Expat Pro

Picture2

by Kerry Nappi

High: A neighborhood of friendly faces

It took eight months, a neighborhood of friendly faces, one good friend, and a purpose to help me find contentment in my home-away-from-home of Bahia, Brazil. The last days were filled with small outings with my best friend and her 3-year-old, group gatherings at a pizza buffet we loved, and windy beach days when we all got to try surfing and watched the kids sit on plastic chairs from the barraca and let themselves be knocked over time and again by the waves.

Picture3My second high for these two months was a family trip to Chapada Diamantina, The Diamond Highlands, six hours from our beach home. The vacation had everything we love: sweeping vistas, arduous hikes, lost-in-the-mountains and river adventure, and eating local foods from the street cafes while listening to the sounds of the music festival around us.

To be fair, I am condensing two months of Highs into one, so I couldn’t let pass this chance to celebrate a time with more highs than lows.

Low: Not being available when your child needs you

I’m sure I have said this before, but the hardest thing about being an expat is also the hardest thing about being a mom: Not being available when your child needs you.

Right in the middle of our somewhat major move from Brazil to China, my older child, a freshman in university in the US, started suffering from health issues. Sometimes, I missed middle of the night phone calls; other times, I was facetiming and texting right through the worst of it.

In one case, a new friend in university helped my son by getting him to the ER twice in a weekend. This was a friend I have never met, but who was using my son’s phone to send kind and caring texts to let me know how he was and that she woudn’t leave him alone.

Another time, the illness occurred while he was with family for Thanksgiving break; a loving aunt and uncle were the ones getting him to a doctor and caring for him until he was well enough to ride the train back to school.

But in all cases, I wasn’t there. I usually like being an expatriate, but I never like not being there for my son, as grown up as he tells me he is.

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Glitter: Yinhang. And it worked!

You know you’re a pro at this moving around the world thing when your Glitter in one country parallels a Glitter in another country just a year before. I must admit, starting yet another language, and a tonal one at that, makes me nervous. If you don’t grow up with tones, your ears aren’t attuned to them by the time you get to my age. That’s going to be the problem with Mandarin. However, you don’t get any better if you don’t try, so that’s been my sole intent.

The first week, I used a lot of sign language and our driver’s rudimentary English to communicate. Google Translate and other apps have made international living so much easier. But one time, I just could not communicate the word I needed: bank. So I gave it a shot and tried to pronounce the word as best I could. Yinhang. And it worked! Let’s hope that all my needs will be so easily met and all my language attempts become Glitters!


Kerry Nappi was born, raised, and attended Smith College in Massachusetts. In fact, she had rarely left Massachusetts by the age of 22 when she decided she could both expand her horizons and help others by joining the Peace Corps. Thus, she landed in Tunisia for an amazing two year stint that, still, might have proven to be the end of her travel. At 24, she was back in Massachusetts, teaching at a laboratory school at Smith College, and starting to forget her Tunisian Arabic skills already. When she married a New Yorker at 28, it seemed New York would be her only culture shock. Her new husband, Steve, had spent 6 years in a Navy nuclear sub and wanted nothing more than to settle down on Long Island, where he had been raised.

As often happens when you make plans, though, life changes them without much notice.

Between forced job changes and new desires to see other parts of the world, Kerry and Steve moved across the country to Arizona with their 2-year-old for grad school, spent a semester in Tokyo while pregnant with their second child, and then started a new life in Michigan. Since 2000, their family of four has lived in Michigan, Hiroshima, Bangkok, back in Michigan, and are now beginning their newest assignment with Ford Motor in Bahia, Brazil. The kids, now 14 and 18, are considered Third Culture Kids, and Kerry is a Trailing Spouse. For the most part, it doesn’t seem like “trailing” as she is the one who has to forge forward in each new host country, learning the language and making new connections, from friends to doctors to schools, while Steve goes to work and the kids to school.

The life of an expatriate cannot be summed up in a few paragraphs. Volumes have been written about the experience. Perhaps a blog that allows her to focus on a High, a Low, and a Glitter each month is one way to steady that rollercoaster ride that is her current life.

High: Great Month of Traveling

The Moeraki Boulders

The Moeraki Boulders

by Brittany Holt

High: May was, per usual for my time in New Zealand, a great month for travelling and generally having fun. The first weekend some friends and I took a trip to Dunedin, which is known by some as a crazy college/party town and by others as a cute city with a rich Scottish heritage in close proximity to the stunning scenery of the Otago Peninsula. We definitely saw both points of view, but had a really fun time – it was nice to have one “city” weekend that didn’t involve being outside all day and then sleeping in a tent/car. On the way back we stopped in Oamaru to check out a Steampunk-themed playground, and then the Moeraki boulders for a touristy photo shoot (see photos). I also got a chance to check out Paynes Ford in Golden Bay another weekend, an area with ample rock climbing that’s all within a 5 to 20 minute walk from a campground dedicated solely to climbers! The last weekend trip was to the west coast and then Arthur’s Pass National Park on the way back. I’d been to these places before (the west coast during my three week break, and Arthur’s Pass during field camp) but it’s always nice to revisit places, find new things, and see how your perspective has changed. We got some stellar campsites with beautiful lake and ocean views, saw Franz Josef Glacier and Devil’s Punchbowl Falls, and caught a killer sunset at Cave Stream on our way home. Oh and my birthday! Some friends put on a “high tea” celebration and baked a bunch of goodies, including a glorious ice cream cake with one very large candle. The next night my flat had a crepe dinner to celebrate my flatmate’s birthday, and my birthday/graduation!

The Moeraki Boulders

The Moeraki Boulders

Low: May turned out to be quite a busy month for school work – after not having many assignments (or any, for some classes) up until May, it was tough to come back from the three week break and have to immediately crunch out a bunch of projects and presentations that were each worth more than a quarter of my grade for the entire semester! I definitely got a bit stressed some days, especially since I was trying to finish everything within the week so I could travel on the weekends, but hey, they don’t call it study abroad for nothing, do they? A lot of important things tend to happen back home during May, as well – mother’s day; graduation; and my little sister’s prom, birthday, and dance recital are just a few of the events I had to miss out on this year, but I plan on celebrating all of those things when I get back to the states!

Glitter: Since my semester abroad is my last semester of undergraduate, I technically graduated from Smith College in mid-May. It was bittersweet to come back from a weekend of climbing and see all of the pictures of senior week, Ivy Day, and commencement, but several of my friends made sure to congratulate me and snap a photo of my name in the commencement program. Even though I couldn’t physically be in Massachusetts for the formalities of graduation, seeing how happy everyone was in the photos made me happy (thank God for social media!). I’m immensely grateful for the time I’ve spent at Smith and the smart, beautiful, amazing people I’ve met along the way, and no distance on graduation day could have changed that.

bholtBrittany Holt is a senior at Smith College majoring in geoscience. She is spending her last undergraduate spring abroad in New Zealand, where she first attended a 6-week geology field camp through Frontiers Abroad before starting a semester at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. Brittany loves being outdoors hiking, climbing, and exploring, and can’t wait to see what other adventures New Zealand has in store for her!

High: Parents Visit

Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales

Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales

by Julia Greider

High: My parents came to visit at the beginning of the month.

We first went hiking in the Cotswolds, which was idyllic and pastoral especially after spending the previous weeks in Europe’s cities. We then took the train to Wales and explored both mountains and towns, including the self-proclaimed bookstore capital of the world, Hay-on-Wye. I had been wanting to visit Wales most of the semester, so I was very glad to be able to do so. Unfortunately, I had to take an exam a few days later, so my parents returned to Exeter with me and went on adventures of their own while I studied. I was able to have dinner with them almost every night, though, which was excellent not only for their company, but also because we got to discover a number of gastronomical gems in Exeter that I had not yet been able to sample.

Low: Homesick on a horse farm in central France.

The last two weeks of May I spent working on a horse farm in central France. Although this was all-around an enjoyable experience, the first few days were definitely the low point of the month. My hosts took a little while to warm up to me, and it was stressful trying to learn all the very particular ways that they wanted me to do tasks on the farm. On top of it all was the fact that I was basically in an immersive French environment, and even though I’ve taken French classes for a number of years, it was extremely difficult to understand and communicate, especially before I acclimated to some of the more farm-specific vocabulary. These factors compounded to make me quite homesick, and the first few days were very trying. Luckily, things began to look up once I got the hang of the routine and my responsibilities.

View from the horse farm in Auvergne, France

View from the horse farm in Auvergne, France

Glitter: Rewarding rides on a grey horse named Reïcha

The best part about working on the farm was that I got to ride, and I had some really rewarding rides on a grey horse named Reïcha. I haven’t had the chance to do very much jumping this semester, even though it’s probably my favorite equestrian activity, but I had a wonderful jumping lesson on Reïcha that restored my self-confidence as a rider. I also got to ride Reïcha while following my hosts on two endurance training rides, which involved long spells of trotting and cantering through gorgeous French countryside. This was especially interesting because I had never before been exposed to the endurance discipline of the equestrian world. I additionally had the opportunity to try vaulting, which at the higher levels amounts to gymnastics on horseback. It was great fun – I turned myself all the way around while the horse was trotting, cantered while kneeling, and almost managed to stand up at the walk!

Julia Greider is a junior at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, double majoring in English and the Study of Women and Gender. She is studying abroad at the University of Exeter in England for five months. She loves reading and being outside, but there are few things she would rather do in her free time than go horseback riding!

Nicaragua Vacation Filled with Glitters

Glitter: did an overnight hike up a volcano and camped close to the top!

Glitter: did an overnight hike up a volcano and camped close to the top!

 

by Anne Ruelle

Spring 2015

High: El Salvador does not experience spring in quite the same way as the States, but May is typically the month when we get our first storms after a long dry season.  Rather than going from snowy and gray to green, the countryside goes from brown and dusty to green.  The farmers start planting their corn and beans and hope the rains will be sufficient for a good crop.  Temperatures also start ticking down in the slightest bit, which is welcome after sleeping with two fans and a frozen water bottle at my side!

Low:  There are still days when it is very, very hot and a short 15 minute walk is enough to drench (not an exaggeration) me with sweat!

Glitter:   I used some of my last vacation days to spend two weeks in Nicaragua with another Peace Corps Volunteer.  We had a fabulous time.  We ate fantastic ice cream, went to a chocolate castle, rode horses in a coffee plantation, and did an overnight hike up a volcano and camped close to the top!

AnneAnne Ruelle graduated from Providence College in 2013.  By working to promote social change and forming strong relationships, she hopes to be a part of creating a more just, equal world.  She is currently a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Community Organization and Economic Development project in El Salvador and lives in a hot, rural community in the East.  She loves eating pupusas, salsa dancing, and learning Salvadoran “caliche” (slang).

The contents of these posts are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or Peace Corps.

Low: Complicated News from Home

The Cliffs of Inis Morr

The Cliffs of Inis Morr

by Josie Verchomin

High: My high for April would have to be Easter Weekend. I spent Easter in Galway with two of my good friends from Smith and one new friend I made while abroad. Many of my friends and my flat mates all went on a two week long trip to Italy and Greece, but I chose to stay in Galway. I made a great decision. The weather over Easter weekend was amazing. It didn’t rain, it was sunny and breezy, perfect weather to walk around Galway in and bike around Inis Morr. Brady, Mel, Julia and I had the entire apartment to ourselves. We cooked, drank tea, ate ice-cream and watched a movie. We planned little outings and managed to pick the best day to go to the biggest Aran Island, Inis Morr. Even though Inis Morr is the “biggest” it is still an island and when we reached possibly the tallest point on the island we could see where the ocean met the islands beaches and cliffs. We all got Aran sweaters and became those four American Girls in Aran Sweaters roaming around Galway. Several people said we looked absolutely grand and one woman even took our picture for her Instagram.

View of Florence

View of Florence

Low: My low during April hit when I received…complicated news from the home. My close friend, who I call my brother, was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I realize now, after thinking about this a lot, that I was devastated at first because I grew up with the diagnosis of Cancer as being a diagnosis of death. Hearing this news about one of my dear friends, who is only 21, hit me hard. The Doctors say he has a really, really good chance of beating this thing but it is scary non-the-less. A few weeks after hearing about him Baltimore, my hometown, began to rise up against injustice. Media reports blew the violence and rioting out of proportion and the time I spent reading about what was happening was emotional and hard to comprehend. April became a month of traveling, finishing school, and dealing with the thoughts of going home. I guess I had this idea that leaving for 4 months wouldn’t mean that things would change back in the states, that I would come home and everything would be the same. Now I see that things have changed, and there is more change to come. I have also come to realize that I have changed and that this change is good.

Cambridge

Cambridge

Glitter: It is hard to say what my Glitter is for the month. I had so many wonderful experiences. However with out a doubt visiting my dear friend Christopher Mergen at Cambridge in England was absolutely wonderful. I had this trip planned for quite a while. I knew I wanted to visit him since I found out I was studying abroad and he was going to Cambridge University for undergrad. I know Christopher from the school I went to for twelve years. I had been having a hard time with everything going on at home and visiting a good friend from home was just what I needed. Cambridge is absolutely gorgeous. Many buildings are very old and the University campus features many, many green spaces. I felt like I was at Hogwarts sometimes, and let me say Harry Potter was my childhood, so going to Hall in a robe and eating dinner was definitely a highlight. I also got to see Cat on A Hot Tin Roof , by Tennessee Williams. All in all visiting Christopher was amazing and calming, just what I needed to finish the month.

I am a junior at Smith College studying at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) this spring. At Smith I am working towards a theatre major, psych minor and Native American and indigenous studies certificate. While in Ireland I hope to explore the culture, and history, as well as the local theatre life.

Glitter: Amazing People

by Elizabeth Shaw

Zip Lining in Jaipur

Zip Lining in Jaipur

Program Group

Program Group

Program Group

Program Group

Hiking

Hiking

Sleeping in the Desert

Sleeping in the Desert

Goa

Goa

Camel Ride

Camel Ride

Fitting into a Rickshaw

Fitting into a Rickshaw

In Goa

In Goa

High: A few weeks ago we had our travel break and a group of us went and travelled around Rajisthan. There was so much that happened on that trip that were amazing but i’ll just mention a few. For two days we decided to stay in the desert to do a camel safari. Instead of sleeping in the huts that were provided we decided we would sleep outside under the stars.

The first night it was so beautiful. There are no city lights anywhere and so you can see all the stars and the temperature was perfect. The next day getting to go on our camel safari was so much fun. We each got a camel (I named mine Kusco) and we wandered through the desert and sand dunes. If you don’t know the way that camels get up is very strange and it makes you feel like you will fall off when you are sitting on them.

They pick up their back legs first so you are falling forward over the head of the camel and you have to hold on until they get their front legs up as well. It was hilarious to watch people experience it the first time but by the end of the day we were pros. We even got to run while on the camels which was pretty uncomfortable because you are just bouncing with absolutely no cushion but still just so much fun. That night when we slept under the stars again instead of another peaceful night we were hit by a small but nonetheless terrifying sand storm.

It felt like our beds were going to be picked up by the wind and just taken into the desert. Looking back, it is such an amazing story it becomes a highlight of the trip.

Another highlight would have to be getting to zip line over the Nahargarh fort in Jaipur. The Nahargarh fort is this amazing fort that is so massive and just so beautiful over looking the pink city in Jaipur. Instead of simply seeing it, we were able to take a zip lining tour over the fort which was just such an amazing experience. Another highlight would be the transportation we took. With there being 6 of us there were some times we had to squeeze very tightly into the Rickshaws or Jeeps we were taking. There were many occasions when two of us would be forced to sit in the back or trunk which after about 30 minutes is no longer that comfortable. It was really fun to be able to experience all of these ways of traveling.
Finally, a highlight of the trip was just all of the culture that we got to see and all the amazing places we got to go. We ended up getting to see Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Pushkar and Ajmer in about 8 days. It was very hectic but so worth it. Just getting to go on that trip has definitely been a high of being in India.

Low: My low is that in 3 days I will be leaving India to continue my travels. Though I am excited to go on (I am going to Scotland next for the month before heading back home) I am going to miss my home here very much.

I love my host family and I love Pune and so leaving seems so surreal. This has become my home and the every day here feels so normal. I am sad to have to leave all the amazing people I have met here and to just leave India in general. I honestly did not think I would like living here as much as I do and I cannot wait for when I get to return.

Glitter: The glitter moment for me must be just all the amazing people I have been able to meet here and all the great experiences I have been able to have. I was so nervous the day I was leaving my house and I was confused that I was making a huge mistake coming to India.

But coming here has been one of my best decisions and I’m so glad I didn’t go anywhere else. The people in the program have become my very close friends, I absolutely adore my host family, I have become good friends with my host brother, and during my travels I have been able to meet and hang out with some very cool people.

ElizabethElizabeth is a Junior at Smith college. She is studying abroad in Pune, India during the Spring 2015 semester. She looks forward to learning the language and being able to learn and see as much of India as possible. While abroad she will be interning for an organization focused on public health and learning traditional painting. At Smith she is a Psychology major, an Exercise and Sports Studies minor and a Community Engagement and Social Change concentrator.

High: Traveling and Friends

by Julia Greider

High: The only way I can sum it up is: traveling and friends.

Ireland

Ireland

April was such a high month in general that the only way I can sum it up is: traveling and friends. First I went to Ireland, where I got to see three friends from Smith and spend enough time in Galway with Josie that I could really appreciate the town. Suffice to say it was fantastic – a bustling, easygoing place where I was never out of earshot of street musicians. Ireland is definitely a place to which I want to return. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that Galway offered me the first truly springlike weather of the year. Then, the last two and a half weeks of April saw me hopping all over Europe with my friend Trudy. I got pretty good at rattling off all our destinations:

Barcelona

Barcelona

London, Copenhagen, Malmö, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Venice, Barcelona, Madrid. If that sounds like a lot for two and a half weeks, it was – but I had been worried that it would be too much, and it wasn’t! We stayed longer in Copenhagen than anywhere else, as my Smith friend Anna hosted us and acted as a fantastic guide of the city’s history and restaurants (the food was amazing). She also came to Berlin with us, which was more or less where our routine for the rest of the trip began: arrive, find the hostel, get a map, go to a restaurant, make a list of destinations according to the map, wander in the evening, sleep, and visit as many of the places on our list as possible during our only full day in the city.

Copenhagen

Copenhagen

After conquering a few cities in this fashion, Trudy and I devised a dependable formula of sights that included a water view (river or ocean or, in the case of Venice, literally everywhere), a view from on high (usually a tower), a park, a church, and a museum. Trudy wrote our intended destinations in a handy notebook and at meals we had the satisfaction of checking off the places we had visited. Even as dazzling as all these places were in themselves, however, I know that I would have had a far less enjoyable time without all of the friends whose company throughout the month allowed me to feel at home no matter where on the continent I found myself.

Low: Missing home.

More and more lately I’ve been missing home – both Smith and Virginia. The coming of spring made me want to go sit out in the garden behind my house at Smith or ride the pony I owned in high school. Seniors are getting ready to graduate and my friends studying abroad are getting ready to head home, but I won’t be back in the States for three more months. Even as much as I’ve enjoyed being introduced to so many new places, I’m also learning the value of an intimate connection to one place, and the importance of the memories that attach to it and shade the way you experience it in the present.

Glitter: Everything became something unexpectedly glittery.

The only things Trudy and I had planned for our trip were the accommodations and the travel between cities. Other than that, we arrived in each destination with hardly any sense of what it offered. We often found ourselves on a train or plane saying, “What’s Vienna even like? Where even is it?” This may sound like a recipe for disaster, but it ended up to the contrary. Everything became something unexpectedly glittery as we perused our crisp new map and discovered that we could visit a mirror maze in Prague or the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, or when we arrived in Madrid to find that the next day was a grand holiday celebrating Spain’s victory over Napoleon and featuring a military parade of horses and marching bands. When we first set out our trip felt like a blank page in a coloring book; we had the outlines but didn’t quite know what would fill them in. And having come to the end, I can say that Europe provided some pretty fantastic crayons.

Julia Greider is a junior at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, double majoring in English and the Study of Women and Gender. She is studying abroad at the University of Exeter in England for five months. She loves reading and being outside, but there are few things she would rather do in her free time than go horseback riding!

More to Czech Out

the political prisoner survivor

by Tziona Breitbart

High: Why are certain moments in history overlooked? Why is some suffering memorialized while others are forgotten? I had the opportunity to learn about and see a part of history that many others and I barely know exists. My program planned an optional trip to Jachymov, a medieval town in northwest Bohemia near Karlovy Vary in the Ore Mountains of the Czech Republic, close Germany’s border. The trip was centered on learning about the former labour camps for political prisoners of the Czechoslovak communist regime Rovnost, Eliáš, Nikolaj used to mine uranium in the 1950s. To learn about this tragic part of history, we were led by a former political prisoner whom is a living witness of the past and the organization “Political Prisoners”. While listening to his story and hearing about his pain, I could not help but think how this suffering in history remains unknown. He showed us the “Red Tower of Death” – where the political prisoners were forced to work with uranium all day without any safety precautions – which ultimately killed most due to the hazardous conditions. The strength he showed to return to where he suffered so greatly and share his story with strangers remains engrained in my mind and heart. During the trip, we also followed the “knowledge trail” which took us along the path of many of the different camps hidden away in the woods of Jachymov. If I did not have a tour guide showing me where the camps once stood, I would have easily just seen the town as another beautiful place. With little markings and nothing left, these camps were utterly destroyed in order to hide what truly happened, the memory of the suffering of the many political prisoners remains hidden. While following the trail, we walked along the path the prisoners had to take in order to get to the coalmines. The path was quite steep and difficult to handle on a day that was warm and the ground was not slippery. As I struggled with parts of the walk, I could only imagine how the prisoners that were attached to one another must have suffered through during winter and rainy days. While Jachymov remains a beautiful town, the pain that was endured there, screams out hope for someone to listen and recognize the terrible suffering that once occurred there.

2015 spring- Celebrating Passover in our apartment_Tziona Breitbart

Low with a High: Being away from family during holidays will always be hard, but being in a different country with a small Jewish community adds an extra level of sadness. As Pesach approached, I was quickly saddened that I would not be sitting down with my family at home for the Seders. I loved being able to celebrate Pesach with my family, but this semester I had the opportunity to spend it with a new family. I had the greatest Pesach that I could not have gotten otherwise. I hosted my first Seder with my roommate Melissa for all of our friends and one of the directors on the program. Celebrating Pesach with the new friends I have made while in Prague was incredible. Explaining the Pesach traditions, singing songs, preparing kosher Passover food, and welcoming my friends who have never celebrated before, warmed my heart tremendously. Seeing how excited everyone was to sit down and be part of such an important holiday in my life is a memory that will remain with me forever.

Kotel

Glitter: During this past semester, I have had many opportunities and experiences that I never thought possible while studying abroad in the Czech Republic. I have not only met family members for the first time, but I also visited where my Grandpa grew up in Vienna and Auschwitz where some of my family perished. Continuing on this journey of connecting with my family’s past, I can happily say that I have finally met all of my family living in Israel. Having the chance to meet all of my family in Israel is a memory that will remain with me forever. While visiting Jerusalem I saw family I never thought I would see and even got to meet the newest addition to our family, baby Elan. Spending time with my family in Israel, while it was short, was incredible. As I had the opportunity to discover my family on my dad’s side, I now had the chance to do the same with my mom’s side while in Israel – a place so dear to me. Studying in Prague has allowed me to learn about my family in ways that I never thought possible, and I will never forget how it has changed and made me appreciate where I come from. Being in Israel, where I feel so at home, and seeing family that is so important to me reminded me how fortunate I truly am to have somewhere I love so much and to be welcomed home by those I love.

Tziona BreitbartTziona Breitbart is a junior at Smith College. She is studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic during the 2015 spring semester. She looks forward to exploring the culture and learning about the enriched history of the area. While abroad she will be interning with the Aspen Institute Prague. At Smith she is a history major, concentrating in Russian history, and a community engagement and social change concentrator.

High: Springtime in Paris

Jardin Luxembourg

Jardin Luxembourg

by Emily Upin

High:  Springtime in Paris

I’ve had a great end to this year abroad in Paris so it’s difficult for me to pick just one High of the springtime. But I guess I would have to say the springtime is my High. For one, the trees have leaves again which makes the world look alive. I haven’t had to use a metro because of the weather. People walk and restaurants open their terraces again.

I also got the chance to travel to the UK this semester. I spent 10 days in Dublin, Edinburg, and London and it did not rain once! What are the chances of that!?

Low:  An hour and a half long line

I visited Versailles. Despite the beautiful rooms, it was a horrible visit. I went on a Sunday. NEVER do that. The hordes of people were so insane. I waited in line for an hour and a half (which was better than the three hours I was told I would be waiting). Then just to get into the rooms I again had to wait. Once inside there were so many people in each room/hallway that I felt like I was swimming in a river of human bodies. It was horrible! Needless to say, I’m not good with crowds.

Lines at Versailles

Lines at Versailles

Glitter: A mix of English and French

Since it’s the end of the year (two weeks left!!) and my host mom doesn’t feel the need to force the French language down my throat, we’ve been getting along a lot better! We now speak a mix of English and French to each other. We laugh a lot more. It’s a lot more relaxed and really nice. We’ve gotten along better and maybe even became better friends.

Emily Upin is a junior at Smith College. She is studying abroad in Paris, France this academic year and couldn’t be more excited to eat lots and lots of cheese. At Smith she is a psychology and French double major. Her interests also include theater, journaling and fashion.

High: Seeing As Much Of New Zealand As Possible

Lake Marian

 

by Brittany Holt

High: Most of the month of April consisted of a three week, mid-term Easter break, which basically meant it was time for a speed round of “See as Much of New Zealand as Possible.” My friend Marley, who is studying in Auckland, flew down and met up with another Smithie friend (Jane) and me for a South Island roadtrip. We spent a few days in Milford Sound, and then hopped down to Stewart Island in the hopes of seeing the shy, nocturnal brown kiwi. After that we did some sightseeing in the Catlins and Queenstown, and then made our way back up to Christchurch. The next morning we flew to the North Island, where Jane and I parted ways with Marley to go see the Hobbiton movie set and Rotorua, which is full of stinky geothermal mud pools and other cool geology. Not long after arriving on the North Island, I left it to meet up with some other friends in Queenstown. From there, we took our time meandering up the west coast and marveling at mountains, glaciers, beaches, and all other forms of nature. Jane met up with us on the west coast and then we shot up to Abel Tasman, which is one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks.” The walk is about 60km that alternate between jungle and coast, and usually takes about three to four days to complete (we did it in about two nights and two days). After that we headed over to Nelson to chill out for a couple days before moseying over to the Marlborough region to visit wineries and relax before returning to Christchurch for the start of the second term. Those three weeks were definitely a whirlwind, but a whirlwind of the best kind, full of beautiful scenery, laughter, and friends.

Low: The one low of the three week break was the car troubles we had with our rental car on the west coast – first we lost the gas cap, then we got a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, and then the headlights stopped working on our drive up to Abel Tasman! But in the end everything worked out fine, and we sure had some good stories to tell after the break ended. Oh yeah, that was probably the other low – trying to transition back into focusing on school work after such a long vacation in the middle of the semester!

Easter in New Zealand

Glitter: Easter is usually a pretty big deal in my family – we get together with all of my mom’s siblings and their children in upstate New York for a big Easter dinner, and this event is something I normally something I find a way to get to even when I’m at college. I was pretty bummed to be missing this time with family, but my friends Jane and Marley sure helped make up for it! We had a mini Easter candy hunt in the cottage we were staying at, and then we spent the rest of the day in Milford Sound National Park where we hiked up to Lake Marian, an alpine lake nestled between the mountains of the Fiordlands.

bholtBrittany Holt is a senior at Smith College majoring in geoscience. She is spending her last undergraduate spring abroad in New Zealand, where she first attended a 6-week geology field camp through Frontiers Abroad before starting a semester at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. Brittany loves being outdoors hiking, climbing, and exploring, and can’t wait to see what other adventures New Zealand has in store for her!