The First Few Days

I have now been in Chicago for a few days, and it has definitely been quite an experience. Moving in definitely had its ups and downs, but in the end I am very happy with the room that we got as it is easily one of the bigger ones that we have seen (and that says a lot as it is still super small). I have been pleasantly surprised with how easy it has been to make friends with other people in the program. For example, last night Libby and I got a group together of about eight of us to impulsively go downtown at night just to go to TJ Maxx. It was something that was super fun and impulsive, and I look forward to what more is to come.

Part of our room set up! (peep our lovely murphy beds)
Part of our room set up! (peep our lovely murphy beds)

I definitely moved to the city with some fears about riding all of the public transport, but surprisingly I have become comfortable with it relatively quickly, and I think that by the end of next week I should be able to get to all of the places that I need to go with no problems. Today was my last day of orientation, and so tomorrow (Wednesday) will be my first “real” class day. I am taking a Professional Seminar course, an Arts in the City course, and then I will also be taking a Social Justice course that starts in February. On Thursday I will start my internship, which is something that I am both super excited about and also a bit nervous for. As a result of covid, much of my work the next few weeks will be mostly virtual so I am still uncertain what this is really going to look like. Overall though, my experience here thus far has been a really good one and I look forward to all of the memories and growth I will experience!

Second day of Orientation- lunch at BienMeSabe (Traditional Venezuelan-yum)
Second day of Orientation- lunch at BienMeSabe (Traditional Venezuelan-yum)

A Fresh Start

Happy New Year!

As my friends are starting a new semester at Hope, I’m looking forward to my next chapter in Vienna. I spent the extra time I had over winter break finalizing the details of my trip, as there’s quite a lot that goes into planning a trip abroad!

Visas/Passports

Initially, I planned on studying abroad in right when the pandemic hit. So thankfully, I already have my passport ready to go. The next step in the process was to make sure I had my visa. IES sent me my visa letters and I made an appointment with the Austrian consulate in Chicago to get my visa application sent off to New York to be processed and approved. I missed a few days of class (sorry Hope College) in order to drive home to make this appointment. I rolled up to the Austrian consulate in Chicago with my plastic bag full of very important documents, had my fingerprints taken, and was on my way. When my Visa was approved, the consulate sent my passport back to my home address. All ready for me to take to Vienna!

Medication

Perhaps the most difficult aspect about preparing for Vienna was getting my medications approved by insurance for travel. Generally, insurance doesn’t love when you take 4 months of medication with you at once. In order to get medications approved, you must provide a list of your medications and dosages as well as your flight itinerary and proof of insurance. I completed this process quite a few times actually, as it was denied the first few times. So, my advice is to start early and call often for check ins!

Class Schedule

Lastly, if you’re like me this is the fun part: preparing your class schedule. I went through two registration processes for my classes in Vienna. I pre-registered through the IES website for two courses I absolutely need for my major or degree. A few weeks later, I registered for the remainder of my classes with the exception of my German class. In order to be placed for my German class, I took an online language assessment. Once I arrive in Vienna, I will take an in-person speaking and listening assessment. After, each student will be placed in their German language course. But, for the most part I know what my schedule will look like and it’s starting to feel real! The next time you hear from me, I will be living large in Vienna.

Auf Wiedersehen!

The Waiting Game

Spanish word of the day: Esperar.

Translation: To wait for.

Spring semester has begun for everyone, and I’m here waiting. My program does not start until March, so I have a few months of planning beforehand. To some extent, this experience seems distant, almost like I will never make it to Argentina. It feels that at any second, they will cancel the program because of a new variant that will pop up.

There’s part of me that wishes I could jump right into it; not think about any of the nerves, and just hop on a plane. I’ll get to fly solo for the first time, change continents, meet new people, try a variety of foods, experience a culture different than my own, and practice my Spanish. It will be amazing to go do something for myself and by myself for once. But that doesn’t make it any less difficult. I feel that I’m leaving behind my home; those I care about most. But the more thought and preparation I put into my travel plans, the more excited I become and the more I realize just how much I need this experience.

If you ever doubt whether or not you want to study abroad, think about what experiences you’d like to have in your lifetime. Is traveling one of them? Consider this a challenge! Take the opportunity while you have the chance. Even though it may be difficult at times, I know that it will help me grow in insurmountable ways. I cannot wait, and you shouldn’t either.

Pre-Departure!

*Note: This post was written on December 10th

I just realized that less than a month from today I will be moving into my apartment in Chicago. On one hand, it feels like this opportunity has been a long time coming, but on the other hand it feels like it has come way too fast. I am a very organized person, and have already begun making a list of all of the necessary things that I need to bring with me. This in itself is going to be rather challenging for me, as I absolutely love clothes. Like, I have three closets full of clothes and now have to downsize to a small, shared closet space. Overall though, I am feeling both happy excited and nervous excited to start this new journey.

My sister Morgan
My sister Morgan

I think that the biggest thing I am struggling with at this point is leaving my friends and family. I am very close to my sister Morgan who is 16, and I have never been apart from her for long (many people mistake us as twins, I’m not certain how I feel about that). Additionally, I am leaving my cat Minnie behind at home, and this is also something that is really hard for me.  I will not have a car while in Chicago, nor any sort of space I can really call my own since I will have a roommate, and this is something that also worries me in a sense. On a more positive note… I am excited to be living in the Gold Coast with one of my Sigma sisters, Libby. It’s going to be super helpful to have someone I know go with me into this new chapter of life, and I look forward to becoming closer to her. 

<img src="https://blogs.hope.edu/off-campus/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2022/01/IMG_4472-1-768×1024.jpeg" alt="Minnie
Minnie <3

Apply, Apply Again

I’ve always been an organized person, just take a look at my planner! Since my first, school-given agenda in 2010 I’ve kept track of deadline after deadline, even notes for things as simple as ‘text Mom!’, to help me keep track of my days. In my experience, if it’s not written down it will quickly trickle out of mind and into nonexistence. One moment I’m sitting down for dinner, wondering how my evening got so free, the next it’s midnight and I’m jolted awake with the memory of an assignment due the next morning. 

During the pre-departure process, planning, scheduling, and especially list making have moved up in the ranks from necessary to essential. After finishing my application to study abroad through Hope and through IES Abroad, I thought the worst was behind me. But soon the acceptance email came, along with piles of forms to fill, doctor’s appointments to schedule, plane and train tickets to book, not to mention a visa to apply for. 

When I felt myself becoming overwhelmed by the amount of details and meetings I needed to remember, there were a few things that helped immensely. First, of course, my planner, to keep track of the many due dates and tasks to accomplish before leaving. Second, the purchase of a bright orange folder. I used this for my trip to apply for my visa, in order to hold any personal documents and important information in one place. Third, a sense of perspective. It is easy to get lost under the never ending to-do list that study abroad requires. There was a point where, instead of feeling excitement at this opportunity, all I could feel was the stress that the preparation brought me. I often had to re-center my thoughts and remind myself the reasons I wanted to travel in the first place.

In time, I’ve realized that the process of preparing to study abroad is the true application. All of the things I’ve done to prepare have been a test of my resourcefulness, patience, time management skills, and self reliance. If I can navigate Chicago, find a FedEx to print my documents, walk a mile to the consulate and wait in a room for 4 hours without a phone, to apply for my visa in a meeting that takes all but 10 minutes, I can do anything.

Socks & Suitcases: Preparing to Study Abroad

48 hours. 

48 hours until I say Au revoir! to the suburbs of Chicago and depart for Nantes, France. 

Well, maybe 54 hours is more accurate since I have a connecting flight in Texas, but my shock is the same. I’m leaving my parents, brother, three cats, and tortoise to travel over 4,000 miles to France— Wow! 

I have been fighting the temptation to pack every sweater and pair of ankle socks for my semester across the sea. The internal battle has resulted in sweaters hanging from every open drawer and socks spilling over the shag carpet. But even while overwhelming, packing is exciting. This time last year I was waiting to study abroad in Tokyo, Japan. Right before I would have started selecting socks for the subway, my program was canceled by the pandemic. After racing back to campus, I applied to study abroad in Japan once again for the spring of 2022, but it wasn’t long before it became clear that wouldn’t be possible. Though I paused my French studies after my freshman year at Hope, old dreams of studying in France reappeared, and voila! Now I will be participating in a full immersion program in Nantes. Quelle surprise!

So here I am making a mess of my suitcase. The mess is a relief. It means that my new navy socks will stretch and wear on unfamiliar streets. Hidden under Converse, they’ll take me from the Metro to my host family and listen while I jumble Japanese and French grammar. Over the last two years, we’ve all had to change our plans and adjust to the unknown— the socks in my suitcase suggest that change can be serendipitous. So maybe I should throw a few more pairs in my carry-on. The pair with giraffes or the pair with dragons? Thank goodness I still have 47 hours to decide.

Why Ireland?

So Yuki, why did you decide to go to Ireland? Undoubtedly, this was the most commonly asked question during the winter break after I told people my plan to study abroad. To be completely honest, even now, as I’m sitting on the airplane to Dublin, I don’t quite know how to answer the question. 

I don’t know much about Ireland. No, I’ve never been there. But for some reason, the idea of going to Dublin seemed exciting and I also liked the idea of attending Trinity College Dublin, a large school with rich history and intense academic rigor. A huge plus is the fact that most people speak English there. In 2019, I visited Scotland and England to see my cousin who was an exchange student at University of Glasgow. In the blink of an eye, the incredible scenery, the majestic cathedrals, and the vibrant atmosphere led me to fall in love with Europe. I knew I wanted to come back. So here I am traveling across the globe. 

I’m looking forward to having late-night conversations with new friends, going through uncomfortable culture-shocks, exploring authentic Irish pubs, and of course, staying up way too late the night before exams to cram test materials as always. Long story short, I’m extremely excited for this adventure. Stay tuned for the next post!

A Winter Wonderland & Other Final Moments

I spent my last week in Freiburg hiking, studying, and enjoying final special moments with friends. One hike I went on was in Triberg, to see one of the highest waterfalls in Germany. The town was dusted in snow and surrounded by snow-capped hills and pine trees.

Part of the town of Triberg.
Part of the town of Triberg.
Triberg waterfall.
Triberg waterfall.

The waterfall is about a twenty-minute walk from the train station, through a town filled with tourist shops, toy stores, and cafés. I hiked for a long while on the snow-covered trails around the waterfall.

A lake in Triberg.
A lake in Triberg.

The last week in Freiburg, I had exams in all of my classes and a few papers due as well. On Wednesday, I went to a café with one of my German friends and had my last Eiskaffee (ice cream coffee).

Eiskaffee.
Eiskaffee.

On Thursday, I went to eat with all of my American friends, and I went to my last Bible study with my German friends. I headed out on the train on Friday afternoon, spent the night in Heidelberg, and then flew home from Frankfurt on Saturday. I made so many fun memories in Freiburg this semester, and it was so sad leaving this beautiful country.

Bye, Freiburg!
Bye, Freiburg!

Adios!

And just like that, my time abroad has come to an end. It is crazy to believe that I am packing my suitcases to go home when it feels like just yesterday I was walking into my apartment for the first time. Studying abroad has easily been one of the hardest but most rewarding things I have ever done.

I have learned so many things about the Spanish culture and myself. Traveling is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It throws you out of your comfort zone and forces your to adapt. I am both happy and sad to be leaving Spain. I am so happy to go home for the holidays and see my family. However, it will be a hard change not living in Spain anymore. I will miss it very much.

If there was any advice I would give students studying abroad it would be:

  • Be open to new things
  • Try new foods!
  • Know you are going to feel stressed and overwhelmed, but you are not alone
  • Pack light – you will accumulate lots of souvenirs
  • Embrace local culture, it is very different from the United States (for a reason!)
  • Keep an eye on your belongings
  • Do or collect something everywhere you go (tickets, postcards, etc.)

As I zip up my suitcases to come home, I feel grateful for all of the opportunities I have had abroad. With that being said, I am also very excited to return to Holland next semester.

A Farewell Note

As my time here abroad is officially coming to an end, I can’t help but feel a mixed bag of emotions upon my departure from London. When leaving the states, one tends to have certain expectations and hopes for the adventures that await them within the next four months. Upon reflection, I can confidently say that all my hopes and expectations were greatly exceeded in every way for which I am so thankful for. 

Exploring the World.

And to all the places I was fortunate enough to go to :

Scotland, thank you for your serene beauty and letting me explore your fanciful lands.  

Paris, thank you for the 22nd birthday party and letting me catch up with a dear friend. 

Ireland, thank you for the camaraderie and letting me encounter some of the friendliness of people while abroad.

Lastly, London, thank you for an adventure of a lifetime that brought me new friends, a new home for four months, further intellectual growth, and to what I believe, brought out a better version of myself.

Thank You.

I feel an immense amount of thankfulness and gratitude to my biggest cheerleaders and supporters of my dreams and passions – my parents. Thank you for further encouraging and supporting my determination to make this semester happen. And to Hope College, thank you for your endless support and guidance you showed me to get me abroad (Study Abroad Office, you know who you are). It truly rocked my world and it will be something that stays with me throughout my life. 

Farewell for now, London.