Star Wars Abroad

Being abroad has taught me a lot about how different cultures can be and how much variety is out there. It’s amazing and incredibly fascinating. However, there’s so much out there that divides us at the same time: religion, race, culture, backgrounds, history, etc. We’re constantly talking about which countries we prefer and comparing ourselves.

Back in November this idea came to me completely by accident and since then I’ve run with it and it went much farther than I could have imagined. While we’re so focused on what separates us I decided to focus on what brings us together- Star Wars.

Since August I have been to approximately 12 countries, and of those 12 I have found references to Star Wars in 11 of them. Some were toys from shops and some were completely unexpected and strange. And with that I present to you: Star Wars Abroad

The three that started it all:

IMG_7555

Edinburgh, Scotland: This is the very first Star Wars reference I noticed. It’s difficult to see because I took this while trying to catch up with my class, trying to take the picture, and trying to not knock over while apologizing to an old woman all at the same time. However, I was able to capture this man dressed as Yoda just hanging out on a street in Scotland.

IMG_5280

Paris, France: While wandering the side streets of Paris I spotted this gem and proceeded to excitedly gesture and was met with blank stares by the members of my group. I think it’s fantastic though.

 

 

 

 

IMG_5995

Copenhagen, Denmark: At the Louisiana Art Gallery in Copenhagen I happened upon a photo exhibit of pictures relating to the overall image of America. I think this one was well chosen. This is also when I decided to make an effort to find Star Wars references in as many countries as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The toy stores:

 

IMG_9108

Bergen, Norway

IMG_0931

Vienna, Austria

IMG_7911

Reykjavik, Iceland

IMG_7166

Brussels, Belgium

 

These I was much less happy with since because they were part of mass production the pictures could have really been taken anywhere. However, since I made the rules- these images count in my quest for the domination of the force.

Other:

IMG_9622

Dublin, Ireland: After failing to find a reference when visiting Dublin my friend came in to save the day and provided me with this from her trip to Ireland. (Yet another example of how Star Wars brings people together)

IMG_7554

Helsinki, Finland: Spotted while passing a groovy looking bar in Finland- yes I said groovy and no I’m not taking it back.

 

IMG_0112

IMG_0073

IMG_0071Amsterdam, Netherlands: Amsterdam has three pictures because I couldn’t choose a favorite. Actually the condom is probably my favorite, but the ducks are too hilarious to not share.

 

 

FullSizeRender

Berlin, Germany: This is by far my favorite picture out of them all. This was taken in the Jewish Museum in Berlin. They had a selection of pieces that were all part of a series: A Muslin, Christian, and a Jew. In these the artist depicts the three men doing different activities, contemplating complex ideas, and having crazy adventures. During the entire series it is impossible to tell which one is which- kind of the point. This one reads: Muslim, Christian, and Jew visiting some friends.

 

This has been something I’ve been working on and thinking about for months. After a while it became sort of a game and I’d go into a new city and immediately encourage my friends to keep an eye out for anything Star Wars. At the end of the day there’s still going to be conflicts, judgement of cultures, and competition between countries, however, within these photos I see evidence that if the world can’t agree on anything else- we can agree on Star Wars.

May the force be with you.

(Sweden was the only country I was missing due to leaving before the idea came about)

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Good, The Bad, The Reality

Studying abroad is a magnificent experience and studying abroad for an entire school year has been nothing short of incredible. Throughout it all there have been many highs and lows. I’ve been struggling to write about them because if I were to include all of my thoughts we’d all be here until Backstreet was back again. In an attempt to narrow this down here are some of my thoughts I’ve had in response to people talking to me about study abroad.

It has been about 6 months since I have seen my family in person. It’s weird. It’s difficult. It kind of sucks. However, as weird as it sounds I feel like this time has brought be closer with my little sister. When I was back at school I didn’t come home very often, but it still wasn’t very long before I’d see my family. As a result, I rarely skyped and when I did the time was split between my parents and my sister with everyone trying to cram in what they wanted to say. With being abroad I’ve skyped with just my sister several times and as a result we’ve been able to talk in detail and share what’s going on in our lives. (I’m now privy to a lot high school drama I’m surprisingly proud to say) Even though it’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other, we’ve been able to grow our relationship and become much closer.

I have been in a relationship for two years now and have been gone for six months of that. A lot of people don’t tend to talk about how difficult and awkward that is, and I can’t blame them. It’s been weird for me to talk about with other people. But it is difficult. Probably one of the most difficult things for me was combating the amount of questions I’d get about it when I first decided to go abroad: Wow, you’re leaving him for that long? Do you think you’ll make it? Do you think it’s worth it? Is he okay with it? All asked with good intentions in mind, but all kind of irrelevant and annoying. I can’t see into the future. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I know that I want to make it work, and I’m willing to put in the effort to do that. Everyone’s questions made me have this intense fear that if we did break up for whatever reason while I was abroad, then I failed. You shouldn’t have to justify this to anyone. You come to it on your own terms and the two of you can figure it out the best way you know how, but no one else deserves to be involved.

I have been facing a weird battle of emotions recently. Part of me is beyond ready to be home and see my friends and family again, but part of me knows that the moment I get home I’ll already be missing living here. It’s a weird feeling to have. It’s making me question my choices here more. Should I go do this? Can I afford to take a nap? How should I be spending my time? I keep having to remind myself that I’ve had an amazing experience and there’s not a thing I should regret because at the end of the day that’s the biggest waste of time.

I’ve somehow had a life changing experience without the movie magic back drop and the dramatic song building in the background. I know. It’s unbelievable. I would have thought the camera crews would be here by now. I have grown a lot as a person in the past six months, but I’m also still me. I still like horror movies, I still eat way too much Nutella, and I’ll still be a Wofford student. My friend said it best, “You haven’t changed. This is just a new part of you we’ve never seen before.” It’s true. I’ve learned so much since being here about the world, about different cultures, about myself. That doesn’t mean I now see everything around me in a completely different way or that a light bulb has suddenly turned on in my head and I now get it. I’m still a complete disorganized and chaotic mess. That’s okay. If we’re being honest studying abroad has left me with more questions than answers and I think that’s amazing.

The reality is I’ve had many people tell me what they think my experience is supposed to be like. However, it’s never going to quite meet their imagination or yours and that’s a good thing. I don’t know what I thought this was going to be like, but I’m glad it’s turned out the way it has. I love the good and the bad and I love that pretty much nothing has gone according to plan.

thumb_IMG_7256_1024 thumb_IMG_7598_1024 thumb_IMG_7611_1024 thumb_IMG_7705_1024

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Good, The Bad, The Reality

The Things We Keep

I’m not really a souvenir type person, but I’m also not a “the experience is the souvenir” type person either.

I have picked up things that have interested me here and there and have taken about a million pictures. I have had amazing experiences and have met wonderful people and will take back all kinds of stories to share. However, out of everything I have seen and done there is one thing that stands out to me as one of the best experiences I’ve had since being abroad and one of the best souvenirs I believe I will ever get.

It all started in a public library in Dublin, Ireland.

My cousin and I met up in Ireland to do some traveling for a week. In our last few days in Dublin we decided to go to a few random free events going on around the city. We saw a science/art exhibit on design and violence and we went to a comedy show. For the final night I suggested we go to this poetry and song event. I am a big fan of poetry and figured it would be something different (different is an understatement).

We both assumed that this was going to probably be a really hipster type event and would include some horrifyingly bad poetry. Our first clue that this was not what we were expecting was when we realized the event was being held at a public library- and not the main public library in Dublin.

We walked into a small room where the average age was over 60. We were quickly approached by the man running the event and he asked if we sang or wrote poetry. I confessed that I did, and he said that’s great and that he would add me to the list. Twenty minutes of panic and rapidly searching through my phone and I had two poems to read. When my name was called I quickly went up there and started reading. However, it was halfway through one of the poems that I realized that I chose to read possibly the most cynical poem I had with me to a group of grandparent types. It was terrifying, exciting, and hilarious to say the least.

Once I was done a few more poems were read and then they had a man start playing random songs on a little recorder. A tiny old woman followed him and sang to us about how we all need more friendship in this world. She had us all join hands and sing the last verse with her. It was at this moment that my cousin and I turned to each other and really started to wonder WHERE ON EARTH ARE WE??

I started to feel a little bummed out that this wasn’t what I was expecting and wondered how long we’d actually have to be there. *Pro tip* embrace the weirdness and just go with the flow. It”ll make your time abroad more strange, more memorable, and typically more fun.

After a while both my cousin and I started to get lost into it. In these two hours we were experiencing a side to Ireland that few are able to be a part of. We were hearing stories that involved Irish culture, poetry that made us think about a perspective beyond our own, and music that apparently was so typically Irish that everyone in the room was immediately singing along.

Even with studying abroad and living in a different country for several months I had never reached this point of really feeling like I was seeing another country through the eyes of the people from there. However, in just a couple of hours with a group of strangers I was able to see a side to Ireland that is not described in the travel books.

At the end we approached one man whose poems really struck us and whom we had spoken to at the beginning of the event. We talked to him about how interesting the poems were and how talented he was. He was incredibly excited about this and offered us copies of the poems he had read that night. He said that we’d never find these anywhere online and at the bottom it even said copyright Thomas Delaney.

These three poems are currently up on my wall and are by far the greatest physical item I have gotten this entire trip. They also remind me that we can travel around the world, see amazing architecture, eat amazing food, and take a thousand pictures but the things we really carry with us are the people we meet and the bizarre experiences we have.

thumb_IMG_6960_1024 thumb_IMG_6869_1024 thumb_IMG_6747_1024 thumb_IMG_6965_1024

Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Things We Keep

Self-Esteem Abroad

This is a concept that has been on my mind for the past few months, and I’ve been struggling to find the right words to say about it. However, I do want to talk about it for all the people thinking of studying abroad, for the people questioning if they are good enough, and for my 15 year old sister who does not hear how wonderful and beautiful she is nearly enough.

Our self-esteem comes into question almost every day that we’re alive. We either have too little or too much. Everyone talks about how beautiful confidence is, but if we’re not careful we come across as full of ourselves and if we aren’t self-deprecating to some extent then maybe we haven’t really looked at ourselves and who we are.

To be blunt, this is a stupid concept. Stupid and hurtful. It’s also a waste of time especially if you’re studying abroad. We’re here for such a short time to bother with what people may or may not think. These next thoughts and suggestions are going to be somewhat study abroad specific, however, I do believe that this can be applied to all of us.

1. Listen to hear rather than listen to reply. This is one of my favorite quotes, and it does relate to self-esteem. I started my study abroad experience very self absorbed and focused on my own problems and insecurities. This made me feel very isolated in my fears and created a nasty cycle of self-deprecating thoughts. However, once I got out of my own head more and really started trying to listen to what people were saying and how they were saying it I realized I was far from alone in these thoughts. In fact, it made me realize just how confident in myself I am. I never saw myself as very self-confident until I started hearing just how down on themselves so many people were. It’s heartbreaking to say the least especially when coming from these amazing people I’ve met who are interesting, funny, and so much better than they give themselves credit for.

2. Specific beauty standards are not standard for every country. What I mean is that what is considered desirable is not the same in every country. This shows how subjective beauty standards are, and that’s very important to understand when studying abroad in different countries. It is impossible to meet every standard everywhere, and we shouldn’t try. In short, you’re your own kind of beautiful (as cheesy as that sounds) so embrace it and own it.

3. March to the beat of your own drum. If you spend your entire study abroad experience worried about what other people think, then eventually your time abroad is over and you’ve not had a lot of fun and have done very little. My best memories here have been when people have been completely and unapologetically themselves and it’s truly amazing. This is how I danced in a bar to the Macarena and chaotically played with balloons with friends for 45 minutes instead of studying. I can almost guarantee you that your best stories about your time abroad are going to come when you stop paying attention to what the people around you think and start being your own kind of weird.

4. We can work to improve ourselves while also being happy with who we are at this moment. There are plenty of things about myself I would like to improve and I try to work on them a little bit everyday. However, this doesn’t mean that I can’t like who I am today. I am happy with who I am as a person, I am happy with my body, and I am happy with how I’ve approached my study abroad experience. I am going to try and improve even more tomorrow and the next day and the day after that and so on. Some days are not going to work out in my favor and I won’t be happy with myself, but that’s okay.

Getting the chance to study abroad is a privilege and not a right. That’s part of why it’s so important to focus on enjoying your experience and learning from it rather than focusing on what you don’t like about yourself. I’m not a big fan of making New Year’s resolutions, but if I had to make one I’d say to make this the year you decide to fall in love with yourself.

thumb_IMG_6578_1024thumb_IMG_5971_1024thumb_IMG_6548_1024

Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Self-Esteem Abroad

Regrets are like Opinions

Regrets are like opinions. Everyone has one.

I was talking with some friends the other day and they mentioned how they would have approached study abroad differently if they knew what they know now. There are always going to be things we wished we did during our study abroad experience, and regret can be a heavy thing to carry home with you.

Looking on social media you see everyone else’s experiences summed up in the best of their photos edited to fit on a postcard. I hate to shatter your bubble, but that’s not what study abroad is about. It’s about learning more about this incredible world in which we live, learning more about ourselves, and getting outside our comfort zones. When we start comparing our experience to other people’s we start letting everything get out of focus and we forget to continue to be impacted by the things we’ve seen and the people we’ve met.

There’s a couple of things I like to do when I start losing focus. First, since I’m still in Denmark I try to stop what I’m doing every now and then and just appreciate Denmark. It’s pretty awesome. Yesterday I spent probably close to 45 minutes watching the sunset from my window. It was stunning, and it left me in disbelief that this is the world that we live in. It’s easy to get disillusioned by it when it’s just a part of everyday, but like I’ve said before it’s important to continue to be amazed by the world around us.

Second, it’s important to put down the phone. I know I’ve fallen into that trap plenty of times. Just watching the sunset yesterday I wanted to take a million pictures and capture every moment of it. Once I finally put down my phone and actually started watching it with my own eyes it was so much easier to appreciate how amazing it was and appreciate how lucky I am to be studying abroad in such a beautiful place. Putting down the phone also helps with envying other people’s experiences. Don’t get me wrong I love seeing what my friends and classmates are up to, but at same time I don’t want to compare myself to them. It’s more important for me to give my attention to where I am and what I’m doing. I want to be excited for my friends and happy for their accomplishments rather than bitter because I feel like my experiences don’t measure up to theirs.

Third, I simply open my photos and look back on all of the things I’ve done this semester. In barely four months I’ve done so much, seen so much, and met so many people. Sometimes I can’t even believe that was me in those photos. It just reminds me of how far I’ve come and how amazing my time here has been.

I think it’s great that your experience was different than mine, but I don’t think it has been better or worse. Mine has been right for me, but it maybe wouldn’t have been right for you and that’s okay. When we look back on our time here it is more important to point out all of the amazing things we were able to do rather than all of the things we were unable to do. Regrets shouldn’t define your experience and they shouldn’t define you.

thumb_IMG_6008_1024 thumb_IMG_6041_1024 thumb_IMG_6101_1024 thumb_IMG_6104_1024

Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Regrets are like Opinions

Not Home Yet

I knew for a while that it was going to be super weird being a year long study abroad student surround by semester students. It’s a much different mindset. Everything they want to do has to be crammed in this last bit of time, and I still have a semester to go. That’s such a cool and exciting thing. However…

I didn’t realize how caught up I’d get in their excitement about going home. Everyone is still having a great time, but the tone has shifted. Mentally they’re preparing to go home, and I started doing the same thing. It wasn’t too long before I realize that oh wait, I’m not going home for about 6 months.

I don’t regret studying abroad for a year. It’s not easy, but most of the best things in life aren’t. Everyone who does choose this path is going to have a different experience, but here are some of things that helped me get back into the swing of things.

I let myself be not okay for a bit. I took a step back from all the craziness going on around me and took a break. I ended up relaxing by writing which I haven’t done in far too long, and I spent part of the day submerged in blankets. I think what really annoys me is the idea that you should immediately feel better and immediately look for the positive. Sometimes you really just need to be grumpy and to wallow in your self pity. I’ve always found that it’s so much easier to get back to where I need to be if I’ve given myself the chance to do that.

I allowed myself to give into happiness. Some friends and I went and looked at Christmas lights and I was ecstatic. I know I had crazy eyes going on and was acting like a little kid, but I didn’t care. I let myself have a great time and get psyched about Christmas even if it wasn’t December yet. I even bought a Santa hat.

thumb_IMG_5926_1024

I relied on some of my friends here instead of just friends from home. When you’ve only known people for less than a semester it may be difficult to confide in them. It was for me. However, something that really helped me was going to a friend of mine and letting that person know that at that moment I was pretty down and just kind of needed to chat. I ended up doing that again unintentionally when I got into a 2 hour conversation with a friend about nothing in particular. It felt wonderful to just be completely honest about what was going on in my head out loud to someone. My recommendation to anyone studying abroad is to set your ego aside and let the friends that you’ve made abroad know when you’re not doing so well or when you need some cheering up. Even if they don’t have a solution for you, it’s still better than keeping it inside.

I’m not going home. Not yet at least. That’s intimidating, but also incredibly exciting. If this next semester is half as good as this first semester has been, then it’ll be a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

So to end this let me thank the wonderful people I’ve met this semester. You guys have truly made this semester what it was, and I am so fortunate to have met so many amazing people. You have made me laugh until I cried, you’ve made me smile when I’m down, and you’ve become good friends to me. (You have also left me with a lot of goofy photos and stories I won’t know how to explain) So a big thanks to those I’ve met and become friends with this semester. I can’t wait to spend the rest of this semester with you guys and I can’t wait to see what great things you accomplish after leaving here.

thumb_IMG_5700_1024thumb_IMG_5881_1024

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Not Home Yet

Change is Good?

I don’t particularly like change, and I don’t always respond to it well.

We packed our bags and left the great city of Stockholm and headed to Copenhagen. Gone was Roslagsbanan, my long commute, our little corner of KMH, and my fantastic host family. It’s been weird. Not good or bad. Just weird. I’ve been trying to pack all of my emotions regarding the change in a little box to be unpacked later. However, as I frequently remind myself and others, this is not the way to go. So after two poorly packed suitcases, one snowy flight, and a little bit of chaos here are my thoughts on the move.

I definitely miss my host family. They were fantastic and I was a little bitter I didn’t get the rest of the semester with them. They were kind enough to open their home to me and include me in their family. I had some of the best conversations with my host parents about history, politics, kids, and life all while hanging out in the kitchen before dinner. My host siblings were sweet and full of laughs. The oldest, Erik, got to practice his English with me and I think by the end I was almost halfway to being considered cool. Since both Axel and Sophie were still learning English we weren’t able to talk much, but we made up for that through help with translation, making silly faces, and having a poke war with each other. It was hard to feel too homesick when right upstairs there were wonderful people who made me laugh and made me feel like a part of their family.

DIS is not the right street. And neither is that one. As someone who is perpetually lost, moving to DIS Copenhagen where they have a lot more classrooms on two different streets is distressing. In Stockholm we had a few sets of rooms basically in the corner of a music school….and I still got lost on occasion. We’re also learning a whole new city, and that’s confusing. I just got to the point where I felt somewhat confident navigating Stockholm. I’m sure soon enough I’ll be able to find my way around Copenhagen no problem, but for now it’s confusing.

I think that’s part of the point of studying abroad at least for me. I really loved Stockholm, but I was starting to get comfortable. The point of this year is to make myself unsure, uncomfortable, and a bit unplanned. There’s time later to try and feel secure and organized. For now I think it’s important to not be satisfied with being content. I recommend that to anyone studying abroad. If you’re not scaring yourself at least a little bit, then it’s time to leave the apartment and go exploring. (*mom note* scare yourself in safe ways please)

Another thing to keep in mind is to take care of yourself. I neglected that this week and was on the verge of cracking the other day. Moving is stressful, new places are stressful, going from having your own room to sharing a room and seeing people in the hall all the time is stressful. It felt like going from 0 to 60 in terms of social contact. I love being around people, but I hit a point this week where the social side of me was used up. I couldn’t figure out why I was so anxious, tired, and grumpy. So if you’re anything like me remember the importance of being alone, having time to yourself, and naps (because naps are always good). It’ll safe you stress in the long run.

Change is bad. Change is good. It’s a maddening combination of positives and negatives, happiness and frustrations, and can be as terrible or as fun as you let it. I had reached the point where I considered Stockholm my home, and to some extent it still will be. However, I am excited to make Copenhagen my new home and can’t wait to see what it has to offer.

DIS Sweden

DIS Sweden

thumb_IMG_5700_1024 thumb_IMG_5712_1024   

Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Change is Good?

It’s a Beautiful World

One of my long time favorite songs is “Beautiful World” by Carolina Liar, and the chorus sums up this week quite nicely, “Sunlight creeps in between the curtains/Lose the sheets there’s no time for sleep/I lie, I pretend ’til I’m almost certain/It’s a beautiful world.”

It really is a beautiful world. This became apparent during our four days in Paris while seeing the fantastic work of impressionist artists, wandering the streets of Paris, and “eloquently” singing the Lion King during dinner at a local restaurant. I don’t think any amount of writing could do this experience justice so in a feeble attempt to convey what a fantastic time we all had here are a few things I took away from this week.

Number 1: Let yourself be amazed.

I know. It sounds crazy, but when studying abroad you see so many amazing things that sometimes we stop being amazed. It’s just another instagram picture, another place, another “wow” moment. I will admit that I was falling into this a little bit and then we went to Paris. I was excited, but I was also comfortable. What I mean is that I was not surprised or amazed that I was getting the chance to go to France. I was just going on a trip. When we got there this quickly changed to complete awe and disbelief. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I could see the Eiffel Tower in the sky line and that it was indeed not photoshopped there. However, the two moments that left me jaw dropped and repeating wow over and over were both at the Musée d’Orsay. The first was in the Impressionist section where they had such an expansive collection full of pieces we had only see in photos. The second was in the post-impressionist section where I saw several Van Gogh paintings and almost had a meltdown due to how excited I was. I think I stood in the middle of the room for at least twenty minutes just trying to comprehend that I wasn’t dreaming. To call these paintings beautiful or well done is an understatement and can’t begin to describe what seeing them in person was like. The best I can do is to say that it was like all the air was sucked out of the room and then suddenly flooded with oxygen. This applies to studying abroad in general, but especially if you ever get the chance to have an experience like this let yourself be awestruck, dumbfounded, and still and I promise you won’t regret it.

IMG_5300 IMG_5291

Number 2: Don’t take yourself too seriously.

This one is a must for studying abroad. It’s so much harder to have those moments where you question what just happened if you’re too busy trying to maintain your desired persona. I did this kind of accidentally. We were at dinner at a fancy place on a boat and I decided to tell an embarrassing story involving milkbones. (*spoiler* when I was little I used to steal and eat my dog’s milkbones). What happened as a result is that we all ended up going around the table and sharing our “milkbones” and telling our weird and embarrassing stories. Everyone was laughing and having a fantastic time and we all got to know each other better in the best way possible. We were also encouraged to not take ourselves too seriously when we went to a local restaurant with live singing. I don’t know the best way to describe what happened, but basically it started off with a woman singing and a man playing an accordion and ended up with audience participation involving singing, dancing, the Lion King, and the owner of the place. There were also about 11 or so people in this place (7 of which belonged to our group). I don’t know if I have ever laughed so much in one night, but it was all thanks to a couple of wacky performers who knew how to get people comfortable and my awesome group that didn’t take themselves too seriously and wasn’t afraid to just go with the flow on this one.

Number 3: Some of the best things in life are the experiences you have and the people around you.

I think I’ve basically summed this up with the last two, but it’s true. What really matters if it isn’t the things we do and the people we meet? From magnificent paintings to less than magnificent puns this week was a fantastic experience and I owe it to the wonderfully weird group of individuals that I traveled with. Thanks for being amazed, not taking yourselves too seriously, and exploring the beautiful city of Paris with me.

IMG_5434

 

“…wait, where’s Thanda?”

Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on It’s a Beautiful World

After Prison and Scotland

It’s sometimes easy to treat people who’ve been through the criminal justice system as sort of us and them until you’re face to face with them talking, laughing, and hearing their stories. The men who work at the Positive Prison group are a good example of that. Positive Prison works to improve the justice system and the integration of people who have been through that system. Their goal is to “…seek the recognition of people with convictions as citizens” in order to decrease the rate of re-offending and give people who have been in prison the best chance to improve their lives once they are released.

They started off our conversation with them by pointing out the giant blow up elephant in the room and saying, “Now that we have an elephant in the room we can talk about anything”. Their point was to give us the space to ask questions and to not avoid asking them about their own personal experiences because as they also said, “Storytelling is a huge way people can be introduced to change.” This is a really good point because it’s always said that people are defined by their experiences, and if this is true then it’s safe to assume that people are made up of the stories they carry with them.

And this is what the people at Positive Prison are doing. They’ve been using their stories, their experiences, and the stories of people they’ve met to show people where things are going well and where things need to be improved. They talked about their own struggles with coming out of prison and the unwillingness of society to let them back in while also being told to do something with their lives. That’s kind of a weird problem. We want people to become contributing members of society after prison, but we don’t want to include them in that society. As confusing as that logic is, that tends to be how people approach those who are released from prison.

Not everyone can be saved, and maybe not everyone should be saved. There are some truly horrific crimes out there. But if 65% of the people in Scottish prisons have some kind of mental health issue and 65% have some kind of reading and writing issues and 35% of adult men have had some kind of conviction isn’t it worth at least questioning what’s going on? I don’t believe there will ever be a one size fits all solution to all this. I believe these kind of groups are doing their best to put band aids where they can, but there’s still obviously a lot of bleeding.

I don’t have the perfect solution or really even an imperfect solution. But until we start treating people as people and less like the “others” it’s going to feel like carrying a boulder uphill in the snow while fire ants bite your feet.

This was just one of the many fascinating groups our forensic psychology class got to speak to while visiting Scotland this past week. It was a wonderful week, and so I’ll just leave you with a few pictures from the trip:

thumb_IMG_4970_1024 thumb_IMG_4957_1024 thumb_IMG_4865_1024 thumb_IMG_4820_1024 thumb_IMG_4814_1024 thumb_IMG_4800_1024 thumb_IMG_5071_1024

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on After Prison and Scotland

Leave It At Home

Everyone is afraid of something.

For me it’s spiders. The spiders I have been finding in my room have been progressively getting bigger which is what led to a disastrous battle against one on my ceiling which led to glass ending up all over my floor, my bed, and my computer.

But greater than that is my fear of not being good enough. I stress over it. I analyze it. I give it far more attention than it deserves. And it’s something I’ve truly tried to leave at home.

I know I am not alone in this. As college students we’re told that perfection comes in the form of GPA, career choices, internships, social connections, etc. It’s surprising that we don’t spend more of our time in a puddle on the floor. After years of intense classes, labs, and stress the last thing I wanted to do was to pack this feeling in my suitcase.

I won’t lie and say I’ve been 100% successful, but I do feel like I’ve made significant progress in being okay with where I am, what I am, and how I am. I feel confident in saying that at this current moment I am the least stressed I’ve been in probably four years. I still examine my flaws way more than I should, but then I start hearing the call of Sweden and that’s far more interesting than self pity.

I mean how can you look at this:

IMG_4015or this:

IMG_4439IMG_4361

and only think of yourself. When there’s a world as amazing as this right outside your door it can speak far louder than the little annoying voice in the back of your head. It may be harder to do that back at home, but when studying abroad it’s important to let your host country take over for a bit and just enjoy it.

I will admit that it sounds easier than it is. However, a few things have made all the difference for me such as my wonderful host family. My best tool for fighting loneliness and self doubt when I first got here was talking to my host family. Everyday before and after dinner I’d hang around the kitchen and just chat with them. We’ve talked about our days, politics, science, history, children, and all kinds of things. Not only has it helped me bond with them and learn more about them, but it just made my day better. Talking to them was far more interesting than letting stress absorb me.

I also stopped caring what people think. Not completely, but I’m working on that. I’m in Sweden for less than a semester, and if these people end up thinking I’m some crazy freak loser person then that’s fine. I don’t have to see them again once I leave here. For me that logic has been freeing because instead of analyzing I’ve been texting people to hang out, asking weird questions, and for the most part doing what I want. There’s too much going on to really spend a lot of time on other people’s opinions of you.

I’ve also started working on making loving myself an active thing rather than a passive one. Being away from friends and family has forced me to spend more time with myself, and to simply put it who wants to spend a lot of time with someone they don’t like? I can honestly say that me, myself, and I are on pretty good terms right now as a result. The biggest thing that has helped with this is letting myself be happy. Instead of focusing on what I don’t like about myself I’ve been trying to focus on the interesting people around me, the interesting things I’ve seen, the weird but awesome things that make me who I am, and oh yeah the fact that I’m abroad for a year and am pushing myself so far out of my comfort zone that I can’t even see it anymore.

So if you’re planning on studying abroad my best advice to you is when packing try your best to leave your problems, stress, and icky feelings at home because in a whole new country you won’t need it.

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment