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By Dominique Bonessi

Amman may not be a New York or a DC with plenty of areas to spread out and study in the sun or walk around, but there the one thing they do have are awesome cafes for studying.

Every weekend I have made it my job to find the best of these cafes by word of mouth, the internet, or just walking around popular areas in Amman.  Here are my top three favorite study places in Amman:

  1. Turtle Green Café: Rainbow Street near 1st Circle.  If you’re missing home and need a place that offers reasonably priced beverages and food Turtle Green is the perfect vibe for you.  This tiny two floor coffee shop is just the surface of the hipster culture in Amman.  The beverages range from Jordanian classics like lemon-mint juice to lattes to green tea shakes.  The salads are also made with fresh ingredients and zesty dressings.  For a study space the café has everything, couches and desks for comfort, free wifi, and the perfect calming tunes of study music.  And if that wasn’t enough there are also really turtles swimming in a tank next to the window.
  2. Beanoz: Across the street from the North Gate of the University of Jordan.  This café has become a hang out spot for my friends and I in between class periods.  The study and relaxation mood changes on any given day along with the music varying with everything from rap to old school Beatles music.  There are very few food options but their omelets, sandwiches, and ice teas are the perfect lunch that is a little more expensive than a regular lunch option, but good for once a week. The barista is also very friendly with everyone and always asks if we need anything.  Finally there is always wifi and chess to play for our entertainment.
  3. Café Paris: Paris Circle Downtown. This isn’t as much of a study place as it is good for a study break.  Tuesday nights are a popular night around 9pm to 12am for drinks, good dance music, and a fun time with friends.  If you couldn’t guess from the title the café is very popular for Jordan hipsters and study abroad college students.  The music varies from hardcore rap to 80s Michael Jackson music, but always a fun time.  The once issue may be the immense about of smoking there is in a given night leaves your clothes smelling nasty, but if you can see past the smoke—no pun intended—you can see this swanky café/lounge offers the best of Jordanian youth culture.

By sonyakalmin

In my first post, I gave a brief account on my background as an Ukranian-American. Following up, in the next series of posts, I described the categorization of Americans that takes place here in Scotland. Interestingly enough, not much has changed in terms of my identity. It's pretty clear to everyone around me that I'm American. When asked where I come from, my first instinct is always to say New York. However, if asked about my nationality, I do tend to delve a little deeper and illuminate my audience on my ethnic diversity. Going back to the United States, I will definitely be much more aware of my American dialect. Out of all characteristics differentiating me from my peers, it's the one that's been the most poignant. While not everyone here is of Scottish or English descent, they have all grown up learning "British" pronunciation and grammar. These are students coming from all over Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. So of course it’s hard to even get into the topic of identity when the first words of my mouth give it all away. ...continue reading "The Identity Crisis"

By msotomayor12

As a junior, I have come to realize that early morning classes never get easier. The first internal debate of my day consists of having to chose between sleeping a few extra minutes or eating a balanced breakfast (including a lot of coffee). Starting off the day on the wrong foot makes the simplest obstacles suddenly multiply and everything turns into a pleasant surprise.

This is how I started my Thursday morning last week when the explosions went off. La Universidad Autónoma de Madrid was in its third—and most aggressive day—of protests against an increase in tuition and government cuts. The mission of the protest to make politicians aware that “public education means a guaranteed free education.” However, parliament has steadily increased taxes to make up for the Spanish economic recession between 2008 and 2012. In recent months, parliament announced it would cut 70% of government funding to universities, reduce scholarships (including to those who already have them), and another tax increase.

Between March 25-27, student protesters blocked entrances to the school parking lots by lighting garbage bins on fire and throwing small firecrackers. It was the first time I had ever heard explosions used to prove a point. Even though the protests never impacted me directly, I felt a sense of appreciation and uneasiness at the same time. It was incredible that the students were so passionate about preserving their education system. However, their attempts to gain attention were ineffective since media outlets focused on the violence rather than the actual mission.

This is not the first protest I’ve witnessed either. Spanish citizens are actively raising their voice against the government, whether it is a call to action to send aid to Venezuela or reform their health care system. When the conflict is historically rooted, the protests become increasingly larger and violent. Several Spaniards marched from their respective regions to Madrid on March 22 to join tens of thousands of people in an anti-austerity demonstration. Rioters and police clashed on the main city street, El Paseo del Prado, which resulted in six injuries and 12 arrests.

Protests are more prevalent in Spain that I thought they would be. Now that the weather is getting warmer, the number of protests, whether violent or peaceful, is increasing. I do not feel afraid since the protests are very contained and the violence is not even close to what we see in Middle Eastern countries. Rather, I feel privileged to see them unfold because it not only gives me a different perspective about Spain, but also on the role of what it means to be a citizen passionately fighting for one’s rights.

By anishag22

Today marks the final day of my month-long spring break adventure, and I´m wrapping it up in Vienna, Austria. Before coming to Vienna I was in Italy and then Prague, so upon arrival I was pleasantly surprised by how much less "touristy" Vienna is in comparison. Vienna has so much to offer - its history, music, culture and pristine gardens have captured my heart. Over the past month of traveling, it does get exhausting at a certain point because every city starts to look the same. Vienna has been uniquely refreshing because it is a beautiful major city that just happens to be less popular for tourists, thus allowing me to see the sights without getting overwhelmed by my fellow travelers.

I´m not quite sure why Vienna is the hidden gem of this trip. When you´re here, you would think it would be flooded with tourists because of how much it has to offer. My best friend and I have had an amazing time here going to concerts, hanging out in Viennese cafes and of course checking out the ultimate snack market - "Naschmarkt." But Vienna is not an extremely popular study abroad destination these days. In my study abroad deliberations, I was actually strongly considering Vienna as an alternative to Bristol, but in the end I decided that learning German wasn't exactly at the top of my to-do list. At the end of the day, I´m so glad I chose Bristol, but leaving Vienna is bittersweet. I already have a list of what I´d like to do on a return trip - seeing the Vienna Philharmonic is a must, and a sidetrip to Salzburg to do the Sound of Music tour is too!

I feel so lucky and fortunate to have had this amazing opportunity - I´ve traveled through Europe for 30 days straight, and I can safely say that my worldview has changed as a result. For now, it´s back to Bristol for me as I prepare to buckle down and push through the last of my exams while still savoring every moment I have left in the city that´s become my home.


Until next time -

Xx, Anisha

By numzzz123


Receiving an award for for my service at the Hemma Celebration

In my first blog post I discussed how you should “trust God, but always tie your camel,” a reference in Muslim culture to the idea that although it’s good to hope for the best and go with the flow, it’s your responsibility to make the effort and take steps in a certain direction if you want something to happen. Before I left America, I raised funds for my time abroad. These funds were to be used for a research project I hoped to undertake in Jordan. Before I traveled, I created a “tangible goals” list, but I had left enough room for flexibility in case the unexpected occurred, which is actually what happened.

As I mentioned in my last post, through my work at Project Amal ou Salam, I met a Syrian man. It turns out that his brother owned a Syrian volunteer group called “Hemma,” a group which brings both physical relief and relief in the form of training and human development to Syrian refugees. I attended an awards ceremony they held for their one-year anniversary, where they recognized me for the work I had done with Syrians in Project Amal ou Salam. As I saw all of the work they were doing, and did some research on my own, I realized that I had found a perfect outlet to connect what I was learning in class to what I wanted to do in the field. In my coursework, I study economic development, and how that occurs through human development. I met with the leaders of Hemma, and together we came up with a project.

This project involves training Syrian refugees here in Amman, ages 10-15, to volunteer. Although this seems very simple from the eyes of a westerner, the concept of ‘civil society’ is something that is not prevalent in this culture. This project will train Syrian refugee students for one month on how to volunteer. Then, they will create volunteer projects on their own, and will be able to implement it through the help of Hemma. I met with the leaders of Hemma group all throughout last week to work out every part of this project, as we figured out the logistics, the reasoning behind it, the impact it would leave and how to make it sustainable so that it could continue on into the future. The funds I raised for my research will be used to jump-start this long-term/sustainable project.

Brainstorming and project planning

The goal of this project is to teach these students a new skill for life. They will then have the opportunity to be their own leaders and create their own projects, which will be empowering them. As their volunteer projects come to life, we will be documenting them and spreading them around through different outlets, including online, newspapers and TV media. This will spread the word about the project even more, attracting not only donors (which we need to continue to make this project sustainable), but also other young people who will see the value behind the work that these young people are engaging in. With the current civil war in Syria, it is not feasible to just have refugees come into the country without properly integrating them into society. This will contribute not just to Syrians, but Jordanian society as well, as the hope of the project is for it to spread to Jordanian students as well. With this project, we hope to increase the lack of civil society in the country, strengthen institutions, and instill the values of public service in whole generation. All of this counts as human development, which in turn, will hopefully lead to economic development.

By maxikaplan

With no time left to travel in this month long study period of mine, I’ve had to re-explore parts of my own neighborhood to keep myself entertained. Fortunately, it turns out that London is quite a big city, and that after 8 months of living here there remain parts of the city only a few blocks from me that I didn’t know existed. What is unfortunate, however, is the good weather that’s come to London just as I’m beginning to stay inside week after week to study. It’s as though my last eight months of fun were all at the expense of this study period, but as I’ve said before, if somebody would have told me this would be the case I would have come to London for the year regardless of study time. Whereas before the study period I had decided to take a few days a week off to explore, now I cherish my Saturday’s as my one vacation day, and so far they’ve been incredible. This past weekend there was a food festival of sorts in central London along the Thames, and since I’d never miss a food festival, I quickly made my way down there with my friends. These day breaks are proving to be the best way to re-energize for the week ahead of studying—one day of fooling around helps to keep me focused for 6 days it seems like.

With an exam on May 30th and my flight back to New Jersey booked for the 31st, my friends and I are beginning to realize that this year won’t be ending with much of a blast. Most students in the General Course here who are American would of course be used to the semester ending in excitement, but this program has flipped this idea on its head, and I’m not too happy about it. Surprisingly complaining won’t make it any better so I will stop here, but after 4 semesters at GW ending with partying, it will be interesting to see what it feels like to just take an exam and leave. In a sense it feels like I’ll be leaving London without a proper goodbye, but oh well—I will be back one day I am sure.

Now that I’ve painted this picture of all the fun being over and life going back to a regular schedule, I should say that I’m still having fun—just not as much fun that I was used to having over the past few months. That level of entertainment and freedom is very hard to beat, but once everyone makes it through these exams I am sure life will be good again. Until then, I’ll remain studying.

By billienkatz

Somewhere in the midst of all of the traveling, immersion, independence, and figuring out where the 'study' fits into study abroad, this semester has flown by and I now find myself facing finals (not to mention the task of figuring out how to get all of my belongings back home). As a college student I always feel that finals fall at the most inconvenient time; however, this semester it's actually true. The way IES designed our academic calendar was that finals would begin right after Semana Santa, which was designated as our Spring Break. This means that after traveling for 7-10 days we suddenly have to come back to Barcelona, buckle down, and study? It seems like a simple task, but facing only eleven days left in this city and this study abroad experience, the last thing I want to do is spend time indoors studying.

Yesterday I spent the day walking all around the city and exploring the neighborhoods I kept saying I was going to go visit, and never did. This activity reinforced how vibrant and beautiful the city of Barcelona is, and how lucky I have been to be able to call it my home for the past four months. Now, the idea of preparing for finals and getting ready to say my goodbyes is both overwhelming and terrifying. I'm too conscientious of a student to forgo studying for my finals, but I know that this means I'm going to have to neglect some final explorations around the city. All of this is then met with the unsettling idea that I am about to board a plane back to New York, never to be with all these new friends in this same context of living and learning in Barcelona ever again. Seriously, IES, with this brewing internal conflict and potential end-of-study-abroad-crisis, how am I ever supposed to appropriately study for my Spanish Final? Not to mention that I'm still savoring the memories of my Spring Break trip that concluded  yesterday...this is almost too much for me to wrap my mind around.

I'm generally a person who has a set A to Z plan with plans B, C & D ready incase something doesn't go as planned. However, with eleven days to end my junior year of college, to pack up and leave Barcelona, and to try and make the days pass as slowly as possible, I'm at a loss for a plan, a means of organization, or a clear idea of how best to spend my time. What I do know for sure, however, is that Barcelona and this semester will always hold a coveted space in my memories and how I continue to live my life and view the world around me. Studying abroad is truly a milestone of an experience, and one that you cannot fully grasp until it is suddenly over.

By zamorse

This week was Passover vacation here in Israel. Passover is the Spring holiday in Judaism that celebrates the exodus from Egypt. It's a big family holiday for eight days, and Jews travel all over the world to be with their families and experience the holiday. It's know to most non-Jews by the unleavened tasteless bread that we eat, Matza. In Israel it's like Spring Break, people get days off from work, and the universities are shut down for the week. In the diaspora (outside of Israel), there's two seders (big meals) on the first two nights of the holiday, but in Israel there's only one seder. We went to my mom's friends house in Ra'anana to have the seder with their extended Israeli family.

My parents and grandmother came to visit this week since I didn't have school, and it's been really nice to see them. Instead of staying in Haifa near the university (which is shut down this week), we're staying in Herzliya, which is in the center of the country, just north of Tel Aviv, right on the beach. We rented a car from the airport and have been traveling all over Israel this week.

Today we went to Jerusalem and the Old City, went to the Western Wall and walked through the Jewish Quarter, then walked outside the Old City and had lunch at the famous King David Hotel. And what an interesting experience that was. Today is Easter, so the Christian Quarter was busy celebrating that holiday. It's Passover in the Jewish Quarter, and there are Muslim riots on the Temple Mount in the Muslim Quarter (2 people injured, 24 arrested just this morning). The Old City is a walled ancient city (.35 square miles) in the middle of Jerusalem and has four quarters. The biggest is the Muslim Quarter, followed by the Christian Quarter, then the Jewish Quarter, and finally the Armenian Quarter. So to say that a lot was going on today in such a small area was an understatement.

Yesterday we went to a museum in Tel Aviv. The day before we went to the oldest neighborhood in Tel Aviv to walk around. We've gone up to Haifa this week to see the university and walk around the national park across the street. We went to Yad Vashem (The Holocaust Museum) in Jerusalem, and Beit Hatfutsot (The Diaspora Museum) at Tel Aviv University.

It's been a busy week, but it's been really nice seeing my family since I don't get to see them very much. And living in Herzliya this week is a totally different experience then Haifa---much less diversity, much more wealth, and many more Americans.

I've been to the three largest cities in Israel this week. Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa---each with their own unique flavor and characteristics. And I've had the great experience of having my family come to visit me in my second study abroad location. Until next time!

By Dominique Bonessi

So after two weeks back from my spring break, I fell into a rut! Missing my family, my boyfriend, my home, my own bed—wait!!!! I knew this wouldn’t do, I knew I needed to break out of this rut and start living in the present.

Here are some tips I am currently using to get myself out of this homesick rut and reminding myself why I wanted to study abroad in the first place:

  1. Thinking back to your first week, remember how exciting and new everything was.  Remind yourself of your goals had while studying abroad, have you accomplished all of them?  If not, now is your chance—take it!
  2. Change up your daily routine.  Instead of going home or going to the gym right after school, I am trying to find new places and cultural events to attend.
  3. Realize that grades are important, but not everything.  While abroad as long as you maintain a C or better in your classes you will be given credit back at GW.  I am not saying slack off, but remember you have a responsibility to yourself to enjoy your time as much as possible and if that means spending more time with locals and chatting in a café for hours, so be it.
  4. For those concerned with homework, change up the places you do homework in.  I have made it my goal to find a new café every weekend to do homework and I have invited several of my friends in the program to come with me.  Not only are you getting homework done, but you are also spending time with people.

By anishag22

Tomorrow, I'll be making my way by train to the Eternal City, Roma. The past week in Italy has been amazing - I've seen the famous Venetian canals and soaked up the sun in Florence while enjoying fabulous gelato along the way. Italy has lived up to the stereotypes of the Southern European countries in that Italians do indeed enjoy a slower pace of life - slower than I'm used to now in England. For example, you will never get your check at a restaurant unless you ask for it, and even then the waiters are in no rush at all to get it to your table. In a way it's nice to experience a more leisurely meal, but I supposed I'm just too acclimated to the American dining experience to not get at least a little impatient. One thing I can't complain about is the weather - this is definitely the most sun I've had since coming abroad. I've also noticed that Italians are pretty friendly people. Part of that is because most of these cities I'm visiting survive off of tourism - without it, they simply wouldn't exist, especially in Venice where it was sometimes hard to move through the intense crowds (and this is the low season, they say)!

If I had more time in Italy, I would love to venture out to a smaller town so that I could get a more authentic Italian experience. The farthest off the beaten track I've been is Pisa, which as you can imagine is still pretty touristy. One thing I've learned from this super long spring break is how I like to travel. The past few weeks have been very fast paced, going from one city and one country to the next - I can hardly believe that it was three weeks ago that I started the trip in Dublin. I think I prefer to travel at a slower pace- spending maybe five days or so in each place. I also prefer visiting smaller cities and less visited towns. It is in that method of travel that you truly get to know a country or a city, from the inside out. Granted, the big tourist-attracting cities attract tourists for a reason, but I just think that sometimes it gets too overwhelming and commercialized for my taste. In other news, today is my official three month mark of being abroad! I truly cannot fathom how it has been three months since that chilly day in London when I stepped out of Heathrow and into the greatest adventure of my life.


Until next time -

Xx, Anisha