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45 years ago, Ali Soliman arrived at the Iowa City Bus Depot with one suitcase that contained everything he owned. Dr. Soliman, currently Chairman of the United Nations' Association of International Civil Servants, sent us these reflections of his life as a graduate student in economics in Iowa City in the early 1970s.

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In Morocco, they take it easy. As soon as my plane lands in Rabat, I can feel the change. The other passengers do not push against each other to stand in the aisle. They take their time gathering backpacks and briefcases from the overhead compartments. My flight is late, but that’s no problem. IES Abroad’s driver is just arriving to take me to the Center, where the other students are. I don’t know much Darija (the local dialect) yet, and he doesn’t know English. We smile at each other. It’s not uncomfortable.

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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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A group of about 20 students arrived at the Aeropuerto Internacional José Martí in Havana close to midnight on Sunday, December 28th. That very next morning, classes started for the January, 2015 USAC Cuba program. Despite the late arrival and few hours of sleep, students were eager to climb up the marble staircase at Casa Africa in Old Havana for the first day of class. As a visiting professor, I, too, felt the rush of excitement that comes from that first meeting with students.

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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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Three months ago to this exact date was the day I accepted to spend the spring semester in Thessaloniki, Greece. After sending the acceptance e-mail, I remember calling my mom, my boyfriend, my friends – anyone who would listen – and then wondering how in the world I could ever wait three months to leave for Greece.

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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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Getting off the plane at O’Hare was surreal. Was I really back in Chicago? Costa Rica felt like a dream and I had just suddenly awoken to the brisk winter of the Windy City. To be honest I wasn’t excited to be back, not as excited as I should have been or excited as my friends were. I had found a sense of happiness in Costa Rica that I was scared I would lose the moment I stepped back on to U.S. territory. But as I walked through the airport, I promised myself I would hold on to that happiness and optimism I had gained in Costa Rica and carry it with me wherever I went.

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