One month down

One month down! I am probably more proud of myself than I should be for surviving my first month here without getting hit by a car or walking into an open manhole, but oh well. I have settled in and adjusted to life here more or less, but there are still a few things I am getting used to, such as…

1. Always needing exact change. Well this is not something I need to get used to, so much as something I am resisting. I honestly try to give the cashier as close to exact change as possible, but sometimes I can’t. This usually isn’t a huge problem, unless I go the café at my university. So, despite the fact I rely on the trolleybus to get around, I have yet to purchase a bus pass, meaning most of my change goes to the trolleybus (and any remaining change goes the banana vending machine. That’s right, a banana vending machine, that I frequent quite often). As a result, buy the time I make my way to the front of the line to purchase my usual yogurt and piroshok, I am left without small change. Every time I hand the cashier a hundred ruble bill for a 70 rube purchase, she looks at me as if I just killed her puppy.

2. Mayonnaise on salad. It just ain’t right.

3. Mullets. Russia has produced incredible literature, architecture, music and theater. Not even the land of Pushkin is immune to this trend.

4. Mosquitos and wind. I probably should have expected both considering St. Petersburg is located on a march. While I love Oklahoma, I wasn’t expecting the umbrella-breaking wind to follow me to Russia.

5. Getting weird looks when speaking English in public. I am well aware of the Ugly American stereotype of loud, obnoxious, slovenly Americans, but I didn’t expect to get glares or odd looks when I said a few words to a friend in English.

On the other hand, there are hings I have definitely gotten used to:

1. Drinking tea all the time. I get the English own the trademark on being incessant tea drinkers, but I think the Russians could give them a run for their money.

2. Always carrying an umbrella. Always.

Now that the one month marker has come, I feel like I’m finally making the transition from tourist to resident. I feel comfortable here, and can use the transportation and navigate the city without feeling out of place. Everything has happened in the past weeks is just a scattered mess in my head I’m going to explain it all through a hail of bullet points:

* Crime and Punishment walking tour

Whenever anyone asks why I am studying Russian, I usually mention the Cold War and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. It is unlikely that I would have read the Brothers K if it wasn’t for a high school reading assignment. Furthermore, the only reason I chose that book was because a classmate of mine (who’s taste in books I trusted) chose to read it (had I known the book was over a thousand pages at that time I might have gone with a different book). After reading the Brothers K, I wanted to read Crime and Punishment. Easier said then done. I bought the book my senior year of high school, started in my freshman year and when I came to Russia was about half way through it. The only explanation I have for my snail-like pace is a preference for non-fiction books which often distracted me from Dostoevsky’s wordy masterpiece. Upon coming to Russia, however, I figured I should probably finish Crime and Punishment, considering the book takes place in St. Petersburg. The walking tour I went on included Raskolnikov’s (the main character) apartment, the scene of the murder.

* Pavlosk and Pieterhof

To be honest, I am not one for palaces, I like walking inside them, but my interest in them is minimal at best. Yes, they are pretty, and historical but I can’t get excited about super old silverware and landscaping.

Pavlosk: Imperial Palace, was a gift from Empress Catherine to her son, Paul I and his wife Maria Feodorovna in celebration of the birth of their son, Alexander (say what you will about aristocrats, but they are not stingy when it comes to gift giving).

Peterhof: I actually really enjoyed Peterhof which is really famous for their fountains. Known as the Russian version of Versailles. Peterhof has a lot of incredibly ornate fountains, some are even interactive that will spray you unexpectedly (thus another reason why you should always have an umbrella).


On Monday, August 22nd, around 11:00 am, we departed Rome. Or at least we were supposed to. We had gotten to Termini (Rome’s main train station) early, all ready to hop on the train and head to Arezzo, but the binaro (the train line) number never came up on the board. We stood there, assuming they would put it up soon (and forgetting there was a departures board that listed which binaro it usually comes in. Not always right, but would have helped us.) Well, 10:58 passed and the train went off the board, as in it had departed, and we were left standing in the station. Some stress, a few tears due to the stress (or was that just sweat? It was so stinkin’ hot it was hard to tell), and a phone call later and we decided to take the next train two hours later to Arezzo. Our tickets were general ones for that route, so we didn’t need to do anything to switch them.

I should have known the ride was going to be an interesting one when we had to walk out to Termini’s new terminal, 1 East. Far, far away. Dragging our heavy suitcases the whole way. Before departure, a man came on board with a bucket of cold water, juice and beer. We already had a bottle of Gatorade and a bottle of water, and thought there was no need to buy more. We would regret this decision immensely.

Our train lacked air conditioning, and I was surely sweating off all the gelato pounds I had gained in my few days in Rome. Halfway through our journey, with about an hour and a half left until Arezzo, we were making sure to ration our water. We had brought some bread and prosciutto onto the train to make sandwiches for lunch, but knew we could not eat because the saltiness of the prosciutto would only make us more thirsty. I decided that if we made it through this train ride without fainting, we definitely deserved a spot on the television show “I Shouldn’t Be Alive.” There was a reason this trip only cost us 12 euro each. I was sweating, exhausted, and not entirely sure I would make it.

But, alas, we did. We got into Arezzo, walked over to the main part of the station, and met up with Lucio, OUA’s local student coordinator . He recognized us because I had “Oklahoma colored luggage.” These bags have been in my family for years, and even since attending OU I have never made the connection that they were crimson-colored. I was glad they were Crimson though so that he recognized us! We grabbed our stuff, walked over to our apartment and starting moving in. Even after 5 long flights of stairs with heavy luggage, and no air conditioning in our apartment either, I was ecstatic to be off that train.

Tuscany in general is beautiful, but I love Arezzo. I was so happy to be back, and so so glad that this time my husband could join me. Thankfully, he loves it too! I am blessed to have relatives here that love to show us around the area and take us to sagra (festivals, more on that later!). We are living close to Piazza Guido Monaco, which is a nice location because it is inside the city walls and close to the train station, only about a 10 minute walk from the OUA classrooms and not too far from anything. Arezzo is a nice city, but small and walkable. It makes it really easy to manage without a bike or car.

The beautiful Tuscan countryside, viewed from Il Prato

The beautiful Tuscan countryside, viewed from Il Prato

Il Prato, the park in Arezzo

Il Prato, the park in Arezzo

Golden Sky

Golden Sky

We were glad that gelato is one of the main food groups in Italy. The three best gelateria around Arezzo are Cremì which is located on the Corso, Il Gelato on Via Madonna del Prato and Gran Caramel which is about a 20 minute walk out of the city from our apartment, but so so worth it!

Another main food group here is caffé, or espresso. The little, mini, really strong coffee. Sometimes I drink it three times a day.. Italians generally have some caffé with breakfast, sometimes in the afternoon, and then after dinner as a digestive. (Other digestives include grappa, amaro and limoncello.) They actually really do help make you feel better after eating a huge pasta meal!

When I was in Arezzo in summer 2010, I made friends with some of the local Aretines, and they have been just as welcoming to the new OU students this semester! They are a fun group to hang out with and practice our Italian, while teaching them American slang like “y’all.” Plus over the past few years, OU students have converted them to being Sooner fans!

Boomer Sooner with Iacopo!

Boomer Sooner with Iacopo!

My multi-cultural experiences have gotten off to a great start! I am living with 3 chinese girls in a very small apartment right in the middle of downtown Bordeaux. Everyone has been very kind and hospitable to me, taking time to show me how to get around the city, what I need to get settled in, and how to get my classes arranged at the university. I am studying at Michel de Montaigne Bordeaux III. There are four major universities here, each one focusing on a different field (medicine, art/humanities, science) and Bordeaux 3 seems to be the most liberal. Classes for me started just yesterday and it’s been a whirlwind trying to find all the right classes that replace ones I would normally take at OU.
I’ve found that the best way to achieve confidence is forcing yourself to ask questions. When I first arrived, I was very intimidated. I’ve studied French for many years, but it’s completely different to come to a country where it is spoken. Everyone speaks much faster than you think they will. I’ve heard from a Parisien that speaking quickly is something specific to this city, and the southern region of France, but I think he might’ve been a little biased. My confidence in French went out the window as soon as I tried to communicate with people here. But there’s hope!! You have to be very stubborn because everyone wants to practice his English, especially when he sees you’re nervous, but if you stay calm and continue to practice, you will improve. Even after only a few weeks of being here, I find myself improving and my speech is becoming faster and more fluid. So take heart, all you who are learning a new language.
I think I was most surprised by the fact that there is not nearly as much culture shock as I was told to expect. Of course, there are always going to be subtle differences, but this city is very much like other cities I’ve visited in the States! The transportation system is excellent here. They have trams and buses and of course the TGV train that will all take you wherever your heart desires. And it’s fast! I have noticed, on a side note, that people have very little patience here, so the transportation HAS to be fast. 🙂
I find it a little humorous that by many accounts, Bordeaux is a very typical little French town. It has the narrow, cobblestone streets, the cafes, the beautiful architecture but it is also very westernized, with malls and Carrefour (the European Walmart) and similar styles of dress.
For me, it is easy to fit in. Everyone here, primarily the younger generation, is from another country: China, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Morocco, Algeria, England, Poland to name a few.
I will write again soon as my classes progress, but in the meantime, here are a few key differences I have noticed between the French and Americans:
1) Apparently, one NEVER drinks coffee in the evening. One may drink tea, but coffee is reserved solely for the mornings and early afternoons. As a Portlander, I could not accept this concept and continue to drink coffee all day long.
2) Smaller portions of extremely rich foods and pastries are the way to go in France. Unlike gigantic meals of french fries and hamburgers. Many people drink coke here but the bottles are approximately half the size of those in America.
3) It is extremely fashionable to wear a cardigan or sweater loosely tied around your shoulders, for men and women alike.
4) Never ask how someone is doing or how his day is if he is a professional (aka a cashier, bank teller, service assistant of any type). It is considered too personal.
5) Space is valued here like gold. Personal space does not exist on public transportation. Everyone mashes into the bus or tram feeling the way I picture sardines must feel. Also, everything is very small and well-used. No one wastes here. Every inch of an apartment or building is cleaned and items/furniture are neatly stacked and vertically inclined, rather than spread out horizontally (if you’ve been to Texas, you know exactly what I mean). Also, drivers know how to use space well even to park, squeezing into the smallest space possible on the narrow streets. I still don’t know how they do it.
6) Cars are not considered dangerous on the road. I say this because people walk out in front of a speedily approaching bus or vehicle without a moment’s thought. And the drivers also pull out in front of traffic, inches from colliding with another driver. I can’t imagine driving here, even though they drive on the same side of the road that we do.
Pictures coming soon!

Andy and I arrived to Rome three days early for a little honeymoon before heading to Arezzo to begin classes.

I was disappointed with our taxi ride to Rome. I had told Andy about last year when there was a traffic jam on the highway, and everyone was just ignoring lanes, fitting through whatever small spaces they could find. I saw some of the worst Rome driving. (See what I mean with this video.) Unfortunately, it was a pretty smooth ride. We made it to the hotel around 11. Amazingly, our room was already ready at that time, and they had upgraded us from the annex of the hotel to a room with a view of the Pantheon!

View from our room at Hotel Abruzzi

View from our room at Hotel Abruzzi

It was perfect! W were right there in the middle of everything. It was about a 5 minute walk to Piazza Navona, a little more to Campo Di Fiori, 15-20 to Colosseum, etc. Lovely, except for the fact that it was deathly hot. I think I was sweating more in Rome than I had been in Oklahoma. The nice thing with Rome is that they have public water fountains all over! You buy a bottle of water once, and just keep refilling it whenever you need. Saved us so much money to be able to drink out of those.

Our first stop after dropping our bags off and cooling down for a bit was Tazza D’Oro for coffee granita! It is so delicious. Shaved ice and coffee with some whipped cream (this one had too much but I scraped it off haha). Perfect way to cool down a little.

Granita from Tazza dOro

Granita from Tazza d'Oro

Pizza lunch at Mercato in Campo di Fiori

Pizza lunch at Mercato in Campo di Fiori

We walked around and explored all day, and went to Piazza Navona that night to eat some tartufa, a delicious dessert from Tre Scalini.

Tartufa from Tre Scalini

Tartufa from Tre Scalini

Piazza Navona at night

Piazza Navona at night

In Rome, you feel like a true gladiator. Your life is a constant battle. A battle against foreign vendors trying to sell you random toys, knock-off purses, roses, singing cat dolls, toy rabbits, bubble guns, laser pointers and more. Most spoke English to me, but a few chose Spanish thinking I was a Spaniard. Interesting. I would say, “No grazie” or “No thank you,” but if they were pushy, I would start saying random things in Russian because I knew that was a language they would not speak, and they would leave me alone. At one point, a guy near the Colosseum started following me trying to push roses in my hands so I had to loudly say “Lasciami sta!” or “Leave me alone!” That did the trick.

Rome has its vendor problems, but the monuments and scenery outshine anything else. The big government building Il Vittoriano, the Colosseum, Trajan’s Column, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, La Fontana di Trevi… the list goes on and on! The eternal city has some pretty amazing history.

Trajans Column

Trajan's Column

Il Vittoriano

Il Vittoriano

Il Colosseo

Il Colosseo

In Rome there is an ancient ruins kitty park. That is not the official name, but sounds good enough to me. Basically, in the middle of Rome there is an area of a bunch of old  ruins, and 50-100 (in my estimate, but probably even more hiding) cats live there. The city pays for them to be vaccinated, etc, and they are available for adoption. There was one that looked just like our kitty back home in St. Louis. We miss him a lot, it was fun to see his Roman twin.

The Roman kitties

The Roman kitties

What a life, lounging around on ancient ruins!

What a life, lounging around on ancient ruins!

At night we did a tour of the Colosseum. Incredible! It is so beautiful at night. We also got to go down to the bottom level of the Colosseum and explore around a bit. We didn’t get to walk out in the middle, but it was amazing to think we were standing where lots of animals and gladiators used to stand, to consider the history of the ground upon which we were walking.

Underground tour of the Colosseum

Underground tour of the Colosseum

On Sunday, we woke up and explored some more. We walked out to the Villa Borghese and visited the Galleria Borghese (full of paintings and sculptures, particularly some of my favorite Bernini scuptures). Rome is a fun city and we will definitely be back during the semester!

Hi! I am Devon, a junior in International Studies at OU, I work for Sooner yearbook on the photography staff, a huge OU sports fan and a waitress at a restaurant in Norman. Typical college student… but I am also the “M” word. Married. Crazy, right? I got married this past summer to my best friend, Andy Kysor. We are both from the St. Louis area, met at a concert my senior year of high school, started dating a few days later, got engaged and then married! We made it through one year of long distance when I was at OU my freshman year, until he transferred to OU and is now also a Sooner! In summer 2010, I visited Italy with OU’s Honors in Italy summer program. I loved it, had an amazing time, and really wanted to get back. Good thing Andy likes to travel too, so he was interested in going, and we made it work so that we both are studying in Arezzo, Italy this fall!

To answer a few of the questions I always get: 1) No, I never planned on getting married at a young age. Wasn’t even interested! But when I found Andy, I knew. 2) No, I didn’t get married because I was pregnant. 3) Why yes, I am going to stay in school, finish a degree and find a career!    It seems laughable, but so many people thought that since I was getting married I would let my hopes and ambitions fall away.

Anyways, now that you know a little bit about me, I will talk about OU in Arezzo! When I came to OU, I knew that I would definitely be studying abroad at least once during my time here. I had originally considered Honors in Oxford, but once I heard that OU had a program in Arezzo, Italy, I knew I had to go. This is because my ancestors are from Arezzo, and I still have family there! My last name is so rare, even in Italy, that anyone who has it is related to me. When I came last summer, my relatives were so warm and open, I knew I had to make it back to Arezzo in the next five years. I didn’t think it would be possible to study again here, but when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped on it! Now Andy gets to meet my family (spoiler: he loves them too!) and get to know the Italian culture I cherish.

Fall 2011 was the perfect semester to choose because it suited my class needs perfectly! I am able to complete my honors requirements taking my Colloquium class and writing my Honors Research here with Dr. Julia Ehrhardt, and Dr. Suzette Grillot, the Associate Dean of my college, College of International Studies! Not to mention Professor Kirk Duclaux’s Art History class is phenomenal. We are having a great time in Arezzo and I will post more soon!

Andy and I on our rooftop terrace at our apartment

Bella Toscana — a gorgeous view from the park at the top of the city, Il Prato

I am still trying to figure out how to write a blog. My favorite form of travel writing is when people write short anecdotes and somehow string them all together, rather than a simple rundown of my daily activities. So, please forgive the sporadic manner that this blog is written in as I am still learning how to write how it.
Classes are going well, my professors are very good, and nice as well. My professor for CMU (a class where we learn how to read the news and all the specific terminology associated with it) is, while friendly, very intimidating and everytime she asks me to say something I turn into a stammering mess to the point where saying my name is an arduous task. My home stay is still going well, I am still trying to figure out the balance to being social and friendly while, still giving my host family their space. My host mom is always quick to offer me tea, cookies, and toast with jam while asking me how my day went.

This past weekend was relaxing and felt like a very idyllic European weekend. When the sun comes out and rain takes a momentary break, it seems that all of Petersburg comes out. This past Sunday, I, along with the rest of Petersburg took advantage of the good weather and finally went to explore the cultural sites of the city. The Church of Spilled Blood is indescribably beautiful on the inside, while I snapped a few photos none do justice to the Church’s interior justice. The Russian Museum is equally impressive.  Like an art museum, multiple trips are necessary in order to appreciate and see everything in the museum and while after an two hours of wandering a lot of paintings start to blend together an artist that stood out was Pavel Filonov ( Other paintings by various artists that struck me were those depicting the Blockade of Leningrad (now St. Petesrburg). During WWII The German army surrounded Leningrad from 1941-1944—this siege resulted in the death of over 1,500,000 Russians. It is strange and surreal to see paintings depicting areas and streets that I see everyday as scenes of horror and destruction, and even more unsettling to know that this occurred only seventy years ago.

Despite living in the city, I manage to run into people I know. After sitting through six hours of classes, I decided to walk around my neighborhood and take advantage of the sunshine. Out of luck, I ended up running into one of my classmates and we went to a thrift store where she volunteers. As with most Russian people I have met, the people who work there are friendly, and happy to have an extra hand sorting out donations. After sorting through a few piles of clothes they offered my friend and I tea, as is in typical in almost every social situation in Russia (Would you like tea, or “хочешь чаю” is a question I am asked daily, and almost always answer with да and an enthusiastic nod). While I spent most of time simply listening to the conversation, it was nice to be able to learn more about the language and culture somewhere other than the classroom or a museum. While I am living in Russia, all of my classes are with other American students, putting the responsibility on the student to go out and get involved.  For me this takes a substantial amount of prodding, but I am hoping to get involved with a few NGO groups here, and volunteer at the thrift store.

I have been in St. Petersburg for a little over two weeks and am constantly amazed and overwhelmed. I was under the impression that moving to Russia would involve escaping the humidity, mosquitoes and wind of Oklahoma. Sadly, this assumption was incredibly inaccurate. Whenever I talked to someone native to St. Petersburg they profess their love for the city the consider to be the best in Russia, but they always lament its location. So far it seems like St. Petersburg is a combination of contradictions. One moment you are cursing the frequent, but unpredictable downpours and erratic bus schedule, the next moment you are standing, speechless and wide-eyed, in front of the Church of Spilled Blood.
Living with a host family has definitely made the transition easier, while there are many awkward moments, I have yet to feel uncomfortable. My home stay family is extremely welcoming and forgiving of my language skills. I often eat breakfast and dinner with host mom (who is a fantastic cook) and we will talk and will watch anything from the news to the Russian version of the «The Bachelor». My host brother speaks a little English and can get by in conversation with him but talking with my host dad is a challenge. Whenever he talks me his voice is kind and he is smiling, however I have no idea what he is saying. Thus my marker for my progress in Russian language is how much of my host dad’s speech I can understand. If the by the end of my year here I can carry on a coherent conversation with my him, I will consider my year here a success. Random fact about my home stay: goal I have for the year is figuring out how my host family’s shower, which seems to have two settings: scalding or freezing. If I turn the nob for the hot water I have approximately 45 seconds before the water is boiling. Or, the water is absolutely freezing, which I feel is preferable at this point. For those of you who are aware of my battles with technology and basic household appliances, other students have also talked about this problem so at least I am not alone in my incapacity to work the shower. Another random note on food: Most of my meals consist of soup, potatoes, toast and cheese, and pierorgi. As a fan of hearty foods I have yet to try anything that I haven’t liked. Also, my host mom makes me toast with a smiley face on it, making a dreary, overcast morning more enjoyable.
Despite the fact that I have been here almost half a month, I have not visited a lot of museums or site (aside from the Hermitage and Valaam Monastery), but instead have been going to class and exploring the streets. Classes are interesting but require a significant amount of attention because they are conducted in Russian language. While most of my classes are language classes, I am taking a politics and history course which are difficult but incredibly interesting. A discussion in particular that sticks out is a discussion regarding how the American people’s image of Russia is largely influenced by the country’s Soviet history. According to my professor, people in Russia think is quite odd considering that Russia was one of the first republics to declare sovereignty from the Soviet Union. While I admit that my image of Russia while growing up was largely shaped by The Hunt for Red October and White Nights, I am learning that the city is a mix of the country’s turbulent history. It is equally possible to stumble upon a statue dedicated to the first head of the KGB as it to find a monument dedicated to Pushkin or Dostoevsky. While the city’s multiple museums, the people’s extensive knowledge about their literature and history are testaments to Russia’s rich culture, consequences of Soviet governance are still visible.
I am not quite sure how to wrap this post up, so I will end with the promise that I try to battle the inevitable laziness that comes with cold, overcast weather and explore the city and will attempt to diligently record my adventures on this blog ☺

Random notes:
-If you wish to earn the stink eye in Russia pay for a eighty ruble purchase with a thousand ruble bill. Exact change is appreciated, if not expected.
-When asking how to get to the Church of Spilled Blood by describing it as “that church with a lot of colors” will not get you far. There are a lot churches, and colorful churches mind you, in Petersburg.

I spent the last week visiting the village of Wahtling, Germany, just outside of Hannover. It was great. I stayed with the same family that I lived with 3 years ago as an exchange student in high school. The trip didnt start off great, as my train broke down within an hour of my 6 hour journey and we were stuck on the rails for about an hour and a half. A few hours later we pulled into Frankfurt and I missed my connector so I had to spend an extra hour there hanging out. When I finally made it to Hannover, the Departure screen was out of order, so I didnt really know which gate to go to. I asked a Deutsche Bahn worker, and of course, he put me on the wrong train and I ended up in Bremen, not Celle.

Luckily Martina (the mom) and Johann came to pick me up in Bremen and bring me to their house, but I had to wait in the station for 2 hours. It was worth it, because the family was great again. Martina and Jens just got married this past summer and they have their own catering service. Luzii is now 18, and the two little boys, Samuel and Neil, are now 6 and 9. Samuel had his first day of school on Tuesday and Jens took me with them and gave me a tour of their Grundschule. On Wednesday night Johann brought me to his soccer practice which was fun since I had met all of his friends a few years ago, and we talked about a few of them coming to visit in Basel.

I figured out Germany has their regional elections coming up in Septemeber, so the whole town was covered in political signs from the CDU to die Linke to the FDP. It was really interesting to read about considering they have around 20 parties unlike our 2. They still have a socialist party, and a decently large far left party. One of the most unique cultural shifts I experienced this week was the amount of alcohol consumption. The beer was wonderful but after every meal we would take a shot of Schnapps to help was the meal down. Never had Schnapps before and I must say, it was a great add on to the meal. The food was wonderful all week and breakfast consisted of salami, cheese, great bread, butter, etc. My favorite.

The train ride back to Basel only took 5 hours and immediatly upon arrival it started pouring rain and the weather dropped and is finally cold out. I will finally be able to sleep well at night! This weekend is BaselBikeFest, and there are races and festivals all weekend right across the street from my house.

So, where to begin…

The first moment I knew things were going to be different was in the airport, when I was already hearing many different accents. Mostly they were English, as my flight was to London. Immediately, I also observed how many people looked “European” or perhaps “British” is a better way to put it. I don’t quite know how to describe it, but suffice to say that it is fairly easy to pick out Americans. The flight was relatively uneventful. I took half a sleeping pill and fell asleep as soon as I finished the meal. I think it freaked out the guy next to me a bit, how solidly I fell asleep. Anyways, I didn’t use the bathroom the entire flight… that’s right I can hold it for 9 hours. No problem.

When I reached the gate for the connection to Glasgow, I was listening to two men talking behind me. I thought it might be English with an incredibly strong Scottish accent, but now I think perhaps it was Scots? Scots is an old English dialect of sorts, from what I understand. Regardless, I enjoyed trying to discover what they were saying, but I pretty much understood none of it, which means it can’t count as eavesdropping. 🙂

The flight was relatively uneventful, although it was a struggle to find the University shuttle that was supposed to take me to my flat. After a bit of a ride, we arrived at “Murano Street Student Village”. Almost as soon as I got to my room, I heard my flatmate leaving his room. I immediately poked my head out, and met Carlos, who is from Madrid. Carlos wanted to shopping so we headed to the main office and asked where we should go. Conveniently, there is a big supermarket just around the corner. After buying some food, we walked the 15 or so minutes back to our flat. It was later that I realized I forgot to buy other important things… such as toilet paper. Anyways, I was fairly exhausted from the plane flight and went to bed at 9 pm, only to wake up at 5 am and be unable to fall back asleep. I guess I had to experience at least some jet lag!

The next day was the first day of orientation and most of the people from my flat, including a guy from Boston, and a girl from Japan, headed to the international orientation meeting. The Erasmus students, aka Europeans, had their own orientation meeting.

We learned plenty of school-type things, like how to enroll, and what to expect as far as the classes go. That night, my flatmates and I went in search of a pub and ended up on Ashton Lane. The pubs were nice, but noticeably it was an older crowd. Nevertheless, we ordered a couple pints. The people in the pub were quite friendly. One guy was telling us that we were in the nice part of town so drinks were perhaps the most expensive there than in all of Glasgow. Fantastic. Apparently the city center is most inexpensive, and more of a student hang out…

The few girls my age that I did see were dressed to the nines. They had on high heels, which I have no idea how they wear them on cobblestone, short skirts, tights and no jacket. The girls must have blood made of ice because I don’t think I would be able to do it. I have come to be comfortable with the idea that I will most likely stand out when I go out… That doesn’t bother me too much. A few German girls I have met are in agreement with me, so I believe it’s more a British thing than a European one.

Anyhoo, today I have a tour of Stirling Castle and Glengoyne Distillery, and I have to run to get ready!

I haven’t taken any pictures yet, but I will on this trip for sure, and try to post them. I must say, I love the international atmosphere and find myself slightly avoiding other people from the US because there are so many interesting people from other places to talk to… Already I feel like I will not be here as long as I desire, and the semester will go too fast. Maybe I should have signed up for a year!

See you later Istanbul…

In Turkey, when you part ways, it is not common to say ‘goodbye’ but rather, ‘see you later’. ‘Görüşmek’ in Turkish means ‘to meet’. Adding the ‘ürüz’ to the end changes the word to mean ‘we will meet soon’. How Turks bid each other farewell tell a lot about their culture and their outlook on life. My short time here has shown me that Turks enjoy the moment, and questions about the uncertain future are left to the future. Turks like the serendipitous nature of life, and like to leave all possibilities open. Saying ‘görüşürüz’ to my friends here has not been a heart-wrenching task, but rather a joyful ‘hello’ to the next phase. The Turks around me do not dwell on the time I will be away, but they smile and wholeheartedly wish me the best of luck. My friends do not know when they will seen again, but they smile at the possibility of a future meeting.

I have come to feel, that in our culture, we fear an uncertain future. We seek to plan almost every moment, and become filled with anxiety when an unknown factor enters the equation. Unknown possibilities often frighten us, especially when parting from loved ones. We ask ourselves, “When will we meet again?”, “Will we get to speak to each other frequently?”. “What if this or that?”. We are nearly paralyzed with these questions, unable to look forward positively to a future full of countless possibilities. This is why, in my time in Turkey, I have come to admire the Turkish outlook of life.

Instead of obsessing or dwelling on the future they leave it up to the cosmos. You will often hear Turks say, ‘inşallah’, when referring to the future. “God willing” they say. It is not so much a religious mantra, but an acknowledgment that not everything can be controlled. We are only capable of so much in this world, everything else must be left up to chance.

So, as I leave an amazing city, country, and people, I do not shed tears of sadness, but of joy. I smile, bittersweetly, at the end of one chapter and beginning of another. I am filled with excitement at the possibilities the future may hold. I hope to return to Turkey upon graduation in December, but as I have learned here, nothing can be certain in the future. I must keep my heart and mind open, and enjoy the unexpected twists and turns life may bring me. So, as I pack my bags and head back to the US, I smile and say,

İstanbul, görüşürüz inşallah…

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