LGBTIQ Student Testimonials in Turkey

Below you can find three testimonials from students participating on UCEAP programs in Turkey.

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As a gay male graduate student I experienced a mixture of tolerance and intolerance while studying in Ankara, Turkey. Overall, I felt generally comfortable during my time in Turkey and never feared that my safety would be in jeopardy due to my sexual orientation as I often blended in with the general population. However, I could not say that this would necessarily be the case for someone more gender-nonconforming than me or for a same-sex couple. I would have felt very uncomfortable holding hands or kissing a boyfriend on the streets of Ankara. Among younger Turkish friends I did not hide my sexual orientation and discussed GLB* issues with some of these friends. As with most countries, the younger generation in Turkey is more accepting of GLB individuals than the older generations. However, homosexuality remains a taboo subject in the larger Turkish society. I did not disclose my sexual orientation to my host family, but I did not lie about it either. I would do my best to avoid any questions about dating or significant others. In the few discussions I had with my host mother regarding GLB individuals, she was largely supportive, even saying that it was good that individuals could marry people of the same sex in parts of Europe and the U.S. while acknowledging that it was unfortunate that they could not in Turkey. Same sex sexual contact was decriminalized in Turkey over 150 years ago, but there are still no formal legal protections for GLB individuals. Many GLB Turks face discrimination in employment, housing, the military, and greater society; however, I would say that international students (especially from the U.S.) are largely spared from these types of incidents, at least from my experience in Ankara. At the language school where I studied most teachers were also very progressive and supportive of GLB students. However, the first instructor I had during my program revealed to our class the prejudiced and antiquated views she held on GLB people during a class discussion. From her point of view GLB people were mentally ill and must have experienced some sort of trauma in their youth to make them that way. A very uncomfortable debate occurred between the instructor and a few of the American students while the other GLB identifying student and I simply sat in silence. It was a troubling experience to have an instructor express such views. Both the language institute and the U.S. State Department staff were quick to act when we reported this incident, and the instructor was replaced for the remainder of our program. Overall, I would say Turkey (especially Ankara and Istanbul) is one of the safest countries in the Middle East for a GLB identifying American student to study abroad. Among Southeastern European countries, Turkey is not much of an outlier in the same terms.

*I only refer to GLB individuals, because transgender individuals face many different challenges than cisgender GLB individuals do. I cannot speak to how their experiences in Turkey would be and think it would be pertinent to ask someone who identifies as transgender to share their experiences.

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Well for starters I would say that my experience in Ankara was most likely different than other study abroad programs. Out of 22 students there were 4 of us that I think identified as LGBTIQ. Also LGBTIQ was A. who was our study abroad facilitator. So those two things alone probably made it different than other programs. I am not one that has the luxury of choosing the closet whenever convenient, as one friend once said “Helen Keller would even know you’re gay.” That being said I never felt unsafe in Turkey due to my sexuality or faced intolerance, but then I was not on the prowl looking for men or looking for gay establishments. Now that is not to say that I might have faced intolerance and just mistook it for just a random rude person. Before I had arrived in Turkey I had heard some very scary things about being LGBTIQ in Turkey and other predominantly Muslim nations, even the CLS handbook stated in a roundabout way that one might consider being closeted while there. Turkey is an odd place sexually; I’m sure the warnings that the LGBTIQ students got before leaving did have some validity. But while I was there I once saw a transman walking down the street blowing kisses to all the men she passed, and surprisingly they would smile or cat call back at her knowing full well that it was a trans male. Instead of sexuality that had more to do with the idea of masculinity in Turkey. I would say that my time in Turkey was incredibly enriching and I would suggest just as LGBTIQ people have to be extra aware in certain areas and places in the United States they should do similarly when traveling overseas.

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I aim to give an overall telling of my experiences in Istanbul and Ankara. My experiences in Turkey as a lesbian overall were quite positive.  In some ways, it’s much easier there than in my small Pennsylvania town.  I guess the first place to start is that no one ever thought I was actually a lesbian.  In the US, between my short hair and I guess general demeanor, I’m usually instantly pegged as a lesbian.  This literally never happened in Turkey.  My host family, friends, and strangers all assumed I was straight (sometimes kind of forcefully-see below) which made my life easier in a bunch of ways.

When I first got to Turkey, I was worried about wearing my usual clothes (nothing crazy, just V-neck tees, shorts over tights, boots-things that normally scream “gay” to Americans), but that quickly subsided.  Though most days I wore long skirts (out of weather-related necessity), if I wanted to go out in my usual clothes, no one batted an eye.  People tend to notice the fact you are American much more quickly than to even think you might be gay.  It’s just really not on their radar at all.

I think because it’s not on their radar, sometimes the assumed heterosexuality can be annoying.  My host mom offered to set me up with probably 75 different boys and would not be told no. The fact I didn’t have a boyfriend meant I definitely needed one in her eyes.  Also, the short hair was really noticed by men who thought it was really interested.  I got a lot of attention on buses, on the streets, generally out and about, because of it.  It does draw in quite a lot of attention, which mostly manifests itself as flirting from men (which nearly all of my American friends dealt with too).  So, blending in can manifest itself as everyone assuming you’re straight, which can be annoying.

I never told my host family in Ankara, but I did tell the family that I nannied for in Istanbul, that I was gay.  I didn’t feel comfortable making that leap with the people I was living with my first summer, simply because due to language skills it was really hard to gauge exactly what they thought on the issue.  My host family was super modern though, so I doubt it would be a problem, but it’s not something I would take a chance on.  This was hard at times, but was ultimately my own choosing. It’s something to be aware of though.  Being “out” is a hard conversation to have, especially if you’re learning. My second summer, I did tell the family I worked for, mostly because my Turkish had improved and they spoke enough English that I could get a read on their thoughts. It was a non-issue in that case.

I told nearly all my Turkish friends though that I was a lesbian, and it was no big deal at all.  They took that information and never treated me differently for it. Most were curious and asked a lot of questions in the exact same manner my friends from home acted.

My only caveats to all this is that all my experiences were with Ankara or Istanbullus, most of whom were young and fairly western.  I only spent a day in Konya and a weekend in Kapadokya, so I can’t speak for other places.

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For more information regarding Queers abroad, please visit our website.

Slugs of the World: Austin

Another Slugs of the World feature!  This time we talked to Austin Downs, a second-year Politics major at UCSC.  For the past year he’s been participating in three different UCEAP programs across three continents.  Following a summer program in Argentina, Austin then studied at University College London for the fall, and then finished his year long tour at the University of Auckland in New Zealand in the spring.  We sent some questions his way and you can read his answers below.

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Q: How did you decide to participate in three different programs in one year?

A: I got my original love for travel from my parents growing up. When I came to UCSC, my sister at UC Irvine participated in a UCEAP program in Madrid and I saw how much fun she was having along with how much she was advancing her undergraduate career. When she returned, I knew I desired to take advantage of the opportunity that UCEAP offered. After talking it over with my parents and getting a lot of help from my sister, we realized that I had the capability to spend an entire year abroad and we seized the moment! As for what made me decide which programs to decide, I chose Argentina to help solidify my secondary language of Spanish and study Latin American politics. For England, I knew I wanted to spend a semester in Europe and the UC Center London had everything I was looking for – a politics course alongside British social classes. Lastly, I chose my program in New Zealand mainly because Oceania was one of the regions of the world I had not seen and had heard such amazing things about New Zealand from friends and past participants.

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Q: How have you managed being immersed in a different culture every few months for the last year?

A: Being immersed in a different culture every few months has been quite challenging but equally rewarding. To best manage this, I have come to find that engaging in a physical cultural activity really helps me feel like I belong and also imprint on to me the meanings behind cultures. For instance, in Argentina I took private tango lessons and a Maori dance class while in New Zealand that, when combined, has helped greatly in immersing myself into a country’s culture. Above all, it’s great to know that I can now impress all of my friends with either the tango or an empowering warrior dance!

Q: Have there been any particularly challenging times abroad?

A: The most challenging times abroad have not been challenges that have arisen from my current program, but rather from preparing for my next one! As I was nearing the end of my second program in the UK, I was already well underway for getting things in order for my third program in New Zealand – applying for university housing, classes, and my student visa. In fact, being an American citizen in the UK while trying to apply for a New Zealand student visa was some of the most nerve-wracking weeks of my entire life. I only got my passport back two days before leaving for New Zealand and was almost certain I was going to be late for my program’s orientation. Additionally, keeping care of myself was something more difficult than I could have anticipated. Halfway through my summer program in Argentina, I was diagnosed with a severe toe infection that rendered me bed-ridden for the remainder of my program. Sadly for me, the infection carried over into my fall program and after months of treatment and a hospital visit while holidaying in Florence, Italy, I finally underwent surgery to remove the infection towards the end of my second program. Take care of yourself Slugs and familiarize yourself with UCEAP health coverage!

Q: What has been one of your favorite memories?
A: Out of the countless unforgettable memories I have made during my year of travels, one stands out to me above the rest: playing for the University of Auckland’s volleyball team. After failing to make University College London’s soccer team in the fall and the University of Auckland’s soccer team in the spring, I gave international sports one last shot and gave it all I had. Upon hearing the news that I had been selected to the team, I was so proud of myself for my persistence that I couldn’t stop dancing in my room for at least thirty minutes! When I received my university jersey for the first tournament of the year, I remember holding the jersey so tightly in my hand and beginning to tear up. Before going abroad, it was a dream of mine to play for a sport’s team abroad and it felt so unbelievably rewarding to see that dream realized.

 

Q: What would you say to someone considering studying abroad?

A: Studying abroad during your undergraduate career is one of the best choices you can make. In addition to being able to travel the world and see places you’ve always dreamed about seeing, it really changes you on a personal level. Before going abroad, I didn’t really know the kind of person I was or what my academic passion was. Through the courses I took and immersion I participated in, being abroad really showed me what I wanted to do once my time was up. Whether it be maturing and growing as a person or wanting to pursue my postgraduate education internationally at one of the school’s I attended, the benefits are truly endless. The only real way to know what you want to do with your life back in California is to leave it and filter out what is or is not important to you.
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Thanks to Austin for sharing his experience! If you’ve studied abroad we want to hear from you. Send us an email to programsabroad@ucsc.edu and tell us where you studied!

Serene in Berlin

Serene Tseng studied abroad in Germany, capitalizing on a spontaneous internship opportunity offered by a tourism magazine.  Read about her exciting experience working for Where Berlin in her own words below.

“I’ve wanted to write for a magazine ever since I was in eighth grade. It started out as just

an idea that formed absentmindedly while I was browsing the wall of magazines at Borders. In

12th grade, I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and felt immensely inspired to work for a

magazine, intending to bring true information to the readership, just as the journalist in the series

does. With this seed planted in my head, I came to Berlin in late August and started thinking

about what I wanted to gain from studying abroad.

Berlin can be overwhelming at first, so I was unsure about what type of internship I could

find. All I knew was that I wanted the subject matter to be relevant to my academic interests,

them being German, linguistics, and history. As luck would have it, Jaimey, the regional EAP

director, sent out an email looking for an intern for the tourism magazine called Where Berlin,

and I immediately sent him a copy of my resume. After a few days, the editor, Solveig, contacted

me to fill out an intern test, something completely foreign to me. The proofreading was easy, but

the writing part I felt a little unsure about. Luckily, there was nothing to worry about, as I was

then invited to get a feel of how the publication works. After the tour around the office-

warehouse hybrid, Solveig asked me if this was something I could see myself doing. Would it

have been appropriate to shout, “YES!!” right then and there? In the end, I settled for a more

subdued, “Of course!”, and the training started the week after.

Predictably, I started out small with 100-word writing assignments, but as I began to

crank them out with relative ease, Solveig would give me more assignments to challenge myself.

As such, I took on the challenge of finding and personally interviewing an artist who I felt

embodied Berlin especially well. Although the magazine is entirely worked on and printed in

English, email correspondence is done almost exclusively in German, so I emailed Berlin-based

instrumentalist and composer Oskar Schuster and made the interview request. It was nerve-

wracking at first, as I wasn’t the most confident in my German, but it turned out to be a personal

accomplishment when the communication went smoothly and the issue containing the interview

was finally published in March. As an unexpected bonus, after overcoming this challenge, my

German language skills were trusted enough for the sales department to ask me to do translations

for ads, thereby furthering my confidence.

Interning at Where Berlin has also presented the opportunity to become familiarized with

the monthly creation process of each issue, from the initial brainstorming stage, which usually

involves me sharing what I did over the weekend; to the researching and writing stage; to the

first, second, and third rounds of corrections; to the final book proofing. Deadlines approach, and

the written work gets placed into the actual layout of the magazine to be printed. The routine is

the same every month, and it can get tedious after a while. Luckily, Solveig thought it was

appropriate to introduce me to Adobe InDesign, as, according to her, having the knowledge to

make proofreading corrections directly on the layout is essential in working in the editorial field.

Incidentally, the pedagogical and ongoing hands-on training I am able to attain working as an

intern at Where Berlin has been endlessly beneficial.

Most of the time, we don’t have the time to attend press events for the exhibitions we

write about, but on one rainy Friday morning in December, I did attend one out of Solveig’s

encouragement. It was for the opening of a new exhibit consisting of artwork by female artists at

the gallery known as “me Collectors Room.” The experience is one that I’ll never forget. I felt

important, as if both the gallery and the magazine depended on me. On the one hand, the art

gallery needed me to understand the message of the exhibition and the works presented in order to

impart an accurate message in the publication. As for the magazine, they depended on me

because I was to write an opening article for that month. I realized from the responsibility that

rested on my shoulders that what I’m doing affects many more people than just those

immediately involved, that my actions have the potential to reach beyond the readers who pick

up the magazine in their hotel lobby.

I consider this internship opportunity my first step into the real world, outside of the

safety bubble university provides. This is me answering Solveig’s first question with that extra-

loud affirmative, “YES!! I can see myself doing this!” Writing for a magazine, reaching and

potentially affecting the lives of the readers, even if it’s just a unique sightseeing

recommendation, has essentially made this internship experience a validating dream come true.”

The website of the magazine publisher, where issues can also be found:

http://www.dinamix.de/where-berlin/

My Incredible journey at the Department of Justice of the Government of Catalonia

Evelin Torres interned at the Department of Justice of Catalonia on exchange.  The internship cemented her interests and gave her valuable work experience.  Read about it in her own words below.

 

My Incredible journey at the Department of Justice of the Government of Catalonia

by Evelin Avila Torres

justice

When my younger brother was thirteen years old he was imprisoned and was facing a

possible conviction for attempted murder. After years of talking to attorneys, waiting for the

weekly call from him, long letters and sleepless nights, I was left with a mark that I will forever

carry. I decided that my heart was with working with troubled youth who are at risk of committing

crimes that could cost them their liberty.  However, I was aware that in order to be an agent of

change and be to able to help those troubled minors, I had a lot to learn and experience to acquire. I

decided to become a Legal studies major as well as volunteer and obtain internships that involved

working with troubled youth.

Before arriving to Barcelona I envisioned an internship in the legal field in order to get a

better understanding of the types of criminal systems that exist outside the United States. At my

arrival in Barcelona I began talking to my counselors here about the possible opportunities of

obtaining a law related internship. Before I knew it I was interning at the Department of Justice

of the government of Catalonia. I observed and worked with certain area of the department of

justice that is known as the service of mediation and technical support. The people that I worked

with are either psychologists or social workers who all have some type of work in relation to

accused minors who are either facing trial or have been accused of committing a crime. Their

duties include investigating and trying to figure out the social, psychological, and educational

circumstances that the minor is currently living in. I was present in interviews with minors as

well as at their courts. It was alongside with many of these minors in some of the hardest

moments in their life. Experiencing many hard situations with the minors has given me a better

understanding of the criminal justice system outside of the United States. These experiences were

hard but they were necessary for me to truly understand the way that these systems work.

Another challenge I faced as an intern in a new country was adapting to a new language.

Not only was Spanish the official language but the terminology that is utilized in the city of

justice is a terminology that I had never been exposed to at the level that I was here. Although as

a legal studies major I am exposed to the complicated language and terminology utilized in the

legal field, never before had I been forced to utilize this terminology like I was here. At the

beginning it was complicated remembering certain terms and laws but with time I was able to

start picking up the terminology in Spanish a lot faster. My usage of academic terms has

improved significantly.

Not only has my Spanish improved significantly but with the experience that I acquired

as an intern I now have a better understanding about the way the criminal justice system in other

countries work. My ultimate goal at this internship was to gain more knowledge that could help

me understand the way that criminal justice systems around the world either help or harm people.

Now I know that I can apply this knowledge in my future investigations in my area of interest,

criminal justice systems. After this experience I am now even more motivated and

interested on working in my city and myself in order to be the best mentor and future lawyer that

I want to be.

http://administraciojusticia.gencat.cat/ca/administracio_de_justicia/infraestructures_de_l_amb/ci

utat_justicia_naveg/

 

Slugs of the World: Elyse

Slugs of the World showcases UCSC students who left Santa Cruz and experienced the world! This time on Slugs of the World we’re talking to Elyse who studied abroad at Thammasat University in Thailand in Fall 2014. 

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Q:  How did the culture in Thailand effect you?
A: The culture in Thailand is very rich compared to anything I’ve ever experienced. As a country who has never been colonized, Thai ideals and values permeate through every aspect of daily life from building restrictions to conversation topics. While it was very different, it was really amazing to exist in such a culture heavy place.
Q: Can you share one of your favorite memories from your time in Thailand?
A: My absolute favorite memory from Thailand was from the day I spent at Erawan National Park in Kanchanaburi. We walked through seven waterfalls and at the end climbed to the top of one and found this little cove of crystal blue water overlooking the entire park. There were butterflies everywhere and it was the purest feeling of bliss I’ve ever felt.
Q: What was the hardest or most different part of living in Asia?
A: The hardest part of being in Asia was sticking out like a sore thumb because I am white. People will give you odd looks, raise their prices, and literally fight with people around you to get your business. No matter the language I spoke or clothing I wore, everyone knew I wasn’t Thai and that left me vulnerable to tourist schemes and varying interactions with others. That being said, it wasn’t a dehabilitating issue. I was aware of it and made pretty easy judgement calls about things. People there are generally very nice, but its important to be aware of your place in their society and to respect their beliefs and values.
 
Q: How did the academics abroad compare to here at UCSC?
A: Academics abroad were quite different. It definitely depends on what program you’re in but as a Thai Studies student I found it very simple to do well in class. It really depends on your classes but in general, many students found it easier than school here.
Q: What would you say to anyone thinking of studying abroad in Thailand?
A: I would say that you need to go. Thailand is an absolutely amazing country that’s rich in nature, culture, religion, politics, and great food. While you’re there definitely take advantage of cheap prices and its close proximity to many other amazing countries such as Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Go everywhere you can in Thailand because it really has everything.

Thanks to Elyse for sharing her experience! If you’ve studied abroad we want to hear from you. Send us an email to programsabroad@ucsc.edu and tell us where you studied!

Slugs of the World: Danielle

Hi slug travelers! Once again on Slugs of the World we’ll be taking a trip down memory lane to see what it was like for fellow banana slugs to leave UCSC and see the world!

Danielle graduated in 2014 and remembers her experience studying abroad in South Africa in 2012 as one of the best parts of her undergraduate career.

Danielle at the top of Table Mountain, facing south west to the Cape of Good Hope.

 

Q. What made you decide to study abroad in South Africa?

A. I knew I wanted to participate in EAP from the very first OPERS fair in fall of my freshman year. I love traveling- and study abroad seemed like a wonderful opportunity. I was worried about how the language barrier would affect my studies, but I also wanted a cultural experience. After recommendation from one of the seniors in my sorority, (Tri Chi) I looked at the South Africa program. I had taken an African history class and I was fascinated by the amount of global and societal change in the past 20 years. So, South Africa picked me. Essentially.

Q. How did studying abroad change your undergraduate experience?

A. It changed in every possible way. It was more challenging, because it took time and effort to complete the application and program along with my UCSC studies, but it was much more rewarding than I ever expected. I gained so much independence, confidence, and experience working with other cultures, as well as an ability to…take chances? Make mistakes, and learn from them. I learned a great deal about my abilities.

Before bungee jumping on Bloukans Bridge.

 

Q. Tell us a memorable story from your time in South Africa.

A. This is a really hard question, because there are absolutely endless memories and experiences, but I’m choosing one of my favorites. My friends visited and we decided to go on a hike. After losing our way, we ended up climbing to the top of table mountain. It actually took all day, and we were completely exhausted. While were at the top, the siren went off, signaling all climbers to head to the gondolas (to get off the mountain at night). While waiting in line, we got to see the most spectacular view of Cape Town and the surrounding area at night, something very unique, special, and completely unexpected. Moral: When things don’t go according to plan, there’s always a bigger picture.

Bungee jumping 260 meters off the highest bungee bridge in the world.

 

Q. Did you experience culture shock or reverse culture shock?

A. I think, because of how westernized Cape Town is, it wasn’t too much of a culture shock. I did get homesick, the time difference is 9 hours and that’s hard. However, whenever I felt out of sorts, I just let myself be fascinated, amused, amazed, and just enjoyed every single moment. It’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Make the most of it.

Q. Now that you have graduated what skills from your time abroad have helped you further your professional career?

A. Currently, I work as a Family Services Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity. The amazing part of my job is working with new applicant families, from many different cultures and backgrounds, some of which don’t speak English very well, or require translations. EAP prepared me to be open minded to all walks of life, and work with many different cultures. I also maintain contact with my friends from Norway and South Africa, and I hope to visit them someday.

Thanks to Danielle for sharing! If you studied abroad we want to hear about it! Email us at programsabroad@ucsc.edu and tell us where you went.

Slugs of the World: Mina

Hi travelers! Slugs of the World is a new feature where we’ll be interviewing a study abroad returnee once a week to give you some insight on what it’s really like to leave UCSC and experience the world!
Mina is a fourth-year psychology major here at UCSC. She studied abroad on a multicity program which means she got to spend 5 weeks in Rome and 5 weeks in Madrid. I asked Mina a few questions about her experience abroad.
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Mina with the view from the orange grove on Aventine Hill in Rome

Q: What were you first impressions when you landed on Italian soil?
A: After an eventful and unexpected 8 hour layover in NY and an equally long flight, I was so thankful to have finally landed in Rome! I was excited, tired, but also surprised at how much writing was in English. Through winding halls I found my way outside of the airport to the taxi area that I had no idea how to navigate. I noticed an employee was speaking English so I looked at the taxis and asked, “How do I get one?” He hailed a cab, I checked the logo to make sure it was the correct district cab like the program instructions said and I was on my way. My first impression of Italians was that they were helpful and pleasant.

Q:  What do you miss most about being abroad?

A: I miss the constant excitement, curiosity, and adrenaline that was coursing through my veins everyday I was abroad. There is something so invigorating about exploring new terrain. There was always something to do and a new place to visit. Both Italy and Spain had so much to offer whether it was the ruins of an ancient palace in Rome or the majestic skyline seen from the roof of Circulo de Bellas Artes. Everyday was a stimulating adventure and a new learning experience.

Q: Why did you choose the multi-city program?
A: I chose a multi-city program because it was different, I could go to two countries within the same program! It was also in late spring which means great weather. I really enjoyed comparing and contrasting two major cities in Europe – even though they were only a two hour flight away from each other, the environment in both places was so different
Q:  What would you say to someone considering your program?
I would say do it! This program offers you the chance to see both places as well as learn about the history (politics, architecture, and immigration) that you can see remnants of as you step outside of the classroom. I would also suggest looking into the internship program. I did not do it but I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to work with different people!

Thanks to Mina for sharing! If you have studied abroad you can be featured on Slugs of the World! Send an email to programsabroad@ucsc.edu and tell us where you studied. 

Slugs of the World: Sameer

Hi travelers! Slugs of the World is a feature where we’ll be interviewing a study abroad returnee once a week to give you some insight on what it’s really like to leave UCSC and experience the world!
Here is Sameer Saleh, a transfer student who studied in South Africa and India.
Sameer in South Africa

Sameer in South Africa

Q: Why did you choose to study in India and South Africa?

A: Choosing to study abroad in South Africa and India really came down to taking myself out my comfort zone and seeing new regions of the world I had not explored before.

Q: Did you experience culture shock?

A: I certainly experienced culture shock, but most of it was the experience of reverse-culture shock. I think going to South Africa and India, I had mentally prepared myself for any of the unexpected, but returning home was a different story. I had been advised on reverse-culture shock but really took none of it to heart and managed to be in disbelief about the whole idea. Of course the advice given wasn’t in vain and coming back home was a mix of emotions and a culture shock I was not expecting.
Q: What was the most interesting thing you ate?
A: Indian street food.
Q: What was your experience like with the academic culture in both countries compared to UCSC?
A: At the University of Cape Town, I felt that the academic culture was very similar to the culture at UCSC. In India, I was at a study center and felt that the culture was significantly different than at UCSC, but largely because the whole program consisted of ten students where classes had as little as two students in a class.
Q: Do you have a favorite memory or experience from your time in both countries?
A: My favorite memory in Cape Town was the time a friend and I were running late heading into town to see a jazz show on what are called taxis, but are actually hop-on hop-off rundown vans that are crammed full of people (significant majority usually being African) that ran out of gas. Helping to push this taxi full of people to the nearest gas station with a few other South Africans ended up being one of my most memorable experiences.
In India, I would have to say one of my most memorable experiences would have to be the general auto-rickshaw rides around town and the one time I randomly saw an elephant coming down the other side of the road while in one.
Q: Transfer students may not know that studying abroad is an option for them, but it definitley is! What would you say to other transfer students interested in studying abroad?
A: As a transfer student, I would encourage other transfer students to look into study abroad as soon as possible and to know that it is very possible to study abroad as a transfer.

Thanks Sameer for sharing! If you have studied abroad you can be featured on Slugs of the World! Send an email to programsabroad@ucsc.edu and tell us where you studied.

Natalie Bigelow – A Norwich Blog

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Wondering what it’s like to live in a provincial English town? Look no further than Natalie Bigelow’s experiences on her Norwich blog!

Natalie is a third year UCSC film major spending winter/spring at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, Norfolk, England, which is a small city about 2 hours from London. She chose England to fulfill many childhood dreams revolving around novels, films and fantasy worlds, and her family traces its roots back to medieval England. She chose East Anglia because the quieter “provincial” life (as described by a London resident) in Norwich which  is perfectly suited for studying and similar to Santa Cruz in many ways, especially when it comes to natural beauty. As a smaller campus, it also provides a more personalized feel. Norwich offers a lot of fascinating history: the city’s centerpiece is an 800+ year old castle and also features a similarly old cathedral. She tells us it’s been a great place to live for the past month!

Check out what Natalie has to say about life in Norwich here!Picture 1

Life in Norwich

As a student at UC Santa Cruz, I am definitely familiar with the quiet college town, having come from the bustling metropolis that is my home, the San Francisco Bay Area. The community that lies outside campus boundaries and immediately surrounding student housing is largely families and elders. Santa Cruz is a place to settle, not a place to start, and I would say the same about Norwich. My first taste of England was the world’s briefest snapshot of London for 4 days, and when I made the long trek via taxi, train and bus through lush, rolling English countryside dotted with pink farmhouses, I felt a distinct sense that I was headed for the middle of nowhere. I realized that my perception of Santa Cruz as quiet was definitely skewed by my growing up next to busy freeways and thoroughfares, which served as a constant reminder of nocturnal, urban life.

First of all, I am far more north on the globe than I ever have been, and it’s winter. That means we get daylight until no later than 4 pm. After that time, you blink and it is black as the darkest night outside, which is reflected in all the businesses downtown that close as early as 5:30. If you happen to be downtown after 6, it transforms from a bustling, family-laden shopping zone to a dark, wet ghost town with poor lighting and weirdly placed bus stops. Once you step away from the main street, cobblestoned roads and alleys twist between ancient-looking buildings; the darkened windows provide a glimpse at what must be a charming town to shop in by day, with adorable local shops, tea rooms, pubs, candy stores. Everything in Norwich feels historical. Being away from the 24-hour, neon-lit, smartphone and hybrid-fueled West Coast lifestyle is somewhat of a shock but also a pleasant escape in many ways.

For example, the emphasis on the loud house party/disgusting club/broken 40s in the gutter that haunts my usual cities is notably absent here. If you go to the downtown pubs away from the main street, they are cozy and well-lit and serve excellent beer and cider, as well as usually pretty good food. It seems that there was an attempt to update the city on part of the main street, which resulted in a few skeezy looking strip clubs (or so we thought; the first one we spotted promised “American table dancing”) and loud (but deserted) sports bars. Weird, out-of-place spots like the former aside, the cozy Norwich pub scene is much more suited to my personal drinking style, I’ve discovered. I like getting together with huge groups (so far, mostly of other International students like me) and just drinking and chatting over chips.

Despite my quaint portrait of Norwich life so far, my days here are far from empty. As I started this post, my iPod delivered “Go Hard” by Kreayshawn on shuffle, which seems appropriate. Since I got here just over a week ago, it has become clear to me how much of a drinking/partying culture is present in the UK, even in sleepy little Norwich. My housemates drink together almost every night, and we have a fairly active on campus club as well as two pubs. There is always something to do at night, and so far I have discovered that my party energy reserves have been significantly depleted since I graduated high school and moved to the chilled out, kick-it culture on the dry campus of Santa Cruz. Alas, Kreayshawn, I cannot go as hard as I used to. However, I suspect that that is going to change; after all, tolerance is always in flux.

Even with the near-constant “going out” option, I recently tried to find even more things to occupy my time by going to the UEA clubs & societies fair. I have a few mixers and tryouts in the next couple of weeks, for the aforementioned Feminist Discussion and Doctor Who Appreciation societies, as well as the Qudditch and Pole Fitness clubs. I want to try to step out of the comfy American bubble I’ve been in and interact with the students who know this country best.

I’ve been so busy with the “settling in” process as well as wading through some bureaucratic tedium from both of my schools that I haven’t had time to develop any kind of regular routine, in regards to a) posting on this blog, b) doing homework, c) catching up with friends and family back home, so apologies to those who’ve felt out of the loop. I promise I will send out post cards and arrange Skype schedules as soon as I have a free moment.

We loved hearing about life in Norwich, Natalie! Want to see the original post? Visit Natalie’s blog to find out more about living abroad in the UK!

If you’re interested in having your travel blog featured on UCSCAbroad, send an email to programsabroad@ucsc.edu with “Travel Blog” in the subject line. We’d love to get a chance to see what you’ve been up to!

Just Jennie – A Copenhagen Blog

Wondering what it’s like to move from Vacaville to Denmark? Look no further than Just Jennie, a travel blog chronicling the adventures of a UCSC Sociology major on her exciting adventure abroad in Copenhagen.

Jennie West is a junior at UCSC who chose to go to Denmark to study in order to learn more about her heritage. Her mom grew up in Denmark and moved to California when she was twenty years old, so one whole side of Jennie’s family lives in Copenhagen. Jennie hopes to learn about how her mom grew up, and get closer with her Danish family.

We chose to feature Jennie’s post, Week 1 of Class, on UCSCAbroad this week. Jennie gives an insider’s perspective on what it’s like to get to know Copenhagen as a study abroad student. Check out her post below!

Week 1 of Class

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Københavns Universitet (The University of Copenhagen) was founded in 1479, making it the oldest university and research institution in Denmark, and the second oldest institution for higher education in Scandinavia by two years. (It would have been the first, but the king took two years to get backto Denmark after asking the Pope’s permission… due to partying). The university has several campuses located in and around Copenhagen. The oldest is in central Copenhagen, and is that which is pictured here. They no longer hold classes at this location… it is now just used for administration, which is honestly a shame because it is so beautiful. Luckily, I at least had a meeting there. Image

PictureJoe & the Juice seems to be the Starbucks of Copenhagen (in number, not in trendiness). Another international student and I wandered in to study our Danish on Wednesday after class. It had a very slick but cozy setup, and sold freshly juiced juice, smoothies, coffee, and yummy sandwiches. I am not a fan of coffee, but I am a huge fan of ginger so I had to try the ginger latte. So good! I also had a turkey sandwich, simply because it was the first time I’ve seen turkey since I’ve gotten here. And trust me – I have been looking. At least they have chicken if I look hard enough. But nope, no turkey. I just want some turkey lunch meat so I can make a sandwich!

But anyways… Joe & the Juice. I’ll be back. Just can’t resist the pink cups!!

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Studenterhuset(student house) has become the place to be at night. Studenterhuset is a very “by the students for the students” type of place, relying on student volunteers to run the bar and help with events. It’s a cosy café for studying during the day, and then a hangout with student discounts at the bar at night. They have events, concerts, swing dancing and more..

It’s a very neat place to have – seems to be a default meeting spot for international students, at least as of now. Perhaps it’s because we don’t know of any other places to go quite yet.. and most can navigate this one by now. The photo above is from Wednesday night which was international student night, where we shoved half a dozen tables together trying to fit as many of us in – the place was packed! We all felt very welcomed, so here’s a shoutout to the staff at Studenterhuset! 

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Some of the international students went Ice Skating on Friday afternoon. It was a planned event that was cancelled due to “rain,” but it wasn’t raining. Plus, we were already at the rink (which wasn’t a piece of cake to find). So we spent the 45 kroner ($8) and skated. (Side note – this is the first thing in DK that has been cheaper than in the states). It was hardly worth the money, though. I’m glad I did it, because it was a nice experience to skate on an outdoor rink surrounded by beautiful buildings. The skates, however, were tragic. They hurt so bad on almost everyone’s feet, and none of the skates went up high enough to cover our ankles, so everyone’s ankles were rolling in the whole time! It was painful and made it very difficult to skate. 

My trip to IKEA yesterday was successful. I got some cheap tea light candles for my window sill, a tea pot with infuser in it (score!), a blanket, rug, and DINNER! The IKEA cafés at home have good food, but here it seemed to be fancier. It felt more like a restaurant besides having to stand in line to order food. And they had wine! So weird. The girl I was with and I both had to have some with our dinner, just so we could say we’ve had wine at IKEA. And it wasn’t half bad!
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I don’t have any photos to share from my Danish language crash course I’m in for the next couple of weeks, unless you’d like to see the mass amounts of notes I’ve taken, which I’m sure you could do without.
I’ve never learned so much in such a short period of time! I love it. I had no idea how much I would be learning. We’ve learned how to have short conversations about your name, where you’re from, what you would like at the store, to times of the day and numbers, and sentence structure for asking questions. I haven’t even listed half of it. Surprisingly, I’m not finding it too difficult. I’m going to attribute it to the fact that I’ve heard Danish spoke all my life, so I know how it is supposed to sound and where the emphasis on words tend to go. Which is actually a huge part of it. Danes don’t pronounce half of the consonants in their words, and my teacher is definitely stressing the importance of pronunciation. 

Thanks for sharing, Jennie! Want to see the original post? Visit Just Jennie’s blog to find out more about living abroad in Denmark!

If you’re interested in having your travel blog featured on UCSCAbroad, send an email to programsabroad@ucsc.edu with “Travel Blog” in the subject line. We’d love to get a chance to see what you’ve been up to!