Yes, I Am Going to School

Author: Caroline Dienes

Program: Cambridge, England – Study Center

People have no idea how many times I get comments on my photos on Facebook that say, “Are you even going to classes?” or “Are you doing any learning over there?” Is it true that most of the pictures I post on social media are photos of me traveling all over the place. What pictures are people expecting? Pictures of me reading a book, studying for a midterm, or typing out a paper? Those aren’t too interesting to look at in my opinion.

With that being said, I have just recently finished midterms over here in Cambridge. I have also been assigned four papers and two presentations that are due in just a couple weeks! So, to answer your question, studying abroad does actually utilize the word “studying”. Students who choose to study abroad just for the ability to travel and to forget about the school aspect of it are in for a big wake up call. You can’t avoid note takings, quizzes, and exams while in another country, even if you get on a plane and travel somewhere even further.

Studying abroad is equally balanced between becoming more book smart and street smart. Some people focus all of their energy on becoming a pro at the street smart part of that equation. If you plan to study abroad, you MUST find a happy balance between the two, or the book smart portion will end up kicking you in the butt at the end. This balance can be entirely up to you though. You know your study / chilling with friends balance at Valpo and, hopefully, you’re able to handle that. Bring that same mentality while you study in a different country. You’re in college to study. Same song, different tune while you’re abroad. I am traveling to all of these places and having unforgettable adventures, but, yes, I am going to school

Stay Studying,

Caroline Dienes

Class on a Sunday?!

Author: Tiffany Luehrs

Program: Hangzhou, China – Study Center

Yes, class on a Sunday.  The opening ceremony for the school year was on Wednesday September 14th but classes did not start that day nor the next because of the Mid-Autumn Festival that took place September thumb_img_1616_102415-17.  In America, most holidays are observed on a Monday even if the holiday occurs on the weekend but in China, they celebrate holidays on the exact day.  This means that you might have to make up for having days off during the week like we had to.  The Mid-Autumn Festival fell on the 15th and while we got three days off, we had to make up for the missed classes by beginning our semester on a Sunday.  But I was more than ready to get started after what had seemed like a never ending summer!

The first day was the usual syllabus day with the overview of the semester, the professor’s expectations, and of course the awkward but necessary icebreakers all in Chinese.  The class I had that day, 精读 (jing du – intensive reading/grammar) is somewhat like our homeroom class and our jingdu professor also serves as an academic advisor.  We have jingdu every day except for one, and our jingdu professor keeps us updated on campus activities, thumb_img_1430_1024holidays, elective courses, class trips, etc.

With the exception of the first day of school, I normally have two 90 minute classes per day with a break in between.  Everyday I have class at 8am except for Tuesdays when my first class begins at 1pm.  Instead of just one main Chinese class that meets everyday I take four separate courses that often overlap in topics, grammar patterns, and vocabulary.  The Chinese courses I am taking include 精读 (jingdu),阅读 (yuedu – reading) ,听力 (tingli – listening comprehension),and 口语 (kouyu – oral).  The way that our classes are split up allow us to focus and gain a deep understanding of each aspect of communicating in and comprehending Chinese.  In addition to the intensive Chinese language courses, I am also taking the Environmental Biology of China course and the Chinese Culture and Civilization course taught by our Valpo program director.

The campus is much livelier than we when we first arrived in Hangzhou now that classes are in session and I have met students from all over the world from places such as Germany, Russia, Scotland, England, Romania, Korea, Japan, and Thailand.  Apart from classes, I usually spend my days going on runs by West Lake, studying at nearby cafes, eating out with friends, roaming around Hangzhou, and playing soccer with the thumb_img_2157_1024boys (in the process of recruiting other girls to join).  The first couple weeks have flown by and I look forward to seeing what else the semester has in store!



Why Costa Rica?

Author: Caylyn Moglia

Program: San Jose, Costa Rica – Study Center

¡Hola Todos!

“Why Costa Rica?” It was a question that I got all the time when I told people where I would be studying abroad this semester. “Why not Spain or Mexico?” was another common one. To be perfectly honest, before I left, I had three solid reasons for wanting to go to Costa Rica.fb_img_1477098490231

  1.  I wanted to go somewhere different. Somewhere I would be completely immersed in Spanish. Lots of people study abroad in Mexico and Spain, so Costa Rica seemed perfect. Also, enough people in Spain speak English that I feared I wouldn’t get a full immersion experience.
  2.  I know people in Costa Rica. My family friends and former neighbors currently live in Tambor on the Nicoya Peninsula. The Macartneys are my second family, I’ve known their oldest since he was a baby, and the younger two since they were born. I was also the primary babysitter on the rare occasion that a babysitter was needed. When I found out that Valpo has a program in Costa Rica, I was super excited by the possibility of seeing the Macartneys again.
  3. I had the opportunity to take theology classes. I am a theology major, so being able to take classes at the Latin-American Biblical University was a dream come true. I am taking history of the Church and Hermeneutics, and I love my classes, even though they are sometimes super frustrating.

Now that I am here, I love Costa Rica even more. I love living with a host family, and the people are generally fb_img_1475548016484super friendly and helpful. Lost? Ask for directions. The bus isn’t coming? Get a ride with someone who called Uber and is going in the general direction of your house. I only have 5 weeks left in Costa Rica, and I am trying to get the most out of my time as possible, but now I have to do my homework.

Hasta Luego!

Caylyn Anne

Hangzhou’s International Food Festival

Author: Maia Moore


Hangzhou Food Fest

Program: Hangzhou, China – Study Center 

The First International Food Festival took place in Hangzhou this past weekend. There were foods from India, Mexico, Thailand, and many other places. Hangzhou, unsurprisingly, is home to many expats from all over the world. These expats bring along with them the knowledge of food from their homelands, so many restaurants here serve foreign food. However, many restaurants that specialize in these foreign foods have Chinese owners and staff.


Simba Waffles

Of course, for my first stop, I had to get food from home. I stopped at the stall of Charcoal Bar and Grill, a local restaurant that specializes in American cuisine. They were serving barbecue chicken drumsticks, good old fashioned burgers, and hot dogs. I bought a drumstick and immediately was transported back home. It had all the right flavors and spices. It turns out that Charcoal is owned by someone Chinese, but he seems to know what he’s doing. My next few stops included a fresh roll from a French bread shop, chicken wings from Thailand, and a pizza roll from Italy.


Thai Cuisine

I like Chinese food, but not having an American home-cooked meal in two months can be tough. I came to China expecting to have food different from American food. However, I had no idea that I would have the opportunity to try so many different foods!


From Russia With Love

Author: Ian Olive

Program: Reutlingen Study Center


I have a serious and dangerous problem, I will be completely honest. Despite my best efforts to pack lightly I somehow ended up with five different cameras with me here in Germany. Yes I said five. Like I said, I have a serious problem involving cameras..

Initially, my very sound logic was that I was going to bring my Nikon D800 and a single zoom lens as well as my small point and shoot pocket camera. I would have one excellent camera for when I wanted the best possible quality and my small Coolpix A for when I just wanted some casual shots. But then I decided that my German-made Leica needed to come with as well. I mean how could one not bring a camera back to their birth home? Okay, so three cameras is not too bad, but I needed to shoot some film too.. So my old F3HP was thrown in the bag too. Great, now I had four cameras before I had even left the USA.

A few weeks ago I took a small trip to the gorgeous bohemian city of Prague. olive-fall-2016-prague-5Filled to the brim with incredible, gothic and communistic architecture as well as having a fantastic pastoral color palette, it was a photographer’s dream. However, I only chose to bring my point and shoot camera. Despite having thousands of dollars worth of gear back in my apartment in Germany, I wanted to travel as light as possible. It was a refreshing change of pace and my back really thanked me. Yet somehow I came back with more cameras than I had packed. Before you call the doctor, hear me out, this camera was different.

While shuffling through the multitude of second hand stores in the center of Prague, I came across and strange old camera hiding on one of the back shelves. Normally I am very adept at identifying camera makes and models but this one stumped me entirely. The camera was a rangefinder style, similar to the Leica. With silver paint and black leather, it looked very retro. The only markings I could read was a large “4”. There was a name printed, but it appeared to be possibly Cyrillic.  The price in Czech Crowns worked out to around ten dollars, and I had absolutely no idea if it actually worked or not, but decided it would make a cool desk ornament. It came home with me later that day. After a bit of web surfing, I discovered that the camera was called the Zorki 4. Made in Krasnogorsk, Russia, during the mid ‘50s and ‘60s, the camera was very popular in the Communist regime. It was a very beautiful and durable design and, much to my surprise, was fully functioning.


I decided try it out the next day and bought a roll of B&W Kodak TriX 400iso film. I had never shot this type of film before and figured since it was a new camera and a new location I might as well try something new. After getting to understand the few controls of the camera, I went out to explore the city. While I was used to the way this style of camera functioned it lacked one feature that I typically rely on. All modern cameras have something called a “light meter” which will either pick a correct exposure for you or give you suggestions for the perfectly lit photo. I took this as a challenge, the light was constantly changing and if a photo had a bad exposure, there was no one to blame but myself. It honestly was an amazing feeling to shoot with a completely manual camera. It’s a similar experience to driving a classic car; everything is mechanical and works with a beautiful industrial precision. Each shot was a process, and I felt that I was actually creating photographs instead of taking a snapshot.

The two week wait for the lab to develop my photos was agonizingly painful. I had high hopes for the results and dreamed every night about their swift completion. Okay, maybe I didn’t dream about it, but there is something inherently magical about analog creation. It just seems to be much more real, much more creative. The feeling of having a tangible photograph printed and in your hand is a very proud moment. I have taken photographs that have gotten thousands of hits online but I have rarely liked a photo as much as the set from Prague. The ability to carry prints around and show your friends and art professor is another bonus.

olive-fall-2016-prague-3As with any other profession, photographers often get in the mindset that they need the latest and greatest gear. We call it GAS or Gear Acquisition Syndrome. I’ll admit and say that I definitely fit into the category.  A very cool Youtube series by DigitalRev TV called Pro Photog, Cheap Camera really highlights how a creative   mindset really out does an expensive camera.


My time in Prague with the little Zorki was pretty revolutionary. Never had a used such a cheap, technologically inferior camera and had so much fun while actually creating photos that I can be proud of. I think this is a turning point in my photographic career. While I thought my creative basin was beginning to run dry, I discovered all I needed was a different tap. I have an upcoming trip to Italy later this week and the only cameras I am bringing are the Zorki and the point and shoot. I am traveling light and traveling creative. It’s not about the newest and greatest gear, it’s about how the photographer applies themselves with it. I am more than content with the enjoyment my cheap Russian camera gives me. But then again, a package just arrived from Japan with a new lens, my first Canon! I will never learn…

Go Rogue

Author: Caroline Dienes

Program:  Cambrige Study Center


I know it may sound cliche, and everyone has probably said this (and also said it sounds cliche)…but when you go abroad, your cohort becomes your family. I am with at least one member of the Cambridge cohort almost 24/7. Whether we are traveling to brand new places, eating, shopping, studying, or even sleeping (I have a roommate), everyone always seems to have a buddy. I broke this notion of always having a buddy on adventures when the Cambridge cohort went to the Lake District. The way I decided to break this habit of constantly having a partner was to climb a mountain.

With our time at the Lake District, our group went to the Grizedale Forest, a public forest preserve that includes many hiking paths, a sculpture walk, and ziplining. The majority of the Cambridge group wanted to go ziplining, but while they were figuring out all that went into that, I was fumbling through the hiking maps. Eventually, my finger finally found the red, bold letters that said “strenuous.” That strenuous description was for the Carron Crag Trail. That was the path for me.

That hike up to the highest peak in Grizedale, a height of 314 meters, was the longest time I have spent by myself with my time here abroad, and let me tell you something – It has been one of my favorite moments. I know my list of favorite moments is growing with every trip, but this moment will always stick out to me. Although I literally climbed up and down a mountain bike trail for a good chunk of the hike, I enjoyed every minute being on my own. I even celebrated getting to the very top by eating a sandwich and gazing out to all that I could see.

I know that some people would always like a buddy when they go off and experience never before seen places, but I advise those people to try it solo at least once while they are abroad. It can be as little as what I did – being in the same general area as the group, but doing your own thing. Or it can be as drastic as traveling to a whole different country on your own! Anything that will tell you, “Hey, I did this all by myself,” will feel like the greatest accomplishment. I promise you. To be honest, I felt like I was starring in my own version of 127 Hours on my entire hike. However, I did not have to cut my arm off.  When you go rogue, don’t fall into a situation where you have to cut your arm off. Just go rogue.

Stay Fresh,

Caroline Dienes

Una riqueza de la naturaleza – Nature’s Wealth

Author: Caylyn Moglia

Program: San Jose, Costa Rica – Study Center

¡Hola Todos!

This weekend I had the pleasure of spending time with the Macartneys for 2 whole days! I was most nervous about traveling there, since it involved finding taxis and taking a ferry. As it turns out, it was super easy to get there, and it was less than $12. Something that I learned was that when I go visit for Thanksgiving, I should take the 11AM ferry home instead of the 2PM ferry. Because it was dark when I got back to San Jose, I had to take a taxi all the way home from the bus stop in San Jose (which bumped up the cost to around $17).


Double rainbow sighting, Caylyn Moglia

On the ferry to Paquera, I saw 2 (double) rainbows; it was super cool. Sadly, my camera does not capture all the colors that God allows my eyes to see, so the better pictures have the saturation and contrast turned all the way up. The colors were amazing and I could see each individual color!Something that wasn’t so cool on the ferry was that I saw a lot of trash in the ocean. It did not necessarily come from the people in Costa Rica, it could have come from the other side of the world for all I know, but it is disgusting, and I wish we lived in a world that could take care of its trash better.

On Friday, I went to school at Escuela Futuro Verde with everybody and got to hang out in the 4th, 5th, and 6th grade Spanish classrooms. One thing that is super cool about this school is that all of the kids are either bilingual, multilingual, or on their way to becoming so. Something else that is different culturally  is that the students call their teachers by their first names, something that could get a student in major trouble in the United States.


Surfing on the beach, Caylyn Moglia

On Saturday, we spent the whole day at the beach, and I learned how to surf! BJ showed me the basics on land, and then helped me figure it out in the water. I spent most of my time wiping out, but I stood up 3 or 4 times. The only bad thing was that I rubbed all the sunscreen off of my thighs and now have a really bad sunburn, thankfully, BJ gave me his rash guard, so my stomach is not burnt.


Red Macaw sighting, Caylyn Moglia

On the way home from the beach we saw 3 largish caimans in the river, and they were the small ones according to one of the guys who keeps track of them. I also saw the blue macaws that the neighborhood is currently breeding, and the red macaws that were recently released. There were 3 red macaws right outside the house Saturday evening, and I got some good pictures of them.

Hasta luego!


Man-go to Hefang Street

Author: Tiffany Luehrs

Program: Hangzhou, China – Study Center

Today my Valpo cohort and I visited Hefang Street (河坊街 – hefang jie).  Hefang street is a bustling avenue filled with vendors selling local snacks, silk shops, tea houses, traditional Chinese pharmacies and restaurants.


A snapshot of Hefang Street, Tiffany Luehrs

buddha-statue-tiffany-blog-5Various historical and cultural aspects of the area have been maintained and are still intact such as the drum tower and even an original section of a road used during the Song Dynasty.  Throughout the street stood various statues of Buddha such as a very memorable red statue that emphasized the curved features of the Buddha and a large bronze Buddha with many small figures of children climbing on him.  I learned that the large belly symbolizes prosperity, the reclining pose represents spiritual contentment, and the children around him signifies many descendants.  While there is an evident historical and cultural feel to the street, you can still find McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Dairy Queen scattered about and more modern stores as well.

After roaming around the shops and vendors, we stopped at a café


Glutinous rice balls and mango, Tiffany Luehrs

that specialized in mango dishes and drinks. I ordered glutinous rice balls with fresh mango, and it was the absolute, best mango dish I have ever tasted! The juxtaposition of the warm glutinous rice and the cool, sweet mango was mouth watering.  I wish I could remember the name of the café but it completely escapes me.  Next time I go, I will definitely write it down and let you know so you can try it as well if you ever find yourself at Hefang Street.  I know I’ll be back for some more mango!



This is University

Author: Caroline Dienes

Program: Cambridge, England – Study Center

Sometimes, learning does not come from in the classroom. Studying abroad has taught me that learning can come from anywhere and anything, whether it is in the process of traveling, going to view a play, or simply people watching while sitting at a coffee shop. Another member of the Cambridge cohort, Alec Chase, and I made a lone journey to Ireland a few weeks back and we collected quite a few lessons along the way, none of which we could have ever learned in a classroom.


Cliffs of Moher, Caroline Dienes

Our first learning experience occurred at the Cliffs of Moher. The beginning and the middle of the day went absolutely perfect. The weather was beautiful (sometimes you can’t even see the cliffs because it is too foggy!), and I was able to hike on rugged terrain (one of my all-time favorite things to do). Alec and I also snapped some unbelievable pictures of one another, which people think we created on photoshop. However, this flawless day started to get a few blemishes from our decision to “wing it”.

Don’t ever “wing it” when it comes to traveling. Before we even went to the Cliffs of Moher, our Airbnb host asked us, “When are you guys getting back?” Our collective response was, “We’ll wing it.” After walking to both ends of the Cliffs of Moher, we decided to figure out what bus we could catch to get back to our Airbnb. The last bus was at 5:30pm. We figured out this vital information at 6:45pm. To make a very long story short, we ended up walking about a mile down a dark road toward a tiny town (both of our phones had died at this point) until we finally stopped at a random house and asked if they could call us a taxi. Lesson one: You may want to wing it, but never wing it when it comes to how you will get home from somewhere.

Now, we were told by several people to prepare ourselves to be approached by Irish people at pubs because they are apparently super friendly. On the final night in Ireland, Alec and I were slowly giving up on this foreboding because we sat in a pub for about five hours, and we were not approached by anyone. Then, I got up to pay the bill and the trip to Ireland was changed for the better.

There I was, standing at the bar minding my own business, when an elderly gentleman looks at me, starts singing “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” grabs my hand, and starts dancing with me. To make another long story short, Alec and I ended up at a different pub with Sean and Jerry (the dancing man and his friend). We listened to them sing Irish pub songs while being accompanied by literally everyone else at the pubs. We learned that everyone at this specific pub basically knew every other person there, and we were definitely shown that the Irish are the most friendly people out there. We also got some life-changing advice from our new friend, Sean.

As the night progressed, Sean unleashed his hidden power of guidance giving onto us. He said, “Classes with professors and exams isn’t university. This (gestures toward entire pub) is university.” It may sound like a simple saying that any old, slightly intoxicated, man would blurt out at you, but it really hit me at my core. People keep asking me, “Are you even going to class when you’re abroad? Are you learning anything?” I am going to class here. I’m taking notes, and exams are just around the corner. On the other hand, going out to witness the pub culture, exploring places you have never been before, meeting people you would have never had the chance to meet if you were to be back at Valpo, and being completely on your own is what I think studying abroad is all about. Sean was right. This… this is university.

Stay Fresh,

Caroline Dienes

Oh the Places You’ll Go

Author: Ian Olive

Program: Reutlingen, Germany – Study Center

When I graduated from high school I remember receiving a book written by Dr. Seuss from my then girlfriend. Titled Oh the Places You’ll Go, it is on29364853380_12c3a1ce49_oe of his most famous works, full of color and poetry. Originally I passed that gift off as simply a kind present with an inspirational, if metaphorical, message. I had always professed a desire to travel, wanderlust if you will, but I never imaged the opportunities that would soon be presented to me a few years later.

In the last few weeks, I have traveled all the way from Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany to the tip of southern Sweden with an extended stop in the German capital, Berlin. I’ve taken a variety of transportation from cars to buses to trains and boats. At one point in my journey, the train I was aboard even took a boat of its own while crossing the Nordsee from Sweden to Denmark.

While staying in Berlin, our group took a series of small day trips to significant historical areas in the region. Probably the most 29144322024_c8b63ce458_obreathtaking and emotional site was Sachsenhausen Concentration camp about 40 kilometers from Berlin. The camp was established in 1936 and became one of the largest in Germany with an estimated 200,000 prisoners detained. Visiting the camp was a hallowing endeavor- just imagining the horrors and atrocities that were committed at this camp.

Being a city of culture and historical significance, Berlin attractions range from the Brandenburger Tor, to the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie to Tempelhof Flughafen, the center of the Berlin Airlift, there is no shortage of interesting sites. I rented a bicycle for the day and was able to see so many historical sites that I often read about in history books. If you have the chance to visit Germany, Berlin should be at the top of your list!

28966223923_851f62996e_oAfter returning back to campus, I was able to reflect on the amazing journey that I have been having so far. I couldn’t but help think back to that Dr. Seuss book and marvel at how far I’ve come in such a short time. I’d recommend a semester abroad to anyone without a hint of reservation. It has been one of the biggest highlights of my life. Don’t hesitate to apply now!

– Ian

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