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A Reflection on the Study Abroad Retreat



From left to right: Leah Ruggiere, Maria Kyriakakos, Isabella Favazza, Kathryn Vajda, Rosie David, Mandile Mpofu, Brianka Enck. Photo Credit: Kate Longabaugh

At 9:30 am on August 25, the first Saturday within the Fall 2018 semester, a handful of returning students sit on the old couches of Buchner Hall. Fruit, cereal, apple juice, and tea are offered on a nearby counter for breakfast. There’s some slow chatter as others trickle in from their dorms, until our group is at around 7 people, not including the leaders of the retreat, Alum Meg John (’18) and Senior Kate Longabaugh (‘19). Meg eases the group into the first activity, a deep discussion on our experiences abroad. All of these students have gathered for one particular reason, including myself—we are all students who have recently returned from study abroad.

The Study Abroad Retreat, started last year by Alums Anna Young (‘18) and Meg John (‘18), was created as a space for students returning from study abroad to reflect on their experiences. Additionally, the retreat provides some guidance navigating the transition back into life at Goucher. Reflection primarily took place through activities like the one introduced above. Small, open-ended questions acted as prompts throughout, and each person built off of the prompt and shared experiences that are often not discussed or addressed when asked the infamous question, “so how was study abroad?” The retreat itself actively pushes against this question. As many noted during this discussion, it’s hard to answer such a broad question about such a long and complex time in one’s life. Small group discussions, which addressed both the good, the bad, and the neutral, were supportive and empathetic in a way that echoed throughout other aspects of the retreat. Peer listeners were also invited for an hour to allow those who had studied abroad to have a strictly confidential space about potential problems they experienced either abroad or upon returning to Goucher.

Outside of group discussion, people were given the opportunity to reflect on and explore their study abroad experience through small art projects and writing. A travel writing workshop led by Professor Lana Oweidat, Director of the Writing Center and professor of writing, prompted students to reflect critically on their time abroad, taking into account the ethical dilemma of writing about a culture that is not your own.

After Professor Oweidat addressed how to write about one’s experience, a “Resource Hour” was held at the end of the retreat to provide information about various clubs and offices on campus that can help students in their transition. Representatives from The Quindecim, Storymapping, Re:Home, and Title IX were present to share the services and opportunities they can offer to students returning from study abroad. The Quindecim and Storymapping provide a space for students to actively share their experience. Students can share their study abroad narratives with the Q through writing and images. Storymapping Club, run by Clara Colton Symmes and advised by Professor Evan Daley,  provides students the opportunity to share their narrative using maps, images, videos, and writing online. Storymapping Club is in the process of creating a map connecting various Goucher study abroad stories titled “Gophers Around the World: Megamap.” Kalee LaPointe of Re:Home informed students about the revitalized club, which primarily acts as a long-term support group for students to openly talk about and reflect on their experiences abroad.

While reflection on one’s own study abroad experience is a huge part of the retreat, it also informs returning students about changes on campus. Lindsey Johnson from the Community Based Learning Center and Aisha Rivers of the Office of Student Engagement spoke with students for an hour regarding the many changes to Goucher since the spring semester. Title IX in particular shared information on their upcoming forum regarding abroad and sexual assault, communicating to those at the retreat that the forum would be student led, confidential, and open to all.

The student run event spanned from Friday Night to Late Saturday Afternoon, and was funded through OIS. Those who attended the retreat reflected positively on the experience, especially given that the nature of this event was student run and student focused. This allowed for more freedom of expression for many of them, including providing some students with the ability to discuss the more negative aspects of their programs. This included both racism and sexism that they experienced in their host countries, which they were unprepared for. The calm flexibility of the program added to its success, particularly because returning students were better able to communicate and process through their study abroad experience as whole, but not entirely all at once.

If you are interested in sharing your study abroad story with others, feel free to contact us at or join Story-mapping Club. Story-mapping meets Mondays from 2pm-4pm near the laptop kiosk in the Ath.

If you are looking for support as you transition back from study abroad, reach out to ACE, the Counseling Center, Peer Listeners, or Re:Home.

If you are simply looking to reflect on, discuss, or share your study abroad experience, reach out to Peer Listeners or Re:Home. Re:Home meets on Tuesdays from 7pm-8pm in the Chapel Undercroft.

When Abroad Friends Become Home Friends

Taken from Sam’s instagram, @sstinchcomb, in front of Church of the Savior on Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia. Photo Credit: @sstinchcomb

When you go abroad, the friendships you make are everlasting. As the weeks dwindle by, you forget that this isn’t your home school, that these aren’t the faces you will see every day once you are back in the States. You say your goodbyes and you laugh and cry over the memories you make. Some of the friends you make will be your “Best Friend” on Snapchat, or the person that keeps liking your Instagram posts and tweets. And sometimes, they are the people you run into at the bars when you are leaving.

While abroad in Denmark, I like to think I made a lot of good friends: one of them happens to go to school only 10 minutes away (she was also my roommate abroad, so that’s pretty cool/lucky of us). Before we boarded our planes, we told each other that everything would be fine, as we would be able to hang out all the time. We didn’t realize that Senior Year was going to be hectic as it has. So, hanging out hasn’t been the easiest of tasks. However, the few times that we have met up, have been the best. I knew that if I really wanted to see her, I could just hop on the College Town Shuttle and go to her campus and vice versa. I can see her when I want to and we can act like we have been the best of friends for years. Sometimes though, it’s seeing the people you least expect to see that hold the biggest surprises.

To buffer this story, I must say that I am 21, so me going to bars is totally fine and legal. Now that that is out of the way, a few weeks ago, my friends and I went out to clubs. It was my roommate’s birthday so, you know, we had to. As many frequenters of The Greene Turtle know, they close at around 1:30am. So, as my friend and I were walking towards the steps as the last song was playing, I looked to my left and saw a familiar face. Standing in front of me was the girl, Sam, who I roomed with during my Russia excursion. I don’t think I had smiled as widely as I did that night in a long time. It was the type of smile that makes your cheeks hurt for hours after. Silly me had forgotten that she was from Towson. We hugged and couldn’t believe that we had run into each other and then I left because my group of friends was leaving to go to Subway.

It happened in just a few moments, but those few moments felt like a lifetime. It made me think of Denmark and Russia all over again. I remembered getting ready with Sam in our hotel room before the opera our class saw, I remembered sitting next to her in class sometimes and complaining about the books we had to read, I remember how we were put in a group together during the very first class and the awkward conversations we had. It was one of those split second encounters that make you want to go back in time with that person so you could have more moments with them. It reminded me that these people you meet and get to know abroad are there for life; that the friends you make abroad are just as significant and important as the friends you make while at college. Friendships like that just don’t go away.


Featured Image: Taken from Sam’s instagram, @sstinchcomb, in front of Church of the Savior on Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia. Photo Credit: @sstinchcomb

Two Days In Bruges


Bruges, a city in the Flemish Region of Belgium, can be summed up as a tiny metropolis of cobbled streets, canals, windmills and houses with crow-stepped gable roofs.
There aren’t really any ugly parts of the city, but there are some areas that are prettier than others. It’s pretty small, to the point where you could cover the sights within two to three days if you mustered up enough energy.
Not counting origin-questionable French Fries, Belgium is famous for three foodstuffs: beer, waffles, and chocolate. Bruges delivers on all three, especially chocolate. There’s an entire museum (called Choco-Story) dedicated to the history and making of chocolate, while the city itself is chock full of chocolate shops (pun intended). I found that the big brand name stores like Leonidas and Godiva tended to attract the most attention. They were the ones with crazy window displays (because no one can resist a chocolate fountain); the unique molds and shapes (because everyone needs a toolbox set made out of dark chocolate); and free samples inside and outside of the store. Then there were the local, family-owned places that have gained enough popularity over time to rival the crowds of the brand name stores. Chocolatier Dumon (or simply Dumon) was established in the center of Bruges in 1996; in 2008 and 2014 respectively, the new owners were able to expand their business to two more locations within the city. The least crowded places were the smaller, less flashy shops that lacked the presentation of the brand name stores and the history of the older shops.
In addition to Choco-Story, Bruges is home to a number of small museums and in turn, great pieces of art. One of my personal favorite works was The Last Judgement, a triptych by Hieronymus Bosch, housed in Groeningemuseum. Additionally, museums aren’t the only places in Bruges to find artwork. In the Church of Our Lady, visitors can pay to view Michelangelo’s “The Madonna of Bruges”, a sculpture depicting Mary and the baby Jesus. At the Vismarkt (a stone structure where fishermen used to sell their catch of the day) local artists bring out their paintings for sale. But one of the best collections of art (in my personal opinion) was the pop-up Salvador Dali gallery housed on the ground floor of the Belfry of Bruges. The exhibit featured some of Dali’s lesser-known works, including his illustrations for the children’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It’s all very extravagant and vulgar, but as one of Dali’s framed quotes says, “Modesty is not exactly my specialty.”
Of course, there is more to Bruges than just chocolate and art. The city accommodates literally dozens of stores, selling products from Smurf and Tin-Tin merchandise to Bruges’ traditional flower lace (available at almost every shop). Additionally, the city itself is something to look at; as I stated earlier, there are no ugly parts of Bruges. You shouldn’t stress if you’re unable to find accommodation near the Markt (the center square of the city), because everything is within reasonable walking distance. I personally preferred my stay at St. Christopher’s at the Bauhaus near the edge of the city because in the morning I was able to wake up early and take pictures of the city’s windmills as the sun rose. My advice is to visit during the colder months; in addition to avoiding the bulk of tourism, you’ll also get to see the already magical little city strung up with holiday decorations.

Featured Image: Beautiful Bruges. Photo Credit: Talia Military

Title IX Talkbacks: Sex and Gender While Abroad

Photo Credit: Google Images

Recently Goucher’s Title IX office hosted an event called Title IX Talkbacks: Sex and Gender While Abroad. This event provided a space for students who have been abroad or were about to go abroad, to discuss their experiences with sex and gender. The goal of this event was to provide a student centered space where students could discuss their experiences, unpack their struggles, and provide feedback for the Goucher study abroad office. This feedback was given anonymously to the Goucher Title IX office and the Office of International Studies (OIS). Olivia Siegel, a senior and peer educator at the Title IX Office who helped organize this event, said the event was inspired by seeing an issue in the way Goucher addresses sex and gender while abroad and wanting to raise awareness about it: “The Title IX Peer Educators do genuinely care about supporting students and improving the resources we have on campus to address student need. Part of this program was just seeing a need and using the resources we have at hand to address it.”

Photo Credit: Google Images

Siegel spoke about how OIS does not prepare students for processing and addressing sex and gender while abroad. During pre departure orientation students receive general information from several different Goucher departments. At these pre departure sessions, Lucia Perfetti-Clark, the Goucher Title IX Coordinator, explains what resources and support are available while abroad. The Goucher Title IX office can advocate for students in several ways while they are abroad, in the same way Title IX can advocate for students while they are at Goucher. If needed, Title IX can advocate for students if they need to switch host families, request mental health assistance, or for academic accommodations. “Basically Lucia will try to advocate for your needs to the necessary party, but it doesn’t guarantee the host country will cooperate!” Siegel said.

This also means that the OIS doesn’t warn you about going to an area with higher amounts of sexual violence or street harassment. This can leave students without the resources to process their experiences, and can lead to some harmful assumptions about the culture of the host country. “When I witnessed or experienced street harassment and sexism, my first instinct wasn’t to call the Goucher Title IX Office. None of what I experienced at the pre-departure orientation could have prepared me mentally or emotionally for the gender-related issues my friends experienced,” said Siegel.

Siegel spoke about her experiences with processing street harassment in Santiago, Chile. “I found that a lot of our conversations about the topic were fairly superficial—either we were told by our in-country program advisors that this was normal and cultural (which is true), or we turned our nose up at how “machismo” (chauvinist) Chilean culture is. Often we were told this was part of Chilean culture, and came to the conclusion that this was ‘bad’ or ‘backwards.’” However, Siegel did not find that this was a helpful way of processing, nor did it help her examine her own assumptions. “I found neither of these conversations were productive or helped us process and question these cultural differences head-on, or examine our own misogyny and issues related to sexism in the U.S., and how we viewed these issues through an ethnocentric lens.”

Siegel hopes that this event will promote awareness and bring change to the way OIS helps prepare students studying abroad. “Goucher can better promote and identify students who have gone abroad and are invested in these issues, and create a more formal way to contact and seek support/mentorship from these people through OIS from students about to embark.” Siegel believes that students should be given the tools to help them process their experiences, so that study abroad can be a learning experience and so that they do not label something that they may not understand, as she was tempted to do in Chile.

When Siegel has brought up the possibility of warning students who are studying abroad in areas that have higher rates of sexual violence and gender based issues to OIS, she has been told that they do not want to scare students who are about to embark. Siegel responded with frustration, “I’m only going to say that the obvious answer to this challenge, which I shouldn’t even have to mention, is that studying abroad is not supposed to be easy. Goucher should encourage students to go into this experience with an open heart and mind.”

When Friends are Abroad

“It was super easy to feel inadequate and like I wasn’t having the ‘correct’ Goucher experience because I wasn’t going abroad for a semester.”

Studying abroad, on either and ICA or a semester, is a quintessential part of the Goucher experience, but what happens when all your friends are studying abroad for a semester and you’re not? This happened to me this semester, and is going to be even more apparent next semester as well. While it’s been a difficult experience, I’ve definitely learned a lot from it and I wanted to share some of my insight.
My freshman year, one thing that I loved about Goucher was being able to walk down Van Meter and overhear conversations such as, “Professors were just so different in Paris” or “I miss the food from Seville so much!”. There was so much casual name dropping of people’s amazing experiences, I was so impressed and jealous of everyone. When it came time for me to decide where I was going abroad, I so badly wanted to go abroad for an entire semester, however it soon became clear this wasn’t possible. It became obvious that with the schedule of my two majors that I wasn’t going to be able to both go abroad for a semester and graduate in four years. Even though I was disappointed, I was still happy and excited for the different ICA programs that I could possibly go on. However, it turned out that most of my friends were all going abroad my junior year, leading to me to feel nervous about what Goucher would be like without them.
The first thing I struggled with was feeling jealous. It was super easy to feel inadequate and like I wasn’t having the ‘correct’ Goucher experience because I wasn’t going abroad for a semester. This was especially hard when my friends would tell me about how beautiful Scotland was or how great the beer in Brussels is. I genuinely wanted to hear about their experiences, but also struggled with feeling jealous. I’ve found that while it’s important to listen to my friends and hear about their lives, it’s also necessary to take space away from it as well.
My daily routine has also been disrupted. I’m used to getting coffee with the people I usually have class with around midday, but those people aren’t here this semester. I felt lost at the beginning of the semester because I found myself wanting to get lunch, but not knowing who to text; my go-to people were all eating dinner halfway around the world. This took some getting used to, and I definitely had a few weeks of feeling kind of lonely. However, it also pushed me to reach out to some new people who I had wanted to get closer with.
While it did feel lonely at first, I got to make some incredible new friends. I now feel a lot more like Goucher is my home and that I have a stronger connection to this community, after I was pushed to expand outside my little bubble. I also got to change up my normal Goucher routine and see what a change of pace was like. I’ve been seeing more of Baltimore and trying new things that I would never have had the chance to do if I hadn’t expanded who I was hanging out with.
Another very important part of this for me was getting really excited about the ICA’s Goucher has to offer. We have some amazing programs, with incredible and passionate professors running them! An ICA is very different than a semester for sure, but it’s equally as valuable and enriching as one.
Being at Goucher while your friends are abroad is hard. It’s a big adjustment especially if you have settled into a friend group and a pretty consistent routine. But change is good, and shaking our routines and experiences, while difficult at first, is ultimately positive.

Tasmania: Sunsets, Stars, and Sand

Jess makes a kangaroo friend. Photo Credit: Jessica Solomon

Never in my wildest dreams could I have imaged touching the stars or seeing the most vibrant pink sunset reflected against the sea. Nor did I imagine participating in a failed sunset-chasing trip up an unmarked hillside, only to reverse in a stick-shift car with barely enough room to not fall off.
When looking at a map, Tasmania appears to be the size of a penny. In reality, to get from Bay of Fires on the East Coast to Macquarie Harbour on the West Coast, it takes seven hours. After weeks of planning, meetings, booking Airbnb’s and hostels, rental cars (one stick-shift and one automatic), adding people to the group, and route mapping, the eight of us were finally ready to go.
We set off from Melbourne, with dreams of petting kangaroos, seeing the “Tassie Devil”, and having the best fall break ever. I was astonished that the flight from Melbourne to Launceston was only 45 minutes. It’s shocking considering it takes an hour and 15 minutes on the tram to get from La Trobe University Melbourne to Flinders Street Station, which is in the heart of Melbourne. Upon arriving to Launceston, which is one of the smallest airports I have ever seen, we were greeted by three 25-year-olds, who were picking up the cars and making sure we had the proper insurance.
In seven days, we stayed in four different towns, drove through countless others, spent hours at beaches (including a “hotel guest only” beach), hiked, saw some friends from Melbourne, became friends with a person from Arkansas, critiqued wine, made family dinners, and saw incredible sunrises, sunsets, and stars. Those seven days were packed full of adventure and amazing memories. Every morning, I was overwhelmed and excited for what was to come. Each moment posed a different question: what would the drive look like today? Who will get the nicest room in the Airbnb? Will the car stall out? Will we see a “Tassie Devil,” wombat, or kangaroo? What will the stars look like tonight?
On our first night in Bay of Fires, we could hear the Tasman Sea roaring from our backyard. But we couldn’t find the gate! So we all walked down the street, only to be amazed at the zero-light-pollution town. We took flashlights and finally came upon a small patch of sand and the vast sea. To sit and see the stars so clearly, as if you could reach out and truly touch them, was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I had never just spent time sitting and staring at the midnight sky. Or getting up before dawn to literally chase the sunrise and see the day truly come alive. Or pet kangaroos, or stop at the tiniest grocery stores or drive with minimal directions. The craziest experience was being lost in a small town at midnight, with only one phone working, no hostel phone number, two street lamps, and the stars shining bright. Though we knew roughly where we were going and that we always needed to make it to the Airbnb or hostel on time, we had the freedom to drive. This is a freedom I don’t know if I will ever experience again. There were no worries; just the open road, friends, and an almost straight-shot to our next destination. Tasmania will always have a special place in my heart and I am thankful that we didn’t hit any “Tassie Devils”, and that the kangaroos didn’t fight us.

T-A-S-S-I-E Photo Credit: Jessica Solomon

10 Places You Must Visit While Abroad


**These are in no particular order**

Argyll National Forest Park in Scotland Photo Credit: Alexis Regopoulos

1. Argyll National Forest Park (Scotland)
Through her program, Alexis Regopoulos, ’18, was able to take a guided hike through the Argyll National Forest Park in Scotland. She said, “From the parking lot, it just looks like any old forest. This was a bit disappointing since it was pouring rain and I was about to hike several miles. However, once you get hiking, you realize how truly beautiful this area is. Everything was covered in a dense layer of fog, giving it an eerie feel.” As she reminisced about her three-four hour long hike through the mystical forest, she mentioned that “one particular spot on the hike, known as Puck’s Glen, is a small trail that followed small waterfalls through a narrow valley where everything was covered in vibrant green moss.”
2. Bergen (Norway)
Visit Norway’s second largest city and step into a different realm and time period. The “Hanseatic Wharf” is a remnant of what once was, as the wharf has been a staple of trade since the 14th century. Or explore one of the seven mountains that surround the city via the famous Flåm railway, biking down to Flåm, or the fjord safari to Gudvangen, where you’ll feel like you’re stepping back to a time where Vikings roamed the mountains. Grab your camera and get lost in Bergen’s fjords!
3. Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Travel to the place where there are just as many bikes as people! Over the last couple of years, Amsterdam has turned into a tourist hotspot. From the Anne Frank House, to the Van Gogh Museum, to the Heineken experience, Amsterdam has something for everyone. Just remember, if you venture into the Red Light District, be careful that you don’t take pictures of the ladies in the window, or you will get in trouble!
4. Helsingør (Denmark)
While Copenhagen is an amazing city, the place you want to go visit in Denmark is Helsingør. While you may not recognize the Danish name, you might be able to recognize the English translation: Elsinore. Still haven’t gotten it? This city is where Shakespeare’s play Hamlet is set. While the city is now modern, Kronborg Castle still stands. For the English literature enthusiast or Shakespeare junkie, this city is the perfect place to go. The Kenneth Branagh adaptation of Hamlet was even filmed at the castle. The city is a charming, cozy place with cobblestone streets and friendly people. Overall, if you are looking for a place that isn’t filled with tourists, but is still accessible, go and explore Helsingør–you’ll thank me later.
5. Neuschwanstein Castle, Hohenschwangau (Germany)
If you’re a Disney fan, then you need to come here! This castle appeared in movies like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Great Escape, and provided the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland. The castle is nestled on a hill above a cute little village that looks like something out of a fairytale. So buy your ticket and feel like a Disney princess for a little bit before chowing down on a bratwurst.
6. Cliffs of Moher, County Clare (Ireland)

Want to feel like you’re on the edge of the world? Head to County Clare, Ireland. These cliffs are a popular location in cinema. They served as “The Cliffs of Insanity” in The Princess Bride (1987), and were also seen in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009). The Cliffs of Moher is a place where you will encounter nature in its purest form. You’ll feel invincible against the ocean and be one with the land.

Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland. Photo Credit:

7. Edinburgh (Scotland)
Scotland makes its second appearance on this list and for good reason. Edinburgh is filled with magic. From The Elephant House, a tea and coffee house where J.K. Rowling created the wizarding world of Harry Potter, to Arthur’s Seat, a possible location of Camelot, Edinburgh will steal your heart. If you are interested in something a little spooky, head to Mary King’s Close, an area swathed in myths, urban legends, and tales of hauntings. There is something to do every hour in Edinburgh!
8. Santorini (Greece)
We’ve all seen the pictures: stark white buildings with bright blue tops, azure waters sparkling in the sunlight, shades of orange glowing against the old unique buildings as the sun sets. Santorini is a place of wonderment. Find peace and tranquility as you walk on the black sand beaches or become like the Greek god Bacchus and partake in a wine tour, in which you will literally be able to taste the experience.
9. Kiruna (Sweden)

Kiruna, Sweden. Photo Credit: Ashley Aylward

While abroad, Ashley Aylward, ’18, was given the opportunity to take part in an once-in-a-lifetime experience. As she found herself surrounded by miles and miles of white snow, all she could think was that “it was a magical feeling like you had stepped into a story book.” To Ashley, the experience was like Freud’s “oceanic feeling,” where she learned and came to appreciate the lifestyle and culture of the Samis and Northern Swedes. “It was just an unbelievable trip. I would love to take my friends and family to show them the beauty” of the Arctic Circle.
10 . A Tie between Florence, Rome, and Verona (Italy)
Italy is a country filled with culture. Each city has been an integral location in history: Florence saw the start of the Renaissance, Rome saw the power of the Roman Empire, and Verona inspired one of the most well-known tragedies ever written. With that in mind, it’s nearly impossible to just choose just one city to visit. So why not visit all three? See the work of Michelangelo and da Vinci, throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain (maybe a Paolo will appear when you open your eyes), and go to the Arena di Verona — a first century Roman amphitheater.
No matter where you go, you will make memories that will last forever! So buy that plane ticket, get that passport stamp, and experience a culture unlike your own.

A Study Abroad Experience In-Waiting

“I imagine many of us come to Goucher because of the study abroad requirement.” Photo courtesy of Google Images.

I imagine many of us come to Goucher because of the study abroad requirement. At least, that was the case for me. My senior year of high school was a period of uncertainty– it involved quite a bit of waiting and wondering what the future held. Yet the one thing I was sure of was that I wanted to learn more about the world by studying abroad. Today, I find myself in yet another period of uncertainty, but this time, curiously enough, the variable is the study abroad experience itself.
Before coming to Goucher, I envisioned study abroad as a mystical experience where every day would feel like a wonderful dream. I would forge ties with people who spoke a completely different language, learn about a completely different country like the back of my hand, and come back home with lots of pictures and warm and fuzzy memories. Now I find myself only a few months away from beginning my program in Seville, Spain, with a changed vision. The feeling of enchantment is still there, but I am much more apprehensive of the challenges I will likely face.
I had assumed that when the time came that I received the study abroad acceptance letter I would feel prepared. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The truth is, I feel far from prepared. While I manage to express my ideas in Spanish more or less coherently in class, I think back to times when I have interacted with native speakers and have lost my language ability completely. This may partially be due to the fact that, as a bilingual constantly struggling to maintain my French accent, I am painfully aware of differences in language fluency. I worry that when I travel to Spain and meet my host family I will choke up. I question whether all of the vocabulary packed away in my mind will decide to reveal itself in the moments I need it most. Say it does, will I have the energy to recognize and use it 24/7?
I had also assumed that having grown up in both France and the US I would feel prepared for the cultural immersion of studying abroad. In my ignorance, I had thought to myself, Since Spain and France are both European countries, won’t it kind of be the same? After learning more about Spanish culture through my classes, through research, and by quizzing Goucher alumnae of the program, I realized that there would actually be multiple adjustments in my lifestyle, French or not. For one, while we do eat late lunches in France, they apparently are not nearly as large as the almuerzos of Spain. Second, the french eat late dinners and can go to bed quite late by American standards, but I may be expected to stay out till five in the morning in Sevilla and catch up on some z’s during the siestas.
Granted, these are all anxieties that may be founded on generalizations, and some cultural adjustments may end up becoming blessings. For example, I love to sleep (what college student doesn’t?), so I may come to appreciate afternoon naps. Apprehensions aside, I am anticipating an enjoyable study abroad experience overall. I am looking forward to engaging in interesting classes and with different people. I’m eager to explore the beautiful, historical city of Sevilla. I’m excited to learn whole new perspectives; I’m particularly curious to know what Spaniards think of American politics. As a foodie, I’m very excited to taste authentic tapas, cola de toro, and torrija.
My expectation, then, is not that my semester in Spain will be unpleasantly difficult, but rather that it may be more challenging than what I had originally thought. While new challenges can be intimidating, I am choosing to embrace this one because ultimately, I believe it will be worth it. The road ahead may be uncertain, but when I return I will have an even better story to tell – this I can be sure of!

The Friends You Meet Abroad and Take Back Home


One of the most integral parts of being abroad, if not the most important, are the friendships you make in your host country. A perk of being abroad for a semester are the months spent solidifying friendships and making a new family away from your family back home, in addition to your “Goucher Family.” The memories you make while abroad are ones not easily forgotten; the little things stick with you for the rest of your life, although you may not initially realize it.

L to R: Carmela, Danielle, and Julieta (kneeling)
Photo Credit : Danielle Brundage

When I was abroad in Denmark, I connected with two girls to the point to which I feel like they are family. One is my now ex-roommate, Carmela Fleri (a senior at Loyola University Maryland). The other is a senior at American University named Julieta Barbiero who lived on the floor above me and Carmela. I recently asked the two of them what their favorite memory was from the times we spent together. It was interesting because the first thing that popped into their heads was the same type of memory that popped into mine. Each are mini “traditions” that we made and miss.
Carmela recalled that every  “Saturday morning (sometimes afternoons depending on how the night before went) we would make scrambled eggs, toast, and coffee.” While this seems like the traditional thing that people do in the morning, Carmela and I didn’t realize that the coffee we spent so long preparing in the traditional coffee maker was instant coffee: we just had to add it to hot water. For Carmela this was her “favorite part of the week because we would be able to catch up on each others lives and it would just be the two of us.” It was a reality check from the busy world of living in a different country. It was in those mornings that Carmela and I would sit back and realize that we were living and learning in Denmark. We were thousands of miles away from our “normal,” but we made Denmark and those mornings our normal.
Like Carmela, Julieta and I had our own tradition. We found this little cozy bar called Amager Ølhus about 5 minutes walking distance from our apartment complex. The first night we went there, the bartender/owner talked to us the entire time. In those three hours we spent, sipping different stouts (none from Denmark), we learned so much about Denmark that we couldn’t learn in a classroom. He told us where to go for brunch if we wanted authentic Danish cuisine, told us little facts about Copenhagen, and made us feel like we weren’t foreigners. He even gave us our beers free of charge that night. This became our place; we told no one about it because we felt a special connection with the establishment and those that worked there. However, during our last week in Copenhagen, we went there with Carmela. The bartender was sad that he wouldn’t be able to see us again, so he gave us a free drink and a gift. One of the quirky aspects of this bar was that tourists and other people would give a rubber duck to the bartender. He told us that when he first bought the place, he decorated the bathroom with rubber ducks and people would steal them, so he just made rubber ducks with “This was stolen from Amager Ølhus.” Keeping with the tradition, Julieta and I each gifted him with a rubber duck. I’m not going to lie, we made him cry and it was a very sweet moment. So, as a gift to us, he gave us a rubber duck so that we would always remember the conversations and fun we had at his bar.
The people you meet abroad become your people. You all are experiencing something that no one else can. So whether it is making breakfast or going to a special bar or just hanging out, the memories you make with the friends you make while abroad will stick with you forever. Though it has been hard making plans to see my friends from abroad, I am always thinking of our little traditions and how they impacted my life in Denmark for the better. This article is dedicated to Carmela and Juliet, as a thank you for being my friends and for being my people.

Never Forget Because It Never Left: Antisemitism Abroad


With  the events that happened in Charlottesville in August, the question on the rising antisemitism in America has been on the minds of most Jewish citizens. With white supremacists screaming “The Jews will not replace us,” as well as other antisemitic phrases,  there is an overall feeling that is starting to be reflective of Nazi Germany. To our neighbors across the ocean, many people view antisemitism as something of the past. However, antisemitism did not start or end in World War II.
The history of antisemitism in Europe dates back hundreds of years. From the Black Plague being blamed on the Jewish population, to Martin Luther’s “On the Jews and Their Lies,” to modern day antisemitism conducted by neo-Nazi groups around the world, the hatred of the Jewish population is still present. Adding to this the existence of Israel and Zionism, which is the self-determination of the Jewish people in the Jewish homeland, antisemitism in the world continues to spread fear into the Jewish community.
While in Europe, the antisemitism I faced wasn’t someone yelling antisemitic slurs or other obscenities. No, it wasn’t seemingly personal, but any type of antisemitism is automatically made personal for any Jewish person. I didn’t see or face any antisemitism during my time in Denmark. This is mainly to Denmark’s fight against the extermination of the Jewish Dane community during Nazi occupation. The Danish resistance movement, along with assistance from Danish citizens not a part of the movement, evacuated 7,220 of the 7,800 population and over 99% of the Jewish Danes survived the Holocaust. I felt safe in Denmark, even though there was only one synagogue in Copenhagen.
Germany, however, was a different story. I was able to go to Hamburg, Germany with one of my friends for two days and within the 48 hours of being there, I saw signs promoting neo-Nazi groups. Germany has tough laws against Nazi symbolism. These laws prohibit distributing Nazi paraphernalia and having them in public. This includes flags, insignias, uniforms, and slogans.
I saw the signs for only a split second on the metro, but it was enough for me to feel unsafe. It was jarring for me to see Nazi paraphernalia, to be faced with symbols of those who would want me dead. If I was able to see it for a split second, how many thousands of people had seen it? How many people had seen it and agreed with its meaning?
I was taught from a young age to “never forget” the atrocities of the Holocaust and I never have. I can’t think of one Jewish person that has forgotten the stories we have been told. We learn about the basic facts of the Holocaust in public schools, yet we aren’t taught the ever-lasting impact it had on the future generations of the Jewish community.
The amount of times I have been told to “get over” the Holocaust because it didn’t happen to me personally is too much. The horrors of the Holocaust are forever etched in my DNA and will exist in the DNA and lives of the generations after me. Antisemitism isn’t gone; it didn’t start with the Holocaust, and the Allied powers freeing the Jewish people from concentration camps did not end antisemitism. I face it everyday; I fear it every time I step outside my dorm room. Going to Germany taught me a morbid, but important lesson; no matter where I go, someone will think I am inferior because I am Jewish. But as the generations above me, I will rise above these people and survive, as survival is the story of the Jews.

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