Lebanon Valley College Study Abroad

Five Things Your Study Abroad Student Wishes You Knew

Many students who study abroad are required to live in a homestay for the duration of their experience, which can be an invaluable, albeit initially stressful, experience. Within a few weeks of adjustment to a new environment, your family’s individual quirks will become comfortable, a familiar island in a proverbial sea of change and challenges. Much like with your American family communication can be a huge issue, though the language and cultural barriers that students encounter abroad mean that they are often unable or unwilling to express their opinions. Silent resilience is not the way to go, albeit the one students often chose. Here are a five of the thoughts we realize we probably should have shared.

1. Repite, Por Favor? (Tomorrow, if Possible)
When we step off the plane, we are excited to meet you…but we are also overwhelmed, nervous, and very, very tired. It makes complete, logical sense to begin our stay with you with an influx of important information— introductions to your family, explanations on how your appliances work, an outline of the neighborhood—all within our first hour of meeting, and while we appreciate the immediacy of these essential facts, this is undoubtedly one of our moments of worst comprehension. New to the country and afraid of speaking up, repeated nods in response to the unending variations on “¿tú entiendes?” are in all likelihood a complete falsehood.
Though we have retained very little, we are reluctant to ask the next day and will carry on in a state of perpetual confusion without a later repetition of facts. We want to look like we know what we are doing, but I promise—we don’t.

2. We Want to Help, but We Don’t Know How
American students are stereotyped as lazy by both foreigners and other Americans, but this is often the opposite of true. On average, we spend at least nine months out of the year in varying states of autonomy keeping our spaces clean, stomachs full, and schedules organized. Moving from that reality to one with host parents afflicted by an acute case of síndrome de huésped and eager to make their student feel at ease by prevent them from helping with the simplest of tasks can be a startling change. With meals and housing taken care of, we are eager to help in any way we can, but often do not know the best way to do so and fear intruding or crossing an unknown cultural boundary. Among our Spanish hosts, requests to help fall on purposefully deaf ears. When we ask to help we mean it, just let us know what to do!

3. Customary Cultural Confusion
My mother has very few rules that are absolute; however, the wearing of shoes in the house is prohibited under any and all circumstances. Coincidentally, my host mother also has very few steadfast regulations for my stay in her apartment; however, the wearing of shoes in the house is “mandatory” under any and all circumstances. In a characteristically motherly manner she corrals me to my room in a barrage of worried Spanish statements about my health.
While rarely bizarre, some of the differences between Spanish and American culture are stark and require multiple iterations for your new American students to understand. We are not trying to be rude if at first we do not implement your suggestions; they are simply very different and require time to remember to practice. We are interested to know what your customs are, so let us know what you prefer we do—do not change for us.

4. We Generally Know What We Want to Say, but Generally Don’t Know How
Waiting for your student to tell a story or finish a sentence can often be like waiting for an elderly relative; it takes time and doesn’t always make sense, but we’re trying. Sometimes we need help, but often we just need your patience. In a typical classroom, students spend hours listening to instructors and reading texts, but mere minutes practicing speaking the language and seconds speaking it at a conversational-pace. If we say something wrong, do not pass over it—let us know! We are here to learn the language, which includes constructive criticism and frequent corrections.

5. What’s the Plan, Stan?
Thrust into the uncertainty of an unfamiliar family and lost amidst an influx of personal introductions and information, we have no idea what is expected of us and little certainty beyond a class schedule and a vague understanding of when to return for meals. The ambiguity of those first few days can present a foreboding challenge for many due to their potential for confusion and unpredictability. Though meal times are the only part that directly pertains to students, a simple outline of a general familial schedule can alleviate much unnecessary stress. In the fog of jetlag it can be hard to focus on anything beyond the next opportunity to collapse into the peace and quiet of the nearest soft surface (bed recommended, though not necessary), but this is an important question and easy topic of conversation.

Above all and most importantly, we wish we could communicate to you how grateful we are to you for opening your homes to us and including us in your lives. Words cannot express the invaluable role you play in forming our study abroad experience and shaping how we perceive our country of choice. Your continual kindness and guidance is always appreciated!

Marie Gorman

San Gimignano

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Snow capped Apennine Mountains in the distance

Snow capped Apennine Mountains in the distance

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Last Sunday, we woke up and finished the museum tours and did the panorama view of Siena. Then we hopped in the car and headed to San Gimignano, known for the worlds best gelato! We found 2 shops side by side that claimed they had the World’s best gelato. One was closed so we went to the other. I asked how it was possible that there were two world gelato winners that were side by side. They said every year they vote on the best one and in 2014 the one we were in, were the winners. I believe them! I got Crème brulee & crème carmel latte the first time, then we liked it so much that we went back later that night for another round. and I got cheesecake and Tiramisu. I liked this city the best of all because the views on top of the mountain were breathtaking. We even saw the snow capped italian mountains in the distance* We didn’t go into any museums here, but I would have like to have gone in the torture museum. The museum houses an impressive array of medieval torture devices including the uncomfortably spiked inquisitorial chairs, and a simply murderous looking device labeled ‘the heretics fork’. San Gimignano is known for it’s 14 towers and places of torture.

 

~Jordan

A Taste of Valladolid

Spain is certainly well known for its many distinct flavors and dishes. My region, Castille and Leon, is specifically known for a few of its unique dishes. Tapas, or bite-sized appetizers served both hot and cold, can be found all over the city in restaurants and bars as a staple of Spanish cuisine. Even more well-known and very popular are churros and chocolate. Churros, essentially fried dough sticks are served with a hot, very thick and rich chocolate drink for dipping and and of course sipping.

Churros and chocolate!

Churros and chocolate!

More specific to my region, is lechazo asado, or roasted lamb, generally served whole. The name may look familiar; lechazo refers to leche or milk, which denotes the lamb’s diet of solely milk. Rabbit is also a very common protein, along with numerous types of pork.

A bit less known to many is the distinct difference in the daily schedule of meals and the amount of food served. Breakfast is the smallest meal of the day and probably the least important. In my host family, we all fend for ourselves for breakfast. For many, breakfast is just coffee and a pastry, a piece of toast, or a piece of fruit. This has proved a huge adjustment for me. Lunch, around 2 o’clock, is the largest and most important meal of the day. So far, I have eaten a multitude of different things, some better than others for my American palette. I can certainly say I’m glad I’m not a picky eater, here called “tiquismiquis” (pronounced cheek-ees-me-sis). Pan, or bread, is a served at every meal. My host dad, Miguel, purchases a fresh baguette each day for both lunch and dinner, no matter what we are having. Lunch tends to be a meal that sticks to your ribs, its generally very filling, and given in generous portions. It can range from pasta in sauce with chorizo (a spicy sausage similar to pepperoni) or roasted chicken with potatoes or beans. These are some of the more normal things I have eaten. On the other hand, I have also eaten some unusual things. My second day here in Spain Miguel placed a large bowl of yellow rice, green olives, and chopped baby octopus in front of me. As repulsing as this may sound, I can honestly say so far there has been nothing that I truly disliked (I’m also trying to keep an open mind). We eat a lot of chorizo, pork, and potatoes. If we lived closer to the coast, Miguel said would eat more fish; however, because Valladolid is located inland, fish and seafood tends to be a bit pricey. Each day Miguel heads to the grocery store to get fresh ingredients and of course our bread for the day. Today I was granted the honor of going to the grocery store for him! So far he has proved a very talented chef, minus the day he burnt the lentils so badly he had to flush them down the toilet. After every meal we eat a piece of fruit, generally a banana, apple, or clementine. Clementines or “mandarinas” are delicious and grown in Valencia, a coastal region in Spain. Dinner is a much smaller meal late in the evening, generally just one small entrée, sometimes with a salad. Thus far, dinner in my house has been anything from a hamburger, a few croquettes (small fried balls of basically anything), an egg sandwich, or something similar in size. The oddest dinner I’ve experienced was a French dish: hard-boiled eggs sliced in half with the yolk removed and filled with tuna in a mayonnaise dressing. It actually was pretty good, although something I never would have tried before. I’ve also eaten rabbit in a brown sauce, which may be, believe it or not, may have been one of the best things I have eaten so far.

Just as I enjoy trying new Spanish dishes, my host family also desires American dishes, such as pancakes and apple pie. This week I’m testing my cooking skills by making banana bread (a foreign dessert to my host family) with all our ripening bananas: hopefully I have more success than Miguel did with the lentils! Living here is opening my eyes (and taste buds) to so many new things. I wonder what’s for lunch today…

Adios,

McKenna Lupold

PT Clinical Week#3

Another great week in the books! This week I was able to educate more patients on various new exercises in the Italian language with little to no help from my clinical instructor (my favorite part of clinic!).

Earlier in the week, it was funny, I would be working with a patient and ask my CI if I could try for example a hip stretch for a low back patient, he would say “No, continue doing the thigh stretch”. This continued to happen a few times earlier in the week, and I was getting frustrated that I wasn’t able to come up with my own suggestions for treatment and that I was only performing what he wanted me to. However, as the week went on, he was more open to change and was willing to try all my suggestions! It was nice to have a discussion about different manual techniques, and what I really liked was that he wanted me to try them on him first so he could see if my PT body mechanics were good along with the proper force.

I’ve been working with hip replacements, chronic low back pain, cervical spine pain, shoulder pain, and post polio syndrome UE & LE pain.

Next week I will be participating in Aquatic therapy Monday and Tuesday afternoons!

SOME INTERESTING FACTS:

I found out the reason why most patients receive loftstrand crutches as opposed to axillary crutches or walkers. It’s for cosmetic reasons. Patients do not like the appearance of looking sick or severely impaired. The loftstrand crutches are much more convienent and have a sportier look.

I noticed that most, if not all of my patients are patients that would be in outpatient services if they were in the US, and NOT in inpatient rehab where they spend a month or two. I was really confused to why this was the case until I was reminded of their healthcare system. Patients often have the luxury of choosing which therapy services

Still trying to post from San Gimignano.

This weekend we are headed to Perugia, Assisi, and a free wine tasting!

~Jordan

Sweet Siena

View of Siena and tower

View of Siena and tower

Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta

Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta

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Piazza del Campo

Piazza del Campo

Torre del Mangia

Torre del Mangia

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View from the top of the tower

View from the top of the tower

Gelato!

Gelato!

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Ceiling of Liberia Piccolominea

Ceiling of Liberia Piccolominea

Corridor into the panoramic view

Corridor into the panoramic view

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Baptistry

Baptistry

This weekend was probably the best weekends I have had so far. We headed to Siena on Saturday morning and spent the day/night. The weather was a little cold, but there was not a cloud in the sky! When we arrived in Siena, we climbed the tower (Torre del Mangia) which was quite a feat! It was a tight corridor all the way to the top with little light, but once at the top, the view was spectacular and well worth the climb. Definitely one of my favorite moments so far this trip. The land stretched as far as the eye could see. The panoramic view was a mix of the city, other near by towns, and the Tuscan countryside. We also went into the Cathedral (Santa Maria Assunta) and into the attached library that was filled with old choir books. The books were so large with few words on each page. There were elaborate frescos painted above. For dinner we headed to a recommended restaurant. Since we had 7 people they offered to cook us 2 big plates of pasta, veal, french fries; all to share. One of the pastas had a Bolognese- like sauce but with duck. Afterwards, we each received a complimentary shot of after dinner wine. I can’t say it enough, the Italian food is so amazing!

Facts:

  • Torre del Mangia
    • Built in 1338-1348, it is located in the Piazza del Campo. When built it was one of the tallest secular towers in medieval Italy. Literally means “Tower of the Eater”, named after it’s first bellringer for his gluttony.
  • Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta
    • Underneath the duomo, contains important late 13th century frescoes that depict scenes from the Old Testament and the life of Christ.
  • Liberia Piccolominea
    • Adjoining the cathedral and houses illuminated choir books and frescoes painted by the Umbrian Bernadino di Betto, called Pinturicchio.
  • Baptistry:
    • Unlike Florence or Pisa, Siena did not build a separate baptistry. It is located underneath the choir of the Duomo. The main attraction is the hexagonal baptismal font, containing sculptures by Donatello, Jacopo della Quercia.
  • Donatello Madonna and four cherubs
    • Donatello (1386–1466), arguably the greatest sculptor of the early Renaissance in Italy
    • Throughout his career, Donatello made reliefs of the Madonna and Child in marble, terracotta and bronze. The earliest of these is considered to be the ‘Pazzi Madonna’ (Berlin Museums), dating from the 1420s.
    • Donatello’s last documented ‘Madonna’ is the Siena Cathedral roundel,

Introductions and Exploration

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Cities are cities.

In a city of any magnitude, each has its own version of the significant historical buildings, bustling commercial sectors, and sprawling suburban neighborhoods, all connected in a whirlwind of aggressive energy and ambitious inhabitants.

With a population of just over 300,000, moderately-sized Valladolid maintains a spirited balance of the three. As a prior capital of Spain and home to one of Europe´s best sculpture museums, the most populated province of Castile and León abounds with cultural and historical significance.

Cities are cities.

The majority of Valladolid´s population is young and instills the city with a sense of eager vitality and vibrancy, and though less malicious than an American city, the heart of Valladolid remains just as driven; its inhabitants swarm the streets at all hours, pausing only in observance of the mid-day siesta and the Sabbath. Even still, the wayward shopper or student often remains to wander the calles and avenidas. 

The city´s infrastructure hails to its esteemed past, where modern shops occupy the bottom floor of buildings constructed in ages past, and its roads mimic the stereotypical styles of closed European streets. Cobblestones and bricks are constantly underfoot, and cars strive to navigate around areas reserved for pedestrian traffic.

Cities are cities.

As a Spanish major studying abroad in Spain, it is not the perpetual presence of another language that begets apprehension or alarm–struggling to comprehend the world around you is expected and had been anticipated for months, ever since the initial monetary deposit months ago. It is the small things that are the most noticeable and magnify the reality of “abroad-ness”: frozen fingers attempting to open the apartment door, frantically attempting to remember whether to turn the key to the left or right; paralyzing uncertainty about the schedule of your host family, all explained in a spirited stream of enigmatic Spanish; dubiousness over whether you purchased the right products at the supermarket, and the hope that you will not be allergic to a rogue ingredient that you missed when deciphering the label.

With enough practice, these things become simplistic and without second thought. Now I look to see who from my host family is home to ask about thir day instead of retreating to my room in hopes that the apartment is empty. I understand more and more each day, and am able to contribute to the conversations around me instead of just nodding and saying si, a record on repeat. Confident that my feet know their way, I can now enjoy the walk to classes at the Universitas Castellea each morning, acompanied by pleasant conversation and fond glances at a familiar skyline.

Cities are cities, but this is the one I am beginning to claim as my own.

Marie Gorman

1 week down!

Well, we officially survived our first week in Spain! Filled with confusing streets, interesting meals, miles of walking, and many comforting reminders of home, I can say this was an amazing week. Although we had to attend classes this week, it was really nice to get into a normal routine. Our days begin with a very small breakfast, for me: a piece of fruit and coffee. Next, is a 15-minute walk through the city to school. Classes at Universitas Castellae are Monday through Thursday from 8:30-1:30, however we are all lucky to be done at 12:30 on Wednesdays and Thursdays! Classes seem reasonable; I have 2 literature classes, 2 culture classes, and phonetics, all of which are in Spanish. There are only 12 students in our entire university and 3 professors (all very kind and helpful), so we will all get individualized attention. However, the downside to this is that all my classes are in the same room, with the same professors, right in a row. 4 solid hours of classes in the morning will certainly take some time to get used to. After classes each day, we head home for lunch and siesta. Yes, siesta is real and taken very seriously here. All stores close and the streets become empty as everyone heads home around 2 o’clock for lunch and a nap. It is a period of total relaxation and one of my favorite parts of the Spanish culture. Around 4:30-5 in the afternoon workers head back to their jobs, and stores reopen until around 9. Then it’s time for dinner usually sometime between 9 and 10 o’clock each night, quite different from the ordinary day in the U.S. if I say so myself. On Sundays, all stores are closed and the city is relatively quiet as most people relax in their homes. Blessed with so much free time, we have explored the city, shopped, shopped, and shopped some more. January is a special time in Spain called Rebajas, where almost all stores are at least 50% off for the entire month! Interestingly, American music can be heard in all these stores, practically everywhere, and clothing with American symbols and words is also very popular among many young people. I was shocked to see that my sister, Ana, has a Jack Daniels shirt and knows all of Drake’s music. While English seems to have a distinct presence here, it seems few people speak it, except for students learning it in school. We are all slowly adjusting to the Spanish language and culture, everyday we get a little more comfortable and confident.

Adios,

McKenna Lupold

PT Clinical Week#2

This week was yet another great week! On Monday I met my CI for the first time-his name is Marco. He is super nice but doesn’t speak English as well as my previous CI, but I enjoy the challenge, and it is fun to teach each other our respective languages.

During classes at LVC, we have learned about post polio syndrome. We were told that the department would probably take this topic out of the curriculum since the diagnosis is becoming obsolete. My first patient with Marco had post polio syndrome! I also had a post polio syndrome patient evaluation Friday. We were told that this diagnosis is prevalent in Italy.

Monday we began Italian lessons for one hour after work (3 days each week for a total of 18 hours). We learned greetings, types of sentences, and subjective pronouns and on Thursday we began translating paragraphs. Each lesson we learn more and more which helps me communicate a lot better with each patient.

Wednesday was such a great day! I was able to explain 2 exercises to a patient in only Italian! Sono Contenta!  It is upsetting that in two months I will no longer be practicing the language. I wish more people spoke Italian in the United States like they do Spanish so I could utilize the language skills when I start practicing.

~Jordan

A Saturday in Florence

5 euro Panini

5 euro Panini

View of Florence

View of Florence

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Shop owned by dog

Shop owned by dog

Biscotti

Biscotti

Chuck Norris Shot

Chuck Norris Shot

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Kristin's new friend

Kristin’s new friend

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Strawberry frozen margarita

Strawberry frozen margarita

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Fusilli a pepperoni

Fusilli a pepperoni

Last Saturday, the seven of us headed to Florence. I was excited to go back for a second time because it is such an awesome city. The weather was much warmer-didn’t even need a jacket! We decided to drive and park in the city since it was a little less than a 2 hour drive.

When we first arrived, we could not find the parking garage. We were driving down this tiny alleyway with tons of people in the road blocking our car. Everyone was staring at us until we realized that we were not on a road but instead the sidewalk! How embarrassing????? After driving off the curb back onto the road, we went into another smaller alleyway with tons of traffic. Our roommates in front of us got stuck, and the Italians beside our car helped us get out and find our way.

Kristin and I got 5 euro paninis where we were able to sample the meat and cheeses before choosing what kind we wanted. We also dunked biscottis in cappuccino for a late snack and had delicious tiramisu gelato that was to die for. We ventured into the duomo (which wasn’t as impressive as I was expecting), climbed a mountain to look at the view of Florence, drank margaritas, and had dinner at a really delicious restaurant.

Next stop, Sienna!

~Jordan

Holiday in Gubbio

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Personal pizza for 5 euros!

Personal pizza for 5 euros!

Free nutella dip!

Free nutella dip!

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Last Wednesday, we had the day off for the Epiphany so we traveled to Gubbio. It was very cold and rainy, but we had a lot of fun. We walked the city streets, visited the churches, and ate pizza. Each of us got a personal pie for just 5 euros!  The owners gave us a free dessert of warm Nutella dip with dough sticks.

~Jordan