Summer 2015 Faculty-Led Program: Spanish Language in Spain

Spanish Language in Spain

Courses: SPAN 101 Spanish Elements I, SPAN 102 Spanish Elements II, SPAN 201 Spanish Intermediate I, SPAN 202 Spanish Intermediate II, SPAN 301 Composition and Conversation I, SPAN 302 Composition and Conversation II, SPAN 305 Readings in Spanish, SPAN 371 Special Topics in Spanish, SPAN 372 Special Topics in Spanish, SPAN 373 Special Topics in Spanish – Civilization Advanced, SPAN 391 Advanced Spanish Grammar, SPAN 408 Advanced Spanish Conversation

Fearless Leaders: Dr. German DePatricio

Site visits: Flamenco performance, visits to some of Madrid’s most famous museums and sites (Museo del Prado, Museo Reina Sofia, Palacio Real, Museo Thyssen Bornemisza), and excursions to Segovia and Toledo.

Did you know Madrid has a population of 3 million and is the largest city in Spain and the third largest city in the European Union. Its vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere uniquely combines the old and the new.

To see the Horizons program page click here!


Student Blogging: Tsamaya Botswana


Working with children in Botswana. Photo: CIEE


Wondering how you can make an impact? Take a look at Erin’s blog to see the incredible work she’s doing while in Botswana this fall! In case you’re wondering just how her journey’s going, you can also read about her work in the latest CIEE newsletter! That’s right: Towson students are so incredible that they get featured in the newsletter’s published by the providers! Read about her work in that newsletter by visiting And since we’re sure you’ll be looking to read more about Erin’s African adventure after that, be sure to check out her blog:

Tsamaya Botswana

Erin Kelly

Gaborone, Botswana

Fall 2014


Happiness is Private: Studying Abroad for You, Not Social Media

This post is the sixth installment in a semester-long series of posts from Towson senior Allie Woodfin. Allie is studying this Fall 2014 semester at the University of Avignon. You can also follow along on her tumblr at: 

“Every form of happiness is private”


Woodfin in Avignon.

Like a stained-glass window in a cathedral, anything epic, memorable, and beautiful is made up of small, seemingly insignificant pieces. I would absolutely overlook a shard of brilliant blue glass on the sidewalk near Notre Dame, but I would not overlook the magnificent windows—my camera lens was probably already pointed at them.

Before I start, I should say that I think talking too much about the “transformation” of study abroad creates unfair expectations for magic to happen as soon as you step on European soil. I didn’t learn this as soon as I set foot in Charles de Gaulle Airport, and I regret that I discounted my first few days since they weren’t so beautiful. However, what I’m finding is that the best things about study abroad are not your pictures with monuments that anyone in the world can name. Those are cheap. Everyone has those. They’re not the moments that you made happen. The best things are the split seconds of eye contact you make with strangers because you’ll never see them again, the familiar silhouette of the local men and women, the words that you pick up and where you learned them, and the times you realize that you’re functioning in another culture: giving directions to tourists, the only people who know the town less than you; wandering around Sephora and remembering the words for facial features and cosmetics; and hanging up after a 6-minute phone call and realizing that you’ve overcome your worst fear since getting to France. These are things that you weren’t looking for, but that found you anyway.

For example, staying in Avignon during my Toussaints vacation and hanging out with my host family (and my host mom’s adorable parents) was not as trendy and Instagrammable as toasting on a beach in Ibiza, and I felt like a goober telling the other Erasmus students I’d stayed home while they went to Barcelona and Cannes. But one day, we ate the freshest oysters money can buy, and my “host grandfather” showed me how to dress one with mustard, vinegar, and red onions before tossing it back. I took regular naps in the giant rectangle of sunshine that lights up my bed around 2PM. We made pumpkin pie for Halloween. I met a retired lady for coffee and English conversation one morning. I learned how to understand a very different French accent over a week of dinners. There are a lot of other beautiful things that happened during that vacation that, if I told you about them, you’d say “seriously? You crossed an ocean to study abroad and you think that’s cool?” These things don’t matter to someone else, and they’d probably smile and nod while I obliviously chattered about moments that only I saw and only I can understand.

But—that’s okay. As Ayn Rand once said, “every form of happiness is private.” Thinking about it this way has helped me reconcile what every study abroad alumnus has told me, which is that you come home and find that you can’t put into words what the most poignant moments of your trip were. Instagram your trip until it can’t be Instagrammed any more (guilty as charged), but don’t engineer your study abroad experience so that it’s outwardly beautiful. Blow off the monuments for a little while, make a fool out of yourself trying to order lunch at a restaurant on your first weekend (and go back once your French has improved drastically, to the delight of the waiter), take random long walks because you can, and take note of the little pieces of your trip—they’ll make up the magnificent story you’ll remember later.


Summer 2015 Faculty-Led Program: Second Language Learning in the Costa Rican Cloud Forest

Second Language Learning in the Costa Rican Cloud Forest

Samira Martinez Spring 2011

Photo Courtesy of Samira Martinez, Spring 2011

Monteverde, Costa Rica

Courses: REED 350 OR REED 650

Fearless Leaders: Dr Stephen Mogge

Site visits: Beach towns on the Nicoya PeninsulaArenal Volcano, and the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose

Did you know it is called the Cloud Forest because it has 100% humidity, which allows it to maintain tremendous biodiversity!

To see the Horizons program page click here!

Photo Courtesy of Katie Brennan, Mini 2013

Being a Tourist in London When Royalty Is Born

This post was originally shared on the AIFS blog.

Prince George Alexander Louis, Son of Prince William and Duchess Catherine, was born on the twenty-second of July, summer of 2013, and at the time of his birth, I was casually chatting with a group of Australian cricket players outside of Kensington Palace in London, England.

When my two best friends and I decided to study abroad in London through AIFS, we didn’t plan around the upcoming birth of the United Kingdom’s newest prince, however, it ended up being one of our greatest memories and cultural learning experiences.  At that point, we had already been in London for two weeks and were aware of Kate Middleton’s due date.  Actually, I was constantly updated every morning by my best friend who has an obsession with William and Kate and the entire Royal Family.  First thing every day, even before the proper amount of coffee, she was inspecting the online news to check the status of the pregnancy, but with the conclusion of our time abroad around the corner, we were beginning to think we’d miss it completely.

So on July 22nd, we decided to stroll through Kensington Park after dinner and enjoy one of our last nights being charmed by the beauty of London.  We took a break on a bench to watch a cricket game, because after all, cricket is a foreign and strange sport to us Americans and fascinated us.  Long story short, a few of the lovely Aussie fellows decided to give us some company and we stuck around to hear their stories and exchange ours.  One of the boys checked his phone during our conversation and casually stated that Kate had her baby.  Cue emotional freak out by my crazed best friend.  She began running, skipping, and leaping around, shouting that the prince was born and crying tears of joy.  This is where our cultural confusion first began.  As we were celebrating, we were also informing some of the passer byers who were walking by, and to our surprise, nobody cared.

Most of the responses we got in return of the good news were lackadaisical and apathetic one-word answers or blank expressions.  We assumed that the British would be elated at the birth of their newest prince!  That clearly was not the case because even the next day, it still was not a huge deal.  Of course, at the request of my friend, we went to the convenience store and stocked up on all of the newspapers and magazines headlining the birth.  I think that all of the other tourists in Kensington had that same idea that morning.  We choose to buy those newspapers as souvenirs and historical keepsakes, while the locals were buying for the weather forecast or the story on page three.

Per tradition, the golden easel was placed outside of Buckingham Palace with the birth announcement on it, signed by the royal doctors, and of course, we went to see it.  Once again, tourists filled the outside gates of the Palace and were lining up just to get a peek.  Guards were ushering the crowds and only allowing for a quick picture and then you had to be on your way.   In addition, it has also historically been the case that the name of the new royal baby is not released to the public for a few days to a few weeks, but lucky for us, Prince George’s name was announced while we were still in the country.

After bike riding through the gardens, we stopped at Kensington Palace to see why people were crowding the gates.  Turned out, someone spelled out George’s name in boxes of baby powder on the grass.  We spoke to a British woman that evening and asked her why the locals didn’t seem to be as excited as the tourists.  She explained that it just isn’t a huge deal to them and compared it to our reactions to the President and his family, which made a lot of sense.


The Prince’s name written in baby powder boxes.


This really exemplified cultural variations in the public and media response to a pop culture event like such.  Friends and family back in the states were being bombarded by the news and it remained a vital part of the media for a few days.  But regardless of resident reactions, it still remains one of the highlights of my study abroad experience and I can certainly say that businesses and souvenir shops made a good deal of money off tourists and their infatuations with the Royal family.  July 22nd was just another day for most of the British, while I will always remember being right next to Kensington Palace when I received the news of Prince George’s birth.

Now Will and Kate are expecting their second child, and my friends and I want to find a way back to London for round two of royal baby celebrations. 

Written by student Bianca Auriemma.

Summer 2015 Faculty-Led Program: Culture & Psychology: Italy from a Psychological Perspective

Culture & Psychology: Italy from a Psychological Perspective

Courses: PSYC 494/594 Travel and Study Abroad in Psychology

Fearless Leaders: Dr. David Earnest

Site visits: St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican in Rome, as well as the Pantheon, Colossuem, and Ancient Forum. Students will also spend a long weekend in Florence where they will tour the Florence Duomo, Santa Maria dei Fiori, and the Leonardi da Vinci Museum, among other cultural attractions.

Did you know that Vatican City is the only nation in the world that can lock its own gates at night. It has its own phone company, radio, T.V. stations, money, and stamps. It even has its own army, the historic Swiss Guard!

To see the Horizons program page click here!

Q & A Spotlight: Jessa Coulter

Name: Jessa Coulter
Major: Psychology
Grad Year: 2012
Location: Peru
Program abroad: ISA

Volunteer Experience:

  • Students Helping Honduras – week long service trips: (January 2010, January 2011, January 2012, January 2013, January 2014)
  • Un Techo Para Mi Pais (Peru, October 2011)
  • Sonrisas en Peru Westfalia Orphanage (Peru, December 2011-January 2012)
  • Safe Passage (Guatemala, November 2013-Present)

Q: How is your study abroad experience different from your volunteer abroad experience?
Volunteering abroad has been quite different than studying abroad for me. In Peru, my study abroad program helped coordinate my classes, my homestay, and excursions to travel within Peru. In Guatemala, I am much more independent- I found my own housing, pay rent and monthly bills, and do my own shopping and cooking. I enjoyed living with a host family in Peru- it was actually one of the aspects of the program I was most excited about and I believe it deepened the cultural experience I had. However, now that I have graduated college, I do appreciate being more autonomous and living on my own in Guatemala.

I had more free time as a study abroad student- I was able to arrange my schedule so I take a full course load but only have classes three days a week. This allowed me the freedom to travel throughout Peru and explore Lima- where I was living.

Here in Guatemala, I lead week long service-learning trips for Safe Passage. When I am leading a team, I work seven days a week from 7am until 10pm. When I do not have a team, it is a more typical Monday through Friday job.

Q: How did you choose your location for study abroad and later for volunteer abroad?
To be perfectly honest,  I had no specific country in mind when I decided to study abroad. I knew I wanted to be in Latin America, but other than that, I did not have a strong preference. I spoke to different people, did research on various programs, and decided on the program in Peru.

For volunteering abroad, I again knew I wanted to be in Latin America, but rather than choosing by country, I focused on the various programs and volunteer positions available. I used the website and searched for positions in Latin America. When I came across the posting for Safe Passage, it seemed like a perfect fit for me. I was impressed with the work that Safe Passage was doing- working to empower the poorest, at-risk families of the community of the Guatemala City Garbage Dump by creating opportunities and fostering dignity through the power of education. I definitely lucked out by finding Safe Passage, it is an incredible organization and I truly feel honored to be a part of the work that is being done in Guatemala.


Q: Have your experiences abroad met your expectations? Exceeded them?
Exceeded all expectations, for sure.

Q: What would you say to students worried / concerned / afraid of going abroad?
Going abroad can be difficult- in terms of studying abroad, it is definitely easier to stay at Towson than go through all the logistics of coordinating a study abroad experience. But easier does not mean better.

The opportunity to live and study abroad is somewhat unique to college students. I actually never had planned to study abroad. It wasn’t until a conversation with a friend one day that changed my mind. We were chatting about her incredible year studying abroad. She asked if I would study abroad and I told her I was happy at Towson and extremely busy with different organizations on campus and I could just travel after graduating. She replied, “Sure you can. But will you?” It was then that something clicked and I realized that the opportunity for this type of experience would pass if I did not take it in college.

Utilize the study abroad office- it is a great resource to navigate the process. It is very unlikely that at any other time in your life you will have people dedicated to helping you travel, study abroad, and gain invaluable experiences.

My first trip to Honduras opened my eyes to extreme poverty and left me feeling empowered me make a difference- which is what motivated me to continue on this journey of volunteering in the world of international development. Going abroad in any capacity will hopefully get you out of your comfort zone, try new things, and allow you to gain a more global perspective of the world.

The American Way of Life from Australian Eyes

Exchange student Stef is studying at Towson for two semesters from the University of Tasmania. Follow Stef as she documents her crazy experiences through her blog!

“Fresh daily waves of culture shock were repeatedly buried under layers of distraction with the relentless schedule of orientation activities. That was a clever tactic on their part. The endless jet lag held me in a petrified zombie state most of the day. The intense heat and humidity of Maryland in August was also a shock to the system after Hobart’s icy winter. We went on several tours of the university campus. We met ‘Doc’, Towson’s official tiger mascot. I noticed a funny parallel between the Tasmanian Tiger and the Towson Tiger and I wonder if I will start barracking for the AFL Tigers when I return to Australia?”

Summer 2015 Faculty-Led Program: Early Childhood Education in Denmark: Policy and Practice

Early Childhood Education in Denmark: Policy and Practice

Copenhagen, Denmark

Courses: ECED 494/594 Travel and Study in Early Childhood Education

Fearless Leaders: Dr. Lea Ann Christenson

Site visits: Danish educational and governmental organizations, Ny Carlsberg Glypotek, the Amalienborg Palace, the Round Tower, and a day trip to the viking city of Roskilde.

For a look into what Copenhagen has to offer, click here!

To see the Horizons program page click here!