Monthly Archives: February 2014

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!


Current State of the Union at Bond University


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.


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! :)


Study Abroad Scholarships for Fall 2014

differing-currneciesFinancing study abroad is a key concern among many of our students.  For questions on the cost of study abroad, as always, please consult the Finances Tab on the OISP Website, the Pricing and Billing Information Sheet, the Cost section on program pages, Northeastern Financial Services (your Financial Aid Advisor), and contact OISP with any further questions!

Are there scholarships available?? Yes!  There are many, many National Scholarships available for students going abroad – we link to many of these in the Finances Tab of the OISP website.

For Fall 2014 Students, OISP is pleased to offer several Study Abroad Scholarships.  We have College-Specific Scholarships for students in the COS, CAMD, and CSSH.  Deadline is April 1, 2014.  For more information, click here.

The Exchange Programs Scholarship for students applying to one of the institutions Northeastern has an exchange agreement with is also open for Fall 2014.  Click here for more information.  Deadline is March 1, 2014.


New England Returnee Conference- Free Registration for the 1st 10 NU Students!

Are you a study abroad alumni? You should attend the New England Returnee Conference (NERC) on February 22nd! 

We know that you had an amazing experience abroad! Now, make that experience work for you:

The 2014 New England Study Abroad Returnee Conference is dedicated to educating study abroad alumni from around New England on the best ways to utilize the skills and knowledge gained from an international experience. Attending this conference provides a unique opportunity to:

NERC Flyer

  • Learn how to market your international experience to potential employers
  • Discover how to study/teach/work abroad again
  • Internationalize your resume and interviewing skills
  • Share stories with others that have similar interests and experiences
  • Enter your photos in a contest for prizes
  • Join keynote speaker, Andy Molinsky: author of Global Dexterity: How to adapt your behavior across cultures without losing yourself in the process. The first 80 students to register will receive a copy of the book! 


Conference Details:

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Babson College, Wellesley, MA

$12 in advance; $15 at the door

*A shuttle will be available from the Green Line Woodland stop to/from Babson

At this year’s conference, we encourage attendees to dress professionally, as to encourage a professional atmosphere. Business casual attire would be appropriate.


To Register:


To make a submission into the Photo Contest:

For conference updates, follow online: Facebook   Twitter   Website

Please email with any questions.