May 17th, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under Australia, Semester Exchange. No Comments.
By Melissa Truong
This past weekend, I went with four friends to visit the other city in Australia: Sydney. Sydney was a gorgeous city, especially by Circular Quay and the Rocks where the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House are located. George Street was most exciting street, lined with numerous shops and decorated with bright lights at night. We also got outside the city and visited Bondi Beach and the Blue Mountains as well.
Although Sydney was a fun city to visit, I would much rather live in Melbourne than Sydney. Sydney was more similar to the other metropolitan cities of the world whereas Melbourne has more character. Other than the harbours in Sydney, it is very much just a city: heaps of concrete and skyscrapers. Even the Opera House had more concrete on the inside than I expected. I thought the inside of the Opera House would have a more sleek and contemporary feel: polished wood, metal, etc. Instead, much of the inside was concrete and only the Concert Hall was the most striking. The acoustics in the Concert Hall were unbelievable and we got a glimpse at a rehearsal for a Suzuki graduation recital (translation: a hundred or so small, adorable children playing violin in unison).
Lunch by the harbor with a perfect view of both the bridge and Opera House. We were spoiled not only by the views, but also by the weather. It’s not quite clear in the picture, but we were blessed with sunny skies during our whole stay in Sydney.
But I digress. Back to Sydney vs. Melbourne as cities. Sydney lacks the hidden alleys and gems that can be found (or not) all over Melbourne. Walking around Melbourne, you’re sure to be stumble upon some small alley way with cute cafes and shops. Walking around Sydney, you get what you see on the map. It’s predictable and devoid of surprises, making it a fantastic city to visit, but probably a slightly boring city to inhabit. By no means am I saying that Sydney is a boring city. As Australia’s most famous city, it continuously bustles with activity, but if you live there, I would imagine that over time, life in the city becomes less distinguishable from living in any other big city.
May 15th, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under Italy, Semester Exchange. 1 Comment.
By Suzanne Vernon
I am sitting here on a long train ride back to Milano, Italy. It’s a bittersweet feeling…
So this is my second time in Germany. This time I decided to visit some friends that I met when I was in the US. These people were UMD exchange students. Through my German friends I got to experience the life of a college student as a Mannheim University student. It felt so warm yet weird recognizing some faces in a complete foreign country. Suddenly I felt like I was back in College Park again.
Of course the food was brilliant. I do not eat red meat, so I thought it was going to be a challenge when we were to dine out. It is hard to find seafood in Germany, so I thought I would not survive there. Surprisingly, there are a lot of vegetarians and vegans in Germany so their varieties of vegetarian platters are diverse. The best part is that the food in Germany is much cheaper than Milan. When I had lunch at the university, I got a whole feast for less than 3 euros! Their cafeteria food is homemade and fresh. For once I got served a nice portion of food.
Just like Italy, people here do not go home until the morning after a night out. Just today when I was going to the train station at 5am in the morning, I saw teenagers roaming the streets. In America everything is basically closed after 2am, so keeping up with these German students was a big challenge for me.
I sat in a lecture with some previous UMD German exchange students. College Park reunion!
I find it so interesting that every German student that I encountered spoke English. Most of them spoke at least 3 languages. In America it is considered special if you can speak more than one language. I asked some German students when they started to learn English, they told me that they were all required to learn it when they started first grade. I hope America will one day require every student to learn another language. When was shopping in a store, a older women in her 60’s asked me something in German. I told her in English that I don’t speak German and she spoke English to me! Even the older generation speaks at least 2 languages; it is so surprising, but I guess that is just how they are.
May 14th, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under Munich/Rome, Summer Break. No Comments.
This Friday I will be leaving for my trip around Europe. Although I am currently very preoccupied with finals, my excitement has been growing exponentially as my trip gets closer. Since both sides of my family are from Italy and Germany I look very forward to experiencing the culture of both these places. Some things I want to do in Italy include visiting a church and going to the coliseum. In Germany I really want to try all of the food that my grandmother has been cooking for me my entire life!
In regards to the class I cannot wait to continue by entrepreneurial education with Professor Schlake. We will be going on a tour of the BMW factory, which should be amazing since it is suppose to one of the most high tech and automated factories in the world.
I will miss a lot of things from home, but none of these things will compare to the experiences I am about to have. I am looking so forward to continuing my blogging and sharing stories and photos with you all along the way. Wish me luck!
May 14th, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under Quick Fire Tuesday. No Comments.
What is the best way to travel around your area?
One of the many fancy cars in Taipei.
Gaurav Gupta: The best way to travel around Taipei is in a Lamborghini.
Walking > Driving.
Olga Kushnir: Walking is the best way to get around Pamplona! It takes me 10 to 15 minutes to walk to campus, 7 minutes to walk to the bus station, and about 20-25 minutes to walk to old town which is known as the more “touristy” part of Pamplona. There are busses and taxies all over if you’re tired or it’s raining, but I typically walk!
A map of the ATM system in Milano
Suzanne Vernon: The best way of transportation for Milan Italy is the ATM system. ATM is the Milano tram and metro system. My dorm is across the street from the tram, so it is actually really easy to travel around.
Melissa Truong: The best way of transportation for Milan Italy is the ATM system. ATM is the Milano tram and metro system. My dorm is across the street from the tram, so it is actually really easy to travel around.
May 10th, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under Hong Kong, Semester Exchange. No Comments.
By Ben O’Toole
Now that my time in Hong Kong is winding down I have been making a big effort to go out and see everything. This past weekend I took a trip to the Northern Territories of Hong Kong to visit the monastery of Ten Thousand Buddhas. The train system, known here as the MTR goes all the way north up to the border with China, which is essentially where we were. Since there are no resident monks at Ten Thousand Buddhas the area is not categorized as a true monastery.However, there is a constant flow of Hong Kong people and tourists that come to pray and visit. Since photography is not allowed inside the temple I will just describe it to you. It was only one rather large room, and on each wall there were about 25 rows of shelves, each carrying around 100 small golden Buddhas. In the center of the room was a large Buddha in front of which people kneeled, prayed, and burned incense. Like all the great temples, this one was complete with a gift shop on your way out. It bothered me that although there were several “no photography” signs posted around the temple people still felt like it was acceptable to just walk in and take many pictures of everything they saw. Either way, the temple was very impressive.
These characters lined the way to Ten Thousand Buddhas Temple. Each one was different, and most were quite comical.
Although I enjoyed the Ten Thousand Buddhas, I felt as though the journey to get there was much more interesting. The monastery is built into a mountain in Northern Hong Kong, with the temple near the top. To reach it, you had to walk up a long path that was lined with several hundred life sized, gold painted Buddhas, all representing different character traits and ideologies.
One of the things I think I will miss most about Hong Kong is the food. Not only is there great chinese food on every corner, but Hong Kong has its own version of Western food that is very popular among the locals. Tea Shops, which are called Cha Chaang Tangs here, serve Hong Kong Style Chinese and Western food. Some of my favorite dishes here are Hong Kong Style French toast and Vietnamese iced coffee. The french toast two slices bread held together with butter, battered and fried, and served with a peanut butter and condensed milk syrup. It is a sugar rush for sure. They also use sweetened condensed milk to make their coffee here. This was originally because of the lack of fresh milk, but it the usage stuck around because of how amazing it is (much better than cream and sugar). And of course I will never have Chinese BBQ so readily available ever again in my life.
It’s very sad to see this semester coming to an end, but I am going to try to keep going out and making the best of this experience. I would like to once again thank the Smith School and Dean Anand for making the possibility of me studying abroad become a reality. It was by far the best experience I have had to date. I look forward to putting together the photo album just to review all I have been able to do this semester. Once again, thank you.
May 9th, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under France, Semester Exchange. 1 Comment.
By Jesse Buchman
Now that the semester has ended for me and I am beginning my month of post-exchange travel in Europe, I have a few tips to share for fellow students who will study, or are studying, abroad. These tips come from personal experiences and observations I’ve made.
Find a pawnshop:
When I arrived in Antibes and saw the incredible landscape of mountains and beaches, I wanted to explore the Côte d’Azur, but I thought the train was too limiting. My roommate told me there was a pawn shop in Antibes called Cash Converters so I went down and purchased a used bike for 100 Euros after the owner assured me I could sell it back for at least half the price 4 months later. Suddenly I essentially had 4 month, 50 euro bike rental! I ended up selling it for 50 Euros to a friend, but the “rental” was great way to explore, and I wasn’t limited by distance or constrained by trains.
One of my favorite places I visited on exchange was right around the corner from my flat. I would often go to the old city walls to read by the Medditeranean under the shadow of the Alps.
Don’t travel with a checklist:
When my fellow exchanges enthusiastically began to book their European excursions at the beginning of the semester, I hesitated. I decided I didn’t want to travel with a checklist where I would visit every popular city in Europe just to say “I’ve been there.” Additionally, I decided I wanted to LIVE abroad and not just travel abroad. So while everyone ran for the airport every time we had a break, I opted to explore the Côte d’Azur and the French lifestyle. So I learned we should travel out of desire and not out of obligation. Personally, I fell in love with Florence/Italy, so I travelled there 3 different times and completely skipped visiting Spain.
Plug in with locals:
There are many different ways to meet local residents of the region where you are studying, and it often depends on the culture of the country. For example, my friend who is teaching English in Mantova, Italy has become a regular customer at a coffee bar and the owners essentially adopted him into their family. While I was visiting him, he was the guest of honor because he suggested they serve grilled cheese and tomato soup at their bar one evening. In Antibes, as I have written in previous posts, I joined a local church and was able to meet people from the Côte d’Azur and learn about the region. It was awesome meeting exchange students from all over the world, but I developed even closer friendships by hanging out with the young people from my church. I now have friends to visit in the Côte d’Azur and hopefully they will visit me in College Park. Plugging-in has many different faces, but in every situation, all it requires is confidence and a willingness to put yourself out there.
Politely Avoid other Americans:
I had a unique and surprising abroad experience where I was one of only two Americans in our group of 50 exchange students. Although I love the United States and the people there, I really enjoyed being my own individual and not just “one of the Americans.” Great personal growth results in breaking out of the herd and exploring abroad without the constraints of what is easy and familiar. One of my exchange friends told me a few weeks ago that I was the only American guy he has ever met and therefore all of his American stereotypes in the future would be inspired by me… wow, that’s a lot of pressure!
So these are some of the things that helped make my semester abroad a success… I hope you all find them helpful!
May 8th, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under Semester Exchange, Spain. No Comments.
By Olga Kushnir
I have always heard that studying abroad is a life-changing experience, but I never knew exactly how it would change me. Since I wasn’t born in America, it wasn’t my first time living outside of the country, as it is for some students. Last time I lived outside of the US, I was six years old and in Ukraine. This time, however, I am 20 years old, in Spain, and have the world at my fingertips. My American passport alone gives me an incredible amount of opportunity that, unfortunately, some of my friends and family in Ukraine will never have. Therefore, I have worked hard to embark on every excursion and adventure I could, and have appreciated every second of it.
One of my favorite things to do while travelling is meeting new people. Every time my friend, Raehanna, and I pick a hostel, we don’t choose it based on the facilities or cleanliness (although that’s always a plus!), but instead we look for a top-rated hostel based on staff, atmosphere, and meeting people. As a result, we have travelled across Europe, and have met a vast amount of travelers from all over the world, each with a different story to share.
With my travelling buddy and best friend; Raehanna, and two local boys we met, (from left) Fernando and Lucas, in my favorite city in Spain, Granada. Fernando and Lucas walked us around their hometown and told us all about their culture and way of life in Spain!
These experiences are what have brought about my study abroad “life change” – cultural awareness. I have learned how important it is not to judge someone just because he or she acts differently from you, speaks a different language, or is not from the same place as you. No matter how much the University of Maryland prides itself on diversity, there is still judgment passed based on labels and stereotypes and the hierarchies formed as to who is “coolest.” I, especially, have seen this within the Greek community amongst sororities and fraternities, being a sorority member myself.
My newfound “cultural awareness” does not mean that I was ever one to judge someone different from me before I studied abroad. However, now, when I return to the University of Maryland, my view on what is important in life has changed. The world is so much bigger than sororities, fraternities, status quos, and some of the bubbles people have lived in their entire lives. I believe that studying abroad, in a non Maryland-In program, can potentially pop that bubble and bring about that life-changing experience people speak of. When abroad, there is no judgment, since everyone is just as different as everyone else, and all you can do is embrace it and learn from one another’s cultural differences.
May 7th, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under Quick Fire Tuesday. No Comments.
What is your favorite place you have visited while abroad?
The Moroccan sunset!
Suzanne Vernon: Just last week I watched the sun go down while I was riding my camel in the Moroccan Sahara. When the sun went down we saw every star at night. It was the most amazing view that I’ve seen in my life.
A top-down view of Florence.
Jesse Buchman: My favorite place so far in Europe is definitely Florence, Italy. I have been there 3 different times in the last four months. I was captivated by the history of the Renaissance. I was able to walk the same streets as Michelangelo and his compatriots. In so many ways, Florence and the Renaissance is the foundation of everything we know today.
One of Granada’s many magnificent views.
Olga Kushnir: Granada is my favorite city in Spain and definitely my most favorite place I have visited since I’ve been abroad. As you walk down the cobblestone streets you see incredible views, meet the most wonderful, warm people, and eat delicious tapas with a glass of wine for just 2 euros!
May 6th, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under Semester Exchange, Taiwan. No Comments.
By Gaurav Gupta
It has been raining often here in Taipei and carrying an umbrella is a must. Even though it is always raining, it doesn’t seem to stop people from being out. One day the rain was so heavy, I figured no one would come to class. When I got to class drenched, everyone was already there. Mid term week passed by finally in Taipei. The week felt like it was taking forever and all the places possible to study, like Starbucks, the library, even McDonalds, were full for the whole day and night. The kids at National Taiwan University seem really studious.
Iron Man 3 in Taipei!
Taipei is a really crowded city. When the new Iron Man movie came out, tickets for show times sold out days in advance. This continued for the whole week. When I went to even buy tickets, the line took over 45 minutes because for some reason, you buy tickets and movie theater food in the same line. Makes it really slow… The other day I was walking around the Taipei101 area. This area is located in Xinyi district and is by far the nicest area in Taipei. It is much more expensive and looks very upscale, compared to the rest of the city. Taipei 101 is a building that used to be the tallest in the world. When I was exploring this area, I saw all these different trade shows, and models carrying balloons followed by clowns advertising the new Samsung Galaxy Phone and an absurd amount of people everywhere! There were numerous massive trade shows going on, like for art and another one was for home interior things. But like usual, I was 1 of maybe 15 foreigners I saw which is always weird.
My stay is winding down in Taipei. It has been a fun time so far and I am even trying to get a internship here for the summer. I don’t see myself being able to live here forever, but I would like to stay for the summer at least. I think it would be interesting to experience working in a foreign country and see how it compares to studying in one.
May 3rd, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under Australia, Semester Exchange. No Comments.
By Melissa Truong
Five friends and I went on a three day Great Ocean Road Trip last weekend (total of five Americans and one Canadian). For those that are unfamiliar with the Great Ocean Road, it is a little over 300km and runs along the south coast of Australia. (Translation: 300km of spectacular ocean views.)
We all took turns driving, so I can now say I’ve driven on the “wrong” side of the road. It takes conscious effort to make sure you don’t drift to the left when you first start driving, but after an hour, it becomes much more natural. (Also, if you drift too far to the left, you’ll be off the road and somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.)
During the nights, we camped in national parks (where camping is free). Camping always reminds me of all that I take for granted on a daily basis. From things as simple as running water to outlets to charge electronic devices, the world is full of “necessities” which, well, aren’t all that necessary. It makes me wonder, why are humans so fascinated with material objects, especially those that make life easier? Does this mean we are in essence one of the laziest species? Or rather the one species whose ultimate goal is to increase and fuel laziness?
(left to right) Danielle, Jake, Cole, Mac, me, Brian. Brian has an awesome camera (and tripod) that has a clicker/remote so groups can take shots of themselves. Mac was appointed the clicker for this group shot and was having a little trouble getting the camera to register the click. I think he got it work for this picture though. As you can tell, we absolutely loathed each other’s company.
I don’t mean to raise the issue pessimistically, but rather to give an alternative view to innovation. Innovation can be paradoxical. Innovators are clearly self-motivated and ambitious individuals, but their innovations, more likely than not, further fuel our ability to be lazy. Of course the case can be argued that innovations increase convenience, but let’s face it; convenience is really a euphemism for laziness.
To raise another point, especially to those who thought I was being pessimistic in my musings, why does laziness have such a negative connotation? Why can’t we just accept that we all inherently strive to be lazy? Maybe being lazy or wanting to be lazy should be viewed as a positive. After all, look at all the innovations and new technologies it brought about. Everyone works hard to be successful and “have it all” so they can be lazy and not have a care in the world. So, again I ask, what’s so bad about being lazy? Food for thought.