Before Your Trip

This is my first time writing a blog in English, so I am so sorry if I make any mistake. However, at the same time it is a representation of me as an immigrant whose first language is not English. So here is the process that I wanted to have before and during my time in India.

Process before your trip…

 This is a process that we should all enjoy, although it is stressful, once you get the congratulation letter everything will have a different face :).

Interview…

For this I do not have much to say more than be yourself. If you do not know something it is okay to say it, you do not need to have a perfect answer. From this, you will learn (like I did) to be okay with who you are with your answers even if they sound silly sometimes. For a while I was worried that I was not going to be selected for the program because of some of my answers, but I got the good news and that opinion about myself changed….and if you are wondering about the picture in my congratulation letter, yes we took it while in India!

Visa

If you are like me and do not read the instructions, you are going to be very frustrated. For this, you will need:

  • A picture of yourself with a white background. What I did… I took a picture of my passport picture and change the size of the picture to what it was required and it work!
  • A clear picture of your passport

I thought it was going to be easier, so please take your time to do at once. However, if for some reason you can not finish it when you started it DO NOT FORGET to write down your application ID number which is on the middle top of the page. It happened to me, and I had to start over again and learn the hard way.

These were the mistakes I did while filling out the application:

  • DO NOT write your social security or your driver license enter NA.
  • DO NOT use punctuation marks. If your name is hyphenated then use a black space instead. Do not use a period if your name has a sux such as “Jr.”
  • AND write the address as they show it even though the space is not long enough. Copy and paste what they give you, and if it does not fit IT IS OKAY!

…and here goes your first investment on your trip $61.50 for you visa!

IMMUNIZATIONS

DO NOT WAIT TILL LAST MINUTE…

Go to the doctor as soon as possible so you will know what your insurance is able to cover. If you do not have insurance Bartell Drugs store and Walgreens offer the service of the immunizations that are required to enter to India. Bartell Drugs have an international nurse that will help you with the research and the decision with some the ones that are optional (malaria).

Hepatitis A $139

Typhoid $102

For me, my insurance covered the Hepatitis A, and with my doctor we decided that I was not going to take anything for Malaria. However, I paid for the Typhoid at the community clinic in North Gate and I paid $76.78, so it was more convenient.

DO NOT FORGET to ask your doctor for CIPROFLOXACIN for traveler’s diarrhea. Most insurances cover this. WHAT I DID TO NOT USE IT… I was really worried about getting sick during India, so my cousin who traveled to Nepal recommended to take probiotics as much as possible BEFORE and DURING the trip. I was eating two yogurts everyday, kombucha, and I bought some probiotic pills called “Pearls Complete” that he recommended. I got them through Amazon for $15.49…. and I never got sick of my stomach!

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.

What Study Abroad Means to Me.

I have always that each study abroad program was the same. The one most advertised are the ones where you get to travel to Africa and help the children and families out. I would always see people on Facebook taking pictures with the children and having such a good time. As my college years went by, I took a course called Global Health. One of the topics that my professor discussed was the issue about studying abroad. She said that it is not all what you expect. We are entering their home, their personal space, and culture. Especially in the line of work that she did (medical anthropology) she said that when the group of study abroad people or doctors would come over to Africa they would be given medical supplies but when they left, there was very little. The supply was so scarce and not easily accessible as it is here in America. As for the pictures, many of them do not want to be photographed. Many study abroad students do not ask if they can take their picture or if it is okay to post it on social media. The whole idea about study broad has changed my perspective. My idea of helping them out is a little screwed after talking that course.

My experience all throughout this trip is me not teaching them, but rather them teaching me. The people of Vel Mari and the University of Alghero have taught me so much about migration, social justice, and multiculturalism. Everyone’s idea about traveling abroad to specific places like Europe because it’s beautiful or it’s on their bucket list; it’s so much more than that. It’s more than the pictures that people post on Facebook of the people they meet or are supposedly “helping”. I know some students were angry in the first week because they wanted to work more with the people of Vel Mari, the doctors and so on. These expectations of making a change is solely by working with the people is not always right. I was a little upset that some students didn’t realize that we have to learn more about the project and background information of migration and the refugee camps before we start the project. I think that people have these high expectations of what their study abroad experience should we and are not opened to changes or different ways of learning. I say be opened to anything that happened during your experience and be accepting of it and just being about to study abroad.

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. 

Address:
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. 🙂

 

Time to Reflect~

With a little over a month gone by I feel that it is appropriate to do some reflections. The best way to describe what it is like to live in a foreign country for a month would be to say that the first week feels like your entire life, and every day after that is made up of less hours in the day.

My first day in Bergen felt chaotic, relaxing, insane, dangerous.. just a pile of emotions. I remember looking out of my window and staring at the water and mountains and city lights and thinking to myself that this will be what I see everyday. In other words, it will be home. As I stare out of my window it seems impossible that the girl I was a month ago has transformed into the girl I am today, and that when I look out my window for the last time in four months I’ll be thinking the same thing.

This month has brought me so many beautiful moments and just as many obstacles. One of the most important lessons I have learned while being here is that the effort you put into something is what you will receive. Everyone should go out of their way and find a way to get what you want.

The beauty in Bergen cannot be beat. Above we have the view from Mt. Floyen during the sunset. The picture does this no justice. I can say that when I get back to the US I’ll have some neat looking calfs from all the hiking adventures that are offered here! Below is a picture at the top of Mt. Floyen! You won’t have to look far for some troll and witch action here!

One of the most invigorating feelings is knowing that I can navigate a completely foreign place. Walking around with a map in my hand at all times for the first week feels like a lifetime ago. Walking into the grocery store and seeing such a high price for every single item, ranging from 22 NOK to 100 NOK, I was nervous to buy anything! Learning how to understand another currency on top of understanding the language has changed quite a lot since I’ve been here. I can now understand the prices of things, where to go to find the cheapest price for a certain item, and what is reasonable on Norway’s terms for something. I am also surprised at how much Norwegian I can take in and reply to (in English)!

With such a short time living in Bergen I feel as though the things that I have come to value the most are things you cannot buy. Being here has made me think about everyday struggles in a way I always overlooked before. Making connections with other people has been one of the hardest tasks while studying abroad. I have come to have a new appreciation and kindness to people. This month has brought me to a place that allows me to open up easier then I ever have before. Not only have I been able to identify the better ways in which I can interact with people more, but the way to better present yourself to the world. I have learned to grow into the person that I really am as a twenty year old woman, rather then a lost teenager entering college not knowing what I want to do in the world.

 Quote of the day: 

“We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.” -Unknown

Overall, from the moment I stepped off the plane and could not find my way around the airport I knew that things were going to change very fast here in Norway. They have, but mostly I have. With the experience I have had so far I am able to push myself in ways I never knew were possible. For the first time in my life my only responsibility is to enjoy and conquer Europe, study hard, eat well, and take the time to stay outside of my room as much as possible! The financial, mental, and physically struggle that I have faced here seems insignificant to the greater purpose. I guess money can buy happiness 😉 because it sure can buy plane tickets!!!

Week 4 in San Sebastian: Semana Santa

I wanted to start off my blog post with a picture of my favorite view from the past week. This is the view of Granada from a Palace in the Alhambra:

Pic 8

I spent most of week 4 traveling for our extended Easter Break. Semana Santa is what the Spanish call Easter Break and most students get a week off from school. Many shops and stores shut down during Semana Santa because it is such an important holiday. After spending the first few days of Semana Santa in San Sebastian, I then traveled to Sevilla and Granada with a few of my friends.

Below is a picture of me and some friends in front the the Cathedral in Sevilla:

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A few pictures of the displays held by up to 30 men during the Easter processions:

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Pic 2

A group of 4 of us flew from Bilbao to Madrid en route to Sevilla. We ended up having an 8 hour overnight layover in Madrid which meant sleeping in the airport Starbucks. I was pleasantly surprised that sleeping in the airport was fairly comfortable (I remembered to bring earplugs). After spending the night in the airport we flew to Sevilla, where we locked up our belongings in a train station locker and went to explore. We walked to the Catedral de Santa Maria which is an absolutely gorgeous Cathedral in the middle of the city. There were tourists everywhere because of the Easter holiday. Throughout the streets of Sevilla we watched the Semana Santa Processions, the processions are massive parades put on by different churches in the city to celebrate the rising of Jesus. Even though I myself am not a religious person, I thought the dedication of the people to their processions was inspiring. After spending a few hours walking through the processions we had to make our way to the bus station and travel to Granada later that night.

This is a picture I took from a street in Granada looking up at the Alhambra, this picture shows the style of houses in Granada:

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Pictures from inside the Alhambra:

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Pic 6

Pic 5

We got in late to Granada and after taking a taxi to our Hostel it felt amazing to sleep. The next morning we decided to take a walking tour of Granada, and despite the rain I fell in love with the city. Our tour guide told us about the history of Isabelle and Ferdinand at the Alhambra during the Spanish war. The war unified the country and it was inspiring to be learning about the history of such a famous place. Granada itself is a town based around a college with around 80,000 students, not including all of the international students. It is a massive city devoted to the students, which was great for us because everything was cheap and easily accessible. My number one priority for the visit was to see the Alhambra, Isabelle’s famous Islamic style castle from the 15th century. Tickets have been sold out for months and the only way to get your hands on one is to get in a line at 6AM to purchase one of the 500 daily tickets. We got in line at 6AM, stood in the rain for two hours, and successfully purchased tickets! That afternoon we got to visit the Alhambra, and it was well worth the wait. My childhood dreams of being a princess in a castle came true. The views of Granada from the Palace were the best in the city, and the designs inside of the palace were even better! I would have to say that Granada is my favorite city I have visited so far on this trip.

Below is a picture of the “Running of the Sheep” in Ordizia:

Pic 9

Upon return to San Sebastian after Semana Santa about half of us in the program went to Ordizia, a small Basque town, to experience their weekly market and annual sheep festival. This was the first time I have heard people using the Basque language. The language has no similarity to Spanish which meant none of us could communicate with the locals, our professor helped us a lot. We got to experience their annual sheep parade, or as we liked to call it “The running of the Sheep” which is wherethe Ordizia locals line the streets of the city and parade herds of sheep to display to the town. Sheep are a big part of Basque culture because they have been used for food, heat, and clothing since the beginning of the Basque history. We were the only foreigners in town during the festival, and even were interviewed by a local television crew for our opinion of the festivities. It was a great experience to see the Basque people interact with each other and experience a festival that has been a tradition for many centuries.

Now I am back in San Sebastian and midterms are quickly approaching. I have two essays and a presentation due at the beginning of next week, time to get started! Now that school work is becoming more time consuming this trip is starting to feel more like school than just a vacation. I occasionally feel homesick when I am up late doing homework or when it starts raining, but then I remember how lucky I am to have this experience to live Spain. It really is amazing! Throughout the month of May we will be going on various different excursions to Basque towns with our program. I will make sure to keep you updated on my travels.

Thanks for reading!

Adios,

Eleanor

Three Months in the Netherlands: An Update

What an incredible adventure this has been!

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The Dutch countryside in the province of Zeeland, as seen from the train.

Three months ago, I stepped off of the train at Maastricht Central Station–exhausted from the 10-hour flight, weighed down with luggage, unknowing what my study abroad experience would play out to be.  Yet, at the same time, I was extremely confident that this journey would change my life, and it certainly has.

More than five years of studying the Dutch language and culture has not only allowed me to immerse myself in Dutch society, but also to feel even more connected with my Dutch heritage.  I would recommend to anyone interested in studying abroad to learn the language of their destination country.  There is just no way around the fact that this will allow you to really dig beneath the surface of the country’s culture and people.  With that said, I have done daily tasks such as opening up a Dutch bank account entirely in the Dutch language.  Doing so not only shows courtesy, but it also steps beyond the barriers of being a tourist.  I feel that my vocabulary and fluency in the language are improving by the day.

In the meantime, I’ve been keeping myself busy by visiting new cities and villages on the weekends by train; and, attending tutorials (classes) at University College Maastricht (UCM) during the week.

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A day spent in Veere–a small fishing village in the province of Zeeland. We couldn’t have asked for better weather!

In addition to recording my experiences abroad with UW Bothell Voices from Around the World, I’ve been working as a writer and photographer for UCM’s magazine The Bell–a student-run publication which features a broad variety of sections that students can write about based on their own interests, and what they believe their fellow students would find interesting.  Our last issue published–the “Beating the Blues” winter edition–was a complete success.

Although my experience as an exchange student has been very smooth overall, it of course has had its challenges.  For example, an average class size at UCM consists of about eight students, plus the tutor.  The students are responsible for establishing objectives for the next tutorial which will be discussed based on the assigned readings, as well as conducting the two-hour discussion based on these readings.  This process is called Problem-Based Learning (PBL).  My first quarter (period) at UCM presented a challenge because of the stark differences in learning styles between UCM and UW Bothell.  Also, the courses in themselves were very complex and specific.  With Spring approaching, I envision PBL becoming a bit easier.  What I’ll always admire about this college is the sense of community, international demographic, and excellent faculty.

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University College Maastricht as seen from the central courtyard. The building used to be a monastery; whereas the exterior has been kept original, the interior has been entirely remodeled.

Another challenge has also come about.  Bicycles are the main mode of transportation for the majority of Dutch people–especially in the city.  Two weeks ago, the brakes on my bike gave out–one of which broke off of the handlebars and is now hanging by the cord.  That same night, my headlight was stolen.  Upon returning to Maastricht from Easter weekend in Aarhus, Denmark, I came to find out that the front wheel had also been stolen while I was gone.  In short, my bike has fallen apart and has been rendered useless at this point.  It’s now just a matter of repairing it or buying a new one if the price is right.

Finally, Maastricht has become a second home to me.  Homesickness has not become a problem, and although I will always love the United States, my family and friends, the UW Bothell, and the UW Bothell, I know that the United States and the Netherlands are extremely important to me.  They have their similarities, and they have their differences.  They’re great in different ways.

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“Inter”

While living here in Paris, I find myself often discussing – with both other foreigners and French people – the complexity and frustrations with the highly structured systems that exist in France. More specifically, with the education and work systems, and most importantly, their crossover. Although I tend to look at The United States with a critical eye, I’ve always appreciated the flexibility and value placed on creativity and individual choice. I think that these cultural values manifest themselves within our education system. For example, even at the high school level students have a choice of electives, sports, clubs, etc. Then further, at the university level, with the plethora of degree programs – even within themselves having course choice options. Then after studies, the idea that your degree doesn’t have to correspond precisely to your work field(s), because it’s important to have a diversity of individuals within a team who can each offer a unique perspective/input.

I think that this conception of flexibility and ‘interdisciplinarity’ in degree and field of work shows how our culture emphasizes the importance of looking at the entire history of an individual in a broad, yet critical sense. While preparing my masters applications for French universities, and speaking with people already working here, I get the impression that this same flexibility isn’t as prevalent. For example, having changed courses of study, or having studied multiple subjects, is often considered as a lack of focus, or making a wrong decision. Further, it can be hard to integrate into a new field of study, since even at the high school level, the final diploma has a specialized mention. Even more difficult is to change career fields. This also puts a lot of pressure on students at a young age to commit to a specific sector, when later they may come to realize that they are better suited for another domain, yet cannot necessarily go back to get the appropriate training.

While there are certainly French universities and French companies that break beyond these severely structured systems that seek formulated, specific, and similar individuals for program/career placements, it doesn’t appear to be the norm. There are several universities that appear to actively seek international students, and in these cases, I think they represent a more modern, creative, and flexible system than the ‘old French education system.’ This idea also makes me wonder how globalization – both within education and work – will impact the French systems. My prediction is that it will slowly alter France to become more open and malleable, to the benefit of both native French and foreigners. After all, how can we know what we want to do or who we want to be without having a variety of experiences – educationally, professionally, and personally? Maybe it is because I’ve gone down paths in all sorts of directions, but without having done that, I think I would be lost.

Sounds and Smells of Maastricht

As I waited upon arrival at Maastricht Centraal for a taxi to my apartment, I was inundated by certain sounds and smells that just didn’t exist in the States–and ones which I will now always associate with this city.  Depending on where you are, most of the smells stay the same, yet others change.  The combinations were intense; so, I decided to write a quick post about these observations.

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The Sounds

  • Shoes clicking on the cobblestone streets

    February 2014 - Maastricht, Limburg, Netherlands on the river Maas

    February 2014 – The river Maas

  • The revving of moped engines
  • Bicycle bells
  • The bicycles themselves (chains and chain guards)
  • The engines of German performance cars bolting down the streets
  • Seagulls hovering over the river Maas
  • Low-pitched horns of cargo ships
  • Street violinists in the Markt and the Vrijthof (two large, public squares in Maastricht), and the Sint Servaasbrug–a bridge which dates back to Roman times

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The Smells

  • Perfume and cologne
  • Freshly-made Belgian waffles
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Flowers sold in small, local markets
  • Friet – the equivalent of Dutch French fries
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Becoming Dutch – The Journey There

My three-hour flight from Reykjavik-Keflavik to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport landed safely.  I made my way to the baggage hall, and then to the main train station located directly underneath the airport.  This is where my journey began.

I stepped onto the train from Amsterdam, which would take me to Utrecht Centraal Station.  Once I changed traIMGP3720 (600x800)ins, I was headed for Eindhoven Centraal, followed by quick stops in the cities of Weert, Roermond, and Sittard.

On the train from Amsterdam to Maastricht and everything in between, here is what unfolded: flat, green countryside; narrow, reddish-brown, brick houses; and canals which grazed the landscape.  Icons like these are what are often expected when in the Netherlands, and I could not have been more in awe and excited that I was actually here.  It wasn’t only the landscape which impressed me–it was the people.  I had the chance to observe Dutch life as it was.  From teenagers on their iPhones, to parents listening to their children about their day at school and soccer practice, it was all real.

When traveling to the Netherlands, ask people questions.  They are generally more than happy to help a visitor.  And, do so in Dutch–their language.  It’s very common for the Dutch to speak multiple languages (Dutch, English, German, and/or French) as a result of early language education beginning in elementary school and continuing until the end of secondary school or beyond.  I think that Dutch is underestimated and under-learned.  In fact, leaving Amsterdam, I struck up a conversation in Dutch with a woman and her sons who were about my age.  The family gave me hints on which cities and areas should be visited in the Netherlands, and which ones should be avoided.  I also spoke with two gentlemen before we arrived at Utrecht Centraal.  As we stepped off the train and went in our own directions, the two friends offered some helpful advice on how the Dutch train network works, as well as a useful smartphone app which maps out your route for you.IMGP3717 (800x600)

It’s these small experiences which add a second, more-refined dimension to travel.