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.

Day 1: Heading to Japan!

miranda blog1For someone who has never traveled outside of the United States (besides Canada but I don’t really count that), I was really anxious and eager to travel to Japan. I could not wrap my head around the fact that the first flight was 9 hours, and then we had a 4 hour layover in Tokyo before we finally had our last 1.5 hour flight to Matsuyama. Nonetheless, the whole travel experience was a lot easier than expected! It may be because I slept a lot on the plane, but the flight went faster than I was anticipating, which I was very happy about.

The food on the plane was amazing! I will create a separate post towards the end of my trip to show all the meals I had eaten. I also enjoyed tons of free music and movies on the plane which kept me very entertained for the entire flight. I didn’t even use my laptop, iPad or iPhone throughout the whole flight. When I finally touched the humid and hot weather I was expecting in Japan, I could not wait for all the experiences and learning opportunities I was about to endure.

Miranda

Bastille Day, The French (1)4th of July

The 14th of July, is known as Bastille Day, kind of the equivalent of the 4th of July in the U.S. The 14th commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution on July 14th of 1789 when the revolutionary party, reacting against the power of the Monarchy,  stormed the Bastille, a French prison. The beginning of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” While I spent the 4th of July in France eating hot dogs and chocolate chip cookies, the 14th was spent watching an incredible fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower. While my phone could only capture the photos so well, and my height was a bit of a limitation, here is a peak at the spectacular show: (P.S. This year’s fireworks display was a disco theme so the show was accompanied by some of the greatest disco hits- and note, the giant disco ball hanging from the center of the Eiffel Tower!)

 

Taste of Italy

Blog by James Anderson, UW Bothell Business Major, Study Abroad–Italy

As my upcoming trip to Italy will be full of invigorating tastes, experiences, and memories, I am beginning to become ecstatic with the perspective that I will gain from my time abroad. I’m positive it will forever change my views of culture and, more importantly, of cuisine. But why do I have such a strong aspiration to travel half way around the globe to pursue such an odyssey?  Well, let’s take a look back to see how this all began. My interest in cooking started at a very young age. I remember waking up one morning when I had to have only been about 8 years old and seeing there was nothing to eat in the house. Doing what any man would do at any age, the first thing I did was grab the bacon out of the fridge, and the rest was history.

Over the past decade I have passionately strived to learn as much as possible about cooking and more so any aspect of food. By watching the Food Network religiously, experimenting with new recipes, and eventually apprenticing in some of the best restaurants in the Seattle area, I began to scaffold the means necessary to solidify my passion of preparing and sharing food with others. By being fortunate enough to work under some of the most recognized chefs in Seattle, I am not only able to fulfill my passion for cooking on a daily basis, but I am also able to integrate the experience I have gained from working into my college education.

As I began my freshman year at UWB, pursuing a degree in business, I chose classes where I could continue to incorporate my passion for food into my education. By participating in the Discovery Core I and II classes, focused around two of my favorite goods, chocolate and coffee, I was thrilled to see how UW Bothell was able to use such unlikely mediums to study socioeconomics, commodification, and the cultural significance behind my two of my favorite ingredients! Plus, what other university would have a professional chocolate tasting festival as a final project?!

By participating in these classes I was not only earning applicable credit, but I was making real world connections with both my professors and local vendors who expressed huge amounts of interest in aiding me though out my culinary endeavors. These connections that I began to make throughout freshman year are so important because they were allowing me to establish my name with professionals in various industries at such an early age. And by having these professionals recognize a young adult as being tenacious and passionate about their field of interest, I feel as if I am setting myself up for enormous opportunity.

By seeing how opportunity was just around the corner at UW Bothell, I was thirsty for more. As I continued through freshman year, I had always heard about study abroad through the University of Washington, but I never thought it was so readily accessible, especially to freshmen. As I began to start the conversations with my professors, academic advisers, and peers I slowly became more determined  to seek out how I could pursue traveling abroad to quench my thirst for expanding my culinary repertoire.

The Intouchables

A few months ago I went with a friend to see Les Intouchables. Another bonus in France, it’s relatively inexpensive to go to the movies! It was 5,50 euros for each of us, with the student discount. And the theater was right on the Champs-Elysées! In brief, I have never laughed so hard at a movie that I only understood 65% of the dialogue 🙂 French, no subtitles. Moreover, not only was it a hilarious movie, but also a fantastic social commentary on Paris and the surrounding suburbs.

The population of Paris (the “arrondissements” or districts) is quite segregated by socio-economic factors; the left bank tends to be extremely wealthy (and white), the right bank a tad less so, and the Northern arrondissements (the 19th and 20th) are the poorest, and mostly comprised of foreigners and immigrants — typically of African or Arab descent. The same goes for the suburbs or the “banlieue” of Paris, which in general is significantly more impoverished and has a high immigrant population.

While I say that I live in Paris, it isn’t totally accurate; I live in the Northern suburbs, the banlieue of Paris. However, the school at which I am studying is located in the center of Paris, in the most expensive, most chic area — Saint Germain des Prés (the 7th arrondissement). As I go to school, from the suburbs to the 7th, from the train to the metro, the people change, the clothes change, the races change. While often France doesn’t like to admit it (they refrain from publishing a lot of statistics that have to do with race), I have found there to be quite a few racist elements in Paris, that often go undiscussed. A lot of this has to do with the history, the crime, the immigration policies, the social services, etc. but, when going between the suburbs and through Paris, it is impossible not to notice the divide between people and areas.

While Intouchables is a comedy (and I guarantee you’ll be laughing!), it also touches on a lot of interesting and important factors that characterize elements of Paris, those which often aren’t spoken of. In addition, it’s based on a true-story, making it all the more real and intriguing.

I loved a Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, but Intouchables shows another important side of Paris, too.

Viewing information:

Intouchables is playing at the Sundance Cinema in Seattle (4500 9th Avenue North East)

Finding a Job (in a Foreign Country) !

Now that school here has ended, finding a job for the summer has consumed most of my time. The job quest has been fun and interesting – but also challenging. The task: find a job for two months, July and August. Where to look? English teaching, babysitting, tourism related jobs, restaurants, bars, and the like. These places have proved the most likely to hire an English speaking foreign student, on a part-time basis for the summer.

What to know? Know the websites! In France, there are several sites dedicated to Anglophones in Paris/France; most are for families seeking English tutors or babysitters for their children. Ask around, everyone you know — natives, expats, other students, etc — for websites. By asking around I’ve found two of the most helpful sites yet: fusac.fr (a site with job and housing announcements for Anglophones living in Paris) and cherche-cours.com (a site where you can post free ads for English tutoring, etc.). By responding to announcements, and postings announcements, I’ve had four interviews for summer jobs! While going to interview after interview, isn’t the most exciting — it has been great practice for my French! Bars and restaurants: go in, ask if they are looking for any new staff, have your CV ready — some of my study abroad friends were hired on the spot!

Part two: During my job hunt, I’ve found one thing, as a native English speaker, there will always be a nanny job in Europe, particularly in France. Why is this important? Well, if you want to travel, see new places, experience different cultures there is one (inexpensive!) sure way to do that: be an Au Pair. Tons of families in France have almost all of July and August off for summer vacation and many are seeking summer Au Pairs to accompany them on vacation- how does the South of France — the beaches of Nice and Cannes — or, Spain sound? I’ve found over thirty positings on au pair websites (i.e, abc-familes.com, aupair-world.net) and other sites, such as Fusac.fr, with families seeking English speaking au pairs to come from anywhere between two weeks and two months on vacation to look after the children. What is typically included? Free housing, food, and a stipend around 70-150 euros a week.

Part three: Woofing! (wwooff.org) World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Sounds a bit North-westy Birkenstock, veggie doesn’t it 🙂 ? While I have never “woofed,” I have heard wonderful things about it. Essentially, you select a region to go (I’ve known people who have gone to Italy and France), and you work five hours a day on a farm. I think the stays can be as short as one week, but check the website to confirm! In exchange for working on the farm, you receive housing and food. But what’s more, you have the opportunity to immerse yourself into a foreign family to see how they live their daily lives. And if you go to Italy or France, I’m betting that the food and wine won’t be too bad, either. I think I might have to try this ‘woofing’ out…

Moral of the story: always know that there is work available in foreign countries, but finding where to look is the tricky part! 748 Google searches later and you’ll be ready to fund (or prevent from diving into too big of debt) your study/travels abroad.

À la prochaine!

Un petit week-end en Normandie

Notoriously French, and ever so accurate: holidays and vacations in excess (although, I can’t say I’m complaining). Particularly in May, but starting in April, there are a total of 7 national holidays, days on which schools and offices are closed. Over these weekends, it is common for the French to take an extended weekend, or sometimes even an extended week off. For the Parisians, a common weekend destination is to the Normandy region–just a couple hours by train or car from Paris. Normandy, famous for the camembert cheese, is part of the beautiful French countryside, and also has a lovely coastline bordering the English Channel.

 

 

 

One of the many wonders of France is the huge diversity in land/areas/cities/countryside/seaside/mountains, concentrated in a relatively small area. After just 2 hours in a train, I had left the busy subways of Paris to arrive in a small village in Northern Normandy.


 

First, we stopped at the market to pick out some fresh seafood.

Here are some of the scallops we choose from- and then took home to crack open!

The meal was accompanied by fresh oysters, herring, warm bread, fresh melted butter, tart and salty lemon sauce, and of course– a sweet, crisp, sugary white wine. Mhmm.

Taking in the fresh air, eating the delicious food, and, working on the farm. We played with the goats, built a fence for the horses, and, took in the countryside.

It was a wonderful weekend– an escape from the stresses and realities of everyday life, to step back, reflect, and slow down.

Inside the cottage- Normandy, France

 

 

 

Oh, the Smells that You’ll Smell!

A little about one of my favorite things in France: the food.

Before coming, I knew that I would love the cheese, bread, meat, sauces, etc…What I wasn’t as prepared for: the incredible desserts. While it is a bit torturous walking by all the amazing “Patisseries,” looking in and seeing the colorful creations, the smell is equally irresistible.

Without exaggerating, windows like these follow you around Paris:

From top to bottom: A bakery near where I live in the suburbs of Paris, the center two are from bakeries in “Le Marais,” a nice district in Paris, and the last (mhmm Nutella…) from a crêpes stand on Boulevard Saint Germain, near my school.

I travel Paris like a dog, by scent.

Who needs a map? 🙂

UW Bothell Voices from Around the World

Blog by Linda Cung, UW Bothell Environmental Science Major, Study Abroad–Japan

     

When I was initially invited to go on this study abroad trip to Japan with Aaron Huston, all I could think was, “are you kidding me? Of course I want to go!” Travelling to other parts of the world has always been a dream of mine. Thrilled hardly would have begun to describe my feelings at that moment.

However, as the day of departure drew nearer, I realized I had no idea what to expect or what I was expecting. What was being expected of me? I had never been this far away from home on my own, let alone on a study abroad program with students from other parts of the world – Indonesian and Japanese. It was all new for me, but the thought this was probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity overtook any anxiety that may have crept in. All I knew was I was ready to absorb everything – the people, culture, experiences; whatever was waiting. I was ready for it.

The fifteen hours of flying plus layover time passed by pretty quickly for me. (The secret is to sleep as much as possible if you can.) We eventually found and had the pleasure of meeting Ruth Sensei, who we were expecting to be Japanese and were surprised to find she was American. As she took us to the share house where we would be staying, I noticed how the passenger side of the car and the roads seemed backwards relative to the ones I was used to seeing; they were both positioned on the left side instead of the accustomed right. It was bizarre but something I’d eventually get used to.

When we entered the share house, we were immediately welcomed by the Indonesian students who had arrived the night before and by the few Japanese students who were there at the time. They were the friendliest, not-shy-at-all set of people I had ever met, not hesitant to introduce their selves and ask us questions. Everyone, even the ones who weren’t very fluent in English, all connected with Aaron instantly. All that was needed to be said was “tall” and it was understood. That was often followed by a reference to playing basketball. Me, I talked some but observed as much as I could – there was a myriad of objects, people, and places I couldn’t wait to get to know better and familiarize myself with.

Within the first two hours, I got a taste of what the Japanese culture and system towards sustainability were like. The whole group (Indonesians, Japanese, Aaron, and me) was taught what not to do with chopsticks that would be considered improper or offensive to the Japanese, properly sitting and bowing, to slurp when having soup to show you were enjoying it – things of that nature. Then recycling was the topic of discussion. The citizens in each neighborhood were responsible for their own proper sorting of garbage (plastic, compostable, burnable, or recyclable). This was a community-managed, collective effort and the citizens followed through with it because they knew the importance of its effect to sustainability overall.

Group site-seeing and touring were mixed into the scheme. There we learned more about the culture of Japan, and at times even got to experience it ourselves in a sense (if you don’t know what I mean, refer to Aaron’s picture on his blog of him wearing Samurai armor :).  One of my favorite memories was when we were on our way up to the Matsuyama castle, riding on a chair-lift. That had the best top-of-the-view of the city – specks of trees, itty bitty rooftops, and the hillside spread out along the horizon and filling up the city space.

Cooking was another one of the important aspects of the trip as every day, we would alternate between who was cooking which meal. We had been divided into groups of about five for this. There was a cooking and a cleaning team for every meal. From this experience, I’ve become much more interested in cooking. It doesn’t seem as – well, maybe it was with the food I only knew back at home which seemed boring, like a sandwich, bread, ham, lettuce. Here there was diversity and vibrancy, flavor, taste. Taste for sure. And being there too when the food was being made and watching. Taste and curiosity for how it has been done and what ingredients – that was what has changed for me.

After almost a week at the share house, we moved to a rural area, Kawanouchi Village where we learned about the terrace paddy fields, their sustainability, and their uses for crop production. We lived right in the center surrounded by a beautiful view of terraced paddy fields that layered downward and seemed to move inward towards us as well as the mountainside. We were mentored by and worked alongside a few village leaders who worked with the non-profit organization there called the Satoyama Initiative. This NPO’s mission was to bring people and nature in harmony with one another through the understanding of the value of the land and diversity. Only when this was reached would the country be able to overcome its food-insufficiency period and become self-sufficient. The separation between rural and urban communities was the major obstacle to this, and the NPO was working to close this divide through citizens and farmers working together on the field, growing and harvesting their own crops, and learning about the practices that went into that.

In the place we stayed at, there was little to no electricity. It was quite the first-hand experience, using heaters we had to jump-start by lighting with matches. At night, when all the heaters were shut off, we all slept on futons with layers of blankets and snuggled up against one another on top of the flat Tatami mat flooring to keep warm. The weather was ridiculously chilly during our time there. This experience, always being with the other girls day and night as well as when all of us, the guys and girls were altogether throughout the day – how could I not find myself growing closer to and fonder of these people by the hour? We all were comfortable goofing around with each other, came to understand the other’s jokes, and were determined to learn about the other’s culture and language whether it was Indonesian, Japanese, or American. We became a little family.

Aaron’s and my last day was the hardest. All of us went to a beautiful temple painted gold at some parts that seemed to float peacefully in the middle of a pond. It felt Zen. There was a souvenir shop at the end of the trail with little designed fabric pouches and other little items to purchase meant to bring you things like good luck. Then we took the bus to the second temple and realized we had better hurry if we wanted to get through it and get Aaron and me to our flight on time. It began to rain during this time. We took a final picture on my camera with all of us in it. We fast forwarded through the tour of the temple which had a unique feeling to it. I wish we could have had more time to explore it. It seemed to be giving off a vibe of being alive almost, with its vibrant red-colored wood and it was quite enormous in height.  Then we were heading back through it to find the bus to take us back to the bus station in Kyoto.

Then we had to wait for the bus that would take Aaron and me to the airport. This felt like the longest part, anticipating, until it came and then time seemed to speed up! I needed more time to say bye. It was hard leaving them. There was talk we’d see each other again, but when? Would it really happen? Saying goodbye felt rushed. It always does. I tried to soak in each of their faces to memory as we took turns hugging.  There were tears involved. Then the bus almost left because we weren’t boarding, but we managed to get on still. The ride to the airport was silent between Aaron and me. Nostalgia had already kicked in.

We barely made it to our flight in time; we got there as people were lined up to board the plane.

All I wanted, all I still want, was for the bus to go in reverse at breakneck speed and be back where we had left everyone, left all I had become tightly attached to. The fact this had all happened in over just two weeks – it was too little time looking back, and yet so much had taken place. I would miss it all. This experience and everything that went along with it is a keepsake I have every intention of holding tight to and treasuring forever.

–Linda

 

 

 

The Only Constant is Change…

As college students, we can often fall into routines with work, school, friends…with our lives. While routines can be comfortable in their familiarity and organization, a change can often bring much needed awaking, excitement, and challenge. Studying abroad in France shook up my life in a way I would have never imagined.

Everything is different here: the lifestyle, the food, the people, and definitely the school. As far as school goes, while the content of the courses is very similar to that which I studied at UWB, almost everything else is different. The structure of the schedule is as follows: five 4-credit courses, meeting two hours per week, and one 10-credit course, meeting four hours per week. Rather than lectures or seminars, the 4-credit courses tend to be largely consumed by student presentations, or “exposés” as they are called. The attendance policy is a bit strict: miss two classes (for any reason, even medical) and you automatically receive a zero in the course! However, a huge benefit of study abroad is the chance to become quite proficient in a foreign language by studying in that language, with native speakers. Plus, my classes here are filled with foreign students from all over the world, giving me the chance to not just learn about France, but also Germany, China, Switzerland, and many others.  I’ve even picked up a few German words since arriving—yaw, oops I mean “Ja!” Ich liebe spätzle.

Studying abroad allows for a state of constant learning and adaptation. That’s maybe what I notice most here in France; just going into the post office is sometimes a challenge, and a learning experience – figuring out how the system works and trying to do it in a different language. In the beginning I was frustrated at how long little tasks would take – like mailing a postcard – but in the end, after miscommunications, and some difficulties, eventually I got the stamp. Sometimes it’s in the grocery store, sometimes it’s at La Poste, and sometimes it’s in the classroom, but when in Paris, new experiences follow almost as closely as the smell of fresh baguette.