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The Wonderful World of the “Untranslatable”

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Anderson, Senior Program Assistant at the Study Abroad Office, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Have you ever had a feeling or felt an emotion that, when asked to describe it, you couldn’t find a single word in your own language to explain it? Does an action or feeling trigger a memory or a funny/cute/interesting stream of consciousness in your mind? Well you are not alone! In fact, this phenomenon of “untranslatability” is quite common across all cultures. Here are a few intriguing examples of feelings, emotions, actions, and situations that are deemed “untranslatable” from around the world. See if you can think of any others!

                              GERMAN                                                                                    JAPANESE 



                          SWEDISH                                                                            RUKWANGALI (Bantu Language)


                            KOREAN                                                                                 INUIT (American Indian)


      TSHILUBA (Bantu Language)                                                                           YAGAN (Indigenous Australians)



Photo Credit for the Above Photos:

SPANISH                                                                                    YIDDISH



Photo Credit for the Above Photos:



Photo Credit:


Learning outside the Classroom in Rural Senegal

Guest Blogger: David Silberberg, Program Assistant at the Illinois Study Abroad Office

Study abroad is an opportunity not only to learn in foreign institutions, but also to learn outside the classroom. Taking a step outside your comfort zone into a place unlike anywhere you have been can be a learning experience that cannot be replicated in any school, at home or abroad. When I studied and interned in Senegal for a semester, I realized that while my classes were certainly great, what made the experience invaluable was the time I spent in places that where far different from anything I was accustomed to in the US. The most profound of these experiences was the time I spent with my internship or host family in rural areas–villages that often lacked electricity or running water and usually had no more than a few hundred residents. Coming from suburban Los Angeles and the University of Illinois, this was something I had never encountered. Even for many Senegalese people, this lifestyle is foreign. The World Bank estimates that 43% of the population is urban, with that number becoming larger each year.


One of the many villages in the area north of the Saloum Delta

For Americans, hearing or seeing pictures of these villages may evoke feelings of disbelief or pity. For some, this is the quintessential image of sub-Saharan poverty–the small village with simple huts and no utilities. However, being able to visit some of these villages and those who live there reveals a far different reality, showing that these conceptions are deeply misguided.

Village life for many is a exactly as they would like it. Everyone works together: farming, raising animals, building houses, taking care of children. Everyone knows their neighbors, and lives are free of the distractions that have come to define our lifestyles. Without television, cell phones, lights to keep us awake all night, car exhaust, noise, and more, life becomes much simpler, but also much more relaxing and, for many, more rewarding.

Who wouldn’t like to spend a while hanging out under that tree?

Several of my host family’s relatives would live in town to go to school and then return to the villages whenever they had a break. My host father would often go spend time (sometimes taking me along) in the village where he was born and where his mother and brother still live. My host brothers often talked about how after they worked in the city and made enough money, they would like to retire and live in a village.

This is not to say that rural life is better than city life. Of course, there are many challenges and issues facing those who live in villages. But what makes life in villages enjoyable is the lack of the things that we cannot imagine living without in our daily lives–TVs, cars, smartphones, computers, etc. Even more, however, is the lack of rent, boring corporate office jobs, mortgages, loans, debt, bills, and the list goes on forever. To sum it all up in one word, rural life is relaxing. Which is something that I think everyone could appreciate, even if it means no iPhones.


passing through a village on a hot day

5 Tips On How to Be the Best Frequent Flyer

Guest Blogger: Alicia Daniels, Program Assistant at the University of Illinois Study Abroad Office 

Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330

Let’s be honest, we don’t choose to study abroad to be two hours away from home! As exciting as it may be to take in the sites of the “Big Buddah” in Hong Kong or the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France we must realize it takes A LOT of time to travel to these places and more often than not we have to get there by plane. From personal experience, I can say that traveling around the world in a high speed Boeing is no walk in the park – unless you’re flying first class. From “stuffed” ears to the delicious boxed meals, sometimes the only thing that kept me going was the thought that I would soon be scarfing down delicious gelato in Rome. Since, I think everyone should capitalize on the opportunity to study abroad I want to share my 5 helpful tips for flying 30,000 feet high in comfort and style!

Tip 1: Drink Water

As much as your parents encouraged you to drink tons of water as a child, I’m afraid to say they are absolutely right! The cabin air is not humidified on a plane and this leads to chapped lips, dried nasal passages and thirst that needs to be quenched. Yikes! However, you should never fear, drinking water can negate all of these symptoms. Many kiosks and stores in the airport sell water bottles after security so stock up and avoid dehydration in between those free cups of soda and juice!


Tip 2: Bring Travel Size Hand Sanitizer 

This may seem like a small request but it will help out your health in the long run. As you walk through customs and security you will be coming into contact with many people. Traveling, as fun as it may be, does make your immune system pretty low. One way to negate that is to bring hand sanitizer. Walgreens or any local drug store sells TSA approved sizes of sanitizer that can help you avoid some of the flu and cold germs you may encounter.

Tip 3: Bring Healthy Snacks 

Sure long distance flights have in-flight meals, however, you may get hungry in between. Buying snack foods such as nuts, granolas, carrots, etc. can help curve those hunger pains until the flight attendants come around again.


Tip 4: Pack Light in Your Carry On Luggage

The under seat luggage storage is becoming as small as Alice after drinking her shrinking potion in Wonderland. I would suggest to pack only the basics in a carry-on to alleviate weight and stress when traveling. Make sure you have your required travel documents – passport, acceptance letter from foreign university, visa, etc. – along with an mp3 player and headphones of choice to zone out during the flight!

Tip 5: Get up & Walk Around

…only when your seatbelt sign isn’t on though. For some students, flying around the globe to the Philippines or New Zealand will take almost half a day! I don’t know about you, but sitting slightly upright above the Earth sounds more of a job for an astronaut than your regular day citizen. Being in that position for so long can cause swelling in the feet and ankles because there is such low cabin pressure, as well as dry air. Along with my number 1 tip of drinking water, walking up and down the aisle during safe times can help alleviate this issue. So go ahead, nudge your neighbor and get out of that middle seat – walking around can help your body so you can hit the ground running to your host university…and it isn’t so bad to use that as an opportunity for a potty break too!


Journaling versus Blogging: What’s the best way for you to document your experience abroad?

Guest Blogger: Zana Darwish

Immediately after my acceptance to the Lincoln University program in Christchurch, New Zealand I began thinking about how I wanted to document my experience. I would of course, like a true millennial, bring a camera along to capture endless amounts of pictures, but I also wanted a median of documentation that would record my feelings, actions, and thoughts while traveling. This lead me to the often-used options of blogging and journaling as means to chronicle my experience with words as opposed to just images. After looking more into both options, I couldn’t figure out which one was for me so I, again as true millennial, decided to not decide and used both formats to document my time abroad. What I found was that each median has its own perks and drawbacks.



Based on almost no evidence, I think this is the more popular of the two options for students participating on programs abroad and it’s easy to see why. Blogs are easy to start, easy to maintain, and can be shared with loved ones back home who are eager to read about your excursions (I’m looking at you, Moms). I used the popular website Weebly to create my blog page and shared the URL with anyone who would be even vaguely interested in reading about what I was doing in New Zealand. What I really liked about blogging was the writing part, surprisingly enough. It became a fun way to relive and recap my weekend for friends and family at home, and for my future self. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone through my blog and read it again after returning home to the States. It perfectly captured my inner voice at that time in my life and in hindsight, I’m really happy to have those stories written at the time I was experiencing them. Plus, blogging is something you can put on your resume! Employers like seeing that you have experience with maintaining and writing via social media as it is becoming widely used by all types of businesses.

Incase you’re interested in starting your own study abroad blog here are some websites to check out!




Based on even less evidence, I think journaling is the long lost cousin of blogging that students tend to forget about as way to document their study abroad program. Although similar, keeping a journal can be an entirely different experience than blogging. I found this was the case mainly because blogs are written for other people to read and enjoy, while journals are usually kept private. Interestingly enough, I also found that I struggled with writing in a journal upon first starting. I approached it in the same manner I did my blog− writing about events and stories− but found that journals are better for documenting reactions and feelings that are typically omitted in blogs. With the sensor removed, my journal shows the personal transformation I underwent while abroad. The things my journaling focused on at the beginning of the program versus the end reflect the way studying abroad completely changed what I valued and therefore, wrote about. Plus, journaling at a cafe in a foreign country is exactly as romantic as it sounds and it’s fun to play up the stereotype of being a traveler every once in a while.


Overall, I enjoyed writing for each of these formats for different reasons and they will both be appreciated by my nostalgistic self for quite sometime. However, if I had to choose one to recommend to future study abroad-ers it would be journaling. The experience of studying abroad is inherently selfish: exploring the world as a student inevitably results in a journey of self-discovery. With every culture you are exposed to while traveling, you learn a little bit more about the world but, in turn, you learn so much more about yourself. And after using both methods, I believe journaling is the most effective way to document the personal growth students’ experience while abroad.