Morocco Study Abroad Pt. 2: Sahara Desert

Morocco has abundance of diverse landscapes; from the crashing waves of the coast, jagged mountains in its center, to the mysteries of the desert in the east. Two other AMIDEAST students and I decided to check visiting the Sahara Desert off the bucket list and took a two hour train ride followed by a ten hour overnight bus to the far east town of Merzouga. Upon arrival, we were greeted by our host at the local Riad (a Moroccan styled hotel) where we rested before going on our two day camel trek.  Our guide, Youssef, greeted us in a bright, sapphire colored gown and dark headscarf.  Each of us took turns getting on our seated camel, and holding on for dear life as not to get flung off when it stood up. We departing in the early evening as the beating sun set and the temperature cooled.  After riding our camels for an hour and a half, we arrived to an abandoned nomad village.  Under a fire and the light of a small solar lamp, our guide made fresh Tajine, a vegetable and meat stew.  After the meal, we arranged blankets outside one of the crumbling clay houses and slept under the stars.  The silence of the desert and brightness of the stars was unlike any other. The land and the sky harmonized and formed a feeling of peace.

In the morning, we trekked to a nomad’s house in the black desert, a part of the Sahara characterized by coal colored rocks and sand. As we continued our journey, we could see the plateaued mountains of Algeria along the horizon.   We arrived at our lunch spot where we would spend majority of the day under a collection of trees to wait out the heat before continuing our journey. We were served a fresh salad and a nomad prepared “Pizza.” He stretched out the dough, placed a mixture of vegetables and spice, rolled it into a calzone. He then put out a brush fire he lit previously, and underneath revealed a mosaic of black rocks that were heated from the flame. He placed the pizza on top of the rocks and covered it with a metal tin, and let it cook for 30 minutes.  The other students and I paid close attention to the traditional cooking techniques, joking how it would be our new party trick at the next barbeque we attend back home. As the sunlight became dim, we trekked another hour to our final destination in the desert, a collection of caravan tents. We met several groups of people taking part in a similar excursion as us, and we all shared a delicious meal together. After dinner, all the guides collected together with drums and began to play while humming and chanting in Tamazight, the language of the Amazigh (or Berber) people. The Amazigh are an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa and they have a large presence in Morocco. Their language differs from Arabic in letters and over thirty variations can be heard spoken in the MENA region.  After the music and late night sand boarding, we returned the caravan where we once again set our beds under the stars. The night consisted shooting stars and the brisk bites of the freshly cooled air.

We woke up at the break of dawn and completed our trek back to Merzouga on the richly pigmented sands with the sunrise behind us. The journey to the Sahara was and will be one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had.  It was incredible to spend a few days in the desolate and peaceful land and also learn more about the culture of the Amazigh people that inhabit the region.

Morocco Study Abroad Pt. 1: The Beginning

Since the moment I landed in Morocco, this study abroad experience has been nothing short of an adventure. Taxiing over to Rabat, I quickly blended into the hive of 26 other confused Americans, all sharing their university and degrees, while desperately trying to recall the others’ names. When I share my background of aviation with Embry-Riddle, I get the usual squinty, confused face followed by questions such as “How many planes crash on average?” and “Are airplanes really safe?”

We spent orientation at the Oumlil Hotel, a 4 start hotel in the neighborhood Adgal. I like to think of “4 stars” as where a maximum of 4 out of 5 of the basic necessities will be available at any given moment: lights, air conditioning, wi fi, plumbing, and locks. The service received, however, was unlike any other with warm genuine greetings from everyone coupled with quick assistance to address any of our concerns.

During the first week, we dove right into the nitty gritty of everything we will love about being abroad, as well as the challenges we will endure. This included topics such as culture shock, or adjusting food and water; I have yet to get sick, Allhamdulila. Included in our orientation was a day dedicated to sightseeing the major sites of Rabat, where we toured through the fascinating Roman ruins of Chellah, saw the tombs of the previous King in the elaborate architecture of the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, and concluded with venturing through Kasbah de Oudaias, a 12th century gateway that leads into a charming neighborhood of white and blue houses overlooking the Atlantic.

After a few days into orientation, we were paired off and greeted by our host parents. We taxied over to the neighborhood L’Ocean, a quiet mosaic of tall apartments near the water.  I was thrilled to meet my host family, and equally “thrilled” to learn they did not speak a word of English.  This is the case with most host families that work with AMIDEAST, the program I am studying abroad through. This immersion technique has demonstrated improvement of a student’s language abilities, or in my case, skills in Charades.

Three weeks in, we have been saturated with information and the pace has stayed the same since orientation with the start of classes and participation in out-of-class cultural learning activities. As the dust settles and routine kicks in, I look forward to the learning this study abroad experience continues to hold. I plan to be abroad for the academic year to get a prolonged immersion experience, and this whirlwind of a start is only the beginning.

Study Abroad – Seven GSIS Credits in the United Kingdom

img_2829Marquette Davis
ERAU Summer Abroad 2016
England/United Kingdom

Classes:
Interview Techniques and Tactics
Investigative Methodology and Forensic Science

My name is Marquette Davis and I studied abroad in the United Kingdom for one month in the summer of 2016. Although this program is called a study abroad in England, I say the United Kingdom because in the month that we were there, we were not just in England. We had the opportunity to explore the entire United Kingdom. Many of the locals we met told us, upon hearing our travel plans for the month, we would get to see more of England and more of the UK than they had ever seen and they had lived there their entire lives. Traveling to the big city of London and the small seaside towns of Northern England and Scotland and the historic cities Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Bath, and the scenic towns of Wales, we took part in an awesome adventure all over the United Kingdom. And the greatest part about it was that we could personalize it because we were in our own van. And the second greatest part about it was that we probably walked as many miles as we drove, which made for some incredible and unusual sightseeing.

img_2935Aside from the wonder of all the travel and the cultural experiences we got to partake in, the different foods we tried and the various people we met, it was an intellectually stimulating experience. Completing seven credit hours in one month, every day was busy with classes and homework. Classroom and lab times were never boring and the small class setting made each penny per credit worthwhile. Be warned, however, that the work load was not for the faint of heart. One of the greatest lessons I learned while in England was how to seize the day and make the most of my experiences, meanwhile completing a semester’s worth of school work in four weeks. Sleep became a secondary need. I made the most of my time there and maintained a pleasing grade and still did not have any regrets about any missed opportunities. Even as we traveled, we lived and breathed what we had learned in our classes, making them all the more worthwhile and exciting.
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In addition, we were in the United Kingdom at the time of the mass shooting in Orlando and at the time of the Brexit vote by which the United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union. With these events occurring, we were able to experience how a massive tragedy in the U.S. is globally affective. Walking the streets of London, we even came across a banner that read, “We Stand with Orlando.” And we were able to see firsthand the reaction of the UK people to a major national event. Needless to say, with these events taking place and our presidential election upon us, the English people were eager to know our political stances on several issues, including gun laws, nationalism, and Trump/Bernie/Hilary, and they were eager to share their opinions on their own national issues. I had the pleasure, for example, escaping the rain one evening in Bath, to talk to the manager of a shoe store for a brief time who excitedly conversed with me over British and American politics.

This brings me to my next point. Of all the amazing history and incredible places we saw, it was the people that I will remember most and hold most dear to my heart. Granted I came across more rude people than I had ever encountered, but the good outweighed the bad. I will always remember the three locals we shared jokes with at the smallest pub in the UK; the friendly Chinese couple I listened to one of our students practice her Chinese with during high tea on the Thames River; the kind French girl who led our horseback ride along the beach in Inverary, Scotland; the professors at our host university; all our friendly waiters and waitresses; the pub owner who helped us struggle through the Welsh word “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch” for extra credit; the employees of Dunollie Castle who allowed us to conduct a crime scene investigation in the middle of their work day and even participated as witnesses and interviewees; and all others who took our pictures, gave us directions, or made friendly conversation with us on the buses, trains, and planes along the way. I am particularly grateful and would like to give a shout out to the employees of United who were so helpful to me in the airport when I had issues with my flights and had to find my way home. And lastly, in the month I was in England, together in good times and in bad, I developed a relationship with my fellow students and with our professor that I will always cherish. Above all the experiences and sights, it is these people that I will hold dear when I remember my study abroad.

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From my study abroad experience, I gained seven credits toward my degree, friendships I will always be able to turn to with my fellow students, and a mentor that I truly respect in my professor. In addition, as a GSIS student, I achieved my first international experience that I believe has opened the door to many more international travels and potential career opportunities. I discovered the path I want to take in my degree program by taking Interviewing Techniques and Forensic Science and finding out what I really enjoyed to do. I grew as a person, figuring out my way through a foreign country and culture with a group of people that were mostly strangers to me before the study abroad, and was exposed to the diversity that exists just between two English speaking western cultures, really opening my eyes to the incredible diversity that exists globally.

I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to study in England in the summer of 2016. I will never forget my time there and will eternally appreciate all the incredible experiences.

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I’m in Ireland Right Now on Study Abroad!

I love this University, the people in it, and the things I get to do which right now includes the travel portion of my semester-long Ireland course through the College of Security and Intelligence. Follow my Facebook posts below to see what we’ve been doing…and just remember, as a student at ERAU you can do this too!

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Q&A Study Abroad in Germany

by guest blogger and student John Marbut

Going to Europe for an extended stay can be a bit intimidating at first, there are a lot of things to take care of. Hopefully this will answer some of your questions and get everything set up.

Kloster Andechs

Kloster Andechs

Study Abroad Scholarships:
Well there are several options for scholarships to Germany, these include CBYX, UAS7 (they offer a one semester and two semester trip), and fulbright.de. There are also program specific offers from various universities. I went to Germany on the UAS7 SIP program for two semesters, one semester studying in Munich and one semester working on a project in Bremen.

How much does it cost?
For a year a safe bet would be around $13-14k and would give you cash for traveling around Europe. There is no tuition at German universities, but there is a small semester fee that covers the local transport ticket. If you are staying in Munich and aren’t able to get into the Studentenwerk you will have to plan to spend more on rent.

Munich Olympic Park

Munich Olympic Park

What about housing?
If possible try to get in with the school’s studentenwerk, they usually offer a dorm style setup with a private bedroom. There are also cheap bars built into the student housing, these tend to be great places to hang out or party with your friends. The rent is very reasonable and you won’t have to worry about supplying a lot of things. If you aren’t able to get a room with the studentenwerk I would recommend checking http://www.wg-gesucht.de/en/ it is the most popular rental listing site in Germany. Please do be aware that there are scam artists that use the site and you should never agree to mail a deposit and wait for a key. Also the housing market moves very quickly in Germany, listings generally last less than a week if it is a good deal.

Do I need any special paperwork?
I would strongly recommend carrying your acceptance paperwork on you when you arrive in the country, this will make getting through customs easier. Also after arriving at your residence you are required by law to go to the Burgerburo or Burgerservicecenter to register your address within two weeks of moving. Additionally within 90 days of arriving in Germany you will need to get a residence permit, the somewhat tricky part is proving that you have funding. The German legal system expects you to be able to show that you have about €750 for every month you plan on living in Germany to cover the cost of living. You will also need your university paperwork that has your immatrikulationnummer on it and proof of health insurance. The permit costs around €60.

Marienplatz in MUnich

Marienplatz in MUnich

Health insurance?
Everyone in the EU is required to have health insurance, Germany has state run health insurance companies that offer full coverage for about €80 per month. If you have health insurance in the US you may be able to waive the requirement by providing documentation on your coverage. The health insurance is required for your enrollment in the university and they usually have some one from the insurance companies at the enrollment.

What are the classes like?
German courses are structured very differently than US courses, in Germany the lectures can be optional. Most classes give you a “script” which is a compilation of notes for the class, this can include worked problems. A textbook will probably cost you €10-50, but there will probably be a copyright notice stating that it can’t be imported to the US. Additionally there are no homework assignments or midterms, the entire course grade rests on the final exam. Don’t forget to register for your final, otherwise you won’t be given a grade. There is usually another form that you need to fill out to send your report card to Embry-Riddle.

Munich Olympic Park

Munich Olympic Park

How easy is it to get around?

It’s incredibly easy, Germany and most of Europe have a very well developed system of public transportation. In Munich there are buses, trams, and subways that will take you to just about any part of the city. There is also uber if you are out and the buses/trams/trains stop running. I would suggest that you bring leather shoes though as you will probably be doing a lot of walking and its cheaper to resole a leather shoe than to buy a new pair of shoes every 5-6 months. I would also recommend that you carry a messenger bag with a bottle of water, shopping tote, and an umbrella. It makes wandering around much more simple and most fast food/smaller restaurants are ok with you bringing your own drink, especially since they won’t serve you tap water.
Any hints?
The big one is to check with your bank on their international fees. The last thing you want is to be stuck Germany paying $5 + 5% of the withdrawal + 1% Visa fee every time you take out cash. Germany, and much of Europe, is cash based so expect to take out cash regularly.

Stick to prepaid sim cards, the standard contract is 2 years and in order to break it you have to submit a handful of paperwork and a letter explaining why you are breaking the contract. Prepaid plans are about €10 a month and can be adjusted to include data for foreign countries relatively easily, which is great for traveling.

Buy a universal powerstrip! They use a different type of outlet here and that is the best way to keep from having to buy a bunch of converters.

Marienplatz in Munich

Marienplatz in Munich

Check your electronics, here they use 220 volts at 50 hz instead of the 110 volts at 60 hz that is used in the US. If your charger or device has 110-220 50-60 on the power supply then you should be in good shape.

Consider bringing a wireless router. Not all rentals offer wifi, and it beats using a cable.

Before you leave install the textfree app, it gives you a US number and lets you place calls and text from a US number. Since it uses wifi its a good cheap option to stay in contact.

Learn your German numbers, it makes checking out a lot easier.

When you go shopping, don’t forget your bags. You have to bag your own things, and you will have to buy bags if you forget yours.

If you like to travel get a Bahn card, you can get 25-100% off of train fares through the Deutsche Bahn. They also have regional specials that let you travel for reduced prices.

Keep your options open when you travel, there are a lot of options flixbus, megabus, Deutsche Bahn, Ryanair, and eurorails are all good ways to get around.

-John Marbut

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Neueschwanstein

Neueschwanstein

Neueschwanstein

Neueschwanstein

Neueschwanstein

Study Abroad in Europe Changed My Life

“When I met you in tRoad Trip to Austria he summer!” This very phrase sums up summer 2014 perfectly for me. The amount of people I’ve been blessed to meet along with the different countries I was able to explore made that summer the journey of a lifetime.

Summer ’14 felt as though I was in my own version of the music video for the song “Summer” by Calvin Harris. This simple phrase carries with it an enormous amount of weight that has left behind a great deal of memories imprinted in my mind and in my heart that will follow me for the rest of my life.

I was looking out the large windows of Chicago O’ Hare International airport at the skyline of the city of Chicago when I noticed the impeccably beautiful Boeing 747 and it finally hit me. This was it, this was the moment I had been waiting for all semester; I was getting ready to depart the United States with my sights set on Europe for an entire month. The class I was attending on this study abroad was Aviation Appreciation, administered by the Daytona Beach campus and serves the sole purpose of educating the student on what and how aviation got started here in the United States as well as overseas through two world wars.

The one thing everyone talks about when they describe their experiences studying abroad is personal growth and embarking on the most fulfilling journey of their lives. I get the chills every time I think back to how much Europe changed me as a person. Being 20 years old at the time, getting an opportunity to live in a foreign country for a month, having to rethink everything I thought I knew about life and navigate around a place I had only seen in movies was the scariest and most rewarding experience of my life.

When I returned to the United States and looked at myself in the mirror for the first time so much had changed. The way I saw the world and what I wanted my future to entail was completely different than what it was when I first began my journey at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University 2 years prior to this trip. Being a guy from New Orleans, LA this type of thing isn’t something anyone expects would ever be possible for him or her. It really was honestly one of the most surreal moments of my life. My eyes were opened wider than they had ever had been. I was now aware and cognizant of different ways of life, culture and people and I couldn’t even begin to imagine how I was going to be able to return to my routine. I had grown so much spiritually and emotionally; I had fallen deeply in love with Europe.

There’s still not a single day that goes by that I don’t think about the times I spent abroad…watching the changing of guards at Buckingham Palace, catching the tube to visit new friends (whom I still talk to two years later), soaking in all of the beauty that Parliament and the London Eye reveal under the dark skies of London, riding up to the top of the Eiffel Tower to check out life altering views of downtown Paris, lying in the grass at midnight to watch the light show dancing up and down the Eiffel Tower flaunting all of its pure iconic beauty, visiting the incredibly heavy and emotional grounds of the Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany where you could just feel the empty cold empty dark souls that roamed the grounds of the camp during World War II, getting a chance to ditch an engine and glide over the countryside of Germany with the German Alps at the forefront of my view…

That trip taught me so much about a subject that I’ve been passionate about ever since I could talk and say the word, “airplane”. I learned about the people that live on that side of the world and how they truly perceive the world and how they feel life should be lived. It has helped me become a more well rounded and accepting individual to every different culture and background that I now encounter in my life.

I believe the most valuable benefit of my experience studying abroad was the person I became as a result of being overseas and having to rethink how to navigate through life through everyday activities and responsibilities. I found myself scared yet excited, shocked but intrigued leaving me with a greater since of appreciation for other cultures and their lifestyles. I could not understand that by staying here in my own country studying a particular subject.

This world is so large and truly magnificent and I believe every singe human being owes it to themselves to get out there explore, enjoy, learn, and just take in all that has been given to us to experience. Studying Abroad is truly a life altering experience that is priceless beyond words and should be taken full advantage of. I enjoyed my study abroad experience so much that I am currently in the process of preparing for my second study abroad this summer  the Troubles in Ireland class being administered by Professor Austin. My advice to you is to get out there and take advantage of this beautiful planet we all call home. There’s a whole world out there just waiting for you to discover. You owe it to yourself to discover the mysteries of this life that will help mold and define you as who you were always destined to be in this world. 7f9c8996-dcd4-41a3-b02f-1226dd9a5022 imag0756 img_20140613_220359 IMG_1104

            “Traveling. It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

Study Abroad – The City of Lights: Paris

by guest blogger Alexandra Vinck who is studying abroad in Paris for the spring semester 2016.

French baguettes at the Eiffel Tower! About as Paris as it gets!

French baguettes at the Eiffel Tower! About as Paris as it gets!

It has many names…The City of Lights, The City of Love, but I’m lucky enough to call it home. When I moved to Paris at the beginning of the spring semester, I was ready and excited for a new experience. I had spent two and a half years at school in Prescott, and although I love it there, I wanted to try something new. Paris has turned out to be just that, and then some. Paris is exactly as wonderful as everyone says it is. Every street you walk down is beautiful, and every croissant you taste is better than the last one.

Here's a new friend and I on a school trip to Versailles!

Here’s a new friend and I on a school trip to Versailles!

I get to live my life immersed in culture and thousands of years of history. One of my favorite classes I’m taking here is called the History of Paris through Art and Architecture. So not only do I get lectured on important buildings and works of art, but each week we go to a new part of the city and learn all about it. Paris has a very unique atmosphere, because in addition to being filled with history, it’s full of young people and students just living their lives, which makes the nightlife here pretty fun.

Not only am I able to live in this magical city, but also I get to spend almost every weekend travelling and seeing Europe. So far I’ve been to Madrid, Dublin, Prague,

Skiing in Stockholm, Sweden this past weekend

Bordeaux, Versailles, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. Needless to say, my life here so far has been pretty life changing, and I am forever grateful to the people at Embry-Riddle (Kelly O’Brien) that helped make this happened for me, and of course my parents for giving me the opportunity of a life time! Check out some photos below of my life in Paris and some of my travels. Au revoir!

Not exactly studying in a cafe...but this is a super bowl party at an American bar in Paris! Lauren Holdaway is next to me...she's a Riddle student studying in Ireland! She was in Paris for the weekend.

A super bowl party at an American restaurant in Paris! Lauren Holdaway is next to me…she’s a Riddle student studying in Ireland! She was in Paris for the weekend.

Study Abroad: Ryan Marr in Tanzania

Ryan Marr (GSIS) is in Tanzania on an African Flagship Languages Initiative (AFLI) scholarship from the Boren awards. He spent last semester studying Swahili and living with a host family in Arusha, Tanzania. Now, he is doing an internship at Nkoaranga Lutheran Hospital. Below are excerpts from an interview with him.

African and South Asian Flagship Languages Initiative (AFLI/SAFLI) Interview Ryan D Marr (AFLI)

Ryan Marr 3How did you become interested in studying an AFLI language? I became interested in studying an AFLI language and Swahili in particular due to the general lack of academic and strategic interest demonstrated to the extremist threats present in Africa. While studying for my bachelor’s degree, I focused my attention and eventual thesis on counter-insurgency and irregular warfare. Insurgencies thrive in areas of minimal oversight and I saw great potential for the expansion of groups such as Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab in areas of limited economic progress. Swahili is one of the most widely spoken languages within the continent and its value as an intelligence asset has already been proven through Al-Shabaab’s online recruiting efforts targeting Kenyan and Tanzanian youth. The ability for these groups to take advantage of poor cooperative security efforts and intelligence sharing has been demonstrated time and again, including the recent devastating attack on a Kenyan military camp in Somalia. In order to best safeguard East Africa’s future it is absolutely necessary that Swahili acquisition become a priority for the defense community.

How did you learn about the AFLI program? I became aware of the AFLI program through my mentor, Dean Phillip Jones at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. He was familiar with my area of focus, (Global Security and Intelligence Studies) and we discussed at length the security situation within East Africa from both a historical and strategic perspective. He offered professional insight regarding the significance an opportunity such as the AFLI program would provide to my career and supported my reasoning for choosing Swahili.

What aspects of the program interested you? After having studied abroad with the Critical Language Scholarship in Luckow, India, I became aware that I wanted a program with a longer immersion opportunity and a more like-minded peer group. I knew that the AFLI program would surround me with people dedicated to government service and determined to act as student ambassadors abroad in order to further perpetuate a positive image of our nation as a whole. The combination of ten months of dedicated language study in correlation with a peer group that I know will prove invaluable in years to come are the two main factors that drew me towards the AFLI program.

Was your domestic study experience what you expected it to be? My domestic study experience met my general expectations for an intensive two month program whose general purpose was to provide the ground work necessary to function and progress overseas. I felt the amount of attention dedicated to cross-cultural awareness and language immersion was impressive considering the circumstances.

Tell me about your overseas study experience? Homestay/Living? My home-stay experience has been incredible and I have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly and sincerely I was accepted as a member within the family unit. A positive home-stay is absolutely essential for language development and I have personally found that I have been able to refine my Swahili most effectively within the familiar context of my home. It is far easier to leave your comfort zone within the security of a trusted host family and, for example, utilize new vocabulary than in a classroom full of your peers. I have personally established a very close relationship with my host mothers, (they are sisters who live together), and they have proven an invaluable resource not only for Swahili but also as strong, positive examples of proper conduct and decorum. They have made the transition into the community seamless and treat me as no less a part of their family as their own children. I have become so comfortable within the local community between work and school that we love to go out as a group on weekends to local restaurants to catch up and tell stories about people we are all familiar with. I will miss them greatly upon my return home but have every intention of returning as soon as feasible.

Courses? The coursework was demanding as is to be expected in any intensive language immersion but very manageable. The emphasis was placed on maximizing immersion whether in the form of host family interaction or even conversation with school staff. While a great deal of language development is dependent upon private study, the professors were always ready to provide assistance and the classes were predominately productive.

Internship? My internship at Nkoaranga Lutheran Hospital has been one of the most profound experiences I have encountered since leaving the military. The amazing work that is being done with such minimal equipment and even less funding is awe inspiring. One particular instance stands out in my mind after an especially grueling day and has opened my eyes to the medical field as a potential career path. As I sat next to the surgery table soaked in sweat from exertion and the Tanzanian summer heat, the young man whose leg we had just spent the last five hours mending awoke from anesthesia and said with tear laden eyes the words that have changed my entire life’s perspective; “Asante sana kaka, nashukuru kwa vitu vyote”, which in English translates to “Thank you very much brother, I appreciate everything”. He expressed his gratitude towards me for helping piece his leg back together with such heartfelt sincerity that I am seriously considering shifting my career objectives toward medicine. The ability to have such a profound and productive impact on someone in such desperate need has left an indelible mark upon my person.

What was the best part of your overall experience? The best part of my overall experience have been the moments I realize I am thinking in Swahili and that it is no longer a conscious effort to continuously cross translate but rather that it is developing into a learned means of communication. The excitement of being able to effectively communicate with someone without hesitation and enjoy a meaningful conversation in Swahili for the first time was a unique and memorable experience. To that effect, being able to speak with the patients at Nkoaranga Hospital and offer solace, advice, and being able to actively assist ares experiences that I feel will never be matched. The impact this internship has had on my personal growth let alone language development is difficult to articulate, but I know I have become a part of this community in a way I could have never imagined.

What are your plans for the future? My plans for the future include applying for graduate schools with a focus on continuing my foreign service within the federal government. I would like to continue my research regarding asymmetrical warfare and counter-insurgency from an anthropological standpoint. I am also considering applying to medical school in order to work for MSF, or Doctors Without Borders, and provide aid where it is so desperately needed. I am comfortable in areas of conflict and the time I have spent here has motivated me to assist to my full potential. In addition, I plan on advancing my Swahili education through private tutors and personal study in order to assist East Africa to the best of my abilities upon my return.

 Would you suggest the African Flagship Languages Initiative program to other students? Why? I strongly recommend the AFLI program to other students due to three main factors; length and depth of immersion, the criticality of the AFLI mission, and the chance to expose yourself to options otherwise left unconsidered. Being able to study abroad for eight months gives students of any language ability the chance to become truly comfortable with the language and reinforce it daily in every imaginable context. I am by no means a strong foreign language learner, but I have succeeded beyond what I thought was possible in great part due to the length and breadth of my experience here. Secondly, the AFLI mission is undeniably applicable to not only the domestic security agenda, but that of the global community as a whole. Africa is a continent of amazing potential but remains incredibly vulnerable to forces who wish to revisit an era of manipulation and extortion. The visceral difference in interaction between a Westerner who knows no or little Swahili compared to my peers and I is drastic. We are immediately embraced and seen as a positive force in an area so willing to forgive misstep and so grateful to others who embrace their language and culture. They understand that we are not here as simple tourists but as individuals invested in their quality of life and the future of their nation. Cross-cultural awareness and language acquisition are the crux of effective foreign policy application. The issues that plague this part of the world can never be resolved unless the security threats are addressed first and a stable situation within which development can occur is fostered. The entirety of Maslow’s hierarchy is built on top of a firm foundation of security, and the AFLI program is a catalyst towards that end. Finally, I strongly recommend the AFLI program to any and all students in order to expose themselves to a part of the world that will transform them into more compassionate and effective global citizens. I never could have imagined the impact this experience would have on me and today I am a far different individual then when I first began my application those many months ago. I have found new purpose and the people I have encountered, shared meals with, and loved have provided me with a focus that will prove the keystone to the rest of my career and life no matter the direction.

Study Abroad: A Semester in Italy

Hi I’m Briana Martinez, a student in GSIS at Embry-Riddle but am spending a semester in Florence Italy attending an Italian university through International Studies Abroad. I thought you might like to hear about some of what I’ve experienced so far…

Florence Italy

Florence Italy

The academics are very much different here. Very more relaxed and in depth then I was expecting. For instance, one of my classes is in an Italian Prince’s palace inside of a ballroom. The ballroom is filled with plush couches and amazing art pieces. I’ll be sure to send you a pic on Monday. The professors are very passionate about what they are teaching, (not that American ones aren’t) and really draw you in. One thing I noticed is that they are very personable and accommodating to international students and they really want us to feel comfortable and really want us to understand the material they are teaching. Very much reminds me of Embry-Riddle. However, they take class attendance very seriously (going to class is important, I know that). If you miss up to two classes then you will be failed. So, going to class is a must here and very very important.

Briana gelato

Gelato!

Briana Piazza della Signoria

Piazza della Signoria

Briana sculpture

Sculpture everywhere.

Briana street of Florence

A street scene.

Duomo

Duomo, the Basilica di Santa Maria dell Fiore

John Marbut: Mapping the Ecuadorian Rainforest with UAS in Study Abroad

John Marbut is a guest blogger on a study abroad program through UAS7 which is a full-year, full tuition program in Germany. In the fall students take classes at the University of Applied Sciences and in the spring participate in an internship in a lab or institution with hands on work on a project.

Starting from the left in the lower row its: Severin Mainz, Niclas Purger, Benjamin Bachmeier. The second row from the left is myself, I don't know the name of the two tribe members, then Mascha Kauka, Domingo (President of Shartamensa), Dr. Siebold, and Dr. Krzystek. In the last row is Fabian Braun, Christoph Oberndorfer, and Jonas Wilhelm.

Starting from the left in the lower row its: Severin Mainz, Niclas Purger, Benjamin Bachmeier. The second row from the left is myself, I don’t know the name of the two tribe members, then Mascha Kauka, Domingo (President of Shartamensa), Dr. Siebold, and Dr. Krzystek. In the last row is Fabian Braun, Christoph Oberndorfer, and Jonas Wilhelm.

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to join a research team and senior thesis project at the Munich University of Applied Sciences, the major focus for the project was mapping the Ecuadorian rainforest. The group was actually invited to do the mapping through their partnership with Amazonica who works with the tribes to help improve their quality of life by improving education and providing medical supplies. The planned project required us to modify the UAV/Drone (it can fly autonomously or via remote control) from the last AUVSI competition. We needed to be able to get high resolution photos of the rainforest in order to be able to generate a 3-D map of the area we flew over, so the team installed a new payload containing more batteries, room for the camera, and an infrared trigger to start the camera. The antenna used to update the information about the drone’s had a range of about 5 miles, however the autopilot could fly without making contact with the homebase and the drone had a maximum flight time of just over an hour. The picture above is from our last flight in Shartamensa, home to some of the Achuar tribe.

We left for Ecuador in early November, leaving early in the morning we took a fifteen hour flight from Munich to Quito where we met with our guide Mascha Kauka.

Shartamensa

Shartamensa

After another day of traveling we finally made it to Shartamensa. We had chosen November because it is the dry season for the region that we were mapping. We were able to use the village’s empty hospital as a staging area for the assembly, it took a day to get everything setup. The second day in Shartamensa we started to doing test flights, we found that after about 2pm the rainstorms roll in which makes flying impossible. The third day I joined the Geoinformatics team on a trek into the rainforest to the big tree which stood at about 60 meters tall. RainforestWe pushed through a swamp and had to hack through the underbrush to get there but the tree was absolutely incredible to see. The tree was about the size of a car and towered well above the normal canopy. The Geoinformatics laid out a gps points that made the mapping for the area accurate down to a few inches. We managed to get back to the village just before sun down and prepped for our second trip the following day.

Sacred waterfall

Image by Christoph Oberndorfer, a student at Hochschule München

 On the second day of exploration we left quite a bit earlier and so we actually had lunch at a temporary camp that was set up just off the river. The flights went really well, we only had a couple of hard landings but the damage wasn’t too bad. The stay was actually incredible pleasant, we got to see a lot of the Achuar culture, including a lunch on the river, demonstration of their formal greetings, and we got to try a lot of local food. Some of the more unique food and drink was cauim (a traditional type of beer) and roasted grubs. We got to take a trip to a sacred waterfall which is visited anytime the village is struggling. They believe that washing your hands in the waterfall can cleanse your soul. On our last day we spent time with some of the locals playing volleyball and soccer and participated in a cultural exchange between the team and the village. Soccer in the villageAfter the week in the Amazon half of the team returned to Pujo while the second half remained in the Amazon to track down the aircraft after a failure occurred in the autopilot causing the UAV to go down 2 kilometers into the rainforest. Those of us who went back stayed in a city called Baños which is well known for its volcanic hot springs. We spent a day in Baños and waited for the other half of the group to join us before heading to the hot springs. We actually got the opportunity to see a small eruption as we headed away from Baños. We wrapped up the trip with a few days in Quito checking out the Equator, the Equator park, the crater, and the Basilica. The city was beautiful and I would love to go back. My understanding is that team might be going back map the Galapagos, and I encourage anyone who is going to Munich next year to try and join the team.

 -John Marbut

Sunset