Monthly Archives: June 2012

If You Could Study Abroad Again

In my job I’m frequently asked if I could study abroad again, where would I go. Of course, I would never give up my experience in Italy; as an Italian major, it was really the only place for me to go. However, if I could go some place completely different, these would be my top 5:

1. Bangalore, India with USAC

India is definitely on my short list these days. In addition to it being the most affordable tuition price I know of ($3,780 a semester!!), USAC’s program at Christ University in Bangalore has really interesting courses like Bollywood Dance, Women’s Issues in Indian Society, and Buddhism and Hinduism in Contemporary Society.

2. Lima, Peru with ISA

With its lively Latin culture and affordable living, Lima is one of my favorite study abroad spots. ISA’s program at University of San Ignacio de Loyala has a huge variety of classes in English (since my Spanish is pathetic) and offers home-stay options and a variety of excursions, including one to Machu Picchu.

3. Amman, Jordan with SIT

As seen through my book and movie choices, I really like the Middle East.  The SIT program in Jordan focuses on modernization and social change in the region and includes a short and long-term home-stay experience. While a little pricey, the program requires a great deal of independent research – a huge plus for anyone interested in graduate school.

4. Cuenca, Ecuador with CEDEI

One of my student workers went on this program and LOVED it. Up in the mountains of Ecuador, this city has far less American students than Quito and allows for real immersion.  For $12,900 students get their home-stay with meals, tuition, and excursions to Peru and the Galapagos. The program also works on the American calendar which can be nice.

5. St. Petersburg, Russia with AIFS

After reading Soulshine Traveler, Russia has been looking better and better. Another one of my student workers did the AIFS program in St. Petersburg last fall and she continues to sing their praises. In addition to intensive Russian, the program offers great courses like Contemporary Russian Literature and Russian History: from Kiev Russia to the Revolution. Another nice thing about AIFS is that it is all-inclusive and for $11,995 students get tuition, housing, meals, local transportation, and excursions to London, Finland, Estonia, and Moscow.

If you could study abroad again or for the first time, where would you go?


Abroad Blog of the Week: Travel Thayer

If you have ever considered teaching abroad and want to know what it’s really all about,  check out this week’s Abroad Blog of the Week: Travel Thayer. The blogger, Michael, has now been teaching English abroad at an elementary school in Jochiwon, South Korea for right at a month and in his blog shares the details of teaching, living, and learning in Korea.  For anyone contemplating teaching abroad, the blog has great posts about classroom management, the experience of being a new teacher, and adjusting to living in a country where you don’t speak the language.  What I like best about Travel Thayer’s posts is that they are regular, detailed, and seem to reflect his true experience.

I caught up with Michael via Gmail last week and was able to ask a few questions about being an ESL teacher in Jochiwon. Here’s what he had to say:

What countries did you consider when you were looking for teaching positions abroad?

I had been thinking about teaching English abroad ever since my 2008 summer internship in Hangzhou, China where I taught English at a middle school summer camp.  Once I finished my Bachelors I looked into three countries for teaching: Japan, Korea, and China. I researched these countries simply because they were places that I was interested in spending time learning language, eating food, and experiencing the culture.

After much research I finally decided on Korea for several reasons.  Korea is one of the highest paying countries for English teachers; an entry-level teacher with only a Bachelors can find jobs paying about 2,000,000 Won per month for public schools and about 2,200,000 Won per month for private “Hagwon” schools.  Korea also provides free housing in every job offer I have seen.  I believe that this is also very common in Japan.  You still have to pay for utilities, but free housing is a great bonus!  The third economical reason I chose Korea is because the cost of living is very affordable, especially on an English teacher’s salary!

I believe that Korea and Japan offer similar contracts in terms of free housing and pay, but from my research I have found that Japan’s cost of living can be very high.  China is a wonderful country that I have spent about 6 months studying in, but I simply could not afford to live there on the salary that the English teachers are paid.  Perhaps if I had less student loans. . .

How did you decide to take the placement in Korea?

My first step after deciding which country I wanted to work in was to figure out which school I wanted to work for.  It can be an incredibly daunting task if you are not prepared!  There are probably thousands of different schools in Korea, some of them good, others have very poor reviews.  It is important to thoroughly research a school that is offering you a job and ask if you can speak with current foreign English teachers.
How do you find these schools in the first place? To be honest I did not go out looking for individual schools.  I simply put my resume up on an ESL teacher forum that several schools use to find new teachers.  It was not until later that I found the recruiting agency that I used to land my current job.  Recruiting agencies can be extremely helpful, especially if you have never taught overseas before! They help you with everything from how to get all of your documents completed and certified, to preparing you for your interview with your potential school.  Be sure you find an agency that is looking out for you and not simply trying to fill a quota of teachers.  I had an excellent experience with Footprints Recruiting, but I have friends who used Korean Horizons and had great things to say.

Lastly I want to talk about public schools and private “Hagwon” schools.  Public schools are government-funded and organized, much like public schools are in the United States.  Private schools are “for profit” schools.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it seems to be more likely to lead to a bad situation. Most of the bad stories that I have read about come from people teaching in hagwons.  This being said, I have friends who teach in great hagwons and are very happy with their placement!  Each person lives their own experience, some people are more culturally adaptive than others though. I think the most important thing is to be open to new things and smile!

Now that you’ve been in a Korea for a month, what do you love so far?

So far I love everything! I love the food, the people, my co-workers, my students, my apartment, and my city!  I have a hard time thinking of things that I do not like about Korea.  Even for the two weeks I was sick with a very stubborn cold I was happy about where I am.

Specifically though, the food is absolutely wonderful!  I am a very adventurous eater, and I love trying new food.  Some of my favorite foods here are duck, hot pot, and gimbap (Korean version of sushi).

I really must say how grateful I am for the kindness of the everyday Korean person. My language skills are very poor right now as I am a beginner, so the patience and kindness really helps.

What has surprised you the most?

What surprised me the most is how kind most people are here.  A long time ago Korea was known by China as “The courteous people of the East”.  I have to say that from my experience that this is very true! It is, of course, important to be courteous in return.

Also the number of Christian churches here is very surprising.  I had read that Christianity is quite popular here in Korea, but I never imagined to see so many churches!  When you look down on my city at night-time you can see all of the red crosses (neon lights).

What are three items that you brought with you from home that you just couldn’t live without?

My computer, my camera, and deodorant.  I do not really need any of these things to live, but they are things that I do enjoy and appreciate a great deal.  Technology is very well advanced in Korea; I am always finding new things in shops that I had never seen in the West.  That being said, computers are more expensive here in Korea.  I really enjoy taking pictures, writing about them, and sharing them with others; there was no way I was going to leave my camera at home.  Deodorant may sound a little funny, but it is not as easy to find here; when you do, it is much more expensive than back home.  I ran across the same issue in China where I paid about five dollars for a tiny roll-on deodorant.  This time I came well prepared!

What words of wisdom would you give to a recent study abroad returnee interested in teaching abroad?

The absolutely most important thing I can think of is to arrive with a smile on your face and an open mind!  If you have already been traveling, your mind has probably been opened a bit; keep it that way!  The worst thing you can do is to shut out experiences because you think that they are weird or embarrassing.  By being narrow-minded you will not reap the full benefit of the experience and you may even offend people.

Make sure that you actually want to teach; don’t think of teaching abroad as a vacation.  My regular schedule is about 22 classes per week.  I am at school from 8:30am-4:40pm (6pm on Tuesdays), but since I enjoy teaching I love coming to work.

If you are serious about teaching abroad I would highly recommend taking a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course.  There are several of these courses offered online, but be sure that you take one that is at least 100 hours.  By doing this you will gain a great deal of information on how to teach English to students with a different native language. As an added benefit, most schools offer a higher wage to those who are TEFL certified.

As far as schools go, research them!  I spent at least 3 hours every day for about a month prior to my arrival researching schools, contracts, issues people had, and simply life in Korea. Also, buy a book about the culture of the country you plan on going to.  This is probably one of the best ways to avoid the brunt of culture shock. Either before you leave, or once you get to the country, try to learn at least some of the language!  It makes an incredibly good impression if you are able to say “hello”, “goodbye”, and “thank you” correctly in the native language.

Michael with two of his students

 Thanks, Michael, for the interview!

Love Locked

Today is my two-year wedding anniversary to the most wonderful man who just so happens to be my best friend. To commemorate our day, I decided to be creative with Hubby’s gift and got an idea from pictures I’ve been seeing on a variety of blogs: the love padlock. The cultural phenomenon  of hanging a padlock with lovers’ initials has covered historical sites around the world. Have you hung a lock on any of these?

Mount Huanshan, China courtesy of Wikipedia

Locks in Moscow, Russia courtesy of Hotel Club.

Padlocks on the Pont des Arts in Paris courtesy of David Lebovitz.

I wanted us to have our own love padlock but rather than permanently place it, I wanted to be able to take it with us.  So here’s what I did:

1. First I purchased a 5×7″ matted frame, a padlock, and one of these 3M metal command hooks.

2. I created a 5×7″ Publisher document with important words and events from our marriage, leaving a space for where the hook would go.

3. Then I framed the Publisher document and placed the command hook on top of the glass over the reserved space.

4. Since the lock I bought has a four digit code, I put our anniversary 06.19 as the combination.

And voila! A one-of-a-kind anniversary gift for Hubby.

Exercising Around the World

After eating my way through Vegas this weekend, I am feeling a little round. It doesn’t help that my motivation for exercise has been lacking…I’d rather blog, read, cook, blog, etc. So this evening I decided to search the web for inspiration. I thought I’d look for exercises or tips from around the world, but what I came across was even better. In my search I found Nerd Fitness and the video Exercising Around the World in which Steve, the founder of Nerd Fitness, does just that. He travels over 120,000 miles and videos himself exercising in every country along the way. Watching him actually made me get up and do some jumping jacks (I did 50).

After being motivated by Steve’s international exercise, I thought I should keep reading and see if he had anything else good to say. It just so happens that he did have some great advice and now I have new rules for my exercise goal setting. As I get back into my routine, I’m determined to start small and do something I love: hike the cliffs. I’m actually excited.


Unlocking the Greatness of Girls

Yesterday I was poking around TED Talks and ended up listening to a talk by Leymah Gbowee, a Nobel Laureate and peace advocate from Liberia, called “Unlock the intelligence, compassion, greatness of girls”. In her 14 minute talk, she shares personal experiences of seeing young girls in Liberia unable to afford education and many entering into prostitution due to their extreme poverty.  But she believes their is hope and speaks of multiple young women who have made a difference in Liberia when they are able to unlock their own greatness.

The talk reminded me of a conversation I had with a faculty member from my university a few months ago. From Ghana, this professor takes a group of students back to his home community every summer for them to learn about development planning by working in the academy he started, the Human Factor Leadership Academy. When speaking to me of his academy he said,

“If you educate a man [in Ghana], you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a whole village.”

Through HFLA, he aims to impact the whole village and to unlock greatness as he teaches both children and adults throughout Africa. His hope is to build leaders who will spark change in his home country and beyond.

As I was pondering all of this yesterday, at first I confined these issues to Africa. However, currently I am in Las Vegas for the first time, and around me I feel that I see so much lost potential.  Escort cards line the streets offering women to your door in under 20 minutes. While my husband and I have had a great time viewing the lights, going to a show, and eating incredible food, I just can’t help but be sad. What if someone had helped unlock greatness in these women and the men they interact with? And, what I am doing to help unlock greatness in others?  It’s a question I feel I need to seriously consider.

Interested in learning more?  Check out these links:


Today I am pottering.  I didn’t even know what that was until yesterday, but now that I do, I want to potter all the time. I was reading the blog The Silent Soul and her list of “50 signs you are a grown up”.  It didn’t take me long to realize the list was not American, but rather British.  Here were the ones that gave it away:

  • 17. Taking trips to the local tip
  • 29. Spending weekend just ‘pottering’
  • 46. Having a ‘best’ crockery set

There were others too, but these three definitely stood out.  For all you Americans, the local tip seems to be the same as a dump or junk yard and a crockery set is a tea set.  But the one I love best is pottering.  According to my Google search, pottering is to occupy oneself in a desultory but pleasant manner, doing a number of small tasks. Isn’t this great?  I’m wondering if I could be a professional pottering-er.  If I were, here would be my favorite pottering tasks:

1. Make my to-do list (I can’t live without it!)

2. Send everyone I know a birthday card on their birthday (Because who doesn’t love to get mail)

Courtesy of Little Red Mail Box

3. Make gifts for all my friends’ new babies. (There are a lot of them these days!)

I actually made these. 🙂

4. Practice Italian. (Because it was my second major but it is severely lacking right now.)

5. Try a new international recipe every day. (Blog-worthy material)

These lettuce wraps were delicious.

What would you do if you could potter all the time?

Check out these sites for more on pottering:

Moroccan Short-Cut Lunch

For the Friday student lunch, I was adventurous today and made a meal from a place I’ve never visited: Morocco!  Once again, with limited resources I had to cheat a bit and bought a good bit of the cuisine, but I still did my research.  If I had actually made these items, I would have used the following recipes:

But as it was, I was short on a kitchen and on time so I took the following short cuts.

  1. Buy roasted chicken from grocery store, add lemon wedges and olives, and microwave for 1 minute.
  2. Purchase Athenos hummus, scoop into a bowl and serve with pita wedges
  3. Order tabouli salad from pre-made section at Ralph’s and pour in serving dish
  4. Slice oranges and sprinkle with cinnamon – this one is a real recipe so it isn’t really cheating.

In the end, it was a delicious meal and it looked pretty good too!

Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Olives

Olives, Tabouli, and Hummus

Cinnamon Sprinkled Oranges – so good!

Take 1: Cleaning the tabouli out of our teeth!

Take 2: Me and my wonderful students



The Middle East Through Novels

I have a fascination with the Middle East.  I’ve never been to an Arab country, but regardless, I find the culture incredibly intriguing and attempt to satisfy my interest through my book choices.  In addition to Prisoner of Tehran, books with Middle Eastern influence that I have indulged in so far are some of the more popular:


Here’s what I’ve put on my Middle Eastern reading list:

  • In the Eye of the Sun by Ahdaf Soueif (2000) , the story of a young, Egyptian woman’s pursuit of her PhD in English literature and the relationship with her husband (Since I’m interested in getting my PhD, I thought I could relate.)
  • My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk (2001), a crime novel set in the courts of the sultan in 16th century Istanbul (Nothing like a good mystery!)
  • The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (1997), recounts and embellishes the Biblical story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah (I’ve seen this book at Barnes and Nobel for years but just never bought it.)
  • Does my Head Look Big in This by Randa Abdel-Fattah (2007), a 16-year old girl embraces her faith by deciding to wear the hijab  (Love the title and the modern-day perspective)
  • One Thousand and One Nights by Anonymous, a collection of Middle Eastern folktales (A classic that I’ve wanted to read for a long time…and it’s free on Kindle!)

Looking for more internationally themed books?  Check out my Asian Inspired Reading List.  (I’m reading The Tapestries now and it is excellent!)

For more recommendations for Middle Eastern reads, check out these sites:

Missing Home this Father’s Day Weekend

When I started this blog a month ago it was because I missed traveling and seeing the world. I haven’t been abroad in over three years due to various reasons, but this blog helps me satisfy that itch. However, sometimes I think the harder itch to scratch is missing home. And today, it is what I miss the most.

When Hubby and I moved to San Diego a year ago, I joked with everyone that it would be another “study abroad” experience for me. There is no doubt that the culture of Southern California is quite opposite of South Carolina.  But in all honesty, the culture has been pretty easy to adapt to and I enjoy bringing my southern hospitality to my California friends. San Diego really is a great city and I feel spoiled to live in a such a beautiful, international place.

Rather than the culture, what has been hard about residing in the Pacific time zone is missing all the birthdays, the family dinners, and the everyday life of being with those you love.  In addition to it being Father’s Day this weekend, it is also my mom’s birthday. While my brother and his family will gather around to celebrate my parents, my husband and I will be 3000 miles away. We’ll talk on the phone and we’ll mail gifts, but isn’t quite the same.

The distance of living so far hit me the hardest when my grandmother got ill in January.  She was 97 so I knew my days with her were numbered, but I never really contemplated the challenge of being so far away if she did get sick. When my parents called on a Wednesday and told me she was slowly declining, I bought a flight for Friday to go and see her. But on Thursday morning she passed, and I lost my chance to say goodbye. Although it’s been five months, I sometimes still cry when I think about it. I blame the distance for not being able to see my beloved grandma one more time.

I 100% believe that we gain so much when we go away, whether that be to California or Cambodia. It’s the reason why I’m a study abroad advisor.  What I learned from my six months spent in Italy changed me for the better, and I see hundreds of student come back from abroad with new skills, knowledge, and confidence.  But today as I’ve been thinking about my homesickness, I realized sometimes we have to give something up in order to have the growth obtained from travel. Sometimes what we give up is worth it, but sometimes that loss lingers with us.  I far from regret our move to the west coast. In fact, I think it was the very best decision for us. But my husband and I both realize that we have made sacrifices as well.

For anyone out there experiencing that pang of homesickness this Father’s Day weekend, I hope you too can say that the experience you are gaining abroad is worth the sacrifice.  Just be sure to call Dad on Sunday.

My heart is in Georgia this weekend. (via LilyGene on Etsy)

International Do Gooder: The United Noshes

With this post, I add a new category to Global From Home: International Do Gooder.  My mother raised me to believe that to whom much is given much is expected. For those of us who have had the privilege to travel and see the world, we are certainly blessed and I believe we are called to give back in whatever ways we can.

The United Noshes have decided to do just that through one of the most creative fundraisers I’ve come across.  Currently they have endeavored to raise funds for World Food Program USA by cooking an authentic meal from each of the 194 countries (in alphabetical order!) that are members of the United Nations. There last meal represented the dishes of Columbia and included chicharrones (fried pork belly), chorizo, arepas de queso (corn and cheese griddle cakes), baked plantains, and several other dishes.  The meals are fairly elaborate and the Noshes maintain as much authenticity as possible in the ingredients and cooking methods.  For each meal they invite friends and acquaintances to join them and in return, only ask that they make a donation to the World Food Program USA.  As of right now, they have made 37 meals and raised over $6,000. Wow!

Columbian Dinner at the United Noshes

I am so in love with this idea: educate yourself and others on ethnic food, dine with friends, and raise money for an extremely worthy cause all within your own home. Sounds like a global from home winner to me.  While 194 authentic meals is certainly over my head, I do think the Noshes set a great example.  Plus, in addition to their philanthropic work, the Noshes also give back to their readers with links to all their recipes at

Visit the World Food Program USA website to learn more about their programs or to make a donation.