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Category Archives: Africa/Middle East

Honorable Mention Based On Photo

“Reflection in the Sand”
Amy Restko
Study Abroad Program: SAO Spanish Studies in Granada, 2012
Location of Photo: Sahara Desert, Morocco


“Shopper Insights at Pondy Bazaar Fair”
Wan-Ting Lee
Study Abroad Program: BUS Sustainable Product and Market Development for Subsistence Marketplaces, 2013
Location of Photo: Pondy Bazaar, Chennai, India


“Monkeying Around in the Wu-Tang Mountains”
Brian Norberg
Study Abroad Program: SAO Alliance to Xi’an Fall 2012, AIESEC Summer 2012
Location of Photo: Northwest Hubei Province, China

Norberg - Personal

“New Heights”
Jessica Weston
Study Abroad Program: SAO University of Canterbury, 2013
Location of Photo: Castle Hill, New Zealand


First Place Photo Contest Winners

Michael Bojda
“Buen Camino”
Personal Connection
Program: College of Media in Pampalona, Spain, 2013
Location of photo: El Perdon Mountain Range


El Camino de Santiago has been portrayed in many movies and TV shows as the “spiritual journey” that will change your life forever. For Alex, Tom, and I, it was a way to get away from the world and get to know each other a little better. With no hiking experience (and no hiking gear on top of it), we embarked on a 15-mile climb to reach the Alto del Perdon. The statue pictured is dedicated to the pilgrims who walk the Camino, and offers a panoramic view of Northern Navarra. My roommates and I decided to join the metal pilgrims and animals in triumph, posing for a self-timed photo as my camera lay on the ground. The trip brought us closer as students in Pamplona and linked us together for years to come. We set out to climb a mountain, with no prior experience, and succeeded. The 10 hours of bonding that went along with it, with no computers, cell phones, or TVs to interrupt, was more of a summit, because the walls between us went down and the three of us returned brothers.


Lauren Colby
“Lumbisi and UIUC”
Career Connection
Program: SAO – GLBL 298, development and education in Ecuador
Location of photo: Quito, Ecuador


One of my favorite things that I was able to do in Ecuador was to help improve the educational lives of children in a rural community by organizing, teaching, and leading a day camp.  While our group often had to confront struggles and adversity while planning our lessons, we were ultimately able to deliver an unforgettable experience to the children in the camp.  We were also able to leave a lasting legacy of our summer camp in the form of a mural for the students to enjoy.  We created, designed, and painted this mural for our students, and one by one, each student put their handprint on the branches of the tree to act as leaves.  In this photo, my classmate Mayumi is just putting the finishing touches of the fantastic mural we collectively created, complete with names to correspond with handprints.  I believe that the lasting impact that we made on the children by being there as mentors and role models is reflected in this mural.  The students were able to understand that with our combined efforts put together, we are a part of a bigger picture.  I think of the students often, and hope that this mural reminds them of the experiences we enjoyed together.


Rachel Rosenberger
“Experiencing Traditional Moroccan Dress”
Academic Connection
Program: SAO Spanish Studies in Granada, 2012
Location of photo: Tangier, Morocco


In this photo, you can see one of my classmates dressed up in traditional Moroccan women’s clothing. I think it’s a great representation of the kinds of academic experiences study abroad students can have outside of the classroom. How often do American students consider the traditional clothing of Islamic cultures? The majority of us, American (college) women, get up, shower, put on sweat pants or shorts, a T-shirt, and go to class. However, in Morocco, there are symbols for every article of women’s clothing. Each article is put on with attention to detail, without any thought about wearing these many layers under the hot Moroccan sun all day. These are the kind of mentally transforming experiences study abroad students can have abroad.

Volunteerism Should Focus on Learning, Not Helping

Guest Article: Adam Huska, Opinion Columnist for the Daily Illini, Faculty-Led Winter Course Abroad participant to South Africa 


The major misconception we have is that as Americans, we are the bearer and managers of abundant resources, and it is therefore our responsibility to reach out to help those “in need” or “less fortunate.” The helping mentality is degrading, especially when it consists of donating money over the phone or because your favorite celebrity is endorsing it.

There were numerous things that came to mind the day before I left home for a land that history textbooks and inauthentic movies had represented. I was apprehensive, objective, willful. There’s something about Africa that always felt distant to me. Yes, there’s the obvious hemispheric change, but there was always something emotionally distant about the continent to me. Africa had always been a stigmatization of widespread poverty, an uncontrollable HIV/AIDS epidemic and a jigsaw of distinct, fundamentally different African countries.

Like the same way with approaching anything new or different, I started optimistic because I didn’t want to be pessimistic, but I was well aware of everything I didn’t know as well. Although I felt confident in leaving for South Africa with just 8 weeks of instruction on the country’s culture and history, I also knew that there was a difference between learning about culture and being cultured, and between learning about history and being a part of history.

The problem is this false and ignorant representation of unfamiliar territory. The problem is how my Westernized thinking interferes with my ability to fairly represent things that are foreign to me. This opportunity to visit South Africa wasn’t necessarily about experiencing something life changing or even participating in something special. It was just as much a trip to test my tolerance and non-partisanship, as it was to test my will to learn and grow…

To continue reading this article, visit the Daily Illini webpage:

To participate on a program like Adam’s this summer, check out our Faculty-Led Courses Abroad and apply by Feb 11th

Preparing for Take Off

Guest Blogger: Ashley Luer

Whether going abroad to study, intern, or volunteer, it is always helpful to have a few goals in mind to help keep you focused during your time abroad. It also goes without saying that preparation now for what life will be like during the first days of your arrival will help curb the intensity of culture shock that may come sooner rather than later for some. To help put things in perspective, we followed Ashley Luer and her blog “Arabic in the Cornfields” as she prepared for her summer of 2012 in Egypt…

“This blog was originally designed to keep me sane as I began learning Arabic. It morphed into a blog of musings about Arabic, the Middle East, and the Islamic World, as well as book reviews about those topics. Then, the blog became a place to keep my family and friends updated on my adventures while I was living abroad…”



Departing 5/14/2012 at 1:50 P.M.
I’ve spent the last couple of days trying to pin down some specifics: vaccinations needed, cell phone use in Egypt, and how to do laundry there, among other things.

I have found that the Wiki Travel Egypt and Cairo pages are very useful!

From them, I decided I will bring my dad’s unlocked blackberry to Egypt and buy a SIM card there to use inside of it. The SIM cards only cost about $3, and I feel like that will be the best use of my money. To make calls back home, I’ll plan on using Skype.

I also decided that I will wait and exchange money while I’m in Cairo for the best exchange rates. I’m still not sure how much to change, so I need to look closer at the estimates for food costs and transportation costs. It probably depends on how much sight-seeing I’ll be doing on weekends too. That will cost extra money. The exchange rate is approximately 1:6, so my dollar will go pretty far in Egypt.

I ended up only needing the Typhoid vaccine, thankfully. I’m in the midst of taking it orally, and I’ve felt no adverse effects. It’ll be nice not to have to worry about that while I’m there! I also got a prescription for Cipro to take as needed while I’m there. Apparently it’s extremely common to end up needing something of that strength at some point during a long stay in Egypt.

Other than that, last minute details are coming together… I have an iPod full of new music, a suitcase full of long skirts, and a mind full of anticipation.

I hope to capture my memories on film and share my insights as best I can. However, I find that usually, I do not experience the full benefit of having traveled abroad until about six months after returning home. At that point, I find myself reflecting on small details that I picked-up subconsciously; like the way that solar panels are used on German homes, the way that Swedes encourage travelers to respect nature, and the way that Israelis conserve water. Obviously, my insights are biased, because, if we’re being honest, every insight is (everyone is innately ethnocentric to some degree, but I try to have as open a mind as I possibly can). Among the things I wish to learn about in Egypt: Islamic finance, human rights, sustainable development in the desert setting, and government building. We’ll see what I pick up on. 🙂 If you’re in my classes next semester (especially Wedig’s Governance or my “Global Inequality and Social Change” class, I’m sure that I will have some comments relating to Egypt).

Anyways, enough rambling. It feels a little weird to know that I’ll be posting a link to this for everyone in my life to read. Just so you sort of know what to expect for the next six weeks, here’s what will be on this blog:

• Lots and lots of stories/pictures/videos of little kids. Specifically, the orphans that I will be teaching at Awladi. Indulge me. I love kids, and I am sure that they will teach me more about life in Egypt, and life in general than I can imagine.
• Many political commentaries. I will be in Cairo a week before the Egyptian elections, only the second presidential election with more than one candidate running in Egypt’s history, and the first Egyptian election after the Arab Spring of 2011. I am not super familiar with each candidate at the moment, but I’m sure that I will be by the end of next week. I am quickly trying to catch myself up on Egyptian politics. Why should you care? Egypt has a huge influence on the rest of the Middle East as far as culture. This election will shape Egyptian direction and policy for years and years to come. This, in turn, will impact the broader Middle East, the rest of the world, and, ultimately, you (oil prices, anyone?).
• There will be many mentions of my Illinois travel partner, Sherin. I met her in Arabic class, and she’s awesome. Besides her, there will probably be lots of other people randomly mentioned, as this is a large program, at least with lots of connections. I plan to have a link at the top of the page to a list of people’s names and who they are. I know that names are hard, especially when you look at the names Mahmoud and Muhammad and don’t see much difference.
• I will be gone until June 29th, so you basically have 7 weeks to enjoy following my adventures to and from Egypt!