week and didn't really do much besides study. But good news! Next blog post will be about my spring break in Tokyo! Be on the look out for it!! See you guys then!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

L'amour est une Porte Ouverte {Love is an Open Door}

Bonjour,

A recent incident involving an unexpected curb and my susceptible ankle has caused me to delay in posting.

While all of my previous blogs have centered around a particular theme, I thought I might now reflect on my time here in France. In doing so, I hope to preserve a few valuable impressions that I have had. I could begin from one of many paths, but I choose perhaps my favorite of all: My impression of the language.

French is considered one of the romance languages, and while I think that one can find something admirable concerning any language, my dreamer heart chooses to capitalize on one particular word: inspirer. "Inspirer" is a french verb that translates to "to breathe in, to inhale". Another more expected translation for English speakers is literally "to inspire." I think it is absolutely amazing that such a word is capable of dual meanings. To consider one meaning in light of the other is to capitalize on the former. This is one tiny detail that makes up the cause for my love and admiration for such a language as French.

Despite the stigma of French being a "romance" language, I have had much difficulty learning the language. (I believe I love it more than it loves me!) My bilingual and multilingual friends have assured me that learning a new language comes with its share of hardships, but my love for the language causes me to become impatient and frustrated with myself. Despite this, I have managed to dream twice in French! Until recently, I had no idea that such a thing was possible! This intrigues me and encourages me to study French (and other languages) even more.

Another gem of the French culture is the accessibility of coffee! My coffee-loving heart can hardly contain it's happiness at the site of coffee vending machines! In the U.S., I have never seen a single coffee vending machine. The machines here in France charge approximately .80 euros for a hot coffee beverage and the like (hot chocolate, cappuccino, etc.). Aside from this, every restaurant I have dined in has not disappointed with their quality of coffee.

I have had only a few encounters with the French culture that have been uncomfortable or difficult to comprehend. Lack of personal space is a big difference for me. Bisous are often expected when meeting up with friends or acquaintances. (They are light kisses on either side of one's cheeks!) Also, I have not managed to finish a full meal while holding both my knife and fork at the same time which is an expectation I am not accustomed to. Despite these minor details, I remain adamant about learning and growing in the French culture daily. I love the knowledge I have been exposed to by traveling and the people I have met along the way. This love has exposed new ways of seeing the world and opened new and exciting doors for me to explore beyond. I have 88 days remaining to do so, and hopefully, time after graduation as well!

A bientot! -Albrianna Jenkins

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

College differences in Mexico and U.S

Education is an important aspect in most countries, and Mexico and the United States are no different. However, there are many differences between the education system in the United States and that of Mexico. Contrasts can be found in the amount of years, structure, culture and context of the educational systems. Let's take a look at important differences in the schooling of these two countries.
One difference is the way school discipline student. For example in Mexico we have very strict and long schedules. Our classes start at 8 am and end at 3 pm. Also, all students have  4 to 5 classes each day. In the United States, it´s surprising for me how flexible you  can make  your schedule, and how much freedom you have in making it. For example, sometimes I have two classes each day or have some days completely off.
The other big different are the professors. Most professors I have at Maryville College are friendly and will help you out. Most of the professor at Maryville will have office hours where they will help you solve any problem you have in their class.  In Mexico most professor just teach class. The Department Chair evaluates projects and homework, so the grading structure is very different than here. If you did not do so good on a homework or project assignment most professor will  indicate what the student did wrong, so the student can learn from their mistakes and leave the class with the best understanding possible.

My home country university system
Covenent stone 
might not vary that much from the United States’ system, but there are so many little things that make a difference. Maryville College might be different than what I am used to but change is always good. I am loving my stay here and would not trade this new experience for anything.  The experience I am gaining being in a college away from home is unique. I am learning how to be independent, how to interact with so many different cultures and amazing people.  

An Athlete's Experience Abroad

My name is Alex Willard. I am from Clinton, Tennessee. I am a senior at Maryville College, where I am an Accounting/Finance major with a Sociology minor. Throughout my undergraduate experience, I have played four years on the football team, I have been a resident assistant for three-years, I held the position of treasurer for the residence hall association and have been co-chair peer mentor. Through academics and these organizations, Maryville College has challenged me to search for truth and grow in wisdom. It has also challenged me to expand my comfort zone and experience things that I would have never dreamed of experiencing before arriving on campus.

            Although growing up I had an itch to go abroad, it never crossed my mind during my first two years in college. Maybe this was due to my schedule being filled by countless hours of practice? Or maybe it was because I was scared to leave my comfort zone? Anyways, hearing MC students talk about their experiences influenced and pushed me to see what the hype around the study abroad program was about. Since football season was during the fall, off season workouts were in the spring and I had to work to pay for school during the summer; I was limited in when I could go abroad. This left one option for me, J-term. As I began to look for opportunities that fit my time table and one that would challenge me on many levels, one stuck out. The 18-day J-term trip to Ecuador!

            Ecuador was a trip that consisted of traveling around the entire country, moving every two to three days. It was also one that consisted a lot of physical activity such as: hiking, walking, carrying your heavy bag from place to place and adventure activities. This is where I think being an athlete helped me succeed while being abroad. Not only was I in good shape, but going abroad allowed me to use my teamwork skills and allowed me to use my knowledge of overcoming adversity. I had to rely on others to help navigate the terrain and even the language barrier. I found myself in unknown territory and had to use my athletic training to stay positive and be courageous.

            Finally, while Maryville College prepares students for many aspects of life, I truly believe it is hard to prepare students for trips abroad. During my 18-day trip, I experienced different cultures, languages, many foods and tradition. I also gained the experience of feeling like a minority. This trip provided me with an opportunity to expand my views and to help me better understand social and sustainability problems from a worldwide perspective. 

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