Archive for May, 2009

What Makes Studying Abroad Worth Your Time?

You just landed in a new country. You take a deep breath. You’re studying abroad. Once the excitement dissipates you realize you have no clue where you are, you don’t know the language, and you don’t recognize anything (save a few chains like McDonald’s or Starbucks). You ask yourself, “Why am I here?”

Of course you want to discover new territory, meet new people, and sample tasty native cuisine, but any traveler could do that. Why did you decide to study abroad?  Escaping the normality of everyday life is one reason, but as an article for the INSE at the University of Oslo explains, there are a few key benefits.

Experience a New Country

Living abroad is the best way to adapt to a culture. You’ll discover the customs that make a culture tick on a daily basis.

Some Customs Can't Be Explained

Some Customs Can't Be Explained

Learning the language helps you appreciate this different way of life. You won’t become fluent in a semester but you will learn more than you ever imagined. If you stay for a year- you may never want to leave. When you’re not exploring take some time to soak in the sights and sounds. There’s a big world out there just waiting to be conquered. It’s best to do a little research before leaving. Check out Gulliver’s “Prepare to Go” section to brush up on everything you’ll need to know.

Personal Growth

The moment you decide to study abroad you become a different person. You step out of your comfort zone and into a strange environment.  When you have no friends or family to rely on, you become stronger and more independent. You grow as a person and are able to handle any situation or crisis that comes your way.  Some might find it hard to build relationships overseas; others will find it easy. Don’t force yourself to do anything that is uncomfortable, but do push yourself to take risks. Bring a positive attitude. It will keep you upbeat and focused on your education and experience rather than what you miss back home.

Career Opportunities

Studying abroad gives you access to a larger and more diverse job market. The trip could push you ahead in your current career or create a new direction.  When applying to jobs, be sure to include your abroad experience as well as any languages you attained. This shows you can adapt to most situations and want to advance your skills in the real world.

Apply Your New Knowledge Back Home

While abroad, you’ll gain insight into the lifestyle of your adopted home.  Put this knowledge to good use when you return stateside. Maybe this experience will inspire you to seek change back home, or get involved in volunteer or charity work. The opportunities are endless. One thing’s for sure, you will return home transformed.

Need help getting ready?

Studying Abroad: How the Process Works

So you want to study abroad. That’s great! It probably wasn’t an easy decision. Once you make the decision, though, how do you put your plan into action? There are a few things you’ll want to do before you hop on the plane en route to your new home.

Where to Start

Where do you want to go? Any particular language or major you’d like to pursue? Will you take a program offered through your home university…or from a program provider like ISA, CIEE, CEA, or Semester at Sea?  It’s a lot to think about but there are numerous resources to help. Start with your school’s study abroad officer. Here at Gulliver we try to accommodate all your study abroad needs.  Students can search programs in over 70 countries.  You can even search which programs your university approves.

Finding the Right Program

What do you hope to accomplish abroad?  You’re study abroad advisor can only help so much, then you’re on your own.

Do you want to learn a new language? Maybe you want to improve language skills you’ve already acquired. In any case, Gulliver lets you search by location (ie. France, China, Paris, or Beijing), language, price, area of study, and time of year. Do you want to Request Informationstudy for a semester? Entire academic year? Or maybe just for the summer? It’s up to you. If you want to learn more about a particular program on Gulliver, click on “Request Info.” Fill out a little about yourself and you’ll find out everything you need to know about your prospective program.  If you’re a quick decision maker…then hit “Apply Now.”  There’s no waiting in line; you’ll immediately be directed to the main site of your preferred program.

Pretty easy, huh?

Planning Your Trip

You’ve figured out where you want to go and what you’re going to study. Congrats! Now comes the fun part- planning the trip. It might appear overwhelming at first. Rest assured, it’s not hard to find information on any locale. Check with your new study abroad program. See what tips the directors provide and what they offer in terms of funding, insurance, housing, and cell phone service. You can also peruse the Country Guide section of Gulliver. Whether you’re going to France, China, Australia, Italy, or Argentina, Gulliver’s “Prepare to Go” section will advise you on everything you’ll need to survive overseas. You’ll probably learn several things you didn’t know.. and some you didn’t want to know.

If you have questions – ask!  From your advisors, to online study abroad forums and Gulliver’s discussion section, there is plenty of advice to be had. All you have to do is ask.  Here at Gulliver, we connect students and travelers with a community of people who are currently abroad or have already returned home.  Their advice will prove invaluable.

You’ve done all the hard stuff. Now, sit back and relax. You’re trip will be great. While abroad, consider blogging or posting photos of your trip. You’re experience will be just as important, if not more exciting, than those who went before you.

Do You Need a Cell Phone While Abroad? YES!

Texting on a keyboard phone

Pick up a cell phone abroad and stay in touch!

The end of the school year is here and soon the legions of summer program study abroad students will fly off to their destinations for 2 to 3 months of great fun.  Here on the Gulliver Blog, we’ve discussed Visas, hostelling, weekend trips to nearby destinations, scholarships, and staying healthy, but we hadn’t touched upon mobile phones.  The prospect of not having a mobile phone while abroad left me feeling a tad naked, so I’m sure other students out there would love to have more information about phones overseas.  Here are some pointers that should get you started.

  • Generally, Gulliver recommends that you get a cell phone.  For safety reasons alone, it’s important to have access to emergency responders and more than likely, you will find that it’s extremely useful for staying in touch with your local friends.
  • Foreign countries have multiple carriers, each with many plans to choose from.  If you are going abroad for less than a year, pay-as-you-go plans are much more flexible than full contract plans.  You might spend a little more for your services, but you won’t be locked into a plan for 12 or 24 months.
  • To recharge your Pay-as-you-Go plan, you will have to purchase credit for your account.  Usually a pharmacy, shop, or kiosk will sell these prepaid cards which you then “load” onto your account.  Most countries have a similar system.  At first it may seem cumbersome, especially if you aren’t fluent in the local tongue, but after a few attempts it will become much easier.
  • Many foreign carriers charge more for calling than for texting so you’ll probably find yourself using more texts than minutes.  Furthermore, calling or texting to a number on a different carrier can be much more expensive than calling someone in your network.  If your friends already have cell phones, check to see which carrier they use and join the same one to keep your costs down.
  • Unless you have a plan that allows you to call overseas, try not to call out of the country and definitely avoid calling your parents at home.  The fees will be huge.  It’s much cheaper to use Skype, gChat video, or MSN Messenger to call home.
  • Using your American cell phone is tricky.  In order to work overseas, your phone must receive GSM frequencies.  Most ATT and T-Mobile phones operate on GSM.  Check to make sure your phone is quad-band (receives 850, 900, 1800, and 1900 MHz frequencies) and unlocked.  If you call your carrier, you can request the code to unlock your phone.  Ask nicely!  When you phone is unlocked, all you have to do is replace the SIM card with a foreign one that you purchase.
  • Before you leave, talk to your American carrier and have them put your account on hold.  They may charge you a small fee, but it will be cheaper than paying your contract rates while you’re away.

Cell phones are a great tool to have while you’re abroad and these tips can help you nab the phone and plan right for you.  For more specific information about carriers and countries, check out Gulliver’s Prepare to Go section.

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Royal Treatment While Studying Abroad: Monaco

You don’t have to be rich and famous to get royal treatment abroad. If you’re studying in northern France, along the French Riviera, or in northern Italy and don’t know what to do with your free time, head to Monaco. You’ve probably already hit up the Cannes Film Festival, walked along a beautiful beach in Nice, or went skiing in Torino. Yes, life is rough. If you’re looking for something else a little out of the ordinary… take a weekend trip to Monaco!

Be a Bond Girl (or 007) in Monte Carlo

Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, behind Vatican City. The capital of Monaco, Monte Carlo, is famous for its hotels, casinos, glamour, and celebrity sightings. Feel like a star with a visit to the Opera, the Cabaret, the Salle des Etoiles, the Monte Carlo Golf Club, and the Monte Carlo Country Club, as well as Casino Square.

Move Over Vegas. This is the Real Monte Carlo

Move Over Vegas. This is the real Monte Carlo

Of course, no trip to Monte Carlo is complete without a visit to the famed Monte Carlo Casino, or Le Casino de Monte Carlo. No we’re not talking about Vegas but the Côte d’Azur (aka French Riviera). Built by famous architect Charles Garnier in 1878, the Casino is paved in marble and surrounded by 28 onyx columns. Nightlife is abound inside. Granted, you can’t just walk in with your backpack and sandals. There is a dress code…and a cover charge just for entering the famed casino. If you’re on a budget, just walk into the main lobby and peek around. It’s worth an extra look.

What’s the Bond connection? Author Ian Fleming used the Monte Carlo as a setting in his first James Bond book, Casino Royale. You’ll also catch it in the 1995 Bond film, GoldenEye.

Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix

Like sports? You’ve come to the right place. The Monaco Grand Prix (or Grand Prix de Monaco) is held each May on the Circuit de Monaco. It’s considered one of the most important and prestigious automobile races in the world and forms the triple Crown of Motorsport along with the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Royal Family of Monaco

There’s plenty to do in Monaco- including a visit to the Royal Family estate. Monaco-Ville, located on a promontory, is home to the Place du Palais, which houses the Prince’s Palace and State Apartments. Visitors must also check out the Princess Grace Rose Garden, the Royal Cathedral and the Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium, which sits on a cliffside rock. Other attractions include the Museum of Napoleonic Souvenirs and Collection of the Palace’s Historic Archives, the Wax Museum of the Princess of Monaco, and the Monte Carlo Story, a show on Monaco’s history.

Granted, you’ll probably splurge a little on this royal treatment… so either take an overnight train to Monaco from Paris or

Reward Yourself with some Mussels!

Treat your taste-buds to some Mussels!

Venice (or wherever you’re living) or stay in a hostel in a nearby town. Several trains run to Monaco from Nice every hour (about $6 round trip). You’ll probably also build up an appetite walking around the Palace grounds and Monte Carlo. Reward yourself with some Moules Frites cozze con Patatine (aka. Mussels with Fries)- Molto Buono!

Debunking Study Abroad Myths

Living and studying abroad is still a dream for some, but it is quickly becoming more attainable. Recent concerns like the H1N1 Flu (better known as Swine Flu) and the struggling economy have given study abroad efforts a slight setback. Interest in study abroad, however, has never been higher or more enthusiastic. I recently came across an article highlighting some common misconceptions about studying abroad. Here at Gulliver our goal is to help students and travelers go abroad, which is why these myths are worth reiterating… and debunking.

  • Studying abroad is very expensive – We’ve all heard this. Studying abroad can get pricey, but students have several
    There's No Reason to Postpone Paradise

    There's No Reason to Postpone Paradise

    options to get around this. Going abroad often costs the same, or less than a semester at your home institution. If you enroll directly in your host university, you’ll often pay significantly less than if you pay through your home school. Other countries charge little to residents; if you’re looking at Grad school – or even undergrad- overseas, consider becoming a resident to earn even more academic discounts. Finally, check out available scholarships and financial aid. Our recent article on Finding Scholarships can help you in this process… which brings us to the next myth…

  • I can’t use my financial aid to study abroad – Wrong. In almost all cases, your federal aid (FAFSA, Stafford loans, Pell grants, etc.) can be used to study abroad. In some states, you can use your state aid as well.  It is also not uncommon for your federal aid to increase when you study abroad since some of your school scholarships may not transfer. The only time you might have problems with transferring aid is if you’re participating in a short term program (summer, month-long, etc.); in those cases, talk to your study abroad officer. Check out our Prepare to Go section to find available scholarships pertaining to specific countries.
  • Host families are poor and just do it for the money – Universities and program providers put a great deal of effort into choosing the right host families.  The single greatest experience is living with a new family overseas. In some cases, depending on the country in which you choose to study, your new family may not offer the necessities you’re used to- that’s all part of the experience. Host families love international visitors and for most students, time spent with their family is the best part of the trip.
  • I’ll be too busy with schoolwork that I won’t get time to travel – Even if you’re a bookworm you’re going to travel. Most study abroad programs encourage independent travel before, during, and after coursework. Even a day trip offers a new and invigorating experience. Outside travel is almost a requirement in most cases. Good luck with trying not to fill up your passport.
  • I might not graduate on time if I go abroad. – It all depends on your study abroad program. Some are intended for your major.  If you want to take unrelated coursework- consider a shorter term (summer, month-long) instead of a semester program. Today, most schools incorporate study abroad programs into their curriculum.  The majority of students who spend a semester or two overseas still manage to graduate in four years. Plan your courses and schedule wisely and you’ll have plenty of time to explore the world.
  • Most of the world hates Americans, I won’t be safe – Although other countries have shown distaste for the American government, most are quite enthusiastic to meet American travelers. When comparing the violent crime rate in the United States to European, Australian, or Asian countries, the United States is actually far more dangerous. Check out the U.S. Department of State website for travel warnings and any crime statistics on the country you are interested in visiting. You always need to be cautious for pickpockets.  Our Prepare to Go section also provides information on Health and Safety concerns for specific countries.

Studying abroad is an adventure to be had by everyone. If you can manage your time and money, there’s no reason you cannot go abroad.  No excuses. Start your study abroad search here with Gulliver. Let your imagination run wild as you plan your overseas adventure. Once you step off the plane the world will be yours.

Study Abroad Day Trips from Madrid

Senior Writer at findingDulcinea

Once you’ve mastered Madrid, made your way through the Prado Museum and seen each beautiful basilica, you might just be itching to get out of the city for a day or weekend. There are several options, a few of which are described below, catering to hikers, history buffs and students craving even more art and architecture.

A castle awaits in Manzanares

Just 30 miles north of Madrid in the town of Manzanares, the 15th Century Castle of the Mendoza beckons visitors with several imposing towers boasting late Gothic and Mudejar architecture. Ground was broken on the castle in the year 1475, and a surrounding wall still stands, lending an intimidating presence. A visit here will remove you from the bustling city life and into an adventurous mindset, particularly if you also decide to include a hike in your day trip. You can take the short walk from town to the Parque de la Pedriza, where serious climbers and average hikers converge. Be warned: summer weekends tend to get very crowded both in Manzanares and the park. Buses depart from Plaza de Castilla Station; the trip is about 50 minutes long and costs only 3 euros.

Toledo, the fortress town

Toledo's medieval architecture can be a nice departure from Madrid.

Toledo's medieval architecture can be a nice departure from Madrid.

While you’re meandering along Toledo’s cobblestone streets, peeking into tiny shops and gazing upwards at endless brick roofs, relish the fact that you’re experiencing one of the best preserved medieval cities in all of Europe. Easter season, with the accompanying Semana Santa festivities, is a nice time to visit; but there are still myriad ways to soak up the essence of the city’s Muslim, Roman, Jewish, and Visigoth influences year round. Be sure to try the paella, and observe the stonewalls and architecture of the old city area. Also try to include a visit to the El Greco Museum to see dramatic works by Domenikos Theotokopoulos, a Greek painter who called Toledo home. Take the train from Madrid, a 30-minute trip.

El Escorial, the would-be wonder

El Escorial is a favorite of art and architecture buffs.

El Escorial is a favorite of art and architecture buffs.

In about one hour, you can reach San Lorenzo de El Escorial, a massive display of architecture and art, namely the Royal Palace and monastery that were built for Filipe II during the glory days of the Spanish Empire in the 16th Century. Stroll through the amazing library and galleries, and stop into the church at the center of El Escorial to glimpse more than 40 stunning altars and numerous frescoes. To get there, take the bus from Moncloa Station, or catch line 8 of the local train.

Studying Abroad on a Budget: Finding Scholarships

Would you rather learn to Tango with some random guy in your Econ class or some attractive, Argentinean dancer?

Scholarships are Hiding... Like the Tower in Pisa

Scholarships Will Appear... Like the Tower in Pisa

If you chose the former, you need help. If you chose the latter, you’re normal. Where else can you get an authentic experience than in the native country? Granted, a trip to Argentina costs a bit more than a few Tango classes at the Rec Center, but imagine the adventure! What’s stopping you? Ah, right, money. The most common reason students don’t study abroad: Money. The American dream is to travel freely, without limitations. Well, these days money is a big concern. Still, program providers, universities, and private organizations are making an effort to help financially strapped students go abroad. While they might seem unattainable, there are plenty of scholarships available, you just need to do a little research to find them. Here at Gulliver we’ve got everything to help prepare for your big trip. There is no reason you can’t study abroad!

A few tips for finding scholarships or loans:

  • Start at home. Does your school sponsor the study abroad program you hope to attend? Then any financial aid you currently receive will most likely apply to any overseas expedition. Don’t get financial aid? No sweat. See what scholarships your school offers. Talk to your study abroad advisor first chance you get.
  • Contact your local heritage/ethnic organizations. For example, the Sons of Italy in America (OSIA) offers generous scholarships for students of Italian heritage who want to study in Italy.
  • NextStudent is a great resource for scholarships. Search by major, academic year, athletic/artistic skills, or your ethnic background. You’ll learn more about scholarships, private student loans, and federal student loans.

Most study abroad programs cost as much- if not less- than a semester at your home institution. If college is really about growth and experience, then coming up with money to study abroad is the best investment you could make. You will learn more on your international trip than you ever will daydreaming in your classroom. If you need help searching for scholarships for specific countries, check out our Prepare to Go section. If you’re still strapped for cash, then don’t splurge on the Italian leather shoes, drop the gelato, and sign up for one less Tango class.

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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!