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May. 10th, 2010



Well the purpose of this journal was to document my experience studying abroad. Well that is in the past now. So this journal is only here for archival purposes.

If you want to see what's up with me now, check out my blog on my website at http://www.tan-pham.com/

Jan. 24th, 2008


Semester Grades.. damn 3.83....

I just got a phone call from my family telling me about my grades from SIT... I did very very well since I worked my ass off.... I was planning on reading tonight, but I am going to celebrate instead.

Field Study Class (2 credits) - 4.0/4.0 = A
Dutch Lang and Culture (4 cr) - 3.3/4.0 = B+
Independent Study Project (Research and thesis) (4 cr) - 4.0/4.0 = A
Sexuality Seminar (Theory Class and Dutch Sexuality) (6 cr) - 4.0/4.0 = A

Semester's GPA = 3.83, which is between an A and A-... weeeeeeeeeee

I am happy, now they just have to send my information to my school so it would appear on my transcript/peoplesoft.

I have a bit more to write about how I am adjusting to UConn life again, but I am going to go eat dinner first.

Dec. 24th, 2007



Ok I have been back in the US for a week now. Things feel so different. Nothing feels like it is the same anymore. I met up with a few people that I know and sometimes I feel that I am not a part of their lives anymore. Ever since I came back, I have been in grad apps mode and I have a new job with community outreach planning an alternative break around LGBTQ and Political Action.

I moved into my new apt, well partially, right on the UConn campus. IT is a very nice apt... but for some reason I don't feel like at home.. not there, not at my parent's house and not in CT... I really miss Amsterdam. Since I really called Amsterdam, my home.

I spoke to a few others who studied abroad and many feel that way still after years of being back. I don't know what to do to cope with the re-culturing back to the American way.

Dec. 16th, 2007


Paris and Amsterdam...

I scored a very cheap airline ticket from Madrid to Paris, which cost me only 20 euros. My flight was extremely delayed... and I did not get to my bed and breakfast until 19:00, so basically I lost a day of touring yet again...

My bed and breakfast was pretty interesting. In a bed and breakfast, I am expecting a bed, my own room, a shared bathroom with other guest or perhaps my own, breakfast, an entrance to the bb that is shared with other guest... so this is my expectation of a BB, since I stayed at many of those.. it's a place I prefer to stay and I usually stay at a gay one... so a month before my arrival in Paris, I found this bed and breakfast for 50 Euros a night and right in the center, about 10 mins walk to the gay bars and clubs. This is the cheapest. I found other hotels and bb in this area for at least 75 euros a night.... that is about $36 USD/night difference between the other places and this bb I am staying at... so I arrived at this bb at 19:00 and it turns out that this place is not really a bb. It ended up to be me renting a room out of this gay couple's apt and I get breakfast, basically for my trip in Paris, I was living with this gay couple. I felt very very uncomfortable. They were a nice couple, I would say late 30s/early 40s... kinda sketchy. During the first night, once I got into my room, I was looking around for other hotels in the area to see if anything was cheap. I Was willing to pay the 75 euro a night hotel... but the 75 euro one went up to $150 euros per night.. damn last minute rates...

During the night 2 in this place, the couple really flirted with me, saying that I'm a very cute boy and asking me my sexual preference (do I have a bf? am I a top or bottom? do I go to sex clubs or saunas? how big am I?) and kept asking me if I ever do 3somes since they are looking for a third party... ok at this point, I already paid them for my whole stay.. so what can I do??? I told him I wasn't interested in older guys (well my exact words is I like younger guys..not to offend them or anything)...SO yeah this was an interesting experience by itself... On Saturday morning (Day 4) when I woke up, I woke up to a bunch of naked guys in the living room, since they were taking pictures for the couple's blog. I did not get any warning at all, I wanted to sleep in but it was too noisy. the naked guys were pretty cute, but I didn't stick around at all, since I had a day of touring..

I also met wonderful people, both people I knew beforehand and people I didn't... I bumped into a friend, Josh, who is from Australia.. this is so random that we happened to be in the same city and staying about 2 blocks away from each other at the same time. He is doing an around the world tour and will be in NYC next month, which is pretty cool. I might meet up to him. Ellen met up with me on my last night here... I really enjoyed that since I needed to see a more familiar face. We talked a lot about our trips so far and our experiences. I met up with this really really nice cute guy (he's French)... Mikael... I met him on my first night here... he is 25 a college student studying communications. Our first kiss was on the top of the Eiffel tower.. it was very romantic. He is such a nice guy and I enjoyed my time with him. We walked around a lot and I went out to the bars/clubs with him and his friends. He is one of the reasons why I had fun in Paris. If I was to live in Paris, I think he would be boyfriend material, well he told me that, I didn't tell him that, but I sure did thought it.

Paris is an ok city. It was a bit rough since I do not speak any French. Josh from UConn, who studied in Paris for a year, warned me that people do know English but choose not to use it or deny that they know it. I found that to be true. I had a hard time in restaurants ordering stuff.. knowing where to go. My first two phrases whenever I approach someone is "bonjour, Parlez-vous anglais?" meaning "hello, do you speak English " A lot of people seem to deny it, even officials like policemen and army guys. Actually the funny part, there is one time in Paris where my English wasn't needed, it was in Chinatown and I used Vietnamese (Mikael lives in Chinatown). It felt so good to use Vietnamese when I was in Chinatown, I felt like I haven't used it in forever.

Being in Paris, pretty much isolated from verbal communication made me think how much I miss Amsterdam. I actually do miss biking in the rain of all things, I guess I started to get used to the life... I missed my friends.... I am currently on the train back to Amsterdam... so one last night

Dec. 12th, 2007



Ok I miss Amsterdam.. I miss the rain, which I hate biking through, I miss biking... ahhhhh I miss the people in my program...

Madrid is ok.. my first impression of Madrid was horrible when I arrived at my hotel. I had a very bad impression of Madrid. I am staying in Gran Via, the center downtown area of Madrid.. well part of the downtown area. I chose this place because it is a 3 blocks from the gay bars so I can stumble home drunk safely. To the north of my hotel is all casinos, to the south all sex shops and female sex workers and strip bars, to the west is the gay area and to the east is all these sketchy little streets that are dirty.... So yeah this was my first impression of Madrid. Madrid was a very productive tourist trip, I did my own tours out of my guidebooks. this whole trip,

I have seen a lot of things in Madrid and if I had to see another painting of Jesus, I will have to kill myself. I think I have seen over 200 paintings and statues of Jesus. I visited the Convento de las descalzas reales (Convent of the Royal barefoot nuns), Iglesia de los jernimos (St. Jerome's Church), Museuo nacional centro de arte Reina Sofia (Queen Sofia National Art Center), Muso del Prado (Prado museum), Palacio Real (Royal Palace), Parque del Retiro (Retreat park, one of the biggest park in Europe), Plaza Mayor ((Main square), Pueta del sol, and plaza de la villa and more......Quite a list eh?

After I adventured out to my first tourism session, my opinion of Madrid changed. I have seen the cleaner areas of Madrid. I also arrived during a holiday, Inmaculada. It is an holy day, the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. So everything was closed on Saturday, the day I arrived. There was not much to do, so I roamed around and walked around aimlessly and find things.. which worked!!! I also hate the concept of siesta, well I would love it if I lived in Spain, but yeah everything closes down from like 2p-4p so people can nap and stuff. Banks, museums, churches are closed. This doesn't help when I don't wake up till 11 AM. but heck I wouldn't mind that be a part of my life. Like the convent I went to, their siesta was from 2-4 pm and they close at 5:30.. so after the siesta they open for 90 mins and that is it.

My Spanish is ok. I thought my Spanish was good, not very good, since I took 4 years in high school and now it is 3 and a half years later since I last sat in a Spanish class. a lot of it came back to me actually, but I know enough Spanish to BARELY get me by.. I wonder what would Paris be like, since I don't know any French.

I went to 1 bar, it was expensive so I never went back, it was 5 euro a beer...Funny thing is I met an SIT student there, he was an SIT-Spain (Language, Community, and Social Change). We talked about ISPs, language, the structure of SIT, it was pretty funny.

I met a few Spanish guys which were nice to talk to and have a meal with and I met 2 other Americans. One is another study abroad student and the other works here as a English teacher. I realized I tend to make friends when I am in a place without anyone.

Also, a lot of sex workers (female) tried to pick me up when I am out at night, which is funny.

Pictures will be up prob Wednesday night, the internet connection at my hotel is not that great. it's free so I am not complaining.

Well it is 2:30 AM, I am off to bed, I need to be out of the hotel by 11 AM so I can make it to my 2 PM flight, even though the airport is close. I am flying with easyjet, they have an interesting thing there is no assigned seating. the sooner you check in (or choose to pay the extra 6 euro which is like 10 USD), the sooner you get to board the plane and pick a seat to sit in. It is only an 2 hour flight so I can deal. maybe if I have enough juice on my computer I can play Diablo II ;) well my plan is to be at the airport early anyway so hopefully they have plugs so I can use my laptop, there is no internet (well there is but it is 9 euros for 1 hour, I am so not paying for that).. that way I can play video games!!! oh video games how I missed you...

Dec. 7th, 2007



Tonight was my last night as an SIT student. I really felt like a family with many people in my program and it was hard to say goodbye. These last few months have been great. I have met a group of people that I can relate to in a sexuality sense I guess.

I don't think there is any other word for this relationship other than family.... I felt really emotional tonight saying good bye to everyone, this has been a great journey.... I don't really have the words to express how meaningful everyone is to me and how I value them in my life. but I do... It really hit me that, this program is over today when I returned my bike. and yeah.. I really feel like a home with everyone, my Dutch friends, my host and my American friends...

I did not realized how everyone in my program had an impact in my life until tonight when I started to say goodbye... and I did not realized on how I have impact other people's lives.

Well I am going to bed, tomorrow I start a new adventure. Madrid... for 4 days and Paris for 4 days.... let's see how this goes. After that, it's time to head home... one thing I know is life will not be the same again once I return home. I won't have my old UConn life anymore, it will be a different UConn life, since this experience has changed me a lot. it changed who I am and attitudes.

Dec. 6th, 2007


The last few days

I can't believe my program is basically over in 2 days... This makes me really really really sad.. Time really flies.. I have done so much this semester, but in a way I felt I haven't done enough.. there is so many things I still want to do before I leave... I am really sad... I keep thinking about what the homestay coordinator said on the first day... "Once you starting to feel Dutch... it's time to leave." This is very true. I feel a part of the culture, I can order food and drinks in Dutch. I have Dutch friends. Tonight, one of my Dutch friends hosted a goodbye dinner for me and a lot of my Dutch friends showed up. I was in tears... This experience was one of the best experience in my life. I made great friends, both in my program and in Amsterdam. I am hoping these bonds would stay...

Well I should write this entry based on where I left off... I last wrote about Friday, the AIDS conference... so I'll start writing about after that.

Saturday night I went to something called a Love Dance. I scored a free ticket since I knew people who worked in the HIV field here, that saved me 32 Euros. Well The love dance is an AIDS fundraiser/big ass party. 4 different dance floors playing different music. I went with my host but ending up losing him since I bumped into Eva, a girl I met at the conference the night before. We chilled and danced and her friend had the hots for me and he kept buying me drinks and flirt with me all night. I had many whiskey and coke (at 6 euros each)... it's my last Saturday night in Amsterdam, so I figured why not party it out. I ended up bumping into the cute boy from the GGD that I met at the conference and we ended up dancing together (with Eva) of course all night.. it was a very passionate fun night. I saw a lot of different Dutch performances, the only english ones were english songs, they had Drag Kings performed 9 to 5 by Dolly and they played around with audio pitch and made it sound like a man singing.... I met Bear Force One, two drag queens (one of them is a friend of mine) performing Britney... I had so much fun.

Sunday morning was a drag... since I came home at 5:30 AM Sunday morning and woke up at 9 AM... I just couldn't sleep so I spent the entire day writing my health research report.... I finished with everything except the conclusion by Sunday night...I finished at 4 AM Tuesday.. formatting was a pain in the ass.. but the best part now is that my health report is written and submitted..

Today is Sinterklaas.. it's St. Nicholas day.. we had a secret santa thing... I was nervous about the gift I brought for my person... but the good thing is my person loves it... We watched a student made documentary called "Jolly Black Slaves," since Sinterklaas has 6-8 black slaves that follows him around..

Tomorrow well..today....actually in about 9 hours... I am presenting my findings and my research... I have put together my powerpoint.... so hopefully things will go well. After this presentation, I am FINISHED WITH SCHOOL FOR THE SEMESTER.... well I still have to apply to grad school which is my break.

I am excited about Saturday... I am leaving for Madrid... I get to spend 4 days in Madrid and 4 days in Paris and then I am heading home. I miss home. I miss my friends (Kim, Christine, Kelsey, Noah/Fin, et al), my parents, my car (I really miss driving, but biking is not that bad anymore).

Dec. 1st, 2007


AIDS Conference, a great experience

Well yesterday instead of spending the day writing, I spent the day at a National AIDS Conference.

I attended many interesting workshops. I met the Queen of The Netherlands, I had a conversation with her and she was very interested in the fact that I am an American, which was cool. I also met the former First Lady of Georgia (Sandra Elisabeth Roelofs) and heard Princess Mabel van Oranje-Nassau, Bert Koenders, minister of Development Cooperation and Jet Bussemaker, State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sport , talk. It made me amazed on how important political people talk and show support on causes and make promises that they are actually keeping. For example the minister of Development Cooperation say next year there will be big increase for AIDS services and it is actually going to happen based on a few people I talked to. We would never see this in the states, political figures really getting involved in issues, like they are here..

I also met a very very cute boy at the conference. At the end of the conference there was a reception/party type thing, booze music and food lol... And I sparked up a conversation with a very cute PHD student who works for the GGD (which is like the Dept of Health in the states). He was sad that I told him I am leaving Amsterdam in a week, but he still wants to hang out and talk more before I head back to the US.... I told him I like someone at the moment (in the states), not with him but I like him and I don't want to lead anyone on... so yeah, we are hanging out for coffee soon.. I gave him my e-mail address.

I can't believe it, I am leaving in 7 days, on Saturday for Madrid and Paris..... The months went by very very fast and I am starting to feel Dutch, there is so many Dutch things I want to do still....... And I have this week to do it...
I ended up not going to Brussels since I had 4 hours of sleep the night before that, spent all day at the conference and had little time to write.... I kept bumping into my advisor at the conference and he kept asking me "so your not writing at the moment" everytime I bump into him... which was funny. He was joking and he encouraged me to go to the conference and stuff.

Also I am sad, this is the first UConn World AIDS Day I missed...

Nov. 29th, 2007



Ok... My research is halfway done. I am finished with all of the literature review and it sounds good based on my advisor. Things to do left: write introduction, finish transcribing interviews, do interview and literature analysis, write conclusion and recommendations, add citations to the paper.

All this have to be done by Monday. Tomorrow I am going to an AIDS conference and I get to meet the Queen of The Netherlands, which is pretty cool and tomorrow night, I don't know will I hate myself for this, I am going to Brussels to go to a big gay dance party with my Dutch friends. This is most likely my last chance I get to hang with them... I have been debating Brussels all day today.

I get to party and dance to one of my favorite House Music DJs of all times
It's my last weekend with my Dutch friends
I get to drink
I get to see Belgium
If I don't go, I might regret it

My report is due on Monday...
I might regret it since my paper is very time limited

My friends are planning to leave at 10 PM Friday night and come back at 8 PM Saturday, with no hotel rooms, just all night and day partying.. I have made the choice, I am definitely going, but I am limiting my substances. My plan.. leave with my friends at 10 PM, take the 6:30AM train back to Amsterdam and be here at 9 AM on Saturday, rest a bit and go back to this report...

I think this is plan would work..... Well tonight, I am going to write the introduction and finish transcribing.

Tomorrow between the conference and going out, I am going to work on the analysis, well at least get an outline out and ready. Saturday afternoon/evening (most likely I am not going out on Sat night), I am going to do the analysis and Sunday do the conclusion, citations, proofread and compile all my writings into 1 document. I hope this plan works......

I don't want to have any regrets while I am here and one of the things I wish for this semester is that I wish I have done more, I have done a lot, from partying to learning and being a part of the culture. And I think this decision I am making to party tomorrow night is the right decision.

Nov. 21st, 2007


Research Updates

I still have to finish my lit review on optimism research for the US and Canada, I printed it all out and most of it are qualitative data research... which makes me sad

I have 6 interviews coming up this week and next. This is really pushing the deadline since my last interview is scheduled for a week from now (Wednesday) and my report is due the Monday after that

Transcribing interview takes up so much time. a 45 min interview took me 2 hours to transcribe.. this sucks :(

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