Saturday, March 22, 2014

Woohoo! Orientation!

"Woohoo Orientation!" Were you ever expecting to think that?, because I wasn't. But I was so excited to get started with preparing for this summer, I couldn't help it.

As with any school-organized, or large group event, orientation is necessary for the participants involved. The way my orientation is organized right now, it is split into three sessions. The first, general session was a few days ago in late March. The first Valencia specific session will be in early April, and the last a couple of weeks after that.

The first session was all about the basics. Anything that NCSU needed to say was said during that session. Everyone on any study abroad program was supposed to be there. We all checked in, and at check in we got a "Pre-departure Handbook". In it is all of the information, or at least directions as to how to find all of the information that we could possibly need while preparing to leave. A few of the bigger points that were covered during this orientation were safety, and coping with culture-shock, which will undoubtedly be a part of the trip. 

Culture shock is a very personal and individual experience, how quickly it sets in, how long it lasts, and the ways it can be dealt with, are all specific to you and the situation you are encountering. One thing that was strongly encouraged, and which I hope to be able to do, is to jump in to the local culture. Not to the point that you wear yourself out in the first few days, but going in with an open mind, allowing the newness to have an effect on you, and to not create a bubble of American culture around yourself. This American bubble is often negatively referred to as The Ugly American.

Picture credit to Rawhide Travel and Tours®

The persona of the "Ugly American" probably has some reference to the book/movie, but I think was mostly tied to the stereotypes that American tourists have brought upon themselves.

        -The Ugly American is the loudest person on the subway, or
          in the restaurant.
        -The Ugly American is the person who hasn't cared enough to
          pick up on the subtle social nuances of the culture they
          are currently a part of .
        -The Ugly American is the person who refuses to try and
          understand the people around them, but instead makes
          judgements about everything based on the ideals and
          perspectives that they learned at home.
        -The Ugly American is the person who has made no effort to
          learn even a smidgen of the local language, and instead
          treats people who are not able, or are just not willing,
          to speak English with them as stupid.
        -The Ugly American is rude, is obnoxious, and thinks too
          highly of himself.

Personally, I hate that this stereotype has been put in place, but as long as there are American tourists who behave this way, I don't see it going away any time soon.

Anyway, that was the biggest thing I took away from the first orientation. I can't wait for the second session, with just the Valencia people. That should be when I finally get to meet the other 28 or so of them.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

My First Trip Abroad

Let me start this with a little bit of background information. As you can tell from the title, I have never been outside of the United States before. With-in the States I have traveled a bit, trips to Philadelphia, D.C. to the north, then more extensive traveling to the south, including Florida, Georgia, Alabama, even a day trip to New Orleans.

That being said, I have dreamed of traveling for as long as I can remember. I also talk about it a lot, even though at this point in my life I haven't gone very far. My parents are even expecting/planning on being able to visit me at my foreign house (at some point in the future). I think that everyone has those dreams that they have as kids. Their parents encourage it, usually just because they're glad that their kid has big dreams. Well, traveling the world was my dream, and I never stopped talking about it. The fact that this summer will be my first step toward what I consider to be my life's goal makes me a little giddy. Valencia, Spain will be my first trip.

Map courtesy of

I've decided to write about my trip on my personal blog, rather than starting a new one, as I did with my SOUL experience last summer. The difference being that SOUL was a job, and this is simply part of my life as a student. I also wanted those posts to be easily distinguishable from others, whereas I hope to continue documenting my travels here throughout my life.

Though my trip isn't until late June, I want to go ahead and start documenting the process. Beginning with examining my expectations. My hope is that I remember to come back to this list afterwards and relate my experiences back to it.

     1) My number one expectation is that this trip will help me to
        be much more confident in my Spanish speaking. I am
        currently pretty proficient at reading and writing, even
        listening. But when I go to speak, I am so scared of making
        mistakes that I just don't say anything.

     2) An expectation that I have of myself is that in this trip I
        am able to become more flexible. By that I mean better able
        to go with a change of plans, or to make plans on the fly.
        As far as organized people go, I am one of the more
        organized people that I know, however with organization
        brings a certain rigidity in the plans that I make. I'm
        hoping that with this trip I am able to have a plan, but be
        more willing to change with changing conditions and

     3) When I leave Spain I want to be able to cook a solid
        Spanish meal, hopefully a skill learned from my host-

     4) If you've read any of my other posts, you may know
        that I love photography. Throughout this trip, I want to
        focus some on my photography. I want to capture as much of
        the people, the culture, the way of life as accurately as I
        possibly can. I hope that my pictures will begin to reach
        another level as far as connecting the viewer to the
        subject of the photo.