Sunday, November 19, 2017

Finding Your Seoul

Aloha everyone!

If you're interested in studying abroad in South Korea, definitely go for it! It's a unique fusion of modern and historical architecture that comes together whenever you walk around the city. The food is amaaaaaazing and there are so many awesome things to list, but I wanted to describe how life has been for me during the first phase of my study abroad living in Seoul and attending Ewha Woman's University.


I was told by another student who studied abroad that if you had visited the country you were studying abroad before, then it was pretty unlikely you would feel homesickness. She was right for the most part. I only felt homesick on the plane ride going to Seoul because I was questioning whether this was the right decision for me. The thoughts of, "It's too late to go back, did I make a mistake?" Or, "Living in Seoul is going to be different from just visiting, will I adjust well?" All of these doubts and hesitations made me worried during the 9-hour flight over.

But as soon as I saw we were landing, I knew I had made one of the best decisions of my life. Landing in South Korea symbolized my freedom--the first time I would ever live on my own, live in a dorm, live with a roommate, live in another country for college.

That was the extent of my homesickness, and it will be different for everyone. Some people, myself included, felt more of a culture sickness, if anything. Not necessarily a culture shock, but missing aspects of our home culture as we first adjusted to living in South Korea. Koreans are much more reserved and tend to keep to themselves in comparison to foreigners such as Americans or Europeans who are much more open and show more energy in their mannerisms.

I arrived in Seoul a little over a week before school started, so I moved into the dorms and quickly became friends with my awesome roommate, Anne-Laure, and other international students living in my building. So what did we do during that week? Explore and eat.

King Sejong Statue

(My awesome roommate and our friend Kyle)

One of the things I highly recommend students to experience is to wear a hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) and visit Gyeongbokgung Palace. It is free entrance into the Palace for those who wear hanboks. Many shops nearby offer affordable rentals. I brought the one I owned and we visited the palace grounds on a SUPER HOT day. I do NOTadvise you to do this during hot/humid weather, Fall may be a good time to do this since it will be cooler and you can see the foliage.

Some of the things my friends and I saw while we were hiking up a hill to see the Ewha Mural Village, which is perfect during sunset time because the lighting offers a very peaceful aesthetic.

While it's so easy to have ALOT of fun in Seoul, I also came to study at Ewha Woman's University. The most bizarre part of university in South Korea is registering for classes, and it is extremely stressful. Here's why:

All exchange/international students register for their classes on ONE day, and that day only essentially. The time begins at 9am and finishes at 5pm. Students must have arranged their schedules and classes beforehand so they know which ones to automatically register for. On that day, students were awake at around 8am, prepared to register. It was crazy. Some classes will only accept a few exchange students (ex. I had a class where only 3 exchange students were accepted out of a 60 person lecture class). If you are unlucky in registering for a class on that day, there is another period where you could register in case someone drops the course, etc. If that also doesn't work, you can also email the professor to request that you be added to the class.

Overall, registering for classes at Ewha was very stressful and time-consuming when you needed to figure out a different class to take that would fit your schedule.

One thing that might be really appealing for students interested in Ewha is that it is HIGHLY LIKELY that you will lose weight. The campus itself is built on rolling hills and it is a hike to get from the dorms to classrooms or from class to class. It takes awhile to get used to walking/running up the hills between classes (it took me longer than a month). Also, South Korea has some hills as you stroll through the city so you're getting a great workout while you're exploring!

Classes are mostly lecture-style, which is something new for me since I'm accustomed to small-size classes with more emphasis on discussions. Since these classes are fairly big (60-100 people sometimes), the exams are the biggest part of your grade (midterm and final exam). I prefer to do projects, rather than measuring your understanding through a test. The courses are much more relaxed in comparison to the work load at HPU, however, this means you need to be very responsible about your time management.

During my time at Ewha, there is only one class out of five that I have made Korean friends. There's a couple of reasons for this: 1) this is the only class I have based solely on discussion, so we must interact and discuss with each other, 2) the lecture style doesn't allow for international and Korean students to take advantage of verbal interactions 3) as mentioned earlier, Koreans are much more reserved than foreigners. I also think there is some intimidation about their English skills when speaking with a foreigner, so there's also a language barrier.

I hope you find this helpful if you're studying abroad in South Korea! :)

- Kula

Friday, November 17, 2017

Argentina pt. 3

For anyone really interested in studying abroad in Argentina, you'll most likely find yourself in Buenos Aires, so here are some tips. Get an apartment, roommates are so much more helpful with immersion than a homestay. Trust me, I've done both multiple times. Take advantage of the nightlife, it really is unlike any other and gives you the most natural contact with locals. That being said, the city is dangerous, really dangerous, but if you employ common sense and stay in a group you shouldn't have any problems. The most common crime is phone stealing, almost every local and foreigner I met there has had there's stolen, many of the exchange students had more than one stolen throughout their stay. Keep valuables in your front pocket and keep your hand over them, people with purses actually had them stolen more. Don't do to La Boca after 5pm, just don't, you're not missing anything. For me, Argentine cuisine is good, not to die for good, but good. However, a lot of the foreigners I knew really hated the food, which is funny because I was vegan for the majority of my stay. Barrio chino hands down has the best and most diverse food in the city, there are also great natural food stores and ethnic restaurants in Palermo. The music scene in BA is spectacular, they love rock there as well as boliche EDM and raggae. Bomba de tiempo is a must, there are speakeasys in Barrio Chino, and music festivals throughout the year. Crobar, Bayside, and Rose in Rio are the best boliches. Makena Club! Makena Club! Makena Club! My biggest regret is only going there once. Argentine Spanish is very different but not impossible, different pronouns, pronunciations, accent, conjugation, and slang. I love Spanish rioplatense, it sounds like Italian and is truly unique. The locals are really friendly for such an urban city, I made great friends there from different Latinamerican nations. The only way to make friends is to make an effort to talk to people, don't be afraid of sounding stupid no one cares. There are dozens of museums and they're all great, CCK, MALBA and Bellas Artes are lovely. There's also a lot of ferias like San Telmo, Buenos Aires Market, and really in any large park on the weekends. But the city will drive you crazy, so go exploring out of the region or even better out of the country. You can never experience too much or travel too far.

Chau, argentina

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Argentina pt. 2

If anyone is interested in courses in the International Relations sphere, the Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires is seriously top-notch. Human Rights and Cultural Representation, Estudios Culturales, and Latin America in the Modern World were just some of my favourite classes. My teachers were engaging and empathetic and classically-late. I was so unaware of almost the entirety of Latin American history that having professors who have lived through military dictatorships and civilian coups d'états was eye-opening to say the least. 

I owe so much to Buenos Aires and everything it has offered me. The city has shown me a whole new side of Latino ways of life, what the people have endured and how much they have given to the rest of the international community. Living in an apartment with Mexican, Argentine, and Spanish roommates means ten different accents in every conversation, each with its own dialect, innuendos and sense of humor. I am so grateful to be surrounded by people and friends so open and intelligent, the day each one of us left there was always the same phrase being said, "cuando vengas, tenés casa," we all move on and we may not speak for months or years but the best people don't notice, the best people are home.

Argentina pt. 1

Argentina really is so diverse both culturally and geographically that it can be difficult to take in absolutely everything. Buenos Aires is enormous and picturesque and ruthlessly urban. Salta and Jujuy are traditional argentine and almost surreal in their historical customs. Mendoza is wine country, and very proud of it. Iguazu is mystical and natural and a connection between the higher nations. Bariloche, where I am writing this from, is postcard Patagonia, if Geneva and Lake Tahoe had an environmentally pristine lovechild. So here are some fotos to put a picture to my take on the wondrous cities of Argentina.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Israeli cuisine is amazing!

Aloha everyone!

There are so many delicious dishes here in Israel to try out, largely due to Israel being a huge melting pot of cultures and religions, and I have already started trying them out. These are some dishes I have fallen in love with, and I strongly suggest you try them out whenever you are here!

Falafel // Hummus // Shwarma // Tahini // Baba Ganoush // Bourekas // Rugelach

Plus seafood and shabbat dinners! Oh, and a traditional Israeli salad! And shakshuka! Israel has so much to offer when it comes to food, and the best part is that most of it is actually healthy - its full of fresh veggies, fruit dishes, fish instead of meat, etc etc. Definitely worth trying out. And if you want pastries and the like, then don't worry, the Israelis have a sweet tooth too ;)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

BRAZIL Half-way

So much has happened since my first weeks in Brazil. I have been robbed twice, had my bank details stolen, traveled to 5 different states, made some amazing friendships, and have become more involved at my school (PUC Rio).

I will start with the negatives- it is pretty unsafe in Rio, I am extremely cautious and do everything to prevent being robbed yet I am a huge target because I have blonde hair and white skin, and I have been a victim of two robberies and another attempt in just 4 months. The ATMs (even inside the banks) are also insecure, as I have only used the bank "Bradesco" to withdraw money, yet had my card copied and used. Unfortunately, the international mail service here is so bad that I never received my new bankcard and have relied on Western Union to receive cash transfers from my parents.

There is also a lot of "machismo" here in Rio. This word is difficult to translate into English, but is basically when guys shout sexist comments to women when they are walking in the streets. It's very strange behaviour that I have never experienced before, and makes me uncomfortable walking alone in the city.

However, there are so many positives to Rio. Some of the people you find here are unlike anywhere else. For example, one day I was cycling to school and my handlebars broke. I was about to have a meltdown knowing I would be late to school, but another cyclist stopped and helped me- he had tools and fixed my bike. There are a lot of kind people here who will go out of their way to help you.

My school is also amazing. My professors are awesome- really interesting, and my classes are in Portuguese which makes it even better- in just 4 months I have become basically fluent. I have participated in a student documentary about veganism, and did an interview in Portuguese about why I became vegan and how difficult it is to be vegan in Brazil (it's so hard because this country relies heavily on animal products). I will send the documentary over to the Study Abroad office once the students have published it. PUC Rio also organizes loads of events and they are really good. Right now we have the Primavera Festival, with many different activities going on everyday. We also have a lot of holidays, which has allowed me to travel.

My first trip was to Curitiba. I went there to visit my Brazilian friend that I met in Hawaii, and we drove down to Florianapolis. Floripa was very different- many American students were there, and it didn't feel like Brazil. It was extremely touristy, but had some great beaches and surf spots. Curitiba also didn't feel like Brazil simply because it was so developed.

My second trip was to Brasilia. I went there to visit another Brazilian friend that I met in Hawaii, and we drove up to Bahia (the North). This trip was amazing because I got to see the true Brazil. Bahia is very underdeveloped, and looks impoverished- it was hard even to find a bank there. The culture is very different- intimate communities, everybody knows each other in the town and helps each other out. I stood out very much there, but it wasn't like Rio- people didn't shout sexist comments at me or just randomly approach me and start asking me where I am from etc- it was more respectful, and I liked this. The coast of Bahia was very similar to Hawaii, extremely beautiful, and coconuts all over the place- my breakfast, lunch and dinner.

My most recent trip (last week) was to Minas Gerais, to visit some Brazilian friends that I met at the beginning of my trip. One of my friends there owns the whole city of Uberaba, and I was treated to a week of luxury- his family had chefs in their houses, swimming pools, tennis courts, you name it. It was a really nice get-away from my student apartment in Copacabana.

Since I have been here, I have fallen in love with Tapioca (Brazilian food), Graviola (a fruit) and salgados (like pastries). I have become thinner, and my skin much healthier, so I think that the food here must be more natural than in the US. I have been surfing here in Rio, but really don't like the conditions compared to Hawaii (the waves here are too short, too strong, and unpredictable). I have been to many different music events since Rio has so many different types of music - Samba, Jazz, Bossa Nova, Samba-Jazz, etc. I also got to go to Rock in Rio for free (one of the biggest Rock festivals ever), because The Who were playing (and I used to work with Roger Daltrey's manager). That day was awesome! Guns n Roses played for 4 hours, and I would have had to pay 500 reais if I didn't have this connection with The Who (that's a lot of money here).

I will be very sad to leave Brazil next month, and I really wish I could have done my Study Abroad for a whole year. Despite all the bad aspects, I have a very strong connection with this place. My friends here are irreplaceable, as are the experiences I have had.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Shalom Israel!

Hello HPU students! And shalom :)

My third week in Israel is coming to an end, and I am starting to adapt to my new life here in Haifa. From my relatively short flight to Tel Aviv, and the ensuing travel to Haifa by train and bus, to dorm- and student life at the University, I am hoping to give you guys a short glimpse into life here in Israel as a visiting student from HPU :) I hope this will help with some questions you might have regarding a study abroad experience here in the Middle East!

A view of Haifa from the university
First of all is travelling to Israel. If you wish to study at the University of Haifa, one of HPU's partner universities, remember that Haifa is situated north in the country, about 90 kilometers north of Tel Aviv - and 90 kilometers north of the Ben Gurion Airport; the main international airport of Israel, and the airport you need to land at (as it is the closest international airport to the city of Haifa). From there, the easiest way to get to Haifa is by train. But don't worry! There is a train station at the airport :) Take the train to the Hof HaCarmel station in Haifa, and take either a bus or taxi from there to the university. And again, don't worry. Almost everybody here speaks English, and they all know of the university and where it is located. Getting to the university is not as difficult as people make it seem.

View of Jerusalem from a hostel I stayed at
Second is the dorm life and the student life. The campus is located on the historic slopes of Mount Carmel, with a view overlooking Haifa (as seen on one of the pictures above). The view is amazing! And so are the dorms. While I chose to live at the Federman dorms, where we live in double bedrooms, you can also choose to live at the Talia dorms, where you live in single bedrooms. Both are located right next to each other. You share an apartment with other international students, but are surrounded by apartments with Israeli students - a great way to get to know everyone on campus!

Furthermore, the student life here is very including. There is an amazing staff at the international school who are organizing all kinds of parties and excursions for us, while the Israeli students also organize several parties and events for the university students, just like at HPU. And everyone is welcome to join! I can't wait to explore more of what life here in Haifa has to offer :)

One of the beaches in Haifa

Friday, October 20, 2017

Vanessa Cortes Summer Abroad

My summer abroad has come and gone quicker than I am happy to admit. Words truly can't describe what an incredible experience traveling has been for me. Everyday mundane activities become so significant when you experience them in such a different place. I feel that I have learned so much about myself and other countries while on this journey. One piece of advice I have for those who are preparing for their journey, take advantage of every opportunity presented to you. No matter how bad your jet lag is, if you've never had a certain type of food, or maybe your curious about this new cultures style, just go for it. Each experience will leave you with a few pictures and a good story to tell. I am forever thankful for my own experiences, and would definitely recommend traveling to anyone who is even considering it. I would definitely study abroad again next summer, or at least just visit a few of my new international friends. :)

Vanessa Cortes Week 3

Week 3 has come and gone, man this experience is going by quickly! I can't believe I only have one more week left in this beautiful city. Although I can say that I didn't waste any time out here. Through fellow friends at HPU I have managed to not only see East Germany (Berlin), but I also spent a weekend in the south (Nuremburg), as well as the West (Duisburg)! On my free weekend I went to Amsterdam, and that definitely met all of my expectations. I had told myself at the beginning of this adventure that I would try to venture out and eat more exotic foods, but that really hasn't happened all that often. But I am very excited for our last week of classes because we will be visiting the Volkswagen Headquarters, and we are being led through a V.I.P. tour. Can't wait to see how this next week goes!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

College Life in Tokyo

Hello everyone,
The first month in Tokyo, Japan was awesome. I definitely love the hustle bustle in Tokyo. Especially, the location is right in the district of Shibuya which is known for its pop culture and fashion. Strongly suggest you do not just go back to dorm right after school if you got some time I recommend you to walk around Omotesando, Shibuya, and Harajuku there are tons of things to explore. For example, Line store that has so many cute characters, and Calbee Store that you can try their freshly fried potatoes.

Aoyama Gakuin University is great. Their International Center and tutor are really helpful. From where is ATM, where are the classrooms to how to get discount half-year pass for train etc. Also, there is a job on campus that we can apply for as an exchange student which is the chatroom leader. A chatroom leader at Aoyama is someone to help local Japanese student with their English speaking skills and it is a good chance get to know what are the trends among Japanese students. Moreover, the welcome party held by the student life office was awesome because it is free for new exchange students and dinner is included. The welcome party is the best timing to meet other students like exchange students and degree-seeking. 

Caption: Shibuya Crossing

The class size at Aoyama is quite different compared to what we have in Hawai'i. Many lectures in Japan have around at least 100 students so as you can see in the picture below they got multiple projectors to make sure everyone can see the slides clearly.

Monday, September 18, 2017

6 weeks in Madagascar.3 the end.

Week 5: This week, I have the best time. We go to Vakoana Forest Lodge Lemur Island.  I have so much opportunity to take photos with lemurs and camelinas. 
 Everyone in the program loves this island because of the lemurs.  They come to play with us very closely.  We also have opportunity to visit the national park.  We see one Indri lemur, a few common brown lemurs, and birds.  It is hard to say goodbye to my homestay at Andasibe.  They have tried as best as they can to take care of me.  I love my little five months baby boy so much and wish to steal him back to US with me.
Week 6: This week we are back to Antananarivo and our homestay for two nights.  My homestay family has made me feel warm to be back home at Tana.  We have a great dinner talk and laugh about my Andasibe trip.   
We also go to Morondava where we stay at the beach hotel.  I cannot explain how happy everyone is, including me.  As I come from Hawaii, Morondava has relieved my heavy homesick feeling. 
 We visit the baobab avenue and the love baobab.  It is such amazing experience.  Everyone has beautiful sunset baobab park photos to take back home. 
 I cannot take enough photos of the baobab. 
 They are so amazing.  I finally can do all my assignments here as well.  I am not sure if it is laziness or the cold that has made procrastinate so much at Antananarivo and Andasibe.  

Overall, I enjoyed the varieties of the course materials that Dr. Nat planned.  The course provides a great deal of lectures and field trips.  I learned history, culture, language, and traditional medicine in Madagascar.  In addition, the program provides lectures on health care policies and modern medicine in Madagascar.  I like that we have a chance to interview and interact with both traditional and modern medicine professions.   
 These interviews have shown us the difference between the theory and practice of health care in Madagascar.  For example, the doctor at the primary care center at Andasibe tells us that the center and himself do not charge patients for consulting.  However, the people and healers tell us that the center and doctor charge patients for consulting.  In theory, public health care should be free for the people though in reality corruption makes the system not work as well as it should.  I appreciated all the wonderful materials that the dedicated team provided.  I have learned and experienced so much and I will still keep continuing to learn as Dr. Nat says, “It is in listening that we hear, in hearing that we know, and in knowing that we understand.”

6 weeks in Madagascar.2

Week 3: This week starts on the Madagascar Independence Day.  I take this long holiday weekend opportunity to work on my homework.  It is very interesting that Malagasy celebrate their independence day with bird-type animals such as chickens, ducks, etc.  My host family cooks geese.  There is the funniest moment at dinner table as well.  My host father is trying to cut the geese for me on the plate – surprisingly, my host family do not have or use a cutting board at home.  When he is trying to chop the meat and the bone, the liquid from the geese is spreading into my face.  I am trying very hard not to laugh and just keep eating.  This story could be one of my favorite moments that I will share when I go back to the USA.
We have great in-class lectures the same as last week.  I am so glad that Dadabe sent us the files of the lectures because I would like to re-read when I get back home as well.  For the field trips, we visit the traditional healer up on the mountain and the research center.    
As I am very out of shape, I feel tired a lot when we walk up the mountain.  Every time I want to stop, Dadabe’s quote from Martin Luther King come into my head, “If you cannot run, then walk.  If you cannot walk, then crawl.  Just keep moving.”   I feel my legs are shaking but I still want to keep moving as Dadabe has taught us.  I like how Dadabe’s team lays out the class material.  We have learned the traditional medicine and then back to learn modern medicine.  So, we can learn from both sides.  
Week 4: We come to stay with a new host family at Andasibe.  My host family is a young couple with two boys.  The houses at Andasibe are very different than Antananarivo because it is a more rural area.  We also have Malagasy pharmacology students as our brothers and sisters.  We have our lecture at the conference room at the Park which are about the health care policy, laws, and the history of traditional medicine in Madagascar. 
 We have a great chance to interview Traditional healers who live in Andasibe and are still practicing.  It is very interesting to realize how important traditional healers are in a rural area.   The most common challenge for traditional healers in Andasibe is the access to the medicine plants in the protected area.  The traditional healers, who are registered with the national association, have permits to access the protective area while those who are not registered cannot get into the forest.
We also visit the primary health center.  The facility has only 5 medical professionals while they have an average of 30 patients every day.  The biggest challenge of the health center is the lack of equipment. The most wonderful finding at Andasibe is how the traditional healers and the doctors at the primary health center are willing to work together. 
 They refer one another when there is the best benefit for the patients.  I am happy that both doctors and the traditional healers promote the prevention of sickness. As Mamabosi and Dadabe always say, “Prevention is better than cure!”.  While we learn so much with health care system, we learn how to cook Malagasy food and dessert at our home stay as well.

6 weeks in Madagascar

Hi everyone.  I go study abroad at Madagascar for 6 weeks. It is adventure and amazing time of my life.  Our academic director is Dr. Nat.  He calls him as Dadabe (grandpa in Malagasy).  Here is my 6 weeks journals. 

Week 1: The program schedule for the first week is much better than what I expected.  The resort where we stay is very peaceful. 
 It gives us such a warm welcoming feeling, the same as we feel from Dr. Nate and the SIT team.  I like that the program gives us time to slowly adjust to the Madagascar time zone, weather, and new lifestyle.  The surprising part of the first week is how quickly students in the program become friends.  I think it is because we shared the same situation about being bound together in a new place.  The materials of the program are well structured to introduce us to the program.  We had an introduction to the traditional medicine and health care systems in our Madagascar lecture.  We also started our Malagasy language class.  I feel we learned so much already in the first week. 
  Dr. Nat also took us to visit and interview traditional healers.  Although I like to be busy, I like that Dr. Nat give us the day off on Saturday.  Some students took this chance to visit the city.  I preferred to have a day off to take it easy and study.  I was worried about my English grammar.  However, Dr. Nat tells us “Being you, then you will be the best of you.  If you are trying to be as somebody else, you always can be the second of them.”  My English grammar may be not the best but I will try to be the best I can be with my writing.

Week 2: We moved to stay with our host family which turned out to be the most challenging thing for me.  I thought I am very easy going and would not have any problem with new people.  Surprisingly, I have a challenging time to adjust myself to my new family for a while.  However, the lovely words of Dr. Nat as Hakuna matata” – no worry, it is ok- keeps me positive even with all the challenges.  The class schedule is full of new knowledge and interesting material.  In addition, we have outside activities that include visiting historical sites and hospitals. 

 We have learned a history of Madagascar and Traditional healers.  There are many types of healers, not just for medicine.  We also have a fantastic opportunity to conduct interviews about the traditional medicine and health care system in Madagascar with the director of the public hospital and another physician.

The surprising part of visiting the public hospital is that the hospital could not give the medicine to a patient until they have agreement of payment.  If patients do not have money to pay, they get sent to another hospital or home.  This is so sad for me.  We also visit the private clinic that is founded by the church.  It makes me realize how important this service is to the healthcare for poor people.  This private clinic offers a service with a low cost because the clinic is founded by the church.
The program provides us transport from our houses to school, a tasty tea break, and delicious lunch.  While I enjoy learning such wonderful material, all students seem to enjoy visiting La City with free Wi-Fi too. On Saturday, we have a family picnic at the park.  It becomes such a fun day for me and everyone.  I feel very happy and relaxed from all the challenges that I have – the difficulty of my English ability and adjusting to homestay.  I have a chance to interact with Malagasy students who join the picnic with us as well.  We have lunch, play games, and dance together.  It is one of my favorite times of the trip.