My First Day in Tokyo | Student Blog from Japan

Walking around Japan in the summer certainly isn’t easy. The heat alone when you walk out the doors gets you sweating and regretting your life choices. But sometimes you gotta grin and suck it up if you want to get anywhere! And if you don’t want to grin, that’s fine – just bear with it.

There’s so much to see and do in Tokyo, Japan, and as someone who already went to the city, I was still not prepared for the sheer amount of activities I could partake in.

My First Day in Tokyo

When I came on this summer program with CISabroad, I had no game plan. I didn’t know my schedule, so I didn’t reserve anything and I didn’t make a list of places to visit. CISabroad fixed that, along with my fellow classmates.

Our first day in Tokyo was a full Sunday, spent on a CISabroad excursion through Asakusa and going to Senso-ji Temple. I was prepared for the excursion, but I wasn’t prepared for how it was going to play out, which made it more interesting for me. The Seisen University students (our classmates and guides for the day) picked us up at the meeting spot and took us through the traditional streets to the temple. They guided us around and offered different advice on how to get around the city. We even made a game out of our excursion by going on a scavenger hunt and were competing with the other groups.

first day in tokyo SU18_Summer in Japan_Shaunessy (Shaun) Crozier_Luther College_scavenger hunt

My group focused more on sightseeing than the actual competition. My fellow classmates and I really enjoyed talking with our Seisen leader over some cold soba and had loads of fun hearing about the temple and what to do around town. We got to see the outer entrance of the temple and work our way through the multiple vendors and food stands leading to the main building. We could see the incense area and went inside the temple to see where prayers could be made.

first day in tokyo SU18_Summer in Japan_Shaunessy (Shaun) Crozier_Luther College_5

While this excursion was fun and took up most of the day, we did end with a whole bunch of time left in the afternoon. Many of us were jetlagged, but our adrenaline made up for it and won out, leaving most students itching to explore more of Asakusa. I decided to join a group of students and walk to Tokyo Sky Tree while others took the train.

first day in tokyo SU18_Summer in Japan_Shaunessy (Shaun) Crozier_Luther College_3

While tiring and hot, the walk was worth it, and we all got to chat, bond, and make new friendships. By the time we reached Sky Tree mall, it was like we all had been friends for years. We went up the Tokyo Sky Tree to see the city, not all the way because it started to get a little pricey, but high enough to see all of Tokyo and Mt. Fuji. Unfortunately, it was kind of overcast, so Mt. Fuji was playing hide-n-seek with us. But there was a sign showing us where the mountain would be seen on a clear day.

first day in tokyo SU18_Summer in Japan_Shaunessy (Shaun) Crozier_Luther College_4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sky Tree mall also had some wicked shops that were a little closer to the ground level and also housed a Pokémon center! (I’m a huge Pokémon nerd! There, I said it! No shame!) Pokémon was my childhood and I’m not going to lie. I was giddy and bouncing up and down like the little girl I am when it comes to pocket monsters.

Pokémon first day in tokyo

Wondering what to do in Tokyo?

1. Go to Animal Cafes

first day in tokyo cat-cafe-mocha_43416812642_o first day in tokyo cat-cafe-mocha_42748734084_o

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go to animal cafes in Shinjuku! There are plenty of cafes that have fennec foxes, owls, birds, or the basics like cats, rabbits and snakes. Maid cafes are also placed all throughout the city.

2. Explore Neighborhoods

first day in tokyo

I recommend Shibuya, although many people would say that Akihabara is better. I must warn you though, Akihabara is more of an electric city (as in electrical appliances), than it is manga, gaming, and maid cafes. Also, what’s there is overpriced and you can get cheaper in Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Ikebukuro. Not bashing on Akiba, though. I’ve been there plenty of times and I highly recommend going. Akiba is definitely a beautiful nighttime visit and they have some excellent restaurants and manga stores. Just don’t spend all your yen in one spot, ‘kay?

3. Wing it!

My first day in Tokyo with CISabroad was definitely me winging it. And winging it is fun, if you are like me and have two months of free time in Japan. But if you are on a limited schedule, hopefully you can make a list of city areas you want to go to (Shinjuku, Shibuya, etc.) and make a long list of things you want to do in each neighborhood.

Tips for Planning Your First Day in Tokyo:

Everything I’ve described about my first day happened in Asakusa. This is only a small portion, a small city area, of Tokyo. You might want to branch out! So plan ahead! Here’s are some tips for how to make the most of your day:

Make a list of all the place you want to go!

Ueno has the Ueno zoo, national art museum, and other museums. Ikebukuro has Sunshine city along with a separate fashion and clothing district right next to Sunshine city. Shibuya has Animate, Genki sushi, 109 store, and the Hachiko statue while Harajuku has the Meiji shrine and Takeshita street.

Go places with your friends!

If you come to Japan with a group, go with your friends to places they want to go! Even if you don’t find their specific place or choice very interesting, you may come across something along the way the catches your attention and you can politely leave and go off on your own. If you come with CISabroad, chances are that your new friends already have some great ideas and are just waiting to go with someone else in the CISabroad program.

Few people like exploring new places alone, so you shouldn’t have any problems creating a group of people who are interested in going where you or someone else wants to go.

Be willing to let things change.

Have a general plan, but be loose with it and willing to adjust to changes. When you travel in a group, be prepared for people to break away and do their own thing. Everyone is different!


Inspired to have your own First Day in Tokyo experience? Learn more about the program here.


Working at a Hawai’ian Fishpond | Intern Blog from Hawai’i

“Hello! My name is Katherine Kirchner, and I am from Columbus, Ohio.” This is how I start many of my days working at a Hawai’ian fishpond called Pae Pae o He’eia. With this, I introduce myself to the new volunteers each day and to the fishpond itself.

My internship at Pae Pae o He’eia

Pae Pae o He’eia is a fishpond – a loko ea –  that was first built 800 years ago. It’s also where I’m interning during my CISabroad experience. With only eight days left at my internship, I’m simply in awe by how much I have learned about this place, this culture, and myself just by my work here.

su18_intern in hawai'i_katherine kirchner

At this ancient fishpond, I work in restoration. My focus is primarily on invasive species removal and building the fishpond’s rock wall.

I’ll be honest. building a fishpond is a lot of hard work, but getting to watch my impact on the fishpond and the environment has been so inspiring and worthwhile.

At Pae Pae o He’eia, I work outside every day, doing many different tasks to help restore this fishpond to its original form. Keahi, my supervisor at the pond, always reminds me that we are building for 800 years in the future. I find this concept very cool to think about, as the work I put in every day will help allow food for years and years to come. Therefore, every day is an opportunity to fully get fully immersed in the fishpond and its history.

Su18_intern in hawai'i_ katherine kirchner

Currently, the fishpond is not fully operational. Mangrove and seaweed (limu), both invasive species here on Oahu, need to be removed. The wall surrounding the pond must also be completed. These two projects are the biggest out of a long list of tasks that must be completed before we have a fully functioning fishpond. Working on these projects involves lopping, burning, chainsawing, carrying rocks, shoveling rocks, bucketing rocks, and weeding. So I get to do something new every day.

su18_intern in hawai'i_katherine kirchner

The Fishpond’s Restoration Philosophy

You’d think that with all of the countless jobs that must be done, the staff at Pae Pae o He’eia would consider using bigger machines and tools to complete tasks faster. But they don’t. This is what I love most about this organization. By taking the time to use small tools and simple manpower, we’re staying true to all of the people who built this fishpond in the first place.

By dismissing the machines that can plow down hundreds of mangrove trees in a day, and picking up chainsaws and handsaws instead, we have the privilege to connect with the nature around us, while also building a community that cares for this fishpond.

If giant machines were used, I would have never found a home at Pae Pae o He’eia. I would have never met Keahi. And maybe I would have never been to Hawai’i. Today, I cannot imagine my life without my time at the fishpond. I have learned so much through it.

Lasting Impressions

On my first day of work, my site director Lisa drove me to the He’eia State Park, showing me a wonderful view of where I would be working for 8 weeks. I was in disbelief, as this view was the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen. Every day, I look up at the mountains and cannot comprehend that I was given the amazing opportunity to work here every single day. I’m certain that in 10 years, 20 years – even 50 years – I’ll never forget the view of the fishpond and everything I learned during my time at Pae Pae o He’eia.

su18_intern in hawai'i_katherine kirchner

During this internship, I’ve learned not only about environmental issues and science behind the pond, but also about the culture of Hawai’i. I was even invited to participate in a ceremony. I loved every second, and know that I will always have a family at Pae Pae o He’eiaa.

Throughout my internship, I also had a lot of time to explore the island. Our CISabroad site director was wonderful and always willing to answer questions (while also planning a few excursions). The island is wonderful, and I would definitely recommend having a checklist of places that you’d like to see.


Curious about CISabroad’s Intern in Hawai’i program? Or want to intern in environmental and sustainability studies somewhere else on the globe? These handy links can get you started.


CISabroad is named in Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts

NORTHAMPTON, MA CISabroad (Center for International Studies), a locally-based company and one of the leading organizations of study and intern abroad programs to U.S. university students, has been named as one of the Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts.

CISabroad is known for its fun, dog-friendly company culture (meet our office dogs!) along with its affordable, innovative programming and commitment to diversity and inclusion. The company has staff in 22 countries and is based in Northampton, MA. CISabroad has been a member of NAFSA since 2001 and is one of the original members of The Forum on Education Abroad. To find out more about CISabroad, check out our About Us page.

The Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts

top 100 women led businesses in MA 2018

The Commonwealth Institute and the Globe Magazine partner each year to name the most noteworthy companies and nonprofits with women CEOs. The rankings are based on a combination of revenue, full-time employees, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and innovation.

CISabroad was ranked No. 97 among the companies considered. CISabroad experienced more than 14% growth from 2017 and will celebrate its 20th year in business in 2020.

CISabroad’s Commitment to Gender Equity

“A company is only as strong as its people,” Holloway said. “And I’ve got the best. We’re proud to be based here in Northampton as a leading business in the state.”

CISabroad’s President, Kris Holloway, has been a Western Massachusetts resident for 20 years. She has been with the company since 2007 and became President in 2016. She is also a founding board member of the Global Leadership League, a professional development organization for women in international education.

“We live in a world that unfortunately still has tremendous gender inequality,” said Joe Debiec, Vice President of Program Operations for CISabroad. “At CISabroad, we’re focused on our company culture and building strong relationships. Our leadership is easy to get behind because we bring a lot of heart and a lot of passion to our work. We stand out in the field of international education, and being a top women-led business contributes to that.”

Q&A with President Kris Holloway

The Globe Magazine sent these questions along ahead of the breakfast.

Do you think it is important to inspire? If so, how do you inspire your team?  

“Yes! Believing that what we do matters, and that the world is a better place for it, means we don’t sweat the petty stuff. Inspiration comes from knowing we are working together toward a higher purpose. I try to remind my team of that as often as possible, and share the client stories that show it. I do try to inspire, (though you’d have to ask my team if I’m successful) by walking humbly, always giving credit where credit is due, not taking myself too seriously, and being bold and daring about what our company is capable of. ‘Hide it under a bushel? NO! You’re gonna let it shine!’”

Why is it important to develop and promote the next generation of women leaders?

“Because we, in the U.S. and around the world, are not represented at the decision-making levels of government, industry, or religious life. If we don’t ignite the change, who will? We have so much talent and so many good ideas, and we’ll never benefit from any of it if we aren’t invited to have a place at the table (And, if once we’re at the table, we don’t speak up.) We have to support and champion each other. Thinking we should ‘go it alone’ or ‘bring ourselves up by our bootstraps’ is an ego-stroking fallacy. We all rely on others to make change and get ahead.”

What special skills or approaches, if any, do you bring to your role by being a woman?

“To be honest, I have a hard time discerning what is ‘being a woman’ vs. just being me. For years, I thought of myself as a leader who happens to be a woman. But as I’ve grown in my work experience, I have realized that the challenges I have faced are common to many women (self-doubt, imposter syndrome, lack of role models, the double-bind of either being viewed as too sensitive or too aggressive, all of it!). This inspires me to share my skills and experiences whenever I can, to stand up for people who are systemically ignored, and always be open to learning something new.”

A Birds-Eye View: Massachusetts and the Rest of the United States

According to the annual State of Women-Owned Businesses report by American Express, Massachusetts ranks 46th in the growth of women-owned firms from 2007 to 2018.

In that time period, women-owned businesses grew about 20 percent in Massachusetts, compared to about 58 percent in the U.S. overall, the report found. Boston also ranked 48th out of the 50 largest U.S. metro areas in the growth of women-owned firms.


Pre-Departure Jitters & the “Pura Vida” Life | Student Blog from Costa Rica

Although I’ve been abroad alone many times before, I’m still hit with the same dreadful feeling (aka Costa Rica pre-departure jitters) every time I leave for the airport.

The feeling of a thousand bricks in your chest, the feeling of uneasiness that nags at you constantly. It is the most terrible and exciting feeling in the world. The feeling of embarking on a new adventure a new experience that had endless opportunities.

But the anxiety still settles comfortably. My flight left at 5 a.m., and to say “I didn’t get a wink of sleep” would be an understatement. And the negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit wind chill did not help my motivation as I walked to the car with my heart racing at the speed of light. I couldn’t even eat breakfast.

But the feeling subsided the instant I stepped on the plane thanks to the help of a very friendly seatmate. From that point on, my 5-hour flight only became more and more exciting.

I couldn’t wait to be in Costa Rica.

costa rica pre-departure jitters
Museum Plaza in San José

It was my first time in San José, but my second time in the country. I was excited because I’d already had a taste of the “Pura Vida” lifestyle before going on my CISabroad program. This is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and I expected nothing less on my second, and much longer, stay.

My professors and classmates have always talked up what it’s like to experience Latin American culture.

As a Spanish major, the majority of my professors are either from or have lived in Latin America. I have always been told that Costa Rica is different from other Latin American countries due to little Spanish influence and a very peaceful history. Because it is an extremely environmentally-conscious country, I expected recycling and compost bins everywhere. The country is also relatively small, which I thought meant that travel would be easy. But the infrastructure is still developing, so it takes a little longer than I would have expected to get to the beaches.

costa rica pre-departure jitters

San José is a beautiful city.

Because San José is a large city in addition to being the country’s capital, I expected it to be a dirty and oversized metropolis, but it is much different. The city is clean and relatively small. It is very fun to explore and has many unique features.

The beach is about an hour and a half from San José so its easy to hop on the bus after class on a Friday and stay for the weekend. Everything in Costa Rica is very cheap except sunscreen which I think they laugh at how much profit they make off of those of us with light skin from sunscreen!

All in all, my Costa Rica predeparture jitters were a mix of excitement and anxiety that were intense, but worth it for all the amazing adventures I have had in Costa Rica.

My homestay experience

The people are so hospitable. I feel like they are just friendly neighbors I’ve known forever. And the food is so simple, but so flavorful. In between meals, I cannot wait until my next because I know my mama Tica will cook something super delicious.

costa rica pre-departure jitters

I think the homestay was the only option for a true exchange and, with it, I have had the experience of a lifetime. Living with a family is a different more pure and direct way of experiencing the culture. You meet so many amazing people along the way and, who knows, you might just decide to stay!

costa rica pre-departure jitters

The “Pura Vida” lifestyle is one I will never forget and I have embraced since the second I arrived.

Even before I got here people would ask me what the “Pura Vida” life meant to me, and to some extent, I didn’t know what to say. Coming from the United States, a culture that runs faster-than-light, it’s hard to say if I would have ever understood if I had not come here.

It’s hard to explain the culture here because it truly needs to be experienced firsthand. I will admit it was very hard to adjust to at first. This slower more relaxed lifestyle is one that I have never felt before.

Signs you’re experiencing Pura Vida:

1. Your professor is late to class.

From the first day, my teacher arrived 30 minutes late with no apology and continued to arrive 15+ minutes late for the rest of the semester. No one was upset, but we were perplexed.

Universidad Veritas
costa rica pre-departure jitters
Classroom space at Universidad Veritas

2. The bus schedule exists but isn’t followed at all.

The Costa Rican public bus experience is one for the books! Everyone should definitely try it, as it is a good way to practice Spanish and meet many new travelers along the way. Often the bus would arrive late, but I usually got where I needed to go in plenty of time.

costa rica pre-departure jitters

3. The people walk more relaxed, like they have all the time in the world.

All these little things made me step back and really think. Why do we need to always rush things?

costa rica pre-departure jitters

At first, I was impatient but, after 9 weeks here, I have mellowed out. I no longer rush my life I step back and try to enjoy everything. It’s been like continuous meditation for 9 weeks and I feel relieved and I feel aware. Its an atmosphere like no other and I am so thankful for every moment I have been here.

Ticos, (what Costa Ricans call themselves) are the happiest most relaxed group of people I have ever encountered and it is a pleasure to be able to live amongst them.


Hopefully, this post has cured you of your Costa Rica pre-departure jitters. Learn more about what your semester in Costa Rica could be like on the Semester in Costa Rica program page.

If you’ve still got questions or are ready to apply, the lovely folks in our Global Advising Center are happy to help.


QUIZ! Where Should You Study Abroad?

Deciding where to study abroad can be tough! With so many amazing options how can you narrow down the program location that might be the best fit for you? We’ve got your back and have created this awesome quiz to help you figure it out.

When narrowing down your options it’s important to take a few things into consideration –

What’s your major?

Dog reading a book

You want to make sure the location you’re looking into offers courses in your field of study. We have put together several major specific cards to help narrow down the best universities for a particular major, and our Academic Picks section of the website even highlights the universities that offer 8 or more classes in a particular field.

Where do you want to live?

Dorothy saying there's no place like home

On campus? Off campus? Some of our programs even offer a homestay option! Deciding where to live is really important. After all, it’ll be your home away from home during your program.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Keenan and Kel dancing on a couch

Studying abroad isn’t JUST about the studying. You’re going to have some time away from the books to do other things you love. Are you the outdoorsy athletic type who enjoys hiking? Or maybe you’re really into history? Do you like to spend your time trying new foods? Whatever you like doing be sure to pick the location that offers the most of it!

Now that you’ve given it some thought, why not try taking our quiz and see which location fits you best!

p.s. no matter where you decide, we typically have some pretty sweet promos available for you to take advantage of! And don’t forget about our scholarships and grants!

And if you still have some questions about where to study abroad our advising team are always happy to chat!


CISabroad Presents: Increasing Access for Indigenous Students in International Ed

NORTHAMPTON, MA – CISabroad University Relations Representative Colin Moravec will co-present a presentation titled “Increasing and Improving Indigenous Student Mobility” at the NAFSA Region II 2018 conference on Wednesday, November 24, 2018 in Lincoln, NE.

Moravec joined CISabroad in 2018 after serving as the Study Abroad Advisor and Outreach Coordinator at Montana State University, where he is also pursuing a Masters in Public Administration. Moravec first studied abroad after high school in Santiago, Chile, and he was able to study in Cadiz, Spain and travel throughout Western Europe while studying philosophy, political science and Spanish at Washington State University. Having seen and lived through the benefits of international education, he is determined to help others have similar transformative global experiences.

Headed to NAFSA Region II? Presentation Info:

Title: “Increasing and Improving Indigenous Student Mobility”

Conference: NAFSA Region II 2018

Time/Location: Wednesday, November 24, 2018 9:00 AM Lincoln, Nebraska

Co-presenters:
Colin Moravec – University Relations CISabroad
Jennifer Gay – Director of Member Relations ISEP
Sarah Barr – Director of Global Engagement Nebraska Wesleyan University
Angelina Palumbo – Director of Education Abroad Northern Arizona University
Angel Geller – Native Student from Nebraska Wesleyan University


Q&A with Colin

We asked Colin a few questions about his commitment and connection to increasing access to international education for indigenous students.

CISabroad: Why is mobility for Native American students important to you?

Colin Moravec: Growing up in Spokane, Washington, I went to school with many students who are Native American. This motivated me to see how I fit into Native American cultures in my region, which I spoke about in a presentation in third grade. I have a familial connection to Native American tribes in the Washington and Oregon area, and after moving to Montana, I was again immersed in this culture. While at Montana State University (MSU), I attended my first powwow and participated in representing tribal flags at ceremonies. Now at CISabroad, a company with a firm belief and focus on diversity and inclusion, I’m connecting institutional resources with engaged individuals in the community to help increase access to global opportunities for Native American students.

CISabroad: What barriers do Native American students face that non-Native students don’t?

CM: Support! Native American students often feel like going to college in the U.S. outside of their community’s land is already a study abroad experience. Financial support is also needed much more than it is for non-indigenous students. Five percent of the world’s population is indigenous, but indigenous people make up 15% of people living in poverty worldwide. Also, indigenous students face additional cultural barriers in higher education due to the individualistic and competitive atmosphere on many campuses, which differs from many indigenous communities’ communal ways of life.

CISabroad: How can indigenous students benefit from study or intern abroad experiences?

CM: First off, indigenous students can benefit from studying or interning abroad by seeing how many other world cultures share similar cultural values.

Secondly, particularly in destinations where there’s a cultural or academic focus on that country’s indigenous population, Native American students may realize the transformative ways in which other tribal communities have broken through the predominantly post-colonial paradigm. Ideas like nation-building, the importance of honoring ancestry, and shepherding the land have taken root in international spaces that students may be less aware of because of prejudice and discrimination in the U.S. school system.

CIS: Do you have any recommendations on locations?

CM: Our New Zealand programs! Kiwi culture holds their indigenous people population up much more than we do in the U.S. Often when students arrive for the semester, there’s an indigenous ceremony celebrating their arrival, not only to the campus but to the islands of New Zealand.

CISabroad: How can educators better serve indigenous students – before, during, and after their time abroad?

CM: Educators and communities can better support indigenous students by first recognizing and listening to their needs. Indigenous students are often placed in a pre-determined category without fully listening to their unique needs. Indigenous students need to know that these global opportunities exist and they can benefit and thrive from a global experience. Once they’re abroad, work to connect them to the other indigenous groups and centers so they can benefit from insight into other indigenous peoples’ practices.

CISabroad: Anything else you want to add?

CM: There is hardly any data on indigenous students’ study abroad mobility. A big first step in helping increase access to study abroad for indigenous students is starting to collect that demographic data. We know the number is small, but once we fully understand the initial data, we can begin to build and grow our access and inclusion of this underrepresented population more effectively and directly.

Source: 2017 Open Doors Report 

Open Doors Report 2017 - Indigenous Students

 


Four Tips for the “Study” Aspect of Study Abroad

A lesson from a study abroad alumni: Don’t overlook the “study” aspect of “study abroad!”

When I left for my study abroad program, I packed a huge suitcase full of various things I thought I’d need throughout the semester, most of which, I’m proud to say, I ended up using. (For packing advice, see: How to Pack a Semester in a Suitcase). However, I disregarded one very important aspect of my study abroad experience—the “study” aspect. When I say disregarded, I really mean forgot existed. I didn’t think to pack a single notebook, folder, or even a writing utensil for my semester in France. I was a studious college student; yet, I had completely forgotten about the fact that I would be in an academic setting because I was so distracted by all the other things there were to do in Europe.

I’ll be the first to admit that the abroad part of study abroad is the most exciting. You’re in a new place, with different people, old art, and memories to be made. Those are all reasons enough to cross an ocean. But you don’t want an exciting semester, or summer adventure, to make your life difficult on the academic end once you return home.

study abroad france
The author, doing what she pictured as she packed for her time in France. Turns out it wasn’t all fun and games, but that formal learning would have to take place too…

So that you all don’t enter a state of shock (like I did) once you realize you’re actually going to have to study, here are some things that might help you to prepare for your program abroad:

1) Think about the classes you will be taking

Different study abroad programs have different levels of course options. Try to choose courses that you know you’ll enjoy. If you’re taking core or general education courses, take classes in subject areas that come more easily to you. Not a math person? Take college algebra at your home institution and opt for Spanish 101 or art appreciation instead. Before you participate on a CISabroad program, you’ll be required to sit down with your academic advisor to get courses pre-approved. I suggest getting about twice the amount of courses approved as you would actually take abroad. That way you have some flexibility to easily change when you get there.

2) Be flexible to learn in a new way

You’re probably expecting the food, culture, people, and maybe even the language to be different, but keep in mind the style of learning and teaching may be very different as well. In some countries and some programs, instructors are simply a complement to your readings and assignments. In others, you’ll get the bulk of your information from the instructor and exams will be based largely off what was discussed in class. Some classes will take you out to experience what you’re learning about, especially in the case of local topics such as culture, art, and history. Others will feel more similar to a large lecture hall in which academic material is conveyed, not experienced. Ask friends or program alumni what they found to be different about the academic culture, and be flexible once you arrive to the different learning and teaching methods.

study abroad france
The author in France during a visit to Château de Blois. Trips to historic sites are common in classes about local topics.

3) Take minimal hours

Yes, you need to be enrolled as a full-time student. But you don’t need to be enrolled as an overly-ambitious, 19-credit student during your time abroad. Take 12 hours or the equivalent, and then you’ll have more time to explore and travel. This doesn’t mean put minimal effort in these courses, but taking minimal hours means that you won’t spread yourself thin. It’s possible to perform well in your courses AND have a great experience. Also, you may be able to earn credit towards multiple requirements (e.g. a language requirement and an elective/gen ed). Upon returning, you’ll sit down with your academic advisor again to review the courses you took. Which may provide the opportunity to transfer one course into multiple requirements.

4) Know that academics are different everywhere

In some countries, university is taken much more seriously than in others. And the courses will reflect that. Do some research on where you will be going and what will be expected of you as a student so that there are no surprises once your classes begin. For example: in Australia, most of your grade rides on one final exam. This means that you can very easily slack off the whole semester, but that will likely leave you ill prepared for the exam. CISabroad programs are hosted at a variety of institutions, from large, prestigious universities to small, language and culture focused institutes. Research what is commonly referred to as the “host institution” to know what to expect in terms of academic rigor.

australia macquarie university campus
In Australia, it might seem like no studying is happening, especially when campus looks like this, but things change around exam time…

Some of my fondest memories of my semester abroad are from time spent in class. In addition to classrooms, my instructors met in museums, orchards, castle gardens, and the markets of Paris. Most of the time, I was having so much fun that I didn’t even realize that I was learning. One of the great things about study abroad is the opportunity you have to learn in new settings, among different people, and from distinguished instructors. Take full advantage of learning in this incredible new environment. I promise you won’t regret it!


Curious to study abroad but want to know more about the academics? Ask a CISabroad Advisor!


Let Them Have… Croissants? | Student Foodie Blog from Spain

At first during my semester in Barcelona, everything felt new: the city, the people, the ways to get around, the FOOD. After time, you adjust to a lot of pieces in a life abroad. This is so healthy in one way, because creating routines really makes you feel like you are more than a tourist.

However, routine can also take some of the excitement out of a new place. That’s why the food abroad is an essential part of the experience. New food can make any day feel exciting and adventurous.

In Spain, one of the sweetest surprises I had was that there’s always a restaurant within walking distance. There are 10 on every street, and most likely they’re all local. This opportunity to broaden my horizons and tastebuds will be gone when I go home, so I’m soaking up every minute of it.

Food breaks the mold of routine because there’s always something new to try! In Barcelona, I have tried many local dishes (and some not local ones). Here’s my foodie blog from Spain. 

Food I’ve loved!

1. Vietnamese Food in Spain

foodie blog from spain

The other night, my gluten-free roommate convinced me to go to a Vietnamese restaurant. A Vietnamese restaurant where the menu is in Spanish is not something I have ever tried before, but it was so good! I’m not even sure everything that was in my meal, but this is what I signed up for. I signed up to be brave and adventurous and, in turn, find new foods I actually love.

2. Pan Con Tomate

foodie blog from spain

There are more simple dishes such as pan con tomate, which is toasted bread with garlic, tomato, salt, and oil on it.

3. Calcots

foodie blog from spain

Then there are the very adventurous dishes! For instance, Calcots, which are specially grown long onions that are charred (and you get the experience of peeling them yourself).

4. Sweets

foodie blog from spain

I don’t know how I’ll ever eat a croissant in America again! I’m spoiled with the sweets and bread here around every corner. My body is begging me to stop, but my mouth can never turn down a croissant. I could probably write 500 words just on the bakeries in Barcelona, but I think you should just visit and see for yourself.

Food I haven’t liked as much:

foodie blog from spain

Some dishes I have not liked as much include blood sausage (as scary as it sounds), for example, is a common dish here that I wouldn’t be upset if I never had again. That’s just life!

Moral of the Story:

foodie blog from spain

Learning what you do and don’t like is part of the bigger picture of studying abroad! Food is a daily chance to step out of what you know and take a leap of faith. Food is a reminder of culture and tradition that varies from place to place. Food is what will break the routine that you might find yourself in – it’s an awesome thing!


3 Must-See Ghostly Destinations in Florence | Spooky Student Blog from Italy

I’ve had a life-long fascination with the paranormal. Just ask my family members or friends. When I arrived in Florence, one of the first things I searched up was if the city had any reported haunted sites that I could visit. With Florence being ancient and enriched with history, of course I wasn’t let down.

The fall season has descended upon us. And with the temperatures dropping, what better way to spend your nights than reading scary stories and strolling through the streets to check out some of Florence’s darkest legends and mysteries?

Here are my top 3 ghostly destinations in Florence: 

1. Palazzo Budini-Gattai

FA18_Intern in Florence_Barbara Carranza_UNC Charlotte_Palazzo Budini Gatta

If you’ve been to the Piazza Santissima Annunziata, you’ve seen the Palazzo Budini-Gattai. A red brick building with three floors, it was constructed in the 16th century by the Grifoni family and eventually came under the ownership of the Budini-Gattai family.

The legend attached to this place is in the far right window on the top floor. It’s always open, even when it rains, because the ghost of a noblewoman is still waiting for her husband to return from war. They had just married when he was called for battle. The young lady waited by the window so she could see him return.  He never did. Heartbroken, the woman became attached to the room and the window until she died. When the shutters were finally closed, an unnatural force moved the furniture and threw books off the shelves. The chaos didn’t stop until relatives reopened the window. And so it has stayed open, never to close, lest someone wants to risk angering the ghost.

Located in Piazza Santissima Annunziata, on Via dei Servi, 51.

2. Pensione Burchianti

FA18_Intern in Florence_Barbara Carranza_UNC Charlotte_Pensione Burchianti

Located less than a 10-minute walk from the Duomo, the Santa Maria Novella train station and the basilica it is named after, Pensione Burchianti is a 3-star hotel that is situated perfectly for tourists. Open since 1919, the hotel has garnered a quality reputation for housing celebrities, politicians, and poets over the years. (Including an alleged visit by Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.)

However, guests might find themselves not the only ones residing in their suites. The reports of unexplained events include paranormal stories of patrons hearing children skip down the hallways, feeling watched, shivering from icy cold breath on their faces, and sensing the mattress dip as if someone was sitting on it. If that doesn’t scare you, there is also the Fresco Room where people have seen a pink, translucent figure. The owner of the hotel refuses to stay overnight. So if you’re brave enough to do it, make sure to record your stay. You might capture something!

Located on Via del Giglio, 8.

3. Palazzo Vecchio

FA18_Intern in Florence_Barbara Carranza_UNC Charlotte_Pallazzo Vecchio

Find yourself wandering by one of Florence’s most recognizable landmarks at night? Here are a couple words of advice: don’t yell out Baldaccio d’Anghiari’s name.

Palazzo Vecchio, and the Piazza della Signoria in general, have witnessed so much blood spilled on its pavement over the last 600 years. For example, the hanging and burning of Friar Girolamo Savonarola in 1498 is an event that is commemorated in a plaque positioned on the exact place where he was executed.

But did you know the violent tale of the mercenary Baldaccio d’Anghiari? In 1441, he was wrongly accused of treason and killed in the Palazzo Vecchio. His body was thrown out of a window and dragged across the Piazza, where his severed head was put on display. It’s now said that his ghost roams the premises of the Palazzo; sounds of footsteps can be heard when it closes for the day and all the tourists have left.

Don’t yell his name and avoid saying it out loud for no reason. If you decide to address him, you must speak respectfully in a low voice.

Located in Piazza della Signoria.

Opening hours 9am-7pm Monday-Sunday, 9am-2 pm on Thursdays.


Intrigued by these Florence ghost stories? Do you have any international ghost stories of your own? Share this post on social media with #CISghoststories and regale us with your ghostly encounters!

Want to make sure we see it? Tag us @CISabroad on Insta and Snapchat | @CISstudyabroad on FB 


Request Info

Chat with an
Advisor Right Now!

Chat with us Now

Talk to an
advisor now, call:

+1-877-617-9090