Life in Greece

Author: Dezzarae Arce

Program: CISabroad Summer in Greece

Taken right underneath the Acropolis, where you can go to find your local foods, clothes, gadgets, and anything else you may need.


The changing of the guard. You can see the guard’s motion, which is ritual.


Views of the town in Delphi

IMG_2516 IMG_2509 IMG_2518

Typical Road Signs


Overlooking the city of Nafplio


Taken in Athens, Greece – a typical view from your home’s window


Overlooking the city of Athens – Taken at the top of the Acropolis.


The Athens Flea Market located in Monastiraki, where you can buy handmade things and antiques


My First Taste of Travel

Author: Jennifer Kvasnicka

Program: CISabroad Summer in Scotland

I’m here! I was so worried about flying, security, customs, and all those sorts of things because I’ve never been out of America before, let alone flown by myself. I’ve also been managing my diabetes pretty tightly, but adjusting has been fine! The one thing I’ve told myself this trip is to be as open as possible and to try everything that I can.  This week, I hope I can give you a taste of what my week has been like!


I got to campus, which is right on the edge of both Stirling and Bridge of Allan, and immediately was welcomed by the International Summer School Team. A few other girls I arrived with decided to roam campus and get a feel for where everything was.  After getting lost around the loch (lake) a few times, we found our way back to the accommodations where we met up for our welcoming reception. We heard the Scottish history of Stirling University, including the stories of Wallace and his battles of Stirling bridge. Even better, a piper came and performed for us in his traditional kilt! After this, I felt like diving right into everything that Scotland has to offer.


Later that night, we went out to the city center of Stirling and explored. It was nice having no particular agenda or list of things to do. We went to Wetherspoons (The Crossed Peels) where I actually had HAGGIS, the national dish of Scotland! I also tried a hard cider that they had available for the cider festival. It was so different from America because Scots don’t have the same sense of space. They will stand as close as they want, and most anyone will start a conversation!


After awhile, we decided to explore the nooks and crannies of Stirling, We headed up the hill to the Church of Holy Rude Cemetery and Stirling Castle. We saw some amazing sites from the hills. We kept walking to find Gowan Heritage Hill. It was very secluded, but well worth the walk up. On top was the beheading stone used for execution. And mind you, this was only the first day.




The next few days consisted of orientation, campus tours, and getting some groceries from the local store. It was all a whirlwind experience because every day seems to go by so fast. Classes started Monday, which included my Witchcraft and Belief in Early Modern Scotland and British Pop Culture (Monsters and Vampires) on Tuesday. It was different from the US because classes are split between two sessions throughout the day. The courses are only about 12 students, but this gives us a change to get to know our professor better even though it is only a four week session.

Besides classes, we took an excursion to Edinburgh. My friends and I visited Camera Obscura, National Museum of Scotland, Palace of the Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh Castle, and so many other things! Edinburgh is much more fast-paced than what I’m used to in Chicago. It’s a hub of activity, and I loved every minute. I hope to explore the smaller towns around the uni (university) and get  more connected to the culture next week. As we say in Scotland, Slàinte!!  (Cheers!)





Grecian Monuments – Walking into the Past

Author: Dezzarae Arce

Program: CIS Summer in Greece

This is the Temple of Apollo taken in Delphi, Greece


The first Olympic stadium



The temple of the God of the Sea, Poseidon, in Cape Sounion


The tomb of Agamemnon in Mycenae


An ancient theater used by Greeks for musical and theatrical performances in Epidaurus. It is still in use today as it provides great sound quality. The acoustics are so great that if you drop a quarter in the middle of the stage, people in the very highest seating can hear it drop.


The classic Acropolis in Athens, Greece


The Library of Hadrian in Athens, Greece


The Parliament located in Athens, where there is a change of the guard every hour on the dot



So Why Study Abroad?

Author: Ellie Ashbrook

Program: CIS Summer in Thailand


This is my last blog entry for my study abroad experience in Chiang Mai, Thailand, so I will try to make it as inspirational as possible. I was thrilled to be accepted to participate in this study abroad program because I have always been curious of what’s happening on the other side of the world. Being chosen to have a blog was another plus, so my mom can follow my adventure, and I can ensure her that countries outside the United States are as safe as our campus at Valpo. I had no clue what I was in for when I chose to apply for Thailand other than knowing I would be riding elephants, mountain trekking, learning how to cook Thai food, and going to Bangkok for a weekend. You can only learn so much from the internet, and YouTube videos are helpful, but everyone has their own experience.

Before I left for Thailand, my family and also my friends told me that I needed to be careful because, “it’s a whole other world over there.” This was obvious, but I didn’t want what they had to say to scare me. I was told that I would be eating monkey brains and that I needed to watch out for dangerous critters. The more I didn’t know about Thailand, the more nervous I became, so I did my own research…a few nights before I had to leave.

I found out that I would have to use a ‘squat toilet’ and a few other handy tips. I did not come across dangerous creatures, nor did anyone talk about monkey brains. I decided that I should just go on this trip with no expectations (but I did bring a good amount of packages of tissue for the squat toilets).

I couldn’t say that I expected any of my experiences from this trip to happen. An elephant kissed me, I went flying through the mountains of Bann Wang Hang, trekked in the mountains of Doi Chiang Dao (my happy place), I lost my phone in the streets of Chiang Mai, went white water rafting the Mae Taeng River, saw break dancing in the middle of traffic of Bangkok, and just this past week, I ended up at the Grand  Canyon of Chiang Mai.

My weekend trip to Bangkok was incredible. It reminded me of Chicago but bigger and a lot busier. Walking through the markets was equivalent to running through the doors of a store on Black Friday. The group went to the Grand Palace in the heart of Bangkok. The palace is the official residence of the Kings of Siam, so it was crowded because everyone wanted to see the royal family’s gold. The amount of gold on the buildings was quite overwhelming. The weather was brutal because of the humidity, and the amount of people in the area made it unbearable, so the group decided to take a break and visit another area of Bangkok where they had a few street markets.

The Grand Palace

Grand Palace-Bangkok, Thailand

My friends and I decided to skip the street markets because a nice cold coffee from Starbucks sounded so much better. We went to the Starbucks at the right time because as soon as we arrived, the Frappuccino Fun Party just began. There were only a few other people for the party. They didn’t know much English, and we only knew so much in Thai, but it was still a fun time. We tried the Chocolate Black Tea with Earl Grey Jelly and the Double Chocolate Green Tea Frappuccino. Both were delicious.

This past week, our Thai professor took us to the hot springs where they have hot tubs throughout this huge park with a mountain view. Eggs are available to purchase, so you can cook your eggs with you while you hang out in the tub. It was an interesting pair. The best time to visit the hot springs is in the morning when it’s cooler, so I can see why people enjoy eating eggs while they sit in a hot tub.

Group at Hot Springs

Hot Springs

How Do You Like Your Eggs Done_

The last unexpected thing I can tell you that happened on my trip is that I visited the Grand Canyon of Chiang Mai. It’s a huge quarry that’s filled with water. They have bamboo rafts spread throughout the body of water so that you can hang out and cheer people on to jump from high cliffs.

The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon-Chiang Mai

I have to cute it short, but I still have so much to share. I had no expectations for Thailand, and I’m glad I didn’t. I think the most important thing I learned about myself on this trip is to not make false assumptions. Life is unpredictable, so enjoy the ride.

Mai Pen Rai.


New Featured Summer Blogger – Jen Kvasnicka

Jen Kvasnicka - headshot

My name is Jen Kvasnicka, and I am a junior Healthcare Leadership major. This summer, I am spending a month at the University of Stirling in Scotland! I am most excited to meet people from all over the world and try new foods!

The Food of Athens

Author: Dezzarae Arce
Program: CIS Summer in Greece


These pictures are from your local farmers market in Omonia, Athens. This farmers market has EVERYTHING you want to buy for your weekly groceries. You can find local and imported freshly caught fish, lambs, beef and pork. On top of meats, you can also shop for different cheeses, fresh local fruits and vegetables, spices, herbs, etc. Some foods are imported at the market, but Athenians are true to their country and prefer buying local foods to help their economy. Athenians also buy their groceries every week in order to keep their foods fresh and natural. This market is the second largest in Greece and was the biggest for a very long time.
These photos were taken in a square in Athens Greece. The stand is a local cart stand that sells different kinds of snack breads. The breads look like rings and have sesame seeds on top. These carts are found everywhere in Athens. The display cases with pastry desserts are filled with your daily snacks and pastries. Here you can usually find sandwiches, or pastries with ham and cheese. You could you could also find pizzas that are meant for lunch.  These snacks are typically found in your local cafes and pastry shops in Athens and are usually displayed in this way.


Food Cart IMG_2166 IMG_2167

Mai Pen Rai

Author: Ellie Ashbrook

Program: CIS Summer in Thailand

Doi Chiang Dao, My Happy Place

It’s been my third week in Thailand, and I would say that  have become even more adventurous and more of a risk taker since the other week when I mentioned it. There’s this phrase that would describe Thailand’s motto, “Mai Pen Rai.” The phrase can be translated to English like, “you’re welcome” or “don’t mention it,” but when you ask a Thai person, they would say that the phrase has a deeper meaning. The phrase means, “It’s okay…everything is okay…don’t worry.”

My Buddhist philosophy teacher repeats this phrase to us when he goes into a discussion about Buddhism. The whole idea about Buddhism is that people practice the teachings of Buddhism to reach a state of mind where you have no worries. In other words, you stop what causes your suffering and your mind can be at peace. One main thing that causes suffering among a lot of individuals is attachment. My professor will always joke around with us that Americans can’t get enough of their iPhones (Thailand is a Samsung country). This is very true for teenagers and young adults because our phones become our everything.

Long story short, I ended up losing my phone this past weekend. The same day,  we went trekking in the most gorgeous, mind-blowing place. My group and I followed a guide named Three through the Doi Chiang Dao Mountains. He described every plant and why they are useful to humans. He even showed us how the village people cut the bamboo in such a way to create toys for their kids so they can entertain them while they cook and clean for the family.


Our guide also provided snacks on our trekking. We had these chocolate bar sweets called ‘Beng-Beng.’ They resemble a chocolate covered sugar wafer with a caramel fillings and have a crispy texture. We also ate Thailand Pineapple cookies. It was a coconut biscuit with pineapple jam. They were both delicious. Three took us through the village, and we saw how the Thai people lived in the countryside. It was very different from how the city people lived. These people made their children’s toys, their houses, clothes, and pretty much anything I can’t imagined doing for myself.

After trekking through the Mountains of Doi Chiang Dao, we stopped to have a lunch buffet, Thai style of course. There is nothing better than eating rice with every meal. Afterwards Three took us to the famous spot of Chiang Dao. The cambers are huge, but you can only walk so far until the cave becomes pitch black. It’s possible to see the unlit part of the caves, but the group was drained from the long hike. I’ll make that an excursion for the future (and so should you.)

Chiang Dao Cave

Chiang Dao Cave-Buddha Statue

That same day, I had lost my phone. I took the most beautiful pictures of trekking the mountains, and all I could do was accept the fact that I would have super boring blogs. I didn’t want losing my phone to ruin the rest of my trip That night, I repeated “mai pen rai” until I could fall asleep. I woke up the next morning and get ready for my next adventure, white water rafting in Mae Taeng River. I knew that I would only focus on surviving during this excursion. I had some time before we needed to meet, so I decided to take a walk around the area.

Morning Walk Scenery

I had no intention of finding my phone, but as I was walking several blocks away from my hotel, I heard the “note” tone go off. I know that this was an iPhone and kept looking on the ground while I walked. Mai pen rai, there was my phone with a text from my mom. Although I don’t have pictures of my white rafting trip because my phone died shortly after finding it, I am able to show you my happy place in Thailand. A detachment from something that we see or use in our everyday lives can be a difficult adjustment but try to remember the phrase, “mai pen rai.” Everything will be okay.

The Kiwi Experience – Backpacking in New Zealand

Authors: Pall Baggett and Alex Fenn

Program: CIS Semester in Australia (Newcastle)

Signs of a Great Trip:
Beach. Hiking. Ziplining. White Water Rafting. Mountain Biking. Kayaking.

Risks Worth Taking

Author: Ellie Ashbrook

Program: CIS Summer in Thailand

Since my first week in Thailand, I have been more adventurous (and a bit rebellious) than I have been in my 20 years of living. There are a large number of stray dogs in Thailand because there are no kennels to host them. The monks of the Buddhist temples will provide the dogs with food and water but otherwise they roam the streets looking for any scraps to survive on.

street dog

Each weekend there is a weekend market with lots of food and homemade goods to purchase. There are always dogs roaming the streets of the markets and you need to be careful that they don’t lick you or your wounds. There was this one Chihuahua, and I didn’t think twice when he began licking me. I kept a positive mind, and thankfully, I have not experienced any signs of rabies.

I have talked to people about traveling the world and a lot of  that responses I get are about being afraid of the unexpected. I had no idea what bad things I would run into when visiting Thailand, but so far, I have had a great experience. There will always be things to be aware of, animals with rabies for instance, but there are ways to keep you safe.

This past weekend, I visited the Baan Chang Elephant Park in Chiang Mai. This was one of the coolest experiences of this trip. The park gave us the chance to feed a basket full of bamboo pieces and bundles of bananas to the elephants.

Honestly, at first I couldn’t get myself to approach the elephant because of their size. I got over the fear of how big these creatures are and reached my arm out. As soon as I did, the elephant swung his trunk towards me, and I was face-to-face with his nose. I couldn’t believe that I was feeling the air coming out from this elephant’s nose. 

Elephant trunk

After feeding the elephants, we were told that they could give kisses.

Ellie and Elephant

Yep, that picture with me screaming is during the kiss.  Once we were covered in elephant snot, we were provided with a Thai lunch. The lunch was Pad Thai (a Thai favorite). As soon as we finished lunch, I started to feel very ill. I had been feeling sick since the morning, but the Pad Thai did not settle well with my stomach.

When the Pad Thai looked appetizing

Once everyone’s lunch settled (except for mine), we were given directions on how to control the elephants while riding them. Riding an elephant is a difficult thing (especially when Pad Thai is not agreeing with your stomach). I tried to enjoy every minute of that ride, but it was quite difficult when trying to focus on not falling off a two-story high elephant. The ride home was about an hour back, and every minute of that ride, I could feel the bumps in the road and the Pad Thai slowly coming up. I’ll make this short and say that I’m thankful for good friends.

The day after the elephant park, I went zip lining in the mountains of Bann Wang Hang, Maeram. This was my first time and will not be my last. The adrenaline rush that I felt through my body while flying through the jungle has been the greatest feeling by far. The zip line adventure included several obstacle courses that also gave me a rush of adrenaline. Look up what abseiling is (but my abseiling experience was without any ability to stop myself). Our guides of the zip line adventure made the trip even more enjoyable (our guide called himself Crazy Man).

The Zip Line Gangzipline team

Zipline gang

Crazy Man, the guide

This is Crazyman

Thailand has been so good to me, and I still have so much to experience on my trip. It is normal to be afraid of the unexpected, but once you get over that fear, the reward is remarkable.

Graffiti and Political Unrest

Author: Dezzarae Arce

Program: CIS Summer in Greece

These pictures were taken in Athens, Greece, where graffiti is very common. It is also very common in other major cities of Greece. Here in Greece, graffiti is a way to express Athenians’ disagreement with government decisions and rulings. Currently, there is a big a conflict with society against the government of Greece involving the economic crisis and other political issues. Athenians stand up against the government through their graffiti artwork in the hopes of their message getting across. In most graffiti artwork, you will find power struggles and you will find an ‘A’ with a circle around it to symbolize pro-anarchy.

Taken in a neighborhood in Athens, Greece. Here you can see how the people of Athens feel helpless against the government and law enforcement.

Graffiti - 2

Found near a square in Athens right across from a residential area.

Graffiti - man in chicken suit

Here is a picture of a man who seems hopeless and starving. It was found on a side street of Athens close to one of its squares.

Graffiti - Man

Doors of homes covered in graffiti tags

Graffiti 3

The translation of this phrase is “Always contradictory and antisocial.” Right next to the women’s face on the left side you can see an anti-Nazi symbol instead of a traditional A with a circle around it.

Graffiti - woman

Depicted in a boy holding some sort of mask on his face while holding a bottle with his other hand.

Graffiti - child

This was taken on a street right before the main road in Athens.

Graffiti - baby

This was taken in Lykavittou, Athens, which is a mountain/hill. The phrase means “Lawless” which is very interesting because this was found at the top of the hill, and when looking over the city, you feel so free and lawless.

Graffiti 4

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