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By msotomayor12

In honor of midterms looming over my weekend plans, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to my university experience thus far. Get ready to be schooled.

The GW Madrid program is housed at La Universidad Aútonoma de Madrid, a public university that is located on the outskirts of the city. For any GW student, the atmosphere is the polar opposite of Foggy Bottom. The school used to be run by the military, which is another way of insinuating that it’s not the prettiest campus I’ve ever seen.

Yet what it lacks aesthetically, it gains in its academics. From what I have experience in the Spanish education system, there is a huge value placed in the relationship between professors and their students. For the first time in a long time, I’ve felt that professors truly care about getting to know their students so they can note their strengths and weaknesses.

The attention is incredible. I’ve caught myself not even realizing that I’m participating in class discussion because in this atmosphere it comes so naturally. As a result, my professors have gotten to know me besides just reading my papers and exams.

I find this extremely important because it not only makes me more confident about my work, but as a student. I do not feel like I just need to get through a class because professors really try to work with me to develop my understanding. I feel stimulated to keep learning. Also, they really value not bombarding students with 30 pages of reading a night. They would rather students focus intently on several assignments and have enough time to study in their other classes.  I feel stimulated to keep learning.

Getting to know professors is also fascinating. I’ve found myself discussing politics and breaking down House of Cards with my literature professor on our train ride back home. My political science professor took us to visit the Spanish Congress, but the best treat was discussing the importance of political research over coffee and churros. These discussions out of the classroom are exactly the moments where I believe a professor can assess a student’s passion and ability, which are hard to determine from a black and white exam.

Even though its a refreshing experience, I still have to study for midterms, which is still a pain no matter what country a student is in.

By anishag22

As crazy as it sounds, I'm only one month out from my month-long Easter break! That means it's crunch time: I have two essays due the same day in just two weeks. One caveat to all of this is the fact that the next three weekends in a row I will be traveling: First Paris, then Snowdonia (in Wales), then Berlin!

At GW, I practically never take weekend trips, though this is largely due to the fact that the majority of my friends and family are back in California. But being in Europe means I can easily visit my other friends who are studying abroad here because plane fares are much cheaper and my friends are generous enough to let me stay with them.

A few posts ago, I discussed the benefits of day trips, so now here's my breakdown of why weekend trips are going to be the best: 

1. A weekend is the perfect amount of time to briefly explore a new city and get a taste of what it has to offer

2.Weekend trips don't interrupt my weekday school schedule (yes, my professors count attendance)

3.I'm able to travel much shorter distances than my usual D.C.>California trip and at the same time explore so many new countries

4.Last but not least, it will be so nice to finally reunite with my friends from GW and San Diego! No need to be homesick when you've got your best friends from home by your side

I'm leaving to catch my plane to Paris soon (thank goodness Bristol has its own airport!), but I will be sure to post soon about my Parisian adventures.

Until next time-

Xx, Anisha

By Dominique Bonessi

If classes weren’t the first thing on my mind, Jordanian food would be. The Jordanian diet consists mainly of hubaz [pita bread], fool [beans], vegetables—mostly eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes—and almonds.  Many students—mostly guys—have said that they find it hard to eat enough protein, but the truth is Jordanians don’t eat a ton of meat and rely more on hummus and beans for protein.

Eating-out here is affordable, if you know where you are going.  The small little restaurants around my campus have traditional Jordanian food for 1 to 2 JD ($3-$5).  An average lunch for me is hummus with pita bread, falafel, or fool.  The bread in Jordan acts as a utensil, in most restaurants you will not be given any utensils and you eat your entire meal with bread as your shovel.

In addition, to a pretty vegetarian diet, fresh fruits are everywhere here.  Fruit stands offer various mixed fruit drinks from lemon to kiwi.  Some of my favorite treats are lemon-mint, and mango- banana.  Once the weather is warmer here I will probably be drinking a lot more of these refreshing beverages.

As for meal food, the process of cooking here can be an all-day family event.  Especially on Fridays—day of rest for most Muslims—families will cook large meals together.  Last Friday I stayed home and made pancakes for my host family.  My cooking responsibilities weren’t over from there; I finally learned how to make stuffed olive leaves or yalanji.

Here is the trick:

  1. Take one leaf cut off the steam and place the leaf on a plate steam spine down.
  2. Flatten out the leaf and overlap the edges so it looks like one sheet.
  3. Take a teaspoon of rice and place it in the middle, then—like a burrito—firmly roll the olive leave up tucking in the edges.

Another dish I have had the honor of helping prepare with taboole.  This salad like dish can take a few hours to make.  It contains parsley, cilantro, tomato, crack wheat, and white onion.  My only task in the group effort to make the salad was crushing the parsley into very tiny pieces.  After most of the steam has been removed cut with a knife into small pieces, and later but into even smaller pieces with a wedge cutter. (See picture below).  After it is well crushed, combine with crack wheat, tomatoes, and onions; later adding olive oil, lemon juice, pepper, and salt.

But my all-time favorite meal time food is makhish, this savory dish is stuffed zucchini with rice and ground beef in a yogurt or tomato sauce served with rice and bread as usual.  Finally for dessert, throughout the Mediterranean region and the Middle East traditional desserts are almond based—I apologize if you are allergic to almonds.  My host mom made almond cake with honey called bilboosa.

Really you can’t go wrong with the Jordanian palette, it has everything you need for a well-balanced diet and to fill you up.

Well time for me to go eat again! Yum!

 Sahti [enjoy]!

By numzzz123

This semester, I chose to study at AMIDEAST in Amman, Jordan. I chose this program because it offered courses related to both of my majors (Economics and International Affairs). This past summer, I interned in Cairo as a research assistant at the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies at The American University in Cairo. Since this semester would not be my first time in the Middle East, I had a clearer picture of what I wanted to accomplish during my time abroad. For me, a semester abroad was definitely not a trip to just have fun and travel. It was an extremely career oriented journey, and that’s why I made a comprehensive list of goals before I left America. With my experience in Egypt this past summer, I realized the importance of using my voice to spread a message, especially since we have the capability and resources to reach large audiences in the West. My plan was to utilize contacts and create a network so that I could find an internship in Amman that would give me the hard skills I needed in my field. Through this work opportunity, I hoped to discover ways in which I could go one step further than just volunteering, by doing some sort of research. With the current refugee crisis in Jordan, working with an organization that deals with refugees is something I have a keen interest in. One thing I constantly heard about study abroad from those who have done it before is that the semester flies by. To avoid a shock at the end of the semester, I drew out a timeline in my agenda with smaller target goals for each month. It is a great way to help me keep track of my journey and make sure that I am on track.

When I emerge from the Middle East, I want to have a clear explanation of what kind of volunteer/research I did, how it left an impact, why it’s important, and what the next step is. This volunteer work is going to be as much for my own understanding, knowledge, and learning as it is for my desire to somehow give a positive contribution to a community.

By pw916

Community. It can be a  place, group of people, or a feeling that makes you feel like you belong. Having been in Rio for about a month and a half now I've been slowing piecing together my new life and forming part of the community here. Below are some photos to visualize what and whom I am surrounded by.


If I'm not at school or on the street, I'm at home. My roommates are important because they are whom I come home to every night and they are the closest, most immediate resource I have if I ever need anything.

PUC Rio Exchange Students

The exchange community here at PUC is ginormous and vibrant. There are about 500 of us here, but I am closest to those who did the Intensive Language course in January. Here we are at the top of the Dois Irmãos mountain. The other exchange students open my eyes to new opportunities in the city and are a great way to gauge how my perspective and experience of Rio is developing over time. ...continue reading "Comunidade"

By catrionaschwartz

As many of you may have heard the Italian Prime minister Enrico Letto was asked to resign earlier this month after his Democratic Party voted to make rapid changes in the government in order to push through reforms. President Giorgio Napolitano then asked the current mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, to form a new government.

Renzi will be the youngest Prime Minister at age 39 (only two months younger than Mussolini was when he came into power). This is all occurring just ten months after Enrico Letto was elected following the Berlusconi drama.

This governmental upheaval hasn’t really disrupted my experience abroad (although I'm sure there will be some stumbling blocks in the near future as this new government is put in place) but it is interesting to see as a foreigner. In general I have noticed a greater number of strikes, protests and marches in Rome than in DC. There have been two major demonstrations in the time I’ve been here, both of which disrupted public transport. Italians do not seem terribly phased by this though and even expect it to some degree.

During our orientation we were told that Italians are happy to go with the flow; if their plans don’t work out, they make new ones, if the bus doesn’t come after forty-five minutes they’ll walk, or head home. This seems to be the attitude towards the demonstrations. I’m not sure if I wholly subscribe to the idea of national traits but I do think there would be greater frustration in the US if public transport was so frequently disrupted by strikes and marches.

This weekend I will have a break from the political drama though as I am going on my first trip—to Venice for Carnivale! To be honest my only real point of reference for this is the Count of Monte Cristo but I’m still really excited! Hopefully I will get some good photos to post for next week’s post. Till then!

*More info on Renzi here:

By iobrien1093

Exactly, three weeks ago I landed at Cape Town International Airport where I nervously exited the plane, unsure of what I was supposed to do next. To my surprise, I encountered fifteen singing and dancing CIEE staff members waiting to welcome me and the other CIEE students to South Africa.  Three weeks later, the staff’s enthusiasm hasn’t waned a bit; it’s hard to feel anything but excited when I’m around them. Thus far, my group has done everything from cable car-ing up Table Mountain for a gorgeous sunset, to exploring Langa Township, to touring Robben Island and learning about Mandela’s life and imprisonment. The weeks have flown by, but at the same time I can’t believe all that we’ve accomplished.

I’m studying abroad this spring with CIEE’s Service Learning Program in Cape Town, South Africa. Starting Monday, I’ll be taking 4 academic courses related to poverty and community development, including: Intensive ixiXhosa, Social Research Methods, Community Partnership: Theory and Engagement, and Poverty and Development. These courses are different from many of the Human Services and Public Health courses I’ve taken back home, as they involve experiential learning and reflection. Alongside my academic courses, I’ll also be completing an independent research and Capstone Project at a service site within the community. The program offers the opportunity to choose one of seven different service sites, with focus areas ranging from recycling to tuberculosis and medicine. Twice a week, I will be spending the day at New Chapter Foundation, a community center that serves nearly 60 children, ages 6-18, in under-developed Phumlani Village. New Chapter Foundation helps children and young adults realize their potential by building academic life skills, offering relevant training and development opportunities, enhancing talents, and empowering youth to live a Life of Purpose. The community center offers a day care and after-care program meant to keep children both active and safe between school and the time when they’ll have parental supervision. While at New Chapter I will be split my time between the office where I will assist with administrative tasks, and the daycare where I’ll assist with academic programs and with supervising the children. For my capstone project I would like to undertake research into establishing a library for the children or into enhancing the aftercare literacy program in some way. I begin serving at New Chapter this week and will be able to see then which projects would be most beneficial to the staff and to the community.

I chose CIEE’s service learning in Cape Town program for two reasons. The first was that I’ve always been drawn to the idea of participating in a less traditional program. I’m hoping to work in international community development after graduation and I thought service-learning in Cape Town would give me a better understanding of my interests as well as the exposure to problems impacting underdeveloped communities. I’ve traveled abroad before but I wanted a program that would push me completely out of my comfort zone. In Cape Town, I can experience the culture and the languages of completely different communities through voluntarism and hands on service. Secondly, I chose this program for its structure. It’s a smaller program, with only 23 students from all over the U.S. We take all of our classes together, we’re guided through the capstone project together, and we even live together on the same floor of an apartment building. I’ll also be serving at New Chapter with two other girls from my program. This program is the perfect way to break out of my comfort zone while still feeling like I have a solid family behind me to depend on. We’ve all grown so close in just a short time. I can’t imagine spending my time abroad in any other way.

Can’t wait to see what this week has in store!


By lizzhart

So much has happened in the past month: a homestay in a slum community in Khon Kaen, an interview with a sex worker, an exclusive opportunity to enter a Burmese migrant worker village. My experiences so far have been incredible and unique, a direct result of the type of program I am on with CIEE.

I chose CIEE’s public health program in Thailand because I’m a major in public health, looking to get some department electives, but the program is truly compatible with all majors and interests. Lectures so far have spent a lot of time going over the basics of public health and the Thai/American health systems, but we are now starting to delve into community health issues such as HIV, dengue fever, and liver fluke. While lectures are interesting enough, it’s the time spent in the communities, interviewing villagers and health volunteers, that makes this abroad program.

Today I spent 4 hours in a closed off, Burmese village on the property of one of Khon Kaen’s largest fishnet factories. Outsiders are typically not let past security, due in part to the legal status of some of the workers, but also to prevent an outsider influence from inducing protests about worker living conditions. On an offhanded offer, we hopped in the back of a pick up truck of a woman who worked at a community hospital near the factory. She was going in to provide a sex and pregnancy education workshop to the women of the village.

After interviewing the village leaders and community members we learned a lot about the education, health, and social issues of the village. In the second half of the semester we need to pick one community and design a public health related project or intervention. Though it could be very difficult to sustain access to this community, I think implementing a project in this community would be an incredible experience and a huge help to such a disenfranchised group.

Side note: I ate crickets. And boiled blood chunks. I don’t have much to say about this. Also, chicken tendons are different from chicken tenders. Very. Very. Different.