An Academic Tour of Paris

Once again…. I am a little behind in blogging. I’ve found that if I don’t immediately write about whatever I’ve done during the week, I forget everything. So this post might be a tad unorganized, but the general consensus is WE WENT TO PARIS FOR SCHOOL!

Traveling to Paris with my class ended up being a great experience with new academic material as well as fun stories to tell. Like our short study tour, the week was split into academic visits, cultural visits (mostly food), and a bit of free time. The project we were assigned was a mood diary, where we recorded our emotions during the visits and applied different emotional regulation techniques in an analysis of these emotions. Currently working on my mood diary analysis has prompted me to finally let you guys hear about Paris.


We arrived on Sunday the 28th and spent most of the time getting transport to the hotel and checking in there. Then we walked to the river to see the Eiffel Tower and take a boat cruise. It was bitter cold, windy, and dark but the walk was definitely worth it just to see the Eiffel Tower. The night ended with a fancy dinner and a walk back to the hotel.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were our main academic visit days, meaning that we spend three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon at various research labs and one children’s hospital. We discussed the use of robots in social learning, different types of neuroimaging techniques (including seeing where the largest human MRI is being built, a crazy 11.7 Tesla), and current neuroaffective disorder treatments/studies. I will admit that the academic tours were a little overwhelming with just the shear amount of information, but overall, a good representation of what you can do in the field of neuroscience.

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Say hello to our little robot friend being used in studies on how robots can learn from humans and how humans can learn from teaching.

Our cultural visits in Paris were spread out a little more, though again mainly Thursday and Friday. On Tuesday night, we attended a comedy opera at the newly build opera house. The whole night was full of laughs, confusion about the story, and discussions on how emotion can be portrayed without being able to see facial expressions (we were in some pretty high seats). Thursday morning we got a chance to go to the Louvre, where we had a guided tour throughout about half the museum. Trying to visit every exhibit in the Louvre would take an entire day and that’s if you just walk around quickly! The Louvre tour was again focused on emotion so we delved into how emotion expression has evolved in paintings and statues. In most cases, early art did not show that much emotion as the focus was more on art techniques or proper anatomy. Pretty cool stuff.

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Thursday afternoon on the other hand, we visited the Paris catacombs. (insert creepy music here) DUN DUN DUHHHH! The catacomb walk was equal parts sad, fascinating, and scary. Fun fact: At some point in the late 1800’s, a group of rich gentlemen held a concert in the catacombs. They invited 100 other esteemed guests and an entire orchestra. The music consisted primarily of funeral marches or music dedicated to the dead. This took place at midnight until 2:30 am in the morning, so just imagine how spooky that must’ve been.

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Friday was the day of sun. The whole week was generally gray, cold, and rainy, but Friday was blissfully sunny for our last day in Paris. Fittingly enough, we went to Versailles before having to head home. Versailles was absolutely beautiful and also massive. We had about three hours or so to tour it, of which my friends and I spent 45 minutes inside and then the rest of the time in the gardens. We even walked all the way to Marie Antoinette’s apartments ( a 30 minute hike), which actually ended up being practically empty for another art exhibit. Thankfully, it was free for us to enter because we had our Swedish residence cards.  TIP: You can use your residence cards to get into most museums throughout Europe!

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To finish up, when we weren’t in “class” or at an event, we spent our time exploring Paris. Monday night, we managed to visit Notre Dame, Sacré-Cœur Basilica, and the Arc de Triomphe altogether! Wednesday night, we ventured up to the top of the Eiffel Tower which was exhilarating and cold (creating shorter lines). Here are a few pictures from our adventures and hope you enjoyed a taste of our time in Paris. Keep an eye out for an upcoming post about thanksgiving and ending the semester (hoping to keep on track this time)!

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Prague and Budapest: Family Style

So about two weeks ago (I’m really behind on my blogging), DIS had its first travel week. For those of you who don’t know, DIS has two travel weeks in October (one at the beginning and one at the end) for core courses to go abroad and experience the classroom life outside of Stockholm. Depending on your core course, you might spend the first week with your class or you might have it free to travel. My core course, Affective Neuroscience, has its travel week at the end of October (now less than a week away), meaning I had the wonderful opportunity of spending the first week with my family!

My parents always wanted to travel to Prague and Budapest and with the excuse of me being in Europe already, we planned eight days (4 and 4) of vacation. Now, everyone knows how hard planning vacation can be, so it was so nice to finish a busy week of classes and travel without worrying too much about the logistics of things. All I had to do was book my flight and get myself there!

In my last post, I talked a little bit about some struggles with studying abroad and homesickness is a big part of it. Normally I don’t have too much trouble with homesickness since the University of Rochester is already pretty far from home, but I think it’s the cultural differences of being abroad that make it a little harder. You find yourself wishing for the comforts and easiness of life back in the US or even just a break from being independent. I won’t lie, it was really nice to take a break and have my parents there to provide most things. For students who don’t have the option of visiting family, or having family visit you, I definitely recommend reaching out to your family when you can. Ask for advice, ask how they are doing, anything to kind of keep track of things. I find that being totally cut off from back home (in the hopes of “true” independence) can make it more difficult to keep up with the workload and stress. Friends are also a great resource, whether they are back in the US or someone you met while abroad. It’s always nice to talk to people about how life is going!


 

Back to the actual trip:

I’m just going to share some pictures, because I know how boring it would be to just read “I went here,” “I did this” kinda stuff. Look for the captions for some explanations.

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Prague Botanical Gardens = 3 hours of hiking
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Boat tour and Prague castle in the distance
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My favorite instrument: the French Horn, courtesy of the Music and Instrument museum in Buda Castle

Thanks for reading! Keep an eye out for next weeks (hopefully) post about my Long Study Tour to Paris! We leave tomorrow morning and I’m so excited!!

Midterm Madness

So I have to apologize first and foremost for being so behind on my posts. As the title reads, the past few weeks have been a little all over the place with midterms and traveling. I am now officially halfway through the semester and I wanted to talk about the struggles and self-realizations that future students might experience while studying abroad. It’s important to remember that not everything will go perfectly. Life abroad is usually even crazier than at your home university. But, at the same time, life abroad is supposed to be that way. It’s a learning experience and a chance to grow as an adult, to embrace your newfound independence.

Here are a few things (actually just two) I want to share about dealing with the downsides of studying abroad:

  1. You might feel overwhelmed and lost sometimes.

Being in a new country, having to focus on school and traveling and new relationships, is difficult. It takes some adjustment and recognition that everything doesn’t just click into place. You might get lost on the metro system (I’ve definitely missed a few stops before). You might not know what to do with your free time (I have more than I know what to do with since I’m used to non-stop classes and work). You might feel a pressure to always be doing something cool, going somewhere fun, or “making the most” of your life abroad. Trust me, relaxing and taking an afternoon off to nap or watch a movie provides a “reset” moment so that you don’t get burned out too quickly.

2. Making new friends can take some time (and work).

If you’re like me, you might take a bit longer to form true friendships. In fact, I can only recently say that I feel like I found my “group,” people I am comfortable asking to go hang out or spend some time with around the city. That isn’t to say that I don’t spend time with other students. Everyone I have met so far through DIS have been very nice and my RC in particular spends lots of time together going to different events or having a Tuesday wine night in the common room to talk about life.

Yet, there can still be a sense of anxiety around making friends. The age old “do I fit in?” “do they like me?” questions might come up. What you might not understand, is that almost everyone else feels the same way. The group of people who “instantly” clicked and are together all the time, also have worries about making friends. Before the travel break, I attended a DIS care team event at a local bakery. There we had fika and talked about the concerns students had (this was done anonymously). Surprisingly, a lot of students from my RC were there too. Even those people who I had thought all along were fitting in perfectly shared the same concerns. In this sense, try not to judge others too quickly. We are all students trying to adjust to living abroad and everyone will struggle with something before you settle in your new home.

BE POSITIVE!

On a happier note, here are some pictures from my visit to Tyresta National Park, which was a great stress reliever and break from the city. I hope that any students looking to go abroad could learn something from this rambling post and take the chance on such a great program (or study abroad in general).

 

 

How Core Course Week Works

As a student researching about DIS, one of the most enticing aspects of this program was the amount of travel time allotted. One of these trips is Core Course week, also known as the Short Study Tour. This post is meant to explain more on how this all works, as it’s not often in american universities that you travel with your class.

Core Course Week encompasses 5 days with which you travel with your core course, mine being Affective Neuroscience. This means everything revolves around your main studies (no other courses that week!). Here’s how it goes:

THE BREAKDOWN (for my course at least, more of a broad view):

Monday:

9 am- travel by train to Gothenburg (a highly underrated city, great place to visit)

12 pm – arrive in Gothenburg and travel to our hostel (more like a hotel really, located easily downtown)

12:30 – get lunch and explore!

2ish – Canal boat tour, where we explored the waterways of Gothenburg and all it’s amazing history. Should be noted that we were very lucky in missing the permanent rainy weather of Gothenburg. Instead it was sunshine and rainbows for the whole day!

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Free time/ nap time…zzz

6 ish – Improv workshop, something all of us were very nervous about. No one in our class had done it before. But, it ended up being a great bonding experience for the class and had people on the floor laughing by the end. The reason why we did an improv lesson was to discuss the role of fake emotions in life and how emotions are recognized between people. 

7:45 – A traditional dinner of Swedish meat balls with lingonberries and mashed potatoes! (I hadn’t had a chance yet to try this so I was super excited, definitely passed all expectations)

Tuesday summed up for length purposes:

8:30am – Breakfast at the Hostel

10-4 pm – Gothenburg University. We attended 3 different lectures on different affective disorders, taught by well-renowned researchers at the university. Even got a chance to visit their zebra fish lab, where they are studying Oxytocin as a social-based neurotransmitter and it’s role in Autism spectrum disorder.

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6:30 – Dinner at BouleBar, a french restaurant where we had a three course dinner and then played Boule. Boule is a french game similar to curling and bowling, which we spent laughing as we competed against each other in an effort to win the tournament. (My team lost, though we were outmatched with our french professor, a master of the game, on the other team)

Wednesday (last day in Gothenburg):

8:30am – Breakfast at the Hostel

9:30 – Music Therapy WorkshopWe discussed the use of music and physio therapy as a treatment for psychosis. 

12:30pm – Lunch at an Italian restaurant (the name of which escapes me)

2 – ESCAPE ROOM, My first time ever doing one and a great way to finish out the trip.

3- Free time before heading to the train station. A group of us tracked down a great bubble tea place, that happened to be located in a Chinese furniture store?

5:30- Back on the train to Stockholm!


The following two days were spent with guest lecturers at DIS and a visit to a Karolinska Institute research lab at which our professor works. We talked with some of her colleagues and had the chance to test out a few techniques used in their Autism studies.

On Friday afternoon, we all made presentations in groups about an affective disorder we had learned about that week. In this way, core course is a balance between academic exposure, social activities, and travel.

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City Kayaking

Now into the month of September, the weather is slowly changing from summer sun to autumn fog. Most DIS students are rushing around, trying to spend as much time exploring the outdoor beauty that Stockholm has to offer, before the cold rushes in. This past Saturday, in order to take advantage of sun while it was out, a couple friends and I made our way into the city for a kayaking adventure!

We found a beautiful little kayaking company that runs a small stand near Hornstull.  There we rented 4 kayaks for a 1 1/2 to 2 hour self-guided tour through the canals and waterways around the islands. The whole experience cost about $25/person, which was pretty reasonable for the whole trip. They included maps, waterproof bags for our things (something I hadn’t even thought of), and a small teaching session before we set out on the do’s and don’ts of kayaking. We were all beginners, so we all appreciated the easy nature of the experience.

Our path took us around one of the smaller islands near Hornstull and through the inner canals set in the park there. The city horizon outlined against the water sparked a realization in me. Not only am I in another country, I am going to be here for the next few months studying subjects I’m passionate in! These kind of experiences are what makes studying abroad such an important opportunity to grow as you reach adulthood.

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Brief insight into the greater parts of life over, I am pleased to announce only one of us flipped over during our time on the water! Thankfully, we were back in the canal at this point and it only took a few minutes of maneuvering to the bank of the river to get on our way again. Saturday ended full of laughs, slightly wet, and surprisingly insightful. This is only the start of the semester, so I’m looking forward to what the future brings here.

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More on the First Week

In addition to orientation on Monday, the rest of the first week was busy with classes and events. Tuesday was actually mostly a free day of exploring. The morning was spent visiting the Swedish version of the DMV to register for our residence permits, which took much less time than I was expecting (just another thing Sweden does better). In the afternoon, most people went out shopping or exploring or even taking naps, as a break from the constant flurry of activity.

Wednesdays here at DIS are used for field studies with your classes. Field studies are short trips that you go into the city with your different classes, core course or elective. These can include literally be any sort of situation and aren’t every week, so you do get a nice mid-week break every once and awhile.

This past Wednesday, I met my core class and professor, and we made our way to the fotografiska musset or the photography museum. There we explored the different exhibits and tried to caterogize the different emotions we saw, marking what physical attributes we thought contributed to the perception of that emotion. Discussion about these traits was held over fika, a swedish cultural event, where you take a break to have coffee and a pastry (typically cinnamon buns) and bond with your friends/coworkers. Fika seems to be a very important part of the day here, and most swedes have a Fika everyday of the week.

Thursday and Friday, were the first real days of class. We spent the time introducing ourselves, going over the syllabus/class expectations, and diving right into the course material. All of my professors seem very passionate about their subjects and come from a wide range of backgrounds, especially in research. Another Swedish culture tip, class is usually a very informal setting and you are not expected to call your teacher “Professor Last Name,” instead they go by their first names. With such small class sizes (average of about 15 students), this is really nice for making the class seem very inclusive and open for disscusion!

 

Orientation in Stockholm

 

As with most university programs, you start with orientation. Here at DIS that includes exploring Stockholm for three days, a whirlwind of activities, and new friendships.

Monday started with the entire group of Sollentuna(our residence area) students making our way onto the train towards Stadion(DIS station). One thing about Sweden is that public transportation is key to getting around, and super easy. I am already comfortable finding my way around and exploring new parts of the city. I will say though, the escalator at our transfer station, where we switch from the Pendaltag (commuter train) to the T-bana(metro), is broken currently. That means we have about 5 flights of stairs to climb everyday in the station. But, I mean, it saves on a gym membership right?

Once arriving at DIS, I was surprised to see that we are in the same building as the Royal College of Music! This means that we have access to free concerts and get to experience a bit more of the music world here in Stockholm, something I am personally invested in. DIS has a great set of classrooms, study areas, and kitchens here, with a wonderful coffee vending machine, cause those 8:30am classes require a little caffeine.

After introductions were made, a set of workshops followed, covering everything from transportation to textbooks to phone cards. All the useful information you need for school, and next came the tour of Gamla Stan, the highlight of the day. Gamla Stan is also known as the Old city part of Stockholm, full of history and beautiful sights. Smaller groups of about 5 people were sent on a scavenger hunt here, where we walked around for about 2-3 hours, enjoying the sun.

The Day ended with the Opening Ceremony where teachers shared stories of studying in Sweden, guest performers sang, and the entire class stood and belted out the lines to Dancing Queen. When in Sweden, ABBA is the way to go!

A Crazy Weekend Arrival

Well…. I’m not sure exactly where to start. (too much to tell)

The past few days actually began with a not so fun flight delay resulting in missing my connecting flight in Frankfurt, but from there on, I was super lucky in my travels. I met another DIS student in my class at the counter where we were both trying to reschedule our flights into Stockholm. 15 minutes later, we had a new flight out in the afternoon and were able to relax and introduce ourselves after all the craziness. DIS was super helpful after we contacted them about the flight and I was even connected to a host family that was picking up their student at the airport when I landed in Stockholm. They also lived in Sollentuna (where my RC is located) and were able to give me a ride to my building!

I arrived at the RC just in time for dinner with my floormates and became fast friends with my roommate. The rest of the night was spent unpacking and trying to learn everyone’s names(don’t worry, it takes  a few days). Sunday morning we made breakfast with the help of our RA and got to know each other a little better while the afternoon was spent grocery shopping, an experience I will never forget.

Our residence is luckily very close to the train station and mall in Sollentuna, making it very easy to go shopping at the large ICA (the biggest chain grocery store). Not only was the store so humongous, it had so many different types of food I was not used to seeing and everything was in Swedish. If you have trouble identifying foods by sight, google translate is your friend and watch out for milk and yogurt, they are in very similar cartons and easy to mix up!

Later that night, a few friends and I went to find Paddy’s Pub, the closest restaurant/bar to where we live. Though we forgot to actually check the map before we left, we managed to find it easily, especially without the use of our phones. There we enjoyed a beer and met up with other floormates who had gone out to explore some of the city. I don’t know if it’s just an American thing, but being able to buy a beer and sit at the bar with friends as a social gathering was very satisfying, as if I was one step closer to being a “true” adult.

Overall, the weekend was loads of fun, kind of hectic, and a great experience. I’m looking forward to writing about the first few days of orientation and then eventually the first few days of classes!

 

 

One Week Away from Adventure

Hi everyone!

For a short, haphazard introduction of myself, my name is Caroline Ware, but I usually go by Cary (yes, it’s the boy spelling…family name of some sort). I am currently a Junior at the University of Rochester studying as a Neuroscience major with Chinese and Psychology minors. This coming fall semester I will be studying abroad in Stockholm, Sweden with the DIS program, hence my first ever attempt at a blog. I’m hoping to share all my experiences with my classes, my exploration of Stockholm, and overall traveling!

Now only one week away from departure, it’s finally hitting me that I’m really studying abroad, that I’m not just heading back to Rochester like normal. The past few days have been spent figuring out how I’m going to pack, trying to gather everything I need into a one suitcase, and realizing that yes, I can buy things like shampoo in Sweden. Getting documents in order and checking that I have all my medications can be stressful sometimes, but it’s also exciting! That’s the enigma of packing.

With all this in mind, I still have a lot to do. But, family and friend visitations have been planned, where I know I’ll be answering lots of questions about my trip, and I’m here writing. Keeping up with blogging is my goal of documenting my experience, as I have always been notorious for failing to take pictures while traveling. This time though, I’ll make sure to post plenty about my trip, as I know previous students blogs helped a lot in my decision to join this program. So, trying not to ramble on here, thanks for joining me on my journey and stay tuned for more about my departure and arrival in Stockholm!!

One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things. — Henry Miller

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View from the Chesapeake Bay