Turkey and Greece
I found Ghana to be an amazing and very welcoming country. I was very humbled by the joy and happiness I saw and completely engaged in how fascinating the history is. It is a country full of people who are affectionate and caring beyond means necessary. There is so much that we experienced in such a little amount of time but I feel that I have to go back so I can see what may have been missed. Ghana by all means is a country to visit if nowhere else in the world.
I thought I would never see the day when I would gather up enough courage to be able to mentally prepare myself for the flight overseas because of my fear of large bodies of water. Thank goodness I did because visiting Africa, the land of my ancestors, was the opportunity of a lifetime that some people could only dream about.
To say my travel study to Ghana was great would be an understatement. Going to Ghana challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone and experience life in a way I would have never been able to domestically. Not only was I able to learn much about Ghana's rich and diverse culture but the experience also taught me more about myself as a United States citizen as well as an African-American. From my wonderful classmates and professors to the gracious hosts and citizens of Ghana, everyone involved helped shape my travel study experience to be one that I will cherish forever.
The students from the US had first class services compare to the other students once we arrived to Hebei Normal University, China. While 6 + people shared one dorm room in China that was the size of a room in Bigelow Hall, we had only 2 people per room. The Chinese students slept in 6 inch mattress while we were sound asleep in our almost American-like beds. Of course it wasn't as soft, but others have it worse and they don't even complain. On hot days, which was everyday, we came to a room with air conditioner and they had to bare it in their studies. When we were bored, we watched cable and they played ping pong. As we showered in our heated water bathroom, the Chinese students provided their own hot water and took it to a community shower. Most of the bathrooms were in the form of squatting but our bathrooms in the suite dorms was a toilet. I think we had excellent transportation. A lot of people in China walk everywhere, so I was grateful that we even had a bus there. Other than the lack of gratitude we take in the US, the tour spots in China were amazing as any tourist place is; it's only normal to feel that way in a new place. There aren't enough words, pictures, or videos to describe this whole trip. It was life changing and I hope people take the opportunity to go abroad.
My favorite part of the Ecuador Travel Study was when we had the opportunity to spend a night with an indigenous tribe living in the Amazon rain forest. I made friends with two teen aged boys who attempted to teach me how to play a conch shell and teach me a game that involved jumping over stakes poked in the ground. I also got a chance to snorkel with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands. The animals have no natural predators and are quite engaging. The trip was exhausting and exhilarating, glorious and grueling. It was a trip of a lifetime and I never would have been able to do it on my own.
Sometimes it takes a trip out of the country to make you appreciate things you take for granted about living in the United States. I recently returned from three weeks in Ecuador as part of a travel study course with UW-Whitewater. I enjoyed adjusting to some of the differences between South American and North American culture such as milk served at room temperature instead of ice cold, the unstructured sense of time (when a guide estimates a bus ride will be "around two hours" and it turns out to be seven ) and the remarkably low water pressure (the plumbing in Ecuador cannot handle toilet paper and will clog the pipes if you flush it, so it is thrown away in a little trash can).
Going to Ecuador was my first time out of the country. I was nervous at first, especially since it was a country that was classified as a 'third world country' however, from the time I got off of the airplane I experienced nothing but breath-taking architecture and friendly people who made me feel humble in every way possible. I experienced things like snorkeling with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands, riding a cable car and hiking through various types of forests in the Amazon basin. There were so many amazing opportunities to participate in once in a life time experiences. This trip has not only motivated me to learn the Spanish language but it has also made such a large impact on my life that I want to go back again after I graduate, after I am familiar with the language for a deeper cultural experience.
Ireland and Northern Ireland
This, hands down, is the best trip I've ever been on. Getting the chance to go to Ireland was really a dream. You get immersed in the culture and get to experience their way of life for 2 weeks and when your time there is done, you find yourself not wanting to leave. Of course you get the chance to do all of the real touristy things like kiss the Blarney Stone, Climb Giant's Causeway, and taste a fresh pint of Guinness straight from the brewery, but there's also free time to do things that you want like shop, check out a pub, or just explore the current city you're in. A prime example of that would be Balintoy or Malinbeg. Although small towns, they offered the most spectacular views. This is honestly a travel study that shouldn't be missed.
Ireland and Northern Ireland
Spending 2 weeks in Ireland for the summer was the best start to a summer. The views were absolutely beautiful and breath taking. I'm glad we got to explore all around Ireland to see the difference between the different areas, like Northern and the rest of Ireland. While there I learned about their culture, history, and their way of life. We got to do what normal tourist get to do by going to kiss the Blarney Stone, walk across Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, and couple others. Since we were in Ireland for so long we had plenty of free time to shop, explore the town we were in, and just relax. This is one of my favorite trips I've taken so far. By the end of the trip you don't want to leave the friends you made or leave the beautiful country. This travel study or any is something you'll never forget and is worth taking.
I had never ever been out of the United States before, but Italy had always been the first place I wanted to see. Actually getting to experience it was unbelievable! I got to be in the most beautiful place I had ever seen, while meeting some great people and creating unforgettable memories. I learned that I can put myself into new situations and succeed even though it takes time. It was also really nice to delve into a different field of study; I'm a geology/geography major and it was nice to experience the aspects of art and music from the heart of where it all began. Sure it was intimidating not knowing the language spoken or the exact customs to practice, but we all learned and adapted which is something I never had to do on such a big level. I recommend a travel study course to all students no matter what major or interests you may have because there are so many programs/classes to choose from and you will not regret your time abroad! It's a perfect length of travel as well if you are worried about missing a semester of necessary classes (or missing everyone back home)! Your time in a new environment like this is unlike anything you probably ever have done... so go for it.
Since the beginning of my college career I did not truly believe that I would end up doing a travel study program. I was talked into attending the program to Jamaica and after returning can not wait to do another. It is amazing how a group of students can come together as ours did to learn cohesively, and I will never forget the experience I had with our group. Everything was amazing from learning, to meals, to jumping off a cliff together. I would never trade in the experience I received from attending a travel study.
The opportunity to travel to Shanghai, China was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Not only did it broaden my horizons, it also gave me a great chance to network with people in my field of study. While abroad, my fellow graduate colleagues and I worked with children with special needs in the area of speech therapy and to also travel to Xi'an and Beijing. The total immersion into a culture so different from my own has allowed me to become a more well rounded professional and will no doubt aid me when working with clients in my near future. The experience was amazing and we enjoyed it immensely!
International travel is about challenge, growth and exploration, but most importantly, it is about SUSHI! WELCOME TO JAPAN! Konichiwa! If you are looking for a class that is exciting, filled with activities, intellectually and emotionally stimulating, the Contemporary Japanese Society Travel study with Larry Neuman is for you. If you are looking to sit around on a beach and tan for academic credit, you will need to look elsewhere. Often times, when people talk about their international experience, they only focus on the new culture they just experienced. However, there is great value in reflection of ones own culture. Going to Japan has opened my eyes to many positive and negative aspects of living in the United States. This short trip has officially addicted me to international travel, I plan to study abroad in Rome in Fall of 2010. While traveling can be expensive monetarily, the experience, and personal growth I have gained have made it priceless. Finally, I have a challenge for you: go... see the world. Travel to another continent. Challenge yourself. And remember what Batman said, "It is not who you are underneath; but what you DO that defines you".
From the amicable people of Oaxaca City and Teotilan del Valle to the lush landscape of the mountains, Oaxaca enchanted me. The culture, rich like their chocolate, is captivated in artisans' creations such as tapestries, woodcarvings, and black clay pottery. You will get lost in the smells of fresh pan dulce (sweet bread) at the mercados and the smiles of children rejoicing in the Zócalo. This travel study has helped me connect with my mother's homeland Mexico Lindo, and realize how aspects of globalization and modernization play significant roles in the survival or loss of indigenous cultures, such as Zapotec.
It is amazing how you never find who you are until you find yourself in a situation that you are unaccustomed to, especially traveling abroad. Vietnam is as advertised: beautiful beyond all measure, humid beyond even a Wisconsin summer and the people are unbelievably helpful and affectionate. As you travel to Hanoi or Hue, or perhaps stopping by Ho Chi Minh City, the sights you take in will leave you in awe. Even the little things that you would never normally notice and take for granted such as traffic leaves quite an impression on you. I am eternally grateful to have such wonderful professors and companions on the trip, in which traveling with them was an adventure all in its own.