Student Blog: Eat, Drink, and Be Maddy

Maddie in France

Maddie in France

Enjoy Maddy’s tales from France as she explores on a faculty-led program with CISAbroad. If you’re wondering just how much you’ll get out of a faculty-led minimester program, Maddy’s blog will give you a good look!

Eat, Drink, and Be Maddy

Madeline Whittemore

Bordeaux, France

Mini 2014

Q&A Spotlight: Allison Brown

Name: Allison Brown
Major: International Business Administration, Spring 2012
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
Destination: Rouen, France Fall 2010
Institution: NEOMA Business School

Allison is a recent TU alumna who studied in France and returned to live in Paris one year ago. This is her story!

Q. When you first chose your program, what motivated you to choose that program?

I knew from Freshman year that I wanted to study abroad but I was never too invested in any particular country. I didn’t speak a language other than English and I had never really been outside of the US before, so I was very open to the advice of the Study Abroad Office. My four years at Towson were financed 100% by academic scholarships, so the only criteria I was looking for in a program was that it was a TU exchange, that my credits would bring me a semester closer to graduating (i.e. studying abroad would not put me a semester behind in credits), and I liked the idea of going to Western Europe to have the proximity of lots of other countries to travel to. After I expressed my criteria to a study abroad advisor they recommended the TU Exchange with Rouen Business School (RBS) in France, which would allow me to take business courses and earn credit towards my major. Without hesitation I closed my eyes, crossed my fingers, and applied for the program.

Q. What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

I think the hardest part about studying abroad is the adjustment to an accelerated life learning curve. Prior to going abroad, everything I had learned and known had come from Baltimore. I had chosen a university that was only a 10 minute drive from where I grew up, and while I feel as though I was still privileged to have an exceptional education both in and out of school, the depth of the world really hit me when I stepped foot in France. It was a big adjustment to go from a comfortably monotonous routine to being challenged on a minute by minute basis. Just going to the grocery store to pick up a loaf of bread could be both mentally exhausting but also exponentially educational. Being in a country where you don’t speak the language isn’t just an opportunity to learn a new language, it is also the greatest opportunity one could have to learn more about themselves and about humanity in general. I quickly learned that language is merely a secondary form of communication to the simple capability that every human is endowed with to understand their fellow man, no matter where they come from or what language they speak.

Q. Now that you’ve had some time to reflect on your experience, and move on from TU, are you able to utilize your experience?

My experience has had an influence on every day of  my life since returning to the US. I have opened myself in ways I never knew were possible and my perspective on everything in life, both personal and professional has been broadened and embellished. In addition to my general perspective, studying abroad has had a significant impact on my personal and professional life because it was during my time abroad that I met my husband. My husband, who is a native Parisian and who was also a student at RBS, and I continued to date when I returned to TU. After he spent more than a year in the US, we made the decision to get married and to move to Paris. I made the move to Paris in January 2013 and have been happily living here with my husband and our new puppy for a little over a year now. Living abroad has provided an amazing professional opportunity to work for a French research organization that was looking for an account manager to handle their American accounts. It is hard to imagine finding this type of opportunity in my native country. It is such a rewarding experience to apply the business skills that I learned at TU to help a foreign company connect with my fellow Americans. I am happy to say that I am still continually challenged on a daily basis here, even now that I speak French and have learned a lot about the country and the culture since my first arrival in 2010.

Q. You may miss something from your time abroad. What?

While I have been fortunate enough to continue my experience abroad, I still miss the special experience of studying abroad. Being a student abroad creates an environment in which you can test your limits and when making mistakes can actually be more rewarding than doing what is “right”. My experience at RBS was really a time to learn and to grow as an individual.

Q. If you were to do to it all over again, what would you change?

The one thing I would change about my experience abroad would be to have made a greater effort to learn the local language. Because I had only intended to be abroad for a semester, I was very content at the time to learn a minimal amount of French to get by on a daily basis (pretty much to know how to ask where the bathroom was and how to order a beer). After having a second chance to return to France, I realize now how important a language is to a country, it is something in which I wish I had seen more cultural merit.

Q. If a student asked you about where you studied, what would you recommend to them?

I can’t speak for other countries, but after having lived in both Rouen, Paris, and having traveled through most parts of France, I highly recommend studying abroad outside of Paris. Firstly, on a practical level, Paris is extremely financially limiting. Secondly, I have many friends who loved their study abroad experience in Paris, but in the end they never had the opportunity to meet any French people or to share in any real cultural experiences. Studying abroad in a smaller city is a great way to be forced closer to the culture and to the people, you can’t easily find other Americans with whom to isolate yourself.

Q. Do you have any advice for future student?

Don’t take even one second for granted during your time abroad! Be yourself, be someone new, or be someone who you’ve always wanted to be. Try new things and try old things in new ways with new people. There is a rare chance that you will ever have the opportunity again to live somewhere where where no one knows you but everyone wants to get to know you. Find your own unique way to take everything in and give yourself back.

 Merci, Allison!

Q&A Spotlight: Ceanne West

Name: Ceanne West
Major: Computer Science
Hometown: Millersville, MD
Destination: Italy, Summer 2013
Institution: Lorenzo de’ Medici, The Italian International Institute

Q1: Let’s talk about food – the good & the bad.

The best dish I had was probably the Florentine Steak on the last night; it was so tender and juicy. All the pizza was amazing too, so it was very hard to come back to Pizza Hut and Domino’s. The worst dishes were the pre-made sandwiches. I took a cooking class so I learned a lot of new recipes. My favorite ones were the balsamic chicken and nutella croissants.

Q2: Your favorite spot in your home away from home?

My favorite spot in Florence is Basilica di San Miniato al Monte during sunset. You’re able to see the entire city. It’s right next to Piazza Michelangelo, so you get the same view, but there’s a lot less people.

Q3: A local favorite?

Pino’s on Via Giuseppe Verdi, they have the best paninis ever. I went there nearly every day on the way back from class and got “The Best,” with roast beef, smoked cheese, cooked spinach, peppers, eggplant and Pino’s special hot sauce on focaccia bread.

Q4: Anything you DON’T miss from Italy?

I definitely don’t miss the swarms of both tourists & birds.

Q5: Homesick for anything from Italy?

I think I missed bread with salt in it & free tap water.

Q6: Pick up any new vocabulary while abroad?

I continued to say “scusa” instead of “excuse me” for a few weeks after I came back.

Q7: You could hardly believe your eyes when you saw …

Toilets in Moneglia, Italy are a whole new experience!

Toilets in Moneglia, Italy are a whole new experience!

When we went to Moneglia, the toilets near one of the train stations were practically holes in the ground. It was disgusting.

Q8: How did you manage your weekends?

I took a train to Moneglia the first weekend with a few other girls on my trip. Then I took the train to Pisa for a day. The weekend after, I went on one of the trips planned by our abroad school to Monaco & Monte Carlo then St. Paul de Vince and Cannes. On the last weekend, I took another trip planned by the school to Rome & Cannes. I definitely recommend going on the school trips rather than planning your own. It’s a little more expensive, but it’s much less stressful than trying to plan it yourself while you’re there. Plus, I was able to meet students who were also studying at my Italian school but were from different colleges in the states.

Q9: What challenged you while you were abroad?

My worst day was the third day in when the money for the weekend trips was due. The ATM wouldn’t give me cash, the girls with me left because it was getting too close to the deadline, I got lost trying to get to the office, and it was closed when I did. Make sure to tell your bank you’re going abroad before you do.

Q10: Parting words?

I feel like a lot of students say they want to study abroad, but never make the moves to do it. Hit up the study abroad office and get some information. It’s an amazing experience. If you’re afraid of being away from home for a whole semester, consider going during one of the breaks.

Grazie, Ceanne!

Q&A Spotlight: Nate Moran

This post is the first in our new Q&A Spotlight Series on returning students.You can find this story and all future spotlights by searching in the category “Q&A Spotlight.” Enjoy!

Name: Nate Moran
Major: Business Administration, ‘13
Hometown: Middletown, DE
Destination: New Zealand, Spring 2013
Institution: Auckland University of Technology

Be sure to check out Nate’s YouTube video from his experience here.

Q1: Let’s talk about food – the good & the bad.

Actually, the best dish I had while in New Zealand was from a Brazilian place.  The restaurant was Brazilian but the steak was New Zealand beef…which was fantastic.  The chicken, beef, and lamb are all great in New Zealand.  The Kiwis are well-known for these meats, especially because everything is free-range.  We took part in traditional Maori (New Zealand’s indigenous culture) feast, called a “Hāngi”; this is a Polynesian-style cooking in a pit under the ground.  All sorts of meats, vegetables, potatoes, and kumara (the Maori sweet potato) are slow-cooked throughout the entire day under the ground.

Q2: Your favorite spot in your home away from home?

Talk about a hard question.  New Zealand is well known for so much beautiful terrain wherever you go, North or South Island.  Although I have many favorite spots, I’d say that the Bay of Islands (in the Northland Region) was the coolest place I’ve ever been to.  We took a rental boat and hopped around uninhabited islands all day long.  We were able to experience great hikes and beautiful waters.

Q3: A local favorite?

My ‘claim to fame’ is the Happy Hour spot I was told about early on in Auckland City—Spitting Feathers.  It was definitely a hard-to-find local place with a lot of young professionals.  The deals were great and we filled our stomachs with a lot of pizza and beer.  However, I have to say that Ponsonby Central was the best place that we were recommended.  This place was full of locals and such a great atmosphere.  The marketplace is filled with great restaurants, bakeries, shops, art galleries, and more.  Ponsonby was my favorite place in the city.

Q4: Anything you DON’T miss from NZ?

Not one thing.  Life was good and everyone in New Zealand was so laid back.  If I was ever presented the opportunity, I could definitely see myself living there.  For a backpacker, this place is the most ideal spot you can be in the world—snowy mountains, pristine beaches, and a bit of urban culture.

Q5: Homesick for anything from NZ?

The entire experience in itself.  As I sit down to write this after a full week of work, I realize that we had no limits being abroad.  I took my classes serious there, but also had so much time to explore other parts of the world and different cultures.  Being able to pick up and go to the mountains or the beach on the weekends is dearly missed.  Regardless of taking classes, we had so much free time to explore every street in Auckland, attend any big event, and go tramping (New Zealand’s word for hiking/exploring) on the weekends.

Q6: Pick up any new vocabulary while abroad?

“Kia-ora, bro.  Are you keen to go tramping with me this weekend?—That would be sweet bro, but I have a rugby game.”  The dialect of a New Zealander is kind of like that of an Australian, but with a relaxed vibe.  I learned quit e a few slang words while attempting to blend in as a kiwi.  I also learned various Maori words in my Maori Leadership course.  Kia ora is an informal “hi”, but literally means “be well/healthy.”

Q7: You could hardly believe your eyes when you saw …

I was real shocked when I went to a New Zealand rugby match against France.  Considering this was a World Cup rematch, the game at Eden Park stadium (Auckland, NZ) was a huge deal.  Although this is by far the number one sport in New Zealand, the fans act very different than what I expected.   The stadium was quiet and fans paid attention to every detail of the game.  Cheering typically happens right after a team scores, and that’s it—nothing in between.  It is not like American football where people are constantly cheering.

Q8: How did you manage your weekends?

We tried to take advantage of every weekend.  Packing our backpacks and heading to the dairy (supermarket) to stock up on food was something I looked forward to.  We traveled all over New Zealand on our weekends.  Hiking/Camping in the Coromandel Peninsula, touring vineyards in Hawkes Bay, taking the ferry to Waiheke Island, tramping around the volcano from the Lord of the Rings, and many more activities were completed during our weekends.  We chose ones that looked exciting and just went for it.  We didn’t get to do everything, but I still feel very accomplished.

Q9: What challenged you while you were abroad?

I’d say the toughest day I had in New Zealand was the day of my finals, because it was very stressful for me.  The three classes I took in Auckland were actually the last three courses for the completion of my degree.  I needed to perform well in my classes abroad in order to graduate.  I ended up doing well in my classes, so all is well.  I think the toughest part of studying abroad is coming home and realizing that your semester abroad is completed.

Q10: Parting words?

I highly recommend visiting New Zealand because it was an amazing place.  You also might be able to experience other places such as Australia and Fiji.  Overall, go to a place that will let you break free from the norm.  Meeting new people and trying to adapt to new cultures is a fun obstacle to take on, and can be very beneficial in the long run.  This was no doubt the best experience I’ve ever had.  Any step you take, it will always be a step forward in a particular direction.  Get out and explore!

Thanks, Nate!

Fall 2013 Photo Contest: Top Ten

G’Day Travelers,

Every semester we ask our students to submit photos of themselves during their time abroad for our bi-annual photo contest. The Fall entries include students who have studied abroad either in the previous spring or summer semester. The first round of voting happens in the office and on social media with the photographer’s name hidden and their image doing all the talking. Once the photos are narrowed down to the Top Ten, we post them at our pre-departure social, and our pre-departure orientation for fellow study abroad participants to vote on them. The photos below are of students whose photos made it into our Top Ten.

This semester, our winning photos will be hosted in the Honors College. Stop by Stephens Hall to take a look!


China: Kung Fu Dream

When I was still living in America a little over a month ago, I had the privilege of coming into contact with a very special person to me. During my sophomore year at Towson I had become very interested in China and Chinese philosophy—namely Daoism. Since I was eager to learn all that I could about Daoism, I found myself searching on the internet for any scrap of information that I could grasp about the philosophy. Through my searching, I came across the e-mail address of a man named Li Quan. As it turned out, Master Li Quan had been training in traditional Chinese kung fu for longer than I have been alive, and operates a traditional school only a short distance from my place on Sichuan University’s campus. So, I reached out to Master Li Quan and asked if he would be able to teach me while I was staying for a semester in Chengdu, China; there was an astounding “yes”.

With my busy school schedule and other responsibilities, I cannot spend as much time at his school as I would like (considering it is about a 40 minute bus ride away from the campus), but I try my best to go at least two times every week. Master Li Quan is one of the nicest people I have ever met, and he always greets me happily. He speaks English fairly well, but requires that I speak in Chinese to him whenever I am able—this is great because I am trying to learn as much of the language as possible. On top of the strenuous exercises that he puts me through at his traditional school, he also teaches me about Chinese culture and Daoist philosophy. He feels that the only way to learn Chinese kung fu correctly is if it is coupled with lessons in the culture and language, too.

It is safe to say that I leave his training place very sore every time I come and go, but it is a feeling I look forward to. When I leave China in December to return home, I plan to continue practicing what I am being taught right now. There is an old Chinese saying that goes: “师父领进门,修行靠个人” (shifu ling jin men, xiu xing kao ge ren), it means that the master will show the way, but it is up to the individual (student) to discover and learn for himself.

Scott Knowles
Chengdu, China
Fall 2013