Turning Dreams into Reality

April 16, 2018,  Blog by Mahleah Grant, Environmental studies- Conservation Science & Management, From Andes to Amazon Peru: Biodiversity, Conservation & Sustainability.

From the first time I learned about the study abroad program as a high school graduate in 2010, I have wildly dreamed about participating in such an amazing educational experience. As much as I yearned for an opportunity to study abroad, the idea seemed so far from reality for me. The financial obstacles between myself and studying abroad felt like the steepest, most treacherous mountain to climb. Though I constantly kept the idea in the back of my mind, it seemed like just that–an idea.

When I was first accepted into UWB, one of the first things I did was apply to an environmental study abroad program in Costa Rica for the early fall. I had no professors to write a letter of recommendation for me because I had not established any relationships with them yet–it was my first quarter. Excitedly I waited for the trip leaders to accept me into the program–it felt so right I was sure I would be accepted!! After a couple weeks went by, I randomly received an email that my study abroad application status had changed. My heart started beating and I happily logged into the study abroad website. Five beats went by as my computer slowly loaded..When my application appeared, I read it over and my heart sank. A staff member had withdrawn my application. I had received no letter as to why or any information. I was simply out. And that was that. I felt so discouraged and disheartened. Why was my application withdrawn? Would I ever have the chance to study abroad?

Truth be told, I could not afford to study abroad anyways. I just wanted it to happen so I went with it and thought that if I applied, money would magically appear and all would fall into place. Though I never found out exactly why I was withdrawn from the application pool for the environmental program in Costa Rica, my guess was that because I had taken no classes at UWB yet and had no letters of recommendation I was automatically removed from the selection pool.

Despite feelings of remorse and apathy, I knew that if I truly wanted the study abroad experience while in college, I would have to plan. And plan in advance. I have always been the type to do things on a whim or last moment. But I have come to learn over the years that planning is the key for success in making a big trip come together. Over the summer, I constantly checked the study abroad website and read up on upcoming programs. During one of my sustainability courses, the professor mentioned a program of interest to me, Biodiversity, conservation and sustainability in Peru with Dr. Valdez. As an environmental studies major, the sound of this program immediately sparked my interest and seemed intriguing. I knew that this program would provide me with an experience that I would never be able to recreate. When would I ever have the opportunity to visit the Amazon river or hear monkeys swinging through their native habitat? I knew that this was something I needed to experience; not only to benefit my education but to grow as an individual.

I kept this vision of myself backpacking through Peru, tired yet excitedly making my way through the tropical forests, feeling more alive than ever before. I never let this vision escape and when I began fall quarter, one of my classes happened to be taught by Dr. Ursula Valdez. On the first day of Ecology and the Environment, I waited for students to shuffle out then I made my move. I asked Dr. Valdez about the program she taught in Peru. She had just returned from her early fall excursion weeks before and excitedly told me about the program and the amazing opportunity it was. I proclaimed my interest in the program and told her I planned on applying for the next round! Every time I saw Dr. Valdez, I shared my excitement and interest I had in the program. When it came time to apply for the program, I submitted the necessary documents as soon as possible and made sure to have two letters of recommendation from professors that I had at least one or two courses with. Though I heard the program was competitive and was offered across all three campuses, I passionately pursued my dream without any doubts or second guesses. When there was an info session, I eagerly attended to gather a more transparent picture of the program in my mind. Attending this info session completely strengthened my will to join this program and provided me with much daydream material because we discussed the itinerary and learning objectives. Going to Peru was just the challenge I need and have been prepared for in the last year. Once I finished submitting my study abroad application, I would obsessively check the status every single day, several times a day. One rainy afternoon, I logged on drearily to my study abroad account and discovered I was accepted into the program!! My daydreams became my reality!

If there is something you feel strongly about, especially when it comes to your education, it’s amazing how far a conversation will take you. If you ask questions and show your interest, doors open and stay open. Do not become discouraged or compare your progress to the progress of others. We all have a journey to take and asking questions can take you so far!! And asking for help will help to carry you further than you can imagine. I have never been able to afford to study abroad, but planning ahead and preparing, asking questions and being persistent will pay off in your educational journey.

India Study Abroad

April 04 2018, Blog by Marjan Atashkhayer Didra, India: Gender, Culture and Human Rights

Pre-departure

I chose this program for two reasons first, it’s relation to my major which is Gender Women and Sexuality Studies. We will be studying women, gender, and human rights in India. Second, my passion to learn about Indian people, culture, and society as a whole. India has always been so close to my heart because we shared so much history. I grew up in Iran so it would be interesting to see the similarities and differences. I am hoping to see India holistically in it’s political, national and cultural affair. Since India is a vast country and is very diverse, I am interested to learn about how they implement certain laws around rights for women and gender.

What specific skills do I hope to develop abroad?

I would like to dive deeper into my communication, tolerance and transparency skills to not only implement them actively also to improve them through this two weeks journey.

How can I make friends in the host culture?

I believe in the power of vulnerability so through sharing my own experiences and by being open I am hoping to form a deep connection and ultimately friendship with my fellow group mates.

Am I concerned about missing friends, family?  How will I stay in touch with them?

Since I have spent most of my adult life traveling and living abroad I believe it wouldn’t be an issue for me to be away, however, this definitely could be a concern for some students. Fortunately, through the use and availability of technology, we can close the gap and stay in touch with our loved ones.

What are some of my anxieties or fears? My study abroad is right after our final exams so my main concerns are making sure all my assignments are done and submitted since our access to the internet may be limited. I am very excited about being in India.

 

While in abroad

 

India is a beautiful country. We have visited Delhi and Jaipur and small cities in between. There are many historical places and buildings. The country is rich in culture, tradition, and symbols. Lots of colors to be seen everywhere throughout the city. Beautiful sights and architecture. Women and Men wear beautiful colors and traditional clothing. It is very common to see women wear jewelry and colorful saris.

We have been meeting different lecturers with a focus on gender and human rights. As students, we all have a specific topic that we are working to develop an understanding around. During the lectures, we can ask questions and talk about what our personal beliefs or experiences are back in the USA. Some of our lectures take place on the field such as visiting the specific communities and colleges in order to interact with people and students personally.

Since our trip is somewhat short we have only been focusing on the lectures and not much of a sightseeing but it will happen towards the end of our trip. We did visit Taj Mahal in Agra and it was mesmerizing. The beauty of this monument is beyond words.

I have always wanted to visit India and now I am so glad to say that this place is not only magical but also historical. People are very kind, respectful and hospitable. I am so grateful to have the privilege to be here. I am also thankful to my professors and the University of Washington for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this amazing journey.

This trip has changed my perspective and impacted the way I see other cultures and the world. Realizing that as people we may embody different feature, color or lifestyle but we are all the same in ways we connect with each other. Being offered tea at every bus stop we have had or a new place we have been invited gave me the understanding of how being hospitable is part of every culture. After this trip, I intend to apply for more study abroad programs as it has helped me to further develop my understanding of race, class, and gender in different settings.

 

 

Study Abroad Blog Post

March 30, 2018 Blog by: Allison Pace, Honors Rome: Staging the City

The most common questions I hear about study abroad all have to do with funding. Before applying to my program, I was one of those students questioning the high price of going abroad. Along with the expense, I was also terrified of leaving home for the first time. Like myself, I suspect there are many students in the situation that studying abroad is their first time ever going abroad. I never intended on studying abroad during my time at UW Bothell, but I am so grateful I did.

My study abroad journey started with a mentor of mine pulling up a list of programs on her phone, handing it to me, and saying “pick one.” She knew about my apprehension with studying abroad, but also knew these were obstacles that could easily be overcome. I ended up choosing a program in Italy because my heritage. My last name is Italian, and my grandfather has always talked about our Italian genes. Another reason I chose my program is because it was an early fall start, which means it lasts four weeks verses an entire quarter. This was perfect for me because I wouldn’t be gone from home for three months, and the cost was significantly smaller than most of the quarter long programs. I did not waste anytime once I made the decision to study abroad before applying to the UWB study abroad scholarship. It was important to find extra funding, which is why I applied for many study abroad scholarships. I won the UWB scholarship, which alleviated a lot of stress, and helped offset the cost of my flight.

A couple things that surprised me during the application process were:

  1. Most study abroad programs do not purchase group flights for you. It is up to you to choose a travel partner/group and buy tickets together if you do not want to fly alone.
  2. There is an interview process, conducted by the faculty who will be leading the program. They really take into consideration why you want to study abroad.

Before leaving, there were so many parts to consider. I needed to apply for a passport, order outlet adapters, transfer American dollars to euros, etc. I recommend that students take the time to look through the check-list UW study abroad has created to hit all the important preparation pieces that are essential for successful travels. The list really helped my lay out exactly what needed to be done, and by when. For example, if you do not already have a passport, it takes a while to receive it after applying for it. Thinking and planning ahead, along with making a to-do list, can eliminate the stress of feeling unprepared and anxious.

Be prepared for a long flight! Pack snacks, entertainment, and where comfortable clothing. If you have never traveled by plane before, make sure to check what carry-on items are TSA approved. After checking these regulations, I bought snacks for the flight such as nuts, beef jerky, dried fruit, candy, and gum. I brought headphones and a portable battery charger, however I did not end up using them because there was a USB outlet on the flight (per seat) and airlines typically hand out headphones.

When in Rome

Landing in Rome was refreshing after a long flight. Maneuvering through the airport was not as intimidating as I suspected for two main reasons: (1) in airports there are always multiple languages available, so English was posted on all of the signs, (2) almost all the people on the flight were headed to customs so it was easy to follow the big group.

For the first night in Rome my travel partner and I stayed in a hotel room because we could not check into the Rome center until the first day of class. We decided to stay at a hotel attached to the airport because we knew we would need to rest after the flight. Also, we wanted some time to get situated before embarking to the city.

Luckily the hotel we stayed at (the Hilton) had a shuttle to the city center. We were able to use this for transportation to Rome on move-in day. Prior to move-in day we scoped a path to the UW Rome center, so we knew exactly what way to go because we pulled our suitcases through the city. We wanted to save money on a taxi; it wasn’t too bad, but the cobblestones were a little rough on my suitcase wheels. Checking into the UW Rome center is easy, but make sure you follow all their instructions! Have exact cash for the deposit and be ready to follow their rules; both the UW Rome center’s rules and the landlord’s rules of which ever apartment you stay in.

From this point on, every day was an adventure! For each class we would tour different sites around the city and talk about the ancient history. Weekends were free time, so my group and I planned mini trips either inside Rome or surrounding cities to see as many places as we could.

Everyone has their opinion of the “must see” places in Italy, and mine is the coast. I would not leave Italy until you have traveled to a coastal city and enjoyed the beach! My favorite is costal town is Sperlonga; I only went to three beaches though. It is beautiful and not as tourist filled as the city of Rome. Be prepared for your language skills to be stretched, because not many people speak English there.

Spring Break in India

March 27, 2018, Blog by Holli Nolan, Educational Studies, “Gender, Culture, and Human Rights in India,” Spring Break 2018

Namaste! Meera nam Holli hei; I am an Educational Studies major and am SO excited to have been selected for my first study abroad experience. In addition to having been selected for the trip, I have been selected to be a Study Abroad Ambassador; I am shocked, honored, and blessed! This study abroad will be taking place in India (Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra) with the focus of studying the intersectionality between Human Rights, Gender, and Culture.

Comparison of my old and new self

Blog by: Students on the Buddhism and the Great Ganges River Experience: Philosophical Exploration and Social Action in the Sacred lands of India program

Student Name: Dibbya Biswa

This trip has open my eyes and made me re-experienced my days in Nepal. Two days flight without sleep was not part of my “to experience” list for India trip. I was exhausted when we reach the Varanasi airport. My thoughts were why did I even come and I was better at home, sleeping in my big bed. As I stepped out of the airport to the indie atmosphere, I couldn’t breathe.  Although it was raining the air was super hot and the climate was burning hot.  I didn’t think of anything besides I want to go back to Washington. We got in the van that was reserved for us. On our way to Central University of Tibetan Studies, I was looking outside from window. What I saw was not so different from what I have memories of Nepal. The house was similar, land area was similar, small and big shops were similar and even the way they display products on the shops was similar. When we got to the city area the traffic and the way vehicles were running the wait vehicles in Nepal. When I saw those it reminded me of my childhood. I felt like me I am in Nepal walking on the street and seeing this all. It made me feel like I am on my younger age feet. As I saw those kids walking and running near road fearlessly. I was terrified to see kids near vehicles. My hearts were racing see all that. Then I realized that I was like them in Nepali. But I had one question that I just can’t answer: In Nepal, was I fearless like those kids or fearful like I am right now? It’s been 8 days and I still fear walking on the street. In fact, can’t walk with just one friend, I have to have more than one friend walking with me. Rowaida my colleagues ask me if I wanted to go for walk. I told her to bring one more friend to go for walk.She has been to Egypt by herself, so she somehow convinces me to walk with her but eventually, I end up adding Emma. I have been here for a week and I still fear when vehicles go near me, I still get scared when people horn and I still can’t walk on my own on the street. I left half of my life in Nepal and half of my life in the US. Here I am still figuring out who am I?

Photo by: Dibbya Biswa

Finding a Global Friend

Blog by: Students on the Buddhism and the Great Ganges River Experience: Philosophical Exploration and Social Action in the Sacred lands of India program

Student Name: Rebecca Diamond

Photo taken at the Central University of Tibetan Studies. (Right) Sun Tse (left) Rebecca Diamond

Photo credit: Kara Adams
After the mess of my first day in Kolkata combined with the sadness of being away during Owen’s first day of school. Compounded by the pressure and guilt of being away at all as a mother has weighed heavily on me. I cried every interaction we had over the phone. I didn’t know how I would continue in the state of depression I was living in. I didn’t know how I would be at all productive during the program and I just wanted to go home. I felt like I made a mistake coming back to India a second time. We made it to the Central University for Tibetan Studies and I was feeling miserable. The only thing getting me through was video chats and my friend who stayed with me two more days in Kolkata before flying to Varanasi to meet our group. We met our host, Sun Tse, I was very intrigued by him and I wanted to know more about his life and history. I got many chances to play soccer, basketball, and just enjoy getting to know more about him over snacks and classes. One day a few of us stayed after class to talk more. Sun Tse told me about his journey to India. He told me his parents who live in Tibet paid an intermediary to bring one of their children to India to escape the Chinese occupation. He said they initially asked his oldest brother if he wanted to go. His oldest brother said no. They then showed Sun Tse beautiful pictures of India and being of the age of ten he agreed without the understanding that when he went he couldn’t come back. He said the day he left they all cried his family brought him to a house and left him there to be picked up. He ended up finding he wouldn’t leave for two more days so he went home and he said ironically no one cried two days later when he actually left. They had seemed to already have moved on and accepted this fate. He arrived in India and stayed with other intermediaries who took in Tibetan refuges. He attended school eventually making his way to The Central University of Tibetan Studies.. He spoke about the memory with reverence some sadness but I could also sense the Buddhist influence in his conceptualization and internalization of his experience. He has been away from his family for 17 years now! He said now that he is older he thinks his parents in some ways tricked him into going but he also thinks it was the right decision.
We are so close in age that I felt that he could have been me and I could have been him. We were living very different realities on different sides of the world but connected quickly, to me like kindred spirits. We spent more time together talking in person and connecting online via Facebook and Instagram. His story inspired me as well as his acceptance for his situation. This acceptance I believe comes from his belief system, Buddhism. The concepts of impermanence, suffering, and karma contribute to his ability to manage the suffering of loss. The day we left The Central University for Tibetan Studies we all piled into the van. We were waving goodbye and Sun Tse came to the window to offer me his mantra beads that he had had a conversation with me about a previous day. I was so moved and immediately put them on. His story has helped me to not only cope with being away but be able to embrace the opportunity of being here and when I put on the beads or notice them during the day it reminds of the universal experience of suffering as well as our ability to transcend its negative pull into depression.

 

Renewable Energy in Japan – Pre-Departure

September 1, 2017 Blog by: Derek Flett, Mechanical Engineering, Renewable Energy in Japan and US

Greetings! Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Derek. I am senior in the Mechanical Engineering undergraduate program at the University of Washington, Bothell campus. Although I was born just a few miles away in Everett, when I was two, my family and I moved to the small country of El Salvador, were I grew up and lived for sixteen years. Once I finished High School I moved back to Washington and started taking classes at Cascadia with the intention of getting the prerequisites necessary to apply to the ME program at UWB. Currently, I’m planning on going into power generation industry (preferably renewable power) upon my graduation. This hope and aspiration brought me to this program, officially called Renewable Energy in Japan and United States. Although we don’t arrive in Japan until September 4th, a group of eleven students and I (picture of the group below, I’m wearing the black Columbia jacket) have been taking classes for the last two weeks which have dived into not only technical aspects of various forms of renewable power generation but also the beautifully intricate and complex Japanese culture, history and language. It has been a long two weeks, but I’ve learned more than I could have imagined and am even more exited to go to Japan continue to learn.

Not only is this program’s theme extremely relevant to me as my plan is work in the power generation industry upon graduation, but also because there is no better example to learn from than Japan when it comes to renewable energy. In 2011, after the disaster in Fukushima, Japan’s government make the decision to shut down all their nuclear reactors to avoid any further catastrophe. Unfortunally, that meant stopping over 40% of Japans power generation over the span of a few days. To make up for this massive scarcity in power, Japan was forced to begin importing oil and coal as fuel for their combustion power plants to make up for the recent shortage of power. As their national deficit grows, Japan’s economy has suffered and will continue to suffer until a more economic and renewable source of power is implemented in a large scale. This brings me back to why Japan is the perfect country to learn from as they rapidly expand their renewable energy grid. Hopefully, the United States will undergo a similar change in the decades to come, as we shift from being a society filling the gaps of our power needs with renewables while depending on fossil fuels, to a society that depends on renewables while filling in the gaps with fossil fuels. When this time comes, we can look back to Japan, having already conquered the challenges that arose, learn from their example, and ultimately, follow in their foot steps toward a clean, efficient and renewable power grid. This study abroad will allow me to get some insight into the challenges Japan is facing, with the hopes of be able to address similar challenges in the US in the years to come.

This will by my first time I will be going to a foreign country while only knowing a grand total of thirteen common word/phrases in the native language. Not being able to communicate effectively without the aid of technology or a translator is quite scary for me. In the weeks prior to my departure, I’ve started practicing a few useful phrases in Japanese. Once I begin to feel comfortable with the pronunciation, I turn to the world most powerful tool for conquering language barriers: Google Translate. Unfortunately, when I try translating my new Japanese phrases back to English, I discover that my mispronunciation has changed the context and meaning to either nonsense or something completely offensive. Thankfully, most Japanese are more than understanding and forgiving when it comes to a foreigner’s attempt to speak the language; often, the attempt at respecting another’s culture and language speaks volumes, and is highly regarded and praised.

I look forward to updating you all on my adventures in the days to come. I know that I will learn volumes and only hope that I can apply that knowledge in a later day to help our nation move toward a better future.

StudyAbroadGroup

Snoqualmie Falls Field Trip – Taken in front of Original Generator Installed in 1898