Posts Tagged ‘reentry’


Hilary: 6 months has come to an end

December 30, 2011

So I am back in the United States after a twelve hour plane journey from Quito to Chicago I was picked up from the airport by the lovely Kendal Ann (Cupcake) and my mom.  I found my self stuttering with English and thanking the people that got me through customs in Spanish.  It is always great to come home, but weird at the same time.  I had a really wonderful experience abroad.  I am most proud of my language improvement and my academic work,  this study abroad program has advantages and disadvantages but i know that my monograph with serve me very well for future research proposals and grants.  I will miss saying ‘buen provecho’ and ‘que te vaya bien!’  I will be practicing my Spanish every chance that I get and I will hopefully stay in contact with the wonderful friends that I made.

Reflecting on my experiences I am bringing back a better sense of what sharing is, the knowledge that money really doesn’t matter (this one is hard to find in the states and in my perspective needs a lot of reflection), and i recognize that time moves quickly wherever you are so go with your gut and enjoy yourself.

I am still standing on both feet trying to find my balance in life; balancing the spiritual with the physical and mental, the spiced with the bland, peace with chaos, and work with play.

I missed all of my friends and family dearly, I can’t wait to truly reconnect and put my changing link back into my growing circle.


Chiyo: Adjusting

December 27, 2011

I have been back in the states for a week now, and I am still adjusting to my life stateside. At first things were more difficult than they currently are, but I am slowly getting used to my lifestyle back in the states. The first night I arrived home, I was super tired from traveling for 18 hours straight, and was hit with “reverse culture shock.” Everything I had once known, was somehow different to me. I hadn’t seen the cities in months, and it was like a whole new world. I had gotten so accustomed to the gorgeous, architectural buildings in London and all over Europe, and then I came back to the states and everything just seemed…blah. 

It also took me some time to see things in dollars instead of pounds, and I still find myself looking at a clothing item, or something at the grocery store and seeing/saying pounds instead of dollars. My sleep schedule is all messed up as well, but that is what comes with the jet lag and trying to adjust to a completely new routine and schedule. I remember my first night home you’d think I would be so tired and want to sleep, but I ended up staying awake until 5 am, and then being wide awake again around 7:30. It is not abnormal for me to fall asleep around 7 pm now a days, and until I can get my sleep schedule on a more normal path, it will be like this for awhile. My body wants to stay on London time!

I am looking forward to the future and what lies ahead, and am already making big goals for myself. This coming Saturday I am helping host a NYE party at my place, and already have plans to meet up with friends before the big day to catch up and shop since I haven’t seen some of these people in months. This blog was meant to be all about London and my travels, but I figured since I am back in the cities and trying to find my niche in the fashion world, I would take a stab at making this a fashion blog come January 1st, 2012. My goal is to blog about styles I saw on the streets, in stores, particular window displays that caught my eye, and to take lots of photos to post. I will also try and put together a mood board every month to blog and post about. Wishing you all luck with your future endeavors! Here’s to the year 2012. 


Doug: 142…

December 22, 2011

Days in Kenya. I have not been in the United States since July—even just writing that sentence is strange. Tonight at midnight I will board a plane back to my country after living for 142 days in a country so different from my own, with people who don’t look like me or talk like me. After 142 days of being in the minority, of being the mzungu, of walking through parts of Nairobi and Mombasa and feeling like ALL eyes are on me, just waiting for someone to yell at me, or come shake my hand, or start a conversation solely because I’m white, I am about to return to suburban Ohio, with its two story brick houses, with unnecessary Living Rooms and Dining Rooms, where the electricity only goes out during a storm, and clean running water is always available at the turn of a tap.

I am returning to a place where I grew up a different person—where Africa, in my mind, was a country, not a vast continent of 47 different countries and thousands of different ethnicities and languages; where my biggest worry growing up was what to do on a Friday night.

Perhaps these are many of the same thoughts that have crossed the minds of countless other Western-raised students, after having lived for the first time in a developing country; after having to grapple with the fact that I’ve never known what it’s like to live in a tin roofed “house” the size of my own bedroom in America, where water leaks through the ceiling when it rains, as is the case for families in Kibera.  Or that I’ve never been abandoned by my parents on the streets, only to be found by the police and brought to an home for street girls, as is the case for some of my students I taught at Wema.  Or had to move away from a rural home, away from family, and work 12 hours per night every night for minimal pay, guarding a rich family’s home, in order to pay for school fees—like my friend Josphat who was the guard at my Nairobi homestay.

Looking back it is difficult to process the past 142 days. I have found myself wondering recently Well, self, how was Kenya? Words like good, and awesome don’t seem to scratch the surface. While eye-opening perhaps, is a little closer, it does not come close to conveying what I’ve learned and who I’ve met. Over the past 142 days, I have met some of the most resilient people of my life; Kenyans who are busting their butts to get themselves or their kids an education; who are living in a country where the government can’t be trusted to provide social services; who are so alive and passionate in their faith in Christ, despite difficult circumstances, that they are an inspiration to others.

It is the faces of these people, and the memories of their places, their places which, for a time, were my places, which flash in my mind when I think of Kenya.

And, so, who am I now? The Doug who stepped off that plane at Nairobi International Airport 142 days ago certainly has changed; he has grown greatly in his faith; he is a little less naïve, and a little more aware of his potential role in this world; a little more aware of the culture he grew up with; and a lot more comfortable in speaking in Swahili.

And, yet, fear not, in many ways I am still the same person. Kenya may have changed me in perspective, but it only reaffirmed my notion that sometimes the best way to handle ridiculous situations is just to laugh it off.

Kenya, it has been real, and I know, Mungu akipenda, siku moja, tutaonana tena.


Thomas: The Final Summary

December 14, 2011

As I waited for my flight back to America recently, I did some reflecting on my experiences living in Buenos Aires for over three months. Many people who have participated in study abroad programs claim that they change more, as a person, in three months than they do in years. I would have to agree with this notion. Opening your eyes to an entirely new world changes you drastically. I’ve noticed that my perceptions of South America and the United States have changed and adapted. I’m also better able to look at everyday things from another perspective, a different angle than before. There is no doubt that I have grown significantly as a person.

I wrote earlier about not being able to grow without being out of your comfort zone. I think this is sentiment is true for all people. When I arrived, there is no question that I was out of my comfort zone. As I write today, my comfort zone has widened dramatically. I now feel totally comfortable with much of Argentina and a good chunk of South America, its people and its land. Imagine if your comfort zone widened to cover almost an entire continent of people and things. It’s quite an incredible feeling, the feeling of growth.

Have I mastered the Spanish language? No, not even close, but I’m comfortable with knowing what I know. I’ve taken three Spanish courses since May of this year, so I wasn’t expecting to be fluent. It takes years of dedication to become fluent in a language.

I do feel very fortunate to have had this fantastic experience. I’ve enjoyed it very much and would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Having had this experience I know I have become a better person and a better citizen of the world. I also now realize how big our planet is and how much of it still needs to be explored on an individual basis.

It’s a bittersweet feeling. I am sad to leave Argentina, my host family, and the things I’ve grown accustomed to in the last three and a half months. The food, the architecture, the constant activity and action. I am, however, thrilled to go back to the place I love and have spent my entire life. I look forward to seeing my family and friends. I’m excited to see the things I know so well with a new set of eyes and experiences. Experts say that reverse culture shock is harder to adjust to than the opposite. They say it’s harder to adjust going back to where you come from after a study abroad experience than it is to adjust to a new country in the first place. This may be true for me, as I go from living in a city of 13 million to a town of 1,300.

I plan on writing a couple more posts during my first month home. I can bet that there will be a number of changes and a few things I will miss once I leave Buenos Aires.


Sarah: Last day in Mérida

December 2, 2011

I can’t believe it…

My study abroad trip is ending today. This is my last day in Mérida and I will miss it with all my heart!

Things that I will especially miss:

1. waking up to the sun rising over the mountains

2. eating arepas for breakfast and drinking café con leche

3. receiving surprise letters in the mail from my grandmas

4. my silly 8-year-old host brother asking to play with my E-POP (he means ipod)

5. the crazy buses blasting Bob Marley

6. speaking spanish and drinking 30 cent beers with my Venezuelan friends

7. spontaneous adventures up into the mountains

Things that I will not miss quite so much:

1. the random power outages

2. the ants

3. the taxis with horns that “whistle”

…and that’s about it.

There are a million more things that I will miss, but I have them all documented on my blog, and most of them are memories I will never forget anyway.

Thank you Venezuela, for an AMAZING ADVENTURE!


Shawnda: Final thoughts

August 5, 2011

So…by the end of this trip I expected to be certain of which career path I was choosing and to be a different person.  I’m not sure if either worked out according to plan.

I think if anything, I have been assured that I am equally, and increasingly, passionate about medicine and public health.  I can see myself playing critical roles in both disciplines.  So, in the last month I have left of summer, I need to decide which death test I am going further in to debt for. 

I think I have yet to change many of my beautiful qualities:

  • I still manage to crave and drink massive amounts of coffee
  • I still have a ridiculous amount of dirty laundry; this time I’m still wearing it
  • I still hate spiders and feet
  • I am still obsessed with searching iTunes, and will go to drastic measures to do it
  • I’m still pale.

What has changed?

  • I like baths; preferably with 2 inches of hot water
  • I can fall asleep before 1 am

Some of the luxuries I missed from home:

  • Non-bran cereal
  • Not-rooibos tea
  • Pilot G-2 pens
  • A ridiculously large selection of notebooks
  • Blending in
  • Not being proposed to or told if my skin were darker, I would look like a Motswana with a “nice African figure”

What will I miss?

  • Street food
  • The exchange rate
  • Cheap groceries
  • Combis
  • Safaris
  • Being greeted by everyone
  • Speaking Setswana
  • Walking everywhere
  • Fatcakes, samp, pap, man sized lunch bars, and Toppers
  • Bull & Bush nights
  • Monkeys eating our food

Shawnda: A transition into reality…

August 3, 2011

I’m back to the real world…as if being in Africa was surreal or fake.  It felt like such an adventure that it couldn’t be real.  

Even after being back, my time there is such a blur yet set so vividly in my mind.  I was welcomed by what seemed to be the most comfortable temperature Minnesota has reached within the past few weeks; weather seems to make dramatic changes in my presence.  My jet lag is just beginning to hit me.  I woke up at 3am; it took me a minute to figure out where I was.

Mochudi? no

UB? no

Airplane? too comfortable for that.

U of M? possibly…

Home? oh yeah, right.

I was finally able to make pancakes; my deprivation was silenced.

The familiarities of home are hitting hard; it’s slightly too overwhelming.  Just as I began to feel at home in Gabarone, I’m thrown back in Minnesota.  My apprehensions of school, work, and my future are hitting even harder.  Deadlines are already coming up at the end of this week, emails are filling my inbox, and loans are still ever present in my life.  Adventures come at a price.

I wouldn’t trade in a single second spent in Africa, but my mind can’t possibly silence itself with all of these pressing thoughts.

And how do I even begin to explain how it was in Africa? What do I say to “How was it?”? I could spend hours detailing each and every day there; “amazing” suffices.

I think I can use a few days of relaxation.  Let’s just see if life allows it.

Back Home. Hello Lake Minnetonka. 

Katie: Coming home

July 28, 2011

Whelp, the time has come for a final post. I realize it is a little late, but I guess waiting this long has given me time to reflect on my adventure to the UK.

I spent my last days that I had in London exploring the city. I was able to attend the Harry Potter Red Carpet Premiere. I was amazed to have gotten as close as I did, especially since I thought I wouldn’t even get in. I ended up getting to Trafalgar Square later than I had hoped and was lucky enough to receive one of the wristbands needed to attend the premiere. So my friend Ayla, whom I met at the Hostel I was staying at, and I went back to our Hostel and waited til later that night when we checked out of the hostel and headed to Trafalgar Square to sleep…or at least try to sleep that night. We woke up at 4am with the sun and stood waiting for a total of 16 hours in the rain before the stars started to arrive.

Ayla and I made some friends at the premiere – Sammy, Cat, Katie, and Elissa:



I even made it in some press images:


I was really excited to see J.K. Rowling


The premiere was crazy, amazing, and so tiring but so worth it. It was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity and a great way to end the series that many of us grew up with. Coming to London I never thought I would sleep in Trafalgar Square.

The Last day I decided to bike around the city. A lot of things can get lost when you ride the tube everywhere. Your sense of direction is played with. So I decided to rent a bike for the day and spend my final hours riding around London.


I stumbled upon these pianos that were placed around the city for anyone to play.

After traveling for more that 23 hours I arrived back home.

So I have been back in America for a total of 17 days. It has been bittersweet. I keep remembering that I actually lived in another country and it boggles my mind realizing that my adventure is over. I miss London like crazy but being away for so long has made me appreciate America so much more. I haven’t gone through much culture shock, probably because I was only gone for 7 weeks as opposed to an entire semester. I have noticed that I still try to convert prices to dollars even though the price is already in dollars. I was overjoyed to walk into my room and see all of the clothes that I left here. After 7 weeks of wearing the same 10 outfits over and over again, I am so excited to wear different clothes. I am also enjoying the vast amount of open space here. Everything in London was crowded and condensed. I love looking out the window of the car and seeing cornfields, I will always have a piece of London with me but I still love Iowa.


Shawnda: And life goes on…

July 24, 2011

“We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us” [John Steinbeck]

In less than 12 hours I will begin my long journey back to the tropical rain forest that is now Minnesota.

Saying goodbyes have never been easy, but even more so now.  I am leaving new friends and a new home.  I think no matter where I go in life, a part of me is permanently attached to Botswana.  My goodbyes are only simple “until next time”s or “I’ll see you again”s.  It’s so difficult to accept the fact that I may not see these people ever again.  We were brought together across the world, we have grown together, and have experienced the many trivialities of this country; it’s hard not feeling some kind of bond. 

Still, life goes on.  One day I will return, even if it’s in one year or twenty.  I’ve realized that it normally takes a great deal of difficulty getting to the places you want to go, whether it’s smelly flights or bug infested train rides.  But once you are there, your true journey begins. 

I have fears of leaving, fears of coming back to the US, and fears for my future.  I don’t as if my time is finished in Botswana, I’m afraid of how overwhelming the states will be, and I’m still unsure of what I will do with the rest of my life.  Maybe two days worth of travel will solve that…maybe not.

Expect some travel updates in the near future along with my last odds and ends from my time in BW.

Ke a leboga Botswana.  The lekoa will be back someday.


Michelle: Transitions

June 21, 2011

I’ve been back for about three weeks now. Often times I find myself wishing I was back in Montpellier. I don’t know if it’s the thrill of the big city or the charm of France that I miss, but there’s part of me that yearns to go back. I want to go back to the country where the tops of my papers were always wrinkled because they didn’t fit into the American binder I brought. I miss being reminded during every food-related publicity that « Pour votre santé, évitez de manger trop gras, trop sucré, trop salé ». Constant discovery has been replaced by the mundane. Dare I say it, I’m even feeling a bit nostalgic for the thrill of narrowly avoiding piles of dog crap on the sidewalks. Most of all though, the French people, language, and bread me manquent beaucoup.

Although I haven’t hit the dark place described in the literature given to us by the Minnesota office, I feel a slight twinge whenever I see something that reminds me of Montpellier and excitement if I hear French (even if it is coming from my selection of Francophone music). I’m starting to scrapbook my trip now and am transcribing my blog posts onto the pages to serve as a background for the pictures. Reading my posts from the very beginning, it’s interesting to see how my view of France and really of myself has changed. One that’s particularly interesting now is Test Anxiety. I’m generally not a worry-wart; part of me thinks I might have suffered a minor psychotic breakdown going between the US and France (must be the thin air on the plane). All those doubts and worries were faced, and gladly I can say I survived without too much difficulty.

Now, I find myself scraping at any opportunity to re-immerse myself back into French culture. I’ve watched a couple French films, joined a conversation group, tried to replicate some of the meals I had over there. Yesterday, I had most likely my last Friday Night Dinner (FND) in Waukesha with the menu centering on food I had in France.

Menu: Fish Soup with Croutons, Rouille, and Gruyere – Catfish with Almonds – Grilled Vegetables with Aioli – Cheesecake

This is my last post from this blog. Thanks for reading. Au revoir!

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