Student Blog: As Far as the Eye Can Sea

Mount Fuji

Mt. Fuji is just visible as we arrive in port at Yokohama. Photo: Danielle Moore

Follow Danielle Moore on her amazing journey around the world by ship! She also wins our applause for a great blog title. Happy sailing, Danielle!

As Far as the Eye Can Sea

Danielle Moore

Semester at Sea

Spring 2014

Q&A Spotlight: Jane Nay

Name: Jane Nay
Major: B.A. in Economics ’13
Hometown: Salisbury, Maryland
Destination: Chachoengsao, Thailand
Institution: CIEE (partners with OEG)

Jane is a recent TU alumna who extended her study abroad experience to a teaching opportunity at Rajabhat Rajanagarindra Universit. This is her story!

Q. How did you decide that Thailand was the right place for you?

I knew I wanted to go abroad and experience something different once I graduated from Towson, but I had no idea where or how to start the process. I talked to my professor, Dr. Seth Gitter, about what I wanted to do and he recommended CIEE.

After looking into all the different countries CIEE offers, the programs in Thailand stood out to me. I’m not sure exactly why. I liked that Thailand is a slow paced ‘no worries’ or “mai ben rai” kind of place. I read that the people in Thailand are extremely nice and welcoming (true). I liked the idea of going to a Buddhist country, learning about a new religion, and seeing amazing temples. And, of course, the delicious food and amazing beaches!

Q. What is your daily workload like as a teacher in Thailand?

I teach 7 classes 5 days a week. Each class is three hours long so I only have one or two classes per day. When I am not teaching I am in the office. My time in the office is spend making lesson plans, creating worksheets, and grading. I am expected to be at school (teaching or in the office) from 8:30- 4:30 every day.

My school does not have text books to work out of so I have to create lesson plans without having anything to work from. Lesson planning is harder and more time consuming than I expected it to be. I also travel between campuses every day. The work plus the travel can be stressful and exhausting but is also rewarding.

Q. What has been the most rewarding part of volunteering abroad?

The most rewarding thing is making progress in my classes. Most of the students in my class have very little, or no, knowledge of the English language. This makes it hard to teach when English is the only language I speak. I will spend 20 minutes trying to act out and explain a topic, or even a word, in many different ways. Finally, I will say or do something that just clicks for the students. You know because a group of 15 students will say “OHHHH” in unison. That sound is the best sound I have ever heard.

I also find it very rewarding to see students become comfortable speaking English. As the semester has progressed more students are coming up to ask for help. When I first started they were afraid to talk to me, or in English at all. Now, many students are trying. 

Q. And the most challenging part?

The most challenging part is communication in the classroom and lesson planning. Each of my classes have around 50 students who range from good at speaking English to having no English at all. It is very hard to create a lesson plan that works for each student because of this huge range. Some days the 3 hours drag. Students don’t seem to understand a thing I am saying. Other days the lessons go just as I wanted. I am still learning the best way to communicate to my students.

The most unexpected, or surprising, thing was having surgery in Thailand. After only being in Thailand for a little over a month, my appendix burst. It got really bad really fast. One day I had a simple stomach ache and two days later I was having surgery. Communication was extremely difficult. Nurses and doctors do not speak English and I do not speak Thai. This experience was the worst, yet the best, thing that has happened to me so far in Thailand. It was the worst for obvious reasons. It was the best because I realized the support I had here in Thailand. I truly got to experience the kind nature of Thais that I have heard so much about. I did not have to stay alone in the hospital once, even if that meant a friend of a friend of my boss stayed the night with me. People were bringing me food once I got home from the hospital. Many people in my town were looking after me. It was a great feeling to know that I had a family here in Thailand and that I don’t ever have to worry about being alone.

Q. How is teaching abroad different from studying abroad?

I think the main difference would be the responsibility. One thing people have to remember when considering teaching abroad is that it is a job. Not only do you have to show up to class, but you have to be completely (physically and mentally) there every day all day. I have expectations from the University. I have students I am responsible for.

Q. Has your time abroad met your expectations?

My time abroad has been great but in different ways then I expected. I expected to spend most of my time abroad traveling around Thailand and Asia. I do travel and get the chance to see great things, but not as much as I expected. Sometimes it is not realistic to travel since I only have off Saturday and Sunday. This is not a bad thing, though. I have had the chance to meet people, make great friends, and become part of a community. I feel more at home in Thailand than I ever expected. I don’t think this would have happened if I was always on the move.

Q. Any advice for others considering spending time abroad?

Keep an open mind and put yourself out there. It is important to go out and meet people around the town you live in and learn about a new culture. There will be times when you get frustrated and disagree with the way things are in the country you are in. I was told to remember things are not wrong they are just different. I think that is an important thing to remember.

Thanks, Jane!

Q&A Spotlight: Ceanne West

Name: Ceanne West
Major: Computer Science
Hometown: Millersville, MD
Destination: Italy, Summer 2013
Institution: Lorenzo de’ Medici, The Italian International Institute

Q1: Let’s talk about food – the good & the bad.

The best dish I had was probably the Florentine Steak on the last night; it was so tender and juicy. All the pizza was amazing too, so it was very hard to come back to Pizza Hut and Domino’s. The worst dishes were the pre-made sandwiches. I took a cooking class so I learned a lot of new recipes. My favorite ones were the balsamic chicken and nutella croissants.

Q2: Your favorite spot in your home away from home?

My favorite spot in Florence is Basilica di San Miniato al Monte during sunset. You’re able to see the entire city. It’s right next to Piazza Michelangelo, so you get the same view, but there’s a lot less people.

Q3: A local favorite?

Pino’s on Via Giuseppe Verdi, they have the best paninis ever. I went there nearly every day on the way back from class and got “The Best,” with roast beef, smoked cheese, cooked spinach, peppers, eggplant and Pino’s special hot sauce on focaccia bread.

Q4: Anything you DON’T miss from Italy?

I definitely don’t miss the swarms of both tourists & birds.

Q5: Homesick for anything from Italy?

I think I missed bread with salt in it & free tap water.

Q6: Pick up any new vocabulary while abroad?

I continued to say “scusa” instead of “excuse me” for a few weeks after I came back.

Q7: You could hardly believe your eyes when you saw …

Toilets in Moneglia, Italy are a whole new experience!

Toilets in Moneglia, Italy are a whole new experience!

When we went to Moneglia, the toilets near one of the train stations were practically holes in the ground. It was disgusting.

Q8: How did you manage your weekends?

I took a train to Moneglia the first weekend with a few other girls on my trip. Then I took the train to Pisa for a day. The weekend after, I went on one of the trips planned by our abroad school to Monaco & Monte Carlo then St. Paul de Vince and Cannes. On the last weekend, I took another trip planned by the school to Rome & Cannes. I definitely recommend going on the school trips rather than planning your own. It’s a little more expensive, but it’s much less stressful than trying to plan it yourself while you’re there. Plus, I was able to meet students who were also studying at my Italian school but were from different colleges in the states.

Q9: What challenged you while you were abroad?

My worst day was the third day in when the money for the weekend trips was due. The ATM wouldn’t give me cash, the girls with me left because it was getting too close to the deadline, I got lost trying to get to the office, and it was closed when I did. Make sure to tell your bank you’re going abroad before you do.

Q10: Parting words?

I feel like a lot of students say they want to study abroad, but never make the moves to do it. Hit up the study abroad office and get some information. It’s an amazing experience. If you’re afraid of being away from home for a whole semester, consider going during one of the breaks.

Grazie, Ceanne!

Q&A Spotlight: Nate Moran

This post is the first in our new Q&A Spotlight Series on returning students.You can find this story and all future spotlights by searching in the category “Q&A Spotlight.” Enjoy!

Name: Nate Moran
Major: Business Administration, ‘13
Hometown: Middletown, DE
Destination: New Zealand, Spring 2013
Institution: Auckland University of Technology

Be sure to check out Nate’s YouTube video from his experience here.

Q1: Let’s talk about food – the good & the bad.

Actually, the best dish I had while in New Zealand was from a Brazilian place.  The restaurant was Brazilian but the steak was New Zealand beef…which was fantastic.  The chicken, beef, and lamb are all great in New Zealand.  The Kiwis are well-known for these meats, especially because everything is free-range.  We took part in traditional Maori (New Zealand’s indigenous culture) feast, called a “Hāngi”; this is a Polynesian-style cooking in a pit under the ground.  All sorts of meats, vegetables, potatoes, and kumara (the Maori sweet potato) are slow-cooked throughout the entire day under the ground.

Q2: Your favorite spot in your home away from home?

Talk about a hard question.  New Zealand is well known for so much beautiful terrain wherever you go, North or South Island.  Although I have many favorite spots, I’d say that the Bay of Islands (in the Northland Region) was the coolest place I’ve ever been to.  We took a rental boat and hopped around uninhabited islands all day long.  We were able to experience great hikes and beautiful waters.

Q3: A local favorite?

My ‘claim to fame’ is the Happy Hour spot I was told about early on in Auckland City—Spitting Feathers.  It was definitely a hard-to-find local place with a lot of young professionals.  The deals were great and we filled our stomachs with a lot of pizza and beer.  However, I have to say that Ponsonby Central was the best place that we were recommended.  This place was full of locals and such a great atmosphere.  The marketplace is filled with great restaurants, bakeries, shops, art galleries, and more.  Ponsonby was my favorite place in the city.

Q4: Anything you DON’T miss from NZ?

Not one thing.  Life was good and everyone in New Zealand was so laid back.  If I was ever presented the opportunity, I could definitely see myself living there.  For a backpacker, this place is the most ideal spot you can be in the world—snowy mountains, pristine beaches, and a bit of urban culture.

Q5: Homesick for anything from NZ?

The entire experience in itself.  As I sit down to write this after a full week of work, I realize that we had no limits being abroad.  I took my classes serious there, but also had so much time to explore other parts of the world and different cultures.  Being able to pick up and go to the mountains or the beach on the weekends is dearly missed.  Regardless of taking classes, we had so much free time to explore every street in Auckland, attend any big event, and go tramping (New Zealand’s word for hiking/exploring) on the weekends.

Q6: Pick up any new vocabulary while abroad?

“Kia-ora, bro.  Are you keen to go tramping with me this weekend?—That would be sweet bro, but I have a rugby game.”  The dialect of a New Zealander is kind of like that of an Australian, but with a relaxed vibe.  I learned quit e a few slang words while attempting to blend in as a kiwi.  I also learned various Maori words in my Maori Leadership course.  Kia ora is an informal “hi”, but literally means “be well/healthy.”

Q7: You could hardly believe your eyes when you saw …

I was real shocked when I went to a New Zealand rugby match against France.  Considering this was a World Cup rematch, the game at Eden Park stadium (Auckland, NZ) was a huge deal.  Although this is by far the number one sport in New Zealand, the fans act very different than what I expected.   The stadium was quiet and fans paid attention to every detail of the game.  Cheering typically happens right after a team scores, and that’s it—nothing in between.  It is not like American football where people are constantly cheering.

Q8: How did you manage your weekends?

We tried to take advantage of every weekend.  Packing our backpacks and heading to the dairy (supermarket) to stock up on food was something I looked forward to.  We traveled all over New Zealand on our weekends.  Hiking/Camping in the Coromandel Peninsula, touring vineyards in Hawkes Bay, taking the ferry to Waiheke Island, tramping around the volcano from the Lord of the Rings, and many more activities were completed during our weekends.  We chose ones that looked exciting and just went for it.  We didn’t get to do everything, but I still feel very accomplished.

Q9: What challenged you while you were abroad?

I’d say the toughest day I had in New Zealand was the day of my finals, because it was very stressful for me.  The three classes I took in Auckland were actually the last three courses for the completion of my degree.  I needed to perform well in my classes abroad in order to graduate.  I ended up doing well in my classes, so all is well.  I think the toughest part of studying abroad is coming home and realizing that your semester abroad is completed.

Q10: Parting words?

I highly recommend visiting New Zealand because it was an amazing place.  You also might be able to experience other places such as Australia and Fiji.  Overall, go to a place that will let you break free from the norm.  Meeting new people and trying to adapt to new cultures is a fun obstacle to take on, and can be very beneficial in the long run.  This was no doubt the best experience I’ve ever had.  Any step you take, it will always be a step forward in a particular direction.  Get out and explore!

Thanks, Nate!

Fall 2013 Photo Contest: Top Ten

G’Day Travelers,

Every semester we ask our students to submit photos of themselves during their time abroad for our bi-annual photo contest. The Fall entries include students who have studied abroad either in the previous spring or summer semester. The first round of voting happens in the office and on social media with the photographer’s name hidden and their image doing all the talking. Once the photos are narrowed down to the Top Ten, we post them at our pre-departure social, and our pre-departure orientation for fellow study abroad participants to vote on them. The photos below are of students whose photos made it into our Top Ten.

This semester, our winning photos will be hosted in the Honors College. Stop by Stephens Hall to take a look!


China: Kung Fu Dream

When I was still living in America a little over a month ago, I had the privilege of coming into contact with a very special person to me. During my sophomore year at Towson I had become very interested in China and Chinese philosophy—namely Daoism. Since I was eager to learn all that I could about Daoism, I found myself searching on the internet for any scrap of information that I could grasp about the philosophy. Through my searching, I came across the e-mail address of a man named Li Quan. As it turned out, Master Li Quan had been training in traditional Chinese kung fu for longer than I have been alive, and operates a traditional school only a short distance from my place on Sichuan University’s campus. So, I reached out to Master Li Quan and asked if he would be able to teach me while I was staying for a semester in Chengdu, China; there was an astounding “yes”.

With my busy school schedule and other responsibilities, I cannot spend as much time at his school as I would like (considering it is about a 40 minute bus ride away from the campus), but I try my best to go at least two times every week. Master Li Quan is one of the nicest people I have ever met, and he always greets me happily. He speaks English fairly well, but requires that I speak in Chinese to him whenever I am able—this is great because I am trying to learn as much of the language as possible. On top of the strenuous exercises that he puts me through at his traditional school, he also teaches me about Chinese culture and Daoist philosophy. He feels that the only way to learn Chinese kung fu correctly is if it is coupled with lessons in the culture and language, too.

It is safe to say that I leave his training place very sore every time I come and go, but it is a feeling I look forward to. When I leave China in December to return home, I plan to continue practicing what I am being taught right now. There is an old Chinese saying that goes: “师父领进门,修行靠个人” (shifu ling jin men, xiu xing kao ge ren), it means that the master will show the way, but it is up to the individual (student) to discover and learn for himself.

Scott Knowles
Chengdu, China
Fall 2013