Minimester adventures in the UK

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A group of our best and brightest students made the decision to study abroad during this minimester to the UK! For many of these students, this is their first time in a foreign country, and they only have a limited amount of time to venture into the unknown and experience all that UK has to offer. Without a moment to spare, our students dived head first into the winter of their lives and have been learning and exploring nonstop. If you wish to live vicariously through them (I know we do), then keep up with this blog post and see what our students have been doing on a daily basis.

Towson’s Corporate Communication Group Takes London

Day 1:
After an uneventful flight, we arrived at London’s Heathrow to wait for the rest of the group. We then made our way into the city via a private coach and were dropped off at our spacious apartments. Upon settling in a bit, we ventured out for a short tour to acclimate ourselves to our new neighborhood. We were shown the nearest grocery stores, ATMs, Tube station, etc. Once our guide felt we were sufficiently acquainted with our new home away from home, she set us free! After a hot shower, unpacking, and battling the urge to sleep, the group met at Pizza Express for a ‘welcome to London’ dinner. While Pizza Express may not be the first thing you conjure up in your mind for typical London fare, it is a popular chain restaurant with delicious pizza. The group enjoyed the food and had a chance to get to know one other better!

Day 2:
We successfully navigated our way on the Tube and arrived at ‘campus’ for a general orientation session organized by the AIFS staff. They reviewed matters concerning health and safety, student services available, transportation options, and different cultural norms. After a lunch break, we were then shown all around town by a Blue Badge guide. To earn such a badge, one must study for a minimum of two years, and our guide had studied for four years. Obviously full to the brim with knowledge, she imparted a great deal of interesting information to the group. Thankfully it was a particularly quiet day for traffic, so we made our way all through the city on our private coach and made a few stops at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, and the Globe Theatre. If only we could get her to meet us at a local pub to play trivia; we could dominate…!

Day 3:
The group met for class to discuss some logistical matters and share their impressions about their time in London thus far. From the sounds of it, students were teeming with comparisons and had already noticed a great deal of differences between the American and British cultures in just two, short days. After a lunch break, we listened to our first guest lecturer, Iain Swan, who discussed experiential marketing.  It’s a rather new concept in the world of communication, and it’s one that focuses on brands needing to use a brand experience to create a vivid and valued experience for its consumers in order to be successful. He outlined several factors that he deemed to be imperative to utilize when trying to build a brand experience strategy and provided a lot of interesting examples to drive home his points.

Day 4:
Our next lecturer, Nicole D’Adamo, discussed British media. She started with a discussion about the BBC Broadcasting Network, which provided us with an excellent introduction as we toured the BBC later in the afternoon. We learned that the BBC aims to inform, educate, and then entertain viewers as the BBC’s number one goal is to provide a service to the public. Anyone owning a television in the UK must pay a license fee annually, and the fee is the principal means of funding for the BBC. We also discussed newspaper readership in the UK as 15% of population claims that their main platform for news is print. We were encouraged to pick up a few newspapers during our stay to bone up on current UK issues.

Our afternoon BBC tour reinforced the information given to us earlier in the day, and the group was given several opportunities to practice their communication skills. It seems that we have two potential news anchors in our midst as they flawlessly covered a story on the news. Others tried their hat on the radio as they partook in a murder mystery radio piece. It was a riveting and nail-biting tale that included eerie sounds effects. We also toured the main BBC newsroom, the “The One Show” studio, and the Royal National Theatre. I should also mention that we have a “The Voice” judge in our group as well – let’s hope she has a winning team.

Plus check it out:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04vvplg/the-one-show-07012015. Prof. Turowski and students had an amazing, unplanned opportunity to be a part of a live viewing of the “The One Show.” They brushed shoulders with Emily Blunt, James Corden, and David Dimbleby – no big deal. * we found out the video is only live in the UK .. just know that it’s awesome!

Day 5:
Thursday was a busy sightseeing day! We started off in the rain and made our way to Westminster Abbey, a notable church for many reasons as we learned from our insightful guide. About 3,000 famous folks are buried here including a great deal of royalty including King Edward I and many other influential characters such as Charles Darwin, Geoffrey Chaucer, and Laurence Olivier. Westminster Abbey is not only a burial site, but it also has hosted some pretty big events in its day including  several coronations like Queen Elizabeth’s in 1953 and a few royal weddings like that of Prince William to Catherine Middleton in 2011.

Thankfully the rain gave way to sunny skies, and we headed to the Tower of London to learn more about its past and to lust after the Crown Jewels. The tower is actually called Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress, and the Queen could technically take up residence here as it’s a palace, but we agreed that her other palaces are more suitable. The Tower has served many capacities during its prominent history. It’s been an armory, a treasury, a zoo, the home of the Royal Mint, a public records office, and as mentioned, it now houses the heavily secured Crown Jewels. Unfortunately, there was no good opportunity to stash the Koh-i-Noor diamond weighing in at 105 carats into a bag. Maybe next time…?

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Day 6:
We split into two groups and one went to the Museum of Brands, Packaging, and Advertising while the other went on a ghost signs walking tour. Later in the day, the groups switched! The museum is located in lovely, Notting Hill and houses over 12,000 items that date as far back as the Victorian times. We walked down memory lane as the museum organized toys, foods, and household items by time period. It was neat to see how most brands have continued to use a particular logo that remains relatively the same today. There was also a section of the museum dedicated to packaging, and it outlined the strides in materials and efficiency of packaging of a wide array of goods over the past few decades.

So you may be wondering what ghosts have to do with communication as many of the students wondered the same thing! But alas, we didn’t go on a ghost tour. The tour focused on ghost signs, which are old advertising signs on the sides of buildings that have faded over time. Our guide, Sam, took us around Stoke Newington and explained the history behind many of the signs, which dated from the mid-1800s to the 1930s. The tour provided us with an interesting perspective on historical advertising, and some of the some elements remain relevant in today’s world. Since the tour, our group has noticed ghost signs throughout London and has tried to decipher them. Thankfully the students are young with good eyes since it can be quite difficult to read the faded lettering!

Day 7:
A free day! There was no itinerary – no early wakeup call – everyone was free to spend the day however they wished. Some of us explored more of the city making our way to Hyde Park, Kensington Palace, and Harrods while others ventured a bit farther afield to Windsor Castle to visit with the Queen. All in all, it was another busy day!

Day 8:
The group met early to make our way outside of London to visit Stonehenge and the city of Bath with our blue badge guide, Nigel. As we approached Stonehenge, we could see the impressive stones dotting the countryside. Archaeologists believe that Stonehenge was built anywhere from 3000 BC to 2000 BC, and while there is no written record dating to the site’s creation, a great deal of speculation surrounds its purpose. Numerous theories exist, but some claim that it was site where people celebrated the winter solstice; others argue that it’s a site of burial for the elite. It seems that its purpose will remain a mystery to us, but its grandeur will continue to inspire and awe visitors.
We then carried on to the city of Bath, which is UNESCO Word Heritage Site thanks to its rich history, beautiful architecture, and of course its Roman baths. All the buildings in the city are mandated to be built using the local limestone, which gives the city a consistent look. We drove through the city to get a sense of it and made a quick stop at the Royal Crescent, a row of 30 terraced houses, which is the best example of Georgian architecture in the UK. We then had some time to have lunch and explore the city a bit. At 2:45 sharp, we gathered at the entrance of the Roman bath for a tour of the complex. The baths, a Roman site for public bathing, have been well-preserved. The hot springs located here bubble up and produce about 250,000 gallons every day! The water isn’t safe to bathe in, but we were given an opportunity to sample clean water at the end. Many in the group were brave enough to try it, and we decided that it’s no Poland Springs water. The amount of minerals in the water gave it a rather unpleasant taste.

Day 9:
Back to the classroom we went! Our first lecturer of the day, Allison Lowe, discussed public relations (PR) specific to the fashion industry. The days of public relation agents only churning out press releases are over; today, PR compasses a great deal more. She provided us with a long list of opportunities, whether it be trade shows, installations, social media, or collaborations, to engage PR strategy as she says every interaction with a brand is public relations. She stressed the importance of persistence and patience as there are no guarantees that your pitch may be featured. It’s important to remain dedicated though for it can pay off. For the past 15 years, she has worked in the fashion industry, so it was interesting to hear some of her techniques for helping to promote young and upcoming high-end fashion designers. She also gave us a hot, new trend for men: the man skirt! I kid you not. It’s apparently a new look from last week’s London Collection: Mens. Let’s hope it takes a while for that trend to catch on…

Later in the afternoon, Justin Lorentzen, met with us to discuss British government. He outlined the role of the monarchy, the House of Commons, and the House of Lords. The Queen reigns but does not rule; the House of Commons is responsible for legislation; the House of Lords is the brain trust. We watched video clips from the opening of Parliament, which occurs every summer and is a good example of the relationship between the three bodies. The event is the commencement of a session of the Parliament, which includes a speech by the Queen. We’ll be able to walk the same halls later in the week when we tour the Houses of Parliament.

Day 10:
The day started with a lecture on organizational culture given by Paul Kyprianides. Having worked for both British and American companies, he compared the different approaches to organizational culture in each. He explained that class structure, while less prominent than it was years ago, is still quite prevalent in the UK. Because of this structure, a top-down management approach is very common in British companies. According to him, the structure in the U.S. is different as it is a consensus movement, which encourages people at all levels to be a part of the decision making process. Obviously each approach has its pros and cons, and we agreed that a combination of both approaches is likely to yield the best results.

Next up, we had a presentation by Julia O’Doherty from GDR Creative Intelligence. The company is an independent foresight agency specializing in retail, brand, and hospitality, and Julia shared a few trends, including branded downtime and cognitive computing. Basically, branded downtime is putting your brand in front of folks when they are just idling and passing time. She shared several clever examples, including the new Amazon Echo (if you haven’t seen this, check it out). Another fascinating trend is cognitive computing, which was designed to augment human expertise (i.e. Watson on Jeopardy). The question remains how brands will use cognitive computers to make them stand out from the pack.

After a long day of lectures, we hit up the West End and watched Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace Theatre. We were memorized by the story and impressed with the dancing and singing talents of the cast. Several of us were moved to tears and left wanting to break out our dusty dance shoes!

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Day 11:
First up, Alex Seago discussed the British Press and had us examine several different UK national papers. Through our examination, we were able to determine how class and political leanings play out in the different daily papers. One paper was geared toward the elderly population and was chock-full of medical equipment advertisements; another targeted female readership with a conservative but feminist slant. Each paper caters to different groups, and which paper you read says a lot about your social class and political thoughts. We can’t wait to ride the Tube and decipher everyone’s background based on the paper in their hands.

We then made our way to Bacchus PR, a creative agency that offers services and expertize in public relations. Our presenters shared a bit about working at the firm and gave a few examples of life as a restaurant PR specialist. An obvious perk of working with this firm is the fact that they have an office pet: an older, sweet greyhound.

Part of the study abroad experience is experiencing the local culture. Nothing screams British culture louder than afternoon tea. We met at Scoff & Banter for tea (breakfast, Earl Grey, or green) and sampled many different sandwiches, scones, and sweets. While it certainly wasn’t tea with the Queen, it was a memorable experience, and we all left stuffed and contented.

Day 12:
Another part of the study abroad experience is the study. The day started with a short answer exam that focused on the material covered thus far in the program. Reactions were mixed, but most students felt they did pretty well. Let’s hope the test scores reflect that!

Our final lecturer, Phil Woodford, met us in the afternoon to talk about Marketing Communications. He discussed different models of communication and stressed the importance of two-way communication; without two-way communication, a marketing campaign can only have limited success. We talked about the difficulties of monitoring your brand these days, especially with the growing dependence on social media. We looked at different examples of brands influencing other brands, which could be classified as collaboration as long as it’s a mutually beneficial agreement. He also questioned whether or not older forms of marketing communication, like TV commercials, are becoming obsolete. He provided us with excellent ideas and definitely left us with a lot to ponder.

Day 13:
The group met at St. Paul’s Cathedral for a guided tour, but we were told upon entering that we didn’t in fact have a guided tour. There was a grumble of disappointment amongst us because without a guide, we wouldn’t be able to see the spiral staircase that was showcased in one of the Harry Potter films. Prof. Turowski conferred with the guides again, and it turns out that they had confused us with ‘Tucson’ University. Relieved, we were quickly shown the impressive staircase. That wasn’t all that we saw though, and we learned about its history. After the Great Fire of London, the cathedral was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren. Influenced by his time in France, he wanted to build something different, something impressive. The signature dome certainly fit the bill, and it has remained a fixture of the London skyline for decades. Many in the group climbed the 500 steps to the top of the dome and were rewarded with beautiful views of the city.

After an afternoon class, we made our way to The Guardian newspaper headquarters. We were given a short presentation that covered the history and daily running of the paper. Claire Shaw, the deputy editor for the Guardian Higher Education Network met with us. She talked about her career path and discussed her work at the paper. Students were given the opportunity to ask questions, and we left with a copy of the paper to read through.

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Day 14:
The day started with a tour of the Palace of Westminster, which is commonly known as the Houses of Parliament. Fire wreaked havoc not once but twice, and only the Westminster Hall remains from the 1834 fire. Charles Barry was hired to rebuild the palace, and he along with the help of others helped to create the gorgeous Gothic building that stands today. The Houses of Parliament are home to the House of Lords and the House of Commons. We toured both chambers and even saw the mark on the door caused by Black Rod during the commencement of a session of the Parliament. We were able to walk the halls of Parliament and have a deeper understanding of the dynamics between the monarchy, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons thanks to an earlier lecture by Justin Lorentzen.

We learned that the London Eye had been closed for the majority of January as it underwent a sponsor change; Coke Cola is now the proud owner. Thankfully for us and the throngs of other tourists, it reopened before our departure! A fire alarm delayed our flight time and caused major mayhem amongst the crowd. One of the students managed to corral our group onto a pod with great authority, and we took flight! The 30 minute flight allowed enough time for a plethora of selfies and groupies with London providing a stunning background. After two weeks of traversing the city, it was nice to see the city from way up high.

Day 15:
The only scheduled event on the itinerary was our farewell dinner, so many spent the day packing, buying last minute souvenirs, and exploring the rest of the places on their ‘to-see’ list. For supper, we dined at the Punch Tavern, which is apparently known as a steak and ale pie shop and gin palace. As far as I’m aware, there was no sampling of the gin, but many tried the one of the offered pies. During the meal, we reviewed the past two weeks and had a laugh or two. We discussed how quickly time had passed, and yet it seemed like forever since we’d seen our family and pets. We agreed that the program was great, but we were ready to head home.

Day 16:
It was up early to check out of our accommodations and board a private coach to the airport. Everyone was on time as it was clearly communicated that we would be leaving promptly at 7:30 regardless of whether or not we were all there. Understandably, one wanted to risk missing a flight, and we all left at 7:32. Despite some heavy traffic, we arrived in plenty of time to check-in and spend our last remaining pounds. Time to fly home and process the amazing experience! ​

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Studying in Florence: Myth Busters

Study Abroad Myths Busted

Study Abroad Myths Busted

Name: Kim Le
Major: Art and Design
Hometown: Hochimin, Vietnam
Destination: Florence, Italy
Institution: TU in Italy: Lorenzo de’Medici, Florence campus

First, I must say that I absolutely love all my classes in Florence, including the elective class that made me write 12 pages research with 1.5 space (yes, I am looking at you, History of Costume!). Nearing the end of the semester, though, like every other sane college students, I am starting to look back in horror at the huge distance between reality and my expectation of classes in Florence. What happened to a ‘relaxing and carefree semester filled with adventures and making new friends and… what do you mean classes? What are classes?’ Sitting here in the middle of the night drowning in homework was certainly not what I expected before leaving, but it makes me wonder how much of myths were there in all these opinions about studying abroad. I have heard so many but right now, I can count the most popular ones here:

1. Classes are EASY.

Being an Art major taking three studio classes this semester, I have to say, 5 hours classes are not easy. I am allowed 2 absences for each class, but when skipping a studio class means 5 hours extra work, no idea how to use new techniques, and what is that new disaster on my table that no professor is around telling me how to fix?! The materials for all classes are not easy either. A sentence I cannot forget from my professor is “This is a very good class; everyone is doing very well, so I will give all a B”. The difference?  There are only B+ or B-, no normal B. I am still not sure if this is funny or not, since the way he said it so sincerely like he was giving the whole class an A and compliments. It does not help at all that homework is poking at me every chance it has, making sure my love affair with open lab studio outweighed the joy of beaches and mountains and ancient cities that I could have visited more if only I have more time.

Students Study Abroad

Students actually study during study abroad!
Photo Courtesy of Tulane Public Relations

2. Attendance is not important.

Third absence – one grade down, fourth absence – congrats, you just failed a class! It actually scared me in the beginning, because, come on, who would make us choose between an extra day in Greece or France and two hours of class (if you are lucky, since studio classes last 5 hours a week, or probably unlucky enough having to stay just because of 2 hours)? Nearly no excuse would EVER be accepted, even if you were sick with doctor’s note.

3. Classes? Which classes?

Okay, when I read the advising articles online, it seemed that classes do not even exist to us studying abroad students, or at least not related much to our experiences. What a lie. I learned and enjoyed my classes so much that I do not even mind (much) the long hours and extra hours spent on studio (which is such a scary idea I must burry it down to the deepest pit of self-denial). The classes’ facilities are not the best, but all of my professors are so enthusiastic and knowledgeable that now I am regretting having to leave.

 

Life in Florence: The Small Things

Forget about tourist attractions, it is the small things that matter.

Name: Kim Le
Major: Art and Design
Hometown: Hochimin, Vietnam
Destination: Florence, Italy
Institution: TU in Italy: Lorenzo de’Medici, Florence campus

So, a thing about living in a famous city with countless visitors all around the year is sometimes I forgot Florence is a tourist destination. I would wake up everyday, rushing to class, waiting impatiently for the tourists who are snapping pictures of the Duomo to please, please move away and stop blocking the sidewalk (and do you really need to take that many pictures, seriously?! A side note: yes, they do, and so did I, at the beginning at least).

The point is, I stopped treating Florence like a vacation place the moment I greeted her at the airport, knowing she is my lover for the next three months. Rather than jumping around the hottest attraction, I spent my time finding out the good cafés and grocery stores, the food markets and places to hang out–everything that would help me fit right in with the lovely city I am having the incredible luck to explore. Sure I went to the museums and historical places, but it is more like ‘let’s see what’s around the neighborhood’ than ‘I need to see that museum and this market and did you even know this restaurant ranks 5 stars on TripAdvisor?!’

Antica Gelateria Florentina, Italy Study Abroad

Kim suggests everyone try out the Antica Gelateria Florentina in Florence, Italy.

Just a note, this gelateria on my way to class is an absolutely must for anyone who visit Florence.

As I spend so much time walking around the city, people watching is my favorite game all these months. To this day, it still amuses me seeing Italians wearing thick coats and scarves even when it is around 60 -70 F outside. Florence is hot, much hotter than Towson, and I for one sure cannot wear these coats and keep a straight face walking around! Apparently, clothes are the best way to tell between locals and tourists, as my Italian professor told us that no Italian would ever consider wearing shorts. Shorts = tourists. Tried and true! Another small thing I appreciate are the dogs! People here take their dogs on a walk all the time, so I took on a new habit: cooing (internally) over all the cute dogs walking around the city!

Florence, Italy Study Abroad

Kim loves all of dog-walkers around Florence, Italy!

Q&A Fulbright Scholar, Laura Powell

Fulbright Student, Laura Powell, recounts her experiences abroad

My name is Laura Powell, originally from Bel Air, MD. I graduated from Towson in 2010 with a Major in History and a Minor in Anthropology. Before graduating, I received a Fulbright Scholarship to do independent research in the United Kingdom. More specifically, I lived in Cardiff, Wales and with the guidance of faculty at Cardiff University I studied and researched the history of the Welsh language movement and the importance of the Welsh language in constructing modern Welsh culture

Q: When you first chose to apply to the Fulbright program, what motivated you to choose that program? A professor, friend, a specific opportunity?

One of my professors at Towson suggested it. Originally, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do immediately following graduation. I was considering applying to graduate school, but didn’t know if I was ready to move straight from undergraduate to graduate school. One of my professors suggested that I apply for a Fulbright Scholarship as a way of getting more experience with research and studying on my own while still getting world experiences and traveling abroad.

Q. What was the hardest part about being abroad?

The hardest part about being abroad was being truly independent for the first time. I had always considered myself independent before leaving the United States, but living abroad took this to a completely different level. In an emergency or in moments of uncertainty, my friends and family were an entire ocean away and any help that they could have given me would be slow in coming. For the first time, I was having to figure out every aspect of my life by myself with the knowledge that, in the event that something went wrong, I would have to figure it out largely on my own.

Even though this was the hardest—and at times scariest thing—about living abroad, it was actually the best thing that could have happened to me.  Living and traveling along abroad forced me to adapt quickly to new situations, new personalities, and a new culture. This made me so much more responsible to myself and so much more confident in almost every aspect of my life.

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 been extremely useful to me in two particular ways. First, the experience I gained in constructing my own research project has proven invaluable to my current studies as a graduate student.  I learned key lessons about crafting research questions, setting realistic work goals and timelines (and then sticking to them!), and working with others to build the projects I imagine. My time as a Fulbright scholar was an amazing intermediate period between college and graduate school that provided a relatively painless transition from college where professors tend to guide their students more, to graduate school where professors expect more independent thinking and work from their students.

Second, the changes that have occurred in my own attitudes and self-confidence have been incredible. I find that I’m less intimidated by difficult or challenging situations that come up. Instead of panicking or turning to others to guide me, I’m able to calmly and reasonably work my own way through these situations. I would say that this develops from being forced to make life decisions on my own and often in unfamiliar circumstances and environments.  Once you need to figure out when to get on a train in Prague and when to get off the train in Vienna so that you can sprint to catch the bus that is taking you to Salzburg, and then catch the right train to Florence when all you speak is English and French, nothing really seems quite as scary as it used to.

Q. Do you miss anything from abroad?

I miss traveling! When I was living in the UK, countries and cities were so close together and public transportation was so efficient that traveling was easy and relatively inexpensive.

I don’t know that this wanderlust will ever go away, but it has definitely made me more interested in continuing to travel and to explore new places.

Q. If a student asked you about applying for a Fulbright, what would advice would you give them?

I strongly suggest that students give themselves a lot of time to build their application and to carefully consider and craft their research topic and questions.  Make sure that the project you’re proposing fits the scholarship to which you’re applying.  More importantly, make sure that your research questions are specific enough to show that you have some knowledge on the issue and that no one else is working on this particular project, but broad enough or applicable in some way that the work you’ll be doing is of interest to people in the field.  I worked very closely with my Towson Fulbright advisor to make sure that my research proposal and personal statement were as strong as they possibly could be and didn’t have any glaring holes that would raise questions from a review panel.  Be prepared to go through several drafts of your research proposal and application for national scholarships.  The competition is very fierce, so it will take some time to work on your application and fully polish it before submission.

Thanks, Laura!

 

Did you know?

Towson was named a top producer of U.S Fulbright Scholars? Read about it here!

 

Q&A Spotlight: Chris Neutzling

Name: Chris Neutzling
Major: Criminal Justice
Hometown: Crofton, MD
Destination: Rome, Italy
Institution: American University of Rome

Study abroad, Rome, Italy

Study abroad in Rome, Italy

Q1: Your favorite subject & ours: Food! Best dish? Worst dish? New recipe you picked up?

The best pasta I ever had in my life was in Florence.  Also, I was on a personal mission to try pizza everywhere I went.  Simply put, you can’t really go wrong at most places around Italy.  As for worst dish, I can’t name anything specific that stood out.  My best advice would be to get food at the none touristy places because that it where you will find the most authentic and delicious food.

Q2: Talk about your favorite spot in your home away from home. Where? Why?

The Trevi Fountain….at night.  Yes, everyone knows this place but not everyone goes at three in the morning, where it is just you and several others.  Take a stroll after a night out to the fountain and you will be at peace away from all the tourist distractions.  I spent my last night here in Rome.  My friends and I stayed out close to five in the morning just enjoying the scenery.

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

Q3: Did a local point you to a market, pub, or park you didn’t know about? Pass it on.

For my school, the hot spots were a sandwich deli right up the street and an Irish bar located near the center of Rome.  At the deli, the man behind the counter spoke English (as you will find many Italians do) and was extremely friendly.  By the end of my stay, he would recognize me and have my sandwich prepared and ready.

Q4: Are there things you don’t miss from your destination? What? Why?

Public Transportation.  The public transportation in Rome is best described as unreliable.  I know what you are thinking, isn’t Europe supposed to have fantastic transportation?  Well Rome buses basically choose when they feel like coming.  There was several times when I waited for a bus close to an hour when they are supposed to come every fifteen minutes.  The tram, on the other hand, did run on its scheduled time.  However, during my stay workers when on strike several times, so no tram then.

Q5: You’re actually homesick for something from abroad. What? Why?

Honestly, I would probably say my classmates.  I did not know a single person in my program going into it.  By my last night in Rome, nearly all of the study abroad summer students were going out together.  It is pretty rare to have nearly an entire school that does this.  I was surprised at how much of a tight knit group we were and I would love to have a reunion with everyone someday, in Rome of course!

Q6: What new vocabulary have you added to your repertoire after study abroad?

“Vorrei” which means, “I would like,” was my go to when ordering food places.  Sometimes I would cheat and point and say, “questo,” which means “this.”  Other times ordering I would probably butcher trying to pronounce the word right.

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

The David, a masterpiece by Michelangelo.  I am not too big on art.  One of my friends was really excited to see this sculpture and I kept thinking to myself, “what’s the big deal?”  Boy was I misunderstood.  When I first saw The David, I stood for a good ten minutes just staring at it.  If you ever have a chance to visit Florence I recommend going to see this sculpture.  The intricate details on it are astounding for something carved out of marble.  You can even see individual tendons on his hands!

Q8: Where did you travel? How did you choose? Was it difficult to plan?

I had the pleasure of taking a trip down the Amalfi Coast to Capri and various other cities along the way.  This was through the school so traveling was a piece of cake.  If you have to plan your own trip I recommend using, Bus2aps.  My friends used them several times and had a blast.  Also, I would recommend traveling to Capri if you get the chance.  It is one of the most beautiful places you will find in the world.

Q9: What challenged you while you were abroad? Why?

Believe it or not, my worst day happened to be the first day arriving.  I almost lost my wallet on the plane, which is probably the worst way to start any trip.  I was rushed back to my apartment alone, did not know a single person nor had any way of contacting them.  I was tired and grumpy from such a long flight.  Not knowing what to do, I decided to take a nap.  I woke up several hours later to my new roommates entering the apartment.  Things got much better from there.

Q10: PARTING WORDS. What would you say to students worried about studying abroad? 

The best journeys answer questions you would never think to ask.  Think outside the box, try news things, and be adventurous.  You are going to mess up sometimes and things are going to happen, it’s how you respond that’s important.  Always stay calm and positive.  You will be rewarded when looking back on your experiences.

Keep calm and study abroad

Keep calm!

Student Blog: NomNom.Com

Stein Switzerland

Skydiving in Switzerland!

Follow Lindsay through the Czech Republic as she experiences the cities through food and adventure! We love her Instagram feed, too .. but be forewarned, it will make you oh so hungry!

NomNom.com

www.blog-nomnom.com

Lindsay Stein

CEA: Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, Angl-AMerican University in Prague

Spring 2014

Q&A Spotlight: Arielle Silverman

Name: Arielle Silverman
Major: Family and Human Services
Hometown: Westfield, New Jersey
Destination: London, England
Institution: GlobaLinks Learning Abroad, Kingston University.

Q1: FOOD, your favorite subject & ours. Best dish? Worst dish? New recipe you picked up?

Honestly, this is a tough question to answer. I am a food ADDICT, so eating was one of my favorite activities while I was abroad. By the way, I studied in England. Did everyone’s mouths just drop all the way to their keyboards after reading how much I enjoyed eating in the UK? Before I left, everyone I encountered warned me about how awful the food in England was, so the days leading up to my trip I was convinced that I was going to starve to death. Contrary to popular belief, England does have some noteworthy foods (at least in my opinion).

Alright, best dish. HOW CAN I PICK?! I’ll narrow it down to four things: Indian food, kebabs, Nando’s, and chips (fries). I’d go into excessive detail explaining each and every one, but I think people would rather not read three pages of my food obsession…(maybe I’ll expand on my own blog).

Now for the worst- I don’t know if I can pick one, mostly because there are so many English foods that are just repulsive looking and are probably what you’d think of when you hear someone mention England.

Q2: What was your favorite spot in your home away from home? Why?

London is so wonderful that I can think of hundreds of favorite spots, but I do have a couple that will always stick out in my mind. I went to a university in a town called Kingston Upon Thames, which is 20 minutes outside of central London by train. The town was absolutely adorable. There were stores, restaurants, and pubs, and it was the type of town that had sections of just pedestrian walkways, which usually meant there were always a lot of different street performers or people playing music or singing. To top it off, there was a market in one part of town that was set up every day, and walking by you could always hear vendors yelling things like, “Get your strawberries!” or “Fresh avocados for only a pound!” I always felt like I was in a movie or something, strolling down those streets and taking it all in: the sights, the people, the voices, and the smells. I didn’t want to forget any of it.

Besides the town in general being one of my favorite places, there was another spot that to this day, will always have a place in my mind. It was a pub in Kingston called The Kings Tun. I was only in Kingston for a day before my friends and I found it, thanks to our waitress at TGI Fridays. My friends and I spent many hours there over the course of our time abroad. It was a place where we all got to know each other, met other people, bonded, danced, and made memories. And as corny as it is, it’s definitely one of my favorite places.

Q4: Are there things you don’t miss from your destination? What? Why?

PIGEONS. Pigeons, pigeons, pigeons. When I decided upon living near London, I had no idea that I was signing up for being swarmed with those evil little creatures on a daily basis. The thing about pigeons is that they’re scared of nothing. Sure, they’ll run away if you chase them, but they are not above flying straight into your face if you happen to be in their path of flight. They’re horrible and I despise them.

I guess another thing I don’t really miss about London was the complete lack of etiquette while walking. I didn’t experience this anywhere else, but I’ll try to explain it like this: you know when you’re walking down the street, and you’re walking towards someone coming from the opposite direction, and the two of you don’t really know who’s going to go which way, so you do that awkward little dance thing before you finally maneuver around each other and go on your merry ways? Yeah, London folks don’t do that. Instead, they assume that you will move clear out of their way. If you don’t, they do not care. You’ll be rammed into as if you just hit a brick wall. It happened to me way too many times to count.

Oh, and I also don’t miss the rain. It rains a lot. But not the way you would expect it, no. If it’s not pouring, it’s drizzling, and if it’s not drizzling, it’s misting. And it happens when you least expect it, so the key is to always have an umbrella handy. Always.

Q5: What do you miss about England?

The amount of things I’m homesick for from abroad is unhealthy. I’ll just make a list.

1. GOOD tea. We just don’t make it like they do over there.

2. Primark. Primark is a godsend. Imagine Forever 21 x100 and you’ll get Primark. The clothes are cheap (and when I say cheap I mean quality and price), cute, and did I say cheap?

3. Cadbury. Cadbury is everything. I miss those little dairy milks.

4. Pub atmosphere. This is something that American culture does not have. It’s not about drinking. It’s about going to the pub and meeting your friends after class. It’s about spending time with people you care about and forming friendships you’ll never forget.

5. Free museums. As far as I know, almost all of the museums in London are free. This made traveling easier, as I was able to go in and out of museum after museum whenever I wanted.

6. Markets. There are so many markets in London. Camden Town is probably one of the most popular markets (at least it was in my friend group), but there are loads all over and they are just so much fun to explore.

Q6: What new vocabulary have you added to your repertoire after study abroad?

Cheeky. I can’t really explain what this means, but if someone were being sarcastic or playfully teasing, you’d call them cheeky.

Dodgy. When something is sketchy.

Chips. Fries.

Cheers, mate.” Us Americans would probably say something like, “thanks, dude!”

“You alright?” The first time someone ever said this to me, I looked at them with a blank stare on my face. I thought to myself, “Do I look upset? I feel fine, why is he asking me if I’m okay?” Clearly, it does not mean what we usually take it to mean. Instead, this saying is sometimes used in place of, “how are you?”

Lovely. Okay, so it’s not really new, but Brits use the word lovely so much. It’s just lovely.

Fit. This is another way of saying you think someone is hot (as in attractive).

Bird. This refers to a girl. Similar to the word “chick.”

Smart. If someone looked smart, they’d most likely be pretty dressed up and looking super fancy. In the words of Drake, “Oh you fancy huh?”

Fancy-dress. Refers to a costume, like you’d wear on Halloween or to a themed party.

Boot. The trunk of a car.

Hob. Stove

Lift. Most people know this one, but in case you don’t, it’s another word for elevator.

Trolley. It’s what you would use if you were going shopping at Target. (It’s a cart).

Uni. Short for university. They don’t say college, unless they’re actually in college, which is a whole different thing than uni, but that’s irrelevant.

Q8: Where did you go on your breaks? How did you choose? Was it difficult to plan?

Well, my experience was a little different than the way most people travel when they are abroad. I didn’t make too many weekend trips. I actually only went on two, if you don’t include Spring Break. The first place my friends and I went to was Dublin, Ireland. I’m not really sure how we chose this one, but if I remember correctly, I’m pretty positive one of my friends said, “I want to go to Ireland. Let’s go.” So we picked a weekend and booked the flight that day.  The second trip my other friend and I went on was to Barcelona. We had been talking about going since the beginning of the semester. May was quickly approaching, but I had been doing some research, so we finally booked our flight a couple of weeks ahead, booked a hostel our friends told us about and went for four days. It was wonderful.

Spring break worked out in a similar manner. My parents actually came to see me during my spring break and we traveled around Britain. When they left, I took the Eurostar and ended my break in Paris.

Now, there’s a reason I say my experience was a little different. Before I went abroad, my mom and I were talking about the places I wanted to travel while I was over there. She told me that after her semester, she traveled around Europe for a couple of weeks before going back home. One day she asked me, “So when you go, you’re going to stay a couple more weeks and travel right?” I hadn’t even thought about it, but she was offering, and I wasn’t saying no. I didn’t have a clue who I would travel with, and at first I was hoping to just meet someone while I was abroad that would want to do the same thing. Eventually, it was decided that my best friend from home would fly to London at the end of my semester and we would embark on a Eurotrip together. We did just that, but with the added company of our close friend from home. The three of us flew to Rome and then traveled by train to Pisa, Florence, Venice, Munich, Paris, and Amsterdam before journeying back to London.

Planning the trip was a lot of fun for me. I had wanted to plan my Eurotrip ever since I could remember, so I enjoyed every second. I had a guidebook, which definitely helped, but there is a ton of information out there on the Internet (Trip Advisor and Hostelworld everyone!). That being said, planning a trip is time consuming. You need to know where you want to go, what route you’re going to take, how long you want to stay, what trains you can and cannot take, etc. It’s a lot of work, but in the end it’s absolutely worth it. I found some amazing hostels for my friends and I to stay in, where we ended up meeting some amazing people (who we still keep in touch with), and my friend’s dad even got us a couple of free nights in two different Hilton’s in Italy!

Q9: TOUGHEST DAY , everyone has one. What challenged you while you were abroad? Why?

My biggest challenge when I was abroad was the day of my “medical emergency.” It was two nights before I was leaving for Barcelona, which also happened to be two nights before my final exam. Earlier that day the left side of my mouth was killing me. I didn’t understand why. I tried to ignore it, but the pain kept getting progressively worse. That night I called my parents. I told them that I noticed it was swelling, and I wasn’t sure what to do. After much freaking out, they decided I would need to contact someone and go to a doctor. I was not happy about this. I refused many times, telling them that I needed to pack and study for my exam all day. They were persistent.

After a lot of work, they helped me find a walk-in-clinic in Central London. But I was still concerned about my exam. Running all over the place in Central London all day meant I wasn’t going to get any studying done. Not to mention I was absolutely terrified because I had no idea what was wrong with me. Nevertheless, the next day I set off by myself, swollen mouth and all. Long story short, the doctor I saw told me it was dental, and that I would have to see a dentist. Luckily, there was a dentist who could see me that day, and he was only located around the corner. Still terrified, I walked to the dentist where I was greeted by very friendly staff. It turns out that I had some sort of infection, which could sometimes happen after wisdom teeth surgery, but was rare. He prescribed me antibiotics, told me I’d be fine by my flight, and wished me luck. I also ended up getting out of having to take my final exam, and everything worked out in my favor. It was still one of the scariest experiences I had abroad, but I’m glad I was able to overcome it.  

Q10: PARTING WORDS. What would you say to students afraid of studying abroad?

Two words: DON’T BE! Listen, I get it. It’s totally normal to be worried or scared of going abroad. As excited as I was about going to London, the weeks and days before my trip, I began freaking out. I shut down, and anytime the topic was brought up, I smiled uneasily and answered any questions politely. My closest friends and family were the only ones able to see the intense anxiety I was feeling. I knew absolutely nobody in my program. The thought that I was going to be completely alone and independent kept running through my mind, and I was sure I would fail. Was I going to make friends? Was I going to be homesick? Would all those lovely Brits like me? I was in constant fear. One of the things I was most nervous about was leaving home and missing out on all the experiences my friends would have. As selfish as it sounds, I didn’t want them to meet new people and have too much fun without me. A horrible case of FOMO, am I right? Really though, all these feelings are completely normal. The key is to not let any of these feelings influence your decision to go abroad.

Going abroad was one of the best experiences I will ever have in my entire life. It allowed me to open my mind, immerse myself in other cultures, and see history many people don’t have the opportunity of ever seeing. It showed me how beautiful the world is. I’ve come back and now all I want to do is travel. I’ve come back and I’ve grown in ways I never could have imagined. I am so thankful for my experience, and if I could, I would do it all over again.

Cheers, Arielle!

Towson Native Publishes Travel Book on the Rocky Road to Dublin

Name: Anna Snyder
Major: Creative Writing, Susquehanna University, PA
Hometown: Towson, Maryland
Destination: Dublin, Ireland
Institutions: University College Dublin (Undergrad Study Abroad)
National University of Ireland, Galway (Masters)

1. What brought you to Ireland?

Originally it was my dad’s suggestion that I study abroad in Ireland.  He has some Irish heritage and had traveled there before, and I just wanted to study someplace where everybody spoke English.

2. What do you want travelers to learn from your experience in Ireland?

I think the best thing I learned from my experience in Ireland is that traveling can help you open up to new things and express yourself in a way your normal routines don’t allow you to.  When you put yourself in a totally new environment and get out of your comfort zone, it forces you to learn things about yourself that you didn’t know were there.  Ireland has a very spontaneous, outgoing, musical culture, so I was able to develop those aspects of myself in a way that I wouldn’t have if I’d stayed in one place.

4. Did Ireland meet your expectations?

I wasn’t too sure what to expect when I first went to Ireland, so in a way it was all new to me.  One thing that did surprise me was how different the culture was from what I was used to growing up in the United States.  It’s easy to assume that, because they speak English over there, it won’t be too different from living in America.  But that couldn’t be farther from the truth – I traveled in Russia for the summer before I studied in Ireland, and I’d say Ireland is as different from the US as Russia is.  So be prepared for some culture shock when you first arrive.

5. Name one traveler’s mistake that made you laugh. 

There are plenty of differences between American English and Irish English.  They use a lot of the same slang words as the UK does, one of which is the term “fancy dress,” which is their way of describing a costume party.  I found this out on Halloween, when a friend of mine invited me out and told me to “come in fancy dress.”  So of course I came in the fanciest dress I owned, thinking it was going to a formal event, and I showed up to a house filled with people dressed up like Superman, hockey players, and dinosaurs.

6. What advice would you offer to student travelers planning to write about their experience for personal or professional purposes?

The best advice I can give students hoping to write about their travel experiences is to keep a journal as often as you can.  It will come in handy when you’re trying to remember what happened and where you went, and it can serve as a rough draft.  It also helps to collect as many pamphlets, flyers, etc as you can from local landmarks or events, which can be used as resources in your writing later on.  One more thing that comes in handy is to befriend locals – while it can be easier just to fall in with other American exchange students you meet, meeting kids who grew up in the area is the best way to get an insider’s look at what Ireland is really like.  ( And of course, this goes for any other country you want to study in as well.)

Thanks, Anna!

Want to hear more about Anna Snyder’s adventures and her book 24 Hours Dublin?  Interested in doing some of your own travel writing, but have a couple questions first?  Stop by the Towson Ukazoo book store on Dulaney Valley Road.  The date of the Q&A session will be Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 1 PM, and there should be tea and cookies for the event!