Posts Tagged 'Gulliver'

Trying To Find a Tree Kangaroo: Introduction to the New Guinea Highlands

I think a nice way to start off this adventure blog is to tell the the story of my journey to find a tree kangaroo in the Papua New Guinean highlands. Some background:


I was in Papua New Guinea (PNG) helping launch Panango, a student-initiated organization promoting Education, Empowerment, and Exchange between American students and Papua New Guineans. While we lived in villages on the coast in the lowlands, which were awesome in their own right, I anxiously bided my time to get up to the Highlands.

All the stuff that one might associate with Papua New Guinea – cannibals, tribal warfare, fiercely face-painted warriors – originates from the Highlands. Those short, powerful guys with a boar tusk pierced through their septum – that’s a Highlander. Before I left for PNG, I remember Robert Siegel, an associate professor of immunology at Stanford who spent some time in the Highlands, telling me about men in his village casually explaining to him how they had just torched huts of another village because there was a tribal conflict and retribution was part of their way of life. I was definitely intrigued.

The Papua New Guinean Highlands’ history helps explain its wild reputation. Europeans first discovered the island of New Guinea in the early part of the 16th century, landing and staying in and around the lowland areas. They didn’t even bother venturing to the center of the island, assuming that only mountains and dense jungle existed. In the 1930s European explorers finally made the trek up there, only to discover about a million people living amid the rugged landscape. Think about that. A place that was “discovered” by Europeans only about 75 years ago.


Tribal warfare was and is a very real thing up in the Highlands. While as recently as the 1970s, warriors used traditional bows and arrows, spears, and shields, at some point some guy brought a gun to the battlefield and ruined it for everyone. I heard a lot of men talk about that with regret, as warfare with spears and arrows, while still deadly, was more like a game to them. One of my friends from up there told me about how his dad got stabbed in the leg with a spear, and immediately upon release from the local clinic, went right back to the battlefield as though it were a playoff soccer game and he was their injured star forward.

From what I could gather, the introduction of guns to tribal warfare was like our introduction of the atom bomb to conventional warfare. It totally redefined the rules. So these days, tribal warfare seems more akin to gang warfare. Your tribe members are your people, and if one of them gets crossed, you’re obligated to back him up.


Hence retribution as a culturally significant and necessary action. But now they use pistols and AK’s instead of arrows and spears. Interestingly, poverty usually prevents most disputes from becoming too drawn out. Once both sides agree they are spending too much of their respective resources on bullets (expensive to them), they agree to call it quits. Still, a good amount of people die.

And yes, cannibalism was indeed practiced among certain tribes, a few relatively recently. Apparently cannibalism still exists in isolated places, but for the most part, it’s a thing of the past. I guess it offended the missionaries.


While the mystique of the Highlands certainly drew me, I did have an ulterior motive: finding the coolest little fuzzy wuzzy animal on the planet.

Two new blog “series” – we’re all Study Abroad, all the time!

JY EcuadorHey everyone! My name is James Yin and I’m a member of the Gulliver Team. Just as a quick introduction, I gradutated from Yale in 2007 and I studied abroad in China for 2 summers.  I learned a lot about Chinese culture and a lot about myself, and a had a blast – so much so, in fact, that after college I went to work for PAX (, a Study Abroad program provider.  Then I reunited with my college friend James to start Gulliver – best.job.ever!

Andy and I are going to be running the Gulliver blog day to day, and we’ve decided to kick things off by starting up two long-term themes: “Adventures Abroad” and “Passport Control.”  “Adventures Abroad” will share epic stories of student adventures abroad. Stories will come from all over the world – whether it’s surfing in Liberia, searching for tree kangaroos in Papua New Guinea, or sneaking into ancient ruins in Peru, we’ve got it. This is where you’ll find stories of what people usually tell us not to do. But, as we here believe, we’re all the better for it. Like extreme alpinist Mark Twight says: “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment.” Amen to that!

“Passport Control,” on the other hand, is our current events section.  Here we’ll highlight news and happenings in Study Abroad.  What are the hot new destinations?  Which colleges are making it easiest for their students to go abroad…and which hardest?  How can you take advantage of new scholarships to go abroad cheaply?  “Passport Control” is your resource for all the nuts and bolts of an international education.

At the moment we’re looking to post frequently for both themes and have the occasional guest writer as well. I think we’ve put together an exciting first group of posts and I can’t wait to share them with you. Stay tuned . . .

Gulliver blog mission statement

Hey guys!  Today I just want to briefly comment on the purpose of this blog.  The Gulliver team has given a lot of thought to how we’d like to use this.  We’re pretty sure all of these ideas are going to have completely changed before long, but for now, here is what you can expect on the Gulliver blog:


  1. Featured posts by Study Abroad students and other young travelers.  Want to get the inside scoop on going abroad from a variety of different people and perspectives?  You are in the right place.
  2. Current issues in Study Abroad.  For the other Study Abroad geeks out there.  Are you planning to stay up all night reading the new Open Doors report?  Is your magazine rack full of worn copies of Glimpse, Abroad View, Transitions Abroad, and International Educator?  You, too, are in the right place.
  3. Gulliver updates, news, and behind-the-scenes peaks.  Transparency is our M.O. here at Gulliver, and it’s a philosophy we bring both to the Gulliver website, and to the company itself.  As we continue to grow, build, and develop, you’ll hear all about our adventures here. 


We love a big conversation: lots of people, lots of points of view.  Getting different perspectives and meeti500soapbox-pic1ng completely different people is one of the most amazing parts of going abroad – we want to imitate that experience here.  So this blog is going to have a number of regular contributors, and then tons and tons of special guests.  Think of it as the communal Study Abroad soapbox. 

But in addition to our regular writers and special guests, the most important contributors to this blog are you guys.  We. Want. Comments!  Like Gulliver itself, we want our blog to connect people and start new conversations that never would have happened otherwise.  So let us know what you think, and we promise to respond.

To start off with a bang, we’re going to post a few items in quick succession, each by a different writer and on a different topic.  Then we’ll probably slow down a bit and get back to doing real work.  Happy reading!

Welcome to Gulliver!

gulliver_halo3Welcome to Gulliver!  We’re incredibly excited that Gulliver is now up and running and helping students Study Abroad, and we figured it was about time that we started a blog for the site.  I’m James, the founder of Gulliver, and in this first post, I’m going to explain what Gulliver does, and why.

(By the way, you can go here if you’d like to learn more about Gulliver’s mission, team, or history.)

What is Gulliver?

Gulliver is a brand new website for students interested in Studying Abroad.  Our mission is to help students do three things:

  1. pick the perfect Study Abroad program
  2. get ready to go abroad (and not forget anything!)
  3. meet other Study Abroad students, travelers, and locals around the world

Gulliver was born out of the team’s own experiences and those of our friends.  In 2005-06 I spent an amazing year living in Lyon, France, and teaching English through CIEP’s “assistant de langue” program.  It was a life-changing experience.   I became fluent in French.  I came to know and understand deeply a new city and culture – one that will for the rest of my life be a second home.  I made a dozen new friends, both French and American.  And I had more fun than I’d ever had before in my life.  

Shortly after coming back to the U.S., I realized that I wanted to help more people have the same awesome experience that I did.  So I decided to figure out what was keeping students from going abroad, and how I could help.

The problems we want to solve

I started out by thinking about what problems I had during my year in Lyon.  Just because my year was great doesn’t mean it was easy!   There were lots of issues along the way, but the big ones all seemed to be logistical.  I had a really tough time trying to figure out the answers to questions like:

  • “How do I find a place to live?”
  • “Can I get a second job?”
  • “What do I do about health insurance?”  
  • “Which is the best bank for me?”
  • “Do I get a pre-paid or a post-paid cell phone?”

My college and CIEP had both helped some, but there was only so much they knew.  I thought it would be great to have a website that could tell me everything I needed to do in order to get ready for my trip, and to get settled once I was there.  

Then I started asking my friends and family about their experiences.  My brother Andrew had a different problem.  He wanted to Study Abroad in Russia two summers ago.  His school didn’t have any programs there that were right for him, so he was on his own finding something.  His research took forever, and he had no idea if the options he found were legit or not.  Andrew finally found something, but he wished there were a website that had lots of information about all the programs out there, real student reviews of those programs, and an easy way to search through programs and compare them.

Then there was my friend Jeff.  Jeff spent a semester on a program in Grenada, Spain.  He had a great time, but his biggest regret was that he didn’t meet more people during his trip.  As he wrote me in an email: 

It has been incredibly difficult to meet people here.  I know there are other Americans because we see them in restaurants and bars, but there is no easy way to find them.  Likewise it is incredibly difficult to meet Spanish students.  We don’t take classes with them and the way their university system works is very different so its sort of hard to even know where to go.

Jeff wished there were a website that could help him meet real Spaniards, other travelers, and people on different programs.  

These are just a couple examples – over and over again friends and the students that the team and I interviewed came back to the same three issues: they wanted an easier way to pick a Study Abroad program, plan their trips, and meet other people before and during their time abroad.  So, we decided to build exactly that.

Our solution (version 1.0)

11 months later (and 2 weeks ago), Gulliver opened the doors, starting its public beta.  Here’s what we’ve got for you:

Picking a program: 

  • extensive profiles for almost 900 Study Abroad programs in over 60 countries
  • a search interface that lets you find programs by country, language, subjects, price, season, and student rating
  • a “comparison matrix” that lets you easily compare programs side by side
  • search result tailored to your school – enter your school’s name and we’ll show you the programs that your school has pre-approved for academic credit transfer
  • a personal basket so you can save programs you’re interested in to review later
  • discussions forums and programs reviews that give you the real, unfiltered opinions of other students

Planning your trip:

  • Gulliver Trip Planner – comprehensive, country-specific To Do lists that tell you everything you need to do to go abroad, and how to do it.  Imagine Lonely Planet specifically for Study Abroad. We already cover the Top 10 Study Abroad destinations, and add a new country almost every week.
  • Interactive tools – you can set the status of each item in your Trip Planner to make sure you’re on top of everything.
  • More discussion forums to ask questions and get answers

Meeting people:

  • See who else is going on your program, to your destination, and from your school
  • Add, find, make, and invite friends
  • Send private messages

We think Gulliver should be pretty darn useful already, and we’re incredibly excited about several additional, top-secret features that we’ll be launching shortly.  We’re also excited that we’re already working behind-the-scenes with a bunch of your schools to tailor the site for you – stay tuned for more on that soon!

the blog of

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!