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Guest Blogger: Brooke (Ireland)
Brooke reflects on conquering fears while abroad!
16 Nov 2016
Study Abroad Shout Out!
Kudos to a past participant, Raychel, on her accomplishments at the SAVVY Arts Venture Challenge and Chamber Music Competition!
28 Jun 2017
Study Abroad Fair Photo Contest Winners!
Click here to see the winners from our 2016 24th Annual Study Abroad Fair!
01 Oct 2016
Jet Lag, Homesickness, and Reverse Culture Shock
Tips from Brittany!
09 Aug 2017

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Study Abroad Shout Out!


Wow!  This is pretty darn cool!  Shout out to one of our past study abroad participants, Raychel!  She went to Bali this past winter break to study the arts!  She has a passion for music and she has made NIU and the Study Abroad Office very proud!  Kudos to you, Raychel!  Congratulations!

"During the Arts Venture Challenge, three of the Projeto Arcomusical members: Daniel Eastwood (’12), Alexis Lamb (’16) and Raychel Taylor (’17), became founders of their own entrepreneurial teams.  NIU alumni led three of the nine teams formed at the event.  Those teams won all three group awards presented during the SAVVY Reveal presentation on Friday, June 9. Lamb’s team took first place in the Exhibit Awards, Eastwood’s project received an honorable mention in the Pitch Presentations and Taylor’s “Girls March” project took first place in the Pitch Presentations.  Taylor’s project gained tremendous momentum. “Girls’ March” has received inquiries of interest for start-up funding and will kick-off its activities in the summer of 2018 at The Citadel in South Carolina."

Read the full article below:

NIU scores at 2017 SAVVY Arts Venture Challenge and Chamber Music Competition

Slider Photo Credit: Yusen Xia

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Guest Blogger: Leah (Russia)


Prep Time for Your Study Abroad Program

When getting ready to go on your study abroad program, there are a lot of things to take care of. Paperwork, passports, packing lists, etc. are all important parts of getting ready to leave for an experience like this. Remembering them all, however, can be a challenge, so I have included below a handy to-do list that you can print off and use when getting ready to go. I wrote standard things that would apply to almost most any trip, but make sure that you check with the Study Abroad Office or your faculty mentor about anything that might also be applicable.

To Do List:

This can take 6 months to process, and you don't want to be unable to go on your adventure because you didn't have a passport. If you already have one, make sure it isn't expired and won’t expire within 6 months of your trip. 

2. Research the country you are visiting. 

Although this may seem obvious and boring, it can be incredibly helpful for making sure you get the most out of your time abroad. Look up places to go, food to eat, and unique things/events that happen during your time there. Be sure to look up any cultural things that might be appropriate in the U.S.A., but not there. I went to Russia, and my professors got seriously offended when my classmates and I ate in class, but we had no idea that it would be offensive! 

3. Bring clothes that are weather appropriate. 

When I went to Russia, I brought a pair of sandals I never wore, even once, because it was cold and wet the majority of my time there. Be sure to look at the climate you are going to and what it is typically like there so you can be as prepared as possible. 

4. You don't have to speak the language, but know the alphabet. 

Going to a foreign country where English is not the primary language can make your experience a very cool one, and really help you learn a lot more about the culture. However, learning basic phrases such as "yes," "no," "I don't understand Russian," "May I have..." etc. can be incredibly helpful and make your travel there and trip overall a lot easier. I went to Russia without learning the alphabet for their country, and that made it a lot harder to learn the language. Do a little homework, and it will be well worth it in the long run! 

5. Be ready for classes. 

Although you are going to be living in a foreign country, you will still be taking classes. Don't forget that these are college level courses that can be demanding. It's easy to get distracted by the amazing culture around you, but keep in mind that your classes should be a priority while you are there. They are a great way to learn about the country you are in too, as well as your professors. Ask them some of their favorite places to go or restaurants. You won't be disappointed. 

These are my tips and tricks for today, but there are many more out there. Check out the social media for the Study Abroad Office and learn more ways to have an incredible study abroad experience!! You can follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest. 


Friday, June 9, 2017

25th Annual Study Abroad Fair!

Want to explore the world while learning, completing an internship or research? Please join us for the 25th Annual Study Abroad Fair at NIU!

The Study Abroad Fair will take place on Wednesday, September 20th from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the HSC Duke Ellington Ballroom. Many of our study abroad program providers and faculty directors will be in attendance to answer any of your questions and talk to you one-on-one about all of our wonderful study abroad opportunities.

There will be a ton of exciting and fun things happening - Photo contests, giveaways, program brochures with an abundance of program information, etc. Come explore the 300 program options that the NIU Study Abroad Office offers in over 80 different countries!

It's time to see the world!

This is an event you DON'T want to miss!! #GOHUSKIES #NIUStudyAbroad

Guest Blogger: Kara (England)



Nothing can describe the view from the top of University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. Four pounds to get in—unless the person ringing you up is cool, then it’s three pounds—and several trekked steps will get you to the end of the spiral staircase. There’s room for only one person to go up or down, and window ledges to step into in case you come across another person going the opposite direction. That staircase is not for the claustrophobic. The railing is the wall on each side of you, and the steps become steeper and narrower the farther you climb. Then, the final corner appears, you can see light from outside and then…All of Oxford is right there for you to see.

Moving around the ledge, staring at the place I had been walking around for weeks, finding all the carvings in the walls (one from the early 1700s—that’s older than America!) and thinking about the history of the place I was in. Up on that ledge, I realized how lucky I was to be in another country.
My footprints have been somewhere I never thought I would be. I walked the same paths some of the famous authors I’ve read about might have. I miss England more and more each day; I can’t help it. 
I was in Oxford for five weeks and I stayed an extra week to go on other adventures, and each day I long to return.But I’ll be honest.  By the end of that week, I was ready to get on that plane and embark on the eight-hour journey home: I missed my family, my animals, and my friends. And as soon as I got off the airplane being shuffled through various checkpoints, England called back to me. Studying abroad was one of the best things to ever happen to me. I wish I had taken more time to appreciate what was around me. I think I took for granted how much time I had there because I thought I could do so much, but five weeks is a millisecond when you’re taking a trip to Stonehenge or to London to see Shakespeare’s plays at The Globe.

There’s something about learning and living in a new place that gives you a stronger sense of who you are and what you are like on your own. Nothing ever happens the way you think it will happen. I planned on keeping up a blog while I was abroad, and I ended up just posting once. I was SO busy. Between field trips, homework, and wanting to explore, I had no time to blog like I thought I would. I thought I could wait and do all of my traveling near the end of my study abroad program. 

As much as you think you’ll want to go home, once you actually are home and surrounded by your routine, the places you’ve been, the people you’ve met, and the memories you have will always pull at you. You’ll want to talk about your experiences as much as you can. When someone asks you at a family event about your experience, you’ll perk up so much more than you would if they would have asked you about school or work. You’ll be a completely different person than you were when you stepped onto that plane to leave.

To anyone who has ever thought about studying abroad: do it. If there’s even the slightest chance, take it. Apply to a program, scavenge the internet for as many scholarship opportunities that you can because any application is worth it to see the world.

To anyone who is studying abroad: do as much as you can while you’re there, enjoy where you are staying, and don’t worry about going home. You’ve been given an opportunity so you might as well make the most out of it.  Your friends and family will be there when you get back. You’re there to learn and explore. So never take it for granted because it will be one of the coolest things you’ll ever do.

To anyone like me, who thought they could only stay in their comfortable bubble and would never see the world: I saw the world from the top of University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, and it was beautiful.


Friday, January 20, 2017

Spring Study Abroad Fair!

Join us for our Spring Study Abroad Fair, focusing on Faculty-Directed Programs!!!
February 9th from 12:00-4:00 in the Glass Gallery Lounge, HSC!!!

Guest Blogger: Mathieu (Italy)


Mathieu: Study Abroad Office Peer Advisor and ISA Global Ambassador

My free time while abroad was mostly spent exploring the city of Florence. My typical weekend consisted of either taking a trip to another city like Venice or Pisa. Otherwise I would spend Saturday going to see a museum, sometimes hitting up more than one in a day.  Sunday would be spent checking out free events or festivals across the city. The art museums have free days once a month so if you coordinate you could go to all of the expensive touristy things for nearly free. I really liked to find a new café or new restaurant too while I walked around. Florence has a lot to offer if you know how to look for it. ISA (the provider I went abroad with) did a good job of letting us know when major holidays or festivals were happening. Visiting each Catholic Church was also a fun little activity to do, especially since Michelangelo was buried in Santa Croce. Visiting churches is fairly inexpensive however there are dress codes, such as no open-toed shoes or hats. I’m glad I stayed in Florence and not Rome because I felt like I could get a lot done in Florence and still feel like I accomplished seeing all the major sites.

During my travels in Italy, I used almost all forms of transport. I would say trains are the most useful. Regional trains are not as fast as the high speed trains. They run from the major cities to the smaller city centers such as from Pisa to Florence. The high speed trains ran through all the major cities. A bus ride that takes four hours only takes two if you go by high speed. Buses are cheap if you’re willing to be on them for a long time. Planes are also cheap if you know where to look. When it comes to transport within Florence, I only ever used the buses if I was leaving the city center. It is very easy to walk from one end of the historic district to the other. I would say it’s about a 25 minute walk if you’re not making stops. If you want to use a bus within Florence, you can just go and buy a one use ticket at one of the many convenience stores around the city. Some cafes even sell them. If you want to book a high speed train, you need to reserve a seat beforehand, usually the day before when I would do it. You could also book them online. My experience on high speed trains is that they are super comfortable! I was usually always by myself and the cars were usually fairly empty. Although I bought first class tickets and it was before tourist season. They usually have a restaurant car but if you are in first class they always gave me a free drink and a snack. They have someone who walks through the entire train checking tickets so don’t just hop on one. You could get in trouble if you didn’t pay for your seat. When it comes to city and trains alike you must make your ticket valid by sticking it in this machine that marks the time you are using the service. If you don’t do this you can get fined. These machines are usually on the buses themselves, but are on the platforms for trains.

Slider Photo Credit: Mathieu Berube

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Guest Blogger: Brooke (Ireland)


I am a strong believer in understanding and respecting other cultures. I want to be the best person I can be and make a positive impact on as many people as I can. I like to think this is my passion. Having a passion for learning, culture, people, and travel naturally leads thinking about study abroad. So I did it! I went through the process: I applied; I took passport photos; I applied for scholarships and took out loans; I went to meetings; I packed my bags; and I boarded a flight to Ireland. The excitement outweighed any of the fears I had. Fears, you may ask? I was worried about the long flight over the ocean; I was afraid of not knowing anyone; I was nervous about the dorm I would be living in; and most of all I was worried about not liking the food. I feel like these are some common worries in any travel or study abroad situation.
What I learned through studying abroad is that you just have to roll with the punches! The flight ended up not being so bad because they had all kinds of movies to watch on board and I purchased one of those fancy neck pillows (which are a must). The fear of not knowing anyone is a real fear, but just remember that studying abroad brings together people who naturally have things in common.  For example, you may have your major in common (or other academic, personal, or professional interests). My major is Public Health Administration and I went on my program with nursing majors, pre-med students, and a communication disorders major. Having all the different aspects of healthcare knowledge in one group really helped us learn and grow from each other. You will make so many friends, even best friends. Now, I have to be honest, dorms are dorms no matter what country you go to. They are not glamorous and they are not the most comfortable beds, but they start to become your home, a safe space, and a resting place. Studying abroad can be exhausting just due to the fact that you are going to want to see so many things in a short amount of time.
When preparing to leave, people are going to be telling you things they have heard about the place you’re going and most of it is going to have to do with the food. Everyone told me, “don’t expect to drink coffee” or “Irish food is so bland.” I let everyone else’s comments get in my head and it became a fear that I would starve while overseas. But that was not the case. Ireland had some of the best coffee and best food that I have ever eaten. So my advice is to keep an open mind, not just about food, but about everything abroad.

I had the time of my life while conquering some of my biggest fears. I learned so much about myself, others, and healthcare. Studying abroad made me a stronger person and I feel like I got to experience a side of myself I did not even know was there. I am an explorer and a traveler! I love it! I loved it so much that I have now decided to study abroad again.
Preparing to study abroad a second time I have a whole new mentality! I want to go more places, see more things, and go even further out of my comfort zone. I am fearless now. So for my next trip I will be traveling around Europe for two weeks over my winter break and this time I will be studying business. Health administration takes a lot more than knowledge about healthcare. Business knowledge is equally important, if not more. Never in my life did I think I would be studying international business, but here I am! There is no limit to where you can go in life, so why not keep learning new skills and seeing new places? STUDY ABROAD.  

Slider Photo Credit: Katharine Denius

Friday, October 14, 2016

Money and Travel Tips from a Former Student!


Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
Courtney at Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Top 5 Money Saving Tips

One of the very first things that comes to mind when most people think of studying abroad is the expensive side of it. If your experience is anything like mine, you have had countless discussions with your academic advisors, the study abroad office and your family on all of the expenses to anticipate when deciding to study abroad. As if college tuition in your home state (or country) is not pricey enough, most students immediately worry that their dream semester or year abroad will be impossible due to financial constraints. However, I would like to share some of my experiences while abroad in Barcelona, Spain with you to help ease that worry and encourage some money saving tips for possible trips in the future!
There are certainly more than five money saving tips that I found incredibly resourceful during my five months of studying (and traveling) abroad in Western Europe, but I'm going to share the most "crucial" and simplest tips that you can use to ease the financial burden of your incredible experience.

Tip #1: Regardless of your accommodation arrangements during your semester abroad, this is one of the most important things I discovered to save money – cooking/eating meals at your apartment, in your dorm residency or at your home-stay will save you a significant amount of money! Home-stays in most cities will provide you with breakfast and dinner, assuming that you will be away at classes during lunch-time in the afternoon. Most residencies may offer a cafeteria like meal plan or the rooms will be equipped with a small makeshift kitchen. The apartments, as expected, come with a fully equipped kitchen and more space to make your own meals to dine at home. I found that making trips to the fresh markets several times a week actually saved me money in the long run – as I bought only what I needed, stocked up on essential cooking supplies in the get-go and had little to no waste throughout the week. I would buy healthy snacks for breaks between my classes so I wasn't spending money at a coffee shop or restaurant every afternoon for a drink and snack. Believe it or not, as great of specials as places run during mid-day breaks, these expenses will add up quickly! I would also buy healthy snacks for the airport or to have in my bag during weekend trips. This later saved me some extra pocket money in the long run for my week­end adventures to splurge while I was traveling to different countries and different cities.

Positano, Italy

Tip #2: If there are places that you know your heart is set on visiting during your time abroad, start looking up flight deals and accommodations (hostels, Airbnb, etc.) as early as you've been accepted into your study abroad program! I was able to book a lot of my weekend trips for 50-70% off their original price by booking them during Black Friday specials with study abroad travel providers like Bus2alps and EuroAdventures. These companies also run specials for Fall Semester trips during the summertime. If you feel comfortable enough to know you may be traveling alone and later meeting up with large groups of study abroad students from all over the globe, this is something I would definitely recommend. It allowed me to travel so much more than I thought my expenses would allow and I am forever grateful for the friends I met while on these trips! You are guided by previous study abroad students who are incredibly helpful, you'll travel with other like-minded students and depending upon the weekend trip you book, your transportation is included in the price! Definitely something I would look into if you're adventurous and on a budget.

Tip #3: Take advantage of local specials! Barcelona has mid-day lunch specials Monday-Friday which they call their "menú del día." These lunch specials include a drink of your choice, a small first plate, a second entrée plate and dessert of the day for a small price of between 8-13€. This is a fantastic deal for those available between the hours of 11am-2pm because normal entrées generally run much, much more than this alone! While these specials are also available on weekends and holidays, they generally cost double what they would during the week. Sitting outside on the terraces or little patios for a mid-afternoon break from classes was such a great way to get to know my classmates. The select menus (usually offering 2-3 choices per plate) also encouraged me to try a lot of new and delicious local cuisine which I otherwise probably wouldn't have ordered. Making time for little lunches and friends throughout the day instead of burying yourself inside a quiet, empty classroom during lunch will be worth the while, I promise! You will get to know the culture and people much better if you're willing to immerse yourself.

Tip #4: If you're wanting to explore but can't afford to get away for an entire weekend (financially, academically, whatever it may be), look into train or tram tickets online for nearby cities worth visiting! These train tickets are often very affordable and depending upon the zoning of your metro pass for the semester, the transportation fare may even be included in the pass you have already purchased to get yourself to and from class! If you and a group of friends are up for it, it's a great way to inexpensively travel as you can pack your lunches for the day and get to know new areas in your host country without breaking the bank.

Tips For Traveling and Transportation Abroad

I remember one of my biggest questions or concerns before going abroad was how exactly I was going to get around Barcelona, Spain once I had arrived. I knew prior to my arrival that my classes would be taught at two entirely different campuses, which I was very excited and equally nervous about. I was worried I wouldn't have enough time – as if the university hadn't already thought that through for all of us students. My second concern was how I would get to and from the airport for all of the weekend trips I had already planned, because I knew that taking a cab there and back wouldn't be feasible for my budget. I learned that almost immediately upon my arrival, as I took a cab to my hotel with all of my luggage once I had arrived from the states. It was the most comfortable and secure choice for my initial arrival, but certainly reflected that in its cost. I couldn't afford a 45€ cab fare every other weekend.

Park Guell
Courtney at Park Guell, Spain
Once I learned where the location of my apartment was, I started mapping out routes in my head of how to walk/commute to my classes. I patiently awaited my Welcome Orientation with my university and study abroad provider which was surprisingly informational and I found all of their tours and advice to be rather resourceful. Luckily, Barcelona is not an overwhelming large space
(geographically). It's very walkable, and scenic, if you have the time to commute on foot. My morning campus was an 8-minute walk from my apartment door, which made for a very easy and relaxing commute to class. My afternoon and evening campus, on the other hand, would take well over an hour to walk to - which is where the metro pass I decided to purchase certainly came in handy.

The city of Barcelona has several options for Metro passes – a one way, a roundtrip airport ticket, a youth pass (T-JOVE), a resident pass, and then quarterly/monthly passes. Due to the extent of my stay and my age, I was directed to purchase the T-JOVE pass which was good for 90 days for anybody between the age of 16-26 years old for unlimited rides via metro, bus or AVE within the city limits of Barcelona. This initial cost of 105€ paid itself off in a matter of weeks, as I was never inconvenienced by "running out" of rides or worried that my pass wouldn't work. I was able to take any city buses day or night, all metro stops within Barcelona, AND roundtrip train fare to and from the airport by using my T-JOVE pass. Thus, instead of traveling to the airport by cab, I was able to take the metro to the airport exchange point and saved myself easily 75-90€ each trip that I took.

Sitga, Spain
Sitga, Spain
I studied abroad in the spring. Therefore, the weather was more than beautiful while I was there. I tried to walk to class every opportunity that I had because I loved taking in all of the scenery and architecture around me. However, due to my evening classes, I didn't feel very secure walking home at night. Because of this, I found the evening bus routes to be my best option. Every corner around campus had a stop and depending upon the wait time, I would jump on the nearest line to my apartment. I would sometimes walk half way home until it started to get too dark and then take the bus or metro depending on whichever was closest to me at that time. On my walks to and from stops in the evening, I would often call a friend or family member and talk to them during my walk to feel more secure. I always was sure to be aware of my surroundings while walking – as it only takes a split second of disregard for something to happen. That's why they call them accidents. Often times more than not, any petty crime or mishap while walking or utilizing public transit is entirely preventable if you're aware of yourself and your surroundings no matter the time of day.

As far as weekend/extracurricular travel was concerned, I found long-haul buses and classic European airline flights to be my most affordable and time friendly option. Although trains generally run high-speed in Europe and could have gotten me there in roughly the same amount of time as flying, they often ran more expensive due to the "lack of hassle" of airport security. To be honest, I really didn't mind the hour long metro ride to and from the airport to look forward to and reflect on my weekend trips. Additionally, airport security in Western Europe wasn't nearly as miserable as my experiences here in the states.

Park Guell Spain
Park Guell Spain
A lot of European cities are easily walkable, while others are a little less pedestrian friendly. I would highly suggest upon your arrival to ask your study abroad provider or professors which routes they would suggest for transportation, what security precautions they would advise and possibly scenic routes to take along the way. Everybody involved in my study abroad experience was more than helpful and willing to share this information with me, and even offered a few wonderful restaurant/activity suggestions in addition! While taking the metro is generally the "easiest" option, it's difficult to view your beautiful host city while you're in an underground tunnel. Opt for the buses when you can, or getting some light exercise by walking! I guarantee you'll be happy that you did.

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