Coffee Abroad: Cafe Freddo

It may be summer, but it’s not quite hot in Charleston, Illinois. It doesn’t matter, because I am focused on the cold, sweet taste of a café freddo, or ice cold coffee.

GreeceThis glorious beverage is served all over the world, but I had my first taste in Athens, Greece. Would you believe that this drink is serious enough to have a Los Angeles Times article written about it? It’s true. As with any major event, the 2004 Olympic Games drew the eyes of spectators directly to this ancient place. And, to their traditions.

What I like best about coffee abroad is the process. I really am that snooty girl in the “Stuff Study Abroad Students Say” video who proclaims The Coffee Tastes So Much Better Here in a sufficiently American, valley-girl accent.

But it’s true! When living in Spain I witnessed the flocks of tourists at Starbucks, versus the crowds of locals at cafés. Once I had my first café con leche, I knew. The “to go” culture is built on American ideals: multitasking, hurrying, caffeine as energy. The coffee culture in many Mediterranean locations is based on taste, talk and enjoyment. At least one of us is doing it right!

Whatever your drink of choice may be, take note on how the locals are drinking in more than just the beverage. Are they seated or standing? Alone or with friends? My best memory of a cafe freddo in Athens was sitting outside of a bakery with a stomach full of pastries and my lips locked on a straw. I’m relatively certain I closed my eyes and made the “ahhhhh” sound from commercials, post-sip. When I opened my eyes I saw a shopkeeper looking at me, and I offered a sheepish grin in return, lifting my plastic cup in his direction. He made a deep nod as if to say, “You ARE doing it right. Finally.”


Everyday Abroad: Ireland

Molly Malone, Dublin

Molly Malone, Dublin

Sometimes, you just have to be a tourist.

You make plans. You go to a place that you’ve researched, or read about. You go there with the intention of seeing something that everyone else has seen. And come hell or high water, you’re going to see it, too!

I’ve always had a long list of these must-see’s that doesn’t seem to get shorter no matter how many I cross off. In December I was in Dublin, Ireland – the Emerald Isle, and the home of Molly Malone.

If you’re familiar with this lass, you’ll know there’s a song about her, and a spot for her in Irish lore. What I didn’t know is there’s a statue, too. A pretty scandalous one, on busy College Green at the center of Dublin’s fair city.

As with so many statues, they are … well-loved. You can see where the bronze has gone brassy courtesy of too many tourist hands. People sit around the foot of a statue, use it as a meeting place, take endless photos with the iconic figure.  Molly was no different.

While trudging down Grafton Street with my collar up against the cold, I smiled to see the statue in the distance. The closer I got, I realized there was a crowd … and someone dressed as a leprechaun.

Well, it is Ireland. Clearly claiming Molly as his own, the leprechaun blocked my shot repeatedly, and waved happily at my lens, despite my covert attempts to shoot around him. I lowered my camera, raised an eyebrow and made a face: “Really?” He waved some more, propped up his plastic beard and struck a pose.

Click, click, click, went the camera shutter. It’s bad luck to say no to a leprechaun.

Host Family Gifts: Made in the USA

Whether you’re staying with a host family or just visiting a B&B, it’s never a bad idea to travel with some small gifts to share. For the neighbor that brought you homemade recipes during your stay, for your Resident Director who took care of your every need. It’s important to say thanks in your own language, with something that you find special.

Here are some basic ideas, and things to think about while choosing the right gift.

* Price – Let’s be real. We know you’re not rolling in the dough. You’re a college student! Let us be the first to tell you, more is not always best. Your foreign host will not know if you spent $20 or $5, so don’t sweat the price tag. Save that money for Belgian chocolates.

* Size / weight – Remember that whatever you do decide to buy, you’re going to have to pack it. That’s right – in your already crowded suitcase. Likewise, keep in mind that although Bath & Body Works gift packs make a great travel-sized gift, it’s also a liquid. If you’re checking a bag, you’re golden. If you’re flying with a carry-on, anything over 3 oz. is a no no.

* Amount – With your eye on the price tag, you will want to think about how many people you plan on gifting. If you’re abroad for the long term, is it something you can have mailed to you from home if you need an extra? How much room do you really have in your suitcase? We find that traveling with 3 or 4 small items is useful.

* Cultural sensitivity – How much do you know about your destination? In some places, name brand labels are important. In some locations, alcohol is forbidden. In still other places, religious items are not welcome. It won’t hurt to do a little research to find out what is appropriate for your specific city and country, just to be safe.

IES San Antonio Class

Kelly’s students with their Mike & Ike’s

* Story – If you’re going to give a gift, mean it. Just like when you’re bargaining in the markets and talking to shopkeepers, you will find that there is a story behind their wares. My own gift-giving while traveling has ranged from Mike & Ike’s (candies made in my hometown of Bethlehem, PA) and the Moravian Star (a holiday ornament symbolic of my hometown).

* What to give? This is the hard part, right? You’ve thought about all the above issues and still don’t know what to do. Here are some ideas to get you started:

– Candy. Be aware of temperatures as you travel .. no one wants melted truffles in their suitcase.
– Textiles. Dish towels or napkins that are made where you live.
– Games. Do you think Italians are familiar with “bags?”
– Small, portable gifts like hand-dipped candles or handmade gift cards.
– Ornaments. Keep your suitcase in mind when selecting glass or other fragile items.
– Food stuffs. Your favorite hot sauce, or BBQ seasoning. Be careful with the liquids!
– Recipes. Local food can also be delivered on a recipe card; plan to cook together.
– University goods. A mug, postcards, keychains .. the list is endless.
– Clothing. This can be difficult because of sizing, think accessories like hats or scarves.
– Something personal. Do you knit? Make your own jewelry? Fancy photography? Share it.

For some good ideas on what’s Made in Illinois, consult the Illinois Farm Bureau’s magazine Illinois Partners. Likewise, a quick Google search for “host family gift” will point you to many previous discussions in education abroad forums.

Opening Doors

In this age of immediate feedback, many groups are focused on data and statistics. They want to know how many, how often, how far, how high and the general: how are we doing? 

The Open Doors report is a key resource in international education; issued each year with comprehensive data on international students and scholars studying or teaching at higher education institutions in the U.S., as well as U.S. students studying abroad for academic credit. The report is “supported by a grant from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State,” and the latest report reflecting 2011/12 numbers was released this week.

So, how ARE we doing?

Inside Higher Ed highlighted the upswing in international student enrollment, which is up by 6.5% with a total of 228,467 students hailing from a variety of different countries. China is the top sender with 194,029 students, representing 25% of the international students in the U.S.

International students are heading to USC, U of I and NYU in high numbers, between 8,660 to 9,269. California ranks as the leading host state with 102,789 international students enrolled in their colleges and universities.

On the flip side, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports “Growth in study abroad by U.S. students approaches a standstill.” The report indicates 273,996 U.S. students studied abroad for academic credit in 2010-11 — an increase of only 1.3% over the previous year.

The United Kingdom, Italy and Spain still hold strong as top destinations for U.S. students. Fourteen of the top 25 destinations are outside of Europe, including places like India, South Africa, Chile and China.

More than half of these students are pursuing short-term or mid-term programs (from summer to semester), and they are pursuing degrees in Social Sciences, Business and Humanities – among others.

So where do we go from here? With the data lagging two years behind current trends, we are seeing a nation coming to terms with financial difficulties, and the cost of college continuing to rise. As providers and universities face the challenge of providing affordable opportunities for study abroad, I think we will see increase scholarship opportunities and continued focus on shorter term programming. As educators, it’s our belief that funding should never be an obstacle for a student who chooses to study abroad, and we will do what we can to make it happen.

For more Open Doors data, view the report online.

International Education Week 2012

Although we celebrate international education every day in our office, there is one week in particular that will be celebrated across the globe. International Education Week is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education that encourages international exchange through a variety of events. The theme for this year’s 13th annual event is “International Education: Striving for a Healthier Future Worldwide.”

So what’s up on our campus?

* Getting Started Info Session
* Scholarship Essay Workshop
* Find the Money: Financial Aid & Scholarship session
* Bollywood Movie Night

The School of Business is also hosting two events for Global Entrepreneurship Week, and the Newman Catholic Center is hosting their annual Hunger Banquet  to create awareness about world hunger.

Keep up with the international chatter on Twitter by following #IEW2012 or check out our webpage for a full list of events:

For more information on IEW2012 events around the world:

Home Away from Home: Living Abroad

January 5, 2004. I sit back in my chair, exhausted. Lunch has been a veritable tennis match. My new host family is crowding around the table, peeling apples and gesturing with their hands, speaking at top volume. They’re speaking Spanish. Thickly accented, rapid fire, Andalucian Spanish. I can’t translate fast enough. I thought I spoke this language?

March 5, 2004. I sit back in my chair, laughing. After telling a story about my day at school, my señora has called me out. “Do you remember the day you arrived?” she asks. “When I asked you if you spoke Spanish, you said si, un poquito. You were lying!” And there I am, with my own thick accent and rapid fire Spanish, gesturing to emphasize my every word. I’ve stopped translating; I speak this language.

May 31, 2004. I sit back in the cab, exhausted. The cab driver keeps an eye on me in the rearview mirror as we circle the block. I can hardly see, my eyes are nearly swollen shut from crying so hard. My breath is hitching and I am apologizing, stumbling over the words. As I take a deep breath and try to steady myself to unfold myself from the car, he turns to me and says, “Don’t worry, hija, you’ll come back. They always do.”

And he’s right.

Where will I live? This is one of the most popular questions from students when deciding where to study abroad. The answer: It depends. Many programs offer both on and off-campus housing: residence halls, shared apartments or host family placement, while other traveling programs may include lodging in hotels or hostels.

While in the US, students often choose to live off-campus for the freedom it provides, bypassing on-campus living for an apartment with friends. Some may skip the host family option out of concern for that same freedom. You moved out of your parent’s house on purpose, after all.

In my position, I have yet to see the “end result” of my choice to live with a host family. The relationship that started at that table in 2004 continues today, through Facebook and emails, right up to my host sister’s wedding this past June. When I left the U.S. as a 20-year old, I was hoping for a chance to practice my Spanish, a comfortable place to rest my head and maybe a recipe or two from my señora. What I received far exceeded those expectations, and shaped my interactions with Spain in an immeasurable way.