Opinion: Study abroad is not about being on vacation

“Study abroad is not about being on vacation”

by Molly McSweyn via “UPBeacon”

headshotmolly

I tossed over in bed, uncomfortable and although exhausted, unable to fully fall asleep. My phone sat beside me, vibrating from texts. I heard movement outside of my door, quick steps, and feet hitting the staircase. My frustration grew, knowing I had to be up in a few hours to drive to Slovenia for the weekend. I finally sat up, trying to see if my roommate was having trouble sleeping as well. She wasn’t in her bed. I quickly slipped on a sweatshirt and made my way downstairs.

Turning the corner into our living space I saw almost half of the people in my program huddled together around our TV. No one spoke, no one even saw me enter the room. They watched the shaky cameras, the nervous newscasters, the pictures of horrified people. They watched as Paris officials reported the numbers: 130 dead, hundreds wounded.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was too young to understand the gravity of the situation when thousands of Americans were killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. But at 20 years old, sitting among my peers and witnessing destruction in a city I had left just a week before, I understood. We sat for hours. Other than texting loved ones back home to reassure them that we weren’t in France anymore, we hardly spoke, but we sat together in solitude and shock.

As the night crept towards morning I asked the group I was supposed to travel with about Slovenia. If we were going to go we had to sleep, to get rest to wake up early. A few outright said they wouldn’t travel. A couple more said their parents didn’t want them to go. And the others just seemed confused about a course of action. We ultimately decided to cancel and all retreated to our beds.

But again, I tossed and turned. I thought of sitting beneath the Eiffel Tower, swaying in a hammock and eating lavender macaroons. I thought of sipping a Moscow Mule and dancing until 2 a.m. in a nightclub off of the Champs Elysees. I thought of the Louvre, the crepes and the winding streets. And I thought of the horrendous loss of 130 people.

But I also thought of fear. I thought of terrorism, a term that had always brought to mind images of dark rooms, closed doors, and hatred. And I thought of the goal of the people who had just torn through Paris. A terrorist’s goal is to terrorize and by not traveling we were allowing them, in some ways, to win.

I spent over five more months in Europe traveling to countless countries with my friends and experiencing some of the most incredible moments of my life. Study abroad is so much more than country hopping, pub-crawls and voluntourism. Study abroad is not just about being on vacation.

The terrorism did not end in Paris. It spread to the tourism hotspots of Belgium and Istanbul and continues daily throughout the Middle East. At times, I wondered about our safety as students abroad. We live in a world where I cannot make my way through a full day without hearing about another death or attack or bombing, stretching around the entire world. I am not saying we have to abandon caution or rational action, but we must find a balance. We must find a middle line to walk, between safety and living life to the fullest without letting fear inhibit us. . . . . .

READ MORE

Advertisements

Airline Cheat Sheet ~ How to Bypass Airline’s Automated Phone System to Get a Real Person

Awesome! The British Travel site Cheap Flights (http://www.cheapflights.co.uk) has created an infograph helping travelers get ahold real human beings when calling an airline for help. 

Frequent travelers are all aware of the aggravation and time wasted whenever you have to call an airline to get help. Sometimes it’s all but impossible to find your way through the system (especially if the trusty “press 0 for operator” doesn’t work. 🙂 

So Cheap Flights put together this sheet to tell you what buttons to push if you want to get ahold of a person. Great Idea!

6 Tips For Researching Your Prospective Study Abroad Country

“6 Tips For Researching Your Prospective Study Abroad Country”

by Allie Mitchell via “ULoop

Studying abroad is one of the more exciting things to experience in college. It gives you a chance to see the world while possibly earning college credit along the way. You learn about different cultures and become more aware of the world around you.

Most people regret the decision to not study abroad while they can. They regret not going out of their comfort zone and leaving for a new experience and large perspective. Although, all of this is wonderful, but before considering studying abroad, looking into where you want to go, for how long, and any other things that are necessary should be priority number one. Continue reading

Facts you should know to study abroad unafraid

**This article is specifically directed to Auburn students, but the information in it is pretty valid for other University Study Abroad Programs too. Worth a Glance. :)**DB

“Facts You Should Know to Study Abroad Unafraid”

By Ariel Cochran via “The Auburn Plainsman”

1t3a0722

Continue reading

Use a “Fake” Location to Get Cheaper Plane Tickets

I tried it with a flight from CGO (Zhengzhou) to SEL (Seoul). The flights in CNY were $5 cheaper, which isn’t much in USA terms, but since I get paid in RMB that’s basically a $30 savings! **DB

“Use a “Fake” Location to Get Cheaper Plane Tickets”

by Erica Ho via “MapHappy

poshero-mhv2

I can’t explain airline pricing but I do know some plane tickets can be cheaper depending on where you buy them or, even better, where you appear to buy them from. This is all about leveraging foreign currencies and points-of-sale to your advantage.

For reasons I never quite understood, every time I tried to book a domestic flight in another country, the prices were always exorbitant. But, say, once I was in Bangkok, that same flight that was once $300 would fall to $30 almost inexplicably. This phenomenon is because a ticket’s point-of-sale—the place where a retail transaction is completed—can affect the price of any flight with an international component.

Most people don’t know there is a simple trick for “changing” this to get a cheaper flight on an airline’s website; it’s how I managed to pay $371 for a flight from New York to Colombia instead of $500+. Though it can be used for normal international flights, it often works best when you’re buying domestic flights in another country. (Point in case: A Chilean friend once told me Easter Island flights were much cheaper to buy in Santiago instead of abroad.)

To demonstrate how this scheme works, we ran a one-way search from Cartagena to Bogotá—two cities in Colombia—for June 17 on Google ITA, Kayak and Skyscanner. To keep things simple, I’ll ignore a VivaColombia flight that Skyscanner found because Google ITA and Kayak do not include smaller airlines in their searches. Instead, we’ll be comparing two large airlines that fly this route, LAN Airlines and Avianca.

Unsurprisingly, Kayak takes a U.S.-centric approach. Going the path of least resistance, a Kayak search shows that the cheapest flight on LAN is $116 and the cheapest flight on Avianca is $137. If we run this exact search in Google ITA with New York City as the point-of-sale, we see those exact numbers. Skyscanner returns similar results: the cheapest flight on LAN is $114 and on Avianca it is $136.

Where to change point-of-sale in Google ITA.

Though Skyscanner actually has the best prices, let’s not stop there. Instead of using an American city as the point-of-sale, let’s use Colombia as the point-of-sale, something that can only be searched for in Google ITA. You actually don’t have to tweak a thing because the departure city is usually set as the default for this option — that said, it’s possible to change this to any place in the world you want. The main difference is we’ll get the price in Colombian pesos and that’s *exactly* what we want.

Prices shown in Colombian pesos.

In this new search, the cheapest flight on Avianca is 116,280 COP and the cheapest flight on LAN is 173,820 COP. That of course means a lot of mumbo jumbo to most people, so let’s convert that over to U.S. dollars. The same Avianca flight now approximates to $61.59 while the LAN flight is $91.96. In short, you’d be saving $22.04 on the LAN flight and $74.41 on the Avianca flight by simply paying in a different currency. The price difference between the cheapest flight in both the U.S. and Colombia search is $54.41. That’s how much you’ll end up saving just by comparing the flights in different currencies. . . . .

READ MORE

Now you can renew your passport with an app

“Now you can renew your passport with an app”

by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher via “Fox News

passportapp.jpg

Forget schlepping to the post office or the DMV. If you have a smartphone, an envelope and a credit card, you can now renew your passport at home.
Ten years after the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) required Americans traveling to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda to carry U.S. passports, the ItsEasy Passport Renewal & Photo app has arrived just in time for tens of millions of Americans whose passports will soon expire. The app, a free download, was released this month for iPhones and will soon be available for Android phones.
The ItsEasy app guides customers through the passport renewal process, starting with determining whether the expired passport is actually renewable. (ItsEasy)
“Nearly 10 years after implementation of the WHTI and the associated surge of passport applications, the Bureau of Consular Affairs is preparing for an anticipated surge as those applicants renew their passports,” said William Cocks, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. “We expect increased passport applications to continue through 2018.”

Frequent flyers may need passport renewals, too, because the State Department has stopped adding visa pages to U.S. passports. Until this year, passport holders could pay to have 24-page visa inserts added when their passports were full.

The ItsEasy app guides customers through the passport renewal process, starting with determining whether the expired passport is actually renewable.

There are numerous reasons why a passport may not be renewable, said David Alwadish, CEO and president of the app’s developer, ItsEasy.com. “For example, the traveler may not have the most recent passport in his or her possession, or it may be damaged beyond what is acceptable to the Department of State. Or the most recent passport may have expired more than five years ago.

“In each of these cases, the customer would need to apply for a new passport rather than a renewal.”

The ItsEasy app provides guidelines for taking a passport photo with your smartphone, and a gauge to help ensure that faces are sized to the proper dimensions.

The app sends an email with a printable passport renewal form and a USPS Priority Mail shipping label to be affixed to a 9 x 12 envelope. The user fills out the renewal form, puts it in the envelope with his most recent passport and then drops it in any mailbox.

The State Department charges $110 to renew a passport within the standard time frame (about six weeks, according to Cocks), and $170 for an expedited one. There’s an additional service fee of $29.95 if you use the ItsEasy app. . . . .

READ MORE

Before You #StudyAbroad in the UK: A To-Do and Don’t-Do List

“Before You Study Abroad in the UK: A To-Do and Don’t-Do List”

by Roslyn Kent via “Huffington Post

Failing to prepare is like preparing to fail; get organized, check off that list and do your research before you go overseas to the United Kingdom–you won’t regret be over prepared.

It’s normal to be overwhelmed by all the check lists, packing lists and shopping lists that you’ll undoubtedly be inundated with prior to leaving for your exchange in the UK. Emotions aside, the last thing you’ll want to deal with before you leave is the logistics of your exchange; unfortunately, your mom can’t do it all for you. Not sure what you’ll need while overseas? Here’s what you should and shouldn’t do prior to leaving for your whirlwind study abroad experience:

Don’t:

1. Overpack: You won’t be wanting to bring all your unnecessary bulky toiletries. You will be able to buy almost all of them there (unless you need to use specific brands) and chances are, they’ll be even cheaper overseas (hello Poundland!).

2. Buy a roaming package for your phone: Phone plans are dirt cheap in the UK (the cheapest you’ll pay is ÂŁ5/month or at the most, ÂŁ15/month, which will probably included unlimited data and lots of texting and calling). If you extend your phone plan from home it will still cost you more, especially for data–you’ll want data in case you get lost. Try to get a month by month plan so you’re not tied down to anything. If you can, sign up with Three Mobile, that way you can use your phone for free in 10 other countries in Europe!

3. Pay for unnecessary visas: Make sure you’re aware of exactly which visa you’ll need while in the UK. It’s likely your home university’s study abroad office will assist you in this, but avoid seeking advice elsewhere (i.e. from friends who’ve never studied abroad). If you’re a citizen of a commonwealth country then you won’t have to pay for a visa at all if you only plan to stay in the UK for six months. Research the different options and be wary of paying for a visa you won’t need.

4. Bring your hair dryer and straightener: If you want to avoid bringing home a broken hair dryer/straightener, it’s highly advisable that you buy a cheap one over there and share with your roommates. Oftentimes, North American hair dryers and straighteners aren’t equipped to handle the voltage of a UK outlet. If you’re certain yours can handle it then go ahead and bring it with you, if not, it’s better to be safe than sorry! . . .

READ MORE