I hope everyone is doing well and having a great semester so far. School started two weeks ago, and It feels like I just got here yesterday. Studying aboard in Australia has been a dream come true. I started my journey by flying to Brisbane with the people from my study abroad program and we stayed in a hostel for a few days. While there, we explored the town, ate some amazing local food, walked the beach, and I even learned how to surf. On our way to the airport, we took a quick stop to the Wildlife Sanctuary before flying to Sydney. I don’t think I have ever seen so many koalas and kangaroos in my entire life! A few hours later, we landed in Sydney. I currently live on campus and it’s not too far from the city. Most of the people I live with in my building are Australians but there are a few American exchange students. Everyone has been really friendly and welcoming. I have been exploring my town and Sydney for the past couple of weeks. Just a couple of days ago, Sydney had its annual Pride Mardi Gras Parade. There were over 150 floats and more than 100,000 people on the streets celebrating the special occasion. The atmosphere was just indescribable. The streets were dazzled with glitters, sequins, and bright lights. Bright and colorful costumes everywhere. People were cheering and dancing along with the music. It was a great experience to see such an event. Although I have only been here for three weeks, I plan to venture as many places as possible in the remaining time. Australia is such a big continent and I have only explored 1% of it. I am also planning to check New Zealand off my bucket list while here. The next few months are going to pass by before I even know it, but I have no doubt I will be filled with great memories and adventures by the end of the journey. I hope you guys have an amazing rest of the semester and can’t wait to see you in August!
I’m writing to you from Marseille, France and am so grateful to be here. My life these past few months has been many things; difficult among them. Despite everything, however, I’ve found my blessings to be far greater than my hardships.
In late November, as many of you know, my dad passed away in a freak accident while sailing. I left school for about two weeks before finishing my exams and heading back home for winter break. Kedge starts class early by European standards, and I arrived in France on January 6th. Within six weeks I had lost half of my immediate family and moved halfway across the world. I would be lying to say this was not incredibly challenging.
My message to you all, however, is not one of pity. I want you to know that I am enjoying my time here and feel blessed beyond measure. I want to share with you a few anecdotes from my past few months that prove there can be beauty (and a lot of laughter) in the chaos.
1. I missed my visa appointment, got dropped from course registration, and found out the semester ends a full month later than I had been told.
While I was home for my dad’s services, I missed my visa appointment at the French Consulate. As I was trying to sort out those accommodations, I contacted Kedge and figured out that a clerical error had removed my file from registration, and I could not select classes because they were all full. That same clerical error had resulted in incorrect information being provided to USC, with which I had made summer plans based on the academic calendar’s original ending date of late April, not May as it should be.
Fast-forward a few weeks, and I reached out for help from the university. They got me a visa appointment the next day at a consulate closer to my hometown. I changed programs at Kedge to allow me to register for classes, and as a result, now only have class three days per week. I’m staying in Europe a month later and will use some of that time to travel through Italy with my mom. I had a lot of choice words for my situation, but hindsight, my words should have been “thank you”.
2. I’m living in the artist district of Marseille, conveniently located next to the Bandido’s lounge. The Bandidos are like the Hells Angels. I walk past their Harleys on my way to the metro.
When I first arrived in France, I was excited to see classic architecture, white stucco walls, and gardens. It turns out that my apartment is in the artist district, and said white walls are actually covered in graffiti depicting the assassination of world leaders. The surrounding area is a skateboard park where Marseille’s less fortunate gather at night.
Fast-forward a few weeks, and I realize that my living situation is more authentically Marseillais than I could have hoped to find. Marseille is a port city and a regional hub of immigration out of the Middle East and North Africa. For this reason, it is one of the most religiously, ethnically, and economically diverse cities in France.
This is the reality for many people in Marseille; the streets aren’t always safe at night, neighborhoods are melting pots, and many are poor. But seeing as I study French, Arabic, Islamic World Studies, and African Studies, I couldn’t ask for more in the way of a living case study of my interests. In many ways, the realities of present politics, economics, and culture collide in Marseille. I’m lucky to be able to learn from it. I was originally upset about my living situation, but in hindsight, I should have said “thank you”.
3. After working towards an internship for over two years, the executive who verbally offered me the position retired just weeks before I was scheduled to receive my paper offer.
Towards the end of my freshman year, I attended a Moore School networking event and made a connection with an executive from a company I was interested in. We discussed my resume and interests, and he eventually offered me an internship. I was busy working out the details and awaiting the paper offer when he retired in October. The pressure began to build in November when, on top of everything else, I fell out of regular communication with the company. I was sure that I would have to start the internship search from scratch.
Fast-forward to this week, and I just submitted my signed paper offer to my new boss. I’ll be spending the summer in Dubai working for UPS at the 2020 World Expo. Before the executive retired, he passed my resume to other employees, thereby giving me even more exposure to new contacts. I’ll be writing my senior thesis on my work there, and hope to conduct research in Rwanda for about a week beforehand. I thought all my plans were ruined, but in hindsight, I should have said “thank you”.
4. I went to Latvia and almost accidentally took a bus to St. Petersburg, Russia because I couldn’t read the signs printed in Lithuanian. I then went to what I thought would be a spa, but it was actually a sauna where you get hit with birch branches and have to jump in a frozen pond.
My USC roommate is studying abroad in Latvia, and I spent a weekend visiting her. I flew into Vilnius, Lithuania and had to navigate my way to Latvia by bus. It was incredibly frustrating to not be able to communicate or even read the street signs. Excited for some R&R, my roommate told me we were taking a trip to a spa. Said spa was actually a sauna in the Latvian countryside where, after multiple rounds of going into and out of the sauna, you get massaged (read: beaten) with a bushel of birch branches. Normally the program director would have done this, but since he was tired, the other members of the program (West Point cadets) were put in charge. As if that weren’t enough, I then had to jump into a frozen pond and afterwards take a “shower” with a bucket and ladle.
Fast-forward to now, and after taking many trips since, I can say with confidence that Latvia was my favorite. I went for some relaxation and instead wound up sleeping on a mattress with a hole next to an open window while it snowed. However, I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed so hard as when the program director told the West Point cadet to hit me “harder and faster” with the birch branches. I’ve also never been so grateful to have a best friend like Anna. I was unsure about my trip to Latvia, but in hindsight, I should have said “thank you”.
5. My dad passed away in November, the day after my 21st birthday. As an only child, we were incredibly close. He was, and continues to be, my best friend.
As I mentioned, my dad died in a freak accident while working on our sailboat. He bought it used and had grand plans of one day restoring it to perfection. He wanted to get it repainted in USC colors because he loved the school so much, often stating that if he were a student today, he would have done anything to attend. My dad put himself through college because his parents couldn’t afford to send him. It took him over ten years to complete his degree by night classes. His work ethic built the life I get to enjoy. I couldn’t gather myself to speak at his services, but I wrote a eulogy that my aunt delivered for me. I think this excerpt sums up the loss well:
“A few weeks ago, nearing the end of the sailing season, I decided to make a weekend trip home and take a sailing trip with my parents. While we were out on the water, my dad told me to get behind the wheel and steer. I had never done it before and asked to be instructed. He told me “point the boat into the wind while I raise the sails.” I replied, “but that’s the hardest direction, the headwinds are strong.” He explained that, “yes, it is difficult, but that’s how you gain speed.”
Now, in this most trying time of our lives, I think back to that day as a poetic reflection of life, that as we face these headwinds and as the captain has left, it is now that we learn how to steer, how to raise ourselves up, and how to raise our own sails.”
When I first arrived in Marseille, I was heartbroken at what I lacked. My dad had just rush-processed his passport because, despite the planned trip being in six months, he didn’t want to take any chances. We talked often about his first trip out of the country, where we would go, and what we would do. We talked about sailing on the Mediterranean and renting a Ferrari in Monaco to see the Grand Prix route.
Fast-forward to this week, and I’ve just returned from Monte Carlo. I bought a tour of the Grand Prix route in a Ferrari and we drove along the coast. As I looked out the window, thinking of him, what do I see? A single sailboat with white sails, just like his. The poem “Gone from my Sight” by Henry Van Dyke was used on the prayer cards at his services. I encourage you all to read it. The parallels make my jaw drop every time.
Fast-forward to this week, and I’ve also taken sailing lessons. I enrolled in a sailing academy and the courses are in French. Marseille has been a port since antiquity, making it one of the oldest sailing destinations in Europe. I want to celebrate his life by doing things he loved. I take solace in the idea that instead of just one week in Europe, he can now enjoy every moment of my life with a front row seat. My dad and I had a special relationship, and I was heartbroken when he left. In hindsight, I wish I could just tell him “thank you” for the time we had.
Brothers, I cannot thank you enough for the kindness you all have shown me the past several weeks. Thank you for the texts, offers to visit, and thoughtful messages. I hope this letter reminds you that the challenges of life are often detours, not roadblocks. My life has been a whirlwind, or perhaps a certain type of storm of-late, but it’s my life, and I’m grateful to have it. This season of life is very difficult, but I remain firmly convinced that life is still a very beautiful thing. Thank you all for reminding me why.
Bonjour à tous,
I’m currently writing to you all from Marseille, France. Located on the Mediterranean Sea it serves as France's second largest city and is a multicultural hub, home to individuals from all over the world, especially Northern Africa and the Middle East. My campus is located about 45 minutes from the Old Port, the city center where I live, and is right next to the Calanques national park. Classes are very different than UofSC so it has been a learning curve but I’m in love with my International Marketing class and International Environment and Geopolitics class. After wondering for years what I want to do with my life post grad it all came full circle for me on the first day of my International Marketing class and I now have a real direction I want to take my career in. I’ve only been in classes for three weeks and there ’ s so much I am excited to learn in class, in Marseille, and while traveling. Marseille is unlike any other city in France, it is extremely beautiful and the locals are so kind and getting to meet the other exchange students has been an experience like no other. I’ve never been in such a diverse place in my life and it is constantly full of surprises.
Although I miss all my brothers, I couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend the next four months. I’m excited to continue to grow through this experience and share all that I have gained when I return. One piece of advice I’ve kept with me is “Try one new thing each and every day”, whether it means trying different food, walking home a different way or booking a trip to a new place this small quote has pushed me to experience something each day. Whether you ’ re abroad or at UofSC I encourage everyone to try something new everyday.
Envoyer tout mon amour,
Hello dear Brothers,
I am writing to you all from the heart of Southeast Asia, Singapore! I miss you all very much and must say I am, admittedly, having some FOMO especially seeing all the great posts about rush. However, I am having an incredible time here and could not imagine being in a better location for 5 months!
The country is incredibly small but this has made getting around and experiencing it just that much better. For example, landmarks such as the Marina Bay Sands, which I thought I would see perhaps once or twice while I was here, I see everyday from the balcony of my apartment. Everything is only a short bus ride, or even shorter subway ride, away from my home. Singapore itself is always in pristine condition with littering coming with a penalty of a few thousand dollars at least. Yes, it’s true that no gum is allowed here but it’s a small price to pay for not having gum stuck to your pants when you sit down on the bus or accidentally touching it under a table. *cringe* In the short time I have been here I have really noticed what a diverse country Singapore is and continues to become. There are many sections of town that are home to many different cultures, like Chinatown and Little India. Stepping off the bus into these places truly does transport you and make you feel like you’ve left the country. Consequently, I have found it to be a very tolerant and welcoming environment and you will no doubt find your niche.
I know it’s hard to believe from all the great pictures on social media but I promise I go to class. I am studying at the National University of Singapore and what an experience it has been in the 3 weeks I have taken classes. I am taking courses about global sourcing strategies in the supply chain hub of the world and service operations in an economy that has become more and more service oriented since the start of the millennium. The structure is very different from that of South Carolina which has been an adjustment but I think I am getting the hang of it. I only have class three days and all classes will go for 3 hours, but the trade off is that you only have a class once a week! This leaves plenty of time for various activities, trips, and experiences. There are around 1200 exchange students here, so every class is a melting pot of other cultures and ideas. This is really pushing me to broaden my perspectives on the world and ask more questions not only of the professors but of my classmates. We forget sometimes that America teaches different things than the rest of the world.
I bet you all have burning questions about the Coronavirus and let me tell you, it’s the real deal. Although only 10 cases have been confirmed in Singapore (all of them natives of the Hubei province in China), you can tell that Singapore is taking it incredibly seriously. Everyone is wearing surgical masks, even if they aren’t sick. This has created a massive shortage of masks so if you have some spare ones laying around send them my way! Travel to and from mainland China has been banned until further notice, and students and teachers who recently traveled there are being forced to take a 2 week leave of absence. All in all, it’s a really big deal but Singapore has got it *hopefully* under control!
If you guys have any questions at all for me or just want to talk (because I miss you all), then please reach out! My number is still the same, just remember to add 13 hrs to the time of day. I hope you all have an amazing semester and I cannot wait to see you in the fall!
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！
Micah-Rafael Hall (Raf)
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!
SOU Bros Abroad
This blog serves to highlight the experiences and tips that Brothers studying abroad have.