Category Archives: Student Blog

Icelandic food: Have you tried the shark meat?

As someone who doesn’t love fish, I was definitely worried about finding something to eat in Iceland. Fortunately I have been pleasantly surprised by the variety of food! Every grocery store and gas station has a variety of Oreos, so I have been a happy camper.

We haven’t come across too many restaurants while in Iceland due to the fact that our group has been traveling in the more rural areas of the country. During the first week, we picked up food from small cafes or the N1, an Icelandic gas station chain. A popular and unique snack to Iceland is called Skyr, which is a cultured dairy product that is similar to strained yogurt. Most of our group has bought large quantities of it to keep in our studio. We also made a trip to a large supermarket called BONUS to stock up on food for our three weeks in Skagaströnd. There is only one restaurant in the town we live in, so naturally we are loyal costumers. The restaurant serves things like whale meat and rotten shark, but I haven’t had the guts to partake in either quite yet.

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Meal times in Iceland are about the same as they are in United States, with slightly smaller portions.  We do cook for ourselves most days, so I have been eating meals that I usually eat in the U.S. We even found pancake mix! When I have eaten sit down meals, I was highly impressed by Iceland’s lamb – definitely the best I have ever had. Overall the food here has impressed me, but I know as soon as I get back to Boston I will be finding myself the one food I wish there was more of in Iceland: Chicken.

 

Beginning of Week 2: TRANSPORTATION

I attend my Politcal Science classes for my study abroad at the London School of Economics and Political Science Campus. The campus is only about 3 blocks away from my student residence, so I often walk to my classes. As for transportation in the City of London, I sometimes use the public subway system, known as the Tube, and the public city buses, famously described as the big red double-decker London buses. I personally prefer the tube over the buses as the railways here are very fast and the buses seem to always get caught in the city’s street traffic. There are also the infamous London black taxicabs; however they are fairly expensive so I try to steerclear of using them as much as possible. Some pros of the city’s public transport is that the locomotives and buses are relatively new and environmentally friendly (as London introduced “greener” buses to reduce air pollution). Also, the public transportion, in terms of London trains, are very fast in comparison to American trains. A significant con for the city’s public transport is that rush hour in the mornings and evenings are severely worse on the trains and buses compared to the US. Everytime I get out my internship at 5 p.m. and catch the Tube, the train is extremely packed and the stations are very busy. Overall, I rather like the transportation in London and will continue to rely on it for the remainder of my study abroad experience.

Traveling in Iceland.

The four hour plane ride from Boston to Reykjavik was just the beginning of my transportation experiences on this dialogue. As I’ve mentioned before, my group spent the first six days spending most of our time in and out of our bus. Thankfully the vehicle was incredibly roomy for the 19 of us. We also traveled by boat on some days, such as when we went on a whale watch in Husavik and when we went out on a boat in the bay to celebrate Fisherman’s Day. Now that we have settled in Skagaströnd, we have the capability to walk to studio and all around town without worrying about transportation.

Although almost everyone has their own car in Iceland, there is a public bus system. Unfortunately most cities are located hours apart and a bus stops in a specific town only once or twice a day. If I wanted to visit a town close by, I would have to call in advance to arrange for the bus to pick me up in Skagaströnd. I feel very fortunate that I have seen so much of the country already and that I don’t need to count on public transportation for the next few weeks. After living in Boston for three years, I am happy to walk!

 

The Beginning: A Week in Iceland.

As soon as I stepped out of the airport, I knew immediately that this country was going to be shockingly different than any place I had experienced before. At our dialogue meeting, our group was told to prepare for light winter weather. Turns out, Iceland is a bit behind seasonally this year and it is much colder than usual for June. The typical weather that I have experienced, you ask? It is windy, between 30-40 degrees, and a chance of snow or rain each day. Summer in Iceland is also drastically different than it is in the United States because the sun does not fully set during this time of year. It is light out constantly, and it sometimes feels as though the day never actually ends. This makes going to bed at an appropriate time incredibly difficult. There is just so much to see!

Our first six days in Iceland were spent traveling around the country on our way to our final destination in Skagaströnd. When we arrived at the airport, we met our tour guide and stepped on our bus (which would become our second home) to start off to the first destination of many. Within the first day I had seen grassy hills, translucent glaciers, lava fields, and mossy craters. There are impressive waterfalls everywhere, and the sand here is usually black. Everywhere you turn there are mountains and volcanoes in sight. To say I have experienced sensory overload is an understatement. I am still processing the beauty of this country. Iceland is so many different places all bundled into one.

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With each day involving lots of traveling and new places to explore, our instructor told us to take as much footage of the landscape as possible and try to soak in the experience. For the first six days I lived through the lens of my camera and would spend time some time just sitting and absorbing the view at each new location. Iceland is as breath taking as I imagined, and now that the days of traveling are over I can really reflect on just how much I had the chance to see in such a short time. We arrived in Skagaströnd on Friday, and now is when class begins and the projects start.

Orienting to the program has been interesting, especially as a non-art major. What I have found the most interesting has been getting to know my instructor and the TAs. With such a small group, they are at my full disposal and have offered so much guidance and instruction on how to go about tackling my work. We also spent the first day of class listening to albums as a group and watching different films. We have been discussing the artist’s strategy and our own opinions on each piece, and this process is one of my favorite parts of the time orienting to the classes. Each student is also required to write in a journal each day in order document to the experience and to help remember each moment of this trip.

Now that I am finally able to unpack and make Skagaströnd my home for the next three weeks, I’m excited to see what else is in store for me in Iceland!

Pre-Departure: Leaving for Iceland Tomorrow!

It feels completely unreal that tomorrow I will board a plane and head to Iceland for five weeks. When I applied to Northeastern, I was highly influenced by the amount of study abroad programs that the university had to offer. I have not had the opportunity to travel extensively and decided that college would be the perfect time to start. Now, as a rising fourth year, I finally have my chance.

It has been a goal of mine to get to Iceland for as long as I can remember. The quirky personality of the country makes it one of the happiest populations on Earth. I am most excited to capture the country through the lens of my camera and witness how beautiful the landscape is in person. I know that my experience abroad will allow me to appreciate nature’s beauty more than I ever have in the United States. The majority of my time will be spent in very rural areas, and my group will be traveling through ¾ of the country while we are there! With less than twenty people on my dialogue, I know this experience will teach me how to be more independent and in touch with myself.

As for goals of my dialogue, I want to immerse myself in the Icelandic culture and really understand how the people live. This means doing everything I can to observe and learn about the population. Maybe I’ll even bite the bullet and try the rotten fish that is common in Iceland? I also hope to challenge myself creatively by really working hard in my classes and using my teachers as a resource for improvement.

Going to Iceland on an art-based dialogue is definitely pushing me out of my comfort zone. As a behavioral neuroscience major, taking photographs and playing with my camera has only ever been a hobby. I am definitely nervous to be taking my first art class in college, but I am so excited to be creative in such an incredible country. It will also be my first time away from home for such an extended time, and I am nervous that the adjustment may be difficult at first. I have also never experience jet lag, so that should be interesting. I guess I’l find out tomorrow!

Italy Pre-Departure

Dialogue Summer 1 2015

Italy: Family Business Studies

Hi everyone!

I’d like to start off by introducing myself. My name is Crystal and I have just completed my 3rd year here at Northeastern.  I am in the D’Amore McKim School of Business and I am majoring in business with a concentration in Accounting. I was born and raised in New Jersey.

I haven’t been out of the country, other than to Nigeria, when I was very young, so I don’t remember it. I have always wanted to travel and experience different cultures other than my own. I chose this dialogue because I know that I will be able to learn about Italian culture while still learning entrepreneurship which will include concepts that are applicable to my degree and would help if I ever decide to start my own business.

I expect to return from this trip having a better sense of how people and businesses interact abroad. I know family businesses are very abundant in Italy, and here in the US, I am less aware of family businesses. Overall, I expect to grow more mature with this experience and have an opportunity to see other viewpoints and perspectives.

I would say I have three major goals. My first goal is to see the influences that family business plays in Italy and compare the difference of these operations between Northern and Southern Italy.  My other goal is to gain some insight on the different perspectives of others in this diverse country. And my last goal is to have an answer to the question: what is your favorite Italian dessert?

I plan to achieve these goals through having an open mind and listening attentively. Our dialogue involves visiting many different business sites such as Ferrari Wines and Geox Sneakers. In order to gain the most out of these experiences, I am going to minimize the cell phone use and really listen to what everyone has to say. I plan to try new things, talk to locals, and of course talk to the diverse group of students on the dialogue with me. And last but not least, I assume the best way to find out my favorite Italian dessert, would be to try them all-or at least as many as I can without getting a stomach ache.

My biggest fear at the moment is packing. I wouldn’t say I am one to over pack, but I definitely don’t want to have to buy basic necessities abroad.  Also, because this is a business dialogue, we need to pack business attire in addition to regular clothing, which adds a lot of extra items. They keep telling us to pack light, but a girl needs her wardrobe. I have no idea what 50 pounds feels like, but hopefully my luggage isn’t overweight at the airport!

I am most excited to explore Italy! I haven’t been to Europe and I am super excited to see the architecture, Juliet’s balcony in Verona, and to walk on the active volcano, Mt. Etna!

I am beyond excited to see all that Verona and Sicily have to offer. Wish me luck!

Ciao!

Ready for the Riviera! … I think

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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!

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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

 

Current State of the Union at Bond University

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So far there are two days that have stuck out as extremely culturally different: Australia Day and the Superbowl. January 26th was Australia Day- sort of like our 4th of July. When I say sort of I mean not at all. In America, the 4th of July truly is a national holiday and you are insane if you don’t celebrate it or at least attend a barbecue. Here, it’s fine if you do nothing. Which is basically what I did, I just had a lazy Sunday. My Australian friends warned me not to get my hopes up and told me that it wasn’t a big deal, yet I was still disappointed. I ended up spending the night stargazing on campus near the lake and talking about our time in Australia so far with two of my American friends. Which wasn’t bad it was just different. ‘Superbowl Sunday’ here was actually Superbowl Monday and the game kicked off at 9:30am. I watched the game on a projector screen on campus while doing homework– a very different superbowl watching experience than what I am used to. It didn’t help that I wanted the Broncos to win and they got slaughtered.

On a more positive note, 2 weeks ago I went to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary with some friends. It was amazing. I got to pet kangaroos, hold a koala, watch a crocodile get fed and walk around various other animals! It was a unique experience and they would have nothing like it in America. There were children running free from their parents petting the kangaroos and very little regulation, however no one was doing harm to any of the animals. I spoke to one of the volunteers and he said that most of the kangaroos were born and raised here. The koala I held was a bit over a year old. I got a picture with her as well. That zookeeper said that each koala only gets held for pictures for 30 minutes a day, and after every 3 days they get ‘a day off’. So they are not handled too often. I have always wanted to see those animals and the wildlife is a huge reason why I came to visit Australia. I looked into volunteering there, but they have a 6 month service requirement and I will only be here for 4 months. It was still a great experience and I had an amazing day.

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Interacting with wildlife was one of my main goals during my time here and another one of my goals was to get SCUBA certified. I started the course and have 2 more dives left until I am officially certified! During our first session we had a few hours of classroom/theory stuff and then worked on a lot of skills in the pool on campus. The week after that we went on our first actual dive near Cook Island about an hour away from campus. The first dive wasn’t so great because I could not see a thing due to my mask fogging up. The water visibility wasn’t clear already and I literally could barely see what was next to me…it was equally frustrating and scary. I switched masks for the second dive and it was AMAZING!!! Being underwater for an extended period of time and actually getting to swim with the fish and other animals was so cool. It was a shore dive so we just jumped into the water from the shore (pretty self explanatory) and next week we have a boat dive. I hope the weather is nice and that the visibility is better. The dive instructors are awesome- so nice, informative and helpful. Diving is tiring but it’s an extremely good time and it’s addicting. It also helps that one of my best friends, Meaghan, is my dive buddy :) I cannot wait to get back into the water again and can’t stop thinking about it!

On Friday there is a spring festival/gala to celebrate the Chinese New Year, organized by the Chinese Student Association on campus. I’m going with most of my Chinese class. Someone in our class is performing a Chinese song so that should be fun. And after that there is some sort of Valentine’s day event. Luckily I have a red dress with hearts on it which can dually function for both events because you are supposed to wear red to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

My images still aren’t loading so I’ll attach a link to my flickr page. I update it every few days, adding photos and descriptions underneath them. Enjoy! :)

-Shannon

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