Posts Tagged With: Study Abroad

Picture Montage From My Study Abroad

It took me a while but I have finally finished putting together a video picture montage of my trip to East Africa this past summer where I was studying (near Arusha, Tanzania). I hope you’ll like it; the pictures are mostly in chronological order with my journey. Please enjoy!

Categories: Africa Related, East Africa, School/Students | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

ZIFF Opening Night

Zanzibar International Film Festival opened here in Stone Town last night with the premier of a South African movie. The opening act of the festival was a traditional dance from the dhow countries, along with a searing poetry (slam poetry is what you would call in the US, I believe) by a guy named Mrisho Mpoto. Of course the poetry was in Kiswahili but from what I could gather, his poetry was deeply moving as he discussed about social and political issues (he even made the former prime minister of the island, the guest of honor, so uncomfortable by what he was saying that the ex pm had to get up and offer the guy a ‘bus’ to take him around the island – to which Mrisho replied at the end, “be careful PM, I will be using that bus to come visit you” ). Whenever Mrisho said something someone in the audience agreed with or liked, they would get up and put money in his hand to show their appreciation (it’s like clapping, cheering, whistling, or giving the two-thumbs up equivalent). This is a tradition that doesn’t exist in the West though…I did see few Europeans do it, however, as they started to understand the concept (not his poetry) as the performance continued.

Izulu Lami, or My Secret Sky, that opened the festival was absolutely fantastic. The story of the movie is about two recently orphaned siblings, Khwezi and Thembi, a boy and a girl. Directed by Madoda Ncayiyana, the movie has a lot of depth in terms of content and message. I also loved the many symbolism the director inserted throughout the film. It would be useful for someone to know a little bit about South Africa to understand some of these symbolisms but anyone paying attention will get the message. I liked how the film dealt with the taboo subject of men infected with HIV/AIDS trying to cure themselves by ‘having sex with a virgin.’ This is one of the terrible crimes have been plaguing, really, many parts of West Africa especially, where men with HIV/AIDS believe they will somehow be cured of their disease if they have sex with a virgin; children, unfortunately, have been the most victims of this terrible falsehood. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I say this movie has a real shot at winning the best foreign film at the Oscars next year (I think, in many ways, Izulu Lami is better than Tsotsi, the previous South African movie to win the Oscar few years ago).

Opening Ceremony of ZIFF

Opening Ceremony of ZIFF

Old Fort Amphitheater, where the feature-length movies are screened.

Old Fort Amphitheater, where the feature-length movies are screened.

Categories: Africa Related, East Africa, tanzania, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Go Time

In two days I will be leaving for my study abroad program in Arusha, Tanzania finally. Not a fan of long trip but I’d take airplanes over any other mode of transportations. My flight is connecting through JFK via Dubai. Hopefully by Thursday I’ll be in Dar es Salaam (what a beautiful name for a city, eh?). A nice guy by the name of Adnan will be helping me out in Dar. Then off to Kenya for few weeks and back to TZ through Zanzibar, where I meet up with the rest of the group/faculty for the 12th Zanzibar International Film Festival and other touristy stuff (am really looking forward to Zanz!) before heading to our base near Arusha.

Stay tuned for more details, folks! And watch out for the daily tweets on the top right corner space of this blog once my cell is up and running (since the Internet is not as reliable as the SMS over there). A bon voyage is in order, no?

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

News and Notes

As readers of this blog know, my plan for the upcoming Spring school semester was to study in Hyderabad, India. Unfortunately, life’s full of surprises and disappointments. But I’m not complaining. Actually, I see it as an opportunity to explore other options. So it is official. Due to bureaucratic reasons, I was informed that my student visa won’t be approved for at least 3 months at the latest, which essentially put in a position of no-go. Sorry to disappoint, friends. You won’t be reading stories about explosive diarrhea or complaints about unsanitary conditions.

Instead, I will continue my education at my current school and hopefully participate study abroad in summer ’09. Stay tuned for that.

Categories: School/Students, Travel | Tags: , | 7 Comments

I’m Not Out Yet

It’s that time of the year when every professor thinks your only taking his/her class and overload you with millions of assignments. I thought things would get a bit slow during October because usually November is the sink-or-swim month. Apparently as one gets close to graduation, the workload doubles. No one told me that. But that’s fine. Anyway, I have couple of good news I’d like to share with ya’ll regarding the study abroad situation.

I have been ‘accepted’ to the University of Hyderabad for spring semester ’09 and I have also been approved for my travel document (some of you are thinking what is a travel document but I’m sure most of you know what a refugee travel document IS). These were two big hurdles, especially the latter since those wonderful, hard-working US Immigration and Naturalization Services people take their sweet time often (my friend applied his in July and is hoping for a February approval at the latest). I’m now working on coughing up $6,300 to pay for the tuition, housing, and meals. It does not include air fair, the health insurance I’m required to buy ($60 a month) or the miscellaneous pocket money I need  on hand. Overall, alhamdullilah, it has been quite smooth.

After I manage to get these done, then I only have to worry about few things like entrance visa, travel shots, mandatory orientation, and packing. Speaking of packing stuff, has anyone ever tried those plastic spacebag travel bags shown on late night  infomercials? As someone who mistrusts anything shown on commercials, I have a hard time believing these bags will work but if you have any tips for me, please share! I’m looking at you Aya

Categories: School/Students, Travel | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Choices, choices

I finally met with my study abroad advisor yesterday, what turned out to be the worst heat wave I’ve ever lived through – no exaggeration, I was sweating like Shaquille O’Neal in the NBA finals in the fourth quarter against Detroit. Although I couldn’t find a program in the Middle East as I hoped, I was offered to choose either Bangkok, Thailand or Hyderabad, India. Granted, none of these places are my first or second choices but I don’t have the capital backing of Wall Street daddy so whatever I’m offered is what I have to take. 

As far as I can see, these two destinations are pretty much similar – both in South Asia, more or less similar economic, climate, and cost of living. Of course, India and Thailand are a completely different countries in every aspect. But what I care about is the cost of the whole experience minus “personal” expenditure. In this category, Hyderabad comes on top. The dollar is worth more in India than in Thailand, so even after the initial expense, I’d still spend far less in India than in Thailand. 

During my research I learned that it’s $3,000 more expensive to study in Ghana than in Malta, a country that has one of the highest living standards in the Mediterranean. When I was sitting in my advisor’s office while he went out to get the application print out, I thought of using coin toss to decide which destination I should sign up. I didn’t go that route because I want to get the most consultation I can get before my decision is final.

Besides, I still have to get two academic reference letters plus the application itself, which then they will send it to a regional office (in my State), who then will send it to the International Student Exchange Program’s office, which in turn will send it to the host institution. The host institution will make my acceptance or rejection (yeah, even if you’re paying extortionist amount) within a short period.

Then I’ll just have to move on to the next bullshit – immigration, visas, travel shots…

So here’s my question: which one is the best choice for me?

Categories: Education, School/Students, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Study Abroad

I’m zeroing on my study abroad destination, although I’m still hesitant and feel as if I’m about to tie the knot. I always knew Rio De Jenero wasn’t going to happen, but the thought of it was just too damn dreamy. I can’t believe there is only one program in the entire MIddle East. Imagine that. Africa does a little better with three programs in Ghana, Namibia, and of course South Africa, which I have designated as ‘places not to go to’. I don’t have anything against my South African brothers but the way things have been going on lately, I’m afraid my nomad ass will be mistaken for a shop owner.

That leaves only Ghana and Namibia to choose from the motherland. Namibia’s program is A) in the summer and B) is either for science-y majors or parks/recreation and tourism majors. I wonder why would someone want to go to Namibia of all places to study tourism. I mean, I didn’t even know ‘tourism’ was a major not that long ago. As for Ghana, there is one excellent program that I can choose but I’m not sure if the little comforts I clearly enjoy now will be available, like a reliable electricity, an internet connection, and a food that is not fufu.

But then again, my major isn’t exactly going to take me to a posh office in NY or a business meeting in London. 

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Can You Hear That?

One of the perks of being an International Studies major is the ability to study in another country for a semester-long or summer session. Students in this major like this overseas trip because it gives them an opportunity to learn and interact with other people and their culture in their environment while still earning credits towards graduation back home. On the other hand, students have some “romantic” notions about living in another countries because they still have not outgrown Hollywood fantasies.

Fortunately I am not one of those students who harbor such notions about other countries even though I do admit that there are some pleasant places that I do like to go and spend sometime in. I have been thinking about spending a semester in Cairo, Egypt for a while now, not because I have romantic ideas about Egypt but rather it is a place that I can relate to a “little” bit in terms of culture and closeness to my native home. It also helps that I have friends and distant family members living there. Plus I’m learning Arabic and what place is better than that? Yes, Damascus is also an excellent choice too.

But back to Cairo. The other day I read this article in the New York TImes that talks about a recent scientific study of “noisiest” cities in the world and Cairo was the unparalleled champion of the noisiest city in the world at 85 decimals on an average day – that is, as the study suggests, a jackhammer at full power running 3 feet away from a human being from 7am to 10pm at night. Seriously. Yet this is only an “average” day. I wonder what an above average day sounds like in Cairo. Perhaps two jackhammers? 

It certainly did not help that I watched “The Yacoubian Building” over the weekend either. In this 2007 drama based on the same titled book shows modern Egypt as a Nazi-like Germany where the government knows everything about you, the police torture people for fun, including raping as an “enhanced” technique and men are sleazy, woman-groping machismos. Maybe I need to consider my options carefully before I regret. Australia is always beautiful, so is the sandy beaches of Dominican Republic. 

Categories: Africa Related, Education, School/Students, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

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