Archive for August, 2009



Study Abroad meets Jaws

Da Dum!

Da Dum!

For those who watch a decent amount of TV, this week is Shark Week, an annual ode to human fear and fascination.  I tune in every year.  Thanks to the immortal writings of Peter Benchley, I am both inimitably interested in and uncharacteristically unafraid of sharks.  Particularly big ones.  Particularly ones that look like Jaws.  And so, a few years back I decided that my next major vacation (outside of visiting family overseas) would be a trip to either Australia or South Africa for a shark diving bonanza.  All of my friends are interested in Australia or South Africa, but in the sharks . . . not so much.  As our study abroad readership may already realize, three major shark diving destinations – Mexico, South Africa, and Australia – are all major study abroad destinations as well.  So if there are other shark-lovers out there, this post is for you.

Mexico:

Isla Guadalupe, 150 miles off the west coast of the Baja Peninsula, is a Great White haven.  Many tours will pick you up from the mainland, even as far up as San Diego.  Check out Cage Diver, Great White Adventures, and Shark Diver.  If you are looking for something less intense, you can swim with Whale Sharks on the eastern coast of Mexico, near Cancun.  Every year, hundreds of people head to the Whale Shark Festival on Isla Mujeres to swim the gentle giants.

Yes, I want to go in the water with that.

Yes, I want to go in the water with that.

South Africa:

I’m very interested in South Africa, because this is where the Great Whites famously leap out of the water pursuing seals.  Some tours will take you cage diving, show you shark breaching, or both!  Boats leave from Gansbaai and head to Dyer Island and Shark Alley.  Check out the White Shark Diving Company, White Shark Ecoventures, Shark Cage Diving, and Africa Shark Dive Safaris.

Australia:

The Neptune Islands off the coast of southern Australia continue to be one of the best places in the world to see Great Whites.  If you are a certified SCUBA diver, with Rodney Fox Expeditions you can avoid the surface cage and go down to the ocean floor in a fully submersible cage.  Calypso Star Charters has a one day expedition that sounds perfect for shorter trips.  Whale Sharks also pass by Australia via the Ningaloo Reef in western Australia.  The Whale Sharks are a huge draw, but the reef is so close to the shore that there are tons of other things to see.

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What? I Mean, Pardon?

By Sarah Chamberlain

The great Irish playwright and wit George Bernard Shaw once said that America and Britain were “two countries, separated by a common language.” It may seem like a throwaway line, but the more time I spend in Scotland, the more I realize that aphorisms like this exist because they’re painfully true.

Be cautious when it comes to slang

Be cautious when it comes to slang

When I returned from my year abroad in Edinburgh last year, one question friends and acquaintances frequently asked was if I had had any trouble understanding the Scottish accent. Fortunately, 99% of Scots do not sound like Groundskeeper Willie, and I could understand everyone I met in Edinburgh almost all the time. Where my gaps in comprehension emerged were in my understanding of Scottish slang. Sometimes I wouldn’t recognize at all a word my Edinburgher friends used, like when they referred to a bunch of “neds” (best defined as the Scottish version of white trash, instantly recognizable by their uniform tracksuits, very shiny white sneakers, and bling).  But more frequently, I would hear a word being used in a way that I’d never heard before. The best example of this is the word “pants”. Americans use it to refer to jeans, or slacks, or the two-legged things you wear on your lower half. But in Britain, “pants” is short for “underpants”. This resulted in some embarrassed amusement on the part of my mates when I was telling them about the new wool pants I’d bought. Now even when I’m back in the States, I will always refer to the things I wear on my legs as “jeans” or “trousers” as a protective mechanism. And to make matters worse, in Scotland, saying that something is “pants” means that it’s lousy. The first time I heard one of my friends say this, my response was something along the lines of a stunned “I beg your pardon?” Complete slang overload.

Unfortunately, the confusion is more on the side of the Americans than on the Brits. The U.S. has been exporting their cultural products to Britain for decades, making American English something commonly heard on concert stages, on TV shows, and in movie theaters. Since we haven’t imported nearly the same amount of British culture to our shores, much of it is mysterious to visiting Americans. So if you are going to study in the UK and want to be ahead of the curve, start watching some British TV! It is very educational, as well as being hysterically funny. Blackadder is especially good.

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