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Traveling While Abroad

April 5, 2012

Traveling While Abroad

by Darci Miller

My backpack is packed, my tickets are printed, my passport is at the ready and my camera is fully charged. My train to Paris leaves in exactly three hours and one minute and from there, a few friends and I begin a three-week backpacking tour across Europe. Our stops include a city I’ve wanted to visit since the fourth grade (Copenhagen), the world center of the Olympic movement (Lausanne), one of my favorite cities in the world (Venice) and two cities in which I was considering studying abroad (Munich and Berlin). Am I excited? You could say so.

Studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to achieve any travel dreams you may have. Money is, of course, an obstacle but there are ways to travel on the cheap, especially in the European Union. For an extended trip like mine, the Eurail pass is a great option, letting you choose your number of travel days and countries. There are also Megabus deals between countries starting at next to nothing, plus discount airlines.

Airlines can charge an arm and a leg for checked baggage so it’s smart to fit everything you need into a carry-on or backpack. Invest in a sturdy one and remember to pack light! Bring clothes that can easily be mixed and matched (and ladies, a great space-saving option that gives you tons of outfit choices while traveling is bringing shorts and tights instead of pants if it’s warm enough!).

It’s also important to remember to book travel as early as you can to save on transportation and hostel costs. When it comes to hostels, try to stay in places that your friends have stayed in before you; personal recommendations are always a plus. Don’t be too worried about sharing rooms with strangers, either: Most places have lockers where you can keep your stuff safe and most people staying in hostels are in the exact same boat as you.

As for an itinerary, my friends and I don’t have one. We know when we have to be at the train station and we have a list of things to do in each city but that’s it. We’ve discovered that part of the fun is wandering around and seeing what we stumble across – don’t be afraid to leave some things to chance!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier, the better!) and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big and believes the sky’s the limit. This semester, Darci is studying abroad in London and will share her international experiences here.

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Life After Study Abroad

Lessen Reverse Culture Shock with These Easy Tips

July 5, 2012

Life After Study Abroad

by Darci Miller

When preparing for your semester abroad, you’re bombarded with advice – bring this amount of clothes, make sure to see these cities, make sure to experience the culture of your new country, etc. – but what about when you go home? I spent five months living in London and becoming pseudo-British. What was I left with when I returned to the U.S.? A strong affinity for tea, thousands of pictures and no idea how to deal.

Reverse culture shock was almost as scary as culture shock itself. I went from the Tube to the subway, chips to French fries, looking left when crossing the road to looking right, a flat to a house and (most jarringly) life in a big city to life in a suburb. I can no longer see Olympic Stadium from my bedroom window and my friends are scattered across continents. Life in America seemed incredibly unappealing.

What really helped me has been keeping some of the habits I picked up in London the same. A group of friends and I still send Facebook messages instead of texting, I still drink tea every night before I go to bed, and I still keep my Oyster card in my wallet. Blogging about everything while the feelings and memories were still fresh was very cathartic and a quick glance at photos never goes amiss. These things remind me that, while I’m not physically there anymore, studying abroad HAS changed me: I’ll never be the same as I was before I went...and that’s okay.

At the same time, jumping back into home life is very important. Don’t give yourself time to be too sad: find a job, restart a hobby, reconnect with old friends. Is there something you’ve wanted to do for a while but haven’t gotten around to it? Now’s the perfect time! Getting excited about things you’re doing at home make the sting of no longer being abroad much more tolerable.

If you were happy at home once, you can be again – you just have to figure out how to make it happen for the new, world-traveling you. But you do have to look the country-appropriate way when crossing the road. There’s really no getting around that one!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier, the better!) and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big and believes the sky’s the limit.

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College Class Trips: Are They Worth It?

October 26, 2011

College Class Trips: Are They Worth It?

by Darci Miller

When I got to college, I assumed that class trips were a thing of the past. And for two years, I was right. So when I found out there was an opportunity to travel to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming with my travel writing class, I was pretty blown away.

My professor told us that the school would pay for hotel expenses, our admission into the park and dinner on two nights, while student participants had to shell out money for flights (several hundred dollars!) and lunch for several days. Like my fellow virtual intern Kara Coleman said, experience is often more valuable than education but would this be worth it? My parents seemed excited about this opportunity for me and offered to pay, so it was settled: I was going to Wyoming.

We left at the crack of dawn on a Thursday morning and returned at almost midnight on Sunday. Luckily, The U's fall break fell on that Friday and travel writing is one of my two classes on Thursday. Getting out of my one other class was relatively simple – it was a school-approved absence – but I still had to figure out how to deal with the time I now wouldn’t be able to spend doing homework. In the time leading up to the trip, I was also scrambling to get ahead on my newspaper duties: I’m the opinion section editor and had to work double time so I wouldn’t leave the rest of the staff in trouble during my absence.

The trip itself was such a great experience! Grand Teton is absolutely gorgeous and it was really cool to get to know some of my classmates (and my professor!) better. I don’t know when else I’d ever get the chance to go to Wyoming, let alone write about it. And guess what? The newspaper got along mostly fine without me. (When I turned my phone on after a full day of travel, I saw a frantic text from the managing editor. Can’t win ‘em all!)

In trying to gain experience, don’t just do what looks good on your resume. Taking opportunities like these give you the chance to expand your horizons, see and do new things, and handle a different kind of stress.

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Planning Your Final Semester

January 18, 2012

Planning Your Final Semester

by Jacquelene Bennett

It is a new year, which means new classes, new professors, new people and new adventures but for some of us, this January marks the beginning of the end: It is our last semester of college before we go out into the real world.

That day isn’t here quite yet, though, and we soon-to-be graduates still have classes, homework and the responsibilities of extracurricular activities on top of applying for jobs or grad schools and taking care of last minute graduation stuff. In addition to all the work, we still want to spend time with our friends, go on spring break, relax and just have fun. So how do you do it all without going crazy?

I'm not an expert but I am quickly learning that the key is to prioritize. Make a list of all the things that you need to do – think: class assignments, preparing for tests, etc.) – and schedule when to do those things. With this method, you will know when you have to be serious about your school work and when you have time to kick back a little.

I personally have come to adopt a "work hard, play hard" strategy: I work hard by getting all my school work and studying done before and after classes, applying for jobs and taking care of any administrative stuff during the week and then I have the weekend to hang out with friends and have fun.

Just because this method works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you - we all have different goals and there really is no “right way” to handle your last semester. Take the first few weeks to determine your path but I recommend organizing, prioritizing and scheduling your commitments and leisure activities. You may not have time to do every single thing you want to do exactly when you want to do it but you’ll come pretty close!

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.

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My Favorite Blogs and Websites

July 1, 2011

My Favorite Blogs and Websites

by Jacquelene Bennett

Today’s world (and our generation especially) is dependent on the Internet. We use it for school, work, to interact with friends and strangers, to find directions...the list goes on and on. There is so much information on the web that navigating it can leave you lost, so to help ease this confusion, I thought I would share some of my favorite websites and blogs with you all.

Smart Pretty & Awkward: While this blog is mostly geared towards college girls, guys might find some of the advice helpful, too. The author, Molly Ford, gives daily tips on how to be smarter, prettier, and less awkward; this advice ranges from social situations to decorative ideas to how to find good deals on online shopping.

Hyperbole and a Half: I love this blog because it is hilarious and just pure awesomeness. Creator Allie Brosh writes and illustrates stories about her life and childhood and the stories are always so funny. If you’re taking a study break and want a laugh, definitely read this blog.

The Onion: This website is satire and sarcasm done right – they make fun of how the mainstream media pick and deliver news stories. The stories and articles are completely ridiculous and always entertaining.

The New York Times: Don’t get me wrong, I do read the print version of the New York Times (I think everyone should!) but its website is updated every few minutes throughout the day. No more waiting until the following morning to read about the latest breaking news!

Now these are just some of my favorite sites. If you don’t like any of these, you can always start your own blog!

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.

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Three Books Every Student Should Read Before College

June 24, 2011

Three Books Every Student Should Read Before College

by Jacquelene Bennett

Soon-to-be college students, be warned: You’ll be doing a lot of reading and writing during your postsecondary education. From the moment you start to the moment you finish, you will read until your eyes bulge out and write until your fingers are numb. That being said, I can see how the thought of reading during your summer vacation may be unpleasant but you’ll soon realize the most successful and active college students share one thing in common: They are all well-read.

Now it is not necessary for you to read the entire Library of Congress before school starts but I’ve gone and listed three books that I think are important for all students to read before starting college.

These aren’t the only books you should read but they are definitely among the most important ones. Grab copies at your local library or bookstore and enjoy!

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.

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Is It Too Early to Make Spring Break Plans?

January 24, 2012

Is It Too Early to Make Spring Break Plans?

by Jessica Seals

Although the spring semester is just barely here, it’s never too soon to start thinking about what you want to do during spring break. Just the thought of spending an entire week at a sunny beach with your friends is enough to make anyone start planning but the reality is that many of us might not be able to afford to squeeze some fun in the sun into our busy schedules. For those of us who will remain at home or school, there are several options to make spring break just as fulfilling as it will be for those students hitting the beaches.

Get some rest. It might sound boring but once the semester begins, you will find yourself wishing that you had time to catch up on your sleep. Doing so during spring break allows you to recharge your body so that you can make it through the rest of the semester.

Work ahead. By now, we all know how most professors like to set deadlines for big projects and papers for the end of the semester. Doing schoolwork over spring break may not necessarily be fun but you can save yourself a great deal of stress by working ahead. When the end-of-semester chaos hits in the form of finals and papers, you will be more relaxed knowing that you are ahead of the game.

Participate in an alternative spring break. Many schools offer alternative spring breaks to students so that they can spend the week volunteering for a good cause. Not only do you give back to a community in need but future employers will be impressed to see that you spent your spring break helping others. Even if your school does not have this option, you can still go out and volunteer on your own.

It’s never too early to start planning for spring break. If you plan wisely, you may have the chance to get some rest, work ahead on your homework, catch up with friends and volunteer at the same time while still managing to go back to school energized and ready to conquer the rest of the semester.

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society and Black Scholars Unlimited. As she prepares for law school, Jessica will continue to tutor and volunteer in her community.

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Choosing a College: 10 Helpful Tips

July 14, 2009

by Jilliane Hamilton

By Jilliane Hamilton for myUsearch.com

With so many different colleges and universities to choose from, making a final decision can be tough. Each college has its own unique personality, campus life, reputation and atmosphere. Here are some tips to help you choose which college is for you:

  1. Don't rule out schools that aren't universities. It all depends on your career plans and long-term goals.
  2. Talk to a student from each school. Ask them why they chose that school and what they like/dislike about the academics and campus life. You're going to get a perspective that's a lot less biased than just checking out the school's website.
  3. Location, location, location. How often do you plan to spend the weekend at home? Are you ready to make the big move out of state? What kind of weather are you used to?
  4. Don't choose a school just because your best friend, boyfriend or girlfriend are going there. College is about starting fresh. New home, new place, new school, new friends, new outlook on life. Besides, you may want to use your friend as a security blanket, rather than going out and meeting new people.
  5. Academically-speaking. Try to contact a couple people in the program or classes you're interested in taking. What's the professor like? What's the work load like? Does the school have a good reputation for their graduates from these programs?
  6. Dorms. Most freshmen will find that living on campus will make their life a little less hectic. Find out what kind of dorm you'd be moving into with each different university you have on your list. How old are the buildings? What amenities do they offer? You may even want to consider renting an apartment instead of living in the dorms.
  7. Look at scholarships. Which of your potential schools offer the most scholarships for incoming students? Do they have any just for students from that state or students from out-of-state?
  8. Consider the extracurriculars available. If you're interested in taking part in extracurriculars, find out which schools offer what clubs, committees and athletics.
  9. Sometimes, size does matter. Some people just aren't meant for huge campuses. Maybe you prefer a smaller campus with a warmer, more familiar feel. Then again, larger universities often offer more amenities, social activities and extracurriculars.
  10. If possible, take a campus tour of 2 or more schools. Get a feel for the atmosphere and go with your gut feeling. If it doesn’t feel right for you, perhaps you should keep looking.

Jillianne Hamilton is a blogger, writer and journalism student in Charlottetown, PEI. She blogs for various college websites, including myUsearch.com, an unbiased website where you can search and compare colleges for free.

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Dealing with Uncertainty About the Future

March 20, 2014

by Julius Clayborn

I celebrated my 20th birthday this past year with cake, candles...and tears! Though they were more so tears of shock than sadness – I could not believe I was now going to be considered a "twenty-something" – I had to come to terms with the reality of no longer being a teenager. This also meant I had to address the imminent future and the work and real world responsibilities I would soon be faced with. I knew that I wasn't ready for my life to be filled with such things; I couldn't even remember to go to my professor's office hours (which she repeated over and over again) let alone remember to complete bigger tasks that would inevitably accompany adulthood!

I felt really confused and alone during this period of introspection because everyone else seemed to be handling adulthood just fine. But upon blurting out the absurdity of not wanting to grow older being afraid of what lies ahead, I soon discovered some of my classmates felt the same way. We realized that we weren't so much afraid of aging, but of not knowing what was next to come: We were uncertain about our futures, we didn't know what jobs we would obtain (or if we'd even get hired right after graduation), we didn’t know where we'd live and if we'd live up to expectations. That uncertainty was what resided at the crux of our fears.

What I've come to understand is that no one is ever completely sure. And I feel like life is kind of supposed to be that way...unpredictable and full of surprises. If we knew how everything was supposed to be already, there would be no growth. And with no growth, there is no learning. Now I embrace the unknown. In fact, I welcome it with open arms because I am positive that come what may, I will be stronger, wiser and better because of it.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy – a public all-male college-preparatory high school – during his sophomore year. Julius started to read when he was just two years old and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He is currently in his junior year at Cornell University, where he is an English major with a minor in Africana Studies.

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The Wild World of College Sports

July 15, 2011

The Wild World of College Sports

by Kara Coleman

Do you think that just because you’ve never scored a touchdown or hit a home run you can’t have the student athlete experience? Think again! There is a whole world of collegiate sports opportunities awaiting you. Here are two of the most unusual:

Underwater Hockey. Though these two words typically aren’t used together, schools ranging from George Mason University to the University of Florida have underwater hockey teams. Teams consist of 10 players, with only six players from each team in the water at once. The puck, which weighs about three pounds, is pushed along the pool floor by 12-inch hockey sticks. Players wear water fins for mobility, masks for sight and, of course, snorkels for breathing. This might be a fun sport to try if you like swimming but since the game is played entirely underwater, it’s not much of a spectator sport.

Quidditch. Quidditch, the game invented by J.K. Rowling for her Harry Potter book series, has become a hit among college students. Each team is composed of seven players – one keeper, one seeker, two beaters and three chasers – who score points by knocking a ball through hoops and the game ends when one of the seekers captures the “snitch.” In the books, the snitch is a flying ball that tries to evade the seekers; in the Muggle version, the snitch is a person with a ball in a sock hanging out of his or her pocket and the seekers try to snatch it while running with broomsticks between their legs. The first intercollegiate quidditch match was held in 2007 at Middlebury College in Vermont, now home to the Quidditch World Cup. More than 100 schools in the U.S. have quidditch teams, including LSU, Purdue and the University of Washington.

These players may not be nominated for ESPYs any time soon but they’re definitely having fun. You can, too: Check to see if your school offers these teams or start one of your own!

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art.

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