Dialogue Survival Guide

As the end of the semester approaches (albeit too slow for those of us with finals and much too quickly for those of us on co-op!), the thought of Dialogue gets more and more real.

Although this month-long experience is unique to NEU (another reason why we’re different and a little bit weird) and can be exciting, it also comes with a lot of anxiety. What do I pack? I have allergies -- What do I eat? Will I get lost? How will I communicate -- I don’t speak the language! All of these and more are slowly creeping into Huskies’ minds as Summer 1 and Summer 2 approach.  

 

Well, take it from someone who has been there and done that (maybe even done that twice already!) I present to you, the Dialogue Survival Guide:

 

  1. Packing for a Month

“Bring a few basics (a nice dress, a sweater, a pair of jeans, swimsuit, blazer, etc.), and I rolled up a duffle bag inside my suitcase. I bought things on my trip and was able to carry the duffle on the plane on my way back!”

-Caroline Hurd, Family Business Dialogue

 

“One thing I searched was how people dress in Italy, so I was prepared for situations like dressing conservatively for church tours. I brought mostly plain cotton t-shirts, pants, and skirts that could easily be switched up together, dressed up or down, and that were easy to hand wash. I also brought small packets of laundry detergent to help with laundry, since we had no washing machines during the trip.”

-Ashlyn Wiebalck, Italy

 

“One of our assignments for the class before we departed was actually to create a packing ‘web’ so that was really helpful in planning what I needed to pack. I started out making categories for things like clothes, outerwear, medications/first aid stuff, toiletries, and travel documents, which I put into a folder.”

-Kailey Redding, Spain

 

“Packing is actually really tricky. You really have to be prepared for all weather, so I suggest a lot of layers and clothes that you can reuse and match with a lot of stuff. We didn’t have easy access to a washer and dryer, so bring enough stuff to make sure you can get through the whole month.”

-Lila Sevener, Brazil

 

“The key to packing for a month is to be honest with yourself. Only pack the things you are actually going to wear. You don't need to bring five skirts when you probably won't wear all of them or pack the shirt you haven't worn in months but feel like you need to bring. Another key is looking up the climate you’re traveling to.”

-Ashley Karsenty, Spain

 

  1. Cell Phones

“Speak with your phone carrier before you leave about options for unlocking your phone to use internationally. Many students bought SIM cards abroad. That is the easiest and most cost-effective option!”

-Caroline Hurd, Family Business Dialogue

 

  1. Language

“The homestay family only spoke Spanish, so there was a substantial language barrier. I learned Spanish in middle and high school, so I had a little bit of an advantage. But they spoke much faster and with a real Spanish accent so it was a bit of a shock when we first met them. My mom, María José, would eat lunch with us every day, so practicing with her was a blast. Some days were frustrating not being able to communicate a full thought. I dealt with it by thinking about all the people I've run into who spoke little English. I reminded myself that I was always patient with them and I didn't want them to feel embarrassed, so I did my best not to clam up out of my own embarrassment. The only way to be better at the language was to practice, so I talked as much as I could with María José and asked lots of questions.”

-Kailey Redding, Spain

 

“I resorted to gestures and pointing a lot. Sometimes it was a little embarrassing but as long as I could laugh at myself, then it just turned out to be really funny situations. Fitting in is also a challenge. As a large group of Americans, we stuck out a lot and people definitely made comments about us. I think its important to be as respectful as possible and realize that you are a visitor in someone else's country, so it is your job to adapt to their culture and expectations.”

-Lila Sevener, Brazil

 

  1. Class Schedule

“Adjusting to the dialogue schedule was a challenge. It is a hybrid between traditional lecture and travel. It is easy to get caught up in the travel and forget about the academic aspects.”

-Caroline Hurd, Family Business Dialogue

“One of the biggest challenges was trying to balance school and fun. You go on a dialogue to learn but obviously to travel too. As long as you put your priorities in the right order you can manage and do well in classes while still having fun.”

-Ashley Karsenty, Spain

 

“Overall I had an amazing experience but the dialogue I went on was highly structured and a lot of work. I knew this going into it. Some people didn’t and therefore it took them some time to adjust to this expectation. Make sure your expectations line up with the goals of the trip. Some of the dialogues offered give students an amazing cultural experience and others have more rigorous goals. Make sure you’re in the right program for you and don’t be afraid to ask your professor(s) what their expectations are prior to departure.”

-Kelly Chambers, Costa Rica

 

  1. Food

“I have celiac (aka I can't eat gluten), so I was worried that I would have trouble finding food in Italy, the land of pasta, pizza, and everything wheat. I did research ahead of time and was pleasantly surprised that I could find gluten free food at almost every restaurant and supermarket I went to.”

-Ashlyn Wiebalck, Italy

 

“We stayed with homestay families (another one of the best parts of the trip) and my home stay mom cooked lunch and dinner for us every day. Sometimes the food was...different, but I tried everything, and even though I didn't love it all, my palate was definitely expanded!”

-Kailey Redding, Spain

 

  1. Homesickness

“My roommates and some other people on the trip were feeling the same way at the same time, so having people around who could relate was helpful. I also was able to skype with my family and talk to my friends through Facebook.”

-Ashlyn Wiebalck, Italy

 

“I kept a travel journal through the trip, which I continue to write in while I'm studying abroad this semester! It was a great outlet for getting my worries and feelings out as well as documenting my travel adventures, and now I have something I can (and do!) reread when I'm missing Spain.”

-Kailey Redding, Spain

 

“I was honestly so busy that I wasn't homesick much. I brought pictures of my friends and family to help in the times I was homesick. Also, don't be afraid to call home! If you are feeling home sick, call mom for 5 minutes -- She won't care about the long distance charge!”

-Ashley Karsenty, Spain

 

“Everyone you’re on the trip with will be in the same boat as you. You’ll be all NU students. You’ll all be missing out on more or less the same things. Sure, commiserate for a bit, but then quit it and go enjoy where you are.”

-Kelly Chambers, Costa Rica

 

  1. Other Tips & Tricks!

“One of the biggest challenges was getting used to the amount of walking we did. I thought living in Boston and walking everywhere would prepare me, but they keep you extremely busy on dialogues! It resulted in a happy exhaustion at the end of the day though. As hard as it was to get used to, all the tourism was my favorite part of the trip. Also, I was told as a freshman that I probably wouldn't get accepted to a dialogue program because preference was given to older students. But I applied anyways and was accepted!”

-Kailey Redding, Spain

 

“My most important advice is to have an open mind. Don't go in with expectations. Things always get changed, whether its because of weather or a traffic delay or a miscommunication. If you stay positive and open-minded, things that might have seemed like a bad situation could turn into something you never even imagined you would do.”

-Lila Sevener, Brazil

 

“Start planning way ahead of time, from getting your passport to packing! It's easier to slowly accumulate what you need than to be in a rush to get it all together. Also, unless you're going somewhere really remote, remember that you can buy things like shampoo or toothpaste anywhere, so don't stress if you forget those or can't for them.”

-Sarah Rocks, Spain