Repacking Your Mental Suitcase

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Only someone who’s been on a program abroad can attest to the frustration that comes with sitting on your bedroom floor, holding a hairdryer and trying to decide what’s worse- starting a fire in a foreign outlet or letting your hair air-dry for 5 months (hint: it’s for sure the first one…probably). Many of you know that feeling that seems to sneak up when you’re about to leave for a trip abroad. You’ve barely started emptying your top drawer into your suitcase and you already feel like you’ve forgotten something. Jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, swimsuits, and scarves cover the floor of your room as you try to pack three seasons into one bag (which eventually turns into two).

The best part about this feeling is that it eventually subsides. That day you lug your over-packed suitcase into your new room is the day you gain another “home”. Those feelings of anxiety and worry become pure excitement, with just a tiny ounce of fear (the good kind). You explore new places, make new friends, try new foods, and experience new adventures. But most importantly, you fall in love. You fall for that new feeling you get when you step out your front door and know exactly where you’re going. You fall for the smell of the air in your host country and the food at that local restaurant you’ve come to love. Without even realizing it, you’ve made a whole new life in a whole new place.

What they don’t tell you is that you’re going to have to pack these memories up when you leave and they may just not fit in your suitcase. Not only do you have to jam that sweatshirt you never wore back into your bag, but you’ll also have to find room for all those adventures. The night I left France felt like a blur. I had stupidly booked myself a red-eye flight and, even worse, had decided to pack that night. I said a tearful goodbye to my friends as we parted ways after a farewell dinner at our favorite restaurant. The moment I got home to pack, I realized the shampoo that wouldn’t fit back into my suitcase was not the thing I was going to miss most.

When you go abroad, you bring back something that you can carry with you for the rest of your life: experience. I’m not talking about what I learned in the classroom (although that was important too). I’m talking about life experience. You may not be able to bring home that coffee shop you loved, but you’ll always remember that feeling you got when you found your way back there by memory. It might take a while to list all the things you might bring home with you, so here are the top five:

  1. Confidence: There’s nothing quite like newfound confidence. You may not realize this while you’re abroad, but you certainly will when you return home. Travelling has taught you that you can do something ridiculous in public (like accidentally say something inappropriate in another language or slip and fall as you’re rushing to catch a train) and no one will care. You suddenly feel totally  comfortable doing something outside the norm, because you’ve managed to fend for yourself in a country other than your own and no one can take that away from you.
  1. Stories: One thing you find out when you come home is that your stories are for you. You’ll feel excited to tell your family and friends about your adventures and they’ll be eager to hear them, but eventually their questions will subside. When this happens, you can take comfort in the fact that your stories will remain yours. You’ll be able to think back on your time abroad and use the experiences to spark new adventures in new places.
  1. Open-mindedness: Experiencing new countries, cultures, and languages broadens your worldview and can instill a sense of global citizenship. Travelling can make even the most close-minded person feel open to trying and experiencing new things.
  1. Patience: You learn patience pretty quick when your train is an hour late and you’re about to miss a flight or you get to work on time and your boss isn’t there yet. Life passes at different rates around the world and realizing this will make you discover that it can stand to pass a little slower sometimes.
  1. Independence: In my personal opinion, this is one of the most important ones. It’s exhilarating and empowering. You’ve done what many people haven’t. You made the courageous choice to live in a new city where you didn’t know anyone. Few people have done this and few people can feel the pride and independence you now feel as a result.

Five months prior, I had packed my old life into a bag and now I discovered that I couldn’t do the same with my new life. I couldn’t pack the places or the feelings that I had fallen in love with. My bags, now repacked, suddenly felt heavier. What I know now was that I was bringing home a lot more than I knew. Every traveler brings home stories, memories, friendships, and most importantly, an unquenchable thirst to keep adventuring.

What did you bring home from your program abroad? Share your story with us below!

Featured World Endeavors Alum: Maddy

Photo Contest- Maddy FarrellThis story is by Maddy, an Intern in Ireland alum.

During my sophomore year of school I decided to look into education abroad opportunities. There were many options, and I was very unsure of what it would do for me. I had heard about how much fun it could be and that you could put that experience on your resume, but I never understood what it would do for me as a person.

Through my school, I discovered a company by the name of World Endeavors who provided internships, study abroad, and volunteer options in many countries. I chose to do an internship in Ireland, which happened to be a place I had wanted to travel to for a long time. I hoped to get an internship related to equine or meat animal management to match one of my majors. I had to do an application process just like I would have for a position at any job and World Endeavors was very helpful during that time. I even completed a phone interview which was admittedly very scary for me. I wasn’t a very confident person at this time in my life. I also had to send in a resume which was very small without a lot of outside experience in the field I chose to intern in.

I had never done something like this almost completely on my own. I had to fly to another country by myself, live in an apartment by myself, and work in a place where I knew absolutely no one.

World Endeavors accepted my application and I began the wait: they had to find me an internship first. Later I was informed of my place of work. I was to work at a riding centre called The Paddocks. It was right outside the city of Dublin, Ireland on top of the Dublin Mountains. I was thrilled, and terrified all at the same time. I had never done something like this almost completely on my own. I had to fly to another country by myself, live in an apartment by myself, and work in a place where I knew absolutely no one.

After a long flight and a drive to my apartment I met one of my coworkers. I was put at ease with the fact that she was incredibly nice and drove me around to get things I needed and showed me what was close enough to my apartment to walk to. She also agreed to drive me to work daily, which was 5 minutes from my apartment. I started work the next day and I was absolutely blown away. There were 70+ horses and ponies with varying heights, and I had never even been in a facility this large. The business provided lessons for all ages, as well as ride outs and walk outs on the mountain for advanced and beginner riders. I personally assisted with pretty much everything there was to do. I was also pleased to find that they were willing to also help me with my riding. I had had advanced riding courses but I had never jumped before and that was huge with them.

During my time there I made friends I hope to keep for a very long time. I learned to live on my own with the confidence to go out on my own. I even learned to use public transportation which was something I had never used before on my own. I didn’t just work either, on my days off I took the time to visit other parts of Ireland and enjoy their history. World Endeavors was always just a phone call or email away and they were always happy to check in to make sure everything was going well.

This trip didn’t just help my job experience; it also helped me grow as a person.

My shyness and my lack of confidence really used to hurt me. I didn’t know what I was capable of, because I was too afraid to test myself or push myself. When I came back and went back to school that fall my grades went up tremendously, my work ethic was up, and I was willing to communicate with my professors more. My grades improved so much I was given a position as a teacher’s assistant my second semester and have made the Dean’s List more than once now. It was easy for me to work with students and to assist them because of the confidence I had gained.

I pushed myself more and applied for a position at the education abroad office on campus. That interview was one of the best I’ve ever done. I didn’t choke and I was able to show who I was as a person. I was able to make eye contact, which seems like a weird thing to be able to do but that was not at all easy for me to do before. I was thrilled to find out that I had been given the job. I work with others who say the exact same thing as I do: about how they grew thanks to their education abroad experiences, and we all love to share our stories with each other and other students. My goal is to help encourage more students to seek out education abroad options and to travel and learn new things as I did.

Top Five Things to Do In: Jaipur, India

Jaipur is the largest city in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan and offers a diverse amount of attractions–ancient palaces, observatories, and street markets full of beautiful fabrics await. Read on for our top five things to do in Jaipur!

Visit the Jantar Mantarjaipur

A UNESCO world heritage site, this astronomical observatory was constructed in 1728 and includes around twenty main instruments. It is referred to as one of the most comprehensive of India’s preserved historic observatories and is home to many sun dials and other astronomical instruments that are remarkably very accurate. Spend a couple hours wandering around–the sculpture-like instruments also provide some excellent photo-ops!

Dive into the culinary options

India is one of the world’s most vegetarian-friendly countries and has some of the most delicious cuisine available for a fairly inexpensive price. Jaipur has food tours available where you and your friends can take a guided tour of some of the best foods in the city and get acquainted with some of the more authentic options. As the largest city in Rajasthan, Jaipur presents a multitude of options, whether that is real Indian curry (which can be surprisingly not as spicy as you would think) or slow-cooked chicken. Your best bet to get the most authentic Indian food is to venture into some local restaurants instead of the most touristy ones.

Get out and explore Rajasthan

Rajasthan, the northwest Indian state in which Jaipur is located, in general presents a more traditional view of Indian life. Home to many natural and man-made attractions, Rajasthan possesses a lot of sites that are not to be missed during a trip to Jaipur. Home to a vast desert and an impressive mountain range in addition to ancient palaces and towering skyscrapers, Rajasthan has quite a bit to offer. If time allows, check out two other cities of the region–Jodhpur and Udaipur, which also are home to both historic and charming palaces and other landmarks. Another popular attraction in the region is visiting elephant zoos–spend a day caring for and learning about elephants and end the  day by taking a ride on one.

Practice the art of negotiation

India is the perfect place to practice your negotiating skills, as little comes without at least some bartering. Rajasthan, and particularly Jaipur, is known for the brightly colored fabrics sold in markets and shops across the region. Check out the street markets in the city and barter your way into buying several of the most beautiful Indian fabrics to bring back home. Mastering the art of negotiation in street markets is no easy feat–it comes with much practice, patience, and knowing a fair price. Try to hit the markets, especially in the Pink City part of Jaipur, early in the morning before most tourists venture in to get the best deals.

Go to the City Palace in the Pink City

Jaipur is often referenced as the Pink City, due to the color of many buildings. The Pink City in particular refers to an old part of town. The City Palace, located within the Pink City, was built between 1729 and 1732 AD with certain parts having been added later on. The unique architecture of the courtyards, gardens, and buildings, in addition to the amazing views of the city it offers make it one of the top destinations  of Jaipur. Additionally, it is in close proximity to some great restaurants and shopping in the Pink City.

Summer 2012 T-Shirt Photo Contest

We are excited to announce the kick-off of our second annual Summer T-Shirt Photo Contest!

World Endeavors summer Interns, Students, and Volunteers will be submitting photos of their experiences from around the world throughout the summer, and the winners’ photos will be proudly displayed on our website, blog, and Facebook page.

Instead of just one contest for the whole summer this year, we are having a contest for each month (June, July, and August), and we will declare a winner and a runner-up for each month. Voting is open from the first to the last day of each month – be sure to stop by our Facebook page often (more photos will be added throughout the months) to vote on your favorites!  You can vote by commenting or “liking” the specific photo(s).

Best of luck to all of our participants!

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Travel in Europe: 10 Money-Saving Tips

Flights. Souvenirs. Weekend trips. As many of you know, the costs of travelling in Europe can add up quick. But, a good budget and a few expert tips can go a long way. Whether you’re studying or interning, we’ve got some great money-saving tips for you!

  1. If you get a cell phone, choose a plan that allows you to add minutes to your phone whenever you’d like. This way, you can add minutes only when you really need them, instead of receiving a large monthly bill for how much you’ve accrued.
  2. When traveling, book a hostel instead of a hotel. You can find some pretty unique and luxurious hostels all over Europe for as little as 15 Euro. Prefer to stay in a single room? Many hostels now offer this as an option (some even include an ensuite bathroom).
  3. Buy toiletries and other necessities before you leave home. Some of your favorite items may not be available abroad, or may be more expensive. When you return home, free up some room in your suitcase by throwing out any leftover toiletries or leaving them with friends who are staying.
  4. Take advantage of public transportation! Trains and buses are MUCH cheaper than taxis and give some insight into how the locals live.
  5. Don’t eat out for every meal. If possible, try cooking for yourself at least once a day. (Bonus points if you cook a local dish!)
  6. If you have an international student ID or an ID for your program, be sure to always carry it with you. Many places offer discounts for students.
  7. Search entry times and fees before you go to museums or other tourist locations. Many have special deals for certain days of the week. (Example: The Louvre in Paris offers free admission on the first Sunday of every month from October to March)
  8. Search for cheap plane tickets when traveling to other countries in Europe. Flights tend to be cheapest when going to and from larger cities (like London, for example). If you’re travelling to or from a smaller city, try taking a train or bus to a larger hub for your flight. This can help cut down on costs, and makes the trip that much more of an adventure!
  9. Find a travel buddy. Travelling with a friend is safer and allows you both to save money on things you can split (such as lodging).
  10. As much as you may want to spend money on clothes, shoes, and souvenirs, remember that it is likely you will find similar items all around Europe. Try to budget your money and limit yourself to one or two items from each city you visit.

World Endeavors Summer Photo Contest

Hello to all of our World Endeavors volunteers, interns, and students going abroad in spring/summer 2008!

We are excited to have participants in 16 countries this summer – Costa Rica, Ecuador, Brazil, Spain, Italy, England, Ghana, Thailand, China, Nepal, India, Guatemala, New Zealand, the Philippines, France, and Jamaica! With so many incredible people abroad doing so many incredible things, it would be a shame to not have a way for you to share all of your experiences with each other. And so…

I am excited to announce the first ever World Endeavors Summer Photo Contest! This contest will be a way for all of you to share what you’re up to, as well as to show off your photography skills. We will be collecting photos in 3 categories:
People – Photos of you, new friends, host families, people you work/volunteer/study with, etc.

Landscapes – These can be urban or natural – scenes from the cities, towns, and rural areas where you’re living and traveling.

Food – Who doesn’t love food pictures? I want to see typical meals from your countries, scenes from produce markets, and all of the crazy new things you’ve been brave enough to try (or at least brave enough to photograph!)

Email your pictures to us by July 10 (so you’ve got a few weeks to get out there and take some photos!). You don’t need to submit one for each category – just send in what you’ve got.

I will post all of the submissions right here on this blog, and then you will have a chance to vote for your favorites. The winning photos in each category will be featured on our website!

So if you’ve got some great pictures already, send them in, and if you’ve been shy with the camera so far, get out there and get some great shots! We can’t wait to see what you’ve got.