UI Study Abroad Blogger

It’s 4 a.m. Omani time and I just finished suhoor, a.k.a. pre-sunrise breakfast. With some encouragement from Muslim friends back in the U.S., I have dedicated myself to abstaining from eating or drinking from sun up to sun down, as the whole Muslim world does during the Ramadan holy month.

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Some of the best experiences come out of nowhere—but you have to be there first.

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Even though it was 9 a.m., it was already 101°F at the mosque.
After three days of orientation, 18 hours on planes, and two hours driving, I am finally in Ibri, Sultanate of Oman!  This summer, I will be studying intensive Arabic (both Modern Standard and Omani Dialect) at the Noor Majan Institute after  being awarded a Critical Language Scholarship through the U.S. State Department.

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From a competitive pool of more than 100 applicants around the country, four UI students have been selected by IES Abroad to share their unique, first-hand study abroad experiences with the world as IES Correspondents for Summer 2018:

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The classic orange rooftops of Prague
At home in Des Moines, I drive almost everywhere I go. In Iowa City, I walk more, but maybe only a few miles each day. While living in Prague, I walk around 7 miles every day, and always more when I travel on the weekends. My record in one day is sixteen miles in Paris! My feet do feel pretty destroyed after four months of this lifestyle, but the constant movement and exercise is so refreshing (and helps shed off some of that weekly gelato).

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Travel can be stressful. Foreign languages can be stressful. Bus schedules can be stressful. New places can be stressful. This semester I’ve realized that traveling isn’t always the sunshine and rainbows that we see on social media or that people like to highlight. Sometimes it takes a couple mental breakdowns in a bathroom stall in an airport to get to that point. If you can’t tell, I speak from experience.

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Knowing myself, I should have anticipated breaking my phone. When it happened, I really regretted bringing my old phone or an iPod touch so that I wouldn’t be without a device for a long period of time. Electronics are very expensive to buy in Uruguay and it is close to impossible to get electronics shipped here from the States. It would have been much easier if I had brought one just in case.

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Coming to Uruguay, the only sort of background I had in Spanish was a few short Duolingo sessions on the plane ride there. I figured it would be a “learn as you go” type of experience. Needless to say, my first day in Uruguay was somewhat of a reality shock for me, when I attempted to greet my non-English speaking host family and could only smile and nod.

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One of the main reasons I chose to study abroad in Prague was because of the courses my program, CEA, offered. Anglo American University (AAU) had a vast list of journalism courses to choose from, so I knew that by studying there, I would not only be growing as a person while abroad, but as a journalist too.

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Hassan Sweet Hassan
The second week of the program, every student is assigned a family to live with. Most are inside the walls of the Old Medina itself, while a handful are close outside. I happened to be one of those students, residing in a lovely apartment in Hay Hassan, the next neighborhood south.

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