10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Study Abroad Experience

Sarah Fuller is a student at Elizabethtown College, who will soon be pursuing a master’s in International Educational Development at Columbia University. Sarah spent two separate semesters in Perugia, Italy, as part of CISabroad’s semester and study internship programs. Read about her tips for your upcoming study or intern abroad travels (and check out some AMAZING photos from Italy!).  


1. PACKING: Don’t forget those important items.

I always make a packing list (and save it for my many trips) based on my daily activities. It’s really easy to overlook an item that you use each morning when you pack in the afternoon or evening. A few days before I begin packing, I keep a notepad and pen handy and write down anything that comes to mind or that I use during the day that I will need during my trip.

2. PASSPORT & VISA: Start early. Trust me.

Don’t procrastinate! I know I’m not the only one recommending this, but it’s really important to make a visa appointment well in advance. Anything can happen, from not being able to get an appointment to your visa getting lost in the mail. Starting this process a few months in advance will help ensure that things will go smoothly.

 3. FAMILIARITY: Do your research!

Know the culture as best as you can before you travel to a certain place. Their style of dress or eating may be different. Certain ways of behaving, talking, and interacting may be accepted while others are not, and they may be very different than what you are used to. Take some time to “brush up” on the culture before you go so that you can spend time immersing yourself rather than feeling uncertain.

 4. UNCERTAINTY: Deal with it proactively.

However, no matter how much preparation you do, uncertainty is almost guaranteed. Reach out! Ask a study abroad advisor or your CISabroad site director if you have questions, because it’s much better to have your questions answered than to spend months wondering why a certain norm exists or if something you’re doing is acceptable.



5. MAKING FRIENDS: It’s easier than you think, but different than you may think.

I spent a few weeks smiling at strangers in hopes of making friends the way that we in the U.S. normally initiate conversation and friendly contact. I was met with frowns and confused looks, because smiling to strangers the way that I was meant that I had something to hide or was untrustworthy, according to my host culture. It was really important to learn this and I was able to talk about these differences with other college students from the town at local gatherings. Speaking up about my confusion by asking local students actually helped me to form some friendships!

 6. WALKING: Dress for comfort, not style.

I walked so much more than I do when I am at home! I was glad, as I love walking, but if you’re not accustomed to or prepared for it, then you should get used to the idea before leaving. If you don’t own comfortable shoes and are going to a European country (I can’t personally speak for other countries than those in Europe), you should get a pair. Bonus points if they’re waterproof!

 7. TOURIST SEASON: Living La Vida Local

Yes, it’s okay to be a tourist. As you spend more time in your city, you will become more acclimated, but at first you WILL be a tourist. There are certainly things you can do to reduce this effect if you want (like not wearing American flag-logoed clothing, for example, or not wearing sweatpants to class), but embrace the fact that sometimes the freshest look on a place can be the most exciting. Take all the pictures you want, because those and the memories you make will remain when you go home! But do your best to also get to know the local culture — besides just the main streets and American hangouts.

 8. PHONE HOME: Keep in touch how you can, as often as you can.

Your family will most likely miss you terribly and may have played an important role in your being able to study abroad. Stay in touch with them and update them on your adventures, but be sure to find a schedule that works for both them and you! If you talk about this before leaving for your program, it may help to reduce pressure on you later. But remember to be flexible. You may plan to talk every Sunday, but then discover that there is a local concert or theater performance you’d like to attend. Sending pictures or writing blog posts could end up being your favorite means of staying in touch, and then Aunt Pat and Uncle Tom, the cousins, your siblings, and your mom’s friend all can read about your adventures!

9. BRANCH OUT: Make time for your own experience.

If you’re studying in a town with a friend from home, consider yourself lucky to have a familiar face to help you adjust, but don’t become too attached to that one person. Meeting new people, even fellow Americans, can add to the new experience of being in a foreign culture. You may make lifelong friends who will share your similar experiences abroad. Having a friend from home is great, but don’t be afraid to branch out and get to know an entirely new side of yourself!

 10.KEEP A RECORD: You’ll appreciate it later.

Document your experience somehow: blog posts, pictures, videos, a diary… Years from now, you’ll want to recall your time abroad, and no matter how vivid the memories are now, they will fade and details will blur as you tell the stories again and again. Documenting your experiences also allows you to recall them when you apply to graduate school or future jobs.


Curious about what CISabroad’s programs (like the ones Sarah experienced) are like? Check out our Study Internship in Perugia and our Semester in Perugia programs.

How Not to Starve in Spain (And Other Food Abroad Stories)

Keely Meyers is a student at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor and is an intern in Barcelona this spring. Read about her adventures with food in Spain and how it has unexpectedly impacted her intern abroad experience!


One of the things I was most excited about while traveling abroad was the food. I couldn’t wait to try new things, cook traditional meals, and learn more about the Spanish culture through something I already loved. Food has played an integral part in my experience abroad. All of my experiences surrounding food – the good, the bad, and the ugly – have taught me more about myself and my host culture. 

Chocolate con churros from Cafe de l’Opera
Chocolate con churros from Cafe de l’Opera

Cooking and Eating in Spain

Learning to cook Catalan food has been one of the best parts of enjoying food in Spain. I took a Catalan cooking class as part of the cultural activities through CISabroad and learned how to make traditional foods such as calçots and romesco sauce, artichokes, pan con tomate, paella, crema catalana, and tortilla española. I also got to keep the recipes to take home and impress my family and friends with my new skills and broadened palate.

The culture around food here is much different than it is at home. For example, meal times in Spain are not what I am used to. Here, locals eat a large lunch around two o’clock in the afternoon and take their time, similar to how many Americans eat dinner. The dinners here, on the other hand, are very small and eaten late at night – usually around 10 or 11 o’clock! It took a while to get used to the different eating schedule, but embracing the different mealtimes has made me feel more immersed in the local culture.

Also different from the U.S. is the amount of time devoted to cooking and enjoying food. Spaniards take a lot of pride in preparing their food from the freshest ingredients and enjoying the eating experience with family and friends. There are various mercats around the city – markets where you can find the freshest fruits, vegetables, meats, and seafoods – where locals buy ingredients to cook with. Cooking and eating meals are also much longer processes than they are back home, often lasting multiple hours.

Fresh fruits from Mercat de La Boqueria in Barcelona

Fresh fruits from Mercat de La Boqueria in Barcelona

Trying New Foods

Trying new foods is something that I definitely wanted to do while abroad. One of my rules while traveling has been to never say no to something I was offered – no matter how weird or scary it seemed. Because of my self-enforced rule, I have enjoyed culinary “delights” such as blood sausage, cow intestine, octopus, squid, and anchovies. Even if I hated them, I knew it was important to try new things and embrace local flavors. I have also gone out to new restaurants or been invited over to eat meals with new friends and tried foods I never would have back home, including pho from a traditional restaurant in Paris, authentic Chinese food from a local restaurant in Barcelona, and home-cooked Argentinian asado. I have found some surprising new favorite foods and learned that things I was too scared to eat weren’t actually so bad! (Except anchovies, those were about as bad as they sound.)

Some of my favorite local foods that I have tried have been the tapas. I have tried ham croquetas, pan con tomate, patatas bravas, and many more. I have also enjoyed cava, the Spanish version of champagne, and went on a cava tour with my site director to learn about the history and production process of this regional drink.

Another local eating experience I had here was taking part in a calçotada – a large feast centered around sweet onions called calçots. The process of eating calçots is both messy and fun, and is an important local tradition that I absolutely loved experiencing.

Tapas feast from my welcome lunch with CISabroad
Tapas feast from my welcome lunch with CISabroad

Grocery Shopping

Trying new foods has also come naturally because of the different selection in supermarkets in Barcelona. Brands and even types of food from home are not found here, which has forced me to push myself outside of my comfort zone, craft new recipes, and pick up local habits. When one of those habits includes picking up a fresh-baked baguette daily, I’m not one to complain!

Grocery shopping in Spain was definitely an experience the first time I went. For one thing, the grocery stores are all closed on Sundays and often close much earlier than American supermarkets on weeknights. As a result, my first Sunday in Barcelona also happened to be a very hungry day for me! When I did find an open grocery store the next day, it took a little getting used to. I vividly remember shopping with my roommate, who was searching for milk. Eventually, she had to ask a woman in the store where it was. The woman gave her a confused look and proceeded to point right next to the shelf where the two were standing, not understanding how we didn’t know to look for the milk on the shelf and not in the refrigerated section. Embarrassed, we thanked her and proceeded to the checkout. However, another thing we did not know about grocery shopping in Spain was that grocery bags were not free. We tried to save some money by carrying our groceries home in our arms, struggling and laughing the whole way home. We did not know at the time, but the bags were only 10 cents – definitely worth getting to avoid dropping your eggs on the city streets.

Food has been a huge part of my experience here in Barcelona and has been a way for me to challenge myself to try new things, learn about local customs and cuisine, and immerse myself in the daily life of a local. I have learned to be open to new things, try my hand at cooking once in a while (I’m not quite as terrible as I thought), and use food as a way to connect with people and cultures from around the world.


Want to learn more about how you can have an amazing experience in Spain? It’s easy with CISabroad! 

Top 10 Things I’ve Learned from Living in London for a Week

Hi everyone, I’m Lexa!  I’m studying in London this semester and can’t wait to share my journey with you!

Yes, I decided to make a list of the things I’ve learned since coming to London. Granted, it’s only been a week since I touched down in Heathrow Airport, but a person can learn a lot about a city in a week. In fact, I’m quite surprised at how quickly I learn just by wandering around the city, whether with friends or on my own. From estimating costs to keeping eggs out of the refrigerator (!!! yes, the eggs stay out!), here are ten things I’ve learned:

  1. Oyster cards need to be topped up more than you expect. An Oyster card is a commonly used method of payment in using London’s Tube system. It’s the same size as a credit card, usually blue and navy blue in color. Though I did take the Tube often enough this first week (London’s underground transit system-for those who do not know), 20 GBP go quickly. It costs roughly 2 pounds 40 pence one way, approximately $3.00. If I were to go to, say, Oxford Street and back, it could be roughly $6.50 just for the Tube ride alone. Therefore, Oyster cards need to be “topped up”, basically putting more money on the card. Depending on how often one plans to take the Tube, plan accordingly!
  2. Which leads me to point #2, you will need more money than you think. In my experience so far, it has been better to have a little more money in the event I need it. For example, in coming to London I needed to buy a curling iron and hairdryer–combined probably costing me around $35.00. It’s also important to factor in the price of food, laundry, clothes one may have forgotten at home, even toilet paper and hand soap! Just this week, I also bought forks, plates, bowls, and cups from an appliance store here in London. Granted, this will vary in however long one stays in London, but since I’ll be here for four and a half months, the start-up costs came as a bit of a shock to me.
  3. There is no “correct” way to walk on the sidewalk. Honestly, it’s been a bit of a maze, so far. People generally walk on whatever side of the sidewalk they want to; I’ve seen people in a hurry usually walk on the right side, while most people walk on the left but this is not a rule of thumb in London. People will zigzag around the slow-moving all the time, and it’s been a bit of an adjustment for me! I think the best part has been trying to pass people on the sidewalk, but in the process someone passes me and therefore having to pass me as well as the people in front of me. It’s been fun.
  4. They don’t believe in flat sheets. Many of my friends I’ve made here have brought sheets from home, and if there’s room in the suitcase to bring them, I would definitely do that. Upon arriving to London, I was given a duvet, a pillowcase, and a blanket. Personal preferences led me to buy a fuzzy throw blanket from Primark (the U.S. equivalent of Target) and I’ve been content, since. If sheets aren’t necessary for other people, then leave them at home because they do take up a bit of room in the suitcase.
  5. People here don’t refrigerate their eggs. In Tesco’s (a chain grocery store), I couldn’t believe the eggs were out on the shelf in a non-refrigerated environment! It probably has something to do with how the eggs are treated prior to sitting on the shelf in the supermarket, but this was probably something that shocked me the most while grocery shopping. If this comes as a shock, remember the eggs are perfectly safe to buy; it’s just a bit of a change.
  6. Download apps like Citymapper and Tube Map. They are both free on the Apple and Google Play stores. Both apps are great in navigating the city, just because it’s very likely that one will accidentally wander down the wrong street and be completely lost. Citymapper provides several routes for users depending on what mode of transportation they desire to use, as well as how much money it may cost if public transportation is involved. It also has a sort of Google Maps feature where it can tap in to a location and direct a user to where they need to go. Tube Map is just what it sounds like–a map of London’s Tube at the touch of your finger! Both have been quintessential for figuring out which line I need to take, or how to find my way when I get lost.
  7. Silverware is probably the most difficult thing to find upon initial shopping. Honestly, it took me until yesterday to find a store that sold cheap silverware (one week and two days). Usually, silverware can’t be found in department stores; I ended up Google searching “silverware near me” and it came up with a store I could walk to, but it was a good twenty minute walk there. This isn’t something most people think to pack when traveling abroad, so I would recommend packing it just because it’s not the easiest thing to find in this city.
  8. Plastic bags cost money. I realize there are some cities in the United States that charge money for plastic bags at major retail stores, but plastic bags cost money everywhere in London. From what I’ve seen, they cost around 40-50 pence, or $0.55. This may not seem like a lot, but it adds up after shopping at five stores in one day! It may be difficult, but it’s actually easier to combine items purchased so paying for plastic bags can be avoided. If it’s possible, please do so as you will be saving money big time!
  9. Get used to carrying everything. When I go out shopping, it’s generally a 15-20 minute walk to the stores I need to go to. After buying two things at this store, three things at that store, and one thing at the last store, there’s quite a bit of weight from all those bags, and it’s not always easy to take that twenty minute walk back to the residence hall. This also will probably apply to my book bag when I start class, this week.
  10. It’s okay if you’re lost, it’s pretty easy to find the way back. Part of the fun that comes with living in London is finding neat stores or shops that aren’t necessarily on the main roads, anyway. I found this nice coffee shop on my way to a meeting this past week, and I wouldn’t have found it if I hadn’t gotten lost on one of the surrounding side streets. If one is lost in the city, there is a very good chance a storeowner knows the general area and how to get onto the main road. Even if the storeowner doesn’t know, someone else will, and Londoners have been incredibly helpful for me in finding my way around. If any of the above methods fail, there are always signs around the area to guide people, and if one recognizes a street name or landmark, there’s a good chance they’ll find their way back.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back next week with comparisons between the British and American education systems. – Lexa Krug

How to Deal with Homesickness

imageedit_1_7163385983

Hannah Baughman is a CISabroad student studying in London this semester and hails from Emporia State University in Kansas. Read on as she gives you her top tips to avoid homesickness while abroad.


According to dictionary.com, the definition of homesickness is experiencing a longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it. When you study abroad, it is really easy to feel homesick, because you are away from your home and you really have no way of getting back to it. To deal with this, I have come up with a few tips that I believe will really help anyone deal with homesickness.

  1. Don’t wallow.

I am the queen of wallowing. I am the type of person who will stay in her room all day with the lights off and feel sorry for herself. However, this is not going to help you get over your homesickness. If all you do is sit in your room and think about how homesick you are then you are never going to get better. You need to get outside and get some fresh air! Hang out with your friends and enjoy your new culture, because that is why you are studying abroad in the first place! So stop wallowing and get out there!

  1. Find something in your new culture that reminds you of home.

This could be anything from food, a clothing store, or even a park that reminds you of home. For me, this is McDonald’s. I find it quite humorous, because I don’t really enjoy eating McDonald’s at home but I have eaten it so many times in London. Chicken nuggets really make me feel at home.

  1. Call/video chat/write your family. 

I try to keep in touch with my family every single day, and while I understand this might not help others with homesickness it really does help me. My family is currently 6 hours behind me. This means it can be difficult to keep in touch with them at certain time, but we make it work. I also try to talk to my best friends as much as I possibly can. However, this doesn’t mean that I am on my phone every single second of every single day. I am enjoying my experiences while also keeping my family up to date with what I am doing.

  1. Explore.

This goes along with number one, but you really need to get out there and explore. I have really enjoyed going places by myself and trying to understand my city with a new perspective. I have found so many nooks and crannies in London and this makes me feel like I am actually a part of the city itself. It also makes me feel like a local because I am not afraid about going places by myself.

  1. Talk about it.

Chances are your friends are feeling exactly what you are feeling, so talk to them about it. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and homesick, because everybody gets this way sometimes. Find an outlet for your feelings, whether this be talking with friends or writing about it. I can guarantee that there will always be someone there to listen to you and that will help you feel secure about what you are going through.

I hope these few tips can help somebody else, because they are really helping me. I hope you enjoyed this week’s blog post and I will see you next week!

Until next time -H

 

Reading Week Adventures

imageedit_3_6679398987

Jenna Holeman is a CISabroad student studying in Dublin, Ireland this semester, originally hailing from Ohio University. Follow her journey through a few different excursions she went on throughout the country.


Reading week officially marks the halfway point in my semester.  However, rather than mourn, I decided a perfectly timed trip to distract myself from thinking about it excessively. So what’s the agenda for this trip you may ask? London and Edinburgh. Trust me, it was absolutely amazing.

We landed in Edinburgh Nov.1 bright, early and determined to explore the city. Starting with breakfast, we ventured to the Elephant House – the birthplace of Harry Potter! This is the cafe J.K. Rowling would sit in and write the first Harry Potter novels. It was cozy and had a beautiful view of Edinburgh Castle.

reading-week-1     reading-week-2

I ordered the Elephant Breakfast and a cappuccino – 10/10 recommend.

The great thing about Edinburgh was that everything was central. We stayed in an AirBnb ,which was amazing and affordable, that was only a 15-minute walk from Royal Mile. Walking around Edinburgh I was constantly in awe of the beautiful architecture and serene landscapes.

reading-week-3   reading-week-4

I wish I could have extended my trip and explored various parts of Scotland. It’s not hard to fall in love with such a beautiful place. In the evening we did a sunset hike up to Arthur’s Seat. I am not going to lie, reading-week-6I had read reviews to see if it would be a strenuous hike and many reviewers said that it wasn’t. Well boy were they wrong. All I’m gonna say is pack the right shoes and be prepared for 15 minutes of straight uphill hiking.

I’d do that hike again any day though, so worth it for those amazing views.
We finished our trip with a tour of Edinburgh Castle and explored the National Museum of Scotland.  Edinburgh really is an amazing city and if you’re studying abroad in Europe I’d highly suggest it. Its perfect for those on a tight budget because many attractions are free and you’ll save tons of money in transportation because nearly everything is within walking distance.

reading-week-7 reading-week-8

Goodbye, Scotland. You will be missed.

Following that last day, we left once again bright and early for London. We were staying in a hostel in Edmonton which was a bit away from the city center. On this – I would advise spending a little extra and just stay in London. I found public transportation in London to be exorbitant on top of the fact that it took awhile to actually get there. Nevertheless, London was a great experience. Our itinerary for the first day was amazing. I toured the set where they filmed the Harry Potter movies.

reading-week-10    reading-week-9

I am unashamed to admit I am a huge Harry Potter nerd. This tour was incredible. It’s largely self-guided so you can wander around the set as you please. There are thousands of real props and sets on display that any Harry Potter fan would be excited to see. It’s a bit away from Central London but worth every penny to see.

The next day we took a trip to Stonehenge and Bath. So honestly, what’s the deal with Stonehenge? How did those people move those massive rocks all those years ago? So many questions. It truly is amazing. In true England fashion it was pouring when we went but that didn’t stop the fun. It was a great day despite the rain and another highlight of my trip to England.

reading-week-11

After spending a few hours exploring Stonehenge we went on to visit Bath. I didn’t really know what to expect from Bath ,but was blown away. I will admit I liked it more than London. It had a really cozy feel to it and the architecture was uniform, unlike London. We didn’t pay to enter the Roman Baths but had a grand time exploring the city itself.

reading-week-13 reading-week-14

The last day in London was spent exploring the city. I purchased the London Pass, which is an amazing deal for people looking to do all the touristy things in London. However, I will say great planning comes with this pass. Before you go remember to look at when certain attractions close and plan your day out . I ran into a few bumps along the way due to poor planning. I wouldn’t take that experience back, it’s all about learning to ride the waves.

reading-week-15 reading-week-16

I truly cannot believe my time in Dublin is almost up.  My next few weeks are going to be jam packed with adventures so stay tuned.

Until next time,

Jenna

10 Tips for Studying Abroad in Costa Rica

If you’re going to study abroad in Costa Rica, congratulations! This is a great step for you, both academically and personally. You’ll see some amazing and beautiful places, meet wonderful people (Ticos/Ticas, fellow students, and more) and make lifelong connections discovering one of the most incredible countries in the world.

cr-4

cr-2
cr-1

 

cr-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To help you get the most out of your trip and have the very best experience possible, here are my 10 tips for studying abroad in Costa Rica, some of which I knew before I went, and others which I learned while there.

1) Pack as few outfits as possible. Then take out a few articles of clothing, because you won’t need them. Seriously.

Everyone’s probably already telling you to pack light, but it’s true (and difficult). My checked bag was 38 lbs, which was well below the 50 lb limit, but it was still too heavy for me to easily carry. I noticed this especially after I picked up my checked bag in San Jose and had to carry it around the airport through customs. I brought clothes I didn’t wear, and books I didn’t read. It’s hard to pare down and bring just the necessities, but if I’d done that it would have been easier for me to carry my luggage across the airports and would’ve left me more room for souvenirs. (And I wanted more souvenirs.)

2)  Make sure to bring your prescriptions and some over-the-counter medications with you, and pack them in your carry-on.

Get your prescriptions refilled before you leave so there’s no danger of running out while you’re abroad. It’s also important to bring everyday OTCs too–ibuprofen, tylenol, and an antihistamine (ex. benadryl)–in case you get a headache, fever, or have a mild allergic reaction. There aren’t any Rite Aids in Costa Rica! Keeping these items in your carryon will prevent you from losing them should you be separated from your luggage during flights. This happened to my parents one time on the way to a conference: they went to Florida, but their luggage accidentally went to Chicago. My Dad had to buy an all-new, business-appropriate wardrobe to attend his meetings, but his prescriptions, which would have been harder to replace, were not lost.

3) Embrace your homestay experience!

This is one of the very best parts of the CISabroad study abroad experience! I absolutely adored my host mother and the housekeeper. Being in a homestay allowed me to practice my Spanish with my host family and engage with them. Some of my favorite times were when Mama Tica’s extended family would visit and I could chat (or more accurately, listen to them chat) and participate in their cultural traditions. Ask your host family about cool places to visit, what restaurants to eat at, and what to pack on excursions, and how much money to bring. Ask them to help with your homework. Ask them about themselves, and tell them about you. You’re missing out if you don’t take advantage of your homestay.

cr-5

4) Bring something from home with you for your host family.

It’s a nice gesture of goodwill and a great way to say “thank you” to your host family for the kindness and consideration they’re going to show you for the duration of your stay. I brought my host mom a dish and a towel with “Maine” things on them: loons, moose, pine trees, etc., to show her about where I was from. I also brought some pictures of my family to show her and wrote a short letter to help her get to know me. She really appreciated this and it helped us to connect: I showed her my brothers, sister, and parents, and she showed me her son, grandson, and nephews. It helped us get to know each other, right from the start.

5) If there’s something you want to do but you’re scared, do it anyway.

My CISabroad group went to Monteverde and ziplined through the rainforest my final weekend in Costa Rica. Itcr-7 was an incredible experience–the 100% Aventura staff were so good at what they did, I barely had to do any work at all. All I had to do was relax and glide over the rainforest. It was amazing to see the Costa Rican landscape from that height, flying across a wire above the rainforest canopy to get a true bird’s-eye view. I was so nervous before we started that I was shaking. I remember it pretty vividly because the guy strapping me into the gear asked me if I was ok, and all I could manage to say was, “Estoy nerviosa.” But once we got on the lines I felt completely safe and I loved every minute of it. I even did the Tarzan Swing at the end! I’d go back and do it again in a cr-6heartbeat. Take advantage of EVERY opportunity Costa Rica offers you. Looking back, I wish I’d been more adventurous, less timid, and done more. Don’t let fear hold you back.

6) Always carry your homestay address on you.

Some friends and I were in an Uber trying to get back to our homestays, but didn’t know the exact addresses. (Foolish, right?) In my experience, the cab/Uber drivers will know where you live if you tell them the name of your homestay, but this driver did not. We drove around in circles for a little bit trying to direct the poor guy left and right, and eventually found our way home, but it would’ve been MUCH easier had we just been able to give him our addresses. Ask your host family to write your address down on a piece of paper for you, program it into your phone, whatever–just make sure you have it with you!

7) Visit the artisan market in downtown San Jose.

One of the most fun places to try and practice your Spanish is at the artisan market in downtown San Jose, and odds are at least a little part of the reason you’re in Costa Rica is to learn some Spanish. Don’t be afraid to practice it! Locals, especially around San Jose, are used to English-speakers trying to speak Spanish to them, and the vendors at the artisan market are especially accustomed to this. At least some of them speak English themselves, and the best part is that even if your Spanish is absolutely terrible, they’ll still tell you “hablas muy bien!” because they want you to buy their wares and know that flattery works. I didn’t care–a compliment is a compliment, even if it does stretch the truth a bit– and I thought it was so much fun to ask things like “how much is this” and “where did this come from.” Additionally, the artisan market has some beautiful souvenirs and they’re more reasonably priced than the souvenirs in the more tourist-y destinations, like Tamarindo or Puerto Viejo.

8) Costa Rican time is different.  

And no, I’m not talking about time zones. If you’re coming from the US (like I was) you’re used to things running at break-neck pace, and classes starting at exactly the time listed on your schedule. At my home university, I had a history professor who would lock the door when class started at 1:30 PM, and if you weren’t in your seat when he did, well, that was just too bad for you. In Costa Rica my Spanish professor would routinely arrive five-ten minutes late, no big deal. Costa Rican time is more laid back. Everyone isn’t always rushing everywhere like they often are in the States. If you give it a chance, you might enjoy the change!

9) Pedestrians, beware!

Costa Rican drivers are crazy. I’m not making this up–my host mother told me this, the CISabroad on-site director told me this, and my professor at Universidad Veritas told me this. They drive very fast; they do not “yield to pedestrians in crosswalk.” The CISabroad on-site director also told me this; if you have to cross the highway to get from your homestay to school, it’ll be a lot like playing frogger. Watch how the locals do it, and learn from them. Don’t step out into the street like you might at your home university or your hometown, assuming the drivers will stop for you, because there’s a good chance they won’t. Remember what you probably learned when you were a little kid: look both ways before you cross the street and once you’re in the road, don’t dawdle!

10) Become a CISabroad Alumni Ambassador when you get back!

It looks great on a resume and it’s good experience. Plus, you’ll want to share your great experiences with others and encourage them to take the leap like you did! As an added bonus, you’ll even get paid. Visit this link when you get back to apply to start your Alumni Ambassador experience.

cr-9             cr-8

 

Christmas Time in Dublin

imageedit_3_6679398987

 Jenna Holeman is a CISabroad student studying in Dublin, Ireland this semester, originally hailing from Ohio University. Follow her journey through a few different excursions she went on throughout the country


My time is officially coming to an end! It’s crazy to think I have been here for three months. Although I will be sad to leave, I am incredibly thankful for the experiences I’ve had and people I have met here. Dublin is beautiful during the Christmas season and although the traditions are different it still feels like home.

holiday-in-dublin-1

The final Christmas lighting was on November 27th and by then the streets of Dublin were decked in Christmas lights and festive decorations. So, with Starbucks in hand, we moseyed down to the Christmas tree lighting. Families were dressed in their Christmas sweaters and a live band was playing Christmas music on a loop. It was a grand time. In Portland, they have a Christmas Tree lighting but I have never been so it was an exciting experience. Also, it makes up for the Christmas tree lighting I am missing at home.

Another tradition – that’s aimed more at college students is the 12 pubs of Christmas.

A society on Campus was hosting this event and back in the States, I have never heard of anything like it. It’s a grand time though with friends and the best part? The cheesy Christmas sweaters we were all in. It’s great to take a break from all the final essays and spend it with friends. The pub culture in Ireland is so different from the States and I will miss it.

holiday-in-dublin-2

The last tradition that I got to be a part of in Dublin was The Late Late Toy Show. Its a hilariously adorable Christmas program that people of all ages watch. It’s basically a show for parents to watch with their kids to help determine what Christmas presents to buy for them.  It’s a live show and the stage contains hundreds of toys and children that get to test run these toys. The best part of the show are the unpredictable things the tots say. You can’t help but smile when watching the show, as well as the innuendos the host makes for adults. 

holiday-in-dublin-3

 

The Christmas Spirit is undeniable in Dublin and I am so incredibly lucky that I get to experience it.

Until next time,

Jenna 

Barcelona, Spain

How Going Abroad Changed My View

147441071352484

May Hamid is a CISabroad alumna who interned in Barcelona, Spain. May studied at Virginia Commonwealth University. Read on as she tells us how interning abroad changed her life forever and for the better.


I’ve left my comfort zone and my soul to see the world. That probably sounds confusing. You see, it is said that when you see the world you free your soul, but the truth is the price to see the world is losing your soul. Because once you see it, you can never feel like you felt before. The person you are transforms, and everything you were, all the values you had, the morals you thought, and your perspective change.

In fact, they expand and multiply. And it’s confounding at first, because you find yourself battling another part of yourself over the simplest of subjects. Every puzzle piece found in the world will be confusing; some will be amusing. Until you start adapting, comprehending, and accepting that every culture in the world is the same, even though very different.mayhamid1

Eventually you return to your previous life, or home, and you realize you are not the person you were; that they are not the people they were. Something changes and you notice that the place you’re revisiting becomes unfamiliar; that you’ve lost some of the connections you’ve had with it.

So you get on the road, thirsting to start another journey, craving the feeling of belonging that you once had, always wanting it, needing it, and searching for it.

Ultimately you grasp the beauty that the world offers you, and accept that you can never be the same. That there is calm in the chaos, and you relish the belief that you can be anywhere and do anything because you’ve been there before.

If you’re lucky enough, you’ll have people spread around the world that love you, and countless places to long for. But if you’re really, really lucky, you’ll have some that are willing to meet you half-way across the world, and a few that are eager to recreate all the images you paint in your head and live all your dreams with you.

One thing is for certain though, whatever kind of life you choose to have, love it. Because if you love the life you live, you will live a life you love.

-Special thanks to Ruru for always allowing me to live life through her and vice versa

Ireland’s Majestic Beauty

imageedit_3_6679398987

Jenna Holeman is a CISabroad student studying in Ireland this semester, originally hailing from Ohio University. Follow her journey through a few different excursions she went on throughout the country.


CISabroad has excursions set in our programs that help us explore the country we are studying abroad in. Early October our group went on a weekend trip along the east side of Ireland to visit the Cliffs of Moher, Galway, and the Aran islands. I have been in Ireland for a month and am constantly blown away by its beauty, but this trip was a life-defining moment. It was absolutely gorgeous.jenna6

We started with a rainy bus ride to Galway. For a point of reference, Ireland is about the size of Indiana, so traveling from one end of the country to the next doesn’t take terribly long. From Dublin to Galway it was about 3 hours.

I have never stayed in a hostel before and was excited to see what this would look like. Was it going to be a huge room with a bunch of beds? Was it going to be clean?  Was it like a hotel? Upon arrival, I was assigned a room and given a room key. The room had three bunk beds and an adjoining bathroom. My first experience in a hostel was grand. This location even provided a light breakfast for its travelers.

The following morning we took off from Galway to Doolin. The ride to Doolin was about 2 hours of gorgeous scenery.jenna1

From Doolin, we took a ferry to the Aran Islands. It was a mild day on the waters, so the ferry ride wasn’t bad, but I heard horror stories from previous groups of how sea sick people got from the rocking of the boat.

jenna2We went to the Inisheer . It is the smallest of the Aran islands with a population of approximately 250 people! It is incredibly small at 3.1 square miles! We went on a tour that explained the rich  history of the island and made stops at key locations such as The Plassy, a shipwreck site featured in the opening credits of a popular Irish show Father Ted.

We also walked through Tiemphall chaomha (church of St. Keevauns), a church surrounded by a graveyard. The church looked as if it had sunken into the ground giving it an eerie, lost society look to it.jenna3

Embarking on this journey to Ireland, I knew I wanted to try new food items since back at home I tend to be a picky eater. On this particular trip, I tried goat and fish! Embracing different foods that make up the culture is so important, so I am really glad I stepped out of my comfort zone.  Innisheer had a small pub with amazing fish and chips!

After arriving back to Doolin, we immediately headed to the Cliffs of Moher.

jenna5This moment has to be one of my top life moments. I was blown away by the sheer beauty. Moments like this really make me grateful for this opportunity. I would highly suggest anyone in Ireland take time out of their trips to visit.

I mean come on, how can you not be amazed at the cliffs?! My favorite moment being in Ireland so far.

Until next time,

Jenna

“Freshers” Week

imageedit_1_7163385983

Hannah Baughman is a CISabroad student studying in London this semester and hails from Emporia State University in Kansas. Read on as she describes one of the most exciting weeks she had at her host university.


It is now November here at the University of Roehampton. I couldn’t be more overjoyed with my decision to study abroad as well as my decision to choose the university that I have chosen. I thought I would spend this time informing my friends and family about a week that I was able to participate in with my university and the experiences I had during this time.

hannah2I love many things about the University of Roehampton, but one thing that I especially enjoy is the fact that they have so much school spirit. This is a collegiate campus, and it is one of the few of their kind in London, so that means all of the departments are broken up in to different colleges. Because I am a study abroad student, I was able to choose modules from multiple courses instead of just one. I live in Southlands College (Go Sharks!), which is the school for language and business. I have felt extremely welcomed by the other members of this college, and I have made a lot of friends from my building. It is one of the reasons I am so happy here at the University of Roehampton.

Now on to the real reason for this post: “Freshers Week.” Over the summer I was sent an email about Freshers Week, and I thought to myself, “No. This isn’t something I would enjoy or want to do. I would feel really uncomfortable.” However, I heard from multiple people that I should buy a Freshers pass, so I decided to do it. This was one of the best decisions I made, and I will tell you that I was kept busy almost all of the time. My favorite day of Freshers Week was when we were bussed to Thorpe Park. Thorpe Park is an amusement park, and it was closed down for the evening so the students from my university could enjoy everything the park had to offer. I got to ride on a bunch of different rollercoasters with barely any line! It was great.hannah1

I think the other part of Freshers Week that I enjoyed so much was how many people I met. Most of the people there were new or international, so pretty much everyone was on their own at the beginning of the week. This week gave me a chance to bond with my flat mates and bond with the other students from my university. If anybody is thinking about studying abroad in the fall semester, please GO TO FRESHERS WEEK!

Till next time,

H