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By sonyakalmin

As I reflect back on my semester abroad a number of things pop into my mind: my first walk to class, getting lost on my first walk to class, eating a full Scottish breakfast and learning to properly say “cheers” instead of thank you. Surprisingly however, the most memorable experiences of mine occurred in the last two weeks of my stay here. The first of these is my visit to The Big Cheese and the second is my long-awaited trip to the Scottish Highlands. The Big Cheese, you see, is a type of a student club, occurring solely on Saturday nights. ...continue reading "Farewell Ye Land of Haggis and Bagpipes"

By juliaraewagner

On my way home from Buenos Aires, I decided to take one last stop in South America before heading back up North to start the summer. I made some amazing Brazilian friends during my semester abroad with GW Latin America, so I decided to visit them in their home city of Sao Paulo.

I arrived at the airport at 1AM, but the city I encountered was still bustling with life. My friends picked me up, ushered me into their car, and said, "get ready, we're going out!" I was impressed immediately by the city's enormity and vastness; everything  is so big and spread apart. I was also bamboozled by the winding streets and relieved to have my Paulista friends to lead me around.

My first night in Sao Paulo was comprised of drinks and tamaki, a japanese dish much like sushi, but bigger and better. Tamaki generally includes raw fish, rice, and a topping all wrapped up in a large cone-shaped cup of seaweed--resembling a sushi snow cone. It was developed by the enormous Japanese population that immigrated here in the last century, and still thrives in the Japanese neighborhood of Liberdade. Tamaki, however, is popular all over the city, and enjoyed by all as a typical Paulista dish.

Where some cities are known for their beaches and others for their monuments or arts, Sao Paulo is known for its food. Ever since my arrival, I've done nothing but eat my way through the city.

The next morning, I met my friends parents, who took us out for a typical Paulista Sunday specialty: feijoada. Feijoada is a dish from colonial times comprised of beef and pork stewed black beans accompanied with other cuts of pork and garlic sauted greens all over rice. A former vegetarian and bean enthusiast, my mouth was watering as I dug into this delicious dish. My friend asked if I needed anything changed, reminding me of the tradition of "jeitinho brasileiro" or "the Brazilian way," which involves accomadating to a guest's needs. Of course, changes in the dish were wholly unnecessary as I couldn't imagine altering such a tasty dish.

My foodie adventures took me to a delicious pizzeria, which only serves pizza made with tomato sauce imported from Italy. There I also tried a typical Brazilian dessert known as Petit Gateau, which consists of a soft chocolate cake filled with gooey chocolate sauce or dulce de leche and accompanied by a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream. I asked my friends why it carried the french name, and they had no idea. Since that night though, I've seen Petit Gateau featured on almost every restaurant menu.

Aside from food, I've had the most amazing coffee I've ever had in my life. My friend took me to her favorite coffee shop, where we spent an hour reading up on all of their featured blends before ordering. I decided to go with one of their "coffee experiments," in which I was tasked with investigating how drinking coffee with cheese or chocolate can change its taste. I took a sip of the delicious coffee they had brewed and tried a bit of chocolate before taking a second sip. To my surprise, the second sip had a completely different taste. I felt a similar sensation when I tried the experiement over with the cheese. I'm not sure that Starbucks coffee would necessarily warrant the same reaction.

Since my arrival less than a week ago, I've gone out to eat more amazing meals including delicious chinese, hamburgers, sushi, and more bowls of gelato than I can count. I didn't expect my stay in Sao Paulo to be a foodie's dream, but I'm glad I'm here!

By catrionaschwartz

It’s hard to believe but I’m finally back in Brooklyn. After approximately four months in Rome I am back in the U.S. Although it has only been a few days I think I can confidently say that I won’t be experiencing any reverse culture shock. For all that Italy was filled with wonderful little differences the culture wasn’t wildly dissimilar from the U.S.

That isn’t to say it has been a totally smooth transition. For the first day back it felt odd to be speaking in English all the time. When I went to get my first chai tea latte in months, I completely blanked on the Starbucks sizing system and had to ask for a medium instead of a grande. Not to mention all of the baristas have changed. Some of the mailboxes have also been painted a different color. It’s all tiny details but without them I’m not sure whether I would even believe I’d been gone at all.

What is sad is how far away Italy feels. It’s odd to get to know a place the way you do when you have four months (both a lot and not at all) and then leave it—and likely not return for at least a couple years, if not (more likely) more. I’ve missed speaking Italian more than I would have expected. I’d underestimated how enjoyable it would be to learn and speak another language abroad. It was something that I’d thought would be interesting, and something I sought after studying in London but now that I’m back in the US I’m realizing how integral it was to my experience, and how it made Italy feel different and special.

It’s a bit of an odd note to end this blog on but the main purpose of this blog is to give other students an idea of what studying abroad is like, and to give them advice. So my advice is this: study somewhere where English isn’t the first language, if you can. Even if you don’t know a word of the language when you get there it is still rewarding to learn and practice a skill at the same time. I would also say make sure to plan out all of the places you want to go where you’re studying (I know I missed out on some places I’d wanted to go in Rome) and try and do something different every week!

I certainly would like to apply that goal to my life here, back in Brooklyn. Living abroad you are constantly alert for new experiences and new friends and just because I’m back in the U.S. I don’t want to lose this perspective. It is actually, I think, one of the most important things I’ve taken away from study abroad, aside from all of the wonderful friends and memories.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and I wish everyone luck on any travels they may soon undertake!

Arrivederci and in bocca al lupo!

By zamorse

As I withdraw to my room to start studying for finals, I'm starting to look back at the amazing semester I've had. There are so many lists that I could come up with to commemorate my semester, five favorite foods, five top sites, etc, but since I had already been to Israel before, the five biggest surprises for me is the most important list. I thought I knew what to expect, so the list of my top five biggest surprises I think says a lot about my semester.

1) Israel is all about nature---national parks, beaches, mountains, forests, etc. It's such a small country, but you can literally do everything here, and Israelis are obsessed with getting out and about. From going snorkeling in the south, to going skiing in the north, to going mountain bike riding, you can literally do everything here.

2) Israelis are impatient. They always seem like they're in a hurry. Or at least that's what I thought. Maybe I got used to the fast paced walking environment of DC, but Israelis are really slow walkers. More like they stroll everywhere.

3) Israel is a small country, and if you look on a map of the world you know what I'm talking about. Even if you look at a map of Israel, you wonder how they fit a country of 8 million people into such a small place. And that's what I thought before I got here. But if you exclude the three big cities of Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, the countryside has lots of empty spaces and big houses, not what I was expecting at all.

4) I did not remember how loud Israelis are. It's a fact of life here, if you want something, you have to be loud. But that adds an interesting dynamic to the culture here.

5) Lastly, and I think most importantly, Israel is not all about the conflict with the Arabs. You could get that sense from reading the news everyday, but its certainly not the case in the day to day life of average Israelis. They have jobs and go to school and have social lives, just like everybody else around the world. From studying international affairs and conflict resolution, the fact that this country is not just about the conflict can be hard to forget.


By juliaraewagner

The beginning and end of our section in Buenos Aires was bookended by a stay at the downtown Hotel Bauen. Upon arriving, the hotel seemed like any other hotel in the city. It had a grand lobby, a cafeteria, and wifi.  Our country coordinator, however, was sure to put in the plug that the hotel was not just any ordinary hotel, but that it was in fact, a cooperative business. This means that the Bauen is owned and operated democratically. Every month, the workers meet and make decisions based on their collective opinion of the best plan of action for the hotel. This means that they collective agency over their own working conditions, salaries, and benefits as well.  Further, their profit does not feed in to one person's paycheck, but is either divided evenly or invested back into the hotel.

The Bauen used to operate as a for-profit hotel, under a standard business model. After the financial crisis of 2001, the hotel went under, leaving its employees out of work in a very rough economic climate rife with high unemployment and massive inflation. The workers at this moment decided that they would claim the property as their own and operate it through democratic means. It has been operating ever since as a cooperative business. The Bauen remains unstable because its land ownership continues to be disputed in the national court. Though they manage to pay the bills, they are always threatened with eviction. For instance, we made reservations one month in advance, with the caveat that the hotel might be shut down by the time we arrived.

The Hotel Bauen is not the only cooperatvie business operating in and around Buenos Aires; the city is full of them. Many sprang up during the past financial crisis and have kept hold because the economy has not been looking up in any spectacular way. Cooperatives have proven in some ways more stable here, as they allow their workers to trust each other and mandates that the businesses give back to their employees. Despite their strength and high level of participation, cooperatives have a lot of work to do in the legal sphere. The government has passed some laws to protect them and the properties that many of them have seized, but much work is still needed to ensure that many of these businesses stay open.

By anishag22

Today, my American friends and I are embarking on an undeniably English dining experience: fish and chips. The irony about this is that we have been living in England for four months now and still haven't tried the British delicacy, mostly because none of us are especially crazy about fish. But alas, we feel it is the right thing to do, because let's face it - how could we get on a plane to America without that experience?

One thing my friends and I have learned to love is tea. In fact, you could say it's our acquired obsession. Tea time in England is absolutely lovely because of the way it's served and the customs that guide it. I love being served a whole pot of tea with a side of cream. I pour my teacup about 4/5 of the way with tea and leave room for just a spot of cream at the top. What's more, I adore the relaxed atmosphere of all the tea rooms and cafes. Having tea is a sit down experience in England: tea to-go isn't really a thing here. It's all about taking a break during the day to relax, reflect and of course enjoy some English Breakfast or Darjeeling (my favorites!). It doesn't matter if you have your tea alone or with friends. If I'm alone, I like to read the Bristol student newspaper, but other times I just do nothing at all. That's the beauty of Europe: Europeans really know how to enjoy life. The English are hard workers, but they know the meaning of having a balance.

Tea time has helped me to savor the little moments in my study abroad experience. I've realized that I am happiest when I'm here in Bristol with my friends, just quietly absorbing the culture around me.

If there's one tradition I know I'll be carrying back to America with me, it's tea time.


Until next time -

Xx, Anisha

By heatherlgilbert

My biggest advice for finding promising community service while traveling is simple; stay alert, be aware of your surroundings and go outside your comfort zone. By following these three simple guidelines my winter break was transformed from an outside tourist glimpse into an eye opening experience.

Community service can be found anywhere doing just about anything. During my winter break, as I traveled through Asia, I spent time participating in community service efforts in Cambodia. Traveling away from tourist areas to view another lifestyle and meet locals was the most valuable part of my trip.

My first blog is dedicated to the people I met in the floating village on Tonle Sap Lake. These incredibly strong and genuine people move three times a year, each move coinciding with the lake’s changing water level. They live a third of the year on the lakeshore, a third of the year in the center of the lake and another third close to the surrounding mountains. Income comes from one source, fishing. Most of my time on the lake was spent with the local children. Starting my first day, I brought a sack of rice and lollypops. As I handed them out to the kids they folded their arms across their chest and nodded before digging into the bag of treats. I learned that this gesture means thank you. Every moment I spent on Tonle Sap is unforgettable and now it is my turn to cross my arms and nod my head. Thank you.

By maxikaplan

photo (1)

With my days left at LSE numbering in the teens, it is somewhat unfortunate that my daily routine has turned into waking up, studying, and going to sleep. With finals just around the corner, I don’t think that the other GW students here are doing much else with their time either, and the same definitely applies to the other LSE students for that matter. I did get a bit of a study break last weekend when I went bungee jumping north of London in what turned out to be an incredibly beautiful day (see photo). Of course, just as I am preparing to leave London, my friends and I discover that the site of our bungee is actually on an enormous lake only 40 minutes north, where you can also rent kayaks and canoes for the day. If we had known earlier we most certainly would have been out there more than this one time, but it is amazing nonetheless that such a place even exists so close to the city center where we live. Unfortunately, I never made my way to many other areas in the UK north of London, but from what I have heard it is very mountainous and picturesque.

As I’ve mentioned before, my exit from the study abroad world will not be made with parties and fun, but will instead take place the day after my most difficult exam. This is going to make for a very interesting packing experience, considering there is not much time for me to spare as of right now to pack beforehand, and I can’t picture much coming my way before then either. Somewhat ironically I am looking forward most to that Friday night that I can come home after my exam to pack up my things and be ready to get on my way. In hoping to not sound too dramatic I will leave it there, but it will be a great mix of emotion when I say bye to many I will not see again for a long time amidst a flurry of stress and fear of exams. This would be much harder, however, if I were not looking forward to returning home so much. Nine months is a long time, and from talking to a lot of my friends I think we are all beginning to really miss home. I love London, and I would maybe even move here one day, but for right now I have had my fix—there is no doubt that I miss the little things. Most of all, I think, I am ready to leave this mini bed that my residence has provided for my oversized body to sleep in.

Luckily, I am not the type to drown myself in coffee during finals season—I am more of a slow and steady studier, over preparing information that I will likely not use. This has made this finals season less hard than I thought it would be so far, but in terms of study time, LSE is not messing around—I have definitely spent more time studying for these finals than I have in my two years of studying combined at GW. No longer is there the one-week of cramming a semester worth of information. This six-week study period exists for a reason, I have realized, but as I’ve mentioned before, the GW students do not have it as nearly as bad as the other kids studying abroad here do, since their grades are carrying over. I must have mentioned this 4 or 5 times by now, but when you realize how difficult these exams can be, it is NOT something that you take for granted. I will leave this blog at that, and speak to all of you next week for my last post.

By catrionaschwartz

One of the best things about Rome is how easy it is to leave. An hour and a half journey by train can transport you from the bustling, crowded city to a villa in Tivoli, surrounded by intricate Renaissance gardens and fountains with flowers blooming everywhere. The Italian countryside is famous and you don’t have to go all the way to Tuscany to see why. The rolling hills with their medieval towns perched on top of them, rows of aspens leading to grand homes, orchards with small olive trees—it’s an image that has been co-opted by many artists around the world throughout history.


As much as I love Rome I also relish the opportunity to see these landscapes with my own eyes. Standing in a Renaissance villa, looking out at the hills you can almost imagine that you are in the past, the landscape looks that unchanged.


I felt that way, at least, until I looked down at my feet. I was wearing flip flops and even though I was at a tourist site, I was clearly the only one within a several mile radius wearing them. I asked an Italian friend and she said that while people would sometimes wear flip-flops outside of the city it wasn’t as usual as it was in the U.S. And I definitely stood out like a sore thumb with them on. It didn’t detract from the day—I was comfortable and I was so clearly in a group of Americans that the flip-flops probably didn’t make a difference anyway—but it did make me think twice about my shoe choice. Walking to get a coffee by myself back in Rome, my shoes attracted even more odd looks.

It’s similar to what I noticed in London: people dress more formally, on an informal basis. Just like leggings and Uggs would probably attract some odd looks in London, flip flops and a tank top would stand out here in Rome. Thankfully I have two other pairs of sandals—although the platforms are a bit difficult on the cobblestone—but it is yet another reminder of all the little quirks in Italy that I have yet to discover.

Another has been the appearance of a bright orange cocktail I’ve seen everyone drinking both at restaurants and at the local bars (which in Italy are cafes). My friend and I finally worked up the courage to ask the barista at our local bar and she said it was a Campari spritz. We tried one and to be honest it didn’t taste all that amazing to me but apparently everyone starts drinking them in the summer.

Campari Spritz

It’s really just like the confetti mystery when I first got to Rome. Every morning I’d find colorful confetti on the ground, all around the city but especially in my very residential neighborhood. I’d wondered if there were parades being held while I was at school, or if it was from people celebrating late into the night, but it turned out to celebrations for Carnivale, and it was usually children throwing the confetti not marching band members or late night revelers.

I wonder, if I were staying here longer, what other little mysteries would I discover?


By juliaraewagner

This week marked the end of my semester-long trip abroad with IHP Cities of the 21st Century. It was full of tears, laughter, inspiring final lectures, and too many toasts to count.

For me, this marks the end of an entire year abroad that has taken me to three different continents and 9 countries. I've over 2 weeks in airports and on airplanes and I've slept in over 25 different beds. I've learned to say "Hey, how are you?" in 7 different languages and have tried 7 different national dishes. Nine very kind families have welcomed me into their homes and hundreds of others have welcomed me into their countries. I've visited two of the world's best coffee countries, two of the best wine countries, one of the most vegetarian-friendly countries, and one of the most meat heavy countries.

This past year means so much more than figures, however. Beyond the number, I've been able to see myself grow in relation to all of the places I've been. I know how I react to confusion, ambiguity, and fear; more importantly, I know I can handle these situations.  I am confident that I can get around most cities, and I know that it is okay to ask for directions if I am lost.

This year, I also found new places to call home, not just in the cities I've stayed in, but also with good friends who I've met along the way. I now have a place to stay in London, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, and La Paz. Someone has described it to me as being horizontally rooted, or having a place to call home in many different once.

I've already been able to experience these roots. Just two days ago, I said goodbye to my IHP friends to head over to my friends' homes in Sao Paulo. I met them while I was abroad last semester in Buenos Aires. It's nice to know that I have friends just about everywhere, and their friendship is too dear to quantify.