Mai Pen Rai in the Land of Smiles


Ava Fergerson is a CISabroad student studying in Thailand this semester. She comes from Western Kentucky University where she is majoring in Clinical Psychology and Women’s Studies. Follow her as she talks about her Thai journey thus far.

Sawatdii kha readers!

Choosing to study in Thailand was a bit of a whim, originally. One day in the spring semester, I browsed through my study abroad options at my home university and laughed to myself at the thought of living in such an unfamiliar environment for so long. Shortly thereafter, it occurred to me that that was exactly the challenge I needed! Fast forward to September: it’s game on.


Knowing nothing of the place I was to live for the next three months, I had little expectation for the lifestyle and values of Thailand. As they say, blessed is she who expects nothing, for she will never be disappointed; and disappointed, I was not! To say that I have not experienced culture shock would not be entirely truthful, although the simple lifestyle here is not a difficult adjustment.

The standard of living in Bangkok is somewhat different from my home in Kentucky, as it is a much larger city with little greenery, the tap water here is not drinkable, etc., but none of this proved to be too difficult an adjustment. The true challenge has been altering my philosophy of life. While I am no expert on the Thai way of life, what I have observed here has been vastly different from my Western mindset. These differences can be noted in the subtle things, which reflect profound philosophies. For example, it is nearly impossible to find a decent weekly planner that covers a full calendar year, an essential to many US college students. 14264146_10207642674412675_2154455248390484897_nAlthough this may seem trivial, it is reflective of a core value: life is unpredictable, and we cannot plan for it. This shows a stark difference in uncertainty avoidance between the US and Thailand. I have found this philosophy to be a comforting one! To worry about we cannot control is useless, but to welcome change as it comes allows for much greater inner peace. Whose 5-year-plan actually works out anyway?

There is a saying here that I am learning to love: “mai pen rai”. In literal translation, it means “it’s no problem”, but it is often referred to as a way of life. Again, the implicit value in this statement is one of acceptance. This means acceptance of other people, acceptance of things we can’t change, acceptance of serious things, acceptance of silly things. I myself can get high-strung over things that don’t matter in the big picture, so “mai pen rai” has been a comfort and a challenge. Thailand is called The Land of Smiles for good reason! When we learn to stop complicating our lives, it is much easier to enjoy life. For those with an extra 15 minutes and an open mind, I highly recommend watching this Ted Talk.14359147_10207715918963743_7082449504678574888_n

Farewell Barcelona


Kimberly Rabeiro is a CISabroad Alumni Ambassador who interned in Barcelona, Spain for nine weeks. Kimberly is a student at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. Follow her as she says goodbye to one of her favorite places in the world…for now.

13327348_10209637085743557_7778266734057140942_n-1Interning abroad for nine weeks was probably one of the best decisions of my life thus far. Spending time away in an entirely new culture, a language barrier, and different people really gave me the time to reflect on myself. I had the time to see what I truly want in the future and how to be happy with the simplest of things. I have met so many incredible people, each with a different background, a different story — people that I can relate to on all different levels. Some people made me see life in a better way, and others were fun to hangout with and create new memories. I made relationships that I know I will continue to have for the future. I also think I grew as an individual. I always prided myself on getting good grades, but I learned so much more the classroom couldn’t teach me. I learned to step back and just observe. For the first week I simply watched other locals and figured out for myself how to use the metro, how to dress for work, how to greet others, and so many simply basic things that people of different cultures easily overlook. I was welcomed into a home stay with open arms. They have become my second family, and I could not have asked for a more sincere, caring and loving family to accept me as one of their own. My job welcomed me with open arms, never hesitating to help me with the simple tasks of working the coffee maker or helping me better understand a task due to the language barrier. The entire nine weeks I was completely surrounded by people who genuinely cared about how I was feeling, how I have been spending my weekends, and who just wanted to know all about me. I also learned so much about others and how many people had family in other countries from all over the world with entirely different backgrounds.


It was so fun to spend my internship abroad instead of working at a local company for the summer. I learned so much more than I initially thought I would. If I could do it all over again, I would spend even more time in Barcelona. Nine weeks went by way too fast, and I loved meeting all the new faces that quickly became acquaintances and even friends.

Fulling emerging myself into something so new was definitely a struggle for me at first. But from being abroad I believe I genuinely have become a better person. Take into consideration the smaller things in life, and how building relationships with genuine people can honestly change your life for the better…I know it did mine.

Here I’ll leave a list of advice for anyone wanting/hesitating to study or intern abroad:


This to me is so important. At first I really wanted someone to go with me — anyone, whether it be a friend or another student. The best thing I ever did was go by myself. This pushes you to meet so many people you would not normally meet and try so many new things. Imagine studying abroad with your best friend…you will quickly find yourself doing everything together and fail to do the most important thing of all…build new relationships with other people.

  1. Learn about the local culture

I personally am not the type of person to look up local museums and tour them all day. I am more of a tropical girl…I’d rather ride on a boat or do some fun sports. BUT I must say learning everything about Spain, especially Barcelona, was actually really cool. Even learning the politics there was so interesting to me, and I hate politics. My favorite part was just sitting down with my host mom after dinner and just talking. She taught me so much about the history, politics, religion…everything you need to know. (It was all in Spanish so my understanding is probably at an 80%, but I understood the general idea). It was fun to compare the cultures and just get a better understanding of a place SO different from where you have grown up your entire life.


I am the type of person to go to all different restaurants and order the same exact thing…whether it be steak of chicken parmesan. Being in another country really taught me to always try new things. Every single day I was trying new foods, drinks and desserts. I was so surprised to realize I basically LOVED EVERYTHING. Every dish was cooked with such fresh ingredients and was delicious….a much bigger difference than everything processed in the USA. You can pay 1-2 euros…which is basically $2 and get a small tapas dish of delicious healthy food. My body sure did enjoy these two months of happy eating (I am surely not complaining).

  1. Always be friendly

You never know whom you are going to meet, whom you are going to click with, and who are going to become your close friends. Being abroad really showed me to not be judgmental or picky with people you want to hangout with. Being open and friendly from the beginning really made me truly enjoy everyone’s company, no matter who they were.


My initial reasoning for having a blog was for two reasons: to post an excess amounts of pictures and not get judged for blowing up Instagram, and having one place where everyone can see what I am doing so I don’t have to tell everyone over and over again throughout my trip. But I have to say I am so happy I kept a blog. The feedback I received from everyone on my blog was honestly inspiring. I never realized how much I enjoyed writing and how funny of a writer I can be (okay, well I at least think I am funny, so that does count). I am also happy to share my blogs with others who may have questions or want advice when studying abroad. I can’t wait to look back a year from now and look at memories from being abroad.


Well anyway, this was so much fun to do and I hope you guys enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

I am going to keep the blog up and post more blog posts as I continue to travel.

The travel bug has definitely bit me, and I can wait to start planning my next trip overseas!

Not All Who Wander Are Lost


May Hamid is a CISabroad alumna who interned in Barcelona, Spain. May studied at Virginia Commonwealth University. Join her journey through life as she learns to further appreciate the world and strives to reach her goals.

There is magic in the world. Mermaids exist, somewhere beyond where our eyes have seen. Everywhere flowers bloom as the sun rays touch their petals. The leaves drink droplets of rain when clouds grace us with gloom. Every sight of life is a song of visions, every sound of it an ocean. It’s almost effortless to marvel in.

Yet at times we forget to notice its beauty, and it is such a shame that we allow ourselves to close our eyes to all the perfect details that gather to form such an imperfect place. We consign to oblivion, and find ourselves missing all the things that are not in our vicinities. It’s true, the grass is greener on the other side, but truth be told that is not just the case, because as colossal as home is to define, most of the time it is defined depending on where the heart is, and so we miss where we love the most.

But the thing about the world is that in every place there is something most beautiful, and in every case a best scenario, in order to articulate that rationale we start by allowing ourselves to keep an open-mind about the world and see everything the world has to offer. Because the world is a gift, and it is our duty to live it as fully and as possibly as we can.may-hamid-1

I have never noticed how crucially necessary it is to understand the power that lies not only in the world but also inside of us; to know that it is in our hands to decide on whether or not we want to choose to write our own fates. See, we are told more than a hundred times through our short years that in life there are always those that do, and those that don’t do, and it’s a fact that we all like to think that we are the “doers” and that we are better than others.

Yet when the moment arrives, and you truly realize you are better than others — that you are doing something, going somewhere, writing your own fate — it feels as though it’s an epiphany or a dream that has come to you as you lay awake. It’s like you’re watching your own life happen right in front of your eyes, knowing all the events that are happening and what they will lead to, slowly but so quickly.

Being alone has allowed me to dive into my inner strength, and I cannot describe how fulfilling and powerful it feels to have a glimpse of this sort of power. But as powering as it feels, it is also terrifying, because the knowledge of it means that I understand and completely acknowledge the fact that I am also my own greatest enemy and that the most difficult challenge I face is continuously overcoming that fear.

The journey is not the destination. Because life is a journey, and our goals are our destinations, to get there, there is a road. All I know is I just got on the road, and I’m not planning on stopping until I get to my destination.

The Start of an Irish Senior Year


Jenna Holeman is a CISabroad student studying in Ireland this semester, originally hailing from Ohio University. Read on as she talks about spending her senior year abroad and feeling like a freshman once again.

This week marked the start of my senior year! I actually felt more like a freshman with the Dublin City University map in my hand trying to locate the right buildings. Ahh, nostalgia. The first few days back are always a bit of a struggle. I’ve learned a lot this week, though. So here are a few tidbits from my experience:


Your courses will change, but don’t stress.

Being a senior, there are only so many classes I’m allowed to take, so when I saw my schedule a feeling of panic swept over me. Nearly half the classes my advisor approved weren’t offered or were full, so I was put into random filler classes. My biggest concern was not getting the transfer credits to match the classes I need at my home school. They offered timetable sessions to fix schedules and answer questions.   The whole process felt a little unorganized and frustrating, but I made it through and got into the courses I needed. With the wide variety of courses offered, you’re bound to find classes that will work for you. Just be patient, and it will work itself out.

The grading system is very different.

Students who are only studying for one semester are required to take courses that are 100 percent continuous assessment. This means no final exam. Great news, right? Well…I am not convinced. Most of my classes rely heavily on 2 major grades: a final presentation and a final paper.  That’s a lot of pressure to be graded on only two things the entire semester. We’ll see how this goes. I’ll report back.



At my home university, I wouldn’t blink an eye if I saw someone in sweats and a T-shirt with no makeup on. However, at DCU, the students dress very nice. Whether it be to class or the clubs, they don’t slack on their outfits. I had a false perception of what I thought Irish people wore based on the European movies I had seen, and I would say their going out attire is typically very club-y. Dresses and skirts seem to be in high demand right now. Thank God for Penneys – an amazing department store with great clothing options.


DCU is very much a suitcase campus, meaning students usually go home for the weekends.  Typically, universities in the U.S. will have many of their social events on the weekends. In Ireland, students tend to go out to parties and clubs during the weekdays rather the weekends, which I thought was interesting and difficult for waking up for that 9 a.m. class. The weekends are a perfect time to travel to other countries or explore Ireland because you know you won’t be missing any campus parties. There are plenty of excursions planned through CISabroad to keep you busy!


Until next time!


First Impressions


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.


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.

FLYME1000 (1)

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.