Secular Republic, Muslim World: Participating in Turkish Ramadan

Tons of Muslims gathering for activities, Sultanahmet in the background.

Submitted by Rachel Whitcomb, Global Ambassador in Istanbul, Turkey

A long skirt and covered shoulders gets you through most neighborhood and sights safely.

One of the most interesting parts about Istanbul and Turkey in general is that although it’s a secular state, and has been for decades, the population is 98% Islamic and at this time of year, Ramadan, it certainly shows. This unique combination leads to a variety of clothing styles- modest coverings ranging from burqa (fully veiled except for the eyes), hijab (only the face is showing), and just covering all of the arms and legs, to the modern European/Western style dressing. There are certain parts of the city that you need to be aware of what you are wearing, but most of the time it’s not something we worry about.

I’ve been in solidarity with the half of the Muslim population here in Istanbul that has been fasting for Ramadan- that’s no food or water from morning prayer at 3:55 a.m. until the sun sets at 8:40 p.m. (yes, that many hours without food or water). It’s been a challenging and humbling experience, especially to be a part of it around so many other people! By day, the city and areas around my campus are pretty barren, but after the sun sets people come from all over and hang out and celebrate. It’s a beautiful sight to see!

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Looking on the Bright Side in the Emerald Isle

Cliffs of Mohr

 

Submitted by Brendan Bond, Global Ambassador in Galway, Ireland

Within a few days of arriving in Ireland, I learned something very important about this country. I was told, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.” Moral of the story is that the weather here is fickle, always changing and never making up its mind on whether it wants to be sunny, cloudy, windy, dreary, warm, cold, misty, rainy or downpouring.

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Breaking the Rules: Learn to ‘Flex for Culture’ in Turkey

Photo: AntoniO BonvinO

Submitted by Rachel Whitcomb, Global Ambassador in Istanbul, Turkey.

 

Oh that’s right…I’m STUDYING abroad…

Sometimes you get so caught up in the traveling aspect of being abroad that you lose sight of what sent you here in the first place.  But of course, I’m attending class and doing homework, I would never forget!

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Spanish, Siestas and Sangria: Life in Madrid

The gorgeous view from Palacio de Cibeles

Submitted by Kristen Schlotman, Global Ambassador in Madrid, Spain

 

I have been studying in Madrid for just over a week so far, and it has been absolutely amazing. Our first day was orientation. The program advisors showed us how to get to the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos campus, the ins and outs of Madrid as well as the USAC program. Then we took Spanish language placement exams. I was surprised when I tested into Intermediate Spanish I. I was nervous at first since I hadn’t taken Spanish since my junior year of high school, but it’s not so bad. A lot of the vocabulary and grammar came back very quickly and I definitely feel that I am in the right class level.

One of the best parts about the classes is the size. There are only five of us in my

Spanish keyboard

Intermediate Spanish class, and just two in my Spanish Conversation class. This is really helpful for learning the language. It almost feels as if we have private tutors. My class schedule is really nice as well. I take the metro to campus for class at 9 AM and am done by 12:30 PM every day, just in time to get lunch. The last few days I have been adventuring on the metro to random parts of the city. I will just pick a spot on the map and go. I usually walk around for a bit and then find some café or cerveceria for lunch. It’s fun to sip on sangria on the patio and watch people walk by.

Following lunch, people in the program have been getting together to see the different cultural highlights of the program. Yesterday, we went to Retiro Park and then to the Prado Museum, one of the three major art museums in Madrid. Today we went to another, lesser-known art museum called the Caixaforum. After that we went to a building named the Palacio de Cibeles (pictured above). The building itself isn’t that special, but the top floor has a great view of the city.

View from my homestay at dusk

Depending on what time my roommate and I get back to the homestay, I try to take a late siesta before dinner at 9:30 PM. Dinners with our host parents have allowed me to experience some of the best food of my life. Tortilla Espanola and gazpacho soup are now two of my new favorite dishes.

Madrid is known as a city that never sleeps and I completely agree with that statement. Bars and discotecas don’t become busy until 1 or 2 AM and the night normally ends at 4 AM or later. Last week, most of our program went to Kapital, the famous seven-story nightclub. It was a crazy night and we didn’t get back home until 5 AM. Tonight, I am meeting friends at a wine bar that used to be one of Ernest Hemmingway’s favorite haunts. In the near future, we are leaving to go on a day trip to Segovia, so hopefully I won’t be out too late, but you never know in a city like Madrid!

 

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Studying abroad this summer? Become an Abroad101 global ambassador!

 

We're so happy in our neon t-shirts!

We love our current global ambassadors so much that we want to recruit more! If you’re a college student who’s planning to study abroad this summer, consider becoming an Abroad101 global ambassador. You’ll have your writing showcased on our blog, gain valuable communications experience and get to sport one of our really cool neon t-shirts! Continue reading

Culture in Contrast: From America to Taiwan

When we travel abroad and encounter a different culture, our default reaction is to compare it to the culture we know. Jake is from a small town in Illinois, the following are some of his observations of everyday life in Taiwan:

There is a serious lack of garbage cans in Taiwan. Sometimes I have something I want to throw away, as people often do. In the United States you can find a garbage can just about anywhere, restaurants, classrooms, the library, on the bus, you name it. Here in Taiwan, there is apparently a much lower demand for trash receptacles, because I usually end up with garbage in my pocket.

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MassChallenge 2012 is officially open!

Governor Deval Patrick at MassChallenge 2012

Photos courtesy of Bostontweetup.com

Happy Friday from Abroad101! This was an awesome week, especially because yesterday afternoon was the MassChallenge 2012 launch!  Abroad101 was a winner of the first ever MassChallenge in 2010 and we’ve been reaping the benefits ever since. Yesterday, over 200 CEOs, entreprenuers, investors, start-ups and local politicians gathered for the 3rd annual MassChallenge kickoff event and warmly welcomed in this year’s hopeful applicants. With a drumroll and a ring of the gong, MassChallenge 2012 officially opened! There was much excitement in the air and we felt lucky to have been a part of the enthusiasm.

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What can Boston do to keep start-ups in the area?

 

If you ask local entrepreneurs, the answer is lots of things! Last week, Abroad 101’s President and Co-Founder, Mike Stone, was featured alongside other local entrepreneurs in a Boston Globe article “Can Boston be the hub of the start-up universe?” Mike’s sentiments on the Boston start-up scene reflect the need for more angel investors. This would help retain strong start-ups in the early stages, rather than losing them to places like Silicon Valley. “Investors should create more angel groups to attract, grow, and retain early-stage companies, which can then benefit from VC funds. We need people to see Boston as a destination, not a stepping-stone. What starts in Boston should stay in Boston.”

Well said, Mike!

This editorial is just one piece of increased dialogue in Boston around supporting the investment infrastructure. This morning, Senator Scott Brown held an Access to Capital for Small Business Roundtable to facilitate thoughts on both lending and investing for small business.

What other ideas were mentioned in the article? Everything from enticing the media to focus more on the Boston start-up scene, to looking for more diverse investors, to providing better entertainment and practical resources for local entrepreneurs. Boston clearly holds a bubble of strong, smart entrepreneurs. Let’s do everything we can to keep them here!

Once You Go Abroad, Likelihood of Traveling Again is in Your Odds

As we continue to collect more data, the Abroad101 team is excited to start generating reports on study abroad trends. Here is a sneak peak of some of the exciting conclusions we are finding: in this sample of 374 post-abroad students, 96% are likely to travel abroad again, 78% of whom are definitely planning on venturing outside the US for another international experience. Continue reading

We Made it to 5K!

We did it: 5,000 reviews!!
Special thanks to James Madison for appearing on the $5,000 bill, as well as the Proclaimers, who “would walk 500 miles” 10 times over to reach our total count!

Here’s to another 5,000! Thanks to all of our incredible partners and devoted students for contributing their insights to our community.