Guest Blogger: Amanda Toledo
On the cover of a journal my mom bought me, there’s a quote that reads “Life isn’t about finding yourself; it’s about Creating yourself.” Cheesy as inspirational-quote journals may be, I like the sentiment, although I think that life is more a mixture of both seeking and creating. Deciding which study abroad program to go on is no less challenging for some than deciding which university to go to or what to major in. Many students enter the Resource Room knowing they want to go abroad but not knowing where in the world they’d like to go. Program Assistants work to assist these students in finding what works best for them academically as well as personally. When you’re going abroad, whether for a short-term program, a semester, or an entire year, the fact remains that wherever you go, you are creating a home away from home.
When assisting students I often use myself as an example, calling myself a city kid. Even though I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, when I moved to the actual city in high school, I found that the vibrant, swift, and busy life of a city suited me more than slower, mellower pace of suburban Illinois. When looking for study abroad options, I knew that living in a city would be integral for me. Like most students I’ve spoken with over the past two years, my first thought when it came to England was London. When investigating the programs in London, I discovered there weren’t any options in my price range at the time.
It required more research then, to look up what other English cities the study abroad office had programs in, and which offered classes in my major. I decided on Leeds, the third largest city in England. Of the city options, I chose Leeds because when looking through their class catalogue (“modules” instead of “classes” in the UK) I found a class that sounded interesting to me: an upper level course on the history of witchcraft in literature. In the end, it was a balanced decision between location and academics that landed me on a place I’d someday feel intense homesickness for.
Leeds gave me my fill of a city, but it also gave me the new experience of a walking city. In between classes and homework and day trips to different locations around the United Kingdom, I’d spend my time wandering down the cobblestoned streets of city centre; passing through the Arcades, stopping in at the (free!) museums and art galleries. As the weather grew warmer, I took the fifty minute walk from my flat to city centre instead of the ten minute bus ride, seeing rolling hills turn into the pubs, shops, and panini places that became familiar and comforting to me over the sixth months I lived there. A fifteen minute walk in the opposite direction from my flat landed me at the ruins of a monastery, towering into the sky, beautiful and stoic in its gorgeous park setting.
This is not to say that life in Leeds was without its struggles, but through those struggles and those delights, I created someone confident, someone who relished the independence of exploring a museum with only herself and the art for company. I created a home away from my family and everything I knew, and discovered the power in that.
At the end of my semester, my mom came to visit for a week. Although her flight got delayed a day, and I really ought to have met her in London (where most of our week together had been planned), I insisted she come to Leeds, even just for the first afternoon. London is my favorite place in the world, it’s thrilling and beautiful on a grander scale than you can imagine, and I would love to live there someday, but Leeds was my home.
I knew the best place to take my mom for fish and chips, I knew all the flavors at the local cupcake shop, and which ones to recommend; I knew Leeds.
I can honestly say I have only met one or two people that did not like their programs abroad. Most people feel about their cities the way I feel about Leeds, whether they picked a setting they knew they liked, or chose something that was perhaps out of their comfort zone, but an exciting challenge. I’ve heard students wax nostalgic about their host families, or excitedly recount their adventures of their host countries. Any program abroad will be a mixture of finding and creating a place for yourself in the world; but it’s a journey worth taking.
Begin your journey now! The deadline for this Winter Break programs and Spring semester programs is September 15th.
Guest Blogger: Zana Darwish
Located in the capital city of Ecuador, the SAO Exchange program at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito has a lot to offer students looking to study abroad. Known as the City of Eternal Spring, Quito is just south of the equator and located in an Andean valley surrounded by mountainous peaks. The city offers a unique blend of modern practices and old world traditions. Most notably is the historical center or ‘old town,’ that is defined by its colonial splendor and indigenous character. Similarly, Quito offers a wide range of activities that appeal to all types of students. You can grab a meal in Otavalo Market, go river rafting, hike one of the surrounding mountains, or participate on a city tour.
The program includes four excursions that are planned for the students, giving them a chance to explore the country of Ecuador while abroad. The excursions include day trips to surrounding lakes and nature areas, a trip to the Papallacta hot springs, and a weekend trip to the pristine tropical rainforest, Puerto Quito. Transportation, housing, and meals on these excursions are already covered in the program fees, so students can travel and explore in ease.
The program at Universidad San Francisco de Quito is direct enroll, meaning the students participating on this program can take any class available at the university. This gives University of Illinois students the opportunity to interact with other international and Ecuadorian students in their classes. A majority of the classes offered aretaught in Spanish, thus making this program a great fit for student looking to get credit for Spanish classes abroad. This program also offers unique opportunities for students to get involved volunteering within the Ecuadorian community. Volunteer projects students have participated on in the past include: environmental protection, women’s shelters, orphanages, public schools and hospitals.
With so many unique experiences to offer students, Universidad San Francisco de Quito may be the best place for you to live, explore, and develop via cultural immersion and stimulating academia. For more information on this program go to Quito Program Page or come in a talk to a Program Assistant at the Study Abroad Office!
Guest Blogger: Kaitlin Kuhl
As we head into the 2014-2015 academic year, the Study Abroad Office is seeing a multitude of changes. With the goal set to send more students abroad in the future, current staff have been working on ways to reinvent the study abroad message and its outlook. One of the biggest changes the office is undergoing is replacing the Peer Advisors with Program Assistants. As the Study Abroad Office looks to hire recent study abroad returnees to fill the former Peer Advisor position, the office has taken the initiative to give these students more responsibility and sponsorship for the hard work they demonstrate in the office; thus, we are changing the job title from Peer Advisor to Program Assistant.
For those who don’t know who Peer Advisors are, these students are the front line for those who want to go on a study abroad program. Although Peer Advisors facilitate outreach events and aid the office with general day-to-day operations, often times Illinois students visit the Resource Room in the Study Abroad Office in order to talk to a Peer Advisor about where they should study abroad. Peer Advisors are knowledgeable on the range of programs offered by the Study Abroad Office and can assist students with finding a program that meets their academic, personal and professional needs. When assisting students, Peer Advisors must also be sensitive to a student’s financial means, academic standing and personal limitations. As Peer Advisors, we lead the student through the process of choosing a program and aid them in applying. Peer Advisors are often the ones who help students in the post-acceptance process as well. Whether it is the course approval process or filling out the host institution application, Peer Advisors are knowledgeable on everything that must be completed in order to participate on a study abroad program.
So then, why the name change from Peer Advisor to Program Assistant? The Study Abroad Office wants to recognize the work that the Peer Advisors do and complement their knowledge. It is because of their work that students are able to go abroad. Although area advisors deal with institutions and partners abroad, broker agreements and manage student applications, Peer Advisors are the ones who are able to get students to apply when they might have thought that study abroad was out of the question. As a team within the Study Abroad Office, Peer Advisors hold and share the most knowledge on the options available and the process that needs to be followed in order to study abroad.
It is the Peer Advisors who are able to assist students to find
a program that meets their academic, financial and personal needs. Without Peer Advisors, most students wouldn’t know how to even
begin looking for a program. With that said, it is time that the office recognizes the Peer Advisors as more than just study abroad returnees who aid students with the study abroad process because it is the Peer Advisors who truly keep study abroad alive.The new Program Assistants will be distinguished for their incredible knowledge on all the programs available, their work with office operations including facilitating with applications, and will aid in joining the campus-wide goal to send twice as many students abroad in years to come.
Come meet the new Program Assistants this Fall semester to get help finding the right program for you!
Greetings from the Study Abroad Office!
We are looking to hire bright, enthusiastic study abroad returnees to be Program Assistants (formerly called Peer Advisors) at the Study Abroad Office for the 2014-15 academic year. If you had meaningful experiences abroad and would like to help future students make the most of their study abroad experience, we want to hire you!
Program Assistants advise University of Illinois students in every stage of the study abroad process (from program selection to pre-departure), facilitate outreach activities (flyering, creating posters, class visits, First Steps Info Sessions etc.), and assist the Study Abroad Office staff in completing projects and tasks as assigned. We have included the job description and material requirements in the attachment for you to review in detail.
If you feel like you would be a great fit for this position, we encourage you to apply by submitting all necessary application materials in a Word/PDF format to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please ensure that all required materials are combined in one single email, and please include “Program Assistant Application” in the subject line. The Search Committee will review complete applications only.
The deadline for receipt of completed applications is Friday, June 27th, 2014.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Study Abroad Office
International Studies Building | UIUC
Excerpt from the Blog of: Lindsey Watts
Studied Abroad: Swansea, Wales
This past weekend I explored the other famous part of this city called the Gower Peninsula. It has just been rated the 10th best beach in the world and number 1 in the UK. Naturally, I was going to have to go check it out. I got a few of my friends together and went for a Saturday afternoon. We were lucky because there was 0% chance of rain
and though there were some cloudy skies and it was very cold, it was still a great day for an adventure. We got on the bus for free(!) and went to Rhossili which is a very small village in the Gower. The village is comprised of a church, a hotel, a few shops and that is it. The village is very cutewith all of the buildings made of stone. However, the village only takes about 10 min to look at. The real attraction is what surrounds it. Looking around for miles, as far as you can see, is beautiful landscape. A view that words can simply not express. I was standing on a piece of land that stopped at the ocean before me, creating stony cliffs, covered in bright green grass and topped with hundreds of sheep. Yes, I said it. There were hundreds of sheep both wild and owned living on the same land. They would be about 6ft away from us and then run away.
The Gower is composed of many cliffs and an island called Worm’s Head. There is a rocky sea floor tureen that bridges the cliffs’ main land to the island. Many people go across and hike on the island and then come back. However, you must be careful because when the tide comes in the water goes over the rocky bridge and you can be stranded on the island until the tide goes back out. The good news is that there is a small building at the end of the main land where some cute old men volunteer as a coast guard and watch out for those who go over. By the time we made it to the edge of the main land we only had an hour until the tide would be there. Most of us thought that we did not have time to go across and come back, though my friend, Paul, decided to go for it and ended up having to half run there and back. He said he had a great time though and would love to go back and do it when he had more time. I also would like to do that when my parents come and I take them there.
After adventuring around (me climbing down a little bit off the cliff) and Paul finding some caves, we went to the small hotel and had a nice small meal. I had a nice lentil and vegetable soup with some bread and a side of chips (steak fries). We then looked in a couple of the gift stores they have and then hopped on the bus back by 2:30pm. Before we left we also got a glimpse of a very old church that had graves from the 1800s and some that were from just 20 years ago. I am sure it would be super spooky during Halloween, but it was pretty cool just to see.
Guest Blogger: Alissa Dappas
After studying abroad or spending any time overseas, it’s safe to say that most travelers come back home itching topack up once again and head out for another adventure. I know this is certainly my situation. I have now been back in the United States for nearly a year, and I daydream constantly of the next places I want to visit and explore.
Although I (like most people) desire to travel again, it has become apparent that planning an overseas educational trip in an organized and well-budgeted way is easier said than done. With graduation approaching and no time left to study abroad for a second time, I thought my chances to travel in an educational type setting were long gone. Fortunately, I’ve recently learned about an opportunity for University of Illinois alumni that allows you to travel with fellow Illinois graduates, and like study abroad, learn something about the places you travel to. Through the University of Illinois Alumni Association Explorers Travel Program, you can relive aspects of your study abroad experience in new locations, or for those of you have not studied abroad before, now is your chance to take your Illini pride overseas!
As the graduation date approaches, I’m sure most seniors are constantly being asked, “So what’s next?” As terrifying as this question may be, there are different ways to go about giving an answer. Of course, the expected answers explain a summary of an upcoming job placement or potentially attending graduate school. As exciting as these things may be, don’t forget to talk about grander plans. What else will you do with your life post college years? Travel, perhaps? As an Illinois graduate, the Explorers alumni tour program is perfect for you! There is no certain age to participate, you can convince your friends to go with you while meeting fellow University of Illiniois alumni, the planning is done for you and prices are very reasonable. With diverse location options (Europe, Asia, Africa and more!), programs that offer educational components (recommended reading lists, guest lectures, professional tour guides, etc.), and comfortable stays in 4-5 star hotels, it will feel like an adult version of studying abroad. With 50-60 trips a year, there is something for everyone. Listed below are just a few examples of some upcoming travels! For more information, please visit http://www.uiaa.org/explorers/.
- Croatia’s Adriatic Coast
o Educational themes: Contemporary Croatia, Seafaring History, and Epicurean Croatia o Dates: June 2nd-14th o Cost: starting at $3,695
o Educational themes: Irish music and Dance, the history of Ireland and County Clare, Irish Seanchai, and Finding Your Irish Roots o Dates: June 22nd-July 2nd o Cost: starting at $3,295
- Paris Immersion Program
o Educational themes: Paris and its art, architecture, culture, cuisine, and history o Dates: August 20th-September 4th o Cost: starting at $3,995
- Undiscovered Apulia, Italy
o Educational themes: Italy’s Deep South, Lecce and Ostuni’s Architectural History, and Italy and Apulia today o Dates: September 23rd-October 1st o Cost: starting at $2,395
- Machu Picchu
Guest Blogger: Zana Darwish
Immediately after my acceptance to the Lincoln University program in Christchurch, New Zealand I began thinking about how I wanted to document my experience. I would of course, like a true millennial, bring a camera along to capture endless amounts of pictures, but I also wanted a median of documentation that would record my feelings, actions, and thoughts while traveling. This lead me to the often-used options of blogging and journaling as means to chronicle my experience with words as opposed to just images. After looking more into both options, I couldn’t figure out which one was for me so I, again as true millennial, decided to not decide and used both formats to document my time abroad. What I found was that each median has its own perks and drawbacks.
Based on almost no evidence, I think this is the more popular of the two options for students participating on programs abroad and it’s easy to see why. Blogs are easy to start, easy to maintain, and can be shared with loved ones back home who are eager to read about your excursions (I’m looking at you, Moms). I used the popular website Weebly to create my blog page and shared the URL with anyone who would be even vaguely interested in reading about what I was doing in New Zealand. What I really liked about blogging was the writing part, surprisingly enough. It became a fun way to relive and recap my weekend for friends and family at home, and for my future self. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone through my blog and read it again after returning home to the States. It perfectly captured my inner voice at that time in my life and in hindsight, I’m really happy to have those stories written at the time I was experiencing them. Plus, blogging is something you can put on your resume! Employers like seeing that you have experience with maintaining and writing via social media as it is becoming widely used by all types of businesses.
Incase you’re interested in starting your own study abroad blog here are some websites to check out!
Based on even less evidence, I think journaling is the long lost cousin of blogging that students tend to forget about as way to document their study abroad program. Although similar, keeping a journal can be an entirely different experience than blogging. I found this was the case mainly because blogs are written for other people to read and enjoy, while journals are usually kept private. Interestingly enough, I also found that I struggled with writing in a journal upon first starting. I approached it in the same manner I did my blog− writing about events and stories− but found that journals are better for documenting reactions and feelings that are typically omitted in blogs. With the sensor removed, my journal shows the personal transformation I underwent while abroad. The things my journaling focused on at the beginning of the program versus the end reflect the way studying abroad completely changed what I valued and therefore, wrote about. Plus, journaling at a cafe in a foreign country is exactly as romantic as it sounds and it’s fun to play up the stereotype of being a traveler every once in a while.
Overall, I enjoyed writing for each of these formats for different reasons and they will both be appreciated by my nostalgistic self for quite sometime. However, if I had to choose one to recommend to future study abroad-ers it would be journaling. The experience of studying abroad is inherently selfish: exploring the world as a student inevitably results in a journey of self-discovery. With every culture you are exposed to while traveling, you learn a little bit more about the world but, in turn, you learn so much more about yourself. And after using both methods, I believe journaling is the most effective way to document the personal growth students’ experience while abroad.