Departure for Dakar by Amanda Verdi


verdi-predeparture-photoAltman Scholar Amanda Verdi pictured with her fellow Boren Wolof Scholars.

Today is the day – the day I leave to embark on my study abroad adventure. It feels like I have been working toward this moment for years. Once I decided on my study abroad location, my life took a fairly dramatic turn. I switched my Altman target language from Italian to French and applied for the Boren Scholarship that would eventually change the course of my past few months. I spent the last two summers in 8-week domestic language intensives, one for French, and one for Wolof; all in anticipation for my arrival tomorrow morning in Dakar, Senegal.

I will be studying abroad with CIEE in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, and home to the westernmost point on the African continent. I will be combining my love for politics and economics with my interest in the developing world by taking classes such as Development Economics and Democracy in West Africa. I will also, of course, be improving my language skills. All of my subject matter courses will be taught entirely in French, and I will continue my Wolof study both inside and outside of the classroom.

As someone who has lived mostly speaking and hearing only English in my day-to-day life, I am a little nervous for the linguistic immersion I will be experiencing in Dakar. Despite my extensive preparation, I am worried that I will not ever be able to express myself fully and with as much personality in French or Wolof as I can in English. But, I am certainly up for the challenge, and I am so incredibly excited for every part of this experience. I cannot wait to see what Senegal has in store for me. Ba beneen! (Until next time!)

FaceTime & Floral Jumpsuits: Some Feelings about Leaving by Molly Noonan


Hi, Altman Blog!  If you’re reading this, it’s most likely because you’re grading me or because you are a family member who was emailed this link and now feels an obligation to stay up to date with my life in order to keep Christmas from getting uncomfortable (earlier than usual).  If you don’t fall into either of these categories and I am just a stranger on the Internet to you, let me introduce myself.  (Also, thank you for reading this!  I’m shocked and flattered!  Add me on Facebook unless you are a predator of some kind!)!  I’m Molly, and I’ll be spending the fall of this year studying abroad in Madrid, Spain.  More specifically, I’ll be taking business and language courses at ICADE, the business school at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas in the heart of the city.  At Tulane, I’m earning dual degrees in Management and Communications, as well as a Spanish minor.  I plan to spend this semester traveling as much as I can and becoming intimately familiar with each type of bread available to me in Europe.  Also, studying.  (Academics, do not lose hope!  This is a scholarly blog!!)  Spending four months in another country is like nothing I’ve ever done before, and there’s a lot running through my mind before this semester begins.

My top few emotions about this new adventure are as follows: Excited. Horrified. Uncertain of what to wear. A little sad.  I will start at the beginning of this list and work my way to its unfortunate end, much like a hopeful child who dreams of becoming a finger painting astronaut who eats candy for dinner every day but then grows up to wear pantsuits and work in a cubicle from which they are asked to remove all pictures of their cats.

Excited.  I can’t wait to be in Spain.  I was in Madrid for a few days in high school and I loved it.  I’ve been learning and semi-confidently speaking Spanish since the seventh grade, so I don’t think language will be the thing that causes me the most embarrassment during my four months away from Tulane.   Also, I love feeling like I know everything, so I can’t wait to get to know the city well enough to give recommendations and stop using a map.  (Also, I am bad at using maps.  I am excited to prove that I do not need them.)  Beyond Madrid, I am absolutely thrilled to begin traveling to places I’ve spent years only dreaming about.

Horrified.  I am so, so nervous about this trip.  I’m nervous about being overwhelmed by the classes I’m taking, because I’m not at all sure how they’ll be structured.  I’m nervous about the possibility of an act of terrorism putting my own life, or the lives of my friends and family who are also abroad, in danger.  (This is the fear that keeps me up at night and caused me to cry in the passenger seat of my best friend’s car.  It’s a fear I don’t like thinking about, and one that I can’t write about anymore.)  I’m also afraid of getting lost and then being late to school and then realizing that I have no pants on! (This would probably only happen in a dream, but still!)

Unsure of what to wear.  My mom bought me a jumpsuit, you guys.  A FLORAL JUMPSUIT.  It looks cute, but where do I wear that?!  I’ve been told that students at ICADE tend to “dress up a little” for class, as if that will make all fashion choices simple.  I have done my best to prepare a wardrobe that will make me look as dissimilar to a homeless grandfather as I can.  We’ll see how this goes.

A little sad.  Not to be all “My sophomore year was better than yours,” but, my sophomore year was amazing and you should be a little jealous.  Because I’m so confident that I made the right choice in coming to Tulane, I’m feeling a noticeable loss when I think about the fact that everything that is New Orleans to me will be so far away.  (But also, I’m going to Europe! New Orleans will be fine for four months! I have FaceTime!)

That was a long blog post!  I’ll try to be less long-winded in the future, but until then, wish me luck!  New Orleans, friends, family, countrymen, I’ll miss you more than I can say.  Also though, I have bread to eat and Spanish to speak and pictures to take and then post on social media so my mom can see!  Despite the fear and uncertainty, I cannot wait to begin this adventure.  Talk to you soon.

Leaving Los Estados Unidos by Rachel Lewis

It is hard to believe that I will be departing for my semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina a few short weeks from now. After four semesters of Spanish and Latin American Studies course work, six years of Spanish language instruction, and two decades of day dreaming of traveling the world, I finally stand at the precipice of a spectacular, once in a lifetime adventure. Of coarse I have my fears, but I am confident that spending my junior fall abroad will not only expand my world view, but allow me to form interpersonal relationships that will anchor me to Latin America and springboard my academic and professional careers.

After weighing all of my SLA abroad options, I decided to attend the IFSA Butler Argentine Universities Program. I chose this program specifically for its homestay element and the ability to directly enroll in local colleges to take classes with Argentinian students. Electing a homestay rather than a dormitory will allow me to completely immerse myself in Argentine culture and establish my own family abroad while perfecting my Spanish language skills. I will also be taking classes at several different universities in Buenos Aires as an international student. Taking courses with Argentinian students without the safety net of other Tulane or American students in the classroom will force me to reach out to my Argentinian teachers and peers and build an academic network that will persist far beyond my semester abroad. As an employee of Red Bull North America, I am most excited to expand my professional network by connecting with Red Bull South America’s Buenos Aires team. Between developing my scholastic and professional networks, polishing my language skills, and attempting to absorb everything the amazing city of Buenos Aires has to offer, I don’t think I’ll have a spare second to be homesick. Adiós Los Estados Unidos, hasta pronto Argentina!

I’ve a Feeling I’m Not in Massachusetts Anymore by Jake Runnals

Yesterday I returned home from a 10-day road trip from Boston to New Orleans, and tomorrow I leave for a week long vacation with my family around the Northeast. I feel as though time is flying by now, as September 5th inches nearer and nearer. Everyday I am trying to cram in quality time with the people I care about for the last time before I travel the world for nearly a full year.  Since, at this moment, the plan is to fly straight from Taiwan to Copenhagen and begin my second semester abroad straightaway, every moment is bittersweet.  However, I could not be more thrilled to study in Taiwan.

I visited Taiwan with my high school 6 years ago, after studying Chinese for a whopping 2 months. Obviously, that trip did not do much to improve my language skills since I did not really have any to begin with.  However, after 6 years of mostly enjoyable, though at times excruciating, study, I am confident that this visit will yield much more tangible results in the form of speaking and writing skills.  I am most excited to meet not only the local Taiwanese, but also the various other internationals that I will be living with. National Taiwan University is supposedly a very international school, so I am anticipating meeting people from all over the world.

I have been reviewing my Chinese textbooks from past semesters to refresh a little bit before being dropped into the middle of a Mandarin-speaking country.  From everything I have read, it seems that English is not all that prevalent in Taiwan, so this will truly be a test of my speaking abilities.  I am confident that I will be able to make my way through the semester, but I am definitely a little nervous about whether or not I will be capable of conversing with the locals.  All in all, I wish I had some more time before disappearing to the other side of the world for a year, but I am eagerly anticipating this unique opportunity.

Zai Jian,


Home by Ruth Yao

Stale air, stiff chair, and numbed ears. I begin the 7th hour of the transpacific flight. I left my home at 3:30AM for Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Having grown up moving frequently, airports and planes create a mix of emotions for me. This time as I leave behind my home, my university, my family, my friends, I approach something not completely unfamiliar. I went to Concordia International School in Shanghai for three years in high school. But to be honest, I know I am drastically underprepared. I am never able to properly prepare for the new destination. A positive spin would be that I “live in the moment”. My personal view is that I just can’t wrap my mind around being in a new place, a new life till I’m there. And then sometimes it even takes weeks before it becomes “real” that I am living there.

While I should have been thinking about how to properly prepare: exchange money, packing power adapters, etc. Before leaving and now, sitting miles above the ocean, my mind keeps drifting back to the idea of home…whether home is a physical house, a loved one, etc. For now, I decide that every home has become embodied in me: my thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and actions.

I am leaving behind home. This sounds sad and makes me feel melancholy. However I know my new home in Hong Kong will make lasting impressions on me, just like my homes have done in the past.

Ruth, finding her way!
             Ruth, finding her way!

Couldn’t Decide on a Title by Cara Williamson

I am indecisive and a worrier. Tasks as simple as deciding what to wear can leave me perplexed for over an hour: What if it rains? What if it doesn’t rain and I’m stuck carrying a jacket in the heat? What if I’m dressed too nice? What if I suddenly get invited to an upscale event and am underdressed? Within my first few months of freshman year at Tulane, however, I made a big decision; I chose to split my year abroad between Buenos Aires, Argentina and Madrid, Spain. Whether it was my friend Brad’s persuasion skills (in high school he did a study abroad program in Buenos Aires and raved about it) or the excitement of getting to travel around South America, I never really questioned my choice. Then one day in the summer I woke up and realized I had a week left before I was off to Argentina. Furthermore, I am leaving my comfort zone to go to an area of the world I had never been to before, South America. I had a page filled with appointments I needed to make and tasks to complete. I had to get all my necessary medications (Argentina is not the easiest place to ship things to), vaccinations, documents to enter and remain in the country as well as somehow fit three seasons worth of clothing into two bags.

After consulting numerous handbooks and double checking that I had not missed anything, I am finally all packed and ready to start my journey. Though I still have some concerns, such as taking my classes and communicating to my host family entirely in Spanish, I am mostly over the week of panic and extremely excited for my new adventure in “the Paris of South America”! It also helps to have my boyfriend, Grant, and my best friend, Brad (both Altman scholars), studying abroad with me, especially for reassurance on the plane ride over. While in Buenos Aires, I will be taking my international relations electives at the Universidad Torcuato di Tella and a writing class through the Middlebury program. Additionally, I will be interning at IDES, a nonprofit institution that predominantly focuses on economic and social development research in Argentina and Latin America.  With my spare time, I am hoping to travel to various places in Argentina and potentially to nearby countries, as well as explore the cultural mecca that is Buenos Aires. I cannot wait; in fact, I already have my South American Handbook packed in my carry-on to start reading on the plane and to begin the important process of deciding where to visit first!

I’ve a Feeling I’m Not in Iowa Anymore by Grant Lewis

Branching out of my summer and precollege abode, the illustrious Iowa City, I am now faced with the startling yet exciting reality that I am a now a junior in college and my year abroad is just about to start! Influenced by the desire to learn Spanish and explore a country I have never been to with my beautiful girlfriend (and fellow Altman Scholar), Cara, I chose to study Spanish abroad in Buenos Aires through IFSA-Butler. Admittedly, the persuasion of my dear friend Brad (also a fellow Altman Scholar) and his previous stay in Buenos Aires years ago also played a crucial part in deciding where to study.

Having studied Spanish since the seventh grade, I am feeling confident in my ability to function in Argentina. That being said, I know that I am not fluent and have a lot of room to improve while here as well as in Madrid, Spain next semester. As a Spanish (and Marketing) major, this experience will be crucial in increasing my language proficiency.

While I have done homestays in Spain (2012, one week) and Bolivia (2005, one month), I have never spent such a long period of time, August-December, in a foreign country. Thus, I am most nervous about the amount of time spent away from family and close friends, as well as adjusting to an entirely different culture. However, the things I am most nervous about are also the things I am most excited about. I get to live with a host family, make more friends, and live in Argentina, and am extremely lucky to have this amazing experience!

Type ‘B’ in Taipei by Jacob Magasanik

This summer, I helped my mother move across the country and helped my sister move into her first college dorm. For my mother and sister, these were highly stressful events. Ironically, I will make the farthest move as I journey to The National Taiwan University in Taipei, but I am not experiencing the same stress that they did. It could be that the change has not truly sunk in yet, or that I have prepared well, having taken Chinese for six years, but I chalk it up to my Type B personality, marked by being generally less anxious.

Another aspect of the Type B personality is the tendency to reflect on the world and concepts within it. The prospect of doing so in Taiwan interests me greatly—how better to get a different perspective on the world than to see it from its literal other side? I have tailored my Finance classes, which will be taught in English, to best give me a Chinese outlook on business. How do they view their unprecedented economic rise? What does a regional or global hegemon mean to the Chinese? What do they think of their current stock market crisis? I am excited to ponder.

I view Taiwan as a step into the shallow end of the pool—Taiwan has a fascinating history wherein it has been pulled by both American and Chinese forces. It is less regulated than the mainland; the Internet is largely unfettered and they have their own separate government. But soon enough, I will swim to the deeper end on weekend voyages to the mainland and then my second semester abroad, which I will spend in Beijing. The final aspect of a Type B personality that I will share is the propensity to enjoy the journey, not simply the destination. I intend to.

Che Boludoo by Brad Tyson

The entire notion that I am going abroad for a year is still a little mind-bogglingly. The idea of going abroad has been a distant intangible thought the last two years, so I still cannot believe I am on the plane with two other Altman scholars, heading for South America.

This year I will be studying in Argentina through two different universities. First semester, I will be studying at the entirely free public school, La Universidad de Buenos Aires, in the Filo (Filosofia y letras) building. Everyone says la UBA is definitely an experience considering it is the best and hardest university in Argentina; however, because la UBA is open to the public, the university “houses” 200,000 students of all ages, equating to a very authentic experience compared to the US. I just hope the school does not become too overwhelming! Next semester, I will be studying Finance through either Universidad de Di Tella or the Universidad de Belgrano.

At Tulane, I study environmental studies, which roughly translates to Geography classes in Argentina.  I visited Argentina for a summer in high school, so for the most part I already know what to expect from the culture shock. More importantly, however, I am excited to see how my perspective changed three years later, and the differences in the way I analyze and adapt to the culture (ideally with a much less ethnocentric view, and a better understanding of politics abroad).  Truthfully, I just can’t wait to get my hands on an authentic empanada and bite into some asado!

Through my study abroad program, I will work for an environmental NGO, and I cannot wait to see how the firm operates and compare it to my own experience interning at an American NGO: World Trade Center of New Orleans.

Overall, I could not be more excited to go abroad and start this new chapter in my life! I do have to say that I am grateful to go with two of my best friends, fellow Altman scholars Cara & Grant [they’re dating] to make the transition a little bit easier!

Ciao ciao