Travel Log 15 “There’s No Place Like Home? Rites of Reincorporation” By Andrew Rivera Oradell, NJ

Coming back home was bittersweet ending to an amazing 4 months that I had when studying in Barcelona. But I was excited to get back to my family and see people that I haven’t seen since I left. I thought everything was going to be exactly the same, but I was wrong. My outlook was very different I was looking at situations from a new perspective. This was all thanks to my experiences overseas, without it I would be the same old person. I shared my experiences with numerous friends who have previously studied abroad, and family members that were interested in hearing about my journey. One quote that I will always remember is “A house is not a home without family.” The biggest part about home that I missed was my immediate family. My parents and siblings are always with me and seeing them and getting to spend the next 4 months with them were a blessing. I believe that my home community changed very little. The things that I was most comfortable with were still at home in the same spot that I left it. My bed was made, dinner was ready and my family was right next to me. My friends were exactly how I left them and seeing them reminded me that I really do have a great group of friends.

Some of the ways that I could see my experience being carried out is back in school when I see international students. I would be more willing to go out of my way and help them acclimated because I know how it feels to be in a foreign place. Sometimes you just need someone to talk to and help you out. I also think my experience will help me in difficult situations when in group projects and arguments. I have been able to adapt easily and am able to see every side of the story. I gained so much from studying abroad that I believe you can’t get from a book or teacher. You must simply experience it and explore.

After being home I fell into many of the same habits. Being lazy, not doing much, and just not taking advantage of my opportunities. But I got myself out and was able to do the things that I wanted to do. For example, I traveled a little and explored New York City.  I want to get back to seeing something new every day, which was my motto when I was in Barcelona. I kept that statement true throughout my whole stay in Europe which I am very proud of myself. I also want to become more efficient when I am doing my school work, like doing things ahead of time and not cramming the night before. I know this is very hard because some of these bad habits have been with me since high school but I know in the end that I will be worth it.

One quote that represents my thoughts is traveling leaves you speechless and turns you into a story teller. I saw this on social media and was intrigued by it. So many places I was amazed at and when I got home all I could talk about were the places that I visited. The quote was spot on. Not that I have been to places in Europe I don’t want it to stop, I want to keep traveling and see all of what the world has to offer.IMG_5913

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Travel Log #14 “Global Connections & Rites of Separation” By Andrew Rivera Barcelona, Spain

 

“If we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within” said by Slimbach. Throughout all of our readings he has provided us with numerous quotes that we can relate back to our study abroad experience. And now that it is coming to an abrupt end we can really reflect on our time overseas. In my personal experience I was able to travel to other countries and saw many cultures that were different from the states and from my host country. This connects back to the quote, I was able to see the world and dive deeper into the culture by the food, people, museums, and sites. Also by many of the videos and readings throughout the semester had an impact on me because I was able to see many different sides of cultures around the world.

All of my experiences have molded me into a brand new person. Before my time abroad I have never been to Europe, I have only heard stories from family and friends, and seen pictures from their travels. But now that I have lived in Spain for four months and have gotten to know the culture, values, and social norms of Barcelona I feel as if I am in the slightest bit a local. Towards the end of my time abroad I was the one getting mad at the amount of tourists in the city, and how many people were in the streets in general. But at the start in January I was a tourist myself. It was funny to me how in such a short span I was able to adapt and change to a culture that was so much different to what I was used to for my entire life.

As this journey comes to an end I can truly say that I had the time of my life, and it was a life changing experience. I met people that will be my friends forever, and that I will definitely meet up with in the future. I traveled to places that I wouldn’t have even imagined going to, and I have memories that will last me a lifetime. Now that I have to say goodbye to the people that I have built relationships with and not know when the next time I will see them is very hard to do. We will probably go out to a nice dinner with some drinks for one last hoorah. It will be a sad time, but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.

My emotions at this point are very mixed. Since my family visited just two weeks before I got home I really missed them for the last weeks, but I really felt like I could live in Barcelona forever. I have been talking to my friends back home more since I will soon be with them, and my parents have been preparing for my return home as well. I am very anxious to go home since I haven’t seen my extended family in four months but I still want to travel and explore more. But I know that I have to snap back into reality when I get back home.

IMG_5677One quote that I would say highlights my emotions after studying abroad it would be from a travel article that I found online. It is by Ibn Batutta, “Traveling – leaves you speechless, then turns you into a story teller.”

Travel Log #13 “Connecting Rites of Passage and Digital Storytelling” By Andrew Rivera Rome, Italy

the difference of cultures, and values that each country and cities have compared to the United States. Many times in the states it is always on the go, going from place to place, activity after activity, never slowing down to smell the roses. Here in Europe the culture is much more laid back, and not so on the move. Personally when I was in elementary school and all throughout high school I can specifically remember that my parents and siblings tried our best to have a family dinner every night. With school, after school activities, and work for my parent’s dinner was the only time for us to spend together during the weekdays. My mother always tried to have all of us at the dinner table, and that was a time you didn’t want to miss out on. Even when I am home from college in the summer and on long breaks my family continuously tries to be at dinner five days a week. Now being in Europe, spending time with family and friends is very important to their everyday lives. Specifically, their lunch time is very long so they are able to see each other and take time out of their day to do so.  I love seeing this because family time, and just family in general is very important to me. My mother instilled that value on me at a very young age and it has really stuck with me. Back in the states I don’t see much of community based rituals and gatherings taking place very often. Usually it only happens for a big occasion, like a graduation, birthday, anniversary. And this to me is very unusual. Not having dinner with family and not having family outings almost every weekend is weird for me. My family tries to meet every day, and we also try to meet my aunts, uncles, and grandparents on Sundays. I believe that the people that don’t do this is a problem for themselves and the global community. This is a huge problem because family is the most important aspect of life. From birth to death, the people who are with you the whole way is family. You are connected by blood, and no one can else can have that connection.

Digital stories are a way to express yourself through pictures and videos, and put your own twist on the video. Here you can be a creator and make something that is completely yours. In this day in age where people are shying away from television and watching more Netflix and YouTube videos the power is in your hands. From the beginning of the semester up to this point in time, many things about myself have changed. The placed I have visited, people I have met, experienced I have felt, have made me change for the better. I saw the world and now I will be able to share it through my perspective and how I saw it. The three elements that had the most impact on myself is community values and ethics, obligation to a larger community, and lastly personal change. These three elements are the ones that I feel impacted me the most. In my digital story I can talk about my new values, volunteering, and how studying abroad changed me for the better. I think that I can create a moving digital story that will convey many meaningful messages.

I connected with Rachel Cox’s digital story. The dialogue that followed the pictures were very truthful and honest. They were relevant and were able to get her message across with the pictures providing something to look at. She was just a small caterpillar starting a new journey in Paris, now she is a butterfly that is able to fly and explore and not be scared of anything.IMG_5620

Travel Log #12 “Service” By Andrew Rivera Munich, Germany

The definition of volunteer is to freely offer to do something, and to work for an organization without being paid. And prior to volunteering I was really not looking forward to giving up my time to volunteer, but I saw how fast circumstances would change. I chose to volunteer at a ACIDH, which stands for Catalan Association of integration and human development (this is the English translation of the association). This organization helps kids that are have borderline intelligence. Their mission statement is, “to improve the quality of life of people with limited intelligence, through comprehensive care, regardless of its etiology and whether there is some other disorder.” The impact that they have on these kids’ lives is immense, and they give the kids and environment that they can strive in and feel comfortable.

Since I don’t know any Spanish the great people that I met decided it would be perfect for me to be in an English class, where the students are learning the basics of our language. Since the first day the kids were really excited to have an American in their class and they made me feel like one of them. All of them love communicating with me and love it when I walk in the door every Monday, no matter what mood they are in they always say my name with enthusiasm and a big smile on their face. All of their actions towards me make volunteering all worthwhile, even for a short amount of time.

Some of the benefits of volunteering are making an impact on the kids that you interact with every week. I know for a fact that I will always remember every single one of them and I hope that all of them will always remember me. Even though we are from different countries and have different backgrounds we were still brought together and we put everything else aside. I also get to know some more Catalan and Spanish which will help me when interacting with people who only speak Spanish. The service work that I have done with the kids is directly related to global community. Specifically, for one class I had to put together a presentation about myself and life back in the states, and the kids had to tell me a little about them. They were so intrigued about my life back at home, and I learned what they liked. There I was learning about their culture and vice versa. This experience really changed my outlook on volunteering, and improved my experience abroad. Every Monday I really looked forward to going to class to help the students learn English.

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This picture describes my experience because I am working with kids, and really making a difference in their lives. The quote that I liked the best was from Slimbach. He said, “The first step in this journey is to venture outside our comfort zones and get involved directly and personally in the lives of others, especially those occupying the margins of society…to create respectful and mutually beneficial relationships.” I enjoyed this quote because I can relate to this. I was really on the fence for volunteering in the first place, going to a place where I knew no one and where only the teacher spoke English, but I stepped out of my comfort zone. I did get directly involved with the students who really love my company. And I hope I made an impact on their lives, because they sure made an impact on mine. Overall I am so glad that I ended up at ACIDH. You wouldn’t think that one hour a week would change a person this much, but they really made me become a better person, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Travel Log #11 “Holding up Half the Sky” By Andrew Rivera Barcelona, Spain

When reading “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn many concepts and ideas stuck out to me, but one in particular was above all of the rest. The one idea that really stuck with me was any help can make a huge difference. Especially when you read about all of the struggling women in the world. The book tells a story of the struggling women in Africa and Asia, that go through many hardships and experiences. With just a small amount of help they are able to make a huge difference. If I were to explain the message that the book was trying to reveal to their audience it would be that anything helps, and you can make a difference. Even the slightest bit of help makes a difference. One quote that I really enjoyed about making a difference was said by Sheryl WuDunn. She stated, “Our focus is on changing reality, not changing laws.” This was a great quote because laws sometimes take years to become a law and then are sometimes not even enforced. She doesn’t want to wait for something to come along, the time to help is now. People will always need help from today, to the end of time. She really wants to help under all circumstances, which is a great trait to have.

The one story that impacted me more than the rest was the Cambodian girl. This was awesome to ready about because she really started with absolutely nothing. The was a sex slave that was sold on the market, and had no idea how to get out of it. But eventually she was able to sneak away and received help. That help came from and aid group that was able to get her back to normal. Some of the emotions that were portrayed was scared, disgust, all negative words. But when she was able to find help and get back on her feet the emotions took a turn for the better. It was a beautiful site to see that she was able to start her own business. Some of the actions that was taken I would say are risks. Many of the decisions she made were risky but with big risk comes massive rewards and in the end she made the right decisions. Her thoughts were all over the place, not knowing if she will ever leave the brothel, and live a normal life. A scary story for many but a truly inspiring one when she was able to make something out of nothing.

My business studies would help me to try and donate money to causes that can help out the women that need it the most. Money is a huge part of any situation. From people on the street begging for money, people that are struggling living paycheck to paycheck, and rich people having money to spend on whatever they desire. Money is part of our everyday lives no matter who you are. Any money is what these struggling women need to survive. Without money you can’t do anything, and maybe one day when I am financially stable enough I can donate money to organizations that can really impact the struggling people all across the world.

Overall this book was really moving. Just like previous readings and films that we had to watch it was eye opening to see the struggling women, and all that they have went through. It really makes me want to make a difference, even if it means just taking a few hours a week to volunteer or try and make a difference. I think that everyone can make a difference to these hurting women that really need help.

Travel Log #10 “Encountering Globalization” By Andrew Rivera Barcelona, Spain

When traveling, the places you go, people you meet, and the sites that you see open your eyes up to a whole new world. I can now say that I have been to some of the most beautiful cities in the world. I feel very blessed because I know there are tons of people in this world that have nothing, and for me to experience this is once in a lifetime. Some of the people that won’t ever get to travel the world are the people who live in poverty in the video The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy. These people remind me of some of the everyday things that I see when I am in Barcelona. For example, there are always street vendors with knock off soccer jerseys, handbags, trinkets, shoes, and so much more. When one of the interviews was taking place I connected these two people because of how they are making a living. In part one of the video he says, “To afford school, I started going into the woods, to collect firewood and I would carry it on my head and try to sell it.” He did this even though it was illegal to do so, these people have the hardest work ethic that I know of. They will go above and beyond to make money even if it means rolling the dice. The street vendors here in Barcelona are also rolling the dice because if they are caught selling they can be fined and possibly detained. It was eye opening that this is how some people make a living. But it is good to see because it gives you motivation to be something more than that, given our different situations.

In my experiences traveling to the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and Hungary, I can solemnly say that I have encountered globalization every day. From trying to order a meal in full on Italian, trying to find my way around Budapest, or speaking Spanish to the grocery store clerk, the amount of international influence has been tremendous. I think that language barrier is one of the hardest parts about traveling in Europe, especially when you get to the outskirts of a city you are less likely to find someone that speaks English. Some of the ways that I am contributing to the flows of globalization is in school. One of the biggest aspects of my Spanish civilization and culture class is connecting parts of history and art from Spain and relating them back to something in the United States. This is great because it makes you think about the two sides and gets you familiar with a culture that you aren’t accustomed to.

One quote that I liked from the reading The Global Transformations Reader was when he says, “I want to emphasize [globalization’s] complexity and diversity.” This stuck out to me because I totally agree with what he is saying. Everyplace has its different aspects. No matter if you travel to a neighboring town or major city, everyplace is different and everyone is different. If you go to Barcelona and Madrid the experience will be different not just because it is a different place but all that make the city a city. The people, buildings, and sites are different. And experiencing everything makes you a part of globalization.

I think that our definition of global community is a great one. I wouldn’t take anything away from it, I believe that it covers all angles of what globalization actually is. I think that we should add a little bit of the human rights into our definition because we are all equal and everyone deserves a fair chance of impacting their culture and others alike.

I chose this picture because I shows that there are all walks of life and how a piece and really bring people together. No matter what you look like, where you are from, who you know, the “I Amsterdam” sign brings everyone together which is great for the city and meeting new walks of life.

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Travel Log #9 “Exploring Stereotypes” By Andrew Rivera Valencia, Spain

Having predetermined stereotypes about a place that you have only heard of are normal. Some of the stereotypes that I had about Barcelona prior to my study abroad trip is that everyone always eat paella, everyone in Europe takes a break during the middle of the day (siesta), the beaches were beautiful, tapas originated in Barcelona, and sangria is the drink of choice. Now that I had the chance to experience Barcelona and some other places in Europe I can tell you first hand that not all of these stereotypes are true. Through talking to numerous teachers and locals that I have met they too had assumptions about the people from the United States. Stereotypes are just things you hear about a culture or country and you really don’t have a clue about what they really are like. I definitely think that some stereotypes are true and some of them couldn’t be further from the truth. For example, tapas isn’t really a Barcelona staple in food, it is more of a tourist attraction at this point. They affiliate the word tapas and Spain and Barcelona together so the people who come to Barcelona think that when they come thy must have tapas. Another stereotype that was true was the countries culture for soccer. Almost everyone in Barcelona loves FC Barcelona (football club Barcelona, one of the biggest soccer clubs in the world) and it truly showed on a recent game. The game called for them to win by 5 goals or more, which in soccer is unheard of. But they managed to pull it off and the whole city erupted, people screaming, gathering in the streets, partying, and drinking to the break of dawn. It was really an awesome experience, that showed me how something can bring a culture together.

Some other stereotypes that exist in my host culture that is apparent for a short term visitor is they go out on Mondays and Wednesdays. The locals go out on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This is so because most of the study abroad students are traveling on the weekend meaning early morning flights on Friday and a rest day on Tuesday. But if you do stay the weekend the two cultures collide to make a really interesting and exciting party scene.

The stereotypes that the teachers that had about the students and the culture of the United States was surprising. Several of the teachers said Americans are loud and obnoxious, a drunk, disrespectful, lazy, and many more. Overall I would say none of these are really true once you get to know a person from the states. None of these surprised me because I can see where they get all of these from. Loud and obnoxious because when we get drunk we like to get loud and do stupid things. Lazy was not surprising either because we are known for being one of the most obese countries in the world, and disrespectful was the only one that I didn’t understand. I think that this is more of not knowing each other’s cultures and the social norms that each country has. I think that there are valid points to each stereotype but overall they aren’t true, just a misconception about the people of the states. I also think that it is a “shortcut” that Hafez Adel uses in the magazine.  “Living abroad taught me the stereotypes endure because they provide a comfortable shortcut to understanding complex matters.” This quote can be related to everything that I have presented in my writing. The people are so much more than paella, and getting obnoxiously drunk. The surface that the stereotype is scratching is much different than what is deep down inside of each person of a culture.

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The picture that I chose is a perfect example of a stereotype for America. The picture features an overweight male in a motorized scooter. The lazy stereotype that can also be linked to being fat is shown here in this picture. He is also shooting a very large gun for a person being in a wheelchair, also shooting at nothing just laughing doesn’t help either. When I see this picture I can’t help but think this is what the world thinks of the United States. And now that Donald Trump is out president even more stereotypes have emerged, but let’s save that conversation for another time.

Travel Log #8 “Exploring Stereotypes” By Andrew Rivera Barcelona, Spain

Before studying abroad my impression of the people that have gone was it was a non-stop party for four months. Going out every night to a new club or bar, and on the weekends travel to a new country and explore. But after being away from home for about two months now I see that it is much more than that. Slimbach states, “little of the new cultural knowledge, language ability, and perspective change that marks a well-traveled mind.” I can see why he states this because many people that I go to class with are party animals. Some students are going out six to seven nights a week and are only about getting wasted, and not seeing all of the other aspects that each of our respective cities that we are living in.

I think one of the reasons that people have a specific attitude towards study abroad students is because of social media. Social media has become a huge part of our everyday lives and it has influenced the study abroad students and the people who view them. For the most part when you post on social media it is probably a highlight of your life or just when you are having a ton of fun. When the students travel abroad they post the pictures of them at the clubs, and at all of the amazing views that they are able to see when traveling. This gives off the impression that all they did was travel to new places and party. But as someone who is currently studying abroad I can personally tell you that it is much more than that. The schooling system is very different and sometimes hard to balance with traveling, and sight-seeing. I would say that I am guilty of language ability because I am not taking any Spanish classes but I try my best to speak Spanish whenever I can. Some of the ways that study abroad students could do to change this stereotype would be to show people more of their everyday lives and not just the ones you expect. For example, when people travel to Paris, France they usually post a picture of them and the Eiffel tower. Instead of doing that students should post them doing homework or studying for a midterm. Just show the people that it’s not a party every day. Hopefully in the future we can get rid of this stereotype.

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Travel Log #7 “Exploring Stereotypes” By Andrew Rivera Barcelona, Spain

When watching the video Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire I was really blown away. I know that I am very lucky to live the life that I have, but some of the visuals that the video depicts is eye opening. Also after reading the Bill of Human rights it was clear to me that sometimes we take these rights for granted. Living in Barcelona, and even back home in the states, we have all that we could ever need. However, some people around the world are surviving with nothing. The human rights editorial cartoon that I picked was a barely alive woman that is clearly struggling and needs help, with numerous people in the background. The setting is in a baron dessert looking place, with no plants around and a big sun beaming down on the woman. The people in the back are not as concerned as they should be. This woman is clearly struggling and no one is helping.

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One of the human right articles that this could be related to is article 25 that states, “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services…” The woman is bone thin, barely has any clothes on and the objects next to her are bare. The government and the people of that place should have been there to help someone in need, especially when these people are dressed un suits and fancy clothes. Some personal examples that you see when you are studying abroad is the homeless people. My everyday commute to school is about 15 minuets and every time I see at least three homeless people and sometimes they even have disabilities. Everyone has the right to these ‘rights’ but not everyone is able to achieve that because of their situations and money. I think that even with the universal declaration of human rights, and getting more people involved with the human rights movement it is impossible for them to allow every single person to have these rights. I believe that many people have been attempting to incorporate more human rights to the people struggling. But the violations of the global treatment have not come with consequences that hold people accountable. Overall every human would need to and want to make a difference for everyone to have equal human rights and this is something that I see being very irrational, even though it would be beneficial for all of the struggling people.

Travel Log 6 “The Mindful Traveler” By Andrew Rivera Barcelona, Spain

In Becoming World Wise Slimbach mentions three travelers, ‘the mindful traveler,’ ‘carefree drifter,’ and the ‘mass tourist.’ Between these three people he talks about what distinguishes them all. The ‘mindful traveler’ is said to have interest, and is seeking a new environment to raise their own self-awareness and become part of a new environment. I definitely see myself having a little bit of ‘mindful traveler’ in me since I have never been to Europe, everything is so new to me. I am mindful of all of the new surroundings that I will encounter and new environments that I will be placed in. What the ‘mindful traveler’ contains is exactly what the ‘carefree drifter’ and the ‘mass tourist’ are lacking. The ‘mass tourist’ just goes to see the most popular places in every city, and doesn’t explore the hidden gems that could be right in front of your eyes. The ‘carefree drifter’ lacks appreciation. When the drifter goes to different places it doesn’t realize the magnitude of what they are doing. How amazing is it that some of us have the opportunity to travel Europe for four months out of the year? The ‘carefree drifter’ just goes with the flow never stopping to see how beautiful life really is.

Personally I feel is if all of the study abroad students have a little of each traveler in them, and I am a prime example. I can see ‘mass tourist’ in me because when traveling to a new place we always go to the historical monuments that everyone knows about. And sometimes in a weekend it is all that you can do. But when you do get the time to explore the less traveled path it is really amazing to experience. ‘Carefree drifter’ can also be a part of me because when planning weekend trips to another country I am always up for suggestions. From Greece to Ireland, nothing is off limits and that can be a ‘carefree drifter.’

All of these concepts about traveling all connect back to the classes definition of “Global Community.” The definition that we came up with was, “all people around the world living by and fighting for similar social values and basic rights.” At the end of the day we are all humans, we all make mistakes, we all have good and bad days, and we are all living on the same planet we call home. Us study abroad students are seeing parts of the world we would never get to see back home and it is making us more familiar with the people, places, cultures, food, and so much more. Seeing how people live in Spain can change how we look at things back in the states, living in Australia and adapting to their lifestyle is making us more globally competent. I don’t think I would change the class definition of global community. I believe that it covers all aspects of what it means to be human and living on earth.

Mindful traveling is important because you want to get a better sense of what it means to be in a new place and become a part of that community for whatever amount of time. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have some of the tendencies of ‘carefree drifter’ and ‘mass tourist.’ I think that not only do the study abroad students have characteristics of all three travelers, but everyone who travels does. I think that currently I have a ‘mindful traveler’ in me because I am living in the moment, as Slimbach mentions in the Buddhist traditions. I think that I can incorporate more of how I affect the social and natural environments that I enter.

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I chose this picture because it describes mindful traveling very well. Over the weekend me and some friends took a trip to Italy. Starting Thursday night, we took a flight to Rome. Friday we explored all that we could of Rome, and early Saturday morning we had a train to catch to Florence. When we got to Florence we then took ourselves to the hills of Tuscany on a Vespa (scooter) tour. One of the best experiences of my life was that day and am truly grateful that I had the opportunity to do so. My emotions were running through the roof, my thoughts were running a million miles an hour, and my behavior was happy for the next 5 days. If you have the chance I suggest doing a scooter tour too.