Tag Archives: 2013

Maximizing Your Happiness Abroad

I recently read a fascinating article on how to maximize your happiness (You can click here for the article). Essentially, the article reports that scientists have found the quest for happiness comes through experience, rather than material gains. In essence, we are happier when we DO more rather than OWN more.

Now, how does this relate to study abroad?

Max Munich

Visiting Munich, Germany, where my high school friend was studying for the year

Studying and living abroad is an incredible experience by itself, and an investment worth making. Studies have shown that study abroad returnees report having higher confidence, experience better job placement, gained career interest from the experience, and much more (see one of many reports here). So, naturally, my first bit of advice for budgeting is to budget to study abroad, if you haven’t already. I highly doubt you’ll regret the experience.

So now you’re abroad. How do you make sure that your money is going to good use? Naturally, all college students have different budgets. Some can afford to live lavishly, others have to conserve their money very tightly. For those who are watching their purse strings a little more closely, here are a couple pointers that I found that really enriched my study abroad experience.

  1. BILLY MAYS HERE, I WANT TO MAKE SURE YOU GET SAVINGS, SAVINGS, SAVINGS!!!

I’m so sorry, I couldn’t help the infomercial joke. But seriously, know your exchange rate before you leave home and how much you can or want to spend. Cost of living could significantly increase or decrease abroad, so save everything you can before you go. I worked 3 part-time jobs the summer before I went abroad to help pay for it. Believe me, you’ll want every penny, and you can always do whatever you “missed out” on when you come home.

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Can you see the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona when you’re in Denver? No, no you can’t.

  1. Plan a list of adventures you would like to do during your time abroad

Anticipating and planning adventures is probably one of the most exciting things on the planet. Seriously, I have published a list of all the things I want to do in my life online (my bucket list), because I have way too much fun with this stuff. Know what you might want to do while you’re living abroad, whether that be backpacking Patagonia, attending a England-New Zealand rugby match at Wembley Stadium in London, going on a SCUBA diving trip along the Great Barrier Reef, walking the Camino de Santiago, or hiking Mount Kilimanjaro (I have friends who did all of these things). They knew they wanted to DO something special while they were abroad, and budgeted accordingly.

I planned to visit a Norwegian friend over Christmas before I left for abroad and got to explore the fjords

I planned to visit a Norwegian friend over Christmas before I left for abroad and got to explore the fjords

  1. Find atypical adventures

What I mean by this is that hopefully, at some point in your life, you’ll have the opportunity to be a tourist. When will you have the opportunity to LIVE abroad and have access to the little-known nooks and crannies of your continent? For me, this meant when I traveled, I wanted to go to atypical places. So, rather than see the Eiffel Tower and taking a picture of my finger touching the top of the Louvre’s pyramid in Paris, *cough* boring and cliché *cough*, I went to Croatia, cliff jumped in the Adriatic Sea, shared a 50cc scooter with my friend and travel buddy, Garret, and visited the UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site Plitvice National Park. I DID something out of the ordinary, and it was the best traveling I did abroad.

It actually is that breathtakingly beautiful

Plitvice actually is that breathtakingly beautiful

  1. Have an it’s-time-for-a-ridiculous-unforeseen-adventure fund

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that good things just happen around you. My friends and family call it “Spiro Luck”, because I have the uncanny ability to get a good break when I need it most. Many people refuse to play games with me anymore because of “Spiro Luck”, and perhaps my penchant for excessively celebrating after winning…

Back to my point, one of the things I found when I was abroad was that opportunities presented themselves, so plan for the unexpected. One of the craziest experiences I had while abroad was that I got to attend the Clasico, the biannual soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona in Barcelona. I planned to be in the city for the match and to experience the atmosphere, but getting tickets were nigh impossible. That was until a miracle happened. A member of my travel group was accidentally given two tickets instead of one, and I got to go with him for a half-priced, nose-bleed ticket. Without having my it’s-time-for-a-ridiculous-unforeseen-adventure fund, I couldn’t have gone. Being at that game, where the glorious Barcelona won 2-1, was one of the most incredible experiences I had abroad. I still have to pinch myself to remember that it was real. Remember to have a little something to draw on if there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You won’t regret DOING it.

Me after the Barcelona, Real Madrid match in Barcelona

Me after the Barcelona, Real Madrid match in Barcelona

  1. Find local adventures that are free, or at least cheap

Some of my best memories from studying abroad are those that didn’t cost me a dime. In my first week in Salamanca, Spain, I joined the local Ultimate Frisbee team, where I met many of my local friends from abroad, and had a fantastic, fun time practicing every Tuesday and Thursday. I played pick-up soccer every weekend and explored the culture of Salamanca. I jammed with a three good friends on the steps of the cathedral in Salamanca and got a crowd of other students to listen. I took the bus into Madrid and spent the day visiting the modern art museum, then walked around the city for hours. I took the train to Toledo for a day, just because I could. While not as eye-popping as the travel stories, they were the ones that truly defined my study abroad experience. What I DID was worth spending money on, unquestionably, and I didn’t need to always break the bank to make a lasting memory.

Goofing around the Royal Palace of Madrid, all for the price of a bus ticket

Goofing around the Royal Palace of Madrid, all for the price of a bus ticket

-Max Spiro, Study Abroad Assitant

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Filed under Advice, culture, Europe, How To's, Spain, study abroad, Travel, World

Internships Ahoy

My program with CIEE actually offered many internship options, although most were oriented towards political science majors. None looked interesting to me, so here comes Lesson Number One: Ask for help. I talked to two of my Art History professors, and both offered internships practically by the end of the week. If nothing quite suits you and you have something in mind- fix it! Ask for help! People love to help, and love free labor, so if you are just looking for experience this is a great way to go.

So after asking for help and receiving, I accepted the first job that came my way. At first working at the Hungarian National Archives for Art History sounded kind of boring, and even after the first few days it really felt boring. But Lesson Number Two: you can make any job fun just with your own outlook. My job was scanning documents into a digital system, which, as it happens, can be done at the same time as watching the first season of Friends on my laptop. So I still got the same amount of work done, but I did it while listening to a show, or sometimes Pimseleur language help for my Hungarian. I had friends who did similar things with their jobs (since not all problems can be solved with TV shows- especially since I was alone in a room with headphones I wasn’t distracting anyone and this is definitely not always true), just by being in a more positive state of mind and applying yourself, you can still have fun. Plus the documents I was scanning were from the late 1800s related to national art shows for up-in-coming painters of the day. Super cool!

Lesson Number Three, before I tell you about my second internship, is an important one: Don’t expect to get paid. These internships can be for credit or simply experience, but if you ask a professor to find you a paid job it will be less fun for everyone. But on the other hand, if you walk up to a professor saying “Look, I absolutely love art history and really want experience in the field be it volunteer work or an internship, would you be willing to help me,” I don’t think there is a single person who wouldn’t try to help you out. Professors love passion, and if you care and show that you care, they will help you.

I worked in that giant building on the hill! Aah!

I worked in that giant building on the hill! Aah!

This leads to the second internship that I got- the Hungarian National Gallery– aka Magyar Nemzeti Galeria. Just by asking a professor, I got to work in one of the most prestigious museums in Hungary, in a CASTLE so cool guys so cool. In any case, this leads to another point: Sometimes people accept interns without having any idea of what they want you to do. I loved this internship, but when I first got there they had no idea what to do with me. I edited and read through their website probably 10 times just looking for grammar mistakes on three different days until I suggested other ways I could help. So Lesson Number Four: Sometimes you have to make your own work. Ultimately I ended up writing a new section for their website and giving tours to English speaking tourists on Saturdays, but it took a while and some suggestions before these were my assigned jobs.

Me and my boss Fatima in the top floor of the Gallery in front of a statue of György Dózsa-- super creepy story you should look it up on wiki.

Me and my boss Fatima in the top floor of the Gallery in front of a statue of György Dózsa– super creepy story you should look it up on wiki.

But finally, the most important lesson I drew from having these internships is this, Lesson Number Five:

→ Do what you love.

Internships can be all kinds of fun – like that idiom says about “never work a day in your life,” right? So when you do find an internship, just make sure it meshes with your interests. Then every day will feel like learning and new experiences, and not like a real job. You should look forward to your internship and not dread it. I looked forward to both of mine because I still learned a lot and it was in an area I care about- I hope that if you choose to intern abroad it is so you can have some fun, too, and isn’t just for resume boosting.

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Audriana’s blog: Bilbao, Spain

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Audriana studied at the Universidad de Deusto through ISA this semester, and as she is wrapping up her time in Bilbao, she is reflecting on what the experience has meant for her:

“For me, study abroad became a time to find myself and be the person that I always have been, but was limited by her surroundings.  I know I will leave Spain as a different woman than the one who arrived here four months early, and I can’t wait to face my life straight on when I return.  I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to study abroad, travel to many amazing places, and meet such incredible people.”

http://unviajeporlavida.wordpress.com

 

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Joie’s blog: Akita-Shi, Japan

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We had a hard time picking just one image to share from Joie’s blog – she’s got a great eye and some beautiful images.  She is studying at Akita International University.  Take a look and read more:

http://hellotothetwo.tumblr.com/

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Alisa’s blog: India

If you are considering the MSID program in India, be sure to read Alisa’s blog (http://alisabrown93.wordpress.com/), because she gives a really detailed account of the experiences that the program provides… and she’s got some great pictures, too!

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Jacquelyn’s blog: York, England

Jacquelyn is studying at the University of York, sharing some of her adventures with us, and gaining come confidence while doing so.

Nerd moment at the National Railway Station!

Nerd moment at the National Railway Station!

“Today, I traveled for the first time someplace completely on my own, without friends or family or even a guide telling me what to do. This was one of the scariest things possible for me because I have realized I seem to always depend on someone else being there to suffer with me if I do mess up. Well I proved to myself that I don’t need to depend on other people because I can do everything on my own or figure things out.”

medievaltomodern.wordpress.com

 

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Chelsea’s blog: Thailand

“About two weeks ago, I walked down the stairs to get my breakfast and a cup of instant coffee. My routine every morning. The thing that was different that morning was the set of twelve empty waterbottles, each of which contained a giant rhino beetle. Upon closer inspection, I realized they were very much alive. Nervously I asked my dad, “Kin a-ria?” Which roughly translates to “Are we going to eat that?” He laughed…. which really didn’t answer my question.”

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Read more about ISDSI Thailand from Chelsea:

 http://stillanoptimist.wordpress.com

 

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