When it comes to choosing a study abroad program, the fact is that everyone has different needs & desires. Some crave the ability to delve into french literature right in the very heart of where it was created. Some need a different level of adventure and excitement – a different experience around every corner. We’re so glad to be able to provide the information necessary to help you make the right decision. Continue reading
Mamma mia. We got back from Vietnam 2 days ago and we already go to China tomorrow. This is crazy! I have to catch up on sleep, homework, blogging, making travel plans…so much to do so little time.
So, about Vietnam….it was amazing. A group of 8 of us traveled all around the country and we had the most unbelievable time. I didn’t think that I would have a favorite country because every place is just so different, but I think this trip, this travel experience, and Vietnam in general has been my favorite part!
We docked in Ho Chi Minh City, in Southern Vietnam. We walked all around the city that day. We started off at an orphanage that housed about 140 kids. The kids ranged from 2 months to 16 years. A two month year old baby was just left outside a few weeks ago and they found her, it was so sad. The kids were adorable though, we brought them stickers and lollypops and they were loving it! It was hard because none of the kids spoke English, but we played with them for a while and they were running around taking pictures with our cameras because a digital camera is amazing to them.
Then we went to Pho 24 for lunch and I had Chicken Pho, it’s like noodle soup with chicken…sort of? It was really good! Yet chopsticks have never been my strength. Then we went to this HUGE market, the biggest one I have ever seen in my life. I got a huge “Northface” backpacking backpack for $10, ha! Everything is fake, but who cares it was so cheap! The currency here is the Vietnamese Dong and it is $1.00 USD to 20,700 Vietnamese Dong so doing the conversion for everything was SO hard. People would be like this costs $40,000 dong and you would freak out, but then you would remember that it was only 2 bucks. I was a millionaire in dong 🙂 now I am broke.
That night we took a two hour flight to Ha Noi, which is in Northern Vietnam. I kept trying to talk to the people next to me on the flight and I would be like “do you speak English?” and they would just smile and say “yes, yes, yes!” Then I would ask them another question and they would be like “yes, yes, yes!” and then again…until I realized that they had no idea what I was saying and they were just smiling at me and saying yes over and over again…good times.
We got to Ha Noi that night and went to the backpackers hostel- fun, fun, fun! $6 per person per night. We got dorm style rooms and it was so much fun! The owners of the hostel are 2 Australian guys who decided to just get up and move to Vietnam and open this hostel one day, now they have a bunch and are very successful. That will be me one day 🙂 We went on a pub crawl that night through Ha Noi and then we got some more late night Pho.
5am wake up call! That was rough. We got on a 5 hours bus ride to get to Ha Long Bay. Then we got some breakfast when we got there. I ordered sausage with bread…which ended up being cut up hot dogs and bread…not my first choice for breakfast, but it had to do. Then we took a boat around Ha Long Bay and went on some tours. We got to see all of the caves and we even got to go swimming in them! The water was beautiful. We got to go kayaking at sunset, that was awesome. Ha Long Bay is one of the natural wonders of the world, it is an amazing area and everything was breathtaking. Then we got dropped off on an island called Cat Ba. We walked around for a bit and found a hostel to stay at. When we got inside the guy at the desk didn’t speak any English so we were typing back and forth on google translate in order to communicate, that was such a cool experience! Technology is crazy, ahhh. We hung out with some locals that night and the owner of the hostel came out with us as well (this one spoke English). At the end of the night they were showing us what a Vietnamese massage was like and they cracked our friend’s ears and then bounced him up and down on their backs…it was all too strange, yet so funny.
7am wake up! Ice cream and fresh pineapple for breakfast…I could do this everyday. This was one of my favorite days of this whole voyage. We each rented motorbikes for the day (for $5) and we rode around the whole island! The scenery was surreal and riding around on bikes was such an awesome experience. We went and saw “The Hospital Cave” which was an old hospital that was used during the Vietnamese War. It was SO amazing. You couldn’t see anything from the outside, you would have NO idea that it was there, and the Vietnamese wanted it like that so that it wouldn’t get bombed or anything. Then once you walked inside it was HUGE. I don’t even know how to begin to explain it. There were operation rooms, and nursing rooms, and this and that. The military also trained in this cave and they had this huge open area that was used for training and they had us all crawl back and forth under these giant rocks on all fours as part of training. Then you walked out the other side of the cave and it was like nothing was there, I have no idea how they built this, it was so incredible.
We rode around some more and toured around the island. We went to a nature park and went on this awesome, awesome hike. It was like rock climbing, on your hands and knees pulling yourself up…so fun! The view at the top was incredible…you could see forever and it was so green and beautiful. At the top of the mountain there was this large metal tower that said “no climbing,” so, naturally, we climbed it and WOW I’m not usually afraid of heights, but that thing was pretty jerky.
Then we got some lunch at a little restaurant…fried rice with chicken, yum! The island of Cat Ba was SO beautiful. Why do people vacation to Florida? Come to Vietnam!
Then we took the “bus-boat-bus” back to Ha Noi for the night. The locals hardly spoke any English and they were just yelling in our faces “BUS-BOAT-BUS” over and over again and so to shut them up we bought the tickets and it ended up working out. As you could guess….we took a bus, and then a boat, and then another bus to get back to Ha Noi. We went back to the backpackers hostel for the night, it has a 97% fun rate on Hostel World! yayyyy!
So, many of you will be disappointed, but I have never owned a dog and I really don’t have much connection with them…so I wanted to try some dog…sorry! We were walking around trying to find a place to eat it and one of our friends went up to this lady holding a little puppy and was like “Where can we eat one of these?” hahhahha thank god she didn’t speak English. We finally found a place and ordered dog and pigeon…isn’t your mouth watering! The dog was pretty gross, the pigeon was fine…it was all so interesting. The menu said “drink here or we shoot the puppy.” One of the most memorable nights of my life.
W had complimentary breakfast at a hostel, who would have thought! We walked around Ha Noi in the morning, we saw SO many Vietnamese children on school trips and I feel IN LOVE. These kids were the cutest things I have ever seen (cuter than the pictures of us in the Ivory soap competition mom 🙂 ) If I ever adopt, it will be Vietnamese. They would run up to us and say WHAT IS YOUR NAME and then want to take pictures of you doing the peace sign.
Then we went to the other side of the city and went to this place called Fanny’s Ice Cream…right up my alley. Madison and I got the ice cream fondue…14 scoops of ice cream, waffle cones, fresh fruit, and hot chocolate sauce. Oh my gosh. To say I was in heaven would be an understatement.
Then came another weird part…worse than the dog. We went to this far, far away little restaurant place in the snake village. We get there, they pull a live cobra out of a cage, they cut the heart out with a knife (my friend ate it), then they poured the blood into shot glasses and we all took shots of Cobra blood. Why? It’s unclear. Travelers will do the WEIRDEST things. I honestly think that locals just make up the most obscure thing…like oh lets catch a snake, then kill it in front of all of these dumb Americans, and then they will pay a lot of money to drink its blood…and it works. When in rome.
Then we took a flight back to Ho Chi Minh!
We went out to dinner that night at a place that was recommended by the food network! One of my guy friend’s moms is obsessed with the food network and she tells him places that he has to eat in every country…how cool! So we went to this hole in the wall place and it ended up being AMAZING. It is famous for its crab and seafood. There were a bunch of us, so we just ordered a lot of everything on the menu and ate non-stop for a long time. We got SO much crab meat, and crab this and that, and prawns, and oh mygoshhhhhh was I full. I don’t even like shellfish and I thought it was amazing!
Last day in Vietnam 🙁 Summer and I walked around the city in the morning. She got a $3 pedicure and I got a 45 minute, full body massage for…FIVE DOLLARS! It was my first massage ever and I was running on no sleep and it was honestly the best thing of my life, it felt amazing. I was so tired and dead from traveling so much and this was the most relaxing thing ever.
Then we went to the markets and I traded two old pairs of sunglasses that I had for one new pair of “Ray Bans.” He tried to tell me that they were real…they definitely aren’t, but it was a pretty good deal I’d say!
Then I had a field trip to the QST supply chain factory for my global management class. They make all of the random things that you would NEVER think about, like zippers, pocket liners, waste bands, and so on. It was really interesting and we got to see the whole factory and how everything worked. It is an international business and one of the main guys that owns one of the factories in the US planned his business trip around when we were coming, so he was there and helped translate and tell us all about the business end of things. A lot of work goes into making that one pair of pants you are wearing! Fun fact- QST makes all the zippers for Abercrombie clothing!
Then it was time to go 🙁
Overall, Vietnam was AMAZING. I honestly had no idea what to expect going into it, but it was incredible. It was so much more developed than I thought it would be and I was impressed by everything that I saw. It was neat going to both the North and the South because they are very different places. The South was fighting on the American side during the war, so they liked us, but up North sometimes we pretended that we were from Canada because they all hate Americans. This trip made me realize how recent the Vietnam war really was. I feel like growing up we learn about all of these different things that happened in the ‘past’, but some of them really weren’t that long ago and the countries that they took place in are still struggling because of what happened during the wars and whatnot.
The former US Senator, Charles Robb, and his wife Lynda Johnson Robb got on the ship in South Africa and they have been traveling with us since. They have given some great talks and Charles Robb served in Vietnam for 13 months as a US Marine. He earned the Bronze Star while his wife was living in the White House back home. It was really incredible to hear first hand stories from the former Senator and then to visit the country in which it all took place.
That’s all folks! We go to China tomorrow…AH! Traveling is so much fun!!!
Submitted by Caitlin Scalise, Abroad101’s Global Ambassador in Sorrento
It’s 4PM and I’m sitting outside of a popular Italian bar, relaxing after my internship. The sun is shining on this nearly 72 degree day, but the cool breeze makes it feel a bit chilly. The main street that I am sitting in front of is still quiet, since siesta is just starting to end, and the Italians are still mostly at home. The man across the street has just opened up his sandal shop. He just put his display outside, showing his beautiful, handmade leather sandals. I even see him talking to a potential customer. She is foreign; I cannot hear what she is saying, but her body language gives it away. The man goes over to his display to show the woman that she can customize her order. I see her face light up at the choice. The man takes the sandal straps that the woman has selected and has her sit down so he can size her feet. Once he figures out her size, I watch the man make the shoe by attaching the straps to the sole. This is his art, so he makes the shoe within minutes, and the women walks away grinning. I lose my concentration on the sandal-maker when I hear English speakers in the near vicinity. Then I see them: they are a group of teenage British kids laughing and joking. Following them is a group of teenage Italian boys and girls. They, too, are laughing and joking. The sun starts to go down a little bit, and the mood changes. Continue reading
Last week, we published “5 Awesome Travel Movies” to help those in need of further wanderlust. This week, we are tackling the best of the travel books. Note: many of these have been made into movies too! Whether you want to get more excited for your travels or need a good beach read, see 5 awesome travel books below. Continue reading
Submitted by Meg Bauer-Abroad101’s Global Ambassador on the Gold Coast
Before I left, I got $200 Australian dollars from AAA. I only ended up paying about $230 American dollars since the exchange rate is so close. It cost me $12 to convert the money. I planned on using my debit card for pretty much everything anyways. It’s good because my bank doesn’t charge me international fees every time I use it. Thank you, Citizens Bank!! The only thing I pay is the exchange rate. For example, I bought a shirt for $12 here, and it ended up being $12.67 due to the exchange rate. I decided not to open up a bank here, because I’m only here for about five months, and I figured that would be too much hassle. Continue reading
Submitted by Theresa Corelli (Semester at Sea)
Oh what a day! Yes, only a day. Singapore, Singapore…where to begin…
I started my day off with an awesome little hike in the rainforest. We went to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Bukit Batok Nature Park. We hiked up to the highest natural point in all of Singapore…it wasn’t that high, but it was awesome! Nothing like a good morning hike 🙂 We got to see some crazy lizards and weird looking birds!
Providence College was one of Abroad101’s very first partners and recently we had the chance to catch-up with Adrian Beaulieu, Dean of International Studies at Providence College. He also recently became a new member of our customer advisory board and we’re thrilled to have him. We talked about Providence, international education and all things study abroad. He had great insight into the study abroad community and how Abroad101 has been valuable to their Study Abroad program. See what he had to say below.
It’s easy to spend hours day dreaming about everything you’ll do and see abroad. And trust us, you WILL do and see a lot! Is it an amazing experience? Yes. Is it an expensive experience? It can be, but if you’re good about making a budget and following the steps below, you can worry less! Did we forget any suggestions below? Leave us a comment and let us know!
1. Make a budget and stick to it whenever possible. Factor in how long you will be away, what is/isn’t included in your program and what expenses you’ll be responsible for on a daily basis.
2. Tell your bank that you’ll be travelling overseas with dates you’ll be gone. If they see your card used abroad, they’ll likely suspect fraud and freeze your account. That’s not fun to deal with in the United States, let alone from another country!
3. Always have back up credit & debit cards. If your card doesn’t work somewhere, it’s important to always have a back up card or cash, especially for emergencies.
4. Don’t use your credit & debit cards for small purchases. The foreign transaction fees may be high and you’ll want to leave the cards available for large or unforeseen purchases.
5. Whenever possible, prepay for hostels, train and plane tickets ahead of time. Print your receipt and bring with you. This will give you peace of mind knowing the payment is taken care of beforehand.
6. Before you leave, research which U.S. banks offer the lowest fees for taking money out of the ATM and which charge fees for foreign transactions. Some banks in the U.S. have global branches which makes things easier. If your bank is not a global bank, they may have foreign affiliates. Ask around and find out necessary details before you leave. Remember, upfront research saves headaches later!
7. When exchanging money into local currency, banks typically have the best exchange rates. You may want to consider doing so at your bank before you leave, rather than at the airport in your host country. It will save you time and money when you arrive.
8. Depending on how long you’ll be abroad, you may want to consider opening an account in your host country. If you do, make sure to wait until you arrive and open it in person, not online. Lost on how to go about it? Ask local friends, professors or your host family for advice.
9. When you do take cash out of the ATM, be sure to track how much you’ve withdrawn and when you took it out. If you don’t keep track, it’s easy to overdraw and those fees can be hefty.
10. Keep a written record of your credit card numbers & make photocopies. If your wallet gets lost or stolen, it will be easy to contact your bank and let them know what has been stolen.
That’s all there is to it! Want more? Check out our blog post on staying on budget while abroad.
Submitted by Michelle Farhang
I am still reminding myself that Spring Break actually happened. I went to four cities in ten days and it felt like a dream. Since I hadn’t been outside the United States before coming to Italy, going to four different countries and traveling so much was so exciting! It was the adventure I sometimes forget about now that I feel like an actual citizen of Italy.
Our first stop was to Prague, Czech Republic. My best friends from Chapman are studying there, so it was exciting to see them in the city that they’ve been living in. I left the tour group to spend the weekend with them and saw the non-touristy side of Prague, which was awesome. I had no idea Prague was going to be so gorgeous! Best of all, it was so cheap compared to the euro. We walked up to the church that had a beautiful view of Prague and took a boat tour through the city. It was an amazing weekend! Continue reading
Abroad101 is please to have Monica, a study abroad student with College Year in Athens, contribute to our blog.
Gyros, baklava, spaghetti, gelato, pizza… Just some foods amongst many that study abroad students look forward to eating when they get to their destination country. Even the smells of these foods are hard to resist when they’re filling the air as you walk through the neighborhoods. It’s simple to say, “Whatever, I’ll lose the weight when I get home,” but we all know it’s much easier said than done. For people who like to live a healthy lifestyle, studying abroad makes that become a bit of a challenge. But, there are ways to stay in shape while being abroad, so don’t fret. Continue reading