I Can’t Believe This Is Happening

Blog by Philip Palios, Culture Literature and the Arts, JSIS: Greece in Relation to Europe and the Balkans: Travelers, Migrants, and Tourists

My grandfather arrived in Seattle while working as a chef on an oil tanker in 1953.  He was far from his home on the Greek island of Chios, but decided to jump ship and start a new life in America.  When my father tells me this story, he reminds me that “immigration was different back then.”  Throughout my life, I have learned about my Greek heritage and formed a strong appreciation and curiosity about the country and its culture.  I have wanted to visit Greece for many years, but have never had the opportunity. So, when I was browsing study abroad listings, the Jackson School of International Studies (JSIS) spring break program in Greece struck my interest.

Dr. Taso Lagos has been leading study abroad trips to Greece for the past twelve years.  The theme of the program has changed over time, but always focuses on particular social issues.  Last summer, the focus was on discrimination against the Roma people living in Greece.  In addition to being the most discriminated against people in the country, the Roma face similar discrimination throughout the world.  The summer program worked with the Greek government and the Roma people to better understand the conflict and possibilities for reconciliation.  This theme will continue to be explored through hands-on learning during the spring break program and was a key reason for my choice to apply.

Discrimination and violence against ‘the other’ has existed throughout history and my education thus far has helped me learn about the many forms in which it has occurred.  Lately, my interests have evolved to focus on the cultural history of conflict and specifically the artistic ways in which the oppressed respond to their circumstances and fight for justice.  It is through this lens that I intend to learn more about the Roma.

I am delighted to be participating in the JSIS spring break program in Greece and to receive the UW Bothell Study Abroad Scholarship.  As a UW Bothell Study Abroad Ambassador, I will be writing blog posts leading up to, during and following my trip to Greece.  My posts will discuss what I learn about the conflict in Greece, my experience amidst Greek culture, the natural and built environment, as well as the practicalities of my journey.  I will also be sharing lots of photos and videos.

In preparation for the program, I am taking a course on “Greece Today” taught by Dr. Nektaria Klapaki (who will also be co-leading the spring break trip with Dr. Lagos).  As my March 13th departure approaches, I will be sharing what I learn in this course as it relates to the study abroad program as well as my experience preparing for the trip.  Stay tuned!

Pre-Departure

Blog by Alvin Duong, Biology, CIEE Open Campus in Paris, France

As I sit here waiting for my first flight to Dallas and eventually Paris, I wanted to recollect all the madness that’s happened in the past several months. As soon as I found out I was able to afford study abroad, I jumped straight on that boat and signed up for all the meetings I can with my study abroad advisors. Many meetings and discussions went by. We talked about a lot of scholarships, places to study abroad, and the different programs that UW is and isn’t affiliated with. Hours upon hours of going in to talk to Natalia and Cecilee and applying to so many different scholarships has led me to this; being a writer for Voices from Around the World at a terminal in SeaTac.

 

I chose Paris as my location because of many reasons. It has a connection to my Vietnamese heritage. I’ve always wanted to go to Europe since I can remember and experience the rich culture it has to offer. My liking for romantic comedies has also led me to going to Paris. At first I didn’t want to go because of all the responsibilities that will be upon me and the people I’ll dearly miss, but it will be a life-changing experience and it will help me grow to become more independent. Even before leaving my house I learned that I should check my pant pockets before putting it in the washer.

 

While abroad I plan on FaceTiming and Skyping my friends and family, communicating to them through text and a voice app I use often called Discord. I was very sad that I couldn’t see my mom before I left because she had a wedding to attend down in California, but I had the company and support of my older brother on the way to SeaTac.

 

I would describe the U.S. and Americans to be a large community full of different cultures. Some of us are adventurous folks and some of us are those who like to dwell in the back line. But no matter where we are in the U.S., we are always a friend, we are class mates, we are neighbors, but most importantly, we are always family.

 

Some of my worries while abroad is not being able to see my friends or family in a long amount of time. The longest I’ve been away from them was a month while I was in Boston, but I stayed at a family’s house for most of the time I spent there. I’m sure my mother is worried because she’s been calling me every day to check in on how I’m doing before I leave, but she’s a soldier and she doesn’t like to show her negative emotions to me.

 

I did my packing the day before my flight and I’d say it was successful! I checked in 1 bag, have a carry-on, and my backpack with me. At first I thought I was okay with luggage space and thought I would have a lot of room leftover, but as my laundry started to finish up, and I was putting more and more ”
essential” clothes in, I saw the rise of clothes and decline of free space in my luggage. It’s always better to overpack than under pack, but going abroad to a place I’ve never been before, I plan on buying gifts and souvenirs.

 

This whole process has been very hectic and I’ve been all over the place, but I believe this trip and experience will be all worth the trouble!

 

Au Revoir!

Food is so Cheap in Oaxaca!

I simply cannot believe how incredibly affordable everything is in Oaxaca! I live with a host family, which means I don’t have access to the fridge/kitchen whenever I want… or at all. I don’t mind though because street food is very inexpensive and unbelievably good. My roommates and I constantly ate the best hamburgers that we have ever tasted and it cost us $30 pesos, which is only about $1.50 dollars. These burgers had cheese, bacon, ham, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, habanero sauce and a big juicy patty in between two buns. A burger like that would easily cost $15 dollars in Washington and it STILL would not be that good. Believe it or not, the burger was the most expensive street food that we ate. We had tortas, tacos, tlayudas and all sorts of foods for less than a dollar per meal. I really think that the food here will ruin eating out in Washington simply because the food from restaurants in Washington does not compare to the food from here. This is much better and much cheaper! Why doesn’t everyone study abroad here instead of Europe?!

 

First Impressions of Oaxaca

Ciudad de Juarez, which is the city where we were staying in Oaxaca is the capital of the state and, to no surprise, it was an overpopulated city with loud cars driving by the streets during the day and people sleeping on the sidewalks at night. The city itself wasn’t too pretty at first glance but once I started paying attention I thought it was the coolest place I have ever been to. There are street art (graffiti) murals throughout the city, which to many represent the town’s call of action against a corrupt government. In addition to the murals, there were several of protests against educative reforms, streets being barricaded and even teachers occupying the center of the city by setting up sleeping tents and living at one of the city’s main tourist attractions. Overall, the city was colorful but filled with poverty and ongoing social justice issues.

 

Study Abroad Round #2: Struggles of Choosing a Program

Blog by Oscar Ponce, Business Administration, “Dance as Social Technology”: Dance, Healing, and Community in Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico

During my first study abroad program I did the typical thing of visiting a very popular city in an overpriced country in Europe – which was Rome and it was really fun! The challenge that came along with my second study abroad experience was finding a program that fulfilled my graduation requirements but at the same time choosing a country that didn’t have such a high cost of living, since I quit my job in order to travel abroad and I knew that I could not afford to spend 10 – 20 euros for every meal I had. I decided to look into the faculty-led programs at UW Bothell and found a dance program that took place in Oaxaca, Mexico. I applied, got accepted and bought my ticket all within a month. I am ready to go abroad!

 

Traveling to Japan

Blog by Martha Coronel, Bio-Chemistry, Sustainable Energy in Japan

Hello,

It seems rather unbelievable that I will be traveling to Japan. I am rather excited and terrified at the same time. I always had a fascination with Japanese culture specially the anime aspect of it. So in that regard I am thrilled, but this will actually be my first time across the globe! I have been out of the country but never had the experiment of being on an airplane for more than 3 hours. Well, let us just say 8 hours on a plane seems like a terrible idea. Plus, I won’t be with my family, so technically I will be all alone and its rather scary. Of course I will be accompanied by a bunch of strangers, who are particularly friendly. Yet it will be hard to get used to the idea of living with them. But one thing I am happy about is the fact that I was able to go with these complete strangers, who in reality have the same feelings and worries as me. It was a good idea to get out of my comfort zone and actually decided to begin talking to them because I was able to be part of extra trips and getting the opportunity to travel together and not travel alone, which I am extremely grateful. As for my expectations I really do not know what to expect but one thing is certain I will try in every possible way to make this the best Study Abroad!

Martha Coronel

Preparing to Return Home

The last four weeks have helped me learn a big lesson; a lesson I didn’t realize I was getting. I couldn’t pin point it until after a few of our group discussions and then it became more clear and it is cultural competency. In our small groups, we were able to share our frustrations with the language barrier we were having as most of us did not speak the local language (Italian). One student compared our lack of cultural competency with the Italian culture with how immigrants and refugees must feel when they go deal with the culture of their host country without knowing the Italian language. It made me realize how frustrating it must be for them to deal with officials about their papers and/or if they needed help on health services, etc., without knowing any Italian.

On another note, all of us on this program were expected to do some ethnography work for our video project and yes, we had translators with us and everything, but it still wasn’t easy. The language barrier is not just about loosing a few words here and there. No, it has been about loosing crucial information needed for our supposedly “authentic” research. That lost information is sometimes done unintentionally while other times it gets me thinking if it was done on purpose. Why do our translators give us the sweeter and milder version of the truth? It’s a bit upsetting. We are not getting accurate information. This has happened very obviously during our meeting with the Mayor of Castelsardo town when we asked him if he knows anything about the Roma population living in his town. He said “there are no Romas living here. I know everyone in this town” thankfully Vicente (a famous Roma activist, who was visiting us that day) asked the mayor “how do you know there are no Romas here?” he was implying that the mayor was using skin color and certain ideas of how Romas look like for making that judgement call. Vicente can pass as a white man, his skin is as white as a white person’s but he is a Roma man. And Roma people usually have a darker complexion but some are light skinned. Vicente later told us that the mayor was being racist in labeling Romas as dark people. Even though the progressive Italians, like this mayor have good intentions and want to help immigrants integrate into the society, unbeknownst to him and the others, they perpetuate the same racism and power structures that they are trying to demolish.

As I’m slowly packing my things and preparing to go home, I’m going to miss the island. One moment I was swept off my feet with its beauty and charm. The next moment I would look at it and feel sad, sad about the many lives that tried to reach its shores, but they couldn’t make it. Overall, I really enjoyed my stay here and I’m leaving with a lot of lessons and memories made. Thank you Italy for your warm welcome and hospitality. Grazie mille! (Thanks a lot).

 

 

 

 

 

While Abroad

 

It’s been one week since I’ve been in Alghero, Sardinia.  I’ve learned so much already, from trying new foods, experimenting with preparing food for yourself, doing new activities with other, living with house mates.

This week we learned about Roma population (informally known as Gypsies), Bangladeshi and Cameroonian refugees which was an eye-opening experience. To be honest, hearing their tragic stories about why they fled their country was unsettling for me. I was surprised by how I felt about it because my own parents have been through forced migration from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan so I should be familiar with how that experience is like. But Later that day, I realized that the reason I could not relate to these refugees is probably because my parents never really shared details or their feelings about their migration. Meeting the refugees has motivated me to try and approach my parents and see if they’d be willing to share their experience with migrating.

Since we are abroad and we don’t have our personal cars and we are not so confident in using public transportation, we walked. A lot. Our school was 20 minutes of walking from our apartments. We walked there and back every day which isn’t that bad but it gets tiring. I cannot remember the last time I’ve walked so much on a daily basis because We don’t walk much in the US. In Uzbekistan, I waked a lot but I was just a kid back then, it’s different now.

Since we, my study abroad group, is studying about refugees right now, I can’t imagine how much walking refugees must have done and how tired they must be because of carrying either their bags or their children. They would be walking from the loading docks to the refugee camps, or to the border. I had water on me when I went walking but these refugees probably didn’t, or had very little of it. I had bandages… for my blisters, I bet they didn’t. If one person’s feet are wounded without protection, since there are many of them, the infection can multiply and increase. I’m grateful for all the volunteers who stand to welcome the refugees because they not only hand out food and water, but they give medical supplies too. Those volunteers are the true heroes in this crisis.

 

Pre-Departure

Blog by Feruza Ghias, Community Psychology, and Society, Ethics and Human Behavior, CHID Sardinia: Island Migrations, Health, and Social Justice

I chose this program because it aligned well with my double major in Community Psychology and Society, Ethics and Human Behavior. Through these two majors I have learned a lot about sociology, psychology and a bit about cultures from around the world – all of which interest me a lot. This program will be focusing on the following topics: social justice, health and migrations. Through this program we will be working on one big class project which is creating a video about Multicultural Societies. We will be working with migrants that have arrived in Sardinia, interviewing locals and other key individuals involved with migrants. We will ask them what they know about the recent mass migration happening in Europe and what their opinion is on the influx of immigrants on their island. Additionally, we will study about how migrants’ health is affected by their immigration situation. The location of the program- Italy, mattered, because many immigrants and refugees that travel to Europe, first must go through Italy in order to get to their desired destination. Some of them don’t make it out of Italy for various reasons and so that would be another thing we would look at – what happens to those immigrants and what their prospect future looks.

Since this will be my second time studying abroad, there still are many things I could learn from this experience. For instance, this time I will be living with room mates, which I have never done. I tend to be a neat and organized person, but I am concerned if my room mates are going to be the messy-type and how will I deal with that. Academically and Professionally, I want to work first hand with migrants and refugees. I hope to learn about their life in their country and why they fled their country and what their hopes are for their future. Since I am not 100% sure of what I want for my profession, I hope that this experience will shine some light on certain topics that interest me and I hope that can help me in narrowing down my academic interests and my intended focus of what I want to do in my profession.

I have never been to Europe but always wanted to visit some day. I can’t wait to make new memories!

 

-Feruza

Missing the Little Things, Makes Me Appreciate them More.

I am thankful to be staying in a pace that has a bed. I know that most of the things that I complain about are things that most people around the world do not have. I have a lower back problem and the beds at Eucalipti have made it worse. I cannot not complain that people would fight over a bed and some do not have a home that has a bed. You bring comfort and safety to most people. Our accessibly to beds in America is mind blowing. I have seen so many mattered shops across my town. I wonder if there are or is a charity where they donate beds to people across the world? Most third world countries work in agricultural or manual labor jobs and that can take a toll on their bodies from long term effects. Studying the migrate farm worker population in Washington State, most of them live in poor housing conditions with no or one bed which they have to share with their families.

When I complain about something as little as to having a bed that makes my back hurt, I feel awful about. I am so privilege to have these item and have access to them verses someone else who have to sleep on the floor or give up their bed so their wife children can sleep comfortably. We have access to a lot of things many people to do not and when we complain we keep forgetting about the people who are living without these things. I definitely forget sometimes and then I think about and realize what I complaining about. I hope this changes for me and I can be more appreciative about the things I do have in my life. Which I am don’t get me wrong, I have worked and paid for everything that I have. With my mother having cancer, she has medical bills to pay for and by helping her out I pay for my own things and help her out whenever I can. I want to not take life for granted and work my hardest at everything I do. I plan on volunteering in Seattle somewhere to give back to the community. I have a passion and interest in working with communities and I would like to have everyone have the same access to resources as do I, but at a more affordable price or free. Thank you bed for giving me and others a place to sleep.