Monday, March 18, 2013

Inside Scoop on Studying Abroad - Part III

More exciting stories from around the world! This inside scoop is from Rob Bronstein studying in Rabat, Jennifer Johnson studying in Puebla, and Sarah Connolly studying in Manipal!


Life in Rabat, Morocco is very much like life in Washington DC. The coolest thing about life in the city is that I get to utilize my knowledge of Modern Standard Arabic as well as Darija (they are equally useful) on a regular basis. While its initially difficult to adjust to conversing with people who do not understand English, like my host mother, learning to think in Arabic has proven both challenging and rewarding. But what is even cooler than life inside the city, is life outside of the city. The beauty of the countryside is unlike anything I have ever seen in America and is truly breathtaking. While I may be away from my friends and family, the knowledge and experience I have gained (and the palm trees) have made it worth the while.


My experience studying abroad in Puebla, Mexico, has been without a doubt one of the greatest of my life. Every day is a new adventure in language and culture, and you never stop learning. It’s a country of harsh realities and deep inequalities, but also incredible beauty and hospitality. It’s such an amazing opportunity to finally be able to see and experience everything I’ve been learning about in SIS and through Global Scholars. My classes are fascinating, and I’m loving the opportunity for Spanish immersion. I have an incredible internship with Fundación Origen Nakú, a local NGO that works for sustainable development in poor, marginalized indigenous communities. We work for better education and opportunities for women and children in the communities. Several long weekends of the semester we travel 5 hours north to the village of Xaltipan, in the Sierra Norte of Puebla. Living, working, sharing and learning in the communities has been such an incredible gift and opportunity. I teach a class of precious 3rd graders, and spend a lot of time visiting with the people and learning about their way of life. I’ve become addicted to handmade tortillas (so good!) and fresh oranges and mamey, and I’ve even picked up a little bit of the local language, Nahuatl!

I’ve learned firsthand that studying abroad is such an incredible and enriching experience for broadening one’s horizons, seeing the world through other points of views, and learning about who you are out of the context of your nationality. I’ve fallen irrevocably in love with the culture and people of Mexico, and I can feel my understanding of myself and the world around me changing and growing each day, which is such an incredible experience. Thank you so much to American University, SIS, and the Global Scholars program for giving me such an incredible opportunity!


I am abroad in Manipal, India this semester, as a member of the Public Health & India studies program. While in southern India, I have had the opportunity to see the unique blend of Western and traditional culture. This is prominent in everything from very liberal university I am studying at, to the strict dress code we must follow. A major component of the Manipal program is a combination of health field visits and weekend cultural excursions. I have been able to do everything from assist with a Pulse Polio vaccination day and visit several levels of the Indian health care system, to observing colorful religious festivals at Hindi, Sikh and Buddhist temples. It has been truly an adventure. Having an Indian room mate and integrated classes with the Geopolitics and Public Health masters students create friendships that had led to attending weddings, daily yoga classes, wandering the backroads of India and learning how to cook traditionally.

The most amazing part of India is how hard it is to really describe being here. You can say that it's noisy and full of loud, honking cars and autorickshaws. You can feel the heat of 100 degree sunshine as soon as you step at the door, as you are hit by a wave of the most strange smells. English clashes with the local language of Kannada, while I'm learning Hindi and other students speak dozens of different dialects. It can be hard to focus on what's going on, but India is sensory overload in the best possible way. Being in Manipal has been a wonderful experience. Manipal offers the best of both worlds: easy access to the local beaches, daily fruit juice and normal college campus life, combined with the ability to travel by train and bus to national vacation spot Goa and religious ruins in Hampi. My time in Manipal has already been the adventure of a lifetime, and it's only going to get better. I'm spending my spring break this week on a program sponsored trip to Bangalore, Mysore, Ooty, Varkala and Fort Kochin - a whirlwind tour of five major stops in southern India.

You can find my regular travel blog at, though I have been unable to update it recently with my homework and the amount of travel we have been doing. You can pass along that address if people want to know more.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Inside Scoop on Studying Abroad - Part II

Part II of our Insider Scoop on Studying Abroad! For those who ever wondered how a semester study abroad program would be like? Here are two inside scoops from Cody Feldman, studying in Beijing, and Emily Elliot-Meisel in Rio de Janeiro!


Despite coming to Beijing at a time with some of the coldest temperatures and worst pollutions levels, I have been able to explore this unique culture in a way that only study abroad can teach me. While a language gap certainly exists, I find myself learning about new foods, traditions, and philosophies every day. China has allowed me to leave my comfort zone and experience life from an entirely different point of view. Through my study abroad in Beijing I see my classes come life as I visit museums and explore China's capital. I am able to gain the first hand experiences that teach me about a city and country like nothing in the West.
Studying abroad in China has allowed me to understand the feeling of being one small individual among 1.3 billion people. I have been humbled by the fast growing society that grows with every day in China's capital. Reading about China's growth in class is one thing, but living it breads a whole new kind of learning.


The beaches, Carnaval, soccer, and the beautiful people. That’s what people think of when then think of Brazil, and Rio de Janeiro specifically. And to be honest, I didn’t know much more than that before I came, and spoke very little Portuguese. However, I’m now entering my third month here in Rio and the amount I’ve learned can’t be measured. I’m studying at Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro and teaching English at an NGO called Educarí in a favela close to the university. My classes only started last week as Brazil is in on the South American system. In January I took an intensive Portuguese class (5 hours a day for three weeks) to improve my Portuguese and then I went on vacation for the entire month of February. I enjoyed the beach and local hotspots for the first week of vacation and then Carnaval began. It was perhaps the craziest week-long experience of my life. Nobody can prepare you for the constant extravaganza that is Carnaval. To recover, after Carnaval I went with some friends on a trip to a beach town a few hours away to soak up the sun on quieter beaches than the ones in Rio.
While everybody back home was planning their spring break, I was just starting school on March 4th!  PUC-Rio has many international students and therefore offer wonderful classes in Portuguese like Brazilian Foreign Policy, Social Brazilian Debates, Special Topics in Brazilian Literature, and Brazilian Culture. I’m taking two of those and then for a real challenge, I’m taking a history class and international relations class all in Portuguese, with the regular Brazilian student population. School is very challenging but still relaxed and a nice change from AU. The view from almost every classroom is either the Corcovado (famous Christ statue) or the rainforest that is all around the university. Rio is such a different place than DC; people friendly and helpful, less stressed and as Cariocas say (people from Rio) we work to live, not live to work, quite the opposite from DC. On the weekends, the nightlife in Rio outdoes any city I’ve ever been too and the beaches during the day never get old. There is so much to explore within the city and the language is easy enough to learn. I can’t believe I’m already in my third month but I still have 4 more to go!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Inside Scoop on Studying Abroad

Ever wonder how a semester study abroad program would be like? Here are two inside scoops from Jackie Moran, studying in Brussels, and Kathy Imbalzano in Madrid! 

Jackie Moran

I am spending this spring semester in Brussels, Belgium. When thinking of cool places to study abroad, Brussels never crossed my mind. I didn't think of it as a famous tourist city or a beautiful exotic locale. However, I was drawn to AU abroad's European Union in Action Program because of the unique opportunities available to students on the program. Our time is split up into classes and internships. I am interning with an NGO here in Brussels called the International Disability and Development Consortium. IDDC is comprised of 26 member organizations all focused on creating more inclusive human rights practices. We advocate on behalf of persons with disabilities to the various EU institutions. Interning at IDDC has really changed my entire outlook on international development, something I truly did not expect to occur in Brussels!

I have had the opportunity to visit many EU institutions both with my internship and with our professor. This has given me a first-hand look at how the EU functions as well as providing amazing networking opportunities. Our classes at the American University Brussels Center are all very engaging. Our class on NATO and International Security Organizations is even taught by Jamie Shea, who was formerly the NATO Spokesperson and is now NATO's Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges! Our classes are compiled not only of in class lectures but of on-site visits as well. Two weeks ago our class spent the weekend in The Hague, Netherlands visiting organizations such as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. I am looking forward to our week long field trip to the Balkans next month. We have been learning about the Balkans throughout the semester, and we will have the opportunity to see everything we learned in action there at the end of next month!

Kathy Imbalzano

This semester I’m studying abroad with AU in Madrid, Spain! I live with a host family in the northern part of the city, have a full schedule of classes taught in Spanish (including my favorite one on Spanish Literature and Film), intern with la Fundación Cives (an organization that promotes citizenship participation and education) twice a week, and love the travel opportunities that my program has to offer. It sounds really busy, but I’m also enjoying the “no pasa nada” attitude here in Spain, which is about as opposite as it gets from the high-strung city that is DC.

The Spain-Iberian Experience program includes a great seminar class that teaches the history and culture of Spain and includes “lectures-on-the-go” when our professor takes us to see the historical sites we’ve learned about; some of my favorites have been visiting Toledo, Sevilla, and Barcelona. My internship, of course, includes updating social media, but I’ve learned how to create a Wikipedia page, I get to do some serious translating (they even sent my translation of a memorandum to the European Council!), and I’m sent to meetings at think tanks and museums downtown to take notes on and write up articles for the organization’s website. Living with a host family here in Madrid normally means living with an older Señora in an apartment in the city, and if you’ve ever spent a week with your grandparents you can imagine how spoiled we are here; I also have a 24 year old host sister living with me who’s busy a lot but really fun to hang out with.

If you want to hear more about my time in Spain feel free to check out my blog at

Friday, March 8, 2013

Event with New Zealand's Ambassador - "A Life in Politics: Reflections on Globalization, Trade and the NZ-US Relationship"

The Global Scholars welcomed New Zealand's Ambassador to the United States, Mike Moore, to campus on Tuesday March 5. Ambassador Moore is a former Prime Minister of New Zealand, and also served as Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

Ambassador Moore spoke with us about the promises and pitfalls of globalization, filled us in on the latest news from the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade negotiations, and reflected on New Zealand's relationship with the United States.

The Ambassador's visit was just the latest in a series of meetings that the Global Scholars have had with high profile figures from around Washington DC. Upcoming events will include visits to the State Department, the Pentagon, and the offices of the Peace Corps.