I still can't believe it, but here I am - China. Today officially marks one month that I've been away from home participating in a field school opportunity offered through my nursing program and traveling around China. To put into words what this time has been so far is seeming to be an impossible task. It's been a month of time change, language barriers and culture shock. A month of new smells, new food and new people.
If you are an introvert—like me—you can probably imagine that being in a group setting in a foreign country 24/7 for thirty days will pose some challenges. Introverts need quiet time to recharge, so being in a group all day can be draining. Before departing for my field school I pondered how I would navigate the upcoming reality of very little quiet time in addition to the regular ups and downs of a field school experience. I have now spent the past three weeks in a group of mostly extroverted individuals, and it has been a great experience.
This first week in Costa Rica has been very enjoyable. Flying for the first time has been very exciting and long. The first thing I noticed once we landed in Costa Rica was the extremely intense humidity. It’s like opening the door to the steam room at the swimming pool. The driving style is very different from driving in Canada. Pedestrians do not have the right of way, and there is constant honking in the streets. Drivers are also very aggressive not hesitating to cut each other off to get onto the road.
In less than 1 week I will be in China! On May 16th I will land in Shanghai with my group from Langara College in Vancouver, BC. I almost can’t wait! I realized that one of the things I am most excited about in China is food! I decided to seek out and try one special dish in each area that we will visit.
Shanghai & “Stinky Tofu”
It was only a couple months ago that I packed my entire life into a suitcase, leaving Canada and everyone that I knew to begin my study abroad trip. Finally, I am beginning to get used to converting currencies in my head at the grocery store and having nearly everyone I talk to comment on my “Canadian accent.” School in England is very different from what I was expecting, but it is an experience to see how digital media courses are taught in a different country.
Helen Keller said, “life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all”. Her words express a longing in my heart for adventure- to experience new places and culture, climb new summits and meet new people. Today however, as I sit here thinking about my impending departure this coming Friday to embark on the biggest adventure of my life, I feel as though I am grasping at the strings of that longing as something to hold on to, and frantically trying to stop shaking in my boots.
Why are you doing this? I recently attended a pre-departure workshop on building cultural competence and was asked this question. Each of the twenty-five or so attendees shared with the group their reason for participating in their respective field schools. Feeling a bit on the spot, I answered the first thing that came to mind: "I have always wanted to go to another country and volunteer, especially with children, and thought it was a great opportunity to do so through my program of study (dental hygiene)". After the workshop, I started to think more about that question.
It’s April 30th, the day before my trip to Costa Rica. In this Natural Resource Field School and Cultural Exchange class I will be experiencing and learning about how Costa Rica manages its natural resources and how this country balances the different land uses. Being that this is my first time leaving Canada, I am extremely excited about this opportunity. Preparing for this trip has been a new experience as well. Little things like applying for a passport, getting travel insurance, and taking a day-long Spanish class have been both interesting and overwhelming.
Here’s an update on my study abroad experience so far: I’ve been here for almost 4 months, with only 2 months left until my journey is over. Spain is a beautiful country with a diverse landscape and culture. Between attending classes and studying, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to a few different major cities. Here are some places I’ve been to in Spain:
This semester I will be going on an international exchange through the University of Victoria to the Madrid, Spain where I will attend the University of Alcalá. I will live in the municipality of Alcalá de Henares for five months while I am attending school. I am so excited to embark on this amazing journey where I will experience a new culture, language and way of living.