My time in Australia was better than I could have ever asked for. While I have visited Melbourne due to my Dad’s family and dual citizenship, actually living there made the city and the experience come alive. There are many lessons I want to take away from my time abroad, but I think I will leave this blog with my top 3.
Being inclusive is above all- The people I met at Uni Melb were some of the most extraverted and welcoming people I have ever had the privilege of meet. They always had the mindset that saying hi was a must, even if you don’t know the other person too well, and that there was always room for one more. At Colby, I want to bring this mentality back. I want to be the inclusive people at Uni Melb that meant the world to me, even if they didn’t know how much I needed that invite, hello, or coffee.
Exam System- I learned to not leave everything to the last minute. For the exams in. Australia, you have less resources, the exams weigh more for your final grade, and there is no one to hold your hand through it all. This means that you have to be organized, self relient, and persistent.
We are beyond lucky for our advisory, professor, and administrative staff at Colby. While I absolutely loved my time at Uni Melb as elicited above, Uni Melb staff are not there for you to the same degree as Colby. I am beyond lucky that I better learned to advocate for myself while abroad, however this also allowed me. To realize that I also need to take advantage of what Colby truly has to offer.
I absolutely loved my time at Uni Melb. I made life long friends, memories, and words to live by. I would not change those memories for the world
Leaving Ghana a few days ago was bittersweet. I was excited to get back home and see friends and family, but very sad that I had to leave the friends and family I had made while in Ghana. I learned so much and fell in love with the people and culture, specifically in Accra. Initially, I was supposed to study in South Africa, but because of Covid-19, the program was moved first to Mozambique and then eventually Ghana. But, it feels like I was meant to be in Ghana and I’m so glad I got to have this experience. Here’s a quick summary of my favorite final moments in the country.
~Ghana from above as my flight was departing the country & my flight tracker when I was about halfway back home
The last month of the program was an independent study session, where students chose to either do a research project or an internship. I chose to intern with a film and tv production company in Accra. For the month, I was part of the writing and editing team of a tv show currently in development. I met so many talented writers and producers and made connections that could land me a job in Ghana after college, which I am excited about.
~ Some of our cohort at the top of Mount Afadjato, the highest point in Ghana. We took a trip here before the start of our independent study session.
My birthday was on one of the final days in the program, and my friend and I went to the tallest bar in Accra. However, we didn’t realize that you had to make a reservation and almost didn’t get in. But, a kind couple saw that we were having trouble getting in and said that we could join their reservation. We ended up sitting and talking with them the entire night. This moment was really a testament to the compassion of Ghanaians, especially in relation to foreigners. I don’t think I had a single experience with a rude Ghanaian in the three months I was there. Even on my way to the airport to leave, my Uber driver actually worked at the airport and it was his day off. My friend who rode to the airport with me wanted to come inside to make sure everything went smoothly before I headed to my gate. But, they normally don’t allow people who don’t have flights to enter the airport. So, our Uber driver came inside with us to make sure that nobody stopped us and my friend could see me off. These are some of the moments that made me not want to leave.
~ My friend and I at the airport before I left. Taking the picture is none other than the Uber driver I spoke of previously. The second picture is me at the rooftop bar overlooking Accra.
Our cohort also began to feel like a family. As I mentioned, my birthday fell around the end of the trip. Coincidentally, our chef, Auntie Ama, had her birthday on the 21st and her son on the 18th. So, our program staff decided to throw a joint birthday party at our program site. So many people showed up, some I knew, some I didn’t, but it really felt like a family function. The party really showed me that I have family in Accra whenever I decide to come back and this wasn’t just a study abroad program, but I’ve made lifelong connections.
~ Kojo and I at our joint birthday party. He turned 1 and I turned 21! The other picture is of my fellow classmates and our academic director at our end-of-the-semester dinner after we gifted him a plaque of appreciation.
Many of my past blog posts have focused primarily on Indigenous cultures of Australia and while this is incredibly important to recognize and speak up about, The Australian culture extends far beyond this single perspective. As silly as it sounds, cafe and coffee culture is incredibly important to the average Australian. While in America we tend to see coffee as just a way to get caffeine into our system, Australian’s see it as a way to feel connected with their community and friends. While Australians spend an enormous amount of money on coffee, they do it because it allows them to take a step back, enjoy their friends, and enjoy the delicious coffee. They also pride themselves greatly on the quality of their coffee and service. While it is usually at the expense of mocking American coffee, they feel genuine pride when talking about their coffee. I never thought I would be a religious coffee drinker until a came here.
Surf culture is another important aspect of the lives of many here in Australia. With more than 8 in 10 Australians (85%) living within 50 kilometers of the coastline of Australia, it is no surprise that the people here are drawn to the ocean. However, the proximity is not the key driver that brings people to the surf beach but the community and connection which it establishes. Being out in the water with people that appreciate the beauty, peaceful, and humbling nature of the water is truly a unique experience. The people here respect the ocean and understand its true power. While surfing can be seen as an individual sport, it also is far from it. The people around you are always willing to help you catch that wave, give you advice, and show you some fantastic local spots. They embrace the chill, energetic, and lively nature of the ocean in every aspect
Lastly, the inclusive nature of Australia is something that I want to bring back to the Colby campus. While Colby is inclusive to some degree, it also could you some help from the Australian system. Here, it seems like everyone’s mentality is the more the merrier. With everyone embracing new people with open arms. Instead of taking pride in being invited to a party that other people weren’t, here, people get upset when people are left out and actively try to bridge the gap. I want to bring that mindset to Colby. That pride should come when everyone feels a part of the community. When everyone feels like they can open up, make new friends, and move outside of their comfort zone without being judged.
I am so incredibly proud that I am starting to be able to be a part of these cultures over here and am excited to bring them back.
I took some great courses during my semester in Stockholm, but the things I learned in those courses don’t define my semester. I went to Sweden because I wanted to experience Swedish culture, and I learned silly things while abroad, like it’s really easy to just hard boil an egg. It doesn’t have to be a dozen eggs at a time, a whole process. It can be one egg boiled for six minutes before I catch the bus. I gained new perspectives, and not just on the possibilities of boiled eggs.
Throughout the semester, I was interested in Sweden’s fika culture. It’s not “let’s have a coffee,” it’s “let’s have a fika,” and somehow, this translates to more. Fika is important for how it creates balance—it gives community to the solitude and warmth to the cold—and shows intentionality, which reflects a broader collective attitude. Swedes work, and Swedes exercise. It’s hard to find a couple or partnership where there’s only one breadwinner, and people are out running and skiing and biking like it’s part of their job. After cold temperatures and hard work, a fika break is often well-deserved, or they need something warm to thaw them out. Having been in Sweden for the winter, I appreciate the way that a cold walk or a cold ski could always be followed by a warm up with a coffee and my family or friends. I love candlelight and cardamom. There is pressure to be outside and active, and yet there is a great appreciation for all things mysig (cozy). Sweden’s heart beats for balance.
In Sweden, there’s no guilt if you sit down with a coffee and pastry, and there shouldn’t be. Fika shows that socializing and breaks should be regular and routine, just like hard work. It coexists with meaningful social interaction and rest. (Plus, they’re usually biking home.)
While fika is ingrained in Swedish life, they don’t do excess. They stick to their lagom, where everything is not too much nor too little. It’s just enough. My host mom joked, “You don’t want the first twenty years of marriage to be lagom, but after…” she shrugged, and we laughed. Her husband of almost twenty years was sitting across from her. So, Swedes have their fika, they enjoy their cinnamon buns and their coffees, and they leave the Americans to indulge in excess. Swedes take care of their comfort with their candles and blankets and bullar, but they don’t let themselves get too comfy for too long. Sometimes, I need a little shove out the door.
Some other things that were put in perspective: commuting is not a big deal. As someone who has always lived in a small town, the city was a nice change. Also, walking feels so good. Sweden said to me, get on a bus and use your legs to take yourself somewhere you want to go. Forty-five minutes isn’t such a long time, but it’s plenty of time to create a change. To arrive somewhere new.
I learned to give people the opportunity to surprise me. The few times that I had to muster my courage to burst some people’s bubbles, I was rewarded with kindness and interest. I thought Swedes would hate to be bothered since they are stereotyped as stiff, independent, and dull, but that’s not really the case at all (of course). Although they aren’t as likely to say hi to you in a store, they aren’t unfriendly, and they are especially kind and generous when you know them. It is good to be friends with a Swede.
My friend and I talked about how we appreciated the intentionality of the Swedes we met (largely our host families thanks to the pandemic), and it was reflected in the city. I fell in love with walking the streets and seeing so many families out with strollers, people coming home with flowers, young and old enjoying a fika, groups of toddlers in their bright vests being led by caregivers, and as the sun shined warmly down, Swedes sticking their faces toward the su
To me, Stockholm was a novelty, and it was inspiring to be somewhere new. It was a great reset and refresh, and greatest of all was the opportunity to experience that the barriers and constraints I build into my life often don’t need to be there. I don’t need more time or a dozen hard-boiled eggs. I just need to do it—whatever that may be—and stop finding reasons not to. And, I need balance. I’m excited to return to Colby and dive deeper into my English major, and I hope to maintain the enthusiasm I found in Stockholm to discover something new every day. If I can apply the attitude with which I explored Sweden to the way I approach my academic learning, my senior year will be the best one yet.
I have only a week and a half of my DIS semester left before I head back home. Sometimes it hits me how long I’ve been here, but at the same time it feels like the semester is just starting. I finally met all of my professors in person just this last week and all the other students from the US arrived in Denmark just a couple of weeks ago. So in that sense it does feel like the semester has just begun even though at the same time we are all preparing for departure.
This semester has been both so challenging while at the same time being incredibly rewarding. Looking back on it, I think it has been a growing experience like none other. Coming to a locked down Denmark in the middle of January without any of the other Americans in my program was really daunting. There were times when I was shocked at how out of place and removed I felt from anything familiar and without any kind of support system to fall back on. I had to make my own way, literally and figuratively. As time went by I slowly began to settle into life here and make it my own. The cold Danish winter has now turned into a warm green spring. Foreign buildings and sights have become familiar. Biking around the city which I once found intimidating has now become easy. I can understand some Danish spoken words in passing. I have made Danish friends and now made some new American friends. I have developed a routine, while at the same time life seems like it’s constantly changing. In some ways it feels like after moving to a foreign country in the middle of a pandemic and in the dead of winter, I can do anything. I know I will apply what I have learned here to new experiences going forward.
Here are some highlights from the past weeks:
One of my favorite takeaways from this experience has been the chance to build my own relationship with Denmark. I grew up visiting Denmark, but only on short term vacations. Going abroad here and not being allowed to leave Denmark has allowed me the time and space to really explore the city and the country for myself, make friends here, and build my own association with Denmark. I now understand so much more about where my family is from and where my Dad grew up. I can speak to my family in Danish and understand them culturally much better than I did before. These lessons are invaluable and I am very grateful to have been able to have the experiences that I have had this spring. I am just wrapping up my last classes now, and I am looking forward to a last week in Denmark spent enjoying springtime in the city with new friends and old.
Throughout my semester abroad, the theme of COVID-19 was always prevalent. Fortunately, I was able to conduct a study on how disgust would affect our attention within the context of this virus, and present our findings at the end of the semester (similar to CLAS!). Some of the key findings we found were participants who scored higher on the COVID-19 survey (indicating higher concern) tended to attenuate more toward the clean stimuli (whether by dwelling slightly longer or having more revisits). We also found, not to our surprise from sitting through all of the trials, that people usually looked at the disgusting images more in general. This may be due to the images posing more of a threat and requiring more attention to be aware of the risk in order to better avoid it. While we did not have enough participants to get a high enough power to determine gender differences or priming significance, it was still interesting to see how individual’s behavior and attitudes toward COVID-19 influenced their attention tendencies. Overall, our results indicated that the more concerned an individual is for health threats such as the virus, the more likely they would be to want to avoid disgusting stimuli that also represent a threat to their health, which supports the theory that disgust is a disease avoidance mechanism.
From being able to study abroad during the pandemic to conducting research about it, I am extremely grateful for these opportunities at DIS. Although we were not allowed to travel out of the country, I was able to truly immerse myself in the Swedish culture with visits to different cities and provinces through school trips. This semester has been an extremely valuable and special experience, and I am so happy it went as well as it did (I did not get sick once!). Despite my worries and concern for how Sweden was handling the pandemic at first, my thoughts toward their approach are less harsh (though still critical) compared to my first post. While I still think masks should be mandated in public spaces, I could understand now that Sweden was able to prioritize people’s mental health by not having a lockdown of everything, which also helped their economy to not take as big of a hit compared to the U.S. Only time will tell how these effects will play out in the long-run, but Sweden may once again prove themselves despite the unorthodox methods.
Surprise! I finally made it to Copenhagen, Denmark! I arrived last Saturday and have been quarantining for the past four days at the hotel right next to the airport. But, I got tested today and once my results come back, I can break my quarantine! Unfortunately, I arrived during the last week of the semester so I’ve now finished all of my classes online. But, I have also chosen to stay for the first summer session that DIS has offered to us for no additional cost to make up for the lost time during the spring semester. That means I will be here for another month or so and will finally be able to explore everything that I have learned in my online classes. To wrap up my spring semester with a study abroad program online, I thought I would share some reflections on my experience.
As we all may know, having all your classes online can super draining and it’s easy to feel disengaged and unmotivated. For me, this was especially true due to the 9-hour time difference from my home in the west coast to Copenhagen time. The DIS faculty did their best to accommodate the different time zones that students were in, but for me that still meant having class at 05:30 or 07:00 everyday. At the same time, I had to be mindful of due dates and other meetings outside of class. It was so exhausting to be unable to live and work according to my own timezone. Despite these struggles, I felt I was able to somehow pull through with the support of the friends I had made in some of my classes. It was new experience for me to get to know my professors and make friends through Zoom classes, but it was one of the only ways to feel connected despite being virtual. I am so grateful to those I was able to connect with and I am so excited to meet up with them for the first time in the next couple of days!
In regards to my classes themselves, I felt that I learned a lot from my child development and education class and children with special needs class. Both of these classes are directly related to what I hope to pursue as a future career in psychology and education and taking them gave me some reassurance in choosing this career path. At the same time, as course in a study abroad program, I gained rich insights into educational practices and different perspectives regarding child development and children in general found in Denmark. As evident in my past blog posts, there are several cultural differences regarding social services provided to families, pedagogical practices, and each society and culture’s value systems. Recognizing these differences and engaging in critical analyses of each has allowed me to see the advantages and disadvantages of certain aspects within both U.S and Danish contexts. There are definitely many elements of Danish pedagogical practice that I think the U.S would benefit from implementing in ways that will fit our context and needs, including providing children with more opportunities to learn through play and first-hand experiences. I hope I will be able to take what I have learned in my classes, and soon from my own experiences in Denmark, and apply them to my work at Colby and in future career!
At the beginning of my internship, I choose three words to describe the professional experience goals I wanted to adhere throughout my time at MIT D-Lab. The three words I would describe my professional identity is through community-centered, research and resourcefulness.
The first phase of my internship was understanding the wide range of work that MIT D-Lab does and the impact of the organization. I was delighted to know that D-Lab has made a positive impact in global communities in Africa, Europe, and India by giving people the tools to design and create their solutions. I love this user-centered approach that D-Lab uses especially because it different compared to how saturated development work is with white-centered solutions without listening to those impacted. I also have taken a community-centered approach through networking and building relationships with my mentor and other workers at MIT D-Lab. Being community-centered means also being resourceful. Because I took the time to connect with people at D-Lab, I had a great deal of support during my internship.
For instance, I talked to the communication manager who helped me with understanding outreach strategies and even helped me with outlining a senior proposal for my college. Due to the nature of my special project, research was part of every part of my special project. Interestingly, even though I have completed several research projects, I struggled with narrowing down my research results. During my desk research, I found an immense amount of information on organizations that were like D-Lab. Talking with my mentor helped me to narrow down the research and focus on quality over quantity content.
Looking at these three words that I have chosen for my professional experience, I would change them from research to creativity. I would make this switch because creating the deliverables from the project made me realize how much creativity is required in all the work I undertake. So I want to emphasize creativity because it is a hard but rewarding skill. Being able to practice creativity is what helped me craft my recommendations for D-Lab and what has pushed me in every component of my internship. I had to practice creativity for making a blog post on Inclusive Business Leaders for D-Lab. I had to practice creativity for the number of different graphics I created for D-Lab’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Learning the design principle was crucial to making my creative work better and more accessible.
In terms of my career development, my internship has helped me narrow my career interests. I made great efforts to talk to other coworkers about their various work experiences in development to see if I can see myself being happy in their industries. I learned that working at small organizations might not be the best fit for me because of experiences with overworking and not having a great work/life balance. I am still working toward finding a career that will allow me to combine my talents and interest. In finding this dream career path, I also emphasize being able to have a healthy and great work-life balance. This is because being able to live and spend time with those who love me and support me is extremely important to me with whatever career path I land on.