Lost in translation

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Hello! Welcome to my first blog! My name is Sherin Nassar, a junior majoring in International Affairs and Economics! This semester I am studying abroad in Istanbul, Turkey! I am so excited for this journey because I firmly believe it will lead me to a greater understand on myself.

This blog post revolves around identity-how we each view ourselves and how in return people see us. This past year, I’ve learned my identity changes with each challenge I take on. I see myself as ambitious, always wanting to take on more to see how I can further develop. These ambitions are firmly rooted in my parents’ immigrant background. They come over twenty five years ago from Egypt in search of the American dream. Their pursuits and passions as well as their hard work are ingrained into who I am today: someone not only looking to make them proud but to make people believe that the future is truly yours for the taking. Read the rest of this entry

Hello, World!

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Welcome to my first foray into the GW Blog-From-Abroad-o-sphere! My name is Robyn, and I’m a twenty-year-old junior hailing from Brookfield, Wisconsin. I’m studying Political Science and English Literature with special interests in comparative politics, human rights, ethnic conflict, and women’s issues. After I graduate, I hope to go to law school somewhere in the Midwest; I’m still working out what comes after that!Pre-Law Frat

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Blubbering Mess

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Blubbering Mess

No, the title of this post does not refer to me leaving Germany soon.  Rather, it is the name of an abandoned building in Berlin that, to me, is a representation of the spirit of the city.  Until February 2005 this structure was a swimming and leisure center.  It has since fallen into disrepair – smashed windows, colorful graffiti and abandoned beer bottles litter the property. The pools have long been empty and the lack of electricity make certain corners of the interior a bit too mysterious for me, but despite its raggedy appearance, Blubbering Mess is beautiful.

It exudes creativity.  Every inch is covered with graffiti or art. Since most of the glass has been smashed or broken over the years, walking outside is like walking over a beautiful mosaic (I would definitely suggest closed toe shoes for this particular adventure).  There are few places in this world I could walk into a building to find a girl with blue-green hair, a long gown and a blow up dolphin meant for a pool posing for pictures in a shattered courtyard visible to the street and no one takes excessive notice. It’s cool to be weird and that’s awesome.

Berlin is a place where beauty and inspiration can be found anywhere and in anything.  This city has become the master of reinvention – it’s history demands it.  In the past century Berlin has been governed by four distinct governments or regimes.  It has been divided, it has been unified. It has been bankrupt and plagued with inflation, but it has also evolved into one of the most stable and wealthy economies in Europe.  It cannot ignore or reject its history, but Berliners also refuse to let their history hold them back and instead embrace the alternative way of life and thinking that they have become so well known for.

In Blubbering Mess I see this spirit: a resistance to letting destruction or disrepair categorize something as useless, a desire to make something many may see as ugly into something beautiful and different. It’s creative. It’s inventive. It’s uniquely quirky and entirely Berlin.

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The Most Memorable Farewell

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One of the best memories of this incredible study abroad actually occurred at the very end of the trip, during my flight to visit my grandparents in China. The brief interaction that I had summarized and symbolized all of the great things that I had done, seen, and learned.

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DCU v GWU: Finals Edition

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When it comes to coursework at Dublin City University, the phrase “different from GW” is definitely an understatement. Final exams are pretty comparable to GW here, with normal planning but a focus on the individual: expecting outside research and inaccessible professors. The strangest part of exams to me is that many of them are taken in the basketball gym.

If you are lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it) like I am, you have no exams. Instead, you suffer though a host of 3,000 word essays all due in the same two-week period. Although being a native speaker of English definitely puts me at an advantage over my foreign peers, jumping into third-level Irish classes in the Spring semester gives you no indication of the correct way to format, cite, write, research, and just about do anything the Irish way. And with the inaccessibility of professors, you are left guessing and praying that you get a passing grade.

The most difficult thing to get used to is the grading. 70 out of 100 is a very good grade, and 60 is decent. But you can also apparently get up to 100. This boggles my mind. If 70 is so good, what does it take to get a 100? These are the types of questions I will not miss upon my return to the states.

With some easier classes and some more difficult classes, there have been challenges in how independent the learning comparably can be. But by far, the biggest challenge has been getting accustomed to being, thinking, and acting like an Irish student in producing your work. I have approached this by spending a ton of time researching, writing, fact-checking, and doing just about everything I can think of, spending entire days in the DCU library. Now my time will be spent patiently awaiting my results, due out in the early summer. Pray for me.

Kitun Brated Thai

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I leave Khon Kaen tomorrow. I cannot believe how quickly these four months have sped by.

I have been blessed with the joys of lots of adventure and new experiences along with tough growing pains as I have been away from my community in DC. I have gotten to live in villages in the north of Thailand with the Karen people, in central Thailand in a fishing village on an island, then several in the Northeast, an organic farming village and a silk weaving village most recently. Beyond those phenomenal experiences witnessing little blimps of authentic life here in Thailand, I have had a few excursions of my own. I have had quite a few bus mishaps, getting stuck on the side of the road with a few travel companions, getting stuck in multiple storms, and even getting stuck on a broken down bus. All these were in pursuit of finding remarkable hikes in the jungles of Laos or national parks in Thailand. I have also made some pretty great friends along the way, and am able to carry on a conversation in Thai! Learning the language has been really fun.

I will miss the phenomenal Thai food. I will miss discovering fun coffee shops in Khon Kaen. I will miss sharing food. I will miss the moobans (villages). I will miss night markets. I will miss the sweet Thai friends I have made along the way. And most of all I will miss the joy of discovery.

Research Time!

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I can’t believe that it is officially the beginning of my last month here in Thailand! This past week, I finished all of my classes, handed in all of my finals, and shifted all of my attention to my final research project, which I will be working on until I leave.

For our final project of the semester, students are expected to choose a topic that we have studied this semester that has interested them and revisit the issue. The research topics students are looking at are varied – some students are looking at maternal health, others are looking at poverty strategies, and some are researching traditional Thai dance.

For my research, I will be working with three other students to study the effects of the Thai government’s land and forest policy on the people of Thailand. We will be visiting two villages in Thailand to conduct research. One village we are visiting is in Kalasin province and the other one is in Sakon Nakhon province. Both provinces are about 2-3 hours away from Khon Kaen province, where I’m studying.

While in these villages, my research group and I will be working with an NGO based out of Sakon Nakhon province to tell the story of 27 farmers and their families who were accused of trespassing and who had their land and homes seized by the government.

My group of four students will be working on a documentary, a journalism feature article and an academic policy paper on the issue. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I am excited to get researching and get the story out there!