Lebanon Valley College Study Abroad

16 things an Irish student loves at LVC

  1. There are fries literally everyday. Criss cross, wedges, old bay, crinkle cut. Don’t know what to get with that chicken? Fries. What about that sandwich? Fries. How about that ice cream? Fries.
  2. Everyone holds the door open for you. It doesn’t matter if you’re literally 20 feet from the door, someone will probably still hold it open for you.
  3. Why are there so many puppies on campus?! It’s amazing! If my university at home had that many puppies I don’t think I’d get any work done.
  4. Sports are taken very seriously. If you play a sport expect to practice 6 days a week and possibly twice a day. Compare this to Northern Ireland where you might practice once or twice a week and have a game on a Saturday.
  5. Slang like “What’s good?” and “Came in clutch” just don’t make sense to me, but then neither does “What’s the craic?” (Irish slang meaning ‘what’s up’ or ‘how’s it going’)
  6. Redbook trips are so freaking awesome. Free trips to New York City? Yup. Hersheypark? Yeah. Skiing? Uh-huh. Phillies baseball? Of course.
  7. We got to ask the President for an extra day off because the football team beat Albright. That is literally the coolest thing ever. I don’t even know who plays sports in my university at home, never mind go and support them and get a day off for it.
  8. I’ve never experienced anything like the UG. Music I’ve never heard in my life (we don’t really listen to rap music in Ireland) and sweat running down the wall. Sure it’s all part of the college experience, right?
  9. Walking tacos in the C-Store are honestly my favourite college food. I could eat those things for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  10. The professors actually want to get to know you. They want to see you do well in their class and facilitate that as much as possible. Some even have you meet their family and go to their house for dinner. Yes, that really happened.
  11. An Irish accent on campus will literally get people you’ve never met coming up to you and asking you to “just say some words”, followed by me having no idea what to say in response.
  12. A lot of people like to tell you that they’re Irish too (no matter if its 2.43% Irish), but that’s okay because who doesn’t want to be Irish?!
  13. Racquetball is my new favourite sport. Everyone on campus has played at least once and it can get very competitive.
  14. I always forget about the sales tax they add on at the register in Turkey Hill or any other store off campus. Basically it’s a complete guessing game as to how much I’m about to spend.
  15. College academic life is very different. Participation and discussion is 100% required and can sometimes count for up to 30% of your overall grade. You will have homework every night and quizzes throughout the semester, instead of one big exam at the end.
  16. But most of all, I love the people of Lebanon Valley College and how proud they are of their College. It’s an amazing place and community!

The beginning of my adventure…

My Lebanon Valley College study abroad journey began back when I first applied for University in Northern Ireland. Although I didn’t know the specifics at that point, I knew I wanted to spend a year studying in America and so this became important to me when choosing to study at Queen’s University Belfast. I knew they had a great Study USA programme and as soon as I could, I applied, was interviewed and got a place on the scheme!

I trawled through a list of about 100 colleges throughout the United States, but finally settled on Lebanon Valley College. At first, it stuck out to me because it was close to many places on the East Coast like Philadelphia, New York City and Washington DC. The campus also looked amazing and it seemed to give a real sense of community and acceptance.

The weeks before my departure date, 22nd August, were the slowest weeks of my life. I was in complete excited anticipation of what the year would hold, as well as a bit of nerves and worry, as expected. Finally, I was off to Dublin Airport on a cold summers morning (but it wasn’t raining for once), knowing this would be the last time I’d see my family for 4 months before I came home for Christmas break. My Mum had cried every day for about a week by this point, but I was determined that I would only feel excitement the morning I left. It suddenly hit me and reality set in when I had just said goodbye to my parents (with Mum in floods of tears and Dad as cool and collected as ever) as I walked through security at the airport. I let out a few tears (this is the first time Mum and Dad are hearing this, oops) but quickly gathered myself and excitement rushed back in while waiting in line to go through United States of America pre-clearance. The only thing I wasn’t looking forward to was the 17 hours of travelling ahead of me.

Late on the night of the 22nd August I arrived at Lebanon Valley College. I had been picked up by Caitlin Murphy, my amazing International Advisor, and got my first look at where I’d be living for the next year as we drove from Harrisburg to Annville. Caitlin has been such a brilliant help this year when I’ve needed something, haven’t been sure how something worked or when I just wanted someone to chat to. Caitlin, Jill and the whole Center for Global Education deserve a lot of recognition for the massive amount of work they put in and the pure passion they have for their jobs and for making a LVC a more diverse campus.

I’ve never slept better in my life that night, despite the anxious thoughts and worry. I was to be up at my first orientation session at 9am with the rest of the new International students. Orientation was incredible as I met so many new people so quickly and made lifelong friends in those first few days. It was overwhelming, as it is for any new student starting College, but at the same time exciting and new. I was ready for the experience and open to meeting as many new people as possible.

I quickly found out that the LVC campus really is as beautiful as it looks on the website and I knew I had come to the right place. The people have also played a huge part in my life here. They truly are a wonderful community who are willing to listen to new people, learn about new cultures and are just genuinely kind and caring. This is definitely the reason why I haven’t been properly homesick (sorry Mum and Dad). The LVC community are my adopted family.

At this point I figured I’d just share some photos of my first few days and experiences at Lebanon Valley College. More posts coming soon!

My first day at Lebaon Valley College!

My first day at Lebaon Valley College!

 

So so hot!

So so hot!

 

Flag raising ceremony

Flag raising ceremony

 

Group of International students

Group of International students

 

First baseball game- Phillies

First baseball game- Phillies

 

First trip to Walmart

First trip to Walmart

 

I slid down this, I'm not joking

I slid down this, I’m not joking

 

Hangzhou

The first time I heard of the West Lake was during our trip to Beijing. We went to the Capital back in September during the first month of our study abroad experience. Our program visited the Summer Palace after walking most of the day through Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, both political and cultural relics of China. The Summer Palace was beautiful; resting adjacent to a picturesque lake that I presumed was naturally formed. Little did I know that the entire grounds of the palace were seated on the soil that was dredged up to form this man-made lake. The lake was created by workers hauling buckets of earth and depositing them nearby, surmounting in a great hill that is at the center of the Palace grounds. I wondered what the inspiration was that would drive the Emperors of ancient China to build such a place. What were they trying to replicate? It was the West Lake in Hangzhou, over 1,300 kilometers south of the Capital.

 

Hearing of the Lake’s beauty, and considering how the emperors of old replicated it in the Capital I was eager to finally see the original lake. We departed from out dorm for Hangzhou around 8:30 in the morning last Saturday, taking a high speed train from Shanghai Hongqiao Station, arriving just in time for lunch. Meeting a local friend of our program coordinator, I was glad to have the chance to practice my Chinese and learn about the area. We headed over to restaurant near the station. There we had a family style meal chock full of local dishes including dumplings, seafood balls, meat, and vegetable dishes. There was not one thing on the table that I didn’t like, and my favorite was a peanut dish. They were soaked in a kind of vinegar sauce that made you pucker; they were so good I had to get a doggie bag to snack on them later.

 

From the restaurant we walked through the downtown area, past a canal and some old-style residential areas. I noticed the streets were much less crowded than Shanghai or Beijing, Hangzhou being a city of only 8 million. This comparison would have shocked me before coming to China, as the closest city to my home, Baltimore, has just over half a million residents. But now, having lived in a city of 24 million for over three months, the streets of Hangzhou felt relatively unoccupied. It was somewhat refreshing.

 

We passed Halal restaurants and western-style coffee shops, heading towards the lake. Here the crowds became denser, waiting to walk across a small arch bridge then along a zigzagged path that spanned part of the shoreline. Our group made it out onto the bridge and got a quick photo. Next to the lake shore, we saw the beautiful lake and surrounding mountains. Off in the distance to the left was a pagoda, and out on the lake there were many boats ferrying people about. We would find out where the boats would take us the following day. We ventured along the shore, walking through several parks where people were playing folk instruments, singing songs, and dancing. This is one thing I will miss about China, how the older generations fill social places with music and life. It makes me smile.

 

The next day we took a boat across the lake to an island where we found trees bursting with fall color encircling three small pools. The island was small and we were able to explore it in its entirety in about an hour, snapping a ton of great photos with the beautiful backdrop nature provided. Taking the same boat back to shore, a bus was waiting to take us to the next destination, one of the biggest Buddhist temples in all of China. Through a short spat of traffic around the lake, we made it to the temple grounds in good time. First we saw Buddha’s carved into a cliff face, I estimate there were as many as 20 of them strewn about the rock. A placard revealed that some of them were over 1000 years old. I enjoyed this place because it was truly ancient, whereas in some other tourist destinations the structures I found had been reconstructed within the last 20 years or so. As were the temples that we would see next, which were rebuilt during the 1990’s. Still they were a sight to behold, housing massive Buddha’s and occupied by the devoted. We burned incense, explored the temples, and headed back on the bus to our final stop in our tour of Hangzhou.

 

The Ancient Cultural Street that the driver took us to reminded me a lot of the area surrounding the Yu Gardens in Shanghai. Full of handicrafts and local treasures, this place was also crowded with tourists, even a few westerners. I tried to stay off the crowded main street, so I stuck with our local friend Tom for this part of the trip. He took me into some traditional Chinese medicine stores, which I found fascinating. They had a barrel of free tea and boxes upon boxes of natural remedies. People sipped tea and discussed with the shop’s proprietors (who wore white lab coats like doctors) about their ailments and such. I did not dabble in any of the cures, though. Maybe the next time I am in China I will. We left the cultural street late that evening and began our journey back to Shanghai.

 

It had been a long day, and the bus ride back was relaxing. I reflected on the city and our activities there, and I wish I had known about the treasures of Hangzhou sooner.  It would have made a great place to do some personal travel and really get a feel for the town. To me it seemed the people there were in less of a hurry than Shanghai, where the streets and metro lines are full of the daily rush hour drama. Having run the gauntlet of rush hour transportation in Shanghai, Hangzhou was a welcomed break. I enjoyed the trip very much and hope to go back in the future.

Rise

Something I’ve learned while studying alongside Chinese students and studying under the local professors it is that the world is about to be turned on its head. Their creativity, work ethic, and devotion to success cannot be compared to the students of the United States, who seem to have fallen far behind the rising global standard for education in my opinion. Additionally, any class taught in the U.S. on Asia and the Pacific cannot compare to the firsthand experiences gained from living here. The more visible indicators of Asia’s rise, including the increase in share of global GDP and prevalence as a manufacturing superpower are clear, but I do not think the capture the pace at which the change has begun to occur.

Any walk down a street in Shanghai and you will see young professionals, dressed to a T moving hurriedly through the swarms of pedestrian and electric scooter traffic, their phone conversations drowned out by frantic honking. Shanghainese spoken loudly by shop owners and slurred over intercoms at bus and subway stations, cab drivers hailing passengers rather than the other way around. Open stalls where peddlers sell fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, and stranger things that I’d rather not mention are commonplace. Overladen scooter-bike hybrids full of bottles that can fetch 10 Mao (about 5 cents) take part in the hustle of city life, where each person is trying to earn their stake. Hurling themselves into a world of commerce and progress, some westerners would question the tactics these people are using to eek out a meager living under the feet of foreign brands. But I think it is for just that reason that these people will scrape and claw to gain ground in any way that they can. They have been under the Louis Vuitton boot, the heel of Prada, behind the screens of  our Apple phones, melted down into the plastic toys, sanded into the furniture and shipped to the west.  As long as this machine grinds unceasingly, the west may still have the advantage. But I think something else will happen. Chinese ingenuity can’t be kept under the thumb of the west for much longer. Collectively the people are advancing at a mind boggling pace. It is time we start teaching children in the U.S. Hanyu.

Temple

1473070892378

Being here for three weeks now, I am beginning to know the ins and outs of the city. The towering buildings can be daunting, but a few blocks up a side street or into a quiet neighborhood park one can find moments of peace and quiet. Such stillness also comes late in the evening several residents from the buildings surrounding the campus come to the canals to fish, with poles longer than 10 feet dangling bait over the murky waters. It is very dark, but you can see the glimmer of the metallic lures and the waving of the rods. They sit in silence, and do not seem to catch much when I am watching. Maybe I am bad luck.

We went up the Great Wall last week, the only man made landmark that can be seen from outer space. The west side of Juyongguan Pass had a staggering concentration of Australian and Turkish tourists, and I had to make this climb according to our program leader, but my eyes were set on the seldom tread upon east wall. There I could only make out one other person scaling the heights. I rushed up the popular wall, and the descent was much like skiing. I should have saved myself for the latter half of the short time we were allowed on the wall, my quads burned and ankles crumpled at times. There was a temple on the east wall where one German sat, drinking a beer and musing at a large steel bell. He motioned for me to take a stone and ring the bell, so I did so, but the sound was drowned out in the traffic below. I moved further down the wall to the east, toward Beijing. Crossing one fortress outcropping I could see down into the valley on the other side. Suddenly the sound of traffic disappeared, replaced by the clucking of chickens and the slow roll of a freight train.

Today I went to a Buddhist temple in the heart of old-town Shanghai, near the popular Yu Gardens, yet removed from the tired tourist shops with haggling sales people who would try to convince you that a simple beaded bracelet was a priceless relic of ancient China. But the entrance to the temple was unassuming, just as I have found many of the treasures in this place are. At the door we were given bundles of incense, and then proceeded to walk out into a courtyard. We were the only ones there it seemed. Still unable to get a good glimpse of the temple, we climbed some stairs to a terrace, where we saw the actual opening to the temple and several people standing inside. Monks in pale orange clothing stood, bowing three times in each direction, holding their incense over their head. Sitting to observe this custom, I tried to understand what they were doing. Seeing this compelled me to bow as well, standing outside the structure with the sun behind me.

The buildings that swept the sky around me at this time reminded me that the temple is where you make it. An oasis of calm in the middle of traffic, where you can deliberately concentrate the mind on the life that you are living. Sometimes you have to put yourself in the loud places to reconnect with the quiet ones instead of always running to them for solace. The ebb and flow of the city is teaching me things, and this is hopefully one of many lessons.

 

Global Harbor

IMG_20160902_210420_HDR

The first three days in Shanghai have been nothing short of spectacular. Having never been to Asia I knew little about the east and what it had to offer. As of now it has surprised at every corner. From the first night in town as a jet-lagged traveler, having drinks with a myriad of international and Chinese students, to the second day getting adjusted to campus life, then the bus system and subway, it is clear to see that this is truly a global city. I feel like a rock in a stream surrounded by running water, and now I am only an observer. I think that soon when classes start and the internship gets underway I will be an active participant in one of the fastest paced cities on the plant. Dr. Bian, a professor and coordinator of the international students programs urged us to go off the beaten path to truly understand Chinese culture, and that is what I intend to do. I am here for a reason, and am excited to call this place home for the next few months.

A Day At the Hot Springs and Shadowing Isn’t All Fancy Surgeries

June 8th: Today we got a day off from the hospital to have a tour around Oursense and go to a private spa with hot springs!  The tour was given by a tour guide and we were shown many main points in the city both today and historically.  We walked around town and were shown different popular shopping areas, one of which was the marketplace.  The marketplace consisted of one larger central building surrounded by many smaller, individual stands selling various items.  One thing I thought was weird is that the fish was stored on ice and was out in the open as opposed to being behind clear glass or plastic case.  After that, we went to Las Burgas, hot springs that are in the city of Ourense – they are VERY hot.  Displaying IMG_3539.JPGLas Burgas!They also have mineral properties that can resolve certain skin conditions.  While we were there and the tour guide was talking, people would come and fill up containers of water to take home and quickly run their hand through the water and rub it on their skin.  After that we went to the main cathedral in Ourense (Catedral de Ourense).  I’ve never seen a more beautiful church ever!  catedral de ourenseThe tour guide said it was also used as a fortress because Ourense is so close to the border of Portugal.  catedral de ourense 3After a group lunch, we took the “spa” train to a private spa with hot springs!  Train to the Hot Springs!As a rule, we could not take pictures of the spa because it was private, but the surrounding area was beautiful!  View Next To Private SpringsThe hot springs also contained the same mineral properties that the tour guide talked about in Ourense (the surrounding area of Ourense also has a very large number of natural hot springs).  We were allotted two relaxing hours in the spa; after which we reluctantly left the spa, but we all had very smooth skin!

Atlantis Project crew on Train to the Hot Springs!

Atlantis Project crew on Train to the Hot Springs!

After returning from the spa, one of the things I had for dinner is what I would consider the Spanish equivalent to mozzarella sticks; they were called “triangulos quesos” and were served with a very sweet tomato and pesto sauce.  Yum!Triangulos de Queso

 

 

June 9th: Today at the hospital was the first day that I did not follow the doctor I’m shadowing this week into the OR; instead, she was seeing patients today – and she had approximately 56 on her list!  The way this was set up was very different from the U.S.; all the patients (a lot of them) waited in a large waiting area and waited to be “buzzed” into the doctor’s office based on their number (it reminded me somewhat of being called at the deli line).  The patient enter the doctor’s office, a room with a desk, computer, chair for the doctor, chairs for the patient and guest, and an examination table.  The doctor sat on one side of the desk typing notes while talking to the patient who sat on the other side of the desk.  More often than not, the patient would then be examined for whichever urological ailment they were in the office for.  The major thing that was very different from the United States is the time that the doctor spent with each patient: sometimes it was as little as about five minutes with almost none lasting longer than about twenty minutes!  This goes back to the differences between Spanish and American health care systems; health care is “free” because it’s included in people’s taxes.  Which leads me to the feeling that more people go to the doctor more often which leads to many patients to be seen.  I believe there may have been one other doctor tackling the list of the 56 patients for the day, but I’m not exactly sure.  All I know is that I saw a lot of different patients in the span of time I was there.  The number of patients I saw today was much larger than the number of patients the internal medicine doctors I shadow back home see in a day.  My doctor was extremely busy today and therefore couldn’t translate what was going on after she saw each patient, but from what I got out of the conversations (which were very fast – too fast and complicated for my years of high school and one year of college Spanish to comprehend everything), the majority of the patients did not have an issue, it was either more of a check-in or because an issue they thought they had.  Of course, there were a few that I saw that did have a problem.  During an endoscopic check for bladder cancer in one man, the doctor did find cancer and it was actually that patient’s second time having bladder cancer.

While I did not get the “thrill” of being in the OR today, I learned many valuable things today, most importantly the differences between Spain and America’s health care systems and what that translates to for everyday patient care.  It also put some things in prospective: I tend to get annoyed when the doctor is late for my appointment or I have to wait, but the people in Spain wait a long time to see the doctor for just a short amount of time, nothing compared to some of my very long and thorough doctor visits when I’m sick.  Also, today was important because it highlighted that medicine isn’t all exciting surgery; sometimes you need to meet with nonsurgical patients, even if the length of the list is intimidating and you’d rather be in a surgery.

Later that evening, we had a group dinner with all the fellows and the site coordinator to talk about our day.  Also, it was one of the student’s birthday!  So of course, we all had a celebratory glass of sangria!

June 10th: Back to the OR!  Today I got to see three procedures!  The first was an endoscopic procedure to get a sample from the kidney (through the urethra, bladder, ureter, to the kidney) to check for kidney cancer.  The second was to break up a kidney stone; it was really amazing to watch the laser break up the kidney stone so it could be pulled out of the patient, I actually got to see the kidney stone – strange to think that such a little thing can cause so much pain!  The next patient also had a kidney stone; however, the ureter was very narrow in this patient and the doctors had to put in a catheter-like tube to enlarge the ureter so they could go back in and remove the stone at a later date.  This was my last day in Urology, even though my doctor said I could come back anytime I want; while I did enjoy urology and all the surgeries I got to see, I should give the other specialties I’ve been assigned to a chance too!  After leaving the hospital late in the afternoon, I treated myself to churros and chocolate (probably my favorite thing that I’ve eaten so far) and a late siesta which was much needed after this busy week.

Churros and Chocolate!

Churros and Chocolate!

Homesick

       
  Now I know what you’re thinking; she’s homesick?! It has only been 4 weeks! The answer is no, I am not homesick for home but rather for places I’ve never been and that I desire to see. This past month has changed my outlook on the world and has sparked a new kind of desire in me; the desire to experience as many different cultures and meet as many people as possibly. Perhaps Michael Palin’s quote will better explain my thoughts..
“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know I will be happily infected until the end of my life”
This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Rome, visit a beach in Italy, and see some amazing historic sights. Rome was an experience that I truly am unable to put into words; from the Colosseum, to the Trevi Foutain, to St. Peters Basilica, the food, the gelato, and the quaint restaurant, Rome has so much to offer. What an incredible city! If it wasn’t a busy week filled with finals I would definitely post a blog about the experience but feel free to ask me about it; i’ll probably talk your ear off!
Although cliche; I am not returning to the states the same person I left. I have left my heart in so many places. Often when I talked to people at home they say “nothing has changed here, same old same old, you’re the one across the world.” I have thought about that for awhile now and I counter it by saying you don’t have to travel across the world to try new things. You can do something new everyday no matter where you are at. For instance, I can’t have the same experiences my sister is having in PA, every place offers a new challenge or opportunity to grow that can’t be offered anywhere else. BUT if you have the chance to experience a new place, DO IT. It is amazing to go to a place where no one knows your name and you get to start completely new and build new roots. But don’t listen to what I say, go see and experience it for yourself! Even if you don’t have the chance such as studying abroad available in your school like I did, find a way, make an opportunity! Often people I talk to say they don’t have money, but by the time they have money you wont have time, and when you have time and money you’ll be “too old” (although you are never too old to travel). Just make it happen, I promise the money and time you spend traveling will make your life richer. Jobs may fill your pockets, but adventure fills your soul. As my grandfather always says “you can’t take your money to the grave with you”.
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; its lethal.”
I often referred to this website during my study abroad experience. If you need advice or want to be inspired to travel this blog offers tips on everything on how to save, where to start and what to do! Check it out, and if you click away because you don’t have time to check it out, ask yourself if not now when will you?      http://www.nomadicmatt.com/getting-started-new/
Although I must come back, I realize that its not the same thing as never leaving. I may be done with school, but this exit is an entry to traveling the next week with two of my friends. Finally, I would like to thank LVC for the opportunity to go abroad and Jill Russel for helping me find a way.
I asked each of the 10 students if they had something to say about the trip and here is what they said..
Studying abroad was something I knew I wanted to do when I started college, but I could’ve never imagined the experience being as incredible as it was. I learned so much inside the classroom and out, met so many people, and visited more countries in four weeks that I previously had my entire life. I won’t be the same returning to LVC–I have so much more perspective on the world, and I have 9 great new friends who I share so many incredible memories with.- Devon Malloy

Wow! Hard to find words for what just happened.. was a once of a life time experience that was surreal. I visited five different countries in just four weeks and had the time of my life. One thing that that is compelling to me is how unique everyone’s story is. It just goes to show that everyone truly had the ability to make this study abroad experience whatever they wanted it to be! Till next time Europe.. budapest… mic drop.–Blake Lutz

I transferred into LVC this spring semester and never in a million years would I have seen myself traveling the world with an amazing group of people from Lebanon Valley and Xavier. These memories and friendships I have made will last a lifetime and I wouldn’t change it for the world. To people that are questioning if they ever want to study abroad- DO IT. You’ll never regret it. Even though you go outside your comfort zone, its a truly amazing experience. I traveled to Budapest Hungary, Brussels Belgium, Amsterdam Netherlands, Munich Germany, London England, and Dublin Ireland. I truly wish I could stay here a whole semester, because a month isn’t enough. I wasn’t really friends with the people from LVC before the trip but I guarantee that I will be as close returning as I am now. I didn’t know what to expect meeting the Xavier kids but after spending a month with them I felt like I have known them my whole life. Booking flights, hotels, hostels, trains, buses, taxes, made me a lot more confident not only traveling but in myself as young man. Lastly, to our Professor Will Delavan and Jill Russel, thank you for the opportunity. I guarantee that you have sparked a journey of traveling that I will carry on the rest of my life. Sincerely, Nicholas A. Tucker.
Even though you have the amazing opportunity to visit lots of countries while studying abroad, don’t forget to take in the many wonders that Maastricht has to offer. It is truly an incredible city that I’ve been lucky enough to call my home for the past month, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.
–Jillian McCue
Make your dreams happen. I have been privileged enough to go on this journey and I have made amazing friends along the way. I was was able to accomplish and go after my dreams. I have finally made a trip to Italy and now I will never be the same. Explore the world, try new things, and get involved in new cultures. Take new leaps and bounds because I know I will never forget it. Explore the world and be open to new things.–Marla Scacchitti
This trip has been an amazing experience and has taught me so many things about myself. Being able to navigate foreign places and immersing myself in other cultures has allowed me to grow as an individual. It has improved my confidence more than I could ever imagine. Having the opportunity to take in all the beauty that this wonderful part of the world has to offer has been amazing. I am so happy that I decided to come on this trip, it has been such a great experience. To the LVC and Xavier students, thank you for making this trip a wonderful one filled with memories I’ll never forget. The friendships that I’ve made here will be for a lifetime as we have grown so close over a short time. To Will and Jill, thank you so much for this opportunity. It was more rewarding than I ever thought it would be. To all future MU students. Enjoy the time you have here, it is a beautiful part of the world and your time here will be gone sooner than you think.— Brandon McMinn
After hearing stories of my friends and their study abroad adventures, I decided to look into a European vacation myself. I was lucky enough to have family that were more than willing to help me accomplish my dream of studying abroad. During my time here I have gained knowledge than I can explain. I have also gained friends that I know I will continue to hang out with and make memories with. I am forever thankful for LVC giving me this amazing opportunity. Thanks to the students, LVC and Xavier, that make this trip more than I could hope for.–Gianna Rossillo

Get a bike and most certainly travel every weekend but don’t forget to appreciate the town of Maastricht and walk through the streets if you have time, yes walk don’t bike. My problem which I just realized now after selling my bike and having to walk was that I viewed Maastricht as more of a place where I had my bed and had to take classes rather than yet another beautiful and special city of its own to explore and you can’t take this in as well rushing around on the back of a bike. So my greatest advice would be to purchase a bike as soon as possible, as this will help you be able to wake up for class 15 minutes before and be on time as well as make it super easy to get to the train station but for a leisurely stroll around the city, walk. It won’t hurt you being that you won’t eat the healthiest and it lets you take in the culture a lot more. Don’t be afraid to get lost, that’s what a gps and data plans are for. Also if you end up finding your way with a little help from others and mostly on your own, it is pretty damn satisfying. Branch out and make friends with not only LVC kids you didn’t know but all of the people you encounter here. Do new things and travel to crazy places because at the end of the day you will not regret anything except maybe dropping too much money on a late Friday or Saturday night. All in all this will rank at the top of experiences you’ve had up to this point in your life so appreciate every second of it. You will build life long relationships with people you never thought you would. A month may seem long but it truly flies by. Thank you to everyone who helped me along the way and gave me this amazing opportunity. Jill, professor Delavan, fellow LVC students, and Xavier students you have made this something I will never forget.— Evan Lysczek

I would tell every student to step out of their comfort zone and study abroad if they are given the chance. I’ve had the opportunity to make many new friends, lifelong memories, and explore the world. It’s truly an experience you’ll never forget. -Aaron Alexander

 

From a Big Fish in a Pond to a Small Fish in an Ocean

Friday June 3rd:  I arrived at the Madrid airport in the morning with two other Atlantis Project fellows that I (thankfully) met before getting on the plane in Philadelphia.  After grabbing my luggage and getting through customs, which went so much smoother than I thought it would, I was greeted by an Atlantis Project Coordinator who was gathering students that were arriving at the Madrid airport around that time.

Walking through Madrid Airport!

Walking through Madrid Airport!

From there, we were taken by bus to the hotel that we’d be staying in for orientation weekend.  We had the afternoon to walk around the nearby mall and get food.  Surprisingly, the mall was very similar to an American mall and even had a large number of American stores.  Today reminded me a little of the first day of college; fellows were from all over the United States and Puerto Rico, so very few people knew each other before coming to Madrid and everyone was trying to make friends for the weekend and the rest of their fellowship.  However, one thing very different from making friends during orientation weekend at school is there was a much wider variety of people from a variety of places, as opposed the large central Pennsylvania and surround area population of LVC students.  Most of the fellows come from very large schools that they don’t consider to be “that big” (I couldn’t believe someone thought a student body of 20,000 was average). Luckily, my new friends and I weren’t so horribly jet lagged that we made it through the whole day without sleeping, but going to bed later that night did feel amazing.

Quick picture with some fellows during a walk in the park near our hotel!

Quick picture with some fellows during a walk in the park near our hotel!

Saturday June 4th: Today was orientation day and all the students (approximately 75, I’m not sure of the exact number) sat in a meeting room in the hotel in which we listened to speakers reiterate the purpose of the Atlantis Project (which is to allow students to have shadowing opportunities they might not get in the U.S. – for those of you who don’t know, getting a doctor to shadow can be like pulling teeth if you don’t have a connection with one – and to allow students to see how a different country’s health care system operates), go over important cultural differences to be aware of, talk about some economical differences between the United States’ health care system and Spain’s health care system, and a current medical student gave advice for getting in to medical school.  One thing I found interesting was the difference in health care systems.  Spain’s health care system is a largely public system which is paid for by taxes.  The amount people pay for taxes varies based on income and other related things, and health care is regulated by the central government, sets policies for all areas, and regional government, sets policies for that specific area.  There was then discussion on which health care system is better? United States or Spain?  While the United States has a more expensive health care system, Americans have a lower life expectancy but they do have a higher health condition than Spaniards.  We ended the day with a bus trip to Madrid which we were allowed to go off on our own.  One of my favorite places I went to was Plaza Mayor where a group of us got tapas of tortillas and shrimp with sangria, all very delicious!

Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Sangria (to share)!

Sangria (to share)!

Tortilla

Tortilla

From taking Spanish before, I did forget that tortillas aren’t chips like we call them in English, but a combination of eggs, potatoes, and cheese.  After exploring the city for a while, my friends and I got a taxi ride back to the hotel to go to bed.

Sunday June 5th: Early in the morning, I got on a bus with fourteen other fellows to head to Ourense, Spain, a city above and close to the boarder of Portugal.  The bus ride took about 6 hours, but I did get to see the beautiful landscape of Spain.  Compared to Pennsylvania, it’s much hillier, and as you’re driving you see a lot of hills, grass, and open land and every now and again clusters of buildings.  When we finally arrived, we talked about what things would be like in the hospital and how our orientation would go tomorrow.

Ourense, Spain!

Ourense, Spain!

The day before we got our assignments for which specialties we’d be shadowing.  The first week I’m with urology, the second I’m in pediatrics, and the third I’m with hematology.  I’m very excited to meet the new doctors and see different specialties.  After meeting with our Site Coordinators, we were free to walk the city of Ourense, which is smaller and much less crowded and busy than Madrid.  I had a delicious (and cheap) meal of breaded chicken, rice, and salad, and I’m finally starting to get used to the Spanish eating times of a lunch around 2 and dinner around 8.  One thing I’m not used to is going to bed at the same time, because of eating dinner later and it being light out so much later here.  But, tomorrow is an early day at the hospital with much to learn so a good night sleep is more than necessary!

Capitol Tales

To all the history buffs, political nerds, and globally minded souls, this blog goes out to you.

My name is Olivia and I am a Senior, Political Science major with Law & Society and potentially Global Studies minors. I chose to take part in a fantastic study away opportunity in the heart the nation’s Capitol over my last Fall semester. The Washington Center provides a comprehensive learn, live, and work experience that trains young professionals through a high-intensity internship and multiple professional development courses. TWC, for short, helped me land my internship at Citi Global Government Affairs, where I am an associate who provides substantial analysis of International Trade and banking regulations to senior ranking officials, and maintains communications with over 100 countries around the world. I had just finished up multiple public sector internships from the Summer, mostly related to Congress, so jumping ship to private international affairs has been quite a change, but I am hopeful to broaden my skills as I approach the real world.

I work on Pennsylvania Ave over 150 above the District, and this is my daily coffee view.

I work on Pennsylvania Ave over 150 feet above the District, and this is my daily coffee view.

I am no newbie to the District, however I have never been a resident. The first couple of days were filled with confusion. The District is an incredibly accessible place, if you remember your four quadrants…

I took an Uber ride for the first time and requested the opposite quadrant from which I lived in, and quickly learned my lesson with a 17 block hike back home. My neighborhood, affectionately called NoMa (Northern Mass. Ave), is full of luxury high-rise apartments and colorful row homes. Northwest is where most Washingtonians work and it is home to Capitol Hill and the National Mall. The other two quadrants sport a plethora of living styles, from completely eco-friendly and green, to the unfortunately run-down and rougher neighborhoods. DC is also incredibly close to Baltimore, College Park, and Silver Spring, Maryland, and Arlington, VA. You would never know you were in  a city less than 10 miles wide because each day you will hear a different language, see a new international flag in your taxi, and eat food from an exotic culture. For a place that seems to be everyone’s temporary residence, I’ve never felt so at home.

I have been in D.C. for just over three full weeks and I have not been able to keep my blogging up to speed with my adventuring. This post is dedicated to the basics.

DC Weeks 1-2 142

Week 1: Train, sleep, walk, speak as many languages as you can, repeat.

Week 1 I helped welcome over 200 international students to Washington, D.C. and got them acquainted with the neighborhood. We gave them metro cards, learned a bit about where they were from, and then taught them how to act like Americans… Naturally, we gave them Five Guys and taught them how to Whip and Nae Nae.

Weekly Tip: When traveling across the National Mall, wear VERY comfy shoes, and bring plenty of water.

TWC Ambassadors in Front of Capitol Hill

TWC Ambassadors in Front of Capitol Hill

 

Week 2: Early birds get the worm at the gym, Starbucks, internships, and at the bar.

Week 2 was all about getting acquainted to your work week. My internship is a 9:00am – 6:00pm grind, complete with a 20 minute metro commute and one hour to network at lunch. I learned how much I truly valued a short walk to class, a couple of people in line for coffee, and the speed of sandwich making. Those things don’t even cover the grueling, yet rewarding research internship I go to four days a week. Thankfully, Lunch and Happy Hours are where the work world tends to shed their structured exterior to relax and break down the dress code or etiquette barriers that so often precede your interactions during business hours. The rest of the week consists of a couple of classes, late Thursdays and mid-day Friday, which luckily, LVC has prepared me very well for. Stay tuned for some interesting projects, D.C. scandals,  and life after business hours coming soon!

The National Mall at night is just as spectacular as it is in the day time

The National Mall at night is just as spectacular as it is in the day time. TGIF!

Week 3: Family dinner and a show

I just finished week 3, and I’ve settled into a weekday routine that is finally manageable between work, class, and friends. I have also seen about half of the National Mall, two concerts, over 10 restaurants, a couple of sporting events, and learned a few conversations in Belgian, Chinese, Portuguese, and Italian, to name just a few highlights. The events may be non-stop in D.C. but I still managed to find time for some beloved visitors from Pennsylvania! On top of that, my TWC family and I cook dinner in our apartment each Tuesday, and invite a good portion of our floor to try some traditional American college food. Now, don’t be dismayed, we have a pretty nice kitchen and a couple of stellar chefs who have whipped up Tex-Mex tacos, Pan-Asian stir fry, and gourmet breakfast for dinner. Dinner is followed by laughing off the work day, making weekend plans, and hopefully starting a pretty great political debate.

Surprise Labor Day visit from my folks and little brother!

Surprise Labor Day visit from my folks and little brother!

SUPRISE Life in Color with some fabulous LVC Alums!

SURPRISE Life in Color with some fabulous LVC Alums!

“Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively; unless you can choose a challenge instead of competence.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Next time stay tuned for awkward encounters, Trump Rallies, and what it truly means to be a D.C. Native or just a Day Walker…

God Bless,

 

Olivia Edwards