Author: Jennifer Kvasnicka
Program: CISabroad Summer in Scotland
My last full weekend in Scotland was an absolute success. I toured the Highlands of Scotland for three days. We stopped in Inverness, Glencoe, and stayed overnight in the Isle of Skye. The thing is you can see google images, but nothing compares to the real thing. No quality camera in the world could capture the absolutely stunning beauty of the Highlands.
Our driver, Chris, told us about #DeepScottishLove. It’s a feeling you get in the Highlands of complete awe and love of Scotland. It’s loving every hill and valley of skyline. I definitely fell into this category. The days we were in the Highlands and Isle of Skye were cloudy, but it amplified everything. The fog was so thick and low to the ground that you could almost touch it.
One of the highlights of my weekend was climbing Old Man of Storr. It’s about 8 kilometers, or 5 miles. It took almost 3 hours to complete. The terrain was so rocky that I was honestly scared of falling at times. I’ve found it so interesting that when looking at a mountain, I think, “Oh yeah! I could hike that EASILY!” Then, the closer and closer I get to it, the taller and wider it seems to get. I still made it though. Getting to the top of this one was the most difficult, but worth every minute. You could see for miles, including the lake!
My absolute favorite moment of this trip was when I was able to experience so many different cultures and people in one sitting. While waiting for the tour to start, I was stopped by a Chinese girl named Tao. It was my first extended experience with someone from China. She studies in Lancaster and works in Singapore at times. It was interesting to compare and contrast our stories and cultures. She’s now a good friend. My other experience was later that night. We ate in the hotel kitchen. I was the only American sitting with one girl from China, three women from Japan, a German couple, a man from Spain, a woman from Thailand, and a man from Austria. How many people can say they experienced this? Especially in Scotland!
We went around the table talking about our native language and how to say different things. I had it the easiest because everyone could already speak English. I was able to keep up with the Spaniard though! We all had another cultural experience with haggis. I did it. I tried it, and I loved every bite. More specifically, it was chicken stuffed with haggis. It was a double culture shock in one! On this trip, I not only saw the sights, but I got to meet some pretty incredible people with some awesome stories.
With my time in Scotland coming to an end, I can’t help but reflect on every moment and realize they have all been good. I haven’t had one single bad moment. This week wraps up with a Ceilidh, a party with traditional Highland dancing, as well as seeing one more site. I can definitely say I have #DeepScottishLove, and I hope one day I can come back and share this incredible place with my family and friends. Farewell, Scotland, and thanks for treating me so well. Cheers!
Author: Jennifer Kvasnicka
Program: CISabroad Summer in Scotland
In the last few weeks, I have done and experiences so many new things. I’ve climbed mountains, had proper tea, and even got a tattoo (sorry Mom, I’ll explain). The joy that this trip has brought me is unexplainable. I have learned and grown from every experience.
I’ll start with my new tattoo. I won’t post a pictures because it is still healing. This experience in Scotland has pushed me to to try new things and to be out of my comfort zone. Without my faith in this trip ever coming about, I think the plans would have just fell flat. Again, thanks to my family, and God, for giving me the courage to come here and explore these new experiences. The tattoo I got is “by grace, though faith.” I got it on my foot, not only for professional reasons, but also to symbolize that I’ve walked by faith through this whole journey. Through faith, that God pushed me to pursue this dream, not only to explore new things, but to learn more about my own family history and roots.
Climbing Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh definitely was not as hard as the Dumyat Hill climb at the beginning of my time here. It was quite an incline, but we made it. Silly us, we decided to walk it at 9:30 at night. Here, it stays light a lot later. We got to the top and had the most gorgeous view. You could see from the coast all the way to the castle. It was incredible. The entire city was lit up. There was also a concert at the caste that you could hear almost perfectly. I sat up there for awhile just soaking in the history of Arthur’s Seat, and the fact that a girl from the flattest part of the US is on a volcano!
Later in the week, I decided I NEEDED to have proper tea in Scotland. A few of my new travel friends joined me. We went to Bluebell Tearoom, which is a quaint little shop that serves all different teas and sandwiches. I’m glad I didn’t have breakfast before because there was SO much food. we received a three-tiered platter with sandwiches, scones (and jam, of course), and small pastries. I was so full, but every bite was worth it. It was a nice get-away from paper writing and climbing mountains. I can’t say that I have an absolute favorite experience. That would be impossible. But the fact that I have experienced so many different and unique things adds up to one pretty amazing experience if you ask me.
Author: Jennifer Kvasnicka
Program: CISabroad Summer in Scotland
I don’t think I could ever find the perfect words to say thank you. In the two weeks I have spent abroad, I’ve learned more about myself than in 20 years of living. I’ll try and do my best. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for your encouragement, love, and financial support through this terrifying adventure. Thank you for giving the tools to navigate a new country and teaching me “street smarts.” Without the support I received from my family and friends, I wouldn’t have had enough faith in this whole process.
This is the first time in my life that I feel like I have been in complete control of where I go and what I do. Each day I spend here, I’m reminded that not everyone is allotted such an experience, and for that, I am completely and forever grateful. My dad told me to really treasure this opportunity because “people like us” don’t always get this chance. That’s really stuck with me. I’m trying to do everything I can in such a short amount of time!
Realizing I had family that once walked these streets is amazing. Though I haven’t found a grave yet, I am determined! My experiences here, from fudge donuts to finding seashells in the North Sea have shaped me in so many ways. I just wanted to take this post to step back from all the adventures and be thankful to everyone who has contributed to this journey. Cheers to more adventures!
So here we are… Landing in the beautiful city of Auckland, New Zealand, the largest city in New Zealand with a population of just 4 million. For a couple days we are staying with some of Alex’s family then will be beginning a another unforgettable journey; backpacking the north island with the ‘Kiwi Experience Bus’. The Kiwi Experience is basically a hop on hop off bus that backpackers use to get around New Zealand and meet new people along the way. Mostly made up of 18 to 25 year olds all with a common interest. Travel, live life and have fun doing it.
On the 1st of February we departed from downtown Auckland unsure of what to expect. And when I say unsure what to expect, I mean it. We didn’t exactly know where we were going to go, how long we would be there for or the people we were going to be with. A quote by Alexander Pope says it all, “Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed” The only thing we were certain of is we had a flight out of Auckland the morning of the 12th and we had 12 days to do everything we could.
Day 1 Hot water beach.
Hot water beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world finding itself in the top ten voted by trip advisor. Upon arriving at the hostel, we were offered an opportunity to go kayaking along the surrounding islands. So for about 3 hours a group of us kayaked throughout and actually made it to cathedral cove. A Marine Reserve is on the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand popular for the movie Narnia being filmed there. Now it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why hot water beach has its name… There’s boiling hot water!! And I mean it! All you do it dig about two feet down and you find yourself in boiling hot water. The water gets so hot that the Maori natives use to actually cook their food in these holes.
However hot water beach is not what made day 1 memorable. It was the people we met. Two people specially. Cedric and Vikor. Cedric, from Montreal Canada, just graduated law school and is now traveling for 4 months. Vikor is a Swedish carpenter trying to travel New Zealand, find work and live a simple life here. It was definitely these guys and several others we met along the way that made a difference in our travels.
Day 3 Waitomo
After hot water beach, we were off to Waitomo. Here we were able to go black water rafting with the ‘legendary black water rafting company’. When we first heard our bus driver say “black water rafting”, we truly had no idea what it was. He explained that black water rafting was basically rafting on rivers in underground caves. These caves are known for look like stars above glowing on the walls.r having these species called glowworms exclusively found in New Zealand. Up close they resemble maggots but from a distance they glow like stars. After our adventures in Waitomo, we hopped back on the bus to head to Rotorua.
Day 4 Rotorua
Rotorua was memorable for several reasons. Here we stayed in a Maori village and got to experience a bit of their culture. Before this stay we had stayed in hostels the entire way with public bathrooms and uncomfortable beds. as how our food was prepared. They used However, here, the accommodations were a bit different. We slept 30 to a room in the most comfortable beds imaginable. At the village we were introduced to the culture and lifestyle of the Maori natives. The one thing that stood out that was the traditional Maori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven, called Hāngi.
Day 5 Taupo
One of the most popular cities in New Zealand, Taupo, offered us the opportunities to do a variety of activities, including bungee jumping, cliff swinging, and sailing. Due to the weather we were unable to go skydiving but it didn’t stop us from bungee jumping and I have to say, it was a bit nerve wrecking. Having skydived before we thought they would be similar… boy were we wrong. The act of jumping alone towards a large body of water is just as nerve wrecking as it sounds. Although, once you actually jump…the adrenaline is incredible. It was definitely something I would do again given the opportunity.
Day 6 River Valley
Alex and I both agreed that this place was our favorite stop. It was a hidden spot with epic scenery and logging. The hostel was in a valley in the middle of no where surrounded by beautiful hills and mountains. Here we got to chose between two activities…horseback riding or white water rafting. We ended up rafting on New Zealand’s longest river, The Rangitikei River. Followed by the long day of rafting, our next stop was Wellington.
Day 7 Wellington
Unlike Auckland, which is known to by an outdoor city, Wellington is known as the indoor city with many museums, cafes and amazing restaurants. Here we we stayed a couple days so we could have some time to relax and catch up on laundry and sleep. We also got to ride on wellington cable car. A railway the connect the city to Lambton Quay, a suburb that overlooks the city. This cable car has been recognized as a symbol of Wellington for over a century.
Day 10 Back to Rotarua
Leaving Wellington meant leaving much of our friends we made along the way. When we left, we were headed north while most of the others continued south. Our first stop on the trek back north was Rotaura. Here instead of staying in the Mauri village, we rented some bikes to go mountain biking. Rotarua has some of the best and hardest mountain biking in the world, and it was obvious to Alex and I. After mountain biking, our plan was to go lugging right outside of town. We were told that going late was the best because it wouldn’t be so busy, but when we got there, Alex read a sign that killed us both – “Closing early”. The luge was closing at 6pm that evening, and it was 5:50 when we got there. This might have ruined our chances to luge but right next door we noticed a small mini golf course. Given that we had about 30 minutes to kill before the next bus, we decided to give it a look and after telling the owner, Fiona, our situation, she didn’t hesitate to give us a free round of golf. We may have missed that next bus and had to walk about 6km back to the hostel, but it didn’t change the fact that we had an unforgettable day.
Back in Auckland.
At about 5pm on the 11th of February, we got back to Auckland where Alex’s uncle was waiting for us. We got back to the house and his family wanted to know everything we had done. One question after another. What’d you do? What type of people did we meet? Favorite part? They wanted to know everything. That’s when I realized that we just made memories that will last a lifetime. Its not everyday that one gets to backpack the beautiful country of New Zealand and meet such great people along the way. It was definitely a trip to remember that will bring great memories for years to come.
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
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
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!)
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
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
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
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
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.