UI Study Abroad Blogger

In preparation for studying abroad, I was able to cross an item off of my bucket list: I got an international driving permit. It doesn’t matter as much if I actually use it, although that would be great, too. (After two days in the country, though, I’m already more than a little hesitant to get behind the wheel.) It’s just the fact that I could legally drive in Morocco if I really wanted to that is exciting.

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I could dedicate much more than one blog to the process of going home, and the reverse culture shock that is often experienced upon returning. I went through a whirlwind of emotions during this time, each coming in different waves and phases. Having now been back in the States for a month, I would like to think I am finally fully adjusted to my old life. Yet, an old life that is so different. Over the past month, I have had a lot of time to think about my experiences, and would argue that returning home has nearly been as much of a learning process as my study abroad experience itself. Here is a list of my top 5 conclusions I have come to during my critical period of reflection

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The day I left Newcastle, Australia after 5 life-changing months, was truly one I will never forget. I had dreaded that day since the moment I stepped foot on campus in mid-February. While packing up all of my clothes and stuffing them back into the one suitcase I brought was definitely not enjoyable, and it was going through the souvenirs I had accumulated over the past few months that hit me the hardest...As I took what would now be my very last train from Newcastle to Sydney, I reminisced on those very moments, and began to prepare myself for what lay ahead… reuniting with my family in Sydney!

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Since I have been traveling around Australia, I have met quite a few people who enjoy traveling on their own. I am not one of these people, although for many reasons, I wish I was.

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When I started college, I had every intention of studying in France. That is, however, until my first visit to Iowa’s Study Abroad office. I found, while sitting at a small round table, surrounded by dozens of brochures for both French programs and English programs, a thick blue booklet. The words University of East Anglia were written in big white letters across the cover. Once I saw this cover, my search was over.

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The United Kingdom is composed of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. I’ve been living and travelling in the UK for almost five months now as a study abroad student at the University of East Anglia, and I have accumulated a list of my favorite places in the UK that I think everyone should try to visit.

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There is really no right or wrong way for going about the study abroad experience. Everyone here has come on different circumstances, with different likes, dislikes, goals, and dreams. It is important that each person’s journey reflect these differences, differences that make us who we are. This has been one of the most significant lessons I have learned here, and one that not only applies to being abroad, but also life in general.

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One of the most interesting, and eye-opening, parts of the study abroad experience is being able to view the United States from the lens of a different country. Just two short months before I left for Australia, the Sydney hostage crisis bombarded all of the news. Shortly after, I received a frightening email from the United States government, advising all U.S. citizens traveling there to take extra precautions. This was the very first moment I was able to wrap my head around the fact that I was about to be living in a different country, one very far from my security blanket I had here.

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I remember the first time I decided to do something solo abroad… I wanted to see the Lion King Musical when I was in London. No one else in my program was interested, so I went alone. My mom was so proud of how independent I was that she told everyone for weeks after about how I went to The Lion King alone, which actually makes me sound much more lame than independent, but from then on I’ve gotten a thrill out of solo travel and experiences. Now, before you assume I’m anti-social, I love traveling with others. I spent 12 straight days with a group of awesome girls from my program in Thessaloniki, but there’s something solo travel gives you that you can’t get with anyone else.

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Zwina is one of the most beautiful (ha) words in the Arabic language, in part because it can describe literally everything – the food is zwina, the weather’s zwina, this class is zwina. The idea of food being beautiful or tasting beautiful is a strange expression in English, but is common and complimentary in Darija. In Rabat, Morocco, the world is zwina – the people, the ancient city, the cafés on the corners and morning call to prayer. The weather is a sunny 75 degrees, and coastal breeze blows in each evening from the sea. The Kingdom of Morocco is zwina.

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