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By bevvy2212

As I am swarmed with papers and finals these coming two weeks, it is also scary how fast the semester came winding down. It didn't hit me till today that my finals are next week. When most of my American friends are celebrating thanksgiving, I'll be over here slaving over school stuff. So I have decided to write a few pieces of advice I have for those who are planning on studying abroad in the future. (If that idea hasn't popped up in your head already, I strongly recommend you to consider it, starting now.)

I am writing this blog post in the center of Paris, an Atlantic away, so behold these words of wisdom about study abroad, young Padawans.


  • Keep your options open.

GW offers so many options for studying abroad, whether it be direct enroll or partnering up with another organization (IES, CIEE etc). Keep your options open because, as in the case of myself, I had a very rigid plan on where I wanted to go. I took AP French in high school so naturally, I thought I’d go to France for a semester, not to mention the institute (SciencesPo) that I’m enrolled in is rumored to be “The Harvard of Europe”. However, during the summer of my Freshman year, I went to Spain on a whim to study Spanish, and I just fell in love with the culture and the language. But I never took my mind off of going to Paris. It has always been France France France. Up until about two months before my arrival in Paris, I started seriously contemplating about studying abroad in a Spanish speaking country. But at that point, it was too late. I am not saying I’m not enjoying my time in Paris, as I munch on my pain au chocolate, but just bear in mind that maybe there are other alternatives to your study abroad destinations.


  • Plan Ahead

First off, tickets are A LOT cheaper if you buy them earlier, needless to say. Second of all, if you’re planning on going to a country that’s a little bit different than the western world, it might do you well to brush up on some of the cultural aspects of that country. Just because you are a foreigner doesn’t mean you can disregard the local social norm. Thirdly, look around the region in where you’re studying abroad. Perhaps you might like to do some traveling around after your program is over?


  • It’s ok when things don’t go as planned.

You’re in a foreign land, stuff happens, plans fall through, expectations are not met. Stay loose and just be adaptable. When I first arrived in Paris, I’d expected more people to speak English just because it’s a capital full of tourists but they don’t. After being in America for so long, it’s really easy to forget that most of your friends here did not learn English the “street way” and they will literally look up towards the sky as if a meteor is approaching if you ask them, “What’s up?”. It’s ok. Go with the flow and be understanding. Just like if my French friends suddenly come up to me with a bunch of street slangs, I’d be freaked out too.


  • Prioritize and make goals.

Before you leave, make some goals on what you plan to achieve while you’re abroad. Are you simply there for the fun and kicks? Are you there to experience the vigorousness of academic intensity and to challenge your intellectual capacity? Are you there to become fluent in the language? I found it very helpful to keep in mind the reason why I have came to Paris, and would like to promptly kick myself when these goals have failed to materialize. (I planned to become fluent in French, so far I can order croissants at restaurants. #progress)


  • Treasure it

Yes, you will get home sick. You will miss your friends back home when everyone around you is squabbling in a language that you don’t understand, but hey, when are you ever going to spend 5 months in a foreign land in the foreseeable future? Even if you disliked your study abroad experience at the time being (if you’re someone like me who likes to be cynical and complains a lot just for the sake of complaining), you will still miss being abroad once you have returned. I know I will.

By Jess Yacovelle

One of the benefits of studying in the United Kingdom is that nearly everyone speaks English in London. Because of the shared language, being in a new city, in a new country, in a new culture doesn't feel quite so scary. Everything is tinted with a shade of home and familiarity that most foreign countries lack. Yet not everything about London is the same as the United States. In fact, there are some stark cultural differences - both good and bad - between the two areas.

For one thing, as I've previously mentioned, there are no trashcans anywhere in the UK! If you finish a cup of coffee, you could literally be carrying that empty cup for miles. There's probably one "rubbish bin" per five block radius, yet the streets are nearly spotless. They have a fraction of the cigarette butts and gum stains as most American cities do, and the nice areas of London have virtually no bits of trash anywhere. I don't know how they do it, but somehow they keep the streets clean without any trashcans.

Trashcans may not be on every block, but you know what is? Pret a Manger. Literally, it's on every block. It's a European staple that sells coffee, pre-made sandwiches, and baked goods. King's College, where I'm currently studying for the semester, is located directly between two different Pret a Mangers. You can't escape them; it's best to just give in.

The Brits also have no idea where to go. For no apparent reason, they became one of the only European countries to drive on the left. So, logically, you'd think that means they're a lefty country, right? They should walk on the left, stand on the left, move to the left... no. In fact, England can't make up its mind. On all of the escalators, you stand on the right. In some of the tube stations, you walk on the right... unless arbitrary signs tell you to walk on the left. You exit stations on the left, but you walk down the streets on the right. There are no hard and fast rules in regards to which side of the street pedestrians should stick to, and as a result, there are frequent human traffic jams.

Speaking of humans, British people are known to be cold and unfriendly, but this is not true. They have very specific social customs, and they do not like these customs to be broken. For example, they do not talk on the tube, and they glare at anyone who tries to strike up a conversation. The tube is a place of commute, not a place to socialize. Making conversation with strangers on the tube isn't proper.

Speaking of properness, it is considered improper to wear a skirt or dress without a pair of tights. On the first day of classes - back when the sun was shinning and it was 80 degrees outside - I could easily differentiate between the tourists and the natives by who wore tights with their skirts and who was bare-legged. No matter how hot it gets, no one in England has bare legs (unless they're gong to a club); it just isn't done.

Another thing different in regards to apparel is that at bars - pure bars, not sports bars - you must wear heels. I've had friends rejected and told to leave a bar because they were not wearing heels. I think it's because heels show respect for the establishment that you made an effort to dress in a classy manner. Regardless of why you do it, the reality is you need to do it.

These are just some of the differences between the culture of the United States and the culture of the United Kingdom, and as I continue to study abroad in London, I'm sure I'll find more.

By mcbitter

One great thing about doing a semester abroad is that you're there long enough to get a true feeling for the city and its neighborhoods, not just the tourist attractions. (Don't get me wrong, I love the Eiffel Tower, but there's only so many times you can go!) While I've been here, I've found a few small businesses to which I'm a loyal customer. When you're living in a new place, they can really make you feel like you've made it your home!

  1. My local boulangerie, or bakery. There's at least four boulangeries within three minutes of walking from my apartment. I've made a point to try all of their baguettes though, and I have to say, the one right down the street is perfect. I've never been disappointed by their pastries either (helloooo, pain au chocolat) so I'm sticking with that one!
  2. Proxi. Oh, Proxi. So this is basically the 7/11 of France. Why am I writing about a convenience store, you might ask? Well, this is the ONE store that is open on Sundays, meaning that it's been a lifesaver for my roommates and I! (Most grocery stores in France are closed on Sundays, so if you don't have something like a Proxi near you, you're simply out of luck.) Proxi has also been the go-to place when we're craving something spontaneously like ice cream, chocolate, or any other junk food you can think of. We go there so often that the cashiers recognize us...yeah, we probably go there a bit too often.
  3. Stratto. This is the go-to for lunch between classes. They have a million baguettes sandwiches, paninis, pizza, you name it. They even have this thing called an Italian cheeseburger, which is ridiculously huge (not sure what makes it Italian, but that's okay). They also have student pricing that combines a drink with your sandwich for a discount, which is nice because food in Paris adds up quick. Stratto is also good for a quick espresso before class in the morning.

I'm going to miss these places when I head back to the States. When my family visits (they're coming in two weeks!), I'm definitely going to take them by these places - except maybe Proxi. Yeah, probably not...!

image (8)The trip started like they always have, wake up early, meet a couple metro stops away, board the bus (quickly exchange "last night stories"), and then everyone besides me falls asleep. Sometimes people hold out for a bit, bobbing to a new Spanish song they discovered the day before, but usually within three or four songs everyone is out except Isidro, on of our professors, who ceaselessly chats with the bus driver until we arrive. While it sounds quiet, especially combined with the view pleasures of desolate fields of brown grass and strip malls, it came to a halt forty-five minutes later when we arrived in Toledo, the "Imperial City."According to Isidro, there are seven cities in the U.S. named "Toledo," however I don't recall any being as beautiful and accessible. Toledo used to be the capital of Spain and is regarded as a city of three cultures and religions. In one day we visited the beautiful and historic mosque, cathedral, and synagogue, each architecturally influenced by the others. We weaved through the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter, ate lunch in a park overlooking the misty river, and shuffled through a crowd of foreigners to take a closet look at a painting by El Greco, the ultimate foreigner with the name "The Greek."image (2)image (3)While Toledo was amazing, my favorite part was the stop on the way home and reminded me of what can be problematic with studying abroad in Europe. As the semester winds down, we have all compared and contrasted our trips around the continent. She liked Amsterdam, he loved Milan, she didn't enjoy Stockholm as much as expected, and they never wanted to leave Budapest. They are all fun and adventurous, but the trips are rarely surprising. We all know what the Eiffel Tower and the Colosseum look like, but my favorite trips have been the ones that I didn't have any expectations for.  I had no clue what to expect for Toledo and for Los Molinos, a collection of windmills outside of Toledo. However as everyone fell back asleep, I watched the sun disappear, the glimmer of bright city lights appear across the horizon, and the return to life at home in Madrid and the end of our final program excursion.

By Hannah Radner

It is week eight of ten in the Michaelmas term at LSE, and I am truly feeling the effects of a direct enrollment program as opposed to a provider program. The LSE General Course, while it is made up of all study abroad students, provides no special accommodation; at times, our status as General Course students puts even more pressure on us, as the formative work we do throughout the term actually factors into our class grade, while for regular LSE students it does not. Aside from this, we are otherwise considered regular LSE students.

This is clearly the week where everyone is stressed. Essays are due, and everyone regrets not starting them several weeks ago. I am no exception; I had a paper due last Friday, the following Sunday, this Friday, and next Friday, on top of a presentation I am currently working on for the class in which I had a paper due on Sunday. It is all hitting me at once, and I am coping because I have to, but this leads me to my number one piece of advice for current and future General Course students: time management is key. Starting as a freshman at GW, we are amazed at how little time we spend in class compared to high school - only a few hours a day? What do I do with all this free time? You soon figure out that free time is not free until you've used up a great deal of it doing work outside the classroom. At LSE, we have even less class time - eight hours per week, total. I have found that what they lack in contact hours, they make up for in reading and essays.

Essays are different here. In my American classes, we had page requirements, standardised prompts, and even requirements for how many sources we should use for our essays. After having written a few here, I have decided that I like the UK system better. Here, there is a maximum word limit which, according to professor discretion, may or may not include footnotes and the bibliography. They do not care which citation system you use, nor do they care how many sources you have, as long as you make an effective argument. I quite appreciate this as it lets me focus much more on the content of my essay rather than trying to find more sources to which I can attribute my facts, just for the sake of having enough sources. I also don't have to worry about meeting a minimum length; as long as I have not gone over the maximum, I am safe. I am sure everyone at some point in the US has known the struggle of having a minimum of fifteen pages assigned - "but what if I have no more to say after ten?" The only struggle now is making your argument as concise as possible.

The other effect of being in the General Course is the fact that I haven't been able to travel as much as I thought I would. This is not necessarily a bad thing; I came here with the goal of feeling like a Londoner and a fully integrated student. I have been on some trips; weekends in Scotland and Ireland and a day trip to Bath have all been fantastic. I enjoy having time to explore London because that is why I am here. Vacations are for traveling; I am going to Spain for a week in December, and it will be a much welcome reward.

I love my program and not a day goes by when I think about how happy I am with my choice. I know at the end of this year, I will be able to say it is the hardest thing I did in college, but it made me a better student and a more well-rounded human being.

By clairemac93

I think one of the most exciting parts of traveling abroad is trying new foods. As much as I sometimes find myself craving things from back home- from the everyday of black beans and plantain chips and Mexican food and granola bars, to the foods I crave just because I can’t have them at my fingertips- cinnabuns being the most infamous of those, generally eating here is great. Stellenbosch is famous for the amount of eateries it has, many of them quaint little café’s, and township food is some of the best I’ve ever eaten. But I will say that in coming here I knew very little about the food, and I can assume most people wouldn’t know what to expect from South Africa too. As such I’ll share with you some of the things I consider “typically South African”.


Rusk: Rusk is a bit like biscotti in that it’s a sweet-ish bready-ish thing you dunk in your coffee. They go from ultra- healthy to diabetes-flavored.


Biltong: Oh biltong. Biltong is essentially a much fancier version of beef jerky, and let me tell you that if you don’t like biltong you lose some points in most South African’s minds. It’s dried and hanged meat and you can get in everywhere from grocery stores to shops especially for biltong. I’m of the opinion that it gives you gout, but my theory has thus far not been proven.

Koeksisters 2

Koeksisters: Oh these sweet little spirals have capture me body and soul! They are little twists of dough soaked in honey. So pretty much, everything you ever wanted in life.

bunny chow
Bunny Chow

Bunny chow: Bunny chow is where you start to see the Malay influence in South African cuisine. Whereas most places in the western world had slaves from Africa, South Africa had slaves from Malaysia- referred to as the Cape Malay. This dish is a third of a loaf of bread filled with curry. Make sure to eat it either when in Joburg or better yet, Durban.


Potjiekos: This is the only dish I was aware of from South African before I came here, though I’ve actually rarely eaten it here. It’s quite a labor intensive meal- and one of those usually designated for the patriarch to handle. It’s essentially a thick meat soup and takes days to make.


Gatsby: Gatsby’s are the footlongs of South Africa. They are the biggest sandwich you will ever consume, but pure deliciousness. They are so big in fact, that even in a heroic like effort to conquer a Gatsby, my roommate and I only ate a half. Any sandwich with French fries in it is a winner in my book. That half a sandwich is half to blame for the 15 pounds I’ve gained here!


Vetkoek: Vetkoek is my favorite township food, to the point I’m bringing home the recipe for it. It translates to fat cake, just to make you aware of its health benefits, and is eaten with meat straight off the braai. Its slightly sweet and can cost as little as R2, or $0.20 for each one.


Pap: Pap is a bit like the fufu of Ghana. It is almost mashed potato-like in texture and eaten as the carbs of a meal. Never ever ever eat pap with a fork…ever. Hands only.


Chalaka: Definitely just thought this word was a joke when I first heard it, but chalaka is a salsa-like side dish served with pap and meat, most times. Best if nice and spicy!

Red Espresso

Red latte/espresso: Here, Rooibos is king. Rooibos, if you haven’t had it, is a non-caffeinated tea that’s a domestic product of South Africa. They put it in almost everything. As such, a red latte/espresso here is a must- which is rooibos tea and espresso.

Luckily for me, I’m not so much of a meat eater so it keeps me from eating these things every day. Nonetheless, South African food has continually surprised me in how tasty it is. I’m not sure I would say it’s a culture where you necessarily need to go home with someone to eat traditional food, but it’s definitely one where you need to interact with many different social groups to “taste the country” as regions and ethnic groups eat very differently. As an aside, though certainly not considered delicacies by anyone’s standards- college kids everywhere would benefit from the sweet chilli Doritos and pinapple Fanta only available here!

By anuhyabobba

When I first landed in Buenos Aires, we were asked to meet outside the arrivals gate to meet with program officials and other students. We were then assigned a partner to share a cab with, as we headed to meet our host families. I had two large suitcases and a carry on, and when we walked outside to the cab, the driver became furious at the amount of luggage I had. He started arguing that his car was too small (it was not) and wanted to be paid more, and I stared blankly. I spoke no Spanish, and all I could do was exactly that -- stare blankly ahead. Thankfully, my cab partner communicated for me and settled the issue. It was a small moment, but it was also when it finally hit me that I was in a country where my ability to communicate was nonexistent. I felt so deeply out of place, and for the rest of the cab ride, I remained silent. I entered my home stay to be greeted by my host mom who spoke minimal English. The first three weeks of living in Argentina was characterized by a lot of head nodding to sentences I could not understand and being heavily dependent on others to communicate for me.

After I started to align with the pace of my Spanish classes, I began to pick up on the language tremendously. I now not can speak Spanish well, I can understand it also for the most part. This improvement was one I did not see coming, and one I am all too thankful for. Because when I had my ability to communicate removed, I became highly self reliant to do daily actions and have become very grateful for the newfound independence. My program is set to end next week, so I have been thinking a lot about the areas I have grown in.

But, I also have to come to terms with leaving. I have made Buenos Aires my home, and to return to the United States will be a strange type of readjustment -- adjusting to a place that is already so familiar! Granted I have travels planned out after the program ends, this discussion of coming back is nonetheless a difficult but also a healthy one to have. I am so grateful to have met the people I did and for the experiences I went through to be at the place of comfort and peace I am at now, but I miss so much my family, my friends, and my life at GW. With no doubt, I will be returning to a different environment, one which I left for four months. I will be returning to people who have in these four months have changed like I have. Being here and witnessing change daily has helped in not fearing it and rather to embracing it fully.

All I can say is that I am happy to be here and I am happy to be coming home. Thank you also to Buenos Aires for being so sweet to me this semester.

By kendallpaynenewmedia

StepsI believe that everyone’s identities are constantly evolving with every step we take. Every time I grab coffee with a friend or listen to a professor give a lecture or even play a game of Ultimate Frisbee with my friends, I learn something new and in turn my own personal identity shifts and often grows. Most of the time the change is so subtle we hardly even take a second look and sometimes something dramatic occurs and our whole world and perspective is forever changed. In my opinion, both are important and both deserve reflection.

For me, living abroad was easily the most incredible experience of my life. Immersing yourself in a completely different culture forces you to reflect back on your own culture and your own upbringing. Throughout my time abroad I found similarities in Australian and American cultures, but I also found a lot of ´interesting cultural differences` as my orientation leader, Steve, liked to say. Recognizing these differences I found myself wondering what about our distinct communities and respective cultures made us different and what made us the same. Along with my Aussie friends, I made friends from all over the world including: The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, England, Russia, China, California, Washington, Wisconsin, Florida, Kansas, Oregon, and New York. I truly learned how much my own communities and cultures had shaped me after seeing just how much these friends’ cultures had affected them. ...continue reading "Every Step We Take"

By claudiainpune

In a country where your family, religion, and economic level define everything you are, I think everyone on my program has faced challenges with their own identities during our time here. As Americans, I think we focus a lot on how we make a name for ourselves as individuals, regardless of where are parents come from, where we were born, etc. But, I think where you come from has a lot to say about who you are and what what path through life will look like. Your pivotal formative years and how you interpret the world all originate from the place, the people, and the things you grew up with. Every experience in your life has a purpose and will, in some form, serve you down the line whether you notice it or not. ...continue reading "Before and After"

By marisalgado94

While most of my friends back in the US are wrapping up midterms and are counting down the days until Thanksgiving break, it feels weird to say that I am done with classes and took my final exams this past week.  My program is broken up into two parts- the first half is theoretical and lecture based, the second half is all based on field study and application.  For the first half of the semester, I was in class every day for morning sessions of Portuguese and afternoon sessions of either seminar classes on race, public health, and human rights or research methods and ethics.  Although this past week was stressful turning in a 7 page final paper, a 17 page research proposal, and studying for my portguese final, I am happy to say that for once, I did not procrastinate (mom, you would be so proud)!

Tomorrow, the field study begins.  We will be embarking on a two week journey through various parts of Bahia, vistining rural communities and immersing ourselves in the culture.  Upon return, we begin our independent research projects, the capstone of this program.  I am so excited to begin my research.  I will be looking into a community program, Amaralina Kids Body Boarding (go like them on Facebook!) which is ran by my host brother, and evaluating their effectiveness in reducing the risk factors for drug abuse among teens in the Nordeste community of Amarlina, one of Salvador’s neighborhoods that knows all to well the impact of drug trafficking, gang violence, and a heavy police presence.  Through interviews with parents and coaches and participant observations at team practices, I hope to present concrete evidence on how the program has had postive benefits in the community.  My goal is that with this research, the coaches and organizers of the program will now have a qualitative analysis of all the hard work that they have put into this program and be able to use the findings to open doors for partenrships with other community organizations and health professionals to be able to expand the resources  they are able to give to these kids.

Although I have written research papers before, the idea of conducting field research and coming out on the other side with a 40 page write up of my three weeks is a little daunting.  We are moving out of out host homes and into apartments with other students, responsible for getting to and from project sights, and most stressful of all, conduct out interviews and interactions all in Portuguese (my two months, while heavy in the language, are definitely going to be put to the test!). I am so excited, however, that I am able to conduct my research with an organization that is trying to make a difference in their community and hope that through this project, I will be able to give back as well.  Stay tuned for stories and reflections on my two week travels and the beginning of my research project!