Opinion: Study abroad is not about being on vacation

“Study abroad is not about being on vacation”

by Molly McSweyn via “UPBeacon”

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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. . . . . .

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What To Do If You Are a Tourist in Paris Right Now

Students stay safe! We’re thinking and praying for you! **DB

“What To Do If You Are a Tourist in Paris Right Now”

by Yahoo Travel Editions

The world is watching the horrifying developments after a series of attacks Friday night in the French capital of Paris.

Situations like this are terrifying for anyone in the city, but especially so for the tens of thousands of tourists who are there right now. Not knowing the local streets, having anyone to turn to in a crisis or speaking the language adds another layer of fright to an already scary situation.

Here are a few of the things you should do if you are visiting Paris right now.

1. Find shelter. In a wonderful display of humanity, locals are offering up their homes and businesses using the hashtag #porteouverte or “open door” to let people know they have a safe place to stay. Alternatively you can tweet #porteouverte along with your location to try to find a place to stay.

Local hotels are also offering shelter and assistance to get you safely where you need to go. Use Google maps to find the closest one.

2. Get cash. You don’t want to be caught in any kind of crisis without local currency. If you can safely get to an ATM, do so and try to have at least a couple hundred dollars in euros available to you.

3. Account for everyone in your group. Confirm the whereabouts of everyone traveling with you. If any family or group members are missing, first check with the hotel and then inform the local embassy or consulate for your home country. The State Department (U.S.), Foreign Office(U.K.), or other local diplomatic authority will maintain a list of their citizens who have been killed, are missing, are injured, or have been accounted for.

4. Check in back home. Inform family and friends back home of your whereabouts and situation as soon as possible. Amid the confusion and devastation following an attack, it can be hard for people to get word out to loved ones via phone. Consider alternative forms of communication, such as social media accounts or email.

5. Follow @TravelGov on social media. This will give you real-time updates and instructions.

6. Touch base with the local American Embassy. It’s their job to help you, and they can better assist if they know where you are and what your situation is. Plus, “It’s comforting to know that someone knows you’re there,” says Andrea Ross, owner of travel company Journeys Within.

7. Avoid crowds. In the wake of a crisis, don’t use public transportation during rush hour. Instead, travel at off-peak times or use a licensed taxi. And stay away from crowds and congested areas. “People are on edge, so if they think something is happening and panic, there could be a stampede or other dangerous situation,” advises Ross.

8. Be extra alert. “Very often people on holiday let down their guards and are not as aware of what’s going on around,” explains the State Department’s Michelle Bernier Toth, Managing Director for Overseas Citizen Services. “Look for things like unattended packages, weird behavior, and people overdressed for the environment,” says George Taylor, VP of Global Operations at integrated risk management company iJet.

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Study Abroad ~ Paris Sights

Exquisite Sights to see in Paris

“Paris is a place in which we can forget ourselves, reinvent, expunge the dead weight of our past.”

**Michael Simkins

Museums & Palaces

The Louvre

Palace of Versailles

Rodin Museum

Palais Royale 

Musee D’Cluny

Musée d’Orsay

Art 

The Eiffel Tower

Albert Kahn Musée & Jardins

Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris

 

Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmartre

Opera National de Paris

Sainte Chapelle

Walking

Le Marais

Ile de la Cite

Place de la Concorde

Canal Saint Martin

Parc de la Villette

Shopping & Fashion

champselise

Triangle d’Or

stgermaindespres_creativecommons_ccl2008.jpg -

Saint-Germain des Prés

Le Bon Marche in Sevres Babylone

Sèvres-Babylone

JB Guanti, 59 Rue de Rennes

Rue de Rennes

Haussmann Saint-Lazare

Haussmann-Saint-Lazare

Le Marais

Adventure

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Roller Skating

Activités nautiques, Bassin de la Villette, Paris © OTCP - Marc Bertrand

BASE NAUTIQUE DE LA VILLETTE

Disneyland Paris - Tic et Tac © DR - OTCP

Disneyland Paris

Evasion Verte 1 - Paris - © OTCP - DR

Evasion Verte

Parc Asterix - Spectacle | 630x405 | © OTCP

Parc Asterix

Poisson clown, Aquarium de la Porte Dorée, Paris © DR

AQUARIUM TROPICAL DE LA PORTE DORÉE

Natural Views

Luxembourg Gardens

Jardin des Tuileries

Bois de Boulogne

Jardin des Plantes

Parc Monceau

 

France – Watch Out for the Infamous Paris String or Friendship Bracelet Scam

“France – Watch Out for the Infamous Paris String or Friendship Bracelet Scam”

Via “Corporate Travel Safety”

A Famous Tourist Scam in Paris, France

You’ll find this scam is one of the top  scams in Paris, France. It’s been around for many years, (because it works) and is known as the “Friendship Bracelet Scam” the “Paris String Scam” or by the name given to those who try to commit the scam on you, “Bracelet Pushers.” The scam is committed by who many describe as “string men” or as local Paris merchants call them “con-merchants.” Non-french speaking tourists are targeted the most. While the Paris Friendship Bracelet Scam is popular in Paris, it can also be found at many tourist locations outside of Paris in France too, and to a lesser extent in other countries such as Italy and Spain.

Paris Friendship or String Scam

Where the String Scam Occurs

One of the most common Paris locations where you’ll find the Friendship Bracelet Scam practiced is throughout the Montmartre area.  Specifically the scammers will target tourists and first time visitors as they approach and walk up the giant staircase that leads from the Metro to the Sacre Coeur area of the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur. This is a popular stomping ground for tourists and is Montmartre’s leading tourist attraction, and probably the most-visited church in Paris. Visitors to Paris should also be aware that this scam is also prevalent at many of the Metro lines and stations that  you travel on to get to this location.

The “string men” seem to usually target female tourists (but not always) as they enter the small fenced square below Sacré-Coeur and proceed toward the stairs that run up the hillside.  You can spot the “string men” as they are usually lined up on the sides of the stairs leading to the Sacre-Coeur. These innocent looking people are annoying “con-merchants” who have the “Paris String Scam” honed down to a science.

How the String Scam Plays Out

The scam begins like this. One of the “‘string men” walks up to you and engages you in innocent conversation and will usually say that they want to show you a magic trick.  Before you know it, a “string man” has grabbed your wrist or one or two fingers and encircled it with a homemade bracelet of colored string.

Typically the string men will say something to you like “it’s for the church” or “a gift.”  Sometimes the string men are more polite (they’ll ask the visitor to hold a string) and before you know it, the string men will somehow manage to grab your wrist or fingers and encircle it with a homemade bracelet of colored string, yarn, or other crafty-looking item.

Next, when the string men finish making your new “local Paris string bracelet souvenir,” they will demand payment of around €20 which is quite obviously not what the bracelet is worth. If you fail to pay them, they will doggedly follow you and be VERY insistent that you provide some amount of payment. These “con-merchants” are so demanding, they succeed in intimidating many tourists into paying them because it’s the only way to get rid of them.

Another variation of this scam occurs when the string men find a couple and offer the woman a  friendship bracelet.  When the woman kindly denies, the scammer tells her there is no charge.  To get the scammer to leave them alone, the woman offers her wrist and the scammer ties the “Friendship Bracelet” on her wrist.  A second scammer then appears and offers another “Friendship Bracelet” to the man. The man thinks to himself, “well if they are free why not?” and then he offers his wrist to the scammer.  Once the Friendship Bracelets are tied onto the wrists . . . .

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Paris and Bangkok offer an entrepreneurial study abroad experience

“Paris and Bangkok offer an entrepreneurial study abroad experience”

by Conor Nordberg via “The Daily Aztec”

San Diego State has long had a penchant for great study abroad programs, having been rated in the top 25 universities nationwide by the Institute of International Education. With this in mind, faculty in the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center and College of Business Administration are preparing to travel to more countries to spread student awareness and understanding. Bernhard Schroeder, director of the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center and overseer of all graduate and undergraduate internship programs, was at the helm of one of the Paris trips during the winter break. He took students to Paris to understand entrepreneurship in a more global setting. “Students may consider this program for the course immersion that it would provide,” Schroeder said. Students not only were able to gain new insight into being an entrepreneur, but also met with local entrepreneurs to understand the ins and outs of business in Paris. This summer, Lois Olson, a lecturer from the college of Business Administration, will be taking entrepreneurship and marketing students to Paris for two weeks. Olson has taught at SDSU since 1988 and has taught internationally in many countries such as Germany, Taiwan, and China. She finds it important to take her students on cultural and company visits, allowing them to learn more about the country and its business sector as a whole. “Most of the students who have gone come away saying that their life has changed,” Olson said. . . . .

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Study Abroad: Historic Montpellier provides European immersion

“Study Abroad: Historic Montpellier provides European immersion”

by Nathalie Grogan via “The Lamron

PHOTO COURTESY OF NATHALIE GROGAN

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” Philosopher Martin Buber’s famous quote can easily be applied to an ad for studying abroad in the south of France. Spending my junior year at the University of Montpellier III-Paul Valery on the Mediterranean coast of France allowed me to experience every last study abroad cliché—and with beautiful weather.

Montpellier is the fastest growing city in France and home to an active student population and several universities. Six miles away from the Mediterranean beaches, the main square serves as the bustling hub of the city, with streets full of cafes where one can sample French pastries and coffee. The local train station is a short walk away, allowing study abroad students the opportunity to visit cities and towns across France.

My travels took me around the southern Languedoc region of France, the city of Rouen in Normandy and to, of course, Paris. Outside of France, I took advantage of the fall break to explore England and Ireland. Spring break took me to Prague and Budapest, with in-between trips to Austria and Germany. Montpellier is ideally placed between Spain and Italy, allowing weekend trips to both Barcelona and Monaco. While I will never forget the memories made on my excursions around Europe, returning to Montpellier always felt like coming home from a vacation.

Living with a host family gave me a chance to have that “homelike” study abroad experience, with high-school aged host “sisters” who were eager to hear what the lyrics to Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” really meant in English. We had nightly dinners with an enormous French-English dictionary on the table so we could communicate. Ranging in topic from the electoral college to national stereotypes, these conversations around the dinner table were key to improving my French language skills during my junior year abroad and were put to good use during my classes at the University Paul-Valery.

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Study abroad tests life skills

Study abroad tests life skills

by Jordyn Holman via “Daily Trojan

I was never the person who dreamed about going abroad. I never fantasized about developing a British accent or hopping on a plane for a weekend trip to Sweden. No, I was content with being a USC student basking in the 80-degree weather and eating lunch at the Campus Center nearly every day.

Therefore, when I was accepted to the London study abroad program for journalism, I was still a bit hesitant and uncertain if I was even going to take the opportunity to live across the pond for a semester. I had only been outside the country twice and had gotten a bad case of homesickness both times.

But an exhausting weekend trip outside of London showed me that living overseas is providing much-needed perspective in my life.

Like most study abroad students realize early on, higher education curriculum differs greatly from country to country. The British school system isn’t as homework-based as the American one. More emphasis is put on reading and final projects than weekly assessments. This difference has afforded my study abroad peers and I more opportunities to explore museums and markets, to complete our readings in historic buildings and libraries around the city and to take weekend trips to other countries.

So my friends and I spent this past weekend in Paris. It is a country so beautiful and rich with literary and artistic history and a reputation for love that when you’re there it’s difficult to imagine being anywhere else. We ate crepes and toured the Eiffel Tower and saw the Mona Lisa. Though it was not as warm as in Los Angeles, we walked along the Seine River, marveled at the padlock bridges and took in the melodic sounds of the French language. . . .

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