Posts Tagged ‘University of Minnesota’

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Lindsay: Why do I want to go to India?

January 2, 2012

When I was a freshman here at the University of Minnesota in 2009, I had no idea what I wanted to major in.  I enrolled in the Swahili language because I knew Spanish was full and I have always liked studying languages but I didn’t realize the University offered so many. I took Swahili for a single semester and realized that I enjoyed learning about other cultures, but Africa wasn’t the region I wanted to study. Immediately I thought about becoming a Global Studies Major with an emphasis in South Asia.  I had always been entranced by the culture and society of India, as well as the Hindi scripture.  Therefore, beginning my sophomore year, I began taking Hindi classes and have completed one full year of Hindi so far and am enrolled for the upcoming semester.

Currently, I am majoring in Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Deviance and am minoring in Family Violence Prevention, and I have extreme interest in domestic abuse and international violence.  I would really love to intern in India and work closely with advocates and other townspeople on the issues of violence at hand in their region of India.  I have taken courses such as Gender Violence in Global Perspectives, Intimate Partner Violence, as well as an Indian Feminisms course which has taught me how to deal, analyze, and respond to different issues relating to violence and discrimination.  I was first interested in these issues when I was a freshman and I enrolled in a Freshman Seminar where we were able to choose our own topic of interest and create a research project about it.  A group of two other girls and me decided to research Sex Trafficking.  We realized it was a harsh and not widely known topic, but it think that was what intrigued us the most.  Researching this topic really sparked my interest in violence occurring in other countries across the globe, not just in the United States.  Since then, I have always been interested in getting into the Criminal Justice field or Law Enforcement. I would love to gain hands-on experience, especially in the Criminal Justice side of things when it comes to these issues, and especially on how India, in particular, responds to violence.

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Lindsay: Program and plans overview

December 16, 2011
I just thought I would give you all an general overview of the program I am in and what my plans are when I arrive in India:
The program I am in is called MSID or Minnesota Studies in International Development.  I will leave on January 15 and I’ll get back on May 20.  I am going with a group of about 15 other college students, most from the U of M but a couple who are not.
I will first be arriving in New Delhi, which is in the north west part of India.  From there we will drive north about an hour as a group up to Jaipur (located in the state of Rajasthan), where we will stay for the remainder of the program.
I will be taking classes (taught in English by Indian professors) for the first 6 weeks of the program.  At this time, I will also be staying with a host family from India.  Throughout this time, my group will travel to places on the weekends such as the Taj Mahal, the slums, and bazaars (or malls for shopping, but they are more like the style of flee or farmers markets).
For the last 6 weeks of the program, I will be interning in Jaipur.  At this point in time, I am not sure where or what my internship will be because it is developed alongside people from the city when I arrive.  However, I will have a different host family during this six weeks.
The program itself ends on the 22nd of April.  From then until about May 20th, a small group of girls from my program as well as myself will be traveling around India.  We hope to make it to the the Himalayas for some hiking, the island of Goa, and hopefully to Mumbai.  At this point, we do not have anything set in stone as far as destinations and approximate times for anything.  It is so cheap to get around in India, we are going to take our time and explore everything and anything we want to. 
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Max: About me and this blog

November 15, 2011

I’m a student from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities studying at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) through a one-year international exchange program.

I have a strong connection to Germany because I was born in here, lived here until I was six years old, and frequently visit the half of my family that lives here. When I was six I moved to the USA and went through the American school system. I eventually decided that, after spending a year in an American university, I would spend a year as an exchange student in Germany to gain a more complete perspective on life and study in the two countries, as well as improve my german language skills.

My study program here started in October 2011 and I’ve been collecting observations about the similarities and differences between life in the USA and in Germany ever since. I hope I will be able to offer a unique perspective on these similarities and differences and that someone, whether they’re a student planning an exchange program, a person with interests in German life and culture, or an American interested in what other countries’ perceptions of the USA say about our culture, will find these interesting and helpful.

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Sarah: Fútbol

September 29, 2011

In Venezuela, fútbol is like the mountains, the plants and the storms….

WILD.

And very different from the U.S.

I went to my first “soccer” game ever in South America on Sunday, and I definitely got a taste of the latin american fútbol scene. The passion these people have for the game of soccer is incredible. My favorite example of this is the huge sign I saw hanging from the fence surrounding the soccer field. It said “pasión y locura” – passion and craziness.

This is what a fútbol stadium looks like in Mérida, Venezuela:

And this is what a football stadium looks like in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

It is an amazing feeling to be sitting in the stands on a beautiful, warm, Venezuela evening gazing at the mountains that seem to be swallowing you up from every direction.

And it is an entirely different feeling to be freezing your butt off at TCF Bank Stadium with your friends, watching the Gophers play and smiling when you look up at that oh-so-familiar skyline in the distance.

But they are both exhilerating and give me a rush when I think about them. One makes me realize how lucky I am, how far away I am, and what an incredible experience I’m having.

The other makes me nostalgic, proud, and greatful to have the best family, school and friends in the world waiting for me when I come home to winter in Minnesota.

Needless to say, it would be impossible to forget either one.

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Jon: First weekend in Jordan

September 10, 2011

It is my first Saturday here in Jordan, and it has been quite a journey. From planes being delayed, to the craziness that is driving in Jordan I’ve been seeing a lot, and yet I am beyond anxious for more. Tomorrow I start my area studies classes at the University of Jordan (Jordanians week goes from Sunday to Thursday). 

Clock tower at University of Jordan
Library at the University of Jordan

Hopefully by the end of the week, I will be replacing one of those with an internship though leaving me with just one class about water in Jordan and the middle east. We also start reviewing Arabic tomorrow and take our placement test Monday. I am trying to study for it but I have no idea where to begin. For credit reasons back at the U of MN I am really trying to be placed in Intermediate Arabic but I would love to start over. For those that don’t know, the Arabic educational system in regards to the classroom is a bit different than the US. Professors are regarded as the fonts of wisdom and are not to be challenged or questioned. Critical thinking is something left to the professor and students are there to memorize. Also, the memorizing is done mostly at home and the student is expected to figure out what is important and what should be studied. Now as some of you may know I occasionally have some issues with authority but I feel confident I can still learn here. Now that I understand and know the culture a bit that is.

As far as things that have happened from my last post there hasn’t been to much. There is a wedding going on next door which is an event that lasts a few days it seems. Friday night was the bridal party we believe and today they have been playing music on and off for a while with a large amount of guests. It is interesting to experience, and I’ve really come to like Arabic music. I did go downtown and bought my first Sheesh (hookah). For everything needed to use it it cost a total of 14JD which is about $20! It is smaller but we plan on using that one till we can learn a bit more about Sheesh’s and construct our own. In many shops around here you buy the components individually and they are quite impressive. It does seem like that is a major part of the culture. Probably every other night I am ending up at a cafe smoking Sheesh with others chatting. Once we get our peer tutors I hope for it to be a Jordanian I am sitting with but for now this is nice. 

The only other thing is now that we are in our apartments cooking is left up to us. And while I do think I am a decent cook I am struggling here because I do not know how to cook any of the sauces, or use the spices here. I am signing up for a club to help with that but again I hope with a Jordanian peer tutor they can suggest a few recipes.
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Margaret: 机器人 – jīqìrén – robot

September 10, 2011

I survived hanyu!  I felt much better about it today, although it is still extremely challenging.  The tough part is that everything is explained in Chinese. The trouble is that many Chinese grammar patterns are entirely nonsensical in the first place, and some can be difficult enough to understand in English as it is. My laoshi also loves to tell us other words that mean the same thing, oh but they can’t exactly be used in the exact same way. Here’s five words and how they are the same and how they are subtly entirely different.  It’s chabuduo (almost) impossible. You can’t miss a beat in hanyu!

I realized at my tutor session that the University of Minnesota did not teach me how to speak Chinese. Every speaking opportunity I ever had gave me the prompts ahead of time so I could rehearse what I was going to say. Helpful in the real world? Absolutely not. However, what they did teach me how to do was to understand grammar patterns and become really good at taking exams without actually having a real grasp on the material. As a result, my laoshi gave us a minute to complete a few sentences using a new, confusing grammar pattern and when he came by to check my answers, “dou hen hao,” or they’re all perfect. Today was a mixture of pride (because I think I may actually be able to survive hanyu if I study six to eight hours a day), frustration (because there is still so much of lecture that doesn’t make any sense to me either because I don’t know the vocabulary being used or because everything is being explained in Chinese), and disappointment (because after two entire years devoted to this language, I can’t speak it!).

What I really want to talk about is the dinner I had at the kuai can, or fast food (it’s really just a dining hall). My friend invited a Chinese student she met in line to sit down with her and I. I haven’t had too much direct interaction with Chinese students, and it seems the university has tried their best to keep us separate, so I was excited to chit chat with him.  He seemed very nervous to be sitting with foreigners and was eating speedy fast, even faster than the crazy fast speeds that everyone eats in the dining halls, presumably in order to get back to the books. He said he is a physics major from Shanghai. He takes thirty (yes THIRTY!) hours of class per week of physics, which he finds “interesting.”  When he is not in class, he “rests” for one or two hours, spending the rest of the time studying or “doing exercises.” Must be some kind of magical powers or an insane amount of caffeine…  When asked what he would like to do after graduation, he replied, “It depends on my mark.” Basically, if he scores high enough, he will get to go to graduate school. He feels lucky to live in a dormitory where there are communal showers because in some buildings, students must walk outside in the dead of winter to go to another building where they have large gym locker room-style shower rooms. These, he complains, have no place to dry your hair.  I cringed at the thought of just how many girls have their hair freeze every single night on the way home before bed. He told us he lives in a room with three other people. When asked if his room is large or small, he said the most distinctly Chinese thing I’ve heard since I’ve been here: “It is enough for four people.”

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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. 
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Grace: Arrival

August 3, 2011

Okay, so let me start out and say how excited I am for this semester.  It’s only been 3 days and we haven’t done anything particularly exciting yet, and I’m already having the most amazing time.

I got off the plane after an 8 hour flight with NOBODY SITTING NEXT TO ME. Best flight ever! I felt like I was in first class. When I left the airport, nauseous, sweaty, and repulsive after waiting what felt like 3 hours for my bags to finally appear on the conveyer belt in baggage claim, there was Waly waiting for me with a helpful sign.  Waly is the program coordinator for the MSID (Minnesota School of International Development) study abroad program in Senegal.  He took me to my hotel and I was told to just chill on my own for a day (my flight was a day earlier than the program is supposed to start).  Thankfully, the hotel had wifi and I didn’t die from boredom.  Anyways, I won’t go into detail about those first 24 hours, but it basically consisted of lots of sleeping, drawing, and surfing the internet.  Also, all I ate the whole day was a Clif bar and 3 twizzlers because I had no CFA (local money) and couldn’t change any because it was Sunday and everything was closed. So that was fun.

But anyways, Monday at 12, I went downstairs and met Waly again, but this time Kouka was with him too.  She is the other program coordinator.  Also, the other 2 pre-session students, David and Anne (University of Texas and University of Richmond), came down after arriving early that morning.  Yes, there are only going to be 3 people in my class for the next 3 weeks. Everyone else gets here after that. At that point, we are going to be AMAZING at French and be all Senegalese and awesome, and all the other students will be so jealous, hehe.

Monday was a fun day filled with instructions, food, incredibly tasty juices, Senegalese dancing (yes.), a trip to the rocky beach, and sweat. Waly and Kouka and Honourine (another MSID worker whose home we were at) told us all the cultural faux-pas we should avoid and what we should expect from our families.  We found out that apparently there have been problems in the past with students who don’t shower enough and repulsed their host families to the point that they actually had to tell the program directors about it.  The entire way back to the hotel I couldn’t quit thinking about the shower in my near future, so I don’t think that will be a problem for me. 

After an ambien-induced sleep, I woke up this morning at about 7:30 and went down to meet Anne and David for breakfast. We each were served half a (large) baguette and a croissant. Beaucoup de pain. Then Waly came and picked us up with our luggage and we set off on a little tour of Dakar.

We saw all the sights, including the GIANT monument recently built by the President. It’s supposed to represent the African renaissance, with a man, wife and child emerging from rough ground and the child being lifted toward the future.  A cool idea, but incredibly controversial.  Not only did the huge monument cost millions of government dollars in a nation where people are starving, but the statue is a human representation, which is forbidden by Islam.  95% of the population of Senegal is Muslim.  So yeah.  On top of all that, the President actually tried to claim intellectual property rights on the monument and receive personal profit for the tourist revenue.  Oh and did I mention the statue was built by North Koreans? Haha, this monument was not the greatest of ideas. This picture doesnt really convey how huge this thing is. Just imagine my body as the length of one of the womans fingers.
We also saw the “Porte de Millionaires” which was built after the peaceful elections of the year 2000, in which there was not only a democratic election of a new president (pretty rare for Africa), but a total change in government (from socialist to liberal). 
We also saw a few cool mosques.
And the white house.
And some GORGEOUS views with AWESOME cliffs.
After our tour, we went to WARC (West African Research Center), which is where the MSID offices are, and where we will be having our class.  Then we went to lunch at “My Shop”, a totally Western restaurant thing where they had pizza.

And then came the nerve-wracking drive to go meet our families.  I was sooo scared…as it turns out for no reason. My family is awesome.  I have 3 brothers, Mario, Babacar, and Tapha, and a sister, Aida.  Babacar isn’t here right now though, and when they explained to me where he was, I didn’t understand exactly what they were saying, but nodded and smiled anyway, so now I really have no idea where he is.  My host mom’s name is Soda, and she and her children are living with her mother, whose name I can’t remember, but that’s because I just call her “Maman”.  I am sharing a room with Aida.

Ramadan began today so I’m really glad I got lunch, because my family didn’t eat until after sundown.  They can’t drink anything allll day, which seems unbearable in this heat.  I downed two giant water bottles this afternoon, but I tried to be discreet about it so I wasn’t rubbing it in their faces. Tonight for the late dinner, several of their family members who live close came to do evening prayers and break the fast.  It was a little awkward because they spoke Wolof pretty much the entire time and as of now all I know how to say in Wolof is “hello” and “thank you”.  Surprisingly, my extensive Wolof vocabulary didn’t really come in handy during the dinner conversation. But 2 of the cousins, Suleyman (I’m guessing 9 years old) and a girl whose name I can’t remember (12 probably) said they felt bad for me just sitting there clueless, so they spoke in French with me.  They taught me a bunch of like hand-clapping games (I’m sure theres a name for them…), and I taught them that little “down by the banks of the hanky panky…” thing.  And we talked about America, and Justin Bieber, and movies, and school, and it was actually tons of fun!

And now I am sitting in my room after a nice cold shower, and writing this.  And thinking about how long this post is, even though I left out tons of stuff, and how if I write this detailed of a post every 3 days, I will have a very large book by the end of this semester. 

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Hilary: upcoming adventures

July 7, 2011

!Bienvenidos!

This is the start of my first blog!  I will try to update as often as possible with pictures, stories, notes, and whatever else inspires me. I hope you enjoy reading and sharing in my experiences!

I have been traveling to Guatemala for a teaching assistant position with an organization called Safe Passage (Camino Seguro). Go to their website and check out this awesome organization!  www.safepassage.org  Their mission is to create opportunities and foster dignity through the power of education!

Then on to Ecuador, where I will be studying abroad through a University of Minnesota program: MSID Ecuador, check the program website out here: http://umabroad.umn.edu/programs/americas/msid-ecuador.php  For the first half of the program I will be living with a homestay in Quito, Ecuador and the second half of the program I will have a rural home-stay along with an education internship somewhere in the Andes mountains!

I wish you all a wonderful summer and a beautiful fall.  I hope that you find something that challenges you and delights you, that you find happiness and gratitude, and that you stay mentally physically, and spiritually healthy!

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Connie: My brief stint as a tour guide

June 6, 2011

One of my good friends from Minnesota came to Japan. He’ll be studying in Beppu for the next two months, but on his way from Tokyo to Beppu he stopped for roughly three days in Hiroshima. Glad to have someone I knew well from back home to talk to for a while, I spent these days showing him the most famous spots in the area.

The first day, a group of friends and I went into the city to go shopping before my friend arrived in the evening. We had two goals: getting my beloved bubble tea, and browsing yukata (light, cotton kimono-like traditional wear) before Yukata Matsuri (a festival which is this weekend!) We went through the main shopping district and checked out all of the kimono/yukata shops, but most of the things we found were either quite expensive or low quality.

My friend arrived by shinkansen at around 7:20. After the commute back to Saijo and dropping off my friend’s things at his hotel, the two of us headed over to a party for all the students who came from, went to, or are going to the University of Minnesota. One of the exchange students from this past school year was in attendance. I’d met him once before departing. I remember him being shy and taking his sweet time in forming English sentences. It was nice to talk to him again after a year and see how more outgoing he’s become. At closing my friend and I promptly headed back to the hotel, as he was terribly jet-lagged.

The next day it was supposed to thunderstorm, so the plan was to go to the Peace Museum in Peace Park or go to Hiroshima Castle. It ended up being a perfectly sunny day, so we were able to explore the park before going to the museum.

It was when we got to the A-bomb Dome that my friend realized he’d forgotten his camera in his room… Fortunately his iTouch was able to take pictures. The sheer amount of pictures he took left me in awe. My friend is a tourist extraordinaire.

After wandering about Peace Park for a while we ended up entering the Peace Museum, which is basically a museum highlighting what happened to Hiroshima city after the atomic bomb was dropped. It was a very good museum, I thought. Highly informative, but also set up in a way that really leaves an impact. As you can imagine it’s not the happiest of museums. You start out reading the history of Hiroshima, particularly in relation to various wars. As you progress you get to where you’re reading about the process used to choose which city to drop the bomb on, then comes an exhibit showing the sheer technical effects of the bomb and how it works. As you progress further you begin to see exhibits that explain the effects had on the people who were residing in the city at the time. It gets personal, with a room full of specific accounts about children who were killed by after effects of the bomb.

After that kind of downer we wandered through the park a bit more. Folded cranes of all colors decorate the park and along with the sunny weather are definitely enough to put your mood back to warm. After this we hopped on the train and headed back to Saijo. After arriving at the campus bus stop, my friend discovered his real camera had been in his pocket the whole time. He vowed to remember where he’d put it the next day.

Dinner was at my favorite okonomiyaki shop. You can’t come to Hiroshima and not try Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki! My friend wasn’t as big a fan as I was, however. I question his taste.

The next day I decided my friend should see Miyajima. This is the day I really felt like a tour guide, especially since I’d been there once before. Since we arrived at low tide I insisted we go to the iconic gate first. From there we climbed the stairs that lead up to the shrines at the top of the mountain. On the way back we got some fresh oysters to eat from a cute family-run restaurant where a mother was teaching her son, probably around a year old, to fill glasses of water.

While wandering around we stumbled upon a shop advertising yukata for 2100 yen. Compared to the typical 10,000+ yen these kinds of shops offer, I had to check it out. It turns out they were actually of fair quality. The only downside was a fairly small selection, but for the price it was nothing to refuse! I bought an obi and a yukata for a total of 3100 yen, which is incredibly cheap (about $35). I have yet to buy the geta (wooden sandles), but that can be taken care of easily here in town.

The day, of course, wasn’t complete without one of the super-friendly deer of Miyajima trying to steal something out of my friend’s bag.

Upon returning I took my friend to an event held on campus every Tuesday called International Cafe. Basically it’s an opportunity for foreign students from all over to converse with curious Japanese students. Afterward we always go out for a meal and maybe some drinks. That night it was Wagaya, a place specializing in very Japanese food. After dinner we went for pafaits at a nearby Italian restaurant. 

Our final day was shorter, since my friend had to be in Beppu by 8 p.m. He wanted to do some shopping, mostly for practical things. I took him around Saijo. For lunch we ate at Gaba Ramen, a place that is spoken highly of by most of the residents here. 

I bid farewell to my friend at the station, hoping he’d enjoyed his brief stay in Hiroshima. He is, on the surface, a very apathetic person, so I wasn’t sure. Today when I got home I found a message on my facebook saying, “After being in Saijo, I’d rather stay there than here.” Success! Well, I hope you come to enjoy Beppu as well my friend! Go soak in all of the famous onsen (hot springs)!

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