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Naples, Italy: Amalfi Coast Adventure

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

By: Bryn Elizabeth Porter

Bryn3

 

My favorite and most memorable experience in Italy could be considered the worst day of my entire trip. However, I look back on the experience fondly because it was an experience that ripped me out of my comfort zone.

My roommates and I planned a trip from Naples to the Amalfi Coast. We were to take the train from Naples to Sorrento, and from there take a bus to Amalfi. Then, the people from our Airbnb would pick us up from the bus station and take us to our accommodations. Our trip was well thought out and perfectly planned, or so we thought.

Everything is harder when you are in a foreign country. Getting to our train’s platform was an ordeal in and of itself, and once we got there, we learned that our plans were stunted from the very beginning because when we finally arrived, we learned that our train was cancelled. We were going to have to catch a later train and hope that we got to Sorrento in time to catch the last bus to Amalfi.

As we were waiting, the number of people who were also waiting started to rise. It was clear that not everyone who wanted to catch the next train would be able to, and we needed to be on that train! As anticipation for the next train’s arrival grew, people started crowding around the platform edge.

When the train arrived, and the doors opened, it was like I was a tiny fish in a tsunami wave. The train filled up in a flash, and people were standing nose to nose. I was about five feet from the door, but I wouldn’t have been able to get off if I wanted to. It was about 98 degrees and stagnant because the train was not yet moving. People were sweaty, panicky, and getting smooshed, and on top of it all, the train didn’t leave for approx. 20 minutes after it loaded! It was the craziest transportation experience I had ever had. Finally, the train left the station, ventilation improved, and people settled into the reality of being packed like a sardine in a sardine can.

Now, I had done my research about travelling by train in Italy. I knew that pickpocketing was a big problem, and I was prepared for a situation like this. I had my purse in front of me on my stomach with the opening facing toward me, and on top of that, I had my backpack. I thought for sure that I would be able to see if anybody tried to get into my things, so I wasn’t too worried about that.

Once people started getting off at stops along the way and seats opened up, I sat down and wanted to check my phone. I was shocked to discover that it was gone. Even with all of my preparation, I had been pickpocketed! Those guys are good. My phone was my lifeline over there. I felt like my safety net was gone, and I was so upset, but I was not going to let that ruin my trip. I would deal with it later.

At last, our train arrived at our stop, but unfortunately, we did miss the last bus. The second part of our plan was now also stunted. Luckily there were taxis waiting, but just like at the train station, there were more people in need of a taxi than taxis available. We rushed up to the biggest taxi available and the six of us piled in.

We were all exhausted at this point, and we were relieved to be safe in a car and on the last leg of our journey. We told the driver that we wanted to follow the meter (because locals had warned us that we would get ripped off otherwise), so the driver started the meter and headed towards our destination. Everything was fine for a short while, but it turns out that this is the part of our trip where we thought we were going to die.

The driving lanes are so narrow that two vehicles can barely make it past each other, the cliffs are extremely windy, it was dark, and to make matters worse, our driver was driving fast while talking on his cell phone! We had no idea how much farther our Airbnb was, and we were all terrified. We couldn’t just ask to get out because we were in the middle of nowhere! The meter was jumping like crazy, and to make matters worse, none of us understood why. It was getting pricey, and we didn’t know if we were going to be able to afford the fee in the end. We could barely communicate with the driver so we asked him to pull over so that we could have our Airbnb contacts speak with him. He got out of the taxi, and after much yelling with our contacts, he gave us a fixed price: 20 euros each. Forget the train experience, this was now the craziest transportation experience I have ever had.

When we arrived at our destination, our driver told us that the road was too narrow for him to drop us off in front of the building and that we would have to walk to find it. We were all so relieved to be out of the car and alive so that news was the least of our concerns. One of my classmates called our Airbnb contacts while we were walking down the road, and while they were on the phone, we passed a barking dog, which gave her our location. She said to wait there, and she would come and meet us. It was such a relief when she arrived. Our perfectly planned trip turned out to be anything but perfect. However, that is the greatest lesson about traveling abroad; you have to expect the unexpected and learn to roll with the punches. And, what you might think is the worst night of your life, could turn out to be one of your favorites. Amalfi turned out to be worth it all, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Bryn1Bryn2

 

Exploring Singapore

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Written by Katelin Kobuke, Foster undergraduate

Hello!

I have been in Singapore for over a month now, and what an experience it has been! I am the only student from UW student studying here at NUS so it has given me the chance to branch out and meet new people from all over the world; there are over 1000 international exchange students studying at NUS this semester. The first few weeks we spent our time exploring Singapore, seeing all the major sites, finding great places to eat, going to the beach, finding hiking trails, and visiting some of the close by islands.  The food definitely takes some getting used to, lots of rice, meat, and fish, so good luck trying to find a nice fresh salad or a traditional breakfast around here!

 

Now that school is full swing we spend the weekdays studying so we can enjoy the weekends traveling! Classes are challenging and engaging, but it is definitely an adjustment getting used to the different teaching styles. I am taking an investments class, bank management, and organizational/leadership management class.  I have my midterms this week, so I really need to buckle down and study hard. So far I have had the chance to travel to Malaysia and Indonesia with some of the friends I have met here, and even got my PADI open water scuba license last weekend.

Singapore’s garden by the bay:

singapore1

 

Coral at Tioman Island:

DCIM100GOPROGOPR2431.

Snorkeling in Malaysia:

Singapre3

CHID Study Abroad to Munich

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Written by: Antonio Ortoll

It would be extremely difficult to resume my study abroad experience in one page. However, there were a few things that really changed the way in which I originally perceived the German culture. One of them would be the differences between Bavaria, and the rest of Germany. Germany is advertised to tourists in a very distinctive way. As a tourist, I expected to see most German people wearing a tracht at festivals, eating oversized pretzels, and drinking large amounts of beer. While this was true for Munich, places like Berlin were not as traditional in that aspect. In fact, not only the overall costumes were different, but also, there was a bit of a language barrier between Germans from Berlin and Munich. When our program director communicated to waitresses and waiters at restaurants in Berlin, a few things had to be repeated or clarified.

Germany, Antonio blog

Aside from that, I had the opportunity to interact with many locals. And for the first time, I experienced a low-context culture, where communication is usually taken at face value. Throughout my life, I have lived among cultures where non-verbal cues are subject to multiple interpretations. Learning about these differences will help me cope well in multinational businesses in which I intend to work in the future. Along with that, it was interesting to learn about their views on customer satisfaction. I had always believed that most people had the same customer service expectations, regardless of what part of the world they were from. I was wrong, Germans don’t value or identify with a charismatic server, but instead, they expect efficiency and perfection.

This sense of efficiency and perfection is very-well projected and the way German cities are constructed and organized. The public transportation is simple to use and extremely punctual for departures and arrivals. This punctuality in transportation, always allowed us to visit many places in one day, despite the fact that we were travelling long distances. Throughout the month, I had the opportunity to visit many holocaust monuments, which transported me back to times of political conflict and hardship. And also, I visited King Ludwig’s castles that transported me back in time just by looking at their well-constructed medieval structure. Every day spent in Germany was unique and exceptional. Travelling abroad has definitely changed my outlook on life. I’m very grateful to have been welcomed to be part of this incredible program. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Fostering the International Connection

Monday, November 21st, 2011

By: Sam Bradley-Kelly, Foster Undergraduate

Robert M. Hutchins once said, “A world community can exist only with world communication, which means something more than extensive short-wave facilities scattered about the globe. It means common understanding, a common tradition, common ideas, and common ideals”.  While I am more than halfway done with my study abroad in Cádiz, Spain, I reflect back on the transformation that has happened to me.  As a student apart of the Certificate of International Studies in Business program, through my experiences in the classroom, weekly CISB lectures, and participation in other GBC experiences such as the IKEA Case Competition and Global Business Case Competition, these tools have helped me evolve my appreciation for the global community.  This being my second international study experience (first in Guadalajara, Mexico), I have really taken the opportunity to do things I would never have dreamed of doing.

Prior to my study abroad, I traveled throughout Italy with the seven days I had given myself.  Through good fortune, I met two sisters from Canada in Rome that were more than kind of enough to let me travel with them.  We stopped in Tavernelle for a night which is a beautiful village nested by locally-owned vineyards and full of lively young children and grandparents enjoying a roast BBQ out in the middle of the streets.  Before departing from my fellow Canadians, we dragged our bodies through the streets of Florence as the sun roasted our fragile bodies.  Water and gelato had never sounded so refreshing.

 After saying my farewells, I took a train to Venice for a day.  After putting my bags in a locker and ready to explore this Atlantis-like city, I ran into a person from Monterrey, Mexico also embarking on their own adventure of Venice.  I politely went up to them, asked if they had any specific plans, they said no, and I invited them to be my buddy for the day. We mustered all throughout this unique city checking out churches and museums that did not cost us even a nickel.  The best part, I had the 2×1 opportunity of talking in Spanish with someone from a different country…in Italy!

Fast forwarding to now where I’m studying in Cádiz, Spain, I have really taken the approach of looking at the glass as half full, rather than half empty.  A few months ago, my director posted on the bulletin board that a team from my university needed a goalie.  Luckily, having packed my goalie gloves and having the desire to play a little fútbol, I gave them a ring.  Ever since, I play soccer every week and even had the chance to go over to some of the players houses to play video games and talk about their lives in Spain.

Also, our director was contacted by a professor teaching English at the university wanting to start up an intercambios or exchange where local students take part in activities with students from our program.  Recently, we had a Halloween celebration where we carved pumpkins, dressed up volunteers in wacky costumes, and shared much laughter and joy.

 

Following this, I decided to travel to Madrid by myself, but I had the fantastic opportunity to meet up with a high school friend who is studying there through another study abroad program.  She was so kind enough to point me in the right direction to see famous landmarks such as the Museo del Prado, the Plaza de Toros, the Rastro Market and the Royal Palace of Madrid.  It was also a pleasure to meet new friends with the same intentions to not only learn and understand a new language, but also has the same kind of motivation to immerse yourself to a new culture.

 

The highlight of all my connections would be with one of my past Spanish teachers who had moved back to Granada, Spain.  During one of our program excursions to Granada, I seized the chance to call him up and plan a get-together as many of those in our program had taken a class or two with this teacher.  We shared our stories of Spain and our future plans while we enjoyed mini-sandwiches with french fries (I have to say they were some of the best french fries I have had in a LONG time).  I enjoyed this the most as the idea of meeting up with friends I have known for a long time (even if it’s my teacher) makes me appreciate the little things in life.  I am especially grateful to have seen my teacher as he has been responsible for connecting me to many of the friends within and outside of this program.

In life you might encounter people that are from a different country, speak a different language, experience a different culture, but at the end of the day, you can always become friends.  I see that through  studying abroad you can really globalize your life by meeting those that are strangers around you.  It takes a long time to grow a friendship, but every friend is a door to a new world.  What I take away from this trip is having friends is one thing, but savoring the opportunities presented to spend time with strangers and friends you might not see in a long time, especially in a foreign country, is priceless.

Bienvenido a Cádiz…y España!

Friday, September 30th, 2011

By: Sam Bradley-Kelly, Foster Undergraduate

Hola a todos! My name is Samuel Bradley-Kelly.  I am a senior studying Business Administration with a focus in Finance and International Business (CISB Program: Spanish Track), as well as a Foster Honors student.  I decided to complete my study abroad in Cádiz, Spain because of two reasons.  The first was due to the persuasion of my fellow colleagues who did this program last year.  The second was due to the Dutch students I met while studying abroad in Guadalajara, Mexico my first year at UW; they convinced me that I had to go to Europe.

Cádiz is a beautiful town situated on a peninsula in the southeast corner of Spain.  Locally-owned stores line up the allies of Casco Viejo, which is the old part of town that I’m currently living in and where the university is located. At dusk, there is the opportunity to witness photo-perfect sunsets.

As a business major, what excites me the most is that Cádiz is big for their port (along with tourism).  The port is located 5 minutes away from me and is nearly the size of many medium to large-sized ports in the US.  Another beauty, that I have the chance of strolling through every single day, is Plaza Mina which is a block from my place. Late at night, families love to find a bench or an outside restaurant to post up at and enjoy the harmonization of a summer breeze, a cold beer or helado (ice cream), and young children playing fútbol or other various games.

Many of us that are a part of this program have had the chance to also explore other cities in Spain which include Ronda and Sevilla.  Ronda is famously known for the three bridges or Puente Romano (Roman-style bridges) as well as their traditional bullfight that takes place once a year (unfortunately we left a few hours before the event was to take place).

Sevilla is one of the main connecting cities to Madrid (by plane and train) as well as to other European countries as it serves host to an international airport (which I will be using to go to Paris in a few weeks!).  Sevilla is a fantastic get-a-way especially for those that are in search of Flamenco.  I personally want to thank Madison for putting together this great trip, especially picking out a great hostel called Oasis Backpackers’ Hostel.  Also, the evening that I got to personally witness a local Flamenco show, a few of us had the chance to try out tapas near our hostel. Imagine a small plate with grilled ox sirloin skewer with honey garlic sauce.  The best part of this dish is not the meat but using the free bread to dip into the leftover sauce.

If I put my finger on one of the best cultural moments in Spain so far, it would be the night that we were in Sevilla. As we were walking to go watch this Flamenco show, we encountered a group of locals outside of a restaurant playing musical instruments and singing traditional folklore songs.  I included a picture to give visual meaning.

I look forward to continue sharing my experience with everyone over the next three months of my journey! Chao!

Tokyo in 2 Days.

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Thankfully Tokyo is only a night bus away from Akita International University and with only 2 days I was wondering if I could get to all the places I wanted to go.  However, with a little bit of organizational help with the group of friends I went with, I was able to see most of the major tourist sites of the many districts in Tokyo. Some of the districts I went to included:

Akita, Diana1Shibuya
Famous for it’s scramble crossing, it’s definitely a site to see when all cars at the interesction stop and people are allowed to populate the interesction going whatever which way to get to their destionation.  One of the busiest Starbucks in the world also overlooks this scramble crossing, so you get a nice view during rush hour as people try to get home. Shibuya is also home of the Hachiko statue (cute story if you want to look it up) and Shibuya 109 a very large shopping mall popular for girls.

Asakusa
Definitely a great place for tourists because of Nakamise-Dori, the long strip of vendors that sells all different types of souvenirs at reasonable prices.  At the end of all these street vendors is the Senso-ji, a Buddhist temple kept in a traditional Japanese style, which is one of Asakusa crowning icons.

Harajuku
It is definitely not what you imagined if your opinion is based off of what Gwen Stefani portrayed, but there are a handful of people who dress in that style, and many other distinct Japanese styles that roam around this district.  Harajuku is definitely one of the fashion centers of Japan and you can find plenty of stores ranging from the luxurious brands to the street vendors who sell clothing at ridiculously low prices, like the 700 en shop.

Roppongi
Known for having the very wealthy Roppongi Hills area I could sadly only visit Mori Tower.  However, I felt like it was the best leg of the trip because of the amazing view of Tokyo you can see from the 52nd floor, the Mori Art Museum, and the fun Doodle 4 Google contest they had going on when I went.  I spent 3 hours just roaming around and trying to find locations in Tokyo from the view, but nonetheless the time was well spent.

Akita, Diana3There are some other sites I went to, but you should definitely see for yourself.  Being at AIU makes the trip to Tokyo so much more exciting and different.  It’s only been a day, but I definitely can’t wait to go back to Tokyo again.

Akita Adventures: From harvesting rice to teaching English!

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Akita, Diana2Konban wa! My name is Diana Nguyen and I’m studying over at Akita International University (AIU) in Akita, Japan.  Here is my little tidbit about my adventures thus far.  Part of the benefits of studying at AIU is being able to participate in their Community Outreach Services program.  The school establishes partnerships with the Akita community and plans small events and activities that range from being conversation partners with highschool students to harvesting persimmons to watching an Akita traditional dance performance.  It takes no effort on your part other than signing and showing up.  To get a taste of what they have been offering, here are some of the events that I have participated in:

Harvesting Rice
It was such a rewarding experience to actually see where the rice I eat everyday comes from and the process in order to get it to our bowls.  It was also extra special because Akita is known for their delicious rice.  Plus, it was really motivating to see that the elementary students that we were harvesting with were just as eager to help do some manual labor.  My favorite part was seeing the yellow fields of rice, and the end result of our couple hours of harvesting.

Teaching English at Elementary Schools
I hadn’t taught English in this type of setting before so I didn’t really know what to expect.  However, the English teachers were really helpful and walked me through the whole process.  The students were also great because they were so intrigued with the idea of having an international student assist in teaching their English lesson.  I loved answering their questions just because they were so excited to take turns and ask questions from an international student.
Akita, Diana4
Just from those descriptions I hope you can tell that if you come to AIU you’ll have plenty of chances to get in touch with the community and do a lot of meaningful events during your stay abroad.