“International education ignites a passion for understanding other people and their perspectives. That’s one important benefit to working or studying abroad – and it’s essential to success in our increasingly diverse world. Students with international exposure come to understand the value of dialogue between people from different cultures and between people with different points of view. They also gain an understanding of the importance of relationships. Relationships are the foundation for meaning and success in life. They are also the foundation for strong businesses, especially businesses that care about creating mutual benefit.” – Douglass H. Daft, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Coca Cola Company
Whether you are looking to convince your parents that you should study abroad or just considering your options, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 reasons that we think you should study abroad.
- Immerse yourself. Studying abroad gives you the opportunity to learn a new language. Immersion is the best teacher and students looking to learn a new language, or become fluent in one they’ve already been studying, have the opportunity to do so during study abroad programs. Many study abroad programs offer enough courses in language that students also have the opportunity to minor in the language. Regardless of the official credit, foreign language proficiency can be a huge resume booster and open up additional job markets.
- Expand yourself. When you live abroad you will experience a new culture from a much deeper perspective than simply traveling as a tourist. This can help you to learn different perspectives and expand their worldview. The world is much larger than a single country and there are many different ways of functioning and living. It can be beneficial for you to learn this firsthand.
- Enhance yourself. Living in another country also enhances your marketability and employment options. Especially in today’s global market, employers consider study abroad experiences to be a plus. Employers also look for candidates who are good at communication and have strong problem-solving skills. Experience abroad hints at these skills in addition to being open to new opportunities and being flexible.
- Develop yourself. Unlike living at home or on campus, living abroad is filled with different experiences that are out of the norm and thus require adaptability. Living in a foreign country and traveling will inevitability present you with different problems than the ones you might experience at home.
- Rely on yourself. Living abroad forces students to deal with issues on their own and to take care of everyday things on their own. From learning self-care to tackling problems head-on, being away from home and away from the comfortable surroundings often empowers students to take initiative and not simply rely on others. Students often return from trips with new found self-confidence.
According to a US Resolution passed in 2005, other important reasons for studying abroad include global literacy, goodwill efforts with other countries, benefits to global trade, cultural awareness, and opportunities for education specialization.
School: National Taiwan University
Why choose/Application process
I chose National Taiwan University (NTU) because it is the top university in Taiwan. For local Taiwanese students, only the top 2 percentile of all high school graduates are eligible to attend. It also offers a very extensive study abroad program for international students. The campus itself is a historical landmark and it is a great place for students to get together.
I have to admit the classes were somewhat dull. The professor’s teaching methods have absolutely no trace of creativity. Everything is strictly out of the text book. There’s a lot of memorization involved in the learning process and not as much emphasis on comprehension as I would’ve liked. However, I believe that’s another part of the “study-abroad” learning process. You can experience how students from other cultures are taught and there is no better way to learn a foreign language.
NTU had an apartment specifically for international students. It was right on the campus so it was very convenient for us to get to our classes. It’s very quiet and very ideal for studying. There are a set of ground rules that everyone is required to follow such as no guests past 9pm, quiet hours start at 9pm, etc. One negative aspect about this apartment was that it’s relatively crowded. However, it’s all part of the culture. Taiwan’s population is very high density; therefore, most places are very crowded. Each room is about 200 square feet with 2 twin beds and two desks. Closet space was very limited and 4 people shared one bathroom. Other than the fact that it was a little crowded, it was a very pleasant living environment.
I must say, Taiwan has the BEST food. Everything is delicious and very affordable. My favorite part of the entire experience is the food there. They have lots of delicacies that people in the United States wouldn’t dare to taste. In the night markets, they have a whole street that just consists of different food stands. Some of the more unique delicacies include pig’s blood mixed with rice which is served on a stick and dipped in peanut powder, pig’s intestine, deep fried meat balls, and duck tongue. When I first heard of these “delicacies” I thought Taiwan people were crazy. However, after I finally mustered up the courage to taste it, I realized that everything is in fact delicious! The food culture is totally different. There’s no way to explain it in writing, you simply must go experience it. I wish I could’ve stayed in Taiwan longer if only to EAT!
Eating after clubbing
Taipei has the most unbelievable night life. In most areas that I know, past 9pm, the only activity available is clubbing/drinking. However, that is far from the case in Taipei. They even have a mall that’s open 24 hrs a day called the “Living Mall.” Night markets are a great place to shop and relax. There are three more popular clubs that I would recommend checking out: Plush, Luxy, and Room 18. Room 18 is my personal favorite – the crowd is chic and the music’s awesome. Luxy is my least favorite because I feel that the crowd is a little younger and not as classy. There are also great lounges to check out if you just wish chill and hang out with friends such as Barcode, which is located right next to Room 18 and IN House, which is also in the same vicinity.
To list a few, Asian people don’t like to tan. Women walk around carrying umbrellas or wearing ridiculous hats that cover their entire face. The gentlemen aren’t gentlemen at all. Once I was waiting for the elevator and when it came, it’s customary to let the people IN the elevator OUT before you step in. However, ONCE the door to the elevator opened, the people swarmed inside whilst shoving the people trying to walk out. Did I mention that these were men? They had no intention of letting the people out or letting me in for that matter.
In any foreign country, language barriers are expected. However, knowledge of the English language is rapidly becoming a requirement to graduate from school. Therefore, more and more people can understand and speak the language. As far as getting around, there is no problem. The biggest challenge comes in the classrooms. In class, obviously you are learning new materials, which is already somewhat of a challenge, but it is a totally different story when the material is being taught in a foreign language. So be prepared that there will be a bit of a learning obstacle if you are not proficient in Mandarin.
The people are not anything like Americans. They don’t say hi or smile at strangers, they don’t say good morning to their neighbors, and pretty much just keep to themselves. They certainly aren’t hostile, but just not nearly as outgoing as people who live in America.
While you are in Taipei, you will never be bored. There’s an endless list of activities you can do. One of my personal favorites is “Shrimping”, as opposed to fishing. It’s exactly as it sounds. You are basically fishing for shrimp right out of a big pool where they dump the shrimp. You cut up little pieces of pig liver to use as bait and you can grill the shrimp that you catch (they charge by the hour). These are not your ordinary shrimp. These shrimp are HUGE with claws that can pinch you! It was nothing like the shrimp I’d ever seen before. They are DELICIOUS! Another thing I really like about Taipei is that everything is open very late, whereas in the United States, there isn’t much to do past 9pm. Shrimping for example is open 24 hrs a day. Other activities I highly enjoyed includes Karaoke, which is also available 24 hrs a day, clubbing, shopping, and MTVs. MTVs are like private movie theatres. You walk in, pick out a movie, and you and your friends/bf/gf are given a private room to enjoy your movie and they also serve food! This is ALSO available 24 hrs a day.
Karaoke @ Cashbox
Kenting is the only place worth visiting outside of Taipei. In Taipei, you get the city life, whereas in Kenting it’s the exact opposite. The beaches there are the best in all of Taiwan. They have lots of water activities including water skiing, banana boat, and water motorcycle. It is also a great place to eat fresh seafood. Highly recommended!
For more high-end shopping, they have SOGO department stores with all the brand names such as Chanel, Dior, Cartier, and Louis Vuitton. If you are looking for something a little more wallet-friendly, the night markets are a great place to go. Shi-Lin night market is the biggest night market in Taipei city. It has a newly renovated food court with all the Taiwanese delicacies previously mentioned. You can buy a cute bag for a mere 3 dollars and lots of jewelry for a bargain price as well.
Unbelievably HOT summers! It is definitely not a good place to visit during the summer being that it is uncomfortably hot. For girls, we spend hours applying makeup just to walk out and have it smear across our faces. The sweating is almost instantaneous once you step outside. Also, during summer, they have typhoon season in which case it is dangerous to go outside and classes are effectively put on hold until it is safe to go outside.
School: Sophia University
Why choose/Application process
I chose Sophia University because of its prime location as well as its prestige; it is one of the top universities in Japan. It is also one of the few universities in Japan that integrate an international education system which is helpful for transferring credits and works quite effectively as a buffer for my dismal Japanese!
The classes were great! Teachers were engaging and topic matter was interesting. The intensive Japanese program lives up to its name, my less than perfect Japanese soon became only subpar Japanese! The campus was quite large taking into account Japan’s notoriety for miniaturizing everything from buildings, homes, food portions, and men. Kidding about the last one, they grew quite a bit since the last time I was here.
I stayed off campus in an apartment for female university students. It was in a very safe location, I would say it was comparable as the Beverly Hills of Tokyo. No men were allowed entry; it was exceptionally clean, and even came well equipped with a menacing old grandpa doorman. It was
tiny. Very tiny. I jumped up and down with glee when I first saw the spacious walk-in closet…until I realized it was my room.
Not my room, but my friend’s.
Food is phenomenal. I cannot go on enough about the heavenly gustatory delights lying in wait for you in Tokyo. A good meal in a fancy restaurant may set you back around a 100 US dollars but there are cheap good eats that can be had for around 10 dollars as well! Well, cheap in the Japanese sense. My financial estimations have gone haywire since coming to live in this money vacuum. Watch out for the exorbitant rates of taxis. I think you might cry. Actually, go into any restaurant and you will be sure to be treated to a good meal.
Forgot where this was…but it was yummy!
I recommend Midorizushi in Ginza for extremely good sushi at very decent prices. Check out Tsukiji fish market for very fresh and affordable sushi. T hey generally have lunch set options that give you good value for your money. Also, if the budget is willing, check out Gonpachi at Minami Azabu. Kill Bill was filmed there and apparently all the visiting American Presidents (including our ever popular current president who I’m sure felt it was “awesome” ) have been there. Try Tempura at Tenichi in Imperial Hotel in Ginza or Shabu Shabu at Zakuro in Ginza next to the Matsuya shopping center. Also, please go to this restaurant called Ukai Toriyama situated an hour away in Hachioji. Its traditional kaiseki Japanese food but the kicker is the surroundings—think Japanese style gardens, Koi ponds, private thatched roof cottages, and Japanese maple tree foliage. Go in late June and you will get the chance to view fireflies released nightly. Warning—pretty much all the different cuisines are Japanized. They are mixed and messed around with, till the final product is a shadow of its formal self. Have you ever tried a burrito with Japanese eggplant? What about pizza with mochi with mayo and mentaiko or fish roe sauce drizzled on the top? It’s pure genius.
And of course McDonald’s and other things you can get at the mall.
A curry place where you order from a machine.
Drinks don’t come cheap! Although there are Western bars that give you a good run for your buck. Check out “the hub” with its one liter beer served in tall flask. I would advise you check out some of the nomiyas or tiny drinking houses for the true Japanese experience. Go to Golden Gai in Shinjuku. It will take the definition of small to another level.
Yep, definitely inevitable. But after a while one gets used to the sight of people carrying around umbrellas on sunny days, businessmen flipping through porn magazines on the train, bowing until your neck falls off, being squeezed into the trains like a pack of sardines, and realizing that the people wearing masks are actually sick not doctors or potential terrorists. Oh, the toilets are cool, very advanced.
But some things never change.
There are English signs galore, some extremely hilarious—a good chance to capture those “Engrish” moments. I saw the very epitome of young love at the Shibuya station one time. A girl was clinging on to a guy’s arm, sighing and cooing at his every word. Then the idealistic picture is ruined when she turns around and I see plastered on the back of her shirt, “It’s your lucky day boys! I’m single!” You should have some sort of elementary Japanese skills, or just lug around some dictionary or common Japanese phrases book. “Wakarimasen!” means I don’t know what you’re saying. So in times of need, just keep grinning and repeating that phrase.
Other “Engrish” shirts
People are generally friendly but harder to get to know and approach. As we all know, the Japanese are known to be very reserved, however the international students at Sophia are like any other American college student.
Some business people getting riled up for work.
Karaoke is the only thing that’s cheap. Make full use of it. Go to a matsuri or festival. Don your summer kimonos and go see fireworks. Check out DisneySea, they don’t have that anywhere else in the world!
Osaka is the center of all food. Homeland of takoyaki! Try Hokkaido for seafood, white chocolate and winter sports. While Hakone is great for a hot springs retreat. And try out Okinawa for its clear blue waves and white sand.
Here is the Edo Castle right in Toyko.
And some other place I forgot, sorry!
Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Harajuku. Daikanyama for girls; Ginza and Ommetesando for the more upscale boutiques. My advice is if you just go to any old department store such as Isetan, you’ll find everything you need there. But watch out for the prices as you might as well buy the imported stuff back in the States.
Shopping mall outside
Inside a random snack store
Sweltering hot in the summer. You’ll sweat in places you never sweat before.
Country: United Kingdom
School (abroad): Oxford University
Why choose/Application process
I was a literature major, and where better to study literature than at Oxford? I attended talks by one of the foremost Virginia Woolf scholars today, and regularly strolled to a beautiful little bridge (modeled after the Bridge of Sighs in Venice) at Hertford College even before I found out that Evelyn Waugh had had his office there. And those are only 20th-century writers and thinkers – imagine the centuries of literary and cultural history shaped by Oxford men (and some women)!
Of course, you can only learn so much just by being around the history; the tutorial system (see below) was a huge draw for me. Luckily, my university had a well-established program at Oxford, so I didn’t have to make any arrangements myself to spend fall quarter (or Michaelmas term) of 2006 in England. Admission to the program, however, did not amount to full status as an Oxford student. For instance, I could only use the Bodleian Library at certain hours – a hassle because the Bod is not a lending library.
For the most part, people in the program took classes at the center run by our university, and only interacted with Oxford students and scholars in their one tutorial. As an English major, I was able to take seminars on Early Renaissance Poetry and Commentary on Shakespeare with Oxford first-year students, known as “freshers.” For the most part, however, Oxford students only take tutorials , which are one on one sessions with a “tutor” in their college or faculty (either a graduate student or a professor).
The tutorials are intense: we were each required to write an 8-page paper on the assigned topic every week, which we read aloud to and scrutinized with our tutors for an hour each week. This system takes some getting used to; it was certainly daunting for me at first, but my critical writing definitely improved most dramatically that quarter. One thing to remember before embarking on your study abroad experience: the educational systems in other countries are often very different from ours, so even if you’re studying a subject which you know very well, prepare for some surprises – I think all the Americans in the Shakespeare class were shocked when we were quizzed, during the first class meeting, on the exact publication date of the Second Folio!
I lived in my university’s center, which amounted to two buildings of flats converted to a crazy dormitory with half-floors and uneven ceilings. If you enroll directly at Oxford, or if your university has these types of arrangements with any of the colleges at Oxford, you can live “in college”: usually single rooms, one on each landing, up staircases scattered around the quad. Graduate students typically live in flats outside their college’s campus but provided by their college.
The rituals associated with dining are quite lovely; the actual food itself, not so much. Even the shabbiest college at Oxford will have a dining room with ambience to rival any expensive restaurant in a big city. There is a high table at one of the room, for the dons and their special guests; students must rise when they enter. Most of the seating is on long benches, and if you are seated with your back against a wall and can’t get out, it is perfectly acceptable to simply climb on top of the table and walk across. A few times during term, depending on which college, “formal halls” will be held. Oxford students wear their gowns (since we didn’t have gowns, we wore business casual to semi-formal clothing) and are served at their table instead of buffet-style.
Dinner can be as nice as five-course meal, with candles on the table. The stereotype about British food being bad is definitely true: it is extremely difficult to find an inexpensive, simple, satisfyingly tasty meal (or even an expensive, delicious meal!) I remember eating a lot of ham and brie sandwiches and cringing at both the cost and the taste. A lot of the food served in the dining halls can be quite heavy – shepherd’s pie, anyone? – and good, fresh salads are hard to find. The organic Braeburn apples I bought at the covered market were barely half the size of the apples I’m used to in California. Unfortunately, on a student’s budget, London isn’t much better.
Drinking – daily and often quite heavily – is just a fact of life. Oxford abounds with pubs and taverns such as The Turf, one of the oldest pubs in Oxford and where Bill Clinton apparently hung out while he was at Oxford on the Rhodes scholarship he never completed. My favorite was the Eagle and Child near Jericho, where Lewis Caroll and J.R.R. Tolkien used to drink together. All JCR’s (Junior Common Rooms, around which undergraduate life revolves in the colleges) have bars in them, and you may be invited to pre-dinner sherry there, or in the MCR (Master Common Room) if you are a graduate student.
After one such night…
Although Oxford is definitely a large-ish city, think “small town” in terms of the clubbing options it offers, i.e. quite limited. The one I went to most often with my friends (nicknamed, very aptly, Filth) resembled nothing so much as the dirtiest dance floor in the grimiest frat house I’ve ever been in. There’s plenty to do, however. You can go to a classical concert at the Sheldonian Theater, or head to London or the Continent for the weekend (the Eurostar train takes you to Paris in just over three hours.) And even though I’m only a light to moderate drinker, I’d still recommend checking out as many of the pubs as possible.
Not too much, although I have a terrible time with accents. And you’ll have to learn some new phrases, of course! On the surface, British life doesn’t seem all that different from American life, just perhaps with a tinge more history in whatever environment you’re in, but that is not to say that it won’t be “foreign” to you. In fact, because they have the same primary language that we do, it makes you much more able to discern the smaller details of which national differences (and not just surface appearances of national differences) are truly made of.
All the stereotypes about the British – the humor, the class consciousness, the reserved manner – are true in the way that stereotypes are true: with a discernible shade of truth across the board, but you’ll find unbelievable variation once you start talking to people. The hard part is starting that conversation in the first place. As an exchange student, you may have trouble meeting locals (other Oxford students and townies alike) if you don’t live in college and/or are staying only one term. This is not, as far as I can tell, out of malicious unfriendliness or indifference, but because they see so many American students pass through, why bother with every new batch of us? The best way, by far, to meet people is to join one of the sports teams in your college. My friends who rowed for Magdalen, for instance, made some lasting friendships (and enjoyed an insider’s look at their hardcore initiation rituals), but that may have something to do with the fact that they all shared in the misery of taking the boat out on the river up to four times a week at 5am on wintry November mornings!
One of the advantages of studying abroad in Europe is, of course, how quickly it allows you to accumulate stamps in your passport. The countries are all smaller and closer together, and Europe offers a wealth of economic travel options, such as deeply discounted plane tickets (which may not be so cheap anymore, if the euro continues to strengthen.)
I spent two weeks in Italy before term and snuck over to Paris for Thanksgiving despite the fact that we had classes.
In between, I took a week off to go to Shanghai for an international student’s conference that I led (by the way, I encourage you to join any student organizations your school may offer that allows you to make friends with students from other countries) and went to Egypt after term to visit a close friend who was taking the year off to study Arabic at the American University of Cairo.
Moving car plus camera plus rain in Shanghai
I figured that Heathrow was the closest I was going to be to Cairo, and I strongly advise visiting your friends while they study abroad if at all possible, since they’ll know the area much better than you will from a guidebook. All this, and I was probably still one of the least well-traveled of all the people in my center. I did get to go to London quite a few times, though. The Oxford Express or Oxford Coach can take you there in about 2.5 hours, and it’s definitely a city worth more than a one-time look-see. More importantly, I fear that American students sometimes forget that they are not going to get to know all of Europe in a 3 or 6 month period. I’d suggest visiting more places in the UK. My university paid for us to visit York and Durham for the incredible historical sites, and a few of my friends went to Bath for a weekend and loved it. Remember, Oxford and London are not representative of the entire UK!
You can get anything you’ll need on Cornmarket Street in Oxford. There are bookstores, supermarkets, department stores, clothing stores, office supply stores, banks, and even a shop selling Cornish pasties. It’s nothing too exciting, however. My favorite store in Oxford was a tiny little print shop on High Street – great for holiday gifts or room decorations, although items like that tend to be pricier in the UK than here. Be sure to visit Blackwell’s, the oldest bookstore in Oxford, just for the experience. London, as a world-class city, of course has fantastic shopping. Oxford Street in London and famous department stores such as Harrod’s and Harvey Nichols are worth a visit as sightseeing destinations, but probably not for actual shopping.
Personally, I loved Carnaby Street (right off Oxford street), with its funky mix of boutiques and trendy brand-name stores.
Regent Street…a little overdone.
I’ve lived in California almost my entire life, so the cold winter was definitely a huge adjustment for me. Some days, I would just stay indoors because I couldn’t bear the thought of braving the cold, only to be defeated by hunger and sneak out in the middle of the night with eight layers on to buy greasy food at the kebab van. You have to take it in stride, though, and it certainly adds to the gray, grave charm of Oxford. Think of it as part of the experience of living in the UK, and remember to bring galoshes or cheap fake leather boots that you wouldn’t mind getting wet!
School: Columbia University
Why choose/Application process
I chose this particular program because it offered the opportunity to live and study in two of the most exciting cities in the world, one semester in New York and the following semester in Paris. Having grown up in the South and going to a North Carolina university, this represented an entirely new experience for me. In addition, my desire to pursue a Master’s of Architecture degree made this program a good fit for the chance it gave me to experience what spending a year studying architecture at a graduate level would be like.
This program is on a rolling admissions basis and anyone can apply with no prerequisites required. It is run by the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University. I applied to the program in late July after completing their summer architecture program which was pretty late in the game but still got in. Though I don’t know how selective the program is for sure, I would guess that it isn’t as selective as a school like Columbia would seem to project.
As I had already graduated with a Bachelor’s in Art History and Visual Arts, I didn’t really have to worry as much about fulfilling graduation requirements with the classes I took in this year-long program. There are one of two sections to which you can apply to in this program, architecture and urban planning. The majority of students were in the architecture side with urban planning consisting only of five out of the approximately thirty students in the program. There was a set schedule given to us though one could choose to opt out of some of the classes in the program to take classes offered through the greater university.
With that said, the composition of students in this program was widely varied. A good number consisted of college juniors taking the program to study abroad as well as fulfill graduation requirements while the others consisted of students like me who had just graduated the past year while others had graduated many years ago and had been in the work force. As much as I hate to stereotype, many of the students tended to fall under the artsy/intellectual type which isn’t my cup of tea despite what my undergraduate degree would suggest. Yet, most everyone was friendly and open.
If you do choose to enter this program, be prepared to find your own housing, both in Manhattan and Paris. This was definitely not an enjoyable experience. Since housing is so limited in Manhattan, there is no way Columbia is offering its valuable campus housing to students in this year-long non-degree study abroad program. Columbia does, however, offer to set you up with an organization called New York Habitat that finds you a place according to your preferences and Columbia pays up to 300 dollars of the agency fees. From what I heard from fellow students, NY Habitat was, on the whole, terrible. Places the offer often did not take into account students’ preferences.
I ended up going on Craigslist and luckily found a decent place in Harlem for $875/month with utilities and wireless included which is pretty good for Manhattan. I lived with a 36 year-old woman who worked as a free-lance makeup artist and her two cats. We got along extremely well and I even got used to her cats, which often woke me up in the early morning due to the fact that my “room” was really just a part of her living room that she had sectioned off with a curtain. I got used to that as well. Washer and dryer were located in the basement which was somewhat of a pain but the place was within a 20 minute walk to campus. There were a lot of roaches though which is to be expected if you’re in Manhattan so get used to it. On the whole, the living situation worked out well for me, but it definitely depends on what kind of person you are and how adaptable you can be.
Finding housing in Paris was an even bigger pain. You could still use NY Habitat if you chose for this as well. Luckily for me, I had agreed to live with another student from the program so we could divide the work between us. There are numerous websites with listings for Parisian apartments for long and short term rent. As it turned out, he did most of the work because he got to Paris before me and stayed in a hostel while searching for our apartment. By the time I arrived, he had found a place right in the heart of Paris, a one bedroom flat on the fifth floor of a building in St. Michel near Notre Dame Cathedral. Luckily for us, our landlord was an extremely amiable man who did everything to accommodate us, even getting a pull out couch so one of us could sleep in the living room. The cost came out to be 1500 euros/month split between the two of us with cable and wireless included but not utilities. This was very good especially considering the incredible location we lived in. There was always something happening on the street below us with tons of people all around us. It was the best way to experience Paris as we were pretty much thrown into the heart of it.
Food in NYC and Paris are out of this world incredible. Both are excellent, but of course, extremely different. I am a big fan of sushi and in New York, I was never disappointed. Sushi in Paris, on the other hand, is a different story. I went to a sushi place in Paris just out of curiosity and it was bad and highly overpriced especially taking into account the terrible exchange rate while I was there, approximately 1.6 dollars to 1.0 Euro at its worst. Anyways, I found some great eateries while living in Manhattan and they spanned a very diverse mix of cultural cuisine. Of course, it goes without saying that if you’re craving some authentic Asian or Italian food, then just head down to Chinatown, Koreatown, or Little Italy. I really enjoyed all the great dim sum I ate in Chinatown. There are also a few great restaurants up around the Columbia campus from a hole in the wall burrito place to a pretty fancy Cuban restaurant. Also, there is a lot of Asian fusion places scattered throughout.
Living in Harlem though, I can’t forget to mention the great soul food I had there and there are a number of them around. And definitely the fried chicken was great. There was a Popeye’s a block away from my apartment. Last but not least, I can’t forget to mention all those mobile food carts that seem to reside at every street corner in Manhattan. They’re definitely great if you’re on the run and need a quick bite but if you have time, there are also definitely a number of jewels to be discovered amongst these mobile food carts. Perhaps the best and most famous of all is the chicken n’ rice stand located at 53rd and 6th Ave. On any given day, after a long night of partying in the city, this is where you go if you’ve got a craving for chicken and rice. You’ll find all sorts of people here including many celebrities.
With the former undisputed welterweight champion, Zab Judah
The food in Paris is almost as good. I would give the edge to NYC just because of the diversity of the cuisine. As it turned out, I never cooked and always ate out in New York but ended up cooking most of the time in Paris. This was partly due to the terrible exchange rate of the dollar while I was in Paris. I would buy groceries and more often than not, make myself a baguette sandwich filled with salami, chorizo, prosciutto, peppers, tomato, and cheese. This was perhaps the quintessential French food to eat and it was damn good.
Not exactly what I described, but a glimpse of other food.
There is also an endless array of doner kebab places littered throughout Paris and I lived directly above one of the best. While in NYC, the late night food of choice was chicken and rice, but here in Paris, it’s definitely the doner. These kebab sandwiches could be incredible especially when you have a craving for them. Also, I can’t forget about all the tasty crepes I had while there, perhaps the best of them being sold in and around the Mouffetard area. There is also a great outdoor paella market located on Rue de Rivoli which is open only on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The area I lived in, St. Michel, definitely had some of the best restaurants and bars around on the whole. For fine dining, if you have the money, definitely try out the restaurant at the top of Centre Pompidou. At night, dining here will offer you one of the best views in Paris. The lights of Paris are an incredible sight and its worth the experience at least once but definitely be prepared to shell out a hefty amount on the food if not the drinks. Lastly, I did manage to find some very good authentic Chinese food as well though it wasn’t where I had expected. Paris does have a so-called Chinatown constituted by a loose grouping of Asian restaurants, not just Chinese. Lacking the density of NYC Chinatown, the Parisian Chinatown definitely didn’t have the same feel but offered some decent food nevertheless. The really great authentic Chinese food I found was located elsewhere, but unfortunately its exact location escapes my memory, hopefully to be found by you.
Nothing beats NYC nightlife. Of course it boasts some of the most exclusive nightclubs in the world and getting in is really just a matter of knowing someone. Also, a general rule is to always have at least half and half girls to guys, but having more girls in your group is best. Even then, you might not get in or if they do let you in, you need to get hundreds of dollars worth of bottle service. A lot of these more exclusive clubs are located in the Meatpacking District near Chelsea in lower Manhattan. Getting into Marquee meant having to get 900 dollar bottle service for five people.
I really enjoyed Cielo and Pacha where some of the world’s best DJs spin and one can often buy tickets beforehand to ensure getting in. There are also tons of great bars littered throughout Manhattan. The Lower East Side was one of my favorite places to get a drink. The area around Columbia really isn’t all that great for nightlife so if you plan on going out and having a good time, plan on heading down to Midtown and Lower Manhattan. Meeting resident Columbia students was somewhat hard unless you already knew someone attending Columbia as an undergraduate or graduate student. The one good thing for meeting some of the students in the architecture school is every Friday when the school hosts an event called six on six where they have kegs and snacks on the sixth floor of Avery Hall at six o’clock. This can be an opportunity to meet students outside your program as well as a good pre-game for hitting up the city later.
Going out in NYC and Paris definitely requires a bit more planning than other places. Transportation via subway or taxi is easy but getting into places you want to get into is another story so be prepared. Also, it is a good idea to pre-game well and even bring along some road pop for drinking on the way so you’re good and toasty when you get to the venue. This applies to both NYC and Paris. This allows you to buy a few beers at the club/bar to have a good time without overspending as drinks in both cities are ridiculously overpriced.
Nightlife in Paris was quite an experience as well. As I mentioned before, the area I lived in had some great bars. There was an Irish bar right below me that I would go to when big football (soccer that is) games were on. There are some good Canadian bars around as well that I frequented since my roommate was Canadian. Finding a great underground bar by accident is really the way to go and I found some great ones including an incredible sangria bar in Odeon. A great nightclub I lived right beside was called Wagg. Having been there a few times, it was definitely fun and the music was a good mix. The club gained notoriety as the place where Jim Morrison spent his last hours. Other great clubs I frequented most were Mix Club and Duplex. There were Erasmus parties every Tuesday at Duplex and every Thursday at Mix Club. These parties are for exchange students and you can get in without paying cover with a student ID card and before midnight or 1 am. Another good place to go is Favella Chic, a Brazilian nightclub. Though it could get way too crowded, it’s still a fun time. The exclusivity of clubs and bars in Paris is really hit and miss. You’ll really have to see for yourself.
Having never lived in a large city, NYC and Paris were definitely new for me. I got used to NYC pretty quickly. It had a much faster pace but that was to be expected. I felt pretty comfortable in Paris as well though there was a much bigger change from a cultural standpoint. People weren’t unfriendly as the stereotypes often state. In all, I learned to adapt to the cultural difference fairly quickly.
I had taken French in high school but it had been five years since I studied it. While living in Paris, I knew enough to get by but not enough to carry on a conversation and it was definitely harder to understand real French people speak as the speed they speak at is a lot faster. I didn’t encounter any significant problem from the language barrier as a lot of people knew at least some elementary English in Paris.
French people are definitely way more stylish than Americans. If you’re in public in Paris, you would never be caught in sweatpants unless you want to be singled out as an uncultured American. Parisian girls are, on average, hotter than American girls. At least when it comes to putting themselves together, they have much better presentation skills. And one striking difference is that there really are no obese people like in America. Most everyone is thin or normal. This is the most noticeable difference.
The café culture predominates throughout Paris. Sitting outside at a café enjoying a drink on any given day is the norm even when it is cold out. Football is of course very popular as well. Paris St. Germain is the local team and it’s pretty cheap to get a ticket for their games at the Parc des Princes stadium.
When the weather warms up, Parisians flock to their parks and sit or lay in the grass enjoying the day and sipping some wine. Wine is quintessentially Parisian and is more common than water. It’s cheaper too so be prepared for indulging in some great wines.
Some random pictures around Paris!
Traveling within Europe is really easy. I took trips to Sweden, Germany, Spain, Italy, Malta, and the Netherlands. Most of the time I just flew on RyanAir, a really cheap discount airline, though taking the train to Amsterdam was very comfortable and a great way to see the European countryside. I stayed in hostels everywhere I went except Malta. Hostels are generally the cheapest lodging you can find and the best way to meet other travelers. It goes without saying that if you’re living in Europe for an extended period of time, it is a must to travel around a bit as everything is so closely knit. Different cultures and new experiences are a stone’s throw away so don’t miss out.
Interesting Swedish meal
Only daytime picture!
Seems like there are only tourists and old people in Venice…
15 Euro Gelato!
In a castle…
I bought a nice leather jacket in Paris and some perfume and booze for my parents but that’s about it for souvenirs. Not much into souvenirs but you could probably find some great stuff if you look.
Sweltering hot in NYC first two weeks then got progressively colder. Paris was rainy and cloudy for about the first few months but once spring came in and the sun came out, Paris is a different city. Beautiful beyond belief.
An experience of a lifetime.
City: Coogee Beach (Sydney)
School: University of South Wales
I chose Australia and specifically the University of New South Wales since I wanted an English speaking country with nice weather and a school that satisfied my department requirements. Australia definitely exceeded all my expectations.
At least for engineering, I had to plan my schedule a year in advance of studying abroad to make sure classes available in Australia would satisfy my graduation requirements. I ended up taking two graduate level engineering courses which were much easier than my undergraduate courses, as well as a statistics and Australian sports history course. My friends and I made our schedule to have classes only from Tuesday-Thursday, so that we could go on four-day weekend trips almost every week.
The campus was similar to what you would find in the US, with decently new buildings and kids hanging out on the grass on a sunny day. However, I felt there was not much mixing of study abroad and native students.
For my program, we were all situated in Coogee Beach, which is a beach suburb of Sydney. However, we had the choice of living in an apartment or in a house with all study abroad students. I chose the apartment living situation and if I could do it again, I would choose living in a house. The apartment had lots of students, one internet connection, one washer/dryer, and one kitchen. Not fun.
Here is a picture of my room with my bed on the left side.
However, we were ridiculously close to the beach. These were some views a block outside my apartment.
I am writing this and currently craving Australian food. Honestly, the best pizza I have ever had was at Arthur’s Pizza in Randwick. Something about the Australian variation of adding an egg in the middle of the pizza makes it so delicious.
Pizza aside, the most “Australian” dish is the meat pie, which is exactly what it sounds like, but you can add mashed peas, mashed potatoes, and gravy on top of the pie. Try the peas, even though they are neon green.
Other foods readily available include schnitzel (breaded and fried chicken), gyros (with a terrible pronunciation), and fast food. Fast food includes the obvious McDonald’s with their signature McOz (think Big/Tasty with beets), Burger King/Hungry Jack’s, and my favorite Australian chain, Oporto (Portuguese style chicken sandwiches with chili sauce). Also, kangaroo is surprisingly awesome…like very sweet beef.
A big difference is that portions are small compared to what I was used to in the US. I think the combo meal drinks and fries are the equivalent of a child’s size here. It definitely costs a lot more to be fat.
At Coogee Beach, there was pretty much one place for the study abroad kids to go—the Beach Palace Hotel. It was a bar/club overlooking the beach full of Australian guys wanting to hook up with the “easier” American girls.
In the city, there were many more dive bars. Just ask around and you will find one you like. Try the Strongbow (hard apple cider), but not Foster’s, since no real Australian actually drinks that stuff.
Not much culture shock for me.
No language barriers unless you do not speak English, although some things are shortened or pronounced differently. You will find out soon enough.
Everyone is very friendly but also vocal about their opinions. Australians love their sports and pretty much everyone is fit.
Anything/everything related to sports and the outdoors. Gyms are lacking when compared to the US (I went to the original gym Arnold trained at for his Mr. Universe title and I do not think it has been remodeled), but who cares when you have the beach! So learn surfing, scuba diving, or just work on your tan. Also try the racetrack or watch an Aussie Football match. Cricket is also very popular.
Basketball, however, is not.
Sydney: I would not really count going to Sydney as a trip but it still took a little while to get there. It is a really beautiful city especially during the night. Although now I realize the next picture has an adult bookstore in it…
Darling Harbor is also awesome to walk around and see the street performers. And of course, the Sydney Opera House.
There are also a lot of casinos around which are very fun if you are not 21 in the US since the age to gamble is just 18 in Australia.
Also fun to check out is Chinatown and the adjacent little shops.
Opera: No trip to Australia is complete without actually going into the Opera House, so be sure to bring something nice to wear. And do not skimp and buy the cheapest seats—you will not be able to see the subtitles and the experience will be pretty miserable (I learned the hard way).
Reef: One of the long weekend trips I took was to see the Great Barrier Reef, before it is totally destroyed by pollution and global warming. We took a little tour boat out and snorkeled. Watch out for jellyfish—if a part of your body suddenly feels strangely tingly, you probably got stung. Do not keep going like me until a buddy starts yelling, “Hey, does anyone else’s arm not work?”
Great Ocean Road: The Aussie equivalent of the Pacific Coast Highway, with the end goal of the Twelve Apostles. This was a much longer trip and we chose a random tour company. And this was where we got introduced to the wonderful world of hostels. They are great if you are on a budget but sometimes you are unlucky and get stuck with someone whose feet smell like dead animals.
Our sweet ride.
Along the way.
Our tour group pic with other study abroad kids from all over the world.
And what we went to see…the Twelve Apostles.
Nimbin: Let’s just say that marijuana buying/selling/using is very lenient in this little town. And that you should not eat more than half the cake, but you should sign up for the crazy tour bus.
New Zealand, Fiji: Other pretty close places to go for longer periods such as Spring Break.
Really nothing you cannot get back in the US. I ended up just getting boomerang souvenirs for everyone back home.
We contemplated renting a car but the study abroad people said the only time kids died in Australia was when they rented cars. So we stuck to our feet, buses, and cabs. Buses were very easy to use; just buy a pass at any convenience store.
Cold for the first two weeks I was there (US Fall semester), but beautiful the rest of my trip.