What an adventure studying abroad in Israel has been! It is certainly not for the faint of heart. In the words of my professor: “No one moves to Jerusalem just for the heck of it. Everyone here lives with a purpose.” With an election right around the corner that could determine the political and economic direction of the country, protests and security have amped. I have been exposed to the wildest stories, the craziest opinions from Israelis and Palestinians alike, and each conversation pushes and challenges me.
My daily life consists of interesting classes taught by brilliant, accomplished professors such as my International Law and Foreign Policy taught by the man responsible for many of the peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt and Jordan. I am a short ride from the beautiful downtown area that contains markets where you negotiate for fruits and teas. Traveling into the West Bank is eye opening and the best education often comes from listening to and watching all that surrounds me. The history here is so rich and I still can’t believe that as a Christian I can stroll by so many meaningful places like the Temple Mount and Garden Tomb on a daily basis as well as learn more about other cultures and peoples. While the entire country shutting down from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday for Shabbat is eerie, I have had the opportunity to enjoy traditional Shabbat dinners as it is custom for Jews to invite anyone into their home. These huge feasts with families and their friends make me feel welcome and are a great way to participate in such a different culture
The opportunities here are endless! I attended a conference to hear the Russian ambassador speak on Russia and the Middle East, I ran a marathon, I’ve explored ancient ruins, and just last week celebrated Purim. Purim is a religious holiday celebrating Queen Esther’s rescue of the Jews from massacre, but it is celebrated just like a combination of our Mardi Gras and Halloween. Soon, Passover, Easter, and Ramadan seasons will begin, and I am so excited to continue to learn and challenge myself every day I’m here!
I am sure you all have been staying up to date on current events and have noted mounting tensions in my area. I experience first-hand the implications of all things US-Israel and Israel. Jerusalem is relatively safe, but conflict is never far away and, in many ways, normal in this country. While I am not worried for my personal safety, there are so many people here on both sides affected daily by tragedy. So, continue to work hard, brothers, because we need the kind of people this fraternity is cultivating to be global leaders, get their hands dirty, and create impossible solutions for peace in the Middle East.
Brother Madison Finley
As-salaam alaykum, brothers!
I’ve been in Cairo for almost 8 weeks now, and I can honestly say that every day is a new adventure. Brother Kat Staggers and I are living together in an apartment that’s just a short walk away from AUC with a few of our fellow international students. Since over 20 million people live in Cairo, a lot of the city is residential developments. Our campus is about 35km outside of Cairo proper, so it’s a more suburban area with lots of malls, which is one of the Egyptians favorite ways to spend their time. It’s very safe here, and the people are so friendly and helpful with anything you could need. We even have Uber! I have to say, the traffic here is like something out of a very stressful nightmare, but the Egyptians like to think of it as organized chaos. I’m sure this comes with the territory of a city with 20+ million inhabitants, but there are absolutely no rules, road lines don’t matter, and there’s an entire language of car horn honks. I particularly love the markets in Cairo, where you can find anything from knockoff Gucci slides to fresh hibiscus for tea, and they’re a perfect combination of tourist attraction and local entertainment.
So far, we’ve only had the chance to travel within Egypt, but there’s so much to see! My favorite trip was with Brother Alex Jackson to our neighboring governate, Fayoum, where the Wadi El Rayan national park is located. It’s comprised of two lakes with sandy beaches and an amazing waterfall. There were a ton of people enjoying boat rides, sandsurfing, and playing drums and dancing on the beaches. Nothing can compare to the Pyramids, though, which are absolutely a must-see if you ever get the chance to visit Egypt. The conspiracy theories and nagging camel men really add to the experience, and it all can be observed from a two-story Pizza Hut just across the street, although the local digs are obviously much preferred. Koshary, ta’ameya, and shisha have stolen my heart.
The campus is the most beautiful campus I’ve ever seen (sorry, DMSB). The grounds are completely tiled, the buildings all have unique Islamic-style architecture, and we have hundreds of orange, grapefruit, and palm trees at our disposal to enjoy some fresh fruit by the fountains. Classes are just as hard as the in the States and attendance is no joke, but Kat and I really enjoy our International Security class, taught by a former diplomat and Arab League member with UN members and diplomats as our classmates. I’m also taking an art and architecture course which has allowed me to visit beautiful mosques and sites all around the city, and the Islamic art is absolutely stunning. Egyptians truly have an eye for beauty, and it’s evident in their people, art, and culture. The culture is very laid back, diverse, and accepting, and the Egyptians also have a great sense of humor, which is a great relief when I’m struggling with Arabic.
As I’m writing this letter, Kat and I just said goodbye to Alumna Allie Thompson, who visited Cairo from her Peace Corps post in Uganda with her mom and sister this week. I never thought I’d be catching up with with an old friend while looking out upon the Pyramids, but here we are! I honestly never thought I’d be doing half of the things that I do on a day-to-day basis in Egypt, but it’s not without the encouragement, support, and love from my friends, family, and of course, my brothers! As a piece of advice, to anyone considering studying abroad, step out of your comfort zone and choose an experience that will truly open your eyes to the world. AUC is an amazing school for anyone regardless of your language proficiency, and such a unique, challenging, and fascinating place to spend 5 short months of your life. I would love to see all of your shining faces via FaceTime, so feel free to reach out!
Ma’a salama, habibis!
I miss you all so much and am actually surprised at how much I have been longing the sweltering Columbia Saturdays at Willie B.
I am currently writing to you from Málaga, located on the Costa Del Sol, so one may expect this city to live up to the reputation of having 320 days of sun a year. Alas no, today marks the 7th day of rain here so Málaga may need to update their statistics.
Despite the rain, this city has amazed me in how much it has to offer. From the beautiful beaches to rich culture and night life I can honestly say there is no where that I would rather be. I truly urge any brother considering studying abroad to research opportunities here in Málaga. This is the perfect Spanish city as you are able to delve into the Spanish culture and are sometimes forced to only speak spanish, which is something that larger cities often lack. Another plus is the proximity to Spain’s third largest airport which makes weekend travel throughout Europe rather inexpensive and easy. This weekend I am traveling to Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. I am really trying to make the most of this experience by traveling to unusual places that I likely will not have the opportunity to visit in the future.
I can truly say that I owe my complete study abroad experience to SOU, particularly to Brother Keenan Smith who studied abroad in Málaga the spring of his junior year. Upon his return he spoke so highly of this city which urged me to look into Málaga as a potential location to study abroad. Through further conversations, I was confident that Málaga would be an ideal location for me to immerse myself in the spanish culture while being in a city with so much history and culture. After being accepted into the program, Keenan wrote three pages of recommendations and suggestions for my time in Málaga. He was always available to answer any of my questions or concerns, no matter how redundant or silly.
This is what truly defines the significance of brotherhood to me. I am so grateful for SOU and the friendships I have gained from it. I can’t wait to see you all so soon!
“大家好!” or “Hey Everyone!”
Although it has only been a few months since I actually became a brother I am already missing my second family. Even if there is an ocean between us, the unity felt by SOU following the expedition to Hong Kong is overwhelming.
It has been two months since I arrived in Hong Kong to start my summer program with Yale-China although there’s a distance between us, I still feel the excitement everyone has for this upcoming year through the constant Groupme messages and Instagram posts. In these past two months, so many amazing opportunities have presented itself from meeting business executives in public spaces to expanding my cultural and linguistic horizons. I’ve met so many people both foreign and local whom have inspired me to keep growing and developing my craft. It’s through this desire to keep growing which reminds me of SOU and makes me miss all of you so much!
This summer was the start of everything. It became the start of dealing with Hong Kong’s unpredictable rain showers and countless nights of cramming 60 new and different Chinese characters into my head. It also was the start of finding my place in my new home (and by finding my place I mean constantly getting lost in Central, Hong Kong and attempting to use my broken Mandarin to ask Cantonese speakers how to get back to my dorm). Although it has been a challenge getting used to my new home, do I regret any of it? No! This beginning solidified my desire to work in Southeast Asia and my desire challenge myself, to expand my cultural and social conceptualizations, for this upcoming academic year in Hong Kong.
At this very moment, I am sitting at a coffee shop in Singapore listening to different dialects, accents, and stories from people around me. This is something I never thought I would be able to say. It is at this very moment where I realize how far away from home I am, how far away I am from all of you. It is at this very moment where I am proud that I am a member of SOU. I am grateful for the lessons SOU has taught me, but there is always room for growth. I hope we all continue to grow and continue to be challenged by new circumstances and new experiences that we thought we would never experience.
That’s why I can’t wait to see how much SOU grows in a year. To those who I won’t have the chance to meet this upcoming year, I wish you the best in whatever you choose to do, challenge yourself every day and don’t be afraid to use your broken Mandarin to expand your own horizons. The future is bright! I’m excited to see new faces and have many new experiences with friends that I have learned to call my family.
Here’s to new challenges and opportunities for this upcoming 2018-2019 year!
Missing you guys so much! 明年见！
I hope you are all doing well! I hope Columbia’s warm weather is treating you all well!
Studying Abroad has been an incredibly rewarding and challenging experience. I have been studying abroad in Paris since January and have already grown so much. Paris is amazing – I always have something to do or see in probably the most beautiful city I have ever laid my eyes upon. I have beautiful gardens and monuments and museums in my backyard; it is almost too perfect to be believe.
But studying abroad is not all fun and games - I struggled quite a bit during the first half of the semester. Taking regular classes in French is far more of a challenge than I expected it to be, especially when your professor is speaking French and it is his second language. Before coming to Paris, I had never been in an academic situation where the language hindered me from understanding and it made me feel a bit helpless. However, after about two months, I remember sitting in one of my lecture halls and thinking “wow, I actually understood everything.” It honestly felt so amazing. If any of you are considering taking classes in your foreign language, go for it! It may be difficult at first, but you will improve so much.
What’s funny about studying abroad is that I am always exploring. I just got back from my first solo trip to Bratislava and Prague. I travelled to the Netherlands for Carnival. Even in Paris, I rarely go one day without visiting one of Paris’s many museums, monuments, or beautiful picnic spots. While being here, I have come to the realization that I am exploring so much of Europe, but haven’t even really explored South Carolina or other areas of the United States. I think we should all look more to the areas around us and be tourists in our own cities – it is certainly one of my goals for when I come back to the States. During my stay here, I have also developed a greater appreciation of the US, especially when it comes to anything convenient. I now cherish free bathrooms, free public water fountains, free restaurant tap water, and the abundance of fast-casual dining.
I am going to intern in Paris this summer and will return to the States in the beginning of August. I’m planning to head to Columbia to visit you guys for a few days before heading to Chile in the fall!
Looking forward to seeing you all soon! :)
Let me just start off by saying all of you looked AMAZING at formal, and that scrolling through your 800 photos and snapchats made me miss all of you so much!
I officially have only one month left in Sevilla, Spain. I’m struggling with how fast the first 3 months flew by, but it has everything to do with how many amazing experiences were packed into them. April was especially fun because Brother Jordan Johnson and I (shout out to my roomie abroad) both had our families visit. They took us to Morocco and Portugal, and brought a little taste of home (literally Cheetohs, Chick-fil-a sauce and Ranch). We also got to celebrate Feria in Sevilla, which by far is the classiest, most unique carnival I have ever been to. It was a week-long celebration of wearing Flamenco dresses, dancing in fancy tents called Casetas, and drinking rebujitos. Taking part in it made me appreciate Sevilla’s energy and culture and overall, it made me feel more a part of the city I now call Home.
When I was deciding where to study abroad, a main reason I picked Europe over South America was to have the opportunity to meet up with Brothers. I am forever glad I made this decision because one of my favorite parts about Sevilla is the amount of Brothers I was able to share it with. I’ve now visited Alcazar enough times to make me broke, but getting to be a tourist in my own city again is worth it.
I can’t wait to see what this next month brings! I also can’t wait to see all of you soon and to meet many of you in the Fall. Seniors, congrats on graduating and please don’t be strangers next year!
I hope you are all out enjoying Columbia’s lovely Spring weather. I just returned home to the sun city of Madrid from my spring break trip through Central Europe. I think I can safely say that no jacket in my Columbia wardrobe would be fit for the chilly weather up there—props to brother Olivia surviving up in Norway.
Studying abroad has been nothing of what I expected but everything that I had hoped for. It sounds cliché but often I wake up high on life, literally smiling to myself as I open the doors to my balcony overlooking Madrid’s city center, excited for where I’m going to go, who I’m going to meet, and what I am going to learn that day. I live with one friend from USC and 7 other flat mates from all over Europe. Every Sunday, we have a tradition where one flat mate cooks a meal from their home country and we all sit down at the table together to eat and catch each other up on our weeks. Although so simple, seating nine people in our shoebox apartment has made me some of the best memories laughing around a table of different languages, personalities, and interests. Perfect places are not always physical, they are a mindset of doing what you love and loving what you do. “Ama lo que haces.”
So here’s my advice to you wherever you are…get out and create your perfect place! This advice can be applied both in and outside of the classroom while abroad. Challenge yourself to take a course like Age of Globalization or Geopolitics taught in a foreign language and I promise you will be amazed at your progress over the semester. One of my favorite ways to spend my free time in Madrid is to find new running routes with my flat mates. Even if running isn’t your thing, put in music and just walk around alone for a couple hours. Don’t have a destination in mind or even glance at a map, literally just wander wherever the streets take you and you’ll be surprised at the new cafes, parks, shops, views, people and other things you find. Abroad is one of the only times in your life where academic/work responsibilities are not priority, so unsubscribe from Netflix for the semester and use your time wisely.
Lastly, document your travels and experiences in a way that makes sense for you. Take time to record your thoughts and feelings as you grow throughout the semester so that you have something to look back and reminisce on—whether it be a journal, blog, or even an infamous finsta. For me this meant updating a weekly blog for close friends and family. It’s time-consuming to keep up with people back in the States, so offer them a way to keep up with you that won’t take away from your precious time abroad.
To the seniors: I sincerely wish you the best in your future endeavors. As you know, SOU won’t be the same without your graduating class but I am so excited to see what you move on to accomplish as SOU alum.
To the new pledge class: I look forward to getting to know you all and I hope that you’re just as excited to meet the brothers abroad as we are to meet you (some of them are pretty great if I do say so myself).
See you soon,
P.S: Three of my friends from England will be visiting America for a South Carolina GAMEDAY this September. They’ve heard all about you, so I expect everyone to bring their business professional and show them an appropriate SEC tailgate at the SOU tent.
First, I miss you all and second, thank you. I remember one of my last days in Darla last semester and talking with a brother (@Sophia) and her telling me she would do absolutely anything to be in my shoes about to go abroad. With only my final three weeks remaining in this beautiful and humbling experience, I finally can understand what all of you meant when you said this was an experience of a lifetime. So thank you to each and every one of you who answered my endless questions.
Prague is the most fascinating city I have ever been, you could say I’m biased but it is one of the most breath taking places with incredible architecture and endless places to explore for the restless traveler. While I have had my fair share of travels while abroad, Prague never ceases to be my favorite. The rather snowy and dark atmosphere was a lifestyle shift for me initially, still I fell in love with Praha every day. At first, I contested studying in such a place that I thought would have the living conditions of a tundra. Per my mother’s advice to “simply buy a coat Mace,” I luckily ended up in this magical medieval city. Honestly, my parka became my best friend and the snow just seemed to fit this Game of Thrones-esque city. Right as that happened, spring came to Prague unveiling unexpected warm temperatures, flower gardens, and even more things to do just as I thought it couldn’t get any better. Our favorite days now include paddle boating on the Voltava River and finding the perfect park to sit with our friends overlooking the city until sunset.
The school aspect? Not bad. But I still find myself sometimes staying up until very unreasonable hours in the night to complete my school work after spending a long weekend in Amsterdam or potentially hypothetically booking a flight to Barcelona cutting it close to my very last exam.
I know you guys had a great St Pats because it’s Cola, but I can’t even begin to describe to you all the pure joy of seeing 20 of my closest friends (brothers) in Dublin. Waking up at 6am to “the lit Irish song” to sprint to the train in a blizzard in Laytown to make it in time for the St Pats Festival in Dublin was beyond worth it. Especially for that one moment when both of the SOU houses in Ireland united and a solid 20% of this brotherhood took over the train into the city for every Gamecock’s favorite holiday.
So we’re all about cultural awareness and wow Czech culture is something else. First of all, the language itself is a wild ride and it’s been really fun getting to learn a somewhat exotic language; where it seems like someone tossed a bunch of consonants together with endless accents. I now can pronounce a few words (yes I’m looking forward to my trip to Spain to whip out some Español) but taking the Czech language class was definitely one of my best decisions abroad. Czech people certainly don’t cater to the whole southern hospitality situation that a North Carolina girl is used to. Quite the contrary. At first, I took a lot of their cultural habits as rude until I truly understood that they’re just forward in every interaction, an aspect I’ve actually grown very fond of. You always know where you stand.
The best advice I can give to anyone wanting to come abroad is to go out and do things. Sounds simple but my best days have been when we started out wanting to grab that $1 slice of pizza beside our dorms and thankfully made the journey into town and got blissfully lost for the day. Hang out with anyone and everyone. It’s amazing how close you can get to people exploring a continent and how many interesting stories you can hear from that Swedish professional snow boarder someone invited to join your squad at dinner so they didn’t eat alone. My recommendation for planning your trips is to pick a few places that you absolutely must see and then wait and learn what other opportunities present themselves in your new home. Never did I ever see myself (not to mention, barely heard of) journeying to South Moravia or Cesky Krumlov but these trips have offered me surprising views of astonishing castles and a greater understanding of the region I’m studying in.
I miss you all daily, probably just as much as I miss Chick-fil-A… maybe more. I can’t wait to catch up with everything USC and SOU related! Good luck on finals as we approach that time! And seniors, don’t go too far.
Hello from Switzerland! It’s crazy to say I only have a month left here, but my time abroad so far has been absolutely incredible. When trying to recap briefly my semester, I find it difficult to focus more on the places than on the people who have brightened my life since I arrived in Europe. Through my exchange program, I have made friends from all over Europe, South America and even Southeast Asia. My best friend is from California, and I have a trip already planned to visit the Canadians next semester. In class, I’ve been working with German and Swiss students who consistently leave me in awe at their knowledge and worldly experiences. Finding similarities and differences between such a diverse pool of perspectives and that of mine has not only been a fascinating learning opportunity, but it has also provided me with unique friendships that will last a lifetime.
With that being said, my best advice is to, first of all, study abroad (duh) and secondly to push yourself far out of your comfort zone. If you’re a big city person, go somewhere small. Live on a different continent if you know the European culture. When you travel, do it alone or meet a friend in a new city. Stay in hostels and listen to the stories of backpackers that decided to spend a few years just meeting people and traveling. Also, another lesson that I will carry with me forever is that it is okay to have bad days and for things to not go perfectly. Isn’t that the point of all of this – to learn something? On some of the toughest days, I’ve learned so much about my strengths and weaknesses. Instead of becoming consumed with the imperfections of life, embrace them. Lastly, and most importantly, take time for yourself during your study abroad experience. Read a new book, hike through the mountains, go skydiving! Of all times to focus on yourself, take the opportunity to do it in a beautiful place when there most likely isn’t a worry in the world for you.
Overall, I’ve been to Munich, Strasbourg, Amsterdam, Interlaken, Budapest, Berlin, Zurich, Marrakech and Prague. Each city was absolutely amazing especially because most of the trips included meeting and exploring with some of my best friends from school or home. It’s weird that I’ll be coming back to reality soon, but I cannot wait to return for senior year and tell all of my crazy stories. I miss all of you and am looking forward to meeting all the new brothers! Congrats to those graduating – I can’t wait to see all of the incredible things you guys accomplish. See everyone else in the fall !!!
It’s hard to believe I’m halfway done with my term here at Warwick. With five countries under my belt in five weeks and seven more lined up in the next six weeks, it’s safe to say I’ve kept myself busy. I feel like I’ve got so little time in Europe, and I’m sure a lot of you felt the same way during your term abroad.
When it comes down to it though, I really have a lot of you to thank for this experience. Yes, I was going to study abroad regardless, but hearing about the unique cultural experiences that my brothers in SOU have had inspired me to make sure I had the same experience and I could look back a month, a year, or ten years later satisfied because I know I was able to get the most out of my brief term abroad. It’s definitely been a push to my comfort zone, far more than I could have imagined before joining SOU. So, in sum, thank you to everyone who shared your experience with me and motivated me to push myself outside my comfort zone and really make the most out of my time abroad.
It's been incredible seeing everyone’s experiences here in Europe, and it’s wild to think about how different each of our experiences will be. I’m excited to hear all about each person’s study abroad experience, but I’m also excited to hear all about this Spring semester I’m missing out on! I know there’s definitely a lot I’m missing from back home in SC; warm weather and the sun (we don’t get much of either here in England), hearing people say “y’all,” and, of course, especially all of you guys. I’d love to hear from you guys and catch up on what’s going on in Columbia! I’ll see you all soon, cheers from England!
SOU Bros Abroad
This blog serves to highlight the experiences and tips that Brothers studying abroad have.