Planning a Trip to Europe

In a few months, I will be going back to Europe for the third time! The past two times I went to Europe, I traveled to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Holland, and Denmark. This time I will be going to Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Italy, Luxembourg, and France. 

So far, I’ve traveled to 13 countries. After this trip, though, I will have traveled 17 countries in total. Right now, I’m still currently in the process of planning the trip. Some of the places I’ll be revisiting and some of the places are going to be completely new to me. I’m not going to say exactly where I’m going just yet. I’ll leave that for after I come back and can post pictures. 

Study Abroad Scholarship Opportunites for High School Students

It’s about that time of year again. Study abroad scholarship applications are opening up. Many of you may be asking yourself, why should I study abroad? Why should I leave my family, friends, and everything behind to go somewhere I’ve never been before? Well, let me tell you. Looking back at my life, studying abroad was definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. Yes, it will be difficult at first. Leaving everything you know behind, and being thrown into a new culture and family you don’t even know. However, during this difficult time you learn more about yourself and accomplish things you didn’t even know you could do. You make friends of a lifetime, and learn and fall in love with a new language and a new culture. You will have opportunities that you will probably never have again. This is why I really want to push more American students to study abroad. There is more out there than the American life and English language. Expand your horizons, do something different. Something challenging, adventurous, and rewarding. I will tell you, you will definitely not regret it.

So if you’re interested in study abroad, here are several scholarships that will allow you to study abroad for free or at least help you along the way. These scholarships, however, are very competitive. Not trying to scare anyone off or anything, if you really want one of these scholarships then you really need to take these applications seriously. For high school students or recently graduated students only*

NSLI-Y (National Security Language Institute for Youth program offers intensive language immersion during the summer or for a year to students willing to learn Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Russian, Hindi, Persian (Tajik), or Turkish. Locations include the following locations: Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Moldova, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Russia, Estonia, India, and Turkey. More information at: http://www.nsliforyouth.org/

CBYX (Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange) program offers 250 full-year scholarships around the United States to high school students who are motivated to go to Germany and learn the German culture and language and gain a new perspective on the global current affairs and German economic, political, and social life. More information at: http://www.usagermanyscholarship.org/about/

The YES Abroad (Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Abroad) program offers 65 scholarships to high school students to study abroad in countries with significant Muslim populations. Countries include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Macedonia, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, and Turkey. More information at: http://yes-abroad.org/

YFU (Youth for Understanding) provides several partial scholarships to study abroad in countries like Japan, Finland, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, Venezuela, etc. More information at: http://yfuusa.org/american-students/scholarships.php#

The CIEE Leadership Academy program offers scholarships to study abroad for a month in the summer and do community service projects in one of the following locations: China, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Japan, Jordan, Senegal, or Spain. More information at: http://www.ciee.org/high-school-summer-abroad/

In the summer of 2013, I went to Nanjing, China with the CIEE Leadership Academy. It was definitely one of the greatest experiences of my life. I stayed with a host family, learned more about the Chinese culture and way of life, taught English to elementary school students at a local school, and made friends of a lifetime. If you want to read more of what I actually did during the 4 months, you can read about it here: https://christinathepolyglot.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/ciee-leadership-academy-in-china/

The AFS (American Field Service) organization also offers some partial and full scholarships. These scholarships include the BP Global Citizens of Tomorrow scholarship for students who want to study abroad in Brazil, China, India, Malaysia, or South Africa; the Cultural Explorer Merit scholarship for students who want to study abroad in Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey, or Thailand; Japan scholarships; and several other scholarships by state. One state scholarship I would like to talk about is the Speedwell scholarship. The Speedwell scholarship offers 30 full scholarships to students from Northeastern Pennsylvania. I am personally thankful for this scholarship and for the donors, because without this scholarship I wouldn’t have been able to go to Germany and fulfill my dream.

If you’re even considering about studying abroad, please apply for these scholarships. It is a lot of hard-work and effort, writing dozens of essays, getting teacher recommendations, going through interviews, and the roller coaster emotions. But trust me, in the end it is definitely worth it.

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The Berlin Wall

It’s been almost 2 weeks since my departure from Germany. So far I’ve been really busy with appointments, studying, watching the World Cup, and readjusting back to American life. Now that I have a little bit of time, I would like to tell you one of my favorite highlights in Germany.

One month ago, my host family and I took a trip to the capital of Germany-Berlin! We walked around the city for a bit, went to tour the dome at the Reichstag, took a city bus tour, and saw the one thing I wanted to see most-the Berlin Wall!

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I remember that I’ve always wanted to see the Berlin since the 6th grade, when I learned it in my Social Studies class. And coming across the Berlin Wall that day was actually pure luck. I knew that most of the wall was torn down, and probably wouldn’t be able to see it still standing. We were actually looking for a parking spot, when we suddenly find a part of the wall still standing.

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Some history about the wall:

After WWII was over, the German Reich was taken over by the Allies and split up into four zones: (Western Germany) American, British, French, and (Eastern Germany) Soviet. And Berlin was split up into the same four zones. On August 13, 1961, the communist party of the German Democratic Republic began putting up barbed wire and a protection wall between East and West Germany. The people of East Berlin were basically deprived from the western world. They were not allowed to leave East Berlin, and if they try to escape-they were shot by the border patrol. However, Germans from West Berlin and West Germany were allowed to go to East Berlin by going through Checkpoints, such as Checkpoint Charlie (pictured above). At least 136 people died trying to escape, and over 5,000 people have successful escaped from the East to the West. Communism began to falter in 1988 and 1989 in countries like Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. And in 1989, an announcement from the East German government official Gunter Schabowski came-the borders between East and West Berlin were open. There was a huge celebration afterwards. People began hammering the wall down. After the wall came down, East and West Germany were finally reunited as one single state on October 3, 1990.

East and West Germany

East and West Berlin

First Two Weeks

Tomorrow is the two week mark since I’ve been in Germany. Before I came here, I thought the German culture and American culture/lifestyle were at least a little bit similar. Well, I was wrong. The food/meals, school, transportation, etc. are a lot different.My life here is completely different than my life in America.

Food/Meals: The meat and other foods are a lot larger here than I expected. The food is always fresh, and almost always prepared-unlike in America where we seem to just grab something out of the freezer and cook in the microwave. For Fruhstuck (breakfast), I normally eat muesli on schooldays and eggs or bread with meat, cheese, and meat on weekends. During school, I’ll have Pausenbrot (bread or a sandwich eaten during breaks). Then after that is Mittagsessen (lunch), which is the largest meal of the day. Lunch for me is always something different: Maultaschen (my favorite), spaghetti, pizza, cordon bleu with french fries, sausage, doner, etc. And then is Abendsessen (dinner), which is usually just bread or brezel with meat, cheese, butter, etc. German food is delicious, especially the desserts.

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School: The school I am attending is called a Gymnasium. In the Gymnasium that I’m attending, there are Grades 5 through 12 (I believe). My classes change everyday, and each class (or lesson) is 90 minutes long. 3 days a week I have 3 classes (or blocks) and I get to leave at 1 pm. In between each period is a 15 minute break. On Monday, I have 4 blocks and I get to leave at 3:30 pm. After the third block, there is a 30 or 45 minute break for lunch. On Thursday, I have 5 blocks..which means I don’t get to leave school until 5 pm. Leaving at 5 pm isn’t actually all that bad. The class subjects are almost all the same like in America except for Religion. All my classes (except for English and Spanish), are taught in German (of course). The first couple days, I didn’t understand at all. But everyday, I learn more German and understand more and more. Something else that is different is that we are allowed to leave the school during the breaks (well, not leave leave), to enjoy the fresh air or go into town to get food.

Transportation and Punctuality: I go to school everyday by bus, however, not a “school bus.” Every school morning and afternoon, I get on the public bus and it is always packed of school kids-so it seems like a school bus. But on the bus are kids from different schools and can get off wherever they want to. Public buses here are really convenient, you can pretty much go anywhere by bus-but you have to wait sometimes awhile for them to come. The cars here, I was told, are mostly manual and not automatic. And the trains and subways..can’t say anything about them yet because I haven’t been on any so far. As for punctuality, when the bus is scheduled to come at a certain time-it will be there exactly at that time. If you have plans to meet someone, always be there at the schedule time.

Environment: The Germans definitely care about the environment. The streets and sidewalks are always clean, and never littered with trash. They recycle and have individuals recycling bins for paper, glass, plastic, etc. And they conserve water. I really wish we did this in the United States. I never really realized how much we’re wasting until coming here.

So far, I like my new life in Germany. Like I said, it is definitely different. Sometimes it can be a little difficult being in a new culture. So far, I made a lot of mistakes and mispronounced a lot of words. But it’s from these mistakes, that we learn the most.

Below are some pictures of Wertheim, two of the castles in my area, the Main and Tauber rivers, etc.

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Chinese Dumplings

I have less than one week until I depart for Germany, and in exactly one week I will arrive in Germany! To keep my mind off my anxiousness, I decided to write about Chinese dumplings. Why? I absolutely love dumplings, and I especially love Chinese dumplings.

So today I will be writing about the five types of Chinese dumplings (and buns) I mostly came across (and ate) while I was in China: baozi, tangbao, xiaolongbao, jiaozi, hundun (aka wonton).

包子 Baozi is a steam filled bun. Baozi is filled with either meat or vegetable fillings. Two types of baozi are 大包 dabao (big dumplings) and 小包 xiaobao (small dumplings).

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汤包 Tangbao (“soup dumping”) is a large baozi filled with soup and meat (usually). There are two forms of tangbao. The first (traditional) looks like a regular baozi, and is directly bitten into and drunken. The second (modern) is that the soup liquid is drunken by a straw and the skin is eaten afterwards. Tangbao is my favorite Chinese dish. 我要吃汤包!

soup dumpling

小笼包 Xiaolongbao (small basket buns) is a small baozi that is steamed in a small bamboo basket.

xiaolongbao

校子 Jiaozi is a dumpling that is filled with meat and vegetable filling. It is wrapped with a thin piece of dough, and is compressed and compressed with the fingers. There are three types of jiaozi: steamed, boiled, pan fried.

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馄炖 Hundun (wonton-Cantonese) is a type of dumpling usually filled with meat. It is usually mixed with spices, salt, and garlic or green onion. Wontons are boiled or deep-fried. In China, each region has its own variation (Beijing, Sichuan, Ningbo, Shanghai, Cantonese..).

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CIEE Leadership Academy in China

I am finally back from 4-week my study/visit in China. I must say, I had an absolute blast. At the beginning of the trip, I met the 7 other students and my group leader accompanying me on this trip. We were complete strangers, intimidated by each other. However, by the end of our 4 weeks together, we grew closer and became close friends-we learned there was nothing to be afraid of.

The CIEE Leadership Academy in Nanjing, China is mainly composed of 6 components: living (host family), service, language (Mandarin), leadership, and the week-long tour.

The first 3 weeks, we were in Nanjing, China. Our first two days in Nanjing consisted of orientations, meeting up with our Chinese host siblings/co-teacher, and moving into our new host families.

Living: We were matched with our siblings by our interests. And I must say, CIEE couldn’t have done a better job with matching me to my host sister, Tracy. We had identical personalities and the same interests: music, languages, etc. She was shy at first, but she quickly opened up to me and we quickly became close. My host parents were also very warm, kind, and passionate people. They made me feel completely at home. One of the biggest pluses is that my host mom loves dumplings (and making them, too)-I absolutely love dumplings!

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Service: Monday-Friday morning, the 8 of us students and our Chinese peers became English teachers to migrant children (5th graders) at the Yuhuatai Elementary school. We taught from 9 a.m.-11:20 a.m. Each class was 40 minutes long with 10 minute breaks between each of the three classes: English class, games component, and the cultural component. In my class, I had 14 students (10 boys and 4 girls). By the end of the third week, I had only 12 students (8 boys and 4 girls). I did have some troublemakers in my class, some quiet students, and some in between-but they were all eager to learn and have fun!

Afterwards at 11:30, we would have lunch at the school cafeteria.

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Leadership, Language, and Cultural Activities: After lunch, we would go back to CIEE Center where we would have classes 5:30. Everyday, however, composed of different classes:

Monday: Taichi, Leadership, and Lesson planning

Tuesday: Chinese, Leadership, Lesson planning, and Chinese

Wednesday: Lesson planning and Field trip (lasted until at least after 7)

Thursday: Chinese, Leadership, Lesson planning, and Chinese

Friday: Taichi and Lesson planning (we got to leave early on Fridays)

On our field trips, we went to the Confucius Temple, Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Masoleum, Ming Tomb, Presidential Palace, Yangzhou, etc.

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On the weekends, we all had free time with our host families to explore or do whatever we wanted. My host family arranged for me and my host sister to go to Suzhou for the second weekend, and stay at my host dad’s younger brother’s home with him, his wife, and their 10 or 11 year old son. When I was in Suzhou, I went to three beautiful gardens, a temple, the Suzhou museum, and also went to a movie theater (or cinema as they call it there in English). During this same weekend, several other members of my group also went to Suzhou while others did other activities in Nanjing like going to an opera and/or climbing the Purple Mountain.

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Week-long Tour: After our three weeks of living, teaching, and learning in Nanjing, we said goodbye to our host families and hopped on a train to our first destination: Shanghai. We stayed in Shanghai for about 3 days. There we went to the Chenghuang Temple area, the Bund, the French Concession, the Shanghai Museum, an acrobatics show, and went to Zhujiajiao-a Shanghai river town.

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Our next stop on the tour was Beijing. In Beijing, we went to Tiananmen Square, the Wangfujing shopping area, the Great Wall, 798 Art Zone, Kungfu Show, the U.S. Center in Beijing, the Forbidden City, and the Silk Market.

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This experience was an once in a lifetime opportunity, and I am extremely glad I decided to do this program. A month of my summer to go to China and learn the Chinese culture, learn to become a leader, learn Mandarin Chinese, live with a host family, make new friends and connections, and most importantly, make a difference in the lives of others. There is no better feeling that that.

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I highly recommend this program to all high school students. It is only 4 weeks to go to one of the following countries: China, Japan, Spain, Dominic Republic, Czech Republic, Senegal, Ghana, Jordan

CIEE Leadership Academy website:

http://www.ciee.org/high-school-summer-abroad/

Tomorrow Starts a New Journey

As it says in the title, tomorrow is the start of a new journey for me. I’ll be heading to the airport and taking multiple flights until I finally reach Nanjing, China on Friday night. It’s going to be a tiring next couple days, including rushing to make a 35 minute connection, but it will be all worth it. I’m so excited to be in the inaugural class of the CIEE Leadership Academy in China and for my 4 week exchange in China-I will be in Nanjing for the first 3 weeks and Shanghai and Beijing for the 4th week.

In a couple hours I will be going to sleep and then waking up at 4am. I’m all packed and ready to go..I hope China is ready for me!

*Note-since I’ll be in China for 4 weeks, I probably won’t update until I get back from my exchange. I’ll be sure to blog about my adventures in my next post! (possibly the end of July or in the beginning of August).