Monday, July 14, 2008

The end of an Adventure

By Ryan Chapman

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got 'till its gone…” I think back to the Counting Crows and Vanessa Carlton remix of this song as I laid in Frankfurt, Germany’s airport floor waiting for the Lufthansa Airline strike to end.

I thought back to all of the sights I saw, people I met, things I had learned, and fun times Russia and Study Abroad offered. As the song played yet again in my head, I realized it was not describing my Russian experience at all.

My initial goals for going to St. Petersburg, Russia, was to try everything and partake in as many experiences as I possibly could. I kept the time I was sitting in the dorms to a minimum, as I always tried to make the most of time seeing the city, talking to Russian people, eating at local restaurants, and learning the Russian Language. I never left Russia with a “wishing I had of done…” feeling. I truly felt I got the most out of my Study Abroad experience.

As the song in my head grew more annoying (especially the parts where Vanessa Carlton sings, “Mmm bop bop bop, Mmm bop bop”), I tried to figure out what exactly I took for granted over the last 31 days. Then it hit me, America!

Arriving in the states near July 4 was absolutely great. I have never been the type of person to sleep with American Flag undies on, but after being gone from my country for a month it was great to be back at a time of semi-unity for our country.

I had taken America for granted. If you think about it, it’s quite easy to do. I hear so many Americans say they despise our country for various reasons. While it is certainly each person’s right to be able to criticize our country, I feel like if more people were to travel abroad and have other countries to compare America with, than many people's mindsets would be different.

(From left) Ryan Chapman, Caitlyn Mobley, Lillie Steele, Kyla Rodgers and (front) Stacey Oksam.)

Study Abroad has been a great experience that I would recommend to everyone. I hope my blogs have helped anyone interested in studying abroad become well informed of the positives and negatives of traveling. If you have any more questions about my experiences or about Study Abroad in general feel free to contact me at

Friday, July 11, 2008

My Experience Abroad

By Nakita Dziegielewski

Now that I am back in the beautiful U.S.A., it is now time for me to reflect on what I have learned and gained from my trip abroad. This self-reflection is necessary in order to see what I have taken away from this trip. This self-reflection is good because it allows me to see what personal view or attitudes, if any, have changed from being away. It is also necessary because self-reflection will allow me to see what I would/could have changed in order to make my Russian adventure and future adventures successful and enjoyable.

One thing that I have most definitely learned about studying abroad is that immersing myself in another culture was a lot harder than it looks. A person cannot just do one thing to become apart of a culture, but many. From what I have experienced, the essentials that are needed in order to be totally immersed include: learning the language (the most important in my opinion), adopting the clothing, hair, etc. style, knowing the cuisine and actually eating it, knowing the traditions, and in the Russia, the superstitions, and knowing the basics of what drives and motivates the culture. All of these aspects are what allows someone to totally become apart of Russian culture.

I realized from my experience that I didn’t have all of these essentials mastered, but I did try to incorporate them into my everyday life in Russia. I tried to communicate to the best of my ability. I tried to shape my clothing style to that of the Russians, but more times than not, I was not terribly successful in that department. I did eat the local cuisine, and I somewhat knew the basics of Russian culture. Even though I didn’t master the essentials, I still feel as though I was able to be a part of Russian culture and I was able to gain insight from a culture so different from my own.

Now when it comes to self-reflection on changed views or attitudes, I would say that only a few views or attitudes have changed. One is that my experience abroad made me appreciate the U.S. even more. I have always valued my country, but I have made judgments on the faults that our country houses. Now, that is not a bad thing by any means, as U.S citizens we need to recognize our countries faults. But after visiting Russia, I have become much more aware about how much our country does do for its citizens, and I have become much more appreciative of the United States of America. While this trip has provided me with new perspectives, overall my views and attitudes have not changed from this trip.

Lastly, when it comes to self-reflection on things that I would have changed in order to make my trip better, my number one answer is language. I never realized how not knowing a culture's language would tremendously influenced the outcome of my trip. I believe that my experience abroad was great, but I know for a fact that it would have been better had I know the language fluently. I knew the basics, but it definitely wasn’t enough. I hated that I couldn’t bargain at the market in Russian and that I couldn’t have full, detailed conversation with the locals. Besides the language there is nothing else I would change.

My month abroad was filled with mostly positive (and some negative) experiences, but it was an amazing experience overall. I have learned so much about Russian culture, and I have learned a lot about myself. Will I ever visit Russia again? I’m not sure, but I do know that my traveling to foreign lands has just begun.