I am so excited to share my semester abroad with you all! I wanted to start by explaining my choice with Liverpool Hope University is followed by how COVID has shaped my abroad experience.
I chose Liverpool Hope University because of the arts department. In the field of dance, it can be challenging to find an abroad program in English. I know of a student who studied in France two years ago, but other than that, not many dancers leave Hope College. Hope College has been working hard to change this and find more dance opportunities abroad for students, but it is still a struggle for us all. Therefore, I am very happy that Liverpool Hope University has a dance program embedded in the university’s international options.
COVID-19 has definitely made my pre departure experience difficult as there are so many unknown factors. Even when they are known, they can change very quickly. I feel like I always must have one foot in and one foot out, and not put my full heart into the experience quite yet. I think once I LAND in Manchester, I will feel the full range of excitement that is there, but I am scared to get my hopes up for now; even though we are only a few days out!
I am not worried about going abroad. In fact, I am so ready for the independence. I will not be going with anyone I know, but I think this is better for me as I get to learn more about myself as well as the city with no exterior influences. I live far away from my parents so I feel like I will be alright, but I am prepared for some home-sickness for family as well as adaptation to cultural changes. The director of the dance department and my advisor, Mathew Farmer, studied at Liverpool Hope University as well. We met to talk about the program as well as the flow of life in Liverpool. I am so thankful for his incite on some of the cultural changes between Holland Michigan and Liverpool England. This has been semesters in the coming and I am counting down the hours till I get on the plane!
Oh my goodness, my first week in London has already come and gone. IES’s orientation was a perfect balance of informative and helpful when it came to navigating the city, culture, and classrooms while allowing us enough free time to do anything I wanted without being rushed. I saw beautiful architecture and street art as well as explored a few of the numerous street markets in the city. We learned and saw a lot in a very short period of time, and that only made me more excited to dive deeper into everything we have done so far.
In my spare time away from the set schedule, I got to see my first musical in the West End! A fellow theatre student and I watched The Prince of Egypt, which is based on the film of the same name, and wow was that an incredible piece of theatre. We walked away feeling more energized about our future studies. Plus, even though it was almost a week ago now, I am still thinking about the choreography and music of the piece.
This week was definitely a broad overview of everything I want to see more in-depth as this semester progresses. I saw everything from Big Ben and the Tower of London to the outdoor book market under Waterloo Bridge. But most importantly, this week has made the fact that I am actually spending a whole semester here sink in. Before, studying abroad felt like a faraway dream as COVID kept interfering with my plans to do so in the past. But no, it’s real and it’s exhilarating.
Don’t forget to hit the subscribe button below so you can keep up to date with my London travels!
I cannot believe it has already, and only, been a week since I arrived in Granada, Spain, for my Spanish immersion program through IES. I say both already and only because part of me feels like I have been here for a month with the amazing amount of places I’ve explored, and the great friendships I’ve made. Meanwhile, the other part of me is still trying desperately to catch up on sleep from my incredibly long travel day on September 1st and prepare for classes to start.
Traveling to Granada
After a train, subway ride, two nearly-missed flights, a taxi, and many long delays, I arrived in Malaga, a city in the south of Spain, on September 2nd, and was welcomed by incredible warmth and views akin to coastal Florida.
In my 45 minutes of free time before a bus took a group of us students to our residence halls, or *residencias,* I took advantage of the beach that was only a five minute walk away. Although I was dead tired and had been wearing the same clothes for over 24 hours, I hiked up my pants and got in the beautiful waves of the Mediterranean. I had the courage to accept the challenge and dive right into the adventure, which set a good tone for the beginning of my year abroad in Spain.
Once our bus arrived in Granada, my new home for the year, we took a taxi to our student residencia, called Tribeca, and the taxi driver made fun of us because of how big our suitcases were. I was embarrassed because I had tried so hard to pack light for my long stay, but obviously not light enough. My one suitcase and one carry-on barely fit in the trunk of the taxi!
Daily life and Orientation
In the week+ since I arrived in Granada, I have done many wonderful things, especially through the amazing IES orientation program. Our daily schedule during orientation looked something like this:
Breakfast in your residence before arriving at the IES center downtown for Spanish and cultural lessons at 9 am.
Take a 30 minute coffee and churro break from 11:30-noon. Then, class en la calle (in the street) to practically apply what we had learned to daily life until 1:30.
Lunch from 1:30 to 3 pm in the residencia, followed by the commencement of the daily siesta. In Spain, siesta is the time during which all shops are closed for an extended lunch and relaxation time. Also, the streets are quieter during siesta than during the middle of the night, and lasts until around 4/4:30. Mostly only the very young and the very old actually sleep during siesta, but us jet-lagged international students took full advantage of the opportunity to catch some Zs.
Following siesta is usually a walk around the city lead by one of the orientadores or the orientation leaders who are current students at the local University of Granada. We usually hike to beautiful views of the city or try the most popular spots to grab drinks and tapas (free appetizers that come with each drink that are famously Spanish!).
If there is any time leftover in the day after the walks and tapas with the orientadores, many students have begun exploring the night culture in Granada, which features discotecas (dance clubs), bars, flamenco dancers and musicians on the street into the early hours of the morning.
Exploring the culture
In Spain, it is much more socially acceptable for any age to stay out late multiple times a week at discotecas or bars for tapas. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has obviously complicated this cultural aspect. With the utmost of caution while I adjust and evaluate the safety situation here in Spain, as well as to shake my jetlag, I have not yet gone to any discotecas, but instead am slowly easing into the night life by trying out the tapas scene!
My favorite appetizer that I have tried yet is called patatas bravas, in which baked potato wedges are drenched in a delectable sauce with a flavor reminiscent of curry. It pairs well with a drink popular in the hot summers of Southern Spain called Tinto de Verano, which is an iced summery red wine mixed with bubbly lemon soda. It is quite refreshing after walking through the sunny city and sitting in the non-air conditioned classrooms and residencias.
The first week in review
The absolute highlight of my time in Granada so far has been the wonderful people that I have met. From my fellow IES students, the orientadores, the instructors at the IES program center, to the staff and local students in my residence hall, everyone has been so welcoming. I have learned so much and enjoyed myself thoroughly from the very start. Ari, my spanish class teacher who also lead us on many adventures in the city each day during orientation, and Kike, the chef in my residence hall who cooks us gourmet 3-course meals, have already become great friends who are very patient with me and my developing Spanish skills, and both of whom are already so invested in my adventure here in Granada. My time here, thus far, would not have been as amazing if it weren’t for their contributions.
Overall, my first week has been a whirlwind of events and excitement and new things. I am excited to share my adventures in studying abroad with you as they unfold!
I have been in Freiburg for just over a week now, and I am loving the area. From where I live, I can see the hills outlining the city, and there are lots of trees and parks inside the city. A historically significant hill called the Schlossberg is about a fifteen-minute walk from my apartment. It is the former location of a fortress built in the Middle Ages to protect the city. Although no part of the fortress remains, there are many hiking paths and lookouts on the hill, as well as a tower at the top with an amazing view of the city.
The day after I hiked the Schlossberg, my group of study-abroad students took a bus to Schluchsee and Titisee. These are two beautiful lakes surrounded by the hills of the Black Forest (Schwarzwald). The bus dropped us off on one side of the Schluchsee.
After about an hour of hiking along the side of the lake, we stopped at a restaurant near the lake. This restaurant could only be reached by foot or bike, but it was still very popular. After lunch, we hiked another hour to where the bus picked us up on the other side of the lake. The path we walked was relatively flat, as it was right along the lake. To the left of the trail, the ground rose in a step incline, often covered with large mossy rocks. The forest consisted of dense rows of pine trees. On the right side of the path, the shoreline was rocky with spots of sandy beach. We crossed a large dam and a few small bridges on our hike.
The next stop was Titisee. This lake is a highlight tourist destination in the Black Forest, and the town on the lake was filled with gift shops and cafés. A popular activity on Titisee is paddle boating, and many boats were on the lake despite the fact that it rained intermittently the entire time we were there. The lake is surrounded by forested hills, and all the roads surrounding the town are on a much higher elevation, so you can see the lake and town in the valley as you drive by. A foot path also winds around the entire lake. After we explored the town on Titisee, we headed back to Freiburg.
My ears are still thumping from last night when I had the privilege of attending my first Jordanian and Muslim wedding. After a week of orientation, I was picked up from the Grand Hyatt in Jabal, Amman, and swept to Sweileh, a neighborhood in northwestern Amman. At 4:30, I rode with my host family to their apartment in Sweileh, and at 6:30, we set out for the wedding.
Jordanian and Muslim weddings are a family affair and a tremendous celebration. Because my host Mom’s sister was the bride, my host family played a large part in the wedding. We set out at 6:30pm Jordanian time, so 7pm, and made our way to the bride’s flat to escort her to the wedding place.
Sending off the Bride
Upon entering the flat, a small cup of Turkish coffee was promptly passed into my hand and I received dozens of kisses on the cheek. A typical Jordanian greeting is a kiss on one side of your face, and two kisses on the other, whilst shaking hands. A few moments later, the bride came into the sitting room, dressed head-to-toe in the biggest and sparkliest white ball gown you can imagine. A tiara sat upon her teased updo, and she slowly made her way towards the exit of the apartment. Keep in mind that Jordanian weddings are extremely loud, so much so that the coffee in my cup was shaking as were the floorboards beneath my heels. Family and friends are passing greetings to the bride but could not be heard through the music and zaghārīt.
The Jordanian car procession came next and was unlike anything I have ever experienced. Jordanian driving, especially in Amman, is a new phobia I didn’t know I had, so I knew I was in for a treat when a dozen cars lined up on a crowded one-way street. The bride and groom rode in a white convertible, similar to the white Mercedes pictured above, covered in flowers, while the entire wedding party (in Jordan, this means everyone in attendance) squeezed into their respective cars. People squeeze in where they can, some in trunks and truck beds, others hanging their bodies out of windows and sunroofs, all the while blaring music, dancing, shouting, and lots of honking. Police officers smile and wave as the procession flies by and pedestrians chase after the procession shouting and waving.
Upon arriving at the bride’s mother’s flat, where the wedding will be held, the party starts outside in the street, banging drums and singing congratulations to the bride and the groom. In Jordan, this is known as zafa, as is an important part of the wedding celebration. It takes about 20 minutes of celebration for the bride and groom to make their way inside, the hallways of the apartment building packed full of family and friends in black dresses and exquisite gowns.
Fast forward another hour of getting settled into the building and the men and women divide themselves into separate spaces in the apartment. Muslim weddings are separated by gender so that hijabis can remove their scarves and all women can uncover their shoulders and chests. This wedding was partially divided, and the men and women remained separated for the first 3 hours, with the men joining in the last hour.
The young women, ages 16 – 30, danced and celebrated uncovered in the middle of the room. It was insanely fun to watch women dance freely and enjoy celebrating the bride with one another. There was a variety of Arabian music, and the women all danced with emphasis on their arms and hips. The older women sat on the outskirts of the room, focusing on the young women. One of the women at the wedding told me that the mothers and grandmothers often focus on the young women in hopes of finding someone suitable for their sons or nephews. If a girl is pretty and a good dancer, they will inquire about her and her family, and introduce her to the respective young man. So, not only are weddings a time of fun and dancing but an opportunity for older women to do some old-fashioned matchmaking.
To clarify–arranged marriages are not common in Jordan. Family matriarchs play a large role in helping their sons and daughters find suitable people to be in halal relationships with, but do not force marriage.
We wrapped up the wedding around midnight and grabbed some shawarma on the way home, and I had the best night’s sleep ever.
“Sarah, Sarah!! Grab yourchanclas and come downstairs!! Hurry!” Dee cried out to me as the world’s most horrid sound blared in the background.
In a state of confusion, I rushed downstairs and out the door just as the ground began to shake, the telephone poles swaying and dogs howling in reaction. Oh how little I knew.
This is not how I imagined my experience at all. Just three days in Oaxaca and I can now say I have survived my first (real) earthquake. Apparently, they’re quite common here due to being the collision point of three tectonic plates (North American, Cocos, and the Pacific). In fact, four years ago, Oaxaca experienced its largest earthquake in history on this exact same day. Nature has a funny way of commemorating.
Being from the Midwest, earthquakes (temblores/sismos) are not something I am overly familiar with, but I suppose that will change! In reality, my sole experience is from 2015 when west Michigan experienced a whopping 4.1 magnitude earthquake and my mom’s reaction was simply, “Sarah, did you fall down the stairs again?” In fact, when I told my mom about the earthquake here in Mexico, she so kindly asked, “Ya sure you didn’t fall down the stairs?” Knowing that even amidst a natural disaster my mom still found time to make fun of me provided me with a sense of comfort.
All in all, while truly unexpected, my first earthquake helped commemorate a day full of firsts. My first day of class; my first full day living with Dee; my first time solely speaking Spanish for an entire day; AND, my first time navigating Oaxaca on my own (a BIG step). When I write these accomplishments they don’t appear to amount to much, but to me, they felt monumental. Safe to say that even though I am only four days into my semester abroad, it is going to be an experience that literally rocks my world!
The past few weeks have been crazy as I was on campus as students moved in and classes started for the fall semester. I got questions about how strange it felt but honestly, I loved spending the first week and a half in Holland. The energy and excitement from the new freshman was amazing. And of course, the best part was reconnecting with friends who did not stay the summer on campus. I loved seeing the quiet campus become busy again but was also sad to lose full range of the campus. I spent all my summer working for the theater and biology department which transferred over to the school year. The reason why I stayed so long was related to dance obligations and opportunities.
Last spring, I was offered a spot in H2, a dance company on campus. I was so shocked and grateful for the opportunity and of course accepted the offer. H2 comes a week early for school to get a head start on performances much like other sports teams get a head start on training. Since I will be gone for the fall show, I understudied for Fara Ling the whole week as she was busy as an international orientation director.
I really enjoyed H2 but the greater reason why I never left was due to a celebration of life for the founder of the dance department, Maxine DeBruyn. The week in between intensive week and the celebration, I got to keep up with my training by taking all kinds of technique classes which I have enjoyed and missed so much. I think this was more confusing for others then it was for me because I knew I was leaving the whole time but dancers around me often forgot as I have been there every semester for the past six semesters.
This past Saturday, the 4th, is when Maxine’s Celebration of life happened. I am so grateful I got to be a part of the celebration and got to honor her life by preforming a piece she created in the 80s called snickerdoodle. This dance has been recreated in so many ways and I am so grateful for the legacy I got to be added to. After the celebration of life ceremonies, I left for North Carolina and will spend the next few weeks visiting friends and family I haven’t seen in a while before leaving for Liverpool!
Stay tuned to know why Hope College and Liverpool Hope University share such a unique bond.
Early Wednesday morning, 1st of September, I arrived by plane in Frankfurt, Germany. From there I took the train (Bahn) to Mannheim. My train had a delay, so I missed my connection and had to wait an hour in Mannheim for the next train. I finally made it on the next train, where I was greeted by a small surprise.
The train was extremely crowded, and I finally found a seat in a four-person compartment where three people were already sitting. I asked them if the seat was free, and the family of three looked rather inconvenienced that I had decided to sit by them. I tried to stay distracted by my phone and out of their way, but then the little girl asked me (in German) if I wanted to draw with her. I said no thank you, but her gesture made me happy. A while later, she got my attention again and showed me that she had drawn a picture of me! It was so adorable, and she gave me the picture to keep. Her mom had her write her name “Lotti” (short for Charlotte) at the top. The family took a picture of me with it, and I felt so welcomed in Germany.
After a long day of traveling, I finally made it to my apartment (Wohnung) in Freiburg. The apartment building is brand new, and each student has a single studio apartment. All of the furnishings are from IKEA, so it doesn’t look too much different than a modern apartment in the US.
As I look forward to my time in Germany, I am both excited and anxious. Freiburg is in the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) region of Germany, and I am very much looking forward to hiking and exploring the wooded areas. I am also looking forward to being able to eat lots of German food (I will be sharing pictures!), and I am excited to experience living in such an environmentally-friendly city. I am a bit nervous about trying to travel outside of the city during the semester due to ever-changing covid restrictions, and all of my courses being in German is a bit intimidating. However, this semester will be a great opportunity for me to improve my language skills by immersion, and I am delighted to be living in such a beautiful city and region. I look forward to sharing my experiences in Freiburg with you this semester!
¡Hola! Everyone, my name is Ari Cinque and I’m spending this semester in Barcelona, Spain. I am entering my junior year at Hope College studying Communication and Business. I have always had a passion for traveling and am so thankful for the opportunity to not only travel, but study in Spain for the semester.
As I am zipping up my suitcase in preparation for my departure abroad, one of my biggest worries is that it will be too heavy. I challenged myself to pack everything I would need into one suitcase – and it was a challenge.
Update post check-in: My singular suitcase clocked in at a tight 48 pounds.
There are so many emotions getting ready to leave for a semester abroad but the one consuming most of me is excitement. My family continuously has been asking me how I am feeling prior to my departure. They keep asking “What are you most excited about?” so many things come to mind. I am excited to connect with new people from different backgrounds, to try new foods, to learn about a new culture, and experience life abroad.
Soon I will be joining a group of other students participating in and IES Study Abroad program. I will be participating in the Liberal Arts and Business program in the heart of Barcelona, Spain. Through this program, I will gain a well-rounded education through business, communication, arts, and history classes. I am looking forward to my International Marketing class to learn about the intricacies of a European approach.
Barcelona is a city with rich culture, history, and architecture. I have planned trips and tours within Barcelona as well as to surrounding cities. If you want to stay updated on what life in Barcelona is like, feel free to subscribe below!
Welcome back friends! This is titled A New Chapter because that is what I feel this experience will be for me. A fresh new perspective on myself, others, and the world. I’m happy you have decided to join me while I attempt to navigate life in the city!
Three words to describe my summer would have to be content, chaos, and joy! I learned how to be perfectly content in the chaos (a skill I know will be helpful when I move across the country). I worked at SpringHill Camps and got to meet some of the absolute best humans to ever walk this Earth (see below), and had the privilege to provide an amazing camp experience to lots of friends with special needs. It was one of the most special summers of my life. As sad as it was to say goodbye to such a joyful season of life, I am so excited to see what this next season holds!
Although the sunsets of Indiana are pretty remarkable, I am ready to be breathing that fresh mountain air and fully embracing the Colorado lifestyle of Chacos, yerba mate, and so much hiking!! I am already putting together the perfect road trip playlist for the 2-day trip out to Denver, which of course, I had to include The Lumineers. The Lord exceeded any expectation I had this summer, as He usually does, and I fully intend on being in awe of the beautiful state I am soon to be entering into.