Spain through the eyes of Scott Mitchell

SEVILLA, SPAIN

      This was one of my most exciting times of my life. The summer leading up to my departure, I was so full of energy and anticipation. I was about to enter into a new world, and I knew that somehow, someway, this experience would change my life.  Although I wasn’t sure how things would go, I knew that no matter what I was going to try to make the best out of my experience. There were many things to worry about, how to manage my budget, if my Spanish was good enough, how will my living situation be, all of these were constantly on my mind. However, I would come to find that all of these worries would later become irrelevant and once there, all other concerns went out the door, I had a new life to live.

      From the moment that I landed, I was like a kid in a candy store. This was what I had wanted for so long, and I was finally living it. I didn’t care who I talked to, where I was going, I was just so happy to be there. It is difficult to describe the first days there for me with words, because I don’t have many that can describe the emotions that I was feeling. The first times that I walked the streets, I had no idea where I was going, what I was doing, or where this would all take me.  All I did know was that I was going to make the best of the situation.  The advice I will give is that the entire process will continue to evolve with each day that passes. You will meet people, travel, have all the experiences that you wished for, you just have to put in effort if you want to experience all that you can. Yes, I said effort. It’s not just a vacation! If you want to meet people, speak the language, see things that aren’t in the tour guide books, then you will need to go out and find it!

       Leaving was very difficult. I felt at that time that I could have stayed there forever, but at the same time I knew that I had a life and responsibilities at home. I was torn between the two. I didn’t know whether to cry or to smile. All I did know was that I made great friends, had unforgettable experiences, and that I was a new person. The time that I spent abroad affected me in so many different ways, and preparing to leave put that all on the table, allowing me to see the new me. So as I looked down on the city from the tiny window on the plane, I could see me. I could see a part of myself. Nine months had passed, and it seemed like just a blur. Although my time there seemed to fly by, it will always be a part of who I am.

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Shawnda Kohr’s Words: Study Abroad Rome

Pre-departure: I knew I was flying to Rome January 27th, 2011…and that was the only fact that I was absolutely sure about.  I had no clue as to what to expect. I had no idea what my apartment would look like, how grocery shopping would be, how transportation would be. I mean I was told “how” all of these things would be done, but everyone knows hearing something and experiencing are two totally different things. There is no USE wasting your time worrying about it (even though worrying is inevitable) because the truth is you will not actually grasp these things until you get there. One thing that did comfort my nerves about the unknown adventure ahead of me was that I knew there would be at least 8 other people in the same position as me, the other students from La Salle embarking on the same journey. One of my other main concerns was how my budget would work out, but it’s really hard to gage until you actually get there and do a trial week on how much you will spend on groceries etc. It’s better to have too much rather than too little. I gave myself a $6000 max budget, because I wanted to travel to other countries. I ended up spending $5000 (flight, food, travel included) which was only equivalent to $3000 Euro at the time. $5000 was the perfect amount of money to travel to other countries, splurge on food and most importantly to buy a plane ticket back home.

During: So my first day, I absolutely hated it. It was the first day I arrived, I was tired because of the plane ride, time difference and I was hungry. My apartment was small, not “modern” to American standards, and completely not what I expected. First, I needed to eat. Second, I needed to sleep and third, I needed to get out and start to explore. Point being, don’t have any glorious expectations about your first day…your body is physically stressed and your anxious, give it a couple days!  I honestly could write pages and pages about my experience, but I will try to sum up the main points of what made my experience the absolute best 4 months of my life.

1)      Have a “care-free”, but travel-smart attitude: Now is not the time to be picky, go some place new, order some crazy new food or drink, and don’t be afraid to get lost. DON’T BE AFRAID TO GET LOST, it WILL HAPPEN. Don’t waste money on taxis, keep your walkin’ shoes on and figure it by yourself (WITH a FRIEND of course). You find more and learn more this way. (Do make safety a priority!)

2)      Di Simone’s pizza- The best pizza in Rome personally, and conveniently located on Via Carini right by AUR, don’t worry- everyone will gravitate there naturally and soon enough you will know exactly where it is and how to order in Italian!

3)      Nothing is in your control, accept it ahead of time: This is a general study abroad attitude. For 4 months of your life all you have to be responsible for is feeding yourself, keeping yourself safe, traveling to crazy places and having an amazing time, oh (and studying of course- really important too). You don’t have control or impact on what happens at home. Don’t spend hours on Skype dealing with family or friends issues. Enjoy being away from it all. Maybe this was just me, but being away from my friends, family and all the “nit-picky” things I was responsible for in America (car insurance, phone bills, etc.) made my 4 months away the most stress-free, happiest of my life. There is a sense of total freedom and independence that comes with this experience. It’s refreshing and revitalizing (of course if you use it the right way).

Post-Departure: Leaving Italy was a mix of feelings for me. I wasn’t really “ready” to go and I didn’t really miss my family too much, but I couldn’t wait to show them the woman I became while I was away. I wanted to share with them every amazing bite of gelato that I ate, the 20 pounds I gained (from eating pasta everyday) and just how amazing the Italian culture was. My excitement was well received by my family, but only for the first week or two. Then I think it became annoying to them.  Maybe it was more annoying to me that they couldn’t relate or would never really be able to appreciate the Italian culture the way I did. This over-excitement soon turned into reverse culture-shock. I began to compare the American culture and Italian culture, and the more I realized how different my culture was from the Italian one I had adopted for 4 months, the more I became a little confused as to where I belonged. I remember how amazing my time in Italy was, and it seriously was the happiest and most stress-free 4 months of my life, but now I was back in America and “home” did feel good. Soon enough I adjusted to being back home, and learned to embrace American culture again (it comes pretty easily). My time in Italy will always hold a special place in my life, most notably as the trigger for the travel bug that I now have and for the friends/connections that I made that will potentially open up opportunities for me to go back to Europe to work and live!

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Michelle Buchanan’s Rome Experience

Rome, Italy

The summer before I left for Rome I was excited, nervous and scared. I tried to prepare myself by buying everything I could possible need, researching the program and trying to learn some Italian. Then after a summer of counting down the days, the day had finally arrived that I was leaving. As I left my parents and went through security at the airport, all the nerves I had calmed over the summer had come back to me. Was I going to be able to handle a whole semester so far from home? Do I know enough Italian to get by? Who were my roommates going to be and would we get along? No matter what, everyone has these fears before they leave and there is no way to avoid them.

 

The first couple of days in Rome were a bit overwhelming – a lot of new information, a lot of new territory to learn and meeting a lot of new friends and faces. After about two weeks, once I made a couple trips to the grocery store, got the public transportation systems figured out, and was learning my way around Rome, I knew I would be fine here for the next four months. And I was. Still through the whole semester I was discovering new things and still making mistakes, but I was creating some of my best memories of my life during this time abroad. It was so exciting to be able to explore and travel every weekend around Rome, around Italy and all of Europe. I met some amazing people – Americans, Italians, and people from all over the world. I was able to learn, explore, and truly integrate myself into another culture.

 

Leaving was bittersweet. There were times throughout the semester where I had become a bit homesick and was missing my family. So I couldn’t wait to see them and share all my stories from the semester with them. But I could not imagine not coming back to my apartment and life in Rome. Once I got back home I was able to get back into my old ways no problem but I still miss Rome all the time because I truly had the time of my life during my semester abroad. That semester has definitely had a huge impact on my life.

 

When you get home, stay in touch with the friends you make abroad. I know my family and friends at home are sick of my Rome stories so it is always nice to plan a day to meet up with my new friends I made in Rome and reminisce. They are the only ones that will never get sick of hearing the same Rome stories over and over again. And trust me, you will want to tell these stories over and over again.

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Fulbright Fellowship Emily Apisa

La Salle University Graduate Emily Apisa Receives Fulbright Fellowship to Teach English at Turkish College

August 2, 2011

La Salle University graduate Emily Apisa has received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) fellowship and will teach English at a college in Turkey for nine months beginning this fall.

“For the ETA, you could only apply to one country. I picked Turkey for a few reasons,” said Apisa, who accomplished a double major in Communication and English at La Salle. “First of all, fluency was not required in the host country’s language. Also, I think that Turkey is an important country right now. It is a 99 percent Muslim country that has a successful secular and democratic government. Turkey is not only a geographical bridge from the Western world to the Middle East, but it is also a political one, as well.”

She will teach at Afyon Kocatepe University in Afyonkarahisar, located in western Turkey.

Apisa said she worked closely with Claire Busse, an English professor and Assistant Director of La Salle’s Honors program, to complete the application process, which included her writing two essays.  “After the documents were submitted, a committee of La Salle faculty interviewed me. From that interview, the faculty could recommend or not recommend me for a Fulbright,” said Apisa. “In January, I made the first cut of applicants and was supposed to hear back in the spring about whether I received the grant or not. It took a little longer than expected, but finally (on) June 30 I was e-mailed an acceptance.”

“I was a little shocked because after months of not hearing from the Fulbright program I assumed I wasn’t going to get the grant. I was also a little nervous because the current political climate of southeastern Turkey is shaky. Syrian refugees are seeking refuge across the border. I did a little research on the school and town I’ve been assigned, and that’s when I could start picturing myself there. Now I’m just excited to see what this next year brings,” she said.

Huntly Collins, a La Salle Communication professor who taught Apisa in two courses, said, “When she applied for the Fulbright in Turkey, the Arab Spring was just unfolding across the Middle East. I encouraged her application as an invaluable opportunity to immerse herself in the only democracy in the region, one that might serve as a role model for the countries now throwing off authoritarian rule.”

Collins also said, “Emily has an inquiring mind, a commitment to social justice and an ability to communicate her ideas through both words and visual images. She also has guts — the courage to express unpopular ideas. Her students in Turkey will be getting the best of both worlds — a teacher who is also a student engaged in lifelong learning.”

Apisa concentrated on journalism and writing in her majors and wrote for La Salle’s student newspaper, the Collegian, for four years. This past semester she interned at Philadelphia City Paper and will continue to work there until August. Last summer, she interned at the Courier-News, a daily newspaper in central New Jersey.

“I picked La Salle because I wanted to be in a city and because I wanted a strong journalism program,” said Apisa. “My experience was great. I tried to be as involved as possible while still maintaining grades that I was proud of (her GPA was 3.76).”

Outside the classroom, Apisa was a writing tutor at La Salle and helped build homes in Mandeville, La., as part of Habitat for Humanity following her sophomore year.

“Journalism has always been ‘the plan,’ but I wouldn’t be opposed to other avenues where I could use my writing skills,” said Apisa. “I think journalism has always appealed to me because each article gives you the chance to talk to someone new and see something you haven’t seen before. As a Teaching Assistant in Turkey, I will be not only exposing myself to, and immersing myself in, a culture I’ve yet to experience.”

 

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