Tag Archive for Study Abroad

Lost + Found

A memoir of things lost and found during one student’s study abroad experience.

By Sophie Breitbart ’17

Lost: An iPod bursting with constantly updated music.
Found: An iPod dominated by podcasts like RadioLab and Spilled Milk that cuddle my ears on the tube or on long walks around the city.

Lost: Trust in Google Maps’ directions via public transport, which has proven to be woefully inaccurate (mostly for buses.)
Found: Myself, deposited in many unintended locations. But it turned out alright! Which brings me to…

Lost: A nervous heart that beat rapidly upon boarding a bus that would supposedly take me to my destination.
Found: Greater confidence in my ability to ascertain my physical location without a smartphone, usually via one of London’s ubiquitous, helpful street maps. Sometimes, a real live Brit would set aside their reserved nature and help! (Also found: new hand muscles thanks to probably at least 50 lists of handwritten directions!)

Lost: Lots of money. (Maybe not lost… more like spent.)
Found: Lots and lots and lots of experiences. (DUH it was worth it!) I’ve seen quite a few concerts, eaten lots of varied cuisine, and visited a long list of new places. I think food, transport, and travels outside London have been my biggest expenses here.

Lost: It was waning by the end of last semester anyway, but nonetheless, much of the infatuation I once felt with Wes.
Found: Knowledge of what life can be like after college and a growing excitement to pursue that life. Even though mine will probably involve grad school, which is sort of like a continuation of college, it’s another step in the path to move somewhere I choose where I’m supported by a heftier income and therefore possess greater personal freedom. Now that I’ve been exposed to so much, my desires for my future have intensified and grown in number.

And lastly-

Lost: A habit of constantly comparing myself with my peers, usually via Facebook, that too often incurred unhealthy levels of self-doubt (don’t worry, it’s normal, I’m a Millennial.) Also, for that matter, my Facebook account (until June.)
Found: A self that was much more content with my identity and methods of living. The chance to be more self-centered than usual, stemming from my choice of technologically isolating myself from American influences pretty significantly and, well, having a huge new city ready to be discovered at my doorstep… A new type of introspection that came from a much kinder and accepting place than before. I guess it seems obvious now, but this extraction of my virtual persona from a massive judging block surrounded by some very intimidatingly witty and pretty peers (read: unintended competitors) yielded great inner peace. My temporary resignation from Snapchat also facilitated this transition from a state of mind plagued by constant questions of how I could best show off my life to a new mindset where I could live my life according to my wishes, take some pictures for myself and my blog readers, and everyone else would have to make do with stories later on. Honestly, it was an exercise in self-love. Much will change when I return to the states, including social media presence, but I hope I can continue to fend off the tempting gratification that ongoing peer approval infamously provides.

Why Student Athletes Should Study Abroad

3 Reasons Why Every Athlete Needs to Study Abroad

By Rachel Hobert ’16

As you’ve probably heard, studying abroad is an incredible opportunity that every college student should experience. It’s unlike any experience you’ve had or will ever have. I mean when else do you have the time and opportunity to prance around a foreign country for six months, immersing yourself completely in a new culture and environment? Over 50% of students at Wesleyan study abroad and regardless of your financial situation, major or sport, Wesleyan really does want to help you study abroad!

Now one of the biggest excuses for not studying abroad is the involvement in varsity athletics. Many of my friends play a sport here at Wesleyan and believe that going abroad is off the table of options. They claim that they need to be here to train in the off-season or that their coach won’t approve of them traveling abroad. As for spring and fall athletes, I would argue that studying abroad benefits them as student athletes. You gain experiences, confidence, new life skills and many other attractive traits that will help you grow as a competitive athlete. Now for winter sport athletes, studying abroad can be tricky as you need to be on campus for both semesters. But I highly encourage winter athletes to explore summer options, such as studying abroad for a summer month, internships or even playing their sport in a foreign country.

I could go on and on about how great studying abroad is, but I am going to keep it short. Here are three reasons why athletes should consider study abroad from my first-hand experience as an athlete.

  1. You learn how to adapt and lead in adverse environments

    Post Istanbul Half-Marathon

    Post Istanbul Half-Marathon

Adversity happens while living in a foreign culture. A language barrier makes successful everyday interactions like grocery shopping a victory. I have to say, about a month into my study abroad experience in Turkey, I broke down a cried because I accidently ordered (in Turkish) cow liver for lunch instead of chicken. It’s times like these that only a positive attitude helps (I know it sounds cliché but its true). My time abroad has taught me that there is only so much that you have control over so you might as well control how you react.

One of the hardest challenges I faced while abroad was the 24 hours prior to finishing the Istanbul Half Marathon. A friend and I had been training avidly for the race for five weeks prior. However, Duke in Istanbul planned a weeklong spring break trip for our study abroad group that was scheduled to return the Saturday night before the half marathon. After a series of events, our flight returning to Istanbul was canceled, and it looked like we weren’t going to run the race. After a few hours of waiting around and pestering the Turkish Airline representative, we found a way back to Istanbul in time. We ended up taking a six-hour bus ride from Eastern Turkey to a different, centrally located airport. That night, we ate corn nuts for dinner and slept three hours before taking a 6:00 am flight back to Istanbul. We handed our bags off to fellow friends when we landed and took a cab directly to the race. We arrived at the starting line stepping out of the cab as the starting gun fired. We then proceeded to quickly eat a roll of Mentos for breakfast and immediately started running. We finished 13.1 miles in just under 2 hours and exhausted. After training so hard and so long for this race, a feeling of relief and success rushed over me as we limped across the finish line.

It’s circumstances like these that build character and prove to yourself that you can do so much more than you thought. It also provides an amusing story you can tell friends and family when returning. I came back to campus that the following Fall knowing that whatever soccer season threw my way; I could only control the controllable like my time in Istanbul.

  1. There are opportunities for you to play abroad.

My University Football team

My University Football team

What many athletes fail to realize is that there are a plethora of sports teams at universities abroad that you can join. Going abroad doesn’t meant you have to stop playing or working out for six months. At my college in Turkey, they had a men’s American football team, rugby, tennis, volleyball, soccer, ultimate Frisbee, you name it! I joined the women’s football team that met three times a week and practiced. While the team wasn’t of Wesleyan caliber, I met amazing friends and was able to continue training for the next season. At the end of my term abroad, we competed against Serbian, Dutch and Lebanese teams in a tournament. It was incredible to see the skills of these girls and how I matched up.

Throughout the world, there are multiple universities with sports teams that you can join while studying abroad. It just takes a little research and interest, but I assure you, the opportunities are there, and it is 100% worth it.

  1. Sports bridges cultural gaps and helps you connect with locals

My close Turkish friends. We joke that they will finally visit the U.S. for my future wedding-in 10 years

My close Turkish friends. We joke that they will finally visit the U.S. for my future wedding in 10ish years.

I met two of my best friends while playing soccer at my university in Turkey. Not only did we go to practice together but they brought me out and around Istanbul. They also loved teaching me Turkish and would introduce me to cool new local coffee shops,restaurants and clubs that I would never have discovered if I had only remained friend with exchange students. We were able first to connect with sports but then found that we had other mutual interests such as dancing, food, and music. Even when meeting other students and locals in Istanbul, mention a Turkish football (soccer) team, and you would be able to talk for hours. Every culture has a love of sports, and it provides a bridge of common interest with interesting people from all around the world.

How To Be In Two Places At Once: Keeping Moments and Memories

By Sophie Breitbart

Resting in my hands lies a cloth-bound Lord of the Rings novel. Birds perched on the hedges fling their melodies in all directions, interrupted only by sheep conversing across the lane. The six o’clock sunlight is waning, and convinces its warmth to recede with it. As I sip some locally made, fresh-pressed apple juice, the noticeably mild air reminds me of my exceptionally remote location in Devon, England.The scene is almost laughably idyllic. However, my mind is struggling to appreciate it. Soon after I begin to embrace the beaming greenery, merry faunal choir, and peaceful atmosphere, I feel compelled to exit the moment so I can document it. Please, my mind begs, try to capture this place with pictures, videos, even notebook scrawls and with your happy face in the center! Then, I come to my senses. This is nuts. I’m stuck in a perfect moment and all I can think about is how to exploit it!

I know I’m not the only one who has wrestled with trying to appreciate a moment while being bombarded with questions about how to best live it. Maybe you’ve asked for a second seaside photo for the sake of a new profile picture, or taken 17 pictures of ducks because of a nagging fear about forgetting details. Today’s generation keenly perpetuates the idea that if you don’t “properly” document something (that’s a loaded word), it didn’t happen. So, how does one maintain balance when they’re experiencing what will soon be a memory?

When I was young, my parents brought disposable cameras on vacations. They captured the fleeting moments of my childhood, visits with extended family and friends, and maybe took a few shots of our location. Limited by about 50 exposures and concealed film, they were released from today’s constant pressure to critique images and dwell on the degree of their Facebook-readiness. We didn’t pose again and again in pursuit of the optimal shot. Instead, we could actually heed the verb in “vacation” and vacate our normal expectation-filled lives.

Today, more so than ever, we use photos to promote our personal brand on the internet, hoping to impress our peers and raise our virtual social ranking. We reason that posting vacation pics online allows us to maintain relationships with distant friends and family members as well as support our roles as travel ambassadors who courteously lead our “followers” on our lives’ adventures. We snap shot after shot after shot of the Eiffel Tower, checking off the “must do” activities imposed by society on our already-packed itineraries.

And yet, even in the digital age, I think it’s still possible to balance being in the moment and documenting it. Aside from reverting to the disposable camera, there are plenty of other ways to prevent forgetting, such as videos, musical playlists that encapsulate the vibes of the time, poetry, art, collages, and scrapbooking. Emotion-fueled travelogues age impeccably and, if written with care, can transport you back in time. Rereading the notes I wrote on a trip to Prague reminded me of the emotions I’d since forgotten: how it feels to first travel without “supervision,” the joy of realizing that I’d found someone I just knew I was going to love, and the evanescent details of first impressions. Finally, two basic questions have saved me from many a psychological pickle: “If I’m not satisfied with any of these pictures, should I just defer to Google Images?” and “What’s the main reason I’m here- to be or photograph?”

If all that fails, I have one last word of comfort: Some things aren’t meant to be recorded in the first place. Lying in the grass of London’s Victoria Park, I spot a tiny daisy gleaming in the sunshine. As this philosophical biologist is liable, I experience a brief spell of clarity about the scalar proportions of space and time. As the events of this moment overpower the strength of words or photographs, I abstain from attempting documentation. So be it if my Facebook friends can’t benefit from my little moment! A beautiful thing happened and I was fortunate enough to experience it. And in the end, that’s what matters.

“At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.” -Toni Morrison

Sophie Breitbart is a junior at Wesleyan University studying evolution and biogeography. In June, she wraps up a 5-month stint studying abroad in London. You can read more about her time there, her quest to learn more about the Big Themes of life, and her never-ending war with social media over at Clotted Cream Dreams.