First day in Marsabit

Thursday May 14

After a relaxing rest at St. Stephens Church guest house, we woke up to an early breakfast before heading out into Marsabit County to treat children infected with chigoe fleas, more commonly referred to as “jiggers”.  The fleas live in the ground and burrow into their host’s feet (and sometimes hands) to nest and lay eggs.  Besides being incredibly painful, the parasites can cut off the blood supply in toes and cause gangrene. To combat this menace, we split into four teams comprised of OSU students, faculty and students from Mount Kenyan University, Partners for Care (PFC) staff members, and members of St. Stephens Church.  The PFC staff members led each group and explained how to treat jiggers.  First, you wash the infected child’s feet and hands before soaking them in a potassium based solution to kill the fleas.  After soaking the hands and feet, they have to be dried and covered by petroleum jelly or Vaseline.  PFC also had BOBS provided by Sketchers for us to distribute afterwards. These shoes will protect the children from reinfection.

The entire group ready for day 1.

The entire group ready for day 1.

I teamed up with Andrew, Molly, and Santiago to travel to the remote village of Parkishon. We hit the ground running and our group leader, George Okell, got everyone into place. Twenty-three children and one adult from the village came out for treatment.  After finishing in the village, we moved on to the Parkishon primary school and treated another twenty-one kids.  The school used to be 90% infected until Pastor John Hirbo from St. Stephens began working tirelessly in Marsabit County to eliminate the jigger infestation.  Senior PFC staff and faculty from Mount Kenyan University visited the County hospital in the afternoon and were told that the government is almost prepared to declare Marsabit County jigger free.

John checks hands in Parkishon.

John checks hands in Parkishon.

Santiago and Molly treat kids from Parkishon Primary.

Santiago and Molly treat kids from Parkishon Primary.

It was a long and tiring day, but this was a truly amazing experience to see different groups come together to combat a serious public health issue with a methodical and sustainable plan.

Molly outside of Parkishon Primary.

Molly outside of Parkishon Primary.

Church in Nairobi, Kenya, May 10

The trip so far has been a whirlwind. We’ve been moving nonstop since we landed, starting with our first meetings at 8 or 9am, followed by dinner meetings at the house with local NGO and business contacts, and wrapped up by daily debriefings and planning sessions that last until at least 10pm. Things may wind down a bit as the trip progresses, though, based on our calendar.

Traffic in Nairobi makes it incredibly difficult and time-consuming to move from meeting to meeting

Traffic in Nairobi makes it incredibly difficult and time-consuming to move from meeting to meeting

We’ve front-ended most of our local meetings so that Connie, the PFC founder, could attend these before leaving for the US at the end of this week. One of the biggest time sinks is how long it takes to get anywhere. Traffic is crazy in Nairobi! Imagine when people are jostling to get to the front of the crowd at a concert, but here everyone is in a car. Miraculously, no one seems to actually hit anyone else.

On our first Sunday morning in Kenya, five of us walked with Justus (one of the PFC staff living in the house with us) to his church in the village a half-mile away from the house to do some cultural exploration. Church was what I expected- very lively with lots of singing, dancing and excited praise. This was a combined service, holding both members who usually attend the Swahili service and those that come for the English service because the pastor was announcing his 5-year plan for the church. This service was held in English with a Swahili translator, and the choir sang both English and Swahili songs. The corrugated tin building held around 350 people, and about 80 children.

"Hibari!" - Andrew, Team Leader for Greif Kenya Go-to-Market introducing our team to the Church congregation

“Hibari!” Andrew, Team Leader for Greif Kenya Go-to-Market team, introduced our team to the church congregation

The kids were very excited about seeing foreigners. Our seats were perpendicular to the kids’ rows, and just two feet away, so the kids were all clambering to high-five us and shake our hands when everyone was instructed to greet and welcome their neighbors. I winked at one little boy during a quieter part of the service, and from that point on, every time he caught my eye he’d close his right eye and smile at me, holding his right eye shut. It was so cute.

Alison from Greif Kenya Team Go-To-Market, was invited on stage to dance by a visiting singer at the Nairobi church

Alison from Greif Kenya Go-to-Market team, was invited on stage to dance by a visiting singer at the Nairobi church

 

The pastor had invited a singer from his old church to come sing for the congregation at this service. At one point, she pulled three people from the crowd to come dance on stage to “break the barriers” between her and the crowd, and then she walked over and pulled me up on stage! I felt like Kenyan “Idol”, because at least a dozen Kenyans jumped up from their seats to take a smart phone picture of the white American girl dancing on their church’s stage. It was a really neat experience.

Social Life and Traveling in Nantes and Europe

Hello everyone!

In this post, I will discuss the social life living in Nantes, as well as the travel I have been able to do living in Europe. Before departing for Nantes for the Student Exchange Program, one of my main concerns was leaving my friends back in the US and having to meet all new people from different countries when I arrived here. I am a very social person and looked forward to being around all new people, but it was definitely nerve racking.

However, the social life I have had here in Nantes has been absolutely incredible. I have met and become close friends with people from over 30 countries, and I will have these relationships for the rest of my life. Just on my floor in the residence, I have friends from Ireland, England, Belgium, US, Spain, Finland, Mexico, and Argentina. This group, along with about 50 other international students and 10 friends from the basketball team I joined at Audencia, travel, hang out, and pretty much do everything together. This was a big adjustment, as at Ohio State you only see 5-10 people every day, and the rest maybe once or twice a week. It really allows you to become close very quickly, and everyone has truly become a family. It is so cool how everyone has a different background and culture, but are all here for the same reasons and connect right away.

Outside of the social life, traveling has been another great thing about being in Nantes. Nantes has both a main airport and main train station, making it very easy to get anywhere around Europe for a low cost. So far, I have traveled to Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, and roughly 6 cities around France. I still have plans to be in Portugal, Spain, and 6 more cities in France before returning home, and I cannot wait! There are several websites and travel methods that can be used to get around Europe, and through searching all the options it can be done at a very low cost! The trips I have been on have shown me many different cultures and ways of life, and have truly allowed me to have a better view on life. I will never forget the people I have met here and the travel I have done, and am so thankful to have had the opportunity.

Nantes Culture and Lifestyle

Hello from Nantes!

In this blog, I will talk about the culture and lifestyle living in Nantes, France while on the Student Exchange Program. The culture is so much different than what we are used to experiencing living in the United States, from the architecture to the food eaten every day to the clothing worn.

To begin, everything in Nantes looks fancy compared to what I am used to seeing in Columbus. All of the stone buildings, miraculous churches, and weaving roads along the river truly are part of the French culture. It provides a sense of happiness, as even on the grey and rainy days the city still looks pretty. The food eaten in France is not overly different from that in America, but the stereotype about the bakeries and baguettes is definitely true. Being able to wake up in the morning and have breakfast from one of several fresh bakeries is definitely something I will miss back in the US. It is a part of the culture here, as people take the time each day to go and buy fresh products, opposed to buying things from the grocery store for a week. The clothing worn in France is definitely more stylish than the common clothes seen walking around a college campus in the US, as no sweatpants or sweatshirts are worn unless sports are being played. However, I did expect it to be a little more fancy than it is. A pair of jeans and a sweater is okay to wear to any night venues, and the majority of restaurants do not require professional dress as well.As far as the lifestyle goes in Nantes, things are a lot slower. Through the hour and a half lunch breaks, everything being closed on Sundays, and long processes to complete normal day tasks, time is stressed much less here. It is clear to see the citizens of France value building relationships and taking time each day to relax and enjoy life, opposed to the constant upbeat living style in the United States.

Overall, I have truly enjoyed being in a new culture and adapting to the lifestyle here in Nantes. There have definitely been a few times that things get frustrating, but I have grown tremendously as a person and will treasure my experience here forever.

Double the New Year, Double the Fun

After 2 months of being in Singapore, I have come to realize what a truly multicultural country it is. Everything from the people to the food to the holidays embody that. This year I was fortunate enough to experience two New Year’s celebrations.

I started off my New Year in Singapore at Marina Bay and it was absolutely spectacular. The view of the city and Marina Bay Sands were picture perfect. New Year's 2015 in Singapore

 

I thought I would have to settle for an average New Year’s Eve because I knew that Chinese New Year’s was also big in Singapore but the celebrations were anything but average. I got to ring in the New Year with some local Singaporeans and my roommates who are fellow exchange students at SMU. As you can see, the city at night is full of lights.

New Year's with locals and exchange students

I can’t think of any other country where the Gregorian New Year (January 1st) celebrations are just as big as the celebrations for Chinese New Year (February 19th)! Chinese New Year in Singapore was just as fun and colorful with a cultural twist.

Chinese New Year Singapore

 

Even after I leave Singapore, I think my new tradition will be to celebrate two New Year’s, every year.

 

Traveling Smart with Your Smartphone

I have publicly rebelled against having a smartphone since high school, when all of my friends made the transition. I did not believe they were worth the expense, but when I decided to spend a semester abroad, I realized there could be some advantages. Most notably, having a smartphone gives you access to a GPS which is extremely helpful when you’re lost. Additionally, there are many moments when you’ll need to look up things you wouldn’t have expected, such as the opening hours of a restaurant or store. Internet isn’t as widespread in Europe as I was used to it being in the States, so having a data plan was essential for me to manage my time effectively. I found my data plan to be cheaper than the one in the States, however I did have less data, which required me to be selective with my access. I recommend getting the proper simcard and plan in your host country as soon as possible. This will also be good when you meet new friends at orientation and in your classes, as you can swap numbers right away!

There are also a lot of very helpful apps. Here are a few that I used while abroad:

Word Lens
Worried about getting to a restaurant and not knowing how to order in another language? This app translates the words of any picture you provide, offline. It’s extremely effective when you want to translate a whole paragraph instead of having to type each word individually, and also a lifesaver when you don’t have internet access. I would also recommend getting another translator app with audio, if your phone doesn’t already come with one.

Google Voice/Whatsapp
By now, most people know about Whatsapp. It is a free messaging app for anyone with a smartphone to connect. There is also an app called Google Voice, which works a bit differently. Google Voice actually gives you a vacant US number (if you set it up while you’re still in the States) and then allows you to call and text via this number to US and Canada numbers for free. Neither of my parents have smart phones, and a lot of my friends in the US didn’t have Whatsapp, so I used Google voice to text them. Once you set up the number, you can download the app and text them like you would normally, as long as you have access to internet. Then, you can call them via Hangouts which is directly connected to Google Voice. (Technically, you can call them via Google Voice as well, however if it is connected to your US # it will not work when you get a new simcard)

Duolingo
Instead of dropping hundreds of dollars on Rosetta Stone or an extra language class, Duolingo is a free website and app that allows you to practice a language in an easy and fun way. The app focuses on language you would actually use (for the most part, one exception was when it taught me how to say “I am a butterfly” in French), and goes at whatever pace you are comfortable. I would argue it’s not necessarily sufficient to learn the language totally, but as a beginner or someone trying to refresh their memory, it is a great tool.

CityMaps 2 Go
This app downloads maps of major cities (you get 4 free!) that you can access offline. It is perfect for traveling, and easily highlights tourist hotspots to visit. It’s much easier than carrying a map everywhere, and you can put a thumbnail on key locations (such as your hostel) on it as well, incase you get lost.

Kitestring
At the risk of sounding motherly, I strongly advice you to get this app for safety reasons. If you are going to a hostel by yourself, or on a date with someone you just met, or any other situation you are wary about, you can sign up for this app to check in on you at a designated time. If you don’t respond, it will alert your friends or other emergency contacts. Even if you don’t have a smartphone, you can sign up for this free service online.

Lastly, if there is some sort of Kill Switch you can download on your phone (Android and iPhone both have it), I recommend getting it. Europe is notorious for pickpockets, and I had the unfortunate experience of having my phone stolen. I called my parents immediately, and my phone provider got me a new phone within 6 days, making the process as painless as possible. Another friend of mine was not as lucky, and had to buy a basic phone to use for the rest of the trip. In the beginning of the trip, I found I was very vigilant over my belongings, but as time passed, I became more relaxed. My phone was taken when there was only a month left in my program. On a positive note, as I had personal information on my phone (from Venmo to Amazon), I was extremely thankful I could delete all of this information after my phone was taken.

Remember, the most important thing when you’re traveling is to be smart and safe. With the right Apps, your smartphone can make your travel experience that much easier and more enjoyable!

Collaboration/Networking

Any student at the University of Manchester will agree that the school is incredibly international.  In comparison to OSU, Manchester seems to emphasize group work and collaboration between students not just for presentations, but for essays as well.  In just one of my classes, our group consisted of two British students, two Americans including myself, a French classmate, and two students from Ukraine.  Several of my classes emphasized not just learning how to work in a group, but also learning how to learn from each other.  The typical weekly assignments or quizzes that is often present at OSU, did not seem to have a strong presence.  I believe that this situation is an accurate reflection of the diverse backgrounds that will occur in the workforce, and business students who do not have some sort of international collaboration training are woefully under prepared.

One of the greatest advantages to studying abroad is the opportunity to network with your peers from around the world.  Life long friendships were made and I truly appreciate the opportunity to have been able to study abroad.  For example, I had the privilege of spending Christmas at the home of a friend of mine in Strasbourg, France. Very few people will ever have the chance to not just travel to another country, but form global friendships and experience a different culture not as a simple tourist.

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Natale a Milano

 

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Natale a Milano (or “Christmas in Milan” for those not versed in Italian) is a very beautiful and busy time of year. Being the fashion capital of the world, Milan is known for its high-end stores and extravagant shopping experience. During the holiday season, this is especially noticeable from the crowds of people from all over Italy and the world.

Since I had already finished most of my shopping for gifts/souvenirs throughout the semester, I was able to enjoy the surroundings and decorations without the stress of checking things off my list. The city-center has a very large and well-decorated tree that looks beautiful next to the Duomo, and all the stores are festively decorated with trees and lights as well. There is also a Christmas market in the main square that’s full of fresh chocolates, nuts, fruits, and Christmas-themed gifts and trinkets from local producers in Milan. Thankfully it is not too cold here to keep people inside, because the large crowds and outdoor environment was a very nice experience for me :)

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Goodbye, Dublin

Finishing up my semester at Trinity College, Dublin brings with it some bittersweet feelings. Having a few moments between layovers on my flight home I now have a chance to reflect on the last couple of months and the experiences I have had. The last few weeks here have been quite busy with finals, saying farewell to friends, and of course some holiday shopping and in that time I have tried to revisit some of my favorite locations one last time. The city has been in Christmas lights since Halloween; no Thanksgiving means the Christmas season starts early. The lights put up on Grafton Street, one of the main shopping destinations, are dazzling and a lovely Christmas market has been set up near St. Stephens Green with local vendors peddling Christmas goods, cookies, and mulled wine. A lit tree has been set up on campus and provides the front square with some Christmas cheer at night. It’s a shame I won’t be able to be there for the actual Christmas celebrations.

Among all the Christmas cheer, I of course had to find time to finish up my courses and complete my finals requirements. All finals at Trinity are completed at year-end in May, including those classes that only run for the first semester. I of course am on my way back to the US as I write this and will not be able to sit my finals in May. Trinity therefore makes exceptions for this case and I had final project/essay requirements instead. This was different from many finals weeks I have had in the past. In all I had six essays and two final projects to complete in the last two and a half weeks. Most of the final assignments made nearly 100% of the grade in that class with not many other assignments through out the semester. Needless to say I was in the library for most of my days.

In particular, one of my classes had a focus on entrepreneurship and building a new business. For the class, I worked with a group to establish a business idea, build the framework, and write a proposal to potential investors. The class was set up as a competition with 65 teams presenting their idea. The winning group would receive further mentorship from our professor as well as 20% of the investment so the group could actually put the idea to work. Unfortunately our group was not one of the finalists. Outside of class, another group member and I joined another competition hosted by Trinity’s Entrepreneurial Society. The competition was set up much like the show Shark Tank. We joined hoping to get some feedback on our business proposal and obviously to try and win. Unfortunately our proposal was a bit underdeveloped at that point to move on in the competition but the experience gave us some exposure to presenting a business to investors and feedback from the panel of entrepreneurs. It’s to bad we couldn’t continue.

I have said it before and I will say it again, I am so glad that I had the opportunity to participate in OSU’s Student Exchange Program. It will for sure be one of the defining experiences in my college careers. Before leaving we were told to think of the things we would miss most while abroad and I of course said my friends and family. After this semester I can’t believe I was worried at all. I met some fantastic people at Trinity and they served as my family during Thanksgiving and I couldn’t have been happier. Dublin was a perfect city for me to live and I would definitely live there again if the opportunity came up. I am looking forward to being home for the holiday season and getting back to OSU next semester but I know that I will miss the people and city that I’ve grown to love.

‘Tis the Season

One of the best parts about the Holiday Season in Europe is the Christmas Markets, or the Weihnachtsmarkt as they are called in Germany.  You may be wondering what exactly a Christmas Market is.  Well it is all of the joy of the holiday season, thousands of people, great holiday shopping, delicious food, and historic towns all rolled into one.  Since these markets are so irresistible I’ve visited the ones in Koblenz, Strassbourg, Offenburg, Rothenburg od der Tauber, and Nuremberg.  Living in Germany for this past semester has obviously made me partial to  the authentic German Christmas experience so this past weekend I made my final travel destination the markets of Rothenburg and Nuremberg.

Rothenburg was my favorite town in Germany that I’ve visited so far because of all the great history that comes with it.  It’s the best preserved Medieval town in Germany and it certainly looks the part.  Wandering through the lanes of houses and around the historic wall that dates back to the town’s founding and is still standing one can forget for a moment what century they are really in.  When I visited I even went on a tour of the city with a Nightwatchman who told us all about the city’s long and interesting background.  And while their Christmas market certainly isn’t the largest I’ve seen, it’s definitely the most adorable and authentically German.

Rothenburg 1 (640x471) Rothenburg 2 (640x480)

Nuremberg also had a great market, it’s heralded as one of the most authentically German as the town has very strict rules about stall decorations and merchandise to try and keep the market as traditional as possible.  While I was in Nuremberg I also got to participate in a local myth, there’s a fountain in the main square that has a gold ring on the gate.  It’s rumored that if you spin the ring twice and make a wish, it will come true!

Nuremberg (640x480)

The Christmas Markets have been a great conclusion to my semester in Germany but they, among a plethora of other factors, are going to make it so hard to leave in just a few short days!