Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cuba: Havana

Sharon Almonte '14

 What is your major?
 I am double majoring in History and Hispanic Studies, and minoring in Latin American Studies.

Why did you decide to study abroad?   
 I decided to study abroad to challenge myself and to get a new perspective on the world outside of the United States.

Why did you choose Cuba? 
 I chose Cuba because I wanted to study in a place where I would usually be unable to visit, and because I wanted to get first-hand experience of a communist country. 

What was your living situation like? 
The living situation in Cuba is a bit different than the other programs because the only way that Cubans can have foreigners stay in their homes is by renting rooms to them. My living situation was wonderful because the home where I stayed was owned by an elderly couple who treated my roommates and I like their children. I was lucky enough to live in a home where there were two rooms, and four of us could stay there. We were served breakfast daily for a minimal price, we ate lunch at school, and we ate out for dinner. Hot water was a luxury that was mostly unavailable in our home, but you just learned to make do.

Highlights/challenges of the program   
 A challenge with the program was getting used to the organization of the classroom. I am used to having discussions in the classroom rather than simply being lectured. Our professors mostly lectured and did not leave much room for discussion. Because of the lack of resources in Cuba, things were not always available; you might have the money, but you don't always have access to the things you want. A highlight of the program was the overall opportunity to live in Havana and experience the day-to-day life of a Cuban. I can now say that I know what the life of a typical Cuban is, and I can also navigate my way in Cuba if I ever returned. 

Advice you wish you had been given before going on your program 

 Cuba runs on its own time and there were times I needed to be reminded of that. People in Cuba just adapt to the situations, and that is a concept I had to learn, particularly when I went to a restaurant and the food I ordered was no longer available. There were many instances like this, and I think that anybody traveling to Cuba definitely needs to know that things run differently in Cuba. 

Additional comments?   
 I truly had an amazing experience in Cuba and I wish to return some day.

If you have any questions about the Cuba program, you can ask past participants at the Ask An Alum Moodle page by clicking this link.

Scotland: Glasgow

The University Tower from the Kelvingrove Park
Libby McIntosh '12

What is your major? 
I was a Political Science Major and I participated in the Scotland General Culture Program.  

 Why did you decide to study abroad?
 I decided to study abroad for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to experience what life was like in a foreign university and be able to really immerse myself in another culture for a long period of time. Second, I was interested in studying British Politics and in particular the new Scottish government. And finally, I wanted to participate in one of the group programs so that I would have a support group of other LC students during my time abroad. 

 Why did you choose Scotland?
I chose the Scotland program because it was one of the programs that had one location for the whole semester (with the exception of the fabulous Highlands excursion) and would give me the opportunity to really get to know the city I was living in and the surrounding area. Second, this program is great because it is not geared toward any specific major. I took two classes with the LC group and then got to pick two classes from the University at large. Because I was interested in more specific Scottish Government classes I chose to apply to take upper division classes in politics. Other people in my group really branched out taking everything from Introduction Celtic Civilization (essentially ancient British History) to art classes to Scottish Literature. The great thing about this program is that you can choose practically any class that interests you at the University. I also chose the Glasgow program because it would provide the opportunity to take weekend trips around the rest of the UK and to the rest of Europe with ease. Most classes only meet once or twice a week and many people are able to make their schedules so they didn’t have class on a Friday or a Monday and thus were able to travel without missing classes.

What was your living situation like?
We lived in Postgraduate housing—essentially five person apartments where each person had their own bedroom/small bathroom and we shared a kitchen area. The location was pretty ideal, we were a couple of blocks away from the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Park, 15 minutes from campus and a short walk or subway/bus ride to the city centre, bus or train station. You don’t necessarily live with other LC students so it gives you the opportunity to meet mostly other international students as most Scottish students live at home or commute. As for eating--you are given a stipend to purchase food; you either have to cook or eat out (or a combination of the two). There is a Tesco grocery store close to the flats and Glasgow is famous for its Indian food and other cuisine that is all within walking distance, so you won’t go hungry. 
Edinburgh in the snow.
Highlights/challenges of the program 
There are so many highlights it is hard to pick just a few! But, the trip to the Highlands before classes started was hands down the best part of the program. Eddie, the guide tells amazing stories and you have the opportunity to delve into the Highlands past—mythical and historical—by visiting castles, museums, and hiking around the Highlands. Our group also attended a lot of Scottish plays and I would highly recommend getting out to see some theatre, especially a Pantomime at Christmas time—a truly British tradition that is not to be missed.
One of the challenges was managing money and keeping myself on track with school while enjoying what Glasgow has to offer. There is so much to see and do and classes are structured different than at LC. If you take lower division courses they will be larger and usually have discussion sections with graduate students. If you take the upper division courses they are usually smaller seminars. However, for most of the classes (at least the ones those in my group took) there are usually only one or two assignments for the whole semester making time management a little bit more difficult. If you keep yourself on top of those big assignments there isn’t too much to worry about. 

Advice you wish you had been given before going on your program 
My biggest piece of advice to future participants is to bring waterproof pants and boots to the Highlands! It rained every day we were there and no one had waterproof clothing (except for jackets) and it was very wet and your clothes don’t dry very fast. Also remember that Glasgow is a big international city and has lots of shopping so don’t worry too much about not bringing everything you might need because you can always pick things up in the city centre. It is a good idea to look up and get directions to the grocery store/ university/underground station before you arrive because setting up the internet was a little tricky so it is easier to already have that info for when you first arrive. Okay, one last bit of advice concerning travel while you are here. Easyjet and Ryanair are the two most popular low cost air carriers. But be warned, Ryanair is notorious for being difficult to deal with if you have problems and they charge for absolutely everything. Easyjet is maybe a little more expensive (but still cheap, I got round-trip airfare from Glasgow to Gatwick for 40£ about the same as the train, and faster) but has much better customer service and usually more options for flight times and flies into the more urban airports. Just be very aware of the airlines' restrictions before you book a plane ticket so you aren’t annoyed when you get to the airport! 

Additional comments?   
I had a really wonderful time in Glasgow and was able to learn a lot from my classes as well as have time to travel the UK and explore Glasgow. Don’t be afraid to sign up for upper division seminars. They are often only one day a week and offer smaller class sizes like we are used to at LC. Also, don’t be afraid to head to some off-the-beaten-track places. I had as many memorable moments and experiences in small towns like Perth and Carlisle as I did in London and Edinburgh. 

If you have any questions for Libby, you can find her on the Ask An Alum Moodle page by clicking this link.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

China: Chengdu

 Clare Eisenberg '13

What is your major? 
 Sociology & Anthropology with a minor in Chinese.

Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet
Why did you decide to study abroad?  
I wanted to supplement my SOAN studies by taking classes about Chinese society and culture while also studying Chinese language for my minor.  I also wanted to have the experience of living in a foreign country--before coming to college I had the opportunity to travel a lot, but I had never been overseas longer than a week or two, so I wanted to see what it was like to be in a foreign country and not be a tourist.

Why did you choose China: Chengdu?  
I chose Chengdu because I wanted to do a general culture program rather than language intensive and I was interested in the academic focus.  The Chengdu program focuses on the conditions in Western China, particularly the experiences of ethnic minority groups.  We had the opportunity to travel to Tibet and had a class about Sino-Tibetan relations, which was really eye opening.  Finally, Chengdu is in China's Sichuan province, a region noted for having the best food in all of China!  

The foreign students' dorm at Sichuan Univeristy.
What was your living situation like?  
I lived in Sichuan University's foreign students dorm with an American roommate from Pacific Lutheran University (the host school for the program).  The dorms were pretty nice--all had private western-style bathrooms and some even had separate living rooms and bedrooms.  They are definitely a step down from LC's dorms, but as soon as you see what Chinese undergraduate dorms look like, the foreign students' dorm looks amazing.   There are also shared kitchens on every floor, a rec room/ping pong room, and a rooftop with a really nice view. 

Highlights/challenges of the program 
Because you will live in a foreign students' dorm and take classes with other foreign students, it can be difficult to meet Chinese people if you don't make an effort.  This has pros and cons--it was really cool to meet people from all over the world, but on the other hand, we didn't get to practice Chinese as much as if we had been living with Chinese students.  The program did a good job of matching us up with Chinese students to show us around, though, so this wasn't a huge deal.  We also went to the school's English Corner (a weekly meeting for people to practice English) and met Chinese friends there.  It was really cool to see how our Chinese skills improved over the semester--toward the end, I would notice all the times I knew how to say things that I had no idea how to say earlier in the semester.  Also, learning how to get around and fit into Chinese culture was incredibly rewarding.  Chengdu has a really great expat community, so if you are looking to go back to China and find a job after graduating you can do some good networking.   
The Forbidden City in Beijing

Advice you wish you had been given before going on your program
 Bring clothes that are a little too small for you--there are no dryers and Chinese washing machines are really intense, so your clothes will stretch out a lot over the semester.  Speak Chinese with your American friends.  The best way to learn a language is to practice all the time, and if you agree to speak only Chinese on certain days of the week you will improve much faster.  Last--don't be picky about food.  Chances are, strange-sounding things will be delicious.  You probably will eat some gross things, but then you can brag about it later (my grossest have been a chicken gizzard and a still-alive bee larva).  

Additional comments?  
The Chengdu program is awesome--I highly recommend it! 

If you have any questions for Clare, you can find her on the Ask An Alum Moodle page by clicking this link. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

London, England

Group trip to Stonehenge.
Leah Wyllie '12

What is your major?   

Why did you decide to study abroad?  I love to travel and knew it would be an amazing opportunity to get to know another country as a resident (even if only temporary) rather than simply a tourist.

Why did you choose London?  I have always wanted to go to London and I happened to be lucky enough to find that the program associated with my major was the London program!

 What was your living situation like?  The year I went, only 11 other students from Lewis and Clark were there as well.  All of us lived on the same floor along with a few other people.  Most people had a bathroom in their room, but mine was just outside my room and was shared with the two girls next door (5 girls in one bathroom!  It wasn't as difficult as it sounds).  I had two roommates (both from LC), and our room was MUCH bigger than the others.  We had a beautiful view of the street below.  There is a kitchen on every floor and laundry machines in the basement and on the top floor.  If you don't live in Metrogate House, you will have to walk your laundry over, as this is the only site with laundry machines.  The building where you study is about a 10 minute walk and is just across the street from the nearest tube station (Gloucester Road).  There are two Starbucks between "Home" and "School."

Highlights/challenges of the program.  I really felt like I had a life there.  We got to know the regulars at the pub across the street from Metrogate House.  During my internship, I built up a strong group of British friends.  I returned for a visit a few months ago and I had people to stay with and to hang out with!  My friends consider me their "Adopted Brit."  I also developed a bit of an accent, which was pretty strange and cool.  The biggest challenge was definitely the preparation.  My group had to do a lot of reading before the trip - so much so that I wish I had taken one less class that semester.  This will depend, however, on which professor is going over with you.  Also, get started applying for your visa ASAP. 

If you have questions for Leah, you can find her on the Ask An Alum Moodle page by clicking this link. 

Valparaíso, Chile

Valparaíso, Chile
Rachel Wolf '12

What is your major?
 International Affairs and Hispanic Studies
Why did you decide to study abroad? 
 I have always been fascinated by Latin America, and there is no better way to become fluent than live abroad. 

Why did you choose Valparaíso, Chile? 
 I wanted a language-intensive program where I wouldn't be with all LC students and professors, just in another country. I wanted to be independent and have the freedom to take any classes I wanted. Valparaíso is also much smaller than Santiago, and on the ocean - two deciding factors for me.

What was your living situation like? 
 I lived with the most amazing host family in a house in Valparaíso.

Mil Tambores Festival, Playa Ancha
Highlights/challenges of the program. 
 Sometimes it felt like I would never understand Chileans, but after a few months it all just clicked. I had complete freedom to travel as I chose, and the travel we did with the CIEE program was great as well. All of the CIEE classes were fascinating, and the staff were incredibly helpful with everything from living to traveling to food to classes to finding volunteer opportunities. The semester was so much more than I could ever have hoped, largely because of the incredible support given by the CIEE staff and the freedom and independence we were given during our study abroad. Joining the university swim team was an incredible experience as well.

Advice you wish you had been given before going on your program. 
 I was told that Chile is somewhat dangerous, and I agree to an extent. I am glad we were told to bring bags that zip closed and have a flap or a strap so you don't get robbed, because that was definitely an issue. Practically, for girls it is a good idea to bring a hair dryer and as many feminine products as you need for the semester. They aren't that easy to find, and are pretty expensive. I wish I had been told that peanut butter is not a thing in Chile, nor are chocolate chips. I would have brought a huge jar of peanut butter and a huge bag of chocolate chips.

Additional comments? 
San Alfonso del Mar, Algorrobo, Chile The largest pool in the world
 It is hard to make Chilean friends in class because all of them have been in the same courses together for years, and the exchange students are mostly ignored. Although it is hard, it is essential to put yourself out there and walk up to people and make friends. Chileans are friendly and interested in Americans, but you have to make the first move.
Travel as much as you possibly can. Chile is an incredible country with every possible climate, so take advantage of it while you are there. 

If you have questions for Rachel, you can find her on the Ask An Alum Moodle page by clicking this link.