Monday, April 07, 2014

Shelby S - Kansai-Gaidai Exchange, Japan - Spring 2014

Study Abroad Kansai Gaidai Spring 2014, Hirakata City Japan
I knew that I had always wanted to study abroad in Japan I just was not sure exactly where in Japan. I have been in the Tokyo area many times before so I knew I had to do something different this time. I choose to go to Kansai Gaidai University which is in the Kansai Region of Japan. It has been such a great experience so far. In my seminar house I meet people from all over the world. Many of the friends I have made here do not speak English as there first language. I am not only learning about Japan’s culture but cultures around the world (Korea, China, Sweden, etc).
The atmosphere at Kansai Gaidai is so friendly. Everyone on campus is willing to help you and in the Seminar houses everyone is so friendly as well. It really makes the experience much more special knowing that people are so willing to help. I’ve only been here for a couple months now but the friendships I have made are stronger than my friendships back home. Coming abroad really opened up my eyes to how different people are but so similar at the same time.

Famous Tori Gate at Miyajima Island, depending on the tide level you can go and touch it.
Since being in Japan I have been to Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Miyajima island, Yokohama, Yokosuka and a few more places. It is so easy to travel in Japan, and the train are so “Benri” aka, convenient.  What I like about the Kansai region compared to Tokyo is that it is much more relaxing here and there is so much history to see. When I go to Tokyo it is exciting but I only go shopping. In Kansai I site see at temples, shrines, and see many wandering friendly deer! I have seen so much already but still have much more to see. Coming to Kansai Gaidai has been a great experience and I wish I could extend my stay. If you come here you will not regret it.

The campus seems much bigger compared to Elmhurst.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Carmen S - Gold Coast, Australia - Spring 2014

Hello from Australia!

My name is Carmen and I am currently spending the semester at Griffith University in Gold Coast.  I live a block away from the beach in Sufers Paradise, Queensland where I relax at almost everyday.  My experience has been undescribable so far.  My first few days were in Brisbane, where we walked along the river and through the Botanical Gardens.  It was the most beautiful city I've ever been to.  Jessica and I then flew up to Cairns for orientation where we went scuba diving (I touched a sea turtle and got stung by a jellyfish but it was totally worth it!), hung out with Kangaroos and Koalas in the Rainforestation, and hiked through the Botanical Gardens.  I highly recommend going to Cairns, it was well worth the trip and there were so many things to do there!  Jessica and I later went to Sydney for the weekend!  Although it was raining the whole time and I didnt pack well, we still were able to see everything we wanted to in the short amount of time.  Bondi Beach was only an hour bus ride from Sydney and that was probably my favorite part because it was the most beautiful beach I've ever seen.  We then hiked through the Blue Mountains where I was attack by leeches and we saw the 3 Sisters, still worth it. 
 Lately, Ive been doing my best to stay focused on my school work in this beautiful weather.  I tried Kangaroo meat and LOVED it.  A group of us also took surfing lessons last week and I just signed up to become a licensed scube diver!  
We plan on traveling to New Zealand soon and hopefully see more of Australia.  I've loved every second of the trip so far and I cant wait to see what else I can see and learn!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Alex O - Sicily, Italy - Spring 2014

Hello all Study Abroad candidates! My name is Alex, I like you was at a point where I was considering going abroad, and the only advice I can offer is this: DO IT! I am almost two months into my semester in Sicily, and this has been something out of a dream. Traveling halfway across the globe has a profound impact on the way you process and receive information both academically and culturally, this became clear to me the first week of classes here. While attending regular class, I am constantly learning during my free time. The language barrier is not as bad as I first thought, it took me a while to gain the confidence to just take the initiative to try and talk to the locals and I found that they are salt of the earth, kindly people. The city in which I'm staying is from the 7th century B.C. so while I'm not a huge architecture buff, I'm quickly becoming aquatinted with ancient structures from Greek, Roman, Norman, and Spanish history. The food is immaculate here, and the cost of living rather low if you shop smart (which is a valuable skill you should start practicing now) and avoid frivolous goods. This is only a portion of the joy and discovery I've been exposed to thus far and I cannot appreciate the decision I made to come abroad anymore than I do now! I hope to hear from any and all of you with any questions about your own abroad experience! Ci vediamo! 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Carolyn P - Semester at Sea - Spring 2014

Greetings from Myanmar/Burma! I am a junior participating in the program, Semester at Sea, and having the time of my life. So far, our ship --the M.V. Explorer-- has sailed to Hawaii, Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore, and here we are, leaving Burma and beginning our journey to India tomorrow! It's a crazy, hectic life but I am loving every second of it. I think I've done more in the past two months than I've done my whole life leading up to this. I'm learning a lot about myself, the world, and life in general. Actually, I'm probably finding more questions than answers. I can feel myself changing in ways I hadn't expected. I'm seeing a lot. In Vietnam, I crawled through the Cu Chi Tunnels used during the Vietnam War (or the American War, as they call it there- it's fascinating to see things from the other side). The past few days I explored Burma-- a country in transition recently and still today. It opened up to tourists only two years ago and it's going through many social and political changes. Seeing the poverty has prompted me to grapple with topics like privilege, quality of life, and my role as a global citizen. One thing that has struck me here in Burma is the general attitude toward life and tourists. The people have been so warm, positive, and enthusiastic in greeting us-- so eager to show us their country. I visited a school, several markets, and an elephant riding camp, all of which were great experiences. I'm glad that I still have about half (two months) of the program left, because I'm not ready to go home... I'm ready for more adventures! Anyway, I hope the study abroad planning process is going well for you, CPP students. I know it is a lot to pull together and sort through, but it will definitely be worth it in the end. Best of luck and hope to hear from you soon! -Carolyn

Monday, March 03, 2014

Amanda D - Wollongong, Australia - Spring 2014

Wow it was humid.  The heat and humidity hit me when I stepped off of the plane, officially ending the 14 hour flight from LAX to Brisbane.  The second thing to hit me was the all of the tropical plants!  There were even more palm trees than LA.  Even though I was extremely exhausted from flying to the other side of the world, I had no problem stopping to take a few pictures.  Maybe it was the honeymoon phase kicking in but everything looked beautiful.
Aside from the scenery, the next thing that I was so impressed with was how easy it was to make friends.  Aside from a pair of best friends, no one else knew each other and everyone was open to meeting new people.  My Globalinks group was a few people short of 200, most of them female, who were going to go to various universities along the coast.  I was able to find 16 people who were also going to go to the University of Wollongong.  We quickly grew close together threw all of the activities that Globalinks had planned for us. 
The food is great.  It was really hard to not eat any of the rich food for the first couple of days.  Everything looked so good.  One of the first new foods I tried was Vegemite.  It's actually not that bad.  Many Australians actually hate the stuff but it is common to find Australians who have eaten it by the spoon full since they were kids.

In one of the pictures that I provided I posed with a group of my friends when we were getting ready to scuba and snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef.  In the second picture I provided, some of my friends and I entered a didgeridoo playing contest.  Everything was so much!  Even when school starts again, Globalinks and the University Constantly plan fun things to do. 

Erik P - Hong Kong - Spring 2014

After my 14 hour flight from Chicago to Hong Kong, I was ready to drop my bags in the airport and fall asleep in the “claim your baggage area.”  Walking towards the exit I was searching frantically for a window to look outside at anything “foreign” I could lay my eyes on.  Once I got on the taxi I rolled down my window and stuck my phone out and recorded everything I saw, which mostly consisted of large housing complexes.  I wonder if I looked like a foreigner with my phone out of the window.  Once I arrived to my hostel I set everything to the side and fell asleep.  Waking up I decided to have breakfast in a nearby cafeteria and was astonished at the beautiful view of campus there was.  I would soon find out that every building in the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) had some sort of scenic view outside of the windows.  CUHK is known as the most scenic campus in Hong Kong because it is built on a hill surrounded by a few other hills/mountains.  I was pleased with the selection of food in the cafeteria (my first meal was roasted duck with white rice), very pleased with the prices (average meal cost 22 HKD about 3 USD) and was even more pleased to hear all of the staff speak in English (English is a major language in Hong Kong).  The first week at CUHK was basically an orientation of sort for all the international students.  I was pretty amazed to hear that about 50% (200) of the students studying abroad this semester were all from the US! That is a ton.  In this orientation there was a Cantonese survival seminar that basically taught us a few phrases that would be very helpful [m goi (mgoy) is basically the magic word here; it means excuse me and thank you depending on the situation].  After the third day at CUHK I realized how health conscious this city is.  In the subways you will commonly see people with face masks, not because they think you are sick (common misconception), but because they are sick and they do not want to infect others.  My first outing to the city was to Victoria Peak, the tallest mountain in Hong Kong Island.  In this peak you are able to see a magnificent view of Hong Kong Island at about 500 m high.  Overall Hong Kong is a small scenic city with a great club scene, a quality and inexpensive transportation system, and a large selection of inexpensive tasty food.  If you have any questions regarding CUHK and/or Hong Kong I would gladly answer them!

Isabel J - Oxford, England - Spring 2014

Greetings all! If you’re reading this then either A. Congratulations! You’re thinking about studying abroad in Oxford/England, or B. You’re my mother who’s managed to find yet another way of keeping tabs on me while I’m abroad. Hi, Mom. Yes, I’m eating well. No, I’m not coming home with a British fiancé. Yes, we can Skype later.
It’s only been about three weeks since I’ve arrived at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CMRS, which is associated with Keble College), but I’m already quite familiar with the streets of Oxford and I’ve even gotten a chance to explore London for a weekend! But more on that later—let’s go back to day one.
I was the second person to arrive in my dorm, so I was able to unpack and start exploring early in the day. The first thing I noticed was the wildlife. In other words, PIGEONS. PIGEONS EVERYWHERE. They’re such a problem that we have to have spikes on all of the windowsills after a particularly adventurous birdbrain sauntered right through an open window into the kitchen in search of a snack. They’re not as devious as the Elmhurst squirrels, but they definitely have them beat as far as their ability to organize an aerial attack. I really wish I was joking, but let’s just say, after arriving in England your first order of business should be investing in a quality umbrella… and not just because of the rain…
Speaking of which, we’ve been quite lucky here. It’s been sunny the past couple of weeks which is unusual for Oxford. It has been raining on and off but nothing more than a light sun shower here and there. But remember, your umbrella will be your best friend while you’re here. That, and your Bod card.
The Bod card is your way of access to the Bodleian Library, which is perhaps the biggest and most beautiful library in the world. They receive something like a thousand new books every single day, so if you’re a bookworm like me, a trip to the Bod is like reaching Nerd Nirvana. Unfortunately they don’t allow pictures inside, but if you’ve seen that one scene in Harry Potter where Harry’s sneaking through the library in the middle of the night, then you’ve seen the Bod.
Another connection to Harry Potter—my head tutor, Dr. Bernard Gowers, worked on the set while they were filming in Oxford! He was the official owl sitter. He’s also a delightfully quirky person who really goes out of his way to make sure everyone is adjusting smoothly to life in Oxford. In fact, that’s been consistent with all of my tutors here. They genuinely care for their students’ mental health just as much as they do for their academic success, if not even more so. It’s definitely a change from the states, where everyone lives to work. Here, people work to live. They take the time to actually relax during meal times, and finding a balance between work and pleasure is highly valued in British culture. Don’t get me wrong, the tutors here expect a lot from you (they ARE Oxford professors, after all), but they also don’t want you to be so work-oriented that you miss out on exploring the incredibly beautiful city.
Of course, you cannot go to England without visiting London. I could easily write five more blog posts about my weekend there, but I’ll keep it short and sweet: don’t miss out! Take a bus and just adventure for the day! Exploring the city was like living inside a postcard; everywhere you turned there was another historic landmark, another fascinating discovery, and another prime photo op.
Whew, I would love to go on, but I’ll stop here. If you have any specific questions, don’t be afraid to ask! Good luck on your pre-study abroad journey. It can be stressful, but believe me, it’ll all be worth it.

XO Isabel 

Kirstie W - Freiburg, Germany - Spring 2014

I am living my dream every day I wake up in Germany. 
I started off on a bad foot.  When I arrived in the air port my plane was very late and I had no clue where I was, where to go, and no way to communicate with anyone.  I met an American and a German who helped me find my way.  I handed the address to the taxi and he drove me to my dorm, but I had no keys, I didn't know where I was living, and it was very dark and late.  Some Germans helped me and let me into my building.  I could not get into my room, but my nice German roommate was helping me and being very nice.  I ended up sleeping with my roommate from my program for the night.  Besides that, I was so happy to finally be in the country I dreamed about.  I really am bad with public transportation and directions, but somehow I am still here so I survived.  If anyone is bad with directions or scared that they cannot speak the language or understand anything that is no problem.  Someone will speak English and if not sharades is a really good way to communicate.  The whether is very interesting.  I never thought scarves were important, but it is definitely important here.  I am glad I bought boots for every day use, also.  Good jeans that you can wear a few times without washing is important, too.  Definitely, a person just needs t-shirts, jackets, good jeans, boots, one or two nice outfits, a decent amount of nice casual, and everyone dresses pretty practical and comfortable in Freiburg.  And definitely getting a bicycle was a fantastic decision.  I recommend that to anyone.  Bring your own special school supplies like pens.  I realized I should have brought more of my personal care products.  Everything here is pretty expensive, and I cannot go to Walmart to take care of all of my needs.  Really, not having a Walmart is such a problem.
On another note, travelling is amazing!  I love trying to speak with the natives in their native tongue and the sights are straight out of a film from when knights and princesses existed.  Everything is different and breath taking.  There is an adventure around every corner.  I realize that I have not done a good job of exploring my surroundings, and I definitely should do more of that.  I feel like I am in a fairy tale wherever I go and whatever I do in Europe. 
By the way, I ran into my RA from Elmhurst!  She is doing her J-term and I ran into her at a museum in Berlin!  Crazy! 

Jacob H - London, England - Spring 2014

Expectations are Dumb. AKA, Go with the Flow. 

The following is bullet  list of commentary on the study abroad process and a few relevant passages pulled from the actual blog about my travels. 
  • Expect there to be problems with some Elmhurst office while you are away. I have been totally taken off of  ResLife's radar and am not getting emails about the room selection process for next year. If not for my friends currently at EC, I would have missed the sign-up deadlines. However, the worst problems have been with Student Accounts. After confusing my bill with another student's bill and then charging me double tuition and using a wonky exchange rate, they are finally in the process of getting me all the surplus scholarship that I need to fund my time here. Still, I only have been paid half of what they owe me and communication has been all but dropped. I have no doubt that it will all come through, but it is incredibly inefficient. 
  • Culture shock is real. Don't deny it, don't think you're immune. You aren't. I am in England--arguably the most similar culture to America and it is hitting harder than when I am in Africa. 
  • Direct enrolling is hard, plain and simple. I'd probably do it again (as opposed to program style) and admittedly I am not the most social person in the world but be prepared for an uphill battle to making friends in your 3 short months. Year-longers are a whole different beast. 
  • Don't expect for lecturers to acknowledge your foreigness. You are not going to have your hand held like at EC, many of the schools that accept study abroaders are large institutions. You won't be told when you have papers due, your wont be given a rubric or style sheet, you won't be given grader preferences. You'll just have to produce your best work. 
  • When looking for flights to your location, use Student Universe and STA Travel for the best student flights. If you are still displeased with prices, the best regular search engine I found is which seems to be better for longer flights and more remote locations (like Africa and SE Asia). 
  • Make lists, make goals, make budgets. Be happy.
And now for some relevant excerpts from my travel blog--Chronicles of a Gallivanting Interculturalist.

"The assessment scheme is totally foreign to me as well. Each class seems to require two essays (about 5 and 7 pages) and I may have an exam. Other than that, no activity counts for points but there really aren't that many other activities to do anyway so it's a mute point. The professors assign lots of  reading and then we discuss it in seminar. Attendance to seminar is compulsory."

"As I indicated in the last blog post, Queen Mary looks like what I think of when I think college. Weird Architecture? Check. Bold Colors? Check. Lots of crazy geometric designs to inspire creative thought? Absolutely."

"While the view is nice, the skylines of Europe really cannot compete with American cities. The buildings are simply not as tall (however it could be argued that they have more aesthetic value). For example, the tallest building in the European Union, The Shard, which is located in central London is still 150 metres shorter the Sears Tower (which is still the tallest building in the USA: deal with it New York). Honestly, London's skyline looks more like that of Detroit or St. Louis than New York even though it's population is equal to the latter."

"I am not sure if it is a cultural difference, a college policy, or both but it is difficult to find students with laptop computers taking notes in class. People here still overwhelmingly use pencil and paper and when they do pull out something more technologically savvy, it is usually a tablet with a plug-in keyboard. My laptop is not huge--but it's certainly not small (it had to be my sidekick at summer camp and in Africa you can bet it's durable) and I usually feel like I am hauling around a huge machine from the 90s."

"The campus security here is a bit overzealous with fire alarm testings..."

"I submitted my first paper last weekend on a topic we had not discussed in class and the professor didn't take time to go over expectations in class. It's not that I needed him to--I had a prompt and a very rough rubric, but it's just a cultural difference. The lecturers here truly are lecturers, not teachers. Said differently, it is their job to lecture, not to teach you anything."

To find more observational commentary and humour from this author or to simply learn more about London, South Africa, or Namibia, please visit the source blog, If you have any questions about traveling out of the country (especially to southern Africa) and find my opinion enlightening feel free to email me - just ask Alice for my e-mail address. 


Melissa M - Barcelona, Spain - Spring 2014

They say that New York is “the city that never sleeps,” but people who say that have clearly never been to Barcelona. So far, being in Barcelona has been one of the most wild and unique and exhausting experiences of my life. All the articles that I read before-hand that talked about their late eating and going out schedules were not kidding. A normal night with my host family consists of dinner at 10pm ending around 1030 or 11. While the first few nights it was a bit difficult adjusting to the late eating hours, it has become progressively easier and more natural to eat later. On top of these late dinners, if we want to go out, high time for heading out to bars or clubs doesn’t start till 1am or 2. Needless to say, the nights in Barca are filled with so much life and fun.

Even though I’ve been here almost a month, I still marvel at the city and all of it’s life and energy. It really never gets old. I think one of the things I like most about the city is that there’s always something to do. Living in the center of Barcelona, there literally isn’t any time for me to be bored. On any given day I can visit Las Ramblas, head to the shopping district, travel to one of the many museums, eat tapas and drink sangria, walk by the beach, visit a different district and shop small specialty boutiques and stores, go to cathedrals and take pictures of Roman ruins; the list is endless. I truly can’t stress enough how happy I am with my decision to study in Barcelona. Everyday I learn more about myself, others, and the many different cultures I am faced with. So far, Barcelona has stolen my heart and I don’t think I would have it any other way.

Beth K. - Granada, Spain - Spring 2014

Because of lovely Chicago weather, I arrived in Spain nearly a day later than planned. After three flights, a night in Miami, and lots of time spent at airports, I was finally in Granada. The anticipation of studying abroad can be very nerve-wracking and extremely exciting. I think the most important thing is to have an open mind and a willingness to learn (and you will learn a lot!). My first 48 hours were filled with getting to know my brand new friends and our new home. We have students from all over the States and from many different backgrounds, but our common experience here as a bunch of college kids who left home for four months to explore and learn together here in Spain created an automatic bond. This city is such a wonderful mix of hustle and bustle and beautiful views of the Alhambra (an old Muslim palace) and the Sierra Nevada mountains. This past weekend our group visited Toledo and Madrid and, while beautiful, I felt so sure that I chose the perfect place to study. I couldnt be more thrilled to call this city my home for the next four months. Studying abroad truly is an unforgettable experience and amazing opportunity. Best of luck to those of you planning your own adventures and feel free to ask me any questions whatsoever!


Elyse C. - Rome, Italy - Spring 2014

Hi CPP class!

Rome is absolutely AMAZING! It is hard to get used to the infinite amounts of history and art surrounding me everywhere I go! Everything looks as if I could see it in a travel catalog! I walk everywhere and since almost all the roads are uneven cobblestones, even in good walking shoes, my feet are sore! Italians drive small cars and zip so quickly past us while we walk to school and it is true about their parking, it does end up being on sidewalks! Besides those minor details I have really enjoyed my 1st week, my host parents are great cooks and I'm starting to make some good friends. I have found that less Italians speak English than I expected, so knowing Italian is necessary, but I am getting by and learning more of the language every day! Meals are quite different here from the food to the time of day we eat, lunch is around 1:30-2 and dinner around 8:00-8:30, I'm still getting used to this part! I hope you're getting excited about studying abroad and my other piece of advice is fill out your visa form asap! lol
p.s. the first picture is the Pantheon and the second picture is at the Trevi Fountain then the Spanish Steps

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Antonio C. - Nanchang, China - Fall 2013

I landed at night and couldn't see much of anything but while driving to the university, I noticed that many people had scooters and many just walked on the road. As I got into my dorm room I laid everything out and put everything away. After that I wanted to rest after my 20 hour travel. As I woke up the next morning, I looked out and saw my university. The chatter of birds and the language of the Chinese is all I heard from my window. I walked down and stepped into China.
It is a very different country than the United States. Different but yet not so threatening. Yes the language barrier is a big one but the locals here in Nanchang are very helpful and patient as I try to fumble with my translator. If you like Chinese food you have come to the right place! The food here is amazing and so much cheaper than anything Chartwell sells. I really never know what I order because I cannot read Chinese well yet but everything is scrumptious!
On the second day, the university organized a tour of the city and boy is it modern. China is a developing country but with the sky scrapers and lack of pot hole streets, it is very different than Chicago. For starters, the big temple is thousands of years old but yet it is untouched by the city around it. The honks and horns of taxis and cars was lost in this place of solitude and tranquility. After a delicious lunch in the city do we go shopping on the campus store. They have everything!!! from clothes, to school supplies, to a watch store, to a full department store on the second floor, this is the best campus store I have been to! I got all my room necessities for less than 200 yuan ($30)!!
The locals all now know us and are extremely friendly. As I said before, they are patient but they go above and beyond what is required of them at times. A classmate of mine once forgot his money and the vendor let him have the jin bing (a delicious bread that is kind of like pizza bread) for free. The next day he went back and tried to give the vendor extra money but the vendor refused and even chased him to give him the extra money back. The friendly nature of the Chinese people is kind of foreign to me as many people back in the States always want a tip even if they do a little extra.
China has captivated my mind and is growing on me.


Michael N. - London, England - Fall 2013

London is an amazing city! I love it! The first couple of days I was a bit nervous because I wasn’t exactly clear where I had to go and what I needed to do.  But everyone is in the same situation as you are, so I saw it as a new experience. I made friends with mostly British people and it has been great. They are really nice people and have showed me around London. In the first week, I’ve toured round Westminster, taking in sights like Big Ben, the London Eye, Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, as well as Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Monument, and have had an amazing time! There is so much history and culture here. We’ve rented Bikes for the day and learned the Tube underground network in just a few days. The people are really nice and my friends are awesome. I am still trying to get my classes straightened out and as soon as that happens, I will let you all know about my classes and the course load. I am having a great time; my advice to everyone who is thinking about studying abroad, I say go for it! Its an amazing opportunity and you get to travel around Europe. I am planning to go Paris and Amsterdam very soon. Also, in November I will visit cousins and friends in Barcelona and Madrid. I am having a great time so far. If you have any questions about Queen Mary University of London or about London in general, just let me know and I will try to give you an answer soon.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Alicia W. - Granada, Spain - Fall 2013

Hi everyone!!
I hope you are having fun getting ready to study abroad! I have been in Granada, Spain for the past week and I am already having a blast! The day before I flew here I was crying and crying because I was so nervous to be leaving everything behind and flying to a place where I know nobody, but as soon as I got here, all that fear disappeared. 
One of the coolest things about studying abroad is that as soon as you are with your group of international students, you instantly have a million things to talk about! “Where are you from?” “Why did you choose this program?” “What classes are you taking?” It’s incredible! It is so easy to make good friends, so if you are concerned about any of that, don’t be! The city of Granada is incredible! It is probably the most beautiful place I have ever seen, and I cannot wait to see more. I have already spent more money than I intended so make sure you save save save! And also pack LIGHT! I over packed so much and I already regret it. Who knew how hard it is to roll a heavy suitcase on cobblestone streets! As I said, I have only been here a week so I have plenty more to learn, but if you have any questions I would be happy to answer them as best as I can!!!

Feel free to visit Alicia's personal blog for even more insights into her study abroad experience: