Hola, España!

Hola, España!

Hola, amigos! Flamenco, sangria and lots of tapas filled my days in Barcelona on a weekend trip with my friend Tyler (you can check out his blog here). Spain has always been on my “must see” list and I am so thankful that I got to take the trip. Although it rained every day we were … Read more

Hola, amigos! Flamenco, sangria and lots of tapas filled my days in Barcelona on a weekend trip with my friend Tyler (you can check out his blog here). Spain has always been on my “must see” list and I am so thankful that I got to take the trip. Although it rained every day we were there, it was easy to see past the gloomy, grey skies and realize how beautifully colorful Barcelona is.

sagradafamilia

To my surprise, there was a Starbucks right around the corner from our hostel, so I started off each morning perfectly with a chai tea latte. Our first day there, we tackled both my and Tyler’s number ones. Since our hostel was also a minute walk from Tyler’s number one, the Sagrada Familia, we started there. The Sagrada Familia, a church designed by Gaudi, has been in the works for over a hundred years and is planned to be completed in the year 2026. I am so glad we got to see it because it was absolutely beautiful! Colorful stained glass windows towered along white walls and lit up the whole building inside. I loved it and hope to come again when it is completely finished! After the Sagrada Familia, we made our way to Park Guell, my number one! I have seen so many pictures of Park Guell in the past and was so excited to see it for myself. It was very colorful and fun! A huge mosaic lizard in the park reminded me of my brother because he has a little lizard that looks just like it, that he painted during a family vacation to Jamaica when we were younger. The first day in Spain we also got our first taste of paella, a typical Spanish rice dish.

paella

The second day we ventured to many Gaudi sights in the city, including the famous Casa Batllo. It was so funny to see such a unique and colorful building in between “normal” buildings. Along with doing some shopping along the streets, and stumbling across Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf (what little copycats of the Arc di Triomphe in Paris!), we also ventured into the park, where we saw the Gaudi Fountain. Tyler immediately stated that the Gaudi Fountain is Barcelona’s own Trevi Fountain and I couldn’t agree more. I actually like this fountain over the Trevi Fountain! It is beautiful!

parkguell

Our next move was to take a funicular up to Mount Juic. Once there, we could take a cable car to the castle, but we opted for the walk, through the gardens, to get to the castle instead (which was much needed after our afternoon snack of sugar covered churros dipped in chocolate). After seeing a breathtaking panoramic view of the city from the castle, Tyler wanted to check out the Olympic stadium, where the 1992 games were held. Afterwards, we headed back down the mountain to the Magic Fountain! Every night there is a water show at the fountain. Fun pop music played while everyone gathered around and enjoyed the fountain spouting out water high into the sky in all directions.

Our last day in Barcelona we made sure to walk up and down the famous street “La Rambla.” There were many vendors selling gorgeous flower bouquets, jewelry and small trinkets. I fell in love with the hand painted fans I came across (like the ones Flamenco dancers use) and decided on buying a turquoise and white one for in my room! La Boqueria Market, an open air market, was also on La Rambla. This market was just like the others in that it had fresh fish and fruit, but it also had so much more. From fresh fruit popsicles to frozen fruit drinks on ice to empanadas, this market had it all. Of course when I came across a crepe vendor packed with customers lined up, I had to check it out. Although it wasn’t my intention, I ended up walking away with a strawberry banana crepe with white chocolate and milk chocolate chips, and a fresh kiwi banana coconut frozen fruit drink, for lunch.

The rest of the afternoon was spent slipping into little shops, in order to escape the rain and cold. I came across what are now my favorite souvenirs that I have purchased since arriving in January (although I can’t say what they are, in case some readers might be receiving the gifts).

We ended our trip to Barcelona the perfect way. The night started off with a flamenco show! It was so much fun to watch. I was really surprised to hear that there are actually more flamenco shows in Japan now than there are in Spain, because it is so widespread. The guitarists played such pretty songs and you could tell the dancers were so passionate. When I thought of flamenco I thought of girls in big poofy, red dresses, but there was actually one female and one male dancer.

After the show we were taken to a nearby restaurant/bar where we were served endless tapas and sangria! My favorite tapas (a variety of appetizers) were the patatas bravas and cheese and potato croquettes. We met many other travelers at the bar. From an Australian man traveling through Spain for a conference that included bungee jumping one day and rock climbing the next, to two sophomore students participating in a study abroad experience on a ship, who had to sleep in cots with hundreds of ants crawling all over them in India, we could have stayed there for hours exchanging stories. However, we had a 4:30 a.m. wake up call to catch our plane back to Italy. Adios Barcelona… until 2026 (I have to see the Sagrada Familia completed, don’t I?).

College Advice, Take More Risks

College Advice, Take More Risks

My brother recently shared a LinkedIn article with me called Wanted at Work: Take More Risks in College by Jeff Selingo, an editor and columnist at The Chronicle of Higher Education, which describes how risk taking is so important in college and how it will help you in the workplace. It’s safe to say, although … Read more

My brother recently shared a LinkedIn article with me called Wanted at Work: Take More Risks in College by Jeff Selingo, an editor and columnist at The Chronicle of Higher Education, which describes how risk taking is so important in college and how it will help you in the workplace. It’s safe to say, although I do not know quite yet, that you will have more freedom and room to do this while you are young and in a collegiate career. The moral of the article is that focusing on major research projects, putting yourself in unfamiliar situations and developing a portfolio are all crucial to future success.

I feel that I have accomplished all three of these, and that Mount Union prepared me for two of them. First in the research realm, Mount has a Senior Culminating Experience (SCE) for all majors. Last semester I wrote my Spanish research paper on an economic analysis of La Liga in Spain and FIFA mega-events, particularly the World Cup. For my management major this semester we are going through a game simulation of running a company, and also are required to write several papers. These two classes, among others, have helped my analytical skills. Secondly, putting myself in unfamiliar situations was easily accomplished by studying abroad in Spain for a semester. This stretched me beyond comfort zones and helped me achieve cultural and experiential learning. Lastly, through much of my time at Mount Union I have been fortunate to be part of several organization and work a couple internships, allowing me to develop a portfolio and e-presence. At any rate, I encourage students to take as many risks in college that they can, it may pay off! I hope it does for me.

Please take a moment to read the actual post by Jeff Selingo, it’s worth the read, and Mount Union will prepare you for the first two for sure, and in most cases the last! Enjoy.

Photo taken by Zak Suhar in Calpe, Spain while studying abroad in spring 2012.

Travel Bug: Best Tips for Packing Light

Travel Bug: Best Tips for Packing Light

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A few months ago I was hiking in the Galician region of northern Spain on el Camino de Santiago, and also traveling all around Europe on a tight budget. You can find very cheap flights in Europe, but the costs they hit you with are baggage fees, where if you literally can’t shove, jump, or punch your carry-on into the overhead compartment rack, you will have to check your bag (at a steep or undesireable price). Long story short, I needed to pack for about 10 days straight when hiking and 3 weeks straight over my spring break, all in a lovely Osprey Hornet 46 Liter bag, which is comparable to a larger backpack. So, here is “The Lucky 7,” my general rules to follow when packing in addition to my item lists for two trips!

  1. If it’s on Your Back, it Will Pack – Most of the time if you have a bag on your back, even if it may be a little bigger than standard size, the flight attendant will just look at your bag and pass you up in the line. This may not always work, but remember to try and carry everything you need right on your back.
  2. Plan, Make a List and Check it – Whenever traveling it is good to know where you are going, the weather and climate, etc. It usually helps to write things down as reminders and cross items off once you know they’ve been packed.
  3. Pack Efficiently – It’s true that one person may be able to fit double the items as someone else just because they know how to pack right. To take advantage of the most space in your bag, roll items like pants and shirts and use smaller things like socks and underwear as filler items. When you can, think miniature as far as toothpaste, toiletries and other small accessory items.
  4. Versatility is King – When packing light, if you are trying to minimize items, it’s a good idea to make sure clothes can be worn for different purposes. Pack some pants that can look dressy with a button-up, but also can be pulled off casual and feel comfortable. I highly recommend the prAna bronson pants, my favorite! Try to make sure almost everything can go with all other clothing items in your bag if you can, and maybe lean toward bringing more neutral colors.
  5. If You Debate it, You Won’t Need it – If you keep on thinking you may or may not need an item, leave it out. Always remember you can do laundry pretty much wherever or at least hand wash clothes. This classic mistake might be due to the many seemingly fantastic travel gadgets available, but a good rule of thumb is if you don’t need it at home, you don’t need it while traveling.
  6. Wear it! – If your bag doesn’t fit or you need more space, wear some of your clothes. I once saw two travel buddies in the Stockholm airport literally pulling out half of their clothes in the security checkpoint! Definitely put on the most clunky and heavy things as well as shoes and sweaters so you pass the weight limit. If you’re worried about wrinkly clothes consider buying wrinkle-free wear.
  7. Simplify – Remember that you can always buy things there. Challenge yourself, see if you can survive with the most minimal belongings. The nice thing is too, then you don’t need to lug around a very heavy bag the whole trip!

Here is a sample list of the things I brought with me in my spring break bag where I traveled to around 5 different countries: comfortable walking shoes, sandals, Patagonia capilene baselayer, hat, sunglasses, swimsuit, shorts – 1 athletic – 2 North Face, shirts – 2 dress – 2 undershirts – 1 long sleeve tee – 4 tees, pants – 2 pair, socks – 5 pair (odor resistant if possible!), underwear – 4 pair, jacket – rain/insulator, moneybelt/documents, electronics – cell phone (doubled as alarm clock) – camera – ipod – computer (if need be) – chargers – memory cards, Nalgenes, watch (comes in handy!), ear plugs, toiletries, small quick drying pack towel, notepad, small first-aid, bag locks, chico bags and any snacks if you wish. I would say I overpacked too!

On a different trip, when I hiked for 10 days in northern Spain, I substituted some things out for others: comfortable hiking boots (worn at almost all times), sandals (for at hostels), Patagonia capilene baselayer, hat, bandana, shorts/pants – lightweight convertable zip-offs – 1 athletic, 1 North Face, shirts - 4 pair, socks – 5 pair (boy did these smell), underwear – 4 pair, jacket – rain/insulator, moneybelt/documents, electronics – cell phone (doubled as alarm clock) – camera – ipod – chargers, Nalgenes, watch, ear plugs (necessity for group hostels on the trail!), toiletries, small quick-drying pack towel, sleep sack, hammock, collapsable hanger, playing cards, notepad, small first-aid, bag locks and chico bags. Some other hiking materials were needed on this trip.

Just remember with added fees from airlines, the hassle of baggage claim and the many TSA regulations, being able to carry on luggage is a must and will make your life a heck of a lot easier. There are many instances where people need to get their bag checked, and you do not want to fall into this trap. My one friend on the way to Morocco barely got her bag past security after I saw her pull out Ugg boots, and other heavy items too (see tip #6)! I have confidence that everyone will be master packers next time they travel. Here are some dimensions for your convenience…

American Airways: The maximum dimensions cannot exceed any of the following measurements: 22″ long x 14″ wide x 9″ tall or 115cm (56 x 36 x 23 cm). All carry-on items should be stowed in an overhead bin. You are also allowed one personal item in addition to your carry on.

RyanAir: Strictly one item of cabin baggage per passenger (excluding infants) weighing up to 10kg with maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm is permitted. (handbag, briefcase, laptop, shop purchases, camera etc.) must be carried in your 1 permitted piece of cabin baggage. Extra/oversized cabin baggage will be refused at the boarding gate, or where available, placed in the hold of the aircraft for a fee of £50/€50. If you are unsure, check at the Bag Drop desk before going through security. You are NOT allowed on personal item in addition to your carry on.

I hope “The Lucky 7″ and my sample lists can help you on your next adventure!

Travel Bug: 4 Tips to Avoid Being Pickpocketed

Travel Bug: 4 Tips to Avoid Being Pickpocketed

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While I was studying abroad in Spain, one of the first bits of advice our program directors gave us was over the topic of pickpocketing. Since Europe is such a travel hub people, especially in big cities, can sometimes make a living out of pickpocketing. At the beginning I was a little scared just from how many times we were told to guard our money, know where things are, etc. Truthfully, the crimes aren’t that bad just as long as you are attentive and aware of your surroundings. I have heard several stories of my friends where they felt they were getting pickpocketed but it was too late, or how someone once tried cutting the bottom of their backpack. The troubling part is that once something is stolen it has probably been on three other people’s hands, and your belongings are long gone (Minus the fact of my friend who ran down his stolen wallet one time!)

To ease the minds of all of you who are thinking of studying abroad, traveling, or just want to be extra careful, these simple steps should keep your money where it belongs. Follow these, and let your mind be at ease while traveling!

1. The Back Rule - Always keep things in your front pockets, and never hang your purse or backpack on a chair in a restaurant or cafe. Make sure your bag is between your legs, and don’t let strangers distract you (particularly out of the window), someone else is probably onto your stuff.

2. Distribution - Don’t have all your key belongings in one place, use a money belt, and never carry all your cash with you. The most praised money belt model is Rick Steves’ Silk Money Belt, from $10 on Amazon. Never carry your passport out with you. Keep a copy instead. If for some reason you are carrying loads of cash, keep it in different places — some in your wallet, some in inside coat pockets, some in your sock, wherever.

3. Be Aware of Your Surroundings - Anytime you are in a crowd, on public transit, an elevator with many people, it is an opportune setting for people to pickpocket. Beware of any strangers approaching you and mock situations. People will distract you while someone else is stealing from you. A standard rule would be “Do not engage, act like you belong.”

4. Double Check and Be Safe! - (No I am not referring to the Aaron Rodger’s Discount Double Check TD celebration). Always have your hands feeling your pockets, holding onto your purse, or have backpacks with locks on the zippers. Also, avoid places that look sketchy or are known for muggings!

I hope this didn’t scare you, but helped you. Just remember these few rules and traveling should be a breeze!

I’m Home…And Back to the Roots

I’m Home…And Back to the Roots

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I just got back to the states, and still have many posts I would like to share about my experience abroad … don’t worry. Over the rest of summer and once school starts up, I plan to compose some posts about surviving in a different country, tips to avoid being pick-pocketed, traveling advice and maybe some inspirational photos. Right when I got home I felt a little relieved, but the truth is I still wanted to be in Spain. The Euro 2012 soccer games were still going on, Olympics starting up and coverage over Spain in the states was booming. I wanted to turn right around and go back! Over a few weeks, hours upon hours of editing photos, and seeing old friends, it was nice to finally be back in my roots.

My summer has been jammed with working, volunteering, concerts and adventuring through the beautiful state of Wisconsin. I also received a gift from my oldest brother and joined the Back to the Roots community. Back to the Roots was founded at UC Berkeley in 2009 two months away from graduation when two students came across the idea during a class lecture of being able to potentially grow gourmet mushrooms entirely on recycled coffee grounds. Inspired by the idea of turning waste into wages and fresh, local food, they experimented in a fraternity kitchen, ultimately growing one test bucket of tasty oyster mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds. With that one bucket, some initial interest from Whole Foods and a grant they decided to forget the corporate route, and instead, become full-time urban mushroom farmers.

They offer a grow a Grow-Your-Own Mushroom Garden which lets anyone, across the country grow their own gourmet mushrooms at home (see video). Part of my job in the community is to upload photos of my mushrooms, provide them with feedback, and sit in on webinars with the founders. When I post a picture with your kit fully grown on their facebook page they will donate a kit and sustainability curriculum to an elementary classroom of my choice to support youth sustainability education! They’ve reached over 10,000 kids with this campaign. I can’t wait to bring my kit to school with me and it does feel nice to be back in the states!

The Spanish American Culture War

The Spanish American Culture War

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Yes, Spain and the United States are somewhat different. OK, a lot different. Hopefully by the end of this post you will be able to decide for yourself which place would be the ideal place to live! Both places are unique in their own ways and there definitely are some culture clashes … just ask my host mom. I quickly found out certain things are much different here in Alicante, but I’ve been able to adapt to most of them. My list seems to be ever growing for this battle between cultures and if you would like any further clarification or more detailed stories, don’t hesitate to ask. Here we go …

1. The first difference and foremost difference I was aware of upon arriving on Calle de Foglietti in Alicante with my host family was the re-recognition of pronunciation, more specifically between the letter “z” and “s.” Authentic spaniards virtually have no ability to pronounce the letter “z” with a definite buzz, like the sound a bee makes. Therefore, my host mom and sister seemed like they were on a Saturday Night Live skit for the first month, and they covered up little chuckles after telling “Sak” that dinner was ready. Fortunately, many people in Spain are bilingual and can get a normal sounding “Zak” out, just not my family yet … I’m trying.

2. Secondly, for everyone who absolutely loves to nap, Spain is the place to be. Siestas are integrated into daily life to the point where many city stores close and then again reopen around 5 p.m. Wondering why no one is out and about in a metropolitan area in the middle of the day? Oh yeah, siesta. My host mom and sister always come home in the middle of the day to eat and then relax/sleep for a little while. I have never been a big napper, but hopefully this grows on me (see point #4).

3. Lunch and dinner are eaten extremely late in Spain. The typical lunch time is right around 2-3 p.m. and dinner floats around 9 p.m. This was one of the hardest things to get used to abroad because I am used to eating lunch at noon or 1 p.m. and dinner around 6 p.m. I am not sure exactly why they eat so late — it just is what it is!

4. Next, if you thought staying out real late on the weekends was around 4 in the morning … guess again. In Spain, nightlife is one of the highlights of things to do. Bars and restaurants are open earlier on in the night but discotecas or clubs do not even open until 3 a.m. So right when you are thinking about calling it quits for the night in the states, places are just opening in Spain. It is typical for people to get home around 7 a.m. more or less. My host sister’s boyfriend was saying how when he was younger, he hardly slept every weekend and was just out hanging out with friends. This is a hard thing to adapt to for sure, and probably the main explanation for siestas!

5. Fashionistas. In Spain everyone you see is very well dressed, and there is a pretty good fashion statement. People like to dress in neutral colors and look good before they go for a stroll around town. Also, people usually only wear tennis shoes when they are going for a run, to workout or do something outside.

6. In España, conservation is a very important topic, which has drawn interest to me since I am enthusiastic about environmental topics. The main reason for this is because electricity and water are very expensive resources and utilities. I reckon water is highly priced because southern Spain is a very dry region, and desalination from the sea is to my understanding has a rather steep price. Moral of the story is to keep lights off when you’re not using them and take quick showers (like 5 minutes max!). Also, many Spaniards do not have dryers because it racks up the bill, and it’s more common to air dry everything outside or in the bathroom. I am lucky that my host mom has one, but we don’t use it much. If you are someone who likes the feeling of ‘shrinking’ back into your jeans, I advise you to buy them a tad small in the first place here.

7. Similar to conservation is the idea of public transportation and walkable cities. This is somewhat new to me since I haven’t lived in the heart of a city before, but Alicante has everything in close proximity. You can find a Farmacía, market, café, restaurant, bank and cell phone store on pretty much every block. Many people ride buses and the train to school and work as well. The price of gas is rather high, and people in Spain drive recklessly so I wouldn’t want a car here anyways!

8. Trying to quit smoking? Don’t come to Spain or Europe for that matter. Almost everyone smokes here, so it would be that much harder to burn out that habit! Also, the drinking age is 18, but people don’t abuse it as much as I feel college students in the states do. It is rather common to just have one beer with lunch or dinner in Spain or some Sangria.

9. Olive oil is a huge industry, so it’s heavily used. Spain provides about 25% of the world’s olive oil and 50% of Europe’s. In my cooking class, Antonio (the chef instructor) comes around to our respective stations and I usually predict his words …”más aciete, más aciete” or add more olive oil! One common brunch snack or lunch entrée is toasted bread with olive oil and shaved tomato on the top.

10. Further in the food category is related to what all of us college kids survive on, coffee. The size of coffee is completely opposite of your average Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, but rather very small cups and almost shot size. This is because there is a lot of espresso and the coffee is much stronger here. Another thing that doesn’t exist is ice coffee and refrigerated milk at the supermarket. Mercadona or the market stores have cartons of milk just sitting at luke-warm temperature on the shelves! I have yet to see chocolate milk too (besides Nesquick).

11. JamónJamón. Jamón. More jamón. Let me just say that right now in my kitchen my host mom has the whole thigh of a pig, hoof included, just sitting under towels ready for some jamón to be shaved off and eaten. Ham is very popular especially on bocadillos (sandwiches) in Spain, but also on chips. Of course there are jamón flavored Ruffles!

12. Tapas are also a big difference, and most comparable to appetizers in the states. When at a restaurant or bar you can order a beer/drink and pay a little extra for a small plate of food, but if you’re lucky it will be gratis or free. Some popular tapas are potatoes with meat, ham and mantiditos (little sandwiches), and the best I have had to date were in Granada! Going from bar to bar can definitely be a substitute for dinner on some nights.

13. The concept of tipping when eating out is much different. In the states waiters, make a very low wage and bank on getting awesome tips, making service and the quality of it very important. In Spain, waiters make a higher-based salary, which makes for not the greatest service, and for this, a very little to no tip is usually left at the end of the meal. My one friend left about a 20% tip out to eat once and the waitress came running out to tell her she left money on the table!

14. Sundays in both the states and Spain are a day to relax, go to church, be with family and maybe go out to eat. The only difference in Spain is that literally nothing is open in the whole city besides some restaurants. Unless it is a really nice day, Alicante on Sundays feels like a ghost town!

15. Next, whereas it is common to invite company over to your house for some movies, a poker night or to just hangout in the states, people in Spain do not socialize in the house. The only people who really visit my apartment are my host sister’s boyfriend, and socializing normally takes place at local cafés, plazas or out on the town.

16. Lastly, since fast food is popular in the states, I thought I would mention that Alicante has McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and Subway! I can’t tell you how they taste differently because I am making a pact with myself to eat no fast food while I’m here. However, one thing I could say is that the bigger chains have more elaborate design to them, have very large eating spaces and seem to be a hangout spot for younger kids!

Phew, you made it through the Sweet 16. Now is your chance to leave comments about what place you think would be better to live!

Hasta luegoo,
Sak (man am I really embracing this name, which could be a bad thing…)

Hola. España.

Hola. España.

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Excited, nervous, anxious, but also born ready. There were many, many mixed feelings as the days were winding down until January 10, the date I departed from Chicago to Madrid, with a pit stop in London. As I was packing, and doing a lot of unpacking, it was hard for me to completely grasp that I would be living along the Mediterranean coast for the next six months. I definitely was going to miss my family but also was looking forward to shaping new friendships and a family abroad, amongst my home-stay and other USAC students. With that being said, there is no doubt that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and I was looking forward virtually keeping up with people at home. That presents one of the biggest challenges while trying to soak up this awesome experience with you…sharing it! But no worries, I’ll do my best to get to the point, be engaging and fun and hopefully you can try to vicariously live through my time in Alicante.

After meeting up with some other USAC students on the group flight, we finally arrived to Hotel Regina in Madrid where a five-day excursion was upon us. There were several places we visited first in the capital of Spain, all of which were very impressive. We visited the Prado Museum, which features the works of El Greco, Diego Velazquez and Goya, and the Reina Sofia Museum to view Picasso’s Guernica, a piece made after bombings during the Spanish Civil War. We also walked through the Plaza Mayor and to the Royal Palace of Madrid, where every room was jaw dropping. Another fun part in Madrid that was not part of the guided tours was the tapas restaurants and discotecas. It was very fun to get an early taste of what Spanish nightlife is all about!

Another place we visited was the city of Segovia, a place known for being home to the famous Roman aqueduct and the wonderful Alcazar of Segovia. Walking through the city was incredible and there were many buildings designed with brilliant architecture. My view from lunch was breathtaking as well, overlooking the whole city with the Guadarrama Mountains in the background. The last city in Spain we visited during our stay near Madrid was Toledo. Here, we toured a synagogue that still has working church services, which features amazing fresocs on all ceilings and more gold in one place that you will ever see! I was also able to get a shout out and quick feel good from the states on this tour. Since Toledo, Spain is sister cities with Toledo, Ohio, we were pointed to Calle de Toledo de Ohio, which easily made me smile. All in all, the tours in Madrid were tremendous and you can see some more photos at the links below! Hasta pronto. -Z(S)ak o Gustavo

Video Scholarship Contest – Vote for Me!

Video Scholarship Contest – Vote for Me!

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I recently applied for the Grand Trunk Study Abroad Scholarship for my spring semester in Alicante, Spain and need your help! Students were asked to submit a video and explain how he or she has a unique and inspired passion for travel, a desire to experience new places with an open mind, to see the delicate interconnections between humankind and nature and have a deep understanding of intercultural relations.

Like Grand Trunk, I share an incredible passion for the outdoors and am adamant about protecting our wild and natural places here on this earth. This reason, along with many other similarities between my lifestyle and values, is why I feel I can add value to the brand as a Grand Trunk Ambassador. Ultimately, I love encountering new experiences, and I define these experiences as travels that stay with you for the rest of your life. I believe travel can add value to our lives like nothing else. Travel teaches compassion, humility and a desire to realize the interconnectedness of our experiences here on this planet. For me, what I enjoy most, is sharing these connections through the images produced from my journeys and documenting their stories on my blog.

Vote at http://studyabroad.grandtrunkgoods.com/project/zak-suhar-the-ultimate-traveler/

There will be a public voting period from December 1 – December 31 to narrow down entries to only six. Then, from January 1 – January 3, Grand Trunk employees and sponsors will determine a total of three winners. There are scholarship rewards for three students along with an awesome prize pack! I really hope you can help me in the voting period by posting my video to Facebook, tweeting and emailing friends who would be willing to support me. Each person can vote up to five times a day throughout the whole month of December, and I hope you can remember to vote as much as possible! You can watch my video at the link above, then select “vote for this video” and login through Facebook to submit your votes.

Thank you for all your support, and I cannot wait to share incredible experiences with you!

“Travel often, getting lost will help you find yourself.”

Study Abroad, Travel Often – Getting Lost Will Help You Find Yourself

Study Abroad, Travel Often – Getting Lost Will Help You Find Yourself

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A study abroad experience is truly an adventure, one where you are exposed to an unknown area but where you can ultimately find yourself. The decision of going abroad is a challenge, but being immersed in a totally different culture is something I could not pass up. Mark Twain said it best. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” I hope to not only discover and learn many new things about a foreign place, but also to discover new things about myself and what my true purpose really is. This, along with many other reasons, are why I want to study abroad in Alicante, Spain.

Taking the opportunity to study overseas will definitely help me broaden my horizons. I anticipate meeting many new people and creating relationships that will last for a long time. I also want to explore a language and culture that I have been studying ever since middle school. You can only learn so much by practicing speaking and reading about cultural activities. Being able to put all these things into an actual experience will be second to none. Going abroad will also challenge me to travel on a budget and be able to effectively live on my own. I hope to become even more independent as my spring semester progresses in Spain.

Alicante is a Mediterranean port city in the southeastern part of Spain, which has a sunny climate, beautiful beaches, tall mountains and a rich culture and nightlife. I plan on swimming, surfing, sailing and enjoying the four-mile-long beach of San Juan, which is considered one of the finest in all of Spain. One thing I cannot wait to experience are the many festivals that will be going on in Spain such as Carnaval in Barcelona, Fallas de San Jose in Valencia, La Feria de Abril in Sevilla and Cruces de Mayo in Grenada. This is the one thing I look forward to the most … experiencing the richness and taste of real Spanish culture.

Overall, I have been waiting for a study abroad experience for some time, and I cannot wait to fly into Spain. There are many things I will learn from the experience, and hope to grow personally. I also look forward to taking interesting courses that can apply right to my major. I do not want to be disappointed in the things that I have not done, so it is time to explore. My brother recently shared with me an article with the 50 most inspiring travel quotes of all time. Here are some of my favorite quotes, and I can’t believe that in about only one month I will be in the air flying to Spain!

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” -Lao Tzu

‘The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.” -St. Augustine

“The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

“Less is more: the art of voluntary poverty – an anthology of ancient and modern voices in praise of simplicity. This adventure is truly an exercise in simplifying modern life.”

“I don’t worry so much about the destination, I prefer to enjoy the journey and see what we discover together along the way.”

“Travel is the only investment with guaranteed returns. Count on it.”

“He went into the wilderness not primarily to ponder nature or the world at large but, rather, to explore the inner country of his own soul.”

“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” -Mark Jenkins

¡Voy a España! 5 Study Abroad Tips

¡Voy a España! 5 Study Abroad Tips

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It was truly a weird, different and complex feeling I had when I booked my flight to Spain the other day, but nonetheless very exciting. During the spring semester of 2012, I will be traveling to Alicante, Spain to study at the University of Alicante. Alicante is a Mediterranean port city in the southeastern part of Spain, which has a sunny climate, beautiful beaches, tall mountains and rich culture and nightlife. I plan on swimming, surfing, sailing and enjoying the four-mile-long beach of San Juan, which is considered one of the finest in all of Spain.

Taking this opportunity to study overseas will definitely help me broaden my horizons. I anticipate meeting many new people and creating relationships that will last for a long time. I also want to explore a language and culture that I have been studying since middle school. You can only learn so much by practicing speaking and reading about cultural activities. Being able to put all these things into an actual experience will be second to none. Going abroad also will challenge me to travel on a budget and be able to effectively live on my own. I hope to become even more independent as my spring semester progresses in Spain.

Deciding to apply to this program directly reflects and relates to my academic program at Mount Union. I am pursuing majors in business management and Spanish and a minor in environmental science. Almost all of the classes I will be taking in Alicante will transfer to Mount Union and be credited towards my Spanish major. I also hope to take some cultural emersion courses that may be able to cover some of my general education requirements.

The application process was quite a long one, and I am still working on getting all my materials in. Since this can get very stressful I provided 5 essential tips for helping you study abroad.

1. Choose a program that offers what you want. Mount Union partners with USAC, which has many great things to offer, however there are other programs as well. Things to keep in mind are homestays, excursions, field studies, job opportunities, costs and if credits can transfer!

2. Read through everything! It is important to read over all the documents that are sent to you from cover to cover. You don’t want to miss important information and any materials that should have been submitted. Also, make sure your passport is up to date. Mine was not and this really complicated the process!

3. Create lists and be organized. It is very easy to get lost in all the documents you need to turn in. Create a checklist, and make sure you are up to speed with forms and deadlines.

4. Patience is a virtue. Once you apply for the study abroad program, you have to see if you get in. Once you apply for visas and a passport if you don’t already have one, you have to wait. Be aware that all the paperwork for studying abroad takes time, but should all work out in the end.

5. Be open to change. I cannot wait to experience something new, but in an entirely different culture. Take risks, do the unordinary, discover new things.

Here is some other food for thought I would like to share. I don’t worry so much about the destination, I prefer to enjoy the journey and see what we discover together along the way. Also, I figure you can either lead a path of mediocrity and let life decide your path or you can open yourself up to the world and see what happens. I feel that those who take the risk get more out of life. Man, I can’t wait to start exploring Spain, but also to explore the inner country of my own soul.