First Impressions

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May Hamid is a CISabroad alumna who interned in Barcelona, Spain. May studied at Virginia Commonwealth University. Read on as she reflects on the beautiful city she promised herself she would return to — and then she did.


We are curious creatures, born to watch, observe and analyze. We’re determined to find answers to questions we’re not sure we understand and make up stories about the ones we feel that we do.

I stand still in the midst of a chaotic street, miles away from any home I ever had, and observe. My eyes glance the immensity of the world, and I sense the vastness of the intensity of a busy city. I sigh, in awe of the beauty that mesmerizes me and of the artistic values this street contains. I wander more and see colors everywhere, through fashionable styles and determined glances. As I look in the eyes of the people crossing by, I realize what allures me is neither the antiquity nor the delicacy of La Rambla; it’s how gracefully its people swaddle around to their directions. I become scrutinized by the glamour of the lights and the colors, and I get drunk on their bloom.

But more than that I become envious and determined to become a part of these people, to have a direction that I would rush towards everyday, their confidence, knowledge and grace. I become enamored with the lifestyle, and resolve that the day will come when I become a version of myself that I would be envious of as well.

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5 years later…

My name is May, like the month. It’s September 15, 2016. I’ve been here for around three days. I sit in an office I do not own in the middle of the city I fell in love with years ago, and my mind wanders back to the day I decided I would come back. I look out my window at the breath-taking view, and I breathe in the smell of the city. It feels the exact same way. I’m still in awe of its beauty.

No Money? No Problem! Fly Abroad with #FlyMe1000

If you’re like me, you have probably dreamed about traveling since you were a little kid. The thought of hopping on a plane to a place to a foreign country has always excited you, and you eagerly awaited the day when you could finally live out your dream. A new culture, new people, new music, new food, a new way of life – you wanted to experience it all. So why not just go?

Well, for most Americans, there’s one huge looming obstacle: finances.

Out of the 301.3 million United States citizens, only a little over half of them have active passports according to a 2015 report by the U.S. Department of State. Additionally, only 64% of citizens have never left the country. Ever. Why? Many reasons, but like I said before, coming up with the money for an international excursion can be extremely pricey.

However, hope is not lost. Let’s break this down: when I studied abroad in Ireland this past summer, housing, food, textbooks, weekend excursions, entertainment, etc. were very easy to budget for, and in turn, those things were actually pretty affordable. Essentially, once I made it to the country, my wallet did not hate me one bit. But what was making my wallet cough up nothing but moths and lint? The plane ticket. 

My airfare from San Francisco to Dublin cost me about $900 round-trip, WAY more than the cost of pretty much anything else while I was abroad. Reflecting back on my trip, if the cost of the plane ticket was taken off the table, this would have been such an affordable trip. And that’s why I wish there was an opportunity like CISabroad’s #FLYME1000 when I traveled.

In case you haven’t been hooked in by our social media advertisements already, #FLYME1000 is a chance for anyone who has applied or is thinking about applying for a CISabroad program to win a voucher that’s worth $1000 that can be used on your flight overseas to your program. $1000 would have covered my round-trip airfare, plus a little more. I would have been so thankful for the opportunity to even have a chance at winning this much money to help pay off the most expensive part of my trip.

Practically anyone is eligible – students, interns and anyone who is even thinking about traveling with CISabroad. It’s free to enter, so what have you got to lose? Fill out this short form for your chance to win.

As proof that we’re not lying, here’s our latest Facebook live stream where we announced our first winners!

CISabroad will be announcing the next winners via Facebook live stream on the following dates and times:

  • September 13th at 3:00 p.m. ET
  • September 19th at 2:30 p.m. ET
  • September 27th at 3:00 p.m. ET
  • October 3rd at 3:00 p.m. ET

If I were you, I wouldn’t even think about passing up this potential opportunity to make your dream of travel more attainable. Enter now. You won’t regret it.

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Alana Ridge is the Social Media Intern for CISabroad. She is a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno studying Journalism.

Traveling Alone While Abroad

 

Eden Beane Blog PhotoThis summer Eden is studying in Limerick, Ireland with CISabroad, and doing an internship in Dublin, Ireland. Eden studies at Mount Ida College in Newton, Massachusetts. Here are some reasons why you should never let being alone stop you from exploring your new home.


I have always naturally enjoyed doing things on my own and I have a very independent intuition, so the thought of traveling on my own while in Ireland did not scare me at all. Once I met others here they seemed very opposed to the idea of taking a weekend by themselves to explore other parts of the country. Most of them even decided not to go somewhere simply because no one could go with them. This shocked me because I personally would never give up an opportunity because no one would be accompanying me and I think that no one else should either. For anyone who feels like they are missing out on something wonderful because they are too afraid to do it alone, please, take that leap!

Of course safety is a concern and is something to always keep in mind when traveling alone. Do some research and make sure you are in a safe part of wherever you are going alone. Tell people where you are and when you will be back. Be sure to keep in contact with your family and your study abroad program while you are traveling. Although, being afraid is still not something to halt you from gaining once in a lifetime experiences.

Traveling somewhere alone may sound boring or pointless to some people, but I can tell you first hand that it is a very relaxing and enriching experience. Traveling alone gives you the chance to do the things you are interested in instead of tip toeing around others’ interests. It is peaceful and gives you the chance to soak in beautiful places without worrying about others having a good time. Of course traveling with others can be fun but taking time once in a while to make memories on your own is something to never pass up.

Traveling with Dietary Restrictions

Eden Beane Blog Photo

This summer Eden is studying in Limerick, Ireland with CISabroad, and doing an internship in Dublin, Ireland. Eden studies at Mount Ida College in Newton, Massachusetts. Here are some tips on how to make traveling with dietary restrictions as smooth as butter!


Traveling to a foreign country and being surrounded by many new types of food is overwhelming, and when you have dietary restrictions as well it can become challenging. I am Vegan and I survived in Ireland (A meat and dairy heavy country) for almost a whole summer with little to no struggle at all. This post is for anyone with any type of dietary restriction from lactose intolerance to vegans and vegetarians alike. It is possible and easy to stay happy and healthy when it comes to your restrictions with food while traveling. Here are ways to make eating out easier while abroad.

Research. Research restaurants in the area you will be staying in that accommodate your restrictions before even leaving home. This will make you feel more at ease before travelling and make eating out a breeze once you get there. I have very many restrictions when it comes to eating out so I have learned that it is always best to research beforehand. It only takes a few minutes rather than popping in and out of different restaurants trying to find something on the menu.

Call Ahead. Even when I am in the U.S. I call ahead but while in a foreign country it is even more helpful. If you research a place and you do not find anything that accommodates your needs, call and tell the chef you would like to come in for a meal but have certain restrictions. I find that almost always chefs are excited for a challenge and love making new dishes. Whenever I call and let a chef know I would like a vegan meal even though there is not one on the menu, they always create something delicious for me.

Ask. Although you may not find a meal for yourself on the menu, you can always ask the wait staff if the chef can make a specific meal that fits your needs. You may even simply be able to remove or add some items to a certain meal and make it perfect for you. I was lucky enough to have traveled to an English speaking country, but if you are somewhere English is not the first language learn how to say the things you cannot eat in the native language. It is as simple as printing those phrases out, or writing them down, or even downloading an app that explains your needs in many different languages. Before I left home for Europe this summer I downloaded the app “VCards” which explains what vegans do not eat in over one-hundred language. If I travel to Italy or Spain or wherever, I can just open the app at a restaurant and be all set. I am sure there are apps for other dietary restrictions as well.

Join an Online Group. Before I left for Ireland I joined a Facebook group for vegans in Ireland. People in the group post information about different vegan restaurants in their area of the country and restaurants that have vegan options on the menu. I have been able to ask questions and recommendations on these pages and it has been extremely helpful during my summer here. All I did was research “vegan in Ireland” and many pages came up. It is really that simple when you are traveling.

Lastly, no matter what your restrictions are do not ever feel like you are missing out on experiencing a culture because you have a food restriction. Before I left, many people asked me if I was going to “stay vegan” while I was in Ireland, and of course I was not going to put my beliefs on pause because I would be in a new culture. You may feel like you’re missing out on the full experience abroad because of your restrictions, but if you follow these tips you will find incredible food options that will make you feel a lot less left out knowing that there are many others in that country that lead the same lifestyle as you do.

Thank You Note to my Ecuador Site Director

Calla Michalak Blog Photo

This summer Calla is doing an internship in Ecuador with CISabroad. She studies Psychology/Pre-Nursing at Michigan State University. You can read more about Calla’s adventures in Ecuador here.


I’ve been living in Riobamba, Ecuador for six weeks now and, for three and a half of those weeks, I have technically been living alone.  While this was a fun experience at first, I quickly realized how grateful I am for my roommates back at school.  It can get a bit lonely when there are no other people around at the end of the day to chat with.  I am fortunate, however, to live two doors down from my incredible site director, Omar, and his family.

I eat breakfast and dinner at Omar’s house every day and I am so thankful to him, Suzy, and their two-year-old son, Aaron for never making me feel as though I am imposing.  Having such a great family looking out for me while I’ve been in a foreign country has made me feel so lucky.  It has also been really beneficial for me in terms of learning more Spanish because we watch the news together every night and I am able to pick up words by watching and discussing various topics that come up.

It has also been really nice having a small child around to practice some Spanish with.  Although it’s a bit embarrassing to admit, I’ve actually learned a decent amount from watching children’s shows with Aaron during breakfast every morning.  The characters in cartoons for young children tend to speak slower and point at what they’re talking about which is really really helpful to me as a person who has not taken a formal Spanish class since high school.  I’ve also learned some words as Aaron has learned them because one of his favorite games is to point at something and wait for someone to tell him the name of the object in question.

In addition to having a wonderful family, Omar also makes some of the best eggs I’ve ever had.  Every morning, I eat some form of eggs and every morning they’re better than the next.  I need to ask what sort of seasoning he puts in his scrambles before I leave, so that I can take it home and improve my own breakfast skills.

As much as I have enjoyed my internship this summer, I can honestly say that Omar and his family have made this experience for me.  Had I gone to work every day and then come home to an empty house with no one to talk to, I think I would have gotten very lonely very quickly.  Luckily, although I did come home to an empty house, I also had plenty of time at the beginning and end of every day to chat with Omar, Suzy, and Aaron.  If I ever return to Ecuador, one of my first stops will definitely be Riobamba to visit the Mosqueras.

3 Tips for Taking a Summer Course in a Foreign Country

Eden Beane Blog Photo

This summer Eden is studying in Limerick, Ireland with CISabroad, and doing an internship in Dublin, Ireland. Eden studies at Mount Ida College in Newton, Massachusetts. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your international summer course!


  1. Be Present

Of course show up to class and be on time but not only that, be present in the discussion and context of the classroom. Do not dismiss the material because the context of the information is about a country you are not a citizen of. I did not realize this until I was actually in the classroom and I found myself learning how interconnected one country is to another. We often do not consider that another country is experiencing many of the same problems and successes our home country is. So, be present and make those connections.

  1. Ask Questions.

In my case I was lucky because I took a class in an English speaking country, so I could understand the majority of what my professors were saying. Although with language aside, there are still barriers with certain accents, slang, and cultural references that you may not understand, so do not be afraid to speak up. Ask what something means or tell your professor that you do not understand his/her accent. It is easy to fall into being shy or afraid when you’re in a new environment which causes many people to not speak up, and in the end they cheat themselves out of a rewarding learning experience. It is important to ask questions within any context and even more so when you’re in a new country.

     3.  Research

Summer classes go by very fast and it can be difficult to absorb so much information in a limited amount of time. I felt as though I learned many new things about a foreign country that I never knew before, but I also felt to fully understand the information I skimmed the surface of, I needed to do more research. Summer classes are, in a way, an introduction to a foreign country’s politics, laws, ideas, struggles, and achievements that are only being thrown your way for a few short weeks. Doing additional research after a summer class abroad gives much more insight and depth to what you’ve already learned and will make you feel more connected to that country even after you’ve left.

Summer Abroad in Florence Top 5…So Far

Joli Katz

Jolie is a Junior Exercise Science major at the University of Delaware. This summer she is spending six weeks studying in Florence, Italy with CISabroad. Join her as she discovers this beautiful city.


I’ve only lived in Italy for a month, but I definitely have had more than a months worth of food and activities. I was thinking of dedicating this blog post to the best things I have done, or have had in Italy.

1) The best weekend trip.

Every weekend either together, or with classmates, my roommates and I go on day trips and weekend trips. It is a good way to explore the rest of Italy and other countries while abroad. I would say the best trip we took was to Cinque Terre. The views were amazing (as long as you go on a sunny day). Every picture I took looked like it came off of a postcard, and there are beaches there too. There are 5 different towns to hit so it is a lot to do, but it is definitely worth it. You can even hike from town to town. If you are crazy adventurous and in shape, you can hike them all. My roommates and I only hiked from one town to the next, and let me tell you, that probably made up for the three weeks I didn’t work out. However, the aerial view you had on the hike couldn’t be beat. If you are lazy and just want to see the beautiful towns but not die over them, they are all easily accessible by train.

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2) Best pizza.

Gusta pizza is the best pizza I have encountered. I personally went simple, a heart shaped pizza with tomato and mozzarella. But, Guy Fieri from the food network went here himself and had a salami and cheese calzone as well as pizza. This place is small, cute, but most importantly, delicious.

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3) The best Gelato.

The best gelato is hard to find. Florence has gelato places on every single corner you turn. Make sure that you go to authentic and real places, though. If they are charging you 6 euros for what seems to be a normal size, it’s a tourist trap. If their gelato is stacked up extremely high, it’s probably a tourist trap. The best gelato I have had so far comes from GelateriaEdoardo right by the Duomo. They hand make their waffle cones right in the store. The second you walk into the little shop you can smell them. And, even for someone like me who is usually a cup girl, I couldn’t resist getting the refreshing gelato in the waffle cone.

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4) Best view.

Now the best view in Florence would probably be a tie between the top of the Duomo, and the top of Piazzale Michelangelo. But, if I were forced to choose, I would go with the top of the Duomo. I chose this as the best view in Florence because it is rewarding. After climbing up all of those steps in a pretty tight space, you get the relief of the open air and the view of the whole entire city. Instead of waiting on line for hours to climb it, I definitely recommend getting a skip the line pass. This may cost a little extra but it definitely saves you time.

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5) Last but not least, the best place to buy food.

The central market (mercatocentrale) is filled with Florentine culture. You can buy anything from meats all the way to fruits and vegetables. It is a good way to grab healthy foods and snacks, and experience a little haggling as well. And, right outside the central market is a lot of leather stands for you to stroll by and shop at as well. Never pay the marked price. If you do, you’re getting ripped off. If you walk away or say that you won’t budge, most likely they will give you the price you want or something in between.

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Reflections on Traveling Alone in Florence, Italy

Joli Katz

Jolie is a Junior Exercise Science major at the University of Delaware. This summer she is spending six weeks studying in Florence, Italy with CISabroad. Join her as she discovers this beautiful city.


I have always been an outgoing person. Sitting in a room talking to strangers, friends, and especially family has come easily to me. However, while on my search for a study abroad program that was right for me, I couldn’t help but be overtaken with anxiety. I was traveling alone. I was going to a country I have never been to, not knowing anything more than 3 basic words in Italian, and not knowing anyone that was going. So, while the outgoing side of me was elated for the experience I had ahead of me, my introverted side couldn’t help but worry about how this experience would actually turn out.

The way I felt arriving in Florence was one I couldn’t really explain. I pulled up to my apartment in a taxi to see one of my roommates sitting on the steps. I smiled and waved, until I realized that I had no clue what my roommates looked like and I was just assuming she was in the same boat as me. Luckily, she was one of the four girls I would be living with. I guess its safe to say that my assumptions come from watching too many episodes of Real World (not even going to try to pretend like I don’t watch it). I mean, it does sound familiar: five strangers living together in a location they have never been before, each pulling up in a taxi arriving one by one. But, unlike the Real World, my roommates and I meshed well together, having no drama or fights at all. And because of this I realized that traveling alone was the best thing I could have done.

Traveling alone has pushed me out of my comfort zone. It forced me to open up and let people in, pay attention to my surroundings and learn directions, and gain social interactions that I didn’t know I needed. Walking around in Florence I’ve gotten lost a few times. I had to ask Italians to help me find my way. I did this by communicating with them almost non-verbally. This taught me how to interact with people who are different than me. Forcing myself to know the area because I could not rely on family or friends showed me that reading a map can actually be better than wasting what little data I have on Google maps. And, coming back to my apartment wanting to tell someone about my day forced me to open up to the new people I was living with. While having a friend or two on the trip would have made things easier for me, I’m realizing now it is a crutch that I don’t need. At the end of the day, there were plenty of people on my program traveling alone too, which created an even stronger bond between us.

I have always been the person who thought studying abroad was an essential opportunity to take advantage of in college. So, I can promise you that studying abroad alone will give you the same exact experience that you would’ve gotten studying with people you know. It is scary, uncomfortable, and even a little frustrating at times; but it is also beautiful, exciting, and new to be doing it all on your own. I would regret it every day if I didn’t go abroad because I didn’t want to travel alone. Because now I know that the anxiety goes away, the loneliness is minimal, and the possibilities are endless.

How Brexit will affect students studying abroad in the UK

NORTHAMPTON, MA June 28th, 2016

CISabroad, an international education organization, sends hundreds of U.S. university students to London and Edinburgh on summer, semester, internship and faculty-led academic programs every year. We’ve seen a lot of ups and downs in our almost two decades doing this work.  What effect will Brexit, the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, have on U.S. students studying and working abroad? Here’s our opinion:

  1. Nothing will change right away.  The change will take two years and then some. “Stay calm and carry on” as they say.
  2. Education system: The effect is unlikely to be in the academic system itself, and more likely to be in its price tag to UK and to EU students. However, for U.S. students, due to the relatively higher cost already charged to visiting students, the UK will remain the same or decrease. (ex: a year at the University of Roehampton, Britain’s #1 Modern University, is just about $30k per year for tuition and housing.)
  3. Finances:  Sterling down = dollar up. A better exchange rate will make London a more affordable travel and study abroad destination.  
  4. Health & Safety: likely to remain the same, as the systems and infrastructure to ensure student safety are bigger and wider than this decision.
  5. Culture: Our on-site director in London, Regina Tingle, mentioned that talking politics in Britain isn’t taboo, and this subject is a great way for U.S students to get tight-lipped Brits talking passionately. Our students in London are sure to ask them about Brexit and they are sure to give their opinion. Put the kettle on, it’s time for a chat.

“In times of change, we can tend to hunker down and stick with what is familiar,” says Kris Holloway, President of CISabroad. “But a recent study shows it’s safer to study abroad than to stay on-campus. Perception is everything. We don’t know what this change means for the future. We do know that travel has never been safer, and that it’s an exciting time to witness history in the making and connect with local people on issues that affect us all; how cool is that?”

CISabroad is known for its welcoming company culture here in the U.S. as well as its affordability and innovative cultural programming in other countries. CISabroad is a member of NAFSA, the National Association of International Educators and one of the original members of The Forum on Education Abroad. The company has employees in 22 countries, and is based at 17 New South Street in Northampton, MA. To find out more about CISabroad check out our website at: www.cisabroad.com.

For all press inquiries please contact Karen Carswell, kcarswell@cisabroad.com, 413.923.8420

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CISabroad Adds Partnership with University of Melbourne

CISabroad is proud to announce a new partnership with the University of Melbourne! The University was ranked number one in Australia and number 33 in the world by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014–2015. The vast majority of it classes are available to study abroad students, with a wide selection of majors to choose from. Not only is the university highly ranked, but its host city is consistently ranked as the “World’s Most Livable City” as well. You’ll enjoy learning from world renowned professors, exploring this vibrant city, and lounging on surrounding beaches.

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