Dialogue with Mishaina Joseph:The Mobile Classroom
One Student’s Journey Across 11 Countries in 10 Weeks
By Ashley Mungiguerra, Hofstra University
For some, traveling the world is just a dream. For students like Hofstra University junior Mishaina Joseph, the chance to travel the world came last semester, when she joined Hofstra’s European Odyssey, a 10-week study abroad program presented by the Global Studies department. The program travels to eleven countries, including France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Germany, and Hungary. Joseph, a junior living in Lake Ronkokoma, New York, is a Global Studies and History major originally from Port au Prince, Haiti. The European Odyssey is a moving study abroad program, where students travel in vans throughout Europe, learning from a mobile classroom.
Tell me a little about the Odyssey program and what it’s like.
Well, it’s a ten week program and we hit about eleven countries and we move; every three days we go to a different city, so we went to about twenty eight cities. It was amazing. It’s also the only study abroad program that gives us fifteen credits, and since I’m a global studies major it’s perfect because my major is almost done after that trip.
Why did you choose this study abroad location? Why did you choose to go on the Odyssey and not to one specific country?
I think it’s because we were hitting so many different countries, and also it was part of my major. We went to a lot of major cities like Paris, Berlin, and Rome, but we also went to very small cities, like Mont St. Michel and Bilbao and Meteora. So we got the mix of all of Europe, we didn’t just get to see the tourist side of Europe.
What would you say are the top five sites to see?
Well you definitely have to go to Paris, it’s definitely one of the best places. Definitely Meteora, in Greece, which a very cool place. Budapest, in Hungary, is absolutely amazing. It’s like a mixture of communism and eastern Europe and it’s just awesome. And Prague, which was basically everything classical and amazing about Europe. There’s so many places!
How did you live like a local in each city?
Well it was kind of hard to do that just because we were only in places for three days but we did try our best. We always tried to get lost in a city and go places that you wouldn’t see tourists normally. We definitely used a lot of public transportation; buses, and trains and subways, which were very hard to use but we used them. And we never ate at the hotel or the hostel we were staying at, we always tried to find local food, especially street food. Sometimes that was very dangerous because some of us got sick, but it was definitely worth it.
What was the most amazing cultural experience you had while studying abroad?
Oh, there’s so many of those. The language wasn’t really a big deal for us, because so many people speak English. But in a small town like Meteora there are very, very few people who spoke English. And that was a big cultural shock because none of us even knew how to say ‘thank you’ or ‘hello’ in Greek. So we had to mime everything that we needed, and that was really cool actually. You actually got to feel like you were in another country, because in so many other countries people just spoke English, and it’s like, “Oh, well I can’t practice my language skills,” but in Greece we really could.
And how has this experience impacted your personal growth?
After this trip, I want to travel everywhere now. Every time I save money, I want to do it for travelling, I don’t want to buy anything, I don’t want to do anything, I just want to go to other countries. And it’s definitely helped me grow as a person because we learned a lot of skills, like patience, especially when you live with eleven other people. You also learn how to work in a group and how to live day to day and go with the flow.
What tips would you give yourself before going abroad? If you had known how the experience was going to be, what would you have told yourself before?
Definitely, pack less clothes, because you can always buy things there! You always forget that, because you’re like, “I have to buy everything in America!” For a lot of us it was hard to learn how to live every single day with the same eleven people and I think I would tell myself before leaving to be patient and give them more of a chance. I mean we all became really, really good friends and we all talk every single day, but at the beginning it was kind of weird. But I think I came in with a pretty open mind.
Do you have any other really great experiences to share?
We had so many great experiences. I think one of my favorites was, on the trip we had to interview people, that was part of one of our classes was just interviewing locals. And that really helped because we got to learn so much about the local culture and local people from random people that we met on the street, that served us food, that we bought stuff from. And also it gave us a sense of what they think about Americans, which was really cool. When we were in Greece, we talked to this guy from Australia who was traveling across Europe with his family, and we talked about education in America. It’s just so cool to meet not only Europeans but people from all around the world who are travelling across Europe, and sharing your experiences with them, and how they see your country and how you see their country and talking about these cultural experiences. It was pretty cool.