TU Abroad Stories: Elssa Kenfack

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When Elssa Kenfack went abroad in the Minimester of 2018 on an Intensive language & Culture program through CIEE to Salvador da Bahia, she kept a blog highlighting some of the experiences that she had.

She starts her journey on her blog with:

“Coming to you all the way from the beautiful Salvador—I MADE IT! There are always some bumps in the road when it comes to me getting from point A to point B but nonetheless, I have to say this trip was smooth sailing.”

Throughout her stay in Salvador da Bahia, Elssa documented the various things that she did while there. In her blog posts, she captures the culture and various personalities of the town and the people in it.

To read all of her blog posts, please visit:  https://ekyzfindinghome.wordpress.com/category/salvador-de-bahia/

TU Abroad Stories: Emily Rickens

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“I went to Israel in January of 2017. It was only a ten day trip but it has affected me in more ways than one. This was my second study abroad trip, my previous being at my undergraduate school. Upon returning I think about Israel everyday. My longing and yearning to go back is palatable, as the vivacious was and tenacity of this country and it’s residents has resounded with me since January. I am saving up every spare penny I have so I can take my mother to Israel so that she can have the same world changing experience that I had.”

–Emily Rickens, TU Exploring Cross-Cultural Education and Social Services in Baltimore and Israel (Faculty-led), Israel, Minimester 2017

TU Abroad Stories: Dorian Andrews (Part 2)

“Over the summer, I traveled to Minato Mirai to visit some of the local malls and casually shop. I met with my friend Collin from my home college (Towson University), and we ran into THIS spectacle. It just so happened to be PIKACHU DAY! In Yokohama, every year there are parades celebrating the iconic cartoon character. In this video, we met a very peculiar and popular incarnation of Pikachu: Pikachu Diddo! The [Pikachu Outbreak!] event was held from August 7th (Sun.) through 14th (Sun.), in Yokohama’s Minato Mirai area in Kanagawa Prefecture. It usually occurs every year during the summer time. During this period, a total of 1,000 Pikachu perform in a variety of different of shows and a parade! This year also included a brand new Super Soaking Splash Show. These events are really nice to see as a tourist, and even better for kids! Are you interested? Check out this video and another about Pikachu Ice Skating Performance at DoreoTV only on YouTube!”

–Dorian Andrews, Tokyo International University Exchange, Calendar Year, 2016

TU Abroad Stories: Shelby Zimmerman

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“Studying abroad in Ireland at Maynooth University was one of the best experiences of my life. I became best friends with people from France, Ireland, and Germany and continued to exchange postcards after returning home. Upon returning to Towson, I knew that I had to go back to my Irish home. Last summer, I interned in Maynooth University’s International Office to help incoming Study Abroad students and ensure their experience would be just as great as mine. I am currently earning my Masters Degree in Modern Irish History from Trinity College Dublin. Thank you Towson’s Study Abroad Office for shaping my future and helping me find my second home.”

Spotlight Story: Meet Lexi Littlefield


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The Towson University Study Abroad Office would like to recognize TU athlete Lexi Littlefield. She is living, breathing proof that it is possible for athletes–or students with any busy schedule–to study abroad! Lexi went abroad to the UK during the Minimester of 2018. You can learn more about Lexi’s personal experience abroad from her 3 blog posts. See the links below:






We hope that Lexi’s story is an inspiration to you! If you are interested in learning more about how to study abroad at Towson, check out our website to learn more information!


How big is YOUR world?

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TU Abroad Stories: Samantha Miller

My name is Samantha Miller. During my senior year of high school I went to Belgium for a year abroad. In that year I grew as a person and I made friendships that will last a lifetime. I was able to study the culture of not only Belgium, but the cultures of all the other exchange students that I met on this adventure. Exchange opened my heart and mind to the world, and I am always looking for new experiences because of it.

–Samantha Miller, Belgium

Any time abroad has the ability to change your mind and open it to new cultures and experiences. It’s not too late to get your experience!


TU Abroad Stories: Dorian Andrews (Part 1)


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First impressions mean everything. You can learn a lot about a person from the first encounter, and maybe even determine whether or not he or she is a potential friend/acquaintance or not. After hearing the details of this family, I immediately wanted to have them! I am so grateful for the International Exchange Office for their efforts in assigning me to the best matching host family for me.

Fall of 2016, I stayed with the Kamezawa Family from Fujimino City. The family consists of: Kousuke(dad), Marika(mom), Riko(sister), and Raku(2-year-old brother). They are no strangers to the program, for they have hosted a former student from Tokyo International University within the past year or two.

When I first received an email from the family, I was extremely surprised to see the host mother’s English grammar…it was really good! Once we got to know each other better, she mentioned studying in California for 1-2 years. The 7-year-old daughter, Riko, is also learning English at her elementary school. Therefore, I used a mix of Japanese and English in order to help Riko practice for more conversational purposes. My host mother, Marika, also wishes to learn more English and utilize it for daily use. She mentioned that my vocabulary sheets from Japanese Language Class could be very helpful for her, Riko, and even the host father Kousuke. Because of that, I made copies for them!

My host mom, Marika is a housewife with a part-time job at a salon. I always call Marika “Superwoman” because it is amazing to see her take care of housework, practice with and facilitate Niko when she has homework, and work at a salon while taking care of little Raku. Her daily life painted a positive picture of a Japanese housewife for me. She is very patient, kind, and down-to-Earth.

My host dad, Kousuke is a classic salary man. He comes home around 10:30pm or later, and yet he wakes up early in the morning to start work all over again. As tiring as it sounds, he still has a calm and collected demeanor. He also finds time to have fun with the kids, whether it may be taking them out or simply playing with them at the house. Kousuke has been supportive of me since Day 1, whether I needed help with planning activities for the month or simply driving me to the station when I need to go there. He’s a very nice guy, and it’s always a joy to make him laugh!

My living situation was very comfortable. I had a room to myself upstairs, and automatic lights were in various places in the house. Whenever I came home late from a night of tutoring English, the lights leading upstairs and the shower room immediately come on so I could see my way. Very convenient! The kitchen stove was pretty easy to use, so I decided to buy ingredients from Yokosuka Naval Base and make American-Style tacos for my family. It was the first time for them to ever eat tacos! From hand-made burgers to chocolate chip pancakes, I felt so honored to cook that for them.

The parents are less than 20 years older than me, so it feels wonderful to speak to adults who are modern and understand the aspects of Japanese culture I fell in love with. The kids were fun to be around, and I quickly became attached to them. I can’t wait to see them again! Out of the most memorable things I’ve done in Japan, every single moment I had with this family is on the top of the list. #TEAMKAMEZAWA ALL THE WAY!

Introducing TU Abroad Stories!

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Storytelling is one of the strongest persuasion tools we have. The Study Abroad Office wants to hear the experiences from our students who have spent time abroad and the reasons why students want to study abroad.

And so the TU Abroad Stories Project was born! 

What is it?

A photo and video series with the stories of past and perspective study abroad students.

Who is it for? 


How do you get involved? 

Submit a photo and/or video telling us about your time abroad or why you want to go abroad. What about studying abroad appeals to you?

How do you find the posts?

Look on our Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!

We’ll be using the hashtag #TUAbroadStories

Submit yours here!

Culture & Psychology Summer 2017 Student Blog Series 6: 17 and 18

We’ve reached the end of the road for this blog series! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading all of our student blogger’s experiences in Italy this past summer!

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Day 17: Free Day in Rome

Student Blogger: Krystyna Griswold

For the free day in Rome, myself and many other students visited Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer home. It was a large lake with mountains surrounding it and many activities for us to do. I decided to go kayaking with a couple other people for an hour. We paddled around the lake for a while, but then another student and I ventured away from the group and floated in the middle of the lake alone for a good 20 minutes. This was the most relaxing and peaceful part of the entire grip for me. It was so nice to sit quietly and enjoy the nature around me, which wasn’t something we’ve done a lot of in Rome and Florence.

For me and the others that went to Castel Gandolfo, this was a psychologically healing day, which was much needed. The whole experience changed my personal perspective of the world and made me want to continue travelling after the program ends, which I think will help me grow as an individual. Overall, Castel Gandolfo and the trip as a whole was immersive and eye-opening. Going to the lake was the perfect most relaxing way to end the trip and I’m so thankful to have had this opportunity with Dr. Earnest, Dr. McClain, Consuelo, and my fellow classmates.

Day 18: Farewell Dinner

Guest Bloggers: Dr. McClain & Dr. Earnest

Tonight, we held our farewell dinner at Ragno D’oro restaurant. The restaurant was just a short walk from our hotel in Prati. As we walked in and saw the long table reserved for us, it dawned on me what an enormous group we have at 26 students, two professors and their spouses, and Consuelo (our beloved OPC). Despite the size of the group, I know I’ve had the opportunity to share moments with and get to know each person. Prior to departure, Dr. Earnest and I shared our hope that so far away from home, we as a group would function as a family in Italy. As we sat down for our final meal together, I was already feeling nostalgic for all the memories we’ve shared. It felt like family to me.

The dinner, as expected, was delicious. The menu included a pasta dish and I had spaghetti carbonara. I savored every bite of speck, a smoked, cured ham that might even be better than bacon (bold claim, I know). The main course was a dish called saltimbocca alla romana, which was made traditionally with veal.  I enjoyed it, but could tell by the looks on some students’ faces that veal was outside their comfort zone. However, as usual, students impressed me by being adventurous and trying something new. My favorite part of any meal, we finished off with a dessert of cookies and sorbet.

Dr. Earnest and I want to thank each student for your open mind and enthusiasm in learning how culture influences our psychology. A special shout out is called for Consuelo, who guided us to new territory, always with a smile!


Culture & Psychology Summer 2017 Student Blog Series 5: Day 12, 13 and 14


Day 12: Galileo Museum

Student Blogger: Natalie Badra

The Galileo Museum featured five centuries of scientific collections which included geometric and military compasses, clocks and watches, magnets, telescopes, thermometers, and medical tools. It was an interesting experience learning about all of the Renaissance instruments. The museum featured the objective lens of the telescope that Galileo used to discover the Jupiter satellites. The summer of 1609 was the beginning of his telescopic exploration which eventually opened the way to the Copernican System. Our OPC told a story of how Galileo was the first to use a telescope from a ship to look up at the sky instead of out into the sea.


Through the study of nature and laws of motion Galileo formed an entirely new dynamic based on mathematical reasoning and innovative experiments. His astronomical discoveries changed the way of thinking that had been instilled in people’s minds for two thousand years. This new idea of how the planets orbit was often criticized and the people’s egocentric and ethnocentric ways of life made it difficult for a new idea of space and time to be believed in. Galileo’s discoveries and inventions have helped form the tools of modern living. There was an ancient tool displayed that looked similar to a defibrillator and was first mistaken for an electric shock therapy tool.


All of the tools in the museum proved that this time period of Galileo’s discoveries had a large impact on science in all aspects and helped the world move forward in efficiency. A more productive way of living was formed through these discoveries and inventions while also helping to ease the stress of life.


Day 12 (Part 2): Fattoria di Maiano

Student Blogger: Haley Ward

We traveled to Fattoria di Maiano, a 300-acre farm in Fiesole, Italy. This particular farm grows olives and makes their own olive oil. Our guide explained the difference between extra virgin and regular olive oil; extra virgin means that the olives are pressed and crushed for their oil, while regular olive oil involves chemicals to extract the oil. The farm is home to over 20,000 olive trees with two different types of olives, frantoio and moriolo. The higher quality olive oil is made with 80% frantoio and 20% moriolo, while the classic oil has equal parts of each.

The farm is also home to plenty of animals, almost all of which come from around Tuscany. The animals mostly hang out at the farm, but the chicken eggs are sold as well as the baby cows for veal. The farm also has a vegetable garden, or “orto,” where numerous types of vegetables grow.


We traveled back behind the farm to see a tower overlooking a little lake. This tower was made 300 years ago as a vacation home for Queen Victoria, who spent her summers in Tuscany. The tower was made from the cave next to the tower, which also provided the stones for the steps of the Duomo. The farm is currently renovating it to open the tower as a vacation spot–you might catch me there one day!

We then went through the farm buildings to see the machinery used in the oil making process. First, the olives are weighed. About 10-15% of oil is produced per kilo of olives. After weighing, the olives are washed and sealed away from oxygen for the duration of the process. Reducing the exposure to oxygen preserves the oil and keeps it fresh much longer. The olives are ground to release water and then sent through a canter, which spins the olive to extract the oil. Cold water is used after this process to increase the quality of the oil (hot water produces more oil, but with a lower quality).

Once done the tour of the machinery, we became educated on the proper way to taste olive oil. Professional tasters use blue glasses when tasting the oil to hide the color and eliminate bias while tasting. We then tried some bruschetta, a traditional meal after the first press of the olive. It is much simpler than bruschetta we’re all used to; toasted bread, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil make up this tasty treat!

Overall, the experience at the farm was amazing! The views were beautiful; you could see all of Florence from the top of the farm! The olive oil was great too, and everyone was a fan of the animals! I really enjoyed exploring the farm and becoming aware of the rural aspect of Italian culture.

Day 13/14: Florence Foodie Tour

Student Author: Ally Hoffacker

Our first stop on our Foodie tour in Florence was to the Panificio Brunori Bakery. We enjoyed delicious focaccia bread as our tour guide, Alessandro, explained that children typically ate focaccia bread every morning for breakfast. This alone made me compare the U.S. and Italy’s eating habits and the culture of their food. In our country, you will find kids eating processed snacks and breakfast items while on-the-go, whereas in Italy children ate fresh bread from local bakeries, which displays their values when it comes to eating fresh, non-processed foods.

Our second stop on the tour was to visit the oldest fresh market in Florence, Sant’Ambrogio Market, where we sampled a variety of fresh produce such as black cherries, snap peas, watermelon, green olives, peaches, apricots, and cherry tomatoes. They were so tasty and refreshing and it was nice to actually know that all of the food was grown locally. In Italy, the northern parts of the country are known for the production of grain, wheat, and barley, whereas the southern areas are known for fresh produce. In the U.S., I personally have little-to-no clue where my food comes from or how it is processed/made and I do not find many fresh produce markets in my area at home. This to me shows how Italian culture is much more invested in the quality of their food when compared to the U.S. and American consumers. The market we visited also included a variety of vendors with clothing, jewelry, and accessories. There was also an inside facility attached to the market where you could find a variety of deli items such as meats and cheeses. We sampled a variety of prosciutto and salami from various regions of Italy, all having a slightly different flavor and taste depending on the source of production and age of the product. We sampled a variety of cheeses that were aged anywhere from one week to forty months old.  Overall, the market contained many affordable, healthy, and fresh options for consuming, and vendors that catered to various wants and needs.


Lastly, we visited Il Mercato Centrale Firenze which contained a variety of restaurants and vendors that almost resembled a large American food court. There were places that sold sushi, cold cuts, burgers, a variety of cheeses and meats, pastries, and much more. Being in this facility, I felt like I was at home. It had a much more fast-paced environment and contained many foods that I was familiar with.

Today’s journey emphasized the role food has in various cultures. In Italian culture, food and meals are heavily valued and are meant to bring people together to share an experience. While in the U.S., we view food as a source of instant gratification to cure our hunger and occasionally to gather with friends. Food is much more valued in Italy when it comes to the source, production, and exportation of goods, the setting in which food is consumed, and the overall purpose behind meals. Food always has been, and always will be, a major component of Italian culture.


Day 13: Uffizi Gallery

Student Author: Darre’ll Joseph

On this day, we visited the Uffizi Gallery. This is one of the most visited galleries in the world. This gallery includes works that were owned by the Medici family during their ruling times. In particular, the Uffizi Gallery features world renowned, priceless works such as The Birth of Venus and the works of Leonardo di Vinci which are included in the photos associated with this post.

The Medici family was a banking family who became a political dynasty and later royal house in Florence during the 15th century. After this ruling house was extinguished, the works remained in Florence. This new museum was accessible to visitors by request and later opened to the public. This popular museum can acquire waiting times of up to five hours. Some works in the Uffizi are so precious the rooms are rooms are blocked off to visitors, allowing views only from the doorway. Some of the original works previously featured in the gallery have been moved out of Florence to other exhibits and have been replaced by models because of their high demands.


The Birth of Venus is a painting by Sanford Botticelli, pictured is the goddess Venus, emerging from the sea fully grown and arriving to shore.

The Birth of Venus features a visible representation of the geek myth. This painting is more commonly known as the Primavera. There are other subtle messages to the painting which are largely subjective.

Leonardo di Vinci was and remains one the most prominent artists of the Renaissance Movement. While in competition with the likes of Michelangelo and Rafael, Leonardo revealed artworks beyond his time. Di Vinci is prominently regarded as a painter, although he possessed many talents which continue to exist in his legacy. Competition between the Medici family along with sponsors of Leonardo di Vinci and other renowned artists listed are what made the Renaissance the movement that we know today. It was the drive to be remembered and regarded as the best that fueled new ideas and innovations among artists. A majority of the works in the Uffizi Gallery once belonged to the Medici family and are lasting works of the Renaissance Movement.


Annunciation, painted by Leonardo di Vinci in 1472. This work arrived at the gallery in 1867.

Day 13 (Part 2): Italian Cooking Class

Student Blogger: Liz Eckenrode

Since we have been in Italy, we have been able to experience many new and unique dishes native to Italy. After being able to go out to dinner every night and try these dishes, we got to experience hands on how these meals are made. Our marvelous group of 26 puts their cooking skills to the test. We put on our aprons and got to work.

We started off by making the sauce for our lemon zest pasta. After that, potatoes and onions were chopped to make a delectable side dish. Group members were really challenged as they had to cut and beat the chicken, stuffing it with a spinach filling.

To follow this amazing dinner, we made delicious strawberry cream to go atop the panna cotta. I found this to be my favorite part of the meal. This experience really showed us what an Italian meal is all about. Seeing how everything is made fresh rather than pre-packaged and processed was also great. In Italy, the produce is grown locally from the best places around. As we cooked this meal, we all gained so much knowledge on the Italian culture. At the end of our cooking class, we received the recipes of the food we made. I am happy to bring some of the Italian culture home and share it with my family!


Day 14: Ganzo Ristorante

Student Author Gabi Shifflett

One of my favorite activities of our whole Italian adventure had to be our wine tasting. We were led by Gabriella, a level 3 sommelier who studied at the school 3 years—1 for wine and 2 for cooking.

She taught us a lot about the process that goes into making wine and the processes that differentiate the different types of wines. This is the maceration process. In order to make wine, one must harvest the grapes, destem them, crush then press them making sure to not over-press. The white wine then goes into a vat, while red wine goes into a vat with its skin.  The next step is the fermentation process in which sugar, yeast, CO2, and water turn into alcohol.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the wine making process because I got to learn about the behind the scenes aspects of making what is for my family a normal household item.  I also enjoyed this as I have been to wine tastings before, but none compared to this.  During our wine tasting, Gabriella helped us to analyze and dissect the different smells and flavors which we found in each wine.  She also taught us the proper way to look, smell, and taste our wines to get the full flavor.

One thing I found particularly interesting while doing the tasting was the large difference the food made in the taste of the wine.  While doing our tasting Gabriella choose foods such as meats, cheeses, and biscotti to pair with the different types of wines.  I found it interesting to taste the wine and food separately in comparison to how they tasted together because both complimented each other so well.  Often the food would bring out different tastes in the wine that had not been as bold before.  Overall I enjoyed the tasting and was amazed by the amount of knowledge and education that goes into something as simple as pairing food and drink.  I was very interested in this topic and would love to go again and learn more about the wine making and pairing process.