Keep You

Keep You

I decided to wait to write this until I was on the plane.

I did not say goodbye to Berlin; I was too busy saying hello. New places and hidden spaces, every day in Berlin changed my eyes. Gone was the thick New York City glaze. My eyes, removed from the rubble, were opened wide; observant, reflective and green. I was seeing again. I saw a new world, I saw a new way. I saw parts of myself that I had long ignored. Color, pain, passion. I smiled, I slowed. The city is just too big for a four month test trial.

I did not say goodbye to Berlin; I couldn’t think of the words. As my bedroom walls cleared and my suitcases filled up, the apartment became so barren. It made my mind feel barren, too. Did any of it happen? Berlin, did you happen? Memories seemed to slip away as the clock wound down. I helplessly searched my mind for proof that this happened. I couldn’t. Everything was white – the bed the walls my mind.

I did not say goodbye to Berlin; I didn’t want to. Closure suggests a decided end. No, I want this city to stay open for me. So many unanswered wonders about the city; I did not get my fill. As my time left abroad dwindled, my worries emerged: Berlin… my city. You are not pocket sized. However will I keep you safe and close? If you change without me, will my memories of you change, too?

Window seat 14F, Berlin zooming out beneath me. I was homebound.

I reread my personal travel journal on the plane ride home. Page one. My first day: Berlin. My handwriting was colored with fresh nerves and cursive composure, a reserved font size on straight lines. I wrote of my first whiff of the new world: the streets, the air, the skies. I listed my hopes, in between which I now read my blatant, yet unnoted fears.  

I had been dormant. Berlin, I realize, brought my unshakable Winter to a close.

I flipped through the pages and watched my semester unfold. September, October, November, December. With each page, my words became undone. Rules dissolved. My passport filled. Black and blue and lead reigned the page with honesty and intensity. As I turned each one I watched myself bloom, alive. Alive again, at last.

The journal fit snuggly into my backpack, and rests quietly on my bedside table. It is a rather childish one, blue with a purple strap. I bought it immediately after I landed in Germany with naive desperation to document each and every leg of my new journey. I didn’t realize it would soon hold a city, mine.

Like a music box, enclosing the entirety of a tiny world held shut with a golden latch. Spin the key right once, twice, three times hear it click. Open, sweet delicate melodies fill the air, familiar to my heart. I’ll hum along. On the tips of her toes, I’ll watch the girl in the center tu-tu-twirl. Fearless jubilation.The forgotten yesterdays will become new again and nothing will ever change.  Berlin, you happened.

A fire burns within these pages; I have enough good in here to keep me warm for the rest of my life. It is here you and I will be kept. Whenever I feel cold, I can access my city, Berlin, my eternal Spring.

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  • Goodbye Swans: Ashley Jankowski
Finally, The End is Here

Finally, The End is Here

As my semester abroad in Shanghai draws to a close, the only thing I can think about is how much I can’t wait to be back home in Illinois.

Looking back on my time here is difficult- mostly because I spent most of my waking hours working in the school building and can only remember a blur of projects, papers, and deadlines. I now see that NYU Shanghai was not the best choice for a study abroad experience. I had a great time studying here for the summer because I took Chinese and Journalism and they also offered a trip to Beijing. However, coming here for a semester was far different. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I gained much from the academics at NYU Shanghai other than stress. Indeed, I’d have to say that this semester was defined by dissatisfaction.

I really hope NYU Shanghai can create a better study abroad community because I’ve heard many complaints from fellow visiting students. I would recommend a more curated list of study abroad-specific events and trips established early on in the semester. I think there should be a required class specifically for study away students that would meet once a week to take trips to various places in Shanghai to learn more about the culture and history of the city. There are definitely improvements that can and should be made.

I bid Shanghai farewell with the heaviest of hearts. I did not have the time to explore nearly everything I wanted, nor did I have the time to truly enjoy my time here. It will probably be years and years until I return to the city and by then I know it will have changed dramatically. While I might visit, I’m not sure I can live in such vast and busy city. I think the most rewarding part of my time here was stumbling upon little treasures I had never heard about. I’ll remember walking down randomly beautiful roads and drinking coffees in nice cafes as well as playing with all the stray animals for years to come.

While I’m excited to be home for Christmas, I’m not sure how I’ll feel returning to New York City after a year away. I think my time abroad has made me realize that there are other ways of life worth living other than what I’ve been taught to believe. I’m afraid to that I’ll find New York less charming than I thought it once was.

Lastly, I’d like to thank this course for making me slow down and think about my experience abroad. Writing down my thought has definitely helped me understand what living abroad really means and has been a great outlet for reflection. I wish I had heard of this course sooner, so I could have taken it while in Prague but I’m glad to have been a part of this blog. It would be great if there was more student interaction within our online community, though I’m not sure how it would be fostered. I feel like we’ve all been like pen pals this semester and it would lovely to have a follow-up in New York.

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  • JingAn Park-Shanghai: Irina
We Were On a Boat...

We Were On a Boat…

It’s really hard to believe that this semester has already come to an end. As I walk through Old town Square, Vinohrady, and some other places I’ve frequented throughout the year, it seems surreal to me that this may be the last time I see them.

I’ve been around many places, come and gone from city to city, home to home. This feeling should be familiar by now. But this time things feel different. This is a city that has never belonged to me. It is as temporary to me as I am to it. Four months is just about enough time to settle into the rhythm of things, and Prague was just beginning to feel like home…and now I’m leaving, without knowing if I’ll ever set foot in this country again. Or even Europe. I know I’ll still be traveling places, but nothing in the world is ever certain. When I leave Europe for good—fortunately (or unfortunately—I’m a little tired of traveling by now, for reasons I will explicate later), I still have a good month of traveling left—I never know when and if I’ll ever return. It’s disconcerting to think I’ll spend the rest of my life so faraway from a place I have come to call home, until it gradually fades away from my memory.

I really thought I would still be returning here during my month of travel, but plans change, and now I find myself regretting pushing things off because I always thought I would have more time. I haven’t had a chance to be a proper tourist here. Or inhabit the city enough to know it’s intricacies. I wish I’d eaten out more instead of opting to save money and cook, so that I would at least have some insider’s knowledge to the hidden gems of the city. Of course, I feel like that about almost every place I’ve lived in, so perhaps this is normal. This is just the way I tend to inhabit a space—more from the comforts of home and routine than out and about in the center of action. In many ways, it makes Prague special, more like Beijing or New York to me than any other city I’ve visited.

And I’ve visited a lot. My roommate and I even scheduled in a last weekend trip to Amsterdam before finals. Things were going great until our flight back on Sunday got cancelled because of the snow, and we had to take a late night train to Brussels to fly back from there on the next day. I not only lost a day of work and study, but also had to miss my two finals on Monday, which I had to reschedule to Tuesday, along with my presentation and essay that were originally due on that day as well. So I arrived home at 1am Monday night, worn out and a little fed up with life (but also thinking that the “Travails” topic should have come along later so that I could have written about this trip instead), and did some last minute work on my presentation and essay so that I could still get in a few hours of sleep before my makeup finals. In the end, it all turned out well, but I still feel like a character in a movie who pushed through that hefty climax only to find that her catharsis was a hasty goodbye to the one place she had been so desperate to return to.

Life is funny like that sometimes. Especially goodbyes. The buildup always seems more ceremonious than the actual thing itself.

I’m going to conclude with an anecdote. As we were walking down the streets of Old Town Square yesterday, my friend said, “I feel like we were on a boat…” and I really thought she was going to say something poetic out of nowhere, but it turns out she was talking about how the first boat cruise during orientation week seemed like just a month ago. But her words triggered some emotion in me, and I’m going to finish her sentence my way, because these things always make more sense in writing than when you say them out loud.

We were on a boat, adrift in a journey that took us far from the earth in a dream longer than ever before or ever again, but now it is time to dock and return to reality. We can never be sure if we’ll ever return to this exact spot, and even if we do, the sea one day is never the same as the day before. But despite its perils, it was a beautiful dream. I learned so much, grew so much, and despite the sadness, I miss New York. I’m ready to go back and face my future. Maybe—hopefully—one day I will return to Prague and recount my time here. But for now, I will get ready to say goodbye to the part of myself that this city has molded. It’ll never truly leave me, I hope, but my time as a European is about to come to a close.

It was a good ride.

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  • Not Actually Our Boat, But Close Enough: Alice
Live Your Best Life in Shanghai

Live Your Best Life in Shanghai

Disclaimer:

If you’re searching for a life-changing, soul-searching study abroad experience, NYU Shanghai is not the site to go to. The study abroad program is completely underdeveloped and the school itself is still just trying to figure out how to operate. This is the site to go to if you want to take challenging classes, learn Chinese, and live in one of the most crowded cities in the world. However, I understand that NYU Shanghai might be your only option to study away so this article will let you know how to make the best of it and show other people you’re having the time of your life!

The Finer Things Club:

Shanghai is a great cosmopolitan city, complete with skyscrapers, art galleries, and luxury shopping malls. Wine and dine while enjoying some of the best views of the city near the Bund or Lu Jia Zui. Fancy meals can be expensive like New York but other nice bars offer great happy hour prices. I recommend going to the Park Hyatt located in the Bottle Cap building or the Grand Hyatt in LJZ for great views. A perk is that many Chinese restaurants and bars don’t have strict dress codes so come wearing whatever you want!

Shanghai has shopping malls on almost every street, many of them luxurious but empty. Super Brand Mall is known for being one of the grandest malls, but I also recommend IAPM. You can eat, watch movies, indulge in designer purchases, or admire the architecture in these complexes.

If you are a cultured soul and art is more of your thing, be sure to visit the city’s modern art museums. The Long Museum in West Bund is amazing for the architecture alone and hosted the cool Anton Gormley exhibit this fall. Power Station of Art and the M50 art district are also cool places to go. I, personally, would recommend the JingAn Sculpture Park since I feel like not many people know about it. The public park has some immense and interesting pieces and friendly stray cats!

Documentation and Proof of Fun:

In our social media age, it’s important to let others know you’re living your best life so be sure to take a million pictures everywhere you go!! If you’re a budding street-style photographer, make Shanghai your playground. The city has great aesthetics and also has some unlocked rooftops you can try to find. Be sure to go to the 87th floor of the Grand Hyatt for a killer view down and to M50 for grungy, art-deco vibes. Take your time lapses and long exposures at LJZ as well.

As for souvenirs, you’re definitely going to want to stock up on goodies to bring home. The fake market under the Science and Technology Museum close to campus is a great place to bargain and get knock-offs. I recommend the fake Supreme t-shirts and Yeezys for your “hypebeast” friends. If you’re not into the traditional keychain/magnet souvenirs, I recently stumbled into a small kitschy store called Madame Mao’s Dowry on FuMin Road. The store has Mao memorabilia, propaganda posters, photos, and clothing. I recommend the “M is for Mian” tote bag, the cute illustrated postcards, and a little book called “A Guide to Soup Dumplings in Shanghai”.

If you’re a stationary fiend like myself and love to buy notebooks you’ll never use, head over to a Mo Mo Café. This café sells stickers, books, and all kinds of stationary though their main products are postcards you can buy and send to your future self. FuZhou Road is home to the city’s foreign language bookstores but you can also find some great stationary there. The Hong Kong Street Shops under People’s Square also has some great finds.

Lastly, if you want something authentically Shanghainese that you can use in your daily life, get yourself a pair of Fei Yues. Fei Yue was the original Shanghai sneaker brand and their shoes are super cheap (about $12 for their cheapest pair). Practically everyone in Shanghai (and China really) have a pair of these so join in on the white sneaker trend!

All in all, I’m not disappointed in the city, just the study abroad experience. I didn’t get the chance to fully experience Shanghai’s vibrant city life and that’s something I hope NYU Shanghai will take to heart. If you do end up coming, I wish you the best of luck in managing your stress and making new friends~

*This piece is meant to be read as slightly sarcastic though I really do recommend all places mentioned.

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  • JingAn Sculpture Park-Shanghai: Irina
Nos Vemos

Nos Vemos

In the last few days leading up to a big move, often times we’ll find that we have already emotionally left. Bags are packed, airport transportation arrangements are made, and images of our destinations play like movie trailers in our minds. It’s odd, isn’t it, that in our precious and dwindling time in a place, we are in a rush to go. Of course we must handle the practical aspects of travel in advance, but beyond those procedures, our minds can stay or go however they like.

I leave Buenos Aires in four days. After a 10 hour flight to Atlanta, 4 hour 50 minute flight to LA, and finally, an hour and 35 minute hop up to San Francisco, I’ll be home. Four months of assimilation to this culture, and after one lengthy flight itinerary, I’ll be back in Marin, a place I never had to adjust to or grapple with to feel comfortable. Before I left for Argentina, many study abroad veterans told me my emotional state would almost definitely follow a wave pattern. First I would be filled with adrenaline, then I would realize how far home was, then I would get over it and fall in love with the place, and then I’d be ready to go home. Besides the blip that was my 20 minute emotional hot water crisis a few months ago, (available to read about in my post titled “Never Too Old to be a Brat”), I experienced exceptionally smooth sailing. I kept waiting for it to “hit” that I was away from California or New York, but it never did. Maybe it’s because I’ve increasingly found an identity for myself in the dirtbag/nomad stereotype, but I genuinely loved every moment I spent here. The most obviously gratifying experience I’ve had is learning the language. I went from having to repeat myself and asking others to do the same, to having locals ask me that if I wasn’t from here, where I am from, because my spanish is excellent! It’s been a treat learning how to express myself beyond the basics in a different language. Dinner table discussions with my host family have become more lively, which makes me sad to leave them. Writing this blog. That’s another positive experience. I have a habit of getting so caught up in the moment, that I forget to record or reflect on it in any sort of way. I signed up for this course to make myself take an hour at the least out of each week to chronicle my adventures, and I’m grateful that I did.

As for how life will be when I am home, I’ve found I have a way of reverting back to teenage Kiana whenever I return to my childhood surroundings. That being said, I think it’ll be different this time. Firstly, I’ve never returned from living in a foreign country for four months. Second, as soon as I get home, I have a month to enjoy before I head back out on a new adventure in the South Pacific. My time here in Buenos Aires has left me weirdly obsessed with this notion that as a 21-year-old, I am in my physical prime, (yes I’m totally serious) and therefore will not put off living exactly how I want to live. For now, that means taking some time off school to squeeze in some more plunges into the deep before I finish up my degree. I spent my birthday on a plane here, (wouldn’t have it any other way) and recently had the revelation that the entire time I am the mischievous yet seasoned age of 21, I will be in a country where it’s summertime. I owe it to myself and to this city for proving that I can live in sticky-sweet bliss all the time. I’m leaving Buenos Aires in a climate and culture of warmth, and although I don’t have immediate plans to return, I know I’ll be back.

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See you soon, Sydney

See you soon, Sydney

This week, as people begin to pack up their things and head for Sydney Airport, unsure of when they’ll return again, I can’t help but feel quite sad. Suddenly, I’m not ready to return to New York. There’s still so much here for me to do and see. I think the worst part about studying at Sydney is that once the four months of living here are over, it’s hard to know when you’ll come back, if you ever do. It’s not like studying in Europe, where you can pretty easily plan a trip back a few months later if you wanted. The big journey to Sydney is long and expensive, and to make the traveling worth it you need quite a few days of time off from school, work, and other responsibilities to spend here. However, I am doing my best to think positively. My mother always says if you really want something you will make it happen. So, Sydney, although it is nearly time for me to go, I will be back soon.

As I’ve been wrapping up my essays and presentations and studying for finals, I’ve been thinking a lot about all of the great experiences I’ve had during the past four months. I made friends from countries I had never even heard of, had class on a boat, went in the Indian Ocean for the first time, spent entire weekends at the beach. I can’t think of one bad day. The one experience that was most exceptional, however, was Sydney’s ‘Results Night’, the night the results of the same-sex marriage postal survey were released. My professor and the four other women in my public health class gathered around my laptop, reading the results in excitement as the majority of Australia said yes to same-sex marriage. We made a plan to go to the parade that was happening that night on Oxford Street together to celebrate. We went to a party supplies store and bought feather boas and sparkly glitter, all in the colors of the rainbow. The parade was full of excitement and joy, very similar to Pride parades throughout the US. I really felt like I was surrounded by love and good people. I feel so lucky to be in Sydney during this really important and life-changing time. I also got to know so much more about the people from my class, people I wasn’t necessarily close with originally. Since that night, my classmates have become some of my best friends here in Sydney. I will never forget that night.

Overall, my study abroad experience has taught me so much. I’ve learned more about just how different cities can really be, about other cultures and people’s diverse values, how to get away with having a very oversized carry-on bag, and so much more, even some more about myself. I’m so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had. I’m also really grateful for this course, it has given me the chance to acknowledge and reflect upon so much that I may not have given a second thought on my own. Although I’m heartbroken to leave such a great place, I know I’ll be returning to a city that means just as much to me. Until we meet again, Sydney.

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Was it good for you Australia? Cause it was good for me!

Was it good for you Australia? Cause it was good for me!

This period of goodbyes has become so much of a routine in my life that it really doesn’t seem like that big of a deal anymore. Over the years I learned that people come and go and that there isn’t much I can do to alter that. In this case it isn’t even a real goodbye, because most of my classmates will be back in New York next semester, so the people that are meant to stick around for the long haul probably will and those that aren’t won’t. I’ve been through some real goodbyes where I realized that the person I had seen almost everyday for years would become a friend that I see once or twice a year at best. Those are the hard ones and the ones that stick in the back of your mind. I am sure I will go through a few more of those as my school career comes to a close in a couple of years, but until then I hope to take at least a few of the friends I made here back to New York and into a new semester.

I think the semester went almost exactly the way I thought it would. I had laid out my goals in the beginning and I pretty much nailed it, pending finals. I saw what I wanted to see and experienced the growth that I wanted to have this semester. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses though. I had more academic turmoil than I ideally might have liked to have, but in the end I think I pulled through fine. Other than that, I think Sydney really treated me well. I especially liked the close proximity to the beach. It is something I thought I might like before I came, but it turned out I underrated how much I appreciated that I could go get some fresh ocean air on the weekends. This has affected me so much that I am strongly considering to change my future trajectory in order to include close proximity to a beach. Although we will see if that fantasy survives through next semester back in New York, because I do still love that city. Taking a broader perspective I don’t think that I learned anything particularly life altering while I was here that I wouldn’t have learned while staying in New York. I believe this has lot to do with fact that my first abroad experience was going to the US for boarding school, so I learned a lot of the things other people learn abroad then. I really just enjoyed my time here more than anything, which I do think is easier when you don’t really have to deal with the ups and downs of traveling because you have been in that headspace many times before.

Lastly, I think this Art of Travel course ended up being worth my time. I wasn’t a fan of all the topics, but some of them definitely made me stop and think about things I might never have given second thought to. Also, I do think it was good for me to have something that I had to be consistent about every week. It is small point of structure, but it was always a sort of reminder that the new school week had started. Again, it wasn’t all good and I was definitely annoyed at times, but in the end I think because of the few insights I gained, this course was worth it.

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  • Goodbye Nature and Hello New York City: Flurin
"Au revoir"

“Au revoir”

“Au revoir!”

This is the phrase for ‘goodbye’ in French.

It literally means ‘until I see you again’.

At first, I used this phrase to everyone, and they replied the same too, even when we both knew well that we are not going to see each other again. So after a while, I generally stopped using this phrase. I’d rather use my final words to strangers with “have a good day” (Bonne journee) or something that I genuinely wish they will have—a good life, for example.

And now it’s almost time to choose a phrase to end my semester in Paris.

It has been a wonderful semester here. The school and the culture provided us one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had, and I am glad that I spent four good months as a young man in this city of lights. Looking back, I remembered my first day here, carpooling to my hotel and talking to others strangers about college and future like I was totally prepared for it. However, I certainly was not prepared for such a beautiful city.

I remember my first long walk in the city. I walked all the way from my hotel to the Eiffel tower and then to Avenue Champs-Elysee. I walked pass by the campus and got connected to the Wi-Fi but could not find the entrance of the building. So I looked up and laughed.

I remember my friend, Sammy, who works in the Boulangerie near the campus. He was a part of the NYU community. We talked every day after my class and he always gave me the warmest smile as a welcome. Since a few weeks ago I started to not see him that very often and two weeks ago I got the news from my classmate that Sammy had left the place. We were quite sad about that and now I realized I have not been to that place for a week now. I guess what makes that place special is Sammy, not the chocolate bread there.

I also love the intellectual discussions here. Every Thursday night, my friends and I would buy some cheese and wines beforehand and sit around the table to talk about philosophy and politics. We always have heated debate and different views on the same things. Eventually we agree to disagree, and savor not only the cheese but also the thoughts.

Classes here are so different from those of New York. My largest class has 8 people in it. I always get personal attention, even when I don’t want it. Everyone has the time and chance to reflect their own thoughts and opinions. I got off my class every time with the gratification of knowledge, believe it or not.

I even watched a free soccer game in the stadium of France. As a big soccer fan myself, I went crazy when I stepped into the grand stadium and for the first time I actually watched France national team playing in front of me. Everyone in the stadium was waving the flag and I did exactly the same. I supported France wholeheartedly that night and I probably will do the same next year in the World Cup.

All in all, this pretty much sums up my wonderful semester here in Paris.

Thanks to NYU that makes this experience come true.

Thanks to all my friends for the good memories.

Thanks to all the professors that put in so much work for us.

And especially, thanks to Professor Hutkins for this great website that we get to share our lives and keep as a journal.

“Au Revoir!”

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  • Christmas is coming: Howard
Every Day is New

Every Day is New

Funny that this assignment begins with a Jack Kerouac quote. Kerouac served as my primary reason for following this wind, for living in Italy for three and a half months, sharing a room with a new friend and seven random people. On the Road is the reason my heart grew lighter this summer, 2017 serving as one of the hardest and most rewarding years of my life. Nineteen, I turned nineteen years old this year, the last year of reckless teenage angst.

Home, home. I’m lucky to have had the same home my whole life, a little house in suburbia, access to beaches, parks, mountains, and cities just minutes to hours away. I love my home, grew to love its slow-sun-Dunkin-Donuts-coffee-leaves-in-the-wind feeling, and it took about seventeen years, but I wouldn’t chose any other home. I fear, I think like most people who think they have grown in the last semester, that it’s all an illusion, that we have not grown at all.

But I look to the last year, to the highest ups and lowest downs, and I shed all the feelings. If there is anything I have learned this year, it’s that every day is a new beginning. That’s what being an adult is, particularly one living in New York, going to a school like New York University. The scene is always changing, and you with it. Every day, whether you are aware of it or not.

I am appreciative to this course for forcing me to write. I found it difficult to manage time here, there is truly something about Italy that seems to swallow up the hours. (I guess you must pay a price for its beauty, after all.) Art of Travel made me examine topics I had played with in my head, things I thought about when I reminded myself … Sabeena, you are in Italy! You made it here! (Still won’t believe that sometimes.)

This semester provided me with a sense of clarity, and I recommend leaping into study abroad if you need some of that. Florence used to be miles away from everything I’ve ever built, and it used to be miles from every friendship I ever had. And now, as I leave Florence, I leave what I have built here now in the last three months. These structures, we build them in every city and home we live in, and maybe even in every step we take. These structures come down, they go up. This is what growing up is like, a constant shift of building and breaking down. I think, if you’ve done it successfully, this process never stops. Movement, change, leaving, and coming back, these are all things that teach you, whether you realize it or not. As they say, the only way to not get older is to be a student forever. A learner of life.

Years from now I’ll remember the feeling of walking through Florence late at night, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends. I’ll remember that walk to the bus stop, sitting backwards in my almost claimed seat, watching the world disappear underneath me. I will remember looking up at the Duomo nearly every day and going “wow how is this so beautiful?” Despite having passed it every day for the last 103 days, I still think it’s the most beautiful thing I have yet to see. I will remember living in this house, which never did turn to a home with its dirty dishes and awkward suitemates, but I will remember laughing through the halls with my roommate, shouting about the bidet, hanging outside the window for a bit too long until the man across the street shuts his blinds.

I will remember you, Italy, as the country that confronted my anxieties but also cleared my soul. As the country that reminds me life is long and short, full of paradoxes and simplicities. Thank you, how will I ever repay you?

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  • Duomo: sabeena
I'll see you again Shanghai!

I’ll see you again Shanghai!

My experience at NYU Shanghai has passed by so incredibly fast that I can hardly believe that there is only around a week left of classes and my first semester here is officially coming to an end. Additionally, it has also been hard coming to terms with this as the last week of my study away experience in my planner is filled with projects, presentation, assignments, and exams whose due dates are all crammed together, while I wish that I could spend this last week enjoying Shanghai. However, looking back on the three months that I have spent going to school and living in Shanghai, I cannot help but smile at the memories I have made and the experiences I have had.

Personally, I have found that studying away has overall been a lot more rewarding than I had initially thought. I have not only become accustomed to living in Shanghai, but I have also become hugely dependent on services such as same-day grocery delivery or the shared-bike system that is so readily available in China. I think that the most significant takeaway I have from studying in Shanghai is that I now feel comfortable staying here and I think that if I were to study away at another location, I would be able to adjust more quickly. Initially, during the first month, I had a bit of homesickness since I was so close to home but was still a plane away. However, as my time here grows closer and closer to an end, I can feel myself beginning to miss Shanghai almost as a second home.

Taking the ‘Art of Travel’ course while studying away allowed me to contemplate the study away experience on a level that I would not have otherwise. Each post gave me time to think about why I was studying away, and I think that the posts from this course are one of the things that I will remember from this experience years from now.

When I do return home, I think that I will spend quite a bit of time noticing things that Shanghai had that home does not have. Like I said before, I am not sure what I will do when I want groceries or food immediately. I will probably have to go out and get it myself (without the usage of an e-bike) which I will definitely find annoying. As for what NYU could do to improve the study away experience at NYU Shanghai is to have more activities for study away students to meet the NYU students throughout the semester as opposed to just the first week during orientation. Like I said before, I can’t believe that 15 weeks have already passed and it is almost time to say goodbye. I have loved all the ups and downs of being in Shanghai, and there is no doubt that I will be back to visit again soon.

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Short Stories on Unspoken Chinese Perspectives

Short Stories on Unspoken Chinese Perspectives

The Dog: Stories By Jack Livings

In ‘The Dog: Stories,’ Jack Living writes short stories that revolve around characters who are thriving in the quickly modernizing China. The book consists of eight different short stories, each of which is independent of each other and allow the reader to obtain a visceral understanding of the character’s life, circumstances, and even thought processes behind their actions. However, there are two that specifically stand out and contributed to my understanding and experience of studying away in Shanghai.

The first story ‘The Dog’ is about Li Yan and Chen Wei, a couple in Beijing. The husband, Chen Wei, is from the countryside whose customs are different and strange even to his wife who is from just outside of Beijing and it shows in Chen Wei’s behavior when he is with his family. “She knew he was ashamed of his family’s rough manners, their rugged faces, and wide brown fee.” Chen Wei has invested in a racing dog with his cousin Zheng who is known for making bad decisions. However, Chen Wei’s personality is more submissive in comparison to his cousin who is the dominant person in his family. When Li Yan first discovers that the dog is going to be eaten, she suggests to Chen Wei that they could sell the dog to a foreigner, however, her idea is dismissed not only by Chen Wei but also by her own father. “Her comment did not register with the two men.” Additionally, when Li Yan steps in between Zheng and Chen Wei when they are about to butcher the dog, Li Yan is forced to cook for Chen Wei’s entire family and then is punished by her husband when she fails to make a delicious meal. Jack Living’s short story ‘The Dog’ perfectly encaptures the social status of women in Chinese society, whether it is as a daughter or as a wife, as this is a topic that is not widely talked about. Additionally, coincidentally after reading this short story, there was a recent news article about how a someone smashed a greyhound to death after it had lost a race and I found that this story helped me to view the news article through a different lens.

In “The Crystal Sarcophagus,” Livings depicts the strength of China’s political hold on its people. The protagonist, Zhou, is tasked with creating an enormous crystal sarcophagus for the recently deceased Chairman Mao and has to do so within ten months. Zhou tells his boss that it is impossible for such a huge task to be completed in such a short amount of time, however, he still obediently accepts the impossible task, saying that he is “honored to serve” as he leads his team. Simultaneously, Zhou’s wife Lan Baiyu is extremely sick with cancer and must stay in the hospital. However, Zhou’s work for Chairman Mao and the Party is much more important, and he is unable to visit. ““The Party outranked physical laws, scientific fact, logic. This knowledge was as essential to those in the room as the marrow in their bones. The Party was their water, their food, their thoughts.” As Zhou’s work on the impossible crystal sarcophagus fails as he had predicted before, even though his wife is dying, she still encourages him to continue his hard work. This kind of dedication and belief towards the government is apparent in Living’s story and is also an invisible mindset that occasionally surfaces in Chinese society.

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  • Jack Livings ‘The Dog: Short Stories’ Book Cover: Yuka Niwa
Goodbye Shanghai!

Goodbye Shanghai!

There is much to talk about in terms of reflecting on my experiences in Shanghai, both good and bad. However, this experience has fundamentally shifted my values and outlook on life. I think I had one of the most rewarding experiences just this past weekend. For my final project in my journalism class, I had to create a pictorial essay—basically just telling a story through pictures. I decided to do this assignment on an area in Shanghai that has 140 art galleries, M50. I went with a translator and I got to interview artists and gallery owners and I got to meet some of the most interesting people. There was one owner who would sold art solely by college and high school students so they do not feel discouraged from pursuing art. Everyone had their own interesting stories. This is something I wish I could have done more here, talk to locals. It’s very difficult with the language barrier and this was the first time I had a translator with me. However, if there were a few more times I could’ve had this same experience with locals, that would have been great.

One of my biggest problems here was with NYU Shanghai itself. As I mentioned in my previous post, the work load is very, very intense. I would suggest that they should make specific classes just for study away students who only have 4 months to explore Shanghai. Maybe these classes could be more involved in Shanghai itself. I also had an issue with the dorms being so far away. However, NYU Shanghai is fixing this problem and they’re working on building a dorm in a more centrally located area. Other than the school, the only other main obstacle I’ve faced in Shanghai is constantly getting led to places that do not exist or have closed down. I’m not sure what can be done to fix this.

It’s interesting, here I feel like I’m a bit of a spectacle. I am often stared at and people take pictures of me. I feel like at first I was uncomfortable but now I’ve gotten a bit used to it. That’s going to be something different when I go home. I think something that’s also going to be very different is how often I try to talk through gestures and with my hands. Because of the language barrier here, I often use elaborate gestures to explain myself. That will be something that I feel as though I will bring back with me to the states.

One of the best things about my time here are the people I surrounded myself with. I had an incredible group of friends who constantly enhanced all of my experiences. Even when I got led to places that don’t exist, or had to stay up all night to finish an essay, my friends were right by my side, helping me every step of the way. It will be nice when we are all back in New York, even though I know we will be busy with our own lives, we will always have this shared experience of being together in Shanghai.

While there are certain aspects that I’ll miss about Shanghai, I am very excited to be home with my family.

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See you Later, Sydney

See you Later, Sydney

Personally, I knew from the day I arrived in Sydney, the “success” of my study abroad experience would rely heavily on the circumstances and priorities that I set for myself.  Although there were some absolutely fantastic times in Sydney, I can’t help but admit I likely should have branched out a bit further and tried to travel to see different parts of Australia.   Sydney may have some of Australia’s best offerings in terms of beach destinations, the arts and sporting events, but there is inherently much more to learn about Australia and its culture from witnessing and experiencing all types of the Australian landscape.

In many ways, I am grateful that I was my typical proactive self and secured a two day per week internship in Sydney.   At the boutique firm I interned at, I gained an intimate knowledge of the Australian industrials sector and, more importantly, an overall sense of what a career in M&A entailed.  However, just like my past spring semester, interning for two days per week means that you have two days less per week to explore, get ahead on studying and or homework, or hang out with friends and meet new people.  When cutting out that time to intern every week, I soon realized that it would be essentially impossible to travel to overnight locations in Australia.   In the end, I would absolutely choose to intern again during my semester abroad; not only has my internship certified my interest in M&A, but it also worked to help me secure a position in the same field for the upcoming summer.   Although I was not able to travel to far away locations like Bali and New Zealand (the two most frequented locations by NYU Sydney students), having less time has taught me to make the best use of the time that I do have available.

By far, my favorite experience while studying abroad, occurred during the middle of the semester, on a night spent sleeping on a clifftop overlooking the ocean.  After going on Sydney’s famous Bondi to Coogee 8 mile hike, a few friends and I found a small cave built into the side of a cliff (around 30 meters high) overlooking the ocean.  We quickly came to a consensus that it would be an amazing place to camp out and watch the sunrise.  A few weeks later, at around 9pm on a Friday night, we made the spontaneous decision to go back to the clifftop and spend the night.  Once we arrived at our spot, we were amazed at the array of stars cast across the sky and sparkling off the ocean before us.  By 12:30 in the morning, we saw an orange glow start to creep over the pitch-black horizon.  Although our main intention was to witness the sunrise, which we knew would be amazing, we had no idea that the moonrise could be as spectacular as it was.  The moon rose in a distinct orange color and was larger than I had ever seen it.  After falling asleep around 1:30 AM, we woke to our alarms at 5:40 AM as we prepared for the sunrise.  The sunrise over the ocean was one of the most beautiful experiences in my life and is certainly something that I will remember (with help from the videos I took) forever.

When I return home, I hope to continue seeking out experiences like the one I had that night on the cliff.   In addition to exploring the natural environment of my home state of New Jersey, I hope that I will have the chance to travel throughout the United States and explore similar opportunities.   As reinforced by my experience on the cliff, I’ve realized that some of my most memorable moments in life have been while experiencing different elements of nature.

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See You Later, Alligator

See You Later, Alligator

Currently, I have less than I week before I leave Prague. Five days to be exact. While I’m incredibly excited to finally go back home, leaving Prague is a bit bittersweet to say the least.

Prague has been my home for the past semester and looking back on my choice to come to Prague, I would never regret coming here as my study abroad site. After traveling almost every weekend, and always coming back to Prague after each adventure, the city has definitely grown on me. It’s taken up a piece of my heart, and it’s there to stay.

Perhaps one of the best things about Prague is that you discover something new every day. The city itself, at first glance, is pretty ordinary, if not lacking. But with each day you spend here, you get a bit more charmed and fall a little bit more in love. You find shortcuts around the cities, discover cute streets lined with pastel buildings, run into smalls stores you would never have thought were interesting, see funny pieces of graffiti, and just stumble upon little things here and there that eventually show you that, in fact, Prague is an incredible city of hidden gems and discovery. A modest city with more to offer than you could ever anticipate, Prague certainly lives up to its nickname, “The Pearl of Cities”.

After staying in Prague, I’ve come to realize how important it is to really appreciate every moment that occurs and to notice the little things in life. Surprisingly, in a city that’s flows so slowly that it seems to have been caught in time, time flies. Sometimes you don’t even realize it. You get swept up into a pattern of life, which, in my case, was a cycle of school, travel, rest, and homework. And interestingly enough, what really made me aware of this cycle, as well as the need to be proactive and enjoy every bit of life was actually this blogging course. This course, The Art of Travel, has perhaps become one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had while abroad. I’ve been pushed to really think about my life and experience while traveling. I’ve been introduced to new perspectives and ways to appreciate life. It’s a bold thing to say, but honestly, this 2-credit course that I took on a whim, has changed so much about me and my life.

Ultimately, I think that I have learned so much, changed so much, and grown so much during my time abroad. I flew to Prague expecting a fun semester and a break from school in the United States. Now I’m prepared to leave Prague with so much more than that, plus the ability to change myself and my life for the better based on what I have learned here. Coming to Prague is certainly an experience I’ll never forget. My first time in Europe, and certainly not my last, has become a much, much more important experience to me than I would have ever expected. I’ll never forget the fun times I’ve spent with friends, the grueling hours of cramming homework the day before school, the incredibly stressful travel mishaps, the amazing food from all the different countries I’ve visited, and simply just the comforting feeling of finally returning home to Prague.

So as an early goodbye before my final goodbye in five days, “na shledanou”, Prague. You’ve treated me so well and left me with unforgettable memories. While I may or may not come back in the future, a piece of you will always stay with me.

Thank you for everything, Prague, and thank you for this course, Professor Hutkins.

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  • Cat_Waving_Goodbye: Vivian
Coming To Prague? I've Got You Covered.

Coming To Prague? I’ve Got You Covered.

As the semester is coming to a close, I’d like to give a few tips and tricks that I think would be helpful before coming to Prague. It’s been an amazing stay here in Prague, and while the experience has had its ups and downs, I would never regret coming to Prague as my study away site. After approximately 15 weeks in Prague, along with traveling around the Europe almost every weekend, Prague has become a home away from home. A home that I might not come back to anytime soon after I leave, but certainly somewhere that I will always consider home to a degree. So, if you’ve decided to come to Prague as your next study away site, or are considering studying away in general, following are a few tips that may come in handy.

1. Don’t really pack any summer clothes.

I made this mistake while packing for Prague. Though the semester starts in a relatively warm season, the temperature drops within a few weeks of you staying here. You’ll be wearing jeans and long sleeves in no time, as well as regretting bringing a scarf or a heavier coat, especially if you overpack in terms of short sleeves and shorts. I’d say only pack about 3-4 outfits of summer clothes, maximum.

2. Buy and pack everything you need before you come.

When I mean buy and pack everything you need, I mean it. The shopping in Prague is pretty limited, so besides basic toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, etc.), you shouldn’t count on buying anything here (especially if you care about brands). The fact that I brought cold medicine, tea, face wash, makeup, chargers, adapters, and more from the U.S. has been my saving grace. At the same time though, definitely don’t over pack! I definitely brought just the right amount of stuff (3 suitcases of varying sizes) to Prague, but I’m 100% not looking forward to packing at the end of the semester.

3. Prepare maybe $4000 – $8000 worth to spend in total.

I know $4000 to $8000 is a pretty big range, but it really depends on how frugal you’ll be, how many places you’re planning to travel, and basically how you plan to conduct your lifestyle abroad. If you’re going to be traveling minimally, always sharing cheap Airbnbs, always traveling on budget airlines and buses, or always cooking, you’re probably going to need an amount of money closer to $4000. Meanwhile, if you’re going to travel every week, staying in better Airbnbs, traveling on more reputable airlines, going out every night, or always eating out, you might land closer to $8000. Overall, Prague is pretty cheap; you can buy a giant bag of groceries for less than $10. But in the end, it’s really about how you’re planning on living.

4. Bring cash and a card.

Or bring a card that you can withdraw cash with as well as an international credit card. It’s important to have two ways to pay on you at all times especially in case one doesn’t work. It’s also a good idea to have a backup card and cash that you can keep at home in case you get pickpocketed. Also, whether you can use cash or card varies quite a lot depending on what country you’re in as well as what store you’re visiting. For example in the Netherlands, barely any stores took Visa or MasterCard. Instead, they take a more local or European version called V-Pay and Maestro. We were stuck scrambling to withdraw cash all the time, which, to be honest, wasn’t the best experience. Plus, cheap and local restaurants often don’t take card at all. It’s hard to get the best of both worlds, you know? You either have to go to a more expensive restaurant to use a card, or use cash if you want cheaper meals.

5. Bring a camera. Take pictures.

You won’t regret it. If anything, you’ll regret not having taken more pictures. Pictures will stay with you for a lifetime, but over time, your memory will get fuzzy. The semester has passed by so fast that I can’t remember all of it. I wish I had recorded every second if it, every meal I ate, every place I went. You should definitely take as many pictures as you can and record all the memories you make. It’ll definitely be incredible looking back on it later, and just reminiscing about your time traveling the world (or Europe) in 118 days. Plus, they’re basically free souvenirs! There’s really no need buying insanely expensive souvenirs at tourist shops (unless they’re going to be gifts) when you have the ability to just document everything with a single click.

6. If you want to go somewhere go! Don’t put it off for later.

Now that the semester is coming to a close, I’ve realized that I haven’t gone to everywhere I’ve wanted to go and that I probably won’t have the chance to especially with the limited time I have left. If one day you pass by a cool place or find an interesting place you want to go online, go to it. Don’t be lazy and put it off for later. Use your time wisely, because you probably won’t have the time later to go.

7. Have fun.

My final tip is one that’s pretty obvious. Be prepared to have fun, have fun, and don’t take a single second of it for granted. This experience will probably never repeat itself. You’ll probably never surround yourself with the same people in the middle of Europe, nor will you probably travel to a different country every weekend with your friends just because you can. You’re never going to be a college student traveling the world like this again, you’ll never be able to relive the crazy nights and adventures you’ve experienced while abroad. Studying abroad will be one hell of a ride, so live it to its fullest.

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  • Traveling_The_World: SeeThru
Nashle, Praha!

Nashle, Praha!

I honestly do not know how I feel about this post topic—I dislike it and like it. It forces me to acknowledge the fact that my semester abroad is coming to an end. I have less than a week left! But I also recognize its importance. The chance to write a formal goodbye to Prague is also a way for me to reflect on my time here. My emotions regarding this post reflect my emotions regarding how I feel about the end of the semester. I have ambivalent feelings. On the one hand, I do not want to go home because I love the free-spirited and culturally hybrid European atmosphere that allows me to be independent—both because I am on my own and because those ancient Enlightenment ideals are ingrained in society. However, I do want to go home because that means my finals are over, I can FINALLY have the Colombian food I have been craving, and I can reunite with my loved ones for the holidays. You see the conundrum in which I find myself, dear reader.

While saying goodbye is difficult, it is also quite pleasant because it truly is good. I have no regrets about my time in Prague, and I realize that is a loaded statement but it is true. I did everything I wanted to accomplish, and more! Educating myself about a different history: check. Travel: check. Learning more about how I interact with different cultures and experiences: check. Learning how to adapt myself to new situations and experiences: check. Learning to be okay with not understanding everything but still being able to appreciate that which I did not understand: check. Improving my cooking skills: check. Improving my budgeting skills: check. Increasing my subpar level of patience: half-check (oops). Improving my navigation/memory skills so that I rely less on Google Maps: check. Learning how to navigate the sometimes uncomfortable—but no less empowering—salience of my racial identity, and that of others: big check.

I am really glad I decided to take this course because I love to write and travel but have never been disciplined enough to write about my travels. I know that I will refer back to my posts every once in a while when I need confirmation that Prague actually happened, and that it was not the surreal fabrications of an overeager, imaginative 20-something-year-old.

Quite frankly, it is a bit difficult for me to not group Prague and Paris together. I think it may be too soon for me to really start reflecting on Prague individually, and not as part of my abstract collection of study abroad experiences. I do know that as what happened to my post-Paris self,  my world view will definitely feel tremendously bigger when I go back home. However, the most rewarding aspect of my experience in Prague, was hands down, appreciating the beauty of language. As I have mentioned multiple times, this was the first time I truly struggled with communicating with others. At first, it was unsettling but then I actually began to really enjoy it. On my commute to school, I would invent the conversations people were having around me, which made me more attentive to my surroundings; the body language, hand gestures, and facial expressions of the Czechs. My ears would perk up when I recognized words (which were few, but still!).

I will miss Prague’s Christmas markets because even though they commercialize Christmas, especially in such a secular nation, and are still symptomatic of our consumerist capitalist culture, they are so much more livelier and spirited than the ones in NYC. Bryant Park and Union Square’s Christmas markets pale in comparison when they stand beside all the Fifth Avenue shopping frenzy. I am actually vey much curious about how I will perceive US customer service upon my return. Will I still feel like employees are overbearing, fake, kiss-asses? Or will I find their kindness refreshing after interacting with not-so-kind Czech customer service? I think I will probably be more aware about the stark differences that make different places nonetheless, fall under the same category of “city”. I know I will certainly miss how close everything is in Prague, and how easy to use Prague’s public transport system is, as compared to NY and its transit! I know once I am back home, I will be endlessly comparing and contrasting the two cities but in a way that will augment my appreciate for both.

Lastly, my only request to NYU is that it prepare its students more about Prague’s limited amount of diversity—in all aspects. I know it is quite challenging to do so in a way that is authentic but that does not deter students from coming here. But if NYU believed in me when it accepted me as a student in 2014, then I can believe in NYU to step up to the challenge with which I have presented it.

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  • Malé Náměstí Christmas Market: Maria Alejandra
See You Later

See You Later

Wow. All I can really say is wow. I’m still finding it hard to grasp the idea that I’m leaving in less than a week. This experience was not what I thought it would be, and at the same time, it was exactly how I thought it would be. Let me explain.

When I go into experiences such as this one, I try my best to have absolutely no expectations. I find that specific expectations lead to letdowns; life is much better lived without such rigid ideas of what is supposed to happen. It makes way for even more amazing things to take place. So coming into this experience, I tried to keep an open mind. I had no clue what my host family would be like. My best friend also happened to be studying in Florence, which I was so excited about, but even here I didn’t know what to expect. We’ve always been long-distance best friends, so the idea of finally being in the same city was completely new and exciting, if not daunting. What if we didn’t work well close together? Not to mention I didn’t know a soul in my NYU program, which was actually quite invigorating. I love NYC, but it had started to be a bit much for me, and I honestly yearned to be somewhere where no one knew me and I could start fresh. Now that I’ve set the stage, we can get into how it all played out.

It was wonderful. It was challenging. At times, it really sucked. At times, it was better than I could have imagined. Perhaps the best thing about my experience was my homestay family. They are such kind, good-hearted people, and they made their house my home within a day of me being there. As I write this, I am sitting at the dinner table across from my lovely roommate in their kitchen, sipping on my coffee and eating a toastie with Nutella. I’ll miss mornings like this. And last night I got my homestay mom’s recipe for lasagna, which I watched her make and helped her eat. I’ll miss nights like that.

Turns out, my best friend and I work no matter what. It was so amazing to be able to see her everyday; at times I lived at her house. But I still made time for my NYU friends, and actually wish I had seen them even more, since they are such amazing individuals. I will say that not living in an apartment did make it slightly harder to have a social life with my NYU friends since I really had to make an effort to be involved in what they did. If I could go back in time, I would definitely make more of that effort.

Being here was challenging because I constantly felt a weird sensation of being overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time. The language barrier could paralyze me with a single exchange, intimidating me from leaving my comfy bed. But at the same time, I felt like there was nothing to do. I felt stranded without my ukulele and mic from home, my yoga practice (I hurt my wrist within the first week) and my job. For anyone that experiences the same, here is what I suggest to you; fill that gap. I bought a ukulele here for 70 euro; sure it seemed like a lot when I first thought about it, but once I did the math in my head, I realized it was a small price to pay for my sanity. Singing to youtube karaoke tracks was indeed making me go crazy. I let me wrist heal and finally found a great yoga studio, which made my body and mind feel in sync. And I kept in contact with friends from work, and am currently working on going back to the same job.

This week, I say see you later but not goodbye. Though I don’t want to live in Florence, I definitely think I’ll be back to visit, next time with even more life experience as well as some satisfaction that at one point in my life, I called it home.

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  • Trudy the Cat: Isabel
Full of Thanks and Full of Food

Full of Thanks and Full of Food

Despite growing up in a household heavily influenced by Chinese tradition, being an American-born Chinese, I have never missed a year of festive Thanksgiving celebrations. Whether with friends or family, Thanksgiving is a must every year. My family has always spent it together, whether it meant eating at home or going to a neighbor’s house for a huge potluck party. I clearly remember the hours and hours of cooking that go into each year’s feast, as well as the amazingly aromatic smells that float through the house because of it.

This year is probably my first Thanksgiving away from home. I’m literally an entire ocean away from the annual festivities, observing all my friends’ Thanksgiving celebrations through their Snapchat stories. Which… actually gave me all the more reason to throw my own Thanksgiving celebrations with my friends in Prague.

In fact, we celebrated three times… three days in a row. Lots of money was spent, but also lots of laughter and memories were made. I’ve detailed how each celebration went below!

1. Thanksgiving #1 (the day before actual Thanksgiving)

Thanksgiving #1 was probably my favorite Thanksgiving event (though that doesn’t discount how fun the others were at all), simply because of all the time and effort that went into making the dinner. Right after class, a friend and I went grocery shopping. To put it simply, a lot of food was bought. Too much food was bought. $80 worth of food was bought (and Czech groceries are madly cheap, so this means that a lot of food was bought). We also couldn’t find a turkey, and thus decided to go with a chicken instead. Anyways, afterward, we hauled three full, giant grocery bags of food back to the dorm. It was so heavy that I got a pretty good arm workout out of it. Then, starting 5 hours in advance, I shut myself in the kitchen and just prepped and prepped and prepped. Not only did I peel maybe close to 20 potatoes during this preparation, but my suitemate walked into me standing fist-deep in a chicken (I was trying to stuff the chicken with seasonings). Needless to say, it was incredibly tiring but fun, and a huge feast was eventually made. We had roasted chicken with roasted roots, mashed potatoes and gravy, pesto pasta, tomato pasta, sautéed peppers with onion, and much more. The whole process just really reminded me of home, especially with all the cooking, eating, and talking.

2. Thanksgiving #2 (the day of Thanksgiving)

For this Thanksgiving, we decided to be “fancy-schmancy” and just spend some money by going to one of Prague’s most famous restaurants. It was located in the famous TV Tower (which is notoriously known as the ugliest building in Europe), several hundred meters into the sky. With good food, good views, and good friends, all seated at the most central table of the restaurant, what could you possibly complain about? Many of us ordered steak or pasta at this dinner, and man, let me tell you– the gnocchi I had at this restaurant may have been the best gnocchi I’ve had in my life. And the bite of steak that I took from my friend, may have been the juiciest steak I’ve had during my stay in Europe. Or ever. Or maybe I was just hungry and happy to have been there with so many of my close friends. Either way, it was an amazing experience that was totally worth the money.

3. Thanksgiving #3 (the day after Thanksgiving)

This was the Thanksgiving hosted by NYU Prague. What was most impressive about this one was that they actually found a turkey! I don’t know where, or how, but that turkey was incredible– it was roasted to perfection. I might still be drooling over how great it was. Not only was the food amazing, but I also had the opportunity to bake for the event, as it was a potluck-style celebration. ALSO, for the first time ever, I successfully made dessert. To be honest, I’m not good at making desserts and rather only good at cooking savory dishes, so actually being able to make gooey brownies and receive amazing feedback on them was perhaps the highlight of my day. Ultimately the event was amazing, we played ping pong (though I sucked) and foosball (which I also sucked at) and got to eat great food.

Ultimately, I’d just like to say thanks for a great (three days) of Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for being able to spend it with my friends. I’m thankful for having friends to spend it with. I’m thankful for getting to eat so much, though I’m not as thankful for the feeling of needing to puke after from being so full. I’m thankful for the opportunity to even spend it in another country, and to be in Prague, to begin with. In other words, I’m full of thanks and full of food. Happy Thanksgiving!

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  • Thanksgiving_Dinner: Vivian
Hello, Stranger

Hello, Stranger

When you live in a foreign country, especially somewhere you barely understand the language (let alone speak it) you tend to settle in a strangely comfortable spot of expecting little to no interaction with strangers. Combine that with a culture where people are much more reserved and tend not to make small talk, you find yourself keeping to yourself most of the time. Besides short interactions at restaurants, cafes, and the supermarket (all of which are usually conducted in English), I tend not to speak to people I don’t know. However, I have certainly had a small (and surprisingly pleasant) handful of conversations with strangers regardless, most of which propped up in the most unexpected times.

For example, a couple of times, two to be exact, I found myself speaking to strangers in the butcher’s shop while attempting to order “kureci prso”, or chicken breast. The conversations were short but were also certainly appreciated and actually quite enjoyable. Not only did they help me order what I want, but also talked to me a bit to pass the time in line. Due to my limited knowledge of Czech, it can be quite difficult for me to communicate to the butcher what kind of meat I want. Pointing and guessing what meat is on display and spontaneously ordering it hasn’t served me very well– one time I actually ended up with a duck leg instead of a filet of chicken, which I realized only after cooking it and discovering that it tasted off. Perhaps it’s due to silly blunders like these, combined with my poor attempt at speaking Czech that strangers like them tend to help me out.

But what is even more interesting, is that the majority of strangers who speak to me aren’t Czech citizens, but actually tourists. Countless times I’ve been stopped on the way to school or back home by lost strangers trying to find a certain building or street. I find this pretty funny, because, to be honest, I probably know the area not much more than they do. I usually take the same route every day, and when I don’t, I tend to get lost (thanks to my lack of directional sense). Each time I’ve been approached by a stranger seeking directions, I have had to pull out my phone to help them search up their destination, then direct them according to the instructions given by Google Maps. Perhaps in only two instances have I been able to give anyone a quick answer without using my phone, simply because the place they were looking for happened to require just a 180-degree turn for them to find.

Most of the encounters I have had with strangers are always short, unexpected, and have never been initiated by me. While I sometimes wish that I could talk to more people and spark up a small conversation with strangers, I’d still say that I’m the type of person who prefers to stay in their comfort zone. Which, to me, is my small, introverted bubble that prefers to float along the streets of Prague with headphones, music, and a wandering mind. It’s funny that I can’t seem to cross that line of becoming more extroverted, to be that one person who chats up the person they happen to be next to on the subway. Maybe it’s the environment and culture here at Prague, maybe its just me.

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  • Narrow_Passageway_In_Prague: Vivian
My Advice to You

My Advice to You

On one of my last afternoons in New York, I was sitting on the edge of my friend’s bed when she handed me a pair of black platform heels. “Just trust me. You’ll need these.” I rolled my eyes but took them, because she seemed pretty confident that I would make use of the borderline-gothic shoes. She was right.

Before leaving the US, I welcomed a multitude of tips with open ears.

“Always wear your backpack in the front of your body.”

“Make friends with the locals.”

Some of the things people told me weren’t even pieces of advice, but rather just sure statements of how my time would be spent.

“You will fall in love.”

“You will gain weight.”

Of course I appreciated and took these words with me on my journey, but I have to say— most of the advice and predictions I got didn’t apply to my time here. I was not swept off my feet by a suave latin lover, and as far as I know, my jeans fit the same way they did before I left. Luckily, I’ve also never been robbed or felt as if I was in any danger. So, feel free to take my advice, or not, but if you do, take it with a grain of salt because your experience will be mainly comprised of what you choose. Here’s what I have to offer:

  1. Live in a homestay. This year, NYU made dorm living an option, and I know it sounds tempting, but homestay is the way to go. I spent 120 mornings opening my third floor balcony doors to the view of a beautiful, sleepy little courtyard. My castellano is undoubtedly better because of our nightly family dinners, and I am grateful to have had structure and support in my routine. If none of that is enough to convince you, I also live with the cuddliest golden retriever ever.
  2. It’s easy to fall into patterns, but try to go somewhere new in your free time. Wander. There’s a grungy little live music/gallery space in my neighborhood called Multiespacio Korova I stumbled upon one night. Definitely check it out. I know it sounds corny, but that night I was sitting in this little acoustic room draped in boho fabrics and doused in colored lights. I was listening to a singer/guitarist who lacked in talent but had a whole lot of soul, and I thought, “damn, I really hope I remember this exactly as it is 20 years from now.”
  3. Pronounce Buenos Aires correctly. It’s normal to feel a little awkward imitating an accent that doesn’t come naturally to you, but do it anyway. It’s also funny to come back and hear your family and friends shy away from rolling that “r”. Also, the porteños speak using their own set of slang, and it’s helpful to know some of the words before you arrive. Having the correct accent and vocabulary makes integration easier.
  4. Travel, but don’t treat the city like a home base. Treat it like home. I think it’s easy to forget that we chose a site for the site itself, and not the places we can travel to around it. Buenos Aires has incredible days and nights to offer, and I guarantee you won’t check everything off your list, so stick around on the weekends! Four months has gone by more quickly than I ever could have predicted, and I’m still absorbing so much.
  5. Roll with the punches.
  6. Take the bus.
  7. Keep your windows open and your earbuds out. I could listen to Buenos Aires all day. (I guess I do but you get what I mean) Whether it’s people crying/screaming over a soccer game, a drum performance in a nearby park, or the local people out just living and being, I’ve grown quite fond of the city’s soundtrack.

And there you have it. It’s easy to be happy here.

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Reach Out, Touch the Sky

Reach Out, Touch the Sky

Study abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity to spend a few months in a whole new country without the usual hassle of moving and doing research on your own. NYU provides a safe environment where you can arrive in the country and get oriented with proper guidance and at a relatively leisurely pace. All you have to do is relax, follow the curriculum, and then explore what you want to see.

The system is great. We arrive at the airport with RAs there to take us to the dorms (for the most part), where all the basic necessities like bed sheets, pillows, lamps, kitchenware and cleaning products are already provided, and there are always people available to answer any questions or provide whatever help you may need. It can be almost too good, because it’s completely possible to spend the entire semester within this safe little bubble of NYU, and enjoy all the perks of Prague (like the cheap food and beer) without any of the trouble.

But that’s not the point of studying abroad, and indeed, most students make much more of it than just learning about the country from the classroom. If I could only give one piece of advice, I would say travel. It’s probably something you’re planning on anyways, but I want to stress that I think it’s great to learn about these countries in class and then see them with your own eyes. It makes the whole experience much more engaging and thought-provoking. Venture outside of Prague, but also take time to explore the city itself, really experience the local culture, visit farmer’s markets, watch circus shows and operas, visit bars, and make good use of the spacious kitchens that one rarely sees in the congested city of New York.

I also recommend taking advantage of the NYU programs, whether they’re the longer trips or just short events like concerts, comedy shows, or even guest speaker lectures, which, despite their unexciting name, are actually really interesting and do the most to help you understand the local culture. And, most importantly, they’re free! I definitely had a couple times where I regretted making travel plans too early because I had to miss some of the free events that NYU provided. I realized too late that plane tickets really oscillate, so it isn’t always best to buy it as soon as possible.

Another thing I would recommend is the internship I did at the Londynska elementary school. (If you’ve been reading my other blog posts, you already know about this.) It takes very little effort; you just have to go to the class for an hour each week (or more if you choose), and there’s no additional preparation required. But it’s really a great experience if you want to get to know more about the Czech people, learn more of the Czech language, or introduce a group of young kids to a world out there that they’ve never seen before, while opening your own eyes as well. It’s always a lot of fun. The energy of the kids makes all the little things seem interesting again. Veronika, the teacher I work with, is also really nice and easy to work with, and she appreciates our help so much that I almost feel bad. But even if you don’t do this internship, all the internship opportunities here are great chances to plunge into the local community a little more and break through that bubble that NYU tends to create. They’re also great for your resume and will give you more experience and knowledge about the international scene, so definitely keep an eye out for those!

Basically, the most important things is to be open to different opportunities and really take your time to explore and reach outside your comfort zone. The Czech people may seem a little cold at first, or they might make you uncomfortable with their staring (if you look really different from them), but it is all part of their history and culture, and challenging yourself is part of the package. You will definitely come away from it with a broader understanding of yourself and others, and you will grow as you learn.

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  • Sunset in Barcelona: Alice
'Rage, rage against the dying of the lights'

‘Rage, rage against the dying of the lights’

For my final weeks in Paris, I started to regret all the things that I thought I would have had time to do but then I did not.

If I were to give advice to students who are interested in studying away in Paris, the city of the light, for a short three months stay, I would tell them to spend some time to be Parisians, and also spend more time to be travelers.

Today after my class, when I was on my way back to the dorm, I felt a strong sense of somber. It is the feeling I always get at the end of my travel to a new place. I know it is going to end soon and back to my usual dimension of reality. As if someone who was deeply in love, but later he realizes the flame gets weaker and the lights are dimmer—there is nothing he can do about it. He can only try his best to enjoy the most out of that beautifulness. And indeed, that beautifulness manifests its own temporality. After all, we cherish moments more when we know they are fleeting. They are like those flowers I saw people buying on the streets today. We know they are going to die, but we still choose to buy them over plastic fake flowers for that we know the measure of flower values is in its temporality.

So that being said, during your stay in Paris, no matter if it’s the first day or midway through, you should always be fearful for the last day. This way, you will get to see more of this city.

Also, pay attention to all the festivals and exhibitions going on around the city. The greatest things always happen here. I have not yet been to every museum here, and have only seen one percent of everything Paris has. The abundant history of art here is incredible. It is much more than the Louvre or the Mona Lisa. You can definitely find art that reflects your own interest and favorite.

Furthermore, don’t always look at reviews for the best place to go! Take some time to explore the city with friends or on your own. Chances are you will end up having a day much better what you could expect. Paris has prepared more surprises for you than what they put in the reviews. My most amazing discoveries here all came with spontaneity. When I looked up for maps and places to go before heading out, I will only end up getting what I can expect. However, if I prepare to get lost in the cities, all that I get in the end is serendipity.

Now that I only have a week left, I think I need to get rid of the mindset of a Parisian. I used to disdain those who go around only to take pictures and do sightseeing. I want to be one of those tourists at the moment, so that I can make the most out of my time here. Everything here deserves my attention and I will focus on those little moments now.

Going back to its temporality that manifests the beauty of Paris, I think the key for me is to go ‘rage, rage against the dying of the lights’. To do that, it is not just about the final moments, but also every single moment I have here. I have to make the most out of it to be as alive as possible.

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  • My trip in Provence: Howard
Brooke's Declassified Shanghai Survival Guide

Brooke’s Declassified Shanghai Survival Guide

Tips for studying abroad in Shanghai, specifically NYU Shanghai? Where do I begin? If I am being blatantly honest, if I hadn’t also studied abroad in Prague last semester, I would have felt like I was robbed of a study abroad experience. All of my friends and I feel as though we have been completely overwhelmed with school work. So, tip number one, if you’re looking for a lot of time to explore and travel, don’t come to NYU Shanghai. Most weekends, I did not have time to explore around Shanghai, let alone around other areas in China. I was usually writing an essay, completing a project or studying for an exam. The standards that they hold students here to is incredibly intense with half of my professors saying that in order to get in the range A, our work has to be publishable. As an undergrad student, this is something I haven’t previously encountered.

Next tip, I wish someone had told me that the dorms were not centrally located. We are located in an area where there is not much to do. We are on the side of the river where there isn’t many good restaurants or activities. The administration here just announced that they will be building dorms in a better area, Puxi. So, if you have the choice in the future between living in the Pudong dorms or the Puxi dorms, choose Puxi! Even if they are slightly more expensive, the amount of money you will save in traveling to go do something fun will be worth it.

Also, I felt as though the administration did not make this very clear to us, but it is integral that you get a Chinese phone number and a Chinese bank account. Barely anywhere accepts accepts American cards like Visa and Mastercard. You are not going to be able to buy anything until you set up a bank account and in order to set up a bank account, you need a Chinese phone number. So these are two very important aspects that you should do as soon as you get to Shanghai.

In terms of places to go in Shanghai, one of my favorite places is Tianzifang. It’s a bit like a market. There’s boundless interconnected shops which sell gifts, food, and many other unique pieces. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s an amazing place to wander around and there’s some great outdoor restaurants within it. Another amazing place to go is M50. It’s an area that has dozens of art galleries from developing artists. Each gallery is unique and exciting, it’s a great place to explore the art scene of Shanghai. Of course, you have to go to the Bund which has the best view in the city. A great restaurant to eat at which also has a phenomenal view of the Bund is Mr. & Mrs. Bund. The food is a bit pricy, so go for a special event. Their truffle bread is to die for.

One last tip I have is never trust just Google Maps. I have ended up lost and crying more times than I can count. Double check the address on different websites. Also, your GPS location will always be wrong so make sure to just go to the nearest cross street and find yourself on the map. Also, don’t give up right away. A lot of times, the place you’re looking for is very nearby where your phone says it is, just not in the exact location.

If you’re coming to NYUSH, I hope that you are able to have more free time to explore and adventure than me. I feel as though I want to come back so that I can really get the full experience. I love Shanghai; however, the work load and dorm location here made it difficult.

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  • Me and My Roommate at the Bund: Brooke
Tap In

Tap In

Florence, Italy is not an authentic Italian experience unless you make it one. I certainly wish I knew the diversity of Florence before coming, that’s certainly something I did not know much about and NYU wasn’t super clear about. I do wish I did a homestay sometimes, but I am not obsessed with Italian culture or set on being an Italian. My off-campus experience was perfect, gave me the freedom I needed at this point in time, and provided me with a sense of social stability that I’m glad I got to experience. Here are some of the best places I discovered:

  1. Trattoria del Carmine – Oh my god. I wish I knew about this place before it got cold. It’s pretty authentic, pretty decently priced. But the salmon pasta … Oh my, it’s just divine. Honestly haven’t eaten anything bad there, I recommend choosing a few dishes and splitting them with your friends. The desserts and house wines (both rosso and bianco) are great too.
  2. Trattoria ZaZa – Definitely talked about for a reason. Good food, good prices, some of the best service I’ve gotten. Not the most genuine experience, lots of tourists, but a great place to take family or try early on.
  3. Bar Perseo – Excellent coffee, gelato, and pastries. I lived just down the street from it and would order in Italian. It would make me feel like a classy woman. Make this a part of your routine if you’re closeby.
  4. Perchè No! – The oldest gelateria in Florence. I live next door, and I cannot recommend their lavender and white mint gelatos enough. (Sometimes they even have turmeric flavored gelato that is worth a try.)
  5. Le Murate – Excellent aperitivo, sometimes cool events. A great place to bring some friends to, meet Italian college students, and maybe even get some work done. I definitely wish I spent more time there, but it is a bit out of the way.
  6. Santo Spirito – This is the hip, fun area of Florence. Some nights it can be a bit much, but bar hopping and restaurants are fun to explore and great to get to know people over. This part is some nights a great representation of how wonderful Florence can be as a city.

Also, engage. My biggest regret from this semester is not getting involved in Florence as a city until later on, and by now it has gotten quite chilly outside. Do a volunteer activity that allows you to meet people, such as a tour guide with Duomo. (Sign up for Community Engagement with NYU Florence, they can connect you to so many rewarding, not-scary volunteer activities that will allow you to get to know the city and its inhabitants.) I honestly can’t stress this enough, it is pretty much the only thing I regret while here.

Before going, definitely ask yourself what you want out of your study abroad experience. Here, I’ve really learned the importance of planning things out. Also, book trips early on in the semester that you want to go on, then ask people you get close to after some time if they’d like to join you. Definitely leave some time for spontaneity, but if you really want to see places, you should take the initiative to see them without waiting for others.

But I don’t just mean in regard to travel, knowing why you are here and utilizing a city you will never get back is an important part of being abroad. You are just a passerby, so you must seize the moment. Hopefully you will, too, have the space to be reflective and focused this semester as well as spontaneous and free. Just enjoy it all, the world is here for you!

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  • Titlus: sabeena
Trespassing Country Borders

Trespassing Country Borders

If you asked people, “what is one thing you want to do before you die?”, quite a number of them would respond with “travel the world”. Which I find particularly interesting especially because the word “travel” is thought to come from the word “travail”, or even a Middle English word meaning torment, labor, or work strenuously.While traveling abroad has been an absolute dream, the experience certainly hasn’t gone without its fair share of challenges and bumps in the road. And honestly, “bumps in the road” is probably an understatement as well. With all the ups and downs that have occurred while traveling abroad, it’s probably more appropriate to describe everything as it as a long, continuous rollercoaster, a strangely perfect balance between stress and fun.

Whether caused by carelessness or simply bad luck, mistakes happen, especially during trips. Caught up in the whirlpool of getting to the next destination and seeing what the world has to offer next, people often overlook minor details that end up getting them into quite a pinch later on. Quite a few times I’ve caught myself thinking, “if only I had done this one minor thing, things would be ok… I’ll never make this mistake again”, especially when things go wrong.

For example, over fall break, I had the pleasure of going on vacation with my friends to Croatia. We toured three islands there, Dubrovnik, Hvar, and Split, all of which were incredibly fun. While we had a blast cruising on private boats, eating plentiful dinners, and just having a good time, we were also greeted with a few unanticipated surprises. The most memorable of which, occurred during a day trip to Montenegro which is a neighboring country in the Balkans, full of rugged mountains, medieval towns, and beaches along the Adriatic Sea. After staying in Dubrovnik for four days, we decided that we wanted to see somewhere new, and thus, booked a last-minute bus to Kotor, a small city in Montenegro and a few hours away from Dubrovnik. However, as we had originally planned our entire trip to be a tour of Croatia’s islands, I had mistakenly and carelessly assumed the Kotor was also in Croatia. Due to this mistake, I decided not to bring my passport on the bus to Kotor, even though having a passport at all times while traveling is highly suggested, if not required by law. The rest unfolded pretty much as expected: the bus stopped at border control, I panicked, I couldn’t cross the border, I got off the bus, and next thing you know, I’m standing next to a police station with one foot in Croatia, and the other in Montenegro. It was at that moment, that the fateful phrase ran through my head: “If only I had brought my passport, that one minor thing, things would be ok… I’ll never make this mistake again.” The pure frustration that channeled through my head at that moment was unbelievable, I was so mad at myself for forgetting such an essential item. But at the same time, I knew I learned a valuable lesson, and that I was lucky it didn’t occur at an airport, or before a trip that cost much more than a $50 bus ride. I could even dare to say that perhaps lady luck took some pity on me and gave me a bit of a boost, because, after being stuck at the border for no more than 10 minutes, a bus driver passing through offered me a free ride back to the city center as well as a free cigarette (which I politely declined). Ultimately, with a crisis averted, a few bucks lost, my pride a bit damaged, and a lesson learned, I’d say it was a pretty eventful surprise that day. Not to mention that I could, technically, add another country to the list of countries I’ve visited– after all, I had one foot across the border!

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  • That_Mountain_In_The_Distance_Is_Montenegro: Vivian
Traveling to Sydney, AU: Recommendations and Foresight

Traveling to Sydney, AU: Recommendations and Foresight

In order to review a study abroad experience, I believe it is best to review both the NYU experience at the location, and then the actual physical location in itself. In nearly all metrics that a study abroad site could be measured by, NYU Sydney met my highest expectations.   To begin, the staff are absolutely incredible; they were willing to meet any requests and or accommodations that our cohort made and encouraged an extremely comfortable and diverse learning environment.   They truly did exceed my expectations, as they are all incredibly nice, and eager to recommend tips and interesting locations.   The NYU Sydney facilities are also fascinating, as we are fortunate enough to learn in a historic building in the oldest area of Sydney. The faculty and learning experience at NYU Sydney have been stimulating and definitely comparable to that of the New York Campus.

As a global and vibrant multicultural city, Sydney truly has a lot to offer.  In fact, Sydney offers some of the best in arts, sport, nature, and adventure.  In terms of art, besides the customary trips to the Opera House, there are entire neighborhoods with galleries and art exhibits (Surry Hills for example), and also terrific museums of all kind scattered throughout the city.  As for sport, Sydney’s parks and recreation centers are worth the minimal entry fee that is required upon each visit; the facilities are up to date and are frequented by many of the city’s residents and visitors. Within 5 minutes of the NYU Sydney academic building is King George Arena, which houses clean and up to date gym equipment, two full sized indoor basketball courts, an outdoor futsal field, and an outdoor basketball field.  In terms of professional sports, Sydney has several rugby league teams, one of which NYU Sydney has an event for, and a basketball and soccer team.   The abundance of nature in and just outside of Sydney is my favorite thing about the city and part of the reason I decided to come here.  The beaches are the best I have ever seen; trips along and on the harbor are complete with incredible views of the skyline, and the beautiful suburbs which line the coast.  As for adventure, Sydney, but also Australia in general, has a thriving adventure tourism industry. Without looking far at all, there is ample opportunity to skydive, go on reef cruises, helicopter rides, bungie jumps, rafting trips and more.

With respect to the above mentioned comments, I would absolutely recommend NYU Sydney and the city of Sydney to nearly all students considering studying abroad.  Looking back, there isn’t anything that I wish I knew in hindsight; Sydney is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world for a reason, and it has certainly lived up to the stereotypes and most famous qualities (arts, sport, nature, adventure) that it is praised for.  Although many people told me, I will say it again: make every minute count, from the very beginning of the semester until the end.  For many people, the opportunity to spend an extended period of time on the other side of the globe isn’t available or even possible until much later in life.

Personally, in terms of tips about preparing for the weeks and months ahead of studying abroad, I would recommend scheduling traveling plans as far ahead as possible.  Although it may be impossible to know the exact dates of exams and essays due, planning travels will ensure that you actually do them (it can be difficult to commit once the school year takes off) and that you get to go to places that interest you and that you have researched.  As for places and events that are musts within Sydney, my recommendation can again be broken down into arts, sport, nature and adventure.  For art and history, I would recommend The Customs House, The Police Museum and all of Surry Hills. For sport, besides the NYU Sydney rugby event, if you are a fan of soccer, Sydney FC is a great team with a loyal fan base. In terms of nature, Royal National Park, complete with the famous figure 8 pools, is a definite must; in addition, Gordon’s Bay, which sits just north of Coogee beach, is my favorite spot along the water.  For adventure, there are dozens of cruises that leave from the harbor, and many advanced hiking trails also within the confines of the city boundaries.

If I could re-pick my study abroad location, I would absolutely choose Sydney again. One thing to note is that the cohort is comprised of 60 students in the fall, and around 150 in the spring. If you are a fan of larger groups, than the spring may be a much better option; it seems as if some students may have preferred additional options for making friends and getting to know a larger number of NYU students.

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  • Sunrise at Coogee Beach: Nicolas
Tips and Tricks

Tips and Tricks

I cannot believe that my time abroad is almost at a close. It has been such an eventful semester; there have been good times, bad times, and everything inbetween. I definitely have some tips and tricks for those coming to study in Florence that I would love to share, in no particular order.

  • It’s ok to speak English. There will be little things that bother you abroad. The biggest grievance for me was the language barrier. I allowed my lack of knowledge in Italian to keep me from exploring at times because I constantly felt like each interaction was a test, and that if I didn’t speak Italian I was failing. This is just not the case. Feel free to speak English, as Florence is an extremely tourist filled place. Better yet, practice your Italian! Most people will be happy to correct or speak with you, as it shows that you are making an attempt to learn and embed yourself in their culture.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. Stuff happens. You might get on the wrong bus and go the complete opposite direction from school. You might lose your headphones. Your plane home might be cancelled and you could be stuck away from school for a day like I was. But the thing is, in the grand scheme of things, every moment is just a spot on your hand. Accidents and unpleasant things are bound to happen, but it’s up to you to keep everything in perspective. Try your best to find the silver lining and learn from each experience, whether good or bad.
  • Stay home. Ok, obviously you’re not HOME home, but stay in Florence for a few weekends! Enjoy walking around and seeing more than just the Duomo. At the beginning of the semester, a lot of people will be planning to go to a different country every weekend, and I think this is one of the bigger mistakes you can make. You have a homebase in Florence, so take advantage of that! Plan smaller trips within Italy and see towns that you wouldn’t see otherwise. For day trips, I thoroughly recommend Sienna and Lucca. For longer trips I recommend Naples and Rome together, as they are on the same train line. (A lot of people will tell you that Naples is dangerous, but if you stay in the center like I did, it is totally safe. Just exercise the same amount of caution and common sense you would in New York City and you’ll have a great time.)
  • Don’t forget your passport! If you are travelling anywhere overnight, it is crucial that you have both your passport and a copy with you. Even if you are traveling within Italy, you still need to have your passport to present at hostels and airbnbs. If you don’t have it, you risk the possibility of being turned away, which is a complete buzzkill. Keep it locked in a safe when you are out of the room and you’ll be fine.
  • Eat away. You are in ITALY. Major dieting and whatnot can wait a semester. Eat the amazing food, gelato, sandwiches, and don’t feel guilty. If you feel the need to exercise, join a gym, run along the Arno, or go to yoga! NYU offers yoga classes on Tuesday and the yoga studio I go to, called the Yoga Garage, is amazing and has great prices for students.
  • Embrace boredom. I have experienced more boredom here than I ever have in New York since it’s much smaller and less fast paced. Take advantage of the free time and do something you never used to have the time to do! Read a book, keep a journal, exercise, go exploring (go into every church you can possibly get into to look at some amazing art), maybe see an opera! Find equivalents from your life back home in Italy to help assimilate you better and find things in Italy that are special when you feel homesick.

These are just a few of my tips and tricks, but I hope that these prove to be helpful to somebody studying abroad in Italy or at all. Happy travels!

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  • Visiting Naples: Isabel
Fill

Fill

Come to Berlin.

See what it lacks.

Monday morning waiting for the U-bahn; Rush hour. I look around.

Despite the start of the workday, the station isn’t crowded. Locals leisurely make their way to the platform. Sneakers. Jeans. Dogs. Flowers. The train arrives right on time. Doors open smoothly. No one pushes or shoves, yet we all manage to get on. I sit. Doors close. It is quiet. No one is wearing a tie. Everyone reads. Outside my window, green not grey; not a skyscraper in sight. Colorful buildings are dotted with cafes. Reclining patrons enjoy their first coffee and a cigarette. Swarms of bikers hum along their bike lanes, pedestrians patiently wait their turn on the corner. Neighbors walk their dogs, old friends embrace. Rush hour?

My two hands are full with books and phone and coffee. I am thinking about yesterday’s homework and today’s class and tomorrow’s presentation and next semester’s internship. I am walking faster than anyone else on the street.

“I don’t understand…what does anyone actually do here?”

It was my first week in Berlin; My ideas of ‘being’ and ‘doing’ were once so tied up in pressed suits and emails before 8am, my idea of success so dependent on the presence of a miserable weekly grind that presumably got you there. I did not believe that these unhurried masses desired to get anything done at all.

But Berliners do, in fact, do, and must, at the end of the day, be. And just a short time later, I found that I could join them, but only if I was willing to slow down and let go.

Berlin is the kind of place that makes you question everything you ever thought was necessary. Wearing heels. Honking your car horn. Ordering a venti. It just doesn’t happen here – and yet everything is functional. You are functional. You will get to work on time. You will get everything done, and done well. The pace and the stress, you will find, does not have to be a part of any of it.

Come to Berlin.

It isn’t a break from being a student. You still make a daily commute to school. The classes remain stimulating and challenging. But studying here makes you reevaluate how much of the stress you once felt was legitimate, and how much of it was self-constructed. New York City: the required air of confidence, the continuous chain of consumption, the external illusion of productivity and winning and achievements. Was any of it real? Did any of it actually amount to anything?

Come to Berlin.

Deconstruct your identity. Ask who and why you are. Meet new people who inspire you to change. Make connections across disciplines, generations, borders. Shift the direction of your major. Immerse yourself in questions much bigger than yourself. Be someone without having to be someone. Feel a spark from deep within you for the first time in years.

Come to Berlin.

Breathe in the emptiness of the sidewalks. Breathe out your many pressures. Let the newness of the city make you feel like a blank slate. Bask in the wide open spaces you find on the streets and in your heart. Find the nooks, find the spots.Then fill them. Witness the history. Listen to the echoes. Join their conversation. Discover what’s been hiding.

Come to Berlin.

I promise, you’ll transform into the person you’ve always wished you had the time to be – and still have time to pleasure read.

Come to Berlin.

See what it lacks, see what you become.

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  • Hamburg Skies: Ashley Jankowski
Embrace the differences

Embrace the differences

The past few weeks, my friends and I have been discussing the strange feeling we’re all experiencing. It is a combination of happiness and sadness, satisfaction and regret, eagerness and hesitation. Studying abroad has this effect because of the unique opportunity you have to actually live in a place, but not for very long at all. It seems that right when we’re feeling less like visitors and more like residents of Sydney, it’s time to go. With that in mind, the biggest piece of advice I can give to someone coming to NYU Sydney, as cliché and obvious as it sounds, is to make the most of every moment. The time goes by so unbelievably quick.

Something I wish someone would have told me before coming to Sydney was that I wasn’t going to have direct access to a beach. Our accommodation and campus are both located in the Central Business District. It takes about 40 minutes to get to the popular beaches. So basically, you really need to plan your beach days. Go after class during the week and during the day on the weekend. Bring your homework if you have to. Even though it sounds like a bit of a drag, you will regret not spending every breathing moment you had at the beach when you have to leave.

Plan trips way ahead of time. Travelling from Sydney to other parts of Australia and beyond is amazing and a must. However, it doesn’t come as easily as it does for students studying in Europe. Flights are expensive and long. Start thinking about spring break right away, as well as other must-see destinations that can be done over a long weekend, like Cairns and Melbourne. Take a look at your syllabi when choosing which weekends to go, this way you can actually enjoy your trip and not stress. Also consider the activities you’d like to participate in the places you travel. For example, you must schedule a tour for the Great Barrier Reef ahead of time. You also need to rent a car (and know how to drive on the opposite side of the road) to see the beautiful scenery on the South Island of New Zealand.

Invite everyone in the cohort to hang out at the beginning of the semester. This is the best way to make friends and form a solid group to do things with. As soon as we got to Sydney, one student made a Facebook group for all the students in the cohort. That first weekend, one suite invited everyone to their room via the Facebook group to hang out before exploring Sydney’s nightlife. This was where I really bonded with some of the girls in the cohort, who have turned out to be my best friends here. Say yes to invitations, too. If you say no too many times, the invitations will stop coming.

Attend NYU’s organized events. It was through these events that I really got to understand Sydney’s character and history. They were really fun and gave me the chance to get to know the staff better, which is made up of some of the greatest people I’ve ever met. Even if the actual activity was not so exciting, there was usually free food and I got to talk to people that weren’t necessarily in my classes or circle of friends.

Overall, just do what you believe is going to be the most worthwhile. Your experience in Sydney can easily be ambiguous if you just go to class and go home, just like any other semester in New York. Embrace the differences. Do something you can’t do in New York. Talk to strangers. Go out more than you usually do. Wander aimlessly. When will you be able to say you’re living on the complete opposite side of the world again?

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  • nyu sydney surf trip: Falynn
To Whom It May Concern

To Whom It May Concern

I think there are two main things I would pass along to people who are looking to study abroad in Sydney in the near future. One concerns the living arrangements while you are abroad and another concerns a travel destination.

Currently, accommodations are organized by NYU, so until that changes this advice is not really applicable. However, I believe the school should reevaluate their stance on off-campus housing because most people are adults and it’s frankly none of the schools business where students decide to live. So, my advice, for after the school has seen the light, to students is that they, independently or with the help of the school, should try to find housing near Bondi Beach. The commute from Bondi Beach would probably be about 45 minutes and 20 minutes from Bondi Junction, but this small sacrifice would be well worth it. Although my experience in Sydney was already very good, I believe my life would have been significantly enhanced if I was living right next to the beach. The nightlife in the city isn’t great, so you wouldn’t lose much in terms of that by living close to Bondi, and the bar scene in that area isn’t too shabby. The food isn’t really that relevant, because most of you will cook at home anyway, but, in case you do want eat out, the food near Bondi is much healthier than in Haymarket. On top of these miscellaneous details, the main point is you get to live right on the beach, right when it warms up during the fall semester and for most of their summer during the spring semester. I think this is an unbelievable opportunity for people who don’t live this way when at home, or at NYU, so I am disappointed that I was deprived of this opportunity by the school. I can’t see much of downside to this way of living. Everyday can be a short beach day with fresh ocean air and a calming beach atmosphere.

My second piece of advice is aimed mainly at anyone that practices yoga. If you have a chance to wander out to Byron Bay for a long weekend, then you have to visit Creature Yoga while you are there. This is by far the best yoga class I have been to anywhere. The class isn’t really for beginners, so you do need to know the basics fairly well in order to keep up, but the instruction and classflow are miles ahead of any class I have participated in since I have started practicing yoga. Just as a reference this is the only studio that actually has an understanding of how important Shavasana is, which is evidenced by the fact that they let it go for 8-10mins at the end of class. Besides the yoga class there were other great things about Byron Bay too, which anyone can enjoy. It has a lot of healthy food options and in general has somewhat of a hippy vibe going. The atmosphere is very relaxing and the beaches are great. The only downside is that Byron Bay, due to its increasing popularity, isn’t exactly cheap. The prices are probably comparable to Sydney, so you do need to plan on bringing along some cash.  

I do realize I haven’t given that much to use here, but I think it’s best for you to get out there and explore for yourself and not rely too much on other people’s reviews of Sydney.

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Expectations and Advice

Expectations and Advice

When I decided to study abroad at NYU Shanghai, I had a set of expectations. Some things met my expectations, some things exceeded them, while others fell short. The most significant piece of advice that I would give to another student planning to study away at Shanghai is to keep an open mind and take everything step by step. Expectations are great to have, but try not to let your expectations shape and limit your experience.

Shanghai is a city that has exceeded my original expectations. Although I had previously visited Shanghai, I initially expected myself to be homesick because I was so close to my home in Tokyo compared to going to school in New York City, yet I was still somewhere culturally similar yet incredibly different. However, living in Pudong, especially the Biyun/Jinqiao area has been surprising since there are a lot of foreigners and expats who live in the area. Therefore, there are tons of foreign grocery stores that sell supplies to make your favorite comfort foods for when you’re feeling homesick. The Biyun area has a grocery store known as ‘Times Grocery’ which I have gone multiple times to buy Kraft Mac & Cheese and marshmallows to make s’mores over the stove. Around the same area is a tree-lined street called Biyun road which has many foreign restaurants and if you keep walking down it, leads to ‘Carrefour’ which is a large grocery, household goods store all-in-one. Carrefour has been a lifesaver in regards to the variety of food and household goods it has since everything is reasonably priced. The pricing is similar to Costco and is cheaper because everything comes in bigger packaging, and there are always excellent buy one get one free deals. They also have an imported goods section that is slightly cheaper than the options at Times. Biyun Road is also great for biking, jogging, or walking as the sidewalks are relatively wide and there is a separate path for bikes.

On another note, make sure that you download and setup the VPN on your phones and computer before you get to China. Having the VPN installed on both is incredibly important especially if you check your Gmail or want to watch youtube videos on it. If you forget to install everything before coming, or accidentally delete it as I did, you can just download it at school, since the school wifi is not restricted. However, you definitely want to have it done before you get here. Also, make sure to download a food delivery app and set up we-chat pay or Alipay as it is essential to living in China. I cannot even count the number of times I have used both to pay or order food. Additionally ‘taobao.com’ is an excellent resource for online shopping. There are a lot of different products that can be found at discounts, everything can be paid using Alipay, and delivery is relatively fast!

My last piece of advice is not to try and explore the world outside of your ‘bubble.’ It is important to feel comfortable and establish a ‘bubble’ however, studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to push your limits and explore. Spend time talking to locals, getting to know the Chinese students at NYU Shanghai, and to experience different parts of China during breaks! It may be nerve-wracking at first getting used to all the new sights and sounds but in the end, it will be worth it, and you will feel like you have accomplished so much because you will have!

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  • rsz_screen_shot_2017-12-04_at_122617_am: Google Maps
Thanksgiving: Who Is She?

Thanksgiving: Who Is She?

I never really celebrate Thanksgiving, even when I was home in New Jersey. So here, naturally, I kept forgetting it was a holiday, something people actually celebrated. During Thanksgiving weekend, I was in Amsterdam. I thought about turkey for a minute while there, which my mom made one year, but it was not a thought that crossed my mind.

Everyone imagines Amsterdam as this place full of rebellion and art, and although it is, I found Amsterdam the most sobering experience of them all. Amsterdam is a place of freedom, an almost liberation from what we harbor from those around us. Every person I interacted with had a sense of openness I certainly haven’t seen in New York, and definitely less of in Florence.

The highlight of my trip was the Stedelijk Museum, a place of modern and contemporary art. Having seen various museums throughout the U.S. and now Europe, now I think I’m the least unenthused person when it comes to wandering through artworks. Given the amount Florence holds in particular, I find myself questioning whether or not I find art that exciting or beautiful anymore.

The Stedelijk renewed that for me, reenergized my belief that art can be beautiful and important, and perhaps that is why it is created. I have spent so much of my own time mulling over what makes art effective, what makes it good. I go through this process when I take pictures, when I splice together videos of friends. What makes this meaningful? What makes Van Gogh beautiful?

Intention and aesthetics: the half-baked answer I have deduced from my own excessive exposure. The intention behind a work informs its meaning, even if it’s meaning is personal. Like Marina Abramovic, pretentious artist of our time, says: “When an artist tells you something, you believe it.” That idea, as the viewer completely open to your idea, is why art is created. This would make sense, I feel as though those with the most open minds are those whose most understand art the best.

One of the particularly thought-provoking pieces at the Stedelijk was Carlos Motta’s The Crossing, which was the reason I was recommended to go to the Stedelijk in the first place. This multimedia work showcasing, according to the museum’s description, “LHBTQI refugees [who] give gripping accounts of the constant duress caused by homophobia and transphobia in their home countries.” After watching, I found myself disturbed in some ways, having heard some gruesome accounts of people whose bodies were mutilated due to their gender identity and sexuality. It made me feel lucky in a lot of ways, that a country I call my own has made strides toward equality. But still, a long way to go. I suppose I am thankful for those strides, that I live in New York, a mess of cultures that seem to work together majority of the time.

Motta’s showcase of these voices couldn’t be more clear and powerful. The aesthetic was this clean background with this close-up of this person, speaking to you. The person was looking right into the camera, right at you, like you were in this room with them. Each screen was a different person speaking, and only one pair of headphones per bench in front of it. It was a powerful setup, this aesthetic, and the intention and purpose behind remains etched into my mind. Isn’t that the goal of an artist, to leave a mark on their viewer? Motta certainly left this as a memorable piece in my mind, and I wish I could sit and listen to all their stories, until I was sprung to action.

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  • Ed Hart: sabeena
TRON & Turkey Legs

TRON & Turkey Legs

Thanksgiving Day was downright magical because I got to spend it at Disney Land Shanghai!

It was the perfect time for us to go. On a weekday so we wouldn’t experience the 人山人海 or literally “mountains and sea of people” that tend to overcrowd the park on holidays and weekends. On a sunny day and of course on a day where we didn’t have class, so we could spend hours having fun. We decided to go at the last-minute for these reasons, since I knew we didn’t have many free days left in the semester.

Both me and my boyfriend had never been to a Disney Land and it’s been years since either of us have gone to Disney World in Orlando. Though we decided Thursday morning to go, I wanted to be mentally prepared for this theme park that I’ve heard mixed reviews for.

When Shanghai’s Disney Land first opened last summer, I heard it was kind of a disaster. Crowd control was almost nonexistent, masses of people were dirtying the park and cutting lines. There were even some cases of kids publicly defecating. Needless to say, I wasn’t sure how this experience was going to be for us. I read through many TripAdvisor reviews especially focusing on those who went on weekdays in the fall to see what we were in for. Reading the reviews made me slightly paranoid and I worried about what time we should go, how long we should expect to wait, and what rides to Fastpass. I also needed to research about the rides and to familiarize myself with the layout of the park so as to be efficient with our time there. However, in the midst of this hurried research, I came across a travel blogger who wrote that she purposely tried not to research too much into the park so that she could still have some sense of surprise and wonder when she got there.

Our day at the park was really as much fun as we thought it would be. There was so much space that it didn’t seem crowded at all. Everything was super clean and well organized as well. It was cool to see Disney’s balance of cultures as they integrated their famous characters into Chinese cultural themes. For example, there was a zodiac wall in which Disney characters represented the 12 zodiac animals of the lunar calendar. Another useful feature about the park is that it has its own app where you can see the estimated wait times for every attraction at the park. It also had an interactive map where you could browse rides, shows, and restaurants. This app was super helpful and was a definite game changer to enjoying theme parks.

Our favorite ride by far was the TRON Light Cycle Power Run, a rollercoaster where riders sat on motorbike-style vehicles. As someone who typically doesn’t enjoy such rides, the experience was so amazing that we had to go on it twice! Though that was definitely the highlight of our day, another memorable moment would be eating turkey legs at the park! A theme park food staple, eating turkey legs was even more special since it was our little way of celebrating Thanksgiving in place far from home.

Fun fact: Turkey is not a common meat in China but the line to buy turkey legs was as long as some of the rides in the park. Turkey in Chinese is 火鸡 or literally “fire chicken”.

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  • Shanghai-Disneyland: Irina
My Second Thanksgiving

My Second Thanksgiving

Coming from a Chinese family, I don’t remember ever really celebrating outside of eating some turkey and pumpkin pie from the school cafeteria on the day, and that was when I was still attending elementary school in the U.S. Because Thanksgiving was never really a big holiday for me, I never really missed it, whether it was here in Prague, or when I was back in Beijing.

However, last year, I did get a taste of my first real Thanksgiving dinner, cooked by one of my friends in California. It was amazing. I remember eating so much that I thought my stomach would burst, and then eating even more when dessert came along. I guess that’s how you’re supposed to do Thanksgiving dinner. Eat more than you’ve ever eaten and then look at the mounds of delicious leftovers in euphoric despair. Even though Thanksgiving food like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie will probably never make it onto my list of favorite foods (even though it’s quite a long list), I have to admit that I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

This year was my second real Thanksgiving. It wasn’t anything special, just a free dinner with NYU. There was turkey, stuffing, potatoes, salad, and tons of dessert. Students were told they could bring desserts, too, and they would be reimbursed for the ingredients, so the cakes and brownies on the table just kept multiplying, and I ended up eating much, much more than I had intended to. Of course, however good the turkey and the cakes were, it wasn’t the same as spending Thanksgiving in the home of one of my closest friends, with everything fresh and homemade with a special dash of personal flair, but it was enough for me, nonetheless. I didn’t spend too long at the event after I ate enough to swear off eating for the next day (of course, that didn’t happen), and my roommate and I returned to our dorm for a quiet night just like any other.

Again, it wasn’t much, but I could feel the Thanksgiving spirit. With the reinforcement of this tradition, along with reading about all the delicious dinners people from different places would cook for Thanksgiving, I think I’m ready to buy into the tradition myself. In my time here, I’ve also gained a newfound interest for cooking, so I might try my hand at making something of my own this coming Thanksgiving, though I am sure I will need tons of help. But I am looking forward to the whole ordeal, and I really believe Thanksgiving might become one of my favorite holidays, if I can keep up the happy tradition that’s been going for two years now.

On the topic of Thanksgiving, I have to mention another dinner, which wasn’t technically a Thanksgiving dinner, but the timing was close enough to count it as one. The teacher that I’m working with at the local elementary school, Veronika, hosted a Christmas dinner—since the Czech Republic doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, we had an early Christmas meal—at her house as a thank you to all of the interns and volunteers that had worked with her during the semester. There was chicken, pasta salad, beet salad, a phenomenal potato salad, and, again, way more desserts than I had expected. So I ended up far more than I should for a second time, only five days after Thanksgiving.

I was a little worried going in, because I didn’t know the majority of the people there, but we all sat around a table and there was such a nice atmosphere during the dinner that it really felt like a holiday dinner between friends, and we shared a lot of stories about the kids, about our experience in Prague, and I learned a lot more about Veronika and education in the Czech Republic, as well as working with bi-lingual or second language learning kids. It was a great experience, and really helped give me a feeling of home away from home.

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Prague: a City of History, Color...and Lack of Diversity

Prague: a City of History, Color…and Lack of Diversity

I would recommend NYU Prague to anyone who is contemplating studying abroad. Although it is getting more exposure in travel blogs and the like, I feel as if Prague is still an unknown city to many. When I told people I was going to Prague, many people had trouble repeating its correct pronunciation. Others asked in what country it is found. And others asked me if it was in Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia ceased being a country in 1993! The Czech Republic (or Czechia) and Slovakia are two separate nation-states!

Prague offers an amazing opportunity to learn about recent world history through a European lens that is not appropriated by “the West”. Indeed, often when we think and talk about Europe, we only think of Western Europe: France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Germany, and maybe even Portugal. What about the other half of the continent? Central Europe was arguably more shattered by World War II and the Nazi invasion than was the West. It barely got a break to breathe because after being “liberated” by the Soviet Union, it was under its control for approximately 40 years. Some nations are still recuperating even after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991!

Learning about all this history was so fascinating to me because I feel that if I had not decided to study in Prague, this knowledge would not have been made so accessible to me. For example, did you know that the Czech Republic really dislikes being considered part of Eastern Europe? It is located in the center—often it sees itself as the heart of Europe—but it is considered Eastern because it was once a part of the Soviet Bloc; and thus, it is misconstrued as still backwards. Ironically, the Czech Republic is one of the most stable economies in Europe with one of the lowest unemployment rates.

Prague is a European city, certainly, but sometimes it feels more like Disney World which partly has to due with its unique architecture—something I discussed in a previous post. Western Europe is more influenced by Renaissance and Gothic art and architecture, while Prague is more influenced by Baroque art and architecture. My favorite place to visit in Prague is Letní Letná Park because it is located on a hill, and therefore has one of the best views of the city: one can see the uniform red roofs, the Vltava River, some of Prague’s seventeen bridges, church towers, the top of the Žižkov Tower, the Petrin Tower, etc. The park is also quite large and one can spend the whole day walking around its green and orange foliage. Letní Letná is also home to a makeshift skater park which rests below the metronome that took the place of the largest Stalin statue (that unsurprisingly was quickly demolished after his death). 

Some people argue that they choose Prague as their study abroad site because it is so centrally located that they can travel easily to other cities. Others, myself included, like the fact that it is relatively inexpensive, as compared to New York. And others like that the beer is so plentiful (.5 liter) and cheap (about $1.50)—it is cheaper than water! You decide whether or not these sound incentivizing.

One thing I would liked to have known in advance is just the extent to which Prague lacks diversity. I knew it was to be expected precisely because it is not part of Western Europe but I suppose I just never imagined my brownness would interrupt the sea of so many white folks congregated in one place. I still get stares on public transportation (as I mentioned in one of my earlier posts). Granted, and thankfully, no one has ever said anything mean to me. I did have a young white Czech boy once mutter something under his breath and give me constant death glares but since I could not understand him, I chose to ignore him and hoped he just did not happen to like my outfit that day. The part that is most baffling to me, perhaps in my naïveté, is that Prague is considered diverse when compared to the rest of the country! I was prepared to go out of my comfort zone and be unable to communicate with everyone, and even somewhat expected not finding a Colombian restaurant but once one’s vague expectations turn into reality, well that is a bit of a different story.

I used to claim that Prague was very safe. Although pickpocketing is something that occurs here, I have never had anything stolen from me, nor have I ever been catcalled by men on the street nor have I been the recipient of a racial slur. However, the other day I was given a wake-up call by a dark Black Muslim friend—the only one in the program. She has not felt safe at all here. She has had her hair touched without giving her consent by numerous people. She has had her butt groped by men in clubs. She has had people pester her about her origins. She had to move into my dorm because she had a black male stalker by where she lived. Shortly after our conversation, my Indian friend came to visit me. Once I walked around accompanied by another brown women, countless men, white and colored (found in tourist areas), pestered us about our origins. Men are socialized to think they own women’s bodies, especially if the women in question seem to be of similar racial backgrounds. Thus, after having that conversation, I realized Prague is objectively a safe place for white folks, and to some degree, for non-black people of color. The same cannot be said for everyone.

I share these incidents not to scare prospective students but to make them aware that often, we are the victims of our own romanticized perceptions about certain places. Certainly right now, the United States is not the safest nation for people of color, immigrants, women, and members of the LGBTQIAP community, and so we may think that other places are infinitely better. I will not deny that I chose to come to Prague partially because I wanted an escape from the US. Unfortunately though, xenophobia, racism, homophobia, and sexism are global structures of oppression. Students of color must be prepared for some uncomfortable situations in Prague. What matters is how we choose to deal with these phenomena. Do we let it affect our entire experience? Do we try to learn from these incidents and grow as stronger people? Do we educate ourselves and others about privilege and diversity?

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  • Ethnic Groups in the Czech Republic: http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/ethnic-groups-in-the-czech-republic.html
Not So Relaxed Weekend

Not So Relaxed Weekend

My Family has never been big on celebrating holidays. As far back as I can remember the only holidays we celebrated were all things that had to do with Christmas. So, when I went to the US, at a fresh 15 years old, thanksgiving wasn’t really relevant in my life, and I didn’t really think it would ever become relevant. However, once my sister joined me in America it made sense for my parents to come over to give us a mid semester visit. Not having any tradition surrounding thanksgiving at the time, we just saw it as a good opportunity to be together for a week and to go eat at a fancy restaurant on thanksgiving day. Interestingly, this tradition has survived to this day and my parents still visit us for the occasion. It’s even become enough of a tradition, so that my parents made the trek out to Sydney this year.

While I didn’t get to celebrate Thanksgiving itself, because I had to pre-study for an exam in order to be able to maintain my grades while spending as much time with my mom and dad as possible, I did have a wonderful time with my parents. I didn’t really mind missing out on some of the student festivities because, as I have gotten older, I realized that the amount of time I get to spend with my parents keeps shrinking as my responsibilities start to pile up year after year. It does seem like everyone celebrated thanksgiving the American way with lots of home cooked food and communal eating. While all of that was going on I am glad that I opted to do some schoolwork, because it did take some stress off of the weekend that was ahead. My dad had planned a pretty extensive schedule for himself, my mom and me. On Friday we were scheduled to eat breakfast at their hotel, which was basically the first time I had seen either of them since the semester started, so that was a great moment. That same evening we were again scheduled to eat together with two of my dad’s old Sydney friends at the Quay restaurant, which offered a beautiful view of the Sydney Opera House. Saturday was a little more relaxed in terms of scheduling, so I got a lot of my work done before I joined my parents to go watch the Australian Ballet perform Sleeping Beauty. The performance was good, but nothing spectacular, with the exception of the principal dancer David Hallberg, who displayed one of the best stage presences I have witness to date.

On Monday my parents had planned a trip to Tasmania to visit the Mona museum, which is a museum for alternative art of sorts. The trip was planned as an overnight stay on the museum grounds, which featured a cafe, wine bar, small hotel, the museum and an outdoor work by James Turrell. The museum itself wasn’t really my cup of tea, but the light show by James Turrell was very interesting. It is set-up as a white roof with a rectangular hole in the middle. Once the sun starts to set, light is projected onto the roof, which then changes the color of the sky in the middle of the it. The whole experience was very serene and lasted for about an hour. In the end the trip was definitely worth it because of the light show, which was also the main reason we had planned this trip in the first place.

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Traded Turkeys for Toboggans

Traded Turkeys for Toboggans

The week before Thanksgiving, I was a mess. I was plagued with schoolwork and feeling extremely homesick. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to survive my first Thanksgiving without my family. It’s very traditional of us to all get together with our extended family members who I usually only see once per year. Not going through that typical experience this year made me feel quite melancholic. However, I did not know what was in store for me my actual Thanksgiving weekend.

I knew I was going to Beijing; however, with all the school work I had been doing before hand I had no time to build up excitement about my trip. Once we got there it was nice, but cold, and I was still feeling down about not being with my family. However, things started to change when we went to one of the most famous pecking duck restaurants in China. Although I am a vegetarian, I was happy to see my friends try the delicacy. During the meal, we bought a bottle of wine—the cheapest one on the menu, of course. We all poured ourselves a drink and said what we were thankful for. It turns out we were all thankful for the same thing—each other’s friendship. It was in that moment that I realized even though I was far away from home, I was still surrounded by love. I was surrounded by people who had been my family away from my family this semester and I couldn’t be more thankful.

The rest of the trip ended up being as phenomenal as that first night. It was the perfect time to travel because Chinese people don’t celebrate thanksgiving and it was cold so there were not many tourists. The central focus of our trip was seeing the Great Wall of China. One of my friend’s remembered that there was a slide somewhere in the Great Wall that Beyoncé and Michelle Obama had recently been down and wanted to check out that area. We were able to get tickets through the hotel to go to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall.

After bundling ourselves up in winter gear and a two-hour bus ride, we made it to one of the seven wonders of the world! I honestly could not believe how large it was. The view from the wall was also phenomenal. After exploring around the wall itself for awhile, it was time for the toboggan slide. I hoped I was in the same toboggan as Beyoncé once was. On the slide, you controlled your own speed by pushing the lever forward and backward, so I tried to accelerate my toboggan as much as I could. However, I was then told by a guard at one of the check points to slow down. After the Great Wall, we were able to have a free tea tasting which was included in our tour. It was a nice way to warm up after spending hours in below freezing weather.

Although I missed Thanksgiving with my family, I know that this Thanksgiving will be one that will be particularly memorable. I visited one of the most iconic landmarks in the entire world and I got to spend time with people I care about. Although it was not a traditional turkey dinner, I still found so much to be thankful for this past Thanksgiving weekend.

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  • Jumping on the Great Wall: Brooke
"A delicate tale of bliss"

“A delicate tale of bliss”

There is no Thanksgiving in France. French don’t even have a translation for “thanksgiving”. Thus, while all my American friends are taking their four-day break, I’m doing the usual routine.

To me, Thanksgiving is more about the experience at night. I spent my last Thanksgiving in New York City, and all I remember was the empty streets in the daytime, all the closed stores, and a rather depressing view for me. However, at night, with the company of friends, dinner shattered all the cold depressing glasses. We sat together, chatting and was thankful for everything.

My Paris thanksgiving experience was also more about the nights. During the daytime, it was normal as any other day. But at night, the smell of Thanksgiving just swelled in the room, and all over Paris.

Thursday night, I was invited with all other NYU students to Pullman hotel for the grand Thanksgiving dinner. The hotel was located a few blocks away from the Eiffel Tower, and it supposed to have the best view of it. However, the restaurant was on the basement floor, so instead of beholding the scenery of Paris, we got more time to bond with each other. All of us were so starving at first and we ate many loaves of bread. This leads to later that we don’t have any bread left to scoop out the delicious pumpkin soup. So first lesson of that night: always save a bread for scooping out the soup. Then before the main dish turkey was presented, our professors made a speech and wished us all a happy holiday. Even I’m thousands of miles away from home, the nostalgic feelings coming along with Thanksgiving were all gone by then. We had a great dinner after that. Later we went out to see the Eiffel tower and took photos of it so we could remember this unreal experience in Paris.

Friday night, my friends came to Paris for a visit and to share this holiday with me. It was a chilly night. No stars spotted. The whole city was still lit up. We walked along the Seine and listened to songs with our speaker. We owned that moment, standing in the breeze and on the land of the best city. Since the Louvre was opened till 10 pm, we sauntered around the pyramids outside. The lights beamed down on us, reflecting golden colors on us.

Saturday night, we had a nice dinner in a French restaurant. It was called Raclette. Basically, there was a wield where we put the cheese on and heated it up until it melted. Then we poured it over our food. In my mouth, I tasted the gratification of thanksgiving. After dinner, we poured us some wine and kept the conversations going. It was simple and satisfying. We savored good cheese, and good moments too.

Sunday night, we had ramen together. It was the end of this Thanksgiving weekend. From wine and raclette to ramen and coke, it foreshadowed us back to the “reality”. This weekend was very unreal, especially when in the middle of the night, I headed up and realized I was in Paris. Later I took my friends to the airport. On our way there, we brought up our memories together and had a great laugh about them. We hugged each other at the airport, and I looked at them walking into the security, just like, maybe, how my mom saw me a few months ago.

On the way back, I put on my headset to Take That’s Wonderful World.

They sing:

Time was all we had but
It was never ours to keep
Time can help you find the ground and knock you off your feet
All those minutes get lost in time
One step forward two steps behind
So before I think myself too deep
What a wonderful world this is
What a delicate tale of bliss.

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  • Eiffel tower view: Howard
Thanksgiving Already?

Thanksgiving Already?

I am from a family of incredible cooks. Although my mom, dad, and sister have never pursued a profession in culinary arts, they have a natural talent in all things food. Thanksgiving is no exception. If you ever come to my house for Thanksgiving, you can expect three different kinds of stuffing, two variations on mashed potatoes, a turkey I can’t even address with proper justice, and every other festive dish imaginable. This year was my first time away from home for Thanksgiving, and I knew it was approaching, but I actually forgot until a friend reminded me the day before. Buenos Aires in November is summer heat and schoolwork in full swing, and Thanksgiving is obviously not celebrated. On Thursday morning I arrived at school for a day of classes like any other. I was a little sad to not enjoy the company of my family and our annual feast, but it would have felt odd to have the day off for a celebration no one else in Argentina was observing. When I got out of class at 5 PM, I headed to a ritzy riverside bar to enjoy the good weather with friends. We spent an hour or so there before heading back to the academic center for the Thanksgiving dinner the NYU BA staff had put on us. Sidenote: I’ve fully accepted the fact that we students are the babies of the staff, and they provide us with the most thoughtful resources and events. For example, when we had to get our visas in the beginning of the semester, they told us about five times that they would shuttle us to the office, but then we were “on our own” on the way back. Upon arrival on visa day, they supplied each of us with little folders with copies of our passports, details on what to say, and a map of how to get back home with options to take the bus or subway and their personal cell phone numbers should we get lost. Anyways, on Thanksgiving night, we entered the Academic Center to a room beaming in fall decór. A display the size of me of pumpkins, sunflowers, and other autumn plants stood proudly in the corner. The banister was taken over by orange and yellow balloons, and each table had an elaborate fall-time centerpiece. Our student life directors proudly welcomed us, and I felt grateful for the effort they had put into making us feel at home.

Although dinner was not my family Thanksgiving tradition, (they didn’t have any stuffing!!) I was happy to celebrate the holiday with my peers. I’m not close friends with all 60 members of our program, but we still feel like family, especially on that night. Our table decided to go around before eating and say what we were grateful for, and all of our contributions included a clause in which we expressed gratitude to be able to travel here. For me at least, this year was the first that I had an opportunity such as being here to be thankful for, which made the holiday special in a different way than the usual. Considering most of us spent much of the day thinking about how the holiday was going at home, I think we were all also pretty grateful to have places and people to miss. I think when I’m back amongst those things, I’ll miss being here, too.

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  • NYUBA Thanksgiving menu: Kiana
Food Fosters Bonding!

Food Fosters Bonding!

The first question people ask me here when they discover I’m vegetarian is, “why?” Argentina is the world capital of beef. Meat is eaten at all times of day, often accompanied by a healthy serving of carbohydrates in the form of bread or potatoes. Porteños live on this hardy diet, and many people travel to Argentina to experience this rich culture of eating. Then there’s me. As a committed environmentalist, animal rights advocate, and all-around healthy eater, my diet is a piece of me I am not willing to compromise. As a result, it has been more difficult to find foods I like here. My host family is wonderfully accommodating and I never leave the dinner table hungry, but I am responsible for finding food throughout the day. Because I live in a fairly gentrified neighborhood, when I first moved here, I had a feeling I would be able to find somewhere that had foods I enjoy eating. I should also mentioned that I inherently love the taste of meat, so I knew I had to find alternative options quickly. Sure enough, on a mission around the neighborhood one day to find such a store, I stumbled upon a small health food store a block north from my house. I rang the buzzer, (a custom many stores have here), and a man who could be my abuelo, in a striped button down shirt tucked into corduroys and rectangular glasses answered the door. “Estás buscando por algo en particular?” (Are you looking for anything in particular?) he asked. No, gracias, sólo mirando (no, thank you, just browsing) I replied. I embarked on a lap around the store, and quickly realized the heaven I had entered. Granolas, rice crackers, olives, and vegan cheeses dominated the aisles. As soon as I would see one thing, I would spot another, and run/skip to scoop it up. Big day. My kid in a candy shop excitement was not concealed well, (not that I tried), and the old man came over and asked if I wanted to see his new shipment of grains. I nodded and he showed me some products. Perhaps he doesn’t meet many shoppers with such enthusiasm for his livelihood,  but he seemed eager to show me his favorite selections. Two shopping bags later, I left happy and sped walked home to start snacking.

Since my first visit, I’ve returned to stock up on food once a week. Every time, the man greets me kindly and shows me a new product. I don’t even know his name, and he doesn’t know mine. Our mutual nerdy love for health foods has created a bond. I don’t know how he would handle watering a house plant or picking up someone at the airport, but in the domain I know him in, food shopping, I trust him. In many of my posts, I speak of my affinity for breaking routine and entering the unknown, but I will admit that it’s nice to be a regular somewhere. To enter a space and have people already know what you like is a satisfying affirmation of self. As natural selfish beings, when we see a reflection of who we are in others, no matter the language or age barrier, we feel at ease. Also, anyone who considers edamame pasta a staple food is someone I can trust.

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  • night on my street: Kiana
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