Sunday, April 15, 2018

My First Two Months in Rio de Janeiro

      Rio de Janeiro is a city unlike any other. If you are unfamiliar with any type of Hispanic or Latin American cultures, it may be very shocking (at first) to even visit Brasil-- especially Rio. Here in Rio, it is legal to run stop signs after 10 pm. The streets are always bustling. There is never quiet. There is an abundance of tropical fruits even now, as summer transitions to fall. The most noticeable aspect of Rio that stuck out to me when I first arrived is the blatant divide between rich and poor. I am lucky enough to live between Copacabana and Ipanema-- two "upper class neighborhoods"-- however, right outside my window, you can see the comunidades or favelas. These are poor communities where people live under extreme poverty. You see this everywhere in Rio: the "beauty" of the rich tries to hide the "ugly" of the poor. 
      Here, may people will warn you of the violence that fluctuates in the city. They tell you to take the necessary precautions: don't wear flashy jewelry, don't carry your fancy iPhone X around, don't dress like a tourist, don't walk around alone at night, etc. Although nothing bad has happened to me, I know that violence does exist here and it does help to know tips before you come. Aside from this, Brazilians are extremely willing to help you and will go out of their way for you even if they don't know what you're talking about. 
      PUC, the university I am attending, is an academically "good" school. Ergo, when I tell people I attend here, they usually say "parabens" or congratulations as it is known for being a prestigious school in Brasil. I've noticed, however, that there is not a very diverse student body. Even though there are many foreign exchange students, there are not many people of color. This pertains to the staff as well: there are 1,985 professors at PUC; 1,860 are white, 86 are black, 10 are amarelos or "tan," 1 is indigenous and 28 are undeclared according to PUC's Nuvem Negra newspaper. I have become very interested in the issue of racism here in Brasil and particularly Rio, as it is plain to see yet so different from the racism we see and experience in the United States.
      Overall, my first two months in Rio have been absolutely amazing: my brain has been overloaded with so much information about the music, food, fashion, politics, and lives of the people here. I have been inspired especially by the people I have met at baile funkes, street dance parties usually in the favelas, that seem to have the most eccentric styles, beautiful smiles and eye opening perspectives on life.
      Rio de Janeiro is a great choice to study abroad. As long as you exercise the necessary precautions and come with an open mind, you will do just fine. It also helps to have a positive mindset: if you are constantly thinking about getting mugged or being in a violent situation, you will attract it. You have to walk without fear here! There are so many pros that outweigh the cons here in Rio-- many people miss out on an amazing city solely because of what they hear. Come experience it yourself! 


Monday, March 19, 2018

HPU Study Abroad Griffith University 2017: Student Housing and Campus Tour (VIDEO)


G'day Mates! Welcome to Griffith University.

Below is a short video I made touring Griffith University Southport Campus in Gold Coast Australia, including The Village (student housing). I know that when I was first looking into studying abroad I watched every video that was available on YouTube about the school. This provides a helpful insight of what to expect from the campus before travelling down under.



YouTube Links: https://youtu.be/FsUsTbecTNA 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Tips for Those of You Going to PUC-Rio

Tips for PUC Rio

Rio is amazing, and you will probably have the best experience of your life while studying there. However, you need to be careful, and hopefully my advice can help you avoid some of the situations that I encountered.

Safety:

-Do not hang out on the beach late at night, you’ll be robbed at gun-point.

-Do not walk around late at night either, if you have to then walk fast! Uber is really common there and very cheap so take an Uber!

-The only favela you should go to visit is Vidigal, but do not live there! Loads of PUC international students decide to live there, and after a few months, something unsafe happens and they all have to move.

-Watch/read the news on your phone (learn Portuguese asap), it will tell you if drama is going on in the favelas, and places to avoid. [When I was there, there was a gun-war and we had random gunmen who took over the area around the school and Joatinga].

-Always carry valuable items in your underwear. Even when you think it is safe, there is a pick-pocketer somewhere watching you. I was robbed so many times because I left my bag unattended at the beach or my phone in the small pocket of my bag (someone literally opened the pocket and took it out while I was walking).

-You should withdraw money from Bradesco, there are no withdrawal fees. HOWEVER, the Bradesco located in Copacabana on Rua Santa Clara is compromised. Me and my friends who used an ATM there all ended up having our cards copied. If you do end up a victim of fraud, don’t panic: your parents will be able to send you money using Western Union- you go there with your passport to pick up the cash.

Other Advice:

-You can take an Uber from the airport- there is wifi there, go to the second floor and I think you have to go to Terminal 2 (you can ask someone at the airport “oi, to procurando o lugar pra pedir um uber, ce sabe onde esta?”).

-Lay on your bag if you take it to the beach. If not, someone will run by and grab it while you’re not paying attention.

-There are some safe parts of Rio. Recreio is awesome and safe, as is Barra. Recreio is also great for surfing. You can take the metro to Barra, or a bus from a stop along the beach to go to Recreio.

-Don’t rely on the bus to take you to school. It is almost always late. Try to get a bike, but be careful with the cars and stay in the bike lane when possible (they drive like maniacs).

-VEGANS: you will find vegans in Rio, but it is very uncommon, and so expensive to buy vegan alternatives. (There are also festivals and events showcasing vegan alternatives.) I suggest you go to Hortifrutti to buy Soy Protein, which is not expensive. There are also so many fruits and veggies there. Just be prepared to not eat as well as you can in the US, and also bring any vitamins with you (they are so expensive in Brazil).

-The cheapest grocery store is Mundial. It’s crazy when you take a visit to Mundial! Completely jam-packed full of people but very cheap. I went there every week, and they don’t accept international cards so always go with cash. You will need 60-100 reais to shop for the whole week depending what you buy.

-I paid pretty much everything in cash, not many places accept international cards (apart from shopping centers). So go prepared, make sure your bank is prepared for you to use international ATMs.

-TRAVEL! As much as you can. Go up to Buzios and Arraial do Cabo at some point (Air BnB is great). Travel to Bahia, and if you have money/time, go to other countries in South America. A really cool place I visited is Itacare in Bahia. It is also interesting to go to places like Sao Paulo and Curitiba, because they are so developed and it literally feels like you’re back in the US.

-You can always take a bus to travel. If airlines are too expensive (this is usually the case) and you are travelling to a state that is quite close like Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo, Curitiba etc., you can take a travel bus for about 150 reais return. It takes ages but it is cheap (it took me 10 hours to get to Minas Gerais). You just search in google "Onibus Rio de Janeiro a (location)". You probably won't be able to buy the ticket online with your card, so try to find a Brazilian friend who will let you use theirs, or go to the actual bus station and pay there in cash.

-Contact me! If you need help with anything, I probably have the answers. I also have loads of friends still in Rio/ lots of friends all over Brazil. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Classes at Soonchunhyang University

Classes at Soonchunhyang University

        Happy Holidays Everyone! The fall semester has ended and exams finished in Mid December. Attending this school under the Asian Studies program, you have a minimum of 12 credits and a maximum of 19 credits to be a full-time student. I took 6 classes that summed up to a whopping 19 credits!


Academics:

        Here is a rundown of how the classes work. So you are not required to take any certain type of class, but be a full-time student. Below are the classes I took and how it went:

        Cultural Internship Discussion class. This is where you would discuss the journey of adapting to a new environment. This is the class that is 6 credits but would be transferred as a General Education in Global Crossroads and Diversity.

         A Korean Culture Class - Calligraphy (1 credit). A time where I would come in for 2 hours and just distress as you practice your calligraphy on phrases the teacher wants you to write.

 

        The two business classes that are the only two offered that semester. Global Entrepreneurship was a class where you learn about powerful business leaders and you would make group presentation and group work. The other class, International Trade and Finance are more of a lecture class with the only midterm, final exam, and a small presentation. Also, these two classes took us on field trips to Samsung Innovation Museum and Hyundai Motors Factory, two of Korea's biggest businesses or conglomerates. (The picture below is a group picture on a souvenir mouse pad from Samsung company tour)



        Korean Speaking and Writing (2 different classes). Even though they are on two different days, you will have the same teacher and will cover both subjects simultaneously. Before entering, you take an entrance exam at orientation. You would either be automatically placed in Level 1 or your place to a higher level. Usually, you need to have taken professionally taught class previously before SCH to get placed into a higher level. If you are self-taught, you would need to make a request. If you have taken Korean class before, do not be afraid and take the test to place higher.

        Ultimately, you will not have a hard time learning as most of the classes are taught in English. The community of people are great so it is manageable to do the class work. Keep in mind that most classes, only 30% of the students can receive an A in the class. I worked hard, made sure to participate in class and ask suitemates for help. My transcripts are out and I’m proud of my grades.

       Next time I will talk about student life and how to manage your money in South Korea! Enjoy the Holidays :)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Saying Goodbye

As the time of my study abroad at Ewha Woman's University draws to a close, I have found that the hardest part of this experience is saying goodbye. It sounds very cliché, but it's the truth. The countdown began a month ago, and time seems to have sped up for me and my friends during this final month together. As it became less than a week, the tears came and realization was hitting. Hard.

I couldn't believe that all of my time for the past 4 months were spent in Seoul, where I needed to adjust to the lifestyle, culture, education system, and living accommodations. Not only is it hard to say goodbye to the country, but it's the hardest to part from friends. The friends I've made here were the biggest factors in making the experience what it was--the best time of my life. They were there to experience all of my first times: living away from home, living with a roommate, going on spontaneous adventures in the middle of the night, first birthday away from family and first Thanksgiving away from home. I cry hard knowing that we are all separated from each other and not knowing when the next time we are going to see each other. These connections became so strong in such a short period of time, and the emotional investments for these relationships show how far we have come these past few days. Crying and feeling depressed about the ending is something that I wasn't prepared for or even thought might happen to me, but it did. I'm not sure how to deal with it, but I find that talking about your experiences and keeping busy really helps.

I've also learned a few lessons that I'd like to share with you as you prepare for your study abroad :)

1. Keep a Study Abroad Journal and document EVERY SINGLE DAY of your time abroad. This little project may seem very tedious, but you will be so grateful to have done it at the end. I brought a journal with me and wrote everything I did and felt every single day. Reading back on it, I can remember small and big details from any day that I was abroad. When we remember our memories, we tend to just generalize the most important details. But with your journal, you can remember the small moments that may have touched your heart--like a bake sale or the time you randomly went to McDonald's at midnight with a friend and had the most heart-to-heart conversation you ever had in your life. But if writing's not your thing, you can try taking pictures everyday to remember your time abroad :)

2. Even if you feel sad (towards the end), push through and have fun with your friends. Time went by so fast and you don't want to remember a depressing ending. Make the most of your time with your friends having fun and creating more memories to look back on.

3. One of the things I wish I had done more was travel to other countries. If it's possible, go and visit other neighboring countries. I didn't because of my class schedules and tight money budget. Who says when you study abroad you only have to be in one country? :) But if money's tight and it doesn't look like it would work out, then explore and make the most of your time in your host country.

Those are the most important things I wanted to finish off with, and I hope you find this helpful! :)

-Kula

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Spontaneous Weekend in Busan

I took a spontaneous weekend trip to Busan right before my midterms.

It was a great idea.

Okay, so the timing wasn't the best. But I still passed my midterm with an A :) For any other time, if you're interested in travelling around South Korea, Busan is a great location to check out for a weekend trip with friends!

The main things that are the most important in planning the trip is researching how you will get to Busan and where you will stay. For me, I went with 7 other of my best friends (all girls and yes, we are ALL crazy) and all of us contributed in planning this trip. We stayed at Kimchee Guesthouse (how Korean lol) and it cost 24,000 won (less than $24 for me to stay two nights) and our bus tickets cost 23,000 won one way (46,000 won = approx. less than $46). So in total, I paid about $70 to get from Seoul to Busan and living accomodations.

Not bad at all.

We booked our reservations for the guesthouse online, and in order to do so, you will need a Korean credit card and phone number. In our case, two people had one of each so that was really helpful. You can also book bus tickets online as well, but we ran into issues with the credit card so we all bought our tickets at the Express Bus Terminal.

To get to Busan, you can take a bus or the train. It was cheaper for us to take a bus (about $46 roundtrip) than the train ($60 one way/ $120 roundtrip). The bus does take about 4-5 hours to get from Seoul to Busan and vice versa, but the train takes about 2.5 hours. If you're not in a rush, I would recommend taking the bus since it's cheaper. But if you're on a time crunch, then it would be a better idea to take the train.

I remember so much happening on the day we left. The feelings of excitement and some anxiety (because of my midterm on the Monday morning) and just wondering if I had made a bad decision by going on a spontaneous weekend trip. But going on this trip with all my friends--they comforted and supported me from all my worries. They took care of me, and I felt safe.

We left Seoul around 8pm, and arrived in Busan at midnight. The night lights of a new city sparked curiosity and the adventurous streak in me. Midterms? What midterm? Two of our friends were already at the guesthouse waiting for us, and we had to catch two taxis in order to reach our guesthouse.

That taxi ride was the craziest ride of my life.

Immediately, we noticed an accent from our taxi driver and it was adorable! He was basically speeding (he went over 160 kmh / 99 mph), and two of my friends and I are sitting in the back without our seatbelts (bad idea, but there was no room with all our things). I was sitting in the middle, and the thought going through my mind was, "If we get into a car accident, guess who's going to be the first out of the car?" Luckily, despite his speeding, he drove us safely to our destination.





Busan reminded quite a bit of Hawaii, and I don't mean just the beaches. The weather was fairly warm, and the pace was much slower compared to Seoul. People here are so friendly and helpful. It was nice to have a little reminder of home.

We got to take a ferry tour around along the coast for 7,000 won (less than $7) and it was sooooooo worth it!! My friends were amazed at how clear and beautiful the ocean was (another reminder of Hawai'i) and it felt invigorating to be back on a boat on the ocean. It was a beautiful sunny day, but really windy.



My friends will kill me for this picture, but that's how windy it was.

We also explored an old village called Bukchon Village, and the colors of the houses are bright and vibrant. It was such a beautiful place to visit, but the hills there killed my legs.



 
 
Our day didn't end there, although it was night. We pushed through our tiredness and were determined to visit the International Film Festival in Busan. Since it was late at night, we didn't get to see any films; however, there was like an outside shopping market where we were able to see different types of fish and seafood, and street foods being sold around. It reminded us of a less crowded version of Myeongdong (a famous shopping area in Seoul).


My friend and I left earlier than the rest of the group on Sunday, since I needed to study for my midterm that was the next day. Overall, the trip was a wonderful experience and one of the best spontaneous decisions I ever made during my time abroad. It was time well spent with great friends and gave me the opportunity to explore somewhere outside of Seoul.

If you want to explore outside of Seoul, Busan should definitely be on your list. And take risks! Sometimes the best experiences come out of the most spontaneous decisions :)

-Kula

Saturday, December 9, 2017

College life in Israel as of today

Shabbat shalom everyone!

I was planning on writing a totally different blog post than this, but I ended up deciding that this must be way more intriguing than what I had in mind... so here it is! 

First off, I must point out that living in a country which has been in a state of emergency since its establishment is quite different than what you must imagine. Israel is a small country, surrounded by countries such as Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, and divided by Israeli and Palestinian territories. People living here have a looming threat over their everyday life - the possibility of an incoming missile is not unimaginable, however, this does not stop them from living their everyday life to the fullest.

During my stay here I have discovered that life is just like back at home - we all go to school every day, explore the country during the weekends, and have tons of homework waiting for us when we get back :) The food is amazing, and people are incredibly hospitable. As the country is quite small in size, my new friends and I have travelled quite a lot around to make sure we see as much as possible. And as always, heed caution! The university will send you emails warning you of places not to travel, and as you are a guest in this country, heed their advise - and stay away from places they warn you of. Now, this is not meant to scare you - Israel is amazing, and I love it here. But I want you to know that things are a bit different here than at home, and listening to the locals is always the best thing to do. 

Still, that does not mean that you should not travel! You are only here for a limited amount of time before you return to HPU. So go out and explore! Meet locals, eat street food, and let loose! The staff of the international school are great and have planned many trips around Israel for the international students. So far, we have visited Jerusalem, Rosh HaNikra, Atlit, Ceasara, and more, plus had countless events around in Haifa - from volunteering to pub crawls - there is tons to do and see!

Getting around is not difficult. There are buses and trains that can take you anywhere, and car rentals if you want the freedom to go wherever, whenever. Remember Shabbat though! From midday Friday to Saturday night almost all public transport stops, and shops are closed for the Judaism's day of rest. However, there will be a few buses operating on Saturday, as Israel has a very strong tradition of freedom of religion and of expression - thus, some Israelis keep to Shabbat very strictly (no work, no travel etc), and equally as many don't keep it at all. Therefore, Friday and Saturday has become the weekend, and Sunday is technically the first day of the week (therefore, school starts on Sunday as well). 

The classes are a bit different as well. You will have about the same amount of classes and credit hours as you have at HPU, however, how they divide their class-hours is a bit different. A class will only be taught one day of the week, thus, in my case for example, I will only have my Arab-Israeli Relations class one day - on a Monday, for 3 full hours (we get a small break, of course). Now, as far as I'm concerned, this is not a problem. All the Israelis follow the same system. And honestly, you get used to it after some time. Plus, as all your classes follow the same system, you can technically end up with an incredibly long weekend! Which is perfect if you wish to have longer trips around the country - or more time for writing all your papers ;) 

I hope this helped you guys if you were wondering about life here in the Middle East. It is a totally different way of living - while at the same time, not so different when you think about it. I can only hope more of you will consider studying abroad here. HPU has to represent, haha :) Have a great weekend everyone! Aloha