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Guest Post

Global Citizenship, International Friendship

Why International Friends Rock Our World

This is a shout out to all the amazing people we meet during our travels, and to all our friends we keep in touch with even though we live so far apart. Because you guys change our lives for the better. Those precious friends who don’t live next door, but you still send a birthday invitation to every year (in the desperate hope that they will come), or you now have to part from at the end from your travels.

But no matter how large the distance sometimes is, the friendships that knows literally no borders and reaches over oceans enrich your life, and are the best thing you can have. And here’s why.

When abroad, they get you

During you stay abroad, when everything is new, exciting and scary at the same time, your foreign buddy knows exactly how you feel. They would never judge you if you drag them to a local pub to get a little taste of your home country, or talk with them endless on the phone and show them pictures of your dog every day.

They’re in this with you. The bond you form during your stay abroad, when you’re both exposed to a whole new culture and adapting to it while dealing with one or two lapses linguae, the mistakes you make will give you stories to laugh about years after your year abroad.

They teach you about the world

It is more than exciting when your friend brings you this new sweet they brought from their home country, and even more exciting when you realize it’s not sweet but in fact chicken feet. With toe nails. Even though when you realize what this… fancy snack is and give it back to your Chinese friend (or you try it, in which case you earn a medal of bravery), you learn more about them from their local food.

Your vocabulary will be enriched (and by that I don’t just mean swear words). And, when they tell you about their childhood, the food they grew up with and their school system, their experience will become yours somehow. And you’ll look at their country with new eyes, because it is not just some abstract shape of a map. With every new friendship, you’ll think, “my friend lives there!”. You become connected to the world, and wherever you go, you’re international friends have an empty couch for you or have an uncle’s friend who could pick you from the airport – just in case things go amiss when you land.

They also have a whole different set of resources, and when you feel lost they might have the final spark you need. For example, I had no clue where I wanted to go to college, when my friend from Thailand recommended this university in Japan – and voilà, here I am, forever grateful for setting my gut feeling on the right track.

Reunions are the best

After all the time you spend together during your year abroad, it will suck at first to not have your best friend as close as before. But, when you return home, you’ll see it has its perks to have friend living in different time zones – because whenever something is up, someone will be awake to give you immediate advice or lend you an ear.

And even if you don’t talk for a while, when the Skype connection is established it will feel like nothing has changed and you can catch up on what has happened in your lives. And what I love is sending postcards to keep one another up-to-date where you are, and it’s a nice gesture to show, “I think of you. I miss you. We should meet up.”

And that’s where the fun planning begins! Planning a trip is always a hoot, but planning a trip to meet up with your friend? That’s a whole new level of excitement! Your horizons will keep expanding, you will see new places and be able to invite them to your home – and, in doing so, see your own comfort zone in a whole new light.

They will always be there for you, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you will have a precious person looking out for you. After all, to steal some words from Henry Drummond: “Wherever we are, it is our friends that make our world.”

 

This is a guest post by Selina Auer

Selina is a 19-year old girl from a tiny mountain village in Germany. She was born with a very strong sense of disorientation, which is why she is constantly following her gut feeling. So far it led her to a year abroad in Michigan during her High School Studies, volunteering in Israel, bag packing through Eastern Europe and now to Tokyo. If she`s not lost or on a dessert hunt, she is pursuing a Bachelor`s degree in Political Science at Waseda University. Her big passion is writing, travelling and to meet new people- and to satisfy her sweet tooth that replaced the space for her inner compass. Check out her instagram account and follow her on her journey!

Homesickness, Living Abroad

How To Survive Homesickness Hypothermia

“I realized that there’s some parallelism in this: freezing and losing ourselves in a strange culture. In other words, the way to cope with homesickness and cultural stagnation can be summarized in a list of similar steps that the ones followed in order to counter hypothermia.”

A few months ago, whilst writing my new novel, I wanted to portray one of the most complicated steps of the adaptation to a new country. This story is focused on an immigrant who goes to seek her fortune in better lands so, in a dialectic exchange between the two main characters, this foreign girl asks the native how to counter the cold that bashes the European lands, comparing it with the distressing eternal summer of her nation. And so, he explains to her the process of avoiding frostbite in case of an emergency, alluding to the only way to cope with change

While balancing writing and remembering my own cold nights, where the radiator just didn’t make the cut, I realized that there’s some parallelism in this: freezing and losing ourselves in a strange culture. In other words, the way to cope with homesickness and cultural stagnation can be summarized in a list of similar steps that the ones followed in order to counter hypothermia.

So, I wrote down five steps on how to survive a foreign blizzard. In case of emergency.

1) In case of a blizzard, to tend the emergency, the priority must be to withdraw from the cold zone, from air drafts and, immediately, remove ones wet clothes, in case of having them, and dress warmly.

Ah yes, the cold zone. The arrival. The start of facing the unknown and crying on the bed, repeating to yourself “what was going through my mind?” Let’s start by repeating instead I am brave, I am capable. This phrase helped me to wield the blade against those nights in which desolation becomes almost unbearable. If you have arrived to this point, you can take on anything. And the air drafts? The wet clothes?

Paraphrasing my novels’ deuteragonist: “…first, you make sure you keep what is only yours, you shelter it and hide it, so you never lose it.” Yes, it’s important to dress our national identity warmly, to keep it in a box, lock it and safeguard it always near, because it may be whipped by the diverse conditions. No one else will have it in the host country, not identical at least. It’s easy to leave our box forgotten in the snow. Don’t open it when you get there because it’ll hurt. A lot.

 

2) Make sure you warm up your body with whatever is at your reach. Like blankets or wool clothes.

Homesickness normally creeps in in a way that we clutch ourselves with our little identity box, without wanting to move forward and accept the landscape that’s been presented before our eyes. I remember a moment in my time away from my home country where the touristic places seemed dull, uninteresting. I just wanted to stay locked up in my room, with my pc and the online connection of my friends back home.

There, the skin needs to be warmed with what we have at hand: new neighbors, strolls through the smallest of towns. Meeting the people around you, for more different that they may seem, or the places that at first glance don’t awaken your curiosity. Yes, it may not be the most exciting thing at the beginning, but those little moments warm up the soul.

It gives a new perspective to our eyes and, although it may not feel like that at the moment, we’re learning, maturing, and adapting step by step. If you ever return to your country of origin, you’ll see how much this little interactions and walks can mean. You’ll come to endear them with nostalgia. And even the smallest thing (train travels, the smell of the bakery around the corner…) becomes memorable.

3) Prevent the person from falling asleep and carefully observe their respiration. Normally, the appetite decreases, but eating is necessary to avoid hypoglycemia.

“…Then you get stronger, getting in contact with everything that surrounds you, but without letting yourself forget of who you are. You’ll feel that you don’t need it: your language, your identity, and so, you start to let it fade. Don’t let it happen.” Said the native. Indeed, customs and traditions fade away. The outlines that formerly defined us as an exotic, special person, become blurry in this anticipated step of adaptation. But it’s not to be forgotten that those same differences, that striking skin tone, that intolerance towards new eating habits and the strong, protruding accent, are the ones that have formed us in our host country. They are our roots, and a tree won’t blossom without them. To cut it is to alienate.

4) Move your fingers, hands or feet slowly and constantly. It is popularly believed that the less you move, more body heat will be retained. But it’s vital to keep the body in movement and to massage it in circles to increase the blood flow.

The so-called “superficial adaptation” comes when we enter a comfort zone. Where we’re pleased, where we’re merely fine. This is what I see as the most dangerous step, and the furthest one, towards cultural freezing. Where we get ourselves stuck in a little corner, accepting our facet of the immigrant and making it a part of us, retaining all of the negative connotations it holds as ourselves and coming to settle with a “good enough” situation for “someone like us”. No, you deserve more. More than a derogatory tone when we face the cashier while shopping.

More than becoming the aim of stereotypical jokes and pejorative addressing. Don’t remain neglected, don’t be aggressive either. Keep moving forward, the emotional hole in which we remain stuck will never be a true home, despite that it may seem so at the beginning.

5) Keep the body close tight besides yours or someone else’s, to accelerate body warming

Value your friends. Your foreign brothers, your broken-heart-colleagues. You’ll realize that, indeed, having a family isn’t always about sharing blood, but sharing hardships, tears. Nobody knows how long is the path that you’ve had to go through, but they may know how hard it is, they’ve walked their own.

When you find people that, besides language barriers, social conventions and cultural brakes, you can still manage to understand, you’ll have discovered that secret language that only the ones that have crossed frontiers know, that only the ones who have befriended someone who resides on the other side of the world can speak. That only the ones who’ve had to say goodbye to someone to faraway lands can read in someone else’s gestures.

Treasure them. Show them your identity, open the box. And so, we won’t be frozen in an episode of our lives, but own it, and make it a part of a whole.

“And when you learn to tell them apart, you will have found a home. It may not be the most comfortable one, or the safest. But a home, at the end of the day.”

This guest post is an extract from the novel Cómo sobrevivir una tormenta extranjera (How to survive a foreign storm), Larissa Quesada

Culture

The Nightlife Differences Between Prague and Belgrade

Having been living in Prague for the past 2 months, I have noticed many contrasts between the two Slavic capitals, but something what has completely surprised me is the difference in the nightlife scene.

The youth in Belgrade (starting from 14-15 and up) go out at night at first to bars (nargila – shisha ones are becoming more and more famous) and then later to the popular kafanas with live Serbian music, as well as to clubs. Standards are high. Young ladies spend hours on putting on a lot of make-up and high heels because even if you are 15 or 16, you can make yourself look mature and attractive enough and go to a club easily. Almost no one looks at your ID if you look good. Politeness is a must, but a serious ‘bitch’ face will get you in more easily than a smiling one. You will do good especially if you know someone working at the venue – if you have ‘a connection’.

A special phenomenon are ‘splavovi’ – clubs floating on the river Sava – very popular in summer. Even though the price of one ‘separe’ in a splav is most of the times higher than the average monthly wage in Serbia, people who get it make sure everyone from their group of friends know it and never forget posting a dozen of stories on social media. The atmosphere in kafanas, splavs and clubs is very vibrant and energetic – everyone is dancing, singing and just enjoying life, forgetting about all the worries and difficulties they are facing.

On the other hand, I have never heard any of my friends in Prague (locals) going to clubs to party. Interesting, since one of the biggest clubs in Europe is actually in Prague. Who goes to these? Foreigners. And where do all the Prague people go? That is easy – to drink beer! Although this seems obvious, they really drink A LOT of beer – everyone! In Serbia, most of the girls stick to cocktails because, you know, ‘beer is a drink for men’.

But no wonder that everyone drinks it because it tastes so much BETTER than anywhere else, at least in my experience. The Czechs in Prague go to ‘grab a beer’ and often they go to multiple bars or pivovar-s at one night. In Serbia, we mostly just go to one place per night. People just talk, have fun, put up some dark humor jokes and enjoy spending time in a lot cozier, more relaxed pace. No worries or thoughts on how you look or if your legs hurt from heels – because women hardly wear them at night at all.

In summer, a lot of Czechs go to summer camps and light up a bonfire in the night, have a nice BBQ, drink beer (or wine) and sing traditional songs. Never in my life before CZ have I looked for wood or set up a bonfire – no wonder my host Mom laughed so much when seeing I do not know how to light up a match properly.

This is a guest post written by Kaja Kindic, a Serbian girl on an internship in Prague

Exchange

Time Flies When You’re On Exchange

So, Is that it?

It’s this time of the year. The time you, as an exchange student, realize that something great is coming to the end. You are trying to blend it out, but the thought is always with you. You have to say goodbye soon.

For me it never really was a big deal when I thought about going home. I was sure that I’m going to miss my exchange but I did not expect me to be extremely sad and sensible. And I really was fine! I can remember they told us at the pre orientation seminar that the last three month are going to be the hardest, because you just found your friends and your routine.

No homesickness anymore, no cultural shock, but you start thinking you have to go soon. But they could not prepare us for what was really coming. April and May turned out to be the best month of my exchange experience because of exactly these reasons.

The time was running and I barely could feel it. I still did not think that I could possibly realize my exchange was over before I get to the airport. At the beginning of May I had my prom and I had the time of my life. For my Birthday I got the yearbook of our school from my best friend so I could give it around and get it signed by everybody.

When I read the little note (it was more like a half paged letter) one of my friends left me in there it hit me like a rock. I started crying and I could not stop for hours. I finally realized that it is coming to an end and I have to say goodbye.

I think we all have this moment at one point of our exchange. A moment when you realize that this is going to end soon and you just don’t want it to. But this shows us that our exchange was a great experience and that we had the time of our life.

In between end of the year parties, graduation and other fun things the thought that we have to leave soon stays with us all the time though.

No matter how hard we try to enjoy these last weeks we will always be a little bit melancholic.

Looking back on my exchange year, I can not tell how fast the time was passing. I remember moments where it felt like I was crawling from day to day and thought that it’ll be an eternity until I I’ll be back home. On the other hand time was running and I was just rushing through the month.

The first month you spend abroad you might think that you not going to see your family again that soon, that you will live at this new and strange place for the next period of time and you have so many new experiences you can’t believe would fit in one month, but with the month passing, getting used to everything and getting a routine time flies by.

 

So far for me my days abroad are over. The last weeks are hard to describe. I tried making the best of the mixed feelings I had. Sometimes I would make jokes of it, sometimes I was sad. But for me it felt important to have these serious moments with my friends and host family and to tell them that I am going to miss them.

I hope that I will see all of them again soon and to keep in touch with them. But I know they will always be there for me, even if we might not have contact in a while.

Because you know your friendships are real as soon as you have to say goodbye. And that this goodbye won’t last forever.

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This guest post was written by Andrea Stützer, a German exchange student who is nearly ending her year in the United States.
Exchange

An Exchange Doesn’t Have To Be The Year Of Your Life

”The exchange doesn’t have to be the year of your life”

Sometimes I can feel like there’s a lot of pressure on you having the time of your life –all the time- during your exchange. Like the experience has to be life changing, eye-opening and completely amazing and that you, when it’s time to go back home, have to feel like you never want to leave. Like you’re supposed to book your plane ticket as late as possible and get all ‘OMG DONT TALK ABOUT I WILL CRYYY” when someone mentions your return.

And sure. Some of you will most likely feel like that, and of course that’s great! But if you don’t, if you (although it’s sad to leave) feel like it’s pretty nice to come home; don’t worry. You’re not an ungrateful, spoiled, negative crybaby. You just like your home. And that is, when you think about it, pretty great too.

You can’t spend a year having fun and being happy every single minute. Doing an exchange is hard. It has its ups and downs, just like the life back home. The only difference is that the ups might be even higher and the downs even deeper.

Doing an exchange is amazing, no doubt. You will learn and experience so much, you will get so many great memories and weird stories to tell and you will get friends all over the world, a second (and maybe a third and forth) family. It is, truly, a great experience.

But. You will get bored sometimes, just like home. You will complain about school, just like home. You will get annoyed at your host parents, just like your real parents. You will have days when all you want to do is to lie in your bed and watch Netflix and eat chocolate. Days when you feel like you’d rather been back home and ask yourself: “why did I go?” (Even if this, hopefully, is just temporary).

And you know what? That’s okay.

It’s okay if you’re not all amazed about your year abroad. If you don’t feel like it changed your life forever. If your friends at home still are your better friends. If you don’t get along super well with your host brother. If you don’t feel like you could spend the rest of your life in your host country. If you count the days that are left until you see your parents again. Don’t feel guilty about it.

Don’t worry about you not trying hard enough or being ungrateful. All those things don’t have to mean you’re not happy about your exchange. That you don’t like your host country or the people or the food or your city. It just means you like your life at home too. And the exchange will always be, even if you didn’t have the time of your life all the time, a great experience and something you should never regret that you did.

This post was written by Elma Pålsson born 1996, from a small village in the south of Sweden, doing an exchange in a small town in the middle of the pampas in Argentina, named Coronel Suarez. (14-15) with Rotary.

Language

What Language Should You Learn Next?

This article was originally posted on EuropeLanguageJobs.com

The world is becoming increasingly multilingual. The future belongs to polyglots! Monolinguals are a dying breed. In my home country of the UK we are experiencing a surge in language learning – maybe the word surge is a little strong, but something is happening.

But why do people learn languages? Is it to make themselves more employable? Is it because they particularly like the sound or just to make travel easier and more enjoyable?

These are all questions you should ask yourself before you set out on the titanic quest of learning another language. You should know how difficult it is and how much the language(s) you speak already will help you with conquering the next one.

It’s a widely accepted fact that speaking more than one language increases your employability, as well as being a very rewarding experience for the individual. If you are one such polyglot, then take a look at our language profiles below to help you make that important decision.

The six categories we include are:

  • Employability: using the percentage of job offers with a specific language and measuring it against the percentage of our candidates who speak that language, we can arrive at an employability status.
  • Attractiveness: using a survey from the website thetoptens.com we have given the languages ratings of attractiveness.
  • Difficulty: with information from infographics created by thecultureist.com we have given rough indications of the ease with which each language can be learnt.
  • European ranking: this is the number of native speakers of the language in Europe.
  • Number of countries: the number of countries where the language is an official  language in Europe.
  • Offers on ELJ: this is the number of active offers we currently have listed on the Europe Language Jobs website.      



Which is the one for you?

Are you looking to increase your employability? Or are you trying to make yourself a more attractive person – as if that was possible! Or maybe you just fancy being able to say that you are multilingual without too much effort and are therefore looking for an easy option. Whatever your motivation, these awesome infographics should help you decide…

Some big names may be missing from the selection but we wanted to choose an accurate cross-section of the main languages of Europe, covering the main strands of Slavic, Germanic and Romantic.

The great thing about the world we live in is that we have access to quality content of all types for free to help us learn new skills from the comfort of our own home. Sites like YouTube and apps such as Duolingo have totally rewritten the self-teaching rulebook.

So if you’ve been inspired to learn Swedish, because it’s actually much easier than you thought and they have pretty people there, why not get started today?

Exchange

Is An Exchange Really Worth It?

A few days ago someone told me “My family would never accept you. I mean, you took a year off to go party in France, you’re 19, and just barely started college”.

Good thing it was over the phone cause I swear I would’ve slapped the heck out of this person without thinking it twice. My mind was clouded in anger, I felt insulted, as if this individual had said something about my mother.

When this happened, I did nothing, I just decided to ignore itand continue the conversation at pure ease, as if nothing ever happened. Days later, here I am, writing this essay or article or whatever I decide for it to be.

Trust me, it’s not the first time I ask myself this. Most of my friends graduated at 17, already have 2 years of college, half of their careers, or almost ready to graduate and continue on with their masters. Then there’s me.

I also graduated at 17, but I decided to do a year abroad in France, learn my third language, and start college at 18. I started college at 19, turns out life does not always end up as expected. Anyway, as I mentioned before, I have thought about this several times before.

Was it worth it? I’m 2 years behind, still not sure about life, and seeing how everyone around me is at least halfway through their career or one year away from graduating. Was it really worth it?

The answer is yes. Hell yes. Hell yeah. In any way you want to see it, the answer is yes. Am I graduating 2 years later than most of my friends? Yes. Does that mean I’m a failure? No. Going on exchange made me understand a lot of things.

Things that people are not able to learn inside a classroom. It taught me tolerance towards others. It taught me to be curious towards other cultures, and not only cultures, but towards every aspect of life. I learned how to investigate, ask, learn, comprehend. It taught me that being lost is not a bad thing. Sooner or later you will find yourself.

It taught me that family could extend to places you never thought it could. It taught me that the world is not as big as we think it is. And let me just ask you, could I learn that during the first two years of college?

Exchange is hard. Living abroad is hard. Not understanding a word is hard. Not knowing what is happening is hard. It’s a shit show, trust me, but it’s a shit show that is worth going through. It’s worth living it every second of every day.

So, to the person that said that to me, I do not care what your family or really what anyone thinks of me and the fact that I took a year off to “party”, Sure, I had a great time abroad, but it was full of obstacles I had to overcome. Obstacles that made me who I am today, and I could not be any happier with the person I became.

 

This guest post was submitted by Ana Vásquez