Posts Tagged ‘orientation’

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Whitney: First day of orientation

October 5, 2011


Today was my first day of orientation at Freie Universität Berlin. The orientation days are only for exchange students, so I felt confident in the fact that I’d be able to cling to a few fellow Americans if I felt overwhelmed or confused. I was amazingly mistaken, because I didn’t meet a single American all day long. It seemed (based on my snooping over people’s shoulders to see there papers) that every other nationality was thoroughly represented aside from American. I saw a Swiss girl and a Russian boy and a bunch of Spanish kids. The French were abundant and so were the Chinese, and I’m sure there were many Americans there, but they must’ve been just as quiet as me because I didn’t see a one. Thankfully, it wasn’t overwhelming and I got all the information I need to register, figure out the campus IT stuff, and so on, but I totally failed at making friends. They gave us a nice long coffee break during which I would sit down next to someone who was alone and then totally freeze up! I kept thinking “What should I say?! Should I say it in English or German? What if they only speak Armenian or something? Ahhh Ummm Hmmm” and then I’d get up and sit down next to another person and the thought process would repeat!

Tomorrow I have the second and last day of orientation, and I have one and only one goal: MAKE A FRIEND. Just one. They don’t even have to be someone I think I could be best friends with. They just have to be a human that breathes and moves and stuff. Wish me luck!

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Doug: Back to school!

September 12, 2011

Well I guess it’s time to start the real “study” part of “study abroad” (couldn’t avoid it forever I guess). Last week we started our first week of real classes after returning from a 5-day-long orientation at Lake Nakuru National Park. Highlights from orientation week included:

  • Trying to learn 21 new names. So far it has been just the 5 of us who came early for the August-Intensive Swahili Pre-Session. Now there are 26 of us total—making it a lot more difficult to go places. A group of 26 wazungu is a pretty big target for pick pockets. One girl already had her bag stolen from underneath a table.)
  • I also had my first experience of being successfully robbed. I was heading downtown with two friends to meet up with the large group of newly arrived semester students. We boarded a bus, and not long afterwards three men with large envelopes (a sure sign of pickpockets) got on after us. They moved to sit closer to us as soon as they could, and when our stop arrived, we stood up to get off. Instantly they started crowding us, “accidentally” pushing me back into my seat, and blocking the exit of the bus. My friend Chelsea realized what was going on and shoved the guy blocking the exit out of the stopped bus. We pushed our way out, and booked it to the other side of the street—only to realize that my travel water bottle had been stolen from the outside of my bag.  Luckily nothing valuable, but still a good reminder that we can never be too careful here.
  • After our 3-hour-long bus ride west of Nairobi to Nakuru National Park, we arrived to the compound in the heart of the park, where we would be staying. We spent the next few days in talks about safety, health, host family stays etc. , doing cheesy bonding games (takes me back to beginning of freshman year of college), and doing evening game drives through the park. Lions, zebra, flamingoes, and buffalo. Oh my! (Going from Arusha National Park in Tanzania, to Nakuru, I’ve seen enough animals to satisfy for the time being).
  • Every morning, afternoon, and evening, a large family of baboons would hop the fence into our compound, and just hang out for an hour or so. We would be sitting in a circle outside, doing one of our talks, and a massive baboon would just come strolling by. It definitely kept things interesting. Periodically our director would have to grab a big stick and chase them away.

Since I haven’t talked about what I’m actually studying here, I’ll briefly tell you guys. The program (University of Minnesota Studies in International Development) is focused on development (surprise!) and there are 4 main academic components:

1)      International Development—here we study developmental theories, what has worked, what hasn’t (and why it hasn’t) and the biggest developmental issues facing Kenya right now. What’s really cool though is that we get to choose a specialization track (Education, Social Services, Microfinance, Environment, or Public Health). I was torn between Education and Social Services, but for now am going with the Social Services track, since I’m thinking of maybe doing Social Work in the future.

2)      Kenya Country Analysis—this is basically overview of Kenyan history, pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial, Kenyan political structures, etc.

3)      Swahili—the never ending attempt to become conversational in Swahili continues (I think I’m getting pretty close)

4)      Internship—this part does not come until late October. At that point we all split off and are sent to different parts of Kenya to work an internship with a developmental NGO for 6 weeks, based on what our development interests are. I finally found out (I was a little impatient) that I will be interning at The Wema Centre (Swahili for ‘goodness’)—a children’s home/ orphanage in the rural coastal town of Bamburi, 20 minutes north of Mombasa. Part of what they do is go into the city of Mombasa and work to get begging street children out of the city and into the orphanage, where many children ages 4-14 live, go to school, and eat meals—(much more to come on this once I get there). Oh, and I also found out I will be living with a Muslim family, with young kids, in a Muslim community, so that should be really interesting (again, more to come later)

Classes here in Kenya are a little different than back home for a few reasons. They almost never start on time, often get out early, and while our professors actually are very intelligent and the classes so far have been very interesting, the academic climate is just much different. Nobody is freaking out about GPA, grades, etc. I love Tufts, but let’s just say I’m not sad to learn for learning’s sake, in a much more chill environment.

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Jon: Rainbow Street

September 9, 2011

After a pathetically hard time with no internet for a few days we finally got the internet set up in our apartment in Shmeisani, Amman. I’ll upload some photos soon but the apartment is magnificent. We have in an open area a dining room, living room, tv room with a patio attached. There are three of us here, and each have our own room. One has two full beds pushed together and his own bathroom, I have two twins pushed together and a patio (although I can’t go out onto it because we weren’t given the key to it), and another decent room. Plus a big kitchen with a patio as well. It’s been a few days without a blog so I’ll try to catch up but I’m going to start with the most recent while it is still fresh. We started the day by meeting at the University of Jordan for the first time for a tour of the campus and then a tour of the CIEE office. We received some academic orientation and a security briefing which was all very tiring by the end. This brings me to one of the first and biggest philosophical issues I’ve really encountered. I have no large desire to drink or party hard here in Jordan as some young Jordanian students do. They are definitely the more liberal generation and are pushing the boundaries, some of which I very much respect and privately agree with. And that is part of the culture. HOWEVER, as an American even if I agree with the change I do not believe it is my position to encourage or participate in that movement. Even if it is promoting what I believe to be good feminist change, or good sexual freedom, if I choose to interfere I am no better than Bush or anyone else who alters the course of another culture. Not to geek it up but I am constantly reminded of Star Treks Prime Directive of not interfering in another’s culture even if I think it is for good.

Continuing on, a group of us went to a restaurant tonight and enjoyed dinner as well as some sheesha. I’m trying all the flavors but as of now double apple is still my favorite. There we met a group of Americans from another study abroad program who were in similar positions to us, which was nice to chat for a while. The only other thing worth mentioning though was the last thing that happened. We were going to end our night when we came across yet another group of American students who were wanting to go to a club. We walked with them for a bit but then came across a club that was quite fancy. About to split ways the boys came back and asked if the two girls with us would come in with them as the bouncer wouldn’t let just guys in (us two guys were invited as well) so we decided to go in for a short bit. Quickly, I and a few of the other guys realized we needed to get out of there. Upstairs where the “club/party” was, there was a hallway lined with doors marked “private” and saw a man come out, grab an ash tray and go back in. It was pretty obvious what we had stumbled on to especially when my friends who hadn’t gone upstairs were told us guys needed to come down “there are just bathrooms up there”… No. Those were not bathrooms. And to prove it a couple right after us went upstairs. Well I guess I had my first experience with a Jordanian brothel.

Please don’t let that last experience taint your view. These past few days we have been filled with very friendly polite Jordanians. While we do get stares everywhere we go, both because of our nationality and how “badly” we dress in comparison, but I have never felt unsafe or scared.

So in case you haven’t figured it out yet I’m not the best blogger so as I’m tired here are some last few random things.

  • Girls are stared at here… a lot. Catcalls are kept to a minimum as far as out right sounds but professions of love and marriage seem to be common.
  • The views are amazing. King Hussein (the first king of Jordan) ruled that all buildings in Amman must be made from limestone so they are all be the same color. As well the whole city is built on hills and every square plot basically has a building on it. Lastly the city is huge, and when I say huge I mean buildings go on for as far as the eye can see, and that is far. So in the view you can see hills and hills of buildings.
  • Pictures cannot even begin to capture and convey the awesomeness of the view of these buildings.
  • Secret police. Although we are sure we are being told larger numbers to scare us, we were informed 1 in every 100 people is a secret police. They are under strict laws though so this is viewed as good and safe here.
  • Everyone knows everyone, and everyone talks. Period. Our CIEE director knew some kids had brought alcohol into a building that same night because people in the area called people who called people who called her.
  • Jordanians do not recycle but they have an impressive cleaning crew so there is very little litter actually on the ground. FYI, 2/3 of Jordanians work for the government.
  • This is one of my most favorite facts I learned: The US has the same economic disparity as Jordan.
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Chiyo: A cup of tea

September 2, 2011

Internship orientation was 2 hours long, and I’ve learned that the British take their sweet time in explaining things, whereas us American’s tend to get to the point. Our orientation ended, and we were really hungry so we went in search of a place to eat for lunch and ended up at a no name Korean/Japanese restaurant. Lunch had ended, and we went to our “safety orientation” where we basically learned that if a guy says, “wanna go out and look at the stars?” to say no because there are no stars in London, so don’t fall for that. Then came the fun, when we went to our welcome reception, which consisted of a traditional British Tea party. 

Our tea party was at the Regency Hotel, and we drank so many cups of tea I lost track. With our tea we had tea sandwiches, crumpits, scones, and mini “cakes.” It was a chance for all of us to mingle who are a part of the CAPA program, but for the most part we have been sticking with the people who are in our flat buildings. The tea party ended after about an hour and a half, and we all hopped on the tube, came back to our flat, and had a chill night in the “Party Penthouse.” A bunch of people went out to the club Barracuda in Ealing, but my roomie Diane and I hung back at our place and are just enjoying some down time. Tomorrow morning we’re going on a panoramic tour of London, and then who knows what the day will bring us! 

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Chiyo: Orientation Day

September 1, 2011

Today I woke up around 11 am after a night of bonding with all the CAPA students, and hung out in our flat until 2 pm, when one of my roommates and I ventured out to explore more of London before orientation at four. We’re getting used to the fact that some roads here have no designated pedestrian crossings, and with roundabouts everywhere, it can get quite confusing. After a short bus ride we ended up at the Underground station near our neighborhood, and hopped on the Tube to go to our final destination of Gloucester Road. I haven’t been on the Tube in 8 years, and for some reason I remembered it being a little more…”glamourous.” (I’m not sure why I thought the Tube was glamourous) The Tube is like any other subway system, and no one talks on the Tube. They’re either too into their paper, or ipod, and even in a group of people do you rarely see them conversing with one another. They just want to get to their destination and on to the next location. 

After getting off at our stop, we roamed the streets for an hour, and I found it funny that one of the first things you see is a KFC, Starbucks, and Burger King all lined up next to one another. Very American. We went to the CAPA building for orientation and all I wanted to do at this point was sleep, because the jet-lag had definitely started to set in. It was longer than we thought it would be, and after what felt like eternity, we were allowed to go. Tomorrow morning we have internship orientation, followed by police safety orientation. All four of us from my flat went off to find dinner, and wound up at a restaurant called Garfunkels, which is known for their Fish and Chips, and Garfunkel Burger to name a few. I decided to try a typical British dish called Beef Ale Pie, and boy was it delicious! After dinner we hopped back on the Tube to go to our neighborhood of Ealing Broadway, bought some groceries, and are now all having downtime. It’s been a long day, and I can tell jet lag is catching up with me and it is a matter of time before I pass out.  

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Thomas: Out of my comfort zone

September 1, 2011

I’ve learned that the only way to grow as a person is to step out of one’s comfort zone. There’s nothing that reflects this notion better than my stay so far in Buenos Aires, Argentina. My host mother and host brother speak very little English. The downside of this is that we only converse if it is essential. The upside is that I will be forced to learn and practice Spanish, which was indeed a main goal of my study abroad experience.

Today the program participants took part in a very brief orientation over coffee and pastries. Since I do not have class Monday afternoons, I decided to walk home and explore the sites around my homestay apartment. After closely studying a map, I was able to find my way back to the apartment from the school. It is about a fifteen block walk, which, including waiting for traffic, took me about 20 minutes. The temperature in Buenos Aires is increasing after a cold winter, and to a cold blooded Minnesotan like myself, it is a nearly perfect 60 degree day, especially nice for walking.

My host mother, Mariana, guided me to school in the morning. After I accidentally slept in about twenty minutes, we got a late start. First we tried to catch a bus about a block away, but after one passed that was full of Portenos (B.A. residents), we decided to hail a cab. The cab ride cost about 17 pesos, or about four US dollars. I was a few minutes late arriving at the school, but so was over half of my other classmates.

Around midday, I arrived at my homestay to drop my bag off and I decided to find a place to have lunch. On my way around the block I ran into my host brother, Miguel. Surprised and lacking conversational Spanish, I couldn’t understand what he was saying and I forgot the word for lunch, Almuerzo. I will not forget it now. In my very first experience dining out, I chose a very nice restaurant called “Como en Casa”, loosely translated to “At Home”. I didn’t feel like home, but the food was very good. I enjoyed a salad that was topped with salmon, brie, roasted cranberries,  and avocados.

Having been very nervous ordering food and conversing with the server, I did very well until I finished my salad and made a terrible mistake, accidentally ordering dessert. Thinking I agreed to taking the bill, the server brought out the dessert menu. I know what you’re asking, how could you do that to yourself? Yes, the chocolate mousse-like cake was brutally tasty, and I got through it. Of course I received coffee with it. They drink it small and strong in Argentina. Muy delicioso.

As I spend each hour in Buenos Aires, I can feel the self-growth by stepping out of that ever so enticing comfort zone.

And finally, as promised, more photos of mi casa, the apartment I am living in. I have my very own bathroom! The second to last image is of the meal Mariana cooked for me Sunday night.

 IMG_0231 IMG_0232 IMG_0233 IMG_0234 IMG_0235 IMG_0236 IMG_0237 IMG_0239 IMG_0240 

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Sara: I made it!

September 1, 2011

Hola a todos!

I have made it to Ecuador! The flights were ok, nothing too exciting except a lightening storm in Miami which delayed us on the runway for about an hour.  Other than that I get picked up at the Quito International airport then shipped to a hotel right away.  We then left the next morning for CIMAS (my school).  Here we had tons of orientation (all in Spanish of course!) and then after a traditional Ecuadorian lunch and tour of the school, which is beautiful, I met and went home with my host family! I have my own room in a house about 15 minutes away from the school, so I will be riding the bus each morning and evening. I have a host father (papa) a host mother (mama) and 2 host siblings (Michelle 15, and Aaron 4).

They asked me tons of questions and I have learned so much about them! For example, none of them know English. Today we had a lecture and I felt like I was right back in Minnesota, minus the Spanish immersion.  I just had lunch which I bought at the markets down the street, an orange, a croissant fresh from the oven and a juice.  This weekend we are going on a trip to “las haciendas” which is the rural farms where we will be staying overnight.  Talk about packing things in! I officially start class tomorrow and that is when the real work is going to start.

I’ll have more updates and possibly a few pictures soon!

and for all of you who are wondering, yes, I do have altitude sickness and can barely make it up the stairs here!

Sara (Sarita)

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