I have a bunch, so I’m just going to make a list. It’s crazy that I am at the end of my first year already, but here we are. Here’s some of what I learned along the way:
- You’ll want to try everything, but don’t get overwhelmed. It’s good to have a night to yourself every now and then
- That being said – don’t lock yourself in your room. Get out there – you never know what’s going on around campus.
- Don’t be afraid to say hi, or ask to join in. I met all of my friends playing board games in Walker lobby.
- Check your email often – it’s a good way to stay up to date on things going on about campus
- Remember to take care of yourself – this is the first time you’re on your own, probably. Make sure you eat and stay hydrated.
- Find a good study spot. There are a ton of places on campus, each with its own environment. I learned pretty early on no work will get done for me in the union, because I usually ended up talking to someone or getting pulled into some activity.
Some of the best conversations I’ve had have happened while traveling. Often, it begins with me hearing an unfamiliar language or accent and asking “Excuse me, but I’m a linguistics major, and I was wondering where you are from?” People are often more than willing to talk about there history of where they’ve lived and what language(s) they speak. Often the conversations diverge from language to culture, or any other number of topics. People have a lot to offer, but our society is so focused on shutting strangers out. I encourage people to engage others in conversations while traveling; you never know what you might discover.
My last event of the year was the Eve of Nations. It happened to fall during the weekend my mother was visiting, so the two of us went together. The dinner was great, and all the events were really cool. It’s really great that all the organizations get to show off their skills and talents. I hope I get to go again next year, and maybe even be involved next year with some of the groups.
I completed Understanding the Global Community this spring, and it was one of my favorite classes. I thoroughly enjoyed the teaching style, having three professors of different specialties each teaching their own perspective of the world. It was very successful in giving a complete understanding of the very complex issue of the global community. I hope to have more classes taught in this style.
My major is linguistics, one I have been intent on pursuing for a while now. I feel this is a major that pairs well with travel, though not one that most people realize does so. As the science of language, there is no better way to study language than to be immersed in the language. I plan to use one of my trips to study linguistics in Edinburgh, which has one of the best linguistics programs in the world. Some may say that makes no sense, as it is in the UK, and they speak English, don’t they? However, few may realize that the UK may be one of the best places in the world to study languages that are not widely spoken. The languages that I am referring to in particular are those in the Celtic family – Welsh, Irish, Breton, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, and Manx. These have roots in some of the oldest languages in the world, and are therefore awesome to study when studying the development of language. On the whole, I am super excited to go to Edinburgh.
I attended another panel for my third event, this time on underrepresented groups in study abroad. This involved aspects of race, sexuality, disability, and poverty. It was very helpful for me, as I have become more aware of my identity over the year and how many places aren’t okay with who I am. It was also helpful to hear from people with chronic disease, as I have faced depression’s more physical symptoms this year, and have struggled to work through them. Overall, it ended up making me much more confident about going abroad again.
After not having the best experience with Cousins in the fall, I decided to get involved with the ESL programs. Unfortunately, this never came to fruition. Due to my having a service dog in training at the time, I had to go through the process of making sure all parties involved were okay with his presence. This left me in a chain of emails and bureaucracy that never got resolved. I hope next semester is more successful in this regard.
I recently did a paper on the little known fourth national language of Switzerland, and became quite immersed in the historic aspects of the language, and the influence of other languages upon it. It really gave me a sense of how it is hard to stay isolated in this world. As a result, I want to share that paper with you, available here.
During my first trip to Germany, we found ourselves with a completely unscheduled day. A vote was taken, and the class decided to go to Schloss Neuschwanstein, the famous castle Walt Disney based his designs for Cinderella’s castle on. It took 5 hours to get there by train, but it was worth it. The typical tourist visiting Neuschwanstein pays a premium to get a tour inside, where they’re forbidden to take pictures, so they will buy photo books and postcards at ridiculously high prices. The tourist then visits the nearby Marienbrücke, a very narrow wooden bridge that overlooks a waterfall on one side and the castle on the other. They will push their way through the masses to get to the middle of the bridge, take their pictures and a selfie, and then turn around and go back to whence they came. There is nothing wrong with the tourist version of Neuschwanstein. However, I had an experience that was far better than that, free from waiting in lines and shuffling from room to room. Because our plans were so last minute, we weren’t actually able to get a ticket inside, which usually sell out at least two weeks before. We didn’t mind though. The most impressive part of the castle is most definitely the outside, with its spirals and arches. After taking pictures in front of the castle, we made our way to Marienbrücke, where we made yet another spur of the moment decision. We pushed our way through the crowd to get our pictures and selfies, but we didn’t stop there. We did not turn around like the other 90% of visitors, deciding instead to go the whole way across the bridge. Where the bridge met land, there was a gravel path that soon turned to dirt, and then faded into nonexistence in some places, but continued up the mountain overlooking the castle. We had several hours before we could catch the next train home, so we decided to see where the path would take us. There was a good amount of scrambling for foot holds between rocks and roots, and a couple scraped knees, but we eventually found ourselves in a small grassy clearing, near a good climbing tree. When I turned around to face the open sky, I was awe-struck. We were higher than Neuschwanstein, the massive castle seeming tiny in comparison to the mountains surrounding it. In the clear mountain air, we could see forever. It was also the sort of air that made you feel more alive than ever. We stayed up there for an hour or two, taking in the view and enjoying the wonderful weather. It eventually came time to catch our train home, and so we scrambled down the mountain again. We all slept on the ride home.
The first time I went abroad was the summer before my senior year of high school. I went to Germany with a group of students, and one of the most important lessons I learned there was how to be travel savvy. You have to have a certain level of savviness about you to get the most out of your trip. A good portion of travel savvy is just keeping your head on your shoulders and just saying “yes” to any new opportunity. A lot of the best experiences I had involved me in places I wouldn’t have otherwise been, had I not been willing to try new things. Another important part I learned was that it was okay to leave the pack. My favorite memories were created when I took the time to explore and deviate from standard tourist activities. Too many people spend their time abroad with the people they came with, never taking a chance to go out and explore. They just shuffle along with the group, snapping pictures, and never going off the beaten path. It’s okay to do a little of that, but to do it your whole trip is a waste. Throw yourself into it!