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No Meat, No Problem

I have been a vegetarian for most of my life. I’m not sure why—no one is—but it always seemed to suit me. In the last decade or so, as the diet has become more popular at home, being a vegetarian has become incredibly easy. Still, there are so many unnecessary stereotypes about vegetarians in the States (I’m sure some folk are even annoyed that I am even talking about this in the first place).  At best, I’ve been called weird, optimistic, and naïve.  At worst, I’ve been called ridiculous, stupid, and over-emotional. Why? Because Americans mostly view vegetarianism and veganism as fad diets and, so, there isn’t a whole lot of respect for plant-based eating. In India, however, things are completely different.

Because of India’s cultural roots in Hinduism, Jainism, and other religions with dietary restrictions, vegetarianism is a completely normal diet in the country. In fact, if you don’t mention otherwise, most people will assume you don’t eat meat. I knew this coming in and, of course, it played a huge role in my decision to come to India. Still, until I got here, I didn’t realize just how normal it was to be meat-free. Imagine, a Chili’s American Bar and Grill with two menu pages of vegetarian entrees. I almost didn’t believe it when I saw it.

This is a complete shift from what I am used to back home. Though it isn’t hard to be meat-free in the States anymore, I always feel like I need to double-check if I can eat something. Meat gets snuck into everything (I am looking RIGHT at you Bacon Bits) and restaurants rarely serve more than one vegetarian option. I understand why America is this way; there are so many factors that have lead to the meat-and-potatoes life. But India doesn’t have that history. In so many ways, it is clear that their culture was never built around eating meat.

For instance, instead of noting whether a food is vegetarian, most Indian menus will note if a food is NOT vegetarian. It’s a subtle difference, but it specifically marks vegetarianism as the rule—not the exception. Also, there is a lot less meat served in general. My dining hall only serves one meat dish per meal, if even. For the first time in my life I don’t feel the need to be on the defensive about my diet. In this way, I am actually more comfortable in India than I am in America. I never expected that.

Again, I know a whole post about vegetarianism is not for everyone. It just isn’t the “American way”. But there hasn’t been anything more striking to me about my host culture that how easy it has been for me to eat. There is something about sharing a meal that brings people together and being able to participate in meals fully has been such an affirming thing for me. I can already tell the reverse culture shock is going to be rough. Until then though, I’ll be enjoying some of the best food I’ve ever had.

Fresh samosas at tea time.
Chaat–a popular Indian street food
A typical lunch at Tagore International House dining hall.

My First Assignment: Getting to Class

 

Before I left for Hyderabad, India I did everything I could to brace myself for a good deal of culture shock. I was prepared for the food to be different, I was prepared to wear more conservative clothing, and I was even prepared for the wild traffic. What I was NOT prepared for, however, was the way Indian culture views time and scheduling.

 

I could spot the difference between America’s pre-planned culture and India’s more relaxed vibe as soon as I began to register for classes. Unlike American schools such as Hope, Indian students do not necessarily know their schedules before they arrive on-campus. In fact, they might not know what classes will be offered, when the classes will occur, or where the classes will meet until a week or so into the start of the semester. Rather than have a distinctive schedule in this time, students just audit classes when they can and form a schedule out of habit rather than written confirmation.

 

As someone who writes “make a new to-do list” in all of her to-do lists, this system has been somewhat difficult for me. I keep finding myself asking for hard deadlines and due-dates even though I know they don’t exist—it’s like a compulsion and I am not the only one who is obsessed with time. All the Americans in the CIEE program are stressed out and no amount of being told “that’s just the way things work here” seems to ease our nerves.

 

What DOES make things easier is knowing the Indian values that created this sense of time. When my classmates and I expressed our frustrations with scheduling, our program director reminded us that India is not a documented culture like the United States. Basically, India values face-to-face conversations far more than they value anything written down. In their system, relationships are the basis of communication and I really admire that.

 

What this has taught me is that I need to be willing to embrace my discomfort. Sure, I may cringe at the idea of a loose schedule now, but I am excited to see what it teaches me about myself. Until then however, I will just have to go with the flow.

The Harley of Seville

Never again will I underestimate public transportation. It has saved me from being late to class on numerous occasions and from the dreaded shin splints. Normally, it takes 30 minutes to walk from my homestay to the University of Sevilla and 45 minutes to walk to the CIEE study center. In total, that is 1 hour of traveling there and back from the University and 1.5 hours there and back from CIEE. Monday thru Thursday I have 2 classes every day separated by a lunch break where I return to my homestay. So, the total daily walking time adds up to about 3 hours just for classes. The views on the walk are great but, I feel that I am losing precious time during the day and my legs hate me. Consequently, I decided to change my routine a little. There is a bus stop conveniently located just down the street from where I live, so I started alternating between the bus and walking to class. The bus is very efficient, usually cuts the walking time in half, and only costs 75 cents. It’s also a great way to improve my Spanish listening skills. There is even a designated airport bus, which I take advantage of for my weekend traveling. I have dabbled in other modes of public transportation like the metro and the tram, but the bus is by far my preferred method. My mom will be happy to know I have not tested out the bikes or motorcycles, which seem to be popular amongst the sevillanos. With tourists, the horse-pulled carriages are a hit.

 

Before coming to Spain I had never taken public transportation nor did I consider needing it. At Hope, everything is located within walking distance of each other: the academic buildings, the gym, the cafeteria, the residence halls, and the student center. Plus, there’s a weekly Meijer shuttle for those who aren’t on a meal plan. As for the city of Holland, there are a few lines of Max buses, but that’s the extent of its public transportation.  I have my own car so I have the freedom to drive wherever, whenever. In Sevilla, this is not the case. I had to learn the bus numbers, routes, and times. This put my millennial map reading skills to the test. Of course, after taking the wrong numbered bus a handful of times, I discovered the google maps app which displays public transportation routes. However, getting lost was worth it because I got to see parts of the city I normally wouldn’t see. Once I became comfortable with the main streets, I purposefully took new routes and walked the narrow, winding, colorful roads. I have stumbled across unique stores, coffee shops, and even Las Setas (an incredible wooden structure resembling a giant mushroom). I hope to continue exploring Sevilla and discovering new sights!

Disability from a Cross-Cultural Perspective

Part of my course load abroad was an internship to finish up my psychology major at Hope. The placement process began months before my arrival in which I was able to express my desires and qualifications for an internship in Santiago. Quite honestly, I did not feel equipped to actually contribute to a workplace environment, attributed  to a limited vocabulary and the fear of not being able to understand the directions and responsibilities given to me. Looking back on this semester, my internship challenged me in multiple ways, but more than anything it motivated me in the pursuit of my intended career path.

My main goal for an internship was to be involved with a population with physical and intellectual disabilities. I have always had a passion for working with people with special needs, and I wanted to see how that could grow and be challenged in a new culture. I was placed at a national foundation that offers many services to those with various types of disabilities. I chose to intern at a location that provides a home, schooling, and medical attention to a population who had been abandoned by their own families. There were 93 residents, nearly all of which had cerebral palsy, used wheelchairs, and were nonverbal. From my first visit, I knew this would be a challenging environment to be in, but I felt that my prior experiences had prepared me well.

I vastly underestimated the differences that existed between the rights for those with disabilities and how they vary across countries. Chile is a developing country, and the rights for the disabled populations are very far behind those of the United States. Furthermore, it was a difficult transition from working with privileged families who could send their children to summer camp or hire nannies as simply “an extra set of hands,” to working with an overcrowded foundation of residents who had no contact outside the walls of the residence.

As an intern, I was able to contribute to the building upkeep and supported the teachers and health professionals in their work with the residents. I can’t quite say that I made much of an impact on this organization, but to be a fly on the wall in a completely unique setting offered a cross-cultural perspective on disability that I would not have been able to find here in the States. I learned that empathy, joy, and friendship can be communicated without a common language or even the ability to speak. I also learned how privileged we are to have the facilities, legislation, and compassion for those with disabilities, and this is distinct in comparison with the rest of the world. As a global citizen, it can be difficult to see the injustices and imperfections that exist across cultures and people groups. However, this newfound passion is what motivates me in my studies and in future career, and will be an experience that will always remind me to be an advocate for others.

 

Study in study abroad?

Wait, what? There’s studying in study abroad? Yes, there is! Let me assure you that school does not go away. However, even though I still have homework, projects, and exams, it is definitely different from Hope College. To begin, all of my classes are in Spanish. This was a big transition for me. During the first few weeks I felt overwhelmed and frustrated that homework took longer than normal and I couldn’t fully understand the lectures, but since then, I have adjusted to the constant Spanish. Second, the hours are not what I am accustomed to. During the first 2 weeks in Sevilla, all CIEE students were required to enroll in a mandatory 2-week intensive Spanish grammar class which lasted 3 hours every day Mon-Fri. My class was from 6-9pm, the best time to have class according to my professor. There’s nothing more exciting than conjugating verbs in the vosotros subjunctive at 9pm on a Friday night, as long as it is celebrated afterwards with a trip to La Abuela ice cream.

The first day of class, my professor introduced herself using her first name. It’s interesting that in Spain, when a student addresses the professor, it is normal to use his/her first name. There is no formality of using señor/señora or profesor/a. In the United States, it’s customary that students speak to professors using “professor” or “doctor” followed by their last name. Even by the end of the 2 weeks, I couldn’t bring myself to call my professor Ana.

One aspect of study abroad that I am incredibly grateful for is the amount of outside of class activities assigned. Throughout the 2-week course we were required to do three activities outside of the classroom and write an essay about each one. The first activity was to conduct an interview of students at the University of Sevilla. This definitely ranks in the top 10 most awkward study abroad moments. But I’m glad I did it. I basically walked up to random students and asked them questions, in Spanish, about their goals and aspirations for after college, the cost of tuition (which I discovered is very inexpensive, around 800 euros), and study habits. All of the students were very nice and willing to share some information about their lives. The second activity was a visit to the Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts) and the third was a visit to the Flamenco Museum. Both were amazing but I think the flamenco was my favorite! I learned all about the traditional Spanish dance including its origins, its many varieties, and the clothing. I was even able to see a flamenco show! The singer, guitarist, and dancers were fantastic! I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to learn how to dance flamenco in the future!

 

A Week in the Life of a Newberry Seminar Student in Chicago

What is the typical week of a Newberry Seminar student like?

Monday

Classes ran on a MWF schedule at the beginning of the semester. As the semester continued, the seminar tapered off. Encouraged to begin their individual research, students explored the Newberry Library. The Newberry staff worked right alongside each of the 16 students. Individual attention and interest from the staff encouraged each researcher to delve into unique areas of study.

Georgia Armitage (pictured in the back and center), developed one of the more unique projects this semester. Interested in architecture, She devised an in-depth case study on First Presbyterian Church of Chicago, Illinois. She evaluated the church’s explicit use of nature within the frame of Neo-Gothic architecture.

With plenty of one-on-one guidance from our seminar professors, Bill and Eric, projects like Georgia’s thrived. When we weren’t in class on Monday’s, our Tuesday’s were spent exploring the city of Chicago.

Tuesday

Available daily, Chicago runs free events all around the city. From winning free prizes in marketing campaigns in Millennium Park to strolling through the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Zoo Light Festival, we remained constantly entertained.

When Tuesday’s adventures would come to a close, Wednesday led us back to the library. Wednesday nights my roommates and I would bake. A lot.

Wednesday

After a long day at the library, carbs were a must. My roommates and I often bonded over food. A recurring delight of ours? Pretzels. With limited diets, homemade pretzels were among the few things we could all eat. That being said, our pretzels did not disappoint!

On Thursday’s we would present our research process to Newberry and the Chicago public.

 

Thursday

Our professors–exceedingly present in our research–would schedule time for the class to present their research findings. Presenting throughout the semester kept us in line. Although the checkpoints were few, we were expected to present substantial work. Personally, my public speaking skills drastically improved.

 

Alas! The weekend has arrived. One of my most favorite times, and below, you can see why!

The Weekend

I know many will say that Friday is not a part of the weekend. But with this off-campus semester, you made your own schedule. Boy, was I thankful for that! On the weekends, we could explore Chicago with complete freedom. From eating at hole-in-the-wall breakfast places to eating at high-end sushi restaurants, I was well fed!

 

 

 

 

My friends doubled as my adventure team! Walking around Chicago was one thing, but with our free public transit passes, the possibilities were endless. But, there were times where we just wanted to stay in the apartment. Relaxing in Canterbury Court Apartments was easy to do. The already fully-furnished apartments were comfortable and became a second home to me!

 

 

 

This semester was extremely difficult. I cannot express that enough. The intensive seminar and independent research study left you wary at times. But the end results were worth the long, tireless hours. I would not have traded this semester at the Newberry Seminar for anything. I will always cherish the people I met and valuable skills I learned.

Thank you, Chicago.

World’s Best Cup of Coffee

So…. Maybe I haven’t found the world’s best cup of coffee, but I have been on the hunt for Manly’s best cup of coffee! My goal for this term has been to try every little cafe, and there are a ton, and see which one had the best latte.

Mocha Mocha Mocha

I have been spoiled since being in Australia because they know how to do coffee here. Drip coffee, pressed coffee – any sort of non-latte does not exist. The closest thing you can get to that is a long black or Americano (which in my opinion are not worth it). Everywhere you turn, there is a coffee shop, so it is safe to say that I have been thoroughly caffeinated since the moment I arrived in this wonderful country.

There are several cafes within walking distance of campus, so I have slowly been making my way around town trying different coffees.

Manly Coffee Guild
Peanut butter latte <3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though most coffees are pretty equivalent around town, I have narrowed my selections down to these three:

 

#3. Muffin Break – cute coffee chain around Australia and it has the BEST version of iced coffee (coffee blended with ice cream, so like a frappuccino but way better).

#2. Fika – I am in love with this bright, quaint Swedish cafe. They have great coffee and even better cinnamon and vanilla buns. They top their mocha lattes with a Dala Horse in cocoa – can’t get much better than that!

and finally… (Drum roll please)

#1. The Roast Office – I am definitely in love with this place for several reasons. Their coffee is delicious of course! It is also the closest cafe to ICMS – I sound lazy, but if you had to climb the hill up to the school, you would understand too! The music choices are incredible every day, the cafe is the most adorable place in the world, and their banana bread is awesome. No, most of that has nothing to do with the quality of coffee, but its the best in my opinion, and I have spent many a morning in this beautiful place.

My excessive amount of visits to The Roast Office