Czech it Out! Why You Should Study in Prague

We are thrilled to announce our new TU Exchange Program in the Czech Republic!

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What is an exchange program, you ask?

At Towson University, an exchange program is a study abroad program at one of our partner universities abroad. They send us students and we send them students. These programs are offered in the spring and fall semesters, as well as for the academic year. Because of this exchange relationship, you pay the same tuition and fees as you would for a semester or year at Towson! We currently offer exchange programs in Australia, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.

Prague Lennon Wall

Why study abroad in Prague?

Here are the top 5 reasons, as told by GoAbroad:

  1. Prague is very affordable.
  2. Prague has the best beer in the world, and possibly the cheapest.
  3. Prague is in the heart of Europe.
  4. You will fall in love with Prague.
  5. Prague’s public transportation system is simply the best.

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Still not convinced?

TU Alumna Annina Hazel studied abroad on the faculty-led program “Geography in the Heart of Europe” in Prague during the summer of 2015.

Not only did she enjoy her program, she highlighted her top 3 things that any student studying abroad in the Czech Republic must do!

  1. Participate in a home-stay (if possible)
  2. Don’t skip out on cultural trips to museums, concerts, and galleries
  3. Enjoy Czech night life!

If we’ve peaked your interest, you can check out the program page on Horizons by clicking HERE, or you can stop by the office for more information!

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How a Recipe Led to a Conversation about WWII

This post is the fifth 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:http://provisoirementprovencale.tumblr.com/

People who travel often tell me that there are some foods that hold major significance for them—a tureen of soup in Hungary, soba noodles in Okinawa, brigadeiro in Brazil. These foods are unique enough that it’s hard to associate them with any other period in life—I’ll always have a deeply rooted memory of the smell of the chestnut cream that my host family eats on their pain au lait at breakfast. However, I think people cherish these tasty memories because they were also learning experiences.

 

In my case, I’ve eaten more endive here than I’ve eaten in the past 20 years of my life, and I suspect that endive will be one of the things I remember most about this experience. It’s quite tasty, so I’m definitely not complaining. Endive is a leaf vegetable that belongs to the daisy family, according to Wikipedia. It looks like a cross between a large white tulip and a head of lettuce. My host family does a few things with it, my favorites being a salad of chopped raw endive with a mustard vinaigrette, walnuts, apples, and bleu cheese; and steamed, buttery endive wrapped tightly in ham slices, smothered in Bechamel cheese sauce.

 

The first time we had endive, I looked at it with the same curiosity as I’d looked at the cheeses they brought in from town—something I was familiar with, but didn’t often eat in the U.S. for whatever reason. They explained that endive was popular in French cooking, but not for the previous generation (their parents, my grandparents)—during World War II, as it was one of the few foods available to eat.

A poster encouraging citizens to use bread rations carefully. Taken from sen51.free.fr

A poster encouraging citizens to use bread rations carefully. Taken from sen51.free.fr

 

Many French adults who lived through that period outright refuse to eat endive today (although I saw my host mom’s parents happily eating both of my favorite recipes when they came to visit). I shared that my paternal grandfather now can’t bear canned fruit cocktail—the slippery diced chunks and the sugary, metallic aroma are a powerful memory of rationed food that he ate all too often as a child.

 

Throughout this conversation, my mind kept going to the line in The Diary of Anne Frank where Anne talks about eating “endive with sand, endive without sand” in the cramped Annex where she spent years before being captured. Conditions were unpleasant and unluxurious in the United States—bad roads, making do with pre-war goods, saving bacon grease and silk stockings for shells and parachutes. Conditions in Europe, however, were a matter of life or death. If I understood my host mom correctly, many trapped in France died of starvation during the war.

 

There was no awkward silence after this exchange, no comparison between the hardships of life in America and life in France during the deuxième guerre mondiale. Instead, there was a brief pause of realization.  Everyone sent their boys to war, civilians everywhere feared for their lives, and everyone went without. There was nothing inherently political or significant about our dinner, but the last pieces of endive resting in the bowl were a reminder of the common ground we shared then, and share now.

Q&A Spotlight: Ebonie Ravenell

Name: Ebonie Ravenell
Major: Animal Behavior and Biology major with a minor in Psychology
Grad Year: December 2015
Program Abroad: University of Tasmania in Hobart Tasmania via the TU Exchange program

Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, Queensland

Q: Food, your favorite subject & ours. Best dish? Worst dish? New recipe you picked up?
My favorite food from Australia were biscuits, what Americans called cookies. A brand called Tim Tams! I brought home 20 packs…I’m sort of like an addict. I have tried every flavor, some are better than others. My least favorite thing about Australia was Vegemite. It looks gross and tasted even worse.

Q: Did a local point you to a market, pub, or park you didn’t know about? Pass it on.
Some spots to definitely hit while in Hobart is Salamanca Market, Telegraph and Daci Daci. They have some of the best foods and drinks in the city!

Q: Weekends, full of travel. Where did you go? How did you choose? Was it difficult to plan?
I only had classes three days a week so a four day weekend was amazing. I went on a lot of hiking trips! It was awesome, seeing all the beautiful views never got old. I went to the mainland and visited Cairns, Melbourne and Sydney. I knew for a fact that I wanted to go to Cairns because that’s where the Great Barrier Reefs are located. It was something I have wanted to do since I was seven years old. It was definitely a dream. It wasn’t hard to book, it was more of trying to find the cheapest alternatives of getting there. You never want to spend  too much money if it’s not necessary. It’s really important to have a good budget for those sporadic trips with your friends.

Painted Cliffs meets the coast line at Maria Island

Finding Balance in France

This post is the fourth 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:http://provisoirementprovencale.tumblr.com/

Confession time: I had an unfair expectation for myself when I came to France. I’ve studied French since I was 11, majored in it in Towson’s remarkable French department, and am lucky to have an aptitude for the language as well as a deep interest in it. That being said, I had an “all or nothing” attitude about it when I came. For several reasons, that did not last very long.

First reason: while I’m the only U.S. American on exchange at the University of Avignon this semester, many other students speak English. Rather than isolating myself from them, I’ve decided to pick my battles and agree to speak English with some of them when we occasionally cross paths.

Second reason: many people don’t speak much English, and are very excited to learn that I’m American. My last name is British in origin, and I still have a noticeable American accent. So, people sometimes try to start conversations in English or throw out a word or two. At first, I took that really personally—I assumed that they thought I spoke poorly. However, I have learned that many of them are just deeply curious. (Aren’t I the same way?) Many adults I’ve spoken to were dissatisfied with their English education in lycée, and are looking to practice.

Third reason: being willing to speak English some of the time allows me to teach while being taught. I became an English teaching assistant at a private high school, and have had a unique opportunity to talk about American culture, learn the ins and outs of the French education system, and even help students proofread letters to American penpals. Someone also recently suggested that I post an ad on LeBonCoin (French Craigslist, basically) for private lessons. I have 5 clients and am making 15 euros an hour to help people. It has been more gratifying than I ever could have imagined.

Additionally, I’m taking a translation course, in which I and the other students work hard to learn each other’s mother tongue. If there’s a course in which the “playing field” is pretty level, that would have to be it.

As long as these paragraphs were, English makes up very little of what I’m speaking here. I roll out of bed, rub the sleep from my eyes, and speak French with my host family at breakfast; listen to French podcasts on my 20-minute walk to the university; listen to an average of 4 hours of French lectures a day; ask other students questions about the library; speak French at dinner; and do my homework in French.

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, switching from one language to another feels a lot like baking in a sauna, diving into a cold lake, and scuttling back to the sauna. It’s a shock to your system, but you get used to it—right now, I’m typing this in English and listening to my host family banter in French. Getting over myself and  being judicious about speaking English in certain situations has given me a much richer and more connected experience than I would have otherwise had. Instead of burning the bridge between myself, my native language, and my place of birth; I’m learning how to build a bridge, and weave these two lives together.

Overcoming Curveballs Abroad

This post is the third 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:http://provisoirementprovencale.tumblr.com/ 

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Hi everyone! It’s been a while–my laptop suddenly crashed three weeks ago, which is why I haven’t been writing. So, here’s the story about what happened, how I resolved it, what I learned, and what I suggest for future study abroad students who might find themselves in the same situation.

I turned on my laptop on one Saturday morning, to find that it would only stay on a screen with an Apple logo and folder with a question mark. According to forums I found on my tiny iPhone screen, I would probably need my hard drive replaced. So here I was in France, with homework to finish and a mountain of tests looming in the next month, with a possibly broken laptop. That was a curveball I wasn’t expecting.

I asked my host parents (Mac owners) for a suggestion on a repair shop at dinner that night. Their recommendation was for a place about 5km from our house. I walked to the shop on a pleasant afternoon, explained the problem, and left my computer there for almost three weeks while it was being repaired.

Every time I had do so something that usually required my computer, I had to find an alternative. As it turns out, my iPhone could do everything I needed (even as a non-functioning phone, apps still work fine over WiFi). I researched for classes, kept up with friends back home with social media apps, and even had two interviews via Google Hangouts and GoToMeeting.

It probably sounds like I just shrugged, opened a few iPhone apps, and moved on. But, it was kind of like trying to turn on light switches after the power has gone out. It was inconvenient, but I made it work. The university has free computers, which also forced me to learn how to use an international keyboard–something that I’d admittedly been avoiding.

I learned to be realistic about what I actually need. Was it rock bottom to sit in a chair at a public computer and tap at a big, foreign keyboard until my work was finished? Not even close.

There was one thing I did before this happened that made my life much easier, which I highly recommend for future study abroad students. Before you leave, and as you acquire files on study abroad, upload everything you don’t want to lose (or just want to have handy) to Google Drive. Photos, Word documents, PDFs, anything. You have 30GB of free storage in your TU Gmail—use it ! Since I have copies of some important documents in mine, I set up two-factor authentification, which is not as high-tech as it sounds—you provide a phone number when you set it up, and Google sends you a verification code to your phone so you can log in.

So, I have my computer back (128 euros later), had an excuse to walk almost 18km in beautiful Provence, learned how to accept a repair estimate and pay an invoice, and learned how to work around a curveball. As I found, even if you can’t immediately field a curveball all by yourself, there are almost always people and resources around you to help you do so.