Archive for February, 2009

Exchange Rates Dropping: Time to Study Abroad!

When I studied abroad in France last year, the exchange rate was 1.47 and rising.  The high rate didn’t keep me from traveling, but I definitely became more nit-picky as to how I spent my money.  For several months I watched my hard earned cash disappear quickly.  Although I was not in any rush to return home, I was excited to once again spend American money.

Possibly a sign of better times: the exchange rate has drastically improved for Americans looking to study – or travel – abroad.  In the past two days alone, the American dollar has gained ground on the euro and the British pound.  A year ago a U.S. dollar could buy about 50 percent of a British pound. Today, it’s worth nearly 70 percent of a pound’s value. Likewise, last year, the dollar was worth about two-thirds of a euro. Today, it is worth nearly 80 percent.

Studying Abroad is Good for your Taste Buds. But Don't Break the Bank.

Studying Abroad is Good for your Taste Buds. But Don't Break the Bank.

Although it’s not as low as say ten years ago, this still means you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck. This also means you won’t break the bank for that daily baguette, a movie, or housing.  For anyone who wants to spend time abroad- that’s a lifesaver.

In today’s rough economy money can make or break a study abroad trip. University campuses and program providers have noticed the hesitation and are revising the way they transfer credits or charge fees for study abroad programs. For example, some schools make students take a leave of absence and hold onto their financial aid when the students go overseas. Now more schools are switching to the  home-school approach, which enables students to receive more benefits from their school while their abroad.

Another encouraging sign is the legislation that was re-introduced yesterday in an effort to promote living, studying, and traveling overseas. The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act of 2009 would enhance the country’s “intellectual capacity and economic competitiveness by expanding opportunities for American college students to gain a global education.”  The bill would allocate $80 million in grants for study abroad.  Study abroad programs are pertinent in this day and age because they help students understand other cultures and build stronger international relationships.

If you’re planning on studying abroad check out the financial aid, scholarships, and grants offered by universities or program providers. If that fails, you can always enroll in an intensive month long or summer term. There’s no reason not to experience the amazing opportunities available abroad- and with exchange rates improving for Americans, your money will go further. It’s not the end of the world if you come home slightly broke. Think of it this way, in 20 years you’ll have earned back all the money (and then some) and what you’ll have left is the memory of an amazing trip abroad.

Congress makes Study Abroad a top priority

Congress makes Study Abroad a top priority

Congress makes Study Abroad a top priority

I was catching up on the day’s reading this evening, and got really excited to see the news that, the day after President Obama’s big speech, Congress has made study abroad one if its top priorities.  The Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act came within a hair’s breath of passing the Senate last year, and it’s great to see that it hasn’t dropped off the radar with the new year and financial crisis.  Senator Durbin et. al. are right to point to study abroad as a key part of the strategy of “restoring America’s standing in the world” – there is simply no better way to cultivate a citizenry that is knowledgeable about foreign affairs and commanding of respect from the rest of the world.

Imagine, for example, if every undergraduate in American spent a semester in China.  How much better would we as a nation understand that country and its people?  How much more effectively would our government be able to manage our relationship with Beijing?  How much more of an affinity would China feel to America, having had so much more exposure to Americans, and with so many more Americans speaking Mandarin or Cantonese?  The answer is, undoubtedly, “a lot.”

You can learn more about the Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act here, here, and here. And you can join the 2,224 other people who have already expressed their support for the bill by joining this Facebook group. Let’s get this thing passed and make study abroad a top priority for our country!

What do you do after Study Abroad? Work Abroad?

So you spent a semester studying abroad in Japan your Junior year and you loved it.  To continue your international aspirations, you convinced yourself that you really wanted to study abroad in London for the spring semester.  Frankly, England really got you going and you wanted nothing more than to find a job and stay there.  But bad news, you’re not even done

Yes! But now what?

Yes, Study Abroad! But what about after?

with college, so you have no choice but to return to the US for your senior year.  One senior thesis, eight classes, and a diploma later, you’re dying to go back to London but the tedium of your immigration status has left you in a state of depression while the prospect of returning looks bleaker and bleaker.

While I personally didn’t have the wanderlust of the tale above, nor a desire to permanently abandon the US ship, I did entertain the notion of working abroad before I started working for GulliverGo.  This is when my story and the fictional story met a crossroads.  How do I get there?  I’m recently out of college and I’m ready to go, but where do I start looking?  Unlike searching for study abroad programs, finding work abroad companies and programs is less centralized. You can’t just walk into a university’s international education office and have immediate access.  There aren’t individuals nearby who can give you feedback on programs and providers.  A bit more effort is in order.

While perusing for myself, I found a few cool sites and programs that sparked my interested.  While not a comprehensive list, it might point you in a good starting direction and give you an idea of what you want (or don’t want).  Take a look:

Princeton in Asia – A few people I know used this program to find positions in Asia.  Some positions involve teaching English, but there are others in journalism, international development, and business as well.

Yale-China Association – I also know a few participants in Yale-China programs.  These programs are mostly service oriented and all are located (as you can tell from the name) in China.

British Universities North America Club – This organization provides participants with the opportunity to live, work and travel overseas for 6 months.

Trying to Find a Tree Kangaroo in the New Guinea Highlands


After hitching a ride from a pickup truck up the absolute continuously bumpy road I have ever been on, Danny, Thomas, David, Kiuau and entered one of the main villages where we would get some supplies and start our journey.

Thumbs up with the village kids

Thumbs up with the village kids

A de facto marketplace formed every day at the main village gathering area, where mainly women would sell cucumbers, fried flour cakes, raw peanuts, sweet potatoes, leaf greens, carrots, some kind of really fatty meat that I’m still unsure over what it was, and a host of other foods.

Two Women at the De Facto Market

Two Women at the De Facto Market

I gave Danny some money and he bought us sweet potatoes, cucumbers and raw peanuts. Those would be our supplies – we hoped we’d be able to kill a cus cus for dinner if we got lucky.

After some chit chat and pictures (I was the first white guy to roll through the village and hang out with the people in a long time apparently), we set off. They had pointed to the peak that was our destination from the valley, but it was hard for me to gauge what the trek would be like. In Papua New Guinea, time estimates are pointless. Plus, I had a pretty egotistical view of my hiking/trekking abilities, and kept telling myself that running around in Yosemite was probably more taxing than anything they had here. I probably also made a subconscious effort to deny any impending hardships; I knew we were going to sleep in the bush but didn’t ask how. I’m not a big camping guy so I didn’t really want to think about it.

Me, David, and Kiuau on the path

Me, David, and Kiuau on the path

As we set off from the village we followed a pretty well-traveled path that wound its way up along the river, passing through little huts and even gardens. There were women carrying bilums (their traditional woven bags) back from chores and boys carrying fish they had just speared. We bought five from one of the boys for the equivalent of probably around 50 cents.

Kiuau with our fish

Kiuau with our fish

Though I tried not to dwell on it because it was still early in our trip, thus far our luck hadn’t necessarily been good. Our bus driver insisted that we wait around in the highland town of Goroka for 4 hours so that he could fill the van up to capacity for the remainder of the trip to Hagen. That had made us arrive much later than Danny wanted, meaning we were getting a really late start. Danny said there was a small cave halfway up we would try to get to to spend the night in. He seemed anxious, and I could see why: clouds were forming and did so daily. It was September and the rainy season was officially starting.

Danny and some boys standing under a huge pine tree. The vegetation up there was alpine mixed with jungle - incredibly unique.

Danny and some boys standing under a huge pine tree. The vegetation up there was alpine mixed with jungle - incredibly unique.

Also, the hunter in the village with a kangaroo-hunting dog had gotten into a fight and hurt his leg, and couldn’t come with us. I was still hopeful we could find a tree kangaroo, but they said that a dog was necessary to sniff one out in the dense jungle.

These were the bridges to cross the river around the village. They only got worse from here.

These were the bridges to cross the river around the village. They only got worse from here.

After about 2 hours of walking we still had yet to reach the dense jungle, when suddenly a light patter of rain began to fall. As it is with Papua New Guinea, within literally two seconds that patter became a torrential downpour, and we were getting buckets dumped on us. And we were running. I had absolutely no clue where, but we all were in a full on sprint. We ducked under some rocks that gave us minimal cover, and Danny and Kiuau had a brief pow wow in their native tongue. Danny then turned to me and said, “we go,” and we were sprinting again. After a few minutes I saw our destination: a tiny round grass hut with a small plume of smoke escaping from its tiny doorway. We sprinted to it and ducked in. This is where we’d spend our first night.

Side-Trips While Studying Abroad: Monreale, Sicily.

Greetings GulliverGo readers! My name is Mollie and I’m one of the writers for the website.  I plan to post stories about traveling, studying abroad, and all the tidbits that come with the experience.  This particular post is about my trip to Sicily after studying abroad at the University of Paris IV – La Sorbonne last year.

As anyone will discover, Sicilians take proverbs like these very seriously.  If you ever read them… you’re bound to find one that states, “Chi visita Palermo e non Monreale, arriva asino e torna maiale.”  My cugino (cousin) Pino lived by this notion.  Last year, after spending a semester in Paris, I hopped on a train and stayed with my cousin and his family in the beach town of Trapetto, just outside Palermo, in Sicily.  After grilling the proverb into my head, Pino took me to the small, ancient town of Monreale.

We drove through tight, windy, one-way streets to Monreale, a town further inland, and en-route to Corleone.  That’s right, the very Corleone made famous by the movie, “The Godfather.”  Why did I have to see this town?  My cousin Pino, a cute man in his 70s, held it close to his heart. His daughter Rosanna, who accompanied us, rolled her eyes when Pino praised the town. Listening to them bicker was almost as entertaining as touring Sicily.

The Ancient Towers of Catedral Monreale

The Ancient Towers of Catedral Monreale

After numerous wrong turns, we finally came to a dead end road and parked. We followed the signs to “Catedral Monreale.” All morning Pino could not stop praising Monreale’s centuries old cathedral…but right now, all he could foster was “Rosanna!!   Dov’e la catedral???” Commence more bickering.  Satisfaction set in when we walked into a large piazza and from out of nowhere, the Cathedral stood directly in front of us.

From the outside, the Cathedral of Monreale looks like any ancient church. It was erected in 1174; like most things in Europe, it’s really old.  This Cathedral is considered one of the greatest representations of Norman Architecture in the world.  According to a recent Times UK article the Cathedral is a highlight of any trip to Sicily.

An Insider's ViewMosaics Light up the Cathedral

As you walk inside, golden mosaics depicting the Old Testament line the walls. As the story goes, the Norman king William II had the Cathedral built after being visited in a dream by the Virgin Mary. A grand organ, high arches, tombs (of the founder and his father), high altars (fit for kings), and a statue dedicated to the Virgin Mary decorate the rest of this Arab-Norman Cathedral.

The interior is impressive, but the courtyard outside offers one of the most amazing sights.  The courtyard sits on the edge of a cliff, overlooking Sicily, and the capital city of Palermo. Apparently you cannot really appreciate Palermo, until you “see” it from Monreale.  On a clear day, the view is a gem- reaching well beyond Palermo and into the sea. Unlike most of Europe, this attraction is free.  It’s just a matter of getting to the city.

Traveling Abroad: A View of Palermo from Sicily

Traveling Abroad: A View of Palermo from Monreale

Before you leave Monreale, you’re required to visit one of the many cafes or corner pastry stores. My cousin never asked if I was hungry, he just bought me food. He introduced me to an ‘Arancia’ – similar to a pork bun, filled with meat, or peas and rice. The size of a baseball, it’s tasty, but goes down fast.  We also indulged in a few small Sicilian cannoli. As I learned from my time with Pino, no event or experience is complete without food…especially cannoli, even if it spoils your next meal.

After visiting Monreale, according to my cousin, I could leave Sicily a “good, wholesome person.”  In the end, my last minute trip to Sicily enhanced my study abroad experience by introducing me to family, incredible sights, and delicious food.  If you have the chance to travel while studying abroad…don’t debate, just go!

Study Abroad made friendly with GulliverGo and Facebook Connect!

Facebook Connect comes to GulliverGo

Facebook Connect comes to GulliverGo

Here at GulliverGo we believe that one of the best parts about Study Abroad is the social part – meeting new people, and sharing your experiences with your new (and old) friends. So we want to do everything we can to make it easier for you to do that meeting and sharing.  Today, the GulliverGo team launches an exciting new website feature to help you do just that: integration with Facebook Connect!  With Facebook Connect on GulliverGo, you can now

  • login to GulliverGo using your Facebook account
  • see which of your friends are also using GulliverGo
  • use your Facebook photo on GulliverGo

Cool, huh?  Just imagine – you don’t know everything about all your friends in college – how many of them do you think might also be thinking of Studying Abroad, but you don’t know?  How great would it be to be able to plan your trip with them?

But that’s just the beginning.  We’ve got big plans for our integration with Facebook Connect – so stay tuned in the coming weeks as we roll out more social features.

To login to GulliverGo with Facebook, just click on the button that looks like this in the upper right hand corner of the homepage.
Facebook Connect on GulliverGo

Enjoy, and thanks Facebook!

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Gulliver helps students Study Abroad. Our blog covers: current issues in Study Abroad; featured posts by Study Abroad students; and Gulliver updates, news, and behind-the-scenes peaks. Thanks for reading!