Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Scotland Study Abroad Semester Fall 2016

My semester study abroad experience was one of the most memorable and rewarding. This was the perfect opportunity to not only learn about a different country and culture, but also learn a lot about myself as an individual.

I studied at a business school, Robert Gordon University, in Aberdeen, Scotland. The school itself was very diverse and had students from all over Europe, which allowed me to learn about cultures beyond Scotland. I got to know some very great instructors and some of them still email me to ask how I am and how my studies are going.

Although study abroad sounds mostly academic, it was much more than that and taught me lessons that I would have not been able to learn in a classroom. I learned that getting out of my comfort zone can be rewarding and allows me to expand my worldview.

I got to see many beautiful places and meet wonderful people. The first thing I noticed about Scotland was the fresh air and no bugs. It was so great not seeing a spider in my room for three months! Scotland has some of the most gorgeous landscapes that I got to enjoy.


The best and most important part of my experience was the friendships that I created while being abroad. I made friends with people from different countries that shared their culture, cuisine, celebrations, and traditions with me. Even though I come from an international background, I quickly saw how little of the world I know and how amazing it is being exposed to a different environment and learn about different people. This experience allowed to me to be more open towards people and left me with lifelong memories that shaped me as an individual. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Winter Break

Japan is about half the size of my home state of Texas. You wouldn't expect such a small country to house the world's largest city, Tokyo. The seemingly endless city defies every expectations. A street can be packed shoulder to shoulder as far as you can see while a block over is a quiet forest. I had the opportunity to visit Tokyo over my winter break and put together this video to recap the trip.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Tea With a Monk

In late September Japan takes a day off to celebrate the changing season, which left me to explore my new home a bit. Hikone is surrounded by mountains so I looked up the closest one and set off on bicycles with my housemate Daiki to climb it.

At it's foot there was a big, busy park but no mention of a trail head. We began circling the foot of the mountain until we found what looked like a shrine entrance which maybe would lead to the top, or maybe just to a shrine. Either way we wanted to check it out. A few minutes of hiking later we found the trail didn't lead to the summit or a shrine. Instead it lead away from the summit and towards a temple. Not a bad find. Grave sites dotted the mountain around the temple so we wandered around those marveling at their age and fixing one knocked down by a tree. 

When we came back through the temple grounds we sat down and talked for a while, catching the attention of a monk living in the temple. He came outside and, instead of asking us to leave, he invited us in for tea. Feeling mystified, I followed him into what was literally a thousand year old temple (rebuilt 400 years ago). We sat down with him for tea while looking out over his garden before getting a tour of the temple. I didn't get any pictures of the inside but it was like a museum without glass around the artifacts. 

I couldn't follow any of the conversation but learned from Daiki that the monk takes care of the temple completely by himself. He said its a lot of work so Daiki offered to send international students interested in Japanese history to help occasionally. The monk invited us to come back anytime and gave us umbrellas to go home with.

About a week later Daiki wanted to head back to the temple and work out some kind of schedule with the monk. I tagged along hoping to get pictures of some of the artifacts this time. We arrived back at the temple only to find nobody was home. Because we had biked all the way out to the mountain I suggested we explore a bit and maybe find the trail head this time. We started up a road going in the right general direction until we found an older couple coming down. Daiki asked which way to the top and they told the road we're on goes all the way up. We continued following the road up where we found a shrine and a take-off platform for hang gliding, presumably so you can say a little prayer before jumping off a mountain. From here we could see our whole town and all the way across lake Biwa to the next town. Looking down the mountain we saw hang gliders sitting in a field so I guess we just missed the show.

To summarize, during my first week in Japan I set off to climb a mountain and found a temple. In my second week I went to visit a temple and instead climbed a mountain. I'm learning that sometimes the lack of a plan is the best plan. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Joy of Biking in Japan

I spent 4 weeks in Japan, a country that I have always loved and was faced with doing something that I had abandoned once I reached middle school and that was riding a bike. Even before going, I knew that a bike would be provided for me and I had originally planned to reject it and utilize the bus like I do in America.
The first night, I rejected the bike with a good excuse of being uneasy and unsettled upon just getting into the country. This decision left me and a few others walking in the light
rain watching others head home quickly on their bikes. The next day, I got on my bike and took it out making me realize that my initial rejection was kind of silly.
Over the 4 weeks that I spent in Shiga, I rode my bike almost everyday. It was convenient, fun and gave me the feeling that I was fitting more into the culture around me with such a simple act. I also felt free and safe which is a bit odd if you're in a foreign country. I wanted to keep that feeling and bring it home, I didn't realize that there was another factor playing a part.
Fast forward to my first week back home and I am planning to try and recreate the bike experience I had in Japan. It seemed well at first until I stood outside in my neighborhood and remembered the feeling it caused. I tried to imagine myself doing the things I did in Japan and the kind of places I went. It wouldn't be the same. The place I live is more spread out and has a slightly volatile atmosphere. It is more practical and safe to be in a car or bus. For now, I have put the idea of biking in Orlando away and plan to wait until I can get back to Japan to enjoy biking again.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Eating breakfast in the business class lounge!

I have never flown first-class and this is a real treat.  Who would have known there is a free breakfast buffet in the airline lounge?  Now, I am ready for my long flight to Seoul, South Korea. My advise at this point is to make sure you have a travel-size personal care kit!  I really thought I didn't need one but I BARELY woke up in time to catch my flight out of LAX.  I am really wishing right now I didn't have to buy a $4 USD travel-size toothpaste, a $3 USD travel-size toothbrush, or a $5 USD travel-size deodorant!  

Thursday, June 30, 2016

ISP 2016 - Konkuk University

I can't believe that the day has finally come: I am on my way to South Korea!

This will be my first time traveling overseas and my first time writing blogs...so bare with me, please.  I am used to being in a foreign country since I have traveled often to Mexico since I was a child but South Korea will be a completely different experience.  I am looking forward to it!

Today, I took a bus from Apizaco, Tlaxcala, Mexico to Mexico City in order to catch my flight to Los Angeles. I will stay the night in Los Angeles and head to South Korea tomorrow morning (7/1/2016).  Keep reading my posts for pictures of my journey to Konkuk University!!

      *My cat Tipp wanting to travel with me to South Korea!
       *Taking the bus to Mexico City from Apizaco, Tlaxcala!
       *Looking for the Secured Taxi service at the bus terminal
      *On my way to the International Airport in Mexico City!                                                              

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Bath, England

River Avon and Bath
    I couldn't wait to get to Bath, England when I heard we were planning on going there on the Scotland and England Study Tour. I am a big fan of Jane Austen so I looked forward to seeing the setting for two of her books, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. It was truly a beautiful city and lived up to what I imagined.
    Bath is located on the River Avon so I was able to walk along the streets by the river. The bridges, houses, and buildings are very ornate, old and beautiful. The Circus is a section of buildings that are attached to each other except for three entrances and they form a circle.
    I stopped by the Jane Austen House, had a Cornish pasty (which is synonymous with the city of Bath), Bath Abbey, toured the Roman Baths, and walked along the streets taking in the old buildings and watching street performers.
The Circus
    The city of Bath is known for its Roman Baths that can be toured. The tour is very informative of the the history of how the Roman's built the baths there. The waters, as you can see in the picture, has a green tinge to it. The water is this color now because it remains uncovered but, historically, it would have been covered and the waters would not have been green. The waters were believed to have healing properties in it with all the minerals that are in the water.
The Roman Baths
    The city is very huge and I was unable to see everything I wanted to but I hope that I will be able to return one day and see anything I might have missed.
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