Skip to content

By maxikaplan

Sometime studying abroad can feel like you are in your own world with all those new experiences thrown at you.  But not going to the gym for two weeks, or not maintaining your daily routines and rituals as you would at home, will quickly bring you back to reality.  I had the unfortunate experience of knowing how this feels, but the pendulum has swung the other way now, and I am have luckily gotten back on track.  I wouldn't be surprised if there is another post similar to this about how to keep your routines in check while traveling, but I would like to share my own philosophies on this topic nonetheless.

Rule #1: Do what you would do with (most) of your daily routine as you would at home.  If you are a runner, don’t be afraid to run in your city, just be careful when you do since the streets here can be a little messy, especially when, you know, they drive on the other side of the road.  I didn’t get around to putting my running shoes on and touring the city until my second week here, and I wish I had done it sooner because it gives you an entirely fresh perspective on the layout of your city, and what the different neighborhood are like.  The only reason I say “most” of your daily routines is just to be aware to not do anything “culturally unacceptable” as you might back home.

Rule #2: Sleep.  I don’t need to elaborate on this too much, since it’s relatively similar to how you would do it at home, but I see a lot of students here who still try to operate on 5 hours a night.  Traveling can take a lot out of you—get those ~8 hours.

Rule #3: Eat out.  I find myself trying to save too much of my own money by not eating, when in reality it is most definitely worth the time to treat yourself right and take friends with you to eat at a new restaurant.  This is your new home, and you should be trying out new restaurants the same way you would as if you were living here for the next few years.

Rule #4: This is more of a personal routine, but put your camera down occasionally.  I promise that you will remember the sights you see for the rest of your life if they are truly worth remembering.  Sometimes a phone camera in front of your face can take away from the true value of what you’re seeing.

These tips might sound a bit abrasive, but they have done me so much good for me here thus far.  Joining the gym has begun to take the place of running for me as it begins to get colder out, but maintaining mental and physical health is just as important abroad as it is at home.  Take care of yourself.

By nmbutler3

When you tell someone you’re studying abroad in the UK one of the first questions you hear is “oh, have you been to London yet?” London – with the queen and Big Ben and the Thames – is one of the quintessential European cities that everyone seems to want to visit. So naturally, it was near the top of my list of places I wanted to visit while abroad and this past weekend I was finally able to check the iconic city off my bucket list. To be entirely honest though, I didn’t fall in love with it like I had expected to. Now before I write anything else, London IS a wonderful city. It’s bustling with a lively energy and bursting with a rich history, and there is never a shortage of things to do and see. That being said, after visiting, I felt there was something lacking in the impact the city had on me.  Up until now, most of my traveling has been to more rural and lesser-known locations, like Galway, Glencoe and Perthshire, which although all beautiful, at the time had me worried that I was somehow missing some necessary abroad experience. After this weekend though, I realized just how wrong I was.

For me, studying abroad is about trying new things and experiencing new cultures and ways of life, and while big cities like London are exciting and new, they are often highly international, and in many cases Americanized, so you tend to miss out on getting a unique experience. Again, please don’t get me wrong. There were so many things to do in London that couldn’t happen anywhere else. We saw the Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, St. John’s Cathedral, Abbey Road, 221 Baker Street, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and the Eye. We went to the London Food Festival and the local markets and took the underground and, even took a train out of King’s Cross Station – all things you can only do in London. But, these attractions are not what define a culture or even an experience for that matter. Sure they were all very interesting and beautiful and exciting, but none gave me that unimaginable new view or unexpected cultural understanding. To be honest, it seemed like the sights of big buildings and lots of people were all I was really getting out of my time. I interacted with few actual locals, and there were no instances of surprise or shock or bettered perspective, not to mention, most of my experiences were rushed along either by other tourists or our goal to see and do everything in such a short time frame. As a result, when I compare London to the other places I’ve been, I view the more rural areas much more fondly. With other places I have visited, I was able to really immerse myself into the local culture and environment. With “smaller locations” you can easily lose yourself within the city or town or village and actual enjoy the experience without rushing. People in these more lesser-traveled locations also tend to be much more open, friendly and personably accommodating, so you are able to better experience and embrace the local culture and actually learn or try something entirely new. Personally, I’d take experiencing a new culture like that over fighting other tourists to see an impressive building any day.

So, don’t stress about jet-setting across Europe to see all the major cities. Instead take the time to explore what’s around you. Trust me; it’ll pay off more than you know. And again, just for the record, I’m not saying to skip out on London or some other major city. I’m just warning you that not loving London (or whatever other city) is a very real possibility, especially if you’re looking for more than just another city.

By meaggymurphy

Blurb:My first stop in Portugal has already taught me a lot about Portuguese culture. The positive experience I've had in Porto has surprised me in a lot of ways, especially concerning the people I've met in the country's second largest city. Travelling can be tiring, stressful, and confusing, but in Portugal it hasn't felt like any of these things thanks to the nice people I've had the privilege of meeting along the way. The people are amazing, the food is great, and the city is beautiful- What more could I ask for?

People are nice. That is what I have learned from Portugal so far.  I'm writing this entry from a train between Porto and Lisbon. I made it on the train thanks to some strangers, who offered to call me a cab and then waited with me for it to come so they could be sure the driver got the right directions. It's been like this in every single encounter I've had with the Portuguese. You stop someone to ask for directions, and everyone within a 10 foot radius has to join in with their own opinions and recommendations. The waiters become your friends and joke around with you.

Another great thing about Portugal is that even if you don't speak Portuguese, the language is very similar to Spanish. It's really bizarre to have a conversation between two people, one speaking Spanish and the other speaking Portuguese, that can be productive and understandable.
I would like to take a moment in this post to reflect upon the deliciousness of Portuguese food. Half of the time I'm about 50% sure of what I've ordered, but 100% of the time it has been delicious. Porto is on the coast, and they have great fish dishes of salted cod and salmon, as well as shrimp and crab soups. I've noticed that the food is spicier than typical Spanish food as well. And the desserts! Again, I haven't ever really been sure what I'm getting myself into, but generally everything has tasted even better than it's looked.
Portugal is exceeding my expectations so far. It's so close to Spain that it seemed like a no-brainier to come, but I hadn't really considered how awesome of an experience it would be until I arrived. And despite being close to Spain, it's different in many noticeable and interesting ways. Right now on the train, I've seen beautiful ocean views and small, white-washed towns with palm trees and orange roofs. Before I left Spain, a friend of mine who is originally from Lisbon literally made me a PowerPoint (complete with photos) of all the things I should see and do when I'm in the city. I was amazed that she had taken the time to make me something so detailed and helpful, and now that I'm here, I see that she comes from a culture of people who don't mind taking the time to be nice.

By nharnish

My research has been progressing a lot better then I thought it would here. My ability to access primary documents through my job wsdfaith the USAID has been a remarkable tool in getting facts quickly and easily. While currently working on a donor conference in the nation, I’ve been able to reach out to people I’d never have access to otherwise. These documents and interviews have been remarkable influences in changing my opinions towards my research. For instance, I came into Jordan with negative views towards a particular project that the government is petitioning for.

This project, called the Dead to Red sea canal, would channel water from the Red sea through Aqaba all the way to the Dead Sea. Water would travel over 180 kilometers of downhill travel. The idea is to save the Dead see by adding water to it (every year the Dead Sea shrinks) and use the flowing water to generate energy and water throughout the south. A nuclear power plant would power a desalinization plant and provide clean drinking water for communities and agriculture. My original thoughts stemmed from prior research on a similar project in Egypt, called the Toshka project. The immense failure of the Toshka project led me to believe that Jordan would be unable to take on such a massive challenge. However, through my research I’ve found that the main reasons for the Toshka failures were aspects that the Jordanian government is meeting head on. For example, the Egyptian government fails to coordinate proper funding and prior research for their canal, and the Jordanian government seems bent on providing accurate research and coordinating with Israel to provide efficient funding. Steps like these, among others, could very well provide a successful solution to Jordan’s water question. My research paper is finally taking form, and my argument has changed significantly since landing in Amman. I strongly believe Jordan has the potential to save them from water scarcity. Yet, there are still many issues to tackle. While the Hashemite kingdom is working on many projects, I still argue they are still not doing the necessary things to progress their situation.

For now, I’m waiting on an official report from the Ministry of Water and Irrigation being published December 2 before wrapping up my paper. The report revolves around the Syrian crisis and how it as impacted water usage in the region. I currently have access to the report, but I cannot use its materials until the final draft is published. I’m very curios to see how the government will portray the situation.

By kathleenmccarthy1

This weekend, I had my first visitor from back home come to see me in Galway. My friend from GW who is studying in Florence, Italy came to visit me during her fall break. She arrived just after I turned in two midterm papers so I was exhausted but very excited for the weekend ahead. The first night she was here was Halloween, so she got a very intense and authentic first taste of Galway. Since Galway’s population is heavily made up of students, the streets are full of people on Halloween dressed up for the occasion. I think this was a great first day to be in Galway because it really gave my friend an idea of the personality that Galway has. The next day, I let my friend explore Galway a bit while I went to class and then in the afternoon we went to the Galway City Museum. After visiting the museum with my friend, I wished that I had gone earlier. Not only did it teach me a lot about the city I’ve been living in for over two months in a very short period of time, it was also free. That night we had an amazing dinner and took in some live music at one of the pubs in town but were in bed early because we had a much bigger adventure planned for the next day.

For the following day, I booked a tour of the Connemara region of Ireland that included a trip to Kylemore Abbey. Connemara is a region in the westernmost part of Ireland known for its scenic beauty and preservation of Irish indigenous culture. It is also where the movie “The Quiet Man” was filmed. As the bus drove us through Connemara, I couldn’t believe it was a real place. The enormous mountains and majestic lakes made it feel more like a fairy tale than reality. Adding to my disbelief in Connemara was our visit to Kylemore Abbey, a one-time family mansion now home to a cloister of nuns. This imposing Victorian castle in the wilderness was build in the late 1800s by a man named Mitchell Henry as a gift to his wife (all the makings of a fairy tale, right?) and became renowned all over the world for its grandiose. I asked out loud, for about the millionth time since I’ve been in Ireland “How is this place real?”

On Sunday, I wanted to do a little more exploring in Galway with my friend so I took her to the Galway Cathedral before heading over to the Salthill Promenade. This is a walk along the Galway Bay that is incredibly scenic and leads to the Galway Aquarium, which we also ended up paying a visit to. After that, we came home and baked a pie, which is one of many habits I’ve picked up here, and my friend boarded a bus to make the long trip back to the Dublin airport. Many people would say that our weekend was full of typical tourist behavior and that taking in multiple nature sites was repetitive and unnecessary, but I think it was really important for me to have a weekend like this. In the past few weeks, things have gotten so hectic with assignments, trips outside of the country and making arrangements for the spring semester back at GW that the spark in my relationship with Galway really did seem to go out. Everything had started to seem ordinary and routine and I had stopped appreciating it in the electrifying way that I had in the beginning. Showing someone my favorite things in Galway, the things that I am going to miss the most, made me realize just how well I’ve gotten to know this place. Seeing someone from home also made me see all the changes that I’ve gone through since I’ve been here. I feel like some people might find me utterly unrecognizable when I go home, which is both scary and exciting. Hosting a visitor in Galway was just what I needed to realize how amazing this experience is and how lucky I am to have met so many amazing people and have the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen so accessible to me. I am truly living the dream.


By meaggymurphy

Blurb: Most of us get a little nervous before a big presentation in front of our peers/coworkers. This past week, I gave a presentation that was the culmination of lots of research and hard-work, and I think it's safe to say I was nervous. Luckily, there is a happy ending to this story. Also, I got to be reminded of the greatest feeling in the world: walking out of a room after giving a presentation and realizing that you're allowed to breathe again. #GWU #GWAbroad #finals #publicspeaking

The end of the semester, be it at home or abroad, always seems to bring projects and exams along with it. This semester has been no exception, and I have had a series of presentations that started last week and will continue until next week. One of these presentations, for my hardest class entitled "Communication for Development," took place last Thursday and I am over-the-moon happy that it is over, for many reasons.

Firstly, this specific project began in August, a.k.a. about 3 months ago. We were given the task of investigating any topic relevant to communication and media within or relating to the developing world. Luckily, this type of topic is what interests me as an International Affairs major concentrating on International Development and minoring in journalism. I was extremely lucky in that I happened to pick group members who were equally as interested in and dedicated to this type of research as myself. Also, I found two groups members who were very patient with my constant flow of questions (What type of font should I use here? How does one reserve library books? ¿Cómo se dice...?).

In August we began researching media coverage of the chemical attacks in Syria, specifically comparing two Spanish newspaper, El País and El Punt/Avui. We started by analyzing all of the articles about Syria that were published between two specific dates, using a number code to label variables like the type author, the section, and the theme of the article. It was definitely a lot more numbers than I was expecting, and after collecting all of the data, we entered it into a computer spreadsheet and analyzed it. In the end, we had read and analyzed 97 articles.

The conclusions we drew from the study were pretty interesting; for example, El Punt/Avui (which is a newspaper from the region of Cataluña) published more photos with more violent/realistic themes than El País (the largest newspaper in Spain). This was surprising and went against one of our early hypotheses. So, after going through the process of reading, numbering, analyzing, and writing a report came the fun part: the presentation.

I don't really know anyone who loves doing presentations. I certainly don't, but I also don't over-stress about them. This presentation, however, was different. It was in Spanish, which made it more intimidating. Also, after so many hours of working on the report and the presentation itself over the course of 3 months, I didn't want to be the one to screw it up.

So Thursday came, and the first group had done their presentation, and next it was my group's turn. We got up and did the presentation, and 15 minutes after showing all of our graphs and charts and explaining our methodology and conclusions, a project that started when it was still hot and sunny out was finished. It felt amazing to be done, and even more amazing that the professor liked our project.

I don't think I'll ever be afraid to give a presentation again. Talking about something technical in another language was daunting, but I did it and it went well! And luckily I didn't stutter or trip and fall or forget what to say/how to breathe.

By maxikaplan

This week is hitting like a ton of bricks.  Unfortunately, there is no thanksgiving break in London (surprise), which means that on top of my family coming to visit I have a regular week of reading and schoolwork.  As an added bonus, I will also be traveling to the good ol’ US of A in a week and a half for an interview that I have in New York.  If there were ever a question of how well I can prioritize my time, this week will certainly answer that for me.  Nonetheless, I am very excited for the coming weeks.

My brother, who is studying for his PhD in Vienna, Austria, will be coming to stay with me this week, and my aunt and uncle are arriving a day afterwards to spend the weekend with us.  Although my parents weren’t able to make it for thanksgiving this year, I really could not have asked for a better group of people to spend my time with.  And since they all are arriving the day after thanksgiving, a friend of mine from GW is taking me to thanksgiving dinner with her family—definitely something to be thankful for.  Ten years from now, when I think about all my thanksgiving dinners that I’ve been to over the years, I suspect this year will rank quite highly on my list.

In light of all of this, my stress level is not down, but up, mostly due to me wondering how my time with my family and friends will be balanced between my schoolwork and interview preparation.  I’ve come to realize that the more I stress myself out about these things, the less I get done and the more things I get done incorrectly.  I know that it may sound counterintuitive, but taking the time off to look at your work and your daily routine objectively, is, for me at least, one of the best ways to actually get work done, especially while studying abroad.  The more time I spend with my friends talking about things other than school, the better I focus.  And the more time I spend thinking about things other than my interview, the harder I study for it after I finish relaxing.  Since I’ve come to London I’ve learned that not letting stress overwhelm you is critical to succeeding in anything.  I wrote a previous post titled ‘Stepping Up to the Plate’, and that one reinforces this theme quite well.

With all of that being said, it’s not a question of whether or not I will make it through the next few weeks; it is really only a question of how.  Everything else is, as they say, rubbish.  I would expect an interesting post for next week, and I look forward to writing that one.  Happy Turkey Day ya’ll.

By maxikaplan

I have been in London a little over a month now, and have been lucky enough to witness an interesting trend that has taught me a great deal, which I thought I’d share here.  This trend has a lot to do with who your friends are, and even more to do with who your friends aren't.

Since this is study abroad and few people come here with an already established friend group (unless you are part of the ~20 GW students at LSE), I find that a lot of people tend to stick with their friends who they met in the first week, or who they live in close contact with.  This is fine, as it largely sums up my friend group as well, but the mistake I see people make is a failure to branch out after they've found a few people they connect with.  The fatal flaw I notice is that people really, really enjoy being comfortable—besides, once you have a friend group, why put time between  you and them to explore what the other 10,000 students might be like?  I’ve seen both sides of this coin, and rarely, if ever, am I disappointed I took the time to meet somebody new.  In fact, of the people who I’ve met after I made a good group of friends here, a majority of them play a significant role in my time abroad.  In short, never get too comfortable.

Unfortunately, our mind works in such a way that it sometimes tells us we should settle in and stop putting ourselves “out there”.  But the truth is we miss 100% of the shots we don’t take.  For every night we choose not to go out and meet new people, whether at school or in the city itself, we give up a chance to meet someone who might change our lives.  It’s incredible to me how studying abroad for only a month has taught me the significance of this dilemma, and it’s something I’ve come to realize has great potential.  I tend not to use the term “lean in” now, since it’s the title of a new book from a Facebook executive, but, nonetheless, we have to “lean in” to the discomfort of meeting  people we do not know.  In the end, it is incredibly rewarding.

Of all the values I will learn from study abroad, I believe that this is truly one of the most important, because study abroad is really just a snapshot of what the rest of your life will look like: traveling, moving to new places, making new friends, and leaving old ones.  Wisdom to me is the ability to recognize the value in long-term benefit, and studying in London so far has definitely shown me that there is a significant long-term benefit to getting uncomfortable.

By kathleenmccarthy1

In the past few weeks, NUIG has been feeling more and more like GW. Even though this does have a bit to do with how comfortable I’ve become here, it has more to do with everyone freaking out about all of their assignments. There seemed to be an idea back home that when you go on study abroad you go on a vacation and there is no real schoolwork and you have loads of free time on your hands. This hasn’t been the case at all for me! I’ve pulled as many all-nighters, bought as many coffees and had as many breakdowns as I would have back at GW, except over here there is way more uncertainty because so many things are different! Back in the US, it is pretty hard to misinterpret what a professor wants to the extent that you completely fail an assignment and fearing that would just be completely irrational. But here, what you think you need to do and what you actually need to do may be completely different. Because I am studying business, or commerce as they call it in Ireland, I have been fortunate enough to be in multiple group projects. These have been beneficial because they give me a number of people that I can ask about academic things like how much professors expect of us and what they what us to emphasize in our assignments. Even though group projects can be inconvenient, my group projects have really been a great resource for me. They’ve also allowed me to understand more about Ireland and Irish culture by forcing me to spend time with people I’ve been randomly assigned to. Without being out into these groups, I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable just approaching Irish students and asking them about academics and things like that. Being around these kids has shown me just how much anxiety they are experiencing over exams and all the assignments they find themselves with now that the semester is drawing to a close. Before I came to Ireland, I never really thought that the other kids would get this worked up at finals and before big projects were due like the kids at GW, but they certainly do! Thankfully, I have gotten used to dealing with finals-era anxiety and the occasional meltdown from my first two years at college. Among the things that I’ve become a lot better at since coming to NUIG though is hunting for a seat in the library. Unlike GW, NUIG doesn’t really have student space outside of the library, which isn’t very big for the volume of students that it serves. To my complete shock, I’ve actually been managing to get to the library early in the morning so that I can get my hands on one of those coveted seats. This often takes a great deal of effort, but it’s worth it, especially since no one ever gets up once they’ve planted themselves at a seat in the library. I just hope I can keep up my winning streak with library spots all the way through finals season. I guess we will soon find out!


Frantic over Finals! #GWU #GWAbroad

By mtumasz

DSC_3661Kia Ora Mates! In case you guys didn't know, I'm really into photography, and this is one of the reasons I picked New Zealand to study abroad. The scenery and landscapes are simply breathtaking here. You don't need to have a nice camera to take a good picture though. Document everything. Even if it doesn't seem that cool to you, everyone back home will still be totally jealous.

I have probably taken over 10,000 pictures since getting to New Zealand, and I can say for a fact that not all of them are good. But I feel like it's important to document things, even if they don't look cool. Yes, you may look like an idiot taking a picture of a random sign, but years from now, you'll look back on this picture and remember exactly what that area was like, simply by looking at that sign, or whatever other random object you took a picture of.

Also, I prefer being behind the camera, taking the picture, instead of being in the picture. My friends started demanding that I get in some pictures too, and I'm so glad they did. It did look kind of odd on my Facebook where I was tagged in no pictures but posted a ton of pictures of my friends!

On another note, if you want a really good picture, it might take some dedication. I have woken up early for several sunrises on the beach, or went on hikes to watch the sunset from the top of a mountain. Or maybe you have to get a little down and dirty to get just the right angle on a picture of that waterfall. Don't be afraid to try something new. Worse comes to worse, you delete the picture and no one even knows!

In this waterfall picture, it was pouring rain, freezing, and all the rocks were very slippery. But did I rough it to get a good picture? You betcha.DSC_3763

And that second picture? Taken at the halfway point on a 19.4 kilometer, 7.5 hour hike. Chilling a couple thousand meters up and freezing cold, but was it worth it? Or course.

So just remember, don't be afraid to snap a couple pics for you. If something looks cool to you, who cares if your friends think you look dumb, studying abroad and traveling is for you, so take pictures for yourself!