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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.


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,


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, 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.


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!



These are pictures from the few days we were in Beijing. As a group we went to the Hou Hai lakes and explored one of the remaining Hutong neighborhoods which surround the lakes. The Hutong’s are neighborhoods of old, one-story, traditional houses and travelling through them gives you a feel for what it would be like to live in ancient, dynastic Beijing! We navigated through the neighborhood’s narrow alleyways in rickshaws and were able to have a homemade meal in one of the Hutong houses. It was delicious! The remaining Hutong neighborhoods are being preserved as most have been destroyed due to new construction projects. They are also big tourist attractions and around the lake are some really fun shopping/eating centers. The lakes are also absolutely gorgeous and it was great just to take in the scenery there :)


Crystal Wegner


Northeastern University chemical engineering students embark on a process safety venture during spring break to Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada.

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Ten Northeastern University chemical engineering students elected to head North instead of South for their Spring Break.  The venture is a part of a new international program initiative to offer international experiences to students during the Spring Break as part of their educational experiences.  The group led by Prof. Ronald J. Willey, Professor Chemical Engineering, Northeastern will focus on process safety along with some cultural activities in the Province of Quebec Canada.  Their plans include performing a Hazard Analysis of a laboratory area at the University of Sherbrooke, possibly working with some fellow Canadian students.  They will also visit a paper mill and a chlorine producer based on the Province.  The week finishes off in Quebec City with a surprise or two awaiting them.

Hi all!

My name is Crystal Wegner, I am an International Affairs student in my 5th year (and last semester!) at Northeastern University, and this is my blog about my 4-month study abroad experience in Xi’an China.

I arrived in Beijing last Wednesday on February 12th for the Alliance for a Global Education orientation of the Xi’an and the Silk Road study abroad program. A few days later we took the overnight train to Xi’an, got acquainted with the Shaanxi Normal University campus, and started up our Mandarin languages classes.

Just to give you a bit of background into my senior year thus far: from August up until the end of January I had been doing an International co-op with an NGO called Supporting Kids in Peru (SKIP) in Trujillo, Peru. At SKIP I was teaching children in SKIP’s afterschool program and doing microfinance and economic development work with the mother’s involved in the organization. Going from Peru on January 31st to Boston for ten days to Beijing on February 11th made me think my head might explode a little (it hasn’t yet). Also, saying goodbye to my friends, coworkers, students, and life in Peru is too sad to not describe outside of a tragic love poem (still in draft phase), and seeing my family and friends in Boston obviously made me want to stay there forever (they are truly lovely).

With this in mind, when I arrived in Beijing, China for the orientation with Alliance for a Global Education I was feeling a bit removed from the whole experience; still processing how I could have left summer and the beach in Northern Peru for winter and smog in Northern China! I understand this is awful though. I was in the capital city of China and it was my first time ever seeing China! I should have been elated! But it happened and I’m happy to report that since arriving in Xi’an I’ve been able to settle into my new home a bit more and have stopped being such a crybaby. Now I’m back to feeling like one of the luckiest humans around for getting to travel to so many really incredible places for my senior year.

Some things that I am really looking forward to this semester in Xi’an are my classes with Alliance and volunteer opportunities in Xi’an.

CLASSES: Our Mandarin language class is probably the hardest class I’ve ever taken. This past week has been a bit of a roller coaster ride of feeling REALLY excited to start classes, horrified by the amount of homework and how behind I am with Chinese characters, panic that I definitely am not in the right level and they misplaced me, and quiet acceptance… or maybe it can be called feeling up to the challenge. It’s only been 4 days, but I already feel like I’m recognizing way more characters and am able to read the dialogues a lot faster. The first day it took me about 4 hours to individually draw into my phone and annotate each individual character. Now I am down to about two hours and reading the dialogues is becoming a lot easier. All in 4 days! I am incredible.

As for volunteer opportunities, in China the children are adorable. It is winter and they are all wearing the puffiest winter coats ever created and animal shaped hats. It is so cute. If I find out it is culturally acceptable to take pictures of random children I will absolutely post pictures. It’s only been a few weeks but I already miss working with kids. Lucky for me there is a conveniently placed kindergarten on Shaanxi Normal University’s campus and they offer volunteer opportunities to teach English to the kids!
Our Program Director, Orion – maybe one of the nicest people alive – also informed me of a volunteer opportunity with an Art Museum in Xi’an with which Alliance has connections. The woman who runs the museum is also looking for foreign volunteers with an interest in art and curating.
Both of these opportunities would be amazing. I love volunteering in foreign countries because it really forces you to get out into the community and meet locals. Also, you can do some really great things like help curate museums. I feel like it’s especially important to volunteer when studying abroad so that you don’t get trapped into the ex-pat bubble. Also it really helps with your language skills!


Welcome to the OISP Blog!

We are excited to introduce The Passport, OISP’s BLOG!  We look forward to sharing student stories, study abroad tips, program information, and news from 403 Richards and beyond!  If you have any pictures or stories you’d like to share with us, please send an email to!