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Scottish Weather Woes

20 Nov

As most of us native Hoosiers know (and anyone who has been at Purdue long enough to witness all four seasons), Mother Nature answers to no one.  This I’ve discovered  hasn’t changed with me switching continents.  Here in Scotland, she is as ever indecisive as she is in Indiana.  It is almost impossible to predict what weather gear you are going to need on any giving day.  Watching the forecast is a good place to start, but be careful the weather man lies.  Even if there is a 0% chance of rain that day and you see a grey cloud in the sky, be prepared to get wet.  My phone app, I’ve just realized, only gives me the actual temperature and not what it feels like with the wind chill. I have walked outside one too many times  thinking I’ll be fine in a warm sweater just to have to run back into my room for my coat. Thankfully, I have it on good authority that it doesn’t get as cold here as it does in Indiana (a lady in the study abroad office used to work at that crimson and creme school in Indiana), but it is still pretty cold on the days it does hit below the freezing point. Anyway I wanted to share  a short list of weather supplies you can’t survive in St Andrews without:

  • Rainboots/Waterproof shoes
    • Some people might tell you that you can get by without a good pair of rain boots,  but I’m here to say they are wrong. I tried to survive Scotland without rainboots, but its impossible. You will need a pair of rain shoes.  Male or female, if you don’t want to be constantly shoving newspaper into your shoes trying to dry them out.  You don’t necessarily need to pack them because you can find a good pair in stores pretty cheap. I think I got mine for 20 quid when I was in Glasgow a few weeks ago. They have made my life considerably happier.  Wet socks are the worst.
  • Sweaters
    • Unless you want to be chilly in lectures, bring or plan on picking up some warm sweaters.  I suggest wool if you aren’t allergic.  A lot of the classrooms and lecture halls here in St Andrews can be pretty drafty.  I have a tutorial in a professor’s office and even sitting beside his space heater I freeze without a sweater!  Even my own room can get chilly because the heating is only one during certain hours of the day to save energy. 
  • Fleece Jacket and Heavy Coat
    • This one seems the most obvious of this list, but I actually came to Scotland without either of these things.  I accidentally left my fleece at home and I didn’t want to have to deal with packing a heavy coat.   Fleece jackets don’t seem to be quite as popular here. I don’t see them in stores much,  but bring one to help fight the chill off!  A winter coat is also a no brainer.  If you are like me and don’t want to worry about dragging on all the way here there are some great stores that carry nice, warm winter coats. I bought one for about 70 pounds from a local store and I couldn’t be happier with it.  It is the warmest coat I think I’ve ever owned.
  • Accessories
    • You should always have in your bag a hat, a pair of gloves, and an umbrella.  I’ve had it start raining on me when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The temperature is in flux all day so you never know when a big wind will kick up with a cold bite to it.  And if the sun does decided to stick its head out from behind the clouds, you can always put your accessories back into your bag.  Better safe than sorry.
  • Socks
    • Socks have been the plight of my existence here in Scotland! I don’t know what it is, but every time I leave St Andrews I’ve had to buy more socks.  You can ask my traveling buddies and they will let you know that cold feet are my biggest complaint. My feet freeze here!  Make sure to bring nice thick socks, not just thin athletic ones.  I promise your toes will thank you (and your wallet).

While it does seem pretty basic and obvious to bring these things with you on a Scottish Adventure, I didn’t. I’ve had to buy at least one of everything on this list since I got here. Albeit I only picked up another hat because it was on sale for a pound in the grocery store.  Leave your shorts and tank tops at home.  Even on the off days in September when it did hit the mid 60s, it wasn’t warm enough for them.  In all  just make sure you are prepared for what ever the weather decides to throw your way, because after all you don’t want your study abroad experience to be defined by freezing feet and soggy clothing (which mine some days has unfortunately been).

My Scottish sock collection (and slippers too).

Haze, Rain, and School Days

18 Sep

HongKong_Nasta_2

At the current time, I’ve been in Hong Kong a little more than three weeks and the weather has improved a lot more than I expected. There are a lot more cloudy and windy days than I’d expected. I also had the opportunity to experience rain here. When going to class, it’s recommended that you always carry an umbrella, because, as I’ve learned, it can rain almost anytime (and very hard) and stop minutes later. Then you have to remember the humidity that comes with the rain and makes things pretty near unbearable.

And then there’s the smog. Pollution here is quite a bit worse than back home in Indiana. I first took note of this when my skin became ichy during my first rain here. And the time after that. And the next time.  And not only can you see the humidity in the air here, but you can often see the smog over the skyline mixing with the clouds. New York is probably just as bad, but it’s something I’ve never really experienced in the US.

I have four classes here. Two of them are in Asian/Chinese culture, one is a 400 level Asian politics course, and the last class being intro-level Japanese and I can say for a fact that I stand out quite a bit. It’s a bit odd being the minority again but with the majority being a race that I’m used to seeing as a minority. It’s eye-opening to see how the mentality of a group doesn’t really change much across racial lines when you look at groups and is pretty interesting.

As a final note, the Mid-Autumn Festival is tomorrow and I’ll be writing about that in my next post, so stay tuned!

Going to Scotland

26 Aug

Map

Hello to all the readers of Purdue Students Abroad! My name is Emily and I’ll be a blogger here starting now! Normally you can find me over on my own personal blog http://mlymllr.wordpress.com/ but I couldn’t turn down the offer to blog here too!

Now for a bit about me. I am entering my senior year at Purdue and I’ve elected to spend the fall of it as an exchange student in Scotland at the University of St Andrews. I’m an English major and no, not the education type. I’m the plain boring likes to read tons of books and argue about them type. I’ve been active in many student orgs in the past three years at Purdue such as PSUB and RHA and I’m going to miss them while I’m away, but I plan on having lots of great experiences at St Andrews to make up for it! This will be my first time out of the States because I’m not counting a three day trip I took to Canada because I was too sick to do much of anything.

This summer has been in full prep mode for my four months abroad. I’ve been scribbling and highlighting in my travel guides, watching Scottish history videos on youtube, looking for cheap deals on travel gear, and most importantly talking to other students who attend St Andrews. Thanks to tumblr and Facebook, I’ve been able to reach out to others and ask them about life at St Andrews.  From a few people on tumblr I learned that e-books are normally an acceptable form of textbooks at the university (I’ve had a bad experience before at Purdue trying to use one in class). Now I plan to take my e-reader with me!  Once I joined the St Andrew’s network on Facebook, I had access to thousands of St Andrew’s students; but most importantly I joined my res hall’s Facebook group.  Already I’m getting to meet people who I’m going to share an apartment with, learn about what goes on during Fresher’s Week, and evening learning that one of the big home-wares stores that students use is going out of business just after the start of term!

Social media has really helped calm my nerves about leaving the familiarity of West Lafayette. I’ve got two weeks until I get on that plane and travel 3,500+miles to Scotland and I start learning what it’s like to be a student at St Andrews for myself.

Until next time,

Emily

Thailand and the first week of school

20 Aug

Friday I finished my first week of classes at the National University of Singapore. The biggest difference is that most classes meet once a week for a two-hour block (105 minutes of lecture), rather than multiple times for a shorter length, plus a one- or two-hour tutorial (recitation). I have a hard enough time staying concentrated at Purdue, so some classes may be a challenge. Course registration for exchange students was a bit of a pain: in our initial application we could apply for up to ten modules, but several of the ones I wanted were rejected because the number of exchange students in each class is limited. We could make more requests a week before classes started and again the first day of classes, but some weren’t responded to until the end of this week. Then if someone still didn’t get a needed class, he would have to go to the department in person for approval. After the two adding rounds I’m happy with my modules, but we still have to register in person for the tutorial sections, resulting in an unfavorable time slot. The local students, though, have a bidding system where there’s essentially a silent auction for classes! I hear it’s stressful and complicated, but I suppose it’s better than a mad rush when MyPurdue opens.

Morgan 2

Morgan 3

Morgan 1

I’m taking two chemical engineering classes, Fluid Dynamics and Process Safety; Chinese 1; Politics of the Middle East; and Clean Energy and Storage. I’m a little worried about the difficulty of the ChemE classes, with the final exam worth over half the grade and it being graded on a secret bell curve! I’m jealous of the many exchange students who get to take all their classes pass/fail – I’m doing it for Chinese.

This week has been great for meeting more new friends. I was suprised to walk into my Chinese class and already know five other students there! Monday evening there was a welcome party for the exchangers, where I also met Linus, the unofficial NUS lion mascot. On Thursday and Friday I attend three club call-outs, which they call Welcome Teas but don’t actually serve tea. Two were hiking clubs, but I was sorely disappointed to learn that all their cool trips to Malaysia and other countries are only in the summer and winter breaks, something that wouldn’t really work at Purdue. The third was for Dive Club, and I’m really excited to learn how to Scuba dive and go to the reef at Pulau Dayang in the South China Sea. Saturday I went with a big group to the National Museum of Singapore, which has a fantastic exhibit about the country’s history.

Last week before classes started my parents and brother visited me here and I had a chance to show them around the place I’d lived the past two months. They were excited to see campus, Chinatown, Kampong Glam, Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay, the Botanic Gardens, and other sights of Singapore. For four nights in the middle of their trip we went to Khao Lak, Thailand, which is just north of Phuket Island. We stayed at a great resort, where the Swedish Prime Minister had actually just left! It unfortunately rained our whole first day, but we got great $8 Thai massages. The next day we went for elephant rides! My brother and I got a 12-year-old elephant named Puey, and we got to sit in both the saddle seat and on the huge neck where the mahout (trainer) usually sits. The best part of course was going to a reservoir and swimming with the elephants! It was so much fun when they stood up when we were trying to climb on but slid off instead. Thursday we took a full day trip to Phang Nga Bay National Park, which is filled with incredible karsts, limestone formations dramatically rising from the sea. We made a stop at James Bond Island, a narrow rock used in The Man with the Golden Gun, and for lunch we visited Ko Panyee, a floating village built around one of the karsts, where about 1600 people live. Afterward we went to the Sea Turtle Conservation Center, where we saw hundred of cute baby sea turtles! They raise them in tanks for several months until they’re big enough to be released.

Back to now, yesterday some friends and I went to the Istana, Singapore’s presidential palace, which is only open four times a year. The grounds and mansion were very nice, and we even got to see President Tony Tan and his wife! They just walked right past us on our tour; not something you can do so easily in the US or many other countries!

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Eight weeks in Singapore

29 Jul

sawyerIt’s hard to believe I’ve already been in Singapore for eight weeks! Now that the semester will be starting soon, it’s time to share my experiences with you Boilermakers too! I’ve been keeping a personal blog at http://www.sawyermorgan.com/ if you want to read about the first part of my time abroad.

Over the summer I took part in the SERIUS program at the National University of Singapore, where I will also be doing my exchange starting in a few weeks. For the program I did an engineering research internship, and my project in chemical engineering involves testing suspensions of cornstarch, water, and polymer for their changing viscosity when different forces are applied. It was an interesting project but very repetitive. Luckily there are lots of places to see with the other students in the program, who left last week when it ended.

I picked Singapore for my study abroad because I wanted to go somewhere new, having already been to Europe.  I’m the only Purdue student in Southeast Asia this semester, and there are very few Americans here in general. Singapore is also a great location to start from to visit the rest of Southeast Asia, and I’ve already been to Thailand and Malaysia. It’s the third-richest country per capita, though it’s not always that conspicuous. The port is the second busiest in the world, and the government is considered the least corrupt (or, perhaps, has the most transparent corruption). It’s also the only country to become independent against its own will, being expelled from Malaysia in 1965; that’s worked out pretty well for them though.  Singapore’s been called ‘Asia light’, in that it’s very developed, has an international economy, is incredibly clean, and speaks English due to the heavy British influence from the colonial era. Going to Bangkok was quite a change, with its unclean streets, terrible traffic, and general disorderliness. Kuala Lumpur was somewhere in the middle.

Tomorrow I move from Prince George’s Park Residences to UTown, a much newer and nicer residence hall. I’m very excited for that because it’s closer to the main parts of campus and doesn’t have ants, and especially because it’s where most of the exchange students live and is in a more lively area (plus an infinity pool across the green). NUS’s main campus has roughly the same area as Purdue north of State St., but more spread out, with the engineering, science, liberal arts buildings, and PGP in the four corners. Instead of each main department having its own building, those three faculties each have a big complex of about ten blocks connected to each other, and a few other buildings for business and computing. This is partially because campus is very hilly, so each block is sort of built from a different base elevation, and walking from one to another can mean going from the 3rd to 7th floor without taking any stairs, which there are a ton of. On my campus tour the guide said some students joke that NUS stands for National University of Stairs.

Saturday I’m going on a city tour with the Welcome Fest for international students. Luckily we’ll be visiting places I haven’t been yet since I’ve seen most of downtown already. I haven’t taken many pictures of campus but I’ll be sure to add some soon; check my other blog for past pictures around town, though I’ll put future ones here too. I just hope my next four months don’t go as quickly as the past two!

Amman Adventures

10 Jul

About 30 of us in the program managed to plan and execute a weekend trip to Aqaba (Jordan’s only sea port). Though we only spent a day there, it was well worth the 4 hr bus ride to relax, have fun and jump off a boat into the Red Sea. For a short while, it felt like any summer day in the U.S.

Last Wednesday we got to play with the boys at the Mabarrat Um Al Hussein (Mother of King Hussein Orphanage). We taught them games like duck, duck, goose and ninja and they kept us laughing and running around for hours.

My roommate Shannon made an American flag cake For the 4th of July. Since it fell on a Thursday (the weekend here), we all got to hang out, eat hot dogs, and celebrate America’s birthday together.

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Die Another Day

1 Jul

Our bus left for wadi rum at 8:15 am. A Styrofoam box of stuffed pastries and a juice box was waiting for us in each seat. After a pit stop and a visit to see St. George’s church with the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land, we arrived at “Captain’s Camp” which consisted of tents, a rest-stop looking bathroom, and a common area where we were served traditional Bedouin food. We were glamorous camping, glamping as they say. After being shown to my tent, I threw my book-bag on my full sized bed and got some mint tea.

Before departing for our desert tour, we were given koofias to protect us from the sun but mostly to distinguish us as tourists. We hopped in the backs of trucks and set off for wadi rum. Finally we stop to get on our camels. Some are taller than others, some fatter, all are incredibly awkward. When they stand, their skinny three-jointed legs rise unevenly in the front and back. Their steps are clumsy in the sinking sand and they seem unaware that they’re bumping into each other. Their eyes look sleepy and are probably half closed to keep out the desert sun. Their overall appearance is hilarious. After dismounting our camels we climb to the top of a small mountain to watch the sun set before we head back to camp.

The next morning we left at 8 for Petra, the rose-red city. Again our tour guide explains the history of the land, how the Nabataeans carved the city out of sand stone 2000 years ago. We walk through a gorge for about a mile and then our tour guide tells us to stop and look down. He leads us a little further and then tells us to look up. The famous Al-Khanez (treasury) lies before us. He explains the theories of what it was built for. No one knows for sure but one thing was certain: the Nabataeans built to impress. Thousands of years ago, visitors to Petra felt the same awe that we were feeling now. After lunch we’re give the option, or challenge, of climbing the 900+ steps to the monastery. It takes about a half hour to get to the top, well sort of. There are a few paths that lead to even more incredible views than the monastery. So we make our way up to the tallest one. The sites throughout the canyons were beautiful, but nothing beats looking down on it all.

After two days in the desert I’m exhausted and turn to head back. I pass a Bedouin man leading a donkey up the mountain. Aren’t you going to see the other views, he asks.
La, ta’aban. (no, I’m tired)
But you have to see them.
Tourism is understandably the main source of income here and we’ve been declining offers to buy things all day: trinkets, donkey rides, cold drinks, etc. No thanks, I say.
He points to the donkey. For free.
No, I shake my head. (Nothing is free here.)
Come on, it’s free. Money doesn’t make friends. We are Bedouin, we like to make friends. (despite his accent his English is good.)
I look up at him for the first time (with mistrust). He’s got the dark skin, shoulder length black curly hair, and beautiful kohl lined eyes of the people here. It’s too much to resist.

He helps me onto the donkey and directs me to scoot up in the saddle and hold on to the handle. I’m only four feet off the ground, but the ground is nothing but sand and rocks and happens to be hundreds of feet above the canyon floor.
He reassures me that donkeys have four legs and humans only have two, ergo the donkey is more stable. I speak a little Arabic to him and from then on we exchange Arabish. His name is Abdullah and he has 13 brothers and sisters. (his father has 4 wives, but he could never afford that many.) He’s learned Spanish, Portuguese, English, and another language just from tourists. I don’t need to travel; the world comes to me, he explains.
We head down a small rocky slope. I’m freaking out.
Close your eyes and open your mind, he says. I do.
Which path first? Down to the waterfall or up to the top view?
I don’t care.
To the waterfall then.
We start down and he keeps himself between the donkey and the rocky ledge.
Shway (slow), I beg.
It’s ok, close your eyes and open your mind, he reminds me.
We’re a few feet from the cliff and I’m hyperventilating. I clench the metal of the saddle but my hands are so sweaty that if the donkey goes down, there’s no holding on. He reassures me that no one dies before their time and waits for me to calm down before going on with what he’s saying:
The valley down there is the source of our civilization. All of the green is because of the spring that starts up there, the water runs all the way down there. It’s because they found this one spring, that the people could build an entire city around it. A city along a major trade route that’s seen countless people. He’s proud to show me this, and rightly so.

Next he takes me up the other path and points out the highest point to the left and the shooting location of the film, The English Patient, to the right. It’s the end of my ride and I thank him. All my friends are up at the top, giggling at the situation. Abdullah goes into a hut. His friend comes out and says, how many camels for this one, pointing to me. More laughter. Tsharafna (nice to meet you) I say to Abdullah and head back down with my friends.