UI Study Abroad Blogger

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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When I was applying to IES Rabat study abroad program, I struggled with the question of whether or not to stay with a host family so much that I submitted my housing application two weeks late. I had heard good things about homestays from friends who had studied abroad, but was worried about the awkward interactions that the language barrier would create, worried that I might lose all the independence I had gained when I moved to college after high school. Others warned me that I was moving to a dangerous country in which the culture was too different from my own for me to function within the confines of a foreign family unit. It would be more comfortable for me to live with other Americans in a condo in the city.

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As a result of spring break, or “Easter holiday” as it is called here in the UK, I was given the chance to travel for three weeks without interruption throughout the end of March and into early April. I used this opportunity to plan a trip to the continent with my fellow University of Iowa student/UEA student and best friend Juliette Sigmond.

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I have just gotten back from my two-week journey down the east coast of Australia. Despite the extreme lack of sleep, fast-food diet, and lighter wallet, it was truly the best experience of my life. I am a true believer that some of the greatest lessons take place outside of the classroom, and even more so on a long road trip in a foreign country. In order to accurately give some advice to young travels about to partake on a similar venture, I’m going to give my lessons some structure by ordering them as a list.

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