December 6th, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under Semester, Spain. No Comments.
By Vinay Kantharia
Even before I began my study abroad experience, I had been told numerous times by many people to make sure that I travel around Spain as much as I could. Although this may seem like unneeded advice since one would think students would naturally want to travel around the country in which they have been studying in for so long, to be honest, if I had not been given this advice, I probably wouldn’t have gone to all of the places I’ve visited in Spain.
For abroad students who may have never been to Europe before and never know when they will be in Europe again, the temptation to travel most weekends to different countries is always there. The thing is that in Europe, traveling is not very expensive, especially when you think about it in terms of how much it costs to travel in the U.S. For example, airlines are much cheaper (I usually get round trip flights for about 100 euro), hostels are very popular which saves students a lot of money (a night in a hostel is usually around 20 euro) and there are so many countries close together, so you don’t have to travel very far to experience an entirely new culture.
The fact that it is so much cheaper to travel is exactly why I was given the advice that I was given. You can’t really blame students for traveling to so many different countries for the weekend rather than travel Spain. Students usually all have the same mindset when it comes to travel. When debating whether to spend the weekend in a Spanish town/city or go to an entirely new country such as Germany for example, it usually always comes down to “Well if I want to visit Germany at some other point in my life, it will costs thousands of dollars to travel from the U.S., where as if I go now, it won’t cost nearly as much and plus I already study in Spain”
This is the small town of Olot near the mountains. Our program took most of the students from UMD here for the weekend.
Since I was given the advice to make sure I travel Spain before I arrived, I planned my trips as strategically as possible. I definitely wanted to make sure I visited different countries in Europe because it is so cheap to do so. So far I’ve visited Germany, France and the Netherlands and I will soon be going to Italy, Greece and London. At the same time, however, I wanted to make sure I saw as much of Spain as I could, to really see how the culture in Barcelona differs from the rest of the country. I’m proud to say that I’ve visited A LOT of places in Spain so far and have learned a lot . I have visited Valencia, Buñol, Olot, Figueres, Ripoll, Tarragona, Madrid, Seville, Granada and of course Barcelona. Every single place I’ve been to has been unique and pretty different from Barcelona in terms of things such as the architecture, the food, and the people. Barcelona is very different than other places in Spain, which is something I wouldn’t have ever known if I hadn’t traveled around the country. For example, even though Barcelona and Madrid are major cities, Madrid is much bigger and the people seemed to be less laid back than in Barcelona as there was always people walking from place to place and not many people sitting outside having a beer or drinking coffee in the middle of the day. Olot was a very small town near the mountains which was completely different than Barcelona. Granada and Seville are in the south of Spain, and the culture there was also very different. For example, nightlife did not seem so important and food was much cheaper, as you usually got free tapas when you ordered a drink!
All in all, I think it is very important to travel Europe when a student comes abroad. Every country that I’ve visited was obviously very different than Spain, but it was also cool to see how different Barcelona is from other parts of Spain, something that can only be done if you travel the country!
December 5th, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under China, Semester. No Comments.
By Mollie Schick
Generally speaking, clubs and bars aren’t my scene (Though the two most popular districts to go if it’s yours are Sanlitun (三里屯) and Wudaokou (五道口)). Everyone knows that China is famous for The Great Wall and the Forbidden City but Beijing is filled with many other places that don’t make top 10 on the tourist websites.
For this blog I thought I’d let you know the places I’ve found that are a bit less traveled.
From the top of the hill at Jingshan Park (景山公园), on a clear day, you have a gorgeous view of the Forbidden City. However, right across the road is Beihai Park (北海公园) with a beautiful lake, an underground cave, and a big white tower. Jingshan Park was nice to see once, but in my free time I’d rather go to Beihai and walk with the locals.
A collage of all the places mentioned in this post.
Second on my list is the China Nationalities Museum (Chinese Ethnic Culture Park – 中国民族园). It is comprised of architecture and cultural relics from China’s 56 ethnic groups. Museums in China are a bit of an experience in themselves, but this 50 hectare park includes enough for anyone to enjoy. The museum is located within the National Olympic Park, only one metro stop from the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube, though I don’t think it would be possible to try to see the entire complex in one day.
Finally, Qianmen Gate Pedestrian Street (前门大街) is located at the South end of Tiananmen Square. While it’s not one of the more popularized, modern shopping districts, it is a pleasant stroll down the streets with architecture mimicking the1920’s and 1930’s style. The main street includes many international brands, Starbucks, Canon, Haagen-Dazs etc. but walking along the side streets leads to traditional tailors, herbal apothecaries, souvenir shops, roast duck restaurants and more. Overall if you’re looking for a day to wander around, Qianmen Pedestrian Street promises interest. Just remember the place is filled with tourists, both Chinese and foreign and the store keepers will look for any way to make a few extra Yuan so make sure you bargain and count your change.
My final tip when heading out to tourist sites is to make sure to bring your student ID. Pretty much every place gives a student discount, more often than not 50%, which makes even the most expensive fees reasonable.
December 4th, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under Semester, Spain. 1 Comment.
By Swati Singhania
As the end of the semester rolls around, I begin to realize all the work I have to do and how little time I have left. Managing my time during this “crunch period” has always been difficult but during my study abroad experience it has proved to be especially hard! Studying for exams versus fitting in that last travel experience are some of the easier questions I’ve had to ask myself.
Did a road trip to Portugal before all the madness picked up!
Back home in the States, final exam time meant gathering up all our notes and study guides from the entire semester, compiling as many resources together as we can, and starting week long study sessions for all our classes. Not to mention, “all-nighters”, bulk amounts of coffee and red bull, and of course, fighting to find a seat in McKeldin. But at the end of the day all I was managing was my study time for all the exams I had. How much to study for which class and when to start studying for another; it was all pretty simple. Don’t get me wrong, creating these study schedules was difficult and sticking to them was even harder, but knowing that studying was my only priority makes it seem a lot easier now.
During this semester in Spain, I have found it even more difficult to manage my time. As an exchange student, I obviously want to take advantage of the ability to travel to other places as well as getting to know Spain. Managing studying and completing classwork with coordinating travel plans has been especially difficult. I knew I had to complete work ahead of time so, time I may have spent napping or catching up on T.V. shows in the States were dedicated to completing all my work. Not to mention, in the States I was use to having a constant flow of financing given that I was working during the school year. Being abroad meant knowing how to spend my money wisely because how much I had was how much I had and that was it. There was no paycheck coming in the next week that would make up for this week’s poor financial decisions. I have done a heavy amount of traveling these past 3 months but with that came excessive amounts of planning and coordination. Even though it was difficult and at many times stressful, I’m glad I experienced these hard decisions and definitely learned a lot from them as well.
December 3rd, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under Quick Fire Tuesday. No Comments.
What is your favorite place you’ve visited so far?
The entrance to Oktoberfest.
By Saral Nigam: My favorite place was definitely Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. During the day, I was able to sit down next to random Germans and talk to them about anything in the world. At night, I was able to hang out with others staying at the same camp grounds in the freezing cold!
The best noodles around town!
By Yu Chen: The favorite place I’ve visited so far is actually the very ordinary noodle store that is right across the street from the dorms. The reason I love it all so much (more than the mountains and ports) is it is so convenient and cheap. For less than $1.50 you can get a bowl and be full for a meal. It’s the perfect place when you feel broke after spending a lot on a weekend trip to Kaohsiung.
December 2nd, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under Germany, Semester. No Comments.
By Matt Koebel
It doesn’t feel long ago that I was applying for this exchange semester, and seems like yesterday I was saying goodbye to coworkers at my summer internship before heading to Europe for 4 months. This past Friday was my 3-month mark since leaving the States. Now again, I’m preparing for my second transatlantic flight. I’ve still got a little over a month in Europe, but this time, I have to completely move out of an apartment and do it all on my own, while relying solely on public transportation.
It’s amazing how ‘homey’ my apartment in Vallendar has become. I feel relieved coming back to it after a 4-day weekend. It’s great knowing people in the town and being surrounded by friends. It’s also amazing how much more stuff I have now than when I came abroad with just my backpack and one 40lbs duffel bag. I had forgotten some essentials, like a calculator and quickly started wearing out some clothes that needed to be replaced leading to a great deal of shopping.
My Bahncard50 has saved me over 300 of € and only cost €121 with a student ID.
In addition to moving out physically, I have to start removing myself from the German system. For instance, I purchased a 50% discount card for the train system. The card automatically renews itself each year, unless the owner explicitly cancels it. I’ve also got to unregister as a foreign resident in the town. There are a lot of administrative tasks that have come along with life abroad that can easily be overlooked when going home. My German neighbor warned me that if I forget to cancel my train card, I could be sued after not paying for the renewal.
In the case that I do forget to do something before leaving Germany, I’m legally not allowed to reenter the country after the expiration of my residence permit for another 3 months or I will face prosecution. Fortunately, the International Relations Office is holding a pre-departure meeting for all of us to touch on everything we need to do in the coming weeks before our flights home. I do miss some things about America, and since I just returned from a 4-day trip to the UK, I’m missing an English speaking country even more. These last few weeks will be spent in town until my sister comes to Europe during her winter break when we’ll travel through Ireland and some other cities.
November 29th, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under Uncategorized. No Comments.
By Saral Nigam
When I heard the NFL was moving the Broncos vs. Chiefs game to the Sunday night primetime slot, I was actually very upset. Instead of watching the game at the local Irish pub at 10 PM, I’m going to have to watch by myself in my apartment at 2:30 AM on a Sunday night. As a Broncos fan, not only am I missing the game of the year, I’m missing the entire 8-1 season (thus far).
All the great sports I’m missing (Except for soccer).
Even with this though, there are pluses for being six hours ahead of football. Instead of waking up at 1 PM and sitting on the couch all day, I can actually be productive. Since games don’t start until 7 PM, I can go sightseeing, get some homework done, or come back from a nice vacation before football even starts. There is no way that would be possible in the States. It’s also late enough, where you can meet up with your friends for dinner and watch football at a bar. Typically at home, many people will sit in their apartments and watch, rather than socialize and make new friends at the bar. It’s so much fun teaching locals about American football! But again, on the other hand, The 4 o’clock games are now starting after 10 and the late game starts after 2 AM. This takes out all possibility of watching Sunday night or Monday night football, unless your team is playing. In this case, getting to your early classes is tough of the next day.
This season has been particularly rough because of how well the Terps are doing too! Starting off 4-0 was awesome, but I couldn’t see a single game! Also, even though we’ve clinched a bowl game by beating Virginia Tech, I won’t be able to watch it (Returning to US on January 4th)!
Being abroad makes it much tougher to watch American sports. I am missing or have missed all of the regular NFL season, half the basketball/hockey season, half Maryland basketball’s, Maryland’s bowl game, MLB playoffs, etc. I guess there are some drawbacks for studying abroad after all, especially in the fall. But there is no way they outweigh all the great times I’ve had on a different continent!
November 28th, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under Semester, Taiwan. No Comments.
By Yu Chen
Hi again everyone! This time I want to introduce to you about an outdoor activity that is really popular in Taipei, and that is hiking. If you heard anything about Taipei, you would probably know that Taipei was a modern city that has countless stores and restaurant. Of course, these are actually what Taipei is known for. However, Taipei also has numerous mountains (small mountains of course) around the city. So often you would have an interesting picture of some mountains right next to some heavily populated area in Taipei. Nevertheless, this makes it very convenient for anyone to gather a bunch of people and go hiking during some afternoon whenever there is free time.
This is a picture taken at the top of the Elephant mountain. You can clearly see Taipei 101 and the surrounding buildings.
The mountain that I want to show you is a mountain called the Elephant Mountain. The Elephant Mountain was located right in the most popular area in Taipei, the Xinyi district. You might not be familiar with the Xinyi district, but telling you that Taipei 101 is located at the heart of Xinyi district would probably help you understand why Xinyi district is so popular. And the Elephant Mountain is right next it. So when I first went hiking at the Elephant Mountain I was so surprised that there would be a mountain here. One second I was still walking on the populated streets of Xinyi district, and the other I was right at the bottom of the mountain where there was absolutely no stores and only have stairs that lead into the mountain.
The hike at the Elephant Mountain was not exactly the type of hiking I was expecting when my friend brought me there. Hiking in Maryland mostly consists of walking on a trail where plants and trees surrounds you. But the hiking at Elephant mountain is much different. It consists of majorly one thing (of course there are plants and trees, but you would be so focused on this one thing you would almost forget them), which are stairs. The hike was simple, you would climb a LOT of stairs until you are all the way up at the top where you have a nice view of all of Taipei. Of course the view was awesome, but the number of stairs you have to take are something you would not forget about the Elephant Mountain.
Alright! This concludes my entry for this time. I can’t wait to share more with you guys next time, hope you guys are having a good time like I am in Taiwan.
Until next time!
November 27th, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under Uncategorized. No Comments.
By Adam Darchicourt
So it’s finally happened- maybe you’re waiting on that next scholarship dispersion, or maybe you gambled everything away at the bingo hall (we don’t judge), but either way, you’re going to have a lean week in Madrid. With a little skill you won’t find yourself picking through the dumpster like the guy who plays accordion on the corner. Here are some ways I handle being poor around here.
Cute, European, corner Café?
Obviously eating is your primary obstacle. Once your friends get tired of making you pasta, you can find all kinds of cheap options in Madrid. 100 Montaditos, a friendly chain which accepts credit charges for the cheapest of purchases, has great discounts on Sundays, Mondays, and Wednesdays. Other days you could hit up the Nostrum, where you can get a good (ish) meal for about 3 Euros if you have joined the fan club. A lot of bocadillo shops, which are like delis, serve dirt-cheap sandwiches fast.
Transportation is best done the old fashioned way: walking. If something is too far to walk to, the metro is between 1.50 and 2 Euros each way, so you won’t break the bank on a few trips. But sometimes if you come up short on a cold late night, the attendant might let you through the gate without a ticket.
Now what the heck are you gonna do for fun?! You’re certainly not going to study, like a square. My advice is to use you time while broke to enjoy the cultural aspects of the city and get some pensive alone time. Parks, such as the magnificent Parque del Buen Retiro, are free of course. Or you can walk around exploring the plazas and grand avenues of Madrid. Even better, with a student ID, you can get in to the Reina Sofia art museum free. Museo del Prado is free between 6 and 8 every day. Some of the museums are free all of the time, and any others are sure to have student discounts.
When you get tired of classing it up and inevitably want to go back to drinking with your friends, I once again recommend starting at 100 Montaditos. A pint of beer or tinto de verano (think carbonated, sweet red wine) runs you 1.50, or one Euro on Sundays and Wednesdays! Away from the center you can find some shady little bars with one Euro shots, and any cervezaría worth its salt will give you a tapa along with your beer. So enjoy your time in the poorhouse; soon everything will be back to normal!
November 26th, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under Quick Fire Tuesday. No Comments.
What do you miss the most about America?
Throw in some blue cheese dressing and an offensive Sunday night match up with these bad boys, and you’ve got a match made in heaven.
Spar is a popular grocery store in Vienna.
Adam Darchicourt: The things that I miss the most from America are, hands down, buffalo wings and football.
You can find most of the same brands in China as in The States, but I’m pretty convinced pretzels and granola bars don’t exist.
Hands down the best American holiday
Daniel Pacious:I miss the wide selection at supermarkets. This post may be influenced by the timing of the question. I have been searching all over town for some standard thanksgiving fare without any luck. However, in general, the grocery stores here are smaller.
Mollie Schick: Already being in China for the summer and meeting my mom for vacation ½ way through my time abroad gave me the luxury of asking for the foods I missed the most. My wish list: granola bars and pretzels.
My friend came to visit and brought me all the essentials! Couldn’t be happier to have these back in my life!
Matt Koebel: Currently: Thanksgiving.
Swati Singhania: So I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of food in Spain (especially since I’m vegetarian) so food has definitely been a big one for me!
My go-to TV program.
Vinay Kantharia: The thing I miss the most about America is ESPN. Back at school, ESPN is usually the only channel that plays in our apartment, so not being able to watch it at all while in Spain, makes me miss it a lot. Keeping up with sports in general is kind of tough because of the 6 hour time difference, so I can’t wait to be back home and watch games at a reasonable hour!
November 25th, 2013 by Smith Office of Global Programs under Austria, Semester. 2 Comments.
By Daniel Pacious
Grüß gott! As my time in Vienna has begun to wind down, I have been motivated to make the most of each and every day. This past week has been filled with some intriguing and exciting experiences. Last weekend, I took the 6:40 a.m. train to Salzburg, a smaller city in Austria, most famous as the setting in the film, “The Sound of Music.” Salzburg is a quaint, beautiful city lined with breathtaking mountains. There was a light mist for part of the day which made for a mystifying fog and added to the aura of the city. We visited Festung Hohensalzburg, the high fortress of Salzburg, for a wonderful view of the city. We also learned about the magnificent history of the fortress. It was originally constructed in 1077 by the archbishop at the time during the Holy Roman Empire but it has since expanded tremendously. We also viewed the birthplace of the great classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
This past Friday I had a day filled with two vastly different experiences. In the morning, I visited the Zentralfriedhof, Austria’s central cemetery. It is one of the largest geographically and contains the most interred in Europe. With over 3.3 million interred, it contains roughly double the amount Vienna’s current population. In keeping with the composer theme, it is the resting place of Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert and Strauss among others. The headstones and tombs here were all much larger and many more ornate and intricate than those common in the states. The cemetery offered a vast quiet place for reflection and contemplation.
Photo of the Christmas market, with Rathaus the city hall as the backdrop.
Later that evening a large Christmas Market at Rathaus, Vienna’s city hall, opened for the season. I was definitely not going to miss this! It dawned on me, I suppose, that without Thanksgiving there is no reason to hold off on the Christmas celebrations. Every year in Vienna in mid-November most major squares transform into outdoor markets lined with stands selling scrumptious baked treats, Christmas decorations, toys for kids, and warm drinks for all ages. Obviously, this offered a much different experience than the Zentralfriedhof. The market was filled with so much life; people of all ages smiling and enjoying the cheerfulness associated with the holiday season. I am very thankful for these markets because the sun sets around 4:30 in the evening now. This could become depressing but now most of the city is lit up brightly for the holidays. Furthermore, the dropping temperature has not been a problem due to the warmth brought on by the holiday spirit!