Ready for the Riviera! … I think

me rock

Hello any travel-loving people reading this!

I’d like to introduce myself: I’m Stephen, I’m a college sophomore, I study Math and Finance, and I come from the sprawling, metropolitan oasis of technological advancement that is New Hampshire (Haha. It’s a joke.)

I’ve only ever left the US one time to travel the “courageous” 200 miles to Canada. So I’m kind of nervous to travel the 3,000+ miles to the French Riviera. That’s like 15 times farther. I’ll be travelling under the CEA program, and I’ll be studying at the SKEMA school of business right outside of Antibes. I’ve looked it up on Google maps street-view and it looks awesome. Seriously.

Right now I’m slowly knocking things off of my “To-do” list I made back in April, and I’m down to ‘pack yo stuff’ and ‘go to the dentist.’ Besides those, my passport is fresh, my visa is stamped, and my ticket is booked. But don’t let me fool you; there are a TON more steps for study-abroad preparation: getting a phone, canceling subscriptions, checking in with your bank, exchanging currency, buying adapters, researching the town and country, etc. Not to mention actually learning the native tongue.

I took French in high school, so I only have a loose grasp on the language. Thankfully, none of my classes will be taught in French. I plan on trying to immerse myself with the French culture through the food, local bars (I’ll be legal in France! If you’re reading this, sorry Mom!) and restaurants, and especially the beaches. Did I forget to mention that Antibes has 16 miles of coast on the Mediterranean? Beaches all day, everyday (another joke, calm down Mom.)

But in all seriousness, I do plan on giving 100% effort with my school work. I’ve given up on Googling “differences of French and American college classes,” and I’ve come to except that I can’t really know what to expect. The only truth I know is that there’ll be billions of differences and all I can do is try and absorb, learn, and explore them.

My top worry isn’t actually the differences. Right now, it’s the packing. How many bags should I pack? Am I packing too much clothes? Not enough? My Google search results have been battling each other between the two points of “You don’t want to be over-encumbered by all of your bags! Only pack the essentials.” versus “You only need to carry your bags for a day, so take whatever you can carry! And keep room for trinkets to bring back.” I’m sitting here, with my scale balanced on both ends, having no clue which side I should agree with.

But enough about worries. I’m obviously excited to experience a whole new culture, and I’m also looking forward to meeting my roommate with whom I’ll be sharing a nicely furnished apartment. Our apartment will be a stone’s throw away from the sea-front, and it is located on a street that hosts a fresh-foods market everyday. I probably couldn’t ask for more. Except for a dryer; we have to use clotheslines.

Well, I think that’s enough pre-departure worries and excitements. By the time my next post goes live, I’ll be living in the sunny Riviera. I’ll be sure to include a ton of pictures, thanks for reading!

-Stephen M Dicillo

Hello all,

Two weekends ago some friends and I went to Chengdu for our three-day independent study weekend. Chengdu is a great city. It’s cute and clean and warm with a lot of cute coffee shops and shopping streets. We all instantly loved the city, even our friend that kind of hates China, loved Chengdu. She also thought she hated tofu but it turned out there was, in fact, a tofu for her! (I’m a big tofu fan so I counted this as a slightly personal victory.) In Chengdu we went to Le Shan Da Fo (乐山大佛) which is a mountain that has the world’s largest stone Buddha. My friend Alex and I were the only ones who wanted to wait in the really long line to see the Buddha from the base of the cliff and it was really incredible, I love the pictures from that day. Definitely one of my favorite things I’ve seen in China!

The second day we hiked Emei Shan (峨嵋山). It was really foggy, so in the way of a view there wasn’t much. However, when we were hiking up to the Golden Summit (and I had done no prior research) but I was thinking you know, “Goldennn Summit” pff yeah right. But then we got to the top where there was a HUGE, GOLDEN, multi-headed, Buddha statue and temple. It was really beautiful and a great surprise.
The third day we saw…PANDAS! They are just as cute as you would imagine. The zoo is huge and looks more like an ecological/botanical park than a zoo. It was also super cheap for a whole day in a beautiful park with pandas: only 58RMB for the student entrance fee which is less than $10. The panda’s enclosures are very open, they have low fences and the pandas have a lot of space to roam or just sit and eat bamboo. There are also peacocks that have free range of the park. One flew from a tree and landed right next to us, we all flipped out.

About our upcoming trip! We just finished one of our four big Chinese tests and tomorrow we are heading on a two-week field research trip along the ancient route of the Silk Road! This is organized by the Alliance study abroad program and the Silk Road is the theme of our study abroad program in Xi’an. I’m really excited about my capstone paper for the Silk Road class. For my capstone I decided to focus on Uyghur music (an ethnic Muslim minority group in China concentrated in the Xinjiang region). I’ve started my research and the literature is so interesting on Uyghur music! Most of the articles have to do with how the PRC appropriates minority music for political purposes through state-sponsored concerts and how this affects the image and identity of many minority groups by exoticizing and even feminizing them. On our trip I hope I will have the opportunity to talk to some locals about Uyghur music and maybe even see some live Uyghur music performances. Foot Hand Fish Panda1 Panda2 Peacock

Our itinerary looks amazing. We will be visiting old oasis towns in both Xinjiang and Gansu province.  A really broad outline:

First stop is to Dunhuang to see the Mogao Grottos and take a sunset ride on camels (ahh! :0)
Then it’s to Urumqi for some hiking, a mummy museum and a cultural exchange with local college students.

Then Kuqa to visit Xinhe, a musical instrument artisanal village. Then we’re going to a desert and a forest (in the same day).

Then to Kuqa’s Grand Mosque and Grand Bazaar and afterwards to Tianshan Shenmi Canyon.

The next day we will go to Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves and the Subashi Ruins (these are desert Ruins of an old Buddhist temple).

We will then make our way to Aksu for a visit to Tianshan Shenmu Park and dinner with a local farmer family. Then back to Urumqi! To see the Xinjiang Grand Bazaar and then back to Xi’an.

I can’t wait! Will post pictures when back in Xi’an!

Melbourne

DSCN0519 DSCN0487Similar to ‘reading day,’ Bond University has a week off before final exams commence. Most of the study abroad students take this as a vacation because we haven’t had any (official) days off this semester. Bond runs on a trimester system, so they don’t have ‘Spring Break’ or anything. They get 3 weeks off between each semester. I’ve wanted to go to Melbourne for a while, especially to see little blue penguins in the wild. I went from Friday to Tuesday with my friend Becca. It was a pretty packed trip. When we got there on Friday, we explored the city, went into a bunch of free museums and watched a free comedy show. We got dinner with my friend Leah from my high school (and Northeastern) who is studying abroad a bit out of the city. It’s so weird seeing people you know in a different country, definitely nice though!

On Saturday we did a Great Ocean Road tour. A lot of time was spent on the tour bus, the road is about 250km! (150 miles). I still haven’t gotten used to these conversions. We stopped every once in a while for sight seeing and pictures. We also saw koalas in the wild. The tour was from 7am to about 9pm so it was a long day.

The next day, we went on a tour from 9am to 10pm. It was a wildlife tour, including stops at a wildlife sanctuary, several beautiful beaches, the fallen London Bridge, and last but not least, Phillip Island. The wildlife sanctuary had albino kangaroos which was very interesting! As for penguins, hundreds of little blue penguins reside on Phillip Island. At the New England Aquarium, where I did my first co-op with the penguins, we have little blue penguins as well.

Every night at Phillip Island, hundreds of penguins come out of the ocean to make their way back to their burrows after a long day of hunting and swimming. Seeing them in the wild was indescribable and it filled me with emotions. I was tearing up and it made me so incredibly happy! 13 out of the 18 species of penguins are currently endangered or vulnerable to endangerment. The little blues are not of those 13 species, but things can change very quickly, and it’s hard to keep tabs on how many of them there are. They may be vulnerable to endangerment and we may not even know it. Penguins are very dear to my heart and I am extremely passionate about them, so seeing them in the wild was a dream come true.

On Monday, I spent the day at the Melbourne Zoo. My boss at the aquarium worked with the head of Communications at the zoo so I was able to get some behind the scenes action. I spent the day with the zookeepers of the Wild Sea Team. They take care of 24 little blue penguins, 2 pelicans, and currently 2 seals. They only take female seals that are too injured to go back into the wild, or that have been in rehabilitation too long to be able to adjust to life in the wild again. Another requirement is that their seals are ones that have been injured due to human causes. It really helps with education and sends a message about how detrimental humans have been to such amazing animals. They only take females because their exhibit is not large enough to be comfortable for the large males to live in.

My day at the zoo made me miss the penguins at the NEAq so much! As I am nearing the end of my study abroad, I am very sad to leave Australia. However, I am so lucky to have so many things to look forward to come back home to. My family, friends, coworkers, and school are all things that I am fortunate to have in my life and that will make coming home from this wonderful country a lot more bearable. Being this far away from home has been a challenge, as has being away from my friends at school that I have gotten so close to in the past few years. I am even looking forward to moving back into my apartment.
But enough of that, I will write a reflection about my experience when I get home. I have two finals coming up and I have a lot of studying to do for them. Anyways, Melbourne was amazing, and I’m thrilled that I got to do so much while I was there. Time to get studying, goodbye for now!

THE Great Barrier Reef!!!

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3/18/13, Tuesday

So on Sunday night I returned from another amazing adventure, one that I have been wanting to go on for years. On Wednesday morning I went to Cairns with 5 of my American friends who are all SCUBA certified. From Thursday morning to Saturday afternoon we lived on a boat and went diving at the Great Barrier Reef.

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The trip was SO much fun and we got to see so many cool things. We did 11 dives in total and each dive was about 40 minutes. We saw jellyfish, sharks, corals, anemones, turtles and dozens of different species of fish. Two of our dives were night dives where we used flashlights (or as Australians call them, torches) so we could see. It was interesting what the nightlife was like underwater. We ended up seeing 2 sharks on one of our night dives (or maybe we just saw the same shark twice, not sure).

Only 3 of our dives were ‘guided,’ meaning that we were only with an instructor for 3 dives. For the other dives we were in buddy groups. The first dive was guided so we could get a feel of the water, and our first night dive was guided as well because only one of us had been on a night dive before. Another dive one of the instructors, Sam, asked if we wanted him to go with us (just for fun) and I am so glad we said yes! We ended up seeing a turtle and were able to play with it! The turtles are so friendly and we got SO up close. It is interesting that the wildlife was so untroubled by our presence underwater, we were not seen as a threat at all, perhaps at sometime just an annoyance.

The key was to approach the animals slowly so they do not swim away and so that they do not feel threatened. As I write this I am still in awe that I actually got to do this. Definitely a few of the best days of my life and I couldn’t have spent it in a better place with better people. It is hard to put in words the beauty of the reef, and even the photographs do not completely capture the magnificence. The Great Barrier Reef is an amazing piece of nature and it is a shame that it is being destroyed by human activity and global warming. Being able to see a part of the reef before it is further damaged is a privilege in itself and I will remember it for the rest of my life.

Now back to the real world and tons of schoolwork,
Shannon

你好大家!

Week Six of being in China has been pretty eventful! The weather has been getting a lot nicer and into Spring so that makes absolutely everything better. The air quality is better and the flowers are blossoming! I was running today and one petal fell and blew straight into my eye though and it was really uncomfortable for a moment. So hazardous. Also, my classes are getting way more manageable. I think I’m feeling better and better about my Chinese most days. Yee!
Last weekend we went to the LouGuanTai, a Buddhist temple that is a scenic hike up into the mountains outside of Xi’an. It was so nice to get out into nature with some friends and see some green. The temple was really expensive to get into but we were able to take pictures in the doorway, so that’s pretty much the same :)) Walking around the trails of bamboo forests with little wooden temples along the way was really worth the trip. We also found a really nice lookout and giant statue of the writer Lao Tze. Oh and we also rode on horses for like 5 minutes! Then they tried to charge us more so we got off but it was really quite thrilling I don’t often ride horses.

 

I’ve also started volunteering with a kindergarten on campus teaching English! It’s only one class a week but it’s so much fun. It’s also really easy to come up with lesson plans because one of the Chinese teachers set me up with a tutoring gig with his friend’s daughter who is also five. It turns out I can reuse the lessons and materials I make for tutoring with teaching at the kindergarten and vice versa. The little girl that I tutor, Chen Chen, is so cute and creative and clever, it’s so much fun to be paid to play games with her once a week. The first week I completely underestimated her level, she’s only five but I had planned to teach her the seasons, when we got to Spring I asked her if she knew what the picture was and she said, “Springtime, flowers are in blossom” and I was like, Oh WOW we need to do something else. On Wednesday her Mother texted me and just wrote, “I will pick you up at 5:30 and we will go back to our house for the tutoring session tonight”. I said that was fine but when we arrived at her house it actually turned out to be a birthday party for Chen Chen! They invited me to eat dinner with them and then one of Chen Chen’s friends came over and we had a birthday cake and everyone sang happy birthday in English! Even the grandparents! I was so touched that they invited me to the birthday party. It was really nice to be at home with a family, I was so happy.

I’ve also started volunteering with the OCAT Xi’an Contemporary Art Museum! I’m super excited about this, I was given a tour by the founder of the Museum for their new Oil Painting exhibit which opened this past weekend. I later found out that this was my training as an English tour guide for the exhibit (posh voice). I went to the opening but nobody needed an English tour merp. But I did give my friend Lauren a tour. She is going to be volunteering at the Museum with me. On Wednesday we had a meeting scheduled with another volunteer who was running really late so we did the tour and we analyzed the artwork (which she is really good at!) and then we did some yoga in the activities space upstairs – she was trying to show me how to chatarunga – which thankfully no one walked in on. When we actually had the meeting, it was super productive! We seem to have full reign of the room upstairs to hold weekly activities every Wednesday. We came up with a list of programs to run by Ma Ying (the person you run things by) that middle school to University students may be interested in taking part in. Some of the ideas we came up with were; a poetry workshop based on the paintings in the exhibit; a workshop/informational session on Chinese-Muslim calligraphy, a workshop where kids bring in trash and we try to make musical instruments out of them and teach them about protecting the environment; and a poetry reading where kids have to draw a picture to go along with a poem. These were a few of our ideas but they have to be approved my Ma Ying before we can start working on any of them. Still, the meeting felt really productive and got me really excited to start working on any one of these programs.

Anyways, I’ll keep you updated! I’ve included pictures of the hike and the Buddhist temple, volunteering at the kindergarten, and we also went to BingMaYong, the Terracotta Warriors (we went on the same day that Michelle Obama went! But we didn’t see her.) so included a couple pictures of us there as well.  China1 China2 China3 China4 China5 China6 China8

Guest Blogger: Julie Martine Paquette

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Study abroad is not about studying, no matter what your good intentions might be. We know how to study – we’ve been doing it for over a decade by this point. No, study abroad is about the little details (and the big ones) that separate you from home and teach you about yourself and about the world, not about your college major. Now, as a disclaimer, I did study while I was abroad, but I learned as much, if not more, outside the classroom.

My name is Julie, and I just returned from a semester in Antibes, France. I am a third-year Cultural Anthropology major with minors in Business Administration and History. I began my study of the French language when I was 12 years old. I was looking to continue my practice in France, and the Riviera program was the perfect fit.

I arrived at the peak of the summer season on the Riviera, so I enjoyed three full months of beautiful weather before the cold started to creep in. I kid you not – I was still swimming in November. In Antibes, I was situated between Cannes and Nice, two of France’s most famous cities to the south. Both cities were only a short train ride away, as were the French Alps and the Italian border. My apartment was a ten-minute walk from the beach, and it was hard to find a place where you weren’t in view of the sea.

Life in Antibes is not like city life. It’s much more relaxed than Paris. Life slows down on the beach. I recommend studying there in the fall because, like I said, you start off in peak season. Still, if you want an unparalleled view and a “hidden gem” type of experience, this is the place. The food is delicious and diverse. There are boats everywhere, at all times – you can even take sailing classes with the university if you’re so inclined. Most students live in apartments with other students from the abroad program. I lived in a homestay so that I could practice the language more. My host mom, Francoise, was an angel. She was an incredible cook (think fresh, homemade baguettes, daily), a reliable guide, and an great resource for learning the language.

As for the studies, SKEMA’s business curriculum is challenging. You will take classes in your language of choice (French or English), but most classes are in English. What sets SKEMA apart is that it integrates its exchange students directly into the school with its “native” students, so you are not in a separate building like in many SA programs. Like any experience, the classes are what you make of them.

Finally, what makes the Sophia program so unique is the CEA experience. This program is small. There were only 10 of us, so it made for a truly personalized experience. We were constantly going on trips and having get-togethers planned by our program director and included (that means free) with the program. She provides an amazing support system. Having so few of us also allowed me to become close to an incredible group of people, with whom I still keep in touch. I can promise that between SKEMA’s international student body and CEA’s own diverse group of students, you will find companions with whom you can make memories.

If you want to learn more about my experience abroad, feel free to take a look at my blog, http://juliemartinepaquette.wordpress.com/category/sophia-antipolis/. It has pictures of Antibes as well as some other places I visited while I was there. This is not the typical study abroad experience. Keep your eyes open – there are opportunities everywhere. However, if you run out of things to do, there is always the beach.

Welcome to the Riviera, et bonne chance.

Julie

Schoolwork, Bali, Wildlife!

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Lately I have been swamped with work. Honestly I didn’t think I would have to do this much homework while abroad! The assignments I have had since I last wrote include but are not limited to: a Chinese presentation convincing my Chinese class why they should travel to Antarctica (yes, in Chinese), a paper on the threats and opportunities for cyber warfare in China for Chinese defense policy as well as a 15 minute presentation on that topic, a 2 hour Chinese written midterm, numerous profiling reports for my Criminal Profiling class, and the beginning of a case study project for my Learning and Behavior class. Oh yeah, also applying to co-ops for the fall and registering for summer 1 classes.

But the main focus on the entry is my trip to BALI. I left on the morning of Thursday 2/27 and left Bali Monday 3/3. It felt more like five minutes than five days. The flight was around 5 hours. Our days were extremely packed, I’ll give a brief overview. Day 1 we settled in to our hotel and walked around the neighborhood. Day 2 consisted of a 15 mile bike ride, an elephant safari, and white water rafting; all of which were absolutely amazing. Day 3 we had a tour of Ubud and rice fields. Day 4 we went to the largest temple in Bali. Day 5 we took a cooking class, relaxed and then headed back to school. I wasn’t planning on going to Bali originally, but the trip just looked so amazing and 3 of my friends were going. It was so worth it and it had everything I wanted in it: culture, wildlife, and adventure. I had never seen elephants so up close before and I got to pet one! She liked me very much and was hanging out by me; attached is a picture. A big change from Australia—none of the spiders in Bali are poisonous! Given the opportunity to hold one by one of my tour guides I obviously did. Bali was an experience like nothing else and the preservation of their culture is absolutely astonishing.

I am so lucky to have gone there and I felt very spoiled when I didn’t want to return to Australia even though Australia is also amazing! I am going on a few trips around Australia before I leave. I only have about 5 weeks left in my study abroad and am going to Cairns on Wednesday to live on a boat for 3 days and dive the Great Barrier Reef, something that has been a dream of mine for years. I am so excited! I am also planning trips to Sydney and Melbourne before I leave. This semester has flown by so quickly and I am trying to pack as much as I can before I leave. I am extremely happy to have seen so much wildlife already and going to the Great Barrier Reef will be a whole new experience of seeing wildlife. Goodbye for now and I will have a lot to say when I get back from Cairns!

Cheers,
Shannon