Skip to content

By jdippel529

In Spain, spring break takes place during the Holy Week (Semana Santa), and gives students about 13 days off from school. A couple of my friends and I decided it would be a good idea to make use of the wo weeks and turn it into a eurotrip. So, I am currently writing this blog in a cozy little apartment in downtown Athens where we arrived after a 3 day trip to Rome. Before I left for my trip, I wanted to make sure I made the most out of my travel experience. This is why I finally decided to book a food tour while in Rome. At first, I thought 100 euros was a bit too steep of a price, but once I realized all that it included I knew the tour was a unique opportunity that I just couldn’t miss out on. When in Rome…right?

The EatingItaly Rome Tour, which I highly recommend, passed through the up-and-coming area of Trastevere and included 8 wondrous stops: a long-time family-owned restaurant where we tried fried artichokes and Italian champagne, an ancient wine cellar dug up by the restaurant that lay above, a family-run bakery, two meat and cheese shops, a suppli (fried rice ball) shop, an award winning restaurant where we ate gnocchi, spinach and ricotta ravioli and risotto, and a gourmet and organic gelato place. I cannot stress it enough when I say that it is easy to get caught up in the tourist traps of Rome. This tour, however, stopped at local, family-run places that simply oozed authenticity. In this tour alone, I learned more about Rome than I had going around hte city for 2 whole days.

I never thought that taking a food tour would be so rewarding, but I promise you it was. I was able to make new and authentic discoveries into the Italian culture (culinary and historical), to meet new people from all over the world, to eat things I normally wouldn’t otherwise, and to do something completely on my own. Since I was in London when my friends booked the tour, their time slot was sold out by the time I got around to purchasing a ticket. On a whim, I decided to go on the earlier tour alone. I had never done something like this on my own before, and was naturally a bit apprehensive. Thankfully, it was the best thing I could have ever done. Being on my own forced me to talk and get to know the people in my group, all who were amazing. Our group consisted of a newly wed couple from rural Pennsylvania, 4 friends from Cyprus, Rick Steves (!!) and our lovely tour guide, of course. Yes, that’s right—a celebrity was on the tour with us and I didn’t even know it at the time! Rick Steves, the author and travel guru, happened to take the same tour for research on an upcoming project he was filming in Rome. Since I had no idea who he was at the time, I thought that he just had a cool job, nothing more. Because Rick left before our last stop (some amazing and authentic gelato), I was able to hear our guide talk about how she couldn’t believe a travel wiz like him was on her tour! At that point, I was just mad I missed out on the opportunity for a picture or autograph. Rick, if you’re reading this, an autographed travel guide would be awesome! Thanks for making my special tour that much more special.

Without my friends, I also learned the most important lesson of all: traveling with friends can be great, but the most important journey will always be the one with yourself. Being on my own allowed me to better perceive my experience and transform it into something memorable and lasting. In other words, it was easier to figure out what that time had meant to me, rather then deciding after putting together the opinions of the rest of my group.

So…what to take away from all of this? While traveling, always, always, always seek out an authentic cultural experience, and always make sure you are able to enjoy an experience in the moment, without the thoughts and opinions of others.

By practiceyogadistrict

Spring break has been spent as an escape from the stifling heat of Khon Kaen. First stop, Laos. Laos borders the north of Thailand. To travel there was an adventure in and of itself. The sleeper bus from Khon Kaen to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand was standard. Our next task was to hop on the 9am bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong. Though we arrived two hours before this bus left, it was already full, and our next chance to get to the boarder was at 2:30pm. We (Jenna and Anne and I—traveling friends) decided this would be okay, because according to what we had read online, the boarder stays open from 6am-10pm, and according to our calculations we would get there right at 8 and have time to cross before it closed. Cabs and Tuk Tuks awaited us as we disembarked the bus, hassling for our business-- the usual drill. We asked to be taken to the boarder, and every single person we asked said ‘mai dai’ which means I can’t or I won’t because it was closed already. Being the stubborn people we are, Anne, Jenna and I concluded that we could walk there on our own. At night. Through this new city we had never been to. The reason we were so intent on crossing the boarder that night was because we had to meet our guides for a trekking and zip-lining jungle experience at 8am the next morning. We had no idea the distance, but we knew general directions to the boarder crossing. About 10 minutes into our walk we begin to feel drops of rain on our heads. ‘Only a little rain,’ we said to one another, nothing we can’t handle. Then the rain began to fall heavier and heavier- big fat drops of water drenching everything we had with us. It was around 9pm now. Up ahead we saw a bright green sign—Tesco Lotus—the Thai version of Walmart. We ran to it, a safe refuge from the tropical storm we had found ourselves in. As we called the one guesthouse that we knew of the power flickered out in Tesco. You know you are in the midst of something when a supermarket loses power. On our drive to the guesthouse (the owner took pity on us and picked us up from Tesco) we saw countless toppled signs. The next day we succumbed to taking a Tuk Tuk as early as we could to the boarder. What we discovered was that the Thai boarder was open from 8am to 8pm, but the Laos boarder’s hours were from 6am-10pm. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Needless to say, it was a good thing that the storm stopped us. It was 10km to the boarder, not the 3km that we thought. And even if we had made it all the way there, we wouldn’t even have been able to cross.

As we raced in the Song Taew through Huay Xai, a small town on our way to Bokeo Nature Reserve for our three days in the jungle, I took in the new country that surrounded me. The town looked just like Thai towns that I had driven through countless times. Leaving the town, however, I was struck by how green, lush, and untouched Laos nature seemed. Fresh air did me well. The clean sweetness of the jungle air was precisely what I needed, and the joys of hiking, zip-lining, and tree house living satisfied my need for nature.

Now back in Chiang Mai, I am preparing for three days of being relentlessly soaked. Songkran, Thailand’s New Year’s celebration begins today. Instead of the ball dropping, Thais ring in the New Year with a massive three-day water fight. Everyone, whether stranger, family, young or old participate in festivities. The water traditionally symbolizes cleansing from sin, but younger generations of Thais and tourists have turned the holiday into a massive party. It is what it is. Happy New Year, friends! May the adventure continue for another year!

By anuhyabobba

I returned from what is considered spring break in Argentina on early Sunday morning. For some time, my friends and I had been torn between traveling to northern Argentina or northern Chile for the week we have off. In the end, we opted for northern Chile, though I cannot tell you more clearly what made us reach this decision. We booked our flight for September 18 from Buenos Aires to Santiago and then Santiago to a small desert town called Calama. From Calama, we would take a one and a half hour bus to the even smaller desert town of San Pedro de Atacama.

San Pedro de Atacama is situated in the Atacama Desert, or the driest place on Earth. The town overlooks numerous volcanos, but the Licancabur volcano dominates over each. Every morning, I woke up to a beautiful view of the rugged, mountain landscape. In every corner of town, this backdrop was visible and stunning. At night, because of the lack of light and general pollution, the stars were breathtakingly present. I was able to clusters of the Milky Way, and often times, we would chose to sit out in the patio of the hostel and just journal.

Our hostel was called Talar, and during our stay there, my friends and I found a new host mom or “hostel mom” of sorts. Her name was Jessica, and she owned the hostel. She was so kind to us in the days we were in town -- made sure to ask how our days went, quick to give suggestions on how to be safe and also prepared us for each of our excursions, and a lot more. Having her as our go-to person added to what was already an amazing trip.

The first day, we rented bikes to Pukara de Quitor, a pre-Columbian fortress that is around 3 kilometers outside of town. None of us had rode a bike in a long time and that too on unpaved, rocky roads. Of course, we did get lost and started to head toward the direction of Calama. After asking locals for directions, we finally made our way to the archaeological ruins and rested at the top of the fortress. That evening, we toured Valle de la Luna or Moon Valley, a landscape that resembles that of the Moon. It was by far one of the most gorgeous places I have been. Watching the sunset at Valle de la Luna is one to remember, and the shades of pink and purple the mountains took on cannot be described in words.

The next day, we sand boarded. I have never even snow boarded, so I was filled with anxiety as we drove into the Valle de la Muerte or Death Valley to reach the sand dune. The directions being given were horribly vague, so my anxiety reached new levels as we began to climb the sand dune. The instructors suggested to go down diagonally in order to move at a moderate speed. Even though I tried my best to board in a diagonal, I always ended in a straight line down, jetting past people who were on their way up. The speed was exhilarating and then frightening, so I would make myself fall to come to a stop. I did not think I would enjoy it as much as I did, and the striking, jagged landscape characteristic to the Valle de la Muerte made for epic pictures.

The rest of our trip was a mix of hikes out to surrounding places in town or tours to specific locations like Geysers del Tatio, Puritama Hot Springs, and many more. Yes, a person could probably see San Pedro de Atacama in two to three days. But, staying for the week made for a relaxing retreat from city life and also made me really grow attached to this small town. It felt nice to have a place that we vacationed at start feeling familiar and like another home almost. From buying groceries at the markets to make lunches and dinners, having the staff recognize us at the restaurant we always chose to dine at, or even having people on the streets start smiling at us because they saw us the day before -- it was all centering and peaceful.

By rbhargava

Just a few minutes ago I arrived back from my week-long spring break vacation. Along with 5 Germans, another American, and a Chinese student I went on an epic road trip through much of the Western Cape and parts of the Eastern Cape. We drove two sedans over 3,300km and having just gotten back, I am quite speechless about the experience. I hope to capture some of the thrills, adventures, and joys of this trip in this blog post.

The trip started last Friday afternoon when we all left for the Cederberg Mountains, a few hours north of Stellenbosch. We camped in the mountains that night, and wow does it get cold at night. On Saturday we hiked the Wolfberg Cracks, an amazing hike in the mountains that takes you through very narrow cracks in the mountain, many of which you have to squeeze through by going sideways through cracks, climbing over rocks, or even sliding below small openings in the rock formations. Following the hike we drove several more hours to our campsite right on the beach in the Namaqua National Park. Our campsite was right below a beautiful lighthouse, and we arrived late at night so that the eerie beachside campsite was covered in fog, with the only light coming from the lighthouse right above us and a bright moon approaching its full moon stage. We spent a day in a half in Namaqua, going to completely empty beaches, seeing flamingos in a tidal pool, and visiting the famous Namaqua wild flowers which are only in season for a few weeks (but our trip was timed perfectly during peak season). What a sight it was to see fields and fields of blooming wild flowers!

After two nights of camping right on the beach and baring the cold nights far away from civilization (the campsite only had a "enviro" running water, to indoor facilities, nothing...), we took another long drive to the Augrabies Falls National Park.  The falls are known to be the 6th largest in the world, and we were lucky enough to camp in another beautiful sight just a few hundred meters away from the fall, so that even in our tents we could hear the roaring of the waterfall. At Augrabies we were able to drive our cars through a game reserve, relax in a swimming pool, hike around the waterfall, and even go on a night game drive run by the national park. Coincidentally, we ran into other friends from Stellenbosch at Augrabies, a pleseant reminder that South Africa is coming more and more like home to me, where no place is too unfamiliar that I won't recognize a face or two. We ended up running into even more friends much later on the trip, but that story is for another day.

After two nights camping in Augrabie, sleeping in the cold (again) and waking up to baboons raiding the campsite and dassies (rock hyraxes), we left for Witsand Nature Reserve. Witsand is part of the Kalahari group, and famous for sand dunes that "roar" in the wind. With only half a day to enjoy Witsand before our next destination, we walked across the great sand dunes and went sandboarding down one of the largest dunes we could find. The experience was like no other, although my few trips down on the boards always ended with a wipeout, one of which was a face first crash into the sand. A few of us ended up finding much more pleasure in rolling down the sand dunes and picking up a ridiculous amount of speed before crashing at the bottom. Once again, we camped at Witsand, and the Kalahari night was, no surprise, quite cold.

Our next stop on the trip was Camdeboo National Park in the middle of the Karoo, a 7-8 hour drive from Witsand. We spent the entire day driving, and arrived at our campsite within the national park as the sun was setting. The next day we drove up to the Valley of Desolation and saw some amazing rock formations on top of the mountains. We then left for the final leg of our trip, the popular "Garden Route" along the south-western part of the South Africa coast. With only a day and a half free before needing to head back to Stellenbosch, we squeezed in a canoeing trip upriver to a waterfall, some hiking, and brief whale watching on a cliff, although unfortunately none of us spotted any whales.

Coming back to Stellies, I'm now much more appreciative of a mattress and sleeping indoors, having spent several nights in a row sleeping in 40-45 degrees on sand, gravel, rocks, and any other uncomfortable surface one could imagine. I've also come to really appreciate and love South Africa as the country is so vast, and almost every landscape you drive through is breathtaking. We covered over 3000+ kilometers in one massive circular drive, but have yet to cover the surface of what there is to see in this country. The trip also made me feel more and more drawn to Stellenbosch, and all those cold nights camping made me think about my bed at my "home" in Stellenbosch rather than my home back in the states. It's great to be back in Stellies, but I can't wait to get back on the road when the semester ends and continue venturing around the country.

By sdemetry

Hello again GW!

I am writing once again from an airport terminal- but this time I am on my way back to schoolwork and reality: vacation has ceased.

Surprisingly, my internship was put on hold after a long discussion with my supervisor the day before I Left. We both agreed that whatever work I was putting in 'on the road' would not be my best, and it would also take away from the limited time that I had with my parents.

I could not be happier with that decisions. After 3 weeks of living out of a car, whirlwind days of touring and hotels, I am certain that it was the right one. Playing tour guide was stressful enough- I definitely didn't need any more work added in.

I return on Monday, and I am expecting a fair amount of work to accompany the start of my second semester. Before I left, emails were sent out to a few international coordinators asking for information by the time I returned, and with that information I will be developing a new library of Country Profile Reports for TNC.

Though I have been checking my emails regularly, I haven't received any of that information yet, so it will be interesting to see how my first week back unfolds.

Until then I don't have too much more to share. The biggest thing I have learned thus far is not to stretch yourself too thin while you're abroad. Enjoy your internships and classes, but make sure you leave yourself time to enjoy the fun parts as well.

Bis bald!


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 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

By billienkatz

This past Friday I set out on my longest trip of the semester - a week long spring break. This coming week marks the start of Semana Santa, also known as Holy Week in Spain, and thus, a great excuse for an end of the semester spring break. The majority of people in my program packed their bags and jetted off (read as: flew into small, middle of nowhere airports on RyanAir) to destinations such as the Almafi Coast, Ibiza, and Greece. I chose to take the flight path arguably less traveled and set off for a week in Budapest and Vienna!

I'm currently two nights into the Budapest leg of my trip, and while the baths are incredible, and the Danube River at night is one of the most beautiful sights I've ever laid my eyes on, the best part of this trip so far has been reuniting with my best friends from school who I haven't seen in roughly four months. This is what I find so limitless about traveling and living abroad. Using my current example, there are five American students - 2 from Barcelona (including myself), 2 from Haifa and 1 from London. Now, what sojourning students from Spain, Israel and the United Kingdom are all doing together in Budapest may seem like the set-up to an awful joke, but this truly shows how small the world actually is.

Through different time differences, customs and boarder controls, student visas and passports we all managed to get ourselves to Hungary. There's something about strolling across the chain bridge with your roommate who you haven't seen since moving out last semester and before this study abroad experience ever began. In addition, when you trade in the streets of DuPont Circle for a string of consonants and harsh accents written in Hungarian, you have the ability to witness how some of your closest friends have grown and evolved since this experience began.

Over the course of the past few days this has been extremely insightful for me because I know that I am a different person than when I left a few months ago, but until I found myself surrounded by the friends I've known since the first weekend of freshman year, I had yet to truly acknowledge the metamorphosis that had and is in the process of taking place.

As my semester slowly begins to come to a close I'm hoping to give myself time to truly reflect on the impact of my experiences while still living here and being surrounded by both items, customs, cultures and people that are both comforting and familiar, and intimidating and novel at the same time.

By Dominique Bonessi

Just a three hour flight and we touched down in Istanbul, Turkey for a well-deserved Spring Break.

Not only was this a break from the daily routine in Jordan, but it was also a break from the intense language pledge and homework we have been receiving.

We [my program friends and I] chose Turkey because it was a quick escape for a little money.  Istanbul is also a ‘must-see’ city with the best of European and Arab cultures.  It has the best of both worlds half of Istanbul on the Asian continent and half on the European continent.  Everything about this week has been so different from my time in Jordan.

There are more colors, the water and air are clearer, there is a running body of water nearby, and Istanbul—as a tourist city—is used to foreigners.  In a way, I began to compare Amman to Istanbul, not wanting to leave beautiful, historic, clean Istanbul or dusty, dirty, old Amman, but then I realized there is something Amman has that Istanbul doesn’t.

I have been told by many Jordanians and fellow classmates that in order to like Amman and live here you have to experience Amman by night and make friends with locals. After one week in Istanbul I missed all my new Jordanian friends.  Sometimes it’s not the place you go to, but the people you meet that makes your time worthwhile.

So as I got back on the plane today with a bittersweet feeling of sadly leaving my relaxing Spring Break destination and only ready and prepared to take on the rest of my semester abroad, I realized my time is half way through and I feel I still have so much to learn.

By anishag22

This week marks the start of my month-long spring break adventure, with my trip currently underway in Ireland. My mom and I began our trip in Dublin, and we are now on the west coast of the country in Galway. While I absolutely loved Dublin, Galway has a certain small-city charm that makes it feel undeniably Irish. Upon thinking more about why Galway captured my heart, I realized that it's due to its similarities with Bristol.

Galway is basically the Bristol of Ireland: it's smaller than Dublin but thrives off its large student population. Both Bristol and Galway are lively cities that offer a more authentic experience of the country as opposed to the two major urban draws: London and Dublin. I'm realizing it's not just Bristol that I adore, but perhaps all European college towns.

A city dominated by young adults makes for an interesting city indeed. There's always something going on every night of the week and there's usually an urban city center as well as quieter areas full of natural beauty. Simply put, college towns have it all.

While there's something to be said for big cities and their endless variety, I can't help but feel that they lack the "sense of place" that comes with small city college towns. Studying abroad is about expanding your horizons and trying new things, and for me, Bristol has been a completely different type of city than any other I have lived in. Going to a new country is great, but changing it up even more is better.

Until next time -

Xx, Anisha