The Final Push

This past week I had both of my final exams for the semester. I had two weeks to prepare for them after classes had ended, but in true Christian Leathley form, I waited until the 4 days prior to the first one to start studying.

The exams were in back-to-back days, so I had to manage my study time in a mature, organized fashion. I spent the first day collecting all of the materials I would need to ace these finals, including power point downloads and practice exams. The next day I spent a few hours at the library and then took a study break to the golf course for a quick nine holes. I spent a small amount of time studying before bed that night.

The next day I studied most of the day at the Marsh study center, which is a convenient 30-second walk from my place of residence. Despite this short distance, I had managed not to spend much time in this building this semester, as I have done most of my work in my room. I soon discovered that it was a beautiful area with many seating places and a small café if you are in need of a snack break.

I still managed to get a good night’s rest before rising at 7 am on Thursday morning to study until the final at 2:30 pm. This final was for my Movement Analysis and Control class. I entered the room with my pencil, student ID, and calculator, ready for the worst. We were seated in vertical rows, with each row being very far apart to ensure that no wandering eyes would be present during the exam. The proctor then read aloud instructions about the test, and we filled in our names and ID numbers. This was eerily similar to the dreaded standardized tests from my teenage years.

I began the exam feeling confident during the multiple-choice questions, before my focus wavered during the short answer section. Part of this class was focused on the mathematical portion of biomechanics, as were required to know how to calculate angles of force, displacement, and so on. I did my best to remember all of the equations from my studies (we were not given an equation sheet to my dismay), but could not recall one or two of the equations that happened to appear as necessary on the exam.

I eventually finished, confident that I did well enough to give me a decent overall grade in the class. The course structure here is far different from Hope College, and most American schools. During the semester, there is not much work to be done, outside of a few papers, lab reports, or shortened tests. Therefore, the finals are heavily weighed in relation to the overall class. My Movement Analysis and Control final was worth 50% of my grade. My next final, Foundations of Epidemiology, was worth a staggering 65% of the semester grade.

After a short break to ease my mind, I went right back to studying until late at night. I woke up around 6 am to try and squeeze a few more facts into my seemingly full brain before my 9:30 am exam. This exam, however, I was not too worried about, as I had done well on the 2 short tests during the semester.

I breezed right through the exam, as expected, and was home free. I now have 3 full weeks to explore more of New Zealand before I say goodbye and head back to America.

Bayram Adventures

Last week classes started back up at Koç after a long and relaxing 10-day break :). As I had mentioned in my previous post, my friend Keelia and I planned to go to a couple of different places in Turkey during the break; we actually had two other CIEE friends join us, Avery and Jordan.
Our adventures began with an overnight bus from Istanbul to Izmir, and as soon as we arrived in Izmir, Keelia and I decided to go exploring and ended up seeing some ruins at Agora and meeting some other exchange students from our school in Istanbul!

At Agora :)
At Agora 🙂 -photo by Keelia

We met up with our friends for dinner that night and the next day we all left for Selçuk together in the afternoon. Out of all the places we visited, I have to say Selçuk had the best atmosphere and it was very relaxing and peaceful. We stayed there for two days and visited The House of the Virgin Mary and Ephesus. We also went to a small village called Şirince, where we bought fruit wine and had a nice dinner.

The library in Ephesus. Stunning.
The library in Ephesus. Stunning.
Great shot by Jordan at the theatre in Ephesus
Great shot by Jordan at the theatre in Ephesus

After Selçuk we went to Pamukkale for another 2 days. Pamukkale is breathtaking, there is a natural park where there are pools of water by travertines and it basically looks like snow but it’s way cooler. We also had the chance to see the ruins of Hierapolis which are right where the park is and that was very beautiful. Oh, and we ended up having dinner at a Japanese restaurant both nights we were there – don’t ask why haha but it was an interesting experience and probably the best Asian food I’ve had in my life. The place was run entirely by a Japanese woman and she’s the cook, server, everything. Very cool.

Goofing off in Pamukkale
Goofing off in Pamukkale

After Pamukkale, we traveled to our final destination: beachy Bodrum! Bodrum is in the southwest of Turkey and it’s a tourist destination mainly in the summer. We ran into some rainy/cloudy weather the first two days but our last day there it was beautiful and sunny! We visited a castle there that now houses and underwater archaeology museum and we also spent some time at the beach and met up with our other friend, Tyler, who had traveled down for the break on a scuba diving trip in Marmaris. Our last day there, Keelia and I decided to go to a hamam – or Turkish bath and that was a nice way to end our break and relax before our flight back to Istanbul that night!

Bodrum!
Bodrum!

Turkey is a beautiful country and there is way to much to see here – my Dad and I were talking the other day and came to the conclusion that the whole country should be a museum! I am so happy I had the chance to visit these places and that our trip went so smoothly – I was really nervous as I have never really gone backpacking or done much independent traveling within a country. It was an experience I’ll never forget! Alrighty, I have to go back to reality (aka homework and the real world) but I hope you like the pictures and they make you want to visit Turkey! (You really should because it’s awesome.)

The Best in Show

This weekend I went to the New Zealand All-Blacks rugby game. I had purchased my tickets several months in advance, as their games are in high demand, and the Dunedin stadium doesn’t seat as many as a typical American sports venue. I purchased the cheapest tickets available, and was seated in what’s known as The Zoo. It’s where mostly University students sit, due to the fact that they are the cheapest tickets.

As game day rolled around, there were tons of people flocking the streets around town, as many people had come in from all over the country to see the All-Blacks take on Australia. I went into the game expecting a large margin of victory. The All-Blacks are considered the best rugby team in the world, coming off of a World Cup win, and the Wallabies had recently lost to the All-Blacks in Australia the month before.

Upon entering the stadium, I went to the merchandise booth and purchased the All-Blacks practice/warm-up jersey that I had been eyeing since I arrived in New Zealand. I went to my seat in the end zone on the home side, and was surrounded by a cheering crowd as the players warmed up for the game.

The game began after a wonderful rendition of the New Zealand National Anthem (which is half Maori and half English). The crowd was cheering loudly as Australia scored the first points of the game on a free kick (I’ll spare you trying to explain the rules of rugby, as I am still learning myself). During the game I would repeatedly turn to the elderly gentleman to my left to ask questions about the rules, or why people would cheer/boo at random points in the action. One of the boos, as I learned from the kind soul next to me, were directed at a Wallabies player who had become hated by the home crowd because he was born in New Zealand but had moved to Australia and is now playing for them. He also had apparently laid a cheap-shot on a All-Blacks player the year before.

The home team soon had taken a commanding lead thanks to a couple of dazzling passing plays. There were many hard hits throughout the game, as well as some fantastic dekes. The crowd was into the game from the get-go, and there was an awesome wave that rocked the stadium for three laps.

We went home with a victory, and the downtown area was packed and loud until the wee hours of the morning. I was very excited with the wonderful experience I had had that day, knowing I had gotten the privilege to see the best rugby team in the world.

22 and Fall Break!

This past weekend has been fantastic! My host parents planned a surprise birthday party for me with the help of Elena (my Romanian language professor), Jill, and my other colleagues. It was my very first surprise party, and it was definitely a success. I had no idea that my host parents even knew it was my birthday! They invited all of my classmates and professors over for a fun evening of popcorn, homemade pizza, and some kind of whipped-cream fruit cake (it was really tasty!). I received cards, gifts, and a big bouquet of flowers (and I also still had presents left to unwrap from the birthday present/ care-package that my mom had sent the week before!). I had a great time, and I am so thankful and blessed that my parents, my host parents, and my friends went the extra mile to make sure that I had a great birthday while in Romania. =)

YAY, I'm 22!!
YAY, I’m 22!!

One of my favorite and most creative birthday gifts was from my German friend and Romanian language classmate, Ronia. Ronia made me a “Little German Vocabulary Book” to take with me and use while I travel to and spend my week of fall break visiting a friend in Stuttgart, Germany! I am actually leaving in half an hour to begin my journey to Stuttgart! I am incredibly excited for the week of break ahead of me, and I am thrilled that I have the opportunity to travel and see even more places in Europe!

This picture was taken a couple of summers ago when Carsten (my German friend that I am visiting) was in Michigan. Also pictured is one of my best friends, Andria. :)
This picture was taken a couple of summers ago when Carsten (my German friend that I will be visiting this week) was in Michigan. Also pictured is one of my best friends, Andria. 🙂 I am so excited to see him again!!!!

Lookout, Germany! Here I come!

Marga =)

Volleyball time?

I have survived my Romanian language midterm exams!! On Monday, I had my written exam, and today I had my oral exam – which was a special birthday treat for me. 😉 It is hard to believe that the semester is already half-way over. The weeks fly by so quickly here, and it seems that I am getting busier and busier. Lately, there has been talk of starting a gym day for the teens involved in the clubs on Thursday afternoons. The idea is that I can teach the basic fundamentals of volleyball to those interested, and then hopefully coach the team (or teams) for the rest of the semester with the help of my colleagues, Lauren and Ashley (who also have played or coached volleyball in the past). Last week, we had a “trial” gym day to see who would be interested in playing volleyball, and the results were extremely positive! It was awesome to see how excited the teens were to work together and bond with their teammates. They were extremely competitive, and thrilled for the opportunity to play. An English drink company named Tizer had donated t-shirts to Veritas, and we were able to give each teen a gym day t-shirt. Even the teen leaders were given the cool matching t-shirts!

Jill, Ashley, and I looking snazzy in our Tizer t-shirts

 

Jill, Ashley, and I (the teen club interns) looking snazzy in our Tizer t-shirts while standing in the doorway of the International Cafe.

I have grown up playing volleyball for my entire life, and it would be exciting for me to be able to share a skill that I have been passionate about for so long. I brought a couple of volleyballs with me from the States, and we have found a high school that has a court and a net – and that is willing to let Veritas use their gym once a week for a couple of hours! The plan is almost finalized, and I am hoping that I will be able to start the week that I get back from my fall break! Exciting things are happening, and I am thankful for the many activities that keep me busy while I enjoy my time here!

Blessings to you all!!

Marga (:

 

Spoonfuls of Nature’s Bounty


Over the last 3 weeks, I’ve gone on several weekend trips, while finishing up classes for the semester. The first trip was to the Fiordlands to hike the Routebourn track; one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. The first day was by far the most difficult. We covered about 15 miles of ground over a 9-hour span, hiking from The Divide where the track starts all the way to the Routebourn Falls hut, which is the second-to-last hut of the trail.

On the way there we saw some majestic sights. The first was a magnificent waterfall that was flowing rather heavily due to rainfall the night before. We walked right past the area where it hits the pool below, and were shrouded in mist.

After passing the halfway point, the clouds started to clear and glorious rainbows that spanned across the mountain range greeted us. I couldn’t believe the great luck we had to experience such beautiful weather, which is not known to be commonplace in the Fiordlands. As we hit the highest point of the Routebourn track, we had a 360-degree view of the area. Beautiful valleys were down below, with a river careening through the mountains and emptying into the Pacific. It was a breathtaking view from which we simply could not move on.

After struggling to continue the hike, not wanting those views to be fleeting memories, we moved on to a rather easy portion of the trail, a flat little jaunt across the mountain, while jumping over several flowing rivers. As we collected ourselves at a small shelter only 1 hour from the finish, we had a bite to eat and took in the beauty. However, the rain started to come down upon us.

We began the final portion, but since it was a group of 7 going at largely different paces, we began to separate, knowing we were closing in on our night’s accommodation. While I scampered down a snowy bank seeing the group leader many meters in front of me, I turned to my left to see a flush valley with a large river carving out the middle. Right before reaching our destination, the river culminated in a large waterfall that flowed with the strength of Poseidon himself. After wondering for several minutes at the sight bestowed upon mine eyes, I walked to the hut and set myself down for the night.

The next day, we took our time waking up, knowing the day’s hike would be less stressful. We went back the way we came, taking in the beauty at a comfortable pace. We rested for the night at the midway hut, before finishing the trail the next day.

The following week, I finished up both my final paper and test of the semester, with a comfortable 2-week break before my final exams. The tests here are taken far more seriously than I have experienced at Hope. You enter the auditorium, and are forced to remove your jacket and place it at the front of the room. The tests are already placed at alternating seats, with 4 different colored booklets at each one to alter the questions to prevent any foul play. The rest is treated like a standardized test, with the proctor at the front reading instructions before the clock starts and you open your test. While my classes haven’t been overly difficult, that type of atmosphere is most definitely not cohesive with my academic abilities.

This previous weekend, a few friends and I took a day trip south to the Catlins, where we explored the Petrified Forest.  Here is Geology major Daniel Leaman’s description:

“The Petrified Forest is an extensive fossil record of a Jurassic flood event that deposited tree trunks and plants amidst volcanic sediments.  The location of the Petrified Forest, now known as Curio Bay, was a relict fluvial plain surrounded by several volcanoes.  Igneous sediments from these volcanoes mixed with flood water and organic debris, and were quickly deposited at Curio Bay.  Due to the high silica content of igneous sediments, the flood debris underwent the silification process in a matter of weeks.  The Petrified Forest is an extremely rare and well-preserved outcrop of Jurassic fossils and sedimentary formations.”

After a short time walking around this area, I spotted an extremely rare Yellow-eyed Penguin. There are only about 4,000 left, and South Eastern New Zealand is the only place in the world where they can be spotted by tourists. After wandering around a large, nearby waterfall, we headed home, jubilated by our stupendous afternoon.

Now, as I prepare for finals, I look ahead to the coming weeks that will be filled with more traveling, sad goodbyes, and last-minute planning, and I know that my memories will flood outward through my soul every time I encounter a willing ear from henceforth.

A Day in Sibiu

It was a fun day!

Today we traveled by bus to the lovely and historic city of Sibiu! We started the day with a tour provided by our Romanian teacher, Elena. We walked on the first iron bridge built in Romania, which is also known as the “Bridge of Lies” or “Liar’s Bridge”. According to legend, if one were to tell a lie while standing on the bridge, piece by piece it would start to crumble. This bridge is a popular destination for lovers to pledge their vows, and many wedding photos are taken on this bridge.

beautiful church
Top photo: most of the group standing on the Bridge of Lies; Bottom photos: one of the many beautiful churches in Sibiu!

Some of the group also toured the Romanian art in the National Brukenthal Museum – where we were able to use our International Student ID cards to get a large discount! 😉 The museum was fantastic, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself! I think that my favorite piece of the day was by Gheorghe Tattarescu. I unfortunately was unable to snap a photo because at this point in the museum I was told that taking photos was not allowed (oops!).

art gallery
In the art gallery before I saw the sign that taking pictures was not allowed!

Spending the day with my crazy-fun girls was the best part of the trip! After our tour in the morning was over, we drank coffee and relaxed in the city center where we observed other people also enjoying their day in the sun. We shopped, found a cool bookstore, took a lot of goofy photos, and laughed a lot. It was a great Saturday, and I am so blessed to have met all of these awesome people!

Climbed the clocktower
We climbed to the top of the clock tower where the view was fantastic and they also had 3D art!

 

I hope you’re having a great day!! La revedere!

=)  Marga

 

 

“…and the truth will set you free”

Faith and ministry are a huge part of Veritas and the Romanian Studies Program (RSP). Veritas is the non-profit Christian organization that the RSP students partner with. The goal of Veritas is not only (if possible) to meet the physical needs of the people of Sighisoara, but also the spiritual needs. All of the programs offered at Veritas incorporate a prayer or Bible lesson into each session because they recognize that by sharing the gospel, they are able to offer true freedom and hope for their clients. Veritas’ doors are open to all, and will not turn away anyone (even with the strong prejudices against the Roma “gypsy” population). The needs are great here, and the poverty was at first extremely overwhelming (especially after going on my first home visit). I believe this is why the foundation of the organization is built on the message of Christ and God’s redeeming love – to provide hope in the lives of those living in the poorest conditions in the community. The word “veritas” is Latin for “truth”. Veritas strives to spread the truth of the gospel to all who participate in the programs. The services that are provided by Veritas are a Kindergarten, separate after-school clubs for kids and teens, elderly clubs, a special needs program, and a domestic violence program. 
These programs open up opportunities to work with diverse populations. Sometimes I get frustrated because I do not feel as if I am able to truly help others while here, but that’s when I remind myself that it’s not necessarily about what I can do here, but rather what I can learn while here. The Romanian Studies Program is all about having a different cultural experience, and I am able to learn so much about how non-profit organizations work and what kind of scenarios arise while working with such diverse and oppressed populations. It’s definitely not the “typical” senior field placement, but I think that is why I first found the RSP so appealing. It is a lot different here than in the states. I may not learn about how to do all of the paperwork that is necessary and prevalent in American social work organizations, but my experiences here, I believe, surpass that need. Through spreading the truth of the gospel, Veritas is an example of what Christ’s love in action looks like. It provides the message of hope and ultimate freedom for all to hear.
John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
This is a peaceful river that flows near my house in Sighisoara
This is a peaceful river that flows near my house in Sighisoara.
Have a blessed day!
Marga  =)

 

What exactly are you doing in Sighisoara?

I have been asked this question quite often, and to be honest, I was not so sure of the answer myself for the first couple of weeks. Because Jill and I are the very first Hope students to participate in the Romanian Studies Program, we were both unable to give many details about what exactly we would be doing while here. Finally, after a month in, I feel as if I have settled into a routine, and somewhat know how to prepare for the day ahead of me…

Monday:

  • 8 am Romanian language class
  • 9:30 am Teen Club adviser meeting at the Veritas Family Center
  • 12:30 pm Lunch at Veritas Family Center
  • 2 pm Teen Club
  • 5 pm Cross-cultural checkup at Dorothy’s house
  • 6 pm “American” dinner at Dorothy’s house

Tuesday:

  • 8 am Romanian language class
  • 10 am School visits
  • 12:30 pm Supervision with Dorothy
  • 2 pm Teen Club
  • 5 pm Elderly home visits with Zsolt, my translator

Wednesday:

  • 9 am Elderly home visits/ Food delivery with David and Mia
  • 12:30 pm Lunch at Veritas Family Center
  • 2 pm Teen Club

Thursday:

  • 8 am Romanian language class
  • 10 am School visits
  • 12:30 pm Lunch at Veritas Family Center

Friday:

  • 8 am Veritas team meeting
  • 10:30 am Social Work Seminar
  • 12:30 pm Lunch
  • 1:15 pm Romanian History and Culture Class

Every other weekend, Dorothy plans day trips and tours to different cities in Romania, and these are a lot of fun! During the week, the majority of my extra time in between clubs or meetings is spent preparing material, researching, or studying Romanian. Because I do not speak the language, it is extremely difficult to focus on the counseling aspect of social work. The majority of the Veritas staff can speak or understand English well, and translators are available, but nonverbal communication is huge when working one-on-one with clients. My role as a social worker here is more focused on the aspects of being an educator, an advocate, a researcher, a service provider, and a net-worker. Throughout the week, I help lead group activities, lessons, and games for the teens and elderly clubs that focus on getting them involved and interacting with one another. I also go on home-visits to assess the needs of the family or client, and to observe their home environment. Through my daily interactions with my clients, I look for opportunities to meet their needs with the help of the already existing Veritas programs, and I am encouraged to voice my suggestions and opinions about possible new program ideas to my supervisors. At the end of the day, I am usually exhausted from the mental and emotional stress, but I am blessed to have this unique experience. I continue to thank God for the strength He provides, and for stretching me further than I would have ever thought possible! So, what exactly am I doing here in Sighisoara? I am here trying to love God, serve His people, and learn more about what it means to be a social worker in a non-profit Christian organization from those with greater wisdom and experiences than my own.

Pa! =)

Marga

Is That A Whale?! Nope Just A Rock

photo (10)
There were facts like this one posted all over the festival

Howzit?! Last weekend I spent time away at the Hermanus Whale Festival about two and half hours away from campus. My program sponsored the event and about thirty Americans signed up. We left Friday night and stayed through until late Sunday afternoon. It was so nice to get away from campus for a few days and see a new place. We stayed at a quaint and comfortable hostel walking distance from the festival and all of our meals were prepared for us by the owner and staff. We were all ready and geared up to see whales on whales in the bay, take pictures of the whales and buy whale t-shirts. After sitting looking out at the water for about an hour, it seemed the festival was lacking one minor detail. I might have seen the back of one whale, but… it very could have been a rock. Regardless of the whale aspect, the trip offered the chance to really get closer with some of the other Americans. It was such a beautiful day and valuable time was spent bonding with the other students while lying in the sun on the shore.

I still remember my first week here, worrying that I would not make any authentic, genuine relationships. This was one of my main goals in coming to South Africa- to find new people to connect with and learn from beyond the surface level. Prior to coming here, I honestly had the perception that I wouldn’t really even talk to Americans and would be laughing and scampering about South Africa with the locals. Surprisingly, those that I have become closest to are not local South Africans, but other American students in my program. As time passed, I found myself wanted to discuss and reflect on the experiences I was having with people who would understand the context. Through both the good times and the more challenging times, I wanted to find peers that could really relate to what I was feeling. I have definitely made local friends and have had many conversations with South Africans; I just have not developed the relationships I anticipated. With all of this said I am so grateful and blessed for the strong relationships I have made! I am learning so much through these friendships and my experience here would not be the same without them. Several of us are already making plans to get together back in the States after the program ends! 🙂

 

This is Rebekah, one of the other American students. I guess you could say we have become pretty close :)
This is Rebekah, one of the other American students. I guess you could say we have become pretty close 🙂