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  • melinthemiddle 2:27 am on August 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Less Than a Week Away… 

    In less than a week, my study abroad experience will begin. Here is a riddle for you: How do you get from New York City to China without going East? Answer: Fly North! My plane will take off from NYC , fly over the North Pole, and land in Beijing, China. That’s a 13 hour direct flight. I’ve been told that when I arrive in Beijing, the weather will be summer-like. By December, however, the weather will be freezing and snowy. Therefore, I need to pack enough clothes in my suitcase to cover summer, fall, and winter weather. Here’s the catch: my suitcase cannot exceed 50 lbs. Challenging? Just a bit.

    My efforts to pack have been severely suppressed by my desire to cram a summer’s worth of experiences into the two weeks before I leave the country. I came home from Middlebury Summer Chinese School a week ago (just two weeks before my flight). My final exams were over and all I wanted to do was sleep, speak English, and see all my friends before they went back to college. In other words: I was not ready to even THINK about packing for Beijing. With only 5 days left before my flight, I’m now scrambling to make sure I have everything in order. “Procrastination” is my middle new name.

    Despite my procrastination, there are a few preparations that I managed to complete. Over the past week, I have come across some good travel advice from student vlogs I found on Youtube.  Some videos I found gave tours of the University I will be studying at; others introduced local shopping centers and local attractions. From watching these videos, I feel as though I have become a bit more familiar with the University’s surroundings. Before I left for summer school, I also managed to read some travel essays: Lost on Planet China, by J. Maarten Troost narrates a tour through China from a Westerner’s perspective.  No Touch Monkey!, by Ayun Halliday is a comical account of a young actress who learns how to be a world backpacker through trial and error. These books introduced me to new perspectives and situations that I previously never considered.  Another preparation I made over the summer was the development of a small network of contacts who will be in Beijing this Fall: a couple of summer school classmates who will be studying at the University next door, a pen pal from Peking University who will help me get to know the campus and a friend who will be visiting Beijing for a week or two.  Even though I know I will make friends in my study abroad program, I feel very comforted knowing that I already have friends in Beijing. These few preparations will hopefully ease my transition to student life in China.

    Am I excited to go abroad? Totally! Am I nervous? Yes! But I’m confident that it will be an incredible experience. I mean, how many times will I have the opportunity like this? It will be awesome!

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    • kimeegee 10:19 pm on September 1, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I’m so excited for you!!! It’s great that you did that middleburry program too! I wish I had done that. My Japanese is russsssssty, not rusty, russssssssty. lol!

    • Hannah 4:08 pm on September 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      um, of course it will be awesome~ it’s also way cool you made Beijing contacts already. You’re going to have so much fun (when you’re not sitting in class 20 hours a week).

  • sallyintaiwan 3:31 pm on August 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Expectations 

    Though I’m not yet in Taipei, I’ve already experienced the first challenge of my semester aboard: Packing! In my 6 years of leaving home to go to school, I must say, I seem to bring less and less each year—but nothing comes close to what I’ve packed for this semester!
    I hate to admit it, but packing like this wasn’t that easy… I can’t help but wonder what I’m missing or if my clothes are appropriate (culturally, and for the hot & humid weather of Taiwan!) Packing was most difficult for me because (having only traveled overseas twice, and for a short period of time) I don’t know what I will be like abroad—essentially, I worry about my flexibility, simply because I realize how little I have been pushed outside my comfort zone in the “travel abroad arena.” Maybe, I feel like bringing all the “right stuff” from home will keep me from straying from my comfort zone? Maybe, I feel like if I forget something “important” it will throw me off in an already unfamiliar environment…
    Of course, that’s not true. None of the material things I bring will really matter when it comes to feeling comfortable in Taiwan. AND I don’t want to comfortable! I want to be challenged, and I want to become more flexible! So, I am at a point now that if I think of anything else to bring, I simply won’t bring it. I stuffed my most recent “great idea” (bug spray) in my bag today, and that’s it! Be assured, I WILL think of a handful of other “must haves” but they will have to become “can’t haves.” Especially since my ONE(!) checked bag is 49 lbs, 50 lbs being the limit…

    So, what else have packed?—metaphorically, of course! I’ve done my best to arrive in Taipei prepared for the language component. I understand that a major part of any abroad experience is to explore a culture and something different from one’s own “norm.” But my first priority for this trip to solidify my Chinese language skills—so it would be great if I could get to Taiwan and not have to spend time doing an ineffective, stressful review of last year’s material. In a super busy summer with an internship in DC and a swim coaching job it wasn’t always easy to find time and motivation to brush up—but I mainly did my studying during my commute in and out of DC on the Metro. This mainly included reading and listening to recordings from the textbook I used last year; and also an app called Mind Snacks, for Mandarin, which I found to help with keeping up vocabulary. Reading a couple of guide books, and of course “googleing” Taiwan whenever I got the chance help to explain general cultural standards and politics, as well the best beaches to travel to!
    With the research I’ve done, I have surprised myself in that I have very few specific expectations about my time abroad (about the people, the place, etc.) This is not to say expectations are low, just generally absent. I expect to become better at Chinese, make some friends, experience a place unlike any I’ve ever been… but these are relatively general expectations. I am extremely pleased with my lack of expectations; with no expectations during an opportunity as fortunate as this, in a place I am so excited about I’m sure to be amazed every day—what’s better than that?!

     
  • Kristyna Bronner 1:14 am on August 13, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Hong Kong, here I come! 

    On August 28, I won’t be joining the rest of my HWS classmates in attending the second day of classes on campus. Instead, I’ll be spending my day on a plane, flying from Boston (to Chicago) to Hong Kong. Instead of taking classes at HWS, I’ll be taking classes at Lingnan University.

    Obviously, studying abroad for a semester is going to be an exciting experience, unlike anything that I’ve ever done. Though the majority of students at HWS go abroad, I feel that I am part of a small minority who hasn’t traveled outside of the U.S. on family vacations or other things. Most people don’t even believe me when I say that!

    So, this is kind of a big deal for me, as I have never traveled overseas.  In fact, I’ve only ever traveled to Canada, and never by plane. The last time I went, in 2006, I didn’t even need a passport—I used my high school id to get over the border. I’ve only been on a plane a handful of times, too. Given all of that, one can only imagine how crazy it must seem to my family and close friends that I chose to go to Hong Kong as my first abroad experience.

    Let me give you a little background information on myself. I am a junior at HWS from Wilbraham, MA and I am double majoring in Writing and Rhetoric and International Relations with a minor in Asian Studies. I have always dreamed of traveling, but as I mentioned above, I’ve never really been anywhere (excluding the Hockey Hall of Fame in Canada, of course).

    So, the concept of studying abroad anywhere has always excited me. In fact when it came time choose a program, I changed my mind everyday. Even though I’ve been studying Mandarin since my first year at the Colleges, I was still hesitant to eliminate any Europe programs right away. Then, when I finally decided to utilize my study of Mandarin (which makes sense), I struggled constantly with which program to put as my first choice. I even considered putting no order and letting my fate be decided by the CGE staff. I finally talked with my academic advisors and decided on Hong Kong—as a double major, I’m constantly worried about finishing all of my requirements so my advisors thought it would be the best fit for me, especially since I’m not taking any classes for my Writing and Rhetoric major.

    Though Hong Kong is not a language immersion program, I have already enrolled in a Mandarin language class. My three other classes will be taught in English. I can’t remember their exact names but I know there is one about the Chinese Economy, Hong Kong Politics and one about women in Chinese art throughout history. And, I’ve loaded up my phone with some good apps like Dianhua and Writer to help me keep reviewing my Mandarin. I also took out all of my Chinese textbooks so that I can start reviewing (maybe some light reading for the plane?).

    I’m leaving in about two weeks, but I still have a lot left to do. I finally got my visa in the mail, so that’s one less thing to worry about. I’m mostly worried about packing. I know that after four years of boarding school and two years of college, I should be an expert, but I’ve never had to fit everything into only two suitcases (one big and one small!). I’m also worried about bringing clothes that are culturally appropriate but that allow me to stay cool in Hong Kong’s hot weather.

    Though I have a lot of anxieties now, I know that once I arrive in Hong Kong I will forget all of them.

     
    • DougReilly 3:59 pm on August 14, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Kristyna,
      Thanks for that great intro post. How exciting for you! I was similar when I studied abroad, it was a big deal and the first stamp in my passport. And how exciting that your first adventure is a rather large one! I’ll be interested to see how much you’ll be able to use your Mandarin in Hong Kong, but I also hope you plan on traveling to the mainland where you can immerse yourself a bit more! For the moment, relax and enjoy the apprehension of a very big trip, and untold discoveries ahead! I think you will not regret your choice to go to Hong Kong. Welcome to Asiapod!
      Doug

    • Vikash Yadav (@vyadav) 12:01 pm on August 19, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Good luck!
      Best, Vikash

    • Hannah 4:12 pm on September 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Good luck Kristyna- I hope you can use your Mandarin. When I visited HK for a few days before my semester in Beijing, I got lectured on my first night for saying “谢谢” in a restaurant. It’s a really interesting languages system going on over there, and it really depends on what time someone grew up in to what language they might speak. The older generations might not know English, the younger ones seem to all be fluent. As for Mandarin, it seems to depend.
      Have fun in HK, and on Asiapod!!
      ~Hannah

  • jhboisselle 7:35 pm on August 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: portugal, spain   

    Asiapod 2012: Mission Briefing 

    Greetings from Geneva, New York.  We are Doug and Juliet, the Asiapod Mission Control Operators at Hobart and William Smith.  Our job is mostly to get Asiapod participants the necessary resources (such as iTouch units and blog space), pose provocative challenges (we hope) and then get out of the way!  We can’t wait to hear the voices of our second year of participants studying abroad as they navigate language, space and culture.  We also hope to hear from Asiapod readers (yes, we love comments!) and that includes Asiapod 2011 participants.

    So, without further ado…we thought it might be nice to re-introduce ourselves virtually (thanks, Melissa for getting us started!) to help us all start anticipating transitioning into Fall 2012 adventures.

    Symphony Village, Lisbon, Portugal 1983

    Juliet here. My enthusiasm for this project stems from two primary areas ~ 1) An early love of language learning.  At age eleven, I had a life-changing experience as a CISV Villager.  In 1983, I lived in Lisbon, Portugal for a month with 11-year-olds from twelve different countries in a “village.” Within the first few hours of arrival in Lisbon, I became frustrated that I could not speak (all of) the native languages in my camp.  It was evident that the American children had the weakest language skills of the group.  Then and there, I resolved to make language learning a priority for the rest of my life, and so began my journey of exploring languages. Since then, I’ve dappled in Latin (“dead ” language, I know but still a very powerful base!), Spanish, French, Mandarin and Italian.  That’s all to say, I find language learning a fun personal challenge and sing praises whenever possible to Children’s International Summer Villages for such a rich childhood experience.  2) My professional path currently meanders around all things technology and learning in higher education.  While I’m not a gadget geek (at all), I am always interested in identifying ways that technology can enhance learning.  Who knew Skype was on the horizon twenty years ago when I learned Mandarin via cassette tapes in a basement language lab?  Digital touch devices such as the iTouch that facilitate vocabulary building and drilling from the palm of your hand? Practicing character strokes? Wow.  What a time within which we are living.  It’s a constantly shifting landscape and it’s my job to try to help us all be mindful of what works…and what doesn’t.  I’m eager to do some more vicarious traveling through our participants’ postings. Bring ’em on!

    Doug here. I’m the programming coordinator for the Center for Global Education (study abroad office) at HWS, and my job is more or less to do neat projects like Asiapod that can enrich student experience abroad, as well as back on campus. Far as I am aware, I’m the only person in the study abroad field with this job description, and I feel very fortunate for that. What many of you might not know is that the impact of mobile computing has the field of study abroad quite frightened. The idea that a student can be constantly tethered to their home  (family, friends, language, culture) has us worried that participants in 21st century study abroad may not have the same powerful experience of place that Juliet did in Portugal (where she was restricted to snail mail for communication) or I did as a Junior in Seville, Spain. I also wrote letters. On paper. And licked stamps to get them where they needed to go.

    But rather than be a Pollyanna about it, I’d rather explore ways in which connectivity, and these powerful little handheld devices, might truly augment our experience of place. We designed Asiapod as a way of lightly structuring the exploration of place with mobile computing. We’ve got some great challenges lined up for this year that are designed to, step by little step, ask our participants to step outside of their comfort zones–and report back to us!

    Like Juliet, I am neither luddite nor gear geek. I’m most interested in the ways in which technology can truly enrich our experiences. I don’t believe every technology is innately good, that newer is necessarily better, or that market forces alone should guide technological adoption. I like bicycles better than cars (look, if the Ipod killed 40,000 people a year from use, do you really think we’d be using them? Cars do, and we do!), still have an old 1948 Corona typewriter (thing of beauty) and am both a digital and film photographer.

    I have developed a methodology for traveling that makes me feel like I’ve really been in a place, which involves getting a haircut, going down back alleys, finding some kind of counterculture, and trying to introduce myself to people, maybe to take their portraits with one of my cameras. I have visited countries and not seen a single thing that’s in the guidebooks, but have felt all the richer for the simpler pleasures of communicating across cultures. And eating. I love food. And talking about food. And writing and photographing it. And eating it. Did I say that?

     
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