This post comes from James Bolitho, a former sales & marketing intern at Abroad101. He cold called nearly every college in the country, and loved every minute of it. He now travels the world as a Cost of Living Surveyor. Read on to hear his travel musings… Read more
Looking for an affordable last minute get-away this Labor Day weekend? Did you know there are nearly 60 hostels in the US that are part of the Hostelling International network? Our new friends at HI-USA gave us the inside scoop on what’s in an American Hostel.
The word “hostel” seems to conjure up a variety of reactions and ideas. Some who are familiar with them think of traveling through Europe or Latin America. Others think of cheap accommodations and sharing a room with total strangers. Still others tragically think of the movie. Despite being around for more than a century and serving hundreds of thousands of travelers every year, there are many people who are still confused by hostels.
Submitted by Rachel Whitcomb, Global Ambassador in Istanbul, Turkey
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!
Submitted by Kristen Schlotman, Global Ambassador in Madrid, Spain.
I can’t believe I only have one more week in Madrid! This experience has been such a whirlwind. Never in my life have I done so much in less than a month. One of the best parts of studying abroad is traveling on weekends. The first weekend all of us in USAC were in Spain for the Running of the Bulls. Without a second’s hesitation we bought tickets and headed to Pamplona. Most of the other students in the program also bought tickets. We knew right away this was going to be a great weekend to bond and to get to know each other.
Pamplona was probably one of the crazier weekends of my life. The bus departed from Madrid at 2 PM on Saturday and by 8 PM, we were ready to experience one of the biggest celebrations in Spain. Dressed in the traditional red and white, we walked around the city taking everything in. By 1 AM, we were bar hopping, drinking calimocho (red wine and Coca Cola), and meeting people from all over the world. Sleeping was not an option. The city was too vibrant and exhilarating to sit it out. At 6 AM we lined up to watch the running. This was somewhat anticlimactic, but the night itself was one of a kind.
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.
Vagabonding vegetarians beware: maintaining your veg-centric lifestyle while Studying Abroad will be a challenge. But not to fear, you got this. No one ever said using your diet to save the planet was easy! To help you stay on course, we’ve compiled a list of study abroad destinations that we think are very vegetarian friendly.
With the world’s largest vegetarian population, this South Asian nation is a no brainer for students looking to chomp on veggies and paneer all semester. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that if you enjoy meat, India might not be the destination for you. I mean c’mon, their cows are holy!
Danes are known for their progressive thinking, so it’s no surprise that vegetarian options abound in this place that once held the title for “Happiest Country in World.” We even hear their vegetable stands run on the honor system! So don’t worry, be “Hygge,” and refer to this excellent resource from DIS on Danish vegetarian vocab.
In keeping Kosher, it seems Israel would be a solid choice for students with diverse dietary needs. You don’t have to worry about pork or shellfish, and many establishments won’t combine milk and meat. Besides that, hummus and cucumbers are served with virtually every meal, and Falafels grow on trees. Now that’s Israeli nice!
Once you know what to look for, this subtropical land can be a Taiwan-derful place for vegetarians. The majority of the country is Taoist or Buddhist, which means meat-free meals are understood and available. Visit restaurants with the red and yellow Chinese characters 素食 (sùshí) which means vegetarian, and eat your herbivore heart out.
The United Kingdom
Hold the Bangers & Mash and bring on the Bhindi Masala! Perhaps not appreciated for it’s native food, the UK has some excellent ethnic entrees for vegetarians. What’s more, the food labels are in English and the pubs serve veggie burgers! What more can a tree-hugging globe trotter ask for?!
The act of studying abroad and being a vegetarian can sometimes feel like they are competing opposites- to be a great study abroad student takes flexibility and adaptability. To be a great vegetarian takes determination and diligence. But the two can coexist, you can still be respectful towards your host country’s culture, while also staying true to your own veggie values system. To make your life easier, consider studying in one of the above countries and check out Happy Cow for an online directory of vegetarian restaurants around the world. The International Vegetarian Union is another great resource that all traveling vegetarians can utilize.
Bon voyage veg-heads!
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!
If there is one thing we know, its that there is certainly a lot to prepare before jetting off to your study abroad destination. Where will I go? What will I study? How will I pay? However, there is perhaps one thing that may be more towards the back of your mind: how will I get around once I’ve arrived? You can’t take that bucket of bolts from high school you’ve got sitting in the driveway and your train card doesn’t really work overseas. Looks like you’ve got some research to do. Let us fill you in…
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
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.
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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Independence Day is upon us and the summer season is in full swing! Whether you’re studying abroad or at home, it’s definitely time to celebrate with food, friends, family and fireworks (the four essential ‘F’s of course).
But wait! What’s a college student to do after the biggest summer holiday ends?