Archive for April, 2009

Stay Healthy While Studying

It's better to avoid getting sick, even if the Pharmacies are this nice

It's better to avoid getting sick, even if the Pharmacies are this nice

With the swine flu constantly in the news, it’s a perfect time for Gulliver to discuss health related issues affecting students who are going abroad.  Staying healthy is extremely important.  After all, you can’t have a good time while you’re confined to bed.

Check out the tips below to keep healthy:

* Make sure you see your doctor, dentist, and eye doctor at least a month before your departure.  It’s far easier to be checked out by your own doctors than to struggle with language barriers with foreign physicians.

* Investigate your health insurance policies to make sure you are covered during your time abroad.  Most programs will require you to purchase health insurance – often it’s included in tuition.  If health insurance isn’t required, at the very least, check your current health care coverage.  It’s definitely a good idea to purchase student health insurance if your own plan won’t cover your time abroad.

* If you require any medication while abroad make sure to bring extra.  If you trip is a short one, you might consider bringing a full supply.  Make sure that you have your prescriptions with you since many countries will be suspicious if you are toting around lots of medication.

* If you wear glasses bring an extra set just in case you hang-gliding experience goes awry.  Similarly, if you wear contacts, bring some extra sets along with your glasses for backup purposes.

* A travel sized first aid kit is a good idea since you will most likely be touring your host country outside of your program.  This will cover the bumps and scrapes you’re likely to pick up along the way.

* Memorize your host country’s emergency numbers in case you need them.

* If you do get sick or require medical attention while abroad consult your program administrator.  They have plenty of experience directing students to medical care.

The best way to stay healthy and avoid problems overseas is to be proactive and preemptive.  Following these tips before you leave can go a long way to ensuring a fun and healthy summer or semester.

Futher information can be found on Gulliver’s Prepare to Go page.

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From London, Day Trips Within and Beyond Britain

Senior Writer at findingDulcinea

There’s nothing like a day trip to reinvigorate a study abroad experience. Students in London have several options, including charming and historic locations within Britain, and destinations in other European countries accessible via train. Below, learn about the fascinating day trip opportunities in Oxford, Brighton, Colchester and Edinburgh, which present a range of natural features, famed architecture and renowned educational institutions—with a pub or two for good measure.

Oxford

This university center is located about 60 miles northwest of London, making it easily accessible whether you prefer to travel by train or bus. Trains depart from London’s Paddington station for Oxford several times each hour; look for a train that makes few or no stops and you’ll arrive in under one hour. Buses depart regularly from London Victoria Coach Station.

Oxford's architecture is both whimsical and stately.

Oxford's architecture is both whimsical and stately.

Oxford’s main draw is its wealth of intellectual action. The city boasts 38 colleges affiliated with Oxford University, the oldest English-speaking university in the world. Often referred to as the “city of dreaming spires,” Oxford is characterized by university architecture that is harmoniously intertwined, lending a touch of romance to this most academic of locales. Most visitors take guided or self-guided walking tours (bring comfortable shoes!) around the colleges to get a real taste of the city. Try a two-hour guided tour with Oxford Guild of Guides, departing twice daily from the Tourist Information Center. Movie buffs might notice a few familiar scenes from the Harry Potter films shot here, while beer drinkers and conversation makers will enjoy Oxford’s unrivaled assortment of pubs, some of which were built in the 1200s.

For detailed information on train and bus companies, head to Visiting UK .

The Beach at Brighton

A funky carousel lends flair to the serene Brighton shoreline.

A funky carousel lends flair to the serene Brighton shoreline.

This is not the typical shoreline scene; Brighton is a fun-loving conglomerate with eclectic shopping opportunities, unusual street-side cafes, a kitschy pier and enough arts, architecture and nightlife to draw study abroad students and local revelers. Brighton also has its own population of students and a significant community of free-spirited hippie types, all set against the lush English countryside. If the sky is clear, head to the pier for a glimpse of France across the English Channel. Catch the train from London; roundtrip fare for the approximately hour-long trip is about 20 euros.

The Brighton and Hove Tourist Information Web site provides additional information for visitors, including eateries and events.

Colchester and the Firstsite Galley

Roses, strawberries and wine are a few of the items that thrive in England’s oldest recorded town of Colchester. In addition to the quaint scenery—17th Century cottages along the River Colne, Colchester Castle and a lovely Dutch quarter feature prominently—this little getaway also boasts a Roman past, remnants of which include the 2000-year-old Balkerne Gate. The train ride from Liverpool Street Station in London is about one hour. Use this street plan from the BeenThere-DoneThat travel blog once you arrive

Colchester is also the temporary home of the Firstsite Gallery until its new building is completed. The gallery houses a collection of cotemporary visual artworks, and puts on a summer program featuring talks, workshops and various events led by artists in locations around Essex. Visit the Firstsite Gallery Web site for further details.

Edinburgh

Making a weekend of Edinburgh may be ideal, but for those students who either can’t afford the time or costs of a longer stay, it is entirely possible to plan a day trip from London to the Scottish city. To make the most of your time, get an overnight train from London Euston station to Edinburgh Waverly, and then change to Edinburgh Park train; the trip is about four and a half hours long, so arriving early is key. Plan your day with help from Edinburgh’s official Tourism Web site, and get train schedules and tickets at the Trainline Web site.

Traveling Abroad: A Time to Learn, Adapt, and Cope with Change

With the current economic struggles, more people are turning to school and discovering new cultures through studying abroad. The other day my friend told me she attended a Henna party as a pre-wedding ceremony for her friend. Along with several other attendees, she had a Henna design painted onto her hand. She thought the design would last a week, but when she discovered it might not wash off for two or three weeks she started to panic. Her interest to this Indian custom reminded me why people choose to study abroad – and how easily they can find themselves uncomfortable. Our societal growth is dependent upon our learning and understanding of different languages and cultures. A study abroad experience is most rewarding when we let ourselves experience and participate in the traditions and lifestyle of others.

Choosing to study abroad feels tough at first. Once the decision is made, the trip set, and all the details mapped out… then the real nerves take shape.  Look around Gulliver if you need any help in the “getting ready” category. It’s a lot easier to talk about a new culture than it is to adapt to one. Italy is a beautiful country, but it’s frustrating when you don’t know the language. Japan has so much going on, but again, do you really get a feel for the land if you don’t associate with locals or participate in any daily rituals? Taking that first step toward integrating into another cultural identity is difficult. We have a tendency to use our own values and beliefs to judge a situation. Here are a few tips to get you around these initial judgments:

1) Look at the situation in terms of your own cultural traits, customs, or values.
2) Look at the situation in terms of the host culture’s traits, customs, or values.
3) Understand how your perceptions influence your view of the situation.
4) Redefine the situation, but this time without any cloud of judgment and act in a way that benefits everyone.

People go to different countries for school, business, or to live. Some people adapt well to a new environment, while others retain their original cultural identity. Adapting to a new culture or environment will greatly depend on you background, where you stay, and your personality.

The Peace Corps offers coping mechanisms for its volunteers that apply to anyone traveling overseas. Here are a few instructive ideas to consider: build bonds with other people (sports clubs, movies, social gatherings, volunteering); do things on your own (cooking, writing, watching TV, studying language); remind yourself: No pain, no gain; and learn the new language (talk with children, eavesdrop at a café, get involved in group activities).

Studying abroad is a learning experience. Don’t let your fear of becoming part of a new culture hold you back. It’s difficult to fit in; it takes time, but the whole reason to discover a new culture is not to sit back and watch others get involved. In this current global economy, knowing multiple cultures, having connections overseas, and understanding cultural interactions, will help you become more well-rounded, educated, and valuable. Go and explore the world – and bring a piece of everything you learn back home.

First Step to Going Abroad: Visas!

Passport, check. Visa . . .?

Passport, check. Visa . . .?

Wow time flies.  It’s nearly May and my friends and cousins are slowly trickling back from College.  Where did the semester go?  Summer study abroad programs are rapidly approaching their start dates and there is still a ton to do.  You’re accepted into the program, you’ve picked your classes and you’ve been talking to your program coordinators, but what’s the next step? Visas!  Getting a Visa for your destination is a task best done as early as you can.  Some countries have a simple and quick process, and some countries make you jump through a series of multi-colored hoops.  Everything is manageable as long as you get started now.  The longer you wait, the more hectic the process will be.

A few tips below to give you a quick primer:

  • Start your Visa process early.  Sometimes you’ll be required to leave your passport with the consulate for a week or more before they issue a Visa to you.  The earlier you start, the easier and less nerve-wracking this will be.
  • Most countries require that a few items accompany your application.  They will want to see the following: your passport, a loose color passport photo, a Visa application, a Visa fee, proof of acceptance to a study abroad program (normally a university enrollment letter), and proof that you have enough funds to live in the country.  Every country is different though so check with the consulate in case you need to bring more materials.
  • Depending on the duration of your stay, you might have to apply for a different kind of Visa.  In the UK for example, if you study for less than 6 months, you need a Student Visitor Pass.  Trips of longer than 6 months require the Student Entry Clearance Visa.  Other countries have similar distinctions so check ahead of time to figure out which you’ll need.
  • Make sure your passport has at least one full blank page for the Visa.  Two is preferable.  While some countries have smaller visa inserts, countries like China require an entire page to be dedicated to their Visa.  If you don’t have enough room, a US passport office can add additional pages to your passport.
  • Similarly, make sure that your passport will remain valid for at least 6 months after your departure.  Every country has their own passport validity rules – sometimes they require 3 months, sometimes 6.  Be very careful to check the specifics of the expiration window.  It may be 6 months from your date of entry or 6 months from your date of departure.
Visa . . . check!

Visa . . . check!

Getting a Visa can be tricky, but if you do your homework and allocate enough time, you should be able to apply with plenty of time to spare.  Remember, your summer departure date is fast approaching, so get started soon!

Travelers Flock to Unusual Attractions While Abroad

What are your summer plans? Here at GulliverGo, we encourage people to study or travel abroad. But we’re also interested in those day trips, secret getaways, and places you visit when you’re on break. For some, the Palace of Versailles, wine tasting in Tuscany, or hiking in the Alps, spark interest. Apparently, for others, torture museums, cemeteries, and suicide forests rank high on the list. Whether you’re visiting Italy, France, or Japan, you’re bound to discover a few morbid tourist attractions.

Don't Get Stuck in San Gimignano's Torture Museum

Don't Get Stuck in San Gimignano's Torture Museum

If you study abroad in Italy, you’re bound to end up in Tuscany. Check out the historic Duomo and Campanile in Florence and of course, watch the sunset on the fleuve (river) Arno. Take a bus and go wine tasting in nearby Fiesole- and see the house that served as the setting for the 1985 film, “A Room with a View.” I did all this during my time in Tuscany, but one of the more memorable day trips was a bus ride to the walled, medieval town of San Gimignano. Surrounded by century’s old towers, the town’s most fascinating attraction is its Museo della Tortura e di Criminologia Medievale (Museum of Torture and Medieval Crime). Ok, the historic architecture, Wine museum, and 9th century Fonti Medievali (Medieval Fountains) are pretty neat, but how often do you get to see the inside of a torture chamber? Located within a real dungeon, the Torture Museum showcases more than 100 grisly and gory ways to die, including thumbscrews, chastity belts and lots of creepy masks. You can even pick up your own set of brass knuckles at the gift shop on your way out… I did.

If you find yourself in say, Paris, France on October 31st, you won’t be dressing up as your favorite monster – they don’t celebrate Halloween. Instead, the first day of November, the “Day of the Dead,” is a national holiday. What better place to honor the dead, than visiting a cemetery. Paris doesn’t offer just any run-of-the-mill cemetery- this one attracts all the famous people. A recent article by the Vancouver Sun, recommends a day trip to Père-Lachaise cemetery as a highlight of Paris. You’ll easily spend hours visiting the graves of Edith Piaf and Gertrude Stein, Frederik Chopin, Balzac and Oscar Wilde. It’s hard to miss the most popular grave site, that of singer Jim Morrison. In contrast to most of Paris, cemeteries are perfect for the low budget traveler… they’re usually free!

Leave Oscar Wilde a Message from Beyond the Grave

Leave Oscar Wilde a Message from Beyond the Grave

Asia also has its fair share of creepy places to visit. While Germany boasts its Black Forest, Japan is known for its “Haunted Forest” (Aokigahara Forest) at the base of Mt. Fuji, Japan’s tallest mountain. The forest, commonly referred to as the Sea of Trees, sits on volcanic rock and has several rocky caverns, which get covered in ice during the winter. Two of the caves within the forest are popular tourist attractions known as the Wind Cave and Ice Cave. Why is the forest “haunted?” Well, it’s infamous for its famed suicides and “ghosts” that apparently roam the woods. It may be haunted, but Aokigahara offers some of the most beautiful scenic views and its dense forest and rugged inaccessibility attract plenty of adventure seekers.

These are just some of the unusual places that attract droves of visitors. There are plenty more popular places to visit and oftentimes the adventure is finding them.

Weekend Getaways for Study Abroad Students in Paris

Senior Writer at findingDulcinea

After a long week of studying and sightseeing in the City of Lights, study abroad students looking for a quick retreat from Paris have many options. Whether you decide to rent a car or take advantage of that Eurail Pass, you’ll find the call of France irresistible. From chateaus and gardens, to cultural institutions and natural features, here are some ideas to consider for your side trip from Paris.

Fountainebleau

An alternative to the stately Palace of Versailles, Fountainebleau combines woodsy flair with an over-the-top chateau of its own, the Château de Fontainebleau.

Fontainebleau is a fanciful escape from Paris

Fontainebleau is a fanciful escape from Paris

Situated in Île-de-France, Fountainebleau is designated as a commune, is steeped in history and is a favorite weekend escape for Parisians—it’s just a 50-minute train ride from Gare de Lyon. Among the area’s enviable attractions is the memorial to Napoleon’s 1804 encounter with Pope Pius VII, and the chapel of artist Jean Cocteau, La Chapelle St. Blaise des Simples. Then, of course, there are the woodlands, whose size is equivalent to three Manhattans, according to The New York Times. Further information for a weekend trip to Fountainebleau is available in the Times’ article, including the scoop on Barbizon, a village of artists nearby.

Real Travel suggests a few potential excursions from Paris, each with a distinctly different atmosphere. We’ll highlight two in the Normandy region.

First up, the Emerald Coast of Brittany, which extends for more than 360 miles. You’ll see historic Battle of Normandy beaches, and find ample opportunity for outdoor exercise on hiking trails. Real Travel suggests cycling along the coast, stopping at various chateaus and small towns along the way. Secondly, the village of Giverny is known widely as the birthplace of Impressionism, and could be an appealing jaunt for art students or enthusiasts.

Claude Monet's home and gardens draw visitors to Giverny

Claude Monet's home and gardens draw visitors to Giverny

Claude Monet lived in Giverny, and visitors can tour his home and the gardens that served as inspiration for Water Lilies, Monet’s series of more than 200 oil paintings.

Finally, WhyGo Paris, expert in all things Parisian, suggests a quirky side trip to Chateau Montpoupon, a Loire Valley castle named for a Germanic tribe. The Chateau has been rebuilt and restored several times, and now boats a Renaissance style. What sets Montpoupon apart from France’s wealth of castles is its private ownership. Plus, there is an intriguing hunting museum with early 20th century wares adjacent to the main building.

Travelling Around: One Hostel at a Time

Stay at a nice hostel like this one

Stay at a nice hostel like this one

I was introduced to a friend of a friend the other night and after comparing some study abroad and student travel experiences we reached a stalemate regarding hostels.  I’ve had great hostel experiences – well, as great in hostel terms anyway – while she had some horror stories.  None was dangerous, only uncomfortable or unexpected.  Separately, but also fairly recently, my cousin extolled the virtues of Couchsurfing as an alternative to hostels.  Through couchsurfing.com, she bummed around France during a few weekends of her study abroad semester.  I wasn’t so sure.  So, I decided to spend a little time putting together some information about hostels on the Gulliver Blog.

A couple things to keep in mind:

  • Most of the time, hostels charge by bed, not by room.  If you want the cheapest bed possible, you’ll often be rooming with upwards of 6 other travelers, men and women.  Privacy and security for your goods isn’t guaranteed.  If you pony up for the more expensive beds, you might get it down to 2 or 4 to a room.
  • You won’t have your own bathroom.  Travelers often share communal bathrooms.  It might be helpful to check out the bathroom before you commit to staying at any hostel.
  • Bring a lock.  All hostels should have lockers for your valuables, but you’ll need your own lock to keep them secure.
  • Book ahead of time.  If a hostel doesn’t have vacancies, you may be turned away.  You can book months in advance, often times online, so don’t hesitate to do so.
  • If you aren’t getting a good vibe from your hostel, leave and go to another one.  Yes, you’ll be taking your chances without a reservation, but it’s much better than staying somewhere you feel uncomfortable.  To that end, write down the addresses of several hostels in your destination so you have some choices.
  • Check your hostel’s guidelines.  Many hostels have curfews of midnight.  If you are out later than that, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be let back in!
  • Bottom Bunks are better.  You can tuck clothing up to create curtains.  Top bunks get hot in the summer.
  • Bring a sleeping back liner in lieu of sheets.  They’re compact, warm, and bed bug free!

Two good websites for finding hostels and reserving beds are hostels.com and Hostelling International.  With Hostelling International, a $28 yearly membership allows you to stay surcharge-free in hostels around the globe.  It also gets you discounts to hostels and other activities.

Remember, staying at a hostel isn’t always the quietest experience, nor do you have the privacy of a hotel room, but it’s inexpensive and potentially a ton of fun.  For more info about student travel, check out Gulliver’s Prepare to Go section.  Get out there and go abroad.


the blog of www.gullivergo.com

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!