Posts Tagged ‘re-entry’

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Sara: My last post!

January 6, 2012

So this is my last blog post! I leave from Cochabamba  tonight and I will be spending my night in the La Paz airport. Then I leave from La Paz at 7a the next morning and arrive in Minnesota late at night; it’s going to be a long day but I am definitely excited to see everyone.

Being abroad has taught me so many things! There were good times and bad times, but overall, this experience has made me such a better person. I was able to reflect on all the things most important to me and was out of my comfort zone a lot of the time, but that was the only way I learned so much about myself.

I just want to thank everyone for following my blog, checking up on me and making sure I don’t get lost in the jungles of South America. I also want to thank all my family and friends for being there for me through this entire journey.

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Eric: Thanks & some feelings

August 20, 2010

So, I am pretty much back to my normal life. I am sleeping in pretty much every single day (not the best habit to get into before school starts). I am cooking stuff that I am used to eating, and most of all, I am living with people who can understand what I am speaking. (I’m also thankful for the working shower). I have so many people to thank for supporting me throughout my 10 weeks of studying abroad. Without them, I don’t think I would have made it.

First and foremost, I want to thank my family, particularly my parents. You really have to give them credits: what kind of parents would pay money to let their son go off on his own to Europe and Africa for the summer. I am thankful to have them support me financially and mentally while I was abroad. Most of the financial resources that paid for my program fees, tuition, and other related costs came from the university financial aid (federal, state, and school) and scholarships, in particular the Gilman Scholarship. Thanks to them, my family doesn’t have to go bankrupt sending me abroad. I want to thank the Ben Yassin Family in Fès who welcomed me to the city when I couldn’t even effectively communicate with them. They have done so much for me and I am truly grateful. I also want to thank the U of M Learning Abroad Center for setting up wonderful programs for students to attend. I want to thank Dr. M. E. White for making the Florence program the best class I have ever attended. I want to thank Dr. Ianeva-Lockney (who was my first Norwegian instructor) for writing me that recommendation letter that allowed to me be accepted to the Morocco program. Last but not least, I want to thank whoever has been, was, is, or will be reading my blog.

Now we are done with the touchy feelings, I just have a few comments. Regarding the Cordoba House to be built in New York City… I am usually not a very political person, and I am not a supporter of any political parties. But having just returned from a Muslim country, I have to say that Americans aren’t showing as much tolerance as they should, not to mention that it’s not even a mosque they are building. I walked on the streets of Fès and was never ever harassed because I am not a Muslim. There are Christian churches in the Kingdom of Morocco and you don’t see anyone having a problem with them. Yes, 9/11 happened and yes, those who attacked America were Muslims. That doesn’t mean people should generalize the entire Muslim population as terrorists and hate on them. If we can’t even tolerate a Muslim community center, how can we expect people of other countries to understand that the US is a country proud of its “freedoms” and tolerant of all people regardless of their religions? We always fear what we don’t understand, so why not use this opportunity to show that the US actually opens her arms to all religions and melt the hatred and fear that led to 9/11 in the first place?

With regard to people who are still wondering whether they should studying abroad, I say, stop wondering and go apply for a program already. It really will be a life-changing experience.

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Veronica: 35 days since leaving Montpellier

July 4, 2010

Okay. So I feel like I have a lot to explain. I have changed so much in France and realized a lot about myself even after coming back to the US. I like life in France better. That’s what I want. It hurts every day not being there. It’s actually a physical pain. And, as my mom pointed out, what I talked about with my family and in my blog posts sounded negative and like I wasn’t having a good time. She thought I hated being in France. This is the complete opposite of the truth. Yes, it was hard. It’s hard being away from your friends, family, and familiarity, and things don’t always go right or how you expected them. And yes, sometimes it sucked. But only sometimes. There are ups and downs. I will tell you this, and maybe you will find/have found this to be true for you as well: it’s a lot easier to talk about the stuff that you don’t like and/or the stuff that isn’t going right. That’s the stuff (for me, at least) that is easiest to talk about with people who aren’t experiencing what you are. It seems more relatable. It’s easier to talk about a problem. They can’t understand the good stuff because they aren’t there to see the guy playing accordion in the park, or the medieval building, or even a strange bird, or eat true French bread, or meet the people that you do. They can’t just walk down the street, totally in love with the place like you are. You can tell them about it, sure. But they just don’t get it. I know I am like that when I hear memories and stories from friends who have studied abroad. I’m sure it was great, but all it is, is just a story. Nothing else. And now I’m having that happen to me and it really, really bothers me. I feel alone most of the time because of this, as well as misunderstood. It makes being back in the US even harder.

And when you talk about things that are just weird, that you aren’t used to, maybe it accidentally comes out as negative. Maybe that’s what I did a lot of the time and my meanings and intentions were misconstrued. Or maybe when something ridiculous happened to you, like your train being late and meeting some really bizarre people in the process and then having to stand on the train for two hours, sounds like it was a bad experience when it really wasn’t. The word ridiculous is too often mistaken for bad, and it shouldn’t be. France is kind of a ridiculous place, but it is not a bad place. It’s a wonderful place where kind of wacky things happen sometimes.

You have to know that it was the most amazing experience in my life and I wish every waking moment that it hadn’t had to end.

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Tiana: Remarkable experience

June 1, 2010

The road outside my Dakar home.

America and Senegal: two almost entirely different realities, different cultures.  Both of which are now a huge part of my reality, the one that I’ve had the opportunity to live and grow in. I’ve been home for three weeks now, where green, leafy trees substitute dwarfing baobabs. Where the nearest ocean shoreline is approximately 3,000 miles away. Where time is money, and both time and money are in increasingly short supply. Where at least one garbage bin can be found every square meter, where automatic toilets occupy hundreds of public restrooms, and where everything is ridiculously overpriced. Where I am blessed with family and friends who welcomed me home with open arms and warm smiles.  And where I am struggling profoundly to reconcile the past five months with the past 21 years and the rest of my life.

My final week in Dakar was the most bumbling and busy week that I encountered in the entire semester.  The return from Joal felt like a bona fide homecoming, as I was met with the warmest of greetings from the kids (Aminata, Doudou, and Xadi), and I spent that afternoon exchanging news of the past weeks with Maman, Mariama, Nogaye, Ami, and others in the family. I showed off some of my new Wolof skills, much to the delight of those who were in close hearing proximity. Turning in early that evening, I remember trying to make a mental list of all that I hoped to accomplish in the coming days. I fell asleep at around task number 43…

In terms of academics, our final week was spent in a wrap-up seminar. Monday and Tuesday, we re-convened courses with each student giving an internship presentation, highlighting key points and events for the insight of the rest of the group. We also had a final country analysis class, final international development class, and re-entry seminar. The workload was light (except for those who hadn’t yet finished their internship reports), which was the ideal situation and allowed us ample free time for other shenanigans besides class.

My little niece, Khadi.

For me, such shenanigans constituted mostly hanging out with my family. I was able to go home for lunch almost every day, which wasn’t true during the eight weeks of class before my internship, and which meant that I got to see the kids more often. One day, a friend visited from Joal. Another afternoon, I hung out with the kids, bringing them with me to a fruit stand, letting them color and draw on my old homework, etc. One evening, I was taught yet again how to make ataya, but found myself completely lost because it was different than the way that I had learned before. (A small digression on the topic of ataya: After an entire semester of close observation and vain attempts to develop a specific formula for ataya-making, I’ve concluded that there is absolutely no way to put a recipe on it.  This was, at first, incredibly disconcerting and difficult for me to accept, as I like specific measurements and precise instructions, but I do believe I’ve come to terms with the facts.) One morning, I went one final time to Aux Fins Palais (for caramel pancakes and omelettes) and to the market (for an ataya pot and glasses, among other things).  That same day, Britney and I went one final time to N’Ice Cream.  That week, I ate my final Senegalese ceebu jen, watched my final Senegalese sunset over the ocean, drank my final Senegalese tea, had a final Hamburger Friday with the MSID family, went to the gym with Anta one final time, you get the picture.  It was a week of finals, obviously not in the academic sense, which made it just plain hard.  Not to mention exhausting.

At the final MSID get-together.

Friday afternoon was our MSID send-off. We were told to meet at WARC at around five in the afternoon for some light snacks and some goodbyes. Light snacks, my friends, was the understatement of the century. The snacks were, in fact, very very heavy, and I’m pretty sure we all ended the afternoon more heavy because of them. We aet our weight in fataya, various cakes, and little egg roll-type snacks that I forget the name of, and filled in any possible empty spaces in our stomach with different juices of about ten different flavors. Yiddema! Talk about one last and whopping manifestation of teranga (which, you’ll recall, describes the characteristically Senegalese hospitality).  We said our goodbyes to Waly, Adji, Korka, Awa, tout le monde at WARC and headed out one final time.

Saturday, my final day there, felt like just another day. I went to myShop near school to connect to the internet, where I met a nice group of four Frenchmen. They invited me to meet them back at myShop that evening, an invitation that I respectfully declined, explaining that I was going home that evening. (Note: Even if I was not flying home that evening, rest assured, I would still have declined the invitation.  The fact that I declined is important to the rest of the story, which is why I include it.  Just to clarify!) That’s when it really hit me the first time… I was going home. Was I excited?  Honestly? No.  There was a twisted knot in the pit of my stomach that refused to untangle as I headed home for lunch.

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