A Weekend in Barcelona

The week­end of Jan­u­ary 30– Feb­ru­ary 1st was an amaz­ing week­end spent in Barcelona, Spain with two awe­some girls! We spent almost 3 hours after our last class Fri­day after­noon on a train from Mont­pel­lier, France to get to Barcelona, with some beau­ti­ful scenery to keep us busy. Once we arrived in Barcelona we looked for our AirBnB apart­ment that we rented from the sweet­est lit­tle Span­ish man. It was much harder than we orig­i­nally thought see­ing as none of us spoke very good span­ish, more like no span­ish.  Our apart­ment was per­fect and cozy just like we had hoped! On our way to our apart­ment we saw the Arco de Tri­umf which was absolutely gor­geous and full of the sub­tle beauty we rarely see in France. In France things are bright and col­or­ful and cov­ered in gold, this was not the case in Spain.

Arco de Triomf

Arco de Triomf

After this we made a deli­cious pasta din­ner and went to bed because we had a lot planned for the next day. We started the day off with a walk to La Ram­bla, which ended up only being about 15 min­utes from our apart­ment. After a lit­tle break­fast we walked down to the mar­ket, which was so full of peo­ple and so many dif­fer­ent types of stands it was incred­i­ble. We then walked down to the end of La Ram­bla where they have these amaz­ing tour buses that take you all over the city for only 27 euros, with only 10 min­utes in between buses. It was like the per­fect taxi!

Our first place we vis­ited was La Per­dr­era, one of Anto­nio Gaudi’s many beau­ti­ful archi­tec­tural works. It was amaz­ing and reminded me of some­thing out of Dr. Suess. This apart­ment build­ing was built in the early 1900s for a very wealthy fam­ily to live in and rent out the remain­ing floors.

Even the roof was given incred­i­ble detail to make sure every aspect would be like noth­ing ever seen before.

Le Perdrera

Le Per­dr­era

After this we went to Gaudi’s Park Guell and walked around the beau­ti­ful lands, even though they are still work­ing on fin­ish­ing some of his work. We then went home and changed into nice clothes for a nice evening out! We had a won­der­ful din­ner on the water­front before going to an ice bar and hav­ing a drink. We fin­ished the night off at a local club that had out­ra­geously expen­sive drinks!

The next morn­ing we were able to attend mass at a gor­geous Cata­lan church. None of us are catholic so we didn’t know much about what was going on, but it was still incred­i­ble to experience.

After this we headed to the train sta­tion and began our trip back to Mont­pel­lier. Barcelona was so amaz­ing and I def­i­nitely can’t wait to go again!

Getting to know France a little better!

I have now been liv­ing in Mont­pel­lier, France for three weeks and I think I’m start­ing to get things down now! Which feels won­der­ful I must say! Though I don’t think I will ever get used to play­ing chicken every day when walk­ing in the cross walk, try­ing not to get hit by the cars in the street who refuse to stop!!

Also the Euro is a lit­tle hard to get used to because I know have a huge pocket full of change because there are 1 and 2 euro coins. But they are really pretty :)

I didn’t know peanut but­ter was only an Amer­i­can thing, and after search­ing for a bit I was finally able to find some in the Amer­i­can sec­tion at the big super­mar­ket! Who would have thought peanut but­ter was such a commodity!IMG_1467


Another thing I wasn’t pre­pared for, that I think we might need to bring back to the U.S. is how scared lunch breaks and week­ends are here in France. Noth­ing is opened on Sun­days! And by noth­ing i mean NOTHING! No gro­cery stores, phar­ma­cies, malls, lit­er­ally noth­ing but maybe one or two restau­rants. Also most places here close for at least one hour dur­ing lunch, some­times even two! So don’t plan on going any­where between 12 and 2!


My First Week in Montpellier

10305325_10104188499779895_3077599117402858865_nThis week has been a really hard week but also a lot of fun! Let’s start by say­ing I miss my fam­ily ter­ri­bly and i prob­a­bly cried 6 or 7 times since I’ve been here and I have only been here for 6 days. Thank­fully I am finally get­ting to set­tle in, and the crois­sants def­i­nitely help!! I spent most of the first few days just get­ting the basic things I needed for my tiny dorm room. I needed hang­ers and gro­ceries as well as pots and pans. My room is extremely small but also cozy and thank­fully I have my own shower, which kind of looks like an air­plane bath­room that they just threw a shower into. I also was lucky to find two girls sim­i­lar to me, who aren’t big partiers and who are excited about trav­el­ing and learn­ing French. Mont­pel­lier is a gor­geous city with won­der­ful peo­ple and I am so glad I chose to do my study abroad expe­ri­ence here. The Tam in Mont­pel­lier is their tram sys­tem and is a huge help get­ting around. I love know­ing I have a way to get to wher­ever I want in this city. This week has been hard but I am look­ing for­ward to see­ing what else UPV has to offer. :)

Preparing for France:

Blog by Heidi Han­nah, Global Stud­ies Major, Exchange with Uni­ver­site Paul Valery

When I was 21 I chose to move to Nova Sco­tia by myself for two years. I thought this expe­ri­ence was the hard­est thing I would ever go through. I had to start over and make new friends and fig­ure out who I was, with­out any influ­ences. I learned so much about myself while in Nova Sco­tia which makes me even more excited for spend­ing 5 months in Mont­pel­lier, France. As time gets closer and closer to the day I leave, Jan­u­ary 15th, 2015, I find I’m get­ting more and more ner­vous. I know it is going to be extremely hard for me to leave my fiance for 5 months and start over mak­ing new friends in a new coun­try and a new lan­guage. With this in mind I am mak­ing sure my skype account is ready to go, but my focus is on soak­ing in every moment of this last week I can. This expe­ri­ence is some­thing I might never have the chance to do again and I want to make this count. I am really look­ing for­ward to watch­ing my french get bet­ter as the time goes as well.

The visa process was exhaust­ing and con­fus­ing, but now that that’s done all that is left is to pack!

Wish me luck :)



Tips for Traveling Abroad!

Blog by Vanessa Teeter,  Media and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Major, NW Cádiz Program


Hi All!

Here is some infor­ma­tion that I found very use­ful over the past month of prepar­ing for my study abroad adventures!

 Finan­cial Aid/Private Loan

Finan­cial Aid

I have not had much luck with finan­cial aid but I do know for a fact that it is great to con­tinue fill­ing out FAFSA. You never know what you could become eli­gi­ble for!

If receiv­ing any fed­eral fund­ing do fill out a Revi­sion Request form, which can be found online (www.uwb.edu) of the finan­cial aid office. This form will basi­cally be ask­ing for your funds to be revised due to the study abroad expenses. This could lead to a pos­si­ble increase in tuition

Pri­vate Loan

I have a stu­dent loan with BECU. Make sure to check in with them before study­ing abroad, espe­cially if you will be using the pri­vate loan to pay for tuition.

It was extremely help­ful for me to under­stand my MyUw account, web check and how to make a payment-using web check, and many other things.

 Pay­ment methods/Money

Pay­ment Methods

Speak­ing of money….

  • I am going to be in Spain for six months and will need to have access to money! My chase card’s ATM fees are 3% of the amount with­drawn plus $5, because of this I researched options that had no ATM fees or inter­na­tional fees.
  • What I found with my other class­mates was a Charles Swab account and card that can work as a debit and credit card. This was a bless­ing because they have no min­i­mum bal­ance, inter­est doesn’t start until after the first year, and if any fees are charged to the account Schwabs will reimburse!
  • Over­all it is a bet­ter deal even though I will be using the card for mak­ing ATM cash with­drawals about once a month.
  • If you are stay­ing a while and will need to with­drawal money, do not for­get to bud­get and plan out how much money you will be spending.


Exchang­ing Money

I will be using Euros while I am abroad and also will be stay­ing in Madrid for two days, before the pro­gram begins.

  • Chase will order Euros for you, free of charge! This will take about three busi­ness days and the exchange rate is about 1.3. What you do is pull the money you want to exchange from your chase account.
  • I have heard fer­vently not to exchange USD once I get to Europe because of sneaky fees! So stay pre­pared and think ahead!

Car­ry­ing Money while Traveling

  • Invest in a neck wal­let (TJ Maxx about $7) and/or a wait wal­let (looks like a flat fanny pack) these are amaz­ing to have your cash, insur­ance card, pass­port and cards.
  • They are easy to con­ceal under your clothes and eas­ily acces­si­ble to you! Not only will you be less likely to leave some­thing impor­tant behind but you are less likely to become a tar­get. I know most peo­ple think that there is no chance of hav­ing any­thing stolen but you never want it to hap­pen, so be prepared!
  • I do love my purses and back­packs but it is best to keep the most impor­tant things safe and on your per­son while trav­el­ing in unknown areas.


Pack­ing– It’s not always fun but here is how I planned it out


    1. Check air­line restricts, weight and size
    2. Check ryan air restric­tions (within Europe) / cheap flights that have restricted bag sizes
  1. 3–4 weeks before departure
    1. Set apart basics
      1. This gave me the time to buy any­thing that I really needed and wouldn’t have real­ized otherwise
      2. Being a noto­ri­ous over packer, this helped me to sort through nec­es­sary things to bring and leave behind
      3. Help­ful tip: Keep the weather in mind, where else will you travel to, will you be there for a sea­sonal change?

     1–2 weeks before departure

    1. Once you have all your basics, pack!
    2. See how every­thing fits, you might have to take some things out, or be able to add more.

     1 week before departure

    1. Dou­ble check! Make sure you have every­thing you need, that the suit­case you’re check­ing is not over the air­lines weight limit (this will save you some money)


 Con­tact­ing people


Your friends and loved ones at home will of course want to be hear­ing about all your adventures!

Here are some apps: (all use wifi or data)

  • Whats app
  • Line
  • Skype
  • Face­book
  • Don’t for­get: Apple prod­ucts have free iMes­sag­ing and Facetime


If stay­ing abroad for more than a month you may need a phone/plan


  1. Use your smartphone
    • Get it unlocked by con­tact­ing your ser­vice carrier
  2. Some car­ri­ers (I have heard T-mobile) offer good Inter­na­tional plans
    • Get a plan once you get to your destination
  1. For Spain I have heard of Movis­tar and Yoigo
  2. Option Rec­om­mended: Get a plan with unlim­ited data and cer­tain num­ber of call and texts


  1. Get a plan and cheap phone once you get there!
  • So far this is what I will be doing, bring­ing my iPhone 4 unlocked as backup
  • I have heard of great plans from com­pa­nies like movis­tar and Yoigo. Some only being 5Euros — 8Euros! A very good deal!
  • What I am doing is buy­ing the plan and using a phone left at the uni­ver­sity by pre­vi­ous student.
  • Great way to stay con­nected with peo­ple you meet


Back home Organization

When you get home you’ll want every­thing orga­nized and spot­less, leav­ing your only worry to be unpack­ing! Best thing that I dis was to clean up and orga­nize the areas where I am most because I know that when I get home, those are the first places that will get dirty.


Another help­ful tip is to leave a trusted per­son with a folder of impor­tant infor­ma­tion, pho­to­copies, etc. that way they can help you from home if any­thing comes up.

Last Tips

  • Travel in groups
    • Not only for safety but can help eachother out, and also there are also some travel group discounts!
      • Renfe train dis­count on tick­ets if sign up as a group!

Things to follow!

  • blablacar.com
    • Con­nects peo­ple who need to travel with dri­vers who have empty seats any­where in the UK
    • Also avail­able as an app for download!
  • Inter­na­tional Exchange Eras­mus Stu­dent Network
  • jetlagrooster.com
    • Helps cal­cu­late how much sleep you need in order to pre­vent being jet lagged
    • Also includes help­ful hints and tips!

For more post check out my per­sonal blog

Vanessa's Personal Blog

Vanessa’s Per­sonal Blog

The Cheesy Truth to Being Abroad!

“Trav­el­ing is like flirt­ing with life. It’s like say­ing, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go.”

With my time in Nor­way com­ing to a swift end  I’m real­iz­ing that every­thing any­one ever told me about study­ing abroad is com­pletely true. I want to ded­i­cate this post to try­ing to por­tray feel­ings that are almost impos­si­ble to get down on paper.

When I first got to Nor­way I was ter­ri­fied. The idea of plop­ping down in the mid­dle of a coun­try, let alone con­ti­nent that I have never been before was nerve rack­ing. How­ever, the energy from other stu­dents at my uni­ver­sity here was incred­i­ble. We all had this con­nec­tion to each other even though we had never even met yet. Meet­ing peo­ple was easy but find­ing the right peo­ple was a lit­tle harder. You know what I’m talk­ing about, the peo­ple that are sup­pose to make you cry say­ing good­bye, and laugh at every joke, or under­stand what it’s like to fig­ure out who you are. Its those who your fam­ily and friends talk about before you leave push­ing thoughts in your head that you’re going to find a group of peo­ple that you’ll never for­get and always plan to see. When you live in this sit­u­a­tion its almost hard to see that you’re becom­ing so close to peo­ple, yet when you look back it just seems like a slap in the face how obvi­ous it was.

Arriv­ing to Nor­way I felt like I had my life really sorted out. I knew what my major was, what my dream job was, who I was as a per­son, and even where I wanted to plant my roots. How­ever, you meet peo­ple that love to learn and love to travel and you sit down and explain what your major is and how it will help you get your job and then one sim­ple ques­tion makes you rethink every­thing. “why?” Then my life becomes spi­rals. How­ever, I’m not doing a very good job at describ­ing this moment because its not a down­ward spi­ral, or some sad real­iza­tion how my life is mean­ing­less, it gave me a time and place that allowed me to actu­ally ana­lyze what I’m doing with my life. It’s amaz­ing what a lit­tle time out from real­ity will do to you. I have decided that I am going to pur­sue a dou­ble major and I’m extremely happy with that deci­sion. Study­ing abroad allows you to be every aspect of your­self that you love with­out the wor­ries of every­day stress and respon­si­bil­ity. I have never been in a group of girls where I can be my com­plete raw self and have them respond with love and “ya, that’s just Kelsey!” It makes you ques­tion why your life back home isn’t this sweet and amaz­ing and lets you look into real­ity with a tele­scope and fig­ure out what you can do to make this hap­pi­ness stretch over seas.

The truth about study­ing abroad, even if it is a lit­tle cheesy, is that it takes who you are on a roller coaster ride and lets you ride through every low and high. The only way to put it into words is that study­ing abroad lets you explore a world that you may not have seen and lets you meet peo­ple from all over the world. Peo­ple that will for­ever be in your heart and only a plane ticket away. It lets you express your­self in a non stress envi­ron­ment in order to develop a way in life that makes you a bet­ter per­son. I know that from now on my pay­checks are going to plane tick­ets. The Kelsey that started this blog is now improved.

These inspi­ra­tional quotes have helped me put words to the feel­ings that are invoked dur­ing study­ing abroad and I hope they help oth­ers too :)


“Trav­el­ing– It leaves you speech­less then turns you into a storyteller”


*These inspi­ra­tional quotes were found online.

Learning Field Techniques — September 2nd and 3rd

Day Eight: Field Research Methods

This morn­ing started with yet another trip onto the lake. At 5:30AM, we took off to the other side of the lake to con­tinue our prac­tice with bird iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. We iden­ti­fied a red-capped car­di­nal, large-billed tern, hoatzin, blue and yel­low macaw, cor­morant, mus­covy ducks, jacana, and black-tailed hawk, which was par­tic­u­larly excit­ing (I love birds of prey).

When we returned to shore, it was time to switch groups. My group went with Ursula to check the mist nets for birds. We had caught one white-capped fly­catcher. Ursula showed us what to look for on the birds and how to take the data. This included leg diam­e­ter, fat con­tent, wing length, gen­der, and molt­ing. I was lucky enough to get to let the bird go. I took him in my right hand and could imme­di­ately feel the poor thing’s heart rac­ing. What must that be like for the bird? I was relieved to see it fly off unharmed.

Every­one came in around 11:30AM, so we all just waited for lunch. Once we had our fill of the deli­cious stuffed squash with rice, we got ready for our insect iden­ti­fi­ca­tion class. My group was able to bring back a shed cicada exoskele­ton, some ter­mites, a large ant (with a sev­ered drag­on­fly head in its jaws), a but­ter­fly, and a damsel fly. Dur­ing class, we learned how to exam­ine insects and how to deter­mine their order.

After the ento­mol­ogy class, we had our first group pre­sen­ta­tion. Before we left for the trip, we had all been assigned to groups to present in Peru on dif­fer­ent sub­jects sur­round­ing bio­di­ver­sity. This day was the Func­tions of Bio­di­ver­sity group. They held their discussion/activities out on the lawn. The pre­sen­ta­tion cov­ered fun­da­men­tal ecosys­tem func­tions and ser­vices, such as suc­ces­sion, pol­li­na­tion, dis­tur­bances and reac­tions, nutri­ent recy­cling, and top-down con­trol. The rest of the evening was spent talk­ing about our research projects. Over­all, this was a long, hard day. Just one of many. But so worth it.

Day Nine: Project Refinement

Today was pri­mar­ily spent refin­ing our research projects. Nick, Sara, and myself have decided to do a behav­ioral study on Hoatzins, a par­tic­u­larly awk­ward and hilar­i­ous bird. I com­pletely fell in love with these blun­der­ing fools when I first saw them bal­anc­ing poorly in the trees. I found them oddly beau­ti­ful, and com­i­cally evolved. I wanted to learn as much as I could about them, mostly because I thought they were mys­te­ri­ous. They look totally unique, and their behav­ior intrigued me. My group spent quite some time talk­ing with each other as well as a bird researcher there, who offered some excel­lent advice. We were told that we’d start our projects the next day with a two hour sur­vey of the lake, where we would plot all observed groups and count indi­vid­ual birds. Next steps would include defin­ing behav­iors and ran­domly select­ing groups to study.

At this point, I was really excited to start the project. I thought the Hoatzin was the most oddly fas­ci­nat­ing thing out on the lake, and they aren’t very heav­ily researched. I liked (and still do!) my group mem­bers, and I loved being out on the lake.

Laker that day, we had a pho­tog­ra­phy work­shop from Dano, who was there on a video assign­ment from the San Fran­cisco Zoo. We messed around with our cam­eras for a while and I was able to find some really neat set­ting on the cam­era I’d brought. I was able to get some great shots of but­ter­flies after that.

We also heard from Lisa, who was doing research on the giant river otters and the Orinoco Geese. I thought it was par­tic­u­larly inter­est­ing when she said that a goose trav­el­ing alone would take a straight shot route to Bolivia for the migra­tory sea­son, whereas geese with fam­i­lies will wind along the river.

It was another long, hard day. Not Not quite as phys­i­cally intense as other days, but it was bloody hot and every­one was exhausted. I think the con­stant sched­ule and rough sleep was catch­ing up with us. not to men­tion a lot of frus­tra­tion with the project pro­pos­als — I was so glad to hear that our was going to work out.

The science of Kosrae

Kos­rae, FSM is a dream loca­tion for field work in the nat­ural sci­ences.  It is hot, muggy, trop­i­cal, beau­ti­ful, and there are not a lot of things liv­ing on the land that can kill you (I don’t think that I can say the same for the water, though).  With the pop­u­la­tion remain­ing small over the past sev­eral thou­sand years, the islands ecosys­tems are rich and pristine.


While there, I got to par­tic­i­pate in sev­eral eco­log­i­cal sur­veys, my favorite of which being the coral reef sur­veys.  We got the oppor­tu­nity to hold our class­room out in the water near a place called the ‘blue hole’, where we snorkeled around with clip-boards tak­ing notes on coral iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.  It was fairly dif­fi­cult not to get dis­tracted by all of the fish and the occa­sional sting ray, but I learned tons nonetheless.


We also got to learn about man­grove ecosys­tems, which involved hik­ing through mud (at some points waist deep) from inland to the coast.  The trees were gor­geous as many were very old, and their impor­tance to the islander’s tra­di­tional and cur­rent way of life were never understated.

10624726_10204751872384959_5206407852753686998_n                 10703769_10203099965164989_8211571307748606210_n


In our offi­cial ‘off time’ we got the chance to explore the island a lit­tle bit more.  I was excited to get to scuba dive on three occa­sions, and I even got to call (friendly) sharks to me on my last day there while snor­kel­ing.  I got to enjoy kayak­ing up one of the island’s rivers while watch­ing the giant fruit bats (fly­ing foxes) swoop around at dusk.  The island was so dark at night, some­thing I am not used to any­more, that I even got to see some stars (but watch out for the crabs after sun­fall!). Over­all, this lit­tle island inspired me both to con­tinue to pur­sue my cho­sen career path and to keep find­ing ways to explore the world and to meet unfor­get­table peo­ple along the way.

Norwegian Study Permit Key Steps

*Dis­clo­sure: The infor­ma­tion regard­ing obtain­ing a study per­mit for study­ing in Nor­way can vary from uni­ver­sity to uni­ver­sity in Nor­way. It will vary from where the appli­cant was born and the appli­cant should look up fur­ther guide­lines for the per­mit. I am no way an expert on the mat­ter and this is likely to change from coun­try to country.

I am writ­ing this blog entry today to put together a chart on the best way to go about obtain­ing a study per­mit for study­ing in Nor­way for more then a three month period. I will be going over key advice and bul­let points of impor­tant infor­ma­tion you may not find on the offi­cial web­sites. My expe­ri­ence with obtain­ing a study per­mit for study­ing at the Uni­ver­sity of Bergen was a messy one. It took me many months to put together cor­rect infor­ma­tion, and many wrong turns. Study­ing abroad is such hard work due to the amount of things you need to com­plete by cer­tain deadlines.

Step One: 

  • Cre­ate a check­list of nec­es­sary steps in order of the dead­line they need to be com­pleted by. This will come in handy not only for the study per­mit but all of the require­ments for study­ing abroad. 

Step Two:

  • Know the dif­fer­ence between a study per­mit and a visa (I didn’t!)
  • More infor­ma­tion on the dif­fer­ence is located on the UDI website.

If you are from the USA you do not need a visa to visit and go to school in Norway


Step Three:

  • Know your embassy. There are four Nor­we­gian Embassy’s and Con­sulates located in the US. Each one is assigned a group of states. If you are liv­ing in Wash­ing­ton state you are assigned the The Con­sulate Gen­eral in San Francisco. 

575 Mar­ket Street, Suite 3950
San Fran­cisco, CA 94105 USA
Phone: (415) 882‑2000.
Fax: (415) 882‑2001.
E-mail: cgsfo@mfa.no

Gen­eral Office Hours:
Mon­day – Fri­day: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The pass­port office is open from 1 p.m. – 3.30 p.m. all week­days.
We are closed between 12 noon and 1 p.m.

Side Note:

Online it states that you must be present in per­son in order to obtain your study per­mit. As of today, this is false. When I went through this process I had done all of the research and looked on all of the offi­cial web­sites only to fly down to Cal­i­for­nia and find out that I did not need to phys­i­cally hand in my paper­work. It was one of the most won­der­ful trips with a cou­ple of my aunts, but one that was com­pletely unnec­es­sary and caught me com­pletely off guard. Every­one I had spo­ken to had gone to San Fran­cisco to hand in paper work, and when I got there the woman work­ing was shocked! The impor­tant infor­ma­tion that I got from her was this:

  1. After you apply email the con­sulate and let them know that you will be send­ing your infor­ma­tion to them as well as ask any impor­tant ques­tions you may have. Always dou­ble check to make sure the flight to Cal­i­for­nia is required. 
  2. Make sure you have all of your impor­tant doc­u­ments (I will be putting up a list)
  3. Do not buy your plane ticket to Nor­way until you have got­ten some sort of response.

Step four:

    • Apply!


Step five:

  • Know how much every­thing costs and make sure you have a bud­get planned. The price for apply­ing for a study per­mit is 2,500 NOK. (roughly 415 USD)

Step Six:

  • Go to your local police sta­tion upon arriv­ing in Nor­way and obtain a res­i­dent card for non EU/EEA/EFTA
  • In order to obtain your res­i­dence card you will need to make an appoint­ment which requires you to go into the sta­tion for most places.

Items to bring with you: impor­tant doc­u­ments (accep­tance let­ter, proof of finance, etc )pass­port, and cur­rent address in Norway!

*You are required to do this no later then 2 weeks after arrival. How­ever, if they give you an appoint­ment after this time do not freak! You’re aloud to be in another coun­try for three months with­out a permit.


Here is a screen­shot from the UDI web­site of the doc­u­ments that need to be sub­mit­ted when apply­ing for a study permit:


If you have any ques­tions or feel as though I need to elab­o­rate on any­thing feel free to comment. :)


Beautiful culture, breathtaking island: Kosrae, FSM


Before my trip to Kos­rae, Fed­er­ated States of Microne­sia, I would never have been able to com­pre­hend the beau­ti­ful expe­ri­ences that I would gain from meet­ing the peo­ple who live on the island.  As it is very small and remains rel­a­tively geo­graph­i­cally iso­lated in the equa­to­r­ial pacific, there is not a lot of tourism or traf­fic to and from the island from peo­ple other than the Kos­raens.  Because of this, our visit went hardly unno­ticed by the locals.

As we left the air­port for our first ride around the island, it seemed like every one of the island’s 6000 cit­i­zens was wav­ing to us from the road which spans a par­tial perime­ter of the island.   The kids would run after our truck, and every­one would should a greet­ing (which I would become very fond of) Lwen Wo (Good after­noon)!  I was ini­tially over­whelmed with the imme­di­ate enthu­si­asm of the islander’s on behalf of our visit, but I soon became very used to this as I real­ized that they are really just that friendly all the time.


As reli­gion is wide­spread among the islanders, it is very impor­tant that Sunday’s remain a day solely of rest, and no activ­i­ties are per­mit­ted which may cause a per­son ‘to sweat’.  We were warmly (no pun intended) wel­comed the day after our arrival to attend a large church on the south side of the island in the vil­lage of Utwe.  Group after group of men and women went to the front of the church to sing, with voices clear and melodic (they are very mod­est about their singing, but it is known that the islanders have a par­tic­u­lar tal­ent).  After the ser­vice there were snacks of fresh fruit such as green tan­ger­ines and bananas set up out­side for us, which was an ini­tial taste of the gen­eros­ity which we were to expe­ri­ence through­out our month there.

One of the goals of our class is to help pro­mote sus­tain­able prac­tices and edu­ca­tion about the man­grove forests on Kos­rae.  To do this, we planned a teacher work­shop where we could assist the teach­ers in devel­op­ing les­son ideas as well as pro­vid­ing addi­tional knowl­edge about why man­groves are impor­tant to the health of the island. Although I (sadly) missed the actual work­shop because I was sick, I got the oppor­tu­nity to teach a cou­ple of Kos­raen women the same mate­r­ial, and the exchange of infor­ma­tion that took place was very enlight­en­ing for all of us.


Through­out our sci­en­tific endeav­ors we began to become more acquainted with peo­ple who helped to guide us or work with us through our stud­ies.  One man in par­tic­u­lar, named Erik, is the head forester of the island and proved to be par­tic­u­larly spe­cial to every one of us stu­dents.  As we spent quite a bit of time vis­it­ing with him we got to know him and his fam­ily.  As we were prepar­ing to say good­bye on our last week he invited us to his house for a ‘party’.  As I arrived I saw four tables full of tra­di­tional Kos­raen food which he and his fam­ily had pre­pared for us.  He had hand caught lob­ster, reef fish, and man­grove crabs for us, as well as catch­ing a tuna for some fresh sashimi.  The amount of effort on their part to pro­vide us with this uniquely gen­er­ous expe­ri­ence was one that I will remem­ber forever.

I also got the oppor­tu­nity to meet a num­ber of peo­ple on the island through my 24 hour home­s­tay with a fam­ily in the vil­lage of Malem.  I was excited to learn that the father of my home­s­tay fam­ily was an envi­ron­men­tal sci­en­tist, and so it was very easy for us to become acquainted and build good con­ver­sa­tion.  How­ever, the major­ity of my time was spent with his chil­dren and their cousins, who were so excited to have us stay.  They showed us all of their favorite spots to play, as well as games that they enjoy and they even attempted to teach us how to speak Kos­raen (I now think it was so that they could gig­gle at our poor pro­nun­ci­a­tion).  They were absolutely adorable, and we were all sad to part ways.


Dur­ing our trip the islander’s cel­e­brated one of their biggest hol­i­days, Lib­er­a­tion Day.  They invited us to join in with their parades and games, and they sat us with their elders as guest of honor while we spec­tated.  Every­body was light­hearted and hav­ing so much fun, and it was pleas­ant to see such a large group of peo­ple inter­act­ing with each other in such a care­free (yet at times slightly mis­chie­vous) way.  As women and men par­tic­i­pated in games, there was some play­ful sab­o­tage (I am fairly sure I got hit in the back by a fly­ing flip-flop after I passed a laugh­ing Kos­raen woman in the race)… The sec­ond Lib­er­a­tion Day cer­e­mony was par­tic­u­larly spe­cial to us because we were joined by the Gov­er­nor of Kos­rae, who later made it a point to attend our final banquet.


This trip has taught me that some of the best expe­ri­ences that you have in life are the ones that you don’t antic­i­pate. I knew that I was going to ‘expe­ri­ence a new cul­ture’, but I had no idea how much it would warm my heart and how impor­tant and enrich­ing it would be for all of us collectively.

Kulo Malu­lap (thank you) for reading!

Link for more pictures: