College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

I have been at the University of Newcastle, in New South Wales, Australia for nearly three weeks already, and yet I continue to wake up most mornings in awe that this is actually my life. I prepared for this journey for quite some time; making and saving money, meeting deadlines for paperwork, and doing lots of research. To finally be here, literally on the other side of the world, can at times be hard to grasp.

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On my third day in Spain, I learned about the expert pickpockets of Madrid. It wasn’t simply through Ibon’s sound advice to get a money belt or to sling packs in front of our bodies where we could see them. No, I had to learn the hard way. I’m blaming it on the fact that I’m from a town where we don’t even lock our bikes. I implicitly trust everybody. However, belief rarely lines up with reality and in less than a week abroad I found myself wallet-free. Still, I’m optimistic that not every lesson that day was lost on me. Before I was so swiftly and silently robbed, I absorbed some stories about Spain’s long and complicated history, which, on more than one occasion, involved miracles.

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Roberto Paniagua, originally from Westchester, IL, graduated from the University of Iowa in 2011 with a dual degree in economics and political science. While at the UI, Roberto studied abroad in not only Lyon, France, but on the India Winterim program as well. Currently, he is a Business and Industrial Markets Account Manager for Google in Chicago, IL. Read on for a Q-and-A with Roberto to learn about how he applies the skills he learned abroad to his life today.

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I spent the entirety of last weekend in Bath. The journey commenced around noon on Friday when my friend Juliette and I left the Norwich train station for London Liverpool Street. We originally intended to leave around 10:30 a.m., but complications arose and we missed our train. This incited a brief period of anxiety, but after a few minutes I was able to remind myself that the journey wasn't ruined or cancelled because of one small complication. To travel frequently means you have to be ready for anything to happen, because unfortunately not everything will run smoothly.

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Zadok Nampala, international student adviser at North Iowa Area Community College, can relate to those he's helping because he was once in their shoes. Nampala, or "Z," as he is known around campus, grew up in Kenya and attended Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids and the University of Iowa. Nampala, who has been at NIACC since August, speaks seven languages and frequently uses three of them — Spanish, Arabic and Swahili — when speaking to the international students at NIACC so "they feel at home," he said.

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I have been in Spain for roughly two weeks and have spent 25% of that time lost. Maybe this is an exaggeration since many of my meanderings, as Tolkien might say, were spent with intention. However, this was definitely not true of my first day. My first experience of feeling misplaced was immediately upon arriving in Madrid. The second (third, fourth and fifth ad infinitim) have been in Bilbao, a clean and beautiful city whose streets seem to snake like tributaries of the Mississippi river even though I’ve been told by everyone who lives here “it’s so small it is impossible to get lost.” In every Spanish city I have visited so far I’ve found it very easy to lose my way, and the only difference between my first day and today is that now I do it on purpose.

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I don’t know how to answer the questions you’ll ask me about being abroad for four months. You’ll ask if it was amazing, and then you will ask me if I miss it. And I will say there are a few things that I miss in particular – getting to see mountains every day, and I honestly miss hearing the Icelandic language. The landscape is surreal, so I miss that, too. What I could do without is missing my friends and family in the United States. But now I just miss the friends that I made abroad.

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Dr. Downing A. Thomas is well-known on campus as the Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs. Thomas is also a professor in the Department of French and Italian in CLAS. He received his doctorate in French Literature from New York University, and took a position with the University of Iowa soon after.

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Location: Norwich. Time since arrival: One week. Status: Alive and thriving. I am in England.

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On Saturday, Dec. 20, the University of Iowa streamed two special commencement ceremonies featuring commentary in Chinese: the Undergraduate Commencement and the College of Engineering commencement. Watch these videos on our website now.

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