Archive for September, 2009

A New Challenge for Students

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September always seems to arrive out of nowhere: Suddenly the leaves are crackling beneath your feet, the air quickly cools around 5 or 6 in the evening and the charming tune of ice cream trucks is replaced by the roar of yellow buses. In celebration of all that is autumn, specifically back-to-school, findingDulcinea has launched the On This Day Challenge.

This year, students will be reading, writing and researching online.

We’re asking students in grades 5-10 to write articles about important events in history, using the Web to dig up facts and pull together relevant sources. One of our main goals is to help students improve their online research skills; to that end, we’ll be offering guidance and sharing tips for evaluating the quality of Web sites on our new teacher tool, findingEducation.

FindingEducation also allows teachers and students to save and share their favorite Web sites, post assignments and connect with other classrooms around the globe. Teachers are invited to post their students’ completed On This Day articles to findingEducation for chances to win cash and gift cards, and potentially be featured on findingDulcinea.

Click here to read everything teachers need to know about getting involved in the On This Day Challenge. You’ll find a section on motivating students to participate, advice for writing and researching an On This Day article, tips for evaluating Web sites, an FAQ and more.

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be working to establish a vibrant community of learners on findingEducation. We’re excited to see how our new members mold the tool to meet their classroom needs. In the meantime, we’d love for you to spread the word about findingEducation and the On This Day Challenge, whether you’ve got teacher friends or are studying to be a teacher yourself.

Thanks in advance for your support, and happy studies!

Whisk Yourself Away to the Galapagos Islands!

Looking for a rewarding trip or study abroad adventure this fall? Imagine protecting endangered species while interacting with some of the world’s most vibrant wildlife. Intrigued? Then South America, more specifically, Ecuador, is right up your alley. The Galapagos Islands. The Amazon. The Andes. The list goes on.

Galapagos Islands

Watch Out for the Friendly Sea Lions!

Watch Out for the Friendly Sea Lions!

Become close friends with sea lions. The wildlife owns this UNESCO World Heritage site. You’ll find huge sea turtles, a few spotted eagle rays and various other deep-sea creatures. The friendly Galapagos penguins may join you for a swim. Prefer land? You’ll be in good company with flamingos, mockingbirds, warblers, hawks, blue-footed boobies, herons and other shorebirds. The 19 islands also offer great hiking, from easy to strenuous. Pick your poison.


The Amazon provides endless entertainment for fans of rafting, kayaking, hiking, or mountain biking. Explore the jungles around Calluacocha Lake, in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon. This wildlife sanctuary is home to several hundred species of birds, 13 species of monkeys, 1, 000 species of butterflies, and 1, 500 species of trees, as well as caimans, jaguars, ocelots, otters, and millions of insects.  Mountain bike through the  Bellavista Cloud Forest and tropical rainforest; go whitewater jungle rafting down the Blanco and Toachi rivers; or explore the tropical dry forest ecosystem in Machalilla National Park.


Quito Offers Unrivaled Beauty

Quito Offers Unrivaled Beauty

More adventures await you in the Andes. Explore the capital city and UNESCO cultural heritage site of Quito. This unique city is known for its architecture and features colonial buildings, which display its baroque history. As you cross the Equator line, check out the indigenous market at Otavalo, explore the Avenue of the volcanoes south of Quito, take a train ride through the “The Devil’s Nose,” and visit the Ingapirca and Cuenca UNESCO heritage city. There’s a lot to do!

Volcano Trekking

Another adventure you won’t find anywhere else: Volcano trekking! Witness gorgeous sunsets and amazing wildlife amid towering volcanoes! Ecuador Trekking Tours offers a variety of adventures for travelers. The Cotopaxi National Park is a 36,000-hectare nature and wildlife sanctuary surrounding the highest active volcano in the world. Or check out the Guagua Pichincha Volcano. Standing at 4,874 meters, it’s a spectacular place to hike.

British Weather

By Sarah Chamberlain

One day, about a month ago, I was sitting on the couch watching one of the many comedy quiz shows that flourish on British television. One of the questions asked about common British traits (an issue which is more contentious than you’d think, but that’s an academic treatise, not a blog entry), and it turned out that the most commonly named British trait is a tendency to talk about the weather. No, this isn’t a comedy show, but the thing about stereotypes is that they exist because there is, deep down, some small figment of truth in them.

Cloud clover can approach very quickly

Cloud clover can approach very quickly

What I think surprises people most when they first come to Britain is not the grey raininess of the place, but rather that the weather is so endlessly changeable. I can get up in the mid-morning and see a sunny sky outside, but by the time I make it out of the flat an hour later, the wind will have picked up, the clouds will have settled overhead, and I have to reconcile myself to getting wet. Wearing layers isn’t just a suggestion here, it’s a way of life. Coming from a relatively arid climate in California, when I first moved here I thought winter boots, wool coats, and thermals were things people wore when they went on skiing trips at Lake Tahoe, not part of a day-to-day uniform.

And now, as the fall equinox approaches and Edinburgh days darken with the approach of a long, wet winter, I know that soon I’ll be pulling my big black boots out of the closet and taking my winter coat and scarf off their hooks. The ritual of wrapping myself up against harsh wind and cold sleet will become part of my daily routine. There will definitely be moments, when I’ll be chilled and buffeted as I walk across the Meadows to meetings and workshops, where I’ll wonder what I was thinking when I moved from sunny California to the northern reaches of a cold, windswept island. But then I’ll remember the hundred other reasons why I live here, and I’ll grin through chattering teeth and bear it.

GOAL: Or How I Learned to Love Soccer

The Fall is an awesome time for American professional sports.  Football season just started the other week and is always highly anticipated.  Baseball season is coming to a close and the playoffs are coming up.  The US Open tournament just finished a few days ago and it was full of upsets, stellar performances, and inhuman talent.  But Fall is the best season of the year because of soccer.

Pele was the first to try...

Pele was the first to try...

Soccer isn’t traditionally a popular sport in the US outside of 5-12 year olds.  Somehow after we leave middle school, soccer just isn’t a game  we play anymore.  Whether this has to do with other high school sports (Football, Basketball, and Baseball being high on the list) or lack of interest, soccer has yet to come into its own.  Even worse, it’s been 34 years since Pele signed with the New York Cosmos and many people still won’t sit down to watch the game on TV.  David Beckham even made a run at it recently and he was repaid with booos.

I also can’t see why people think it’s a boring game.  The game is always 90 minutes long (barring overtime and stoppage time), the play is always moving, and each goal is beyond exciting.  Baseball, by contrast, always seems to be 4 hours long (especially the Yankees, and I like them!), the ball spends a ton of time stationary in the pitcher’s mitt, and home runs aren’t as rare or exciting as they could be.  Football and Basketball are better, but tell me, why does the 4th quarter in each have to be so damn long?  How many foul shots need I see before the end of the game?  Why do NFL coaches only use their time outs in the last quarter?  In soccer, the clock just runs until it’s over, no stopping and no timeouts.  I will concede that there’s a lot of feigning injury, and one ref clearly isn’t enough, but otherwise, soccer has few issues.

Beckham is the most recent...

Beckham is the most recent...

I didn’t get into the spirit of soccer until I the summer of 2005 in Beijing.  China was hosting the Asian Cup and I was living in walking distance from the stadium.  The matches were awesome.  Study abroad students have it easy.  The top 4 destinations – UK, Spain, France, and Italy – have access to some of the top leagues in the world.  The English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, and French Ligue 1 all have good teams with throngs of dedicated fans.  The atmosphere in the stadium during any big game is electric.  I highly encourage you to attend a game; you just might be converted.

Labor Day is Over so When is the Next Holiday?

Hooray for Holidays!

Hooray for Holidays!

Since college, I’ve been acutely aware of federal holidays, mainly because my school never seemed to recognize them, even Labor Day.  The dining hall staff was, naturally, granted a day off but students and faculty were not.  This past Monday was Labor Day and I was finally free.  Today, the Thursday after Labor Day, marks the beginning of the long wait for the next set of Federal Holidays, culminating with Thanksgiving and finally, Christmas.  Everyone needs a break and study abroad students are no exception.  I’ve compiled a list of some interesting holidays celebrated abroad so that study abroad students way out yonder can also practice the time honored tradition of counting down to the holidays.

  • Gandhi Jayanti is a public holiday in India to celebrate the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.  As one of the three declared holidays in India, it’s celebrated on October 2nd.
  • This year the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on October 3rd.  This harvest festival is celebrated by Chinese people around the globe.  On the Chinese calendar, the Festival occurs on the 15th day of the 8th month, and parallels with the autumn equinox.  Traditionally, families gather to eat moon cakes together.
  • October 3rd is also a national holiday in Germany to commemorate German reunification in 1990.
  • Ohi Day (or Ochi Day) is a Greek holiday celebrating the rejection of Mussolini’s ultimatum in 1940.  On October 28, 1940, Mussolini demanded that Greece submit to Axis strategic occupation or face war.  Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas responded with a simple “no.”  Italian troops subsequently attacked the Greek border.
  • All Saint’s Day is celebrated on November 1st in many countries including France, Spain, and Italy.
  • Christmas Day is a Federal Holiday in the US, but the 26th isn’t.  Many other countries disagree.  The 26th is Boxing Day in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other Commonwealth Nations.  Also celebrated on the same day is St. Stephen’s Day, a public holiday in Ireland, Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland and others.

All of these holidays occur in the Autumn Semester.  The Spring semester promises even more, so keep your eyes peeled for the next installment after New Years.

Offseason Travel: Exploring the Ruins of Sicily

Studying abroad or traveling through Europe this fall? Escape the crowds in France and mainland Italy and head south to Sicily. Blending Roman and Greek culture, Sicily is a jewel of the Mediterranean. Avoids the crowds and visit during the offseason. I went to Sicily during the winter and found it the warmest destination on my Europe trip. As a San Francisco native, sunny skies and 55 degrees weather feels perfect. To my Sicilian relatives, it’s “freezing!” You’ll quickly discover many kind-natured Sicilians as well as hundreds of historical landmarks. Here are a few places to consider:


Sicily is Surrounded by Ancient Treasures

Sicily is Surrounded by Ancient Treasures

Set amid a backdrop of rolling hills, Segesta is a well-preserved Doric temple in northwest Sicily. It’s lies on the outskirts of Palermo, in Trapani. Dating to the 5th century B.C., Segesta existed for 1,800 years under successive waves of Greeks, Romans, Muslims, and Normans. In his Aeneid, Virgil refers to Segesta as a prosperous city, but by the thirteenth century the city had all but been abandoned.

Agrigento and the Valley of Temples

Agrigento’s Valley of Temples is nearly deserted, save a small collection of loyal Japanese tourists. The crown jewels include the Temple of Juno, the Temple of Hercules, and the Temple of Concordia. The 5th century B.C. Temple of Concordia was preserved after being converted into a church in the 6th century A.D.  Gnarled olive trees also blanket the site. If you have time, catch the majestic Temples lit up at night. A couple other finds: the 13th-century church, Abbazia di Santo Spirito, and the Museo Regionale Archeologico.


Over 2,700 years old, Syracuse once served as the capital of Sicily. Roman philosopher and statesman, Cicero called Syracuse “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all.” Don’t miss the Parco Archeologico della Neapolis. One of Italy’s greatest archaeological gardens, it offers the Teatro Greco, Latomia del Paradiso, and Anfiteatro Romano. Check out the Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi as well. You’ll quickly discover why Syracuse rivaled Athens in cultural importance. Mathematician and philosopher Archimedes, playwright Aeschylus, and poet Sappho all lived in Syracuse. Plato also frequented the town.

End of the Summer Adventures

Wrapping up your trip abroad? Not ready to hit the books? If you’ve got some money saved up, here are a few fun adventures to consider before diving back into the school year.

No Telling What You'll Encounter Abroad

No Telling What You'll Encounter Abroad

Climb Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Intimidated by Mount Everest? You’re not the only one. A better bet- climb Kilimanjaro! Take the less traveled Western Breach route, a challenging path up Africa’s loftiest peak. On your way to the summit, check out the Barranco Valley’s waterfalls, near the Arrow Glacier, and the rocky ridgelines. After the summit, don’t miss wildlife in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park.

Lake Baikal, Russia

Need a break from the hassle of everyday life? Seclude yourself in Russia’s Lake Baikal. Situated in southeast Siberia, this World Heritage site is the oldest (25 million years) and deepest lake in the world. Like the Galapagos, it’s isolation helped it evolve into a unique freshwater ecosystem. Hike along the lakeshores; pass through old fishing villages; traverse craggy mountains; and keep an eye out for unusual species like the nerpa, an endemic freshwater seal.

Pyrenees National Park

Pyrenees National Park

Pyrenees National Park, France & Spain

The French-run Pyrenees National Park stretches 60 miles along the French-Spanish border, covering 180 square miles of lakes, towering summits, rolling hills, and fertile valleys. The park is composed of two regions. The uninhabited central zone offers some of the park’s most spectacular landscapes. The peripheral zone, on the edge of the central area, houses 86 villages and some 40,000 inhabitants. During the summer you can trek, cycle, horseback, and raft. The weather will accommodate all adventure activities.

Italian Alps, Italy & Germany

Get out your road bike and hit the Alps! Experience the blend of Italian and German cultures as you cruise along the Adige River and the western Dolomites.  Pass the famous Strada del Vino, stop in tiny villages, take a detour for wine tastings or a visit to medieval Lazise. Looking for a tour? Check out Ciclismo Classico.

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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!