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Street Vendors

A couple of photographers heading into a crowd at jazz street festivalMy favorite souvenir from my time abroad is a silver ring I bought from a street vendor in Pisa.  It’s a bendy snake-like ring that has so far survived 10 years of bending, twisting and daily wear.  It’s a funky piece that reminds me every day of the adventures I had while backpacking through Europe.   As you traverse the streets of your new found home abroad and nearby cities, you may find that street vendors can be quite pushy.  While backpacking I quickly learned to keep my hands in my pockets, my mouth shut, and to avoid eye contact when passing through the touristy parts of towns.  I also quickly learned, however, that these same street vendors can offer souvenirs that you will never find elsewhere and knowing how to act in these crazy areas can mean the difference between getting a great bargain and finding yourself the proud owner of some very expensive junk.   Navigating pushy street vendors takes some know-how and this article gives some great advice on how to avoid the uncomfortable situations that can arise: http://www.frommers.com/articles/7487.html

Getting in Touch with the Local Culture

FriendsCoffeeShop-300x201Dig Deeper – Getting in Touch with the Local Culture

One of the challenges that some students say that the face when studying abroad is meeting local student or friends from the city they are studying abroad in. As we would all imagine, most students don’t study abroad so that they can spend time with their fellow US classmates – they want to make new friends from around the world.

This can be a challenge for a few different reasons:

  1. Language Barriers: Let’s be honest – most of us don’t go abroad already having a fluent grasp on the host language. That’s one of the main reasons American students study abroad. They don’t speak a second language and they would like to be able to. The process of learning a second language takes patience, diligence, and a sense of humor.
  2. The Classroom: Spinning off of the language barrier idea, if you don’t speak the language fluently already, you probably aren’t going to be taking classes with the local students. This means you’ve got to find another way to meet them.
  3. Time Constraints: If you’re studying for one semester, that’s not a whole lot of time to make a group of friends, no matter the language you speak. This means you don’t have any time to waste.

My suggestions on how to get in touch with the local culture, despite these hurdles you may face:

  1. Speak the local language as often as possible. Talk to everyone you can – professors, classmates, cab drivers, grocery store clerks, the man selling umbrellas in the street… anyone! If you try your best to practice the language frequently, you’ll find you’re improving each day with new words, better grammar, higher confidence, and eventually you’ll reach fluency, or at least a level at which you feel comfortable holding a conversation. Once you get there, you’ll know, and you’ll love the feeling you get when you can sit at dinner with your homestay family have a real conversation in your second language!
  2. Get a local language tutor. This person may turn into a good friend or at least a connection to the local social scene. No one knows the current slang or best night life spots than a local student, and if that student is willing to teach the language to a foreigner, he or she is probably pretty interested in learning about you and your culture as well. It’s a way of sharing ideas through language, and it can be a beautiful thing.
  3. Break out of your comfort zone, and do it quickly. If you’re feeling any sense of culture shock (whether you realize it or not) you might find yourself getting into a comfortable, yet boring routine, which is not what study abroad is about. Volunteer your time to a community program, even if it’s only a few hours per week.Take your host brother out for coffee, even if you don’t drink coffee. Join a gym or a school club, even if that’s not usually your thing. Eat in the university cafeteria, even if the food is better at your favorite café. Avoid the typical Friday night club full of Americans or the pub on Sunday that shows NFL games. Go where the locals go, and put yourself in a position to meet them – you never know who you’ll get to know and where you’ll be invited to go next. The more people see your face and hear your voice, the quicker you’ll feel connected to the local culture, because the local culture will feel connected to you.
  4. Lastly, take advantage of the connection to the local culture that is already built into your study abroad program: your Site Director. Sure they are there to help you with any issues that you may face, but they are also there to guide you and answer any questions you have about how to get involved. They can give you great suggestions, so utilize them as a resource. You’ll thank yourself later!

Advice from an ASA Alumnus

Buenos-Aires-Argentina-119-654x654Guest Blogger David Bouquet with thoughts on his Fall 2011 Semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina with ASA:

I studied abroad during the fall semester of 2011 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. For me, this was a dream come true. I have wanted to travel, live, and study in Argentina for the past three years, and to finally be able to get that opportunity was incredible.

Some of the best moments and highlights from my study abroad trip actually occurred outside of Buenos Aires on the group sponsored weekend trips to the Iguazu Falls and Uruguay, as well as a last minute trip to Cordoba and the surrounding towns for a four day weekend. There are so many things to see and do in the city of Buenos Aires, but when you leave for the weekend to go to another country, or even just another city, it is like stepping into a whole new world. The opportunity to travel while you are abroad is always available, every single weekend.

One of the major advantages of being an international student is that often your classes are held Monday-Thursday, so you always have a three-day weekend, with a few four-day weekends because of national holidays. One of the neatest things about studying abroad, for me, were the friends that I made. Yes, I made quite a few American friends, but I also made many friends from around the world, including Italy, Sweden, Germany, England, Switzerland, Brazil, and obviously, Argentina. I not only got to learn Spanish while I was in Argentina, but I was able to learn a bunch of different words in Italian and German as well. In addition, there are opportunities at the university to learn Portuguese, which many people took advantage of.

I also loved the pace of life in Argentina. Despite being in an extremely busy, crowded, noisy city, it was a very relaxed, slow, and peaceful place to live. Finally, and probably most importantly, if you get the opportunity, live with a host family! They are absolutely incredible and it is a great way to learn the language, learn the culture, and eat the food that they eat there. My host family was incredible and I truly felt as if I was a part of their family. The dinners each night were incredibly good as well, and getting the chance to eat with my host family and their family and friends really helped me learn the language.

If I had the opportunity to do this semester with ASA all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat. The only thing I would change is that I would realize I shouldn’t sleep in on weekends, and that I really need to be out and enjoying what the city has to offer, because once you are back in the States, you will not find those opportunities and experiences again until you travel abroad next time.

-David Bouquet

Cuzco Advice from an Alumnus

Kids_CuscoWhat to expect for those who have no idea what to expect: Cuzco, Peru
I spent my first semester abroad feeling spoiled at beautiful Regents College in London, so I’d be lying if I said I had no apprehensions about a summer in Cuzco, Peru.   I now know I had nothing to worry about and easily fell in love with Peru, but here are a few ideas on what to expect:
Expect altitude sickness to really not be that bad, typically. – Before I left for Cuzco, I was convinced that, despite the many reputable websites that say altitude sickness is usually nothing major, my first few days would be spent gasping for air. Not the case. At all.
My first day off the plane I felt fine; went for a long walk, explored a little.  The 2nd day I woke up with a nasty headache and an achy body. One hour and a few cups of mate de coca later, and I was good to go.  No doubt you too will come to understand why the Andean people hold this leaf so sacred.
Expect for the weather to be opposite from back home. Cuzco has two seasons, Rainy and Dry. Rainy season lasts from November- March and is typically quite warm.  Dry season consists of hot days, very cold nights, and lasts from April-October.
Expect to form a relationship with your host family. –One of my professors pointed out, in comparison to North American families, Peruvians tend to spend much more time together at home.  This was most evident when it came to meal time.  Meals in our house would go on for hours, my host mother, father, brother and I always finding new things to talk about.
The majority of the ASA host families consist of older women who truly enjoy the company of a new student.  My host family showed me new locations and things I never would have found otherwise.  Occasional coffee Skype chats with my host mom have become one of my favorite things about returning home.
Expect to be offered a different cuisine. Lomo saltado, anticucho, ceviche, guinea pig!? All are typical Peruvian dishes.  Give it a try! Just be careful, our stomachs can’t always handle all these new tastes at once.
Expect to do some shopping. Peru is a place where the exchange rate definitely works in our favor.  With such cheap prices, it’s easy to find that perfect gift for everyone back home. Just remember to heed the advice of Laura Beth or you’ll need an extra suitcase to carry all those alpaca scarves and sweaters back home.
Expect to experience a new dialect. As Vickie noted from her experience in Buenos Aires, Not all Spanish is created equal!  Peruvians consider their Spanish to be very pure and simple.  However several communities still speak Quechua, an indigenous dialect sacred to the Andes.  With more than 25 varieties, it is a fascinating language.
Expect to go on some AMAZING excursions:

cuzco Enough said.

A Weekend in Paris

955281_66637682As part of the ASA London program, you get to go on a few day trips, and then two weekend trips of your choice built in to the cost of the program. One of the weekend trips I went on was a visit to Paris. This was awesome, because most of my friends not from ASA had to pay for the trip, so it made me realize how really awesome it was to get to go cost free!

We went to Paris in late April. After getting to King’s Cross station, we took the Chunnell to Paris. It was a surprisingly quick trip! As soon as we checked in to our hostel, my friends and I set off. After navigating the Tube, the Metro was pretty easy to figure out. We took the Metro straight to the Lourve , where we were admitted for free when we flashed our Regent’s student ID’s. After checking out the “Mona Lisa”, obviously, and some other timelessly famous art, we walked through the Jardin de Tuileries, down the Champs Elysees, and to the Arc de Triomphe.  That alone is a lot of sights to take in during one afternoon! If studying abroad has taught me anything, it is how to fit a lot in to a short amount of time. We stopped and ate French macaroons and éclairs, while also buying some baguettes and wine.

The moment that you see the Eiffel Tower in person is indescribable. I saw the Coliseum in Rome, the canals of Venice, but the Eiffel Tower was by far the most breath-taking sight. We worked our way towards the Eiffel Tower. We paid to walk part of the way up, then take the elevator to the top. We got right to the top of the Tower as it got dark. For the first few minutes of every hour, the entire Eiffel Tower sparkles and lights up. We watched it from the actual tower itself, then spent the rest of the night on the Trocadero watching it in amazement. This was my most favorite part of Paris, just watching the Eiffel Tower light up while eating a baguette and drinking wine with my friends. It sounds cliché, but there is a reason people always do these things while in Paris.

The next day, we took the train from Paris to Versailles. It was really nice to get out of the “city” and to the country. The small town around Versailles is adorable and exactly what I pictured a French town to be. In Paris, most people speak English, but here they did not. There was an amazing farmer’s market that we went to and stocked up on baguette sandwiches, raspberries, cheese, and desserts. We took our food, and went to the Palace. It is an amazing place that is grander than any other building I’ve ever seen! After the tour, my friends and I ate on the grass outside of Versailles. It sounds so sophisticated! This was another moment that I loved and will remember forever.

During the rest of our trip to Paris, we went to the Latin Quarter, Notre Dame, Pere Lachaise, Montmartre and the Luxembourg Palace. I only wish that we had more time in Paris, but the time spent there was definitely the best weekend I had while studying abroad. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go to Paris with my ASA group. It made my whole study abroad experience even better.

My Experience in Dublin

Trevor Gilchrist is a student from the University of South Carolina who studied on ASA’s Spring 2011 Dublin program at Griffith College. During his time abroad, Trevor wanted to explore not only his new surroundings and how they would affect him, but also to understand what his influence on those surroundings would be. Trevor documented his experience with a video camera, interviewing friends and making personal observations about different topics that interested him, such as race relations, alcohol, and the impact world travel can have on an individual’s perspective. Watch Part One and Two of this documentary as Trevor discusses his first impressions of Dublin, his travels around Europe and his personal growth as the semester unfolded.

The Royal Wedding

Marching_guardsApril 29, 2011 was a landmark of a day in London. For me personally, it was two days before I had to leave my new best friends, and all the amazing adventures I had experienced while studying abroad. For the rest of the world, it was the day of the Royal Wedding. Luckily, I was in London on that day, which turned out to be a whole new adventure and one of the most memorable days of my life.

After spending five months in London, and traveling all across Europe, I could not believe that my time was almost over. Time really does fly by, and every single day while studying abroad was full of new experiences. Part of the excitement of the Royal Wedding was the week leading up to it. If you thought that there was a lot of excitement in America, you would not believe how it was in London. The Union Jack flags were put up all over Picadilly Circus, and every gift shop had new collector’s mugs, plates, even tea bags in honor of Will and Kate. My friends and I would walk around, taking in the news crews and regalia of it all.

Finally, Friday came. We woke up at 6 AM and put on our best dresses for the wedding. Although we did not have giant hats and fascinators like many actual Royal Wedding guests, we bought headbands with crazy adornments and wore them proudly. We walked through Regent’s Park, located right next to campus and our residence hall, feeling so lucky that we got to live in such a gorgeous part of London. We hopped on the tube at Baker Street to Hyde Park.

When we got to Hyde Park, we spread out our blanket and waited for the wedding to start. The viewing screens were ready, and we waited. As guests began to arrive, all of the people surrounding us cheered and the excitement grew. When the Queen got into her car, it amazed me how ecstatic the people were. They truly love their Queen and all that she symbolizes. When Kate Middleton stepped out of her car at Westminster Abbey, the excitement peaked and it felt magical. We couldn’t believe this was happening so close to us!

The whole wedding ceremony was an amazing blur. We watched with thousands of other people, and that made it all the more special. When the ceremony ended, and we could hear the bells ringing from Westminster all the way in Hyde Park, we knew we had to see a bit of the wedding in person. We ran from the Park towards Buckingham Palace, where we nudged ourselves in to see Will and Kate kiss on the balcony. That was one of the most memorable moments of my life. How many people can have an amazing five months, of studying abroad, then cap it off by being at a historical event!?

After the wedding, it was a bit sad. The wedding was over, and that meant that my time in London was almost over as well.  My friends and I wandered over near the Thames, and went to a pub for some pints, capping off a great day that I will never forget! This was definitely a unique experience that made me realize how glad I was that I picked London as a place to study abroad.

Photo Contest

Mercedes_Segovia_coverDear ASA Students,

You’re invited to participate in our annual ASA Photo Contest! 

 

 

 

PRIZES:

  • If your photo is chosen to appear in our catalog, you win a $25 Amazon gift certificate!

 

RULES:

  • SUBMISSION DEADLINE:  JULY 8, 2016
  • All photos must be HIGH RESOLUTION (at least 300 dpi).
  • You may submit as many photos as you want!
  • All photos must be sent to Chelsea@academicstudies.com.
  • By entering this contest, you agree to let ASA use your photo(s) in our marketing materials.
  • Winners will be notified by email.

 

WHAT MAKES A WINNING PHOTO?

  • Photos MUST represent these countries: Spain, Italy, France, Ireland, England/Scotland, Argentina, Costa Rica, Peru or Chile.  (Ex. We can’t use photos of your trip to Amsterdam because we don’t have a program there.)
  • We are looking for GROUP SHOTS OF STUDENTS taken in LOCATIONS OR SITES that are REPRESENTATIVE OF YOUR HOST CITY OR COUNTRY.
  • You are welcome to submit scenery shots, BUT photos containing groups of students will score higher!

We can’t wait to see your photos!

 

Community Service and Service Learning with ASA

More and more of our students apply to ASA with hopes of having a chance to give back to their community in the form of service. To meet the demand, ASA has worked with our partner universities in several locations to develop courses and programs that include community service opportunities. So far, all of our students who have participated have given great feedback. They’ve not only given back to their community, but they’ve used their service hours to practice their new language with local residents, and have gotten to learn more about the local culture and economy in the process.

They feel good about themselves for sharing their skills, and putting time and energy into a project or organization that is important to them, all while helping others. Below you can read about the community service and service learning opportunities available in some of our fastest growing ASA programs. We look forward to you joining us in our mission to give back to the communities that have been so welcoming to our students, and to us. You won’t regret it, we promise!

Vina del Mar, Chile

At the Universidad Vina del Mar (UVM), students who demonstrate an Intermediate level of Spanish or higher are able to enroll in a course entitled “Cultures in Contact”. This credit-bearingcourse introduces students to international and Chilean intercultural communication studies focusing on the origin of the cultures to achieve greater understanding of differences and similarities of each culture. Students choose among the non-profit foundations with a relationship with UVM to perform volunteer work during 2 hours each week. Robert, a Fall 2012 student, took this course and was able to participate in English teaching workshops as part of his volunteer participation.

San Jose, Costa Rica

Starting in Fall 2013, our partners at ICDS Costa Rica will offer a new service-learning course entitled “Community Engagement and Sustainable Human Development”. This credit-bearing course will provide students the opportunity to participate in community work, complemented with reflection spaces in the classroom along with discussions about topics of local human development processes in urban Costa Rica. Through ICDS’s strong relationships and collaborations with many different organizations in the San Jose community, the course will offer rich and varied service opportunities to students who enroll in this course.

Cuzco, Peru

In Cuzco students have the option of volunteering a few hours a week at a Health Clinic for children with special needs. Students set their own hours and develop their own projects as well as aiding the other volunteers at the clinic with performing daily tasks. Seen below is Kelsey, a Summer 2011 student, spending time with one of her favorite patients at the clinic. She said she fell in love with Peru thanks to her summer studying abroad with ASA and her time volunteering at the clinic.

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Global Grins
One of our favorite organizations is Global Grins. Before departure all students are encouraged to participate in the program, and those who choose to will be sent a box of toothbrushes to distribute when they arrive abroad. Previous students who have participated have reported that it has been a wonderful way to give back to their new communities, meet new people, and help bring a brighter smile to the faces of children around the world. Students have brought toothbrushes to hospitals in Buenos Aires, orphanages in Dublin, and homeless shelters in Lima.