A Trip to Córdoba

A dog I met in the streets while listening to live music.

Submitted by Jack Mullarkey on the 2024 Winter GRIIS program in Granada, Spain…

My second week in Spain included a trip to Córdoba, the capital of the region of Andalusia in southern Spain. Our day started at 7:30 AM with a two and a half hour bus ride from Granada through the countryside to Córdoba. The first look is definitely something unforgettable, the city requires you to cross a bridge over the Guadalquivir river to enter the city. Once in the city, you are greeted by its white houses, palm trees, and giant religious buildings. 

What makes Cordoba so interesting is that it has influences of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim cultures. You can find churches, mosques, and synagogues all within a few minutes of each other. La Mezquita is actually a mosque with an entire cathedral inside of it. When Spaniards took control of the predominantly Muslim south, they occupied the preexisting mosque and integrated what already stood with the aesthetics of the Christian religion. My favorite part was the Patio de los Naranjos, a courtyard and garden filled with orange trees. 

Visiting Córdoba allowed me to be exposed to a distinct Spanish culture outside of Granada. Learning about the influences of religion and history on modern-day Spain has allowed me to both improve my Spanish skills and become exposed to a way of life I would have never known if I never visited. (Submitted on January 23, 2024)

A view of the entrance to La Mezquita.

Tercera Semana en Costa Rica

Submitted by Elsley Hazell on the 2024 Winter SPAN program in Costa Rica

Birds in the mangrove forest

Our entire group spent the weekend at Tivives beach in Puntarenas, and it was so beautiful. The sand is black because of all the volcanoes and there was a Mangrove Forest by the beach, so a couple of us took a Mangrove boat tour! There were so many cool animals to experience! There were monkeys, iguanas, little lizards, minnows, macaws, and some more. I had never seen Mangroves before, nor did I know a lot about Mangroves before this weekend. But it was so cool to see how the roots of the Mangrove trees overlap each other in an attempt to get enough water. They have special adaptations to take in extra oxygen and to remove salt, which allow them to tolerate conditions that would kill most plants. Mangrove forests stabilize the coastline, reducing erosion from storm surges, currents, waves, and tides. Fernando, our boat tour guide, told us that the Mangrove roots are good protection for small baby fish and they help to keep the older fish that preys on them away. There was so much unique life in the Mangrove that we weren’t able to see, but also so much that we were able to see! I’ll never forget how it felt to watch the sunset behind the mountains over the ocean, and there were so many visible stars!!! (Submitted on January 23, 2024)

Quirks the US would benefit from

Submitted by Nayzeth Romero-Chavarria on the 2024 Winter ENGL program in Florence…

Pidgeon graffiti that’s commonly seen.

Quirks the US would benefit from: 

Living in two different cultures my whole life has been very conflicting. My family is Costa Rican, so we live by those traditions and customs but living in the US can contradict them. For example, at home no one makes eye contact, we walk on the opposite side of the street if someone is walking toward us and whatever you do, don’t talk to strangers. Meanwhile, when I visited “the motherland,” every older woman was an auntie, anyone my age was a cousin and your neighbor greets you some mornings with fresh eggs.

This is my first full day here and these are the things I have decided would make the US better.

  1. Graffiti is everywhere
  2. Everyone walks alongside each other with our colliding
  3. We prioritize car traffic, highways everywhere
  4. Wine window
  5. No one is in a rush
  6. Very low waste; more conscious and actually doing the change instead of just saying they think about it and recognize

Now, I bet you’re wondering why some of these quirks matter, why the US should try some of them, and what they would do for society. So I will go through each.

Wine window
  • Graffiti: It’s literally just art. In the US there is a significant stigma around graffiti, people could say that it’s gang culture, vandalism, and an act of delinquency. The immediate reaction from most people is negative but I have always loved to learn about the history of tagging and the political aspect of it all. Many murals are done with this art form, really it’s just an art medium and sometimes it happens to be on a public wall. I do get the vandalism part but most of the time it’s not obstructing anything. In Italy, there are portraits of women, men, really anything, beautifully placed on random walls. I could turn any corner and admire some scribbles and wonder what the artist was thinking. I have been taking photos of them and trying to see what they mean.
  • Walking: I have been dodging humans left and right while walking to class on the teeny tiny sidewalks. Usually, if I am walking to class in Newark I’ll try to avoid walking next to someone for too long. Here it’s very typical to be able to listen to people’s conversation from right behind me the whole walk. I think Americans tend to be more isolated and here it’s more together. My point is more that we have a stand-offish demeanor and it’s weird. everyone is so kept to themselves that they can’t even walk next to another person.
  • Traffic: In the US there is a highway anywhere to get you where you need to go. Even in major cities, it’s common to find a highway interrupting it. Here, the cars have to honk to get people out of the way for them to go down the road. Bikes and Vespas zoom past just as much as pedestrians crossing the roads. Transportation by foot is far more useful in Florence since everything is so close. All the buildings are super close making the roads narrow. There are no random cement blocks taking over the city allowing the beautiful city to remain just as beautiful as it’s been all along.
  • Wine windows: Our professor told us about these things called ” wine windows” where in medieval times someone could walk up, leave money, and in return, a glass of wine would appear. They became popular again during COVID which is really cool. They knew something we didn’t and they knew wine was going to be a necessity. I really liked that it’s just a random little thing that exists, not many are open but I will try to find one and update you all on that experience.
  • Rushing: McDonalds, Dunkin, any chain really will get you your food in less than 20 mins. Meanwhile, my friends and I sat at a restaurant and it took 20 mins for a waiter to come take our order. One of the CEA CAPA staff told us that coffee is not ever taken to go and one tell for spotting an American is someone walking fast with a coffee in their hand. Everything is just slowed down which has been really weird to me because we are so used to everything being fast and efficient. It’s been really nice to be able to appreciate everything and take it all in. I’ve gotten coffee a few times (I haven’t mastered a good order quite yet) and I was not a huge fan BUT I did love being able to sit and sip. Usually, I have to glug my iced latte down and get a stomach ache soon after. I was able to actually appreciate it and relax while sipping and preparing for the next adventure.
  • Low waste/eco-conscious: With not having coffee to go, the plastic or paper cups that would come along with that are completely eliminated. Less trash, I haven’t had to throw anything away since I’ve gotten here. Another CEA CAPA staff, Lorenzo, told us to keep waste in mind. We went on to tell us that talking about the change will do nothing, but actually implement the practice of using low-waste products. In the US there is so much talk about “save the turtles” this, that, and the third but still, anywhere you get a drink a plastic straw will come with it. We rely a lot on trends, like the metal straw trend, to be eco-friendly but trends will always die out.

All in all, the US needs to encourage art more, stop breaking things down to build highways, drink more wine, slow down, and love the earth as much as she tries to love us.

Il Mercato

goat cheese

Sheep cheese is really good, I never thought sheep could produce dairy. Obviously thinking about it now I’m thinking to myself “Duh.” The first cheese we tried was very fresh as opposed to the second which was aged, the way we all described it was like a cream cheese texture and taste. I had a tough time deciding which I liked better but I was also trying to puke from eating some prosciutto, don’t get me wrong, the flavor was great but after not eating meat for so long it was a lot. I’m glad I was able to try it but boy did I have a hard time getting it down. Enough about my almost regurgitation, the cheese here tastes SOOOO much different than the cheese back home. Usually, it’s a bag of shredded cheese mixed with a light dusting of preservatives so it’s 100% yummier. 

Our tour guide shared with us all that the way that they do grocery shopping is different than the way we do. They will go about 3 times a week while we usually go once and stock up. She told us they do not like to freeze their food and they prefer to buy what they will eat that day or the next day. My thought was how much less food waste would be. It’s normal to throw out the berries I bought because they went bad, but if I were to buy berries because I’m buying them for later to eat, I wouldn’t have to throw them away. That’s so much smarter and you don’t have to buy a huge metal block that will take up space and run up your bills. 

She also said how they will take their time to grocery shop, they specifically allocate time for it. The same goes for lunchtime, their lunch is not a sandwich on the way to class. They sit down and have a MEAL and it’s not an interruption. I remember she said that they won’t eat at their desk or anything like that, they go eat and come back to finish their work. Often I have found myself saying “I didn’t have time to eat today” as do my friends and classmates. Not here, it’s important for them to eat and nourish their bodies which should be the case everywhere. Meanwhile, I’ll have to go back to being a hunchback little gremlin inches from my screen and trying to type while eating a granola bar.  (Submitted on January 23, 2024)

The Big Five

I am playing with one of the kids at the orphanage.

Submitted by Nicole Virzi on the 2024 Winter CRJU program in South Africa

While in South Africa, I have had the opportunity to work with children in an orphanage. The Children range from newborns to around 10 years old, all with different stories. Many of the Children have faced abuse, and have been there since they were born. The children are bright, funny, creative and kind to one another. The staff here is amazing, taking care of each child as if they were their own. One day, our group made lunch for the children, and we made them ham and cheese croissant sandwiches. The children loved it, and said it was their first time having a croissant. Most days we did various odd chores, whether that included folding laundry, mopping, or helping cook meals, but most of our time there included just playing with the children. I really connected with so many of the children and was heart broken when our time with them was over. (Submitted on January 23, 2024)

Life is a Cabaret, I Guess

A picture of me with a ted lasso scarf

Submitted by Caitlin Stewart on the 2024 Winter THEA program in London…

This has been another jam-packed week in London! Every week that passes makes me more appreciative for this once in a lifetime opportunity and for the memories I know I’ll look back on fondly in the future, but I am also looking forward to returning home to Delaware and to certain things I can’t get here, like my family and Twizzlers. For our theatre program we saw two very different productions this week: The Homecoming, a play focusing on a family consisting of a father, his three boys, and their uncle, and how the return of the oldest son with his new wife throws them all for a loop; and Cabaret, a famous Broadway musical set in the turn of 1930 Berlin as the Nazis started to ascend into power following two love stories, one between American tourist Clifford and English cabaret performer Sally Bowles and the other between boarding house owner Frau Schneider and one of her elderly residents Herr Schultz, a Jewish fruit vendor. Seeing these performances one after the other was interesting to see because of the differences in tone – Cabaret was a dramatic and elaborate production with fantastic dance numbers and costumes, an event in itself with a deeper message underneath all the sparkliness, while the Homecoming had one unchanging set and a monotone color scheme and all-together felt more serious and dark even though Cabaret’s subject matter was incredibly serious and dark in the buildup to World War II. Though I truthfully preferred The Homecoming to Cabaret, both were incredible productions to witness and observe critically. 

As for our free time, a small group of us ventured to Abbey Road to see the famous crosswalk and the store attached to the record studio. Recreating the album cover ourselves was difficult as cars were still driving on the road and had hardly any patience for a couple of tourists in the middle of a Wednesday, and seeing the different artists that have cycled through Abbey Road throughout the years was very interesting from Kanye West to Florence and the Machine. After Abbey Road an even smaller group of us Ted Lasso fans traveled farther outside the city into Richmond to see the bar and alleys and park featured in the show!  The weekend found most of the group in Amsterdam, ambling about the wandering alleyways and bridges across the never-ending canal. Immediately after arriving at our hostel, we went to the Van Gogh Museum which was definitely the highlight of my experience! We tried Dutch pancakes, and had waffles, sushi, a pizza covered in Parma Ham, and smash burgers, all of which were delicious. On our last day, in between worrying if our flight was going to get cancelled because of the winter storm headed London’s way, we took a canal tour and saw the city even more. This trip to Amsterdam was informative and exciting, as I had no knowledge or understanding of Dutch beyond their word for hello – hallo, a tough one to remember – compared to traveling to Barcelona and knowing some Spanish from classes in high school. It was also interesting to see how other people either adapted or didn’t to the new situation and to see how other people interact with others and act in general compared to what I’m used to. This has definitely broadened my view of the world and made me more adaptable to people that were raised differently than I was and how some things I see as essential others haven’t even thought of. Overall this trip to London and even weekend trips to other countries has opened my eyes to so much more than I ever expected and it’s hard to believe that it’s almost over. (Submitted on January 23, 2024)

Learning about Hungarian Culture

Submitted by Elena Lynn on the 2024 Winter UAPP program in Budapest

As week 2 comes to an end, I have fallen in love with this city. It’s a beautiful place and I never get tired of the breathtaking scenery. We have gotten to experience many different things and be pushed outside our comfort zone.

On January 17th, we had dinner with some local Hungarian University students. It was really cool to meet these students and learn about their educational experiences and compare them with ours. They were very welcoming and I even learned some Hungarian from them. Getting to learn about how Hungary works and how we can relate that to our upbringing was awesome. They also gave some recommendations of places to visit and I really appreciated their feedback.

Attending a Hungarian cooking class

On January 18th we had a very action packed day. We got to learn about Hungarian culture and gastronomy. We took a Hungarian cooking class and learned how to make traditional dishes. It was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to take these recipes home with me and make them for others. The dishes tasted so good and getting to make them was a very proud accomplishment. Later on in the day we did a community service project with making sandwiches for the homeless in Budapest. I feel as though pairing these two activities together really impacted me. In the morning, we got to experiment with food and we made a lot of dishes and then in the evening we learned about access to food in the city. It is really cool and eye opening to see how something as simple as food is taken for granted. It really changes your perspective.

On January 22nd, we did a river cruise along the Danube river. The Danube river splits Budapest into two and the city center is along the water. The river cruise was beautiful and relaxing. We were able to see buildings like Parliament lit up at night and it was stunning. (Submitted on January 23, 2024)

Public Transit in the Netherlands

Submitted by Spencer Sorensen on the 2024 Winter ENGL program in Netherlands…

This past week on my study abroad in the Netherlands we have done a lot of travel. During this trip we have used several different forms of public transit, which has been an enlightening experience. We take the Arnhem city bus to class everyday, these buses are much cleaner than in America and have lanes on the road dedicated for them so they don’t get caught in traffic. A group of students also spent a bit of time in Amsterdam. It was a fun experience to figure out the train system to get from Arnhem to Amsterdam. Then when we were in Amsterdam we spent our time using trams – a small form of transit that is like in between a train and a bus. (Submitted on January 23, 2024)

Versailles

Submitted by Ella Sutliff on the 2024 Winter BISC program in Paris

As a study abroad group, we frequently go on excursions to different places around France. One of my favorite excursions that we have done in the past few weeks was our trip to Versailles. Versailles is about a 45 minute train ride outside of Paris, so we left for it early in the morning and were able to stay there for the majority of the day. 

Upon arriving at Versailles, I was immediately shocked by its beauty. The extremely large building was filled with gold detailing all around. Going inside the beauty only continued. Every inch of the inside of the building was filled with stunning detail. We continued walking through the building with a guided tour. We got to see very much of the building with this tour, which I was so grateful for. Some of what we got to see included the chapel, the hall of mirrors, the dining rooms, the bedrooms, and many more. It was interesting to see the different rooms that had different decorations depending on its use. I also found it very interesting that this building was done with some much intricate detail and was filled with perfection. The amount of time and money that went into the creation of Versailles is something that I never anticipated, and it is extremely impressive that this could have been done to perfection at the time. 

Another part of Versailles that we got to explore was the gardens. As it is winter, the gardens were not filled with greenery and flowers, but we were still able to see the layout of them. There were several fountains, ponds, and walking paths through the forest. There were also perfectly groomed trees surrounding the gardens that were filled with perfectly groomed grasses. It again was so interesting to see how much work and detail was put into the gardens, especially considering how large the gardens were. I would absolutely love to return to Versailles during the spring or summer to experience the gardens when they are in full bloom as I can only imagine how beautiful they are. 

I am so beyond thankful that I have had the chance to go to Versailles and experience all that the beautiful land and building has to offer. I would love to go back one day and experience it from a different lens, and I can only hope that I will have the chance to do so. (Submitted on January 23, 2024)

Week 3 in Dubai

Cruising the Fjords of Oman

Submitted by Ryan Kahn on the 2024 Winter CIEG program in Dubai…

My third week aboard in Dubai was an incredible experience and this trip honestly just keeps getting better and better. It feels as though I live here now, I am used to the lifestyle and the daily routine. This is great because I already feel so comfortable in a new environment, but probably not the best thing as I am not looking forward to the reality of going home in 2 weeks. 

Anyways, this third week I wanted to highlight 3 of my favorite activities that I participated in. Starting off we had a trip to the desert where we rode ATV’s, rode camels, and had dinner under the stars. This was a truly incredible experience as we were in the middle of nowhere. I have never been in an environment like this. In addition the sunset was absolutely beautiful. 

The next activity was our day trip to Oman. This was one of my favorite days of the trip so far. We drove across the border and got on a boat that took us around the fjords of Oman. This was so beautiful, like nothing I have ever seen. The cliffs that hung right next to the crystal clear water were stunning. We also went snorkeling in the water. We saw lots of different fish which was again so cool. 

The final activity that I want to highlight is going to Burj Khalifa. We went up to the 123 and 125 floors of the building and were able to look out on the city. I was standing near the top of the tallest building in the world. It was truly incredible to look out in every direction in the city of Dubai. Afterwards we went down to the Dubai Mall and Dubai Aquarium which were both overwhelmingly massive. Then I watched the light and fountain show of the Burj Khalifa from down below. It was spectacular to see the Burj lit up at night. Overall, week 3 in Dubai was amazing and I am very sad that I will be leaving in 2 weeks. (Submitted on January 23, 2024)

Burj Khalifa at Night

The Business of Trust in Thailand

Submitted by Josiah Taylor on the 2024 Winter BUAD program in Thailand and Australia…

A view of the road as we traveled in the red truck.

One thing I’ve learned out of the classroom on my trip is that Thai business relies heavily on trust. Companies prefer to see and know who they’re working with, and typically place a strong degree of trust in their business partners.

I saw this dynamic firsthand on a free day in Chiang Mai. Given time on our own to explore, a group of us wanted to go hiking in the nearby mountains. The way there proved to be more of a struggle than we expected, though. The mountains were about an hour drive away, and we were having a terrible time finding a driver willing to drive that distance. Finally, we found a nearby bus station that had trucks moving back and forth to the area. We took the nearest tuk tuk and headed on our way.

However, when telling the driver about our plans, he says, “I have a friend!” and before we know it, we’re headed off in his friends truck. The man who drove us charged us only 1000THB for the entire day (about $30) to take us an hour out, wait four hours for us to climb, and drive us straight back! 

We were in disbelief. We paid the money up front, so he had every opportunity to take the money and go, but because of Thai peoples’ underlying trust, he stayed for us. This was a major culture shock coming from the US, where it would cost an arm and a leg for service of that degree. It was certainly a culture shock for us, but we all agreed that Thai trust is something American businesses could use a taste of. (Submitted on January 23, 2024)