14 Hours in Florence

Written by Rachel Fillman, Foster undergraduate

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July 11, 2015
The day that best describes my international experience was the day I spent in Florence, Italy with a few of the people from my program. We all got up around 5 a.m. to catch an early train to be able to spend the maximum amount of time we could in the short day we had there. I hadn’t really heard much about Florence so I didn’t know what there was to do there, and I actually almost didn’t even make the trip with everyone because I didn’t know if it would be worth the money and time to get there. I am so happy that I did decide to go because Florence is possibly my favorite city we visited while we were abroad. We hiked hundreds of stairs to the top of Il Duomo, stumbled into old churches while we were lost among the streets, and bargained with street vendors to buy genuine leather goods. Although it was one of the longest days of the trip (14 hours in Florence), I fell in love with the city and the beauty of the buildings. I still go back and look at the pictures I took of Il Duomo because it still amazes me with its magnificence and grandeur. I enjoyed getting to go to a city that had so much to give—history, shopping, uniqueness; all these things made quite the impression on me. My day trip to Florence really stands out to me when I look back on the month I spent in Italy and I believe it highlights my international experience in a way that I will remember for a long time.

 

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Posted by goabroad - August 6th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink



Around Southeast Asia I Went!

Written by Clarissa Suharli, Foster undergraduate

Although it is small, Singapore is a major hub to so many other cities in Southeast Asia. And to complete the exchange experience, I went to several other cities during school breaks, so many of which left me a lasting impression of amazement and gratitude.

From Singapore, I went to…

1. Siem Reap, Cambodia
I never thought that I would ever come to this city before, and coming there was one of the best travel decision I ever made. Although it’s famous for the Angkor Wat temple, everything here is amazing – the food, the people, the temples, even to the things sold at the souvenir shops. I felt so lucky to see the sunrise from Angkor Wat – if there’s a chance, please, please, please go there to witness the beauty. The picture won’t do the justice.
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2. Bangkok, Thailand
Every exchange student I know went to Bangkok at least once over their exchange period, and that says a lot. There are amazing architectures, tons of opportunities to shop, and scrumptious food, everything for cheap. There’s no reason not to go here.

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3.Krabi, Thailand
I went to Krabi hoping to go to the Phi Phi Islands from there, and boy, they have the most beautiful beaches with crystal clear water. And because it’s still in Thailand, they also have the yummiest food. Must go.

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4. Malacca, Malaysia
A small, charming city just 3 hours away from Singapore, Malacca is nice for a day trip – it offers a lot of food and shopping options, and most tourist attractions are within walking distance from one another. A nice break from the hustle and bustle of Singapore.

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5.Jakarta, Indonesia
This might be a bit subjective since it’s my hometown, but there’s always something to do at Jakarta. I flew home to go to a huge annual jazz festival in which I was lucky to see my favorite local musicians, along with Christina Perri (who coincidentally was on her Asia tour) play live. Before going back to Singapore, I also made sure to eat my favorite Indonesian foods: bakmie ayam noodles and podeng ice. Yum!

People say that travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer, and I wholeheartedly agree. I closed this chapter of my life being a lot richer in experiences, and a gazillion times more grateful to be able to experience everything in this short, but sweet and rewarding semester.

 


Posted by goabroad - July 22nd, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink



The Last Hoorah

Written by Amy Shin, Foster undergraduate

With just under three weeks left in the land down under, a couple of crazy kids decided to venture even further south to Melbourne and drive the Great Ocean Road. Our adventures would be jammed packed with no time to waste in the four days we would spend together.

 

Our flight was set for 7:30am because we are cheap college students trying to save every last buck. Even though we were all a little groggy and a lot hungry when we arrived in Melbourne, we did not let that stop us from taking a bit longer to walk around and find the best brunch spot possible. And boy, did this place not let us down. (Check out the Hardware Societe if you are ever in Melbourne)

 

After our stomachs were satisfied, we hopped on a tram to explore more of the city. We visited the celebrated landmark Hosier Lane, which is home to urban street and graffiti art. Afterwards, we opted to travel on sets of wheels and rented bikes from Melbourne’s bike share system and rode alongside the Yarra River to a playground, which we of course played in. At night we walked to the famous Queen Victoria Market, which was packed with amazing street food, shopping booths, and music.

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Now for the road trip. Were we hesitant to put our lives in the hands of someone who had never driven on the left side of the road before? Yes. Was that going to stop us? No. We packed our rental car with our luggage and set off on the open road while jamming to our dear friend, Spotify. Our goal was to make it to the Twelve Apostles by sunset and along the way we stopped at some amazing beaches along the Australian coastline. We made it to the Twelve Apostles just in time and for an amazing view. It was so breathtaking that we went back the next morning to see it in a different light. Though our trip may have been a short one, the five of us had plenty of laughs and incredible sights to last us for the rest of our time in Australia.

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Posted by goabroad - July 22nd, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink



Reflection

Written by Kimberly Matsudaira, Foster undergraduate

Studying abroad in Milan at Bocconi University was one of the best moments in my life. A cliché thing to say, I know, but honestly there’s no other way to describe my 5 month experience in Italy.

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I made life-long friendships, had incredible experiences (even the not so good ones I’ll look back fondly on) and learned so much about the world and myself. I discovered my strengths and weaknesses throughout my travels and learned ways to improve myself.

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Cinque Terre, Italy

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Prague, Czech Republic

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Malta
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Budapest, Hungary

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United Nations at Geneva, Switzerland

Ultimately, studying abroad was so rewarding and enriching. My final advice: don’t ever have doubts about studying abroad. JUST DO IT! Trust me, you won’t regret it.


Posted by goabroad - July 12th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink



Daily Life, Singapore Style.

Written by Clarissa Suharli, Foster undergraduate

Being one of the most liveable countries in the world, I’ve always wanted to stay in Singapore for longer than just a few days. However, being just a tiny island country in Southeast Asia, one reservation I had prior to choosing this place is that I’ll run out of fun things to do. I mean, it takes less than two hours to get from one end of Singapore to the other. But this place proved me wrong. Not only did it become a loving home, but were always interesting things to experience. Here are my top five.

In Singapore, I…

1. Went clubbing on top of Marina Bay Sands, the most iconic building in Singapore…
Look at the view. Enough said.

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2. Went to the Universal Studios whenever I was bored…
Sentosa Island, a small island just south of Singapore, has a reputation of being Asia’s favorite playground. It hosts Universal Studios Singapore, a similar theme park to the one in California. Thankfully, it’s only half an hour away from campus so whenever I’m bored with studying, it’s nice to know that taking a break just to ride some attractions is doable.

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3. Drowned myself in food…
And the best way to do it, of course, is by appreciating all the amazing food Singapore is blessed with. From the national dishes, such as chicken rice and chili crab, to Peranakan cuisine like laksa, to yummy Indian butter chicken to yummy waffle brunch to burrito bowls similar to Chipotle, Singapore is a food heaven.

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4. Never felt unappreciative of amazing architectures…
Design-wise, this art school is my favorite building in the world. And it’s located in Singapore.

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5. Picked up some Singlish, the unofficial language of Singapore.
With vocabularies consisting of words originating from 6 other languages, learning Singlish and picking up some foreign words in the process is a fun everyday challenge.

“I’ll never regret my choice of going to Singapore – it’s truly an awesome place to spend your semester in.”


Posted by goabroad - June 12th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink



Apt 3, 11-21 Rose Street

Written by Amy Shin, Foster undergraduate

New country, new school, new everything. Of all the new things that were undeniably about to enter my life, I was most anxious about was the people I was going to live with, my roommates. I went in trying not to have too high of expectations and telling myself that if we didn’t get along, I could always hang out with different people. But who was I kidding, I knew that these humans were the ones I would wake up with, go to sleep with, and basically see more than anyone else. With all of this in mind I moved into my apartment.

 

For being strangers, we were actually not awkward at all and I seriously thanked the heavens that I could at least converse with these people. Within the next few days we learned more about one another and explored Sydney together as roommates. At this point we were all fairly comfortable around each other, but still missing the close friendships back home.

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*Beginning: notice the awkward space between

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Me, Madison, and Ant(oinette)

I could not tell you at what point that the switch flipped from being just people that cordially lived together to people who are now depressed beyond words to be apart. It could have been that we were literally living in a confined space for five months and named ourselves “Club Diversity”. Maybe it was our weekly dinner outings and love for MasterChef Australia. I could even blame it on the alcohol. No matter what the reason was, we had an infinite amount of inside jokes and endless group messages by the end of the semester.

 

I was lucky enough to find people that I could be my completely weird self around, people who I now don’t think I could have survived Sydney without. I know that this is the most cliché and cheesy thing to happen after studying abroad, but I am beyond happy that it happened to me and wish it upon anyone abroad.


Posted by goabroad - June 10th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink



College Life, Singapore Style.

Written by Clarissa Suharli, Foster undergraduate

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Have you ever achieved/seen/tried/tasted/been exposed to so many new things in such a short amount of time? Well, I did during the four wonderful months I was in Singapore for exchange. Granted, this is not my first time living abroad far away from home, but life hasn’t been this rewarding for me before. It’s difficult to sum up everything into just a few blog posts, so I figured that I’ll make short lists about my experiences. In this post, I’ll talk a bit about my school, the National University of Singapore.

Here goes. At NUS, I…

  1. Met the smartest, most dedicated, and super passionate bunch of people: my classmates and professors.
    Being ranked no 1 in Asia, classes are filled with the smartest and brightest. Makes it really hard to be on top of the curve, but the quality of education is top notch.
  2. Lived one building away from an ice cream parlor, a really nice infinity pool, and a 24/7 computer lab and study space.
    Let me introduce you to University Town in the National University of Singapore, also known as the best place to live for college students.Singapore_2
  3. Had access to tons of activities that cater to all sorts of interests…Like going on a midnight biking trip to grab supper, dragon boating in the Singapore River, seeing a poetry reading by Jane Hirshfield (who came all the way from the States, no less), staying up late to discuss beauty from the philosophical point of view, exercising to bollywood zumba, to learning how to sail, these are just a few activities among all that’s offered to students.Singapore_3
  4. Tried archery for the first time
    Singaporeans are keen on exercising and keeping themselves fit, and thankfully there are a lot of options on campus. Now I can proudly say that I can assemble a bow and shoot arrows, like Katniss Everdeen :)
  5. Took an elective class on social media
    NUS is the best in offering fun elective classes – another friend of mine took a class about Popular Culture in Southeast Asia, while another took one about Food in Japan. I mean, I love studying in general, but this is just FUN.

In short, NUS is a wonderful choice to consider for your exchange semester. Not only the school, but Singapore as a city is also a great place to live in. But more on that later!


Posted by goabroad - May 11th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink



I’m Actually in Australia

Written by Amy Shin, Foster undergraduate 

I really had no idea what Sydney would be like. I might have imagined kangaroos to be hopping around the streets, a scene out of Mary-Kate and Ashley’s 2000 film “Our Lips are Sealed” (kudos to you if you get that reference), or the ultimate dream: extremely attractive Australian men around every corner.

 

As I left the airport in a taxi to my new home for the next five months, I couldn’t help but look out the window the entire time and take in the new scenery. My apartment for the next five months was located in the quaint suburb of Chippendale, which I soon discovered was an ideal location close to school, Central train station, and the supermarket. Though I didn’t know my roommates beforehand, I could already tell by our excited exchanges of “hey!” that we were off to a good start.

 

A few days later was our exchange student orientation, which happened to be on what I believe was one of the hottest days in Sydney. As my roommates and I sat in the University’s Great Hall, our makeup melting off our faces, it hit me that February in this country meant the middle of summer and that I really was in the southern hemisphere of the world.

 

After being in Sydney for over four days and I still had not seen the infamous Sydney Opera House. With this in mind, my roommates and I decided to finally make our way downtown to Circular Quay. We clearly looked like tourists trying to navigate the bus system and constantly checking Google maps to make sure we weren’t lost, but after a short struggle later, we could see the water in the Sydney Cove.

 

The Sydney Harbour Bridge was right in front, standing proud in the harbor and as we walked a little bit more towards Bennelong Point, we could see glimpses of the Opera House glistening under the bright Australian sun. It was truly an epic moment as I got closer and closer and took in the sight of what I had only seen through pictures before. I went in not expecting much, it is just a building after all, but trust me, it’s so much more than that.

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At the end of the week, it was about time that I saw some classic Australian animals. The roomies and I took a train to Featherdale Wildlife Park where we could touch koalas and feed kangaroos and wallabies. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more like a five year old since I was actually five years old. I was on a natural high of pure joy from witnessing these creatures with my own eyes and you don’t have to ask, I have all the pictures in the world to reminisce with. And that was officially the beginning of my adventure in Oz.

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Posted by goabroad - May 10th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink



Chapter 2: Removal

Written by Evan Rumpza, Foster undergraduate

Let’s recap how we got here. 4:30AM, wake up. Deposit 1,000 Baht into my pocket. Leave passport and any other form of ID, lest we get caught. 4:45AM, get tuk tuk. Argue in broken English about the drop off location. 5:00AM, avoid the guard walking around the barbed wire fence. Duck under said fence. 5:15AM, wake the sleeping homeless man. Bribe him 200 Baht to open pad locked gate. 5:30AM, climb.

49 stories later I sat atop Sathorn Unique, better known as Bangkok’s infamous Ghost Tower. The sun was just rising, but we had already been up for hours. Heartbeat still racing from the unassisted assent, we sat victorious. The little band of rebels I called friends and I had raced the sunrise and won.

What lay before us was an unobstructed three-hundred-and-sixty degree view of downtown Bangkok. To our left was the Lebua sky bar (where they shot the Hangover part II). We had been there just a few nights before. The view was similar, except here there were no fifteen dollar cocktails waiting for us at the top. Rather, we were currently being treated to a natural drunk. Thanks in no small part to every shade of orange and red reflecting through the fog and dust as the sun crested the skyline. Welcome to Thailand.

In all honesty, I was planning on writing this reflection about my experience in Australia. However, after two weeks in the Land of Smiles, I am convinced it should be on everyone’s “to travel” list. And isn’t learning all these things exactly what study abroad is about?

Anyway, I decided a while ago that Thailand was where I wanted to spend my single week of freedom from classes. I wanted to so badly that I decided to carve an additional week out from my studies. So now I faced the second plane ticket in a row with a destination that was truly foreign to me.

I flew from Sydney to Kuala Lampur, Malasyia then on to Phuket, Thailand. One night there and it was off to the Gulf of Thailand and a week on island time. A few buses and a ferry later we arrived in Koh Phangan. If you have heard of it before, it’s probably thanks to the Full Moon Party, and before you even ask, of course we went. The first night was spent in preparation for the next day. April 3rd was the full moon, and on Koh Phangan that meant only one thing, we would not be sleeping. Without going into too much detail I will just say the island lived up to its reputation.

Next up was Koh Tao. One of the top worldwide sites for SCUBA diving, how perfect for this newly certified diver. (I got my certification the weekend before in Sydney.) We spent the days snorkeling and SCUBA diving on the water and racing ATVs and scooters through the streets at night. We climbed to the top of Nang Yuan Island and jumped from a few boats. The nightlife consisted of beach bars and one incredible night at a four star resort playing in a pool with a view to die for.

Then, just like that, it was off to Bangkok. First stop, the sky bar at Lebua. Fantastic drinks with an even more fantastic view. (I think Amy and I made UW Student Life with a picture from Lebua.) A pants only policy almost excluded one from our group, however as it turns out the locals are aware of this. After a strange talk with a woman in a bush and a 150 baht exchange, he was right back with the rest of us – a fresh pair of rented trousers around his waist. The next day consisted of a few temples, some meditation with Buddhist monks, BB gun target practice, and consumption of the worlds largest grilled cricket. Little did I know, that would not be the last strange thing I would eat. Later, Khao San Road, the mere mention of its name sends a shiver down the spine of any experienced South Asia backpacker – or so I’ve heard. After yet another perilous tuk tuk ride, we found ourselves in the middle of a street party like nothing I’ve ever seen, definitely a place to hit while in Bangkok. It is also the location where I ate a scorpion – whole. Moving on, the next day consisted of world class (knockoff) shopping and catching a flick at the local cinema, nothing too eventful. We had an early morning coming up.

So there we were, the next morning, on top of the world. But what goes up must come down. We said goodbye to our little band of rebels and I boarded a train to Chiang Mai. The next two days were a whirlwind of tigers, elephants, and Songkran or Thai New Year. Also known as the worlds craziest water fight. People literally blocked traffic and dumped bucket loads of ice water onto passing motorists, tourists, bicyclists, really anything that moved. It was insanity. We also snuck away just long enough to visit an elephant sanctuary. Which was a huge highlight of the trip. I’m a fan of picnics; I’m a bigger fan of picnics with one-ton elephants.

To be honest, this reflection has absolutely nothing to do with Sydney, but rather the Study Abroad experience in general. This adventure would not have been possible without it. If you have been, you know what I mean. If you are going, seize every moment. Spend your money and effort making memories, because you rarely regret the things you did do, only the things you didn’t.

**Picture is of the Sathorn Unique at sunrise.

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Posted by goabroad - May 6th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink



Chapter One: Arrival

Written by Evan Rumpza, Foster undergraduate

It was 75 degrees on the plane – the sky was grey. I left Seattle with one large dark green suitcase, a light green 48-liter backpack and a grey schoolbag. I had enough clothes for two weeks and no clue what lay ahead. Sydney, Australia was the destination on my boarding pass. It was on the other side of the world, and seventeen hours later so was I.

It was 95 degrees in the airport – the sky was clear. I still had on my long pants and layered jacket from take off, a poor decision if you have ever been to Australia in mid February. The thirty-minute ride by train combined with the five-minute walk to my hostel, bags in tow, left me sticky and gasping for air. Solid start, I only had five months to go.

Two weeks later I signed my first lease agreement. I had successfully navigated the complex and expensive Sydney housing market and landed a three bedroom flat in a little bohemian suburb known as Newtown just minutes from campus. The air conditioner might not work, but it is a good place. It took a little convincing but eventually each of the four beds was filled. A Welshman, a Canadian, an Italian, and myself – a completely dysfunctional group of exchange kids who had known each other for less than a month were now supposed to live and learn together.

One hurdle down – next was class. The funny thing about study abroad is that you often times put a good amount of effort into the “abroad” part but neglect the “study”. In the case of registering, this could not have held truer. See, registration for exchange kids at the University of Sydney amounts to this:

Step 1: Blindly enter classes you might like.

Step 2: Computer slots you into random classes at random times.

Step 3: If you are unhappy you must submit a hard copy change request.

No online registration. No add/drop link. No, instead if you are unhappy with the classes/dates/times that the computer randomly selects for you, expect to submit a paper in person and cross your fingers you do not need additional faculty approval. Above all else, hope to whatever higher power these credits still transfer and that you graduate on time. Not the most pleasant experience.

Second hurdle down, and after all of that, I really was quite fortunate. I even landed an internship with one of Australia’s leading investment research firms. But enough about the boring stuff, I am supposed to be selling Australia, and so far I am doing a pretty bad job.

Lets see, the weather is fantastic. The beaches are fantastic. The surfing is fantastic. There is every type of food imaginable. The nightlife compares favorably with some of the best locations in the world. The campus is beautiful. The people are very welcoming. I mean, you can trust me, look how big a critic I’ve been up to now.

Being serious for just one moment, moving to Sydney has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I knew that the moment I first stepped out onto the Sydney Harbor Bridge and peered down at the billowing white sails of the world famous opera house. To anyone who has ever travelled, you know the feeling. To be so wrapped up in a moment. It is easy to find, but impossible to hold onto. I hope that this trip is full of moments like this. I will be sure to get back to you on that, unless the sharks, snakes, and spiders get me first.

**Below is an actual picture my roommate Jamie Chapman took on a day trip to Manly Beach.

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Posted by goabroad - April 27th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink