The Spirit of Craic

Enjoying a night at The Quays.

Enjoying a night at The Quays.

In the beautiful region of Connemara.

In the beautiful region of Connemara.

Dancing with new friends at Monroe's pub.

Dancing with new friends at Monroe’s pub.

My scrumptious full Irish breakfast.

My scrumptious full Irish breakfast.

Having fun at a house party before going into town.

Having fun at a house party before going into town.

A unicyclist in Galway amusing his audience by simultaneously cycling and escaping a straightjacket.

A unicyclist in Galway amusing his audience by simultaneously cycling and escaping a straightjacket.

My first month in Galway has brimmed with sunny days and bright nights. It’s absolutely lovely and so unique. I’ve met and spent time with Irish students and other international students, explored Galway’s shops, pubs, and markets, traveled to Connemara and Dublin, and eaten a delicious full Irish breakfast (complete with eggs, toast, ham, beans, chips, and black pudding, or pork blood sausage, which was tasty!) Also, tá mé ag foghlaim na Gaeilge! (I am learning Irish!) 

One difference between life here and in America is the college culture. Back home, weekdays are generally for school-related activities and homework, while weekend nights are for parties and outings. Here, it’s the complete reverse! Many Irish students go home on the weekends—instead, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings are the “craic”, or the fun that’s going on. These are the nights when students walk from the store with armfuls of liquor, ready for the pregame house parties before taking taxis to clubs and pubs in town. These vibrant nights are for lipstick, dressy outfits, and impossibly high heels (which the Irish girls wear so gracefully!)

Also, at NUI Galway almost every student is involved in clubs and societies. My roommate and I took a leap of courage and joined the rock climbing club, and it’s been a wonderful way to connect. Every Tuesday night, the club goes to the pub Monroe’s to chat and have a drink after climbing. It’s part of the effervescent night life of the city. Some of my favorite memories so far include walking through town in the lit-up chill of evening and stopping at pubs like The Quays, The Front Door, or The Kings Head to enjoy live bands with friends.

Another difference between Galway and home is the appreciation of art that’s woven into the everyday. Handfuls of performers dot Shop Street, including unicyclists, jugglers, painters, sand artists, living statues, singers, dancers, and musicians playing guitar, fiddle, piano, saxophone, and flute. It is part of the city’s energetic pulse, and so refreshing.

Most of all, I love the Irish spirit of humor, warmth, and fun that has made my fellow American girls and me feel so welcome. I’m already finding myself drinking four cups of tea per day and saying “grand” and “brilliant.” Slán go fóill!

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South Korea Study Abroad

South Korea 10343652_945067095519859_2798758168316649585_n 10583783_935210023172233_8848197495486599491_n 10646813_935210403172195_2979712070594038619_n 10678708_943483719011530_7995693318887119913_n 10690320_935210896505479_8992426941887660170_n       Simply amazing is how I would start to describe my time here studying abroad in South Korea.  Life is very different here than it is back home at Concordia and in a way there are slight subtleties that make it not so different.  So what is a typical day like in South Korea and at Soonchunhyang University?  There are so many things to do here and so many people to meet.  That being the case the first thing that happened to me was getting to meet other international students!  There are some international students we call (returnees) because they are simply amazing people who have had experience living and studying here in South Korea.  They helped the newcomers settle into their dorm.  The international students live in a building called Global Village which we call GV.  GV is an important factor in your day to day lives here at Soonchunhyang.  You will live in a suite with 11 other people, a mix of other international students and native Korean students.  Most if not all the Koreans in your suite will be able to speak english more or less so don’t worry about communication.  The Koreans are very welcoming and love to hang around international students, if you become good friends with them they will be more open to showing you around South Korea, they may even invite you to spend a few nights with their family in their hometown which trust me, it would be a great honor if they asked you to.  There are huge cities here that you can visit such as Seoul, Busan, Incheon, and there are beaches here for you to go to, shopping districts such as Myeongdong or Dongdaemun, a lot of palaces and temples to see, and a lot of different museums as well.  You can go clubbing, spend a night or day at the hot springs or jimjibam, try the different kinds of foods and restaurants, go out for a movie night, drinking happens a lot here (since it is part of the culture), visiting Jeju Island and there are festivals happening almost every weekend.  There is just so much more to do that I can’t name everything.  It hasn’t quite hit me yet that I am here in South Korea.  Maybe it is because I have always wanted to come here, or maybe it is because I just feel like I belong, and maybe yet it is because of the welcoming atmosphere that it feels like home.  Regardless I fully recommend studying abroad here at Soonchunhyang, I’ve learnt so much more than I thought I would and have experienced so many things I haven’t even imagined of doing.  But one of the most important things that I have gained here are friendships that will last a lifetime because no matter how many times I visit any of the magical places in South Korea, they are only as great as the people you share those moments with. 

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The beautiful view from Seoul Tower.

The beautiful view from Seoul Tower.

Hello! My name is Zoua Vang. I’m a sophomore at Concordia University in Saint Paul. For my 2014 fall semester I wanted to do something different, something I always wanted to do which was to travel to South Korea. When I heard about the study abroad program in South Korea from the CALL center I knew I had to do it, it was now or never! My application for this program was simple, yet, it caused me so much stress. I guess it is true when they say don’t procrastinate, which I did. Getting my VISA a week before leaving to South Korea was nerve wreaking because I witness other students having problems with getting their VISA approved by the Korea Embassy. But when I got my passport and VISA in the mail it was the happiest day of my life. It was a reality check for me. All this time I couldn’t believe that I was actually leaving. This being the first time traveling alone and going out of the country I was more anxious than ever.

My home for the next 4 months.

My home for the next 4 months.

I am currently studying at Soonchunhyang University in South Korea. I’m living in Global Village with eleven other girls in a suite it sounds crazy, but trust me it’s not that crazy. My suite mates are always busy with their classes and hobbies that most of the time we don’t even see each other until bed time. So far my experience here in Global Village is fascinating because you meet other great international students who are all in the same boat learning about the Korean culture. It has only been a month since I arrived in South Korea and it has taught me so much about their culture and society. The biggest cultural differences that made a huge impact in my life in South Korea was we use the subway almost every day. The subway transportation is very easy to navigate and it’s connected to almost everywhere in South Korea.

The National Folk Museum of Korea.

The National Folk Museum of Korea.

The Korean culture is known to be very respectful and polite when greeting their elders. Communicating is very different in the Korean culture because depending on the person’s age determine how you speak to the person.  For example when speaking to an elderly in Korea you have to talk formally because it’s a way of showing respect. There are many cultural differences in South Korea such as cars have the right of way, bow when you greet your elders, spicy food and drinking soju is very common in the Korean culture. There many things to do in South Korea you just have to come with an open-mind. That is it for my first month blog until next time!

In Busan visiting Haeundae Beach.

In Busan visiting Haeundae Beach.

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Goodbye London!

London Tower & Tower Bridge

London Tower & Tower Bridge

Butterfly Paradise at the London Zoo

Butterfly Paradise at the London Zoo

Today marked my last day of my summer intern program.  During the past 8 weeks that I’ve been in London I have learned more about the British culture than I imagined.  For one, I learned more about its history and issues.  One hot topic that’s been on debate right now is the Scottish independence.  Also, I noticed a different atmosphere between London, Dublin, and Edinburgh.  My friends and I planned a trip to Dublin, Ireland a couple weekends ago and it was nice.  People say that Dublin is smaller than London, but it still felt big to me at least.  The people in Dublin were very nice and helpful too!  My friends and I were lost a couple of times but we would be offered help by Irish bystanders!  I thought this was very different compared to London because in London when you’re trying to find a place or are lost (and you clearly look lost) no one will come to your aid.  I understand why Londoners aren’t jumping at the opportunity to help lost tourists, but I thought it was a nice gesture in Dublin.  While in Dublin we booked a tour to Galway and the ride was beautiful.  I’m a huge fan of Game of Thrones (GOT) and was sad that I didn’t get a chance to do a GOT tour in Ireland since it’s filmed there, but the scenic drive to Galway was the spitting image of GOT.  The scenic drive was my favorite part of Ireland and I would love to just go on a scenic ride throughout Ireland.  Last weekend, my friends and I decided to visit Edinburgh, Scotland.  People say that Dublin is smaller than London and that Edinburgh is even smaller than Dublin, and those people were right.  Edinburgh is a smaller city compared to London, but it was a very majestic city.  Right when we got to Edinburgh we had an amazing view of the sun shining down on Edinburgh castle.  At first, I didn’t realize that Hogwarts was inspired by Edinburgh castle until the next day when I saw the Edinburgh castle enveloped by fog.  Even though Edinburgh is a much smaller city compared to London and Dublin, it felt as though Edinburgh had just as many (if not more) tourists than both those cities.  I think maybe an important reason is because of the Scottish heritage that stems from Edinburgh and also the city itself is just so beautiful.  Well, Ireland was beautiful too, but I personally think it was due to the scenic drive.  I feel that Edinburgh has the things that I liked in London (architectural buildings and churches) and also in Ireland (the beauty of nature).  If I lived in Scotland, Edinburgh would be the city I would live in; if I lived in England, London would be the city I would live in; if I lived in Ireland, I would live in a small town on the seaside.  In each city, I felt a different atmosphere but I loved each place for their differences.

Traditional Irish Riverdancing in Ireland

Traditional Irish River dancing in Ireland

Ireland

Ireland

Ireland

Ireland

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

A hill in Holyrood Park.

A hill in Holyrood Park.

The Left View of the Hill

The Left View from the top of the Hill

The right view of the Hill

The right view from the top of the Hill

This past Thursday was my last day of my internship.  I grew to love working at my internship because of the environment my co-workers provided for me.  I didn’t have your traditional ‘co-workers’ because I only worked with the other volunteers a couple times, but I did work with my three supervisors every day.  My supervisors felt more like my co-workers than my superiors because they did not hover over me with their authority where I would feel like an inferior; on the contrary they provided me an environment that was very welcoming and warm.  I love my co-workers!  They were very professional and a group of very nice people who are passionate about their job.  During my time interning I noticed another difference between the British culture and the American culture.  In the British system, if a woman were on maternity leave she had up to a whole year (and if she’s lucky it’s a year and a half!) off and she was guaranteed a position from her employers.  This also is applied to the spouse too, so both parents can enjoy taking time off on maternity leave and raise their child.  I found this to be amazing because compared to the U.S. system we get 6 weeks off and that is only for the mother, not including the spouse.  Also, in the British system, during the first 3 months of her maternity leave she would be paid full time from her job and afterwards she would receive half pay for about 5 to 6 months.  The British system sounds very great but there are cons to this too.  The mother is guaranteed ‘a job’ which means it could be a better or worse position that she had before she left.  But in the U.S. the employer guarantees the same job that the mother had before she left.  There’s also the question of ‘if a British mother does take a whole year off on maternity leave then how is she able to support her family when she does not receive any sort of payment from her job after the 9 months of payments?’  There are some factors that we would have to look into because even though her spouse could support the family with their income the family now has an infant who feeds every 4 hours, gets a diaper changed at least 3 times a day, outgrows its clothes within 3 months, and keeps on growing and now you also have to support the mother who is on maternity leave who also needs food too and obviously the spouse needs food too.  And remember, the spouse could also go on maternity leave for a whole year too.  I found that the British system’s approach on maternity leave sounded ideal, but realistically it doesn’t seem like it could work perfectly.

From this summer intern, I have gained a new skill and also become more aware of cultural differences.    During my internship I learned how to be creative and I improved my communication skill.  Working with children can be a challenge because you have to learn how to keep their interest especially since their attention span is so short.  I found that to be challenging when trying to teach them about the activity or the topic, but I found ways to keep them engaged in the activities.  Also, I had to make some small scale projects such as certificates, make a database on all the elementary schools, and data input on transportation surveys.  My communication skill was improved during my experience interning in London.  Communication is important for all work relations and it was especially so during my intern this summer.  I realized that communication is vital when working with children because you have to make sure that you’re using the correct vocabulary and if you use a new word you have to make sure you define it for them.

From my experience during my internship in London, I want to other students to know that studying abroad is a life changing experience.  To study abroad you must be willing to accept the challenges that it comes with.  Yes, there are going to be times where you are excited to be in a new place but there are also times where you  are nervous to do new things, but remember that this is a once in a life time experience.  You may have 8 weeks or 15 weeks to study abroad, but time flies quickly and it’ll seem like you just started.  Take advantage of your time in the new place you’re at and fully indulge yourself into the culture.  Be open to try new things but remember to also stay in your comfort zone.  You don’t need to try all the new things, but you should make an effort to try new things.  Learning how to make an effort will make your experience more fun.  An example would be when I went to Ireland.  I didn’t originally plan on going to Ireland but my friends wanted to so I decided I would try it too.  When we were in Dublin we went to see the Guinness Factory and something funny yet dangerous happened.  I did not have an interest to see the Guinness Factory, but it is a big part of the Irish culture thus I made my decision to go to the Guinness Factory.  I’m glad I did go see the Guinness Factory because I saw the history of brewing beer and while we were there a fire started in one of their barley factories.  Of course, we were safely evacuated out of the building and no one was injured, but now I will always remember my trip to the Guinness Factory.  You never know what you’re going to get and you’ll always have a story, so enjoy what you can!

Entrance to the Guinness Factory

Entrance to the Guinness Factory

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Life of a Londoner

I'm finally in London!

I’m finally in London!

Hello!  My name is Anida Yang and I am a senior at CSP and I am in London this summer for an internship and a U.K. cultural course.  It has been a month since I have been here and I love it!  Life here is just so much more different and I’m sad that I will be leaving London next month already!  Some things I noticed as I got here were the cars.  The cars here are very compact and they are so cute!  I was trying to find a pick-up truck but there were none!  I finally saw one two weeks later but the size of it was still that of a compact car and even if it was considered a pick-up truck the end of the truck is shorter compared to what we normally see in America.  I think the cars here are cute since they’re much smaller and there are a lot of fancy cars in London since London is a huge city full of money.  Another thing I noticed quickly was our terminology.  If I said ‘pants’ a Londoner would assume I was talking about their underwear.  So, make sure you say trousers when you talk about ‘pants’ because it has an entirely different meaning.  Another terminology which I found cute was a stroller.  Their terminology for a stroller is a buggie!!  Life in London is very fast paced and it was interesting to learn how they measure distance.  Normally if you need to go to the store you would ask how many miles it is, but in London you ask how long does it take to get there.  For my internship interview I saw that if I take the city bus it would take me 46 minutes to get to the place and at first I thought that was absurd and was wondering if I could take the tube (subway) instead since they are faster.  But then I found out that if I took the tube it would actually be longer!  In short, what I’m trying to say is if it takes you 20 minutes to walk to work versus the buss which takes you 40 minutes to get to work, then people will walk to work over the bus.  Also, a stereotype about London is that there’s never-ending rain.  So, far it’s been very beautiful here with 70 degree Fahrenheit and it does rain, but it’s more of a little drizzle which will only last for about 10 minutes.  The place that I am staying at is located so conveniently!  It’s a student accommodation housing so it’s not linked to a specific school, but for all students.  It’s not a dorm because there’s no communal shower, but there is a communal laundry mat.  You can choose which type of rooming you want depending if you have the money.  For example, I am living with a roommate and we each have a bunk-bed desk and we share a communal kitchen with 7 other students who are in the same program as us.  We are located on Woburn Place in Bloomsbury which is next to two main tube systems, a smaller tube system and we have the city bus lined up right outside of our apartment.  So, getting to somewhere in the city is very convenient.  That’s also something that I noticed differently in London compared to where I live in the U.S.  Where I live I need a ride to go everywhere since there’s no subway and I don’t normally take the bus, especially since I live in the suburbs up north in MN.  Now that I’m living in London I feel a bit more independent because it’s easy to find transportation and I’m doing it all on my own.  One frustrating thing that I’ve found out about London is that the streets are crooked and it’s hard to find their street signs.  There are no street signs on poles like you would find in the U.S. instead these street signs are on the buildings.  Some times I can’t find any street signs on the buildings so I always get lost in London.  Even though I’ve been here for a month, I still don’t know where everything is and it’s okay because I have asked other Londoners and they don’t know too!  So, even though you are a native Londoner or a foreigner it’s okay to be lost because everyone is lost.  The class I took here in London was interesting.  We talked about social media and it was interesting to see how big of an influence it is in their everyday life.  There’s always people at the tubes handing out free newspapers to you and everyone here is always interested in your political views especially if you are an American.  At my internship place we had a 17 yr old high school-er who was volunteering and she was asking me about my political views and also my views of college and the job outlook.  I was surprised at how passionate and informed she was because when I served on Student Senate and I tried to get freshmen to register to vote they were uninterested and acted like it had nothing to do with them.  It made me wish that the young adults in America were more attentive to their own political issues and world issues.

Where I had my U.K. cultural course!

Where I had my U.K. cultural course!

This week has been my 3rd week working at my internship place and it has been fun!  I get to work with children from elementary schools and educate them about environmental issues.  Each day we work with a different school and sometimes we work at two different schools.  Since we work with so many different schools and classes, we do different workshops with each class and school so nothing is ever the same as the previous day.  We have done some sessions about compost, recycling such as reusing one’s old t-shirt by turning it into a bag, and making paper.  The work life in London (in U.K. in general) is very different than the work life in the U.S.  Work here means that the quality of the work is valued over the efficiency whereas in the U.S. it is quite the opposite.  Since I’ve been working in the U.S. my whole life by the time I came here I was still in my U.S. work life mode and I would finish completing office work within an hour and it was supposed to keep me busy for the whole day.  Also, being on time to work is being on time and not 15 minutes early to work like how it is in the U.S.  And if you were late by 5 minutes it would be okay!  You wouldn’t get a warning, but instead a concerned question on why you were behind schedule.  Also, when one is going to make tea they ask everyone in the office if they want some.  It is a norm to drink tea here but I have also seen some people drink coffee too (which is what I drink when they offer tea).  Also, another thing I noticed different in their work life is their attitude towards tattoos.  Since I work with different schools I have seen teachers and staff bare their tattoos naked without it covered up.  I assumed that the work life here would be very similar if not the same as it is back at home, but it’s less conservative than it is in America.

Where I'm interning at!

Where I’m interning at!

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Traveling Ireland

When someone thinks of Ireland what do you think of? I know when I first started thinking about Ireland I thought about rural farm lands, stone walls, and castles. The past two weekends these thoughts came true. After traveling to the Dingle Peninsula, Aryan Island, and Cliffs of Moher, it was like what someone would expect from a movie. There is so much difference when traveling around Ireland than when traveling in the United States. In Ireland sure you can have a tour and follow a group but if not you are on your own. There are no real park rangers or anyone to tell you what you can or cannot do. At the Cliffs of Moher you can get as close to the cliffs edge as you want. So many people were sitting there, hanging off the edge and nobody said a word. I am thinking, wow these people are crazy. Sure there are signs that say be careful and what not but it just seems so relaxed. There are no walls or barriers to stop people or rangers to say watch it. I am not sure how many deaths there are per year but I am sure there have to be some. After getting over that fear of falling though, man it was a beautiful sight. It was amazing just looking down at the cliffs and seeing the ocean. The Cliffs of Moher is a definite must see if you travel to Ireland. After the Cliffs of Moher, our group took a weekend trip to the Dingle Peninsula. This was perfect, small town rural Ireland. We stayed in a small town and it is exactly what I pictured it would be like in my head. At the Dingle Penninsula our group traveled and saw many great things. The biggest difference between Ireland and United States lies within the grave. In the United States most people get their own coffin and grave, or get cremated. In Ireland, an interesting fact is that families get buried together. Sure some get cremated still but most are buried with parents. For example, when a husband and wife die, they get buried together in the same grave, with a shared head stone. If an unmarried child dies, the Irish dig up the grave and put the child with the parents and they all share the head stone. If the son goes off and gets married then he may start a new grave/ headstone if he is no in the same town as the parents. Yes, there are special circumstances for some people and wishes do get protected but it is very different. There are graves that may share a family of 5 who all died at the difference times. These are just some of the cool things that can be learned on these excursions but it is just great. It is pure awesomeness learning about a new culture. 58227_205851842903203_326893740_n 36508_206228009532253_470368829_n

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Galway, Ireland

After spending a week in Ireland my eyes have been opened to a new style of living. Here in Ireland everyone walks from place to place, or takes a taxi. The average walk for a day for is probably 4-5 miles depending on what a person does. It is a miles walk to the University and a miles walk back to the apartments. If classes are a few hours apart that is four miles right there because most people won’t stick around waiting in between classes. Then if you walk into town that is another mile or two depending on where you go so you could walk anywhere from 2-8 miles regularly. Also here in Ireland nobody worries about time. A professor may have class at 11:00am and the lecture probably will not start until 11:10am or sometimes even 11:15am. The classes are lecture based here though and so it is a lot like American schools. The biggest thing to get used to though is driving on opposite sides of the road. It is tough because everyone walks here and the drivers are super aggressive so people need to be careful. The drivers do not wait for people to cross the road and sometimes speed up just so people cannot cross. It is weird crossing streets and looking at cars coming from the “wrong” side of the road. All in all though it is not very different from America because everyone speaks English but you will hear the old Gaelic language which is now a dying language. It has been an awesome experience and I get three more weeks of it. I cannot wait for the rest of this long journey to continue. 10161_391876630918682_253570991_n

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