School of Journalism and Mass Communication

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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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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After 28 hours in airports and airplanes – with little to no sleep – I made it not to home, but to a nice comfy hotel. Little did I know when I was buying my plane ticket home back in July that I would get caught in Iowa’s first big snowstorm of 2015. Had I gone back a day earlier or a day later, I would have gotten home just fine!

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Not only has she funded all of my travel expeditions we've gone on, but she's also one of the only people who knows me fully and knows how to deal with me at my best and worst times. That's the perfect travel companion, I think! She and I have been on a lot of expeditions, inside and outside the United States, with or without other family members or other friends, but I think no matter what we always have a fantastic time, and it's hard not to when you're sharing an experience with someone you love.

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It was a rainy and cold weekend for Thanksgiving this year, but that's probably nothing to the snow and cold poor Iowa got! Spending Thanksgiving here was definitely an experience, if only because there really wasn't an experience. Or we had to make our own experience, because while there is Black Friday here (completely commercialized), there is no Thanksgiving. Which makes complete sense, because Thanksgiving was all about the native Americans and pilgrims making friends (or so our kindergarten teachers tell us!).

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During my walk to class this morning I really took in the sights around me, looking back and remembering the time all of it was so strange and new. It was a huge accomplishment if I made it to class without getting lost. Now I try to get lost on purpose (not on my way to class though) so I can find the unfamiliar parts of town. When is the point in time where the strange and different becomes familiar, becomes home? Not only has my perspective changed, but I also feel different. In a very subtle way, like how your hair gets longer but you can't tell until you see pictures of you with short hair (my hair is in desperate need of a cut.)

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I'm going to start off by telling everyone it's 60 degrees outside, and I am FREEZING. This cold is giving me flashbacks to the polar vortex and -25 degree wind chill. Except it's 60 degrees. I am an Iowan in and out, 20 years of living with Iowa winters, and I have become soft. This place has changed me into the person that says, "Que calor!" At 80 degrees and "Que frio!" At 60 degrees.

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Lu Shen was interested in journalism long before she enrolled at the University of Iowa as a double major in Journalism and Mass Communication and Art. Shen, an undergraduate student from Hangzhou, China, studied for two years before making the decision to come to the U.S. She was encouraged by a favorite professor at home to take on the challenge of studying journalism in a U.S. university, and her parents also supported her decision.

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I’m close to my halfway point in my study abroad experience, and I think I’ve gained enough experience and expertise to let other people know exactly why they should be doing exactly what I’m doing (but in their own way!) If I can convince at least one person to go through with a study abroad experience, I think I would be happy. There are a million reasons why people should study abroad, or travel in general, but here are a few that I came up with that I think are pretty convincing arguments.

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Journalist, author, and activist Roger Thurow and tropical medicine specialist Dr. Selma Jeronimo have been named the winners of the 2014 International Impact Awards. UI President Sally Mason and Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs Downing Thomas will present the awards to Thurow and Jeronimo at 5 p.m., November 18, at FilmScene in downtown Iowa City as part of the television/radio/internet program WorldCanvass. The ensuing discussion will focus on the tenacious cycle of poverty, hunger, and disease which afflicts so many parts of our globe—and some of the creative efforts worldwide to break the cycle.

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